This experience is optimized for Internet Explorer version 9 and above.

Please upgrade your browser

Video title

Priority Code

Cancel
The Inexplicable Universe: Unsolved Mysteries

The Inexplicable Universe: Unsolved Mysteries

Neil deGrasse Tyson Ph.D.
Hayden Planetarium
Course No.  1816
Course No.  1816
Share:
Sale

Unlock your FREE COURSE - Limited Time Offer!

Existing Customer?
We've sent a validation email to your email address that contains a link for accessing the FREE content from The Great Courses.

Enjoy!

Course Overview

About This Course

6 lectures  |  32 minutes per lecture

Everything we now know about the universe—from the behavior of quarks to the birth of entire galaxies—has stemmed from scientists who’ve been willing to ponder the unanswerable. And with the advent of modern science, great minds have turned to testing and experimentation rather than mere thought as a way of approaching and grappling with some of the universe’s most pressing and vexing dilemmas.

So what is our latest picture of some of the most inexplicable features of the universe? What still remains to be uncovered? What are some of the next avenues of exploration for today’s chemists, physicists, biologists, and astronomers?

View More

Everything we now know about the universe—from the behavior of quarks to the birth of entire galaxies—has stemmed from scientists who’ve been willing to ponder the unanswerable. And with the advent of modern science, great minds have turned to testing and experimentation rather than mere thought as a way of approaching and grappling with some of the universe’s most pressing and vexing dilemmas.

So what is our latest picture of some of the most inexplicable features of the universe? What still remains to be uncovered? What are some of the next avenues of exploration for today’s chemists, physicists, biologists, and astronomers?

Pondering the answers to these and other questions is a great way to

  • appreciate the grandeur and complexity of the world around you,
  • better understand and discuss news and developments in science, and
  • spark further interest in some of science’s many exciting areas of study.

“We know a lot about the universe. But there’s even more that we don’t know,” says astrophysicist and Professor Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium, an award-winning lecturer, and one of the world’s foremost experts on the secrets of the universe. And his course The Inexplicable Universe: Unsolved Mysteries is the perfect gateway into this mind-bending and eye-opening subject. This visually stunning course, which has been honored with a 2013 Telly Award for Outstanding Educational Program, features six self-contained lectures that transport you on a marvelous journey to the frontiers of the known (and unknown) universe and introduce you to tantalizing questions being addressed by the world’s top scientists. Undeniably engaging and fascinating, this lecture series is a wonderful entrée to scientific pursuits that lie at the very heart of the history and nature of our universe.

An Informed Scientific Conversation

Central to The Inexplicable Universe is the way it takes you deep into hidden layers of the universe in a manner that is extremely accessible. Rather than a stern lecture given before a podium complete with confusing mathematics, Professor Tyson’s lectures have the feel of an informed conversation that manages to be both thorough and easy to grasp.

With each of the inexplicable mysteries he lays bare for you, Professor Tyson

  • introduces you to the history behind it,
  • lays out the science that has helped us grasp it,
  • explains what researchers have discovered to date, and
  • reveals what we have yet to discover.

And while the topics explore subjects in everything from quantum mechanics to cosmology to string theory, you’ll never feel overwhelmed by what you’re learning. In fact, you’re more likely to find yourself intrigued by just how much we know—and curious about what the near future will possibly reveal.

Explore Fascinating Territory

So what territory will you chart in this course? Here are some of the inexplicable ideas you’ll investigate in these lectures.

  • Neutrinos: Discovered in 1956, these fast-moving, ghostlike particles are made in abundance in the sun’s core. They hardly interact with matter; it takes a light-year’s worth of lead (5.8 trillion miles) to stop a neutrino. Not only that, but 65 billion neutrinos pass through every centimeter of your body that’s facing the sun every second of every day.
  • String theory: This astounding theory offers the hope of unifying all the particles and forces of physics. In the past several decades since the dawn of string theory, it’s been imagined that all the fundamental particles we see and measure are just the manifestation in our dimension of strings vibrating in higher dimensions and at different frequencies.
  • Quantum foam: This idea posits that when the fabric of space and time is so tightly curved on itself, space-time is less a smooth curve and more like the froth on a latte. In this state of matter and energy, quantum fluctuations can spawn entire universes, each with slightly different laws of physics within them!

In addition, you’ll also

  • get a peek at what it would be like to travel through a black hole,
  • ponder the possibility that life on Earth originated in debris from Mars,
  • probe the supposed existence of multiple universes, and
  • even imagine the possible end of the universe itself.

A One-on-One Chat with a Renowned Science Educator

Professor Tyson is renowned throughout the scientific community and the media for his vast knowledge, his penetrating insights, and his amazing ability to make even the most intimidating areas of science accessible, engaging, and—most of all—enjoyable. He brings the same inviting tone and sharp intellect to The Inexplicable Universe as he does to his range of media appearances on popular television programs, including The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and Real Time with Bill Maher.

Professor Tyson’s lectures also feature expertly crafted animations, explanatory graphics, and other instructive visual elements designed to better explain to you some of the grand, intricate ideas being discussed.

With The Inexplicable Universe, you’ll feel as if you’re participating in an exclusive chance to sit one-on-one with this renowned science educator and have a provocative, intriguing, and illuminating conversation. No other learning experience—including the most detailed science textbook—can bring you this close to interacting with an expert about the mysteries of the universe around you.

View Less
6 Lectures
  • 1
    History’s Mysteries
    Science history is filled with puzzling mysteries that were only solved with modern science’s focus on experimentation instead of thought. Here, take a closer look at concepts that were once unexplainable but, thanks to modern physics, are now better understood. You’ll focus on two such former mysteries: the existence of an invisible “aether” through which light and sound were believed to travel and the orbit of Mercury, which seemed (to earlier scientists) to violate Newton’s fundamental laws of motion. x
  • 2
    The Spooky Universe
    Did you know that electrons, discovered in 1897, have never actually been observed by scientists? Or that quarks can only be studied in pairs? Or that as you travel faster or find yourself in a higher gravity, time ticks more slowly for you? Delve into these and other mind-warping facts and insights about the fundamentals of matter in a lecture that covers everything from particle physics to quantum tunneling to thermonuclear fusion. x
  • 3
    Inexplicable Life
    Join Professor Tyson on a fascinating investigation of the possible origins of life in the universe. Why was Jupiter believed to be a good environment for life in the 17th century? Why is there only one single “tree of life” on Earth instead of multiple ones? How do extremophiles help scientists study life’s genesis? Could life have come to Earth from another planet? And what do we mean when we hope to find examples of life that is “intelligent”? x
  • 4
    Inexplicable Physics
    Among the many topics you’ll learn about in this lecture are the discovery of more elements on the periodic table; muon neutrinos, tao particles, and the three regimes of matter; the secrets of string theory (which offers the hope of unifying all the particles and forces of physics); and even the hypothetical experience of traveling through a black hole. x
  • 5
    Inexplicable Space
    Scientists have made astounding progress in their grasp of the universe. But what remains to be understood? Investigate some perplexing aspects of space that science has uncovered in the last half-century. Learn about the mysterious trajectory of the Pioneer spacecraft (known as the “Pioneer anomaly”). Explore two of the longest-standing problems in astrophysics: dark matter and dark energy. And even try to map the shape of space-time. x
  • 6
    Inexplicable Cosmology
    Take a fascinating trip through dimensions higher than our own. You’ll discover how quantum physics and string theory have opened our eyes to the possibilities of quantum foam, the multiverse, antimatter, and tachyons. Also, join Dr. Tyson for a preview of the long-term fate of the universe (including the collision of galaxies, the burning out of stars, and the decay of orbits into black holes). x

Lecture Titles

Clone Content from Your Professor tab

Your professor

Neil deGrasse Tyson
Ph.D. Neil deGrasse Tyson
Hayden Planetarium

Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson is the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. He is also a research associate in the Department of Astrophysics at the museum. Professor Tyson earned his undergraduate degree in Physics from Harvard University and his Ph.D. in Astrophysics from Columbia University. Dr. Tyson has written prolifically for the public, including a series of essays in Natural History magazine on which his previous Great Course, My Favorite Universe, is based. His books include Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier; a memoir, The Sky is Not the Limit: Adventures of an Urban Astrophysicist; and One Universe: At Home in the Cosmos (coauthored with Charles Liu and Robert Irion), winner of the 2001 American Institute of Physics Science Writing Award to a Scientist. Dr. Tyson is host of The Cosmos, a science documentary series televised on the Fox network, and former host of the PBS television series NOVA scienceNOW. His contributions to the public appreciation of the cosmos have been recognized by the International Astronomical Union in their official naming of asteroid "13123 Tyson."

View More information About This Professor
Also By This Professor
View All Courses By This Professor

Reviews

Rated 4.6 out of 5 by 47 reviewers.
Rated 4 out of 5 by So far, so good Two lectures in, and Tyson's presentation is great! The topics he's covering are excellent, and he's giving a good job of showing how science progresses and how ignorance becomes knowledge. One small quibble: the discussion of the "Twin Paradox" is seriously flawed. He fails to talk about the situation from the point of view of the "rocket ship" twin. From his point of view, it's the earthbound twin who's moving (motion being relative), and it's the earthbound twin who will be young while he ages. That's the essence of the paradox. October 13, 2014
Rated 5 out of 5 by Just one little anomaly I enjoyed the course, the presentation and the presenter. Unlike some other reviewers who found the pauses distracting I found the pauses appropriate and useful to give me time to digest and ponder the mysteries. It does stimulate thinking. My only criticism is that the Pioneer anomaly has been solved for more than 2 years and is no longer a mystery. People should be informed of this before viewing the course so as to not be misled. Ideally the course should be updated with an epilogue as each mystery is solved. Here is a link to the Planetary Society explanation of the solution to the Pioneer anomaly or just do a Google search on "Pioneer anomaly solved" http://www.planetary.org/blogs/bruce-betts/3459.html October 8, 2014
Rated 5 out of 5 by Ignorance Can Be Bliss Neil deGrasse Tyson is one of the most knowledgeable and entertaining lecturers I've ever seen. He does much more than just teach: he makes you think. He grabs your attention, and interests you into what he's teaching. As long as you have basic high school knowledge about the sciences, you're in for a magical journey with this course. But sometimes, "Ignorance is Bliss". In six quick lectures, Tyson will give you a peak at complex scientific mysteries. The course is one of the most interesting and influential "things" I've ever encountered, but it literally DESTROYED me for a while, as I wondered what the point of my living was if, as Tyson explained and proved, the entire human race to the Universe was much less than a grain of sand is to the Earth. October 4, 2014
Rated 5 out of 5 by Good learning experience An outstanding presentation. Dr. Tyson draws the learner into a web of excitement and interest and doesn't let up even when he utters the last syllable in his presentation. As soon as the 6th lecture was finished I went to the catalog and ordered his earlier course. Teaching style is magnetic and there is never any question that Dr. Tyson is deeply involved and knowledgeable in the areas that he discusses. It would be a real treat to sit in one of his classes. I cannot praise the course or the professor more highly. Superb. September 2, 2014
2 3 next>>

Questions & Answers

Why The Great Courses?

The Joy of Learning
No tests, no papers, no homework.

Most of us remember a time when discovery and the thrill of learning were forces in our lives. The adventure of learning often took place in a great classroom, in the hands of one great teacher. Now The Great Courses makes it possible to enjoy this experience again by bringing the world’s most engaging professors and world-class experts back into your life. It’s the adventure of learning, without the homework or exams.


Whether you’re learning about science and ancient history or skills such as public speaking, wine appreciation, and photography, your learning experience will be academically comprehensive, engaging, insightful, and inspirational.

Learn Anytime, Anywhere
DVD, CD, digital downloads, and streaming

The Great Courses can be enjoyed in convenient audio or video formats to fit your individual lifestyle (or learning style). Download or stream courses to your iPad, smartphone, tablet, laptop, or home computer. DVD and audio CD sets provide additional flexibility and make great gifts. The Great Courses are uniquely crafted for the audio and video learner, to deliver an experience you simply can’t get in a lecture hall.

Our Story
It all started with a Harvard Law student…

Thomas M. Rollins, the founder of The Great Courses, was a law student at Harvard University facing an important exam on the U.S. Federal Rules of Evidence ­—an exam for which he wasn’t prepared.


Dreading the notoriously boring subject but knowing his success depended on understanding the material, Rollins obtained videotapes of 10 lectures by a professor from another school who was noted for being insightful, thorough, and witty.


Rollins played the videotaped lectures nearly nonstop, and a few days later he got an “A” on his exam. Rollins never forgot the unique power of recorded lectures by a great teacher, the way that a bright mind could ignite a passion for lifelong learning.


In 1990, he founded The Great Courses to share that unforgettable experience with the rest of the world.

Rave Reviews from Our Customers
Our courses score an average of 4.4 out of 5 stars.

With more than 20,000 customer reviews on our website, our courses score an average of 4.4 out of 5 stars.


Why are these scores and ratings so high? It’s simple: Because we work closely with our customers and subject-matter experts to design the Great Courses. Here’s how we do it:


  • You choose the lecturer. We begin with the top 1% of professors and experts in America. In the end, only 1 in 5,000 meets the standards set by our customers, who vote on every professor before a course is made.


  • You choose the courses. We interview hundreds of thousands of customers to find out what subjects they want to learn and how they want courses to be made.


  • The lecturers carefully prepare each course. Months of preparation ensure that a course is crafted to be an engaging audio and video experience. Our professors and experts outline and prepare each lecture and write the extensive Course Guidebook.


  • When you finish one of our courses, we invite you to complete a ballot to tell us what you think. We read every response, and we sincerely appreciate your feedback.


Our Lifetime Satisfaction Guarantee
Return or exchange, no questions asked!

One of the hallmarks of The Great Courses—one that has been with us since we first opened our doors more than 20 years ago—is our Lifetime Satisfaction Guarantee. If a course is ever less than completely satisfying, for any reason, you may exchange it for another course anytime or have your purchase price promptly refunded within one year. And if a disc ever breaks, warps, or gets damaged, we’ll replace it as long as the course is in print. Absolutely free.

Better than Free
Here’s why we’re better.

The experience you get from taking a Great Course is unrivaled by anything available online, whether you compare it to a free online course from a top university, or a degree program costing thousands of dollars.


Why? Because only The Great Courses are painstakingly crafted for lifelong learners like you, with a depth and quality you can’t get in a lecture hall. We scour the world to find the best teachers on the planet. Then we strip away the trappings of a university that you no longer need or want.


We don’t just stick a camera in the back of a classroom. The Great Courses works with our professors to craft the highest possible educational experience—a customized and entertaining journey that’s both comprehensive and fascinating.


Most importantly, you can enjoy The Great Courses on your own schedule. There are no tests or homework. No prerequisites. You can watch your course on a TV or a computer, stream a course to your iPad while exercising or gardening, or listen to courses on your daily commute.


The Great Courses are one of the few things you can invest in that can literally change your life—transforming lost and unproductive hours into fascinating journeys at the hands of a master educator.

The Great Deals
A college course for less than the cost of an audiobook!

Every Great Course goes on sale at least once per year for a substantial discount—more than 70% off the original price. When on sale, our typical course costs much less than most audiobooks, DVDs, or CDs. And with each course, you receive a Course Guidebook with an in-depth outline, bibliography, and course summary prepared by the professor.


Enjoy sale prices on all the courses in your dream curriculum, take a chance on a subject you’ve always wanted to study but never had the chance, or consider The Great Courses as a special gift for friends and family. With nearly 500 courses on topics ranging from ancient history and philosophy to professional skills, art and music appreciation, and even cooking, there’s a wide variety of courses to match anyone’s interests.

America’s Top Professors
Only 1 of 5,000 professors is chosen to teach for us.

Who are the Great Lecturers? They are gifted professors, communicators—and, yes, entertainers. Everyone who has ever experienced the sheer joy of learning from one great teacher knows what we mean.


Since 1990, we have identified the top 1% of professors based on teaching awards, published evaluations of professors, newspaper write-ups of the best teachers on campus, and other sources. Auditions for our customers help us narrow the field to only those with the most engaging audio and video presentation style. Only the top 1 in 5,000 college professors is chosen to be on The Great Courses faculty.


In more than two decades of searching, and having screened tens of thousands of professors and subject-matter experts, we have chosen only a select few to make The Great Courses. Why? To ensure that time spent with The Great Courses is time well spent.