Black Holes Explained

Course No. 1841
Professor Alex Filippenko, Ph.D.
University of California, Berkeley
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97 Reviews
88% of reviewers would recommend this product
Course No. 1841
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Course Overview

Imagine a region in space where the force of gravity is so strong that nothing—not even light—can escape. A region with physical conditions so extreme that they have not yet been reproduced in any terrestrial laboratory. A region so dense that an object as tiny as a walnut would have the same mass as our entire planet.

This phenomenon—first formed in the equations of Einstein and popularized in the stories of science-fiction authors—is a black hole: one of the most exotic, mind-boggling, and profound subjects in astrophysics.

Black holes are at the heart of some of the most intriguing phenomena in the universe. Not only that, they are ideal gateways to fundamental and cutting-edge concepts in astronomy, including the following:

  • General relativity: Einstein's general theory of relativity provides the framework for understanding black holes, in which the warping of both space and time is so great that they are effectively cut off from the rest of the universe.
  • Monsters at the heart of galaxies: Detailed studies of the centers of galaxies reveal that supermassive black holes are common, with masses of millions to billions of suns. Nearly every large galaxy has one.
  • Wormholes: According to general relativity, black holes may be connected to passages through space-time known as wormholes. The jury is still out on whether they exist and whether they would allow time travel and trips to other universes.
  • Is the universe like a hologram? Quantum theory suggests that information is not lost inside a black hole but instead is encoded around it like a hologram—a phenomenon that may characterize the universe as a whole!

Indeed, the idea that the universe itself has properties similar to black holes shows that these objects play a pivotal role at all scales: from the truly cosmic to the subatomic realm, where theory suggests the existence of mini-black holes that may have been created in the aftermath of the big bang and that could be produced in the latest generation of particle accelerators.

Nearly everyone has heard of black holes, but few people outside of complex scientific fields understand their true nature and their implications for our universe. Black Holes Explained finally makes this awe-inspiring cosmological subject graspable, with 12 lavishly illustrated lectures by veteran Great Courses Professor Alex Filippenko, a distinguished astronomer and award-winning teacher at the University of California, Berkeley.

Travel into a Black Hole

No movie, novel, or other fictional treatment of black holes matches Professor Filippenko's absorbing presentation of the actual science behind these amazing objects. In Lectures 8 and 9 he uses computer simulations created by fellow astronomers to conduct a virtual tour around and into a supermassive black hole, and then through a wormhole to another universe. Among the features you investigate are these:

  • Einstein ring: As you approach a black hole, the starlight behind it spectacularly bends in a kaleidoscopic effect called gravitational lensing. This phenomenon can produce a series of halos known as Einstein rings.
  • Photon sphere: Closer to a black hole, you come to a zone where an object must orbit at the speed of light to avoid falling in. Here, light can move in circular orbits and, in principle, you can look forward and see the back of your head.
  • Event horizon: Continuing your plunge, you reach a boundary called the event horizon. Once you cross it, you can't return. Anyone watching from outside sees time come to a standstill, as you appear to stop and motionlessly fade from view.
  • Singularity: After crossing the event horizon, you are only a minute away from the singularity, the hypothetical point of infinite density. Powerful tidal forces squeeze and stretch your body, until you are ultimately crushed to oblivion.

Mission Invisible

Recently elected to the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Filippenko has devoted much of his research career to black holes, discovering some of the best evidence for the existence of stellar-mass black holes in the Milky Way Galaxy, and participating in studies of supermassive black holes using the Hubble Space Telescope.

Drawing on extensive graphics, including hundreds of stunning astronomical images, Dr. Filippenko shows how scientists have been able to read the evidence to surmise a great deal about objects that are inherently invisible. Among the most dramatic clues are high-energy beams of radiation that were first detected by spy satellites in the 1960s. These powerful "gamma-ray bursts" were long a mystery, but they are now thought to be the dying gasps of massive stars in distant galaxies, collapsing to form black holes.

Dr. Filippenko also dispels several myths about black holes, such as that they are "cosmic vacuum cleaners," drawing in matter from afar with irresistible force. In fact, if the sun were compressed to form a black hole, there would be no effect on the orbits of the planets. Similarly, fears that mini-black holes created by particle accelerators will grow and devour the Earth have no basis in physics.

In popular usage, a black hole is a place of utter emptiness. But in this engaging course, you learn about how there is much more to them than that. Astronomers have brought black holes out of the shadows to reveal that they are a widespread and vital phenomenon in the universe with unexpected implications for all scales of reality. Black holes are intriguingly counterintuitive, gratifyingly comprehensible, and surprisingly relevant to our overall understanding of the universe—as you will discover in Black Holes Explained.

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12 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    A General Introduction to Black Holes
    Widely featured in novels, movies, and other media, black holes are not just entertaining plot devices, they're real. Learn how the idea of black holes was proposed more than two centuries ago, and how more recently Einstein's general theory of relativity gave a firm theoretical basis for them. x
  • 2
    The Violent Deaths of Massive Stars
    Discover how black holes can form from stars that are much more massive than the sun. After exhausting their nuclear fuel, these behemoths end in a colossal explosion called a supernova, leaving behind a superdense neutron star, or in some cases something even denser: a black hole. x
  • 3
    Gamma-Ray Bursts—The Birth of Black Holes
    Trace the story of gamma-ray bursts. Long a mystery, these intense eruptions of high-energy radiation from random spots in the sky are now thought to be associated with the formation of black holes in distant galaxies. Their visibility from so far away means they are truly titanic explosions. x
  • 4
    Searching for Stellar-Mass Black Holes
    If black holes emit no light, how are they detected? Investigate the different clues that establish strong evidence for black holes. For example, a star orbiting an unseen object that exceeds the 3-solar-mass limit for neutron stars is probably circling a black hole. x
  • 5
    Monster of the Milky Way and Other Galaxies
    This lecture presents the most compelling evidence to date for black holes—found in the core of most galaxies. There, stars and gas clouds typically orbit at high speeds, signaling the presence of a central, supermassive black hole, millions to billions of times the mass of the sun. x
  • 6
    Quasars—Feasting Supermassive Black Holes
    Quasars are another astronomical mystery explained by black holes. Explore the history of these star-like objects that long baffled astronomers, until observers realized they were seeing matter falling into supermassive black holes during the early era of galaxy formation. x
  • 7
    Gravitational Waves—Ripples in Space-Time
    Gravity waves are an unexplored new window for studies of black holes. Learn how these hard-to-detect vibrations are the predicted ripples in the fabric of space-time that should result from violent phenomena such as the merging of two black holes. x
  • 8
    The Wildest Ride in the Universe
    What happens if you fall into a black hole? Take a wild ride into the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy with a vivid computer simulation showing the strange effects you would experience before being crushed to incredible density. x
  • 9
    Shortcuts through the Universe and Beyond?
    Mathematically, black holes seem to connect our universe with others through a gateway called an Einstein-Rosen bridge—nicknamed a wormhole by physicist John Wheeler, who also coined the term black hole. See a computer simulation of what passage through a wormhole would be like. x
  • 10
    Stephen Hawking and Black Hole Evaporation
    Learn why black holes may not be completely black. In 1975, physicist Stephen Hawking showed that they can evaporate via a quantum tunneling process, giving off a slow trickle of quantum particles before eventually ending in an explosion of gamma rays. x
  • 11
    Black Holes and the Holographic Universe
    The "no-hair" theorem says that black holes are utterly simple and preserve almost no information about what went into them. Discover why some physicists believe that the supposedly lost information is contained just outside the black hole in a form that resembles a hologram—and that the universe as a whole may display the same property. x
  • 12
    Black Holes and the Large Hadron Collider
    Professor Filippenko closes by looking at the possibility that a new particle accelerator called the Large Hadron Collider will produce microscopic black holes. Discover why there is no danger that they will devour the Earth, and why there is no risk from any known black holes in space. x

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Video DVD
DVD Includes:
  • 12 lectures on 2 DVDs
  • 83-page printed course guidebook

What Does The Course Guidebook Include?

Video DVD
Course Guidebook Details:
  • 83-page printed course guidebook
  • Suggested readings
  • Questions to consider
  • Timeline

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Your professor

Alex Filippenko

About Your Professor

Alex Filippenko, Ph.D.
University of California, Berkeley
Dr. Alex Filippenko is Professor of Astronomy and the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor in the Physical Sciences at the University of California, Berkeley. He earned his B.A. in Physics from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and his Ph.D. in Astronomy from the California Institute of Technology. Dr. Filippenko's research accomplishments, documented in more than 500 scientific publications and 600...
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Black Holes Explained is rated 4.6 out of 5 by 97.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very Satisfying in both Depth & Absorbability Having taken many other Learning Company courses on particle physics, astrophysics, string theory and so on, I thought little of the value of such a piece of fluff. HOWEVER, my arrogance was soon put in its place as the lectures turned in more gravitas than expected (pun intended). In spite of his corny but endearing sense of humor, Professor Filippenko is the real deal.. An acknowledged world-class driving force behind this topic. Now, my experience tells me, there could have been much arcane math and formulaic treatment of the subject material. Again, HOWEVER, the material is delivered apace with easily understood concept diagrams and computer-aided graphics. A good course for anyone over the age of twelve.
Date published: 2017-01-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting, but expect a headache Provides a detailed look at black holes and allows you to get a sense of the scale of them, but can be quite dense (no pun intended) at times. He uses terms that can be difficult to recall, but this will not detract from the casual viewer's experience much. People more familiar with these subjects will also learn a lot as well, as he gives detailed looks at how black holes can be detected and the influence they have on their environment. Overall I would recommend the course to both those with a casual and serious interest in black holes, as long as you are willing to put in a certain amount of effort to keep up with the sometimes complicated material.
Date published: 2016-10-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Everything you ever wanted to know Just on the basis of this short lecture course I am not led to subscribe to the view expounded by some reviewers that Professor Filippenko is the foremost teacher in physics-related subjects. My assessment is that, no doubt, he is a first rate teacher yet not necessarily the best. I would, however, pronounce him a wizard of animations. Naturally, to reach a more complete evaluation, I have to watch his 96 Astronomy lectures which I will do soon hopefully. The present lectures on black holes are very informative, a lot is conveyed to the viewer, conceivably one could get away with only elementary prior knowledge of physics (better be familiar with the Doppler effect, wave interference and the idea of entropy though!) and no knowledge of cosmology is required. Still, what is the point of taking an interest exclusively in black holes and in no other astronomical object! However, to attempt this course one should have been following for some years the science pages of a daily newspaper, e.g., Filippenko mentions, one must say without it really being crucial for his argument, the concept of a “wave function”. I didn’t find Filippenko’s explanations complete or particularly thorough or patient but rather rushed and appealing to the viewer’s “common sense” all too often . Perhaps the explanations couldn’t be more satisfying without making the lecture series too complicated or much longer. Still, I feel I cannot give full marks for professor presentation. Here follows a contradiction—seriously, it is not really a contradiction: Prof. Filippenko has superb TV-presenter skills, he’s obviously a great guy, a truly jovial fellow, he can make one laugh though he cannot always make one understand! It is admirable, nevertheless, that a compact, specialized course, comprehensively covering numerous different aspects of a single topic, providing a list of highly informative “conclusions” even if the “inference”, the logical steps, that lead to these conclusions cannot be analyzed or even exhibited satisfactorily, we are quite fortunate that the Great Courses can come up with such a lecture series presented by a world authority. Of course, anybody marketing such a course is not taking a risk, since the topic is so popular… It is Filippenko’s achievement that the lectures are rich, overflowing with bits of knowledge which I suspect are not elementary but quite advanced in nature and still remain generally comprehensible while not becoming trivial, utterly naïve or outright vulgar. A colossal amount of information is conveyed…in a jocular mood! It is also his achievement that the course is genuinely stand-alone, without requiring continuous cross-references to other outside material. P.S. It was much better when I watched it a second time. I could understand almost everything, that is to say excepting lectures 8-11, which I still found quite abstruse. At least, even in relation to these latter lectures, I got some foggy idea of what the issues are albeit without being able to appreciate exactly how the issues have been resolved.
Date published: 2016-10-09
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Pace too fast I know the Teaching Company has parameters about length/quantity of lectures, and it sounds good on paper. But with several courses i have been irritated with the results. Yes, Dr. Philipenko is enthusiastic and goofy and easy to listen to. But his pace is way too fast. I can hear the same lecture 1,000 times and never learn a thing if it's too fast. I need courses taught by professors that pause the let the info sink in prior to building on that point. I've done enough fundamental astronomy reading that I was able to sort of follow along. But if astronomy/physics is new to you, I predict you will regret this purchase.. In contrast, Jeanette Norden in her course, The Brain, makes excellent use of pausing and repetition. You learn about the brain but you also see an example of good teaching. Hmmm, a brain expert pauses when she teaches. . .Could there be a connection between her understanding of the brain and her approach to teaching?
Date published: 2016-05-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of the Universe’s Mysteries Explained Black holes are one of the mysteries of the universe. This course by Professor Filippenko provides excellent explanations of these mysterious entities. The first mystery addressed is what is a black hole and how was it created. The second mystery explained is how to find a black hole if its gravity is so strong that even light cannot escape. Professor Filippenko is very knowledgeable and passionate on this topic of black holes. This is demonstrated in his enthusiastic and entertaining lectures. Professor Filippenko also makes very good use of demonstrations and computer animations to illustrate the points that he is presenting. I highly recommend this course.
Date published: 2015-12-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An Extremely Well Explained Course This course is a short, but intense look at black hole mechanics. It explores in depth all discoveries of black holes up to today. Professor Alex Filipino is a fun and good-natured lecturer who constantly punctuates his explanations with corny jokes that explain the topic in a humorous way. The course content is excellent, and delves into how black holes were discovered, juggles with theories about parallel universes, and experiments with the idea of wormholes, white holes and hawking radiation. Overall, its a good reach into all things black holes. To understand this course, you will have to have a little bit of background knowledge on general physics, but no speciality is required. I myself went into this with comparatively little knowledge on Black Hole mechanics, and came out fine. If you liked this course, I would definitely recommend "Black Holes, Tides, and Curved Space Time", which is an excellent course by Dr. Benjamin Schumacher which has more to do with gravity in general. Also, if you like the professor, I recommend Dr. Filippenko's course on astronomy, which is much longer and quite a bit more pricey. Overall, this is a great course and a definite must buy for anyone interested in the physics of black holes.
Date published: 2015-07-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Black holes explained Prof Filippenko is an enthusiastic and effective teacher. He clearly enjoys his work and I do too
Date published: 2015-02-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Shining a Light on Black Holes Those of us with even a passing interest in cosmology know of the existence of black holes, but few of us are familiar with how new the idea is, how contentious the very idea was when it was first proposed, or the implications of their existence on our universe and our view of that universe. This course does an excellent job of dispelling the mystery and giving a context to our fragmented knowledge. Dr. Filippenko explains the physics, both Newtonian and Einsteinian, behind the concept of the black hole, the evidence for their existence, how they come into being and their probable fates. The size range was something I hadn't considered, from the microscopic, through the stellar sizes, and up to the galactic center masses. The student should be prepared for an introduction to the humor of black holes, another subtopic which I had overlooked. And, of course, if you are worried about the human production of black holes, within the Large Hadron Collider for instance, this course will set your mind at ease. This course is a lot of fun on a serious topic.
Date published: 2014-12-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Serious explanation of black holes I recommend this course to someone who is interested in the scientific nature of black holes and has some knowledge of physics. The lectures cover such subjects as gamma ray bursts, quasars, gravitational waves, the theories of Steven Hawking (why hasn't he received a Nobel Prize yet?!), and the Large Hadron Collider. In other words, this is serious stuff. Which does not stop the professor, Alex Filippenko, from telling a lot of jokes. Many of them aren't very good, but the joy he takes in them induces you to laugh with him. A must for astronomy buffs!
Date published: 2014-12-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Zard Review of Black Holes OK, I tried. I am a student of history by inclination, choice and passion but I do have an interest in Astronomy. I have no training in the sciences but I do enjoy reading about Astronomy, Paleontology, Archeology and a few other subjects but no formal training and again, history is my passion. I bought this course because I am fascinated about Black Holes and I enjoyed the lecture and I REALLY ENJOYED Professor Alex Filippenko. He loves this subject and passion for it is a mild description of the intensity of his loving of it. He is engaging, interesting, passionate, funny and has great jokes, cartoons and graphics. The short comings are all on me. As much as he tried to keep it simple it is a complicated subject. I did fine with the first 6 of 12 lectures but then lost it in the next 5 lectures but enjoyed the last lecture. To put it mildly you have to stay focused on the lectures and cannot wander for a moment. But even with that it got a little too deep for me. That is not his fault or the subjects but mine, I am a lightweight when it comes to this stuff. Still I have no regrets in buying or watching this course and will re-watch it over the years. There is a lot in it. It is not quite the same thing but somewhat similar to reading a history book on a subject that I am really interested in but the writer goes into great detail to make and/or prove their points. I am interested in the view at 20,000 feet, not at ground level. I want the gist of it, the overall picture, the broad brushstrokes, not the details. I leave that to the historians. I am not a historian. Just an avid fan of history. Bottom line, I liked the course and it stretched me. That is OK but I got a little lost. Not the fault of the teacher, just me. I would recommend the course but with reservations based on my shortcomings.
Date published: 2014-08-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from True to Its Title The course title is Black Holes Explained and the lectures deliver that. Black Holes Explained provides a conceptual understanding of how black holes likely form, what their properties are and how they interact with the rest of the cosmos. The student should keep in mind that much of the explanation is based on theoretical projections not all of which have been or may ever be verified with data. Dr. Filippenko does point this out, but the student should take note. The course is largely conceptual with few equations or mathematics. This will appeal to the layperson. But the conceptual discussion has sufficient depth that those with a scientific bent will also gain much from this course. The bibliography and websites contained in the course guide provide opportunity for the student to explore beyond the lectures to whatever depth they seek. Dr. Filippenko is a very good lecturer. He is enthusiastic, energetic and knowledgeable. He clearly enjoys being a bit of a showman. He goes to great lengths to try to simplify his explanations using analogies a lay person can relate to. He appropriately uses voice inflection and body language to emphasize points. He cracks a lot of corny jokes, a few of which are funny, but many seemed aimed at high school or even junior high students. He tends to overuse popular cartoons and other such caricatures of black holes but in between explanations of demanding concepts these diversions give one's mind a break. He also goes to great lengths at multiple times to explain why we are in no real danger from black holes swallowing us up; not something that has kept me up at night but he seems to think people are concerned about this. I have a physics (not astrophysics) background yet I found many things in this course that were new and fascinating. For example, short duration Gamma Ray Burst signify the birth of a black hole, neutron stars must exceed 3 solar masses to collapse to a black hole, black holes at the center of galaxies are supermassive and the size of the "bulge" in a galaxy's center is proportional to the black hole mass, quasars only exist in the far reaches of the universe and thus are phenomena from the early universe, the merger of black holes and/or neutron stars with themselves or with each other should result in gravitation waves providing insight to quantum gravity, and Hawking radiation results when particle pairs separate at an event horizon leading ultimately to the evaporation of the black hole. The debate between Leonard Susskind (and others) and Stephen Hawking about whether or not information is lost when particles enter a black hole is fascinating. Perhaps its not quite up there with the Bohr-Einstein debates in terms of drama and impact, but it is another example of the philosophical disagreements in theoretical physics. Lectures 9, 10, and 11 which highlight the Susskind-Hawking debates are technically and conceptually the most challenging but Dr. Fillipenko makes them understandable. The accompanying course guide is excellent. The lecture summaries capture most of the key points from the lectures. The glossary and bibliography/websites are extensive. The timeline of discovery and the biographical notes of the principal scientists both add value to the guide. For those of us who are more mathematically inclined, a relevant equations to each lecture section, ala in Dr. Whittle's Cosmology course, would have been a welcome, nice to have, addition. Other than a bit of an overdose of cornball jokes and popular culture items, my only criticism of this 2009 course is that a few things are dated. For example, while Lecture 8, "The Wildest Ride" spent an entire lecture explaining what would happen should we fall in a black hole i.e. "spaghettification". Since then a new, equally plausible theory has emerged that proposes that we would incinerate at the event horizon as we fell into the hole. Neither scenario is cheery. The other, very recent (March 2014), news is that the BICEP-2 detector in Antarctica does seem to have detected gravitation waves, though this awaits confirmation. All in all, I would highly recommend this course to anyone interested in learning about black holes, whether one's background is in science or not.
Date published: 2014-06-17
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not for everyone Contrary to what most of the other reviewers say, I had to force myself to continue watching this course. I'm sure it was a case of my interest level. Even though I have a science background I found this course much, much too detailed for my taste. Of course, this may be exactly what you want. In addition to my getting bogged down with the detail, I had a problem with Professor Filippenko's delivery -- he never moved from behind his standing desk and even he commented frequently on his bad jokes. However, it was clear that he loves his topic. The graphics in the course were very good and the almost 12 pages of the Glossary definitely helped me in understanding all that Professor Filippenko was describing.
Date published: 2014-06-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Black Holes Explained Enjoyed the style and subject matter of the course. Dr Filipenko is a exciting instructor
Date published: 2013-09-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating Subject - Covered Well Overall this is a great course covering a very difficult to understand topic. The content and presentation was appropriate and supported with sufficient mathematics and references to allow further investigations. Course materials accompanying the DVDs were also of value, with thought provoking questions. The course draws upon recent studies and research as needed.
Date published: 2013-06-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Intro to Black Holes Professor Alex Filippenko presents twelve lectures devoted to the exploration of black holes. This course, available only on DVD, can be viewed and understood on two levels. The first level is an introductory non-technical overview of the subject – a descriptive and non-mathematical treatment of black holes. Professor Filippenko provides excellent descriptions of the formation, properties, and implications of black holes. This level of understanding may be the default for those with non-science or minimal science backgrounds. However, a second level of understanding of black holes brings one to an introduction of how the principles of relativity and quantum mechanics behave at the extremes of their application. Here a deeper science background, including some former study of physics, relativity, and quantum mechanics would be needed. Professor Filippenko does not take you all the way to these extremes mathematically (only a few equations are introduced), but he leads you to the doorstep allowing you to explore further on your own. Professor Filippenko is an excited learner and motivating teacher. His enjoyment of the topic is quite infectious. He is one of those rare individuals who is both an expert in his subject matter and an expert teacher of the material to others. He utilizes a variety of demonstrations to illustrate some difficult-to-grasp points. He makes good use of his time and combines technical material with modern applications (and even science fiction) with a number of corny jokes thrown in for good fun. A fifteen page glossary in the back of the course guidebook helps in keeping track of unfamiliar terminology.This is an excellent course with something for everybody - Highly recommended.
Date published: 2013-05-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An Amazing 6 Hours Filippenko has found an ideal topic for a short course and stays focused. Lecture 1-4: Carefully ordered background for the course. Schwarzchild's black hole boundary equation is critical to the course. L 5-6: I had always why galaxies came together given the weakness of gravitation. The quasar evidence for unexplainable but massive early central black holes points towards more satisfactory future answers. The correlation between supermassive black holes and central mass bulge [rather than disk size] was interesting. L 7: Gravitational waves are presented in a way that makes sense. I laughed when Filippenko noted most copies of "A Brief History of Time" end up on coffee tables, unread. L 8: The most fun. You will learn why you would counter-intuitively prefer to be eaten by a supermassive black hole than a small black hole. Excellent visuals [and the important caveat of a non-rotating supermassive black hole] take us on a theoretical ride through a "frozen star". Filippenko will CONVINCE you that as you cross a black hole horizon: you will never cross it [forever "frozen" above the horizon] yet fade from view AND you will simultaneously cease to exist while perhaps creating a holographic memorial above the hole! L 9: The best. At a time when some evolutionists are proposing that life may have originated in alternate universes [due to the time demands of evolutionary theory], this is a very good lecture. Sci Fi lovers will learn what happens during star gate travel. L10: Loved his aside about entropy: "all the air in this room might go to one corner", but you'll have to listen to find out what a great point he is making. If you wish, copy down Heisenberg's equation as it isn't in the guidebook. L 10-12: Cutting edge, indeed: Hawking's black hole evaporation theory, entropy, string theory, and the Schwarzschild radius all are dramatically combined to tell us that while scientists might create a mini-black hole in the LHC, it can't consume the earth! CONS L 1: Filippenko's first lectures always start slowly, are accompanied by what seems to be a forced grin, and are riddled with jokes that remind me of my 9 yo grandson enthusing about the Boy's Life joke page. But as you progress in his courses, you realize the material that he has assimilated/translate builds rapidly and is truly mind-boggling. In the end, you will admire his love for work, students, and his family. L 7: Although multiple interesting examples of theoretical of gravity wave sound profiles were provided, I remained unsure how such profiles were created from the underlying data.
Date published: 2013-03-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from What An Adventure! This course was hugely entertaining! In just twelve lectures, Professor Filippeko delivers a surprisingly high quantity of quality information on an intellectually intimidating topic. He does this, I might add, with an infectious enthusiasm, which really enhances the viewer's experience. I never felt the presentation of this course was boring in any way, despite the potential for any discussion of physics to become overly technical. Professor Filippenko moves the viewer quickly through many of the important ideas surrounding Black Holes, and while he gives us a thorough description of the subject matter, he keeps the lectures moving forward at a pace that commands your interest. One must however, remember to pay close attention during this course, for it moves quickly from one topic to the next. Professor Filippenko is a great lecturer. Although it is obvious he takes his work very seriously, he isn't afraid to insert humour into the lectures by adding in a few jokes, or showing the audience some comic strips (related to Black Holes of course) that he finds amusing. You will learn a lot by watching this course. For the novice astronomer, or someone who has pursued astronomy as a hobby, there may be information contained within this course that you have already come across. This is not a problem as there will be material in here that will be new or will increase your understanding of what you already know. Either way, you will find this course quite intriguing. So when you combine an interesting topic, a knowledgeable, yet entertaining Professor, with intriguing information, you have Black Holes Explained and you're in for a real treat.
Date published: 2013-01-31
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Black Holes Explained Although this was a very good course it could be greatly improved by simplifying the language or giving better explanations for technical terms. The professor is an exciting presenter and extremely knowledgeable, if only the material could be simplified to a layman's level.
Date published: 2013-01-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Enlightened on a DARK subject :-) Black Holes have fascinated me for a long time, so I decided to buy the DVD set. I have gone through the series once, and I know I will have to listen again several times to get all of the information contained. There is a lot of material to digest, and some of it is quite complex with mathematical equations and high level physics. A good lecturer takes complex concepts and makes them as understandable as possible and infuses humor and example to keep his or her students interested. Dr. Filippenko does all of this. He is quite a character--more than once I rolled my eyes at his corny jokes, but he always kept me engaged. I appreciated the fact that he would warn his listeners when he needed to explain a complex concept and would tell us to focus on the gist of what he was saying. Dr. Filippenko looks completely at ease in front of the camera. He does border on being a ham, in fact. I have to say, though, that he never looked like he was reading from a teleprompter or notes, and it was obvious that he is VERY knowledgeable about his subject. I had listened to Dr. Wolfson's introductory lecture about Black Holes in his General Relativity course and this did prepare me for this course. The biggest surprise I have taken from the course so far is that while black holes are indeed black, the accretion disk around them helps give a "picture" of what they look like (and how they may be found), and that there are often jets of gas that come forth from the accretion disk spinning around the black hole. (Dr. Filippenko stresses that the jets do NOT come from the black holes themselves.) Lastly, I enjoyed all the pictures, props, and artist's conceptions included in the course. This is definitely a VISUAL course. Thanks, Dr. Filippenko, for an en excellent course--this may be my favorite TTC course yet!! NOTE: I couldn't help but give a pun for the subject of this review, as Dr. Filippenko throws many of them into his lecture. He also says AMAZING and WOW many times.
Date published: 2013-01-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An Amazing Course on a Mind Bending Subject In my opinion, Alex Filippenko is the best, or certainly among the best, of The Teaching Company's lecturers. In this course he once again does a truly outstanding job. The subject matter is presented in a very clear and informative manner, and he is far more engaging than many of the others hired by TTC. I disagree with a previous review that criticized the course for not covering Einstein's general theory of relativity. This is an extensive field, and it would have taken several lectures to cover it even briefly, yet until recently, TTC courses have been bundled in units of 12 lectures. Given that the black holes course consists of only 12 lectures, and is chock full of information, the professor would have had to omit important material about black holesm if he had covered general relativity in greater detail. (He does mention GR a few times, where relevant to the topic under discussion.) Moreover, a good TTC course covering relativity already exists (by Wolfson). I won't even bother commenting in detail on the content-free, uneducated, thoughtless review entitled "A real dog." There's a lot of information in this course. Some of it is already covered in the professor's big astronomy course, Understanding the Universe (2nd ed.), but there it is scattered throughout different sections (stellar-mass black holes, supermassive black holes, mini black holes), whereas here it's all conveniently in one place. Also, substantial new material is presented that is not in the big course at all. Those who are not sure they're interested in astronomy might want to watch Black Holes Explained (and Skywatching, which is excellent as well), and if you enjoy them, then jump into Understanding the Universe, which is a tour de force.
Date published: 2012-12-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Another Wonderful Filippenko Course This is truly an amazing course. It is my third course by Professor Filippenko and I am very happy to have them all in my collection. I am impressed how he was able to cram so much information into such a short course. There is just enough mathematics to be interesting without overwhelming the viewer. The use of humour enhanced Filippenko's enthusiasm. I highly recommend this course to anyone who wants to know the current thinking on black holes.
Date published: 2012-12-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Do not pass the event horizon! What a great mini-course! Dr. Filipenko is up to his usual corny antics with plenty of substance and information there for the taking. Such an infectious smile and love of science! This course is a great investment for those wanting to learn a little more about an often misunderstood subject. To learn about what the LHC can provide, presented in the last lecture, was the cherry on the ice cream sundae. There is a little math involved (I always chuckled in college astronomy courses when students would balk that "there was math involved".) but just to demonstrate how the features of black holes can be explained. This course is highly recommended.
Date published: 2012-11-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Black Holes are Out of Sight! Another great course by Filippenko! I didn't know whether I should buy this course, because the subject seemed like it might be quite difficult and abstract. But he made it come alive, and most of the explanations were very good and understandable. I can now tell my friends about black holes and actually know what I'm talking about! The concepts are fascinating, and it was clear that this is a cutting-edge field of astronomy. I really liked the jokes, puns, and cartoons. They made the course a lot of fun, bringing some levity to an intrinsically difficult subject. I didn't want a boring lecturer who isn't animated and excited about the subject! This course is highly thought-provoking. It even covers the fascinating "information paradox" of black holes, hypothetical travel through black holes to other universes, and the possibility that the Large Hadron Collider will produce a black hole that destroys the Earth. (Don't worry -- Filippenko explains why we have nothing to fear!) I totally don't understand the previous very negative review. "A real dog"? In what way? It's a fabulous course.
Date published: 2012-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A wonderful course A wonderful and entertaining course. I have worked on Black Holes and numerical relativity before so I understand what the good professor is talking about. But still it is my favorite pass time is to watch courses like these and I really enjoyed this. My only qualm was the lack of mathematical content which would have made this course even more enjoyable. But I suppose this was geared towards general public rather than a physicist.
Date published: 2012-10-17
Rated 1 out of 5 by from A Real Dog This is the only thing I have ever returned to The Great Courses. I didn't like anything about it..
Date published: 2012-08-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Wild Journey Generally, this is a journey you'll be glad you took.The professor is brilliant and enthusiastic. He goes pretty deep into the physics with math as needed. But, at the same time, he's careful to keep neophytes engaged. I don't want to get into separating some lessons as particularly exciting because they all have value. But know that some parts of the journey are especially thrilling. The professor's path will be more satisfying to some students than others. Often, he'll wander off in speculative or at least purely conceptual directions. For some, this will nicely scratch an itch. For others, there will be frustration, especially when the conceptual is treated as almost proven truth. At other times, the economy of time spent on various material seems weak. For example, he spends considerable amounts of time in the last lecture on whether the LHC will create mini black holes. That was ok. But I would rather he had devoted more time to the exciting research that lies ahead on black holes than proving in many different ways how these black holes, if indeed they're ever created, will not destroy the earth. Notwithstanding these complaints and the too-abundant corniness, this is a really fine course that I recommend fully.
Date published: 2012-06-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of the top Teaching Company lectures Dr. Filippenko is a very enthusiastic lecturer; definitely not boring. I realize that the Physics of Black Holes is very severe. Dr. Filippenko presents the material in a manner that allows the lay person to have a pretty good grasp of the subject matter. The lecture comes with many graphics that aid in the understanding and explanation the subject matter. Though I cannot fully “get my arms around” the idea of a singularity, it is explained enough to allow for a pretty good understanding. I have purchased many of the Science & Mathematics courses offered by the Teaching Company. Without a doubt, Dr. Filippenko is the top lecturer because of his passionate presentation of the material.
Date published: 2012-06-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great astrophysics course by a great Professor! Professor Filippenko is one of the best science communicators and Professors I have learned from. He makes the course very exciting to learn. If you have watched and liked his course called "Understanding the Universe" you will love this course.
Date published: 2012-06-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Great Course Professor Flippenko is knowledgeable, wildly enthusiastic and a master teacher. I say that as a scientist who has been in the classroom for almost five decades. I have never been disappointed in a Great Course and in this case learned more than I thought was possibel about the subject. I will other Flippenko courses in the future.
Date published: 2012-05-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Course! This was the best of the Great Courses my son and I have watched! Alex made this very complex and complicated material understandable. We loved the tone of the class, and the great jokes that Alex threw in that were not only fun, but also helped us to remember concepts from the class. We are hoping that Alex will do many more courses. He truly is one of the great teachers! We want to thank him for expanding our world, giving us so much to think about, and helping us to understand cutting edge astro-physics.
Date published: 2012-05-28
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