Black Holes, Tides, and Curved Spacetime: Understanding Gravity

Course No. 1231
Professor Benjamin Schumacher, Ph.D.
Kenyon College
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Course No. 1231
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Course Overview

The force of gravity rules the universe. It governs our everyday lives on Earth and it controls the motions of the heavens above. Yet it is one of the least understood of all the forces of nature. To endeavor to understand this fundamental force is to experience anew something as simple as getting out of bed, throwing a ball, or diving into a pool; and it gives deep insight into the central organizing principle of the cosmos.

Consider these crucial aspects of gravity:

  • Gravity governs the rising and falling of tides—not only tides in the ocean, but tides in the solid rock of Earth itself.
  • Gravity molds the sun and planets into spheres, and it holds celestial objects in their orbits.
  • Gravity ignites the nuclear fires inside each star, then fights a billion-year battle to determine its fate.
  • Gravity collects stars into galaxies and causes galaxies to collide in intricate mergers that we can model with supercomputers.

Without gravity, everything would dissolve into a gas of randomly interacting atoms. It is the only truly universal force, affecting not just matter but also light, time, and, at a basic level, all information. The study of gravity helped spark the Scientific Revolution in the 17th century, and it continues to be at the forefront of physics today, as scientists rely on gravity to investigate otherwise inaccessible phenomena such as dark matter and dark energy. An understanding of gravity—what it is, how it works, and why it is the most dominant and puzzling force in the universe—is both endlessly fascinating and accessible to any curious person, regardless of his or her science education.

Black Holes, Tides, and Curved Spacetime: Understanding Gravity plunges you into this compelling subject in 24 intensively illustrated half-hour lectures, presented by Professor Benjamin Schumacher of Kenyon College. Professor Schumacher is an award-winning teacher, a prominent theoretical physicist, and a protégé of John Archibald Wheeler, the distinguished gravity theorist who first coined the term “black hole.”

No book or other comparable product exists that presents gravity in such comprehensible detail as this course, which covers the key ideas in gravity research over the past 400 years and gives you the background to understand today’s path-breaking theories in physics. Professor Schumacher even walks you through some of the fundamental equations in the field, such as Isaac Newton’s law of universal gravitation and Albert Einstein’s equation governing the curvature of spacetime by matter, giving you a firsthand look at the power of these mathematical expressions to explain reality—plus further opportunities to explore them with the course guidebook.

It All Started with an Apple

The course opens with Newton’s famous apple, which fell from a tree and inspired a revolutionary idea. Newton realized that the force of gravity that acts on an apple near the surface of Earth also extends to the faraway moon, keeping it in its orbit around Earth; similarly, Earth and the other planets are held in orbit around the sun by its gravity, and so on with all the stars and planets throughout the cosmos.

You learn how Newton built on the earlier work of Galileo Galilei and Johannes Kepler to formulate his celebrated law of universal gravitation, which governs the analysis of practically all motion—on Earth and in the heavens. In the first half of the course, you cover the many implications of this spectacular achievement. In the second half, you see how Einstein’s general theory of relativity solved long-standing mysteries of Newton’s theory and advanced an entirely new picture of gravity as a field. The simple reasoning that led Einstein to his extraordinary conclusions is thrilling to follow in Professor Schumacher’s elegant presentation.

Equally thrilling are the surprising features of gravity that you investigate, including these:

  • Gravity is unimaginably weak—a million, trillion, trillion, trillion times weaker than the electromagnetic force that attracts electrons to protons and holds atoms together. Which raises the question: How can weak gravity dominate all other forces?
  • Galileo was the first to point out that objects with different masses fall at the same rate. Neglecting air resistance, a heavier object does not fall faster than a lighter one—a principle famously demonstrated by an astronaut on the moon with a hammer and a feather.
  • The weightless condition that astronauts experience in space is not because they are beyond the reach of gravity, which is almost as strong in low Earth orbit as it is on the ground. Space travelers experience apparent zero gravity because they are in free fall.
  • According to Einstein, gravity is not actually a force at all. It is a warping of the four-dimensional fabric of the universe, called spacetime. A falling body steered only by gravity follows the most economical path in curved spacetime, called a geodesic.
  • From Black Holes to the Expanding Universe

    While gravity is deeply puzzling, it is also a phenomenon that lends itself to simple experiments that shed light on its unique properties. Professor Schumacher performs engaging in-studio demonstrations that show how scientists study gravity. Our knowledge of gravity has advanced from Galileo’s investigation of falling objects, to Henry Cavendish’s determination of the all-important gravitational constant, to Arthur Eddington’s proof that light bends as it passes near the sun, to today’s search for the almost infinitely subtle signature of gravitational waves. The lectures bring this exciting research to life with scores of informative graphics as well as stunning animations.

    This course also brings you to one of the most incredible predictions of Einstein’s general theory of relativity: black holes. Learn how Einstein’s theory describes deformed regions of spacetime that are completely cut off from the rest of the universe. Or are they? Professor Schumacher shows how physicists Stephen Hawking and Jacob Bekenstein discovered an intriguing exception to this rule about black holes that has profound implications for the universe.

    Another outcome of Einstein’s equations holds that the universe should be expanding, as Edwin Hubble discovered it is in the 1920s. More recently, astronomers have found that this expansion is accelerating due to an as-yet-unexplained cosmic antigravity known as dark energy. You explore other mysteries, including a Holy Grail of contemporary physics: the search for a theory that encompasses both gravity, which extends its reach across the cosmos, and quantum mechanics, which governs events at the smallest possible scale.

    In Black Holes, Tides, and Curved Spacetime, Professor Schumacher takes you to the very frontier of contemporary physics to explore several revolutionary theories. It’s one of the many ways that you learn how gravity research is no less exciting today as it was when Isaac Newton sat near an apple tree and had a brilliant idea.

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24 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    The Strangest Force
    Begin your exploration of gravity with Isaac Newton and the famous story of the apple. Why was it such a breakthrough to connect a falling apple with the faraway moon? Review the essential characteristics of gravity and learn why small asteroids and large planets have such different shapes. x
  • 2
    Free Fall and Inertia
    Review three great discoveries by the “grandfather” of gravity research, Galileo Galilei. His most famous experiment may never have happened, but his principle of inertia, law of free fall, and principle of relativity are the basis for everything that comes later in the science of gravity—including key breakthroughs by Einstein. x
  • 3
    Revolution in the Heavens
    Drawing on ideas and observations of Nicolaus Copernicus and Tycho Brahe, Johannes Kepler achieved a great insight about gravity by discovering three laws of planetary motion, relating to the mathematics of orbits. The cause of planetary motion, he determined, must lie in the sun. x
  • 4
    Universal Gravitation
    See how Newton was able to finish Kepler’s revolution by formulating the law of universal gravitation, which says that every object exerts an attractive force on every other object. Also explore Newton’s related discovery of the three laws of motion, which underlie the science of mechanics. x
  • 5
    The Art of Experiment
    Learn how distances in the solar system were first determined. Then chart Henry Cavendish’s historic experiment that found the value of Newton’s gravitational constant. Cavendish’s work allows almost everything in the universe to be weighed. Then see a confirmation of the equivalence principle, which says that gravitational and inertial mass are identical. x
  • 6
    Escape Velocity, Energy, and Rotation
    Begin the first of several lectures that dig deeper into Newton’s laws than Newton himself was able to go. In this lecture, apply the key concepts of energy and angular momentum to study how gravity affects motion. As an example, use simple algebra to calculate the escape velocity from Earth. x
  • 7
    Stars in Their Courses—Orbital Mechanics
    Newton was the first to realize that objects could, in theory, be sent into orbit around Earth. Explore how this works in practice, using the ideas of energy and angular momentum to study how satellites, moons, planets, and stars move through space. x
  • 8
    What Are Tides? Earth and Beyond
    Trace the origin of tides to the simple fact that gravity varies from point to point in space. This leads not just to the rise and fall of the ocean, but to the gradual slowing of Earth’s rotation, Saturn’s spectacular ring system, volcanoes on Jupiter’s moon Io, and many other phenomena. x
  • 9
    Nudge—Perturbations of Orbits
    For the next three lectures, study the effects of gravity on the motions of more than two bodies. Here, see how even very small orbital changes—small perturbations—are significant. Such effects have revealed the presence of unknown planets, both in our own solar system and around other stars. x
  • 10
    Resonance—Surprises in the Intricate Dance
    Resonance happens whenever a small periodic force produces a large effect on a periodic motion—for example, when you push a child on a swing. Learn how resonance due to gravitational interactions between three bodies can lead to amazing phenomena with planets, asteroids, and rings of planets. x
  • 11
    The Million-Body Problem
    Consider the problem of gravitational interactions between millions of bodies, such as the countless stars in a galaxy. Amazingly, mathematics can reveal useful information even in these complicated cases. Discover how the analysis of the motions of galaxies led to the prediction of dark matter. x
  • 12
    The Billion-Year Battle
    Explore the physics of stars, which are balls of gas in a billion-year battle between the inward pull of gravity and the outward pressure produced by nuclear fusion. Follow this story to its ultimate finish—the triumph of gravity in massive stars that end their lives as black holes. x
  • 13
    From Forces to Fields
    For the rest of the course, focus on the revolutionary view of gravitation launched by Albert Einstein. Review new ideas about fields that allowed physics to extend beyond Newtonian mechanics. Then see how Einstein modified Newton’s laws and created the special theory of relativity. x
  • 14
    The Falling Laboratory
    Einstein focused on gravity in his general theory of relativity. Hear about his “happiest thought”—the realization that a man in free fall perceives gravity as zero. This simple insight resolved a mystery going all the way back to Newton and led Einstein to the startling discovery that gravity affects light and time. x
  • 15
    Spacetime in Zero Gravity
    In an influential interpretation of relativity, Einstein’s former mathematics professor Hermann Minkowski reformulated the theory in terms of four-dimensional geometry, which he called spacetime. Learn how to plot events in this coordinate system in cases where gravity is zero. x
  • 16
    Spacetime Tells Matter How to Move
    See how gravity affects Minkowski’s spacetime geometry, discovering that motion in a gravitational field follows the straightest path in curved spacetime. The curvature in spacetime is not caused by gravity; it is gravity. This startling idea is the essence of Einstein’s general theory of relativity. x
  • 17
    Matter Tells Spacetime How to Curve
    The curvature of spacetime depends upon matter—and tidal effects. In this lecture, see how ordinary tidal effects reveal a simplified form of Einstein’s greatest discovery: the equation governing the curvature of spacetime by matter. x
  • 18
    Light in Curved Spacetime
    See how Einstein’s general theory of relativity predicts the bending of light in a gravitational field, famously confirmed in 1919 by the British scientist Arthur Eddington. Learn how this phenomenon creates natural gravitational lenses—and how the bending of light reveals invisible matter in deep space. x
  • 19
    Gravitomagnetism and Gravitational Waves
    The general theory of relativity predicts new phenomena of gravity analogous to those of electromagnetism. Discover how ultra-sensitive experiments have detected the gravitomagnetism of the Earth, and follow the search for elusive gravitational waves that travel through space. x
  • 20
    Gravity’s Horizon—Anatomy of a Black Hole
    Plunge into the subject of black holes, which are massive objects that have collapsed completely under their own gravity. Learn how black holes distort spacetime and explore the supermassive black holes that lie at the hearts of galaxies. Then ask: Are there such things as micro-black holes? x
  • 21
    Which Universe Is Ours?
    Investigate what Einstein called his “greatest mistake”—his rejection of his own theory’s prediction that spacetime should be dynamic and evolving. Chart the work of a group of scientists, including Alexander Friedman, Georges Lemaître, and Edwin Hubble, who advanced the realization that our universe is expanding from an apparent big bang. x
  • 22
    Cosmic Antigravity—Inflation and Dark Energy
    Using everything you’ve learned about gravity, investigate cosmic antigravity, starting with cosmic inflation, a phenomenon that exponentially increased the size of the universe during the big bang. Then, learn why dark matter cannot be made of ordinary protons and neutrons, and explore the recent discovery that the expansion of the universe is accelerating, powered by a mysterious dark energy inherent in space itself. x
  • 23
    The Force of Creation
    Use a black hole to test the laws of thermodynamics, taking a deeper look at the capacity of gravity to pull matter together and increase entropy at the same time. Probe Stephen Hawking’s most surprising discovery, and then learn that the same force that pulls the apple down and steers the stars in their courses is also nature’s ultimate source of order and complexity. x
  • 24
    The Next Revolution
    Survey the greatest unsolved problem in theoretical physics: the search for a quantum theory of gravity. Examine string theory, loop quantum gravity, and also entropic gravity, which suggests a revolutionary link with thermodynamics. Close the course with a deepened appreciation for the connection between everyday features of gravity and the most exciting questions in contemporary physics and cosmology. x

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Your professor

Benjamin Schumacher

About Your Professor

Benjamin Schumacher, Ph.D.
Kenyon College
Dr. Benjamin Schumacher is Professor of Physics at Kenyon College, where he has taught for 20 years. He received his Ph.D. in Theoretical Physics from The University of Texas at Austin in 1990. Professor Schumacher is the author of numerous scientific papers and two books, including Physics in Spacetime: An Introduction to Special Relativity. As one of the founders of quantum information theory, he introduced the term qubit,...
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Black Holes, Tides, and Curved Spacetime: Understanding Gravity is rated 4.7 out of 5 by 78.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from exact and to the point I have purchased numerous science courses from this company and this is one of the best ones. Professor Schumacher makes the course interesting and informative and while he goes into great detail with the science and math if you have a basic understanding of gravity you are never lost. One of the most interesting and informative courses to date.
Date published: 2018-11-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Course for Non-Scientists I've just finished watching this for the second time. I'm sure I will watch it again. There is so much information here, it does indeed feel like attending a university course. Gravity is the dominant force in the universe. To understand gravity is to understand the universe. Professor Schumacher walks us through man kinds understanding of gravity and the universe in a direct, common sense manner. His grasp of this material is to me amazing. It doesn't come easy, these concepts are deep. It would be easier for me if I knew math better. But even though I don't, I just let that part of it go by and thoroughly enjoyed the entire course. It feels good to know that I understand some of what makes the world go round.
Date published: 2018-11-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Learned cause of curvature of spacetime. The best part was learning the cause of the curvature of spacetime - it is the time dilation of time by gravity. Although I knew of curved spacetime, I had never seen an explanation and the explanation was great. I also appreciated the effect of orbiting resonance - like the blank spaces in the asteroid belt and spaces in the rings of Saturn. And I appreciated the histories.
Date published: 2018-11-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Super great! We need to know more about black holes! Black holes are not new, we need more info an this subject!
Date published: 2018-10-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from I learned some new things A good review of what most already know and an insight into some complex new (to the amateur anyway) physics. Like many of these courses though, the professor spends an inordinate amount of time on the obvious, like explaining the Pythagorean Theorem and then completely skips over explaining something abstract, like where "the second most important minus sign in the universe" came from. Well worth the time and cost but I wish more time was spent explaining the non obvious.
Date published: 2018-10-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Teacher! I have many Great Courses, but among them, this had the best lecturer (Professor Schumacher). His order of presentation was perfect to help us understand the topics, and the pace was very good.
Date published: 2018-09-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Enjoyed the presentation I like the professor's presentation style. Many aspects of gravity covered.
Date published: 2018-09-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Astro-Phsics for the Non-Scientist This is an excellent course for those interested in the forces in our universe who are not students of the cosmos. The lectures dealing with gravity are especially interesting.
Date published: 2018-06-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from gravity is upgraded since einstein All the books I read about gravity and spacetime are a bit out of date so an update is essential. Especially when grandkids expect a knowledgeable answer! Great for even old people like me.
Date published: 2018-06-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Course This is a good beginner's course for anyone interested in gravity, not too technical. The instructor is professional and presents the subject manner in a way that's easy to understand, breaking down the equations and showing the ideas behind them. The demonstrations are appropriate and make you think about what is being discussed. Wonderful! Thank you, GC.
Date published: 2018-04-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Overview of Gravitation I just finished this course and I loved it. Although my undergraduate degree was in applied physics, and although I’ve studied gravitation at the level of Misner, Thorne, and Wheeler’s classic book on general relativity- I enjoyed this overview of the topic from start to finish. The historical references were interesting, and helped to illustrate how science develops over time. Dr. Schumacher is knowledgeable and engaging. Potentially difficult concepts were clearly presented. In addition to the value of learning (or reviewing) this subject matter, I believe this course is an example of outstanding teaching.
Date published: 2018-03-30
Rated 4 out of 5 by from tells me what I want to know. I haven't had time to really assimilate all that is available with this course. Ask me again in 2 or 3 months. How can you expect a student to have an opinion when there hasn't been time to really get into the subject?
Date published: 2018-03-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent college prep material I am very impressed with all the science courses that I have purchased from 'The Great Courses'. The presenters are well informed leaders in their field. I recommend these courses to anyone interested in pursuing further education in a scientific field. The courses are easy to understand, help you to fully understand the nature of the field, and will prepare you for the curriculum in advance of taking college courses. This small price in money and time will give you a leg up and ensure success in your educational choices. Excellent college prep material! Prime Q
Date published: 2018-03-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent course -- As a very amateur physicist, I found the course challenging but fascinating. Professor Schumacher is wonderfully clear and enthusiastic about this topic. The course logically follows in two parts -- pre- and post Einstein. And it does a nice job of explaining gravities' implications in many respects. My only quibble, and it is a very small one, is I would have liked a deeper discussion of the development and interpretation of Einstein's field equations. I understand many who watch the lectures would find the math overwhelming, but they would have the option of skipping forward. However, the terms in the equations have very intuitive interpretations and this portion of the lecture seemed sparse.
Date published: 2018-02-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A great and interesting course but a bit too much math.
Date published: 2018-02-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Clear exposition of a challenging subject Fine overview. Very pleasing to see the fundamental concepts of relativity explained clearly, including the ideas underlying the mathematics, rather than focusing on the apparent paradoxes.
Date published: 2017-12-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Weighty material These are not stand alone lectures, they must be watched in sequence to follow the the discoveries and reasoning behind the subject. Schumaker is very careful and thorough. He develops the topic gradually. He did a great job. I was very satisfied.
Date published: 2017-09-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from For students of the laws and forces of nature! A great blend of the historical evolution of our understanding of gravitational force with presentation of enough math and physics to explain orbits, tides, planetary rings, galactic structure, space-time and more, Inspiring!
Date published: 2017-05-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Lots of good information I very much enjoyed this course and learned a lot. The lectures were well prepared and well delivered. A couple of minor quibbles: - In the lecture on resonances, mention that Jupiter and Saturn are in resonance (5:2). - In the lecture on spacetime curvature, emphasize that the "straight lines" that form the sides of triangles on a sphere must be geodesics.
Date published: 2017-05-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good description of content I spent 25 years studying and computing the effects of gravity on inertial navigation systems. This course is filling in many of my knowledge blanks.
Date published: 2017-05-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from love the miniature solar system I enjoyed this course a great deal. Learned many things about gravity that I was not aware of. Professor Benjamin Schumacher did a wonderful job of keeping his lectures simple enough for a non mathematician to understand.
Date published: 2017-03-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Five to One Hundred Year Old Theory I have been following the Standard Theory since I was seven. I have since changed my views on the universe. This professor details how gravity is viewed for over the past 500 years. He is very accurate and informative. I think that we need something new to detail how gravity works though. Einstein was cutting edge back in 1915 but for the past one hundred years the scientists still do not know how gravity works. Einsteins view has many holes in it and some scientists say that he was spot on 100% even though he is not. If Einstein were alive today I am sure that with all of the modern experiments he would change his story and figure it out. His theory works on what was known back then and not what we know today. I recommend this course so that a person can see how things have changed and how they have been stagnant for the past 100 years.
Date published: 2017-03-14
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Unique Approach for Covering These Topics Learned a lot of background information that ties nicely into Blackholes, Tides and Curved Spacetime: Understanding Gravity. Both Benjamin Schumacher and Richard Wolfson (Einstein's Relativity and the Quantum Revolution) provide well thought out material. The two courses actual fit together nicely.because you are given another point of view on a subject that , for me, helped clarify some issues that I did not understand completely..
Date published: 2017-02-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Clear yet honestly complex A great course clearly presented with well explained examples that sometimes surprise. For a person who strives to understand while inspiring more curious questions many of which are, yet, to be answered by the experts.
Date published: 2017-02-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A course supplementing other GCs In this lecture series Prof. Schumacher provides theoretical underpinnings (don’t expect too much, just a sketch thereof) for Carroll’s Dark Matter, Whittle’s Cosmology and Filippenko’s Black Holes, and even for parts of Carroll’s Time, as well as a supplement to Wolfson’s Physics, expanding and elaborating on material therein. The course’s nature as a supplement, furnishing detail, makes it extremely attractive, from my point of view, at least in principle. The Teaching Company is taking a risk for our sake—they produce a course with a rather narrow focus, however universal the force of gravity might be. Schumacher’s approach seems to be “I am going to show you how all the frontier stuff is really reducible to, and explicable by means of, the good old introductory physics textbook”. Thus elementary physics is a prerequisite but calculus is nowhere used. On the basis of this course alone, I cannot concur with enthusiastic reviewers pronouncing Schumacher a first class teacher. I would grade him with an A-minus whereas I would grade Wolfson with an A+plus. I take the view that Scumacher’s explanations are not meticulous, if one follows what he says so much the better, if one cannot, too bad, he seems to make no effort to keep everybody on board. His exposition of black holes is on a par with Filippenko. Schumacher’s excursus into black hole thermodynamics is far more revealing than Filippenko’s. By contrast, his account of Dark Matter is much less user friendly and clear than Carroll’s. One should watch Carroll first, and only then Schumacher. As to tides, no I don’t think Schumacher is really making an effort to make us understand how they occur (in the seas I mean). What he makes is a passing reference to the phenomenon. He does give some demonstrations, actually using antique equipment— cute! He exhibits care when venturing into the history of science (the old photographs of scientists are really good)—still I did not buy the course to learn history so I find time devoted to this topic a bit of a waste and if intended to sugar the pill of a difficult course, a silly stratagem really. All in all Schumacher should get at least full marks because his is the only GC which dares deal at length with General Relativity--on this count I too would wish to give him six rather than just five stars. Carroll’s attempt (in Dark Matter) seems cavalier in comparison. I do, never the less, take good note of reviewer’s BGZRedux remarks, more or less suggesting that a satisfactory presentation of General Relativity intended for types like myself (with a deficient, though not entirely non-existent, mathematical background) might be a hopeless task—i.e., viewers should expect to be brought to only a highly superficial, and almost empty and meaningless, contact with Einstein’s great theory.
Date published: 2016-12-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Overview Professor Schumacher is a great speaker. I enjoyed the course and will view it again. Skilled expositors in science and technology are rare. I would like to see him do a more advanced version with perhaps an introduction to tensor analysis and covering recent theoretical challenges to the existence of dark matter.
Date published: 2016-12-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Black Holes, Tides, and Curved Spacetime: Understa This is a nice and useful course. It is impactful, emphasizing the fundamental effect of gravity driving the universe.
Date published: 2016-10-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Incredibly interesting If you are wondering how someone can fill 24 lectures talking about gravity, don't worry -- it could have been twice as long. Even the first half of the course, which addresses Newtonian mechanics, is fascinating and exciting. For me, one of the most important aspects of a lecture course is that the presenter has a pleasant voice and no annoying mannerisms. Schumacher scores there. Neither does he try to score points with his personality or wardrobe. (He wears the same crumpled clothes throughout the 12 hours.) Another great thing I like about him is that he actually presents some math. Science, especially theoretical physics, is nearly all maths, so it is absurd that most science presenters refuse to show any maths at all. Schumacher does the right thing -- he presents equations and explains what they mean. We can all handle that, if the explanation is clear enough, and, for most part, it is. The visuals are good, and this guy really knows his stuff. If the course has any weakness, I would say . . . I forget. Oh yes, like many people, he describes past events in the present tense. "Einstein realizes" instead of "Einstein realized". But as that is the strongest criticism I can come up with, you can be sure this is a great course. Definitely the best course I have bought.
Date published: 2016-08-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Bit More Mathematical Than Their Average Most Great Courses are light on math, so as not to deter the non-mathematical from understanding something about their subject. Professor Schumacher's course is the most mathematically inclined that I have watched yet. On average, every lecture is going to show some equation. If you do not understand basic symbols like square root, pi or exponents, you may feel frustrated. My only advice in that case would be to ignore the equations on the page or the screen, and just listen to him describing their meaning in layman's terms. I'd guess this series is the equivalent of an undergraduate-level, single-term (3 month) course on gravity. If your math is adequate, you can try working his problems; if not, just listen to his descriptions. This dwelt less than I thought it might on the properties of black holes and gravity tides. It did go into those topics, but basically for one lecture each, out of 24 total (each being 30 minutes). The course really is a broad overview of our understanding of gravity, historically from Galileo to Einstein, and how it relates to the nature and evolution of the physical universe. At the end he discusses what is for him the most interesting unsolved question in modern physics: how to make Einstein's gravity play nicely with quantum mechanics. He outlines three promising ideas, one of which is his favorite (you have to listen to find out). I don't like handing out five stars indiscriminately. There are always listeners at differing degrees of prior knowledge. For some, this series might seem too hard and for others, too easy. I've tried to indicate what might be the "sweet spot" for appreciating it: some basic understanding of mathematical symbols is helpful. For the goals the course set out, I can't really think of a way to improve it any.
Date published: 2016-08-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Just an excellent course Purchased this course on Amazon Video. My Children had given me some gift cards and I discovered that a small number of 'Great Courses' courses are offered there (maybe a marketing experiment?) -- so I bought this one from that limited offering With some trepidation because I feared it would be too 'survey' oriented with too little math for my tastes, and too much history, and simply not enough ‘meat’. Ok, so it does have too little math for my tastes, but Professor Schumacher is such a good teacher (I own another course by him so I wasn't surprised), and the course content so outstanding (I realized during the course that my college courses in Physics really hadn't given me a 'good' feel for gravity – equations? yes, problems to solve? yes, tests? yes, but not a good understanding and intuitive feel). Glad I 'jumped' on this one even though I was ready to be disappointed -- I WAS NOT!
Date published: 2016-06-08
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