Dark Matter, Dark Energy: The Dark Side of the Universe

Course No. 1272
Professor Sean Carroll, Ph.D.
California Institute of Technology
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148 Reviews
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Course No. 1272
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What Will You Learn?

  • Survey the visible universe, from the known stars in our galaxy to fascinating nebulae.
  • Peer into atoms to discover the nuclei and electrons that constitute ordinary matter.
  • Learn about a bold new field in nature known as quintessence.

Course Overview

There's more to the universe than meets the eye—a lot more. In recent years, scientists have discovered that 95% of the contents of the cosmos are invisible to our current methods of direct detection. Yet something is holding galaxies and galaxy clusters together, and something else is causing space to fly apart.

Scientists call these invisible components dark matter and dark energy; "dark" because these phenomena do not emit light, not because we are not learning more and more about them. In fact, dark matter and dark energy are the most eagerly studied subjects in astronomy and particle physics today.

If and when we discover this matter, it will further validate the "standard model" of physics which, so far, is the best description of how our universe works; if we cannot find this matter, or if it does not exist, then we will completely need to rethink the current "standard model" theory.

Join the exciting search for these mysterious phenomena in Dark Matter, Dark Energy: The Dark Side of the Universe, a mind-expanding, 24-lecture course taught by Dr. Sean Carroll, a theoretical physicist with a profound knowledge of the field. Starting with the early 20th-century work of Albert Einstein in theoretical physics and Edwin Hubble in observational astronomy, Dr. Carroll takes you through the key concepts of this revolutionary view of an expanding universe, concepts which have brought us—for the first time in history—to the brink of knowing what the universe is made of.

Welcome to the Dark Side

Everything you see with your eyes and with powerful instruments—stars, planets, galaxies, dust, and gas—and everything that you think of as atom-based matter is only 5% of what we now know exists. The rest is what Dr. Carroll calls the "dark sector," which consists of the following:

  • Dark matter: First proposed in the 1930s, the idea that there is missing mass influencing the behavior of galaxies began to look more and more likely from the 1970s on. We know that it is matter because we can detect its gravitational influence on visible matter, but we cannot see it. An inventory of the distribution of dark matter throughout space shows that it constitutes 25% of the energy density of the universe.
  • Dark energy: The greatest discoveries are the unexpected ones, which was the case in the late 1990s when two teams of astronomers competing to measure the rate at which the expansion of the universe is slowing down (as virtually everyone thought it must be) discovered that it is speeding up instead. A previously unknown, all-pervasive dark energy must be at work, representing 70% of the energy density of the universe.

Together, dark matter and dark energy account for all but a tiny fraction of everything there is; the ordinary matter that is left over is like the seasoning on the main dish. The story of how we arrived at this startling cosmic recipe is an absorbing drama that takes you through the breakthrough discoveries in astronomy and physics since the turn of the 20th century.

Concept by concept, Dark Matter, Dark Energy gives you the tools to appreciate this subject in depth. Dr. Carroll explains why scientists believe we live in a smooth, expanding universe that originated in a hot, dense state called the big bang.

You investigate the features of the infant universe that led to the large-scale structure we observe today, explore the standard model of particle physics and see how it provides the framework for understanding the interaction of all matter and radiation, and come to understand why dark matter and dark energy are logical consequences of a range of scientific theories and observations and how together they complete a grand picture of the universe.

Deduce the Existence of the Dark Sector

Several significant clues disclose the existence of dark matter and dark energy. In the case of dark matter, we have the evidence of:

  • Galaxy dynamics: The motions of the stars in galaxies and galaxies within clusters indicate that there is far more matter than is implied by visible stars and gas.
  • Echoes of the big bang: Variations in the leftover radiation from the big bang demonstrate that there must be dark matter pulling the ordinary matter we see.

Dark matter is clear to see compared to dark energy, which reveals itself subtly but unmistakably through:

  • Exploding stars: Type Ia supernovae provide a standard candle to measure the distances to faraway galaxies. By combining this information with redshift (which measures how fast a galaxy recedes), astronomers conclude that something is causing galaxies to recede at a faster and faster velocity.
  • Geometry of space: Observations that space is "flat" (with neither positive nor negative curvature) imply a total energy density for the universe that is stunningly consistent with the dark energy hypothesis.

Each of these techniques deduces the existence of dark matter or dark energy from the gravitational fields they cause. But what if our theory of gravity is faulty? Could adjustments to Einstein's general theory of relativity, which forms our modern understanding of gravity, do away with the need for the dark sector?

You explore a theory called Modified Newtonian Dynamics, which successfully dispenses with dark matter in individual galaxies. This theory fails, however, when applied to clusters and has nothing to say about the expansion of the universe.

"It is impossible, in principle, to think of a theory in this day and age that will completely do away with dark matter," says Dr. Carroll, pointing in particular to a convincing piece of evidence from the aftermath of the collision of two galaxies.

Known as the Bullet Cluster, it shows a central region of ordinary matter (evident through telltale x-ray emissions), on either side of which are far more extensive clouds of what can only be dark matter, disclosed by gravitational lensing.

Explaining away dark energy is similarly difficult, because it requires revising the fundamental equation of general relativity. "The problem is that this equation of Einstein's is actually quite remarkable," says Dr. Carroll. "If you try to mess with it just a little bit, you break it."

The overriding question remains: What are dark matter and dark energy? We do not yet know for certain, but physicists have come up with an array of creative ideas and ways to test them. Dark Matter, Dark Energy covers the most promising proposals and looks ahead to experiments that will dramatically improve our understanding of the dark sector.

Take a Voyage of Scientific Discovery

Dr. Carroll has a knack for explaining the latest complex picture of the universe in easy-to-follow terms—a skill honed by his more than 250 scientific seminars, colloquia, educational discussions, and popular talks. Relaxed, eloquent, wryly funny, and brimming with ideas, he has received the Graduate Student Council Teaching Award from MIT for his course on general relativity, as well as research grants from NASA, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the National Science Foundation.

With his expert guidance, your previously held ideas about the fate (and possibly the origin) of the universe will be altered permanently. A rich voyage of scientific discovery, Dark Matter, Dark Energy provides you with a comprehensive look at these two mysterious phenomena—and their startling implications for our understanding of the universe.

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24 lectures
 |  Average 31 minutes each
  • 1
    Fundamental Building Blocks
    Scientists now have a complete inventory of the universe, which is composed of three basic constituents: Ordinary matter includes every kind of particle ever directly observed; dark matter consists of massive particles known only because of their gravitational effects; and dark energy is a smoothly distributed component that whose density does not change as the universe expands. x
  • 2
    The Smooth, Expanding Universe
    Imagine looking into a clear night sky with perfect vision. What would you see? This lecture surveys the visible universe—from the stars in our galaxy to the cloudy patches called nebulae that astronomer Edwin Hubble proved are galaxies in their own right—and Hubble's discovery that the universe is expanding. x
  • 3
    Space, Time, and Gravity
    Einstein taught us that space and time can be combined into spacetime, which has the ability to evolve and grow. Indeed, what we think of as gravity is just a manifestation of the curvature of spacetime. To find things in the universe—including dark matter and dark energy—all we have to do is to map out this curvature. x
  • 4
    Cosmology in Einstein's Universe
    The expansion of the universe is governed by its spatial curvature and energy density, both of which have specific ways of changing as the universe grows. These features are related to each other by Einstein's general theory of relativity, which can be used to model the past and possible future of the universe. x
  • 5
    Galaxies and Clusters
    Applying the laws of dynamics to galaxies and galaxy clusters, we find that more matter is required to account for their motions than can be observed. Some of the missing mass is hot gas; however, this is still not enough, and we need to invoke some new kind of particle in galaxies and clusters: dark matter. x
  • 6
    Gravitational Lensing
    Another way to detect invisible matter is to use light as a probe of the gravitational field. Passing through curved spacetime, the path of a light ray is deflected due to gravitational lensing. Lensing demonstrates the existence of gravitational fields where there is essentially no ordinary matter. x
  • 7
    Atoms and Particles
    We peer into the atom to discover the constituents of ordinary matter: nuclei and electrons. Nuclei are made of protons and neutrons, which in turn are made of quarks. Electrons and quarks are examples of fermions, or matter particles. There are also bosons, or force-carrying particles, such as photons and gluons. x
  • 8
    The Standard Model of Particle Physics
    In the 1960s and 1970s, physicists developed a comprehensive theory of known fermions and bosons. Now called the standard model, this theory fits an impressive amount of data, but it leaves two crucial puzzles: the hypothetical Higgs boson and the graviton, the carrier of the gravitational force. x
  • 9
    Relic Particles from the Big Bang
    Armed with the core principles of particle physics, we know enough about the early universe to predict how many of each type of particle should be left over from the Big Bang. These "relic abundances" are crucial to understanding the origin of dark matter and light elements. x
  • 10
    Primordial Nucleosynthesis
    The process of nucleosynthesis describes how protons and neutrons were assembled into light elements during the first few minutes after the Big Bang. We can observe these primordial elements today and check on Einsteinian cosmology and a stringent constraint on theories of dark matter. x
  • 11
    The Cosmic Microwave Background
    About 380,000 years after the Big Bang, the universe had cooled sufficiently for electrons and nuclei to combine into atoms allowing light to travel much more freely. The relic photons from this era are visible to us today as the cosmic microwave background, which holds clues to the composition and structure of the universe. x
  • 12
    Dark Stars and Black Holes
    Candidates for dark matter include small, dark stars called Massive Compact Halo Objects (MACHOs) and black holes. Such objects are ultimately composed of ordinary matter, of which there just isn't enough to account for the dark matter. We are forced to conclude that the dark matter is a new kind of particle. x
  • 13
    WIMPs and Supersymmetry
    Weakly interacting massive particles (WIMPs) are ideal candidates for what comprises dark matter. WIMPs may have their origins in supersymmetry, which posits a hidden symmetry between bosons and fermions, and predicts a host of new, as-yet-unobserved particles, including WIMPs. x
  • 14
    The Accelerating Universe
    In the late 1990s, two groups of astronomers found to their astonishment that the expansion of the universe is speeding up rather than slowing down. Such behavior can't be explained by any kind of matter and suggests the existence of an entirely new component: dark energy. x
  • 15
    The Geometry of Space
    Precise measurements of the cosmic microwave background let us measure the total energy density of the universe by observing the geometry of space. We find that the energy in matter alone is not enough, confirming the need for dark energy. x
  • 16
    Smooth Tension and Acceleration
    Dark energy is smoothly distributed throughout the universe and its density is nearly constant, even though the universe is expanding. Unlike gas under pressure in a container, dark energy is a kind of "negative pressure"—or tension—that imparts an accelerated expansion to the universe. x
  • 17
    Vacuum Energy
    The density and distribution of dark energy remain the same across all of space­time, but what exactly is dark energy? There are many possibilities, the simplest of which is vacuum energy—an constant amount of energy in every cubic centimeter of space itself. Vacuum energy is equivalent to Einstein's idea of the cosmological constant. x
  • 18
    Another idea about dark energy is that it results from a new field in nature, analogous to the electromagnetic field but remaining persistent as the universe expands. This field is called quintessence. It would be observationally distinguishable from the cosmological constant. x
  • 19
    Was Einstein Right?
    We have inferred the existence of dark matter and dark energy from the gravitational fields they cause. In this lecture, we explore proposals that a modified theory of gravity might allow us to dispense with the need for invoking dark stuff. However, this turns out to be very difficult in practice. x
  • 20
    Before we had observational evidence that the universe is accelerating, cosmologists considered the possibility of a period of rapid acceleration at very early times—a scenario known as inflation. x
  • 21
    Strings and Extra Dimensions
    We know about the dark sector because of gravity, and string theory is an ambitious attempt to unify gravitation with the other forces of nature into a theory of everything. String theory promises a theory of quantum gravity, but it also predicts extra, unseen spatial dimensions that are difficult to test. x
  • 22
    Beyond the Observable Universe
    The speed of light and the age of the observable universe are finite. That means we can't see the whole universe because our vision can only stretch so far. The "multi­verse"—a hypothesis of regions where conditions are very different from those we see in our observable universe—may help explain properties of dark energy. x
  • 23
    Future Experiments
    Astronomers are designing new observatories to probe the acceleration of the universe and other cosmic phenomena. Physicists are also looking forward to new experiments that will dramatically improve our understanding of particles and forces, and how ordinary matter fits in with dark matter and dark energy. x
  • 24
    The Past and Future of the Dark Side
    The concordance cosmology is an excellent fit to a variety of data, but it presents us with deep puzzles: What are dark matter and dark energy? Why do they have the densities they do? Our own universe seems unnatural to us. That's good news, as it is a clue to the next level of understanding. x

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Your professor

Sean Carroll

About Your Professor

Sean Carroll, Ph.D.
California Institute of Technology
Professor Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in Physics at the California Institute of Technology. He earned his undergraduate degree from Villanova University and his Ph.D. in Astrophysics from Harvard in 1993. Before arriving at Caltech, Professor Carroll taught in the Physics Department and the Enrico Fermi Institute at the University of Chicago, and did postdoctoral research at the Massachusetts Institute of...
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Dark Matter, Dark Energy: The Dark Side of the Universe is rated 4.7 out of 5 by 148.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Detective Story This is an older course in the catalog without quite the level of graphic effects of the later course on the Higgs field. However, as a scientist with a good deal of quantum mechanics training, but zero training in cosmology, I found this course captivating. It's my favorite type of popular science: it pulls no punches, there are equations! But, this course is not a dull lecture with loads of math (the loads of math would be OK, as long as it isn't dull). This set of talks is like a good detective story which is hard to put down. Dark matter and dark energy seem so incredibly "made up". Historically this sort of thing has pointed more to a problem with our understanding than something that is real. I am reminded of the "Ether" and the "Caloric Theory of Heat". Both involved invisible substances detectable only indirectly. However, in this mystery, there is a big problem: if our understanding of gravity is wrong (it might be), then there are some pretty deep consequences. If it's basically correct then there are some equally deep consequences. The instructor walks through asking, "well, maybe our observations could mean this...", ahhh, but no. He systematically, eliminates all the various 'easy' answers and leaves you waiting for the new theoretical and observational results. This is the way science should be taught. It doesn't really matter how it turns out, either way something new must be involved and it will be amazing to see how it all turns out. If you finish this course you will be able to understand what the results of new experiments are telling us, and more importantly, be able to wade through all the pseudo-science that surrounds anything with such catchy names as dark matter and dark energy.
Date published: 2017-03-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Intellectually stimulating! Outstanding presenter, course organized well with great content. I am learning a lot of very interesting facts.
Date published: 2017-03-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Data, Great Experiments This lecture truly is exemplified in its explanation of Dark Energy and Dark Matter. The professor does a great job in explaining everything. The only problem with Standard Theory is that it is very wordy and can give you a headache in attempting to arrive at Z starting at A with all of the other letters in between being the logic to arrive there. Einstein said to keep the theories simple. Not what the Standard Theory is, but I have a better understanding of what the theory states. I use the experiments and data of the Standard Theory to arrive at my own explanation of what is going on.
Date published: 2017-02-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great presentation Clear presention of physics of today including both accepted theories and many open areas currently being theorized.
Date published: 2017-02-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Lecturer Great Content. Sean Carroll rates with the best lecturers I have listened to and that amounts to many as I am 70yrs old. Even areas which I do not fully understand and he touches on many in this course are presented in a manner that does not confuse or loose your interest. A great knowledge and a great style of presentation and a knack of not confusing what we know with what we speculate on with reasons why this is so. He also clarify's many grey areas, specifically the standard model. well done
Date published: 2016-10-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Dark Matter, Dark Energy Dr. Carroll is so animated and enthusiastic and uses language the even a non math/physics/cosmologist like me can understand the concepts he presents. The lectures are always interesting and never boring. It is amazing to realize how much we don't know about our universe! Only 5% is matter that we know anything about!
Date published: 2016-09-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Dark Matter, Dark Energy Sean Carroll is a fantastic lecturer. He makes the material understandable and enjoyable.
Date published: 2016-09-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Deep scientific ideas, communicated with style I've enjoyed two other TC course by Prof Carroll, and find his course on Dark Energy and Dark Matter very interesting and illuminating. These are tough concepts (especially dark energy), but Prof Carroll covers the necessary background information, and uses many interesting analogies to get the tougher and less accessible ideas across. This material is deep, and some lectures merit multiple viewings -- but it's all very worthwhile. Prof Carroll's love of physics and cosmology comes across -- he loves knowledge, and communicating these ideas with passion and high clarity, and some humor.
Date published: 2016-07-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A geat course to update your physics knowledge Professor Carroll does a very good job of covering recent thinking, observations, and experimental results in physics in an understandable way if you are not a physics grad student or physics professor. I have some of the tools to understand the subject from my undergrad education in engineering and physics, but not all of the tools and I found this course very understandable and interesting. I have used this course and "The HIggs Boson and Beyond" by Professor Carroll to update my physics knowledge. For example, there was no Standard Model when I was an undergraduate and many of the particles now in the Standard Model were not known and therefore not discussed in my honors Modern Physics class. Professor Carroll covers more than just the subjects of his Great Courses to provide context to the specific topic, Dark Matter and Dark Energy, in this course. His coverage of the particles in the Standard Model is an example. Professor Carroll does a good job of identifying what we know by observation and what we only know by theory, which is considerably the case for Dark Energy and Dark Matter. If you don't have any physics background, I suspect you won't get as much out of the course as if you do, but I also suspect that you will get a lot out of the course and it will be worth your while if you are at all interested in physics in general and cosmology and theoretical physics more specifically.
Date published: 2016-07-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Challenging, but worth the effort The study of dark matter and dark energy are on the cutting edge of theoretical physics. Even with a master’s degree in engineering, I found the subject challenging. Particle physics continues to evolve, and this course demonstrates how theoretical physics, astronomy, space exploration and experimentation in particle physics all come together to solve the mysteries of dark matter and dark energy. Dr Sean Carroll does a good job of making the material understandable and provides numerous re-caps and summaries through out the course. When you're viewing the lectures, it is useful to note that in most of the lectures Dr. Carroll does summarize the last lecture’s material at the beginning of the next lecture. The very last lecture offers an excellent recap to the entire subject. I found it necessary to replay several sections to fully understand the material so I appreciate having the course on DVDs. Be aware that the material is challenging because of the new concepts and alternative theories presented, but it was well worth the effort.
Date published: 2016-06-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from cosmology for dummies I managed to follow this course satisfactorily and benefitted greatly, with a very modest background in physics (first year college decades ago but more recently Prof Wolfson's comprehensive course on physics and the universe) and without any prior knowledge of cosmology or astronomy. Doubtless Professor Carroll has the superb ability of a highly effective popularizer of science providing plausible explanations of frontier topics in physics to "dummies". Moreover us dummies are not woken-up to the fact that we are just dummies but go away having at least a fulfilling sense that we have managed to grasp the big outstanding issues exercising the greatest physicists of our times. The presentation is very clear, the pictures, graphics and slides shown by Professor Carroll are very good (could be more numerous and more in the form of animations though!) and although very lecture is highly organized, the overall structure of the whole series of lectures seems to be "circular" rather than "linear". I'm not sure whether this is really an attractive feature. What I am saying is that the basic messages of the course tend to be repeated here and there in several lectures. This serves an educational purpose (matters are re-examined from different angles and at different levels as the series progresses and besides repetitio est mater studiorum...), however, it can be boring and can convey an impression that not much new information accumulates lecture after lecture beyond some point and the course could be made shorter without becoming unduly condensed.
Date published: 2016-04-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of the Best Couses Available This is a superb course in every respect. The topic isn’t one of the easiest subjects to explain but Dr. Carroll has designed the course perfectly. He builds a solid foundation for why it is believed that dark matter and dark energy exist and builds on that to posit possibilities as what those mysterious missing components of our universe might be. I enjoyed Dr. Carroll’s presentation style in this series very much. There is a thread of light, maybe dark, humor without packing the lectures with yucks. The series is augmented with numerous graphics and images which help solidify the content. I’d like to close with a comment about style. Many speakers feel a need to add humor to their lectures. Humor is fine in small doses but too detracts from the subject. Carroll’s style is just the right mix of seriousness and an occasional witticism. This series is great material perfectly delivered. I offer one caveat. One reason I particularly like this course is because it is content rich. If you have no prior exposure to physics, you might find this course challenging. I find value in courses that aren’t dropped down too much for mass consumption. It’s very tough for instructors to find the balance between making a course too simplistic and running over everyone’s head. A course that stretches me is more valuable than a course that is too basic. That’s my opinion and the basis for my review of this course.
Date published: 2016-03-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Explanation of the 95% of the Universe not seen As explained by Professor Carroll, ordinary matter comprises only 5% of the universe. The remaining 95% of the universe is dark energy and dark matter which we cannot see and cannot detect with our existing capabilities. Professor Carroll does a very good job of explaining what is dark energy and dark matter and why dark energy and dark matter must exist even if cannot be seen. Professor Carroll makes good use of computer animations and graphics to illustrate his points. I highly recommend this course. Note: Professor Carroll has two courses for The Great Courses and this one is his first course. The other course is his 2015 course on the Higgs Boson. I took this course second but in retrospect it probably would have been better to do the courses in the opposite order. You don’t have to take the Higgs Boson course to fully appreciate this Dark Energy Dark Matter course. However, the two courses are complementary and together they provide a broader understanding of the wonders of the universe.
Date published: 2015-12-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from
Date published: 2015-08-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Welcome to the dark side I like very much this course because it allows me to start having a picture of “esoteric” concepts such as: string theory, quintessence field, vacuum energy, expansion of the universe and the standard model of particle physics.
Date published: 2015-06-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I actually understood what was going on, and being able to watch sections again helped the process. I had an easier time with Dark Matter and Dark Energy than I did with the Higgs Boson.
Date published: 2015-05-26
Rated 2 out of 5 by from my problem or his? Can follow Filippenko and Wolfson pretty well, but had a lot of trouble with this course. Even on topics I have some familiarity with (e.g., relativity and quantum mechanics) I had trouble making out what the lecturer was trying to communicate. I understand it is a complex topic, but I really should have been able to follow it better.
Date published: 2015-03-06
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not for a basic understanding Professor Schumacher's lectures were word for word of what was in the guidebook that came with the course. One could just read the guidebook and not watch the disc. The only thing the disc provided was some pictures of the cosmos and diagrams of descriptive models in the guidebook. His lectures were filled with physics equations in every lecture to back up his points. Those who just want a basic understanding of gravity and not accustomed to heavy math equations might become put off by all the equations and not finish the course. Without the equations the course would be only 6 lectures long. He also seemed to be stuck on Newton...he cited him in every lecture and seemed to imply that Einstein wouldn't be the great physicist i he was if it wasn't for Newton. Einstein took Newton's theories (and other scientists) and corrected them or improved them bringing a greater understanding of the universe. Hawking was only mentioned in passing and Schumacher's lecture on gravity and quantum physics was so weak it could have been omitted from the course. I wouldn't recommend this course for anyone who wants a basic understanding of gravity, especially for one who doesn't want a course that is 1/2 equations.
Date published: 2015-02-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great 4 nonAstronomers & Astronomers My husband is an astronomy buff, I am not but we both enjoyed watching Black Holes, Black Energy: The Dark Side of the Universe. The first lecture like many Great Course is VERY BORING, second lecture is less boring by the third lecture it become very interesting, hard to put down. Try watching the first lecture speeded up. An important thing left out is God’s role in creating the universe. The professor is excited about his subject, repeats some important concepts to help understand some main ideas, does a fantastic job explaining difficult material. The course guidebook could be improved by reprinting more of the formulas, concepts that he covers. Being wrote in 2007, it is becoming dated. Example: Sean Carroll talked of telescopes to be launched. Seven years later, what have we learned from the technology he said was in the works? However, I WOULD NOT pay to buy big bucks a second time around to buy a new edition, most of which would be duplicate from my copy. Instead Great Courses should offer the newer material as a free download or the option of purchasing one DVD with just the upgraded materials . (Just a DVD with upgrades, no fancy box or packaging that would increase the new DVD cost.)
Date published: 2015-01-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Dark Matter, Dark Energy Professor Sean Carroll was an excellent instructor of this course with a thorough knowledge of physics. He pointed out how it was discovered there was dark energy and dark matter in the universe and tests supported the theories that they exist. He then covered what dark matter could be - WIMPS, axions, Machos etc, explained what they were and why the could or could not be dark matter. He then covered what dark energy was - vacuum energy, quintessence etc and why it is contributing to the acceleration of the universe. The material is well covered and done with many everyday examples to help understand what he was covering. I discovered that the course was done in 1997 and that many strides have been done in this field. For example he referred to the CERN collider and the possibility that they would find the Higgs boson. Well, they did in 2012. It would be nice for him to do another one with advances that have been made recently. Excellent course --I highly recommend it!
Date published: 2015-01-04
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Too Many Theories Before buying this course, please take the time to have a look at the lecture titles. If you do a bit of research, you will realize that most of what you will learn will be theories. These are unproven theories that are likely to remain theories for the rest of eternity. For example, one of the things the lecturer discussed was what happened seconds after the Big Bang was formed—realistically, will anyone ever be able to discover this? I would’ve liked the lecturer to talk more about discoveries and ongoing experiments. I wasn’t expecting him to announce that dark matter is already being studied in labs, but I wasn’t looking forward to a course full of theories, either. Professor Presentation: though I did not like the content of the course, the professor’s presentation was remarkably great. He was exceptionally good at keeping eye contact, and I do not remember any interjections. If anything, he went a bit too fast. The only thing I liked: partial focus on potential experiments.
Date published: 2014-12-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Latest information on astrophysics This is an excellent course to stay on top of the fields of astronomy and physics without being expert. The instructor presents the material in easy to follow lessons that build on each.
Date published: 2014-12-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good summary of current astrophysical thought A good overview of current astrophysical thought and thought about sub-nuclear physics. Necessarily handwaving, but a good summary. You will know the difference between fermions and bosons at the end, and lots of other interesting things. One thing I didn't like was the obvious arrogance and anti-religious mindset of the instructor, particularly in the first two lectures where he said that any discussion of the universe being less than a billion years old was not worth considering. He is snubbing creationists, and he didn't need to do that -- he could have pointed out that there are creationist astrophysicists, but he was not one and would not be covering those topics. In the second lecture he talked about the expanding universe, but did not cover the debate about the "cosmological principle", which explains what we see from a creationist perspective and doesn't require the concept of an expanding universe to match the observable data. Given all the things he covered that "we do not understand" and are "inconsistent with theory", rejecting creationist ideas by not even acknowledging that they exist seemed inappropriate in several places. For those interested in the other points of view, I would recommend "Starlight and Time" by Russell Humphreys and Ken Ham, and "The Anthropic Cosmological Principle" by John D. Barrow and Frank J. Tippler.
Date published: 2014-10-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Superb Lecturer If it were a book, I'd say "I couldn't put it down!". I'm looking forward to more books and courses from him.
Date published: 2014-06-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wishing for More This course was an amazing and accessible presentation of these exciting phenomena for the lay mind. As a lifelong liberal arts scholar and only occasional science fan, I long to understand concepts in cosmology as well as in physics, but am stymied by the technicalities in most presentations. Dr. Carroll presents in a way that is understandable and comprehensive without appearing to have dumbed down the material. I WISH he would be invited to present a mini-course to his students on the ramifications of the recent findings re gravity waves in the early universe as well as of the discovery of the Higgs Boson. --I also wish there were a Q&A online component to the courses. -Thanks, Sean Carroll.
Date published: 2014-04-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Course - Great Lecturer Professor Sean Carroll is an excellent lecturer. He has a love for the subject and it shows. He proceeds in a very organized and systematic manner, and he is very clear. He does have a sense of humor, but he always remains on subject. I highly recommend his courses.
Date published: 2014-04-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Just in Time to Understand Gravity Waves Sean Carroll is an excellent lecturer, a view supported by many enthusiastic reviews before this one. I don't need to belabor that point. I was drawn to this course after listening to Alex Filippenko’s longer and broader course. This course is a good follow-on to delve deeper into Dark Matter and Dark Energy. The overlap with the other course is a good review. I’m extremely glad I listened to Dr. Carroll’s course before the big announcement today (March 17, 2014) on the observation of gravity waves from the birth of the universe. The result is consistent with an inflationary period in the earliest instant of the Big Bang. The course helped me understand what was being sought and how the scientists were going about it even though the lectures are 5 years old and only describe the planning stages of the current experiments. Dr. Carroll is a true Natural Philosopher in the best sense of that concept. He can advance understanding through thought alone and take it to a point where it can, and must, be tested. He explains how science formulates competing hypotheses and the horserace that sometimes results to determine which hypothesis is true. When talking about the origins of the universe this is no easy task. The chains of reasoning are very long and the observable variables are very limited. It was just good to see this process of imagination bounded by observable truth exercised and explained. I also highly recommend Dr. Carrol’s blog for hard insider information and occasional fun philosophy. http://www.preposterousuniverse.com/blog/
Date published: 2014-03-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Enlightening the Dark Dr. Sean Carroll presents an excellent course shining light on the most mysterious parts of the universe: dark matter and dark energy. I received my Ph.D. in physics in the late 70's but spent my career since then in the electronics industry and until recently shied away from the cosmological regime. I always thought that much of cosmology was "hand waving" and speculation. Between Dr. Carroll's course, Dr. Whittle's course (see recommendations below), and a bunch of reading, I have become a believer. Since I was a graduate student the data from Satellite Telescope's such as Hubble, Spitzer, Kepler, etc. have really given a firmer foundation to theories of cosmological origin and esoteric things like dark matter and dark energy. Dr. Carroll gives a clear conceptual framework for why dark matter (DM) and dark energy (DE) exist and plausible hypothetical alternatives as to what each may be. I totally agree with him that a clear understanding of the constituent components of DM and DE could result in a whole new revolution in physics similar to what occurred in the early 20th Century with Quantum Mechanics (QM); though unlike QM there are unlikely to ever be (or at least not be for centuries) practical applications of DM/DE. After completing Dr. Whittle's Cosmology course I hungered for a better understanding of DM and DE. Dr. Whittle's course was excellent in providing detailed evidence for the history and nature of the universe at a quantitative level. He showed evidence for DM and DE and some theories on their content, but I hungered for a more specific focus on what DM/DE may or may not be. Dr. Carroll's course at first seemed like a conceptual overview of Dr. Whittle's course with some conceptual material on the constituent elementary particles of ordinary matter. This was largely review material for me and I was starting to think that Dr. Carroll's course was going to be a redundant but largely conceptual version of Dr. Whittle's course. Then things started to change and Dr. Carroll dove into exactly what I was looking for, all the evidence for DM/DE existence, what potential options exist for the make-up of each dark entity, which options are plausible by some evidence and which are largely speculative. He also addressed head on the question that bothered me the most: "How can the energy density of dark energy remain constant in an expanding universe and conservation of energy still apply?". As is the curse or joy of physics, for every question answered another pops up. Dr. Carroll's points out that none of the cosmological theories can answer the question "Why was entropy so small in the early universe, near the Big Bang?" My guess is that this is somehow connected to the nature of time itself and makes me interested enough to look forward to taking Dr. Carroll's other TGC on Time; which will no doubt lead to more questions. His speculations on there being a multiverse(s) are also intriguing; but in this case we all get to be philosophers as the existence of a multiverse seems impossible to prove definitively. As one earlier reviewer stated, the level of abstraction or depth of this course is about that of a Scientific American article. Looked at another way, the level is somewhere between a Brian Greene or Noel DeGrasse Tyson PBS special and more in depth explanations one might find in an upper division undergraduate college physics course. Dr. Carroll is an outstanding lecturer. He speaks with passion and inflection and never uses non-words like "ah" or "um". I only counted 3 or 4 times in 24 lectures where he even stopped to correct himself despite using many similar sounding technical terms. He presents measured data, celestial photographs, and animations to make his points. However, I found the most compelling part of his presentations to be the various thought experiments he leads the student through; these really make the student think and benchmark one's logic against all of the known principles of physics. Such thought experiments are a way to engage the student in problem solving thinking even within a lecture format. Dr. Carroll's lucid approach enables one to walk through some very deep conceptual thinking and emerge from his explanation feeling like "I really understand this"; though after noodling on it for a few minutes, I found myself thinking "do I really" and hit pause, rewind, and re-play on several occasions. Typically then, after the second time, I did really get it. To get the most out of this course one should be familiar with some basic physics as one would get from an introductory college physics course. Dr. Carroll assumes familiarity with basic concepts such as Newton's inverse square law of gravity, kinetic energy and temperature, basic electromagnetism (e.g. wave/particle duality of light), and Euclidean geometry. The course guide is excellent. While it is difficult to capture all of the conceptual depth in the lecture summaries the summaries do hit the highlights. The questions to consider are not just "Did you get point A or point B?" as in some other TGC courses, but they are often thought experiments in and of themselves. The bibliography is good, though dated somewhat as this course was produced in 2007 and much has been published with new discoveries since then. The reference sections on exponential notation, measurement scales/units, timeline of the universe and standard model of particle physics are excellent companions to the course. (Note to editors: the standard model section is bisected by the timeline section. Pages 103/104 should be moved ahead of page 100). The glossary is very complete and necessary. The biographical notes are outstanding, an education in themselves. My only criticism of this course is that some of it is a bit outdated. Since the course production in 2007 the Higgs boson and field have been discovered and several of the "future experiments" mentioned in lecture 23 are already in process or have been scrapped due to funding. This is not that big a deal as there are many other sources for the student to get current, just remember that the state of the art from the course is several years old. I whole heartily recommend this course and am sure that I will be going back to several of the lectures again and again.
Date published: 2014-03-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Darkly Exciting Years ago, we were taught that outer space was permeated by the Ether (without ever having any scientific evidence for it that I am aware of), now we know that Dark Energy permeates outer space (without knowing exactly what it is, but at least having scientific evidence for its existence), and also we now know that the HIggs Field permeates all of outer space (thanks to the discovery at the LHC just last year). I have to wonder if these three have anything in common. We have moved away from the Ether, but what if the Higgs Field is the redefined Ether? And if Dark Energy is distributed evenly throughout all of outer space as Dr. Carroll stated in lecture fourteen, how does that relate to the Ether or the Higgs Field? It should be noted that the Ether is currently considered to be a part of the Divinely driven Creation process as defined by a well known spiritual organization. Okay, so I am very much in tune with Dr. Carroll's teaching methods and will enjoy listening to him no matter what he is teaching. To me, this course is a very good presentation of particle physics. I am looking forward to Dr. Carrolls next class.
Date published: 2014-01-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating Not having a math or science background, I am still fascinated with space and all it holds. Professor Carroll kept me engaged and taught me more about space and its mysteries than I had hoped for. No, I did not understand everything, but I came away with a new understanding and appreciation for our universe than I'd had before...and wanting even more. Professor Carroll is an engaging speaker who is sure of his subject and speaks clearly and concisely without leaning on the horribly annoying "uhhhhhhhhhhhhhs or ummmmmmmmmmmmmms that so many speakers fall back onto. He is truly a teacher in the truest sense.
Date published: 2013-11-14
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