My Favorite Universe

Course No. 158
Neil deGrasse Tyson, Ph.D.
Hayden Planetarium
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4.2 out of 5
106 Reviews
71% of reviewers would recommend this product
Course No. 158
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Course Overview

In My Favorite Universe, the astrophysicist who directs the nation's most famous planetarium takes you on a spirited and intellectually engaging journey through the cosmos and all its history, from before the Big Bang to the most likely ways in which Earth, and perhaps the entire universe, might end.

Clear Science Teaching to Set the Stage for an Awe-Inspiring Course

Created for a lay audience and readily accessible, in this course science always takes precedence over drama. The lectures are certainly entertaining, often funny, even awe-inspiring at times, as befits the subject matter.

Even though you will be entertained, you will be learning good science.

Clear introductions to essential principles of physics support these lectures, including density, quantum theory, gravity, and the General Theory of Relativity. Professor Neil deGrasse Tyson also includes forays into disciplines such as chemistry and biology as needed to explain events in astronomy.

For example, Dr. Tyson begins one lecture at a point 13 billion years ago, when all space, matter, and energy in the known universe were contained in a volume less than one-trillionth the size of a pinpoint—about the size of a single atom. By the time he finishes, the cosmos has been stretched, the planets and our Earth formed, and 70 percent of existing Earth species have been wiped out by a gigantic asteroidclearing the way for the evolution of humanity.

Along the way he has touched on Einstein's famous equation, E=mc2; on the four forces that were once unified in the early cosmos in a way physicists are still trying to explain; and on the chemical enrichment of the universe by exploding supernovae, which give the universe its necessary supply of heavier elements including oxygen, nitrogen, iron and, most important, carbon.

Carbon, we learn, is a "sticky" atom, capable of making more kinds of molecules than all other elements combined. It's the ideal element with which to experiment in the building of life forms and is, of course, the element responsible for the remarkable diversity of life, including us.

As Dr. Tyson notes, we are made of stardust, just as the planets are. And he has created a course that explains exactly how that came to be, beginning with a grounding in the basic "machinery" of matter, forces, and energy that has been discovered on Earth and which also reveals itself throughout the universe.

The Stark and Violent Beauty of the Universe

With this basic foundation in place, explanations of cosmic events fall logically into place, and the realities of the universe—including its eventual demise—are revealed in stark and often violent beauty. You learn:

  • how Saturn's rings were formed, and why they will eventually be lost
  • why low-density conditions are necessary to produce the drama of the northern and southern auroras
  • why even the most jagged and wild of the Earth's mountain ranges are, from a cosmic standpoint, really part of a perfectly smooth sphere
  • how black holes are formed and the extraordinary way in which they can wreak havoc in the universe
  • how asteroids moving through space represent threats of extraordinary consequence to Earth, no matter how long those threats may take to be realized
  • why the seemingly infinite panorama of celestial bodies revealed by the Hubble Space Telescope's famous "Deep Field" so intrigued astronomers
  • how astronomers actually look for new planets,
  • why the odds seem overwhelmingly in favor of some kind of life out there, whether we ever make contact or not.

Most important, none of these ideas are presented as isolated "space factoids" that serve no purpose but to entertain. They are there to illustrate and reinforce the key principles of physics and astrophysics that are continually being presented in this course.

But the inclusion of real science doesn't prevent Dr. Tyson from having some fun, either.

When it's time to show how a black hole might remove one from the universe, he leads you right up to the "event horizon" and slips you in—feet first. Since the event horizon represents the point within which nothing, not even light, can escape, you might think this is a bad idea. And you would be right.

But as you plummet toward the "singularity" at the heart of the black hole, you will learn firsthand about the interesting effects of gravity truly unleashed, including what physicists refer to, with a straight face, as "spaghettification." (Actually, Professor Tyson recommends that you be sucked in to a large black hole rather than a small one. You'll still be spaghettified, but it won't happen as quickly.)

But make no mistake: Dr. Tyson does not consider the cosmos a laughing matter, this kind of whimsical touch notwithstanding. In spite of his training, he remains, admittedly, still in awe of his subject. And he has created a course that might well produce the same feeling in you.

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12 lectures
 |  31 minutes each
  • 1
    On Being Round
    What forces tend to make objects round? And why is a sphere the most efficient shape an object can take? The answers will lead us across the cosmos. x
  • 2
    On Being Rarefied
    Just how "thin"—low in density—is the "thin air" out of which a magician produces a rabbit? And if the universe contains components that are even thinner, exactly what does that mean to us? x
  • 3
    On Being Dense
    This is a discussion of different levels of density and the inherent mysteries of this property, along with the ways in which an understanding of density helps us think creatively about the world. x
  • 4
    Death by Black Hole
    Take a look at black holes, one of the most fascinating topics in the universe—including the ways in which they would kill a human being, how they wreak havoc in the universe, and some provocative new research. x
  • 5
    Ends of the World
    Here is a detailed look at three scenarios for the destruction of our planet: the death of the Sun, the collision of the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies, and the heat death of the cosmos. x
  • 6
    Coming Attractions
    We now know that a deposit of energy sufficient to kill off 50 to 90 percent of all species strikes Earth every 100 million years. This lecture looks at our risks of getting hit by an asteroid and what we can do to avoid it. x
  • 7
    Onward to the Edge
    Take a break from the death and destruction of asteroids and the end of the universe and wonder, instead, at the enormity of the cosmos and what our place in it might be. x
  • 8
    In Defense of the Big Bang
    We now know without doubt how the universe began, how it evolved, and how it will end. This lecture explains and defends a "theory" far too often misunderstood. x
  • 9
    The Greatest Story Ever Told
    A synthesis of the greatest discoveries of physics, astrophysics, chemistry, and biology creates a coherent story of the birth and evolution of the cosmos. x
  • 10
    Forged in the Stars
    The origin of the elements that make up life is one of the most important discoveries in any field in the 20th century, yet underappreciated by the public because it happened over many decades. This lecture presents a step-by-step explanation of the long path to a Nobel Prize-winning idea. x
  • 11
    The Search for Planets
    Before 1995, the planets of our own solar system were the only ones we knew about; the total has now passed 100. This lecture discusses the tools and methods being used to find other planets that might be hospitable to human life. x
  • 12
    The Search for Life in the Universe
    This lecture examines the very real possibility that life exists elsewhere, and speculates about its origins and chemical makeup. x

Lecture Titles

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What's Included

What Does Each Format Include?

Video DVD
Video Download Includes:
  • Ability to download 24 video lectures from your digital library
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
Video DVD
DVD Includes:
  • 12 lectures on 2 DVDs
  • 104-page printed course guidebook
  • Downloadable PDF of the course guidebook
  • FREE video streaming of the course from our website and mobile apps

What Does The Course Guidebook Include?

Video DVD
Course Guidebook Details:
  • 160-page printed course guidebook
  • Photos & illustrations
  • Charts & diagrams
  • Suggested readings

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Your professor

Neil deGrasse Tyson

About Your Professor

Neil deGrasse Tyson, Ph.D.
Hayden Planetarium
Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson is the Frederick P. Rose Director of the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History in New York. He is also a research associate in the Department of Astrophysics at the museum. Professor Tyson earned his undergraduate degree in Physics from Harvard University and his Ph.D. in Astrophysics from Columbia University. Dr. Tyson has written prolifically for the public, including a series...
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Reviews

My Favorite Universe is rated 4.2 out of 5 by 106.
Rated 2 out of 5 by from could be better Needs to be more scientific, it is more for grade school level.
Date published: 2018-03-18
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Doesn't fit in my brain Even though Dr. DiGrasse-Tyson is an iconic, brilliant man, I discovered that I still have to be truly interested in the subject matter, beyond his reputation. He has very clever examples to help grasp principles of speed, density, size, and distances in the universe but even this approach, directed at the average intellect, failed to capture my attention successfully.
Date published: 2018-03-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fun for the whole family We have watched Dr. Tyson a number of times, including the "Cosmos" remake. We have also read several of his books. He is a wonderful teacher, always interesting and able to clearly explain his subject. There are things "out there" which are beyond our experience and at first blush make no sense, but Dr. Tyson helps make these things understandable. Unlike other courses we have taken, this early course shows the good doctor talking to people in the room rather than directly at the camera. Interesting, but not important in the enjoyment of the course. As a youngster, my science education was boring, and the goal seemed to be to memorize enough facts to pass standardized tests. In my old age I find science fascinating, especially as presented by Dr. Tyson. Highly recommended!
Date published: 2018-03-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Fascinating discussion Love it! Great discussion, supremely entertaining. The only weakness I've experienced is mediocre audio quality. Voice seems to get very quiet and suddenly very loud all at once.
Date published: 2018-02-26
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Oldie But A Goodie This course is getting a little dated, especially in the parts about planet hunting and the hunt for extraterrestrial life. That being said, the professor is an excellent communicator and does a very good job explaining some difficult topics. There is not really a particular order to this course. Instead, the professor picked twelve of his favorite topics and each became the basis for a lesson. I feel smarter after watching this and enjoyed the experience.
Date published: 2018-01-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Super AstroPhysics Course Very very good course, I have gone through it 3 times, learned much each time. twice with Audio, then bought the Video.
Date published: 2017-12-16
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good Standard Lecture I liked this course bt in almost every segment I went away with questions.
Date published: 2017-11-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Fun to watch Easy course to follow and interesting and yes, fun too!
Date published: 2017-09-02
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