My Favorite Universe

Course No. 158
Neil deGrasse Tyson, Ph.D.
Hayden Planetarium
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4.2 out of 5
118 Reviews
72% 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
 |  Average 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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Course Guidebook Details:
  • 160-page printed course guidebook
  • Photos & illustrations
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  • 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 4.1 out of 5 by 118.
Rated 3 out of 5 by from My Favorite Universe Let it be here stated that Professor Tyson is a devout (?) atheist. Watch his courses with this in mind. Neil Tyson recently gave a presentation entitled "Stupid Design" in which he ridiculed the idea of intelligent design of the universe. His reasoning was that 99 % of all species that ever lived are now extinct. He said, "What kind of intelligence can't even create animals that stick around?" Is that even scientific thinking? I know that I'm off the subject of his Great Courses, but think you should know this before you buy,
Date published: 2014-11-01
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Over dramatic presentation, too little content I just finished listening to Experiencing Hubble by David Meyer and thought htis course might expand on some of the material Dr Meyer covered. Sadly disappointed. Dr Meyer's course is much better in all respects for anyone interested in modern knowledge about the universe and cosmology. Tyson's course might be appropriate for a resonable bright 8th grader but not for anyone with a serious interest in the cosmos.
Date published: 2014-07-30
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Over-Dramatic Treatment of a Straightforward Topic I've been a fan of Neil Tyson for well over a decade, back to the days when he was seemingly on The Discovery Channel every week. I enjoyed his award-winning recent course, the The Inexplicable Universe, with the out-of-sight graphics and special effects. But after watching 'My Favorite Universe' it's unfortunately clear Dr. Tyson has over-dramatized what is basically a high school level course in astronomy. Was the course curriculum straightforward? Yes. Was the graphics and exhibits appropriate? Yes. But Tyson's over-the-top presentation style dragged the whole thing down. The only way I can recommend this course would be if the audience was a high schooler interested in science and astronomy, or an adult looking for an entry level explanation of the cosmos.
Date published: 2013-09-19
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting Topics- Sleep-Inducing Delivery This may just be me, but there is something about Neil's delivery that just lulls me to sleep every time! I've even tried watching these in the afternoon, thinking that watching in the evening was where I was going wrong. I think each of his topics is interesting- especially the middle set of 3 which has been talking about black holes and the end of the earth, but just be forewarned- if you're like me, you may want to try to watch these early in the day with a big cup of coffee.
Date published: 2013-06-27
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Is this elementary school, or what? I so looked forward to seeing Dr. Tyson, supposedly voted "sexiest astrophysicist.." (Have you listened to Dr. Sean Carroll? He is more fitting for that title. And is a superb lecturer.) Anyway, I felt as if I were in elementary school with his pedantic, slow-talking, overdramatic style. The content was well below even junior high level. He often mispronounced words with was surprising with such an educated man. It was clearly not worth the time or money. So why give it two stars? If you have a young child who is interested in space, this would be a good introductory course. Otherwise, not worth the time.
Date published: 2013-06-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Tyson is the champ of the cosmos ! DVD REVIEW: This is a fun, introductory course to astronomy and astrophysics, recorded in 2003, very charismatically presented by the enthusiastic Professor Neil deGrasse Tyson, in an easygoing, friendly, personable manner, using simple language. His explanations and descriptions are straightforward, with no special maths or scientific knowledge required. The style of the course seems pitched more at the high school level than college level. In this short course, 6 hours total, the lecturer, using his entire body to emphasise and illustrate his points, expounds on some of his pet topics within his area of expertise; he covers a lot of territory, always maintains interest, offering a flood of fascinating facts about the earth and the cosmos. He has a wry sense of humour ~~ the lecture on black holes evidences this well! Oh yes ~~ he wears super stylish artistic ties too! The lecture on the Big Bang was a powerhouse presentation, teaching at its finest. The lecture on searching for planets that could support life needs to be updated in the light of very recent discoveries. Dr Tyson's final lecture, on the search for other life in the universe, pulls no punches: "You would be inexcusably big-headed, inexcusably egocentric, to presume that we are alone in the cosmos!". Five super-nova stars for this entertaining course, which, most importantly, is a sound springboard to inspire further study; it is too fundamental for those already reasonably well-versed in astronomy and astrophysics.
Date published: 2013-04-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Poetry and Dance in Astrophysics! This course might well be one of the best ever produced by the TGC. However, not because of the graphics and technology involved in the production-rather elementary compared to current standards. It is the style of presentation which Professor Tyson employs which renders this course a classic. His approach balances between poetry and science. At times I had the impression of listening to a poem in scientific terms. In that way his enthusiasm and interest in the universe becomes infectious and he clearly states that this is the purpose of this course, to get us all involved. I have never seen a lecturer who acts his thoughts and emotions with his body language so artfully as Professor Tyson. He literally dances with his ideas and makes them materialize, a sight that has to be experienced in order to be appreciated. The course is organized around themes based on his monthly columns in scientific journals. Although, this approach does not provide an undergoing theme that binds all the topics into a coherent whole, nonetheless it is highly enjoyable and informative. It is an appetizer for the student to further his studies in astronomy and astrophysics and in this it really succeeds. No mathematics are required to follow the course, only simple arithmetics to imagine scales in our universe eg. a cubic cm of a neutron star weighs equally to 50 million elephants! I would highly recommend this course to anyone interested in a fun yet knowledgable introduction to our universe.
Date published: 2013-02-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from 11 brilliant chapters Professor Tyson's approach to teaching provides wonderful mental imagery. He consistently finds familiar objects to illustrate difficult theory. No math is needed. Chapter 1 "On Being Round" is actually a study of energy made painless by analogy and includes a nice discussion of the importance of conservation of angular motion to the shapes of galaxies. He goes on to clarify many subjects that you have thought about in the past but had a hard time visualizing. This builds during the course to more difficult concepts like "vacuum energy" and much later relativity. Interspersed are many fun factoids and one-liners that make thinking about complicated subjects like spaghettification by black hole or the heat death of the universe easily understandable. In a way, one must be careful because he makes things so obvious that by reviewing the book afterwards, you get a better appreciation of the depth of what Professor Tyson has taught you. Chapter 9 a depiction of the evolutionary processes after the Big Bang was a highlight with its beautifully fluid description of these events. Unfortunately, Chapter 12 is an anomaly in this series. Tyson's demeanor changes and becomes visibly agitated over anyone thinking that humans might be somehow unique. His arguments are vague: suggesting we might be special if we were made of rare ingredients. Zinc as in ZPP, cobalt in B12, iodine for thyroid, manganese, magnesium all seem to be pretty rare in the universe so I'm not sure what this is about. Perhaps we need to be made of uranium? Heat secondary to tidal forces on frozen Europa can't be proven to form purines or proteins and so arguing that extremophiles exist there is unjustified and no reason to expand the habitable zone. The Martian fossil is highly debated. The Drake equation is widely criticized and algebraic whereas life is known to exist only in tightly controlled, complex dynamic biochemical parameters. Such emotional arguments are better tolerated when you must get a grade.
Date published: 2013-01-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Enjoyable, Easy Astronomy Prof. Tyson does an excellent job summarizing 12 of the most important points of astronomy. He does so with a minimal dose of mathematics and a maximal dose of sticking to the "big picture." Prof. Tyson did a nice job of selecting his topics. His course guide provides a brief summary of each of the lectures. He used many, many excellent tricks of keeping his audience engaged. Prof. Tyson's main strength was his ability to cover the important points of the topic without getting caught up in the details. He did so without having to use mathematics -- which is appropriate to a course aimed at "whetting one's interest in astronomy" (a paraphrase of Prof. Tyson's comments). He also had the ability to help his audience make sense of the large numbers involved in astronomy. For example, he indicated that there are more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand on this planet. I also enjoyed his unique lecture style. It is excited, informal, and enthusiastic at the same time. He makes good use of the minimal props that he has on the stage. I particularly enjoyed how he danced to illustrate how planets and suns revolve around each other. I highly recommend this course. It is particularly good for people who are looking for a brief introduction to astronomy. Or for people who would like a brief review of some of the important points of astronomy. Or for people who would just like to see some entertaining lectures. Well done.
Date published: 2012-11-25
Rated 3 out of 5 by from My Favorite Universe This course is a quick overview of the universe as described by the great lecturer, Dr. deGrasse Tyson. He is a dynamic and compelling lecturer. So what's the problem? The problem is that his graphics pale compared to a very similar set of lecturers given by Dr. Filippenko, whose lectures are among the best I've ever heard on any subject. This leaves one wanting more from Dr. deGrasse Tyson. If I had heard Dr. deGrasse Tyson's lectures before Dr. Filippenko's, my opinion would have possibly been different, However, I highly recommend Dr. Filippenko, and if you get his lectures, Dr. deGrasse Tyson doesn't have much more to add.
Date published: 2012-10-29
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Too pedantic I usually enjoy Astronomy, but Professor De Grasse just goes so slowly, one is left bored and underwhelmed. Could have been me, but I don't think so. As a comparison, I watched an Economics DVD, and found all 12 lectures fascinating and never a boring moment, 5 stars all the way.
Date published: 2012-08-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Just licking the lens! DVD review. ©2003. Guidebook 94 pages. Loved it! Sure, this isn’t a grand, sweeping 94 lecture series but it’s got heart and makes you go soul searching for just what’s out there—and inside each of us. Is it intellectually diluted for a lay audience of middle school students? I hardly think so. I don’t have a science background, so the content wasn’t exactly child’s play. But I’ve also seen Intro to Astronomy, so it wasn’t difficult either. It was entertaining and interesting, and I learned a thing or two in every lecture. It also helps that a number of core concepts/principles were reinforced. Professor Tyson is a character, someone with personality. Initially he starts out perhaps a bit energetic and over the top as far as body language goes, but by Disc 2 he calms down and gives a really thoughtful presentation. Maybe you’ll tag him as overly theatrical at the outset, but I’d rather think of him passionate. I enjoyed the analogies and his delivery. He’s certainly got a way with words, too. And just like Professor Filippenko, Tyson communicates and instills a sense of wonder and amazement at the physical world around us. I finished the course a few days ago, but I’m still walking around constantly thinking about the content, trying to come to terms with the BIG issues posed in Disc 2. In that respect, this is a deep course when you really think about it. One in particular really has me wrestling with my inner self: How do you make something from nothing? The Guidebook was great, with each lecture getting a 5-page summary. I was wowed by the photos, too.
Date published: 2012-06-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I loved this course I heard Dr. Degrasse Tyson as the opening speaker at the Space Symposium in Colorado Springs about five years ago. He was engaging then as he is in this series. Some have noted that his gestures and jokes are a little distracitng, but I like them. It kind of made him personable. So, I guess it is a personal preference. I have a science background, but I still learned a lot. The photos were great. It's comforting to know that someone out there loves Deep Space as much as I do. I got this course and The Louvre at a deep discount since I was a new customer. It's coursed this these two that have had me coming back for more.
Date published: 2012-06-01
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Amazed at this course's ratings I found the instructor arrogant, overly-dramatic and the content high school level...which would be O.K. if it was presented in an interesting way. After each minifactoid, the instructor looks at the camera and slows his speech as if to say, "now wasn't that amazing?" But it was really the hyperdrama that turned me off...I watched two lectures and both my wife and I (both scientists and both love anything about science at any level) just couldn't stand the instructor's personality any more. I love science and it's hard to give a science course a low rating, but this one is a stinker.
Date published: 2012-05-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Fine For Me! Some of this course's critics make the point that it is not high level science, that it would be inadequate for students taking advanced science courses in college. Perhaps they're right. But many customers of TGC, such as myself, have advanced degrees in the arts and humanities but have had limited exposure to advanced science. Yet, we have a curiosity to know more about science and want to take science courses. The courses for advanced students would not work for me. On the other hand, this course was challenging, valuable, and just fine for me. The professor is extremely engaging. He uses every trick in the book to make science understandable and fascinating. I enjoyed all 12 lectures, but I found the run of lectures toward the end regarding the birth and development of the universe to be the high point of the course. Though speculative in places and thin in others, this course is a very good introduction to study of the universe, especially if your exposure to the subject is as limited as mine.
Date published: 2012-05-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from 6 hours of intellectual entertainment Let me point out in the beginning that no sane person expects the content of a 6-hour lecture series to even scratch the surface of astrophysics and cosmology. If you want the surface scratched, I refer you to Filippenko's Understanding the Universe. This here is rather more like a scientifically-flavored sitcom. Tyson points out in the beginning that the lectures are inspired by a set of 12 essays he'd written previously for the general public. I know a couple of things about physics and I have listened to many TTC courses on astronomy (yes, that includes Filippenko's 96-lecture course too.) But Dr. Tysson's delivery was so novel, warm, and passionate that it got me hooked, even though I already knew pretty much all he had to say. The lectures skim through some of the tenets of modern astrophysics, quantum mechanics, and cosmology and Dr. Tyson is an expert in getting such sophisticated ideas across to the layperson. Presentations are also filled with anecdotes and personal tales that are witty and informative. I heartily recommend that you give 6 hours of your time to prof. Tyson. If you do not expect him to cover the mathematics of quantum tunneling, I do not think you will ask for your money back.
Date published: 2012-04-14
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Fun and Entertaining Introduction to the Cosmos This 12 lecture course is a topical introduction to astronomy and astrophysics. Professor Tyson presents a loosely focused series of his 12 favorite subjects. There is a bit of pop culture here as he includes talks on how the world may end, what happens in black holes, and the possibility of creatures on other planets. The course is clearly designed for those without much prior knowledge in astrophysics. I think of it as a prep course for college astrophysics. It is light on math and hard science, but I found it fun and interesting to follow. The professor does a fine job of delivering his material. He is not trying to be comprehensive in his approach and it is unlikely that you will get lost along the way. If you would like a fun and not too intense introduction to the cosmos and perhaps spark an interest in harder astrophysics this may be the course for you.
Date published: 2012-03-30
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Appropriate For Middle School Students Unfortunately, I can only rate this course in terms of its value for me, with points deducted, so far as possible, because it does not seem to be flagged as "not a college-level course." If it were flagged, and assuming that I nevertheless chose to watch it, I would rate it at least average.
Date published: 2012-03-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great Course, Content Needs Restructed This is a very informative course on astronomy, physics, and the structure of the universe. Prof Neil DeGrasse Tyson is one of science's most brilliant minds and has an uncanny ability to expand and stretch basic knowledge into much broader and enlightening perspectives. The examples and analogies he offers are perfect for understanding concepts the material presents, many of which our limited brains were not built to comprehend. The only reason I gave the course 4 instead of 5 stars was the fact that the content did not seem to have any structure to its delivery. Every lecture was a masterpiece unto itself, but there could have been a better logical arrangement of material.
Date published: 2012-03-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Best Ever One of the very, very best courses. Tyson, with his natural gift of speech and rhetoric - combined with energetic enthusiasm, explains the subject with such detail and vigor that you'll remember and retain more facts!
Date published: 2012-02-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from If you like PBS Nova science programs... If you like science programs on PBS, especially Nova, then you will like this entry-level and accessible course on Cosmology and Astrophysics. Dr. Tyson is a fine speaker who presents this interesting material with a little bit of welcome humor, and in only 12 lectures. Very short and sweet by Teaching Company standards. If you are an expert in the subject matter, you might be bored with this course, but then why did you watch, just to criticize?
Date published: 2012-01-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from IM NOT A PHYSICS PERSON the presentation is a little strange. but, it is informative, lots of new info for me.
Date published: 2011-11-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I want more!!! The Professor is extraordinary, his love of astrophysics translates into much more than an appetizer to be savored about this amazing cosmos in which we reside. Sir Tyson, has provided me with a most enjoyable 6 full hours of lectures that are unforgettable, quotable, and I am begging for more. Any time I see his name as the Prof of the course I will be purchasing it immediately. Having purchased the course on the Hubble and My Favorite Universe simultaneously there was the opportunity for some overlap and there indeed was a bit. The information was presented in such a different manner that the overlap was fine with regard to attainment of knowledge; The style of presentation was a 180 degree difference. One staid, reserved, quiet reader...as compared to dynamic, energetic, excited to share very difficult topics in a manner that translated into my desire for additional knowledge in the field of astro physics to a degree I would never have imagined. What sticks with me the most as a fellow educator is the fact that there are so few astro physicists in the world.; I promise to encourage my elementary students to spend more time looking up as well as allowing myself more time to blow bubbles and watch smiling with the knowledge that they are quite important in the cosmos! Bravo Tyson Bravo
Date published: 2011-11-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Enjoyable and Enlightening The subject matter is quite interesting. The professor is outstanding. Fun to watch on DVD.
Date published: 2011-11-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Tis is a "pre" prerequisite course I so wanted to rank this course as high as possible. I really like Prof. Degrasse Tyson but the material is so fundamental for my own personal level that I could not lead others into this course without the warning that it delivers only at an entry level. The questions answered here are of universal interest, much like "why is our sky blue"? Although this question is not posed in the course, the answers to these types of questions offer only satisfaction. Their real utility is in laying the foundation to a more advanced course. If you are coming over from the humanities and arts side, then this is an ideal course to start you, your grammar-schooler or junior high student on the road to understanding things about physics and cosmology.
Date published: 2011-10-05
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Not really educational My homeschooled son so enjoyed two TTC series on physics and wanted more. This course just didn't stack up. I wanted to like the prof, was glad to see an AA teacher, liked his demeanor and expressive gestures, but just couldn't find the substance we usually expect from TTC. For instance, the first lecture on spheres sounds like it could be an interesting start, and he has some interesting factoids in there, but his statements are so vague as to be meaningless to us. "It's natural for things to want to go to the lowest level as possible" -- which he explains by describing a house of cards. Yet his biggest example is soap bubbles, and wouldn't popping a bubble be more comparable to a falling house of cards than the tension of a bubble's spherical shape? He says things like, "Forces that want to shape" things -- are we just supposed to believe these forces have a will of their own, without even knowing their names?! He repeatedly says that pretty much everything wants to be round, but suddenly shows something that's not (e.g. a photo of crystals he says is "an exception"), without any explanation? He says that soap bubbles come out a sphere no matter what the shape of the wand -- yet we have wands in fun shapes at our house, and the bubbles are indeed in other shapes. He says that a square planet would roll a rock down a mountain to become more round -- so now the planet has a will of its own? Some segments were better than others. I thought the second lecture on atmospheric pressure was pretty good, but I would have to remind my son of things like "exciting a molecule" means "transferring energy." Lastly, I have to mention that the lectures in the second half are nothing more than a quick run-thru of popular media topics like the ozone layer & the big bang -- all the popular words are there but it feels like an opinionated article in TV Guide. He knows the exact year the universe was created and the year the universe will be destroyed. We're just to accept everything because he says so, I guess. I'm not sure what audience he is intending, but I can't imagine it would be an actual high school or college course because the prof seems afraid we can't understand actual scientific vocabulary or names of scientific principles. I'm not a science buff, but telling me something is always true except when it's not isn't helping me become one. One star for a pleasant speaker, one star for some interesting factoids. I'm glad to hear that this prof's writings were better received by one reviewer, because otherwise I would wonder what TTC was thinking here.
Date published: 2011-06-21
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Unimpressive, but good for Junior Highers Professor deGrasse Tyson presentation may be good for junior high schoolers especially with the tantalizing references to alien life. It seemed like a regurgitation of how the universe exists with little reflection on letting us know the current controversial issues. This series was far more simplistic than I have expected.
Date published: 2011-05-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good Introduction An enthusiastic presenter with excellent voice introduces a number of concepts worth pondering, such as why are so many things in the universe round? What causes them to be round? With this subject he begins thinking about the structure of the universe introducing a variety of topics such as pulsars, nebulae, black holes leading to some more complex discussions of nuclear aspects of the universe and quantum mechanics. He has some good examples. In one he notes that a thimble of a neutron star (highly dense) put on a scale would require putting 50 million elephants on the other side of the scale to come to balance. For many this may perhaps be too basic a course and for others some of the later lessons may be overly complex. But on the whole he reaches a nice balance. Obviously in 12 lessons no one can expect a detailed course in astrophysics. But for such a short course there is a lot of very good material. His discussion of the risk to the planet from asteroids was especially well done, including the fact that once every 100 years an asteroid collides with earth with energy equal to explosion of 100 atomic bombs. He has an interesting chart on the size of asteroids hitting earth, their frequency and the comparable atomic explosions that would be equal to the energy released. I wished he had put that chart in the course booklet. He obviously takes the risk seriously and I found of particular interest his suggestion that we have the ability to prevent an asteroid disaster. Not in the way many movies suggest but by landing a rocket on the asteroid and then using the propulsion of that rocket to change the track of the asteroid from a collision course to a course away from earth. A sensible solution. Just not as exciting as having Bruce Willis land on an asteroid and blow it up with an atomic bomb! I have three courses on astronomy from The Learning Company. Night Sky which is excellent companion to this course as it too is something of an introductory course. While that course focuses on observing the night sky this course discusses more fundamental concepts of the universe. I also have the 96 lesson Understanding Astronomy course but have not yet tackled that one! But when I do decide to dig in to that course the information from Night Sky and this course I think will have given me a nice basic understanding. As a result I can recommend this course to those interesting in exploring these subjects.
Date published: 2011-03-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful survey by a gifted instructor. I have been an amateur astronomer since elementary school. I have a keen interest in astrophysics, quantum mechanics, and cosmology. Professor Neil deGrasse Tyson is an energetic, passionate teacher. I had never paused to ponder his first topic, "On Being Round." He asks simple, fundamental questions and gives concise answers. He covers topics with information that I have never seen presented. His pictures and description of the aurora as viewed from the space shuttle was a new experience for me. Fantastic ! This is not a superficial survey, as some reviews indicate. It offers information for the casual student , but imparts useful information that inspires further study by those so inclined.
Date published: 2010-11-28
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good for high schoolers I think this would be a great course to show for half an hour a day in a high school science class, but it's too basic for adults. As a result, I found it a bit boring. Otherwise, an excellent course.
Date published: 2010-11-04
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