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Science in the 20th Century: A Social-Intellectual Survey

Science in the 20th Century: A Social-Intellectual Survey

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Science in the 20th Century: A Social-Intellectual Survey

Course No. 1220
Professor Steven L. Goldman, Ph.D.
Lehigh University
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4.9 out of 5
64 Reviews
79% of reviewers would recommend this series
Course No. 1220
  • Audio or Video?
  • You should buy audio if you would enjoy the convenience of experiencing this course while driving, exercising, etc. While the video does contain visual elements, the professor presents the material in an engaging and clear manner, so the visuals are not necessary to understand the concepts. Additionally, the audio audience may refer to the accompanying course guidebook for names, works, and examples that are cited throughout the course.
  • You should buy video if you prefer learning visually and wish to take advantage of the visual elements featured in this course. The video version is well illustrated and features around 400 portraits and diagrams. Portraits included in this course are of 20th-century science's most important minds, such as Albert Einstein, linguist Edward Sapir, psychologist Carl Jung, and Stephen Hawking. Diagrams and other graphics shed light on the fundamentals of transformative scientific ideas, including relativity, IQ testing, plate tectonics, and artificial intelligence. There are on-screen spellings and definitions to help reinforce material for visual learners.
Audio Streaming Included Free

Course Overview

As the 19th century drew to a close, the age-old quest to understand the physical world appeared to be complete except for a few minor details. "It seems probable that most of the grand underlying principles have been firmly established," said Albert Michelson, the first American scientist to win a Nobel Prize.

But when Michelson made that prediction, he never dreamed that one of the "details"—his own curious discovery that the speed of light is constant no matter how fast an observer is moving—would soon be explained by a revolutionary theory that redefined the very concepts of space, time, matter, and energy.

The author of that theory, called relativity, was Albert Einstein. He would also lay the foundation for a strange new picture of the atom, which would eventually lead to quantum mechanics and a succession of startling discoveries driving physicists to ever more bizarre theories of the ultimate nature of the universe.

Imagine Today's Science from a Turn-of-the Century Perspective

Scientists in 1900 had no inkling of the other mind-boggling developments that lay in wait: plate tectonics, genetic engineering, space probes, nanotechnology, Big Bang theory, electronic computers, nuclear weapons, artificial intelligence, and many other astounding products of the human mind.

Indeed, by the end of the 20th century, nearly every 19th-century theory of natural and social phenomena would be overthrown or superseded.

A philosopher and historian of science, Professor Goldman (Ph.D., Boston University) has been researching the growing power and influence of science in modern society for nearly 40 years.

"For me," he says, "there's tremendous intellectual satisfaction from seeing how the ideas of 19th-century science were transformed in the 20th century into new kinds of theories that have much greater explanatory power, predictive power, and control power."

A Course in Ideas

"Transformation" is key—because 20th-century science is less revolutionary than evolutionary, in the sense that it built on crucial 19th-century concepts such as energy, natural selection, atoms, fields, and waves.

Professor Goldman is fascinated with such connections, which makes this more than a traditional history course.

Einstein himself was drawing on the known principles of waves and fields to reach the unexpected conclusions of the theory of relativity.

Throughout these 36 lectures, you learn the distinctive ideas that characterize 20th-century science, among them:

  • Science is a unity that encompasses the "hard" sciences of physics and chemistry, and the "soft" sciences, such as economics and sociology.
  • Modern science is a cultural phenomenon that has an inside, intellectual dimension, and an outside, social relationship dimension.
  • Concepts change: The terms space, time, matter, energy, the universe, Earth, gene, language, economy, culture, and society no longer mean what they did a century ago.
  • Reality is ultimately describable in terms of information, relationships, and processes.

The course is organized into five major themes: matter and energy, the universe, Earth, life, and humanity. The last theme, humanity, encompasses the social sciences, an area that is often omitted from histories of science.

Professor Goldman remedies that oversight to bring you the most significant ideas in anthropology, archaeology, history, linguistics, sociology, political science, economics, psychology, and cognitive science—alongside the major developments in physics, chemistry, mathematics, earth science, and biology.

Capstone of a 4,000-Year Quest for Knowledge

This course represents the capstone of a 4,000-year quest for knowledge that originated in the ancient Near East and is covered in The Teaching Company Courses, The History of Science: Antiquity to 1700 and The History of Science: 1700 to 1900.

Some of the key figures you discuss are household names: Albert Einstein, Watson and Crick, Sigmund Freud, and Stephen Hawking.

Many are less well known: Franz Boas was a major influence on all of the social sciences in the first half of the 20th century; John Maynard Keynes is arguably the Einstein of economics; and an American geologist named Harry Hess came up with the theory of seafloor spreading, which led to plate tectonics.

Many other influential investigators are featured, including:

  • Philosopher-mathematician Bertrand Russell who, in the early 20th century, refuted the long-standing project of Gottlob Frege to reduce all of arithmetic to logic by posing a famous paradox.
  • Astronomer Fred Hoyle who, in the 1950s, ridiculed the hypothesis that the universe expanded from an infinitely dense point by labeling it the "big bang" theory. The name stuck—and the theory ultimately triumphed.
  • Physicist Leon Lederman, who was encountered by Professor Goldman in 1978, moments after a telegram confirmed Lederman's historic discovery of the top quark. Goldman asked him, "Do you think quarks are real, or is this another intellectual construct?" Lederman replied, "Well, when [Murray] Gell-Mann thought there were three, I thought they were real. When he said there were four, that was also okay. If I'm right and there are five, then there have to be six. Six are too many, so there must be something more fundamental than quarks." Goldman adds, "I don't think he has that opinion today."
A Grand Tour of the Sciences

Professor Goldman discusses many different aspects of science, among them:

  • Science and society: A turning point in the growth of U.S. science came in 1862, when Congress passed the Merrill Land Grant Act, giving large tracts of federal land to any state that would create an engineering college. This created an academic community that would later help spawn the unparalleled scientific advances of the 20th century
  • Physics: In developing the special theory of relativity, Einstein was driven by a profoundly simple question: what does it mean to say that two events happen at the same time?
  • Mathematics: Mathematicians live with a peculiar, unresolved problem: what is the nature of mathematical objects? Do they exist independently of the human mind?
  • Psychology: The Stanford-Binet IQ test was developed during World War I to screen out recruits who were not intellectually capable of functioning in the U.S. Army. It was not intended to be an index for ranking intelligence at all levels. Nonetheless, it became the basis for what is still a preoccupation with testing.
  • Cosmology: In the 1950s, most scientists were sympathetic to the steady state theory that held the universe has always existed. For science, absolute beginnings are a problem.
  • Telecommunications: Today, fiber optic cables and communications satellites make long distance phone calls routine. However, at the time of Sputnik in 1957 there was just one undersea telephone cable connecting the U.S. with Europe, carrying a grand total of 36 simultaneous calls.
  • Meteorology: The atmosphere transports insects, seeds, pollutants, sand, bacteria, and viruses between continents. Sand from the Chinese desert routinely rains down on the west coast of the U.S. bringing microbes with it.
  • Archaeology: Archaeologists increasingly use techniques borrowed from other disciplines. Recently, textile experts were able to identify Celtic weaving patterns in cloth discovered in western China, dating from 2000 B.C.E. This establishes a heretofore-unknown ancient link between Europe and Asia.

You will find this course filled with ideas, anecdotes, and insights. As Professor Goldman says at the outset of the first lecture, "Welcome to an intellectual odyssey that I hope will be as fantastic and exciting to you as Homer's Odyssey, without keeping you away from home for 20 years."

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36 lectures
 |  29 minutes each
  • 1
    The Evolution of 20th-Century Science
    Professor Steven L. Goldman introduces the scope of the course and discusses the key features of 19th-century science that led to the extraordinary creativity and innovation of science in the 20th century. x
  • 2
    Redefining Reality
    The first of 10 lectures on the physical sciences covers Einstein's special and general theories of relativity, which undermined 200 years of physics and launched a wholly unexpected revision in our conception of the universe. x
  • 3
    Quantum Theory Makes Its Appearance
    A puzzling phenomenon called the "blackbody radiation problem" inspired a new theory of the atom that would ultimately redefine reality and rationality. Professor Goldman tells the story of the inception of this bold idea, called quantum theory. x
  • 4
    The Heroic "Old" Age of Quantum Theory
    Picking up the story of quantum theory in the 1920s, this lecture covers its growth into a mature system called quantum mechanics through key contributions by Niels Bohr, Erwin Schrödinger, and Werner Heisenberg. x
  • 5
    A Newer Theory—QED
    In the 1930s, quantum mechanics entered its "working" phase, called quantum electrodynamics (QED), with increasingly comprehensive—and often bizarre—explanations for the interactions of matter and energy. x
  • 6
    QED Meets Fission and Fusion
    As physicists began sorting out the structure of the atomic nucleus, an awesome source of energy came to light that found application in nuclear weapons and the first plausible theory of how stars work. x
  • 7
    Learning by Smashing
    In order to explore the inside of atoms, physicists invented "atom smashers" to break them apart. These developed from the original 5-inch-diameter cyclotron of the 1930s to today's mighty particle accelerators that are measured in miles. x
  • 8
    What Good is QED?
    QED was a fertile theory that not only guided the development of nuclear physics from 1930 to 1960 but also raised philosophical issues about the status of truth. QED also led to practical applications such as semiconductors, lasers, and superconductivity. x
  • 9
    The Newest Theory—Quantum Chromodynamics
    By the 1960s, the number of "elementary" particles created by atom smashers was in the hundreds and the need for a unifying theory was pressing. "Quarks" came to the rescue in a theory called quantum chromodynamics, proposed by Murray Gell-Mann. x
  • 10
    Unifying Nature
    The success of quark theory fueled the search for further unification, specifically in a theory that would unite the four fundamental forces of nature. That effort has spawned such strange ideas as loop theory and string theory, and involves picturing conditions at the instant of the Big Bang itself. x
  • 11
    Chemists Become Designers
    The final lecture on the physical sciences traces the revolution in chemistry due largely to Linus Pauling's quantum theory of the chemical bond in the 1930s, which together with the advent of supercomputers now makes it possible to create designer molecules. x
  • 12
    Mathematics and Truth
    Professor Goldman pauses in his tour of 20th-century science to explore the curious power of mathematics to explain nature. How can mathematical abstractions tell us anything about concrete experience? x
  • 13
    Mathematics and Reality
    Continuing his discussion of mathematics, Professor Goldman shows that 20th-century developments in mathematics were every bit as breathtaking as developments in the theories of matter, energy, life, Earth, and the universe. x
  • 14
    The Universe Expands
    The first of three lectures on the universe charts our evolving conception of the universe, from 1900 when the Milky Way was thought to be the only galaxy there was, to the discovery of an expanding universe of countless galaxies in the 1920s and the formulation of the Big Bang theory in the late 1940s. x
  • 15
    What is the Universe?
    Bolstered by the discovery of the cosmic background radiation in the 1960s, the Big Bang theory underwent a startling modification in the 1980s called inflation theory that radically enlarged the estimated size of the universe. Recent observations also show that the universe's expansion is accelerating, contrary to all expectations. x
  • 16
    How Do We Know What's Out There?
    This lecture spotlights the fascinating variety of instruments that have unveiled the universe in the course of the 20th century, from ground-based optical, radio, and neutrino telescopes to spacecraft that are surveying the cosmos at x-ray, gamma ray, infrared, and other wavelengths. x
  • 17
    From Equilibrium to Dynamism
    The first of three lectures on earth sciences contrasts the picture of a stable Earth that prevailed in 1900 with the dynamic planet that emerged from the theory of plate tectonics in the 1960s, which was inspired by Alfred Wegener's rejected theory of continental drift from 1915. x
  • 18
    Subterranean Fury
    Plate tectonics was a "Copernican revolution" in our conception of Earth, which not only explained features that had long baffled geologists, but led to new insights about Earth as a complex system of relationships among the constantly changing atmosphere, oceans, core, mantle, and crust. x
  • 19
    Solar System Citizen
    This lecture considers our planet's place in the solar system and examines one of the most outstanding accomplishments of the 20th century: the exploration of Earth, the Moon, and planets by spacecraft. x
  • 20
    Science Organized, Adopted, Co-opted
    Professor Goldman begins a pair of lectures examining science from the "outside" by tracing the origin of the public commitment to big science in the U.S. From limited government support in the 19th century, science grew to an endeavor that consumed an estimated $1 trillion of public funds in the second half of the 20th century. x
  • 21
    Techno-Science and Globalization
    One of the most important of all scientific developments in the 20th century was the new relationship between science and society, with science increasingly being equated by the public with truth. At the same time, the scope and direction of scientific research was becoming increasingly subject to political influence. x
  • 22
    The Evolution of Evolution
    The first of five lectures on life sciences shows how Charles Darwin's version of evolution was rescued in the early 20th century by the discovery of radioactivity, which led to proof that Earth was billions of years old, and by the rediscovery of Gregor Mendel's forgotten 1865 paper on inheritance in plants. x
  • 23
    Human Evolution
    Spectacular fossil finds in the 20th century provide a detailed picture of the evolution of our species. Recently, this picture has been greatly enhanced by a powerful new technique that uses DNA to trace prehistoric human migration. x
  • 24
    Genetics—From Mendel to Molecules
    Between 1900 and 1910, genetics emerged as the dominant theory of inheritance, sparking a quest to understand the nature of the gene and ultimately leading to the identification of DNA (originally considered "uninteresting") as the carrier of the genetic code. x
  • 25
    Molecular Biology
    The once-controversial idea that life can be explained by chemical phenomena triumphed in the 20th century with the astonishing success of molecular biology in unraveling the basic structures of living systems. x
  • 26
    Molecular Medicine
    Concluding the series on the life sciences, this lecture looks at the application of discoveries in microbiology and other physical sciences to medicine, highlighting advances in pharmaceuticals and medical imaging. x
  • 27
    Culture—Anthropology and Archaeology
    Beginning an eight-lecture series on the social sciences, Professor Goldman traces the development of different schools of anthropology and the shift in archaeology from collecting artifacts to explaining cultural development through material remains. x
  • 28
    Culture—History
    Is history a science? This lecture follows the shifting fortunes of objectivity and relativism as historical methodologies. The latter culminated in the extreme form of relativism known as post-modernism, which attacked the foundations of science itself. x
  • 29
    Culture—Linguistics
    Linguistics underwent a profound change in the 20th century, with the focus shifting from the historical study of languages to theories of how language works, developed by Ferdinand de Saussure, Edward Sapir, Benjamin Lee Whorf, Noam Chomsky, and others. x
  • 30
    Society—Sociology
    What is a society? What distinguishes it, what keeps it together over time, and what are the laws of its functionality? 20th-century sociology moved from grand theories of society to the detailed study of social processes and institutions. x
  • 31
    Society—Political Science
    In exploring the relationships of power and authority that underpin society, Professor Goldman focuses on theories of what holds the fragmented, pluralistic American democracy together. x
  • 32
    Society—Economics
    In 1900, "the economy" did not exist as a concept, but as the 20th century unfolded a new breed of intellectuals called economists strove to explain and influence the intricate forces of supply, demand, production, distribution, and consumption. x
  • 33
    Mind—Classical and Behavioral Psychology
    The quest to understand human psychology spawned startlingly different approaches in the 20th century, including the theories of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, Gestalt psychology, and the behaviorism of B. F. Skinner. Since the 1970s, the mind-centered approach of cognitive psychology has dominated. x
  • 34
    Mind—Cybernetics, AI, Connectionism
    The final lecture on the social sciences examines the rapid progress since the 1940s in using computers to model the operation of the mind—an effort called artificial intelligence that raises the formidable question: What is mind? x
  • 35
    Looking Back
    Professor Goldman looks back on the previous 34 lectures, drawing provocative conclusions and asking probing questions, such as: Does the increasing explanatory and predictive power of science mean that science is drawing closer to the truth? x
  • 36
    Looking Around and Looking Ahead
    Where are the sciences headed? The forecasts of 19th-century thinkers about the 20th century could not have been more wrong, but Professor Goldman hazards a few informed and fascinating predictions about the 21st century. x

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Your professor

Steven L. Goldman

About Your Professor

Steven L. Goldman, Ph.D.
Lehigh University
Dr. Steven L. Goldman is the Andrew W. Mellon Distinguished Professor in the Humanities at Lehigh University, where he has taught for 30 years. He earned his B.S. in Physics at the Polytechnic University of New York and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Philosophy from Boston University. Before taking his position at Lehigh, Professor Goldman taught at The Pennsylvania State University, where he was a cofounder of one of the first...
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Reviews

Science in the 20th Century: A Social-Intellectual Survey is rated 4.8 out of 5 by 64.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from out standing review of many sciences He covers many areas of science - those like physics, chemistry, etc are well done in breadth & depth. Amazing that he is knowledgeable in so many areas.. Very enthusiastic, knows & enjoys his topics. Does not look at the camera much, & moves around a lot, but is not too distracting Only "graphics" are pictures of individual scientists - no other graphics - would have been helpful Made in 2004, now is 2016 &many new updates should be made. Coverage of "soft" sciences not so good. Overall is a good buy.
Date published: 2016-08-05
Rated 3 out of 5 by from A Dissent Wow. So I am almost the only person who wasn't thrilled with this course. . . Well, for what it's worth, here's why: Prof. Goldman is a master of an incredibly large number of facts regarding the people, places, research, and theories of the many sciences, both "hard" and "soft", of the twentieth century. The breadth of the course is, well, breath-taking. And learning about all of this is inherently fascinating, as well as essential for understanding the extraordinary progress of human knowledge. However - with the exception of the lectures on physics, which are given far more time than the other fields, and which conveyed a significant quantity of information (physics having been, not coincidentally, Prof. Goldman's undergrad major), I found the material to be presented so extremely superficially as to give little understanding of the actual science. This includes chemistry and math, and all of the social sciences. Biology was in the middle. Now I realize an 18-hour survey of all physical, life and social science developments in the 20th century must be superficial. But that only explains it, without making it worthwhile. And I found our good professor frustrating to listen to. Organization is not his forte. He speaks in a rapid stream of consciousness with labyrinthine digressions, and digressions within digressions. A remarkable number of sentences are begun but not finished. And often he would make a statement, only to retract or edit it immediately thereafter. I found myself repeatedly wanting to shout "Slow down, focus, and think before you talk!" Occasional remarks are offered which attempt to bring out various overriding and shared themes of scientific development in the twentieth century. But these only become clear in lecture 35, which brings them together and explicates them in some detail. If you do take the course, I urge you to do this lecture first; it will provide a much-needed framework for thinking about the rest of the course. The Course Guidebook is quite good, and includes a timeline, glossary, biographical notes, and annotated bibliography, all extremely helpful resources which are mostly missing from more recent courses. So - I recognize I am in a tiny minority in my criticisms of this course, and I don't expect to influence anyone's choice. If you are interested in this subject, also consider the many Great Courses which treat the individual sciences in far more depth.
Date published: 2016-07-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding This is an extremely informative, engaging survey, delivered with enthusiasm and deep understanding by the lecturer. He covers an enormous range of territory, weaving knowledge of different scientific fields with a grasp of historical and even political dimensions. I feel the consensus rating of 4.9 is well- deserved. Some of his synthesis and conclusions are especially helpful, eg, his explanation of the key insights and implications of Darwin's thinking. Much of what he reveals about indeterminacy and uncertainty in physics carries over into logic and math, chemistry and genetics. Since I am not a scientist by any means, I found all this very engaging. I strongly recommend this course
Date published: 2016-07-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating Dr. Goldman is one of my favorite TGC professors. His comprehensive knowledge of the intellectual history of science is delivered with genuine warmth and caring.
Date published: 2016-06-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from AWESOME Audio CD review I wish I could conjure up a less banal review title, but “awesome” really sums it up. For those with a background in particular scientific disciplines, you probably will not learn much new in terms of the technical details; however, you will gain much by reviewing scientific progress in such a broad context. Dr. Goldman demonstrates connections that I had previously not known of or appreciated. You will certainly learn some very interesting facts along the way as well. For those without a background in science, I have to imagine this has to be one of the best courses to introduce you to the wide sweep of progress across all the scientific disciplines. Regardless of your science background, Dr. Goldman is a great raconteur. I really enjoyed his manner of speaking. I burned through this course as I couldn’t wait to get back to the next class. At the risk of sounding crass, I am sure Dr. Goldman is great person to have at a cocktail party. The bottom line is that this truly is a Great Course by any measure; you will love it.
Date published: 2016-04-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A must for every educated person? Goldman covers a vast amount of material. I'd call it a survey of 20th century intellectual history minus philosophy, law, and the arts. First part is physical sciences. Don't worry, only one equation in the entire course, E=mc^2, mentioned several times, but only in respect to its significance. Mostly through 36 lectures he sticks to the big picture, and though he covers far more than I am able to intelligently comment on, it appears to me that he presents the big picture well. A little bumbling at times, a fair bit of dry humor, and he usually presents ideas as his view, or as the views of those he is discussing. Rarely does he speak down at you with "the truth." I think everyone who considers themselves reasonably educated should be exposed to this material, and this course is adequate for doing that. Humor me here - when he deviates from the big picture to details, errors creep in, enough that I caught several I thought were worth mentioning. He is unclear on uranium enrichment and plutonium breeding. He calls Calutrons cyclotrons, but they are mass spectrometers. He call mass spectrometers cyclotrons, which they are not. He calls the Stanford linear accelerator a cyclotron, which it isn't. He discusses the Teller - Oppenheimer conflict without putting it into the bigger political and historical context of the time. Better if he had left it out. He talks about Turing's unfortunate death, including only what I believe is only one factual statement - the apple wasn't tested. Why give so much time to perhaps the most famous case of total incompetence on the part of a coroner's inquest? Discussion of Heisenberg's use of matrix algebra is confused. The term shock wave is used in both its technical and non-technical senses. The Van Allen belts do not protect the Earth from solar radiation; the magnetic field does. There is a great deal here. The data density is very high. Making your way though this course will not be an easy effort, and it will be an effort worthy of repeating a few times. Oh yes - you have an advantage over Goldman - the course is about 10 years old. He leaves you with two big questions in physics - Will the Higgs boson be discovered? When will gravity waves be detected? We know what he doesn't. We can check off both of those big hurdles, or at least it currently appears likely that we can. This is a must - do course. I wish I had watched it when I was in school, though that was 50 years ago.
Date published: 2016-02-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from If You are Curious About the World This is the best course I have taken at GC. Brilliant in every respect. I learned about science and history at a depth and breadth that was for me perfect. Essentially, I learned everything I wanted to know about modern science, the connections between scientific disciplines as well as the current trends. I particularly liked the opening and closing chapters as they set the modern history of science on a long term trajectory leading into the future. I also liked the professors use of stories of the people who made scientific history. He showed each scientific breakthrough in historical context. I recommend this for everyone who is curious about the world.
Date published: 2015-10-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Awesome Synthesis What an incredible piece of work - an intellectual tour de force. Professor Goldman does a fantastic job of surveying the evolution of the sciences in the 20th century. His ability to summarize and integrate multiple science disciplines is extraordinary. He excels at conveying complex topics in a clear and accessible form. As an additional bonus, Professor Goldman has an outstanding speaking voice! My wife and I both give this course our highest recommendation. Time well spent. It's remarkable how much of what we take for granted in the 21st century was only discovered/invented within the last century - an evolutionary blink of an eye.
Date published: 2015-08-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Encyclopedic This course is a rapid jog through the scientific landscape of the past century. The professor’s knowledge is truly encyclopedic, encompassing physics, math and multiple social sciences. At first I thought this would be akin to a “Science for Poets” course. But that would be an unfair trivialization. The speaker is always clear with his explanations, yet he is moving rapidly through many intrinsically deep subjects. I suspect that a naïve listener, one who had not already heard of most of the topics discussed, would have considerable difficulty appreciating the vast intellectual landscape as it rapidly passes by. As an outline, as a syllabus, and as a review of a lifetime of learning, this course is wonderful. The professor’s style and voice are very enjoyable. I had already listened to his fabulous course on the Science Wars. This course is even more astounding. He has clearly spent a very long time studying the sciences, and is giving the listener the benefit of his sophisticated summaries. This course is a spectacular review for the adult learner.
Date published: 2015-08-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Absolutely fascinating - very interesting Wow ! This is quite a journey through science and how it has changed through the centuries. I very much enjoyed listening to the history up through the mid-1900s - then when Prof Goldman got into the developments beyond 1960 - I found that very fascinating because I graduated with an engineering degree in 1960 - and it was fascinating to hear about all the developments since then - both in the "hard" sciences (techie stuff) and the "softer sciences" of sociology, history, behavioral psychology, etc. I would definitely recommend this course to anyone who is at all interested in learning more than they did through college many years ago... Very easy to listen to - and understand...
Date published: 2015-07-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Addictive Some lectures, like this one, make me want to go on a long roadtrip so I can dive into the material without interruption. Prof. Goldman's voice and delivery wear very well; his powerful mind shows in the organization of every sentence. Not being a scientist and, in particular, lacking higher math training, I know I can get only the general drift of many difficult concepts in physics. Goldman's historical and philosophical approach has led him to focus on the annoying little loose ends that caused each breakthrough scientist to rethink the accepted wisdom of his day. Understanding what evidence was puzzling physicists at the time and what clever or lucky experiment opened up a bright new idea helps me grasp the new theoretical development. The later lectures depart somewhat from this approach and, for me, are slightly less enjoyable, though still well worth the listener's time. Perhaps it's too early for anyone to develop a satisfying explanation of what's happened to physics since about 1970, but Goldman's treatment of the first half of the 20th century is first-class. Above all, he avoids the speculative dreaminess of someone like Neil deGrasse Tyson.
Date published: 2015-05-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from No More DEPTH of Understanding is Possible I'll be short for the main point: No more depth of understanding is possible. I speak of the first 9 lectures on Physics. I've heard and read time and again and again on these topics. Many books and other Great Courses and magazines and journals -- both on the science itself and the philosophy of those issues in science. NOWHERE can you get as truly deep an understanding as what Professor Goldman supplies you. Short phrases would be "profundity to the max" or "insight to the max". But I think there is something else too: it is more than a profound perspective that Professor Goldman provides you; I'll say that only he really gives the RIGHT understanding. There were a couple tidbits I would have liked to have seen him mention, which he didn't. I know, that's a surprise given how encyclopedic and brilliant he is (as correctly stated by other reviewers), but this missing of a point or two that would have well fit in -- that just leads me to another important point: the distinction between DEPTH and detail. As others have said, there is plenty of detail. I have said that maybe a couple of items of my own interest were missed, but that would fit in quite well. But details are not what make the DEPTH. Professor Goldman's perspective is the DEEPEST I've encountered ever. And, to my mind, the only fully accurate perspective. Rather than an idiosyncratic spin or even a more legitimate perspective, I think Professor Goldman's understanding that he transmits to you is THE WAY IT REALLY IS/was. Now, some things for the context of what I've said. I was expecting the course to be a rehash of what I already knew (and would therefore I'd just be "evaluating the pedagogy"). I was wrong. The course is so much more. The Brittish "A Very Short Introduction" series has an outstanding book, "Quantum Theory: A Very Short Introduction" (ISBN-13: 978-0192802521 ISBN-10: 0192802526). That book I thought gave the full and correct, highly detailed story. With that book I thought nothing else will ever compare. Professor Goldman, however, I think is the fully accurate understanding. AND FOR DETAILS, I just recommend the book I cited. With this Great Courses course you will have a totally accurate DEEP understanding, and with the aforementioned book you can fill in the details. If you are a non-science person, I still think you will acquire an ACCURATE perspective from Professor Goldman. One last thing: the philosophy is not so much philosophy of science, but more like using philosophy as a tool to get the right perspective on the issues themselves (not philosophy-of-science topics). An analogy would be something like not having calculus to find where something is a minimum (how high to fill that plastic cup so its center of gravity is as low as possible so it won't blow over in the wind). Maybe there are some reasonings that would work, but the correct perspective is to put it all into the calculus framework -- that's the tool called for here. With the physics issues of this course, the proper way of understanding them is to use philosophical tools -- something Professor Goldman has "done to the max" and thereby produced the DEEPEST understanding possible, which also happens to be the CORRECT understanding.
Date published: 2015-03-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Understand the Rate, not Just the Technology Don't be fooled by the title. Most surveys are leisurely strolls along a path as someone points out interesting sites along the way. You end up with a map of the topic. I was expecting a map of technology, what I got was a speedometer. We are so accustomed to new technologies, new abilities in communications and transportation that we have lost our sense of awe at the speed of progress. This course nudges us back to the edges of that wonder. As a retired engineer with a couple of recent advanced degrees, I've considered myself current across a broad sample of technologies for a long time. I picked up this course just to fill in a couple of weak spots in my general knowledge. That's not what this course is about. Dr. Goldman's course, as he states, is a survey of the progress in the sciences between 1900 and the turn of the present century. It furnishes a look back at where we started, the high spots of the work across a really broad range of fields, and how fast we've come to this point. Dr. Goldman points out that words and concepts that we use daily have changed their meanings and their usage in the last 100 years. In one of his lectures, he gives us a list of words in common usage that have changed during this period. These concepts include atom, space, time, earth, economy, and language. For instance, most scientists of 1900 were not convinced of the existence of atoms. Today, the general population takes atoms for granted, and few of us doubt the existence even of photons. Prior to 1905 and Einstein, that concept didn't exist. The rapid maturation of concepts continues to this day. In my own time, I remember the debate over continental drift (How could THOSE move?). That seems settled now. The number of physicists that have died within my lifetime amazes me. My parents were concerned when Einstein died. Nobody mentioned the passing of Bohr, Schroedinger,De Broglie, Weiner. Watching Goldman review their work we are reminded that we have truly seen a progression of giants in our day. The lecturer carefully explains how society has changed its view of science and technology. New ideas are accepted more quickly than they used to be, and extended rapidly by new researchers. And the expression of those ideas as technology pushes us all ahead, even those of us who don't directly adopt the new thing. And it's not just physics. Psychology, biology, genetics, broad swathes of culture, society and the cognitive sciences have also pushed past the previous boundaries. For instance, consider the role of behavioral psychology, a field invented in the early twentieth century, in commerce and advertising. Science has moved solidly into systems, and into dynamical systems as opposed to those in equilibrium. Now we study networks and relationships like we used to collect butterflies and plants. I heartily recommend this course. If I had one thing to do differently, I would have bought the summary. I believe this course would make those notes valuable. The pace of the lectures is rapid. I often found myself backing up within lessons to see something that had passed by while I was considering another point.
Date published: 2014-07-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating! In these lectures, Professor Steven Goldman masterfully covers not only the evolution over the past century of natural sciences such as physics and geology but also of social sciences such as anthropology and economics. In the second to last lecture, he raises various fundamental questions that can only be dubbed philosophical. He concludes in lecture 36 with a sensible look towards the future. This series reaches a level of excellence that could be a model for all Teach12 productions: • it is wide-ranging, yet profound; • the amount of information covered is astounding, at a level that remains accessible for the non-specialist; • there are hardly any repetitions or non-pertinent personal anecdotes; • the lecturer not only perfectly masters the material but clearly has reflected upon it at length so that he conveys his own wisdom as a bonus _ though of course many listeners may not totally agree with all his personal views. This course is very warmly recommended to all who are curious-minded, not only those interested in the history of ideas and the progression of thought.
Date published: 2014-05-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An Intellectual Odyssey of 20th Century Science Dr. Goldman takes the student on a journey covering not only the events and personalities of 20th century scientific progress but also through the evolution of critical thinking itself over the last 100years. If you ever wondered: "How did they come up with that?" re: scientific discovery and theory, Dr. Goldman will answer the question. This course is not just about the science itself but the philosophical, historical, and societal context that enabled changes in scientific perspective. Dr. Goldman does a masterful job of explaining the science while portraying the context. While I thoroughly enjoyed the treatment of the physical sciences as those are my roots, I found it equally fascinating how Dr. Goldman demonstrated the adoption of similar thinking (e.g. reductionism) in the biological and social sciences while these areas developed their own philosophical frameworks. His lecture on History as a science was fascinating, as was his lecture on linguistics, an area I knew little about. In all, this course is a fascinating intellectual journey. Dr. Goldman's breadth and depth of knowledge in all fields of physical, biological, and social science coupled with his understanding of philosophy and history are overarching. I viewed the DVD where Dr. Goldman showed his enthusiasm and emphasis via his body language. But since this course dates to 2004, it has limited graphical or other visual aids compared to newer TGC courses. It is conceivable that the audio version would be nearly as effective. The course guide is outstanding. All the key points are contained in the lecture summaries though I found myself writing down many anecdotes in the margins. The timeline, glossary and biographical notes are very well done. I would certainly recommend this course to anyone interested in learning about how science got to where it is in the last century. I would also recommend it to anyone interested in 20th century history or the development of modern society as science and technology impacted the last century so profusely,.
Date published: 2014-04-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Brilliance... Of the nearly 100 Great Courses I own, my top three are those taught by Professor Goldman. Without exaggeration, I must say that Professor Goldman's breadth and depth of knowledge is stunning. He is bordering on genius, and I do not use that word lightly. I am actually surprised he is not even more widely renowned than he presently is. The Great Courses are fortunate to have his work in their catalogue, and we as life-long learners are very fortunate to be able to learn from such an intellectual giant. My sincere hope is that The Great Courses will get Professor Goldman back in the studio to record more lecture series as soon as possible. This would be a true service to all those who love learning and knowledge. Put simply, this course will make you smarter. And as we know more, we can accomplish more. Professor Goldman is a teacher of the highest order.
Date published: 2013-09-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from So who is this course really for? If you are not a science-ophile don't get this course. But if you love science get it. To somebody not 'in to' science this course may be overwhelming and seem overly technical but if you have just a little background in science, you will eat this course up. Professor Goldman will take you on a journey through every branch of science and his knowledge is prolific. His love for his subject is evident in each lecture. I remember my grandmother, who live from 1899 to the 1970s talk about all the changes she had seen in her lifetime. Ah, if she only lived another 25 years she would have been boggled. And not just in technology. Science has literally changed our view of the world and Professor Goldman relates these scientific advances with our everyday life and the world around us. I will not list his topics as you can read that in the titles of his lectures. His breadth of knowledge is mind blowing. If you know nothing about a particular topic you will after this course. If you have knowledge of a field you will gain additional insights. Not being an expert in any particular field of science I was enthralled with this course even if occasionally overwhelmed by the topic.
Date published: 2013-06-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very Good Survey for the Non-Specialist I bought the DVDs. Professor Goldman is very effective at impressing upon the viewer/listener how much science changed between 1900 and 2000, and he is quite right to speculate that the differences between 2000 and 2100 will be equally amazing. He links together the disparate fields--and there are a lot of them--with three general observations: 1. during the past century, theories moved from emphasizing things, like atoms or genes, to networks and relationships; 2. following #1, we must look at the entire system, whether of quanta, cells, organs, or words, to understand the components and how they relate to each other; 3. we now expect constant change rather than equilibrium, e.g. the Earth is a place where continents constantly move rather than standing still. I'm concerned by the assertions raised by the review below, titled "Too many errors," about several mistakes by Goldman in the lectures on molecular biology. The Teaching Company should have some peer review mechanism for checking errors. I found some really bad blunders in Kenneth R. Barlett's history course "Italians Before Italy," so I returned it. I'm not qualified to say whether peptides self-replicate or what the function of an ATP is, though, so I'm not going to downgrade Prof. Goldman based on another review. Those who do know about such things should keep them in mind before buying this course. He could have said a lot more about change in the discipline of history during the 20th century, but I didn't spot any errors. My main gripe there was his focus on Thomas Kuhn's Structures of Scientific Revolutions, but I won't hold it severely against a history of science man for sticking to what he knows best.
Date published: 2013-04-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Quite good Not one of the very best TGC courses, but quite good. A review of the advances of different fields of scientific research in the 20th century. Dr. Goldman is an excellent lecturer. HIs forte, and the strongest part of the course: is the development of 20th century physics. He has a real knack for explaining these complex ideas in a logical, easily digested form. Students will some background in the sciences will get more out of this course than others. Certainly some the TGC courses on science in general, (physics in particular) would be a useful prerequisite to this course.
Date published: 2012-07-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Puts Science In Perspective This course provides a great overview & comparisons across disciplines from the natural sciences to the social sciences showing they effect each other. This was the 1st course where I used the transcript heavily to write 15 pages of notes. Before I usually wrote a few sentences if something was particularly interesting. I used this course to understand the recent discovery of the Higgs boson. The questions to consider were helpful in discussing the various disciplines with my friends. I was afraid when I got this course that it would be too technical causing me to not understand it. I had little trouble understanding most concepts. However, there were some concepts which we had trouble with. For example, he defines non-Euclidean geometry as any logical valid deductive system that uses definitions, axioms, and self-postulates different than the ones used by Eulid. I had to look his definition of Euclidean geometry in the transcript where he defined with examples like circles. However, he never gave an example of non-Euclidean geometry. I ended up asking my friend who was a biology major to explain the difference to me. This is why a bar is lost under course content. Because of this course, I will consider buying his other course on "science wars," have bought and enjoyed the "The Inexplicable Universe: Unsolved Mysteries" course. This course helped explain changes to my majors in history and political science that my dad was unable to understand such as the use of biology in history to understand the environment (biotic or abiotic) in which an object is found. Or how in political science, psych, genetics, and computer science models are being used to explain political behavior.
Date published: 2012-07-15
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Too many errors He says Miller's primordial-soup experiment produced "self-replicating" peptides. There's no such thing. Peptides commonly have catalytic activity. Nucleic acids can be replicated by base-pairing. There are RNAs with both catalytic activity and the ability to be copied by base-pairing. But modern ones need proteins and multiple RNAs to get the job done. There may have been individual self-replicating molecules at the origin of life, or there may only have been molecules that jointly replicated themselves and each other. There are not, and have never been, self-replicating peptides. He said that ATP showed up as a mutation after various other things had happened. ATP is one of the basic building blocks of RNA. It almost has to have been there from the very beginning, and certainly long before mitochondria appeared. There are others. I had mostly been willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on subjects I'm less confident of: maybe those were big news since the stuff I'd read was written. But there's no way he can be correct about these. Such a broad survey of the natural sciences probably can't be done well by a single individual. Experts in the various fields should be brought in, at least as fact-checkers. He has made a heroic attempt at doing it solo. He has lots of interesting stuff to say. He speaks clearly and engagingly. But there are just too many errors.
Date published: 2012-03-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Magnificent intellectual journey to savour I am not suprised that 100% of reviewes recommend this course It is a must for any person interested in the state of science and our world. Professor Goldman is intense in terms of the delivery of vast array of material covered in this course. The "natural" sciences are obviosuly covered but he also offers (highly valuable)thumbnail sketches of the development of sociology, political science, economics etc This is the place to start your orientation of how these vital areas of knowlwdge have developed over the last centrury; the booklet that accompanies the course is also very good and is in depth enought to summarise the material well and also there is enought of a bibliography to allow you to pursue a particular area as you wish. What is really powerful is the way in which science, particularly the natural sciences, are shaped by socio-economic and intellectual "paradigms". The lecture on platectonics for example shows how what is now seen as obvious science(how the continetns were formed)was fiercely resisted by those that clung to the previous theory that dominated this area of knowledge. A tour de force! I have bought another of Professor Goldman's courses and am looking forward to listening to it!
Date published: 2012-03-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Nutritious and delicious lectures Professor Goldman's presentation is comprehensive. He packs 100 years of science history into 36 lively lectures. The material is fascinating and he covers it engagingly, going into surprising depth (for a survey course) on important concepts and theories. Scientific explanation can be dull, but there is never a dull moment in this course. 36 lectures is not enough. I finished the course a week ago and I miss listening to this guy.
Date published: 2012-03-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Possibly the best! I've listened to quite a few Teaching Company lectures and, for me, this is probably the best (outside Greenburg's remarkable music lectures). This guy, Steve Goldman, he really knows his stuff. He pulls so much together, from all of the sciences, theories, names, concepts, applications, disputes, politics, the whole bag, and condenses it into an effective package. His voice has a good tone and is well paced; he's fired up but keeps his cool. Sounds totally natural, like it's all just coming straight out of personal memory and understanding. Nice one!
Date published: 2011-11-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Intellectually Stimulating This course is thoroughly enjoyable. I purchased the audio download and enjoyed every lecture. Completing a number of Teaching Company courses in the sciences was helpful to gaining the most out of this course because everything came together. I enjoyed knowing about the sociological and cultural background of many important discoveries in science. The professor's presentation style is excellent. The lectures were very informative yet reminded me of casual conversations with a great professor.
Date published: 2011-07-31
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very memorable overview DVD review. This is a good, challenging overview of the trajectory taken by the physical sciences during the 20th Century. Virtually all the beliefs held by the most highly-ranked scientists at the end of the 19th Century were overturned a hundred years later. I saw this course after going through Dr Goldman’s “Great Scientific Ideas That Changed the World”. That course covered a much longer stretch of history, and was more concerned with showing how influential certain philosophical assumptions were in the development of Western thinking about nature. “Twentieth Century” is more of an overview. Inevitably, the sections on quantum physics and relativity overlap a bit in both courses. “Twentieth Century” also covers “soft sciences” like sociology, anthropology and economics. But I found this last part much more superficial and less enlightening that his lectures on the physical sciences. Dr. Goldman is worth the overlap and I know I will watch this course more than once with the help of the green summary notes. If you want an overview of where we stand in the sciences, this course and “Big History” are terrific starts.
Date published: 2011-04-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Shining Light Prof. Steven Goldman handles an immense store of learning with grace and enthusiasm. Most of us--the well-educated included--have little appreciation for what has been discovered or proved in the last century. Though a graduate of medical school I did not appreciate the recent history of chemistry, even less that of physics. I expected to get illumination of those areas, but am pleased to report that the material on astronomy, geology, psychology, sociology, and linguistics is alll stellar!
Date published: 2010-06-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Great Science Journey AUDIO DOWNLOAD 36 Lectures Prof. Goldman is one of the best, fire-in-the-mind kind of lecturers. His lectures demonstrate his mastery of the material, and he is one of the star examples of why I love The Teaching Company. First let me say that I downloaded these lectures, and have begun downloading ALL audio lectures. Why? For two main reasons: 1) Saving $10 per course (saving shipping costs), and 2) I can load these straight into iTunes and onto my iPod, which I can then connect to my Mini Cooper. Unlike the Audio CDs (which have 6 or 9 subtracks for each lecture), the downloads have one subtrack per lecture, which makes them much, much easier to scan on an iPod. Now back to Goldman. This is the first of his three TTC courses: 1) Science in the 20th Century: A Social-Intellectual Survey (2004) 2) Science Wars: What Scientists Know and How They Know It (2006) 3) Great Scientific Ideas That Changed the World (2007) Science in the 20th Century is a great one to start with. Goldman gives you a strong sense of how much has changed from 1900 to 2000 and why it's reasonable to expect that by 2100 little of what we know of as science today will survive. If you like the final several lectures where he outlines the "science wars" that started in the 1980s, then you should get the second course, which I thought was fantastic. His third course is also fabulous. Read my review for details. Unfortunately, I listened to these in reverse order. I highly recommend listening to them in order. The 2nd and 3rd courses provide some overlap, but Goldman is worth it. I give all three courses 5 stars, which means I will listen to all of them more than once. Highest recommendation.
Date published: 2010-04-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A challenging learning experience My wife and I are on a second tour of this amazing course...! Unless you have some background in science, you may have some problems following the professor in the initial lectures. But hang in there. It gets easier as he addresses more concrete, less theoretical topics.
Date published: 2010-04-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from stand up and cheer (and gaze in wonder) Mixing biography, popular science, trends, and culture - and giving social science some credit - Goldman has concocted a "history" that helps pull together some of the most exciting developments of the last century. (Goldman is the first professor I ever contacted after his class to congratulate him on his great work - very gracious gentleman, so it seems). Warning: Goldman's intentions for the course are indeed overly ambitious: this will give you a sampling of trends, concepts, revolutions, but in-depth learning will require further inquiry. As I see it, the mark of an excellent course is the desire it generates to look further into areas one has not yet explored: one leaves a course like this humbled, amazed, and filled with awe and wonder. For the social sciences (psych, et. al.) portion, what struck me is the cyclicality of the concepts and ease with which themes (motifs?) carry across from field to field: Goldman makes an intriguing "case" that the intellectual thought from QED spilled into other fields, as intellectual thought changed profoundly in the 20th century. I loved the audio downloads (I'm an iPod/Mp3 player listener on the go - though occasionally, cranking open the materials to read along with the lectures was very helpful to my comprehension and retention). Am curious about the DVD format, and may buy it just to see what I missed.
Date published: 2010-02-04
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