"It doesn't take an Einstein to understand modern physics," says Professor Wolfson at the outset of these twenty-four lectures on what may be the most important subjects in the universe: relativity and quantum physics. Both have reputations for complexity. But the basic ideas behind them are, in fact, simple and comprehensible by anyone. These dynamic and illuminating lectures begin with a brief overview of theories of physical reality starting with Aristotle and culminating in Newtonian or "classical" physics. After that, you'll follow along as Professor Wolfson outlines the logic that led to Einstein's profound theory of special relativity and the simple yet far-reaching insight on which it rests. With that insight in mind, you'll move on to consider Einstein's theory of general relativity and its interpretation of gravitation in terms of the curvature of space and time.
From there, you'll embark on a dazzling exploration of how inquiry into matter at the atomic and subatomic scales led to quandaries that are resolved-or at least clarified-by quantum mechanics, a vision of physical reality so profound and so at odds with our experience that it nearly defies language.
By bringing relativity and quantum mechanics into the same picture, you'll chart the development of fascinating hypotheses about the origin, development, and possible futures of the entire universe, as well as the possibility that physics can produce a "theory of everything" to account for all aspects of the physical world. But the goal throughout these lectures remains the same: to present the key ideas of modern physics in a way that makes them clear to the interested layperson.
Disclaimer: Please note that this recording may include references to supplemental texts or print references that are not essential to the program and not supplied with your purchase.
©2000 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2000 The Great Courses
To me this lecture was laid out very well. It help to give a nice introduction to modern physic without being too technical. While this is a good thing to not scare away a beginner or someone interested to learn more it lacks the technical information to make the ideas more concrete and less subjective. This is the way it is with any attempt to teach physics to non-scientist, so not a fault of the lecture but it would be great to have a follow up that take us to the next level. It is from 2000 so it is missing some new information but for a basic foundation it is very good. I found Professor Richard Wolfson to be a very good speaker, easy to understand and follow.
I admit up front that I have a strong interest in this topic (relativity) but have only recently tried to better understand it. Professor Wolfson does a terrific job of keeping the explanations simple and easy to understand. He moves along quickly, so the listener needs to stay focused. But I really enjoyed listening to this and professor Wolfson makes it easy to listen to. If you want to have a basic understanding of relativity, this is a great audio book to start with. I strongly recommend this.
I've read and listened to a few books on the two subjects, but this one cleared up some confusion and filled in some gaps. For example
- With special relativity, you frequently hear the twin paradox - when one leaves on a space ship, comes back and is younger than the earth bound twin. Most explainations i've heard usually end there, but then when you think about, if motion is relative, why isn't it the earth bound twin that stays young and the space traveler age? This book clearly explained a resolution to the paradox and it all finally makes sense
- All of the books i've read/listened to always say, "Plank started the quantum revolution when he studied heat". then the next sentence would be about Einstein and the photoelectric effect. None of them stopped to explain what plank did. This book actually explains the "UV catastrophe" and how Plank resolved the problem.
The professor of your dreams - enthusiastic, great eplainations, and anticipated questions of the audience well
It's a fascinating topic, and Prof. Wolfson is clearly passionate about the subject.
I found myself listening to 2-3 lessons at a time, and doing more chores than usual, because I was learning so much.
Prof. Wolfson does sometimes sound like he's rushing to get through the material, in the tone and nature of his speech, but I was able to follow along with everything he explained. Obviously he couldn't cover everything. He made the comment several times "no math!", which must say something about the intended audience. I'm not afraid of math, so I would've liked a little more on the math side, and more-detailed explanations of some of the more complicated subjects.
Also, I'm not sure when it was recorded, probably early 2000s? Which means he's a bit out of date, e.g. talking about the Large Hadron Collider at Cern that was *going* to be built, which has now been built, and the Higgs Boson being a speculative particle, which they've now discovered. But hey, now I know what the "Hadron" in "the Large Hadron Collider" means!
Overall, it's an easy-to-follow intro to both relativity and quantum physics. Almost certainly you can find all of this information elsewhere, but this is a nice format and a nice presentation.
Good lecturer, it's almost as if he knows he's being recorded for replay in audio only format.
I presume a "book" would have been a transcription of these lectures. This is a good lecture, I don't imagine the book version, a transcription, would be better. Transcripts are never better than a good lecture just as movies aren't as good as the original book.
probably not. I can't watch a movie while walking.
I completely disagree with this disclaimer in the product description: "Please note that this recording may include references to supplemental texts or print references that are not essential to the program and not supplied with your purchase". I don't expect the books he says are in the bibliography but I do expect to not have to stop and write down the book title and instead refer to the bibliography. To not even include a bibliography saves nobody anything but causes intense dissatisfaction on the part of me, the consumer. I don't want to listen to an entire lecture just to get the name of the book he mentioned somewhere in the last 50 minutes of walking. The bibliography is essential. If I wanted only the audio content I'd go look for the torrent (why should I not look there for my next book? the service is equivalent).
For those of you who are interested in more of a laymen's approach to understanding relativity, this is a good audio. This is the first audio I have listened to by "The Great Courses". I didn't realize that it is nothing more than a college lecture that is being recorded, class by class. Not a big deal for me, but It may rub others the wrong way. Some of the in class demonstrations and white board examples are obviously difficult to follow.
He doesn't shy away from asking you to understand very difficult concepts. This adds incredible depth to the lecture. You can listen to it over and over again still gaining new understanding. That's well worth the cost.
He hammers home that the earth is not special. This is both obvious and not. I felt he deconstructed the instances when human intuition persistently tries to make earth-centric judgments of physics. He pointed out some of my intuitive blind spots, referring to us at times as "closet Aristotelians."
He brings a lot of passion and energy which really drives the lectures home.
I felt utterly confused at times and completely amazed at others. I recommend multiple listens. I'm listening to it a second time as we speak!
He does use a lot of visual aids (which a listener cannot see). He makes this work well enough but it definitely gets confusing to fully picture what he is describing at times. Minor blemish on an otherwise impeccable lecture.
It was a great listen, the professor is a wonderful narrator and explains this complex theory beautifully. Of course, you don't really know relativity from this course because you need a lot of math for that, but it gives you the general view of the world as it really is, and not just our private glimpse of it here on earth. Mind broadening.
Rachel E. Watkins
This is an excellent, easily understood, while not condescending, introduction to physics, associated history, and scientific method and thought. The expanded and explained story of Newton and his apple gave me a very profound appreciation of what was really going on with that story, and a much better understanding of the history of scientific thought. I have found myself quoting sections when relevant discussions come up and Professor Wolfson's analogies are quite clear. Articles which once left me rather confused trying to wrap my brain around concepts I can now appreciate due to this grounding in understanding. This is my third 'Great Courses' purchase and I have not yet been disappointed.
I really enjoy science but I guess I'm what you would call a Lay person. I found Professor Wolfson's lecture engaging and informative. The repetition of key elements really helps hammer in a few key conceptual anchors.
I am a professional Narrator and I find when I listen for a book that grabs me as a listener and keeps me, I'm stymied by repetitive cadences and falling inflections even from top narrators. I'm referring to fiction as well as non-fiction. It's a hard thing to avoid with long hours in the booth. I know, I've been there. Listening to professor Wolfson has reminded me not just to convey a story in the appropriate mood, but to EXPLAIN it. To lead a listener through the thought and intention behind every sentence. It's hard to keep up but I think that's what's engaging: a feeling of extemporaneousness; that the story is flowing organically through the narrator.
on another note:
Richard, If you're reading, you should get in touch with Alan Alda. Read the article in today's NYtimes. He could use your help!
"Pitched at just the right level, very engaging."
I've always rather regretted dropping physics at the age that I did, but assumed that my lack of advanced mathematics was probably a barrier to investigating the subject further by myself. I'm ecstatically happy to be proven wrong.
I couldn't really be happier with this course. It seems to be pitched towards an undergraduate non-scientist level, which is to say that it assumes that you don't know any physics already, but *does* assume that you have a few brain cells to rub together. So far so perfect.
The content is no doubt simplified and focused on the conceptual (Advanced physics without maths? How could it not be?), but Professor Wolfson is superb in how he takes the listener through the evolution of various theories in engaging logical steps.
NOTE: There are references throughout the lecture series to occasional diagrams and course materials, which are *not* available for Audible customers to download form the Great Courses website. A quick google search however will usually provide you with similar diagrams if you just throw in the relative topic keywords.
"Look forward to listening again"
I think listening again will help me understand further this complex subject!
Perhaps Stephen Hawkings brief history of time
"The title says it all. Emphasis on non-scientists"
Yes. The lectures are well structured and progressive in approach.
None that I have come across as yet.
It felt a little slow in the first few lectures but as we got further into the subject, as a reader, I found that the repetition of the concepts kept me grounded and I never felt lost. Excellent examples and I found his diction and style to be crystal clear.
"Very clear, logical and easy to digest"
These lectures explain the relatively straight forward principals from which flow some very complex and bewildering physics. This is done in a clear and easy to follow way where much of the time the listener is lead to draw the conclusion that the lecturer is about to posit just in advance of it being stated.
"wolfson on einstein"
written by yes
narrated by no
kaku parallel worlds Deutsch beginning of infinity
talks far too fast
when excited his voice is too high pitched
very disappointed with richard wolfsons presentation
a pity to spoil very good very clear content with poor speech/too fast/garbled at times. It becomes a strain to listen.
"One to blow you mind"
This is fantastic, I found that it made me think in so many ways leaving no stone uncovered.
From start to finish this set of lectures got more and more involved, but the gentle gradient flowed into the topics with ease.
The section on time dilation was a really compelling subject.
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