No subject is bigger than reality itself, and nothing is more challenging to understand, since what counts as reality is undergoing continual revision and has been for centuries. For example, the matter that comprises all stars, planets, and living things turns out to be just a fraction of what actually exists. Moreover, we think that we control our actions, but data analytics can predict, with astonishing accuracy, when we will wake up, what we will buy, and even whom we will marry.
The quest to pin down what's real and what's illusory is both philosophical and scientific, a metaphysical search for ultimate reality that goes back to the ancient Greeks. For the last 400 years, this search has been increasingly guided by scientists, who create theories and test them in order to define and redefine reality. And we have developed the power to alter our own reality in major ways - to defeat diseases, compensate for disabilities, and augment our intellect with computers. Where is that trend going?
Experience the thrill of this exciting quest in 36 wide-ranging lectures that touch on many aspects of the ceaseless search for reality. From the birth of the universe to brain science, discover that separating the real from the illusory is an exhilarating intellectual adventure.
Scientists and philosophers are not alone in grappling, at an intellectual level, with reality. Some of the most accessible interpretations are by painters, novelists, filmmakers, and other artists whose works not only draw on the latest discoveries but also sometimes inspire them. Explore examples such as Alice in Wonderland, pointillism, cubism, surrealism, and reality TV.
And since dealing with reality is an experience we all share, this course is designed for people of all backgrounds.
PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.
©2015 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2015 The Great Courses
I liked Professor Gimbel's explanations of the different areas of science. He did a good job explaining how the science came into being. What questions the science is trying to solve. I found his explanations of relativity and quantum mechanics very good. It helped me understand these areas that fascinate me from a outsiders view a little better.
These lectures start at the lowest quantum levels and go all the way up to cosmic levels. Then the lectures follow the same kind of path of understanding humans going from psychology to sociology. The last lecture talks about big data analytics and how amazingly predictable humans surprisingly are. Interesting stuff. It's long but I am glad I listened.
l'enfer c'est les autres
All of the cool parts of all the sciences (and social sciences) are covered in this lecture. The lecture is somewhat equivalent to taking the first year undergraduate course of study where you didn't have to worry about memorizing irrelevant facts or learn the mathematics. He tells you what you need to know about physics, geology, economics, sociology, psychology, and even why deductive systems such as mathematics with it's different orders of infinity is so cool and relevant to understanding the nature of reality.
The lecturer ties each lecture together by linking the growth of each subject by how we first understand the individual item (say a rock), then the relationship between the rocks (say gravity) and then the web for which the rocks live in (say the universe).
The paradigms we use to describe our reality are part of the current understanding and when somebody steps out of that paradigm and sees the world differently we first say they are spouting nonsense, but overtime the new paradigm can take hold. Newton was called crazy (action at a distance, what an absurd concept!), Einstein was challenged until he wasn't then he never accepts the quantum mechanics, and so on.
Always, the lecture educates and entertains. He will tie difficult points to a movie, a book, or a painting and show how it is relevant to the point he is making. "Frankenstein" the book finally makes sense to me.
What is reality? That's the subject of this series of 36 lectures. We think we know what reality is, but most people don't take the time to think about how popular paradigms color their world view. For instance, we all know that the universe is full of billions of galaxies. But 100 years ago, we all knew that the universe was basically just what you could see in the night sky. Before that we all knew that the universe was the sun, moon, 7 planets and a bunch of lights embedded in a crystalline sphere that encircled the earth.
Aristotle taught that an apple dropped to the ground because it was trying to find it's natural place - an apple does what an apple does. Newton taught that the apple drops because of the relationship between the apple and the earth, this relationship being defined by gravity. Now we teach that "things" are merely sensory illusions brought about by the interaction of various quantum fields.
When I was finishing graduate school and getting ready for the dreaded oral exam, I took two weeks and reread every one of my undergraduate textbooks, cover to cover. I remember thinking how much more sense it all made when you saw it all at once instead of having it parceled out over one or two semesters. That's what this course is like.
These lectures cover all of science, including the social sciences, and are without a doubt the best presentation of science I've ever read. There's not much here that I hadn't already been exposed to, but the lectures are so clear that it all makes much more sense. The lectures are full of simple, every day, and often humorous, illustrations of every aspect of science.
Also included is a little philosophy and the arts, as these subjects relate to reality. This is the first time I can truly say I understand what Descartes meant when he wrote "I think, therefore I am".
I wish that this course was required for every school student. The information is vast, but the presentation is simple enough that anyone can understand it. The course includes not only the hard sciences, but sociology and psychology. The chapter on behavioral science - and how it's used by politicians, pundits and advertisers to influence people is actually a little terrifying.
The course is 18 hours in Audible format - 30 minutes per lecture. If you have a 30 minute commute you can complete it in just 18 days, and you'll have an awesome understanding not only of the great sweep of human knowledge but how that knowledge shapes our perception of what we call "reality".
John P Schaeffer
Helped me do my hour long beach walks. I like the progression the course took starting with the basics of physics and working right up to the latest time now with data mining and social media and how it all tied together at the very end. The professor knew his stuff and had his facts down cold.
I have listened to a lot if Great Courses and will continue as long as they make them. Their are ones that are more fit for viewing because visuals are key to the lessons. This course is perfect for audio. it is full of contemplative lessons that make you want to inquire more about the subject matter. it is a great history lesson about the impacts of the paradigm shifts of humanity.. The narrator has an upbeat voice that really conveys his interest and knowledge about the subjects discussed. Another great Great Course!
This course presents something of a Walmart of realities...a one stop shop with more than just a sampling of each. It was a delightful tour de force for an old geezer like me Caught me up on a lot of intellectual stuff that I was way behind on and shined light on new things that I had completely missed. Professor Gimbel could be one of the best narrators I've ever listened to on Audible or anywhere else. The whole thing was like what going to college should have been. Delightful!
Business Physicist and Astronomer
I would summarize this course as more of a brief history of science rather than an exploration of reality. A reader reasonably versed in science is going to find the the first half painfully elementary. The second half is a little better but still doesn't delve into what I would expect for a course supposedly designed to redefine my idea of reality. It might make a redefinition for a particular individual with no prior knowledge of scientific advancements of the past 100 years.
But wait. While this course was a disappointment to me, it may be great for you. I expected more mind stumping discussion than a recap of the history of mathematics and the papers of Einstein. I've traveled those roads often. Almost all books on the current state of quantum mechanics will take the reader step by step through the Bohr Einstein debates.
This course starts way before Einstein shook up reality. Newton certainly redefined reality for his time. Even that's not far enough back. Euclid? If I take a course called "redefining reality" I wouldn't expect it to begin with Euclid or Plato.
This course might aptly be called "The History of Reality as Perceived Through the Ages".
It didn't change my reality.
Again, let me say that the course is well presented and many people will enjoy and learn from it. It is very basic, however, and if you have a science background you won't find anything new or thought-provoking in this course.
Great book. I do agree with other reviewers that there is a sense of false advertising here though - it says little about the most modern theories of reality (for this I *highly* recommend Donald Hoffman's TED talk on the Interface Theory of Perception). But don't let this take away from the amount you will learn - tons.
There are a few errata in here - taking only two from my list (like I said, you will make *many* notes during this course): the author states that "the hallmark of nonlinear systems is instability" which simply is not true. Nonlinear *dynamical* systems comes closer, but still not fully correct. Also, the author makes much too much of Benjamin Libet's volitional acts and readiness potential experiments, saying this is clear evidence for an individual's lack of free will, when in fact Benjamin Libet himself made further studies which showed we have an override to this system - essentially reestablishing free will, only in a "free won't" format. Anyway, these things are minor compared to the overall grandeur of the course. You won't be sorry!
One oh the best books I've read on audible (app. 100 until now, mostly non-fiction). Everything a well-rounded and informed person should know about the history of science and contemporary world. Professor Gimbel is a unique and brilliant mind with the ability to explain, apply and connect the most intricate and complex scientific data to the bigger picture of the "system" called reality. Thank you prof. Gimbel and Audible! Primoz Mavric, Slovenia
This book covers many areas I have already studied but provided many facts I did not know. For instance two Bell Lab scientists discovered microwave back ground radiation by accident and won a Nobel Prize. This has always perplexed me but now I know why they deserved it. And another thing I did not know about athletes and steroids. I mistakenly believed steroids made body building easier but just the opposite is the case.
The book is full of this sort of thing and I found it gratifying to bring myself up to speed on things I did not know I needed to know. A few of the later chapters were a bit tedious and perhaps that is why so many people gave it five stars without written comment. I sort of felt that way myself but decided to do the job anyway. This book is a good value.
Fascinating, enlightening, fun
The Prof. His humour is dry and very funny.
It's a long story. I battled a bit with the maths at the start, but once through that, it all flowed easily
I laughed frequently.
A fantastic use of 18 hours. I'll go through it again.
"Best speaker of all I've listened to."
a really excellent lecture series and delivered in an interesting and witty way. Cannot recommend highly enough.
"Wonderful, thought provoking, well organised book."
The writer is well versed in his vast subject and makes it all clear and accessible. Read with enthusiasm.
I loved every minute.
"Excellent, very long but incredibly interesting."
I loved this series of lectures, I've always been a fan of the great courses, but this is definitely one of the best, these lectures cover a wide range of disciplines but key points are all clarified . As mentioned by a previous reviewer the lecturer has a very sharp dry sense of humour. This is a very long series of lectures but my interest was held throughout.
"Not what I expected"
The first 17 Lectures (the point I gave up) where basically a brief over view of science starting with the Greeks. It you know a little about Science then you'd be wasting your time. If you don't then watch some youtube videos on Plato , Copernicus, Galileo, Newton , Einstein, Mendeleev, Watson, Crick, Frued and Jung - you'll learn more and in shorter time.
"Intensely interesting and informative."
Intensely interesting and informative thanks in no small part to Steven Gimbel's engaging and thoughtful narration. This should be required reading for schoolkids, undergrads and humans in general.
"good all round overview of so many subjects"
enjoyed the various subject matters and would follow up on many. great overall course but the conclusions weren't entirely convincing
Well rounded and balanced. I have listened to a lot of lectures from the great courses, and this is one of their best all-rounders in terms of Physics.
"brilliantly eye opening."
This book is a must read for anybody searching for answers to life's greatest questions. I sped the book up so it didn't take so long to get through, I was able to keep up fine at 1.25 and 1.5 speeds. but, even if I was forced to listen to this at the regular speed I would still thoroughly enjoy it.
Loved it! I listened to it all from start to finish and will do again. Loved his delivery and humour. Content was fascinating.
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