Black Holes, Tides, and Curved Spacetime

Narrated by: Benjamin Schumacher
Length: 12 hrs and 6 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (196 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

It all started with Newton’s apple. Or did it? Gravity controls everything from the falling of an apple to the rising of ocean’s tides to the motions of the heavens above. If you’ve ever wondered how this most puzzling force works across our entire universe, you will be delighted by this 24-part course that is accessible to any curious person, regardless of your science education. No other product on the market presents the subject of gravity in as much detail as this course, which will follow the past 400 years of research and experimentation in the field.

Your guide is Professor Schumacher, an award-winning educator, prominent theoretical physicist, and protégé of John Archibald Wheeler, the distinguished gravity theorist who first coined the term “black hole”.  

• Explore the intriguing features of gravity, including: why a hammer does not fall faster than a feather (neglecting air resistance, of course!); how astronauts float in space when they are still within reach of Earth’s gravitational pull; and how gravity shapes the four-dimensional fabric of the universe.

• Become immersed in the fascinating study of gravity, experiencing the scientific breakthroughs alongside the great minds of physics: Galileo, Newton, Cavendish, Einstein, Hubble, Hawking, and more.

• Examine a recent discovery: that the expansion of our universe is accelerating due to an as-yet-unexplained cosmic antigravity known as dark energy.

• Delve into the Holy Grail of contemporary physics: the search for a theory that encompasses both gravity, which extends its reach across the cosmos, and quantum mechanics, which governs events at the smallest possible scale.

In Black Holes, Tides, and Curved Spacetime, you will travel to the very edges of modern physics to explore several revolutionary theories and discover that physics is just as exciting today as it was when Newton sat by that fateful apple tree.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2013 The Great Courses (P)2013 The Teaching Company, LLC

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    4 out of 5 stars

Excellent Lectures about Gravity (Physics)

I just finished listened to these lecture series by Prof Benjamin Schumacher. I enjoyed learning about the history of our understanding about gravity. While I am familiar with the physics from classical mechanics, I was glad to go into detail about the physics from general relativity. The included pdf (220 pages) was a nice addition to the lectures. Here are some of my favorite quotes:
“But a solid body held together by gravity, by a long-range attractive force between all masses, will tend to pull itself into a spherical shape. Every piece of the body is attracted to every other, even the pieces on the other side. And a sphere is the shape that minimizes the distances between all the pieces. The more massive the body, the stronger this tendency will be. But gravity is so weak that a solid body has to be many hundreds or even a thousand kilometers across before this sphere-making proclivity of gravity will win out.”
In explaining the tidal effect, Prof Schumacher instructs students to “imagine the fall of a spherical cloud of apples.” And then with a simple explanation from Newton’s law of universal gravitation he explains the mysterious force that squeezes in from the sides and also stretches out along the up-and-down direction the cloud as it falls freely.
Many lectures are ended with a preview or teaser of the next lecture, followed by a kind remark to the students, “And I’ll see you then.” I can imagine Prof Schumacher given this remark in the university.
The questions and answers on the pdf document are well though-out. The most thought-provoking question to me was Question 1 of Lecture 9: “How can we tell whether a piece of anomalous data requires us to change our basic theory?”
I recommend this lecture series to anyone interested in understanding gravity, tides, and black holes. I’m sure a future recording of the same lectures will be updated to include the important LIGO discovery in 2017.

7 people found this helpful

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Good freshman high school lecture

The information presented in these lectures
Spans the years 1600-1980
Nothing in the lectures covering the last
35 years, if you are totally unfamiliar with the
Topic it offers an historical perspective

31 people found this helpful

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Great book!

Loved the content, the performance and all of it.

I was happy to hear about entropic gravity.

2 people found this helpful

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Einstein explained for the non physicist

This is the best explanation of Einstein's theory of relativity that I have heard along with excellent discussions of many other related topics.

1 person found this helpful

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Not the best for audio-only

Like all the Great Courses books (that I've read/listened to) the content of this is fascinating and the professor is engaging. Like many 'sciencey' books this one has an accompanying PDF - but this one is 164 pages long! A good bit of the content was the description of equations on how to calculate the unfathomably large or small numbers encountered in the cosmological realm. I listen to audiobooks primarily while I'm driving so this made referring to the pdf to 'see' the manipulation of these equations impractical. Even so, the professor never referred to the pdf as a reference for something being discussed in the lecture (it really wouldn't have mattered on my Android phone because you can only navigate the pdf using a "Next Page" button and with a 164-page document that was never going to happen) In fact this particular course would likely be much easier to consume as a video series.

1 person found this helpful

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best physics lectures ever.

this guy is a genius communicator. if you are interested in physics, highly recommend. I often find popular science books a little too simplistic, or feel like the authors have some disdain for the readers. but not this course. I wish there was more.

1 person found this helpful

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Excellant

My only regret is that I am not much of a mathimatition, therefore I was unable to get the full value from the course.

1 person found this helpful

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In a word. EXCELLENT

Loved it and will listen again and again. This is the 4th or 5th book on the subject I have listened to. Each book enlightens the last. Wish I had started the journey years ago. Michio Kakus (sp?) Einsteins Relativity might be a beter place to start is you know nothing at all. It lays some good ground work that this one builds on.

1 person found this helpful

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no black hole performance for sure

loved it...learned a lot about black holes...dark matter comes from black holes....get it? Funny maybe

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The author is outstanding

Listened to this book multiple times and it never got old. A comprehensive presentation made in a logical manner. I only wished that this book was around during my physics undergraduate times. <3

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 12-17-19

Fascinating!

The course starts very gently and builds up pace as it goes (but never too complex). It is well structured, comprehensive and nicely presented. Works as an audio only course.
Loved it!

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  • Mr GS McCreadie
  • 10-17-19

gravitational reservations

great lectures. well articulated and full of fact, theory, conjecture, questions and information on what is known about many unknowns. however, the curvature of my understanding doesn't sit comfortably with a comprehensive portrait of gravity as an explained phenomenon. something doesn't add up yet as a roadmap these lectures can be thoroughly recommended if only to chart relative levels of uncertainty in current explanatory theory.

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  • DR Terrans
  • 10-09-19

Perfect course for any physics enthusiast

Thoroughly enjoyed this series, perfectly summed up the past and present of physics. Prof. Schumacher clearly knows how to keep the listener glued to the topic. The only downside of the audio version is that you are unable to see when he’s giving visual explanations. Although, the pdf helps a bit but it’s not the same as a video version.

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  • D B.
  • 09-12-19

The most enjoyable course I’ve done to date.

Ben is very good at bringing the subject to life. Everything is explained in a manner that any layman can follow, with a bit of thought. The maths is enlightening, and easy to follow if you a have the accompanying pdf. Would advise anyone to read each chapter first and get to grip with where it is going regarding the maths, since it is explained quite quickly. The story brings out the science beautifully.

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  • Marco
  • 08-02-19

Good listening

Fascinating tales of gravity. A bit hard to follow in some passages but still really enjoyable

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  • Anonymous User
  • 10-28-19

Fantastic performance

This supplemented my course on astronomy well. Schumacher told this story in a way that was captivating, fun and informative.