In this course we will seek to “understand Einstein,” especially focusing on the special theory of relativity that Albert Einstein, as a twenty-six year old patent clerk, introduced in his “miracle year” of 1905. Our goal will be to go behind the myth-making and beyond the popularized presentations of relativity in order to gain a deeper understanding of both Einstein the person and the concepts, predictions, and strange paradoxes of his theory. Some of the questions we will address include: How did Einstein come up with his ideas? What was the nature of his genius? What is the meaning of relativity? What’s “special” about the special theory of relativity? Why did the theory initially seem to be dead on arrival? What does it mean to say that time is the “fourth dimension”? Can time actually run more slowly for one person than another, and the size of things change depending on their velocity? Is time travel possible, and if so, how? Why can’t things travel faster than the speed of light? Is it possible to travel to the center of the galaxy and return in one lifetime? Is there any evidence that definitively confirms the theory, or is it mainly speculation? Why didn’t Einstein win the Nobel Prize for the theory of relativity?
About the instructor: Dr. Larry Lagerstrom is the Director of Academic Programs at Stanford University’s Center for Professional Development, which offers graduate certificates in subjects such as artificial intelligence, cyber security, data mining, nanotechnology, innovation, and management science. He holds degrees in physics, mathematics, and the history of science, has published a book and a TED Ed video on "Young Einstein: From the Doxerl Affair to the Miracle Year," and has had over 30,000 students worldwide enroll in his online course on the special theory of relativity (this course!).
Introduction to the Course, and Einstein in Context Week 1: Introduction to the Course, and Einstein in Context
Events, Clocks, and Reference Frames Week 2: Events, Clocks, and Reference Frames
Ethereal Problems and Solutions Week 3: Ethereal Problems and Solutions
The Weirdness Begins Week 4: The Weirdness Begins
Spacetime Switches Week 5: Spacetime Switches
Breaking the Spacetime Speed Limit Week 6: Breaking the Spacetime Speed Limit
Paradoxes to Ponder Week 7: Paradoxes to Ponder
To the Center of the Galaxy and Back Week 8: To the Center of the Galaxy and Back
MOOCs stand for Massive Open Online Courses. These arefree online courses from universities around the world (eg. StanfordHarvardMIT) offered to anyone with an internet connection.
How do I register?
To register for a course, click on "Go to Class" button on the course page. This will take you to the providers website where you can register for the course.
How do these MOOCs or free online courses work?
MOOCs are designed for an online audience, teaching primarily through short (5-20 min.) pre recorded video lectures, that you watch on weekly schedule when convenient for you. They also have student discussion forums, homework/assignments, and online quizzes or exams.
Excellent and enthusiastic lecturer. Plenty of theoretical practice quizzes. The technical side of the course is quite elementary. If you follow the lectures and do the practice problems you should be able to get close to full marks. A great introduction to special relativity overall.
Prof 's way of teaching is just perfect. step by step so anyone can follow although Einstein is a challenge. Thanks a lot. As a matter of fact, I am just waiting for a quantum mechanic course by Prof. Lagerstrom.
I took this course as I was interested in Einstein's theory of relativity but knew very little about it. In fact I did not know that there are two theories, Special and General.
I was also intimidated by the amount of math that had to be involved.
I was glad I took this special theory course. Professor Lagerstroum took a complex subject and explained it in simple terms that was easy to understand.
He followed one of Einsteins quotes "keep it simple but not too simple" and with a very down to earth approach explained a lot of the complex math that is involved without expecting the student to memorize how equations are derived just to know how to use the equations.
This was one of the few courses I can say I truly enjoyed and now have a better understanding of the special theory of relativity.
I wish he had one on the general theory as well as Quantum mechanics.
Nader Osama Solimancompleted this course, spending 2 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be easy.
You want to know about how time and space behaves near light speed? You want to know how it all started for relativity (not covering General Relativity yet lays the ground for more understanding). A physics enthusiast? ... this course is for you.