Understanding Einstein

Explore the physical laws that govern our universe.
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September 19, 2016 - October 30, 2016
Climate Change, Earth: Inside and Out, Evolution, The Ocean System, Space, Time and Motion, Water
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Authoring Scientists

Orsola DeMarco
Dr. DeMarco is a research fellow at the American Museum of Natural History.
Charles Liu
Dr. Liu is an astrophysicist at the Hayden Planetarium.

About the Course

Throughout history, people have grappled with fundamental questions about the physical origin, workings, and behavior of the universe. This course explores our changing comprehension of motion, time, space, and matter through the ideas of the ancient Greek philosophers, Galileo, Newton, and Einstein. You'll learn how physicists measure mass, weight, and the speed of light, and how these basic measures relate to the nature of time, thermodynamics, Einstein's theories, and the wider social sphere. Read more.

Key Science Concepts

Great thinkers such as Galileo Galilei, Isaac Newton, James Clerk Maxwell, and others provided a foundation for Albert Einstein's revolutionary theories.

E=mc2—Einstein's famous equation—shows that mass and energy are manifestations of the same thing.

According to Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity, our common-sense notions of space, time and motion must be radically revised at speeds approaching the speed of light.

Einstein's conception of the photon as a "particle of light" that behaves like a wave paved the way for the development of quantum mechanics and modern electronics.

Einstein's General Theory of Relativity, the modern theory of gravitation, shows that mass bends space and space determines how mass moves. It explains many astrophysical phenomena, such as the curvature of space and the existence of black holes.

Physicists are working on a unifying theory that would resolve apparent contradictions between the two main pillars of modern physics—general relativity and quantum mechanics.

Einstein's work on the relationship between mass and energy and the subsequent development of nuclear power and nuclear weapons is a potent example of the social and political implications of scientific research.

Course Textbook

One Universe: At Home in the Cosmos
Author: Neil deGrasse Tyson, Robert Irion, and Charles Tsun-Chu Liu
Publisher: Joseph Henry Press
Edition: March 2000
Hardcover: 218 pages
ISBN: 0309064880
Buy online: Amazon | Online Version

Graduate Credit

This course is approved for graduate credit and continuing education units from leading institutions at an additional cost. Read more.

Course Preview

Explore an interactive about our frames of reference, watch a video about time, and explore a sample discussion.

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"The best part of this course was gaining an understanding of an area I knew little about."
—high school chemistry teacher
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73% of educators say this course was more valuable than professional development available at the local level.

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