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Coursera Understanding Einstein: The Special Theory of Relativity

Stanford University via Coursera

  • Overview
  1. Coursera
    Platform:
    Coursera
    Provider:
    Stanford University
    Length:
    8 weeks
    Effort:
    5-10 hours a week
    Language:
    English
    Credentials:
    Paid Certificate Available
    Overview
    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!).

    Syllabus
    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

    Taught by
    Larry Randles Lagerstrom

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