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Online Course

Understanding Einstein: The Special Theory of Relativity

Stanford University via Coursera

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

Tags

Reviews

4.6 rating, based on 18 reviews

Start your review of Understanding Einstein: The Special Theory of Relativity

  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    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...
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    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.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    Prof. Lagerstrom many thanks for your way of teaching a not very easy matter. I hope I can get a chance to attent a further course by you. Quantum physics would be my favorite matter.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    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.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    Excellent instructor, with very well rounded teaching flow, the topics are expertly presented, in clear manners even for those without the heavy math baggage (or just very rusty like me).

    Highly recommended.
  • Abhijith G.

    Abhijith completed this course, spending 5 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.

    * Mind bending concepts

    * Insights into the world of Einstein

    * Insights into foundation of modern physics

    * Changes your perspective about things in general.
  • Kristina completed this course and found the course difficulty to be medium.

    I've been waiting for this one for so long! It hasn't been offered for quite a while, and now it's back on the self-paced platform. Its workload is sometimes overwhelming, but it's worthwhile. The instructor is amazing, and I loved the weekly quotations...
  • Mateusz B.

    Mateusz completed this course and found the course difficulty to be easy.

    A very well done course that takes you by hand through many concepts in physics before introducing the actual the special theory of relativity. I would advice all people to do this course to understand the bigger overall beauty of physics and the world in which we live in. After taking this course, I have a deep understanding of what the theory captures and how it works. Strongly recommend!
  • Chris

    Chris completed this course.

    Awesome class. To be able to take a subject as complex and counter-intuitive as this and to break it down into understandable units was really amazing. I would have liked to have been able to take it with a friend so that we could have discussed some of the weirder Issues, but unfortunately nobody I knew was interested. However, the discussion forums are themselves very interesting.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course and found the course difficulty to be medium.

    Took this course through Coursera when it first came out in 2013. AWESOME teacher! Larry Lagerstrom had gotten numerous awards for his teaching and this course shows why. He explains difficult concepts in a manner that allows anyone to understand them, and he's got visual aids too! ::smile::

    I only wish he would do a course on Theory of General Relativity as well.
  • Profile image for Nader Osama Soliman
    Nader S.

    Nader completed 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.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    Excellent course and provides great insight into the topic,which is especially important for the topics like Special theory of relativity as this topic's concepts contradicts the intuition of human being.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    It was simply perfect for me. I hope of some other physik cours (maybe quantumphysik) from Prof. Lagerstrom
  • Rodrigo completed this course.

  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    The instructor (NOT a professor) spoke so slow and wrote so many emails out of his own insecurity, that I dropped this class sensing that this instructor was in over his head.
  • Mauro completed this course.

  • Profile image for Srivatsava Gullapalli
    Srivatsava G.

    Srivatsava completed this course.

  • Qz completed this course.

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