Understanding Einstein: The Special Theory of Relativity に戻る

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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!)....

Dec 09, 2019

Almost anyone can learn about the special theory of relativity from these lectures. I actually can't believe that I studied from a professor who teaches in the USA and in so simple way. I am grateful.

Jun 23, 2017

This course is very comprehensive and well prepared material for understanding the Special Theory of Relativity. Larry (the instructor) is very expert and has broad knowledge in explaining the course.

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by Ronald P N

•Nov 13, 2016

Professor Larry Lagerstrom is an exceptional teacher. He explained the Theory of Special Relativity in such a manner that the theory became easy to understand. Not only has the Theory become understandable, he also managed to convey the beauty of the theory. I cannot find words to describe how I have enjoyed the series of lectures. From very simple concepts of the property of waves, he led to a very deep understanding of the principle of Light Constancy. From that principle, it became very easy to understand Time Dilation, the Length Contraction, and then Lorentz Transformation, and finally, the Invariant Interval. The journey he has planned was brilliant. Once one has a firm grasp of those principles, the explanation of the Twin Paradox became a "piece of cake".

by Robert E K P

•Aug 21, 2017

The course was fantastic. I have struggled for years to understand the Special Theory of Relativity and I finally have a good grasp of the theory. The course is not difficult for anyone with at least a fundamental grasp of algebra and should be no problem with more math in their background. I would really like to see a course on the General Theory of Relativity taught by Professor Langerstrom. The lectures were clear and well documented and the short quizzes at the end of each subsection of the class materials really helped to make understanding the material presented easy to comprehend. I'd also love to see a book written by Dr. Langerstrom based on the course. I have a couple around home and they aren't as clear as the material presented in this course.

by Collin O

•May 24, 2020

I enjoyed every bit of the course and cannot stress how much I appreciate the work that went into this. I especially like the lecturer; Larry Randles Lagerstrom, and how he was able to execute such perfect teaching as well as sticking true to the the saying 'festina lente'. This course has managed to drive my curiosity and engage me thoroughly. In fact, time went by so fast during the course that I wonder if the effects of special relativity somehow managed to play a part in it. I started the course with the hopes of learning something new but it wasn't the outcome I loved the most it was the struggle and the journey to get there. Big props to the University of Stanford for making this a free course. I rate this a 5/5

by zhu w

•Jul 24, 2019

Great experience! I watched dozens of videos regarding special relativity but failed to understand. This course led you step by step with patience and you will have your big bang in the week 3rd. If you can pass week 3rd, you will probably grab the course successfully. My confusion is about the speed limit of light and the concept of relative speed. I raised my questions probably over a dozen rounds and Mr.Larry always give me help with 24 hours. What a great help. My suggestion to the course is : Please add a little bit more about relative speed. Can relative speed exceed C? Because such concept is crucial in my view to go through WEEK 3rd. A/w, great experience and Solute to THE TEAM. Thank

by Anna O

•Oct 11, 2018

Literally the BEST course I've ever taken online! Perfectly structured, very detailed, very accurate and informative. I am a dozen steps closer to my dream of getting properly educated in the field of physics and the realm of exact sciences about the Universe. I enormously admire Prof. Lagerstrom as he's obviously put a lot of effort in preparing all necessary materials, making it all vivid and human with the help of quotes, stories and remarks about Einstein, always making sure the students understand the material and receive and remember it logically structured. Prof. Lagerstrom seems extremely charismatic and engaging to me, I regret this is the only course of his on Coursera. Thank you so much!

by Wenxin D

•Dec 23, 2017

Thank You Professor Lagerstrom, the course is outstanding. I loved the way the course was taught, everything was linked to real life situations and easy to follow. At first I felt that the course was going a little slow but then I realised that a solid foundation is absolutely necessary in order for future understanding. If you skip too much of the first part you might lose some insight and not capture the fundamental ideas. I strongly recommend this course, specially for those who aren't too sophisticated with maths, since this course does not rely on mathematical derivations, but rather on diagrams, thought experiments and logical reasoning. It is definitely worth of 5 out of 5 stars.

by david w

•Oct 21, 2017

The tutor is excellent, the pace of the course is good, the material is sufficient and everything proceeds logically and succinctly. Lots of interesting ideas and context. Understanding Special Relativity, objective met.

I was surprised to learn that the idea follows from some simple premises and so anyone with an interest can follow along qualitatively to appreciate the idea. Math ability is not essential but a modest ability I suggest would help to follow along. For anyone who wants more, and has the time, there is plenty of optional extra study material to work through.

I will return to the course in a few months and review the material as there is a lot to take in.

by Francois K

•Apr 23, 2019

Clear and detailed introduction to the Special Theory of Relativity, including deriving the basic formulae involved on the topic, and advanced work made optional but available for most weeks' topics. The basic introductory analogies are simple to follow along but stunning in their implications, such as the famous light clocks not only in Alice and Bob's frames of reference but also in an elevator to touch upon the General Theory of Relativity at the end. After being a physics and relativity geek all my life, this course actually crystallized relativity and I finally understand precisely the strange effects of the theory.

by Paola S

•Jul 12, 2019

Thank you Prof. Larry Lagerstrom! This course has been a great experience. Having a background in Banking & Finance, I was not sure to have the proper skills to go through such a complicated topic, which has always fascinated me. The structure of the course is perfect, the explanations are very clear. I appreciated introduction, summaries and handouts, quotes and real life examples. I also find it very effective that the teacher writes on a whiteboard instead than using slides. I would really suggest everyone to take this course. It helps understand, as was mentioned in the course, "the marvellous structure of reality".

by Siddharth Y

•Jun 10, 2019

I had just completed my Indian Grade 12 exams and decided that since Special Relativity was something I wanted to learn about, I should go ahead and do it. I chose this course and have no regrets whatsoever. Prof. Larry explains everything in the simplest way possible and avoids complicated mathematics wherever unnecessary. After finishing this course, I have a very good idea of how Special Relativity actually works and it will immensely benefit me given I am planning to major in physics in college. Anyone who is even remotely interested in doing this course, just go for it.

by Damien B

•May 05, 2019

I found this course very stimulating in terms of thought experiments and conceptual understanding—a good deal of brain rewiring was necessary! Though I wished the quantitative approach was pushed a little farther (e.g., using matrices for the Lorentz transformations, and getting into Maxwell's equations when it came to the invariance of the speed of light), it was not a prime goal of this course to rely heavily on "advanced" mathematics. Thus, I still think it deserves five stars; I definitely recommend it as an introduction to the special theory relativity! :)

by Richard Q

•Jan 10, 2018

Great introduction course. The teaching skills of Prof. Lagerstrom are really great. I studied a long time ago relativity (special and general) and this refreshing course was in some ways better than the one I had at the University. It does not require any high mathematical skills. I particularly appreciate the historical surrounding of the theory clearly highlighting how ideas and theories grow (not at all as usually explained in school). I do hope Prof Lagerstrom will pursue his teaching with general relativity and/or maybe a course on quantum mechanics.

by Francois L

•Oct 23, 2017

I really enjoyed the quality and pace of this course. The weekly pace was reasonable for someone like me taking this course out of personal interest and doing so after work in the evening. The quality of the video courses was excellent but I understand that this is tied to the individual quality of the professor. Support materials (notes and problem sets) were very helpful to complement the videos. I like the structure of the course and the tool itself which I ran conveniently from my tablet. Overall great experience and looking forward to my next course.

by Sandhra J

•May 06, 2020

Such an amazing course with an exceptional teacher!! I was mind blown with the way such a complicated topic was handled and taught. Einstein is properly explained and his topic of relativity is explained even better. This course has given proper respect to Einstein and has respected his views and thoughts.

The moment I hear 'Einstein', I get Mr. Larry's face onto my mind, that's how amazing and wonderful he as well as this course is. I get the feeling of learning more from him, be it any topic.

Thanks a lot for this fantastic and meticulous experience!!!!

by Sandeep k

•May 01, 2017

feels great, to know about such a renowned personality like Einstein. feeling like i came closer to Einstein and his work, but more than that it i feel closer and connected to the universe. this all has become possible only because of professor Lary Lagerstrom's unique teaching skills and presentation of subjects. myself being from science background found it very easy to get hold of what is actually going, but i'm 100% positive that any person from any background can understand and successfully complete this course. thank you professor.

by Stephen C

•Mar 04, 2018

Larry Lagerstrom is excellent. He speaks clearly -- and repeats concepts. He is very experienced at this, applying models to illustrate points, understanding where the student might have difficulty, and going over points to make sure we have got the idea. I realized quite early that if I did not understand the concepts of this course, it would certainly not be his fault.

I enjoyed this course. It got me to think in a different way -- stretched my brain in addition to increasing my knowledge about the specific subject.

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by Donald R

•Feb 09, 2017

Professor Lagerstrom does a superb job of presenting Einstein's special theory of relativity. There is a good balance of history, high school level mathematics and thought experimentation. I have been studying Einstein's special theory of relativity, mostly by reading books, for over 60 years and this course solidified the theory in my mind. I actually have two good friends named Alice and Bob, who are unrelated to the course heroine and hero. The real heroes in the course are Professors Einstein and Lagerstrom.

by Wai H C

•May 03, 2020

Excellent course, covering a basic fundamental understanding of special relativity and the historical context within which Einstein made his discovery. The math required to understand the concepts are also straightforward high/secondary school level math. I took this as a refresher, having took a class back in undergrad college on the same subject and it helped me recall the core concepts of the subject. Recommended as an excellent introduction for anyone interested in physical science in general

by Lawrence K

•May 22, 2020

I really thoroughly enjoyed this course. I felt that Professor Lagerstrom is an excellent teacher who made the complex much easier to understand. I particularly liked the “class notes” and his philosophy of Festina lente - make haste slowly.

In college many years ago this whole subject was too mind bending for me to approach so my education when I other directions. It is nice that so many years later I could revisit that challenge a gain a better understanding. Thank you so much for that.

by Xin H

•Jan 21, 2017

Professor Lagerstrom takes it slow to approach the theory, making it available to anyone with very basic math skills. While the equations are important, building the mental model around the strange world is way more essential to comprehending the special theory of relativity, and that is where this course shines. Professor Lagerstrom will look at the same problem in many different angles, cross referencing between them constantly, making sure the fundamentals of the theory sinks in.

by Douglas R

•Sep 08, 2017

Oddly, given subject matter, this is a very old school course - professor lecturing before a white board. Yet it works! I finally understand the Special Theory of Relativity and am convinced that time dilation and length contraction are real. Course is well paced. Outlines provided for taking notes for each session are very helpful. Quizzes and tests are appropriate. Highly recommend to anyone who has ever wondered if on might actually travel to another galaxy and return alive.

by Michael B

•Jan 18, 2018

This is truly one of the more interesting (and fun) courses at Coursera. The presenter takes the student step by step through the intricacies of understanding the special theory of relativity such that, even with a very limited background in math and physics, you will be able to appreciate the impact this theory had on scientific thinking back when it was published and how it, and its 'big brother, the general theory of relativity, shape scientific endeavors presently.

by Titas

•Jun 07, 2018

This course is the best place to learn the concepts of special relativity as a beginner. The instructor is awesome. Although he goes quite slow, it helps because the concepts in the latter part of the course are counter-intuitive and may need a bit of time to be understood. I would recommend this course to anyone who is interested in learning more about the principles of relativity. I hope to see a general relativity course taught by this professor soon!!!

by Carlos G

•Apr 02, 2018

A very thorough and complete explanation of the Special Relativity theory. Finally a really good pedagogical approach is used to explain to plain people like me concepts that are proven for more than a century but still a mystery for most. Having very important scientific concepts explained to our society can mitigate the terrible challenges we shall confront in the coming decades.

Thank you very much to Stanford University and specially to Dr Lagerstrom.

by Patrick F

•Sep 07, 2017

It is amazing to have access to such an interesting, well taught class through this free app. Prfessor Lagerstrom takes material that is often considered extremely difficult and explains it in such clear and concise terms that it can be understood by just about anyone. The required math is not much beyond basiic algebra and you can come away with a much deeper understanding of the way the universe works as well as a nice look at Einstein as a person.