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Einstein's Relativity and the Quantum Revolution: Modern Physics for Non-Scientists

4.30  ·  Rating details ·  650 ratings  ·  96 reviews
"It doesn't take an Einstein to understand modern physics," says Professor Richard Wolfson at the outset of this course on what may be the most important subject in the universe. Relativity and quantum physics touch the very basis of physical reality, altering our commonsense notions of space and time, cause and effect. Both have reputations for complexity. But the basic ...more
Audio CD, Second Edition
Published 2000 by The Great Courses
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Mεδ Rεδħα
Dec 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
"It doesn't take an Einstein to understand modern physics," says Professor Richard Wolfson at the outset of this course on what may be the most important subject in the universe.

Relativity and quantum physics touch the very basis of physical reality, altering our commonsense notions of space and time, cause and effect. Both have reputations for complexity. But the basic ideas behind relativity and quantum physics are, in fact, simple and comprehensible by anyone. As Professor Wolfson points out,
Jan 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people who haven't had a physics class since high school, sci-fi writers
I was a little ambivalent about trying one of these "Great Courses" on audio, especially with references to diagrams and such, but the instructor promised at the beginning that you could follow along at home without needing the pictures, and he was right, though there are points at which it might benefit a listener to pause the lecture long enough to look up the diagram if you are having trouble visualizing what he describes.

This is a course on advanced physics for people who are not physics
wirrow wirrow
Nov 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
(non of my reviews will be eloquent)

i think wolfson pulled off a masterwork of condensing the history of physics theory into a few weeks of reading/listening for people who have little or no physics history.

there's seriously nothing boring here, every step of the way is fascinating.

the maths is there and you can follow along but it really doesn't matter that much if you don't. i highly recommend it to anyone interested in classical physics and quantum theory but doesn't know where to start.

Sep 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science
Very good course for non-scientists on Einstein's Theories of Relativity and Quantum Physics. The first few lectures focus on the history of how theories on gravity and motion developed. We are given a good review Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, and Newton's contributions as well as Michelson and Morley's 1887 experiment, which was conducted to determine the Earth's motion relative to the supposed "Ether". These lectures set the stage for why Einstein was pondering gravity and motion at the turn of ...more
Feb 25, 2009 rated it really liked it
I listened to the 24 lectures on my ipod. It also came with a little booklet that outlined each lesson and provided visuals. It was really well done since Wolfson is a physics professor and, therefore, teaches this stuff regularly. And I think I'm finally understanding this stuff... It's very fascinating to me, but unfortunately people generally don't want to discuss curved space time or the path an electron takes over dinner.
Abhi Gupte
Apr 08, 2019 rated it liked it
I listened to the audio book and was lost in several lectures because Prof. Wilson would show equations/ diagrams for the video viewers. If you have ever studied physics you know how important it is to actually see equations and diagrams to understand the concepts. It's not a fault with this particular course, I suppose any physics course could run into this problem. The reading material is included with the audio book but that is inaccessible while driving, which is mostly when I listen to ...more
Dec 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Very well explained. It summarized all the history of modern physics. It is great for non-scientist as well as for scientists who want to remember how things happened and why. It helps to understand what was the chronological order of events which culminated in our current knowledge about the universe and nature.
Motaz Alfarraj
Mar 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This lecture series presents in simple "words" theories in physics that everyone talks about without knowing the true meaning of, relativity theory and quantum mechanics. It is presented by one Professor Richard Wolfson, one of the brightest scientists in Physics. The series is divided into two parts:
1- Special and general Relativity theory by Albert Einstein:
Brief history about physics starting from Galilean physics, Newtonian physics, them finally, relativity physics and how Einstein was able
Mar 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I previewed this in the Audible edition for use with my high school daughter. That said, I really enjoyed this. It *is* geared to the non-scientist who just wants to learn about relativity and its relationship to quantum physics. There are no intimidating and complicated math equations, the professor is very enthusiastic about his subject and his knowledge and love converge to make this course enjoyable even if you’re listening to it rather than following along with the videos. At this point I ...more
Matt Musselman
Jul 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A terrific intro to 20th and 21st century physics (Einstein and later).

Despite having taken two years of honours high school physics and reading a number of books on the topic, there were a number of concepts about relativity and quantum mechanics I still grasped only loosely.

Professor Wolfson has a way of explaining difficult concepts simply and very visually that really "clicks" with my mind: time dilation, relativistic frames of reference, etc. I wish I'd had this background from the
Sep 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
May be a little repetitive for quicker learners, but the pace was great for me. Drawing correlation between real world and theory was well done. Great progressive narration of the history of where we are now. Plan to revisit.
Aug 02, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction, science
Overall, the lectures feel rushed with Wolfson gushing information unnaturally quickly as if he were on some sort of timed game show. It's not the speed of information that is a problem, but the frantic tone he takes making it feel like we're bothering him with questions he is good enough to answer, but he really must get going out the door.

The first half of this series is the sort of thing you get from watching any Discovery Channel show about the galaxy or the universe, which I suspect you are
Maurício Linhares
Jun 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Great review of modern physics, but make sure you have the PDF around because there's a lot of stuff to look at and it's unlikely you'll be able to understand or imagine the concepts by listening alone, this one wasn't really made with listening in mind.

Professor Wotlfson goes through great lengths explaining Newtonian physics, then special relativity, how they relate to one another and why we can still explain most of what we interact with with the old theories. Then he goes about general
Jan 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This installment of the "Great Courses" series gives a nice and simple overview of Einstein's Relativity theories (both Special and General) and the coming, at the time, Quantum Revolution. Dr. Wolfson does an excellent job of introducing important theories conceptually in a way that makes them accessible (I think) to non-technically-trained listeners. This is a great introduction for curious people without a background in Physics, or a fun review for people who just can't get enough of this ...more
An Nguyen
Nov 19, 2017 rated it liked it
I really enjoyed listening to this. The structure of the course eases you into the fundamental concepts of Newtonian physics and then makes its way through Einsteins Special and General Relativity before finishing with Quantum Mechanics and just a smidge of String Theory. The math behind the concepts are seldom brought up, usually only to show the beauty of a simple equation, which makes the book more accessable to people who aren't directly working in physics.

Some of the more dense ideas
Rafid Al-Humaimidi
Dec 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Good introduction to Relativity and Quantum Mechanics, with a quick introduction to Particle Physics towards the end. I listened to the Audio book, which is narrated by Professor Wolfson himself. His narration is awesome, with amazing, attention-grabbing, fluency. If you are into Physics, you will love this book. It should be pointed out, though, that this book is only conceptual, with almost no mathematical equation. So if you are expecting to be able to solve the equations, then this book is ...more
Karsten Speckmann
Jul 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This is fascinating! A 12 hour deep dive into Physics, historic, current and future.
If you are curious in general, and in how the bigger (and tinier) universe work, this is a course for you.
I got myself the updated version through The Great Courses on Audible.
I am deeply impressed by Professor Wolfson's ability to explain these complex matters to laypersons like me.
Chad Schultz
The course goes over valuable physics concepts, and the author tries hard to explain difficult concepts in simple terms, but it has some severe failings.

I'm a huge fan of audio books, but I don't think that's the right medium for such a complicated topic. This is the sort of thing where I would want to see text and images and read it slowly over and over again and puzzle my way through it. It definitely doesn't help that the author keeps referring to visuals or what he is doing on camera -
Jan 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Incredible! I had an absolutely riveting time with this course. In college I learned classical physics and electronics but that was the end of it. The world seemed concrete and explainable with a few simple equations. After completing this course I feel like my whole concept of reality is rocked, but in a good way. I walked around for weeks talking to anyone who would listen about how amazing and mysterious the universe is.

The instructor, Richard Wolfson, is absolutely terrific. The concepts
Sep 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Rarely can a person say that a book changed the way they see the world, but this book (lecture) really did! "Substance" is really just packets of energy, and the colors and shapes and movement that animate our world are just complex interactions of those bundles of energy. Time and space even are shaped by these energies. Truly mind-bending, but SO COOL!

This book (lecture) is marketed to Non-Scientists, but I think high school chemistry and physics would still be helpful in understanding the
Menglong Youk
Einstein's Relativity and the Quantum Revolution: Modern Physics for Non-scientists is taught by professor Richard Wolfson. I must admit that I learnt from this course more than any other books I've read on quantum mechanics. Professor Wolfson's enthusiasm grabs my interest, making me pay extra attention to what he was saying. The concepts are relatively easy to digest as the illustrations provide a bit more information to the students. However, I wish there were more mathematical equations ...more
Ashis Saha
Apr 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Teaching non-scientists complex ideas like space, time, relativity, quantum, uncertainty, subatomic particles, etc. without going through mathematics/formulas is without-doubt a tough job. Even though I am not a complete non-scientist, I am a novice in the field of relativity and quantum theory. I think Richard Wolfson has done a great job describing these complex ideas. A part of me thinks it could have been better if written/spoken in an organized way as a (audio)book, but another part of me ...more
Sep 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: great-courses, audio
One of the best Great Courses I've listened to.

Wolfson does a great job laying out the principles of relativity in easy to understand, logical steps. He uses very little math and speaks in everyday terms most people should be able to grasp.

I re-listened to lectures 8-11 several times, attempting to solidify these concepts in my mind.

Relativity, speed of light, black holes, string theory, matter, mass, acceleration, quarks.

Light doesn't experience time or distance.

The universe, as well as space
Alex E.
Feb 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very good course. I like science but I'm not a scientific and I don't think you could present in a better way such important concept.
The audio book is truly great. The professor is dynamic, clear and funny. Loved listening to him.

In the end, I learned a lot without understanding most of it but I guess you can't become Einstein listening to an audio book.

Great on to be up to date though and sustain a conversation. It really challenges the way you see the world too, especially quantum physics.
Jan 17, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: great-courses
In the end this was informative, but I felt like the lecturer 'told' his audience how things are, but didn't 'explain' well how and why they are the way they are. He's super smart and spoke incredibly fast, and I think I needed him to slow down and show me why a particle is how it is before moving on to the next concept. It's also a little dated now (2000), so it wasn't able to include the important results of the large hadron collider and Higgs boson.
Craig Dean
Oct 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
The danger of such a topic is the speed with which the content evolves that makes it exciting but occasionally incomplete and too frequently dated. It was further hindered in audio form due to the subject’s abstract nature often being more accessible in a visual media.

All that said, it does an admirable job of introducing an unintuitive subject in as clear and slow (occasionally repetitive or ponderous) manner that many should find informative and interesting.
Aug 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic and so interesting. I cannot say that it makes everything clear, but I gained a lot of puzzle pieces from this well done class. I found it totally engaging. The people who will not like it include those that want everything to be "right now" practical and who are not curious about the nature of the world in which we live. But if you are curious and learning is fun by itself, this will fascinate you too. Thanks Professor Wolfson!
Angel Alonso
May 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Excellent for getting acquainted with quantum physics, general relativity and special relativity.
It is slightly outdated since it seems the content predates the findings of the Higgs boson, gravitational waves, the LHC, and news regarding the viability of string theory. Overall it is easy to understand and lacks complicated mathematics. Highly recommend it.
Jul 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: audiobooks
Absolutely stunning!
Really very clearly explained. I do think I can finally repeat some of it in my own words. Although the whole subject remains baffling.
What a wonderful universe we live in!

Perhaps I can now pick up again that other book (the elegant universe) that I begun and abandoned several times.
Matthew Palermo
Aug 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Easy to understand. The part on special relativity was particular helpful and his repeated emphasis on the fact that no inertial reference frame is ever special really helped. I'm impressed that Richard managed to build up all the way to special relativity completely with prose and without relying on equations and algebra.
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