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

(The Great Courses)

4.30  ·  Rating details ·  819 ratings  ·  118 reviews
"It doesn't take an Einstein to understand modern physics," says Professor Wolfson at the outset of these twenty-four lectures on what may be the most important subjects in the universe: relativity and quantum physics. Both have reputations for complexity. But the basic ideas behind them are, in fact, simple and comprehensible by anyone. These dynamic and illuminating lect ...more
Audible Audio, 2nd Edition, 13 pages
Published July 8th 2013 by The Great Courses (first published 2000)
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Jan 01, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 stu
wirrow wirrow
Nov 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
(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  ·  review of another edition
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
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 invo ...more
Feb 25, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Abhi Gupte
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 audi ...more
Jul 28, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned-books
Lectures - 4.5
Narration - 4.5
Dec 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Aug 02, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Motaz Alfarraj
Mar 11, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: audio
This was a head to toe introduction to a breadth of topics in physics and relativity. After reading Neil degrasse Tyson's Astrophysics for People in a Hurry and feeling a little short changed, this definitely filled the void. Most topics were easy for me to grasp, some others were totally over my head. I definitely came away with a greater understanding of the space-time continuum and the flat universe theory.

The courses were all presented in an intriguing manner even though some of them were d
Matt Musselman
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 beginnin
Sep 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jan 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good course I listened to on Audible. I'm probably going to have to listen again because even though some of the concepts were simplified, I had a hard time visualizing the thought experiments and other fundamental principles featured in the course. The professor was not boring and overall I enjoyed something that was challenging. I understood the overall concepts, but some of the details went way over my head. However, I highly recommend this course. ...more
Apr 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm a life long science enthusiast and in my search for the ultimate science book I've read many different subjects on the matter, these lectures have everything and not only that but they go deep into each one, with really easy to understand concepts, with a lot of simple examples and many common questions of the nature of the universe and physics answered, this book is amazing a real must-read, I made hundreds of notes thanks to this course, many that will help me keep digging further into spe ...more
Ashik Uzzaman
Aug 23, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Yesterday I finished the 24 lecture Great Courses Series by Professor Richard Wolfson called "Einstein's Relativity and the Quantum Revolution: Modern Physics for Non-Scientists". I have read in bits and pieces about Einstein's relativity theories as as well Quantum Physics but never in a disciplined, ordered manner. So I found this course very helpful in understanding how things unfolded over time in the last few hundred years for Physics when comes to the things around Macro objects like plane ...more
Chad Schultz
Nov 03, 2019 rated it liked it
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 - clear
Maurício Linhares
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 relat
Jan 16, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 stu ...more
An Nguyen
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 covere
Rafid Al-Humaimidi
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 n ...more
Jasper Burns
Aug 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, science
View my best reviews and a collection of mental models at

As the title says, this course is understandable for non-scientists! I found it absolutely fascinating. Whenever I hear physicists talk, they often speak with wonder about understanding the fabric of the universe, and it never quite clicked in my head what that meant until listening to this course.

The first half is on the macro, the cosmos, special and general relativity, and on spacetime. Understanding the "what" and "why
Jan 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 cov
Sep 18, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 con
Ashis Saha
Apr 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 t ...more
Sep 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, great-courses
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
Tim Q
May 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Well - if you don't use and debate the theories of physics in your daily life, then this series of lectures is perfect to expand your mind & thinking. You'll know a little something about space and time theory, electromagnet waves, the bending of space and time by massive objects, quarks, and quantification. It's in very understandable terms and seems very reasoned. I have to admit that the final lecture was one of my favorites, ending with an acknowledgement of the things we really have no idea ...more
Sayantan Bhattacharyya
If at any point in time of your life, you were interested in physics, but somehow lost touch, this is a must-read book to reintroduce yourself back to the realm. For the first time, came to know about the chronology of discoveries and how the ideas evolved from one another. All you need is an open mind, and unwavering attention and this book will put things into perspective without any mathematical fundas and heavyweight jargons. It provides the rare peek into the scientific minds who developed ...more
Alex E.
Feb 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Aug 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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! ...more
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