SPACE, TIME AND MOTION
Throughout history, humans have grappled with questions about the origin, workings, and behavior of the universe. This seminar begins with a quick tour of discovery and exploration in physics, from the ancient Greek philosophers on to Galileo Galilei, Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein. Einstein’s work then serves as the departure point for a detailed look at the properties of motion, time, space, matter, and energy.
The course considers Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity, his photon hypothesis, wave-particle duality, his General Theory of Relativity and its implications for astrophysics and cosmology, as well as his three-decade quest for a unified field theory. It also looks at Einstein as a social and political figure, and his contributions as a social and political force.
Scientist-authored essays, online interaction, videos, and web resources enable learners to trace this historic path of discovery and explore implications of technology for society, energy production in stars, black holes, the Big Bang and the role of the scientist in modern society.
Student Learning Outcomes
This is a six-week online graduate course with an additional week for assignment completion. The course is asynchronous and does not have specific meeting times. Assignments and discussions change on a weekly basis. Students are expected to complete work within the specific week it is assigned.
For the current schedule of offerings, please visit www.amnh.org/learn/calendar
This graduate course is co-taught by an experienced educator along with a research scientist.
For current instructor information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
This course requires the following textbook. An online version is available at no charge, but a hard copy can be purchased.
One Universe: At Home in the Cosmos
by Neil De Grasse Tyson, Robert Irion, Charles Tsun-Chu Liu
Hardcover: 218 pages; Dimensions (in inches): 1.02 x 12.33 x 9.82
Publisher: Joseph Henry Press; (March 2000)
This book can also be viewed free of charge at http://www.nap.edu/html/oneuniverse/index.html
The following textbooks are recommended as general references but are not required.
The Universe in a Nutshell
A fascinating, if often challenging, book that takes readers to the edge of current understanding about cosmology and particle physics. by Stephen Hawking
Hardcover: 224 pages; Dimensions (in inches): 0.91 x 10.21 x 7.82
Publisher: Doubleday; 1st edition (November 6, 2001) ISBN: 055380202X
The Elegant Universe: Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory
A best-selling exposition of string theory and cosmology, quite challenging in sections, and with some very creative analogies.
by Brian Greene
Paperback: 464 pages; Dimensions (in inches): 1.01 x 8.01 x 5.23
Publisher: Vintage Books; (February 29, 2000) ISBN: 0375708111
Cosmic Horizons: Astronomy at the Cutting Edge
A collection of essays by scientists working in modern astrophysics and cosmology.
by Neil De Grasse Tyson, Steven Soter, American Museum of Natural History
Paperback: 256 pages; Dimensions (in inches): 0.69 x 9.24 x 7.54
Publisher: New Press; (May 2001)
Technical support is available by calling (800) 649-6715 or emailing email@example.com.
The American Museum of Natural History welcomes learners with disabilities into its Seminars on Science program and will make reasonable accommodations for them. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you require information about requesting accommodation services. These services are only available to registered students with documented disabilities. Please submit requests at least two weeks prior to the start of the course.
Assessments are based on a detailed grading rubric developed for this course:
Weekly Overview and Expectations
Week 1: What is Motion?
In 1904, the world was full of confident physicists and excited engineers. Physicists could predict the motion of the planets, understood that light was an electromagnetic wave, and could send a radio signal across the Atlantic Ocean (the first telecommunication). Then along came Einstein, whose theories radically changed our views of motion, time, space, energy and matter. In this first week, Drs. Charles Liu and Orsola De Marco introduce the
Week 2: What is Time?
In our daily lives, we use time as a way to mark past, present, and future events. We rely on the motion of the Sun, Moon, planets, and stars to synchronize our timepieces, and our schedules. No matter how precise our measurements, time can “stand still,” or fly. According to Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity, time runs differently depending on how fast you move. And the challenge of understanding the concept of relative time — the relationship between time, motion, and frame of reference — transcends our experience. This week, Drs. Liu and De Marco introduce Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity and explore what happens when scientific paradigms shift.
Week 3: What is Space?
Philosophers and scientists have tried to define space, portraying it as an absolute void or describing it as a vessel within which everything moves. This week, learners explore the concept. Einstein defined space as a four- dimensional continuum, with time as the fourth dimension. His questions about the nature of gravity and the relationship between space and mass led to a completely new view of space as an agent of physics: mass bends space, and space determines how mass moves. Drs. Liu and De Marco introduce Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity and how its verification catapulted Einstein into the international limelight.
Week 4: What is Matter?
For most of recorded history, the study of matter and how it interacts with itself has been the domain of chemists. But as we look more and more closely at matter’s finer structure, chemistry gives way to physics. Einstein and his contemporaries confronted the idea that the laws of motion lose their focus at microscopic scales. This week learners consider the nature of matter, and read about Einstein’s work on Brownian motion and the photoelectric effect — work that advanced the quantum revolution.
Week 5: What is Energy?
This week, learners explore the nature of energy and how it operates in the physical world. Once conceived of simply as the ability to do work, energy comes in many forms. Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity added greatly to our understanding of not just how matter manifests itself, but what it is. Learners encounter the world’s most famous equation, E=mc2, and consider the impact of its applications — atomic energy in particular — on society.
Week 6: Where Are We Now?
This week explores the quest for a “theory of everything:” one that would explain how the entire universe works. Einstein spent the latter part of his life trying – unsuccessfully - to develop such a unifying theory . Theoretical physicists are still trying to resolve contradictions between the two main pillars of modern physics (general relativity and quantum mechanics), as well as trying to explain dark energy, a force that appears to be pushing the universe into an ever-faster expansion. Drs. Liu and De Marco wrap up the course with a discussion of why, almost a century after the publication of Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity, we may be on the threshold of a new revolution in our view of the universe.