The Strangest Force

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The Force of Creation
Use a black hole to test the laws of thermodynamics, taking a deeper look at the capacity of gravity to pull matter together and increase entropy at the same time. Probe Stephen Hawking's most surprising discovery, and then learn that the same force that pulls the apple down and steers…
From Forces to Fields
For the rest of the course, focus on the revolutionary view of gravitation launched by Albert Einstein. Review new ideas about fields that allowed physics to extend beyond Newtonian mechanics. Then see how Einstein modified Newton's laws and created the special theory of relativity.
The Remarkable Science of Ancient Astronomy
Taught by Professor Bradley Schaefer of Louisiana State University, this course shows how ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Indians, Chinese, and other cultures saw the sky. You learn how the Sun, Moon, and stars were their clock, calendar, and compass; constellations encoded their mythologies; and the heavens inspired religious and philosophical ideas,…
Stonehenge and Archaeoastronomy
Why were the motions of the Sun, Moon, and stars so important to ancient people? Investigate key astronomical directions noticed by all cultures. Then embark on your study of Stonehenge, seeing how it gave birth to the field of archaeoastronomy and to some very curious modern theories.
The Real Stonehenge
In the popular mind, Stonehenge was built as a sophisticated astronomical calculator presided over by priestly astronomers called Druids. But is this view dating from the mid-1960s correct? Address the evidence, and survey the archaeological record to discover the most probable function of Stonehenge.
Alignments at Maes Howe and Newgrange
Explore Neolithic tombs and monuments across Europe, discovering an array of alignments toward astronomical events. Start with two sites that are similar to Stonehenge in their clear orientation to the winter solstice: Maes Howe in the Orkney Islands, and Newgrange in Ireland.
Astronomy of Egypt's Great Pyramid
Study the astronomical significance of Egypt's Great Pyramid. How did its builders achieve such phenomenal accuracy in the pyramid's alignment to the cardinal directions? Were its air shafts intended to point at stars of special importance? Also evaluate modern claims for the mystical power of pyramids.
Chaco Canyon and Anasazi Astronomy
Travel to Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, where the Anasazi culture practiced sky-centered rituals a thousand years ago. Look for evidence of their astronomical knowledge, examine their many "sun daggers," and probe the controversial pictograph thought to depict the Crab Nebula supernova explosion in 1054 AD.
Ancient Cosmologies and Worldviews
Consider the astronomy-based world views of different ancient cultures and how they answered the three big questions: Where did the world come from? What is the nature of the universe? What is its fate? Survey the beliefs of the Greeks, Chinese, Australian aborigines, and other groups, seeking common elements.
Meteorite Worship and Start of the Iron Age
Witnessing a meteor fall must have been a strange and awe-inspiring experience for people long ago. Travel around the world to places where meteorites were worshiped and also used as a source of iron, which was rarer than gold before the smelting technology of the Iron Age.
Eclipses, Comets, and Omens
Since no human can touch the sky, any unexpected celestial event must be a divine omen. Reenter this primordial state of mind, seeing eclipses and comets the way they were perceived before the advent of modern science. In the course of this investigation, discover why comets became more feared than…
The Star of Bethlehem
For centuries, astronomers have struggled to find an explanation for the Star of Bethlehem, recounted in the Gospel of Matthew. Professor Schaefer focuses on a recent theory that has taken scientists and biblical scholars by surprise, due to its success at solving problems that plagued all previous proposals.