Examining the Big Questions of Time

Make the time to really sit and think about what all these years, months, days, hours, minutes, seconds, and nanoseconds mean for us.
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Examining the Big Questions of Time is rated 4.3 out of 5 by 15.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from What Time is it? Being a long term subscriber of Scientific American it was very satisfying to see and hear a compilation of past articles presented in a format created by The Great Courses. Since the subject was ‘Examining The Big Questions of Time’ you certainly needed the luxury of controlling your own video time. A subject that requires deep thinking and allows your imagination to scale new heights. I would certainly look forward to future subjects in this Scientific American format.
Date published: 2021-06-13
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Interesting Always interesting what physicists do. Assumptions make all the difference. The presentation was clear and well organized. A lot of information was shared and the known and unknown clearly differentiated.
Date published: 2021-06-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from WOW! This is a good course. She makes it easy to understand complex ideas. More courses from her please, perhaps "examining-the-big-questions-of-the-mind" featuring articles from Scientific American Mind.
Date published: 2021-05-17
Rated 3 out of 5 by from The boundaries of time, the boundaries of reason? I have mixed feelings about this course, it has great visual material. However, it seems to me as a crazy salad. The other courses of physics gave me a gradual introduction of complexed subjects such as string theory or general relativity. This course is like having quantum jumps in physics, astrophysics and neurosciences.
Date published: 2021-04-21
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Difficult (But Ultimately Rewarding) Course I'll plant my flag and give the course its first "3." The topic is fascinating and I think whoever designed the course did an excellent job of selecting the theme for each lecture (although I wished for more on the philosophical aspects of time). But, much of the course was extremely hard going for a generalist. I tried desperately to understand all the material - and failed miserably (I will re-watch the lectures at a later date). The course book does not supply much additional material. Still, I am going to dig up some of the articles the lectures were based on. As an aside, one of the other reviewers voiced a dislike of having the speaker sit in one place and read from a teleprompter. While it would be difficult for the more animated presenters to use that format, I have seen many courses where the lecturer struggled to present while dealing with multiple cameras (the lectures where the presenter simply pivots 180 degrees are the most egregious). I find that very distracting and unnatural and think the producers of this course have come up with an elegant solution.
Date published: 2021-04-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Admittedly, 'way over my head I've taken dozens of Great Courses on various subjects over the past decades and received an excellent education from most of them. However, I do not have enough background in science to benefit very much from these lectures. Dr. Helmuth does, however, cite theories (such as eternity flowing not only into the future but also into the past) which have occurred to my unscientific mind during my studies of religions and interest in cosmology. I am saying "yes" to recommending to a friend, even though most of my friends know no more about the subject than I do, simply because some knowledge can filter through the complex material which can be stimulating even to the novice.
Date published: 2021-04-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Focused Course As a PhD physicist who also majored in philosophy, I found this course to be a wonderful intellectual sojourn. The speaker was very effective and clearly knows her stuff. The myriad of ways to address the matter of time was rich and fulfilling. As a lifelong learner I thorough enjoyed my time wrapped up in these lectures. This is the kind of course that keeps me a fan of The Great Courses and The Great Courses Plus.
Date published: 2021-04-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Mind expanding intro to the subject I am watching with my Great Courses Plus subscription and find the material fascinating. I have no real knowledge of the subject so this basic overview is perfect for me.
Date published: 2021-04-12
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Overview

With the help of "Scientific American" magazine, dive into one of the biggest scientific explorations of the last few centuries to uncover the realities of time and how much-and how little-we truly understand about it.

About

Laura Helmuth
Laura Helmuth

Time defines us; it frames our experiences. We can’t live or understand our lives without it.

INSTITUTION

Scientific American

Laura Helmuth is the editor in chief of Scientific American. She earned a PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience from the University of California, Berkeley, and a graduate certificate in Science Communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Laura has served as the health, science, and environment editor for The Washington Post; director of digital news for National Geographic Partners; science and health editor for Slate; science editor for Smithsonian Magazine; and editor for Science. She is currently on the advisory boards for Spectrum, an autism news website, and SciLine, an organization that helps journalists find the best scientific sources. She also serves on the board of directors for High Country News, a magazine that covers the American West. She is a member of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Standing Committee on Advancing Science Communication and was previously president of the National Association of Science Writers.

By This Expert

Examining the Big Questions of Time

Trailer

A Matter of Time

01: A Matter of Time

While most of us measure time in hours or days as we plan our activities, these units are not nearly small enough—nor large enough—for those who work at the edges of discovery. Explore how some scientists use attoseconds and others use billion-year increments to study the often baffling revelations of spacetime.

27 min
The Myth of the Beginning of Time

02: The Myth of the Beginning of Time

Just a few decades ago, scientists were absolute in their determination that time began with the Big Bang. But that’s all been turned on its head with the rise of string theory and other fascinating developments in theoretical physics. Learn how those advances brought the pre-Bang universe to the forefront of cosmology.

30 min
That Mysterious Flow

03: That Mysterious Flow

Right now, you are reading these words. True enough, right? But all that certainty erodes when we look at the concept of “now” through the lens of modern physics. Although we perceive “now” as being unique—our present moment always seeming to separate the knowable past from the unknowable future—you’ll learn why “now” slips from our grasp when we try to actually define it.

21 min
Is Time an Illusion?

04: Is Time an Illusion?

While we’ve all heard that time is money, the two terms might turn out to be more similar than we ever knew. Could time, like money, be just an invented convenience with no fundamental existence in the natural world? Discover the many ways in which philosophers have helped physicists grapple with this question—and the answers they’ve come to so far.

31 min
Time Travel and the Twin Paradox

05: Time Travel and the Twin Paradox

In a thought experiment called the twin paradox, Einstein illustrated that two observers moving at different speeds would experience different durations between the same two events. See how this time dilation has been proven and measured since Einstein’s life, and why your GPS wouldn’t work without accounting for it. Time travel, anyone?

23 min
A Chronicle of Timekeeping

06: A Chronicle of Timekeeping

From the ancient Egyptians to the 13th-century inventors of the mechanical clock to the atomic clocks of the last century, people keep striving to measure time more accurately. Understand why accuracy in timekeeping was important for the agriculturists of the Nile and why it still matters for those of us today who use navigation systems, cell phones, and electricity from the power grid.

29 min
Atomic Clocks

07: Atomic Clocks

Modern timekeeping has allowed us to measure differences in the passage of time as affected by motion and gravity to such a degree that relatively itself can now be measured in the lab. Learn about the development and precision of atomic clocks—and the myriad ways they benefit us—and about the optical clocks that can keep time to within one second in roughly 3.7 billion years.

27 min
Times of Our Lives

08: Times of Our Lives

Our circadian rhythm is hardwired into every cell in our bodies. Even under constant lighting, human cells in a petri dish will continue to follow 24-hour cycles of gene activity, hormone secretion, and energy production. Explore neurologists’ latest thinking about the brain’s internal timekeeping systems, and how those systems affect our health.

28 min
Remembering When

09: Remembering When

While our internal clocks regulate our physical processes, our mind has a clock of its own. Explore what scientists mean by “mind time,” and how we organize our thoughts about events in the passage of time. Uncover how mind time is linked to our ability to make and store memories, and reveal the interesting differences between anterograde and retrograde amnesia.

21 min
Inconstant Constants

10: Inconstant Constants

Almost all our scientific knowledge is possible because we rely on a few very basic constants—such as the velocity of light and the mass of the electron. Discover how string theory brings the possibility of a vast number of other worlds with different self-consistent laws and constants, and whether or not those worlds could possibly include biological entities like ourselves.

25 min
Atoms of Space and Time

11: Atoms of Space and Time

In the field of quantum mechanics, physicists have suggested for almost a century that light is made of energy packets that can behave like both a particle and a wave, a phenomenon known as photons. But could gravity also be made of discrete packets—gravitons? Explore the concept of loop quantum gravity and learn how physicists use spin networks to gain a deeper understanding of our universe.

29 min
Could Time End?

12: Could Time End?

As we experience life, time never ends. Even after death, our molecules will be recycled, and both time and matter will continue. But if time can slow down and speed up—as Einstein predicted, and later confirmed by observation—could it also end? Explore what the equations of modern physics tell us about the possibility of an end with no rebirth.

25 min