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The Big Bang and Beyond: Exploring the Early Universe

Is our universe one of many? Are there extra dimensions we can’t see? Explore the deepest mysteries of the cosmos with a scientist looking for answers.
The Big Bang and Beyond: Exploring the Early Universe is rated 4.6 out of 5 by 75.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wow This was a remarkable course. While I don’t disagree with other reviewers, a more natural format and setting for Prof. Felder would be better, I forgot about that in a few lectures and then found the information quiet astounding and efficiently presented in 12 sessions. BB and Beyond is nothing short of “mind blowing”. Some prerequisites, like Exploring the Universe or Astrophysics help, or may supplement after. I think Gary Felder’s students and institution are fortunate and highly recommend the course.
Date published: 2022-06-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Makes a Complicated Topic Understandable. This course presents a topic that is explained by physics in terms that are understandable by the non scientifically oriented person. Dr. Felder is a very good lecturer and makes each lecture very interesting and leaves you looking forward to the next in the series.
Date published: 2022-06-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very good lecture for the educated layperson This is my first "Great Course". "The Big Bang and Beyond" is a well researched and well presented set of lectures describing what we understand about the Big Bang. Lectures 1 to 8 were the best. I found the last four lectures (about the multiverse) to be a bit abstract and speculative - although the experts might disagree with this. The graphics were very helpful. However, it's a pity that we have to watch a talking head from a fixed camera for most of the lecture - I guess it's all a matter of time and cost.
Date published: 2022-06-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Modern Physics of Ancient Past made Understandale We have given up TV Movies in favor of learning cool stuff. Dr. Felder has given us a great way to wrap our heads around the Big Bang and the various perspectives that exist to understand modern-day theories of our universe's early moments. By sharing multiple theories and their strengths and challenges, we can follow the logic of very sophisticated physics and mathematics that we don't the training to do for ourselves. This course is a great overview with sufficient detail to give us a confident understanding of the subject.
Date published: 2022-05-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Course Dr. Felder provides clear explanations for complex subject matter.
Date published: 2022-05-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Big Bang and beyond Except for the professor’s voice putting me to sleep the course was very interesting
Date published: 2022-05-20
Rated 3 out of 5 by from I miss the old Great Courses format The content of this course was interesting, and I think anyone genuinely interested in cosmology may be appreciate in this. As for present, I don't understand why a university professor has to be hired to look into a camera and read from a teleprompter. It seems like a professional actor can do that, and do it better. My preference is for the old Great Courses format, where professors were allowed to speak conversationally and extemporaneously, just like they would in a real class.
Date published: 2022-05-17
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Format of the course I loved the information of the subject very much. But the format is terrible. I like the old courses much more. The camera work is terrible.
Date published: 2022-05-13
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Overview

Taught by Professor Gary Felder of Smith College, this course covers the history of the early universe starting with the Big Bang and continuing to the formation of the first stars and galaxies hundreds of millions of years later. Professor Felder also looks ahead to the ultimate fate of the universe and to speculation on what may have happened before the Big Bang.

About

Gary Felder

The early universe is one of the most intellectually exciting fields that humans can explore.

INSTITUTION

Smith College

Gary Felder is a Professor of Physics at Smith College. He earned his BA in Physics with high honors at Oberlin College and Conservatory and his PhD in Physics at Stanford University. He completed postdoctoral work at the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics in Toronto.

Gary has published papers in cosmology, nuclear physics, and education. One of his papers was selected as a highlight of the year by the journal Classical and Quantum Gravity, and another won the William Elgin Wickenden Award for the best paper of the year in the Journal of Engineering Education. He is the coauthor of two physics textbooks: Mathematical Methods in Engineering and Physics and Modern Physics.

Gary has given hundreds of public lectures, school demonstrations, and traveling science shows to audiences ranging from elementary schools to retirement communities. He has won grants from the National Science Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and bp. He received the Smith College Faculty Teaching Award, the only teaching award at Smith administered by students.

By This Professor

The Big Bang and Beyond: Exploring the Early Universe
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The Big Bang and Beyond: Exploring the Early Universe

Trailer

The Big Bang Changes Everything

01: The Big Bang Changes Everything

Explore the highlights of the Big Bang model, which says that the universe evolved from an initial hot, dense state billions of years ago. Find that the Big Bang wasn’t a moment when the cosmos had zero size, it didn’t take place at a special point in space, and it wasn’t necessarily the beginning of the universe. Rather, it was the energetic start of the expansion phase that is still underway.

33 min
The First Few Minutes of the Universe

02: The First Few Minutes of the Universe

Beginning a hundred-billionth of a second after the Big Bang, trace events as the universe quickly cooled from a quadrillion degrees. Learn about the strong, weak, and electromagnetic forces, and the fundamental particles—all of which precipitated from the seething cauldron of energy, even as matter and antimatter were mutually annihilating. Within 3 minutes, hydrogen and helium nuclei had begun to form.

28 min
First Galaxies, First Stars, and Dark Matter

03: First Galaxies, First Stars, and Dark Matter

Continue the story of the early universe by exploring such highlights as the formation of the first atoms at 370,000 years, when space transitioned from opaque to transparent; the accretion of hydrogen and helium gas into protogalaxies after millions of years due to the gravitational influence of dark matter; and the collapse of the gas into ever denser balls eventually leading to the first stars.

31 min
How Big Was the Big Bang?

04: How Big Was the Big Bang?

Is it possible to calculate the size of the universe at the instant of the Big Bang? Assemble the clues that scientists use to address this question. In the process, discover a number of remarkable properties of the universe, including that it must be bigger that what we can see, extending beyond the boundary that limits our knowledge due to the finite speed of light and the age of the universe.

31 min
Mysteries That Reshaped the Big Bang Model

05: Mysteries That Reshaped the Big Bang Model

Evaluate three mysteries connected to the Big Bang model that baffled theorists beginning in the late 1960s. Why was the early universe so uniform? Why does the universe obey the laws of geometry we teach in high school? And how did the universe come to be made of the kinds of particles we see and not others? A single solution to all three questions seemed too much to hope for, yet one turned up.

31 min
Inflation! The First Fraction of a Second

06: Inflation! The First Fraction of a Second

Dig into the bizarre theory of inflation developed by physicist Alan Guth, which holds that for a fraction of a second just after the Big Bang the universe expanded at a mind-boggling rate, making the cosmos effectively infinite. Analyze how this idea solves the three puzzles introduced in Lecture 5. Learn about associated concepts, such as the scalar field and its decay, known as “reheating.”

32 min
What Caused Inflation: The Scalar Field

07: What Caused Inflation: The Scalar Field

Can inflation possibly be true? See how a concept called a scalar field may be the inconceivably high-energy medium that spontaneously triggered inflation, leading to the observable universe—and more—in a billionth of a billionth of a billionth of a billionth of a second. Probe a rival theory that the Big Bang was caused by the collision of two universes in four-dimensional space.

31 min
More than One Big Bang in a Multiverse?

08: More than One Big Bang in a Multiverse?

At one time, Earth was considered the center of the cosmos. Might the idea that the Big Bang was the beginning of everything be just as parochial? Take a mindboggling trip through the theory of eternal inflation—that our observable universe is a nearly infinitesimal speck inside a much larger, older, and eternally growing multiverse, in which inflation continually sprouts new universes like ours.

30 min
Other Universes across Other Dimensions?

09: Other Universes across Other Dimensions?

Many physicists believe that our universe really isn’t three dimensional, but only appears so to us. Explore what it would mean if there are extra dimensions that we can’t see. Learn how to visualize this counterintuitive state, and examine what it implies for Big Bang theory and the concept of a multiverse. One set of ideas that calls for at least nine dimensions is string theory.

31 min
The Origins of the Constants of Nature

10: The Origins of the Constants of Nature

Constants of nature, such as the gravitational constant, appear to be fine-tuned to make life possible. Is this a coincidence of astronomical unlikelihood, an expected outcome of the nature of the universe, or does it imply that ours is one of many universes with different properties? Consider this question in light of the anthropic principle which takes the existence of observers into account.

30 min
From the Big Bang to the Universe’s Fate

11: From the Big Bang to the Universe’s Fate

Learn that the ultimate fate of the universe is tied to its beginning—to the as-yet-unknown conditions that preceded the Big Bang. Focus on the importance of dark energy, an enigmatic force discovered in the 1990s that is causing the universe to expand at an accelerating rate. Compare three scenarios that lead to either infinite expansion or eventual collapse in a Big Crunch.

31 min
The Future of Early Universe Cosmology

12: The Future of Early Universe Cosmology

Conclude the course by reviewing the history of the universe, highlighting the major gaps in our knowledge. Then turn to four promising areas of experimental research that may provide answers. Let your imagination soar by contemplating theoretical possibilities such as this one: Could we exploit inflation to create a baby universe in the lab? Do we, in fact, live in someone else’s baby universe?

34 min