The Evidence for Modern Physics: How We Know What We Know

Reveal the what and why of modern physics. A cutting-edge researcher explains how we know about black holes, gravitational waves, elementary particles, and much more.
The Evidence for Modern Physics: How We Know What We Know is rated 4.9 out of 5 by 9.
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Rated 4 out of 5 by from All courses I have purchases over 70 courses and am overall pleased. However I would like you to include the date the course was prepared.
Date published: 2021-06-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Well-Done, Very Basic Overview This is a worthwhile introduction to the experimental evidence for many of the astonishing discoveries of modern physics, as well as to the work and thought processes of the brilliant individuals who brought them about. In contrast to Professor Lincoln's "The Theory of Everything", which employs a fair amount of mathematics and which is well above beginner level, "Evidence" is very basic, with minimal math. It will be, I believe, fascinating and understandable (to the extent that modern physics is understandable!) to those entirely unfamiliar with the field, as long as you are willing to focus, re-view when needed, and make use of the helpful Course Guidebook. Our professor is clear, organized, expert, and likable. My only complaint is the relatively low information density. Had he eliminated his repeated cautions that he doesn't have the time to go into more detail (and skipped the frequent semi-cute but irrelevant asides), he would have had the time to add significantly more information. The video, as for any science subject, would be far preferable to the audio. So - Highly recommended, particularly for those who know little of this subject, but have a true desire to learn and are willing to put in a fair amount of intellectual effort. I should add that, although I am moderately familiar with many of the topics, I found this course a worthwhile review and a pleasure to take. Enjoy!
Date published: 2021-06-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great analogies My husband and I have learned so much. Yes, I will be honest, much floated over our heads. Wouldn't it be wonderful to come back in two hundred years and discover what has been revealed? Science programs for children should be expanded so that more children enter the science and math fields.
Date published: 2021-06-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from What I've Waited For As a non-scientist, reading about modern physics has always made me uneasy because I always wondered if so much of it was just theoretical, based on mathematical analysis. This course shows an interested person the empirical evidence as well as the theories in a way that can be reasonably understood (if still hard to believe). It is a treasure trove for those curious about the universe we live in on a micro as well as macro scale.
Date published: 2021-06-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Dynamic and Fun To date, I've only yet viewed about a quarter of this course. What I most appreciate about this is that the presenter, Don Lincoln, actually works inside some of these big particle accelerator labs. Also, his style is personable and more approachable, with the topics described in such manner that I would feel confident to turn around and explain these same topics to another who perhaps knows less of the subject that I have learned previously.
Date published: 2021-06-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from "Impossible" Things to Believe Before Breakfast? Dr. Don Lincoln does a fine job describing how and why scientists have confidence in complex and even enigmatic aspects of modern Physics. He teaches engagingly and with conviction, though it is fair to say that students of the present 12-hour (24-lecture) series must often be directed to references cited in the course guidebook for supportive mathematics and further proofs; fortunately, the list of references is extensive, and Dr. Lincoln also cites other Great Courses that are relevant and available. The course overview profiles this series as “a riveting course designed to give non-scientists the matchless experience of scientific discovery and deep understanding,” and that is a fair description; however, in my opinion, a person who has not had at least some college-level Physics instruction would be at a big disadvantage re: understanding what Dr. Lincoln has to share. I was pleased to find the material on an appropriate instructional level for me, a person who studied Physics more than fifty years ago and who has maintained a keen interest in the subject through magazines, books, and occasional courses since. These are some of the characteristics of the course that I most admire: 1.The professor is knowledgeable, pleasant, and encouraging. 2.19th–21st-century concepts and current hot topics are reviewed and clarified. 3.Frequent helpful analogies aid comprehension. 4.The guidebook provided is one of the best among those of the other (more than 100) Great Courses I’ve purchased. 5.Non-intuitive concepts which may be eminently useful without necessarily defining reality are acknowledged to be such, and Dr. Lincoln comes across as a working scientist who embraces both humility and awe. 6.Particularly in the latter half of the course, Dr. Lincoln discusses some speculative theories and how scientific consensus about those is still being sought. 7.A lot of the history of science, and even some general history of the world, can be learned along with this course’s main subject matter. These are a few minor points that I think could have been handled better: 1.Not all of the visual accompaniments to the lectures are clear, well-labelled, and in sync with what Dr. Lincoln is saying at the moments they are displayed. 2.Camera angles chosen by the videographer are sometimes disconcerting. 3.Wry and slang asides are just a little too frequent.
Date published: 2021-05-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Provides great context I have listened to all the physics courses The Great Courses has to offer and I am loving this one so far. It provides great context for the seminal discoveries in physics that allows you to be conversant with the relative timeline, why each discovery is important to the overall theories of physics and, as advertised, how the measurements were taken and conclusions reached which allowed theory and conjecture to be accepted as established "facts." (And as to the reviewer who wants to know the copyright date of this course, well, it would have to be after the discovery of the Higgs Boson which makes it relatively recent.)
Date published: 2021-05-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Physics course! I really enjoyed the previous two courses by Dr. Lincoln. This course is my favorite so far, in that it takes the perspective of how we know things in physics. Excellent teacher!
Date published: 2021-05-25
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Overview

Taught by Dr. Don Lincoln of Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, this course probes the clues to the most astounding discoveries in modern physics, covering everything from quarks to the accelerating universe. The theories covered include special and general relativity, quantum mechanics, and the Big Bang, along with speculative ideas such as cosmic inflation, dark matter, and dark energy.

About

Don Lincoln
Don Lincoln

There are so many clues from physics that are staring at us in the face. They are telling us something profound.

INSTITUTION

Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab)

Don Lincoln is a Senior Scientist at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab). He is also a Guest Professor of High Energy Physics at the University of Notre Dame. He received his Ph.D. in Experimental Particle Physics from Rice University.

Dr. Lincoln's research has been divided between Fermilab's Tevatron Collider, until its close in 2011, and the CERN Large Hadron Collider, located outside Geneva, Switzerland. The author of more than 1,000 scientific publications, his most noteworthy accomplishments include serving on the teams that discovered the top quark in 1995 and confirmed the Higgs boson in 2012. He is a fellow of the American Physical Society and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

His writing at a popular level includes many articles as well as four books: Understanding the Universe, The Quantum Frontier, The Large Hadron Collider, and Alien Universe. His enthusiasm for science education earned him the 2013 Outreach Prize from the High Energy Physics Division of the European Physical Society.

Dr. Lincoln has given hundreds of lectures on four continents to a broad range of audiences. He is a blogger for the website of the PBS television series NOVA, and he also writes a weekly column for the online periodical Fermilab Today.

By This Professor

The Evidence for Modern Physics: How We Know What We Know

Trailer

Do You Believe In Atoms?

01: Do You Believe In Atoms?

Dr. Lincoln opens the course with the observation that all matter is made of atoms. But how do we know? The atomic hypothesis goes back to antiquity, although that was just an inspired guess. Survey the contributions of later scientists such as John Dalton and Albert Einstein. Discover why atoms are invisible to light microscopes, but not to the scanning transmission electron microscope.

27 min
Peering inside Protons and Neutrons

02: Peering inside Protons and Neutrons

Peer inside atoms to find mostly empty space, along with electrons and a compact nucleus, composed of protons and neutrons. These particles were all discovered indirectly through painstaking but straightforward experiments. Learn how physicists used more complex tools to uncover hundreds of even smaller objects. It took the quark theory to bring simplicity and unity to this seeming chaos.

31 min
Seeing Light as Wave and Particle

03: Seeing Light as Wave and Particle

Probe one of the most baffling mysteries of physics: the wave-particle duality of light. Trace the debate over the nature of light to its apparent solution in 1801, when Thomas Young demonstrated that light is a wave. A century later, Einstein proved that light also behaves as a particle. Astonishingly, further work showed that electrons and other matter also have this Janus-faced identity.

29 min
The Paradox of Quantum Entanglement

04: The Paradox of Quantum Entanglement

Dr. Lincoln boldly confronts the paradox of quantum entanglement, which governs the behavior of particles that share the same quantum state. Discover that the rules of quantum mechanics defy every attempt to explain what seems inexplicable—implying, for example, that a cat could be simultaneously dead and alive in Erwin Schrödinger’s famous thought experiment. Explore other spooky examples.

30 min
How We Know Special Relativity Is Real

05: How We Know Special Relativity Is Real

Learn how Dr. Lincoln routinely conducts experiments that show the bizarre effects of Einstein’s special theory of relativity, which come into play at speeds approaching that of light. Like quantum theory, relativity strains credulity, but clocks really do slow down and length contracts at relativistic speeds; we just don’t notice these effects in our relatively slow-moving lives.

28 min
Why the Speed of Light Is the Speed Limit

06: Why the Speed of Light Is the Speed Limit

How can the speed of light be the same for everyone, regardless of their state of motion? First, investigate how the speed of light is determined. Next, consider the hypothesized medium for light propagation—the aether—which was dealt a fatal blow by the Michelson-Morley experiment in the 1880s. Finally, examine laboratory proof that the speed of light is constant for all observers.

28 min
Discovering Subatomic Particles

07: Discovering Subatomic Particles

Survey the fundamental particles and forces of the Standard Model, which is the prevailing theory of particle physics. Then focus on nonfundamental particles and the tools that discovered them, such as the cloud chamber. Easily built at home, the cloud chamber reveals the products of radioactive decay, including antimatter—which sounds like science fiction but is an authentic feature of reality.

28 min
How Do You Weigh a Quark?

08: How Do You Weigh a Quark?

Learn the secret for measuring the masses and lifetimes of subatomic particles that exist for roughly a trillionth of a trillionth of a second. Using the Higgs boson and top quark as examples, Dr. Lincoln draws on a simplified version of Einstein’s mass-energy equation and Werner Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle to infer detailed information about truly ephemeral entities.

27 min
Capturing the Ghostly Neutrino

09: Capturing the Ghostly Neutrino

Hear the story of the neutrino, the ghostly particle that passes through you at the rate of one quadrillion per second, with no ill effects. Neutrinos are created copiously in nuclear reactions and are fiendishly difficult to detect. Pinning them down took great experimental ingenuity, especially since neutrinos turn out to be quick-change artists, often transforming their identities in flight.

30 min
The Search for the Higgs Boson

10: The Search for the Higgs Boson

As a member of the research team, Dr. Lincoln recounts the discovery of the Higgs boson, one of the major science stories of the past half century. Predicted in 1964, the Higgs particle wasn’t experimentally confirmed until 2012. Trace the path to this triumph, as physicists narrowed down the properties of the elusive particle and utilized powerful particle accelerators in the hunt.

29 min
Are Man-Made Black Holes Dangerous?

11: Are Man-Made Black Holes Dangerous?

Evaluate three alarmist scenarios for a physics experiment gone horribly wrong. Some theorists predict that exotic phenomena such as strangelets, a false vacuum, and miniature black holes could be produced by new particle accelerators, leading to the destruction of Earth and even the universe! The risk, however small, hardly seems worth it. But Dr. Lincoln gives you good reasons to sleep soundly.

29 min
How We Know What Stars Are Made Of

12: How We Know What Stars Are Made Of

Scientists did not know the exact composition of the Moon until astronauts brought back rocks. So how do we know what the unimaginably more distant stars are made of? Get a short course in astrophysics as you explore the secrets of starlight, which reveal stellar temperature and elemental composition to observers on Earth. Then apply the lessons of nuclear physics to the life cycle of stars.

31 min
Forming the Milky Way and Other Galaxies

13: Forming the Milky Way and Other Galaxies

Until 100 years ago, our Milky Way galaxy was thought to comprise the entire universe. Now we think there are roughly a trillion galaxies of various sizes and shapes in the observable universe. Investigate how astronomers reached this conclusion and how they mapped the structure and contents of the Milky Way, discovering a supermassive black hole at its center—among other galactic attractions.

31 min
Finding Planets around Distant Stars

14: Finding Planets around Distant Stars

Planets beyond our solar system weren’t discovered until the 1990s. Since then, thousands have been confirmed around nearby stars, and billions likely populate the Milky Way Galaxy. Planets are so dim compared to the stars they orbit that observers had to come up with clever techniques to infer their presence. Focus on the “wobble” and “shadow” methods, which have been remarkably productive.

28 min
The Awesome Evidence for General Relativity

15: The Awesome Evidence for General Relativity

Dr. Lincoln introduced Einstein’s special theory of relativity in Lesson 5. Now he covers general relativity, which incorporates gravity and predicts the warping of spacetime around massive objects. Study three phenomena that prove general relativity: an anomaly in the orbit of Mercury, the bending of starlight passing near the Sun, and the slowing of clocks in regions of stronger gravity.

29 min
The Hunt for Gravitational Waves

16: The Hunt for Gravitational Waves

General relativity predicts that titanic events such as colliding black holes cause the fabric of spacetime to ripple with gravitational waves. Join the search for these signals produced by rare events that are all but undetectable by the time they reach Earth. The existence of gravitational waves was inferred from observations in the 1970s and finally confirmed by detectors in 2015.

29 min
How We Know the Universe Began with a Bang

17: How We Know the Universe Began with a Bang

The Big Bang is one of the few scientific concepts that has entered popular culture. But where did the idea come from? Trace this gripping detective story to attempts by a young female astronomer in the early 1900s to measure distances to stars. Her success set the stage for others to discover that the universe is expanding, as if from an initial “big bang.” More clues filled in the picture.

31 min
The Case for Cosmic Inflation

18: The Case for Cosmic Inflation

Unlike the well-founded theories you’ve studied so far in this course, turn to one that is as-yet-unproven—but mindboggling in its implications. Cosmic inflation proposes that a period of explosive expansion occurred in the first instants of the Big Bang. This startling idea accounts for two puzzling features of today’s universe: the observed uniformity of matter and the flat geometry of space.

30 min
How We Know Dark Matter Exists

19: How We Know Dark Matter Exists

Dark matter is the conjectured substance that outweighs ordinary matter by five to one. However, we can’t see it, nor can anyone say what it is—at least, not yet. The first clues to the existence of dark matter turned up in observations of stars and galaxies in the 1930s. Since then, the evidence has mounted. Consider alternative explanations and reasons to believe that dark matter is indeed real.

31 min
How We Search for Dark Matter

20: How We Search for Dark Matter

Dig deeper into the quest to understand dark matter. Start by ruling out plausible early explanations, including that dark matter is invisible ordinary matter like cold hydrogen gas or rogue planets. Also rebut some popular exotic theories. Then Dr. Lincoln outlines current experiments to pin down this elusive substance, among them his own work with high-energy particle accelerators.

32 min
How We Know the Universe Is Accelerating

21: How We Know the Universe Is Accelerating

Investigate evidence that the expansion of the universe reversed its gradual slow-down and stepped on the accelerator 5 billion years ago. “Dark energy” is the term given to this mysterious force that is expanding space at an ever-increasing rate. Learn how this remarkable phenomenon was discovered and explore its link to the cosmological constant proposed by Einstein a century ago.

29 min
Measuring the Size and Age of the Universe

22: Measuring the Size and Age of the Universe

Draw on the astonishing facts about the universe you have learned since Lesson 15. Then add observations from recent satellite missions, and reach exact conclusions about the size and age of the universe. One thing you discover is that the diameter of the entire universe is at least 500 times larger than the visible universe. Since we can’t see that far, how do we know? Dr. Lincoln explains.

32 min
What We Know about Quantum Foam

23: What We Know about Quantum Foam

Few claims of physics are as absurd as that empty space is writhing with “virtual” particles—a foam of particles, antiparticles, and photons that appear and disappear with riotous abandon. Learn how Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle gives rise to this phenomenon of getting something from nothing, and discover that it is a crucial consideration for engineers creating microelectronics.

29 min
Are Space and Time Quantized?

24: Are Space and Time Quantized?

Finish the course with a leap into one of the most speculative realms of physics—the quest to understand gravity at the quantum scale. Examine why Einstein’s theory of gravity—general relativity—is incompatible with quantum mechanics. Then consider what a quantized theory of gravity would imply. One thing it means for sure is a future filled with bold theories and big surprises!

29 min