HSCI 1955: Einstein's Universe

3 CreditsFreshman Seminar

In this seminar we examine the life and work of Albert Einstein (1879-1955). The use of mathematics will be kept to a minimum. You will need no more than some basic high-school algebra and geometry. We begin by studying the special theory of relativity (1905) and some of its famous predictions such as time dilation, the twin paradox, and E=mc2. While working our way through this material, we will also look at elements of nineteenth-century physics that played a role in the development of special relativity. We continue to pursue a historical approach when we turn to the general theory of relativity (1915), the theory that makes gravity part of (curved) space-time. We trace the development of this theory from 1907 till about 1920. Einstein worked intensively on this theory living in Berlin during the first World War (1914-1918). For this period, we shall also take a close look at Einstein's personal life and at his tentative first appearances on the political stage. Finally, we cover Einstein's role in the development of quantum physics, both his early pioneering efforts in this field and his later opposition to quantum mechanics as formulated in the mid-20s. By the end of the course you should have a good understanding of some of Einstein's most revolutionary ideas, of how he arrived at them, at what personal price, and in what broader socio-political and cultural context.

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A- Average (3.833)Most Common: A (55%)

This total also includes data from semesters with unknown instructors.

22 students
  • 3.26


  • 4.05


  • 3.65



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