Physics 609

A Distance Learning Course for Teachers of Physics


PHYS 609: Galileo and Einstein 
Fall 2004

Instructor: Richard A. Lindgren, Research Professor of Physics,
Lecturer and Demonstrator: Steve Schnatterly, Professor of Physics
Graduate Credits 3

This course explores how humankind's perceptions of the universe developed over time from the ancient Greeks to Einstein. Our solar system played the role of a valuable laboratory in the development of these ideas. The celestial objects--the moon, sun, planets, and stars--once seen as deities, were eventually realized to be material objects obeying the same laws of motion as objects here on Earth. This synthesis was achieved within the assumption that space and time are absolute, and have nothing to do with each other. Einstein realized that this was not the whole truth; space and time are not as straightforward as they at first appear, but are related to each other in a simple way.

These two achievements, understanding the physical nature of our solar system and understanding the complex nature of space and time, are two of the greatest revolutions in the history of human thought. How this came about and the remarkable individuals who played key roles in the development of these ideas are the foci of this course. 

Revised August 13, 2004.