Friday, 27 November 2015

Einstein's Theories of Special and General Relativity - Outreach Course for the 'Inquisitive' Layman


In November 2010, I had given a twelve-hour course on Einstein's theories of special and general relativity as part of my science outreach programme.  I now intend to publish the PowerPoint slides of the course.  The course aims/objectives for the Strathclyde University presentation give a good summary of what was intended and are reproduced below.  
Some of the introductory material was published on this blog - links to those blog items are provided in the following.


Albert Einstein and the Theory of Relativity

                         Einstein is considered the greatest physicist of the 20th century.  Einstein’s theory of relativity forever altered our understanding of the Universe.  In this series of talks, we shall learn about Einstein’s life and how working in isolation he was able to resolve many of the serious difficulties that physics faced around 1900 AD and prepared the ground for the development of modern physics on which most industry is based. 
                         Speed of light plays a fundamental role in the theory of relativity.  It is fascinating to learn how light appears to behave both as a wave and as a stream of particles.
                         Without using mathematics, we shall learn about the nature of gravity and make sense of some of the bizarre effects that the theory of relativity predicts.  
                         Einstein is best remembered for his theory of relativity but it was his work regarding the nature of light that won him the Nobel Prize in 1921.  Einstein established the existence of atoms and molecules and determined their sizes.  The theory of lasers was developed by Einstein more than 40 years before they were invented.   

            The importance of Einstein's contributions and their impact on the scientific understanding is best demonstrated by remembering the very large number of Nobel Prizes awarded in research engendered by Einstein's work.                    

         Class Content:

·         Brief biography of Albert Einstein
·         Physics before 1900 AD – The classical physics
·         Problems with classical physics - Black-body Radiation,  Specific heat of solids  
·         On the nature of light – wave or particle?
·         Einstein’s many contributions to the quantum theory
·         Einstein’s special theory of relativity (Part 1 and Part 2)
·         Einstein’s general theory of relativity (Part 1 and  Part 2)
·         Experimental verification of the theory of relativity
·         The scientific method – testing of hypotheses

          Main learning outcomes:

·         Learn about Einstein’s life and the impact of his contributions on modern life
·         Appreciate how the behaviour of  atoms and molecules determines the properties of the macroscopic world
·         Appreciate that light appears to behave both as a wave and as a stream of particles
·         Understand the role played by the speed of light in the theory of relativity
·         Understand the nature of gravity

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