The Einstein Revolution

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Available now till 2024-07-17
35.00 Educational Hours
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About this Course

Albert Einstein has become the icon of modern science. Following his scientific, cultural, philosophical, and political trajectory, this course aims to track the changing role of physics in the 20th and 21st centuries. This history course addresses Einstein's engagement with relativity, quantum mechanics, Nazism, nuclear weapons, philosophy, the arts, and technology, and raises basic questions about what it means to understand physics in its broader history.

Participants in the course will follow seventeen lessons, each of which will present a mix of science (no prerequisites!) and the broader, relevant cultural surround. Some weeks will examine the physics concepts, while others will see excerpts of films or discuss modernist poetry that took off from relativity. Or we might be looking at the philosophical roots and philosophical consequences of Einstein’s works. At other times we will be fully engaged with historical and political questions: the building, dropping, and proliferation of nuclear weapons, for example.

Typically, in a lesson (about an hour of streamed material), there will be opportunities for individual mini-essay writing, some multiple choice questions to bolster your understanding of the science, and a group activity which might one week be a debate and another a collective commentary on elements of an artwork from 1920s Weimar Germany.

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Peter Galison
Peter Galison
Peter Galison is the Pellegrino University Professor of the History of Science and of Physics at Harvard University. In 1997 Galison was awarded a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship; won a 1998 Pfizer Award (for Image and Logic) as the best book that year in the History of Science; in 1999 received the Max Planck and Humboldt Stiftung Prize, and in 2018, the Abraham Pais Award in the History of Physics. His other books include How Experiments End (1987); Einstein’s Clocks, Poincaré’s Maps (2003); and Objectivity (with Lorraine Daston, 2007). Among his films are “Ultimate Weapon: The H-bomb Dilemma” (with Pamela Hogan); with Robb Moss, he directed and produced “Secrecy” which premiered at Sundance (2008), and, also, “Containment,” (2015), about the need to guard radioactive materials for the 10,000 year future. Galison has collaborated with South African artist, William Kentridge, on a multi-screen installation, “The Refusal of Time” (2012) and an associated chamber opera, “Refuse the Hour.” On digital matters: he co-directs Critical Media Practice (training a new generation of Ph.D. students to work with digital media) and the Film Study Center, both at Harvard. He is a co-founder of the Black Hole Initiative, an interdisciplinary center for the study of these most extreme objects. His current research is on the history and philosophy of black holes and, in a second project, on the changing relation of technology to the self.

For more information, please see his home page:
Ion Mihailescu
Ion Mihailescu
Ion Mihailescu is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of the History of Science at Harvard University. His dissertation explores the development of graphical methods and diagrammatic representations in the physical sciences in the 19th century. Ion has received a B.A. in History, Mathematics and Physics from Columbia University in 2010. Since 2013 he has been a Content Developer for the EMC2x course, and is the Head Teaching Fellow for The Einstein Revolution in Spring 2015.