Dark Matter, Dark Energy
The Dark Side of the Universe
Dark Matter, Dark Energy: The Dark Side of the Universe is a set of 24 half-hour lectures, available on DVD from The Great Courses. See also my other courses: Mysteries of Modern Physics — Time, and The Higgs Boson and Beyond.
The Great Courses
These are a series of twenty-four professionally produced pedagogical lectures on DVD, introducing modern cosmology through a focus on two of its most fascinating aspects: dark matter and dark energy. The kind of matter with which we are familiar — atoms and molecules, and indeed every particle we have ever created in a laboratory — only makes up about 5% of the universe. Another 25% is dark matter, a kind of particle that is massive and weakly interacting. The remaining 70% is dark energy, which is not even a particle — it’s a smoothly-distributed energy field that remains persistent in density even as the universe expands. The quest to understand dark matter and dark energy is the most important task of twenty-first century cosmology.
The lectures are meant for anyone with a curious mind, regardless of their background. No prior familiarity with physics or astrophysics is assumed. We start with the fundamental ideas of relativity and particle physics, work our way up to the astonishing discoveries of modern observational cosmology, and dig deeply into speculative ideas about what dark matter and dark energy might be telling us about the nature of space, time, and matter. The lectures can be enjoyed by anyone, taken at whatever pace is most comfortable; full lecture transcripts are also available, as well as an extensive reading list and questions relating to each lecture.
Here are the titles of each of the lectures, to give you an idea of what you will learn.
- Fundamental Building Blocks
- The Smooth, Expanding Universe
- Space, Time, and Gravity
- Cosmology in Einstein’s Universe
- Galaxies and Clusters
- Gravitational Lensing
- Atoms and Particles
- The Standard Model of Particle Physics
- Relic Particles from the Big Bang
- Primordial Nucleosynthesis
- The Cosmic Microwave Background
- Dark Stars and Black Holes
- WIMPs and Supersymmetry
- The Accelerating Universe
- The Geometry of Space
- Smooth Tension and Acceleration
- Vacuum Energy
- Was Einstein Right?
- Strings and Extra Dimensions
- Beyond the Observable Universe
- Future Experiments
- The Past and Future of the Dark Side
Comments on the course, from email or elsewhere.
- “Whew! What can I say. This type of lecture is what The Teaching Company is all about. Does it get any better than this?” —Doug van Orsow
- “We started watching the lectures this week and I was not disappointed. It is so rare to find someone like Sean, a person able to communicate difficult science concepts effectively, and there’s nothing more counterintuitive and difficult as dark energy and an expanding universe.”–Tony Darnell
- “I was literally on the edge of my seat every second and would have gladly paid for and watched 10 times as many lectures.” –Russ Ravella
Unfortunately I don’t have time to answer individual questions about the lectures, but there are other places to go for help.
- Some online forums on related topics:
- Wright has also compiled a bibliography of popular cosmology books.
- NASA has a set of cosmology 101 pages.
- The collective wisdom of the internet has complied an extensive relativity FAQ.