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Black Holes Explained

Examine one of the most exotic objects that exists in the universe in this fascinating course by a top astronomer.

Black Holes Explained is rated 4.7 out of 5 by 103.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from We enjoyed this course and learned a lot I am a novice on this subject but my husban knows and reads a lot on space type subjects. I liked that the instructor explained AND demonstrated when he could different concepts throughout the lectures. He is enthusiastic and knows his subject. We borrowed this course from our library.
Date published: 2023-07-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Superb teacher and director I had viewed Professor Filippenko's full-length astronomy course, and found this mini-course to be of the same high quality. He combines visuals, demonstrations, and humor with his comprehensive knowledge. The director uses several camera angles for variety, with the instructor's maintaining eye contact with the camera being used (the good old way).
Date published: 2022-02-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Awesome Professor and Cool Topic I bought this course and was delighted with both Professor Filippenko's enthusiasm for the topic and his humor that kept it interesting. I tend to watch a lot of science programs about space on cable t.v. (among other things) and I have to say this one kept my attention and interest. I'm not sure what year this originally debuted but it couldn't have been too long ago. I wonder what new updated discoveries have been added? If space programs interest you in general, this is one course worth checking out.
Date published: 2021-09-30
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Excellent Visual Demonstrations! I can tell the instructor really loves his job. He seems to be very passionate about astronomy. I really like the props that he uses for visual materials and demonstrations; they really help out a lot with understanding some of the material. He goes through the material as if you're taking a college class on astronomy, or even astrophysics. I kind of got the sense that I needed more of a foundation in one of those 2 subjects as a prerequisite, in order to follow along with the contents of this course. It's not bad; it explained some things about black holes that I never knew before, but it didn't completely answer all of my questions. It helps put everything in perspective regarding how small the Earth really is in comparison with other celestial bodies in our Universe. I found it interesting all the times when he explained the mass of a singularity, and when he explained how jets form in relation to the accretion disk.
Date published: 2020-11-02
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Haven't had a chance to view it yet. I would like to write a review after I've viewed the course. Check back on a few months.
Date published: 2020-04-30
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Check dates before buying ANY lecture This course is given by a gifted lecturer, who is able to maintain human connection with a remote viewer. I give the course a five (dark) stars I took one star away because of the failure of The Great Courses to find a way to update science lectures. This one is from 2009. The Higgs Boson was since discovered, Steven Hawking died, gravity waves were discovered, merging black holes were detected. There were courses in astronomy that were outdated and I won't buy anymore science lectures without checking the date. I would not have bought this if I knew it was eleven years old. I wouldn't mind some outdated information if the company add updates as a bonus lecture.
Date published: 2020-03-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Amazing I just read the course booklet and found it very helpful. However, there are a lot of terms that are not explained very well. I guess what impressed the most was the scope of the material. And the amazing ability of our scientists to develop ways to reach out to the enormous skyscape. I cannot even imagine what it must be like to see and learn about the "sky-world".One of these days I will actually take the course by watching the video.
Date published: 2020-02-16
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good course if you are curious about black holes It is a simple introduction to black holes. It is well written and if you do not have a degree in physics, it is for you. easy to understand, and like always professor phlippenco is fun to watch and listen to.
Date published: 2018-08-05
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Nearly everyone has heard of black holes, but few people outside of complex scientific fields understand their true nature and their implications for our universe. Black Holes Explained finally makes this awe-inspiring cosmological subject graspable—in just 12 lavishly illustrated lectures. You'll discover the secrets of photon spheres, event horizons, Einstein rings, and other concepts involved in the study of black holes. No movie matches distinguished astronomer and Professor Alex Filippenko's absorbing presentation of the actual science behind these amazing objects.


Alex Filippenko

Perhaps the next time you go out to the countryside, you will ponder the magnificence of the Universe and its contents-and the fact that, through careful experiments, observations, and thought, humans are coming to a good understanding of what makes it all tick.


University of California, Berkeley

Dr. Alex Filippenko is Professor of Astronomy and the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor in the Physical Sciences at the University of California, Berkeley. He earned his B.A. in Physics from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and his Ph.D. in Astronomy from the California Institute of Technology. Dr. Filippenko's research accomplishments, documented in more than 500 scientific publications and 600 abstracts and astronomical circulars, are among the most highly cited in the world. Science magazine credited two international teams of astronomers (on which he was the only coauthor contributing to both teams) with the top "Science Breakthrough of 1998" for research on exploding stars (supernovae), which shows that the universe is expanding at an accelerating rate, propelled by mysterious "dark energy." Professor Filippenko received a share of the 2007 Gruber Cosmology Prize for this discovery, work that went on to receive the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics. Professor Filippenko also leads the world's most successful robotic search for exploding stars. Dr. Filippenko was elected in 2009 to the National Academy of Sciences, one of the highest honors accorded to a U.S. scientist. He has also been recognized with several major awards, including the 2010 Richard H. Emmons Award for excellence in the teaching of college-level introductory astronomy for non-science majors from the Astronomical Society of the Pacific, the 2007 Richtmyer Memorial Award of the American Association of Physics Teachers, the 1997 Robert M. Petrie Prize of the Canadian Astronomical Society, and the 1992 Newton Lacy Pierce Prize of the American Astronomical Society. He was a Guggenheim Fellow in 2001 and a Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar in 2002. In 2006, he was honored nationally as the "Outstanding Doctoral and Research Universities Professor of the Year" by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. At UC Berkeley, Dr. Filippenko's teaching awards include the Donald S. Noyce Prize for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching in the Physical Sciences and the Distinguished Teaching Award. Dr. Filippenko is coauthor of The Cosmos: Astronomy in the New Millennium, now in its 4th edition (2013), and winner of the 2001 Texty Excellence Award for best new textbook in the physical sciences. He has played a prominent role in numerous television documentaries, including about 40 episodes spanning six seasons of The Universe on The History Channel.

By This Professor

Understanding the Universe: An Introduction to Astronomy, 2nd Edition
Skywatching: Seeing and Understanding Cosmic Wonders
A General Introduction to Black Holes

01: A General Introduction to Black Holes

Widely featured in novels, movies, and other media, black holes are not just entertaining plot devices, they're real. Learn how the idea of black holes was proposed more than two centuries ago, and how more recently Einstein's general theory of relativity gave a firm theoretical basis for them.

35 min
The Violent Deaths of Massive Stars

02: The Violent Deaths of Massive Stars

Discover how black holes can form from stars that are much more massive than the sun. After exhausting their nuclear fuel, these behemoths end in a colossal explosion called a supernova, leaving behind a superdense neutron star, or in some cases something even denser: a black hole.

30 min
Gamma-Ray Bursts—The Birth of Black Holes

03: Gamma-Ray Bursts—The Birth of Black Holes

Trace the story of gamma-ray bursts. Long a mystery, these intense eruptions of high-energy radiation from random spots in the sky are now thought to be associated with the formation of black holes in distant galaxies. Their visibility from so far away means they are truly titanic explosions.

30 min
Searching for Stellar—Mass Black Holes

04: Searching for Stellar—Mass Black Holes

If black holes emit no light, how are they detected? Investigate the different clues that establish strong evidence for black holes. For example, a star orbiting an unseen object that exceeds the 3-solar-mass limit for neutron stars is probably circling a black hole.

31 min
Monster of the Milky Way and Other Galaxies

05: Monster of the Milky Way and Other Galaxies

This lecture presents the most compelling evidence to date for black holes—found in the core of most galaxies. There, stars and gas clouds typically orbit at high speeds, signaling the presence of a central, supermassive black hole, millions to billions of times the mass of the sun.

31 min
Quasars—Feasting Supermassive Black Holes

06: Quasars—Feasting Supermassive Black Holes

Quasars are another astronomical mystery explained by black holes. Explore the history of these star-like objects that long baffled astronomers, until observers realized they were seeing matter falling into supermassive black holes during the early era of galaxy formation.

32 min
Gravitational Waves—Ripples in Space-Time

07: Gravitational Waves—Ripples in Space-Time

Gravity waves are an unexplored new window for studies of black holes. Learn how these hard-to-detect vibrations are the predicted ripples in the fabric of space-time that should result from violent phenomena such as the merging of two black holes.

31 min
The Wildest Ride in the Universe

08: The Wildest Ride in the Universe

What happens if you fall into a black hole? Take a wild ride into the supermassive black hole at the center of the Milky Way Galaxy with a vivid computer simulation showing the strange effects you would experience before being crushed to incredible density.

31 min
Shortcuts through the Universe and Beyond?

09: Shortcuts through the Universe and Beyond?

Mathematically, black holes seem to connect our universe with others through a gateway called an Einstein-Rosen bridge—nicknamed a wormhole by physicist John Wheeler, who also coined the term black hole. See a computer simulation of what passage through a wormhole would be like.

32 min
Stephen Hawking and Black Hole Evaporation

10: Stephen Hawking and Black Hole Evaporation

Learn why black holes may not be completely black. In 1975, physicist Stephen Hawking showed that they can evaporate via a quantum tunneling process, giving off a slow trickle of quantum particles before eventually ending in an explosion of gamma rays.

33 min
Black Holes and the Holographic Universe

11: Black Holes and the Holographic Universe

The "no-hair" theorem says that black holes are utterly simple and preserve almost no information about what went into them. Discover why some physicists believe that the supposedly lost information is contained just outside the black hole in a form that resembles a hologram—and that the universe as a whole may display the same property.

32 min
Black Holes and the Large Hadron Collider

12: Black Holes and the Large Hadron Collider

Professor Filippenko closes by looking at the possibility that a new particle accelerator called the Large Hadron Collider will produce microscopic black holes. Discover why there is no danger that they will devour the Earth, and why there is no risk from any known black holes in space.

34 min