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What Einstein Got Wrong

Discover the fallible side of the world's most celebrated genius as you trace Einstein's path to greatness.
What Einstein Got Wrong is rated 4.8 out of 5 by 95.
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Rated 4 out of 5 by from Einstein's 'biggest mistake' yet to be realized No one person has graced 'The Great Courses' list of courses more than Einstein. Not only are there four courses specifically dealing with his accomplishments within the physical and social worlds as well as is philosophical contemplations, there are numerous more that deal with him within their subject matter. And for good reason. So why should I, with nearly 400 courses in my ownership, come out of hiding to make a review on this one? Firstly, the course does a pretty good job of piecing together Einstein's career. In doing so it considers ideas that are already covered elsewhere in the other courses; both the ideas that were revolutionary and gave him his stature but also the ideas where he faltered relative to the currently accepted understanding. Personally I don't mind getting more than one view on ideas and one aspect of the courses offered here is that content in many disciplines are covered in more than one course. There is overlap. For those who already have courses that deal with Einstein and his achievements, they may find too much duplication for their liking, and they might find it a little short in detail on explaining his successes. But the focus here is on 'what he got wrong'. I had a background in weather forecasting and it has allowed me to have some insights into time and how it operates. Einstein's appreciation of time and how it operates has opened up a rich debate given that his focus was on the two extremes in nature; the very big and the very small. Dealing with the weather allowed me to contemplate time in a more narrow spectrum; one within the 'real world'; i.e. the one in which we live in. This has allowed me to come from a different perspective. As good as the overwhelming majority of the courses here are, they have two fall-backs relative to attending a University. The obvious one is that one cannot attain some recognition of the knowledge that they have attained from what they have learned here. I have no concerns about this. The second arises from the fact that at University not only are lectures such as these conducted, but they are followed up by tutorials where the concepts explained in the lectures can be debated and clarified by working on examples. One can open a 'can of worms' by allowing for a 'free-for-all' with regards to this, but consideration should be given towards creating the opportunity for questions of merit to be posed and debated. For example, they should only be available to those who have bought the course and suggest something worthy of contemplation. Herein lies my issue with this course. I don't think Einstein's 'biggest mistake' has been realized yet and I would have enjoyed the opportunity to debate this within a tutorial. I have sent a couple of emails to prominent researchers in this area of endeavor and either been dismissed without having a reason given [one 'Great Course' lecturer via his personal internet operations] or simply ignored. So I have now chosen here to ask what my fellow 'class-mates' think of the idea. In short, I believe that it is the 'distance of light' that is a constant and not the 'speed of light'. Whilst I have no argument that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light, I cannot accept that this forces it to be the same speed throughout the entire universe. Our speed limits on the road vary depending on the circumstances, and it was Einstein who had the insight to understand that gravity alters the circumstances of both space and time. I believe that the failures to solve the problematic elements of this topic eg dark energy/dark matter, inflation, entanglement are an aspect of our misunderstanding of how time operates. At the very least, I believe that the re-thinking of light in the manner I've just mentioned will at the very least open up a productively way of looking at these significant problems in a new 'light' [pun intended]. If there is sufficient interest I'd be happy to pose a couple of 'tutorial' questions for my class-mates to contemplate. Needless to say, I have questions to offer some of the other courses I've bought. Would I recommend the course? Yes, but since it deals with some powerful concepts that obviously haven't been fully understood yet, anybody looking for a quick answer to this subject matter will not be completely satisfied. It is not for 'rote learners'. Dave
Date published: 2024-06-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This is a very well done course. It help understand the work of Einstein and at the same time it provides insights into how science works.
Date published: 2023-12-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very Interesting An interesting premise and very well presented. I found this to be informative and thought provoking. I highly recommend this course to anyone with and interest in science or physics.
Date published: 2023-12-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Awesome presentations Though think the "theme" of this course is a bit silly, the course itself is a nice overview of Einstein's major contributions to physics from a historical perspective. The instructor gives engaging high-level explanations of the relevant theories/works, places them in historical perspective, and evaluates their historical influence. After watching this course, I feel I've gained a level of intuitive understanding of the General Theory of Relativity, Quantum Physics and more.
Date published: 2023-05-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from What Einstein Got Wrong The lecturer does a very good job at explaining how Einstein's thinking about certain physical concepts was unsupported by later evidence as well as a discussion of those concepts he got right, with particular emphasis on his special and general theories of relativity and quantum theory. My only caveat is that if you are looking for an in depth understanding of relativity or quantum theory, you will be disappointed. But, if you seek a presentation of the history of the controversies surrounding these ideas with just enough explanation of the scientific background of these theories to allow you to follow along, I highly recommend this course.
Date published: 2023-02-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great feature of What Einstein got Wrong. WoW!* Great!* Awesomely done &said of lecture. Thank u*!*
Date published: 2023-01-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Wonderful Coveing of Modern Cosmology I am very happy with this. It began with "What Einstein Got Right', and throughout acknowledged his genius, even while pointing out where he made mistakes, some of which he corrected, some of which he did not live long enough to see the actual data that would have led him to correct tem.
Date published: 2022-09-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Course and Teacher I've purchased many course from Great Courses and this is one of my favorites. Dr. Hooper knows his stuff and delivers this complex subject matter to a lay person with remarkable ease. Strongly recommended.
Date published: 2022-08-05
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Taught by physicist Dan Hooper of Fermilab and the University of Chicago, this course focuses on Einstein's mistakes as a window into his theory-building technique. He was spectacularly effective with relativity and early quantum mechanics, but he also made some missteps by doubting some of the staple concepts of today's physics, including black holes, the big bang, and the uncertainty principle.


Dan Hooper

To really pay full tribute to Albert Einstein, I'd argue that we need to appreciate not only his great success, but also his challenges, mistakes, and errors.


University of Chicago

Dan Hooper is a senior scientist and the head of the Theoretical Astrophysics Group at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab). He is also Associate Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Chicago. Dr. Hooper received his Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He was later a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Oxford and the David Schramm Fellow at Fermilab.

Dr. Hooper's research focuses on the interface between particle physics and cosmology, covering topics such as dark matter, dark energy, supersymmetry, neutrinos, extra dimensions, and ultra-high-energy cosmic rays. He has authored more than 200 articles in peer-reviewed scientific journals, and he has given an even larger number of technical talks at scientific conferences and university seminars and colloquia.

Dr. Hooper is the author of two books written for nonscientists: LDark Cosmos and Nature's Blueprint. He has also written for popular magazines such as Astronomy, Sky & Telescope, and New Scientist. He gives many public lectures and is frequently called on by the media to comment on science news. Dr. Hooper's television appearances include Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman and Space's Deepest Secrets, and he has been interviewed on NPR's Science Friday.

By This Professor

What Einstein Got Wrong
What Einstein Got Wrong


What Einstein Got Right: Special Relativity

01: What Einstein Got Right: Special Relativity

Einstein is the most famous and influential scientist of modern times. But no one is perfect, and his powerful intuition led him astray in several key areas of physics, which are now among the most fruitful areas of the discipline. Begin your study of Einstein mistakes by looking at what he got spectacularly right, starting with his revolutionary special theory of relativity....

30 min
What Einstein Got Right: General Relativity

02: What Einstein Got Right: General Relativity

Einstein's greatest triumph was his general theory of relativity, which built on special relativity and led to a radically new understanding of the geometry of space and time. Einstein followed a rocky road to this breakthrough, with mistakes that hampered his progress and almost gave the honor of discovery to a rival....

30 min
Einstein's Rejection of Black Holes

03: Einstein's Rejection of Black Holes

The most astounding prediction of general relativity was considered so absurd by Einstein that he rejected it out of hand. Learn how the concept of black holes emerged from his theory and how he dismissed it, even as other researchers were gaining a detailed understanding of the theoretical properties of these strange objects. Only after Einstein's death were black holes proved to exist....

29 min
Einstein and Gravitational Waves

04: Einstein and Gravitational Waves

General relativity predicts that objects with mass radiate extremely faint gravitational waves when they interact. Einstein was reluctant to accept this idea, but after his death evidence began accumulating that gravity waves do, in fact, exist-as shown by the detection of gravity waves from distant colliding black holes starting in 2015....

31 min
Cosmology and the Cosmological Constant

05: Cosmology and the Cosmological Constant

Investigate what Einstein reportedly called his "biggest blunder": his insistence that the universe is static, despite the prediction of general relativity that space is either expanding or contracting. Explore why general relativity is inconsistent with a static universe, and chart astronomer Edwin Hubble's pioneering observations that prove we live in an expanding cosmos....

28 min
The Cosmological Constant and Dark Energy

06: The Cosmological Constant and Dark Energy

Einstein tried to make general relativity compatible with a static universe by adding a cosmological constant to his equations, a move he later regretted. Learn how this "blunder" now looks prescient in light of the discovery that the expansion of the universe is accelerating, driven by some unknown dark energy. Einstein appears to have been right to add the constant, but for the wrong reason....

28 min
What Einstein Got Right: Light Quanta

07: What Einstein Got Right: Light Quanta

Along with relativity, Einstein's major contributions to physics include his proof that light is made up of discrete quanta, an insight that led to the quantum revolution. Retrace his route to this key discovery. As with relativity, his genius was to break out of the classical mode of thinking about light and matter, going wherever experiment, logic, and mathematics led him....

27 min
Does God Play Dice with the Universe?

08: Does God Play Dice with the Universe?

Probe Einstein's devotion to the principle of determinism, seeing how it prompted him to reject the probabilistic interpretation of quantum mechanics accepted by most of his peers. Einstein famously said that "God does not play dice," meaning that quantum events only look probabilistic. He sought to make the quantum world less weird by finding a deterministic version of the theory....

27 min
Quantum Entanglement

09: Quantum Entanglement

Follow Einstein's quest to overturn the standard view of quantum mechanics known as the Copenhagen interpretation. Focus on his famous EPR paper, written with two collaborators, which identified a paradoxical phenomenon later called entanglement. Study two proposals to supplant the Copenhagen view: the "hidden variable" and "many worlds" interpretations....

28 min
The Search for a Unified Field Theory

10: The Search for a Unified Field Theory

Einstein spent the last decades of his life searching for a unified field theory that would unite general relativity with Maxwell's theory of electromagnetism. But by then, quantum theory had superseded Maxwell's work, rendering the entire exercise futile. See how this quest has nonetheless stimulated ideas for unification in proposals such as string theory....

28 min
Problems with Time Travel

11: Problems with Time Travel

Einstein's friend Kurt Gödel discovered a solution to the general relativity equations that implied the possibility of time travel, an idea that Einstein found interesting but impossible. Was he right to dismiss time travel? Explore other solutions to Einstein's equations that posit the existence of rotating black holes and worm holes, which may be portals to the past and future....

27 min
What Other Giants Got Wrong

12: What Other Giants Got Wrong

As a scientist who sometimes got things wrong, Einstein was in good company. In this last lecture, investigate the mistakes of three other great thinkers: Johannes Kepler, Galileo Galilei, and Isaac Newton. Despite their triumphs in astronomy and physics, they, like Einstein, sometimes pursued intriguing but false leads. Consider the examples that their careers set for how science progresses....

32 min