Superstring Theory: The DNA of Reality [TTC Video]

Superstring Theory: The DNA of Reality [TTC Video]
Superstring Theory: The DNA of Reality [TTC Video] by S James Gates Jr
Course No 1284 | AVI, XviD, 624x448 | MP3, 128 kbps, 2 Ch | 24x30 mins | 5.57GB

One of the most exciting scientific adventures of all time is the search for the ultimate nature of physical reality, a hunt that in the past century has yielded such breakthroughs as Einstein's theory of relativity and quantum mechanics, two theories that radically altered our picture of space, time, gravity, and the fundamental building blocks of matter.

The latest advance in this epic quest is string theory—known as superstring or M-theory in its most recent versions. The "M" of M-theory is an arbitrary label, but some physicists believe it stands for mysterious or magical. Marvelous also qualifies, because there is something quite wonderful about this beautiful and startling idea.

Based on the concept that all matter is composed of inconceivably tiny filaments of vibrating energy, string theory has potentially staggering implications for our understanding of the universe.

Wouldn't you love to understand string theory at a deeper level than is available from popular articles or even book-length treatments? Aren't you eager to look over the shoulder of a prominent string theorist at work—one who has a gift for explaining the subject to nonscientists and who has created computer-generated images to help make the concepts clear?

A Challenging Course in a Fascinating Field

The Teaching Company offers just such a guide in Professor S. James Gates Jr., director of the Center for String and Particle Theory at the University of Maryland. Professor Gates is an old hand in this very young field. In 1977 he wrote the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's first-ever doctoral dissertation on supersymmetry, the precursor to string theory.

In the midst of teaching, pursuing research, and writing scores of scientific papers over the past two decades, Dr. Gates has also presented nearly 100 public talks on string theory, honing a set of visual aids designed to convey the difficult mathematical ideas that underlie this subject to a lay audience.

The 24 lectures in Superstring Theory: The DNA of Reality incorporate Dr. Gates's field testing of this matchless set of graphics, which are the most technically lavish that The Teaching Company has ever presented. Prepare to be intrigued, enlightened, and amazed.

Because the goal of string theory is to unite relativity and quantum mechanics in a comprehensive "theory of everything," this course nicely complements two other Teaching Company courses: Professor Richard Wolfson's Einstein's Relativity and the Quantum Revolution: Modern Physics for Non-Scientists, 2nd Edition, and Professor Steven Pollack's Particle Physics for Non-Physicists: A Tour of the Microcosmos.

Combined with Superstring Theory: The DNA of Reality, this trio of Teaching Company courses traces the development of physics in the 20th century—from well-tested theories such as relativity and quantum mechanics, to the more abstract research of late 20th-century particle physics, to the strange world of string theory, which is still in an intense state of flux.

Spaghetti Strands

The essence of string theory is that the smallest, most fundamental objects in the universe are not little balls knocking around like billiards, as had been thought for about 2,000 years. Instead, these small objects are supermicroscopic filaments—like tiny strands of spaghetti—whose different vibrational modes produce the multitude of particles that are observed in the laboratory.

So when a string vibrates in one way, it might appear to be an electron. If it vibrates in a different manner, it would look like a quark. It could vibrate in a third way and display the properties of a photon. Or perhaps it vibrates in a fourth mode and physicists say, "That's a graviton!" This gives strings an inherent ability to unify phenomena that had always been assumed to be different. If string theory ultimately proves correct, then strings are truly the DNA of reality.

One of the most celebrated features of the string approach is that it predicts more dimensions than the three of our familiar spatial world plus one of time. Currently, the most comprehensive version of string theory—M-theory—calls for a total of 11 dimensions. These extra dimensions could be hidden away, compacted into exotic shapes like the "Calabi-Yau manifold," or they could be forever out of reach in high-dimensional membranelike objects called branes.

But some physicists—Dr. Gates among them—see strings as entirely consistent with the four-dimensional world as we experience it. He explains this intriguing interpretation in Lecture 16.

Explore Ideas through Images

Each lecture draws on the illustrative power of computer-generated imagery (CGI). For years Dr. Gates has been asked to write a nontechnical book on string theory, but he has always declined, convinced that words alone cannot convey to the public the mathematical ideas that provide the foundation of this field. But these video lectures can. "The format of courses followed by The Teaching Company provides an exquisite platform for the utilization of CGI technology to augment conventional static lectures and books," he says.

Here are some of the mathematical ideas that you will explore through images in this course:

  • Dark matter: Two animations of galaxies in the process of forming show that something is wrong with the scene that is based on the observable mass of an average galaxy: There is not enough matter for it to hold its shape. On the other hand, the galaxy with added "dark" matter does just fine. String theory accounts for the existence of this dark matter.
  • What would happen if the sun disappeared? If the sun suddenly vanished, Earth would have 8 minutes before going dark, since it takes that long for the sun's light to reach us. But what about the sun's gravity? Would there be a similar delay, or would Earth go flying out of its orbit immediately? The answer to this question inspired one of the major theoretical goals of string theory.
  • Designer atoms: The configuration of subatomic particles in an atom is specified by a set of equations. These can be visualized, showing that if you alter the equations to change one type of particle into another, the atom collapses, rendering all life impossible.
  • Sizzling black holes: Physicist Stephen Hawking proposed that black holes do more than just bend light around them; they also give off a "sizzle" of static. Even though a black hole is itself invisible, these effects can be detected and visualized with computer graphics. Hawking's brilliant insight eventually led others to develop the first string theory.
  • Einstein's hypotenuse: Many of the ideas developed by Einstein, including E = mc², can be understood by analyzing a geometric figure called Einstein's hypotenuse. Use of this concept in early versions of string theory led to a bizarre particle called the tachyon.

This course is an immensely rich experience, filled with unexpected delights and mysterious encounters. You will often feel like a tourist in an exotic country, where the sights, sounds, aromas, and incidents are at times baffling but always invigorating and educational, leaving you with a desire to understand this complex world better.

If you've ever wanted to know what string theory is all about; or what theoretical physicists discuss over dinner; or how mathematical ideas guide our exploration of inconceivably tiny realms; or if you've ever wanted a glimpse of cutting-edge ideas about the fundamental structure of reality—then, by all means, we invite you to let Professor Gates be your guide into the amazing world of strings.

Superstring Theory: The DNA of Reality [TTC Video]

The History of Ancient Rome [TTC Video]

The History of Ancient Rome [TTC Video]
The History of Ancient Rome [TTC Video] by Garrett G Fagan
Course No 340 | AVI, XviD, 640x472 | MP3, 128 kbps, 2 Ch | 48x30 mins | + PDF Guidebook | 9.3GB

There are many reasons to study ancient Rome. Rome's span was vast. In the regional, restless, and shifting history of continental Europe, the Roman Empire stands as a towering monument to scale and stability. At its height, the Roman Empire, unified in politics and law, stretched from the sands of Syria to the moors of Scotland, and it stood for almost 700 years.

Rome's influence is indelible. Europe and the world owe a huge cultural debt to Rome in so many fields of human endeavor, such as art, architecture, engineering, language, literature, law, and religion. In this course you see how a small village of shepherds and farmers rose to tower over the civilized world of its day and left an indelible mark on history.

Rome's story is riveting. Professor Garrett G. Fagan draws on a wealth of primary and secondary sources, including recent historical and archaeological scholarship, to introduce the fascinating tale of Rome's rise and decline. You learn about all the famous events and personalities:

  • Horatius at the bridge
  • Hannibal crossing the Alps during Rome's life-or-death war with Carthage
  • Caesar assassinated before a statue of his archrival Pompey
  • Doomed lovers Antony and Cleopatra
  • Mad and venal emperors Nero and Caligula
  • The conversion of Constantine, and more.

From pre-Roman Italy through the long centuries of Republican and then Imperial rule, Professor Fagan interweaves narrative and analysis. Chronologically, the focus is on the years from 200 B.C.E. to 200 A.D., when Roman power was at its height.

The narrative of the rise and fall of Rome is itself compelling, and Professor Fagan's richly detailed and often humorous discussions of Roman life are uniquely memorable. You study women and the family, slaves, cities, religious customs, the ubiquitous and beloved institution of public bathing, the deep cultural impact of Hellenism, and such famous Roman amusements as chariot racing and gladiatorial games.

"Images and themes derived from or rooted in ancient Rome continue to exert an influence on the modern mind," says Professor Fagan. "Unlike many ancient states, Rome changed hugely in many spheres over the course of its 1,500-year history, and thus the history of Rome is an engaging, complex, and challenging subject."

From Village to Monarchy to Republic

The first 10 lectures of this course map the development of a group of preliterate hamlets into the Roman Republic. In them, you learn about:

  • The nature of the historical evidence for antiquity
  • The geopolitical and cultural shape of pre-Roman Italy
  • The foundation legends of Rome itself
  • The cycle of stories that surrounds the kings of Rome
  • The shape of early Roman society
  • The fall of the monarchy at Rome and the foundation, in its wake, of the Republic (traditionally dated to 509 B.C.E.).

These lectures examine two major forces that shaped the early Republic: the Struggle of the Orders and Roman military expansion in Italy. The lectures also explain how the Romans ruled their conquered territories in Italy, setting the foundations for the later acquisition and maintenance of the Empire.

Early Expansion and Rapid Collision

Moving outside of Italy, you next explore the expansion of Roman power in the 3rd and 2nd centuries B.C.E.

In two lectures Professor Fagan charts the course of the Romans' first two titanic struggles with their archrival in the west, Carthage.

In these wars, the Romans developed a large-scale navy, sent armies overseas, acquired foreign territories, and displayed what was to become one of their chief characteristics: a dogged determination to prevail, even in the face of seemingly impossible odds. This was particularly clear in the Second Punic War, when the gifted Carthaginian general Hannibal roamed freely in Italy, threatening the city of Rome itself.

Greek Influence and Roman Government

In Lectures 16–19, Professor Fagan pauses the narrative to examine the influence of Greek culture on Rome and the nature of the Roman Republican system of government.

This latter system—complex and replete with archaisms and redundancies—has influenced the form of several modern policies, including that of the United States.

Finally, Professor Fagan examines the pressures of empire on Roman society, charting considerable social, economic, and political changes brought about by Rome's overseas expansion. On the rocks of these pressures, the Republic was destined to founder.

The Roman Revolution

Lectures 20–27 follow the course of what modern scholars have termed the "Roman Revolution."

In the century between 133 and 31 B.C.E., the Roman Republic tore itself apart. It is a period of dramatic political and military developments, of ambitious generals challenging the authority of the state, of civil wars and vicious violence, and of some of the first great personalities of European history: Marius, Sulla, Pompey, and Julius Caesar.

The story is intriguing, complicated, and at times horrendous, and it illustrates perfectly the historical principle of contingency. With a few exceptions, each protagonist in the drama of the Revolution acted within the bounds of necessity or precedent, and thereby set new and dangerous precedents for later protagonists to follow.

In this way, the Roman Revolution was not a staged or planned event, but a cumulative snowball of crises that combined to shatter the system of Republican government.

After pausing to examine the social and cultural life of the Late Republic, you return to the last phases of the Revolution and the rise to power of the man who was to become Rome's first emperor, Augustus.

The Roman Empire

Lectures 31–33 examine the long reign of Augustus (31 B.C.E.–14 A.D.) and his new political order, the Principate. The Principate stood for centuries and brought stability and good government in a way that the old Republic could not.

Augustus's solution to the Republic's problems was clever and subtle. It also had a flaw at its core—the issue of succession—and what happened when an emperor died was to prove the single most destabilizing factor in the Principate's existence.

The next three lectures cover the early Imperial period, from the death of Augustus to the instability of the 3rd century. This is the era of such familiar Roman historical figures as Caligula, Claudius, Nero, and Hadrian.

Finally, Professor Fagan shows how the problem of the succession combined with ominous developments among Rome's external enemies in the 2nd and 3rd centuries A.D. to generate a period of great crisis, indeed near-collapse, in the mid-3rd century A.D.

Life in Classical Rome

Leaving the Empire under pressure, Professor Fagan considers life in classical Roman civilization in nine lectures. He explores the broad shape of Roman society, slavery, the Roman family, the role of women in Roman society, urbanism, public leisure and mass entertainment, paganism, and the rise of Christianity.

The End and a New Beginning

To conclude the course, the final three lectures return to the Empire's last centuries. The Empire is restored to order and stability at the end of the 3rd century, but under an increasingly oppressive government.

The institutionalization of Christianity to legitimize Imperial power and a more openly autocratic regime created, in many ways, a Roman Empire closer to medieval Europe than to the Empire of Augustus. As such, the later Empire is treated only in general terms here, since it warrants closer study by itself.

The course ends with one of the great questions in history: Why did the Roman Empire fall? We see how, in the eyes of most modern scholars, the Empire did not fall at all but just changed into something very different, a less urbanized, more rural, early medieval world.

The History of Ancient Rome [TTC Video]

Understanding the Fundamentals of Music [TTC Video]

Understanding the Fundamentals of Music [TTC Video]
Understanding the Fundamentals of Music [TTC Video] by Robert Greenberg
Course No 7261 | AVI, XviD, 640x480 | MP3, 128 kbps, 2 Ch | 16x45 mins | + PDF Guidebook | 4.43GB

We all know that beneath the surface of music, beyond the joy or excitement or even heartache that this beautiful language of sound can stir within us, lies the often mysterious realm of music theory—a complex syntax of structural and instrumental resources that composers may draw on.

No matter what kind of music we listen to—symphony or string quartet, saxophone solo or vocal ballad, hip hop or Gregorian chant—we feel the impact of that music and have done so all our lives, even though we may not know how such impact is achieved, or understand the fundamental processes of musical composition.

But what if we did understand how certain musical effects were achieved? What if we could learn to follow the often-intimidating language of key signatures, pitch, mode, melody, meter, and other parts of musical structure used by composers? What if we could recognize these various components at work as we listened to our favorite music? What if we could "speak" the language of Western music?

It's a language that Professor Robert Greenberg calls rich, varied, and magnificent, and he has little doubt about the rewards of even a beginning level of fluency.

"It's a language that pays us back tenfold—a hundredfold—for every detail we come to recognize and perceive! And it's a language that will only get richer and more varied, as our increasingly global culture contributes ever more vocabulary to it."

Learn the Basics of Music Theory without Knowing How to Read Music!

In this course, Professor Greenberg offers a spirited introduction to this magnificent language—nimbly avoiding what for many of us has long been the principal roadblock, the need to read music.

For anyone wanting to master music's language, being able to read musical notation is a necessity. But this course, as Professor Greenberg notes, is a basic course, designed to introduce you to music's language in a way that is similar to the way you learned your own native language, by "discovering and exploring musical syntax through our ears—by learning what the parts of musical speech sound like—rather than what they look like on paper."

By sidestepping the necessity to read music, these lectures represent an extremely rare opportunity in musical education—an opportunity to experience a solid introduction to music theory's basics in a way that is not technically intimidating, yet provides a substantial grounding in the fundamentals. As such, Professor Greenberg has devised a highly individualized approach to music theory. There is simply little or no literature in this field that can teach as much without recourse to music notation. Thus, it can appeal to those who are not learning, or even planning to learn, to play a musical instrument or to compose. It can even be beneficial to musicians who do not play a keyboard instrument and may have had difficulty grasping some of the more abstract concepts of music. As much as anything else, the course is designed to help deepen and intensify the experience of Professor Greenberg's other Teaching Company Courses, currently 21 in number.

Professor Greenberg has made use of a variety of tools, including thoughtfully chosen recorded examples, his own demonstrations at the piano, and helpful diagrams. One of those diagrams—a reproduction of a piano keyboard, with its keys identified—frees the student from needing access to a piano or any other keyboard instrument, a traditional demand of most music theory courses. It's of tremendous help in visualizing many of the course's most important concepts, such as how "pitch collections" are built, and it opens up the benefits of this course to anyone without access to a piano or keyboard instrument.

The extent of those benefits becomes clear the moment you start to apply the basic knowledge taught in this course. You'll listen to music with new levels of understanding and appreciation, not only when you find yourself at the concert hall, but also at home with your stereo, and when you're listening to your favorite music in the car or on a portable player.

Listen Over and Over and Learn More Each Time!

Each time you listen to this course—and Professor Greenberg has designed it to be listened to again and again—you increase your music-listening skills and come to appreciate what a complex and rewarding study music theory can be.

These are lectures that will prepare you, in Professor Greenberg's words, to "hear and identify those aspects of the musical language that are, collectively, the means to comprehending, on an intimate level, the music of the Western repertoire and, to a significant degree, the music of many other world cultures as well."

It's difficult to imagine a teacher more qualified to help you reach that goal. Professor Greenberg is one of The Teaching Company's most highly regarded, popular, and prolific teachers—as well as an award-winning composer in his own right. He has produced more than 500 lectures for The Teaching Company on a range of composers and genres, each marked by his characteristic knowledge, enthusiasm, humor, and, most important, unique ability to teach the technicalities of music to nontechnical audiences. A love of music and a desire to understand it are the only prerequisites you need.

All these skills are on constant display throughout the lectures, as Professor Greenberg takes you step by step through the material, laying a firm foundation before introducing the next concept. He begins by introducing you to the instrumental families of the orchestra and their characteristics, before moving on to subjects that might seem intimidating in a classroom: pulse and meter; sound, pitch, and pitch collections; melody and texture; tonality and tonal harmony. Professor Greenberg's lectures are clear and purposeful.

Learn about the People behind the Music

Along the way, you'll learn the human side of music—about the men and women who write and play it—and discover, for example, that:

  • When violinists or other string players use the bow over the fingerboard, or neck, of their instruments, a lovely, flutelike sound is produced, similar to the effect of clamping a comb-shaped muting device to the instrument's bridge. The technique is called sul tasto. Even though it is an effect that can be achieved instantly, without having to pause to clamp on a mute, string players generally dislike it. That's because the rosin they use on the hair of their bows to make the hair grip the strings gets on a part of the strings that may come into contact with the players' fingers—an unwelcome experience for string players. Not wishing to incur the wrath of the string section, experienced composers have thus learned to avoid using sul tasto unless absolutely necessary.
  • The piccolo has so much power that its piercingly brilliant sound can be painful, so piccolo players wear earplugs when they practice to protect themselves from their own instruments.
  • The extraordinary two-and-a-half octave upward slide—or glissando—that begins George Gershwin's 1924 Rhapsody in Blue has become the most famous clarinet glissando in all of music. Gershwin did not write it that way; he indicated a simple ascending scale. But Gershwin's original score was written for piano and then orchestrated by Ferde Grofé. Grofé knew that Russ Gorman, who would play clarinet in the Rhapsody's premiere, was extraordinarily gifted at playing glissandi. Grofé thus scored the opening of Rhapsody as a glissando, and the rest is musical history.
  • Hector Berlioz was rare among major composers for barely being able to play any individual musical instrument. The "instrument" he could play was the orchestra. Considered the most original, adventurous, and innovative orchestrator that had yet come along, his "Treatise on Orchestration" has been a must-read for composers and conductors since its publication in 1843.

Understanding the Fundamentals of Music is as rich in musical lore as it is in technical knowledge. It will reward you many times over, not only as you listen and relisten to the lectures, gaining a new understanding each time, but also as you listen to different varieties of music and find yourself enjoying a much deeper understanding of their compositional structures.

Understanding the Fundamentals of Music [TTC Video]

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