Gravity: The Force That Explains Everything (2nd 7 weeks)
S 2019


Note: The core book (and thus, the SDG) is intended for non-scientists.  There is no math required and no prior background beyond general knowledge.  If you want a meatier proposal, I can re-write this using Reality Is Not What It Seems: The Journey to Quantum Gravity by Carlo Rovelli as the core book.  That would turn it into 10 or 14 weeks   

Gravity is a weak force, not a strong one. Yet, on a large scale, it is so irresistible that it controls the evolution and fate of the universe. Newton's Theory of Gravitation was a revolution in scientific thought, and it was successful in many ways: explaining the motion of the planets and ocean tides and predicting the existence of Neptune, an undiscovered planet at the time. Newton's theory held sway until Einstein showed that gravity is warped space-time, allowing scientists to explain the anomalous motion of Mercury and to predict the existence of black holes and the big bang. The detection of a gravitational wave in 2015 confirmed Einstein's prediction of it a hundred years earlier.

Today, physicists realize that gravity is still not fully explained by Newton and Einstein, and they are embarking on a search for a deeper theory of gravity: a quantum theory of gravitation. Assembling the pieces in the puzzle of quantum gravity will result in a seismic shift in our understanding of space-time and fundamentally alter our view of reality. 

In this  SDG, we will discover how we got to this point, standing on the brink of a vast undiscovered landscape of physics. We will begin with Newton, move through the centuries to Einstein and complete the study with a look at physicists struggling to uncover the quantum theory of space-time that will move us beyond Einstein.  

Weekly Topics

Weeks 1-3: Newton

  • We will ask how Newton found the first universal law. As we understand Newton's theory of gravity, we will discover how Newton created a system and that provided the key to understanding the universe, both what we see and what we cannot see.

Weeks 4-6: Einstein

  • We will explore how Einstein determined that nothing is faster than the speed of light and that this is incompatible with Newton. We will unravel Einstein's theory that gravity is warped space-time; we will discover both the success of this theory and the predictions of inexplicable things at the singularity of a black-hole, requiring a new theory.

Week 7: Beyond Einstein

  • We will look at the the current state of physics and the struggle to ind a deeper theory than Einstein's.


Core Book

The Ascent of Gravity: The Quest to Understand the Force that Explains Everything by Marcus Crown (2017).

Additional  Book:

On Gravity: A Brief Tour of a Weighty Subject by A. Zee (2018).