Understanding the Universe: An Introduction to Astronomy 2nd Edition

| November 22, 2012 | 0 Comments

It seems like a good time to update our video section. So throughout my random stumblings on YouTube I found this guy Dr. Alex Filipenko. Alex Filippenko received his Ph.D. in Astronomy from Caltech in 1984 and joined the University of California, Berkeley faculty in 1986, where he is currently the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Distinguished Professor in the Physical Sciences. As an observational astronomer he makes frequent use of the Hubble Space Telescope and the Keck 10-meter telescopes. His primary areas of research are supernovae, active galaxies, black holes, gamma-ray bursts, and the expansion of the Universe.

ActorsAlex Fiippenko

Format: NTSC

Region: US & Canada

Number of Discs: 16

Run Time: 2880 minutes

ASIN: 1598032747

Reviews: 3 customer reviews

Rating: ★★★★½ Ranking: 101,346 US Version UK Version:n/a

The video that I’d like to share is apparently an excerpt from a long video course on astronomy called “Understanding the Universe: An Introduction to Astronomy”. “Understanding the Universe” is a part of “The Great Courses”, which is an actually great website offering video courses in a variety of fields like Science & Mathematics, History, Philosophy and even Literature and Arts. Every video course offers a great number of lectures (“An Introduction to Astronomy” offers over 90 lectures on the subject!) including diagrams, video footage and, of course, a world-leading lecturer. And I am absolutely not kidding about great lecturers — “The Great Courses” has very high standarts when it comes to choosing lecturers. Among many others you can find courses by James Gates, Brian Fagan, Michael Starbird and others. You can find a full list of their experts here.


So what are these courses all about? “The Great Courses” are basically good quality video lectures including a wide range of subjects. Most of the time you see one of the experts talking, however there are some great illustrations and animations as well. Some of the courses look rather similar in terms of “story-telling style” to popular science documentaries. For instance the video excerpt from one of the courses by Neil deGrasse Tyson contains a lot of effects, pictures and animations. Other courses, however, are not as fancy. Still, most of them offer some great content, which makes you forget the lack of pictures or animations.

In terms of technical content, the courses that I’ve seen mostly lacked substance. For instance, many science courses focused on a very superficial information, which did not include any equations, focusing only some basic diagrams and the basics in general. And being honest, I do not know of any way of truly learning physics or astronomy without learning the maths. This brings me to another disadvantage of “The Great Courses” — the price. Most of the courses vary in price anywhere between $30 to almost $200. In particular, the “An Introduction to Astronomy” costs almost $200, which, taking into account the lack of technical information seems too high. I mean, if you are willing to pay $200 to learn astronomy you’d be better off by buying a good textbook, stargazing guide or even a set of real university video lectures. Having said that, if you are willing to spend some cash I would recommend these lecture for anyone, who is looking for a good kick-start in learning science. Also, some of the courses can be found on Amazon for a much cheaper price. So if all this sounds like you could benefit from these course, check them out.




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Category: Physics & Science Documentaries

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