Learn About Life, The Universe, And Everything From A Theoretical Physicist


Curiosity is proud to spotlight services like Coursera that can make you smarter. Learn more about how you can take university-quality courses online at the bottom of this article.

If you've got a question about the world or a skill you want to master, chances are that you can find something to help you on the internet. But not all online resources are created equal, and it can be hard for a novice to know whether the information they're getting is worthwhile. After all, it's just as easy for Neil de Grasse Tyson to make a YouTube video as it is for that odd guy you went to high school with.

University education is generally considered the gold standard when it comes to learning, but not everyone has the time or money to take a college course. In a perfect world, university-level courses and professors would be available online so anyone could participate. That's what Coursera does: for minimal cost, it lets anyone with an internet connection learn a wide range of topics from professors of leading universities. Plus, unlike the "university of Google," you have something to show for it once you're done: an official course or specialization certificate, perfect for inclusion in your resume and LinkedIn profile. You can even get a full online degree.

Courses range from sought-after industry expertise such as data science, deep learning, and machine learning to soft skills like negotiation and management. One course that's particularly up Curiosity's alley? "From the Big Bang to Dark Energy" from the University of Tokyo, taught by theoretical physicist Hitoshi Murayama.

Where Did This All Come From?

Murayama's course starts out with the basic questions: why does the sun rise and set? What causes the seasons? What's keeping our feet planted on the ground? With each answer, you dive further and further into the fundamental principles that govern all of reality. By the end of the first week, you've discovered why we know the universe is expanding and are puzzling over what might happen at the end of its life.

Having taken the wide view, Murayama then zooms way, way in on the fundamental building blocks of the universe. You learn how the elements in our bodies are forged in the hearts of stars, and why the discovery of the Higgs boson was such a big deal. Have you ever wondered what keeps spinning galaxies from flinging all of their stars out to space? Murayama answers that, too. It's due to dark matter, an unknown substance that exerts a mysterious pull on everything nearby. Finally, you delve into the very smallest stuff possible: quantum physics, principles of which explain quirks in the background radiation of the universe.

Some Coursera classes require previous knowledge — Andrew Ng's Deep Learning Specialization, for example, requires some coding skills — but others, like Murayama's, are designed for many different backgrounds. If your math is rusty, you'll still get a thorough understanding of the class concepts. But if you've got some algebra, geometry, and calculus under your belt, you can follow along with the formulas and delve even deeper.

You Are What You Learn

Do online classes really work? Without a person to see whether you're paying attention, what's to stop you from wandering off during the lecture? Well, aside from the fact that a 2014 MIT study showed that online classes are just as effective as in-person classes, Coursera makes sure you've digested the content in a few different ways. When you finish each lecture video, the system automatically takes you to a practice quiz that tests your understanding of the concepts the teacher just covered. At the end of each unit, there's a graded quiz that has you truly prove your knowledge. And throughout the course, the discussion forums offer a place to ask questions and discuss concepts with the TA, university staff, and other students.

Once you've completed the course, you get an electronic course certificate you can share with the world, whether on resumes, LinkedIn, or a personal website. If you're anything like us, though, you'll just want to sign up for the next one.

Coursera lets you take your pick from hundreds of courses taught by the world's best instructors at the world's best universities, from career skills like data science and business to the world-expanding realms of the arts and humanities. Register for a course now and take the first step toward deep understanding and more marketable skills.

From the Big Bang to Dark Energy with Hitoshi Murayama

Written by Curiosity Staff September 13, 2017