Date:11 May 2014
This is probably the coolest thing to happen in the world of science education in the past 10 years. It’s an online university founded by theoretical physicist and bestselling author Brian Greene, the man behind the annual World Science Festival in New York – an event hailed by The New York Times as “a new cultural institution”.
Greene needs no introduction to the scientific community, and even less so to string theorists, but it’s worth knowing that his books – including The Elegant Universe, The Fabric of the Cosmos and The Hidden Reality – have had a significant impact on the wider reading public, demystifying arcane concepts in such a way that we are able to share his excitement and sense of wonder. The Universe is indeed a strange place, and we have only just begun to plumb its secrets.
As Greene tells it, World Science U “combines the best parts of the traditional classroom with the power of digital innovation” to create a new kind of learning experience. He will be teaching the first two courses, both on Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity, with additional courses and instructors planned for the near future.
The two courses will both focus on special relativity but are separated according to the amount of maths used. They will be taught through a combination of short explanatory videos and longer video lectures accompanied by interactive assignments and exercises aimed at mimicking a classroom environment.
The World Science U line-up is a work in progress, but so far we can reveal that wannabe students have a choice between Short Courses and University Courses. The former are aimed at a broad spectrum of lifelong learners, typically requiring two or three weeks to complete, and have no homework or exams. They provide non-technical explorations that go beyond traditional science popularisations. University Courses, as their name suggests, are university-level offerings that typically require eight to 10 weeks to complete. Students work at their own pace and earn World Science U certification upon successful course completion.
But wait – there’s more! It’s called Science Unplugged, and it provides hundreds of short video answers to a wide range of questions ranging from “What is a Higgs Particle?” to “What happens to time near a black hole?”. Among the subjects that might appeal to a lay audience: What is Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle? What is string theory? What is Schrödinger’s Cat? What does quantum mechanics tell us about reality? What happens if you fall into a black hole? Interested? Then sign up now.
— Professor Greene, a professor of physics and mathematics at Columbia University, is recognised for a number of groundbreaking discoveries in his field of superstring theory, including the co-discovery of mirror symmetry, which launched a vibrant field of research in physics and mathematics, and also the discovery of topology change, which showed that unlike Einstein’s General Relativity, in string theory, the fabric of space can tear apart. Professor Greene is the co-founder and director of Columbia’s Institute for Strings, Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics, a research centre seeking string theory’s implications for theories of cosmology.
Source: World Science U