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Free online course

Gravity! The Big Bang, Black Holes and Gravitational Waves

Gravity runs the Universe. This free online course explains why, exploring gravitational waves, black holes and the Big Bang.

Free:

  • Access to the course for its duration + 14 days, starting from when you join
  • No access to course tests
  • No certificate

Upgraded:

  • Unlimited access to the course for as long as it exists on FutureLearn
  • Access to course tests
  • A Certificate of Achievement when you complete the course

Find out more

Gravity! The Big Bang, Black Holes and Gravitational Waves

Why join the course?

What is gravity? This fundamental force is the common theme between concepts as intriguing as the Big Bang, black holes, dark energy, space-time, gravitational waves and the expansion of the Universe.

If these concepts pique your interest, this free online course is for you. It doesn’t require any background in physics or mathematics, just a simple curiosity about the Universe and our place in it.

Discover why the discovery of gravitational waves in 2016 is a real scientific revolution

The theory of gravity, Einstein’s theory of relativity, was published in 1915. This course presents in a simple way the main ideas behind this theory, before explaining why “gravity is the engine of the Universe.”

We will also explore the 2016 discovery of gravitational waves – a phenomenon that Einstein predicted exactly 100 years ago. By the end of the course, we’ll find out:

  • why, the further you look, the more distant the past is;
  • how we can tell what happened just after the Big Bang;
  • what the dark components of the Universe are;
  • what happens when you cross the horizon of a black hole;
  • why the discovery of gravitational waves is opening an extraordinary exploration of our Universe and our space-time.

Learn with gravity experts including a Nobel Prize-winning physicist

Over six weeks, you’ll learn with Pierre Binétruy, the Director of the Paris Centre for Cosmological Physics at Paris Diderot University, as well as the cosmologist, George Smoot, who will explain the discovery that earned him the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2006.

Download video: standard or HD

Skip to 0 minutes and 35 secondsYou have always asked, why are material objects falling?

Skip to 0 minutes and 43 secondsIs the moon falling?

Skip to 0 minutes and 48 secondsHow many galaxies to our universe? Can I understand general relativity?

Skip to 0 minutes and 58 secondsWhy is the universe expanding? What is dark energy? And what is information contained in the first light emitted right after the big bang?

Skip to 1 minute and 28 secondsWhy that is a universe hot and dense after the big bang?

Skip to 1 minute and 48 secondsHow do I know that the gravitational wave is passing through the room?

Skip to 1 minute and 56 secondsTo cross or not to cross the horizon of a black hole? Is it a question? If you want to know why, if you want to know how, and much more, please join us on the MOOC Gravity on Future Learn.

What topics will you cover?

  • The development of the theory of gravity from Galileo to Newton et Einstein
  • An introduction to the principles of general relativity
  • The acceleration of the Universe
  • Big Bang theory
  • The theory of cosmic inflation
  • First light in the Universe: the cosmic microwave background
  • The discovery of fluctuations in the cosmic background
  • The scientific case for dark matter
  • The acceleration of the expansion of the Universe and dark energy
  • The notion of vacuum in quantum theory and in gravitation
  • The physics of black holes
  • Scientific debates around the status of information in black holes
  • The discovery of gravitational waves
  • Space missions associated with the theme of gravity

When would you like to start?

  • Date to be announced

What will you achieve?

  • Explore the modern concepts underlying the fundamental aspects of the physics of the Universe
  • Design thought experiments which illustrate the basic properties of the gravitational force in familiar (on Earth) or unfamiliar (on the Moon, in space or close to black holes) settings
  • Discuss with other learners the most subtle or most unusual properties of space and time in the context of gravity
  • Experiment with gravity using simple experiments in order to better identify the basic concepts
  • Investigate complementary aspects of gravity by researching science magazines or the web
  • Debate about the present controversies in the physics of the Universe using the concepts learned in the course and scientific reasoning

Who is the course for?

This course doesn’t require any background in physics or mathematics, just a simple curiosity about the Universe.

Who will you learn with?

Pierre Binétruy

Working in the AstroParticle and Cosmology lab (APC, Paris) at the interface between particle physics and cosmology. Director of the Paris Centre for Cosmological Physics of Université Paris Diderot.

Who developed the course?

Buy a personalised, digital and printed certificate and transcript

You can buy a Certificate of Achievement for this course — a personalised certificate and transcript in both digital and printed formats, to prove what you’ve learnt. A Statement of Participation is also available for this course.

Certificate of Achievement + transcript £49.00

Statement of Participation £34.00

Estimate prices in preferred currency

Charges to your account will be made in GBP. Prices in local currency are provided as a convenience and are only an estimate based on current exchange rates.

Course highlights Get a taste of this course before you join:

  • Galileo and the falling bodies
    Galileo and the falling bodies
    video

    Watch Pierre Binétruy explain how Galileo found the law of free, using a combination of real (inclined plane) and thought experiments (12 minutes)

  • First encounter with relativity
    First encounter with relativity
    video

    Pierre Binétruy focuses on the notion of inertia, measured by mass, frame of reference and Galileo's principle of relativity