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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.

87,170 enrolled on this course

  • Duration

    6 weeks
  • Weekly study

    2 hours

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.

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

Skip to 0 minutes and 43 seconds Is the moon falling?

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

Skip to 0 minutes and 58 seconds Why 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 seconds Why that is a universe hot and dense after the big bang?

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

Skip to 1 minute and 56 seconds To 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

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • 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?

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?

Paris Diderot

Situated in the heart of Paris, Université Paris Diderot is the only multidisciplinary university in Paris to offer a wide range of degrees in the Humanities, Medicine and the Sciences.

Learning on FutureLearn

Your learning, your rules

  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

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