Physics for the 21st Century (online course)

Physics for the 21st Century

Physics for the 21st Century” is a freely available online course, created by the Annenberg Media organization and produced by the Science Media Group (SMG) at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA).  The course was designed for adult learners (“…including high school teachers, undergraduates, and the interested public”) and focuses on bridging the gap “…between what is being taught in high school and college and what is exciting physics researchers.” (from the “About this Course” page).  This is to say that the subject matter is the “frontiers of physics”.

The 11-unit course is presented through 22 case studies of researchers at various labs and universities who are engaged in key areas of interest within the larger physics research community.  The course is divided into three areas: The universe at its smallest (Subatomic particle physics; includes units on “The Fundamental Interactions”, “Gravity”, “String Theory and Extra Dimensions”, and more), The universe at an everyday scale (atomic and molecular physics; includes units on “Macroscopic Quantum Mechanics”, “Manipulating Light”, “Biophysics”, and more ), and The universe at its largest (cosmology; includes units on “Dark Matter” and “Dark Energy”).  Each unit consists of a thirty-minute video and an online text chapter.  Additionally, transcripts of the interviews done with the researchers are included, as are interactive features, static and animated images, a facilitator’s guide, and a glossary.

This course will have something to offer most visitors, whether you are looking for more background in the trajectory of contemporary physics, an example of how a functional online course might be organized, ideas about how to present current developments in physics to your students, or just a better understanding of the physical world.

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