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Superstring Theory: The DNA of Reality, Short Course

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One of the most exciting scientific adventures of all time is the search for the ultimate nature of physical reality, a hunt that in the past century has yielded such breakthroughs as Einstein's theory of relativity and quantum mechanics, two theories that radically altered our picture of space, time, gravity, and the fundamental building blocks of matter. 


A Challenging Course in a Fascinating Field

The Teaching Company offers just such a guide in Professor S. James Gates Jr., director of the Center for String and Particle Theory at the University of Maryland. Professor Gates is an old hand in this very young field. In 1977 he wrote the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's first-ever doctoral dissertation on supersymmetry, the precursor to string theory.

In the midst of teaching, pursuing research, and writing scores of scientific papers over the past two decades, Dr. Gates has also presented nearly 100 public talks on string theory, honing a set of visual aids designed to convey the difficult mathematical ideas that underlie this subject to a lay audience.

The 24 lectures in Superstring Theory: The DNA of Reality incorporate Dr. Gates's field testing of this matchless set of graphics, which are the most technically lavish that The Teaching Company has ever presented. Prepare to be intrigued, enlightened, and amazed.

Because the goal of string theory is to unite relativity and quantum mechanics in a comprehensive "theory of everything," this course nicely complements two other Teaching Company courses: Professor Richard Wolfson's Einstein's Relativity and the Quantum Revolution: Modern Physics for Non-Scientists, 2nd Edition, and Professor Steven Pollack's Particle Physics for Non-Physicists: A Tour of the Microcosmos.

Combined with Superstring Theory: The DNA of Reality, this trio of Teaching Company courses traces the development of physics in the 20th century—from well-tested theories such as relativity and quantum mechanics, to the more abstract research of late 20th-century particle physics, to the strange world of string theory, which is still in an intense state of flux.

Spaghetti Strands

The essence of string theory is that the smallest, most fundamental objects in the universe are not little balls knocking around like billiards, as had been thought for about 2,000 years. Instead, these small objects are supermicroscopic filaments—like tiny strands of spaghetti—whose different vibrational modes produce the multitude of particles that are observed in the laboratory.

So when a string vibrates in one way, it might appear to be an electron. If it vibrates in a different manner, it would look like a quark. It could vibrate in a third way and display the properties of a photon. Or perhaps it vibrates in a fourth mode and physicists say, "That's a graviton!" This gives strings an inherent ability to unify phenomena that had always been assumed to be different. If string theory ultimately proves correct, then strings are truly the DNA of reality.

Detailed Programme Facts

  • Deadline and start date 24 lectures - 30 minutes per lecture
  • Programme intensity Full-time
  • Languages
    • English
  • Delivery mode

Programme Structure

24 Lectures:

  1. The Macro/Micro/Mathematical Connection
  2. Who Is Afraid of Music?
  3. Apropos Einstein's Perfect Brainstorm Year
  4. Honey, I Shrunk to the Quantum World—Part I
  5. Honey, I Shrunk to the Quantum World—Part II
  6. Dr. Hawking's Dilemma
  7. I'd Like to See a Cosmos Sing in Perfect Harmony
  8. Einstein's Hypotenuse and Strings—Part I
  9. Einstein's Hypotenuse and Strings—Part II
  10. Tying Up the Tachyon Monster with Spinning Strings
  11. The Invasion of the Anti-Commuting Numbers
  12. It's a Bird—A Plane—No, It's Superstring!
  13. Gauge Theory—A Brief Return to the Real World
  14. Princeton String Quartet Concerti—Part I
  15. Princeton String Quartet Concerti—Part II
  16. Extra Dimensions—Ether-like or Quark-like?
  17. The Fundamental Forces Strung Out
  18. Do-See-Do and Swing Your Superpartner—Part I
  19. Do-See-Do and Swing Your Superpartner—Part II
  20. A Superpartner for Dr. Einstein's Graviton
  21. Can 4D Forces (without Gravity) Love Strings?
  22. If You Knew SUSY
  23. Can I Have that Extra Dimension in the Window?
  24. Is String Theory the Theory of Our Universe?


Ph.D. S. James Gates Jr.

University of Maryland, College Park

Dr. S. James Gates Jr. is the John S. Toll Professor of Physics and Director of the Center for String and Particle Theory at the University of Maryland at College Park. He earned two B.S. degrees in mathematics and physics and earned his Ph.D. in the studies of elementary particle physics and quantum field theory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dr. Gates's first post was a Junior Fellow in the Harvard Society of Fellows. That led to an appointment at the California Institute of Technology and a faculty appointment at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. During his tenure at the University of Maryland, Dr. Gates served a leave of absence as Professor of Physics and Department Chair at Howard University. Professor Gates is the recipient of many awards and honors, including the American Physical Society's Bouchet Award; the MIT Martin Luther King, Jr., Leadership Award; the Klopsteg Award of the American Association of Physics Teachers; the Washington Academy of Sciences College Science Teacher of the Year Award; and the 2006 Public Understanding of Science and Technology Award by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. In 2009, he was appointed to the President's Council of Advisers on Science and Technology and became a member of the Maryland State Board of Education. Professor Gates is the author or coauthor of more than 180 published research papers and is the coauthor of Superspace, or 1001 Lessons in Supersymmetry. Professor Gates has been featured on four PBS television series: Breakthrough: The Changing Face of Science in America; A Science Odyssey;The Elegant Universe; and E = mc2: The Biography of the World's Most Famous Equation. Professor Gates has also served as a consultant for the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the U.S. Department of Defense.

English Language Requirements

This programme requires students to demonstrate proficiency in English.

Tuition Fee

  • International Applies to you

    254 USD/module
    Tuition Fee
    Based on the original amount of 254 USD per module and a duration of  .
  • National Applies to you

    254 USD/module
    Tuition Fee
    Based on the original amount of 254 USD per module and a duration of  .
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