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Learner Reviews & Feedback for Understanding Einstein: The Special Theory of Relativity by Stanford University

1,771 ratings
572 reviews

About the Course

In this course we will seek to “understand Einstein,” especially focusing on the special theory of relativity that Albert Einstein, as a twenty-six year old patent clerk, introduced in his “miracle year” of 1905. Our goal will be to go behind the myth-making and beyond the popularized presentations of relativity in order to gain a deeper understanding of both Einstein the person and the concepts, predictions, and strange paradoxes of his theory. Some of the questions we will address include: How did Einstein come up with his ideas? What was the nature of his genius? What is the meaning of relativity? What’s “special” about the special theory of relativity? Why did the theory initially seem to be dead on arrival? What does it mean to say that time is the “fourth dimension”? Can time actually run more slowly for one person than another, and the size of things change depending on their velocity? Is time travel possible, and if so, how? Why can’t things travel faster than the speed of light? Is it possible to travel to the center of the galaxy and return in one lifetime? Is there any evidence that definitively confirms the theory, or is it mainly speculation? Why didn’t Einstein win the Nobel Prize for the theory of relativity? About the instructor: Dr. Larry Lagerstrom is the Director of Academic Programs at Stanford University’s Center for Professional Development, which offers graduate certificates in subjects such as artificial intelligence, cyber security, data mining, nanotechnology, innovation, and management science. He holds degrees in physics, mathematics, and the history of science, has published a book and a TED Ed video on "Young Einstein: From the Doxerl Affair to the Miracle Year," and has had over 30,000 students worldwide enroll in his online course on the special theory of relativity (this course!)....

Top reviews


Mar 22, 2020

Thanks for helping me understand the Special Theory of Relativity, covered a lot of ground but repeated it so it really could sink in. Like your style and want to thank you for your assistance. Thanks


Jun 23, 2017

This course is very comprehensive and well prepared material for understanding the Special Theory of Relativity. Larry (the instructor) is very expert and has broad knowledge in explaining the course.

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1 - 25 of 563 Reviews for Understanding Einstein: The Special Theory of Relativity

By Joy S

Nov 18, 2018

This professor says he will make haste slowly, and he does. I have typically face difficulties in understanding physics, math, and this type of subject but I was able to pass this course with a respectable grade because of this professor.

By Ian H

Nov 05, 2019

Since such online courses became available some years ago, I have followed a number of them on different subjects and on different platforms. This course is simply outstanding. It is hard to imagine how Dr Lagerstrom's construction of the course might be improved upon.

Starting from some very basic principles and with the help of a little simple school algebra, step by step he progressively lays out for us some of the counter-intuitive yet fundamental rules by which the universe functions. Each step is in itself simple, logical, and well within the scope of the most average of learners. But upon course completion, since the student has followed the entire process step by step from basic principles, they emerge with a depth of understanding of apparently complex matters that prove not to be impenetrable at all.

Dr Lagerstrom has managed to show that nobody needs to be afraid of this subject, or be concerned that it is somehow beyond their understanding. Not only is special relativity comprehensible, it may be deeply understood, starting from a few basic tenets, and that is a form of understanding that goes far beyond merely a grasp of the principles of a theory.

By Ken I

Dec 13, 2019

Outstanding course and instructor. I really appreciate that this is made available for free. This class was exactly what I was looking for....more into depth than YouTube explanations of relativity, but not as deep as general relativity with advanced math. If you know some algebra and are willing to put your brain to work, you'll like this class. Yes, I agree with some others that the instructor was repetitive at times, but many students with less math background I'm sure appreciated that. I just skipped forward a little if needed. There was plenty of meat and extra math problems if you wanted it to be more challenging. More than anything, i'd like to thank Stanford and the professor for taking the time to create and share this class.

By David B

Dec 18, 2019

I really enjoyed this course, but you need to have appropriate expectations of it. As many reviewers have noted, it does move slowly and the lectures are fairly repetitive, but the lecturer has an excellent command of the material and his explanations are very clear. You will learn time dilation, length contraction, "leading clocks lag", the Lorentz transformation and a fair amount about Einstein's life. It also touches on E=mc^2 and some basic results of general relativity. You will not learn anything about relativistic momentum or electrodynamics, and relativistic energy is just mentioned. The course uses algebra, but no calculus. You will not see four-vectors or tensors.

By Gina H

Oct 09, 2019

I am currently an A level student wanted to study physics for university, I have completed this course and was well explained with a mixture of maths with the concepts explained. It helped a lot with my personal statement and I realised this is an area that I took particular interest within the subject. It is suitable for beginners new to this theory, and will recommend if you want to know more about time dilation.

By John

Mar 22, 2020

Thanks for helping me understand the Special Theory of Relativity, covered a lot of ground but repeated it so it really could sink in. Like your style and want to thank you for your assistance. Thanks

By Sahib S

Dec 09, 2019

Almost anyone can learn about the special theory of relativity from these lectures. I actually can't believe that I studied from a professor who teaches in the USA and in so simple way. I am grateful.

By Om P

Aug 15, 2019

Hats off to the professor for being able to explain such mind-boggling concepts about the very nature of existence in an entertaining and intuitive way. One of my favorite courses on Coursera by far!

By Arnav J

Nov 13, 2018

This is a very interesting course that is taught in a way that makes it even more interesting. Concepts are built from the bottom up and the process is enjoyable.

By Mike K

Mar 04, 2019

Although the pace can sometimes be slow, Larry's presentation is a model for all teachers.

By Alan H

Feb 16, 2019

Professor Lagerstrom went out of his way to include a wide range of understandings in this ride to understanding relativity and its' non-symmetric duality. (I always thought relativity was the same for the one in motion as the one at rest... not true! Time dilation happens differently.) This and many other wonderful revelations were opened for me without the need to perform the math, altho... I made myself go back and do a sheet of Algebra "brush up" and then re-attacked the course by working all the math, so I really had two tangents of learning here. If I was ever trapped in a Spaceship and had to be on time for dinner on Earth, I'd trust Larry to tell me how fast to go, implicitly. My new understanding of "frames of reference", relative length, leading clocks, time dilation and temporal plotting has all but destroyed the science behind all of my favorite television shows... but I can calculate the Lorentz factor and truly can mentally conceptualize the effects of near light movement and it has made me believe that black holes exist as a continual part of the Big Bang, as time restarts when you reach the center (and nearly stops on the way). I also couldn't understand how a photon could last all the way to Earth, until I learned of the muon! I couldn't picture this in my mind, until I took this course. Thank You!

By Susan M

Feb 05, 2019

I enjoyed this course tremendously and recommend it to anyone who wants to delve into the Special Theory of Relativity. It's easy to see why Larry Randles Lagerstrom has received awards for excellence in teaching. He knows where students are likely to get confused and gives careful explanations along with helpful reminders, so students can move along with the material without having to go back and re-read earlier sections.

By Esteve C

Nov 07, 2019

It has been very interesting and exciting to follow this course.

It was also challenging to complete it with a quite good comprehension of the subject. However there are some concepts I'll have to review trying a better understanding.

I have really enjoyed the way how professor Lagerstrom explains the concepts in a so plain manner.

Thank you for doing it so well.

Kind Regards.

By Tapeesh k

Jan 27, 2019

Exceptionally good course.

This is the first course I paid for verified certificate and finished in 3 weeks instead of 6. It was almost like detective novel. I could not wait to see what happens next.

Dr Lagerstrom took his time explaining everything slowly.

I wish he will do a course on general theory of relativity too.

By Avi

Dec 05, 2019

This course is both stimulating and inspiring largely in part due to the delivery of the materials by Prof. Larry Randles Lagerstrom. This journey, is one that I would highly recommend anyone who is in interested, or even curious about this topic, should take.

By Siddhartha G

Oct 07, 2019

The professor was simply excellent: well-organized and articulate. The quizzes test your knowledge of what is taught in the lectures. My only complaint was that the textbook that was suggested ("Spacetime Physics") is now out of print.


Jul 07, 2019

This course was really interesting and the Professor was excellent. Thanks to the professor and the mentors too as they took their time to clarify the doubts of the learners via the discussion page.

By Jessica C

Nov 10, 2019

A good balance of qualitative and quantitative elements. Perfect for someone who is interested in the Special Theory of Relativity but did not get enough from introductory books.

By Arnaud D

Nov 10, 2018

The course covers the base of special theory of relativity, as well as historical background. The course is easy to follow. The assements are easy also. Really enjoyable course !

By annova

Nov 27, 2019

this course gave me more curiosity about einsten, (even though I haven't completed it yet :)) if you are interested in einstein and his theory, I suggest you take a look

By Ibrahim U

Oct 22, 2019

Each concept is lucidly explained with full context given behind each contest. Recommend everybody to give it a try!!

By Daniel P

Nov 02, 2019

Es un curso largo y lento pero permite aprender los fundamentos de la teoria y retenerlos para siempre. Buen curso.

By ramadas d

Dec 31, 2017

got to know a lot with concise and yet detailed explaination with simple requirements of mathematics and physics.

By Abanoub

Dec 13, 2019

thanks alot, all credits to Dr.Larry Randles Lagerstrom and Coursera team

By Gefei L

Nov 19, 2019

Easy to comprehend for people with non-science background. Great course!