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

2,871 ratings

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 21, 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 22, 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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101 - 125 of 984 Reviews for Understanding Einstein: The Special Theory of Relativity

By Stephen C

Mar 4, 2018

Larry Lagerstrom is excellent. He speaks clearly -- and repeats concepts. He is very experienced at this, applying models to illustrate points, understanding where the student might have difficulty, and going over points to make sure we have got the idea. I realized quite early that if I did not understand the concepts of this course, it would certainly not be his fault.

I enjoyed this course. It got me to think in a different way -- stretched my brain in addition to increasing my knowledge about the specific subject.


By Don R

Feb 9, 2017

Professor Lagerstrom does a superb job of presenting Einstein's special theory of relativity. There is a good balance of history, high school level mathematics and thought experimentation. I have been studying Einstein's special theory of relativity, mostly by reading books, for over 60 years and this course solidified the theory in my mind. I actually have two good friends named Alice and Bob, who are unrelated to the course heroine and hero. The real heroes in the course are Professors Einstein and Lagerstrom.

By Miljenko N

Nov 6, 2020

Nothing but excellent. Methodic, simple, clear. Professor looks also as a calm and eloquent person with a broader knowledge of historical events. He added some flavor to the lectures, giving interesting historical points and thoughts supported with Einstein's and other quotations from that time. Historical context just enabled easier understanding and memorizing of the matter and was dosed just not to move the focus from the main goal. I can only wish that the next courses I'll attend, will be on the same level.


Dec 29, 2021

I found this course t be very interesting, informative, and laid out in a simple and instructive manner that anyone could comprehend the material. I, myself, have been out of formal school for many years and had zero problem getting into the material with some enthusiasm. Professor Langerstrom did a fantastic job in presenting this course in a plain and simple format that wasn't to overwhelming to the beginner novice like myself. Outstanding job! Highly recommend this course. Thank you Professor Langerstrom.

By Alex C

Feb 14, 2021

Really lovely course! I studied mathematical physics at edinburgh and we of course covered special relativity. I believe it was 2 lectures! Sort of heres the lorentz transformation and heres some calculus and some problems...there ya go. I was utterly disappointed. Now i feel i have learnt something! I took the course as I have moved flats to now live approximately 50 metres away from Einsteins flat in Bern, and i realized despite having studied physics i knew almost nothing about einstein! Many many thanks!

By Wai H C

May 3, 2020

Excellent course, covering a basic fundamental understanding of special relativity and the historical context within which Einstein made his discovery. The math required to understand the concepts are also straightforward high/secondary school level math. I took this as a refresher, having took a class back in undergrad college on the same subject and it helped me recall the core concepts of the subject. Recommended as an excellent introduction for anyone interested in physical science in general

By Nancy B

Aug 10, 2020

Extremely interesting course. It is challenging but Dr. Lagerstrom's pledge to "make haste slowly" benefits students and covers the material thoroughly. The material is presented from a variety of viewpoints, which should make the concepts clear for everyone. The amount of data covered is impressive. It illustrates the degree to which Einstein had command of his subject matter. I will likely never use the information presented in this course but I'm really glad I took the journey to acquire it.

By Eila

Apr 2, 2021

Thank you so much, I thoroughly enjoyed this course. Larry is brilliant. All the mathematics were just right for me and the historical considerations perfect for a short course. I shall continue to read through my personal 'Einstein' library. Oh and Larry I loved your 'Young Einstein' book. I am now looking for another similar style of course.

My certificate is framed and up on the wall in the kitchen. I would have liked the title of the course to have been much bigger and bolder. Thanks again.

By Lawrence K

May 22, 2020

I really thoroughly enjoyed this course. I felt that Professor Lagerstrom is an excellent teacher who made the complex much easier to understand. I particularly liked the “class notes” and his philosophy of Festina lente - make haste slowly.

In college many years ago this whole subject was too mind bending for me to approach so my education when I other directions. It is nice that so many years later I could revisit that challenge a gain a better understanding. Thank you so much for that.


Nov 23, 2020

Awesome experience! The complex theory is presented and taught by Professor through so many video-lectures with examples and explaining so nicely that I was engrossed totally and completed successfully in advance. There are quizzes at the end of each section - this helped me to understand the subject thoroughly. This is my best experience in online learning. Knowledge on the subject, efforts, and presentation by respected Professor is highly commendable, My whole-hearted regards to him!

By Xin H

Jan 21, 2017

Professor Lagerstrom takes it slow to approach the theory, making it available to anyone with very basic math skills. While the equations are important, building the mental model around the strange world is way more essential to comprehending the special theory of relativity, and that is where this course shines. Professor Lagerstrom will look at the same problem in many different angles, cross referencing between them constantly, making sure the fundamentals of the theory sinks in.

By Dan W

Dec 13, 2022

Maybe the most satisfying course I have ever taken. Dr. Lagerstrom developed the material in such a methodical and linear way that when I hit a point that I was having difficulty with, I could find the point where my understanding had broken and focus on the misunderstood issue. Also, something that was missing from my years of studying mathematics were the motivations that led to new concepts. Perhaps his interest in the history of science is coming through here. Thank you!

By Douglas R

Sep 8, 2017

Oddly, given subject matter, this is a very old school course - professor lecturing before a white board. Yet it works! I finally understand the Special Theory of Relativity and am convinced that time dilation and length contraction are real. Course is well paced. Outlines provided for taking notes for each session are very helpful. Quizzes and tests are appropriate. Highly recommend to anyone who has ever wondered if on might actually travel to another galaxy and return alive.

By David G

May 23, 2021

Professor Lagerstrom presented Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity in a "simplicity beyond complexity" kind of way. His examples to demonstrate the principles were outstanding in reinforcing the learning experience. The historical context and Einstein's quotations throughout the course added much appreciated entertainment to the challenging content. Professor Lagerstrom's humility and care for his students were so encouraging. Thanks so much, Professor Lagerstrom!

By Michael B

Jan 18, 2018

This is truly one of the more interesting (and fun) courses at Coursera. The presenter takes the student step by step through the intricacies of understanding the special theory of relativity such that, even with a very limited background in math and physics, you will be able to appreciate the impact this theory had on scientific thinking back when it was published and how it, and its 'big brother, the general theory of relativity, shape scientific endeavors presently.

By Dr. S R

Aug 17, 2020

The wonderful presentation of the origin and comprehensive concepts of this special theory of relativity with good examples and problems by Professor Larry Langstrom, is beyond and excellent and would rate the best by a physics professor. I would love to attend the general theory of relativity course if run(?), by him in the future, kindly inform. I rate this course 5 stars if that's the limit of stars one needs to put for an appreciation/rating.

-Dr S S Raghuwanshi

By Jose M B C

Jun 28, 2022

The teacher is excelent. The structure of the course is very good. This has been one of the best teacher I ve had in all my life. He knows very well the theory, quite understandable his explanations, he has a very good managing of the board, he made me payed atention to all he said. In the next future I would like to participate in other course he teaches, related with physics (surely he will be very prepared and do it in a very extraordinary way, like this one).

By Titas C

Jun 7, 2018

This course is the best place to learn the concepts of special relativity as a beginner. The instructor is awesome. Although he goes quite slow, it helps because the concepts in the latter part of the course are counter-intuitive and may need a bit of time to be understood. I would recommend this course to anyone who is interested in learning more about the principles of relativity. I hope to see a general relativity course taught by this professor soon!!!

By Carlos G

Apr 2, 2018

A very thorough and complete explanation of the Special Relativity theory. Finally a really good pedagogical approach is used to explain to plain people like me concepts that are proven for more than a century but still a mystery for most. Having very important scientific concepts explained to our society can mitigate the terrible challenges we shall confront in the coming decades.

Thank you very much to Stanford University and specially to Dr Lagerstrom.

By Dario K

Aug 1, 2020

Amazing course! Great pace, starting slowly from the basics and advancing step by step, building up to understand the Special Theory of Relativity to a level that I find is (much) more than good enough for someone who's just curious about it. Math included but, again, it is presented step by step so it's easy to follow even for someone with not much scientific background.

Really wish a part 2 with General Relativity taught by same professor would come :)

By Allan B

Aug 20, 2020

About sixty years ago, I remember discussing the various formulas regarding special relativity in one of my advanced college physics courses. There was very little background presented regarding the historical development of the formulas (e.g. Lorentz transformation, Gamma). I really enjoyed the time spent on the space time diagrams. Those diagrams have provided me with a much deeper understanding of the foundational elements of special relativity.

By Patrick F

Sep 7, 2017

It is amazing to have access to such an interesting, well taught class through this free app. Prfessor Lagerstrom takes material that is often considered extremely difficult and explains it in such clear and concise terms that it can be understood by just about anyone. The required math is not much beyond basiic algebra and you can come away with a much deeper understanding of the way the universe works as well as a nice look at Einstein as a person.


Feb 7, 2022

Hola, me ha encantado el curso. Al principio pensé que no se avanzaba en contenido y que no se iba a profundizar en la teoria especial de la relatividad. Pero poco a poco vamos descubriendo cosas de una manera sencilla y lógica que te va atrapando, cada vez tienes mas ganas de ver que es lo que viene a continuación. Enhorabuena al profesor Larry Randles Lagerstrom, se entienden muy bien sus expiicaciones y creo que ha estructurado muy bien el curso.

By Thierry C

Jun 22, 2020

It’s been like watching a good movie or reading an absorbing book; it ended too soon.

I'd say the course gives a large enough insight to the special theory of relativity with the right final touch on the general theory to complete the basic understanding, and maybe to get the audience hooked for the next release. I’ve taken the bait.

Finally a genuine thanks to the instructor Larry Randles Lagerstrom and his team for the contents and their dedication

By Javier S

Apr 17, 2021

I would like to congratulate Mr. Randles for the magnificent explanations through out the course. He makes things very clear to the student with such a little resources. I really enjoy the course.

For me, as a beginner on this subject, the journey from week 1 to week 8 is perfect. Good practical information, good organization and plenty of references to continue learning.

Thank you for the opportunity of approaching Einstein and his work!

Javier Sanz