Gravitational Physics

Explore Newton's law of gravity and unpack its universe of consequences.

Here we lay out Newton's law of gravity and crack open the universe of consequences that spring from it. On the journey we'll come to understand planetary phenomena likes tides and atmospheres, the rich geometry of heavenly bodies and their motion, and the engineering considerations of space travel.

By the end of this course, you’ll be able to code simulations to explore applied problems using Python, derive pieces of general relativity, and understand where Newton’s law starts to buckle.

Interactive
quizzes

34

Concepts and
exercises

335+
  1. 1

    Introduction to Gravity

    Get acquainted with the basics of gravitation through a series of thought experiments and test them against real astronomical data.

    1. Explore: What is Mass?

      In this puzzle, one mass is real and the other is an illusion. Try to tell the difference.

    2. Explore: Mass Dependence

      An apple clocked Newton on the head, and his theory of gravity was born.

    3. Explore: Distance Dependence

      Discover the form of gravitational force by observing the cycle of the Moon.

    4. Apply: Heavenly Orbits

      Use data from the moons of Jupiter to complete the gravitational force law.

  2. 2

    Newtonian Gravity

    Newton's greatest idea unified the physics of the heavens and Earth. Here we introduce Newton's theory, and then take him to meet Einstein.

    1. Included with
      Brilliant Premium

      Cavendish's Experiment

      You don't need a planet to see gravity at work — just build a torsion pendulum in your garage.

    2. Included with
      Brilliant Premium

      Atmospheric Thickness

      Predict the height of the atmosphere on a neutron star — with shockingly good accuracy.

    3. Included with
      Brilliant Premium

      Escape Velocity

      Throw a ball fast enough from Earth, and it'll never return. What can this teach us about black holes?

    4. Included with
      Brilliant Premium

      Ocean Tides

      The tide goes in, the tide goes out — and there's never a miscommunication.

  3. 3

    Gravitational Fields

    Here we reimagine the force of gravity as a Universe-filling field, and develop powerful methods to solve hard problems.

    1. Included with
      Brilliant Premium

      Gravitational Energy

      Get a firmer grasp on gravity using an energy approach.

    2. Included with
      Brilliant Premium

      Simulating the g-Field of a Sphere

      Write Python code to experiment with many-body gravitational fields.

    3. Included with
      Brilliant Premium

      Gravitational Pendulum

      How long would it take to fall through the center of the Earth, from one side to the other?

    4. Included with
      Brilliant Premium

      Gravitational Ring Ride

      Power a looping roller coaster through Earth's core with a gravitational field.

  4. 4

    Keplerian Orbits

    The eternal dance of celestial bodies in the night sky spawned science as we know it. In this chapter, we develop the tools to predict them.

    1. Included with
      Brilliant Premium

      Circular Orbits

      Join Lonely Walter as he plays catch with himself.

    2. Included with
      Brilliant Premium

      The Two-body Problem

      Why does Earth orbit the Sun, and not the other way around?

    3. Included with
      Brilliant Premium

      Equations of Orbital Motion

      These two equations describe a universe of possibilities.

    4. Included with
      Brilliant Premium

      Rotational Symmetry

      Kepler's Second Law expresses a hidden symmetry in gravitational systems.

  5. 5

    Open Orbits & Scattering

    Andromeda galaxy is approaching our Milky Way at at rate of more than 100 kilometers per second. In this chapter we learn to predict what might happen when it gets here.

    Coming Soon