Skip site news

Site news

Picture of Paul Hatherly
Welcome to Great Central Learning!
by Paul Hatherly - Thursday, 20 February 2014, 1:10 PM

Great Central Learning has been created as an offshoot of Great Central Consulting to provide a home for our educational material, and to allow it to be structured into courses for you to learn with.

Come back frequently, or ask for an account and look out for our offerings.


Skip available courses

Available courses

A database of resources for Highbury College Engineering

How big is the universe, how small can we go, is there a shortest meaningful time, or a longest?  Is there is a maximum or a minimum energy, or a limit to temperature? The universe is all around us and is active on every scale; from our everyday “human” scale, down to the vanishingly small world of particle physics, and up to the vastness of cosmology. Throughout history, humans have sought to observe, measure and understand the universe on all its scales. First using our incredible natural senses, and then on larger and smaller scales with the aid of increasingly powerful instruments that sharpen and extend those senses. As our knowledge has increased, on scales great and small, what we have discovered has occasionally come in to conflict with our existing beliefs, resulting in scientific revolutions that have redirected technology and reshaped society.

In this course, we will tour the universe on all its scales, and learn how our perceptions, through our senses and instruments, have influenced our understanding. We will discover the limits of everyday physics, and see how modern science has handled the resulting “revolutions”. Our understanding of concepts such as “time”, “space” and “force” will be stretched to the limit as we think about the implications of these revolutions, and consider some of the spectacular and surprising “record breakers” that now indicate the extremes of the universe on all its scales.

Since the dawn of humanity, people have noticed points of light moving amongst the stars. Over time, patterns were discovered in these objects' movements, and civilisations started using them in calendars, fortune-telling and in their religions. The ancient Greeks called them “aster planetes” or “wandering stars” - we call them the planets. 
In this course, we will tour the planets and their amazing variety, and encounter smaller, but equally fascinating objects such as comets, asteroids and icy bodies far from the Sun. On our journey, we will see how our discoveries have affected our ideas about potential life in the Universe, and we will travel beyond our Solar System seeking other planets and evidence for the origin and fate of the Solar System. We will also ask how we have made these discoveries, and look at the science and technology of space exploration which have made them possible.

A resource demonstrating chaotic behaviour in simple systems

A talk given at the 36th Annual Astronomy Weekend, Oxford, 12th April 2012

A laboratory, circa 1880. Radioactivity hadn't been discovered yet, and the lumiferous aether thoery holds sway. You are investigating some strange materials with your new machine which you've built to look for fluctuations in the aether...