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How the Earth Works

Investigate the miracle and mystery of planet Earth—how it formed, how its natural forces operate, and how human activity has forever transformed it.
How the Earth Works is rated 4.7 out of 5 by 135.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Bravo! Fascinating! Brilliant! Good use of props - chocolate and cutting an orange I will never look at mountains the same
Date published: 2024-07-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from How the Earth Works in Detail An in-depth investigation into the physical working of the Earth. Dr.Michael Wysession provides a complete review, from the planet's beginning through to current times, of the inner workings of Earths systems. The professor, in very rich and in-depth detail, gives the learner comprehensive components of natural systems, and clearly defines and redefines scientific terms and theories for clarity. Dr. Wysession is captivating in his delivery and each lecture displays his passion for the subject and gives the student a feeling of being directly in from of him in a classroom. There is no script reading! It is very obvious Dr. Wysession is, and has been passionate about science system and his specific expertise, geology. The lectures on plate tectonics, volcanoes, earthquakes, and the constant movement of earths plates are exhaustive. the relationship of these plates and development of life on Earth is extensive. The closing four lectures on Earth's complexity, Fermi paradox, the Drake equation and life elsewhere in the universe is inspiring. I highly recommend this TGC lecture set, even though it is a 2008 version. As with most of the earlier TGC set's, their is much to gain from their study!
Date published: 2024-05-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A fascinating subject and a brilliant presentation I have just finished this course of lectures, and I can honestly say that it was one of the most interesting courses I have ever taken, on Wondrium and everywhere else. Professor Wysession is a fantastic science communicator - he manages to cover a large range of fascinating subjects in incredible detail (given the time constrains of forty-eight 30 minute lectures). One piece of advice to anyone starting this course is to be aware that it was made in 2008, and so inevitable, there have been developments in a lot of the areas that Professor Wysession covers. I got into the habit of cross checking on Google to see what work had been done in a particular area since 2008 and what the current thinking is. Like the Earth itself, Earth Science is a dynamic and constantly evolving subject. If you want to travel through a landscape, and really understand the story that created it, a story that spans 13.7 billion years, then this is the course for you!
Date published: 2024-04-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A perfect course Professor Michael E. Wysession has composed a very equilibrated course about nothing less than literally the whole world and its processes. As I have a phD is geochemistry, my interest in the course is a pedagogic one, although I confess that I learn new things, and some refreshment never is wasted time. I thought it would be boring for me to go through the lessens, but I have to say that it fascinates me the way he explains complicated processes in an intuitive non mathematical way, with simple eye catching demonstrations. I think he is the best geology pedagogue I have ever seen, and he will be my example. He is precise and easy to follow, something unusual in geophysics ;). I very recommend this for everybody who wants to study some geology as a non geologist. It is the perfect introduction with one of the paleontology courses. I read some negative comments about his style and habits, but I have to say that I don't understand them. I would say that he is a great communicator. He is serious but not dry.
Date published: 2024-01-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Complicated Concepts Made Comprehensible I have just finished Lecture 29 and can't wait to recommend this course. Professor Wysession has a remarkable talent for creating a clear and understandable picture of the intricate workings of our Earth and their interconnections. I appreciated his careful organization of the huge subject. His use of graphics and hands-on demonstrations provided tangible examples of concepts that would have been hard or impossible for me to grasp without them. I wish I'd had more instructors with his skill and enthusiasm.
Date published: 2023-12-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wish I had had this course when I was in school So much information, I will probably watch it again. Instructor has both knowledge and alot of enthusiasm
Date published: 2023-09-15
Rated 1 out of 5 by from How The Earth Works Today is December 15. I ordered the DVD of this book on December 2 and I still didn't get it. There is no way I can give you a review of this book. I am really disappointed!
Date published: 2022-12-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good overview of a broad subject Dr. Wysession is passionate about his discipline and his explanations are clear and to the point. His lecture on non-fossil alternate source s of energy for human use is very encouraging. If the course is published in a second edition, Dr. Wysession should concentrate on including more visual illustrations and on skillfully integrating them into his presentation. This was my first TTC course by Dr. Wysession. I intend to take all of his courses.
Date published: 2022-12-08
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We live on a planet that is constantly in motion-except we see it in extreme slow motion. In this exciting course of 48 half-hour lectures, you effectively speed up the action to witness the history of our planet unfold in spectacular detail, learning what the Earth is made of, where it came from, and, above all, how it works


Michael E. Wysession

The more you know and understand the natural world, the greater will be your love and appreciation for it.


Washington University in St. Louis
Dr. Michael E. Wysession is the Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis. Professor Wysession earned his Sc.B. in Geophysics from Brown University and his Ph.D. from Northwestern University. An established leader in seismology and geophysical education, Professor Wysession is noted for his development of a new way to create three-dimensional images of Earth's interior from seismic waves. These images have provided scientists with insights into the makeup of Earth and its evolution throughout history. Professor Wysession is the coauthor of An Introduction to Seismology, Earthquakes, and Earth Structure; the lead author of Physical Science: Concepts in Action; and the primary writer for the texts Earth Science, Earth's Interior, Earth's Changing Surface, and Earth's Waters. Professor Wysession received a Science and Engineering Fellowship from the David and Lucille Packard Foundation, a National Science Foundation Presidential Faculty Fellowship, and fellowships from the Kemper and Lily Foundations. He has received the Innovation Award of the St. Louis Science Academy and the Distinguished Faculty Award of Washington University. In 2005, Professor Wysession had a Distinguished Lectureship with the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology and the Seismological Society of America. In 2014, Wysession received the inaugural Ambassador Award of the American Geophysical Union.

By This Professor

The World's Greatest Geological Wonders
The Science of Energy: Resources and Power Explained
National Geographic Polar Explorations
How the Earth Works
How the Earth Works


Geology's Impact on History

01: Geology's Impact on History

If you could view Earth's history at high speed, you'd see continents whiz about, ocean basins grow and shrink, and mountain ranges rise and erode away. This lecture sets the stage for investigating our dynamic planet.

31 min
Geologic History—Dating the Earth

02: Geologic History—Dating the Earth

Discovering Earth's exact age took centuries of detective work. Rock strata provide relative ages, but only with the discovery of radioactivity was it possible to determine the absolute geologic timescale.

32 min
Earth's Structure-Journey to Earth's Center

03: Earth's Structure-Journey to Earth's Center

Analysis of seismic waves from earthquakes allows scientists to map the structure inside Earth. Using this technique, we take a modern-day journey to the center of the Earth in the style of Jules Verne.

32 min
Earth's Heat-Conduction and Convection

04: Earth's Heat-Conduction and Convection

We reverse the direction of the previous lecture to see how heat flows from the center of Earth toward the surface, exploring the phenomena of heat radiation, conduction, and convection.

31 min
The Basics of Plate Tectonics

05: The Basics of Plate Tectonics

The theory of plate tectonics accounts for the existence of continents, oceans, mountains, earthquakes, volcanoes, mineral resource distribution, climate changes, and many other aspects of our planet.

32 min
Making Matter-The Big Bang and Big Bangs

06: Making Matter-The Big Bang and Big Bangs

We investigate the big bang and the early evolution of the universe to learn the origin of atoms, stars, and planets. The supernovae of dying stars played a key role in forging heavy elements.

30 min
Creating Earth-Recipe for a Planet

07: Creating Earth-Recipe for a Planet

The solar system formed 4.6 billion years ago when a cloud of gas, dust, and ice began to collapse and rotate, with Earth accreting in the inner region of the disk. An enormous collision with the proto-Earth produced the Moon.

32 min
The Rock Cycle—Matter in Motion

08: The Rock Cycle—Matter in Motion

Though rocks may seem eternal, they are part of a continuous cycle of changing forms called the rock cycle, which begins with igneous rocks and can involve sedimentary and metamorphic phases.

32 min
Minerals—The Building Blocks of Rocks

09: Minerals—The Building Blocks of Rocks

Rocks are made of minerals, which in turn are composed of different elements. Silicon and oxygen are the two most abundant elements in Earth's mantle and crust, and most rocks contain them.

31 min
Magma—The Building Mush of Rocks

10: Magma—The Building Mush of Rocks

Most magma is generated beneath mid-ocean ridges, where plates move apart and rock moves toward the surface to fill the gaps. Magma forms in these places due to a process called pressure release.

32 min
Crystallization—The Rock Cycle Starts

11: Crystallization—The Rock Cycle Starts

When magma cools below certain temperatures, solid mineral crystals begin to grow. With continued cooling the entire magma will eventually crystallize, and the result is an igneous rock.

31 min
Volcanoes—Lava and Ash

12: Volcanoes—Lava and Ash

Volcanoes form where magma reaches the surface and erupts—at which point the magma becomes lava. The different kinds of volcanoes are related to the tectonic settings in which they occur.

32 min
Folding—Bending Blocks, Flowing Rocks

13: Folding—Bending Blocks, Flowing Rocks

Most rock of the crust and mantle is solid. And yet, over long timescales, the crust and mantle are in motion, bending and flowing. This lecture shows how rocks deform in an elastic, plastic, or brittle manner.

32 min
Earthquakes—Examining Earth's Faults

14: Earthquakes—Examining Earth's Faults

More than 200,000 earthquakes are recorded each year. We examine the types of faults along which they occur and the aftermath, which in some cases can leave the Earth ringing like a gong for months.

31 min
Plate Tectonics—Why Continents Move

15: Plate Tectonics—Why Continents Move

Continents move because they are the surface expression of mantle convection. Two main forces are directly responsible for plate motions: slab pull and ridge push.

31 min
The Ocean Seafloor—Unseen Lands

16: The Ocean Seafloor—Unseen Lands

The seafloor shows a tremendous diversity of features that are related to plate tectonics and the process of mantle convection.

31 min
Rifts and Ridges—The Creation of Plates

17: Rifts and Ridges—The Creation of Plates

Oceans undergo reincarnation: they repeatedly die and are reborn. The Atlantic Ocean is only 180 million years old and will eventually close up again. The Red Sea appears to be a new ocean in the making.

32 min
Transform Faults—Tears of a Crust

18: Transform Faults—Tears of a Crust

The San Andreas is a transform fault that separates the North American and Pacific plates. Transform faults are actually rare on land, but mid-ocean ridges are intersected by countless such features.

30 min
Subduction Zones—Recycling Oceans

19: Subduction Zones—Recycling Oceans

Subduction zones are the most geologically exciting places on Earth. Here the most destructive earthquakes and volcanoes occur, and forces are generated that may rip supercontinents apart.

31 min
Continents Collide and Mountains Are Made

20: Continents Collide and Mountains Are Made

When plate motions bring continents in contact with each other, the result is the formation of mountains. A notable example is the Himalayas, produced by the continental collision of India with China.

32 min
Intraplate Volcanoes—Finding the Hot Spots

21: Intraplate Volcanoes—Finding the Hot Spots

For years intraplate volcanoes such as those that produced the Hawaiian Islands were lumped together under the catch-all name of "hot spots," but recent work is showing that Earth has many different ways of making a volcano.

31 min
Destruction from Volcanoes and Earthquakes

22: Destruction from Volcanoes and Earthquakes

The largest earthquakes and volcanic eruptions release as much energy as the simultaneous explosion of tens of thousands of nuclear weapons. We look at the human consequences of these events.

31 min
Predicting Natural Disasters

23: Predicting Natural Disasters

Volcanoes can be easily monitored, and they reveal many clues to an impending eruption as the magma slowly forces its way toward the surface. Earthquakes, by contrast, are not yet predictable.

31 min
Anatomy of a Volcano—Mount St. Helens

24: Anatomy of a Volcano—Mount St. Helens

We examine the eruption of Mount St. Helens on May 18, 1980, triggered when an earthquake caused a gigantic avalanche that released pent-up magma and gases, leveling trees for over 600 square kilometers.

31 min
Anatomy of an Earthquake—Sumatra

25: Anatomy of an Earthquake—Sumatra

The 2004 Sumatra earthquake produced a massive tsunami that killed more than 200,000 people around the Indian Ocean. We look at the complex tectonic forces behind this cataclysm.

30 min
History of Plate Motions—Where and Why

26: History of Plate Motions—Where and Why

Earth's tectonic plates have been moving for at least as long as scientists can see back into the geologic record. Over time the continental fragments collect into supercontinents and then break apart again.

30 min
Assembling North America

27: Assembling North America

North America has a fascinating geologic history, having continuously grown in size through collisions with other continents. The process of growth has been very different on the East and West coasts.

31 min
The Sun-Driven Hydrologic Cycle

28: The Sun-Driven Hydrologic Cycle

As fast as plate tectonics creates mountains, erosion tears them down. The principal agents of erosion are water and ice, which are part of a continuous cycle of moving water called the hydrologic cycle.

30 min
Water on Earth—The Blue Planet

29: Water on Earth—The Blue Planet

Earth is unique in the solar system for having liquid water at its surface. Water is the single most important substance on our planet, controlling much of geology and allowing for the evolution of life.

29 min
Earth's Atmosphere—Air and Weather

30: Earth's Atmosphere—Air and Weather

Earth's gravity is strong enough to hold onto an atmosphere of nitrogen and oxygen, while lighter gases have long since been lost to space. We explore the structure of the atmosphere and its circulation.

30 min
Erosion—Weathering and Land Removal

31: Erosion—Weathering and Land Removal

A mountain on the Moon can last for billions of years, but the same mountain on Earth is worn down in only tens of millions of years. The reason is the rapid rate of erosion on Earth due to its atmosphere and hydrosphere.

29 min
Jungles and Deserts—Feast or Famine

32: Jungles and Deserts—Feast or Famine

The circulation of air within the atmosphere occurs predominantly in the form of six large convecting cycles called Hadley, Ferrel, and Polar cells. These control the distribution of precipitation and therefore of ecosystems.

31 min
Mass Wasting—Rocks Fall Downhill

33: Mass Wasting—Rocks Fall Downhill

Once rock is broken into sediment, gravity makes sure that it heads downhill. Such "mass wasting" can occur as quickly as a landslide or as slowly as the piecemeal creep caused by repeated freezing and thawing.

30 min
Streams—Shaping the Land

34: Streams—Shaping the Land

Once sediment is eroded and moved downhill, streams do most of the work from there. Streams are like a giant network of highways, continuously carrying rock from the mountains to the sea.

31 min
Groundwater—The Invisible Reservoir

35: Groundwater—The Invisible Reservoir

There is 100 times more water in the ground than in streams and lakes combined. Groundwater rarely consists of underground rivers, but rather of water percolating slowly though tiny pore spaces within rocks.

30 min
Shorelines—Factories of Sedimentary Rocks

36: Shorelines—Factories of Sedimentary Rocks

The pounding of ocean waves is so strong that it sets all the continents reverberating. Shorelines are energetic environments where wave energy erodes rock and transports the sediments that become sedimentary rocks.

31 min
Glaciers—The Power of Ice

37: Glaciers—The Power of Ice

Glaciers are slowly moving rivers of flowing ice. They are remarkably efficient agents of erosion, tearing away mountains faster than any other geologic process.

30 min
Planetary Wobbles and the Last Ice Age

38: Planetary Wobbles and the Last Ice Age

There is a cyclical pattern in the alternation of cold glacial periods and warmer interglacials, primarily due to variations in Earth's orbital characteristics. These are called Milankovitch cycles.

30 min
Long-Term Climate Change

39: Long-Term Climate Change

Long timescale variations in climate are controlled predominantly by plate tectonics. The global cooling that has occurred over the past 50 million years is largely due to the formation of the Himalayan Mountains.

30 min
Short-Term Climate Change

40: Short-Term Climate Change

This lecture looks at climate change on timescales of decades to thousands of years. Several factors affect climate at these shorter timescales, among them variations in sunlight, ocean current fluctuations, and volcanoes.

28 min
Climate Change and Human History

41: Climate Change and Human History

The course of human civilization, which began at the same time as the warm, stable climates of the current interglacial period, is strongly tied to small changes in global and regional climates.

30 min
Plate Tectonics and Natural Resources

42: Plate Tectonics and Natural Resources

Did you ever wonder why there is gold in California, coal in Indiana, and oil in Iraq? During the natural process of plate tectonics, valuable metals and ores become concentrated to levels much higher than they normally exist.

31 min
Nonrenewable Energy Sources

43: Nonrenewable Energy Sources

Most of the energy that humans now consume is in the form of nonrenewable sources, notably oil, natural gas, and coal. Uranium for powering nuclear reactors is also a limited, nonrenewable source.

32 min
Renewable Energy Sources

44: Renewable Energy Sources

We will eventually get almost all of our energy from solar-driven sources. These include solar panels and passive solar heating. Wind power, hydroelectric power, and biomass are also ultimately derived from sunlight.

30 min
Humans—Dominating Geologic Change

45: Humans—Dominating Geologic Change

Life has been altering the planet over roughly the past 4 billion years. What is remarkable, however, is the rapidity with which humans have become Earth's most powerful agent of geologic change.

29 min
History of Life—Complexity and Diversity

46: History of Life—Complexity and Diversity

Life on Earth began at least 3.85 billion years ago, almost as soon as the conditions of a stable ocean would allow it. The path of evolution since then has been a remarkable one, and an integral part of Earth's story.

32 min
The Solar System—Earth's Neighborhood

47: The Solar System—Earth's Neighborhood

Although Earth is unique in our solar system for having complex life, it is not unique in geologic processes such as volcanism, earthquakes, mantle convection, erosion, and even stream and lake formation.

32 min
The Lonely Planet—Fermi's Paradox

48: The Lonely Planet—Fermi's Paradox

What are the chances that there are other civilizations in our galaxy? Given the delicate balance of conditions that have allowed life to flourish on Earth, that number may be astonishingly small.

35 min