The Joy of Science

Rated 4 out of 5 by from good but stale professor is good & enthusiastic; but the course is in dire need of updating. it was done around 1998 to 2000 - thus is 20 years old - way too old for a science class. Some of the physics & chemistry is too technical for an overview course. One criticism of the prof - he commits a # of verbal gaffs; while not serious as to impact on content, they are noticeable & disruptive to the flow.
Date published: 2020-09-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wide Ranging Course Teacher is enthusiastic and the course is wide ranging, covering many scientific areas. It's probably somewhat dated, but it's certainly one of the best courses that I've gotten from the Great Courses.
Date published: 2020-08-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Still a huge achievement after nearly 20 years After being tempted to take this course off and on for the nearly two decades since it was initially released, I finally did so. I was impressed by its scope, and by the breadth of knowledge and enthusiasm Professor Hazen brings to an extraordinarily challenging task. Kudos to him for this enthusiasm, which cannot help but infect his audience (particularly, I would guess, younger viewers; I can picture my own teen-aged self being really electrified by many of his clear explanations, and the way he ties the different concepts together vertically throughout the course), and also for his many excellent examples and demonstrations, which are clear, practical, and extraordinarily helpful in getting across what are often really challenging concepts. That the course is now nearly 20 years old needs to be reckoned with as a potential downside. I think this is a weakness not because any of the content has been shown to be wrong—I was not aware of anything important in that respect—but rather that our understanding in a number of the topic areas discussed has progressed a great deal in the intervening years. In areas such as astrophysics, molecular genetics, and health-related issues much of crucial importance has emerged in the interim. Thus, I would assess this incredibly ambitious course as still a huge achievement, valuable for its exposition of the fundamental principles of science—that could be viewed profitably along with several updates now available—in one of The Teaching Company’s most important subject areas.
Date published: 2020-08-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very timely during this pandemic I think this course can be beneficial for anyone looking to expand their knowledge of Science. We so need it during this pandemic struggle.
Date published: 2020-07-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This item was purchased for our son who will appreciate it as much as we enjoyed our copy
Date published: 2020-06-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A good review of science Overall, this is an informative and well presented class. However, there are three lectures on evolution, when about three minutes would have conveyed the teacher's point. He excessively indulged his personal opposition to young earth creationism. I agree with him, but that time could have better been spent on the anatomy and physiology of plants and animals. The professor yearned to debate evolution at length. To be fair to his listeners, he should have noted the various theistic evolution theories also.
Date published: 2020-05-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good overall intro to science Fun course for those non-science majors who want an overview. Enjoyed it. Not too technical and easy to follow.
Date published: 2020-05-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Geeked Out Big Time It was a great review of many things I already knew, and there were a lot of new-to-me concepts in there too. I definitely got my money’s worth.
Date published: 2020-03-19
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The Nature of Science
1: The Nature of Science

What distinguishes science from the many other ways humanity has devised to understand the cosmos? What makes knowledge "scientific"? Why is scientific literacy so important for citizens in the modern world?

33 min
The Scientific Method
2: The Scientific Method

Science is a search for answers, and thus needs well-conceived questions. How are these questions formed? At what do they aim? What is "the scientific method"? Is science purely systematic, or do accident and serendipity play a role?

30 min
The Ordered Universe
3: The Ordered Universe

Scientists believe that our senses don't lie. Although this was not obvious to the ancients, the Roman scholar Pliny the Elder catalogued thousands of "facts." Ptolemy's famous geocentric model of the solar system was an early application of the scientific method.

31 min
Celestial and Terrestrial Mechanics
4: Celestial and Terrestrial Mechanics

Pivotal figures in early-modern science, Nicolas Copernicus, Tycho Brahe, and Johannes Kepler, made significant contributions to astronomy. Galileo Galilei, the great Italian physicist and astronomer, was also a pioneer of experimental methods.

30 min
Newton's Laws of Motion
5: Newton's Laws of Motion

Isaac Newton built on the works of Kepler and Galileo by showing that motion everywhere obeys a single set of mathematical laws. During a rural sojourn in 1665-66, he formed many of his major contributions, including calculus, some basic laws of optics, the three laws of motion, and the law of gravity.

30 min
Universal Gravitation
6: Universal Gravitation

Did a falling apple really inspire Newton to deduce the mathematical description of the universal force known as gravity? What do Newton's universal laws of motion and gravity reveal about the world? What are their implications for the study of natural phenomena?

30 min
The Nature of Energy
7: The Nature of Energy

Energy is the ability to do work-i.e., to exert a force over a distance. What are the various forms in which energy comes? How have scientists defined and studied them?

31 min
The First Law of Thermodynamics
8: The First Law of Thermodynamics

Energy constantly changes forms all around us. Study of such transformations has led to countless useful devices. Learn why, to many scientists, the first law of thermodynamics tells us something profound about the symmetry of nature.

32 min
The Second Law of Thermodynamics
9: The Second Law of Thermodynamics

What does the second law of thermodynamics mean? What is the difference between heat and temperature? How does heat flow? What does the second law imply about the limits on an engine's ability to convert heat energy into useful work?

30 min
10: Entropy

In its most general form, the second law of thermodynamics states that the degree of disorder, or entropy, of any system tends to increase over time. Among the deep and far-reaching questions raised by this concept is the origin of highly ordered local systems, such as life.

30 min
Magnetism and Static Electricity
11: Magnetism and Static Electricity

Magnetism is one of the forces that can be studied in light of Newton's laws of motion. Because compasses are magnetic, magnetism was of great importance in the age of ocean exploration and commerce. Static electricity, by contrast, was little more than a fascinating curiosity.

32 min
12: Electricity

Most modern uses of electricity rely on electrons that move. Why was Alessandro Volta's battery a turning point in electrical science? What are the components of an electrical circuit?

31 min
13: Electromagnetism

H. C. Oersted found that electricity can produce magnetic fields, leading to the electromagnet, the telegraph, and the electric motor. Michael Faraday showed that moving magnets induce electricity-the principle behind most electric-power generation. James Clerk Maxwell described the links between electricity and magnetism in four elegant equations.

31 min
The Electromagnetic Spectrum, Part I
14: The Electromagnetic Spectrum, Part I

Maxwell's equations predicted the existence of electromagnetic waves. He predicted that invisible wavelengths would be found; Hertz discovered radio waves in 1889. How do scientists divide the electromagnetic spectrum?

31 min
The Electromagnetic Spectrum, Part II
15: The Electromagnetic Spectrum, Part II

The discovery and application of electromagnetic radiation has transformed science and technology in ways that you'll find familiar, but also in ways that may surprise you.

31 min
16: Relativity

Pondering a paradox that arose from Maxwell's equations, Albert Einstein stated and explored the principle of relativity, both special and general. Fatefully, Einstein also discovered that mass must be a form of energy.

30 min
17: Atoms

While the concept of the atom, the basic building block of all matter, was first proposed at least 2,500 years ago, its existence was not verified until the 20th century. John Dalton presented the first modern statement of the atomic theory. Learn how the discovery of radioactivity and a mathematical demonstration by Einstein provided the compelling evidence.

30 min
The Bohr Atom
18: The Bohr Atom

Learn why Rutherford's concept of the atom was physically impossible, and what Niels Bohr proposed as an alternative. Bohr's model helped to explain many of the properties of light-matter interactions. Lasers make special use of the "quantum" interactions between light and matter.

30 min
The Quantum World
19: The Quantum World

In 1900, Max Planck theorized that energy comes in discrete bundles called "quanta." Einstein's research later reinforced this idea. At the atomic scale, according to Werner Heisenberg's famous uncertainty principle, every measurement changes its object. Thus quantum-scale events can only be described in terms of probabilities, and electrons display the characteristics of both particles ...

30 min
The Periodic Table of the Elements
20: The Periodic Table of the Elements

Long before Bohr, chemists realized that there are many kinds of atoms-the chemical elements. Elements cannot be broken down into other substances by any ordinary physical or chemical means. In 1869, Dmitri Mendeleev used observed similarities to draw up a periodic table of 63 chemical elements. Subsequent discoveries have lengthened the table but not altered its basic form.

31 min
Introduction to Chemistry
21: Introduction to Chemistry

Learn why atoms bond to one another, and what makes some types of atoms particularly unstable and reactive. Learn what distinguishes covalent from ionic and metallic bonding. The most versatile of all covalently bonded elements is carbon, the element of life.

31 min
The Chemistry of Carbon
22: The Chemistry of Carbon

Carbon's unparalleled ability to form covalent bonds makes it the major focus of modern chemical research. More than 90 percent of known compounds are organic; that is, they contain carbon. Polymers, the chemical building blocks of plastics, form an important class of organic molecules.

30 min
States of Matter and Changes of State
23: States of Matter and Changes of State

The states of matter-solid, liquid, gas, and plasma-manifest the submicroscopic organization of atoms and molecules. How do scientists define these four states?

30 min
Phase Transformations and Chemical Reactions
24: Phase Transformations and Chemical Reactions

Change is a hallmark of the material world. Wood burns, glue hardens, eggs cook, dead organisms decay, carbon graphite under high pressure becomes a diamond. Physical transformations reflect changes in the arrangement of atoms and their chemical bonds. What distinguishes a phase transformation from a chemical reaction? What are types of chemical reactions, and how do they occur?

30 min
Properties of Materials
25: Properties of Materials

Materials are useful because of distinct physical properties, including strength, hardness, and a variety of optical, thermal, magnetic, and electrical properties. These properties result from the kinds of atoms and their arrangements in three dimensions, and the way they are bonded.

33 min
Semiconductors and Modern Microelectronics
26: Semiconductors and Modern Microelectronics

If conductors and insulators were the only materials we had, the world of electronics would be quite limited. Computers and other marvels of modern electronics rely on the microchip, or integrated circuit, which is a single semiconductor device. Learn what semiconductors are, and how they work.

31 min
Isotopes and Radioactivity
27: Isotopes and Radioactivity

The discovery of radioactivity, and the subsequent exploration of the atomic nucleus, led to nuclear physics and nuclear chemistry. About one atom in a million is radioactive. Such atoms can decay through alpha, beta, or gamma radiation, all of which are dangerous because they can disrupt chemical bonds.

30 min
Nuclear Fission and Fusion Reactions
28: Nuclear Fission and Fusion Reactions

Prodigious amounts of energy can be released when atoms are split (fission) or when two nuclei, usually hydrogen, are forced together (fusion). Fission reactions can be controlled in reactors or unleashed by bombs. Attempts are now underway to control fusion reactions, which would provide sustained energy.

31 min
29: Astronomy

Nearly all the information that we have about distant stars comes from electromagnetic radiation traveling at 186,000 miles per second. Astronomers collect, analyze, and interpret this data to understand the spatial distribution, dynamic state, and past and future of the universe.

31 min
The Life Cycle of Stars
30: The Life Cycle of Stars

Our Sun is an ordinary or "main sequence" star, 4.5 billion years old. It has several billion more years of hydrogen-burning life left, during which the contractive force of gravity will strive against the expansive force of nuclear fusion. How do stars like the Sun die, and what is left behind?

30 min
Edwin Hubble and the Discovery of Galaxies
31: Edwin Hubble and the Discovery of Galaxies

In 1924, Edwin Hubble discovered that galaxies are immense collections of gravitationally bound stars. Astronomers have since catalogued thousands of galaxies. Hubble also found a close relationship between a galaxy's distance and its "red shift," a change in light wavelengths caused by rapid movement away from us. As telescopes have improved, the estimated number of galaxies has grown t...

31 min
The Big Bang
32: The Big Bang

The Big Bang theory proposes that the universe came into existence at one moment in time and has expanded rapidly. The Big Bang was not an explosion but an expansion-of space itself, with all its matter and energy. What observations support this theory? What surprising conclusions do astronomers draw from galactic red shifts?

31 min
The Ultimate Structure of Matter
33: The Ultimate Structure of Matter

The search for a "theory of everything," a set of equations that describes all matter and forces in the universe, is one of the great frontiers in physics today. What will determine whether or not we make progress in this search? What are the four fundamental forces and particles in the universe, and why do some scientists think that, at some level, they are all the same?

28 min
The Nebular Hypothesis
34: The Nebular Hypothesis

According to Pierre Simon Laplace's widely accepted nebular hypothesis, a star forms when gravity draws interstellar dust and hydrogen gas into an increasingly dense, small cloud that flattens into a rotating disc with most of its mass pulled to the center. If solar systems form from such discs, then there must be many in our own galaxy. The Hubble Space Telescope has produced dramatic images of s...

30 min
The Solar System
35: The Solar System

In this lecture we journey through the solar system. We voyage from Mercury, alternately seared by the Sun and frozen in darkness, to Jupiter, whose four largest moons are distinct planetlike worlds of their own, and then beyond Uranus to the beautiful blue planet Neptune.

32 min
The Earth as a Planet
36: The Earth as a Planet

We complete our review of the solar system and look at the fascinating research field of extrasolar planetary systems. More than a dozen planets the size of Jupiter or larger have been detected, and more are being found every month. The Earth shares many characteristics with other planets of the solar system but is unique because it has so much liquid water-the essential medium for life.

30 min
The Dynamic Earth
37: The Dynamic Earth

The Earth's topography seems permanent, but a close look reveals signs of constant change. What first led James Hutton to propose the key geological doctrine of uniformitarianism, which holds that great changes occur incrementally over eons?

29 min
The Plate Tectonics Revolution
38: The Plate Tectonics Revolution

The plate tectonics theory produced one of the great scientific revolutions of the 20th century. Before the mid-1960s, Earth studies were localized and fragmented into subdisciplines. We examine the separate lines of observational evidence that led to this grand theory, and the wealth of specific and testable predictions that flow from it.

31 min
Earthquakes, Volcanoes, and Plate Motions Today
39: Earthquakes, Volcanoes, and Plate Motions Today

The mechanism of plate tectonics depends on the rigidity of rocks. The lithosphere, which includes the crust and the upper mantle, floats on the relatively soft, hot asthenosphere. The Earth's surface is divided into about a dozen lithospheric plates, with earthquakes and volcanoes clustered at their boundaries. How do geologists explain the presence of volcanism in mid-plate "hot spots"...

29 min
Earth Cycles-Water
40: Earth Cycles-Water

All elements and compounds take part in geochemical cycles, which are described by identifying all the principal reservoirs, as well as the processes by which materials move from one reservoir to another. Three major Earth cycles are the water cycle, the atmospheric cycle, and the rock cycle.

31 min
The Atmospheric Cycle
41: The Atmospheric Cycle

Our atmosphere is an envelope of gases. Weather is the state of the atmosphere at a given time and place; climate is a long-term average of weather for a given region. What variables define the state of the atmosphere? What does paleoclimatology tell us about climate change?

31 min
The Rock Cycle
42: The Rock Cycle

The rock cycle is epic both in terms of time and scale. What are the three major types of rock recognized by geologists? How does each form? Learn some of the amazing stories that rocks tell.

30 min
What Is Life?
43: What Is Life?

Biology is the study of living systems. What characteristics do all living organisms share? What share of the estimated 50 million species has been identified? How does the Linnaean system for classifying species work?

31 min
Strategies of Life
44: Strategies of Life

Metabolism is the cell's process of obtaining energy from its surroundings and converting that energy into molecules. Kingdoms of organisms adopt different strategies for supporting metabolic activity-in other words, for staying alive.

31 min
Life's Molecular Building Blocks
45: Life's Molecular Building Blocks

All living organisms are exceptionally complex chemical systems, yet these systems are built from relatively simple parts. Life's varied chemical substances are constructed from a few molecular building blocks, which share a few essential characteristics.

29 min
46: Proteins

What are proteins? What do they do that makes them the chemical workhorses of life? What are amino acids, and what do they have to do with proteins?

31 min
Cells-The Chemical Factories of Life
47: Cells-The Chemical Factories of Life

All living things are composed of cells, the fundamental unit of life. All cells arise from previous cells. How can cells be compared to chemical factories?

31 min
Gregor Mendel, Founder of Genetics
48: Gregor Mendel, Founder of Genetics

Classical genetics, founded in the 19th century by Gregor Mendel, is the study of how biological information is passed from parents to offspring at the level of organisms and their traits. Mendel's work was ignored and unappreciated during his lifetime, but it formed a basis for genetic discoveries in the 20th century.

29 min
The Discovery of DNA
49: The Discovery of DNA

Mendel's laws of genetics were purely descriptive. Cellular genetics, the study of the transfer of biological information at the level of cells, set the stage for research in molecular mechanisms of genetics. The double-helix structure of DNA was first described in 1952 by James Watson and Francis Crick.

29 min
The Genetic Code
50: The Genetic Code

No scientific discovery of the 20th century has had a greater impact than the deciphering of the genetic code. The Human Genome Project will map for the genes on each of the 23 pairs of human chromosomes, and determine the sequence of all three billion letters of the human genetic message.

31 min
Reading the Genetic Code
51: Reading the Genetic Code

Our growing understanding of genes raises troubling ethical questions. While each person's interests, abilities, and behavior arise from a complex interplay of environment and genetic attributes, a number of genetic diseases reveal that genes play an important role as well. What would it take to establish definitive links between heredity and personal traits?

31 min
Genetic Engineering
52: Genetic Engineering

Humans, never content simply to observe nature, have begun to read and edit the genetic code. The questions that swirl around genetic engineering exemplify the opportunities and concerns associated with these new abilities.

30 min
Cancer and Other Genetic Diseases
53: Cancer and Other Genetic Diseases

Genetic research in humans is driven primarily by efforts to cure inherited diseases. Yet as we learn more about "editing" genes, we may learn to design entirely new organisms. Then the central question of genetics will not be "What is the language of life?" but rather "What limits must we place on using the language of life?"

29 min
The Chemical Evolution of Life
54: The Chemical Evolution of Life

If all cells come from other cells, where did the first cell come from? What can science tell us here, and what are the competing scientific hypotheses?

30 min
Biological Evolution-A Unifying Theme of Biology
55: Biological Evolution-A Unifying Theme of Biology

Biological evolution is the central unifying theme in the life sciences. What is the evidence that guides us in understanding life's history on our planet? What is molecular phylogeny now revealing about this history?

31 min
The Fact of Evolution-The Fossil Record
56: The Fact of Evolution-The Fossil Record

Evolution is an observational fact, though there are competing theories about how it occurs. The primary source of evidence for the evolution of life comes from the fossil record.

29 min
Charles Darwin and the Theory of Natural Selection
57: Charles Darwin and the Theory of Natural Selection

When Charles Darwin first formed his theory of natural selection, he was troubled by the lack of a known physical mechanism for change. What do we know today that fills that gap?

31 min
Ecosystems and the Law of Unintended Consequences
58: Ecosystems and the Law of Unintended Consequences

Species always occur as part of an ecosystem-an interdependent community of species and its physical environment. The law of unintended consequences states that any change in one part of a complex system may affect other parts of the system, often in unpredictable ways. How can we improve our understanding of our impact on ecosystems?

29 min
The Ozone Hole, Acid Rain, and the Greenhouse Effect
59: The Ozone Hole, Acid Rain, and the Greenhouse Effect

Modern technology and population growth have led to many concerns about their effects on the environment and global climate. Local problems are fairly straightforward, but as problems become less localized, both diagnoses and solutions grow more elusive. This lecture reviews three such problems: the ozone hole, acid rain, and the greenhouse effect.

30 min
Science, the Endless Frontier
60: Science, the Endless Frontier

Recently a number of science watchers have claimed that science is approaching its end-that all there is of significance to be learned about the natural world will soon be known. Are they right?

32 min
Robert M. Hazen

The best thing about teaching a Great Course is how much you learn in the process-from colleagues, from the fabulous Great Courses professional staff, and from listeners, who send amazing stories and ask amazing questions.


Harvard University


George Mason University

About Robert M. Hazen

Dr. Robert M. Hazen is Clarence J. Robinson Professor of Earth Sciences at George Mason University in Fairfax, VA, and a research scientist at the Geophysical Laboratory of the Carnegie Institution of Washington.

Professor Hazen earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in geology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He earned a Ph.D. in Earth Science from Harvard University and did post-doctoral work at Cambridge University in England before joining the Carnegie Institution. At Carnegie, Dr. Hazen's research focuses on high-pressure organic synthesis and the origin of life.

Professor Hazen has authored 15 books, including the best-selling Science Matters: Achieving Scientific Literacy and The Sciences: An Integrated Approach. He has written over 220 articles for both scholarly and popular publications such as Newsweek, Scientific American, The New York Times Magazine, Technology Review, and Smithsonian Magazine.

He has received the Mineralogical Society of America Award, the American Chemical Society Ipatieff Prize, the Educational Press Association Award, the American Crystallographic Association's Science Writing Award, and Fellowship in the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Professor Hazen serves on the advisory boards for The National Committee for Science Education, Encyclopedia Americana, NOVA, and the Carnegie Council. He appears frequently on radio and television programs on science.

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