The Joy of Science

Rated 3 out of 5 by from Simplistic but engaging A science course without math. The lecturer is engaging and obviously loves explaining the philosophy underlying the scientific method. This could be an undergraduate course for those who are afraid of the complexity of science but want a sampling of the basics. So, the course would be useful to those unfamiliar with the basic concepts or those who once knew all this stuff but forgot it over the years and now need a refresher . Just what are Maxwell’s 4 equations and why are they important?
Date published: 2020-03-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The frontier of science is endless Excellent course given by an enthusiastic and great teacher, the selection of topics was very intelligent and didactic. I think this course should be updated.
Date published: 2020-03-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Dr. Hazen is an excellent facilitator providing a concise and articulate overview of various aspects of science and it's role in our daily lives
Date published: 2020-01-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Easy To Understand I love the Joy of Science! A lot of things that confused me about basic science, are now very clear to. It makes me more confident in purchasing more courses.
Date published: 2019-11-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from good teacher This was a replacement copy. (I lost the first one - who on earth did I lend it to?) I am using this series for the second time in a class for retirees in our local OLLI program. Professor Hazen is an excellent lecturer. My role as a former physics professor is to answer the questions of class members - not hard when the lecturer does such a good job.
Date published: 2019-09-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Like visiting an old friend These 60 lectures were first published in 2001, and, most likely, took as much as a year or more to produce...there are a lot of data presented. Much of the material is basic, foundational physics, chemistry, geology, etc, sprinkled with the histories of the men and women who were the vanguard of the scientific method from the beginning (in their own particular fields). But, alas, many topics presented by Dr Hazen are sorely out of date...through no fault of anyone. That's why I rated the course a 4 instead of a 5. Having said that, I feel that revisiting or reviewing the basic concepts from which our current world has benefited is both useful and vital for our developing minds. In my case, much of the material in the lectures was covered (and certainly in not as much detail) more than 50 years ago in high school (and y'all think the 20 year old lecture series needs updating), and even worse, topics in my own profession (earth sciences) have moved from geosynclines and eustacy to seafloor spreading, subduction and black smokers in the last 40 years. Clearly, these lectures give an interested and motivated student the chance to review the basics and criticize the shortcomings...all the while learning. If the lectures are/were out of date, do a little homework and prove to yourself that, in this dynamic, ever-changing world, we can, using the well-established scientific method, simply 'google' for the answers...something that the good Professor Hazen could dream of in 1999-2000. Like visiting an old friend, these lectures allow us to get to know our scientific roots and revel in the progress we've made. Dr Hazen, with his extraordinary organizational skills and high-energy lecture style, makes learning enjoyable and rewarding. Recommended as a wonderful survey course, especially during a sale with coupon in hand...lately it been a real bargain.
Date published: 2019-04-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Really Good Course This is a very informative course with an overwhelming amount of information clearly presented. I have no background in 95% of what was presented and yet Professor Hazen made the material easily accessible. The scope of the course is unbelievable and the orderly presentation is a testament to Professor Hazen's thorough preparation. This is the second Hazen course I have purchased and both have been 5-star. My biggest trepidation as I went through the course was Lecture 59, dealing with global warming. I was ready for the rote "sky is falling" scenario that has come to domineer studied science. I was delighted with Professor Hazen's well-rounded approach to the issue. He was quite thorough in assessing the weaknesses in environmental science as well assessing the social and economic costs of dealing with the issue. I was most pleased that one of his final points dealt with unsustainable increases in global population, something that is clearly a huge contributor to any anthropogenic element that might be associated with the problem. Because the lectures are somewhat dated (I am guessing early 2000's), we do not get Professor's Hazen's take of the stasis of global temperature in the century's first decade. In short, I liked everything about the course. Professor Hazen is clearly someone who any interested student would love to have as a professor. I know this is a mammoth undertaking but I would love to have Professor Hazen take a stab at a 12 lecture update of some of the material presented.
Date published: 2019-01-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from great survey course In spite of being an older course (2001) it remains a fine survey course. Dr. Hazen is not only an expert in his chosen field (check out his many Great Courses all are excellent) but has great general knowledge and a wonderful ability to communicate with the student. If you are new to the science area this course is an excellent starting point In certain ways it is a remedial science course to brush up on physics, geology, chemist, astronomy and just about everything else you didn’t learn or have forgotten. This is not a criticism. In spite of being dated I detected no errors in the material although a few items Dr. Hazen lists as likely have now been proven. Dr. Hazen is an excellent lecturer and the course is an excellent starting off point. My only criticism which is true for all Dr. Hazen’s courses. This is that he lectures at a machine gun pace and it definitely is worth the time to listen to the lectures more than once just to make sure you get it all because there is so much knowledge to get from them.
Date published: 2018-12-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great survey of science fundamentals. After considering this course for several years it finally came on sale. I am finding a review of the fundamentals of all the sciences to be quite refreshing and helpful. There are some I know most of but many where I have forgotten some of the basics.
Date published: 2018-03-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from OUTSTANDING The instructor did an outstanding job in both presentation and coverage. The degree of detail made the course very understandable.
Date published: 2018-03-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from excellent overview I have listened to Hazen's "Joy of Science" three times over the years. In the past I listened on cassette tape. Most recently I purchased the same content on an audio disk, so that it would be easier to move through the material. This is an excellent overview. It is a good place to begin study of any topic in science.
Date published: 2018-03-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Joy of Science Outstanding. Covers all aspects of physics. Well presented and understandable. If I had any negative it would be that it moves fast but that's necessary to cover the wide breadth of the subject matter.
Date published: 2017-10-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding This is an outstanding course of a wide range of topics: physics, astronomy, chemistry, biology, geology, genetics. Robert Hazen provides clear examples and his great enthusiasm for makes the subject matter all the more interesting. I didn't even think I was interested in geology until I heard his lectures, but now I've just ordered a geology course.
Date published: 2017-05-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great course Very nice excursion through science. The content and progression through all branches of science are well done. And the delivery is excellent. My only negative, and it's really a regret, is that the course is almost 20 years old. A Joy of Science II just covering updates since the first course would be great!
Date published: 2017-04-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of my favorite courses. This is one of the first courses I purchased 10 years ago, and since it is also one of my favorites, I decided it deserves its due review, even though there is little I can say that has not already been said. This is an excellent introductory course on general science. I covers all the relevant and necessary topics from the history and beginnings of science to current day understanding. I considered myself fairly well informed in general science before buying this course, but was pleasantly surprised at how much of the basic concepts I did not know. Dr. Hazen is an excellent presenter, and never failed to convey a solemn respect and enthusiasm for the subject. Despite being more than 10 years old, the content of the course still holds up. It provides plenty of informative graphics and illustrations, and live demonstrations by Dr. Hazen. I particularly like the logical progression the course takes on the development and history of the various sciences that has brought us up to our present day understanding and technology. This course should be an indispensable addition to any household library, and particularly those with school children. I have watched it a couple of times over, and more in some parts, and feel due for a refresher soon. I also own Dr. Hazen's Origins of Life video course, which delves much deeper into the biological science that many reviewers here feel is absent from this course.
Date published: 2017-02-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from My wife & I are enjoying the course very much, but we would recommend that the professor not use so many & repetitive hand gestures -- they become distracting.
Date published: 2016-01-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Riveting Science Survey DVD Review If you are a professional scientist then this is NOT the course for you. However, if you have been away from science for a time or have never been exposed to it in the first place, then this IS the course for you. Three biggest selling points: 1) Dr. Hazen explains very abstract ideas in simple terms, imparting an intuitive understanding of concepts into the student. Two examples of this -- but there are many more -- are his descriptions of Relativity and the Big Bang. It was as if I was learning about them for the first time. 2) Dr. Hazen unifies the scientific disciplines throughout the course, clearly showing the linkages between them. He simply shows how Newtonian physics ties to chemistry which ties to astronomy, cosmology, earth science, life science, etc. Building from the first selling point, I had always been able to parrot the line that the scientific disciplines were linked, but now I really comprehend HOW they are linked. 3) Dr. Hazen is an outstanding presenter. I breezed through this course as I could not wait to get back to the next class; watching them was the highlight of my day. Of note, this course is also a big hit with my son in middle school. As they cover various topics in his science class we watch the corresponding class from this course to provide him a much greater understanding than what is taught at school.
Date published: 2015-11-14
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Disappointing. The content is that of a general high school science course for non-scientists. It does include what any educated person should know, although it's extremely basic. Professor Hazen is an excellent teacher, but I found his Origins of Life and The Origin and Evolution of Earth much better. I decided to send the course back for a refund in part because it's so elementary but mainly because the professor felt compelled to apologize in lecture 4 for the fact that Copernicus, Brahe, Kepler and Galilei are "dead, white males", as though this was a gender-studies or some other -studies course. HIs comments were unnecessary and offensive. I have bought about 80 Great Courses and this is the first one that I have returned.
Date published: 2015-08-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Don't fear the scientist With limited and sporadic knowledge of science, I've tended to shy away from tackling this very deficient area in my education. With an interest in science fiction, technology and space, I figured I should at least try to understand science. So with trepidation I kicked up the first lecture. To my surprise Professor Hazen made science interesting and generally got me to understand the principles involved. Occasionally I did get lost, but he is good at reviewing and simplifying at the start of every lecture, so I could get back up to speed even if i missed a few specifics. Part of the reason I got into the course is my love of history. The early lectures covered the history of science nicely which made for any easier introduction to the subject. Even when he got into complex subjects like chemistry and genetics, I felt that I was following well enough to learn. The course is well organized with one subject leading into another. He sometimes used little experiments, computer models or samples which helped me visualize some principles I was having trouble with. Some samples like his vast collection of troglodytes were just fun. The only real negative for most is the age of the course. Science has moved on a bit since this was recorded so you aren't getting the latest information. For more conservative and home school folk the elephant in the room is evolution. The Professor is very straight forward in saying that he believes evolution is scientific fact and creationism is not. While I tend toward intelligent design (though not 6000 year old earth), I appreciated his well reasoned arguments. I felt that he was teaching and not just condescendingly calling anyone who might disagree an idiot. If you want you or your children to be exposed to evolution at a level that they will find in high school or a general science college class, this is a good course. Candidly i think not educating kids in this area is as irresponsible as not educating them in well biology... They are going to find out about both and better in a safe environment than the locker room or the laboratory.
Date published: 2015-07-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great introduction to science I recommend this course for anyone looking to dip their toes in the wide and deep field of science and not knowing where to begin. This course certainly satisfies that need. Because of the course content’s incredible diversity, I don’t think all lectures will appeal to everyone, but they do not really need to. Instead, this course offers a rich selection of topics from which one can begin a more in-depth pursuit in subsequent studies. While I appreciate the enthusiasm of Prof. Hazen and his sincere desire to have us share his interests in science, I really thought the first lecture backfired in this effort, and as I listened I felt myself growing somewhat uneasy with the fundamental message. For example, early in the first lecture Hazen goes through a newspaper the great many science-related news items and stories. His point is to make us realize how pervasive science is in our daily lives. However, I couldn't help but take it as an indictment of how science can potentially ruin our lives. News articles about the war and militarism, environmental destruction and pollution, and the tools of crime made me wonder if we didn't need a little less science in our lives. I know this wasn't his intention. But also when Prof. Hazen lists the four main principles justifying the need for people to become more scientifically literate, he seems to pander to some of our worst qualities as humans. Is it really necessary to become more scientifically literate so that we can become better “consumers”? Is that really the first principle? I understand what he's saying, but I would think such a message doesn't need to be delivered to satisfy our base instincts in a consumer-oriented society. The subsequent content-oriented lectures are much better. Some are better than others, but this is the result of one’s interests rather than inconsistency in the delivery, as I mentioned above. I found the lectures on materials properties and composition and astronomy to be very appealing; others, like quarks, I found incomprehensible given my paucity of background knowledge. But this suggests a variation of depth of coverage where some topics are possibly too advanced to get hold of within 30 minutes. In this regard, Prof. Hazen’s efforts at some historical background and biographical discussion of various well known scientists add to the interest value of the course. The later lectures go into some extended coverage of some fascinating topics such as genetics, ecosystems and Darwin’s theory of evolution. I also found the ending of the series to be particularly strong, revealing the limitless opportunities for scientists and anyone else interested in learning more. This is a good course for those beginning their inquiry into science or those wanting to reacquaint themselves with past interests. What I valued in particular were some of the lectures that provided a very informative background to many of the issues that we encounter in the media today, almost always presented without the requisite back story. Here in this course we are able to become more informed about those stories. I listened to all these lectures in audio format. While this was convenient for me, there are undoubtedly some lectures where my learning would have benefited from the accompanying visual presentation offered in the video format, for example the discussion of some concepts related to physics or the analysis of the periodic table. The audio is not inadequate in this regard, but I am sure the video version is superior. However, 60 lectures constitute a significant body of learning and taking each 30-minute lecture while walking helps ensure the health of both body and mind, so I still recommend the audio version.
Date published: 2015-04-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Best coarse on everything science I'm a fan of Professor Robert Hazen. I almost didn't buy this course because I have full courses on many of the topics in this particular course. But because Professor Hazen did the lectures, I decided to get it. Wow, I'm glad I did. It's gotta be challenging to create a course that introduces so many branches of science. But Hazen did a superb job with this. Not only are you introduced to many science topics and concepts, but Hazen provides such wonderful detail that you aren't just skimming the surface. If you like science but don't know which course to start with, start here. If you are interested in any of the topics in this course, get it. You'll find the other lectures just as interesting and you'll have great understanding of the topic. Even if you have many of the great courses on topics covered here, get it. Professor Hazen is not only full of wonderful details, but his enthusiasm lasts until the very last lecture. He doesn't skimp either. He treats every lecture with enough detail and explanation that you come away learning a lot, even if you are familiar with the topic. I have his other courses as well, and he never disappoints. Each of his courses are 36+ lectures, and in each he brings wonderful knowledge and enthusiasm.
Date published: 2015-02-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Better than expected This is a great course. I first bought the audio version years ago and recently purchased the video version. The video is much more interesting in that you can see the many interesting displays and observe the professor's expressions.
Date published: 2015-01-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from More Than Content Matters Many professors know the content of the courses they teach very well, and adequately cover the subject matter of every lecture topic they present, but they do so quantitatively, and not qualitatively. In other words, they cannot be justly faulted over the substantive content of what they teach, but many lack the ability to motivate the listeners, to get them excited about what is being presented, and to convincingly present a sense of the global or wider significance of what is being taught. This is not the case with Professor Hazen who is definitely a gifted lecturer who motivates the listener, expertly covers the content with which the various topics should deal, captivates you with his enthusiasm for each topic he is covering, and masterfully communicates complicated scientific concepts in a way that is pleasantly digestible to anyone with reading ability. Professor Hazen skilfully facilitates you becoming scientifically literate. This is a tremendous educational service to the American population. "The Joy of Science" is a superbly managed course guaranteed to provide scientific literacy. You can't go wrong by purchasing all the science courses of this gifted scholar, lecturer and teacher.
Date published: 2014-12-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Best series I have purchased I have purchased a handful of lectures but this is by far the best one. I listen to it over and over yet continue to get so much out of it. I would highly recommend this to anyone interested in a smart, comprehensive overview of science. Well done!
Date published: 2014-12-08
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Very Basic This course appears to be aimed at someone who's never taken science classes. The presented examples were very elementary and the professor takes a lot of time to build a topic. I was quite bored by the end of the end of volume 1. I put this course away for a while and will attempt vol 2 at a later date. Regardless of failing to meet my expectations, I credit the professor taking on the challenge to provide an overview of the scientific areas addressed while having to assume his audience had no basic scientific understanding.
Date published: 2014-10-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An absolutely great overview of Science Only the courses on microbiology and evolution are a little dated, which is understandable due to the speed with which research is developing new knowledge. I was surprised at how good this course was, and how good the presentation was. Once I started I could not walk away. Great job professor! All laymen, from high school and above can benefit from this course.
Date published: 2014-08-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Should be Required Viewing by Everyone! Dr. Hazen's Joy of Science course should be required viewing by everyone, especially those who seem threatened by the well-established theory of evolution. I am a religious person, a theist who was raised as a young-earth creationist, so my emphasis on certain lectures comes from this particular orientation. In my opinion, lectures 1 & 2 and 54-57 are worth the price of this course all by themselves. Due to the still unbelievably current credence given to creation science or intelligent design as legitimate alternatives to science, this course needs a wider audience. The material is well-organized; Dr. Hazen is articulate; and even though the program is almost 10 years old now, the information is accurate and recent. His convincing and constant emphasis that science is based on verifiable, replicable evidence that must be subject to falsification and refutation is the genius of this course. He is in no way hostile toward theistic worldviews, but he passionately and convincingly defends science and the scientific method as the authoritative processes by which we make sense of natural life. I also think the material is presented in such a way so that people with a non-science background (like yours truly) can understand the information but also in such a way so that people with a more advanced understanding of the subject would still come away knowing more than they did. To those who rated the program low due to its superficial, basic, or "high-school" level information, I would simply say that most people do not have a very advanced knowledge about and understanding of science (thus, the high percentage of people who still think evolution is "just a theory"). I think the aforementioned line of criticism (too basic) might apply to someone with a doctorate in biology (although I doubt it); however, my guess is all science teachers in U. S. public schools would benefit from viewing this information, as would the general public. Perhaps, if you know as much as Dr. Hazen, you might not get much from the series, but I really doubt such a condition applies to very many people. Get this program, watch one video a day, and then in two months be amazed at how much more you know. I do recommend the DVD or the video version.
Date published: 2014-08-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Mr. Wizard of the 21st Century Dr. Hazen knows his stuff and he wants you to know it, too. If you are new to science then get the DVD but if you love science and are willing to hit the REWIND button now and then, the CD will do nicely. Distilling our present state of scientific knowledge along with historical background is an amazing feat - Dr. H does this a joyful aplomb. For those of you who grew up in the 1950s there was a wonderful show called 'Mr. Wizard' on TV. Dr. H does an updated reprise of Mr. Wizard including zapping himself to demonstarte Static Electricity. This course requires you pay close attention but your attention will be well rewarded. Yes, this course is a joy!
Date published: 2014-06-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Best purchase so far I have watched four Great Courses. This is the best so far. Not only does the professor bring complex ideas down to simple frameworks, but I think what really sets him apart is his energy and enthusiasm. I wish I had this professor in college, maybe I would have become a scientist!
Date published: 2013-08-17
Rated 3 out of 5 by from needs updating Very systematic, comprehensive, well presented course. Very old course, and needs updating. A number of topics covered are sensitive to the current science developments and are hopelessly behind.
Date published: 2013-01-23
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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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