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The Nature of Matter: Understanding the Physical World

Explore the science of chemistry, which deals with matter in its infinite variety-from electrons and water molecules to high-tech materials-in this fascinating course.
The Nature of Matter: Understanding the Physical World is rated 4.6 out of 5 by 49.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing Instructor I'm a chemistry teacher, and Professor Ball has given me ideas on how to teach better. He exudes enthusiasm and his teaching style is top tier. I'm buying his transcript so I can keep his lectures handy.
Date published: 2024-06-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great presentation! I learned a lot from Prof. Ball's lectures on chemistry and materials science. I liked very much his enthusiasm! Thank you!!
Date published: 2023-06-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent overall with one big blemish This course spans topics ranging from electron shells around atoms, the development of bronze and concomitant influence on warfare, the amount of electrical generating capacity devoted to refine aluminum ore, the percentage of asphalt which is recycled, and many other things. In general I loved the approach and the professor is an excellent presenter. However there was one thing which really disturbed me. In the lecture on food chemistry he makes a statement that milk is almost the perfect food. In the context this could be and certainly often will be interpreted to mean that cow's milk is almost the perfect food for humans. Amongst many other hazards cow's milk is suspected to be the dominant cause of type 1 diabetes, a large contributor to osteoporosis (calcium content notwithstanding), and also a large contributor to heart disease. These are horrible though lesser known, but problems such as lactose intolerance and congestion from mucous generation are widely known. It's probably inevitable that understanding in some areas will be superficial when attempting such a broad range of topics. I refer the reader with a particular interest in type 1 diabetes or heart disease to Devil in the Milk, which is one of the most shocking books I've ever read. I've read related books with interest, including Milk the Deadly Poison and Whitewash.
Date published: 2023-04-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fine detailed lectures Dr. Ball does a superb and pleasant job of teaching great detail on this subject.
Date published: 2022-08-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Explains Well The instructor conveys the material in a very comprehensible and easy to understand manner. He also applies the subject matter to real world examples. I find this course interesting and encourage anyone to purchase it, if they are interested in this subject matter.
Date published: 2022-06-05
Rated 2 out of 5 by from How To Look At And Understand Great Art Unimaginative banal videography and direction; somewhat boring lectures with occasional errors. Uninspired delivery.
Date published: 2022-02-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The nature of matter Very educative and easy to understand .Thank you regards
Date published: 2021-11-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Interesting survey of intro material science I am a chemistry enthusiast, but have always struggled through physics despite having significant interest in the subject. The science of materials helps bridge the gap for me and honestly gave me a whole new field to be passionate about. Underappreciated and lesser known than the "primary" sort of sciences, this course presented diverse content in an understandable manner for a newcomer to the field.
Date published: 2021-11-10
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Discover how the immense variety of matter-stars, mountains, plants, people-is made by a limited number of elements that combine in simple ways. In the engaging lectures of The Nature of Matter, no scientific background is needed to appreciate everyday miracles like a bouncing rubber ball or water's astonishing power to dissolve. Knowledge of materials drives the development of civilization. Where will we go next?


David W. Ball

The fun part about being a chemist is that we still have lots of combinations of these raw materials to explore.


Cleveland State University
David W. Ball is a Professor of Chemistry at Cleveland State University in Ohio. He received his bachelor's degree from Baylor University and his master's and doctoral degrees from Rice University. After performing post-doctoral research at Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory in California, he joined Cleveland State as an Assistant Professor, rising to the rank of Professor in 2002 and becoming Chair of the Chemistry Department in 2012. Dr. Ball teaches entry-level chemistry as well as physical chemistry in the undergraduate and graduate programs. His research interests include computational chemistry, particularly new high-energy materials and small-molecule-protein interactions. He has over 200 publications, equally split between research and educational studies. His various books include general chemistry at the introductory level, chemistry for allied health professions, and science and engineering chemistry. His widely used textbook on physical chemistry has been translated into Spanish and Japanese. Dr. Ball has received accolades for his teaching at the department, college, and university levels, and he recently served as a Distinguished Visiting Professor at the United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Dr. Ball is active in his profession organization, the American Chemical Society. In his spare time, he does woodworking and takes weekly horseback-riding lessons.

By This Professor

The Nature of Matter: Understanding the Physical World
The Nature of Matter: Understanding the Physical World


Matter, Energy, and Entropy

01: Matter, Energy, and Entropy

Starting with a deck of cards tossed into the air, explore the key concepts of matter, energy, and entropy, which are the building blocks of the physical universe. Study examples of these phenomena, and see how they are demonstrated by the behavior of the airborne cards....

30 min
The Nature of Light and Matter

02: The Nature of Light and Matter

Trace a scientific revolution that started with a curious observation about light and a seemingly nonsensical explanation. Learn how Max Planck's proposal that energy is related to frequency, and Albert Einstein's application of this principle to light, gave birth to modern physics....

28 min
A New Theory of Matter

03: A New Theory of Matter

Discover how the idea that light comes in discrete packets called "quanta" led to a startling new theory of matter: quantum mechanics. One prediction is that matter, like light, behaves as both a particle and a wave, a property observed in subatomic particles such as electrons....

30 min
The Structure of Atoms and Molecules

04: The Structure of Atoms and Molecules

Understand atomic and molecular structure with the help of a simple analogy: the rooms of a house and the collection of houses in a city. See how the electrons of an atom occupy shells, subshells, and orbitals, which give atoms and molecules their distinctive properties....

30 min
The Stellar Atom-Building Machine

05: The Stellar Atom-Building Machine

Where did atoms come from? Trace the story of nucleosynthesis-the formation of complex nuclei and atoms. Cover this process from the big bang, which filled the universe with hydrogen and helium, to the events inside stars that produced practically all of the heavier elements...

30 min
The Amazing Periodic Table

06: The Amazing Periodic Table

Investigate an astonishingly powerful scientific tool: the periodic table of the elements. Delve into the insights that led Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev to construct the first modern version of the table in the 1860s, and explore the world of information it contains....

31 min
Ionic versus Covalent Matter

07: Ionic versus Covalent Matter

Embark on an atomic adventure that explains the differences between vitamins and minerals, among other marvels of the chemical realm. Use your background in electron shell structure from Lecture 4 to understand why atoms form ionic and covalent bonds....

31 min
The Versatile Element: Carbon

08: The Versatile Element: Carbon

Study the amazing properties of the carbon atom, which can attach itself to other carbon atoms to form the hardest known mineral (diamond) and also one of the softest (graphite). It all depends on the geometry of the bonds. Discover other types of pure carbon: fullerenes, nanotubes, and graphene....

31 min
The Strange Behavior of Water

09: The Strange Behavior of Water

Analyze one of the weirdest of all substances: water. While we think of water as normal, its boiling, freezing, dissolving, and heat-storing properties are quite extraordinary compared to other molecules. Discover why this is and what water's attributes have to do with the existence of life....

29 min
Matter in Solution

10: Matter in Solution

Explore the nature of chemical solutions, which can be liquid, solid, or gaseous, and are ubiquitous in daily life. Examples include dental fillings, air, blood, and soft drinks. Study the components of a solution-the solvent and solute-and the principles of what dissolves what....

31 min
Interactions: Adhesion and Cohesion

11: Interactions: Adhesion and Cohesion

Probe the forces that allow lizards to walk up walls: adhesion and cohesion, which are ways that materials interact with themselves and with other materials. By examining these forces in depth, learn how adhesives work and why cotton makes the best towels....

30 min
Surface Energy: The Interfaces among Us

12: Surface Energy: The Interfaces among Us

A surface is a discontinuity, or interface, between one phase of matter and another. Focus on this crucial boundary, which affects everything from a spacecraft reentering the atmosphere to the efficient washing of clothes. Explore surface phenomena such as films, surface tension, and catalysts....

30 min
The Eloquent Chemistry of Carbon Compounds

13: The Eloquent Chemistry of Carbon Compounds

Delve into the richness of organic chemistry-the study of carbon compounds that have links to living things. Learn some of the basic terminology, and survey common organic compounds such as alkanes, alcohols, ethers, aldehydes, ketones, organic acids, and esters....

31 min
Materials for Body Implants

14: Materials for Body Implants

Today, medicine can replace many parts of the human body thanks to an improved understanding of materials and their biochemistry. Trace the progress in body implants from dental fillings and tooth implants to artificial hips, knees, hearts, arteries, and breast implants....

30 min
The Chemistry of Food and Drink

15: The Chemistry of Food and Drink

Explore the chemistry of food and drink from the point of view of the cook and the consumer. What are the chemicals in an egg, a piece of toast, a slice of bacon, and other typical foods? How does cooking transform them, and how are the chemicals utilized by our bodies?...

31 min
Fuels and Explosives

16: Fuels and Explosives

Study the different ways that stored chemical energy is released in substances such as gasoline, coal, natural gas, nitroglycerine, and TNT. Learn the difference between detonation, which is what high explosives do, and deflagration, which happens to the fuel in an internal combustion engine....

31 min
The Air We Breathe

17: The Air We Breathe

Analyze the mix of gases in air, from the most abundant-nitrogen and oxygen-to minor constituents such as argon and carbon dioxide. Explore the phenomenon of air pressure and how it affects human life. Also chart the worrisome increase in the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere....

33 min
Materials: The Stone, Bronze, and Iron Ages

18: Materials: The Stone, Bronze, and Iron Ages

The rise of civilization went hand in hand with advances in the understanding of materials. Learn how the Stone Age gave way to the Bronze Age and then the Iron Age, as ancient people learned to smelt ore and manipulate the properties of metals and alloys....

30 min
Again and Again: Polymers

19: Again and Again: Polymers

The mystery of a bouncing rubber ball launches you into the study of polymers-long molecules with many repeating subunits. Explore their immense variety, from "poly" synthetics like polyethylene and polyester to organic molecules such as proteins, carbohydrates, and DNA....

31 min
Recycling Materials

20: Recycling Materials

Investigate the ease of recycling some materials, such as aluminum and asphalt, and the impracticality of reusing others, such as certain plastics. Look at the different types of plastic, metal, paper, and glass, and discover what you can put in the recycle bin and why....

30 min
Resistance Is Futile: Superconductors

21: Resistance Is Futile: Superconductors

Under special conditions, some materials lose all resistance to electron flow, becoming superconductors that transmit electricity with 100 percent efficiency. Probe this phenomenon at the atomic level, and learn how scientists are discovering new, more practical superconducting materials....

32 min
Resistance Is Useful: Semiconductors

22: Resistance Is Useful: Semiconductors

How does a tiny piece of impure silicon launch an electronics revolution? Follow the development of semiconductors from the invention of the transistor in the 1940s to ever-smaller circuits that are now measured in nanometers. Along the way, discover how today's complex microchips are made....

33 min
Out of Many, One: Composites

23: Out of Many, One: Composites

When different materials combine to create something very unlike its individual components, you have a composite. Learn what gives composites superior properties. Explore a wide range of examples, including concrete, carbon fiber, fiberglass, Kevlar, automobile tires, carbon nanotubes, and aerogel....

31 min
The Future of Materials

24: The Future of Materials

Close your study of the nature of matter by looking ahead at ambitious goals for future materials, and review examples of past science fiction that's now science fact. Achievements like the Moon landings and the Internet suggest that nanoscale technologies, a cure for cancer, and other dreams may one day become reality....

33 min