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The Science of Energy: Resources and Power Explained

An award-winning professor and expert geophysicist presents an unbiased investigation into energy sources.
The Science of Energy: Resources and Power Explained is rated 4.5 out of 5 by 82.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from A lot of new facts Than you so much Professor Wysession for this wonderful course about energy. I was impressed by the quality of information I got. I learned a whole lot of new things about energy (oil sands, methane in permafrost, gasification process, politics in power, biomass in US, nuclear fusion and fission, and that’s just to name a few!). I certainly recommend this course for raising everyone’s education. I hope school students were taught about ecological awareness this way.
Date published: 2022-12-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Professor Wysession Does it Again !!! I would watch anything that Prof Wysession chose to present, he is simply superb at organizing his thoughts, providing visual data and of course with his ability to discuss just about anything and make the topic fascinating. His knowledge and his ability to communicate are on the level of genius, no joke, he is simply that gifted. I hope he updates his Science of Energy course in future years as the topic is changing so quickly but for now, his 24 lecture series is a wonderful and deep introduction to all things Energy related. Last, please do yourself the immense favor of watching his entire Geological Wonders course, it is probably my favorite course in all of the Great Courses I have attended.
Date published: 2022-11-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Food for thought The course was very interesting and helped see energy debates in a more considered and logical approach.
Date published: 2022-08-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good Class and Teacher The teacher is engaging and knowledgable. The content is presented in an easy to follow way. The energy field changes so rapidly that some of the material is already a little dated and the pamphlet doesn't cover everything. I like my own notes better. Overall this is an excellent, interesting, and informative class. The instructor makes it really approachable.
Date published: 2022-05-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from It covers all aspects. Both sides of climate change argument are included and I did change my thinking on some points.
Date published: 2022-04-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Excellent course. Dr Wysession has excellent presentation and technical skills.
Date published: 2021-11-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful Energy Course I'm very impressed with this course. The teacher is excellent, covers the material and challenging concepts in an easy to understand manner. I'm an engineer but it is a good refresher on engineering concepts and I am learning a lot. It would be a useful course for anyone interested in the future of energy - such a timely important topic
Date published: 2021-11-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very objective I was impressed with the lecturer's knowledge and ability to be objective. I was afraid this was going to be a course pushing a certain political viewpoint without the facts. That was not the case, thankfully.
Date published: 2021-09-06
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Energy is the engine that fuels civilization. To comprehend the issues surrounding energy production, distribution, and consumption in the 21st century, you need to understand the science behind how energy works. And you need a reliable, unbiased source to give you the facts you need to form your own educated opinions. This course imparts essential information for any well-informed citizen of the world.


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
The Science of Energy: Resources and Power Explained


Energy and Human Civilization

01: Energy and Human Civilization

How much energy is required to power human civilization? What is it that makes our cities, factories, homes, and cars so energy inefficient? How can the average individual affect energy directions? Find out in this overview of how energy touches everything from engineering and economics to biology, chemistry, and geophysics....

33 min
Energy: Forms and Conversion for Use

02: Energy: Forms and Conversion for Use

Energy is a fundamental part of our universe-in a sense, the universe is energy. Here, Professor Wysession introduces you to the many fascinating forms energy takes, including potential, kinetic, mechanical, and thermal energy. He also explains how energy is measured to make you more fluent in "energy-speak" for the coming lectures....

35 min
Heat: The Transfer and Flow of Energy

03: Heat: The Transfer and Flow of Energy

One of the first forms of energy that humans learned to use is heat. You'll examine three ways heat flows (radiation, convection, conduction); make sense of the heat flow equation and the concept of entropy; and go inside the inner workings of a "heat engine" machine....

34 min
Electricity: Ultimate Energy Converter

04: Electricity: Ultimate Energy Converter

Discover what makes electricity such an attractive vehicle for energy. Learn how electricity can come from oil, coal, solar, and other forces, and how electricity travels through wires with the help of voltage. Also, examine recent advances that make it easier for us to choose where we source our electricity....

35 min
Chemical Energy, Biomass, and Photosynthesis

05: Chemical Energy, Biomass, and Photosynthesis

Turn now to chemical energy, the potential energy resulting from the position of atoms within molecules. After an overview of photosynthesis (perhaps the universe's most amazing form of energy conversion), learn how combustion transforms biofuels into light and heat, and how energy density affects the transportation of biofuels like petroleum....

38 min
Coal: Convenient, Energy-Dense Fuel

06: Coal: Convenient, Energy-Dense Fuel

Understand one of energy's most polarizing topics: coal. Where does coal come from, and how does it develop? What makes coal "clean" or "dirty"? Why do certain nations have the largest coal reserves? What are some advantages to coal energy? And how does strip mining impact the environment?...

34 min
Petroleum: Chemistry, Retrieval, and Use

07: Petroleum: Chemistry, Retrieval, and Use

In the first of two lectures on petroleum, examine the science behind this common fossil fuel: how it's formed, how it's found and processed, how it's transported, and how it's used. You'll also gain insights into related topics, including geologic structures such as anticlines and the growth of the petroleum industry....

35 min
New Petroleum Directions

08: New Petroleum Directions

Peer into the future with this look at some of the newest trends in oil and gas production. Professor Wysession explains the difference between conventional and unconventional oil, the geology of oil sands and oil shales, and the risks of fracking (which can cause earthquakes and other serious damage)....

34 min
Fossil Fuel Energy: Issues and Concerns

09: Fossil Fuel Energy: Issues and Concerns

Fossil fuels, while abundant and portable, come with a significant list of drawbacks. Focus now on the various financial, environmental, and health concerns surrounding our continued reliance on fossil fuels (such as coal fires and oil spills). Then, examine some recent technological and legislative efforts to combat these problems....

36 min
Understanding Carbon Dioxide

10: Understanding Carbon Dioxide

Carbon dioxide is a pollutant so significant to human civilization that Professor Wysession devotes an entire lecture to it. If CO2 is only 0.04% of the atmosphere, how can it be so harmful? Is global warming a natural process? What actions can we take to reduce the dangers of CO2?...

35 min
The Science of Nuclear Power

11: The Science of Nuclear Power

Travel to the subatomic level for a fascinating exploration of how nuclear energy is generated. It's an eye-opening lecture that touches on everything from nuclear fission and radioactive decay to the inner workings of nuclear power plants and the attendant fears and concerns of core meltdowns....

33 min
The Nuclear Fission Fuel Cycle

12: The Nuclear Fission Fuel Cycle

Professor Wysession explains how uranium is used to make electricity through the process of nuclear fission, from acquiring uranium-bearing rocks to disposing of leftover nuclear waste. Afterwards, learn some of the upsides of nuclear energy (including its nearly unlimited power) and its downsides (such as its inability to become decentralized or portable)....

35 min
Sunlight: Inexhaustible Energy Source

13: Sunlight: Inexhaustible Energy Source

Sunlight is a literally inexhaustible source of energy. Discover why (and how) the sun gives off light, how much sunlight energy the earth's surface gets in an average day, how much land we'd need to supply all our energy needs through sunlight, and some of the geographical problems with solar power....

32 min
Solar Power and Electricity

14: Solar Power and Electricity

The biggest area of growth for solar energy: transforming sunlight into electricity with the aid of solar panels. Go inside the world of photovoltaic solar panels to find out how they convert sunlight into functional power. Also, take a closer look at other solar-related technologies, like solar troughs, solar towers, and Stirling engines....

32 min
Wind Power and Electricity

15: Wind Power and Electricity

Wind power is another growing source of renewable energy. First, discover how giant wind turbines provide us with energy. Then, get a brief history of how humans have tapped into wind's potential and the meteorology of how wind works. Finally, learn the best regions for wind power and the advantages and drawbacks of using wind turbines....

31 min
Hydroelectric Power: Electricity from Water

16: Hydroelectric Power: Electricity from Water

Hydroelectric power continues to be the planet's largest renewable source of electricity. In this lecture, Professor Wysession discusses the benefits of hydroelectric power (no CO2 production, free fuel) and drawbacks (environmental disruption); how hydroelectricity generation works; run-of-the-river and impoundment-style power plants; and the basics of the water cycle....

33 min
Biofuels: Biodiesel and Ethanol

17: Biofuels: Biodiesel and Ethanol

Liquid biofuels like biodiesel and corn-based ethanol are the most rapidly growing forms of biomass energy in the 21st century. Here, survey some of the many intriguing chemical reaction routes that transform solid plant biomass into liquids with high-energy densities. Then, ponder some of the economic and political implications of biofuels....

30 min
Geothermal Energy

18: Geothermal Energy

Go deep underground for a look at geothermal energy. Topics include the energy budget of our planet, two main ways of using geothermal energy, five different technologies used for hydrothermal power systems (including dry steam power plants), and the concept of shallow ground source heat pumps (GSHPs)....

33 min
Energy Storage Technologies

19: Energy Storage Technologies

The sun doesn't always shine, and the wind doesn't always blow. So how do we store renewable energy from these and other sources for later? Focus on several basic (as well as high-performance and high-volume) technologies for storing the surplus of energy we can get from sources such as wind and solar farms....

32 min
Energy Needs for Transportation

20: Energy Needs for Transportation

Transportation is an enormous part of our global total energy consumption. From planes to trains to automobiles, learn how scientists are working to make popular modes of transportation as fuel-efficient as possible. Also, explore the topic of electric cars and whether or not they're truly more efficient than gas-powered ones....

32 min
Energy Efficiency: Technologies and Trends

21: Energy Efficiency: Technologies and Trends

Where is energy commonly being wasted? How does one become a more efficient energy user? This lecture is filled with takeaways to help anyone (from home owner to car driver to CEO) become more energy efficient in a range of sectors and settings: industries, transportation, residences, and commercial buildings....

30 min
Energy Sources: Economics and Politics

22: Energy Sources: Economics and Politics

Professor Wysession outlines some of the major economic and political forces shaping the development of the world's energy resources. You'll learn how hidden costs can affect the economics of supply and demand, how governments can incentivize and dis-incentivize energy industries, and the complexities of international agreements (and trade wars)....

33 min
Probable and Possible Future Energy Sources

23: Probable and Possible Future Energy Sources

Look ahead to the possible (and probable) advancements in the areas of energy resources. You'll cover the growth of tidal and wave energy, the difficulty of nuclear fusion, the energy potential of earthquakes and supervolcanoes, and giant space arrays of solar panels designed to capture even more solar energy....

30 min
Energy Trends: Planning for the Near Future

24: Energy Trends: Planning for the Near Future

According to Professor Wysession, there's no easy solution to the world's energy future. Going through many of the sources explored in previous lectures, he estimates how much energy we'll need, what sources are (and will be) available to us, and how to think realistically-and optimistically-about our energy consumption....

42 min