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Special Collection - 36 Big Ideas

Special Collection - 36 Big Ideas

Taught By Multiple Professors

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Special Collection - 36 Big Ideas

Course No. 9001
Taught By Multiple Professors
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22% of reviewers would recommend this series
Course No. 9001
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Course Overview

As the home to big ideas, The Great Courses has produced thousands of lectures that have introduced millions of lifelong learners to some of the biggest ideas out there. Now, enjoy 36 lectures specially curated from some of our most popular courses and get a fresh learning experience in a wide range of disciplines.

There are ideas, and then there are big ideas. Ideas that spark a sense of childlike awe. Ideas with the power to open your eyes to the mystery, wonder, and excitement of the world around you. Ideas that, in some cases, can even make you gasp in astonishment.

Think of big ideas as powerful windows into fascinating topics drawn from nearly every field of human endeavor. They can be scientific theories that shatter our notion of how the universe works; turning points in history that revolutionized Western civilization; philosophical views that make us question previously held beliefs about the meaning of life; or new technologies that look like science fiction instead of science fact. Whatever the ideas, and wherever they’re from, they make for the most engaging, entertaining, and rewarding adventures that any curious mind will relish.

As the home to big ideas, The Great Courses has produced thousands of lectures that have introduced millions of lifelong learners to some of the biggest ideas out there. Now, in 36 Big Ideas, you can enjoy 36 lectures specially curated from some of our most popular courses and get a fresh learning experience in a wide range of disciplines. Structures of information that are physically real; religious writings that may have been forgeries; a universal template of world myths; the science of tasting colors and seeing sounds; engineered viruses that target cancer cells—these are just a few of the riveting, eye-opening, bizarre, and profound ideas you’ll explore in this illustrious collection of Great Courses lectures. Join us for an intriguing tour of big ideas that give you unrivaled opportunities to appreciate—like never before—history, science, language, religion, and much more.

Mind-Boggling Questions, Mind-Blowing Answers

How does electromagnetic radiation traveling at 186,000 miles per second tell us everything we need to know about the distant stars? Why do we prefer random rejection over always getting what we want? How does science explain our subjective experience—if it even can?

These are just a few of the many scintillating questions whose answers you’ll get in 36 Big Ideas. Scientists, historians, linguists, psychologists, archaeologists—these and other experts guide you through topics, concepts, and events that are sure to amaze you.

  • Time’s arrow: Explore how memory and aging orient us in time, and how irreversible processes (such as an egg breaking) offer stirring insights into thermodynamics and the one-way direction of time.
  • Synesthesia: Focus on this strange but true phenomenon that draws seemingly bizarre connections between different sensory inputs (such as associating a letter with a specific color).
  • Consciousness: Learn how scientists attempt to explain how we perceive our experiences—and ourselves—by probing what’s known as “the hard problem of consciousness.”
  • Monomyths: Investigate the fascinating cultural universality hidden inside heroic journeys by characters such as Little Red Riding Hood and Arjuna in the Mahabharata.
  • Khipu: Go back to the height of the Inca Empire and learn how the world’s largest untranslated written language was made with strings and knots (known as khipu).
  • Infant learning: How do babies know what they know? It turns out that babies are born with helpful, innate scripts that help them immediately make sense of the world around them.
  • The Method of Loci: We’re constantly searching for ways to improve our memory—and one of the best techniques for aiding memory recall was used in ancient Greece and Rome.

Big Ideas—Explained by Bright Minds

For this collection, we’ve assembled some of our most engaging professors and instructors; the bright minds that our customers return to again and again for comprehensive (and comprehensible) explanations about some of the most startling aspects of our world. While many of the topics in these lecture involving cutting-edge developments in science, mathematics, technology, linguistics, and other traditionally “complex” fields of study, each of these lectures takes care to make the seemingly unexplainable finally explainable.

Undoubtedly, 36 Big Ideas is a wonderful opportunity to get to know some of our many award-winning professors and to join them on exciting adventures into the mysterious.

  • Archaeologist and professor John R. Hale takes you to Stonehenge for a look at one of ancient civilization’s most complex feats of engineering, and explores various theories about the site’s true purpose.
  • Professor Bart D. Ehrman, a religion scholar and New York Times best-selling author, reads between the lines of early gospels about Jesus’s youth that aren’t in the New Testament.
  • Popular science host and award-winning professor Indre Viskontas reveals how tiny, one-dimensional strings could actually be the foundation of our entire physical universe.
  • Acclaimed linguist and professor John McWhorter explains why, until e-mail and text messages came along, there was no true conversational form of writing similar to conversational speech.
  • Acclaimed Professor Robert Sapolsky explains how a baby can sense and respond to the environmental stressors of its mother while still inside the womb.

Profound topics, deep insights, great professors—36 Big Ideas captures everything that makes learning with the Great Courses so great. The lectures collected here are the perfect introduction to some of our most popular courses, and to some of the many ways in which our courses explain the seemingly unexplainable.

Big things, as they say, come in small packages. And it’s certainly the case with this entry in our Great Courses Collections series; one that’s sure to delight, surprise, and make you pause in realization of just how intricate and fascinating the world is.

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36 lectures
 |  31 minutes each
  • 1
    The Big Bang
    CONCEPT: The universe came into existence not as an explosion but as an expansion of space itself. The big bang theory proposes that the universe (with all its matter and energy) came into existence at one moment in time not as an explosion, but as an expansion of space itself. What observations support this theory? Find out the surprising conclusions today’s astronomers draw. from The Joy of Science, Lecture 32 x
  • 2
    Astronomy
    CONCEPT: Almost everything we know about the distant stars comes from electromagnetic radiation traveling at 186,000 miles per second. Almost everyone loves astronomy, but few of us realize that it’s the science (and art) of collecting, analyzing, and interpreting photons from space. What are astronomical data? How are they collected by telescopes in space and on Earth? And how do astronomers gather, interpret, and explain what they find? from The Joy of Science, Lecture 29 x
  • 3
    Time’s Arrow
    CONCEPT: The essence of time is its one-way, asymmetrical direction. Break an egg. Melt an ice cube. Mix coffee and cream. Each starts with an ordered state and ends with one that is much more disorderly. Examine the entropy of the universe and the one-way direction of time. from Mysteries of Modern Physics: Time, Lecture 4 x
  • 4
    Time Travel
    CONCEPT: Real time travel would involve not de- and rematerializing, but moving through all intervening points between locations in space-time. Use a simple analogy to understand how a time machine might work. Unlike movie scenarios featuring dematerializing and rematerializing, a real time machine would be a spaceship that moves through all the intervening points between locations in space-time. from Mysteries of Modern Physics: Time, Lecture 19 x
  • 5
    String Theory, Membranes, and the Multiverse
    CONCEPT: Tiny, one-dimensional strings could actually be the foundation of our entire physical universe. What exactly is string theory? What can M-theory and the behavior of black holes reveal about it? How does the theory of loop quantum gravity explain how gravity works at the quantum level? Answers to these mind-bending scientific questions await you in this lecture. from 12 Essential Scientific Concepts, Lecture 22 x
  • 6
    Three Faces of Information
    CONCEPT: Ours is, without a doubt, an age of information. Consider that information could be independent of content—a radical idea that’s led to powerful information technologies that continue to change our world. By viewing DNA and black holes as actual structures of information, scientists now think that information is physically real. This lecture will take you on a mind-bending trip to the frontiers of science. This lecture is from Great Scientific Ideas That Changed the World by Dr. Steven L. Goldman, the Andrew W. Mellon Distinguished Professor in the Humanities at Lehigh University. x
  • 7
    The Human Asteroid
    CONCEPT: Despite our great strides in biological understanding, the diversity of species on our planet is decreasing at an alarming rate. Just as we find ourselves on the brink of truly understanding life’s diversity, we find ourselves on the brink of losing it. This concept is your window into the world of biodiversity. How do we measure biodiversity loss? And, more important, why should we care? from Biology: The Science of Life, Lecture 72 x
  • 8
    What Is the Meaning of Life?
    CONCEPT: Surprisingly, vastly different civilizations come to some of the same conclusions about the answers to the meaning of life. What is the underlying meaning of life? While there may not be a single answer on which everyone can agree, there are recurrent themes that appear in the investigations of vastly different civilizations. Take a closer look at some of them in this lecture. from The Meaning of Life, Lecture 36 x
  • 9
    Psychology and Free Will
    CONCEPT: Unconscious stimuli can actually have a profound effect on the choices you think you make independent of anything else. Although we may believe we understand our own minds and motivations, many psychologists believe we don’t have as much insight into the choices we make as we might think. This lecture describes experiments that demonstrate the effect of unconscious stimuli on our behavior. from Great Philosophical Debates: Free Will and Determinism, Lecture 15 x
  • 10
    What Is Existentialism?
    CONCEPT: Existentialism is not a gloomy, anxious philosophy but a way of thinking that can be positive-minded and invigorating. Existentialism is recognized as a movement—rather than a school of thought or doctrine—and can be traced throughout the history of Western philosophy. You’ll discover that at the heart of this revolutionary philosophical outlook runs an emphasis on individualism, passion, and freedom. from No Excuses: Existentialism and the Meaning of Life, Lecture 1 x
  • 11
    Infancy Gospels
    CONCEPT: Many of the most revealing stories about the life, deeds, and sayings of Jesus never made it into the New Testament. The four Gospels of the New Testament say very little about Jesus's life as an infant and a young boy. This "lost period" is the subject of several early gospels, including the Proto-Gospel of James and the Infancy Gospel of Thomas. What do these early gospels say? And why did they not make it into the New Testament? from Lost Christianities: Christian Scriptures and the Battles over Authentication, Lecture 10 x
  • 12
    The Problem of Pseudonymity
    CONCEPT: Many religious writings in the ancient world were forged—sometimes by the author’s followers instead of the author himself. Explore the hard evidence that some of the letters circulating in Paul’s name were actually forged by other Christian writers. The New Testament contains both authentic and pseudonymous Pauline letters; and knowing who wrote what can have a profound effect on our understanding of the Bible and its history. from The History of the Bible, Lecture 4 x
  • 13
    Cosmic Hub at Stonehenge
    CONCEPT: Ancient civilizations built amazing structures with mysterious purposes. Stonehenge is the iconic Neolithic and Bronze Age structure that represents the pinnacle of the megalithic tradition. Explore the history of this impressive wonder and mull over various interpretations archaeologists have put forth about this sacred landscape’s true purpose. from Exploring the Roots of Religion, Lecture 26 x
  • 14
    Washington—Failures and Real Accomplishments
    CONCEPT: George Washington’s least-known presidential and military successes were actually his most important contributions to American history. Surprisingly, it may actually be George Washington’s least-known presidential and military accomplishments (and failures) that had the most dramatic impact on the early history of the United States of America. Learn why these “negative contributions” and “non-events” have often been ignored by many historians. from The Skeptic’s Guide to American History, Lecture 4 x
  • 15
    The Black Death
    CONCEPT: The Black Death, which killed up to one-half of Europe’s population, made social mobility possible for the first time. The Black Death had a cataclysmic impact on medieval history, changing almost every aspect of life in the space of just a few short years. But one of the most intriguing changes was positive: social mobility that gave more power and autonomy to peasants and less to nobles. from Turning Points in Medieval History, Lecture 21 x
  • 16
    Gutenberg’s Print Revolution
    CONCEPT: The Protestant Reformation, the Renaissance, and the Scientific Revolution would never have happened were it not for one single invention: the printing press. Trace how Johannes Gutenberg’s introduction of a press with movable type sparked a print revolution. His press became a key factor in the Protestant Reformation, the Renaissance, the Scientific Revolution, and the standardization of vernacular languages. from Turning Points in Modern History, Lecture 3 x
  • 17
    Mysteries of the Industrial Revolution
    CONCEPT: The Industrial Revolution could only have happened in England, and only at the time in history that it did. Conditions for an industrial revolution were ripe in France, China, and the Ottoman Empire in the 1800s. So why was England the country where this landmark economic event occurred—and why could it only have been England? Find out by examining various explanations at individual, national, and global levels. from Foundations of Economic Prosperity, Lecture 9 x
  • 18
    A Renaissance in the Kitchen
    CONCEPT: Renaissance court banquets were so grand that each of a typical banquet’s dozen courses was an entire meal in itself. Experience the mind-boggling grandeur of a Renaissance court banquet thrown on January 23, 1529, by the son of the duke of Ferrara. As you’ll learn, Renaissance banquets were less about taste and more about overwhelming the diner by the variety and elegance of each course. from Food: A Cultural Culinary History, Lecture 15 x
  • 19
    The Khipu
    CONCEPT: The world’s largest untranslated written language was made with strings and knots. How did the Inca Empire manage to be so organized, expansive, and efficient? The answer: a set of strings tied with many tiny knots. Learn how these khipus acted as recording devices for everything that could be recorded in a normal document, from population censuses to histories to simple instructions. from Lost Worlds of South America, Lecture 21 x
  • 20
    Japanese—The World’s Most Complex Script
    CONCEPT: Japanese writing is the most complicated script ever devised, and its complexity will likely never be abandoned. Borrowed and adapted from the Chinese, Japanese writing is the most complicated script ever devised. Find out how Japanese writing took on the complex form it has today, why attempts to simplify it have had little success, and the reason it’s unlikely the system will ever be abandoned. from Writing and Civilization: From Ancient Worlds to Modernity, Lecture 6 x
  • 21
    The Monomyths of Rank and Campbell
    CONCEPT: There exists a universal template for mythic archetypes that overrides cultural origin. Heroic journeys enchant and inspire us—no matter what cultural heritage they originate from. Analyze this fascinating universality with a close look at the monomyths, a concept put forward by Otto Rank and Joseph Campbell. from Myth in Human History, Lecture 25 x
  • 22
    Why Texting Is Misunderstood
    CONCEPT: Until the advent of e-mail and text messages, there was no truly conversational form of writing analogous to conversational speech. Contrary to what you may think, e-mail and texting aren’t bad writing. Rather, as Professor McWhorter shows, they’re a form of speech produced on the fly rather than with careful, largely solitary concentration, and they can actually tolerate a greater diversity of structures and vocabulary than formal writing can. from Myths, Lies, and Half Truths of Language Usage, Lecture 23 x
  • 23
    The Hard Problem of Consciousness
    CONCEPT: Current scientific knowledge may be unable to accurately explain our subjective experiences. If there is a defining problem in the philosophy of the mind today, it is the idea of accounting for our subjective experiences. Go inside what David Chalmers calls the “hard problem of consciousness,” which offers some intriguing perspectives on how we perceive our experiences and ourselves. from Philosophy of Mind: Brains, Consciousness, and Thinking Machines x
  • 24
    Our Changing Brain
    CONCEPT: The human brain is not a static organ but has the ability to continually remold itself (like plastic) throughout a person’s life. Follow the evolution of neuroscience and discover how our brains—from the smallest brain cell to sweeping regions across the brain—demonstrate plasticity. Then learn about the stream of chemical reactions that affect memory, skill acquisition, and more. from 12 Essential Scientific Concepts, Lecture 9 x
  • 25
    The Strange World of Dreams
    CONCEPT: Dreams have a powerful influence on our memory, our creativity, and our ability to recover from trauma. Before modern scientific methodology, the veracity of dream theories proved to be problematic; despite the subjectivity of Freud’s theories, they couldn’t be proven wrong. Find out how recent dream research offers new findings about the brain during sleep. from Secrets of Sleep Science: From Dreams to Disorders, Lecture 12 x
  • 26
    What Babies Know
    CONCEPT: Babies are born with innate scripts that help them immediately make sense of the world through learning. While it may seem that newborns start life with a blank slate, they actually come outfitted with the capacity to start learning right away. Find out what early infancy research reveals about habituation, the importance of dishabituation, and how scientists perform testing on infants. from How We Learn, Lecture 6 x
  • 27
    Synesthesia—Tasting Color and Seeing Sound
    CONCEPT: Some people have the ability to make different perceptive connections, such as associating letters with colors. What does blue taste like? What is the sound of the number five? People with synesthesia have answers to these seemingly bizarre questions. Learn about the ways in which their brains draw connections between different sensory inputs, and discover some interesting facts about normal perception as well. from Understanding the Secrets of Human Perception, Lecture 22 x
  • 28
    This Is Your Brain on Metaphors
    CONCEPT: Metaphors are scientifically proven to literally change how (and what) you think. Discover how metaphors have an enormous, scientifically proven power on our minds. It turns out that your brain processes metaphors, analogies, parables, and other figures of speech (with all their confusion and symbolism) in very concrete ways—and it can sometimes even fall for just how literal they can seem. from Being Human: Life Lessons from the Frontiers of Science, Lecture 11 x
  • 29
    The Ancient Art of Memory
    CONCEPT: An ancient mnemonic strategy dating back to ancient Greece is still one of the best techniques for aiding in memory recall. Memory improvement is far from a new goal. Here, learn about the Method of Loci, an ancient mnemonic strategy that dates back to classical Greece and Rome and was originally used to help people memorize large numbers of individuals. How does this strategy work? And what does it tell us about memory? from Memory and the Human Lifespan, Lecture 2 x
  • 30
    The Pleasures and Pains of “Maybe”
    CONCEPT: Our brains prefer random rejection over always getting what we want. Go inside the neurobiology behind how (and why) we’re willing to tolerate such long delays in gratification. You’ll learn how gratification postponement explains why humans have achieved so much as a species, and also why we’re susceptible to crippling addictions. from Being Human: Life Lessons from the Frontiers of Science, Lecture 7 x
  • 31
    Stress and Growth—Echoes from the Womb
    CONCEPT: While in the womb, a fetus can sense—and respond to—the environmental stressors of its mother. Explore the consequences stress can have on fetal life. You’ll learn how the biology of the mother-fetus relationship is such that everything that goes on in the outside world (including something as straightforward as extremely loud noises) can be experienced as stress inside the womb. from Stress and Your Body, Lecture 6 x
  • 32
    Frontiers of Cancer Treatment
    CONCEPT: Personalized, engineered viruses can target tumors—but ignore normal cells. Today’s scientists can combat resistant cancers in a cutting-edge way: by creating special proteins and introducing them into a patient’s immune system cells; in essence, a cell vaccine that is a “self-vaccine.” Find out how it’s done in this look at the frontiers of how biotechnology is transforming how we treat cancer. from What Science Knows About Cancer, Lecture 22 x
  • 33
    Harvey, Discoverer of Circulation
    CONCEPT: A description of blood circulation from 1628 is actually the greatest contribution ever made to the art of healing. Is it possible that a description of how blood circulates that dates back to the early 17th century could be the greatest contribution ever made to medicine? Investigate how the discoveries of William Harvey became a landmark moment in the history of medical science. from Doctors: The History of Scientific Medicine Revealed through Biography, Lecture 4 x
  • 34
    The Evolution of Behavior
    CONCEPT: Species use behavior to maximize the number of copies of their genes that are passed on to subsequent generations. This lecture on the evolution of the brain and behavior reviews the mechanisms of evolution, and then looks at the ways species can maximize (through behavioral means) the number of copies of their genes that are passed on to the next generation. from Biology and Human Behavior, Lecture 10 x
  • 35
    When Incentives Backfire
    CONCEPT: Economic incentives such as money can actually backfire and discourage behavior rather than encourage it. One of the most striking findings in behavioral economics research: Economic incentives (such as money) can actually backfire and discourage behavior rather than encourage it. Learn how this conclusion was reached through elegant studies, including one about the timing of parents who are picking up children at daycare¬¬¬. from Behavioral Economics: When Psychology and Economics Collide, Lecture 21 x
  • 36
    How Emotions Are Intelligent
    CONCEPT: Our emotions have what philosophers call intentionality, which requires actual intelligence. Emotions, as it turns out, aren’t just feelings—they actually have intelligence. Here, explore the concept of emotional intelligence and the idea that emotions are actually engagements with the world that give us insights into its nature (and, like all intelligence, can sometimes be false). from Passions: Philosophy and the Intelligence of Emotions, Lecture 13 x

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Your professors

Robert M. Hazen Robert Sapolsky Robert C. Solomon Bart D. Ehrman Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius Stephen Nowicki John McWhorter Sherwin B. Nuland Patrick Grim John R. Hale Grant L. Voth Sean Carroll David Sadava Shaun Nichols Mark A. Stoler Dorsey Armstrong Jay L. Garfield Steve Joordens Peter M. Vishton Monisha Pasupathi Edwin Barnhart Daniel W. Drezner H. Craig Heller Ken Albala Marc Zender Scott  Huettel Indre Viskontas

Professor 1 of 27

Robert M. Hazen, Ph.D.
George Mason University

Professor 2 of 27

Robert Sapolsky, Ph.D.
Stanford University

Professor 3 of 27

Robert C. Solomon, Ph.D.
The University of Texas at Austin

Professor 4 of 27

Bart D. Ehrman, Ph.D., M.Div.
The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Professor 5 of 27

Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius, Ph.D.
University of Tennessee

Professor 6 of 27

Stephen Nowicki, Ph.D.
Duke University

Professor 7 of 27

John McWhorter, Ph.D.
Columbia University

Professor 8 of 27

Sherwin B. Nuland, M.D.
Yale School of Medicine

Professor 9 of 27

Patrick Grim, Ph.D.
State University of New York, Stony Brook

Professor 10 of 27

John R. Hale, Ph.D.
University of Louisville

Professor 11 of 27

Grant L. Voth, Ph.D.
Monterey Peninsula College

Professor 12 of 27

Sean Carroll, Ph.D.
California Institute of Technology

Professor 13 of 27

David Sadava, Ph.D.
City of Hope Medical Center, Claremont Colleges

Professor 14 of 27

Shaun Nichols, Ph.D.
University of Arizona

Professor 15 of 27

Mark A. Stoler, Ph.D.
The University of Vermont

Professor 16 of 27

Dorsey Armstrong, Ph.D.
Purdue University

Professor 17 of 27

Jay L. Garfield, Ph.D.
Smith College

Professor 18 of 27

Steve Joordens, Ph.D.
University of Toronto, Scarborough

Professor 19 of 27

Peter M. Vishton, Ph.D.
The College of William & Mary

Professor 20 of 27

Monisha Pasupathi, Ph.D.
University of Utah

Professor 21 of 27

Edwin Barnhart, Ph.D.
Maya Exploration Center

Professor 22 of 27

Daniel W. Drezner, Ph.D.
Tufts University

Professor 23 of 27

H. Craig Heller, Ph.D.
Stanford University

Professor 24 of 27

Ken Albala, Ph.D.
University of the Pacific

Professor 25 of 27

Marc Zender
Ph.D., University of Calgary

Professor 26 of 27

Scott Huettel, Ph.D.
Duke University

Professor 27 of 27

Indre Viskontas, Ph.D.
University of San Francisco; San Francisco Conservatory of Music
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...
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Dr. Robert Sapolsky is John A. and Cynthia Fry Gunn Professor of Biological Sciences at Stanford University and Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery in Stanford's School of Medicine. Professor Sapolsky earned his A.B. summa cum laude in Biological Anthropology from Harvard University and his Ph.D. in Neuroendocrinology from The Rockefeller University in New York. He is also a research associate at the Institute of...
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Dr. Robert C. Solomon was the Quincy Lee Centennial Professor of Business and Philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin, where he taught for more than 30 years. He earned his undergraduate degree in molecular biology from the University of Pennsylvania and his master's and doctoral degrees in philosophy and psychology from the University of Michigan. He held visiting appointments at the University of Pennsylvania; the...
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Dr. Bart D. Ehrman is the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He completed his undergraduate work at Wheaton College and earned his M.Div. and Ph.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary. Professor Ehrman has written or edited 27 books, including four best sellers on The New York Times list: Misquoting Jesus: The Story behind Who Changed the Bible and Why; God’s...
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Dr. Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius is Lindsay Young Professor of History and Director of the Center for the Study of War and Society at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He earned his B.A. from the University of Chicago and his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. After receiving his doctorate, Dr. Liulevicius served as a postdoctoral research fellow at the Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace at Stanford...
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Dr. Stephen Nowicki is Bass Fellow and Professor of Biology at Duke University. He is also Dean and Vice Provost of Undergraduate Education at Duke, and holds appointments in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences and in the Neurobiology Department at Duke University Medical Center. Prior to taking his position at Duke, he was a post-doctoral fellow and assistant professor at The Rockefeller University. Professor...
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Dr. John McWhorter is Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. He previously was Associate Professor of Linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley. He earned his B.A. from Rutgers University, his M.A. from New York University, and his Ph.D. in Linguistics from Stanford University. Professor McWhorter specializes in language change and language contact. He is the author of...
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Dr. Sherwin B. Nuland (1930-2014) was Clinical Professor of Surgery at the Yale School of Medicine and Fellow of the university's Institution for Social and Policy Studies. He served on the executive committees of Yale's Whitney Humanities Center and its Interdisciplinary Bioethics Project. Professor Nuland was a graduate of the Bronx High School of Science, New York University, and the Yale School of Medicine, from which he...
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Dr. Patrick Grim is Distinguished Teaching Professor of Philosophy at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. He graduated with highest honors in anthropology and philosophy from the University of California, Santa Cruz. He was named a Fulbright Fellow to the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, from which he earned his B.Phil. He earned his Ph.D. from Boston University. Professor Grim is the recipient of several...
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Dr. John R. Hale is the Director of Liberal Studies at the University of Louisville in Kentucky. He earned his B.A. at Yale University and his Ph.D. at the University of Cambridge in England. Professor Hale teaches introductory courses on archaeology, as well as more specialized courses on the Bronze Age, the ancient Greeks, the Roman world, Celtic cultures, the Vikings, and nautical and underwater archaeology. An...
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Dr. Grant L. Voth is Professor Emeritus at Monterey Peninsula College in California. He earned his M.A. in English Education from St. Thomas College in St. Paul, MN, and his Ph.D. in English from Purdue University. Throughout his distinguished career, Professor Voth has earned a host of teaching awards and accolades, including the Allen Griffin Award for Excellence in Teaching, and he was named Teacher of the Year by the...
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Professor Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in Physics at the California Institute of Technology. He earned his undergraduate degree from Villanova University and his Ph.D. in Astrophysics from Harvard in 1993. Before arriving at Caltech, Professor Carroll taught in the Physics Department and the Enrico Fermi Institute at the University of Chicago, and did postdoctoral research at the Massachusetts Institute of...
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Dr. David Sadava is Adjunct Professor of Cancer Cell Biology at the City of Hope Medical Center in Duarte, CA, and the Pritzker Family Foundation Professor of Biology, Emeritus, at The Claremont Colleges. Professor Sadava graduated from Carleton University as the science medalist with a B.S. with first-class honors in biology and chemistry. A Woodrow Wilson Fellow, he earned a Ph.D. in Biology from the University of...
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Dr. Shaun Nichols is Professor of Philosophy at The University of Arizona. He holds a joint appointment in Philosophy and Cognitive Science. Professor Nichols earned his bachelor's degree in Philosophy from Stanford University and his Ph.D. from Rutgers University. He previously taught at the College of Charleston, where he held the Harry Lightsey Chair of Humanities, and at the University of Utah. The 2005 recipient of...
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Dr. Mark Stoler, who holds a Ph.D. in History from the University of Wisconsin, is Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Vermont. An expert in U.S. foreign relations and military history, as well as the origins of the cold war, Professor Stoler has also held teaching positions at the United States Military Academy, the Army Military History Institute, the Naval War College, and-as a Fulbright Professor-the...
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Dr. Dorsey Armstrong is Associate Professor of English and Medieval Literature at Purdue University, where she has taught since 2002. The holder of an A.B. in English and Creative Writing from Stanford University and a Ph.D. in Medieval Literature from Duke University, she also taught at Centenary College of Louisiana and at California State University, Long Beach. Her research interests include medieval women writers,...
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Dr. Jay L. Garfield is Doris Silbert Professor in the Humanities, Professor of Philosophy, and director of both the Logic Program and of the Five College Tibetan Studies in India Program at Smith College. The holder of a Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Pittsburgh, Professor Garfield also serves on the faculties of the University of Massachusetts, Melbourne University in Australia, and the Central University of...
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Dr. Steve Joordens is Professor of Psychology at the University of Toronto Scarborough, where he has taught since 1995. He earned a doctorate in cognitive psychology from the University of Waterloo. Honored repeatedly as both teacher and researcher, Professor Joordens is on the cutting edge of the emerging field of cognitive prosthetics to assist both learning-disabled patients as well as patients with Alzheimer's disease. He...
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Dr. Peter M. Vishton is Associate Professor of Psychology at The College of William & Mary. He earned his Ph.D. in Psychology and Cognitive Science from Cornell University. Before joining the faculty of William & Mary, he taught at Northwestern University and served as the program director for developmental and learning sciences at the National Science Foundation. A consulting editor for the journal Child Development,...
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Dr. Monisha Pasupathi is Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Utah. She holds a Ph.D. in Psychology from Stanford University. She joined the faculty at Utah in 1999 after completing a postdoctoral fellowship at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Germany. Professor Pasupathi has been honored multiple times for her teaching. She was named Best Psychology Professor by her university's chapter of...
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Dr. Edwin Barnhart is director of the Maya Exploration Center. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin and has over 20 years of experience in North, Central, and South America as an archaeologist, explorer, and instructor. In 1994, Professor Barnhart discovered the ancient city of Maax Na (Spider-Monkey House), a major center of the Classic Maya period in northwestern Belize. In 1998 he was invited by the...
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Dr. Daniel W. Drezner is Professor of International Politics at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He earned his B.A. in Political Economy from Williams College and his M.A. in Economics and Ph.D. in Political Science from Stanford University. Beyond academia, Professor Drezner served as an international economist in the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of International Banking and...
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Dr. H. Craig Heller is the Lorry I. Lokey/Business Wire Professor of Biological Sciences and Human Biology at Stanford University. He earned his Ph.D. in Biology from Yale University. Over the past three to four decades, virtually all biology undergraduates at Stanford have learned physiology from Professor Heller. In recognition of his outstanding performance, he received the Walter J. Gores Award for excellence in...
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Dr. Ken Albala is Professor of History at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California, where he teaches food history and the history of early modern Europe. He is also a Visiting Professor at Boston University, where he teaches an advanced food history course in the gastronomy program. He earned an M.A. in History from Yale University and a Ph.D. in History from Columbia University. Professor Albala is the author or...
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Dr. Marc Zender is Visiting Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Tulane University and a research associate in Harvard University’s Corpus of Maya Hieroglyphic Inscriptions Program. He earned his Honors B.A. in Anthropology from The University of British Columbia and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Archaeology from the University of Calgary. Professor Zender has published extensively on Mesoamerican languages and...
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Professor Scott Huettel is the Jerry G. and Patricia Crawford Hubbard Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at Duke University. He earned his Ph.D. from Duke in Experimental Psychology and completed a postdoctoral fellowship in functional brain imaging and decision science at the university’s medical center. He is also the founding Director of the Duke Center for Interdisciplinary Decision Science. Professor Huettel...
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Dr. Indre Viskontas is a Cognitive Neuroscience Affiliate with the Memory and Aging Center at the University of California, San Francisco, where she has studied the emergence of creativity in patients with dementia.Dr. Indre Viskontas is an Adjunct Professor of Psychology at the University of San Francisco and Professor of Sciences and Humanities at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, where she is pioneering the...
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Reviews

Special Collection - 36 Big Ideas is rated 2.8 out of 5 by 9.
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Overpriced Sampler without Schema I am 70 and winding down my 49th year in education-last 20 doing university teacher prep, I have happily devoted a large portion of available funds to about 75 Great Courses Courses. I like the idea of the sampler idea, but think it should be available free or a $10 download. It would be interesting to organize profs' differing opinions on the same topic with intro and connecting narratives added. All of the reviews are accurate and helpful. Please listen to your old timers. Have not listened to course so star rating are speculative,
Date published: 2017-01-07
Rated 3 out of 5 by from A near miss This course seems to be a "best of" series of highlights from a number of other courses. The lecturers are mostly great but each lecture seems too linked to the rest of its original course to stand apart from that course successfully. It is a bit frustrating to hear so many references to other important material. Several of the lectures are hard to follow because of the missing preceding or succeeding materials. That said, I now am interested in getting a new course or two...
Date published: 2016-11-20
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Back to the drawing board Like so many of the other reviewers, I have listened to/watched a great many TC courses. I thought that this would be an introduction to some I have not done yet, and I guess it is, but if it was intended to pique interest it failed. It's incoherent. The idea is interesting, but the realization is lacking. I suspect I am intended to experience the joy of serendipity. I didn't, instead it left me wondering if someone spent too much time listening to Creative Thinker's Toolkit, and too little realizing that organization and planning are not your enemy. Fortunately, I listened to the local library copy. I should have recognized something was up when there were no prior holds, because that NEVER happens with my local library. I suggest you try before you buy.
Date published: 2015-03-16
Rated 2 out of 5 by from COURSE GUIDEBOOK MISSING The individual lectures are interesting; however, the course would be much more valuable if a written course guidebook were included. Reading the guidebooks is sometimes very helpful for reinforcement of the spoken information in the lectures and for clarifying unfamiliar names and other terms which may not be completely understood during the lectures. Since these are all recycled lectures from other courses, one is left wondering why the Teaching Company could not have simultaneously recycled the corresponding written sections from the original course guidebooks.
Date published: 2015-01-01
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Haphazard collection of pieces from other courses I have bought and enjoyed more than a hundred teaching company courses, most of which ranged somewhere between "enjoyable" and "excellent". This course, however, is the sad culmination of a negative trend I seem to perceive: More and more courses are extremely short and concern lifestyle issues rather than what I would expect to be taught at universities (which used to be the field in which the Great Courses excel), now I have to see that not the prices are given anymore, but only how much money one can save buying courses. In this collection, a number of unconnected lectures have been thrown together. Some of them are actually very good, while a few are truly poor. However, regular customers of the teaching company will know many of the lectures. Others make little sense if taken out of the framework of lectures they were originally part of, and the number of references to other lectures that are not included in this collection is more than annoying. This would be an excellent giveaway to potential new customers of the great courses, displaying some of the excellence of the courses while leaving many questions unanswered, making people itch to buy the entire courses. As a course that is SOLD, however, this is poor - not to mention the fact that the title is misleading, since many of the lectures simply do not present "big ideas" - unless some clever person or deity came up with the Black Death!?! I am sorely disappointed and will read the fine print very thoroughly before buying further courses.
Date published: 2014-09-18
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Mistaken identity I have bought about 40 courses and this was my first in CD version. I was excited about the possibility of audio learning during my occasional long car commutes. I also was hoping this would be some kind of "greatest hits" type of CD so I would get some of the best lectures from some of the most popular professors on the TTC roster. I found this to be more of just a "sampler "type of CD because the majority of the lectures I found quite boring; of the 36 lectures maybe 4 or 5 appealed to me which is not a good return on the investment. The lectures by Dr. Sapolsky are very gripping and, if anything, it was a good sampler so I can purchase his full courses. I will most likely return this CD (my first return) and advise you to purchase this if you're looking for a sampler and not a "best of" collection. Good luck.
Date published: 2014-08-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Over Priced for customers like me I am almost at my 90th birthday. I detest the modern day TV programs. I have purchased over 400 courses. I listen to a minimum of 3 hours of lectures per day. I like the idea of a sampling of lectures as a refresher. But, I do agree that as samples these sample collections are greatly overpriced.
Date published: 2014-07-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from An Eclectic Selection of Exciting Big Ideas This course is the second in a new concept of repeating individual lectures from existing courses presented by different professors. My recent review of the first such course, "The Joy of Ancient History", was critical in that the course offered no new material and was redundant to many of the best customers of the Great Courses, who already own many of the courses from which these lectures were drawn, which in my case was half of the 36 lectures presented. Despite the annoying feeling of having paid twice for the same product (and only the audio version at that), I decided to take another stab at this new concept with the recent release of "36 Big Ideas", and this time found that I had only four of the original courses. This makes a huge difference, as most of the material was therefore new or a least less familiar to me. While individual lectures on such a wide range of topics may not be of equal interest to everyone, and not all the ideas are equally "big", I found those on astrophysics, human behavior, philosophical patterns, and biology particularly fascinating. In some cases I felt an urge to order the original full course, perhaps The Great Courses's main motivation in offering this new concept. Most heavy users of The Great Courses have their own favorite professors, but after downloading this course, it is not easy to identify the individual lecturers. This could easily be remedied by listing the professor's name for each lecture on the course menu instead of repeating "Various Professors" 36 times. This course modality featuring sample lectures is not for everyone, but may be of interest to new or prospective customers of The Great Courses. Thus I would only recommend it with this reservation in mind.
Date published: 2014-07-02
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