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The Origin and Evolution of Earth: From the Big Bang to the Future of Human Existence

The Origin and Evolution of Earth: From the Big Bang to the Future of Human Existence

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

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The Origin and Evolution of Earth: From the Big Bang to the Future of Human Existence

Course No. 1740
Professor Robert M. Hazen, Ph.D.
George Mason University
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89% of reviewers would recommend this series
Course No. 1740
  • Audio or Video?
  • You should buy audio if you would enjoy the convenience of experiencing this course while driving, exercising, etc. While the video does contain visual elements, the professor presents the material in an engaging and clear manner, so the visuals are not necessary to understand the concepts. Additionally, the audio audience may refer to the accompanying course guidebook for names, works, and examples that are cited throughout the course.
  • You should buy video if you prefer learning visually and wish to take advantage of the visual elements featured in this course. The video version enriches your experience with more than 700 visuals. The course features over 100 animations that provide insight into the structure and evolution of minerals on the planet and numerous images of the cutting-edge scientific instruments that are being deployed to help us understand Earth's history. The course also makes effective use of on-screen text to make the material easier to retain.
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Course Overview

The story of Earth is an epic filled with crises, catastrophes, and remarkable, repeated change. Earth traces its origin to simple atoms that were created in the big bang, transformed into heavy elements in stellar explosions, and then forged into a planet inside the nebula that gave birth to the solar system. Like many other planets, Earth went through phases of melting, volcanism, and bombardment by asteroids. But only on Earth did events lead to a flourishing biosphere—life. And once life was established, it drove the evolution of our planet in startling new directions.

Most amazing of all, the evidence for every step in this intricate process is all around us—in the thousands of minerals in rocks above and below ground. Consider these intriguing clues:

  • Diamond: Created under extreme pressure, diamond may very well be the first mineral formed in the universe. Together with a dozen other minerals, it helped seed the solar nebula with dust that became the planets.
  • Great Oxidation Event: Earth’s iron deposits are a relic of the earliest photosynthetic life, which introduced large amounts of oxygen into the atmosphere, promoting the oxidation of rocks and the production of metal-rich minerals.
  • Plate tectonics: Many distinctive minerals are associated with plate tectonics, the ceaseless motion of Earth’s crustal plates for more than 3 billion years. This process has had a profound impact on climate, the atmosphere, the oceans, and the development of life.
  • Cambrian explosion: Changes over billions of years led to altered mineral chemistry in the oceans that made animal shells, bones, and teeth possible. Life exploited these structures in a burst of evolution 540 million years ago called the Cambrian explosion.

Minerals are fundamental to the story of Earth in many ways. Not only are we living beings nourished by minerals, but minerals provide the resources and energy that are crucial to modern civilization. Beyond that, the evolution of minerals has played a central role all across the surface of the planet and throughout its interior. Minerals turn out to be much more than beautiful crystals; they provide outstanding clues to our origins and they are major players in a drama of unimaginable scope.

The Origin and Evolution of Earth: From the Big Bang to the Future of Human Existence lets you experience firsthand the thrill of piecing together the epic story of Earth in an enlightening new perspective. In 48 half-hour lectures available in both video and audio formats, you follow events from the big bang to the formation of Earth to the many twists and turns in our planet’s evolution. You discover how a young universe populated with only a few elements became a cosmos of infinite variety characterized by life—thanks to minerals. Your professor is the noted scientist who pioneered the study of mineral evolution, Professor Robert M. Hazen of George Mason University and the Carnegie Institution’s Geophysical Laboratory.

A prominent field geologist, laboratory mineralogist, collector, popular author, and award-winning teacher, Professor Hazen is also a nationally recognized advocate for science education and the perfect guide for an in-depth investigation of breakthrough scientific concepts. In a course suitable for scientists and nonscientists alike, he recounts Earth’s story through 10 stages of mineral evolution. Each stage resculpted our planet’s surface, introducing new planetary processes and phenomena. By stage 6, life was an integral part of this process, and you learn that life is ultimately responsible for almost two-thirds of the mineral species on Earth—thousands of unique crystals that could only exist on a living world.

A New Way of Looking at Our Planet

In The Origin and Evolution of Earth, you study mineral evidence for milestones that are mind-bogglingly deep in the past:

  • Rocks older than Earth: Rocks that date to the early stages of the formation of the solar system arrive on our planet all the time. They are chondrite meteorites, which are 4.567 billion years old, older than Earth itself.
  • Formation of Earth’s moon: Studies of Earth and moon rocks show differences best explained by a collision between the proto-Earth and a Mars-sized planet. The smaller body disintegrated and reformed as the object we know as the moon.
  • First continents: Continents did not exist until the formation of granite, a rock less dense than basalt, which constituted Earth’s earliest crust. Islands of granite floating on moving basaltic plates gradually collected into the first continents.
  • First supercontinent: Supercontinents have formed and broken up at least six times in Earth’s past. The best known is Pangaea, but geological evidence shows a series of these mammoth landmasses forming and splitting apart for almost 3 billion years.

Professor Hazen was inspired to promote his new approach to the study of minerals by a simple question asked by biologist Harold Morowitz, who wanted to know if there were clay minerals on Earth in the eon when life began. Clays are common on Earth now, but how widespread were they 3.8 billion years ago? The question is important because clay minerals figure in many theories about the origin of life.

“What was really mind-bending about this simple question,” says Professor Hazen, “is the even bigger underlying suggestion that Earth’s near-surface mineralogy might have differed in the past from what we see today. In 35 years as a professional mineralogist, I had never heard of such a question!” Professor Hazen goes on to point out that the living world we see around us is just the latest iteration in a long sequence of startlingly different Earths. Working backward in time, he describes these major phases:

  • Green Earth: The view of Earth from space shows an inviting oasis of blue, brown, white, and, most important, green. The green of photosynthetic life is the most visible sign of the living world.
  • White Earth: Plants and animals need an oxygen-rich atmosphere—a situation made fully possible 700 million years ago by conditions on a very different Earth, encased in ice from the poles to the equator.
  • Red Earth: The ice-covered Earth could not have happened without a convergence of landmasses to form a supercontinent called Rodinia, tinted red due to the Great Oxidation Event 2.2 billion years ago.
  • Gray Earth: Microbial life responsible for oxygenation developed only after plate tectonics began to control Earth’s surface more than 3 billion years ago, when gray continents of granite first appeared.
  • Blue Earth: Plate tectonics is one of the many outcomes of a globe-spanning blue ocean, which started to form as early as 4.4 billion years ago. The oceans also play a role in the formation of many minerals.
  • Black Earth: The blue ocean world would not exist without water vapor from steaming volcanoes, which also paved the planet with dense black basalt starting more than 4.5 billion years ago.

Some worlds, such as Earth’s moon and Mercury, never advanced beyond the black, basaltic phase. But for Earth, it was just the beginning.

Minerals as a Signature of Life

The Origin and Evolution of Earth explains how many distinctive minerals, including the semiprecious stone turquoise, deep blue azurite, and brilliant green malachite, are unambiguous signs of life, since they form only in an oxygen-rich environment that results from living processes. The discovery of such rocks on another planet would resolve one of the biggest unanswered questions in science: Did life form elsewhere besides Earth? You also learn that we don’t need to travel very far to make this discovery. Meteorites could bring us telltale evidence of extraterrestrial life, or telescopic studies of planets orbiting other stars might reveal light spectra that signal the presence of life.

Throughout these 48 lectures, you range across the fields of mineralogy, geology, chemistry, cosmology, planetary astronomy, and biology, absorbing major concepts and also learning about groundbreaking researchers, many of whom are known personally by Professor Hazen. His anecdotes are both enlightening and entertaining. For example, he recounts the thrilling moment in graduate school when he was on hand as his professor, Dave Wones, received one of the first lunar samples from the Apollo missions. Hear how everything did not go according to plan that day. And you discover the clandestine world of meteorite trading in North Africa, where Professor Hazen was offered a deal on a priceless meteorite from Mars. Or was it an ordinary Earth rock? Without sophisticated analysis back in the lab, there was no way of knowing.

If you have ever admired the beauty of a crystal, marveled at the complexity of the natural world, wondered about the amazing story locked inside a rock—or a fossil—or the moons of Jupiter; or if you are simply a person who likes a good mystery, sprinkled with surprising clues, then The Origin and Evolution of Earth is the course for you. Join Professor Hazen—a born teacher, scientist, storyteller, guide, and companion—in this unrivaled investigation.

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48 lectures
 |  31 minutes each
  • 1
    Mineralogy and a New View of Earth
    Begin your study of Earth’s history by voyaging backward in time, seeing how each crucial stage in the evolution of our planet depended on what came before. Preview the surprising role played by minerals, which coevolved with life—a link that provides a revolutionary new way of understanding Earth. x
  • 2
    Origin and Evolution of the Early Universe
    Earth has existed for only a third of the history of the universe. What happened before our planet formed? Journey back to the big bang, learning how fundamental forces and particles froze out of a homogeneous state in the initial moments of cosmic evolution. x
  • 3
    Origins of the Elements—Nucleosynthesis
    Discover how simple atoms of hydrogen and helium make stars, and how stars manufacture all other naturally occurring elements through processes including titanic supernova explosions. Called nucleosynthesis, this remarkable mechanism is responsible for the chemical richness that made Earth possible. x
  • 4
    Ur-Minerals, First Crystals in the Cosmos
    Trace the origin of minerals and discover a surprising candidate for the first crystal forged in the cauldron of dying stars. Then follow the processes that created other early minerals, which survive in their original form in microscopic presolar dust grains in interplanetary space. x
  • 5
    Presolar Dust Grains—Chemistry Begins
    Unravel the story told in “presolar” grains of dust formed by stars very different from our sun. These are the earliest building blocks of our own solar system. Learn how scientists identify these microscopic particles, which often contain diamond crystals. Also see how the field of cosmochemistry is revolutionizing the study of minerals. x
  • 6
    Coming to Grips with Deep Time
    Plunge into deep time—the vast period that reaches back to Earth’s beginning. Professor Hazen walks you through a memorable analogy that orients you along this sea of ceaseless change. Also explore the techniques that allow scientists to date rocks and other materials with astonishing precision. x
  • 7
    The Birth of the Solar System
    Where did Earth and the solar system come from? See how an idea proposed in the 18th century provides a simple and elegant answer to this question. Compare our solar system with other planetary systems that have recently come to light in the successful search for extrasolar planets. x
  • 8
    The Early Solar System—Terrestrial Planets
    Investigate the work of the most successful planet-hunter of all time: the Kepler spacecraft, which found thousands of candidate planets orbiting other stars. Then focus on the origin of the four terrestrial planets in our inner solar system: Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars. x
  • 9
    Hints from the Gas Giants and Their Moons
    Tour Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune—the four gas giants of the outer solar system. Each is a mammoth world of violent weather, and each has multiple moons that help shed light on Earth’s story. View this strange realm through the eyes of far-traveling space probes. x
  • 10
    Meteorites—The Oldest Objects You Can Hold
    Most meteorites that fall to Earth are older than Earth itself. Review our understanding of these artifacts of the solar nebula, learn where most meteorites are found, and hear about Professor Hazen’s experiences searching for meteorites in the murky world of international meteorite trading. x
  • 11
    Mineral Evolution, Go! Chondrite Meteorites
    Focus on the most numerous class of meteorites: chondrites. These incredibly ancient rocks tell a story of intense pulses of radiation from the infant sun, which melted dust grains into sticky rocky droplets called chondrules. Countless chondrules clumped together to form chondrite meteorites. x
  • 12
    Meteorite Types and Planetesimals
    As planetesimals grew, the primary chondrite minerals were altered in ways that formed a different class of meteorites: achondrites. Study these fascinating relics from destroyed mini-planets. Some achondrites were blasted off the moon and Mars, including one specimen purported to show evidence of ancient extraterrestrial microbes. x
  • 13
    Achondrites and Geochemical Affinities
    Having surveyed the first stage of mineral evolution during the solar nebula phase, turn to stage two, which saw an explosion of mineral diversity during the accretion of protoplanets. One key to understanding how minerals began to diversify during this period is the influential classification scheme developed by geochemist Victor Goldschmidt. x
  • 14
    The Accretion and Differentiation of Earth
    Follow the stages of Earth’s initial formation, as solar system debris in our neighborhood of space collided until one object dominated, growing into the embryonic Earth. Trace the process of differentiation that produced a distinct core, mantle, and crust; and learn how scientists know the details of Earth’s deep interior. x
  • 15
    How Did the Moon Form?
    Investigate the case of the massive moon. Where did Earth’s unusual moon come from? Explore the three possibilities considered before the Apollo moon landings gave scientists actual lunar samples to analyze. Also hear the story of Professor Hazen’s close encounter with moon dust. x
  • 16
    The Big Thwack!
    Continue your investigation of the moon’s origin. The simplest theory that explains the evidence is the “big thwack” model. Study this scenario, which has all the drama of a disaster movie—with colliding planets and a giant moon filling Earth’s sky and then slowly receding over the course of billions of years. x
  • 17
    The “Big Six” Elements of Early Earth
    Survey Earth’s six dominant elements: oxygen, magnesium, aluminum, silicon, calcium, and iron. Each has played a key role in Earth’s history, governed by the element’s distinctive chemical character. Examine this chemistry and learn, for example, why virtually all oxygen on the planet is locked in minerals and rocks. x
  • 18
    The Black Earth—Peridotite to Basalt
    Trace the evolution of Earth’s first rocks, which crystallized from the young planet’s seething magma oceans. Peridotite was the earliest major rock type to form. Discover why peridotite is now found mostly deep in the mantle, while a related rock called basalt covers 70 percent of Earth’s surface. x
  • 19
    Origins of the Oceans
    Follow Earth’s remarkable transition from a dry world with a uniform black basaltic surface to a wet planet of rivers, lakes, and oceans. Also learn about the special properties of water, which make it a universal solvent, a vehicle for life, and the chief architect of Earth’s surface features. x
  • 20
    Blue Earth and the Water Cycle
    Hunt for unseen water on the moon, Mars, and Earth, discovering that copious quantities exist in unlikely places, including hundreds of miles underground. Professor Hazen tells how his lab duplicates conditions in Earth’s deep interior to learn how minerals incorporate water under extreme pressure. x
  • 21
    Earth and Mars versus Mercury and the Moon
    Search for the reason that Earth and Mars have far greater mineral diversity than Mercury and Earth’s moon. Probe clues such as tiny zircon crystals that are the oldest surviving minerals on Earth. From this evidence, assemble a story of Earth’s global ocean and a time when the entire planet froze over. x
  • 22
    Gray Earth—Clays and the Rise of Granite
    Probe the essential features of clay minerals, which are abundant on both Earth and Mars. Then investigate why Earth has so much granite. Trace the origin of this rock, which abounds in Earth’s continents but is rare elsewhere in the solar system. x
  • 23
    Earth’s Mineralogy Takes Off—Pegmatites
    Continue your study of the stages of mineral evolution by looking at what happens when granite partially melts. Under the right conditions, the resulting crystals can be unusually large and strikingly beautiful. Such rocks are called pegmatites, and their formation involves some of the rarest elements on the planet. x
  • 24
    Moving Continents and the Rock Cycle
    Explore early attempts to explain why the continents fit together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, including Alfred Wegener’s continental drift theory and the expanding Earth hypothesis. Lay the groundwork for an understanding of the revolutionary theory of plate tectonics by reviewing the stages of the rock cycle. x
  • 25
    Plate Tectonics Changes Everything
    Research after World War II converged on a remarkable theory for the evolution of Earth’s crust and upper mantle: plate tectonics. Study the evidence that led scientists to conclude that a dozen shifting plates explain earthquakes, volcanoes, mountain ranges, deep sea trenches, and much more. x
  • 26
    Geochemistry to Biochemistry—Raw Materials
    Investigate the problem of defining life, focusing on the organic raw materials from which life must have begun. Learn that these materials are surprisingly common across the universe. Finally, look at the recent discovery of extremophiles and the implications for the existence of life on other worlds. x
  • 27
    Biomolecules—Select, Concentrate, Assemble
    Focus on the role of minerals in the origin of life. Nothing matches the solid, crystalline surfaces of minerals in their ability to select, concentrate, and assemble the biomolecules that are instrumental for life. Professor Hazen describes his lab’s groundbreaking research in this field. x
  • 28
    Why Reproduction? World Enough and Time
    What was the first collection of molecules that could copy itself? Investigate three theories of early reproduction: the reverse citric acid cycle, autocatalytic networks, and self-replicating RNA. Then travel to the world 3.8 billion years ago to consider conditions on Earth when life got its first foothold. x
  • 29
    Eons, Eras, and Strategies of Early Life
    By 3.5 billion years ago, life was established on Earth. After reviewing the geological timescale, follow the development of life over its first billion years, learning that biochemical processes mimicked the existing chemistry of rocks and gradually altered Earth’s surface environment. x
  • 30
    Red Earth—The Great Oxidation Event
    By 2.4 billion years ago, Earth’s atmosphere contained a small but significant amount of molecular oxygen. Where did it come from? Explore this dramatic development, in which cells evolved to gain energy from the sun while producing oxygen as a waste product. x
  • 31
    Earliest Microbial and Molecular Fossils?
    See how three rare and distinctive ancient rock types—black carbon-rich chert, black carbon-rich shale, and mound-like stromatolites—provide tantalizing evidence for life on Earth more than 3 billion years ago. Focus on the researchers who have blazed the trail in this challenging field. x
  • 32
    Microbial Mats and Which Minerals Can Form
    Carpet-like colonies of algae called microbial mats date back almost to the dawn of life. Because they use photosynthesis, microbial mats help date the Great Oxidation Event. Trace the far-reaching consequences of an oxygen-rich atmosphere on the evolution of minerals. x
  • 33
    Earth's Greatest Mineral Explosion
    Investigate the rise of mineral diversity in the wake of the Great Oxidation Event—a diversity that has far surpassed anything on other planets in the solar system. Discover that new minerals appeared, not steadily, but during relatively short episodes of intense activity associated with the formation of supercontinents. x
  • 34
    The Boring Billion? Cratons and Continents
    After the dramatic changes of Earth’s first 2.5 billion years, what came next appears to be a “boring billion” years of stasis. Turn back the clock to see what was really happening during this period, when continents were assembling around rugged pieces of proto-continental crust called cratons. x
  • 35
    The Supercontinent Cycle
    From a plate tectonics point of view, the boring billion was action-packed. Follow the formation and break-up of supercontinents, probe the nature of the global superocean, and identify the reasons that life on Earth changed little during this interval of radically altering geography. x
  • 36
    Feedback Loops and Tipping Points
    If pushed too far, Earth’s systems can become unbalanced and reach tipping points, with consequences for climate and life that are difficult to predict. Study the lessons of 850 million years ago, when the breakup of the Rodinia supercontinent caused a cascade of dramatic changes. x
  • 37
    Snowball Earth and Hothouse Earth
    Some 750 million years ago, Earth entered a period of extreme climate instability, starting with a brutal ice age. Seek the explanation for almost 200 million years of back-and-forth swings between snowball and hothouse phases. Also probe the evidence that Earth completely froze over. x
  • 38
    The Second Great Oxidation Event
    In a perfect demonstration of the interaction between geology and life, see how the snowball-hothouse cycles led to a Second Great Oxidation Event, which raised the level of oxygen to near-modern levels for the first time. Discover how different scientist teams deciphered the clues. x
  • 39
    Deep Carbon—Deep Life, Fuels, and Methane
    Cover the Deep Carbon Observatory, Professor Hazen’s 10-year, billion-dollar research project to understand the cycling of all forms of carbon on Earth, from the surface to deep in the planet. Focus on the mystery of the origin of Earth’s methane. x
  • 40
    Biominerals and Early Animals
    Having journeyed through almost 90 percent of Earth’s history, finally arrive at the evolution of animals. Learn how the animal kingdom would not have been possible without minerals. Professor Hazen shares his lifelong fascination with one ubiquitous early animal: trilobites. x
  • 41
    Between Rodinia and Pangaea—Plants on Land
    Once ozone collected in the upper atmosphere, life no longer had to stay submerged to avoid the sun’s damaging ultraviolet radiation. Survey the first half of the Paleozoic Era, between 542 and 400 million years ago, when a great green revolution occurred on dry land. x
  • 42
    Life Speeds Up—Oxygen and Climate Swings
    Focus on the second half of the Paleozoic, between 400 and 250 million years ago, when oxygen reached its highest levels ever. Terrestrial vertebrates emerged and life went through many crisis points, with repeated episodes of extinction followed by intervals of evolutionary novelty. x
  • 43
    From the “Great Dying" to Dinosaurs
    Search for the cause of the worst catastrophe ever to befall Earth’s biosphere: the Permo-Triassic Extinction, also called the Great Dying, which occurred roughly 250 million years ago. Then follow the rise of the dinosaurs, which became the dominant vertebrates for the next 185 million years. x
  • 44
    Impact! From Dinosaurs to Mammals
    The most famous of all extinctions occurred at the end of the Cretaceous period, 65 million years ago. Analyze the role of an asteroid in this turning point in the evolution of mammals and other groups, which managed to survive and flourish while dinosaurs and countless other species perished. x
  • 45
    Humans and the Anthropocene Epoch
    Study the place of humans in geological time, the most recent portion of which has been called the Anthropocene epoch. Humans are changing Earth’s near-surface environment at a pace that may be unprecedented in more than 4.5 billion years of Earth history. x
  • 46
    The Next 5 Billion Years
    In the next two lectures, explore events that will affect Earth in eons to come. Begin with the end stages of our planet, some 5 billion years in the future. Then look from 2 billion to 50 million years from now, which is more than enough time to erase our every trace. x
  • 47
    The Nearer Future
    Glimpse 50,000 years into the future, when the greatest geographical changes on Earth will come from rising and falling sea levels. Then look a mere century ahead, focusing on the likely effects of rising greenhouse gases. The rate of change, not change per se, is the biggest concern. x
  • 48
    Coevolution of Geosphere and Biosphere
    Review the 10 stages of mineral evolution, from the solar nebula to the rise of animals with mineralized skeletons. Are we now entering an 11th stage? Close by considering an example of the coevolution of life and minerals in a remarkable formation on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay. x

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Robert M. Hazen

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

The Origin and Evolution of Earth: From the Big Bang to the Future of Human Existence is rated 4.7 out of 5 by 57.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A New Perspective on Earth History Professor Hazen succeeds in presenting a course on earth science with an added twist. He convincingly argues that both life and minerals have evolved, indeed co-evolved, over our planet's 4.6 billion year history. Trained in biology, yet mostly ignorant of geology, I began this course skeptical of applying evolution to the abiotic world of rocks and minerals. What I learned through this course is to think about the matter differently. Rocks, minerals, and life all function together. The 48 lectures of this course show how and in what ways. It is only our academic practice of dividing knowledge into discrete categories of "geology", "biology", etc. that artificially separates them. Because it changed my way of thinking, I strongly recommend this course. I have some minor quibbles with the class. First, some knowledge of geology is essential if you seek deep knowledge from this course. Knowing none of this, I found myself doing much remedial reading in a recent college-level geology textbook. Most of my reading focused on the silicate minerals, igneous rocks, and plate tectonics. For a textbook, consider the ones by Ed Tarbuck or by John Grotzinger and company. Hazen's own book, "The Story of Earth", works well when read in conjunction with this course. However, it is by no means a substitute for a geology textbook. It is a breezy read, but it lacks the slow, plodding comprehensiveness that one gets -- and needs -- from a more thorough textbook. The course notes supplied with the course as a printed book or pdf definitely help but are bizarrely incomplete. The first 17 minutes of a 30 minute lecture might be recorded nearly verbatim in these notes, then there is nothing, nothing at all, for the final 13 minutes. Older Teaching Company courses come with a formal outline covering the entire lecture. What a delight it would be to have that for this course! Finally, with this course, I gained a valuable billion-year historical perspective on climate change. Our climate is changing, because the earth is changing, and always has been. The key issues are the rate and magnitude of change, the roles of negative and positive feedback, and how human activities might affect those feedback mechanisms. After this course, your opinions on climate change are apt to be better informed.
Date published: 2017-07-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Informative course covering Earth's history This course is a very good history of 4.5 billion years, compressed into 24 hours.It covers a great deal of detailed mineralogy, and deals effectively with the co-evolution of life and Earth's minerals. I did find some confusion with graphs not matching the lecture. I also was felt that Dr. Hazen tended to "chew the scenery".
Date published: 2017-06-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A course dictionary would have been a wonderful tool!
Date published: 2017-06-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Geologist's Geologist! This is one of those courses that should be required for every resident of the planet, although I will admit to a wee bit of bias. Dr Hazen clearly, and enthusiastically presents lectures explaining the origins and evolution of the solar system, the elements that comprise it and the minerals that form as a result of those elementary organizations. I am a geologist whose career spanned both the 'hard rock' and 'soft rock' aspects of exploration. My schooling roughly parallels Dr Hazen's...though not extending to basic research. His explanations of the 'origins' came as a stark reminder of either how much I have forgotten from basic (as well as not-so-basic) college geology courses, or how much the study of the earth sciences has progressed in the last 40-odd years. In my graduate-level course work, I was tasked with making those 'thin sections' Dr Hazen refers to...both for igneous and sedimentary rocks (that's a section of Cretaceous rocks from the Eagle Ford formation of south Texas that I attached). Those sections taught me about the evolution of minerals within igneous rocks through the process of differentiation, following strictly the teaching's of N.L. Bowen...as noted in Hazen's bibliography. Long and short of it, this geologist learned a lot from this set of lectures and appreciated hearing the 'multiple working hypothesis' approach from a world-class geologic professional. This course is even worth the full price! (Although, on sale with a coupon is what the data suggest.)
Date published: 2017-06-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Courses is My Favorite Read/TV alternative I haven't started the above course yet as I now have 46 Great Courses in inventory and am slowly working my way through them. I have been a customer for at least 10 years. Some are easier going than others. A couple are real yawners. Machiavelli was my best sleep inducer in history!!! An aside that you might enjoy. 38 years ago this week I was burned in an accident and temporarily (thankfully!) blinded. After a year of recovery, I was able to function pretty well. During that period, I received Books for the Blind that came on VINYL records and the highest tech available at the time (tape cassettes.) I listened to them faithfully and made the observation that someone could make a living selling these kinds of materials to the general public to listen to in cars and while doing other things at home. LOOK where we are today! I use my iPad for all of my reading now. Even so, I love the handling of books so buy the DVD/book combination everytime. My current adventure is the new course on Paleontology. A couple lectures in it looks great! I buy the courses that interest me when they are on sale and consider them the best investment I can make to keep me mentally fit!!!
Date published: 2017-04-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from So exciting! I got the first 24 lectures on CD from a local library. I found them fascinating, and when I finished I put a hold on the second 24 so I could get them as soon as possible. I agree with most reviewers that this course is excellent and well worth the 24 hours of time it takes to listen to (which I did while driving about town). I've had an introductory course in geology, but the unifying concept of the evolution of minerals over the lifetime of the universe was new to me and very satisfying to learn. I appreciated the occasional repetition of material as it helped me relate what I was about to hear to what I had heard before. Sadly I did not remember everything; what brought me here today was re-learning the concept of nucleosynthesis of light elements during the Big Bang from another source and wondering if it had been covered by Hazen (from other reviews, yes it was - ah my failing memory!). Which brings me to the only fault I found in the entire series. During his discussion of the future of the planet and solar system, I do not recall Hazen mentioning the anticipated collision of our galaxy with the Andromeda galaxy prior to the natural death of the sun (or it swallowing earth in its red giant phase). It is possible this event will have little practical importance anyway (we may not be here any longer, or even if gravitational forces send our solar system out of the combined galaxy, it may mean little actual change in how things work locally anyway), but it might have been nice to touch upon!
Date published: 2017-02-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from very interesting minerals evolve Very good. Many new concepts explained with clarity & vigor. He knows his subject & explains it well. Looks at me , as tho I were his student. Good graphics. to me a brand new idea that minerals evolve !, same as life forms. Evidence given is very good.. Enthusiastic, clear diction.
Date published: 2016-09-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from wonderful I have posted very few reviews but as I was shopping through course listings felt compelled. I have listened to over 80 Great Courses in a wide range of disciplines (history, philosophy, religion, science) and would rank this in my top 5. I was dumbfounded by this course. Professor Hazen takes us by the hand and walks us through his own evolution of ideas about mineral evolution and its relationship to the evolution of earth, life on earth, and how those compare to other planets and worlds. He relates how an innocent question from a colleague at a social gathering about whether there might have been clay (or some type of clay) in some earth epoch struck him and he began to ponder the implications of the question and the rest is pretty much the subject of these lectures and his life's work. (I may be hacking up the story but it was something to that effect). I suspect that many will find it surprising to learn such things as what actually are the most common elements on earth (4 elements comprise 90% and 6 elements 94%- and likely not the ones you would think). He talks about the most widely held theories about the origin of our moon and its evolution wrt the earth including the gradual lengthening of the time for a day (slowing of earth's rotation over millennia because of the earth and moon's gradual increase in distance from each other. I did not know these things and enjoyed learning them. Much of this he relates to the continued evolution of mineral diversity greatly confined to earth and the suspected relationship of this to the evolution of life. I have a medical and engineering background and that helps for listening alth clearly is not necessary. Professor Hazen's enthusiasm is infectious. It may have a little more detail than needed about the science and chemistry alth Professor Hazen felt it needed and I was content to listen. I recommend highly if you are at all interested in this type of thing. I learned a lot about minerals that I did not know but much much more as well.
Date published: 2016-06-23
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