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  • Understanding the Inventions That Changed the World

    Professor W. Bernard Carlson, Ph.D.

    Available Formats: Video Download, DVD

    From prehistoric times to the 21st century, inventions have changed the world, enabling humans to produce more food and energy and to establish social order and cultural meaning. In fact, great inventions have marked a number of key turning points in human history, transforming society and our daily lives. Now you can learn the remarkable stories surrounding such monumental inventions—and how consequential these inventions were to history—in Understanding the Inventions That Changed the World. A dazzling introduction to the history of technology and innovation, these 36 lectures will change the way you see the world—and it will transform the way you think about business, economics, science, technology, and the course of human history.

    View Lecture List (36)
    36 Lectures  |  Understanding the Inventions That Changed the World
    Lecture Titles (36)
    • 1
      Great Inventions in Everyday Life
      We’re surrounded by great inventions that have transformed our daily lives, from the steam engine to the Internet. Begin your exploration of great inventions by considering just how pervasive inventions truly are. Do we notice them in the world around us? Do we know how they work? Who invented them, and why? x
    • 2
      The Potter’s Wheel and Metallurgy
      Step back to the Stone Age and look at the craft of pottery and the development of metals. Although we might think of ancient people as “primitive,” early humans were remarkably observant about the world around them, which led to several complex inventions. x
    • 3
      Beer, Wine, and Distilled Spirits
      One of the recurring themes in the history of invention is the way technology leads to material abundance. See how the Agricultural Revolution changed life for early humans. Then trace the development of alcoholic beverages from the earliest days of civilization through the Middle Ages and consider the cultural insights alcohol can offer. x
    • 4
      The Galley, Coins, and the Alphabet
      In addition to creating material abundance, technology, whether it’s an oxcart or a telecommunications network, facilitates interaction between people. Explore the role of trade in early societies and how ships, coins, and the alphabet shaped the civilizations of the ancient Mediterranean. x
    • 5
      Crossbows East and West
      To study the way people have used technology to secure and maintain political power, journey east to China and examine the role of the crossbow in the Warring States Era. As the world’s first machine with interchangeable parts, the crossbow is a marvel of engineering that shaped the political history of China for centuries. x
    • 6
      Roman Arches—Aqueducts and the Colosseum
      We’re all familiar with the glory of Roman engineering, from the Romans’ system of roads to their impressive monuments. How did these structures work from a technical standpoint? And why build them? Delve into Roman history and explore the way in which technology served state ends. x
    • 7
      Waterwheels and Clocks
      Turn now to two inventions that moved humanity from the ancient to the modern world. The waterwheel was the first major energy source beyond human muscle and animal labor, which freed people to perform more sophisticated tasks. Meanwhile, the development of the mechanical clock redefined our sense of time. x
    • 8
      Pagodas and Cathedrals
      Inventions are more than merely practical things. This lecture shows you the evolution of the pagoda and the cathedral, which grew out of the spiritual practices of East Asia and Europe, respectively, and how religious beliefs can inspire remarkable developments in engineering and architecture. x
    • 9
      Paper and Printing
      Survey the development of writing from the days of clay tablets and parchment through the development of the printing press. You’ll learn about the surprising history of movable type, which originated in Asia hundreds of years before the Gutenberg press in Europe. You’ll also see how different cultural circumstances shaped the impact of different inventions. x
    • 10
      Gunpowder, Cannons, and Guns
      The story of invention is often the story of cultural contact. Witness the origins of gunpowder in ancient China and trace its movement into Europe. Then, shift your attention to the development of gunpowder weapons and consider how cannons, rifles, and handguns changed the face of warfare as well as the world’s political and social structures. x
    • 11
      Telescopes and Microscopes
      You might assume that all inventions arise from science, but this is not always so. As the history of telescopes and microscopes demonstrates, the invention of new technology facilitates scientific advances. In this case, optical technology drove the Scientific Revolution, allowing Galileo and others to establish the scientific method of observation. x
    • 12
      The Caravel and Celestial Navigation
      Discover the story of Prince Henry the Navigator. His promotion of ship design and navigation during the 15th century arguably marked the start of our modern way of deliberately using technology to shape society. Better ships, information about wind and currents, and new navigation techniques brought about remarkable political and economic change in Europe. x
    • 13
      Unblocking the Power of Coal and Iron
      Turn now to the Industrial Revolution, which was marked by economies of speed, scale, and coordination, as well as improvements in transportation. To begin this story, you'll consider how the high thermal output of coal allowed for new uses of iron, which led to bigger, stronger machines that drove the new economy. x
    • 14
      Steam Engines and Pin Making
      Continue your investigation of the Industrial Revolution with a look at how the invention of the steam engine allowed us to produce more goods more efficiently. Then examine the division of labor and Adam Smith’s story of pin making to see how the integration of social and technical innovations caused dramatic improvements in production. x
    • 15
      Canals and Railroads
      How do you stimulate the economy and create more wealth? In the 18th and 19th centuries, canals and railroads provided the backbone of the Industrial Revolution. Investigate the engineering challenges of creating nationwide transportation systems, and explore the connection between infrastructure and the economy. x
    • 16
      Food Preservation
      The modern food industry appeared during the Industrial Revolution as advancements in canning and refrigeration allowed for the long-term storage of fruits and vegetables and the preservation of meat. These advancements transformed the American marketplace, redefined the cultural meaning of “home,” and laid the groundwork for the range of year-round products in today’s grocery stores. x
    • 17
      Water and Sewer Systems
      Chart the history of both water and sewer systems and see how they changed the world in the 19th century. From the Roman aqueducts to the London sewer system to indoor plumbing, a clean water supply has saved more lives than any other technology, a prime example of how inventions truly serve the public good. x
    • 18
      Batteries and Electric Generators
      How do you produce electricity? And once it’s produced, how do batteries and generators deliver it? Take a fascinating look at where these fundamental inventions came from and how they work. You’ll study the relationship between electricity and magnetism, the difference between direct and alternating currents, and the role of science and experimentation. x
    • 19
      Cameras, Telephones, and Phonographs
      The mid-19th century saw the rise of analog communications, where film and electric currents were used as substitutes for an object or message. Meet the inventors of the first information age—among them, Louis Daguerre, Alexander Graham Bell, and Thomas Edison—and learn how they made information and knowledge widely available to millions. x
    • 20
      Electric Light and Power
      Electricity profoundly reshaped American culture and set the stage for the major inventions of the 20th century. This lecture introduces you to the history and science of electricity—arc lighting, the incandescent lamp, motors, and direct versus alternating currents. Learn about the inventions of Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla, and the rivalry between their electric companies. x
    • 21
      Department Stores and Modern Retailing
      Shift your attention away from technology and production to the consumption side of the story. The 19th and early 20th centuries gave rise to three new ways to shop: the department store, the mail-order catalog, and chain stores. Examine how these new ways of selling goods shaped American life—and gave rise to some of our most iconic brands. x
    • 22
      Motion Pictures
      The 20th century can be seen as the “mass” century—mass production, mass market, and mass destruction. Add to the list mass entertainment, exemplified by the rise of Hollywood and the film industry. Track the development of motion pictures—and the inventions that made them possible. x
    • 23
      Surgery and the Operating Room
      Pain. Bleeding. Infection. Medicine before the 19th century was not a pleasant affair, especially when it came to surgery. Explore innovations in medicine—the operating room, sterilization procedures, and antibiotics—and discover some of the social challenges to introducing these innovations—including obstruction from the doctors themselves. x
    • 24
      Steel, Glass, and Plastics
      The engineering trends of the 20th century—economy of scale, mechanization, and scientific experimentation—were based on new materials. Dive into the world of steel, glass, and plastics and find out how these materials transformed our daily lives and our expectation of what the world should look like. x
    • 25
      The Model T
      Other than the personal computer, the Model T may be the single most important technology artifact of the 20th century. After surveying the history of automobiles, this lecture introduces you to Henry Ford and tells the story of the Model T—the car that changed the way Americans thought about travel and launched a consumer revolution. x
    • 26
      Aviation—The “Wright” Time for Flight
      The story of aviation has one of the most important lessons in understanding great inventions—that social or political circumstances are as important for an invention’s success as the technology itself. Trace the development of aviation from the Wright brothers’ flight at Kitty Hawk through the jet age. x
    • 27
      Radio and Television
      The sudden emergence of broadcasting in the 1920s upended existing business arrangements and led to the competition between the broadcast networks that are still with us today. Learn about the technology of radio and television, the challenges broadcasters faced, the origin of radio commercials, and the cultural effects of these new communications technologies. x
    • 28
      Nuclear Power
      Study two of the major inventions of the 20th century, nuclear weapons and nuclear power. Nuclear technology has inspired the utopian dream of cheap, abundant electricity as well as the apocalyptic fear of annihilation. This captivating lecture gives you a look at the inner workings—and risks—of nuclear bombs and reactors. x
    • 29
      Household Appliances
      Drawing on themes of previous lectures—the widespread availability of electric power, the mass production of goods, and consumer distribution channels—this lecture shows you how appliances such as vacuum cleaners and washing machines were invented, how they changed life in American homes, and how they act as symbols for the middle class. x
    • 30
      Electronics and the Chip
      See how the combination of several essential functions—the detection of radio waves, the amplification of weak signals, and the operation of switches—led to all of our electronic gadgets, from radios to computers. Professor Carlson takes you into the fascinating world of vacuum tubes, transistors, and integrated circuits. x
    • 31
      Satellites and Cell Phones
      We all have cell phones, but how many of us know how they actually work? Visit the world of communications satellites, radio towers, and mobile networks. You’ll take an in-depth look at how bandwidth, infrastructure, and competition between companies like Motorola and AT&T have allowed for truly global communications. x
    • 32
      Personal Computing
      Embark on a tour of personal computing, beginning with its roots in IBM’s business machines in the 1920s and the massive electronic calculators of World War II. Then compare the mainframes of the 1960s with today’s PCs and consider the key roles of software programming and graphical user interfaces. x
    • 33
      Genetic Engineering
      This lecture tracks the story of genetics from Darwin and Mendel to Watson and Crick. Then turn to genetic engineering—the direct manipulation of an organism’s hereditary information by introducing foreign DNA or synthetic genes. This technology—PCR—has important applications for today’s agriculture, medicine, forensics, and more. x
    • 34
      The Internet
      Where did the World Wide Web come from? How does it work? This story begins with the conversion from analog to digital, from communication to information. Go inside the world of file sharing, packet switching, the Defense Department’s inter-network, email, and finally, web browsers, search engines, and Internet advertising. x
    • 35
      Social Media and Democracy
      Inventions are not necessarily “finished” until they are put into the hands of consumers, and perhaps nowhere is this more apparent than in the world of social media, where a Tunisian blogger can be as much an “inventor” of Facebook as Mark Zuckerberg. This lecture looks at the evolution of social media and its role in recent political events around the world. x
    • 36
      Inventions and History
      What lessons can we learn about technological creativity from history? How does studying inventions change our understanding of history? As you wrap up your course, reflect on what you’ve learned about the material dimension of history, consider the nature of progress, and take away some key messages about how we can “use yesterday’s technology to solve tomorrow’s problems today.” x
  • The Decisive Battles of World History

    Professor Gregory S. Aldrete, Ph.D.

    Available Formats: Video Download, Audio Download, DVD, CD
    Discover the military conflicts that have had the greatest impact in shifting the direction of historical events and shaping our world in The Decisive Battles of World History. Covering nearly 4,000 years of history, this course explores more than three dozen history-making military engagements, from the landmark battles of the Western world to their counterparts across Asia, India, and the Middle East. These 36 dynamic lectures by Professor Gregory S. Aldrete feature vital historical background, vivid accounts of the campaigns themselves, and a thorough look at their influence on the unfolding of history.
    View Lecture List (36)
    36 Lectures  |  The Decisive Battles of World History
    Lecture Titles (36)
    • 1
      What Makes a Battle Decisive?
      Contemplate the ways in which warfare can change the course of historical events. Examine the factors that make a military battle “decisive,” such as its role in transfers of power and its social and political effects, and consider the study of battles as an analytical tool for understanding history. x
    • 2
      1274 B.C. Kadesh— Greatest Chariot Battle
      The battle of Kadesh ushered in an unprecedented era of peace in the ancient Near East. Follow the strategy and tactics of the Egyptian and Hittite armies, featuring each side’s distinctive war chariots. Trace the unusual sequence of battlefield events that led to a remarkable treaty, an important forerunner of peaceful diplomacy. x
    • 3
      479 B.C. Plataea—Greece Wins Freedom
      In the 479 B.C. battle of Plataea, Greek “hoplite” forces fighting in phalanxes met the mighty army of the Persian superpower. Study the unfolding of this dramatic engagement, and learn how it ended the Persian threat to Greece and allowed for the flowering of Greece’s cultural Golden Age. x
    • 4
      331 B.C. Gaugamela—Alexander’s Genius
      The victory of Alexander at Gaugamela resulted in the spread of Greek culture throughout the Macedonian Empire. Trace Alexander’s campaign against the Persians, which led to the battle, and his bloody confrontation with the Persian forces, and grasp the brilliant maneuvers that allowed him to overcome his foe’s significant advantages on the battlefield. x
    • 5
      197 B.C. Cynoscephalae—Legion vs. Phalanx
      In 197 B.C., two rival military systems clashed. Learn about the forces of Philip V of Macedon, with their phalanx system; the legacy of Alexander; and the up-and-coming Romans with their “manipular” army based in flexible subunits of soldiers. Assess the far-reaching effects of the battle and its consequences for world history. x
    • 6
      31 B.C. Actium—Birth of the Roman Empire
      This great naval battle resulted from conflict within republican Rome. Follow the intense rivalry between Mark Antony and Octavian for domination of Rome, leading to the fateful events of the confrontation, and observe how it marked the end of the Roman Republic and the beginning of the Roman Empire. x
    • 7
      260–110 B.C. China—Struggles for Unification
      The wars of the 3rd and 2nd centuries B.C. were crucial in forging the later history of China. Study the military technology of the ancient Chinese and the conflicts through which the first Qin and Han emperors welded together a group of antagonistic kingdoms, creating a united China. x
    • 8
      636 Yarmouk & al-Qadisiyyah—Islam Triumphs
      In these dramatic conflicts, the Islamic Rashidun armies toppled two long-established empires. Learn about their defeat of the Byzantine army at Yarmouk and the Sassanid forces at al-Qadisiyyah, which determined the cultural, linguistic, and religious nature of the Middle East for the next 1,500 years. x
    • 9
      751 Talas & 1192 Tarain—Islam into Asia
      This lecture explores military engagements between widely differing cultures. Learn about the 751 battle between the Chinese Tang forces and the Abbasid Caliphate, which altered the religious orientation of central Asia. Then follow the 1192 clash between the Indian Rajputs and a Turkish Islamic army, and its permanent effects on Indian culture. x
    • 10
      1066 Hastings—William Conquers England
      The Battle of Hastings changed the course of both English and world history. Here, encounter the redoubtable figure of William the Conqueror and his 1066 invasion of England to claim the crown. Witness the terrible engagement at Hastings and its outcome, orienting England away from Scandinavian influence and toward Europe. x
    • 11
      1187 Hattin—Crusader Desert Disaster
      The religious and cultural effects of the Christian Crusades are still felt in today’s world. Study the origins of the Crusades and the events leading to the fateful confrontation at Hattin between Islamic and Christian forces, which critically altered the course of the wars. x
    • 12
      1260 Ain Jalut—Can the Mongols Be Stopped?
      Now, envision a militaristic society that threatened nearly all the civilizations of Asia and Europe. Study the rise of the Mongols, their terrifying conquests, and their astounding military expertise. Witness their clash in 1260 with the Egyptian Mamluks, a rare Mongol defeat that effectively halted their Western expansion. x
    • 13
      1410 Tannenberg—Cataclysm of Knights
      This 15th-century conflict pitted the armies of Poland and Lithuania against the fearsome Germanic order of the Teutonic Knights. Learn about the political background of the bloody confrontation at Tannenberg, the harrowing events on the battlefield, and the deep symbolic significance of the battle that still echoes today. x
    • 14
      Frigidus, Badr, Diu—Obscure Turning Points
      This lecture discusses battles that have had extremely important effects, though information about the specific events involved is scanty. Consider the battles of the Frigidus River and Badr, both vital turning points for world religions, and that of Diu, which marked the moment when Europe began its rise to world domination. x
    • 15
      1521 Tenochtitlán—Aztecs vs. Conquistadors
      The 16th-century Spanish conquest of the Americas resulted in some of the most unusual military encounters of all time. Here, learn about the campaign under Hernán Cortés to conquer Mexico, and how fewer than 1,000 Spaniards defeated the mighty Aztec Empire, which possessed armies comprising tens of thousands of warriors. x
    • 16
      1532 Cajamarca—Inca vs. Conquistadors
      Continue with Spain’s campaign against the vast and highly organized Inca Empire. Follow the daring maneuvers of the forces under Francisco Pizarro, aided by European military technology and including the kidnap and ransom of the Incan emperor, which enabled 190 men to vanquish an army of 40,000. x
    • 17
      1526 & 1556 Panipat—Babur & Akbar in India
      Two highly significant 16th-century battles were fought at the Indian town of Panipat. Learn about the rise of the Mughal emperors and the military clashes that first opened the door to their advance into India and then solidified their control, establishing a dynasty that would last for centuries. x
    • 18
      1571 Lepanto—Last Gasp of the Galleys
      The conquests of the Ottoman Turks led to the largest naval battle of the Renaissance. Trace the formation of the Holy League, an alliance of Christian powers against the raiding Ottomans; follow the events leading to Lepanto; and study the dramatic naval engagement that ended Turkish incursions into the maritime outposts of Christendom. x
    • 19
      1592 Sacheon—Yi’s Mighty Turtle Ships
      These great naval conflicts left deep imprints on two nations. Chart the 1592 Japanese conquest of Korea, the remarkable naval technologies involved, and the stunning victories of Korean admiral Yi Sun-shin, whose strategic actions defeated two invasions and established him as one of the greatest admirals of all time. x
    • 20
      1600 Sekigahara—Samurai Showdown
      In this monumental episode of the samurai era, learn about the underlying politics and the major figures in the conflict, including one whose wavering loyalty took an astonishing turn on the battlefield. Track the events that unified Japan under a dynasty of shoguns who would rule for 250 years. x
    • 21
      1683 Vienna—The Great Ottoman Siege
      The Ottoman campaign to capture Vienna was one of the largest and most significant in Ottoman history. Study the background of the siege and the military technology and strategy on both sides. Follow the unfolding engagement and the pivotal role of the Polish-Lithuanian armies, and grasp how Vienna marked a turning point for the Ottoman Empire. x
    • 22
      1709 Poltava—Sweden’s Fall, Russia’s Rise
      In the 17th century, Sweden emerged as the most powerful state in northern Europe. Learn about Swedish king Charles XII, his ambition to conquer Russia, and his opponent, the resourceful and determined Tsar Peter I. Witness the Swedish invasion and the battlefield events that constituted a reversal of fortunes for the two countries. x
    • 23
      1759 Quebec—Battle for North America
      This key incident in the Seven Years War between England and France critically shaped the future of North America. Discover the conflict through the eyes of the opposing commanders as the British assault Quebec City. Observe the remarkable serendipity favoring the British in the engagement, leading to an outcome with historic political effects. x
    • 24
      1776 Trenton—The Revolution’s Darkest Hour
      In late 1776, the rebellion of the American colonists appeared to be heading for dismal failure. Here, uncover the dramatic events that were the pivot point of the war. Learn how George Washington, in two critical battles, undertook bold actions to surprise and outwit the British, saving and revitalizing the revolutionary movement. x
    • 25
      1805 Trafalgar—Nelson Thwarts Napoleon
      In 1805, after subduing much of Europe, Napoleon Bonaparte turned his sights on England. Study the events leading to the largest naval battle of the age, as Napoleon’s combined French and Spanish fleet met the British navy under Admiral Horatio Nelson. Witness the monumental engagement, marking the beginning of Napoleon’s decline. x
    • 26
      1813 Leipzig—The Grand Coalition
      In this massive clash, a coalition of seven European powers united to oppose Napoleon. Trace the preliminary military actions culminating at Leipzig, where four armies finally converged on Napoleon’s forces. Follow the complex unfolding of the battle and the incident that transformed it into an outright disaster for the French. x
    • 27
      1824 Ayacucho—South American Independence
      The early 19th century saw the rise of numerous independence movements in Central and South America. Learn about three key leaders who were prominent in these struggles; their bold plan to liberate Peru; and the showdown on the plain of Ayacucho that ended Spanish rule in Latin America. x
    • 28
      1836 San Jacinto—Mexico’s Big Loss
      First, encounter the larger-than-life commanders of this extraordinary action, Sam Houston and Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. Track the tensions between the Mexican government and the province of Texas, resulting in the 18-minute battle that gained Texas independence and led to the United States acquiring nearly one-third of its continental territory. x
    • 29
      1862 Antietam—The Civil War’s Bloodiest Day
      At the time of this landmark battle in the American Civil War, the Confederacy seemed poised to achieve its goal of independence. Envision the protracted, bloody struggle between North and South, and consider the ways in which a marginal Union victory nevertheless altered the course of the war. x
    • 30
      1866 Königgrätz—Bismarck Molds Germany
      The historic engagement at Königgrätz brought a united Germany into being. Assess the opposing Prussian and Austrian forces, and track the Prussian initiative to capture the German-speaking states allied with Austria. Follow the unfolding battle blow by blow, and grasp how easily Prussia’s crushing victory could have ended as a disastrous defeat. x
    • 31
      1905 Tsushima—Japan Humiliates Russia
      A modern Japanese naval force stunned the world in this history-making battle. Learn about Japan’s 19th-century industrialization and militarization, its conflict with an expansionist Russia, and the maritime confrontation that radically altered the Western perception of Japan, signaling its entrance onto the global stage as a major power. x
    • 32
      1914 Marne—Paris Is Saved
      This providential clash critically shaped World War I. Study the German and French preparations for warfare and vital errors in planning by each side. Follow the offensive that began the war, the German commander’s fateful change of plans, and the ensuing battle that left both sides enmeshed in a horrifying, four-year stalemate. x
    • 33
      1939 Khalkin Gol—Sowing the Seeds of WWII
      Here, an obscure battle in Mongolia produced global effects. Track the tensions between Russia and Japan that led to a bloody border conflict that neither side had sought. Grasp how this one event directly contributed to both the outbreak of war in the Pacific and Europe and the outcome of the war itself. x
    • 34
      1942 Midway—Four Minutes Change Everything
      The advent of aircraft carriers brought a significant new era in naval warfare. Witness the most dramatic and pivotal of the “carrier versus carrier” battles, where the events of a short span of minutes permanently tilted the balance of power in the Pacific to the United States. x
    • 35
      1942 Stalingrad—Hitler’s Ambitions Crushed
      Chart the German invasion of Russia at the height of the war in Europe, which massed the full force of Hitler’s war machine. Follow the clash of the seemingly invincible German panzer units with the Red Army and the Russian winter, which ended the ascendancy of Nazi Germany. x
    • 36
      Recent & Not-So-Decisive Decisive Battles
      In concluding the course, take a keen look at what may be some of the historically decisive battles of the six decades following World War II. Finally, consider two famous conflicts often thought to be among the most decisive of all time, and see how careful analysis casts doubt on that conclusion. x
  • Mysteries of Modern Physics: Time

    Professor Sean Carroll, Ph.D.

    Available Formats: Video Download, Audio Download, DVD, CD

    Time rules our lives. From the rising and setting of the sun to the cycles of nature, the thought processes in our brains, and the biorhythms in our day, nothing so pervades our existence and yet is so difficult to explain. Time seems to be woven into the very fabric of the universe. But why? In 24 riveting half-hour lectures, Mysteries of Modern Physics: Time shows how a feature of the world that we all experience connects us to the instant of the formation of the universe-and possibly to a multiverse that is unimaginably larger and more varied than the known cosmos.

    View Lecture List (24)
    24 Lectures  |  Mysteries of Modern Physics: Time
    Lecture Titles (24)
    • 1
      Why Time Is a Mystery
      Begin your study of the physics of time with these questions: What is a clock? What does it mean to say that “time passes”? What is the “arrow of time”? Then look at the concept of entropy and how it holds the key to the one-way direction of time in our universe. x
    • 2
      What Is Time?
      Approach time from a philosophical perspective. “Presentism” holds that the past and future are not real; only the present moment is real. However, the laws of physics appear to support “eternalism”—the view that all of the moments in the history of the universe are equally real. x
    • 3
      Keeping Time
      How do we measure the passage of time? Discover that practical concerns have driven the search for more and more accurate clocks. In the 18th century, the problem of determining longitude was solved with a timepiece of unprecedented accuracy. Today’s GPS navigation units rely on clocks accurate to a billionth of a second. x
    • 4
      Time’s Arrow
      Embark on the quest that will occupy the rest of the course: Why is there an arrow of time? Explore how memory and aging orient us in time. Then look at irreversible processes, such as an egg breaking or ice melting. These capture the essence of the one-way direction of time. x
    • 5
      The Second Law of Thermodynamics
      Trace the history of the second law of thermodynamics, considered by many physicists to be the one law of physics most likely to survive unaltered for the next thousand years. The second law says that entropy—the degree of disorder in a closed system—only increases or stays the same. x
    • 6
      Reversibility and the Laws of Physics
      Isaac Newton’s laws of physics are fully reversible; particles can move forward or backward in time without any inconsistency. But this is not our experience in the world, where the arrow of time is fundamentally connected to irreversible processes and the increase in entropy. x
    • 7
      Time Reversal in Particle Physics
      Explore advances in physics since Newton’s time that reveal exceptions to the rule that interactions between moving particles are fully reversible. Could irreversible reactions between elementary particles explain the arrow of time? Weigh the evidence for and against this view. x
    • 8
      Time in Quantum Mechanics
      Quantum mechanics is the most precise theory ever invented, yet it leads to startling interpretations of the nature of reality. Probe a quantum state called the collapse of the wave function that may underlie the arrow of time. Are the indications that it shows irreversibility real or only illusory? x
    • 9
      Entropy and Counting
      After establishing in previous lectures that the arrow of time must be due to entropy, begin a deep exploration of this phenomenon. In the 1870s, physicist Ludwig Boltzmann proposed a definition of entropy that explains why it increases toward the future. Analyze this idea in detail. x
    • 10
      Playing with Entropy
      Sharpen your understanding of entropy by examining different macroscopic systems and asking, which has higher entropy and which has lower entropy? Also evaluate James Clerk Maxwell’s famous thought experiment about a demon who seemingly defies the principle that entropy always increases. x
    • 11
      The Past Hypothesis
      Boltzmann explains why entropy will be larger in the future, but he doesn’t show why it was smaller in the past. Learn that physics can’t account for this difference except by assuming that the universe started in a state of very low entropy. This assumption is called the past hypothesis. x
    • 12
      Memory, Causality, and Action
      Can physics shed light on human aspects of the arrow of time such as memory, cause and effect, and free will? Learn that everyday features of experience that you take for granted trace back to the low entropy state of the universe at the big bang, 13.7 billion years ago. x
    • 13
      Boltzmann Brains
      One possible explanation for order in the universe is that it is a random fluctuation from a disordered state. Could the entire universe be one such fluctuation, now in the process of returning to disorder? Investigate a scenario called “Boltzmann brains” that suggests not. x
    • 14
      Complexity and Life
      Discover that Maxwell’s demon from lecture 10 provides the key to understanding how complexity and life can exist in a universe in which entropy is increasing. Consider how life is not only compatible with, but is an outgrowth of, the second law of thermodynamics and the arrow of time. x
    • 15
      The Perception of Time
      Turn to the way humans perceive time, which can vary greatly from clock time. In particular, focus on experiments that shed light on our time sense. For example, tests show that even though we think we perceive the present moment, we actually live 80 milliseconds in the past. x
    • 16
      Memory and Consciousness
      Remembering the past and projecting into the future are crucial for human consciousness, as shown by cases where these faculties are impaired. Investigate what happens in the brain when we remember, exploring different kinds of memory and the phenomena of false memories and false forgetting. x
    • 17
      Time and Relativity
      According to Einstein’s special theory of relativity, there is no such thing as a moment in time spread throughout the universe. Instead, time is one of four dimensions in spacetime. Learn how this “relative” view of time is usefully diagramed with light cones, representing the past and future. x
    • 18
      Curved Spacetime and Black Holes
      By developing a general theory of relativity incorporating gravity, Einstein launched a revolution in our understanding of the universe. Trace how his idea that gravity results from the warping of spacetime led to the discovery of black holes and the big bang. x
    • 19
      Time Travel
      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 two locations in spacetime. Also explore paradoxes of time travel. x
    • 20
      Black Hole Entropy
      Stephen Hawking showed that black holes emit radiation and therefore have entropy. Since the entropy in the universe today is overwhelmingly in the form of black holes and there were no black holes in the early universe, entropy must have been much lower in the deep past. x
    • 21
      Evolution of the Universe
      Follow the history of the universe from just after the big bang to the far future, when the universe will consist of virtually empty space at maximum entropy. Learn what is well founded and what is less certain about this picture of a universe winding down. x
    • 22
      The Big Bang
      Explore three different ways of thinking about the big bang—as the actual beginning of the universe; as a “bounce” from a symmetric version of the universe on the other side of the big bang; and as a region that underwent inflationary expansion in a much larger multiverse. x
    • 23
      The Multiverse
      Dig deeper into the possibility that the big bang originated in a multiverse, which provides a plausible explanation for why entropy was low at the big bang, giving rise to the arrow of time. But is this theory and the related idea of an anthropic principle legitimate science or science fiction? x
    • 24
      Approaches to the Arrow of Time
      Use what you have learned in the course to investigate a range of different possibilities that explain the origin of time in the universe. Professor Carroll closes by presenting one of his favorite theories and noting how much remains to be done before conclusively solving the mystery of time. x
  • Understanding the Mysteries of Human Behavior

    Professor Mark Leary, Ph.D.

    Available Formats: Video Download, Audio Download, DVD, CD

    Why do people behave the way they do? Understanding the Mysteries of Human Behavior, by psychologist and Professor Mark Leary, is your guide to the latest theories and research from psychology and other behavioral sciences on this age-old question. Understanding the answers will help you better know yourself and the people around you. With the powerful insights you'll find in these 24 intellectually scintillating lectures, you'll start looking at your own and other people's behavior with a little more insight, curiosity, and wonderment.

    View Lecture List (24)
    24 Lectures  |  Understanding the Mysteries of Human Behavior
    Lecture Titles (24)
    • 1
      Solving Psychological Mysteries
      Many of the answers to puzzling aspects of human behavior lie in some of the fundamental characteristics of the human species. In this introductory lecture, focus on three broad themes you’ll follow throughout the course: evolution, self-awareness, and culture. x
    • 2
      How Did Human Nature Evolve?
      Much of what you’re motivated to do, you do because evolution built those motives into human nature. Investigate five key areas of our behavior in which evolution plays a critical role, then focus on behavioral adaptations that create problems for us living in a world far removed from our Stone Age ancestors. x
    • 3
      Where Do People’s Personalities Come From?
      Scientists now know with certainty that genes have a pronounced effect on people’s personalities, thanks to insights provided by behavioral genetics. See heritability at work in everyday traits ranging from extraversion and neuroticism to smoking, divorce, and even political beliefs. x
    • 4
      How Can Siblings Be So Different?
      Continue looking at the relationship between genetics and behavior, this time searching for answers as to why children from the same family often have such different personalities. By probing this question from the angle of genes and environmental influences, you’ll understand the complex processes by which nature and nurture interact. x
    • 5
      Why Do People Need Self-Esteem—Or Do They?
      Does having high self-esteem really result in all of the positive effects that people suggest? In this lecture, dispel popular myths about self-esteem and its role in affecting our behavior. You’ll learn about the function of self-esteem, why low self-esteem is related to dysfunctional emotions and behaviors, and more. x
    • 6
      Why Do We Have Emotions?
      Happiness. Anger. Guilt. Why do we have such a wide variety of emotions? Where do they come from? How do they influence our perception of, and response to, events around us? Learn the answers to these and other questions, then investigate two emotions that remain especially mysterious: shame and schadenfreude. x
    • 7
      What Makes People Happy?
      Unravel the mystery of happiness by looking at what behavioral scientists have recently discovered about this powerful emotion. Among the topics you’ll explore: the causes of happiness; happiness’s relationship with money and attractiveness; our tendency to adapt to new levels of happiness; and our inability to forecast how happy or upset we’ll feel. x
    • 8
      Why Are So Many People So Stressed Out?
      Here, Professor Leary demystifies the subject of stress. You’ll examine the three interrelated reasons we are the only species that experiences chronic stress; take a closer look at the major sources of stress in our everyday lives; and examine personality types highly susceptible to stress. x
    • 9
      Why Do Hurt Feelings Hurt?
      Examine why the saying “it hurt my feelings” is more than just an expression. Here, you’ll learn about the causes of hurt feelings (including criticism, betrayal, and teasing); the evolutionary purpose of being hurt by rejection; and the intricate links between physical pain and social pain. x
    • 10
      Why Do We Make Mountains out of Molehills?
      Overreacting, especially to events that pose little or no tangible threats, takes energy, hurts people’s feelings, damages relationships, and can even result in legal problems—but we do it anyway. Why? Find out in this lecture on the puzzling nature of—and social and evolutionary reasons behind—extreme overreactions. x
    • 11
      Why Is Self-Control So Hard?
      Turn now to a puzzling human behavior with important ramifications for everyday life: the difficulty of practicing self-control. In this intriguing lecture, examine the dual-motive conflict at the heart of self-control failures; explore research-tested ways to resist temptation; and investigate the topic of self-control strength, commonly known as willpower. x
    • 12
      Why Do We Forget?
      We all experience moments of forgetfulness. But why? Discover two general explanations cognitive psychologists have for why we forget (involving decayed memory traces and retrieval interference); delve into the problems of repressed memories, flashbulb memories, and eyewitness identification; and learn why forgetfulness can work to your advantage. x
    • 13
      Can Subliminal Messages Affect Behavior?
      What do recent experiments say about your susceptibility to messages you can’t consciously see or hear? How do subliminal stimuli—such as rapidly flashing words or images, and imperceptible audio messages—work on the brain? Could they be used to influence your attitudes and behaviors? Find out all this and more here. x
    • 14
      Why Do We Dream?
      Ponder possible scientific explanations behind dreaming. One theory holds that dreams are our mind’s efforts to make sense of random activity in the brain. Another theory suggests that dreams help us solve problems that are bothering us. Yet another theory poses that dreams merely store memories from the previous day. x
    • 15
      Why Are People So Full of Themselves?
      The “better than average” effect is one example of what psychologists call self-serving biases in people’s views of themselves. Probe whether these egotistical biases are beneficial or harmful, and go inside the mind-set of personality types that display more biases than others (grandiose and vulnerable narcissists) and fewer (humble people). x
    • 16
      Do People Have Psychic Abilities?
      Venture into the field of parapsychology—the study of anomalous psychic experiences such as extrasensory perception. As Professor Leary reveals what decades of fascinating research (including special approaches such as the ganzfeld and presentiment studies) have uncovered about this phenomena, decide for yourself whether psychic abilities are myth or reality. x
    • 17
      Why Don’t Adolescents Behave like Adults?
      See how developmental psychology and neuroscience explain three patterns typically associated with the tumultuous period of adolescence: conflict with adults, emotional volatility, and risky behavior. Also, consider the neuroscience of peer pressure, the psychological benefits of teenage risk-taking, and the truth behind the public’s perception of teenagers. x
    • 18
      How Much Do Men and Women Really Differ?
      Each of us sees differences in how men and women behave. But the truth of the matter may surprise you. Professor Leary discusses what we now know about how men and women differ (and are similar) when it comes to aspects of personality such as agreeableness, sexual practices, mating behaviors, and ambition. x
    • 19
      Why Do We Care What Others Think of Us?
      We all want to make the best possible impression on others. In this lecture, break down the subject of impression management and gain new insights into why we’re so concerned with others’ thoughts about us. As you’ll discover, concern for your public image can have its upsides—and its downsides as well. x
    • 20
      Why Are Prejudice and Conflict So Common?
      If most of us think of humanity as good, fair, and peace-loving, then why is there so much conflict and prejudice out there? Tapping into a series of intriguing studies and experiments, Professor Leary reveals the roots of our behavioral tendency to view the world in an “Us versus Them” context. x
    • 21
      Why Do People Fall In—and Out of—Love?
      Love is one of human behavior’s all-time mysteries. What’s the difference between companionate love and passionate love (the love we fall in and out of)? Which brain chemicals are activated when we fall in love? Is romantic love a Western invention? Get answers to these questions and many others. x
    • 22
      What Makes Relationships Succeed or Fail?
      Here, explore what behavioral research has revealed about intimate relationships—specifically, why some work and some don’t. Learn some of the determinants of satisfying and unsatisfying relationships; chart the course of satisfaction in most relationships; and come away with some keys to making relationships last. x
    • 23
      Why Do People Blush?
      First, examine what happens biologically when we blush and its evolutionary purpose. Then, look closer at blushing’s role in social interactions, its relationship with undesired attention, and its link to social behaviors in apes. Finally, study the phenomenon of the creeping blush and uncover why some people blush more than others. x
    • 24
      A Few Mysteries We Can’t Explain Yet
      Close out the course with a look at a few other behavioral mysteries that remain difficult for scientists to explain—all of which are so common to everyday life that they probably don’t seem mysterious at all: laughter, kissing, the creation and enjoyment of art, and consciousness. x
  • Effective Communication Skills

    Professor Dalton Kehoe, Ph.D.

    Available Formats: Video Download, Audio Download, DVD, CD
    Effective Communication Skills is your chance to learn more about how you communicate verbally, the common problems you can encounter in doing so, and how you can improve your own effectiveness—especially by overcoming the psychological and biological hard-wiring that often gets in the way of success. These 24 mind-opening lectures by Professor Dalton Kehoe, packed with the tools and strategies you need, are a powerful exploration of what's really going on in any conversation you take part in.
    View Lecture List (24)
    24 Lectures  |  Effective Communication Skills
    Lecture Titles (24)
    • 1
      The Magic of Everyday Communication
      An introduction to our "taken-for-granted" model of everyday talk reveals why you talk and the problems caused by underlying assumptions about the exchange. There are, as you learn, vital tools you can use to avoid these problems. x
    • 2
      The Complex Layers of Face-to-Face Talk
      Explore what really happens during face-to-face conversation by examining the conversational model developed by communication researchers. Discover that any two-person conversation really includes six people, and how different categories of "noise" dramatically affect the transmission of meaning. x
    • 3
      The Social Context That Shapes Our Talk
      How you understand the messages sent to you is shaped in large part by your culture and subcultures—the contexts in which you learned "normal" ways of seeing and hearing the world around you. Grasp the key dimensions along which cultures can be compared. x
    • 4
      The Operations of the Cognitive Unconscious
      Learn how a part of the brain unavailable to the conscious mind actually processes the vast majority of the information you take in, using a vast array of techniques to guide how you use that information, especially during face-to-face interactions. x
    • 5
      The Conscious Mind in Perception
      Take a key step toward talking more effectively by analyzing how you see things—the brain's "reality management" process of selecting, organizing, and interpreting incoming data. Grasp the pitfalls inherent in the brain's reliance on existing schemas and even stereotypes to make the process more efficient. x
    • 6
      The Conscious Mind in Using Language
      How do you interpret the information you take in, especially during conversation, when cognition must operate much more quickly? This lecture delves into the many pitfalls inherent in conversation, including the judgment tools we all use and the dangers in them revealed by Peter Senge's iconic "inference ladder." x
    • 7
      The Conscious Mind and Emotion
      As a society, we talk about feelings constantly. Yet at the individual level, our awareness of our feelings and ability to discuss them varies significantly. Learn how naming your feelings and describing them accurately to yourself and others is central to effective communication. x
    • 8
      The Development of Our Sense of Self
      How does your sense of self emerge and shape your relationships to others? What are the factors that differentiate one personality from another? Examine one model—the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator—and gain invaluable tips on how different personality types can communicate successfully with each other. x
    • 9
      Self, Attachment, and Self-Esteem
      Using both attachment theory and a self-awareness model called a Johari window, consider how self-esteem develops and how it can be characterized to reveal the emotions it embodies. Learn how we manage self-perceptions and self-presentations to preserve our self-esteem in daily interactions. x
    • 10
      Protecting the Self in Face-to-Face Talk
      Every conversation has the potential to either enhance your sense of self-worth or undermine it. Explore the techniques we all use to protect ourselves, with particular focus on the psychological defenses identified by Freud and the conversational model of Parent, Adult, and Child voices set forth by Eric Berne. x
    • 11
      Conscious Self-Talk and Self-Management
      You don't have to allow effective communication to be sabotaged by those automatic and often self-defeating defenses your mind puts in motion to "protect" you. This lecture offers practical techniques for creating positive internal dialogues and for being heard, understood, and accepted by others in difficult situations. x
    • 12
      Challenges to Effective Communication
      Professor Kehoe discusses several practical ways to turn what you have already learned into better communication. Learn the positive impact of concepts like mindfulness and appreciation, as well as how using meta-communication techniques can prevent a dangerous climb up the "inference ladder" during difficult situations. x
    • 13
      Talking to Connect and Build Relationships
      Begin your introduction to the professor's own model of human communication. In this lecture, learn the basics of "connect talk" at each of its stages, grasping the significance of procedural and ritual recognition talk before moving on to small talk and deeper levels of conversation. x
    • 14
      Differences, Disagreement, and Control Talk
      Understand what happens when "control talk"—the mode we use to influence or persuade—powers the conversation. Learn the difference between the light control that may well be useful in certain situations and the heavy control, driven by intense negative emotions, that rarely contributes to a positive outcome. x
    • 15
      Commands, Accusations, and Blame
      Plunge into the zone of escalation, where light control talk becomes competitive, tactics harden, and the battle of heavy control talk begins. Learn some useful techniques for managing your emotions and bringing your voice back to a level from which progress is possible for both parties. x
    • 16
      Healing Relationships with Dialogue Talk
      Gain an understanding of the only mode of talk that is not automatic. Instead, it requires choosing to be a mindful and emotionally generous meta-communicator, even in difficult situations, producing results that can be far more positive than those "achieved" through the win-lose, right-wrong, control talk model. x
    • 17
      Focus on the Other—The Heart of Dialogue
      What kinds of questions get people to talk openly? Learn how to ask these questions, and also gain listening and response techniques to keep them talking by showing your understanding of what they are trying to communicate. x
    • 18
      Assertive Dialogue to Manage Disagreement
      We all have to deal with difficult behavior, and doing so successfully requires being assertive, which is far different from being aggressive or using control talk. Here, gain valuable tools for asking for what you want with courage, calmness, and clarity. x
    • 19
      Compassionate Confrontation
      Sometimes a negative behavior persists despite repeated requests for change. When that happens, it may be time for "structured dialogue," a slowed-down and opened-up form of dialogue talk. Absorb the steps needed for a process that can be very effective, but demands time, focus, patience, energy, and self-management. x
    • 20
      Communication, Gender, and Culture
      Whether you are male or female affects how you communicate and use language. An exploration of what men and women actually mean when they speak—and why this is so—offers useful lessons on how best to hear and be heard by the opposite sex. x
    • 21
      Talking Our Way to Lasting Relationships
      Researchers have gained a knowledgeable grasp of why relationships develop and endure. Whether a relationship is one of friendship or romance, there are things you can do to not only enrich them, but make necessary repairs if they begin to either stagnate or fragment. x
    • 22
      Leadership, Appreciation, and Productivity
      The relationship between managers and employees is the bedrock of survival and success for all organizations. Learn how the quality of this relationship can be shaped by the quality of the communication between them—beginning with tools you can use as a manager. x
    • 23
      Dialogue and Appreciation—Engaged Employees
      Complete your understanding of the critical two-way interaction that determines a successful workplace as you look at the employee's role in building successful workplace communications. Grasp the techniques that make a practical difference in the success of both employee and employer. x
    • 24
      Dialogue—Ethical Choices behind Our Talk
      Listen to a summary of what you have learned, this time from the perspective of effective communication as a profoundly ethical process, and not merely one whose value lies in practicality. The goal is to speak in ways not only good for us, but for others, as well. x
  • The Art of War
    Course  |  The Art of War

    Professor Andrew R. Wilson, Ph.D.

    Available Formats: Audio Download, CD

    As a landmark achievement in the evolution of strategic thought, Sun Tzu’s The Art of War has had a powerful and lasting influence on military strategy around the globe. So universal and timeless are its tactics for pursuing a competitive advantage that some of the most notable people in government, sports, and the entertainment world have all quoted from its nearly 2500-year-old pages. Through a precise, historically grounded explanation of the original text and intriguing case studies, the six lectures of The Art of War prove how this classic’s wisdom remains highly relevant in the information age. You’ll examine how the seminal work’s model of leadership has been applied—and misapplied—throughout the realms of war, politics, business, and beyond.

    View Lecture List (6)
    6 Lectures  |  The Art of War
    Lecture Titles (6)
    • 1
      The Origins of a Revolutionary Classic
      The Art of War has a timeless appeal, but it is the product of a unique time and place. Learn the historical context that gave rise to the book by investigating the centrality of war in ancient China and the dramatic societal shifts taking place. Gain insight into what scholars believe about the author’s identity. x
    • 2
      Command and Method
      The key to winning without fighting lies first in the quality of leadership and the reputation of an organization. Examine key elements of effective command and method, first as they are developed in The Art of War itself, and then as they were exemplified by the early success of the Ford Motor Company. x
    • 3
      Weather and Terrain
      Great leaders know how and when to exploit geography and psychology. Learn the role climate and terrain played in Washington’s crossing the Delaware, Mao Zedong’s advance into Korea, and other military offensives. Investigate how leadership and organization converged with weather and terrain to allow the Greeks at Thermopylae to hold off a vastly larger Persian army. x
    • 4
      Energy and Timing
      Being in the right place at the right time shouldn’t be left to fate. In this lecture, you’ll probe the concept of shi, or focused potential energy, and how effective leaders combine this force with an exceptional sense of timing. See how Sun Tzu’s strategies for outmaneuvering competitors have been applied in war, business, and sports. x
    • 5
      Espionage and Deception
      The Art of War’s greatest contribution to the world of competitive strategy may be its detailed treatment of information warfare and intelligence gathering. Differentiate between active and passive deception, learn the value of various types of spies, and investigate the historical use of espionage, including one of the worst intelligence disasters in American history. x
    • 6
      An Enduring Guide for Interesting Times
      Delve more deeply into how this classic relates to all intellectual contests of wills, from armies to competing corporations. Consider its potential relevance to the economic, political, and military rise of contemporary China, including the implications of legal warfare and the concept of shi as it relates to cyber security and warfare. x
  • Money and Banking: What Everyone Should Know

    Professor Michael K. Salemi, Ph.D.

    Available Formats: Video Download, Audio Download, DVD, CD
    Get a penetrating look at the financial institutions that are fundamental to your life with the 36 detailed lectures of Money and Banking: What Everyone Should Know. Award-winning Professor Michael K. Salemi investigates a range of pivotal and fascinating topics. Among these: the history of money; how money is created by commercial and central banks; the role of public confidence in the stability of financial systems; the psychology of stock market "bubbles"; the connection between Wall Street and Main Street; and more.

    View Lecture List (36)
    36 Lectures  |  Money and Banking: What Everyone Should Know
    Lecture Titles (36)
    • 1
      The Importance of Money
      What is money? Consider the fundamental nature of money as a social contract and a social institution that coordinates economic activity. Explore the connections between financial institutions and economic well-being, including the importance of "stable value money" to trade and the critical roles of healthy banks, efficient asset markets, and monetary policy. x
    • 2
      Money as a Social Contract
      Money developed as a medium of exchange to facilitate trade. Here, learn about five stages in the evolution of money. Beginning with barter, trace the rise of commodities as money, the invention of coins, paper money backed by precious metals, and finally our era's "fiat" money, which has value by agreement alone. x
    • 3
      How Is Money Created?
      Study the invention of paper money in the history of goldsmiths issuing paper receipts backed by gold deposits. Then trace the important history of the gold standard, upon which nations pegged the value of currencies, and the reasons the gold standard was abandoned in 1971. x
    • 4
      Monetary History of the United States
      The U.S. government's role in financial affairs has been historically controversial. Learn about the two failed attempts in early U.S. history to establish a central bank, followed by the system of "national" banks chartered in the 1860s. Follow key issues surrounding national currency and coinage, leading to the Federal Reserve Act of 1913. x
    • 5
      Local Currencies and Nonstandard Banks
      Finance is not just the business of the wealthy. Here, study nontraditional models for solving economic problems, from examples of local currencies galvanizing local economies to "microfinance" arrangements such as Bangladesh's Grameen Bank, which create highly successful savings and loan programs for the poor. x
    • 6
      How Inflation Erodes the Value of Money
      This lecture investigates the factors governing inflation, beginning with an inflation history of the United States over the last century. Learn about the correlation between inflation and the consumer price index, and how inflation is triggered by excess money growth. Also, review inflation's detrimental effects and costs. x
    • 7
      Hyperinflation Is the Repudiation of Money
      The history of hyperinflation offers both a compelling story and a cautionary tale of inflation's damaging effects. Trace the root causes of extreme inflation in governments that finance deficits by printing new money. Then, study key cases of hyperinflation, its "vicious circle" quality, and the inevitable fiscal reform that ends it. x
    • 8
      Saving—The Source of Funds for Investment
      Explore the meaning of "investment" in economics as increases to a nation's "capital stock"—the equipment, technology, and human resources used in the production process. Then see how investment is made possible by domestic saving and foreign borrowing, and how investment is critically related to economic growth. x
    • 9
      The Real Rate of Interest
      Understanding how interest rates work sheds important light on our economy. Study the difference between the "nominal" or agreed-upon interest rate in a loan transaction and the "real" rate of interest. Learn how the "real" rate factors in the rate of inflation to determine the actual cost/benefit of borrowing and lending. x
    • 10
      Financial Intermediaries
      Financial intermediaries or "middlemen" play an important role in modern economies. Investigate how intermediaries such as commercial banks facilitate borrowing and lending, which provide valuable services to each party. Afterward, study the fundamental types of intermediary institutions, including savings banks, mutual funds, money market funds, and insurance companies. x
    • 11
      Commercial Banks
      In learning how commercial banks operate, examine the sources from which banks acquire their funds and how they use the funds they acquire, as well as how assets and liabilities function within banks. Finally, study three formal definitions of money, and how banks literally create money in the process of making loans. x
    • 12
      Central Banks
      Investigate the role and importance of central banks as they provide banking services to commercial banks, focusing on the U.S. Federal Reserve. See how central banks control an economy's interest rates and create money, and how their ability to increase or decrease the money supply makes them the world's most powerful financial institutions. x
    • 13
      Present Value
      Present value is an important formula for computing the current value of payments that will be received or made in the future. Learn how present value is used, in the examples of determining the current value of a savings bond and how much to save per year for future college tuition. x
    • 14
      Probability, Expected Value, and Uncertainty
      This lecture explores how financial decisions are made in the face of future uncertainty. Using the examples of both a dice game and a real-world business strategy, study the statistical tool of "expected value" as a method of predicting possible outcomes. See how the probability of expected profits influences business decisions. x
    • 15
      Risk and Risk Aversion
      Economists have developed ways of assessing people's willingness to take on risk in financial decision making. With reference to the "St. Petersburg Paradox," a classic problem relating to odds in gambling, observe how individuals tend to value the dollars they might lose more highly than the dollars they might win. x
    • 16
      An Introduction to Bond Markets
      Bond markets play a key economic role by channeling funds from savers to government and private entities that need funding beyond their current revenues. In this lecture, study the various types of bond instruments, including Treasury bills, notes, and bonds. Learn also about important factors underlying the federal deficit and the national debt. x
    • 17
      Bond Prices and Yields
      In a deeper look at bonds, investigate how secondary markets for bonds operate and what they offer investors. Study fundamental concepts including the "yield to maturity" of bonds and the "holding period yield" in understanding the link between bond prices and interest rates and how economic events change them. x
    • 18
      How Economic Forces Affect Interest Rates
      Changes in interest rates have widespread economic effects. Consider interest rates as market prices, set by the current market for credit. Then see how interest rates are determined in the long run by patterns of saving and investment, and in the short run by factors such as government deficits and recessions. x
    • 19
      Why Interest Rates Move Together
      The many interest rates in different areas of the economy tend to change together over time. Here, learn about the key factors that govern this, beginning with the ways that interest rates adjust to expected changes in inflation. Observe also how risk in borrowing and lending affects the rate of interest. x
    • 20
      The Term Structure of Interest Rates
      The formula known as the "Expectations Hypothesis" allows analysts to forecast future interest rates and conditions in the credit market. Understand the intuition behind the hypothesis, study the formula itself as it tracks yields on Treasury securities, and see how it benefits borrowers considering mortgages and loans. x
    • 21
      Introduction to the Stock Market
      Stock markets provide individuals the chance to share in the ownership and profits of corporations. Investigate the history of stock markets, their basic functions on behalf of investors, and how trades are made. Finally, learn about the various stock indexes that track the markets, and how mutual funds operate. x
    • 22
      Stock Price Fundamentals
      What determines prices in the stock market? Approach this question first through the "market fundamentals" model of stock prices, a formula linking a firm's capital, profits, and dividends to its share price. Contrast this with the "capital asset pricing model," which evaluates the rate of return an investor requires. x
    • 23
      Stock Market Bubbles and Irrational Exuberance
      This lecture introduces the fascinating group psychology of stock investing. Study the phenomenon of stock market "bubbles," in which prices are driven up without reference to profitability data. Then, grasp the "bubble" mind-set, which triggers speculative buying and selling based only on what others are paying. x
    • 24
      Derivative Securities
      Derivative securities play an important role in finance by allowing business decision makers and private investors to lower risk. See how derivative securities are created using underlying products, and study the major types of derivatives and how they function, including stock options, commodities futures, mutual funds, and "collateralized" debt obligations. x
    • 25
      Asymmetric Information
      Asymmetric information occurs when one party in a financial transaction has more relevant information than another. Learn how this affects financial markets; in particular, the challenges it presents for borrowers and lenders. Also, discover why so few firms issue stocks and bonds, and why banks are so restrictive in regard to loan practices. x
    • 26
      Regulation of Financial Firms
      Consider the case for government bailouts of financial firms, and why such actions are in the public interest. Then examine the types of government regulation of financial institutions, and see how the 20th-century history of bank regulation was a "tug of war" between looser and stricter rules. x
    • 27
      Subprime Mortgage Crisis and Reregulation
      The subprime mortgage crisis of 2008 offers a clear example of breakdown followed by regulatory reform. Trace the dramatic events that led to the crisis, and learn about the mortgage-backed derivative securities that contributed to it. Finally, examine the provisions of the Dodd-Frank Act, designed to address the crisis's causes. x
    • 28
      Interest Rate Policy at the Fed and ECB
      Interest rate policy is fundamental to the role and function of central banks. Investigate how the Federal Reserve raises and lowers short-term interest rates in pursuing its objectives of stabilizing prices and promoting a healthy economy. Compare the Fed's policies with the European Central Bank's, noting key similarities and differences. x
    • 29
      The Objectives of Monetary Policy
      This lecture asks the question: What should the objectives of a government's monetary policy be? Explore the ways in which monetary policy on the part of central banks affects economies. Study the monetary policy mandates of several different nations, and consider whether the Fed's own dual mandate may be too broad. x
    • 30
      Should Central Banks Follow a Policy Rule?
      The question of policy rules versus policy "discretion" highlights how central banks operate. Examine the case favoring predictable policy by the Fed in addressing economic events, compared with treating each event as unique. Evaluate the claim that the Fed followed a specific policy rule during the term of Alan Greenspan. x
    • 31
      Extraordinary Tools for Extraordinary Times
      Responding to the Great Recession of 2008, the Federal Reserve took unprecedented actions to address the crisis. Here, observe how the Fed intervened in credit markets, provided remedies for banks, and stimulated the economy, and consider the question of whether its actions went too far, paving the way for future inflation. x
    • 32
      Central Bank Independence
      Traditional thinking says that central banks must be independent of political pressures in order to best perform their function. Learn how economists define and measure "independence" and "transparency" of the central banks of the world. Investigate whether greater independence of central banks is associated with desirable economic outcomes. x
    • 33
      The Foreign Exchange Value of the Dollar
      Turning to international finance, grasp how currency exchange rates operate based on demand and supply, and how this system accounts for the devaluing of the U.S. dollar over the last two decades. Also study China's exchange system, which pegs its currency to the U.S. dollar, and its implications for the global economy. x
    • 34
      Exchange Rates and International Banking
      Understanding the movement of exchange rates gives key insight into international banking relationships. Investigate the factors that determine exchange rates in both the short and long run, and learn how economists evaluate currencies as over- or undervalued. Observe how international banks play an ever-increasing role in finance, and why this is so. x
    • 35
      Monetary Policy Coordination
      The coordination of monetary policy between nations has important effects on the world economy. Using specific examples, evaluate the benefits of coordinated interest rate policy versus the outcomes of given nations acting alone. Learn about the International Monetary Fund, its functions, and the role it plays in maintaining worldwide financial stability. x
    • 36
      Challenges for the Future
      In concluding, consider three key questions facing the world's financial systems: Will the United States solve its chronic deficit problem? Will the euro survive? And will financial regulators find a solution for the "too big to fail" problem? Examine the complex challenges posed by these issues and their critical implications for our economic future. x
  • The Philosopher's Toolkit: How to Be the Most Rational Person in Any Room

    Professor Patrick Grim, Ph.D.

    Available Formats: Video Download, Soundtrack Download, DVD, CD Soundtrack
    Thinking is at the heart of our everyday lives, yet our thinking can go wrong in any number of ways. Bad arguments, fallacious reasoning, misleading language, and built-in cognitive biases are all traps that keep us from rational decision making. What can we do to avoid these traps and think better? Is it possible to think faster, more efficiently, and more systematically? The Philosopher's Toolkit: How to Be the Most Rational Person in Any Room, taught by award-winning Professor Patrick Grim of the State University of New York at Stony Brook, arms you against the perils of bad thinking and supplies you with an arsenal of strategies to help you be more creative, logical, inventive, realistic, and rational in all aspects of your daily life.

    View Lecture List (24)
    24 Lectures  |  The Philosopher's Toolkit: How to Be the Most Rational Person in Any Room
    Lecture Titles (24)
    • 1
      How We Think and How to Think Better
      Thinking is fundamental to our daily lives, and this introduction surveys the philosopher’s toolkit, strategies to improve our thinking—visualization, simplification, the principles of debate, and techniques for social reasoning. Because the best philosophy is done in conjunction with other disciplines, you’ll apply these tools to economics, psychology, and more. x
    • 2
      Cool Rationality and Hot Thought
      Which is a better tool for decision making, reason or emotion? As this lecture argues, both cool rationality and hot emotion have their place. Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of each can help us make better decisions, both in the heat of a moment and during long-term analysis. x
    • 3
      The Strategy of Visualization
      Pull out your pen and paper and put “conceptual visualization” to work. Humans excel at pattern recognition, and what we see in our mind’s eye can aid us in solving even the most daunting of puzzles, from the Pythagorean theorem to Special Relativity. You’ll see how sketches and matrices are powerful aids for information management. x
    • 4
      Visualizing Concepts and Propositions
      Explore the most basic elements of thought to prepare for the coming lectures. Concepts are the atoms of thought, expressed by words and illustrated by Venn diagrams and concept trees. Words form sentences—or propositions—which are the molecules of thought. Together, concepts and propositions provide a structural framework to express thought and convey information. x
    • 5
      The Power of Thought Experiments
      Harness the power of your imagination with this hands-on lecture, which introduces several strategies for solving real-world problems with thought experiments. As lessons from economics, business, ethics, and physics show, the imagination is one of our finest tools for exploring reality. x
    • 6
      Thinking like Aristotle
      So far, the course has emphasized visual techniques for logical thinking. In this lecture you’ll discover one of the greatest developments of human thought. Aristotle’s “square of oppositions” is the core of our logical system and provides a bridge to connect visualization with the flow of rational argument. x
    • 7
      Ironclad, Airtight Validity
      What makes an argument valid? Continue your study of Aristotelian logic by looking at how propositions form airtight arguments. By mapping out the logic of syllogisms with Venn diagrams, you’ll enhance your deductive reasoning skills—and you’ll see that the unfortunate trade-off for an absolutely airtight syllogism is that it doesn’t really offer any new information. x
    • 8
      Thinking outside the Box
      Creativity can’t be taught, but it can be cultivated. Take a break from the traditional lecture with this enjoyable workshop on creative, sideways thinking. Here you’ll participate in a number of engaging exercises designed to break your standard habits of thought and help you solve problems by thinking outside the box. x
    • 9
      The Flow of Argument
      Ironclad, deductive syllogisms won’t get us very far in terms of new information, so this lecture looks beyond that simple framework and introduces you to the flow of complex arguments. By understanding logical “flow,” you’ll have the tools to determine an argument’s strengths and weaknesses. Is the conclusion inescapable, or merely probable? How “sound” is the argument? x
    • 10
      Simple Heuristics That Make Us Smart
      Dive into the world of heuristics, simple rules of thumb that guide us through immediate decisions when we lack the time needed for logical analysis. You’ll reflect on the wisdom of crowds, find out why German college students do better than Americans on U.S. demographic quizzes, and consider the utility of “good enough” solutions. x
    • 11
      Why We Make Misteaks
      The bad news is that to err is human. Thanks to information biases, selective memories, and unreliable heuristics, systematic error is built into the way we think. The good news is that once we become aware of these biases, we can compensate for them. This lecture shows you how. x
    • 12
      Rational Discussion in a Polarized Context
      How do you have a rational discussion with someone with a radically different viewpoint? Political polarization is real, and media gives us instant access to slanted sources. Here you’ll unpack several negotiation strategies to reconcile two sides in an argument—and examine the signs of a hopelessly irrational discussion. x
    • 13
      Rhetoric versus Rationality
      Guard yourself against the perils of rhetoric. By learning the ins and outs of ethos, pathos, and logos, you’ll be prepared to parry manipulative rhetoric as it comes—especially from the broadcast media. You’ll also develop your ability to visualize patterns of exchange, which can assist you with making persuasive presentations. x
    • 14
      Bogus Arguments and How to Defuse Them
      Tour the world of bad arguments. From ad hominem attacks to false alternatives and hasty generalizations, this lecture presents the most common logical fallacies and offers you the chance to test your knowledge against a myriad of examples. But be forewarned: There’s no guarantee that a bad argument is committing just one fallacy. x
    • 15
      The Great Debate
      Continue to hone your argumentative skills by evaluating a debate over the future of freedom and democracy. You’ll analyze the rhetoric and see the strategies at work in a real back-and-forth, and you’ll come away with a sharpened ear for appeals to emotion, syllogisms, and other rhetorical techniques of persuasion. x
    • 16
      Outwitting the Advertiser
      Recommended by doctors! Low fat! Call today! The world of advertising is filled with psychological manipulation, misleading half-truths, and magic words designed to get us to buy. This lecture cuts through the spin to show us the advertiser’s favorite techniques, from beautiful spokespeople to empty messaging. x
    • 17
      Putting a Spin on Statistics
      Facts and stats are clear and objective, right? Of course not. Statistics are great because they give us information in an easy-to-understand way, but they can also be dangerously misleading. Something as simple as the choice between mean, median, and mode can skew the facts. The ability to evaluate statistics allows you to draw your own conclusions. x
    • 18
      Poker, Probability, and Everyday Life
      Life is filled with chance, and unfortunately it’s not as easy to navigate as counting face cards. This survey of probability will allow you to deal with chance more rationally. You’ll study the law of large numbers, how to calculate the probability of one or more events, and the gambler’s fallacy that keeps casinos in business. x
    • 19
      Decisions, Decisions
      Turn your attention to decision theory, the surefire way to make the most rational decision with the evidence you have. The key is to maximize expected utility. Doing so can tell you everything from which wine to buy for a dinner party to how to respond to an influenza outbreak. Pascal even used decision theory to determine his belief in God. x
    • 20
      Thinking Scientifically
      What’s the difference between real science and pseudoscience? What’s wrong with astrology and phrenology? Find out how to build your own pseudoscience, complete with ambiguous phenomena and post-hoc modifications, so you’ll know what to watch out for when you’re presented with something that looks like science but doesn’t pass the test of a rigorous scientific theory. x
    • 21
      Put It to the Test—Beautiful Experiments
      Analyzing the structure of scientific experiments is an important part of the philosopher’s toolkit. The risks, power, and limits of experimentation can help you back your own claims and evaluate the claims of others. Here you’ll examine the parts of a good experiment—control groups, randomized testing, and what to do with unexpected results x
    • 22
      Game Theory and Beyond
      Where decision theory leaves off, game theory begins. This lecture walks you through the techniques of decision making in a social context. You’ll look at the cooperation and competition inherent to the Prisoner’s Dilemma, and you’ll reflect on behavioral economics, a field that studies irrational action. x
    • 23
      Thinking with Models
      Synthesize the earlier lectures on visualization, simplification, and thought experiments and check out the benefits of thinking with models. The three-stage model—input, mechanism, and output—is a great way to put your toolkit strategies to work, whether you want to predict tomorrow’s weather, explain why the moon exists, or understand segregated neighborhoods. x
    • 24
      Lessons from the Great Thinkers
      Conclude the course with a journey through the minds of great thinkers from Plato and Aristotle to Darwin and Einstein. You’ll consider what made them great thinkers, and you’ll pick up a few tips to improve your own thinking. x