Joy of Science

Course No. 1100
Professor Robert M. Hazen, Ph.D.
George Mason University
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Course Overview

English novelist and scientist C. P. Snow classed certain scientific ideas with the works of Shakespeare as something every educated person should know. One such idea, according to Snow, was the second law of thermodynamics, which deals with the diffusion of heat and has many profound consequences. He might well have added Newton's laws, the periodic table of elements, the double-helix structure of DNA, and scores of other masterpieces of scientific discovery.

Now, Professor Robert M. Hazen introduces these and other great ideas in 60 lectures that explore the fundamental discoveries and principles of all of the physical and biological sciences—physics, genetics, biology, astronomy, chemistry, meteorology, thermodynamics, and more.

A Passion for Teaching and Science

Professor Hazen is an apostle of science education for non-scientists, and he has few peers at rendering the most complex ideas simple, without being simplistic.

"I have a passion as a teacher," he says, "and that passion is to share with you the joy of science, the astonishing discoveries, the mind-bending insights, and the transforming applications of science as well."

A research scientist, professor, and advisor to public television's NOVA science series, Dr. Hazen helped draft the National Science Education Standards (National Academy of Sciences, 1997). These Standards represent a consensus among thousands of scientists and educators regarding the most effective approaches for teaching and learning about science.

These lectures have been specifically designed to introduce and review all of the scientific principles that are included in the Content Standards portion of the National Science Education Standards.

The result is a comprehensive and integrated introduction to all of science. By devoting just 30 minutes a day, you can complete this entire course in two months and discover an enhanced understanding of the physical world that will be a source of endless wonder and intellectual joy.

A Special Learning Opportunity

This course offers a special learning opportunity because:

  • It steers clear of the jargon and mathematical abstractions that so often bedevil science education.
  • It features an integrated approach that allows you as a learner to transcend artificial disciplinary boundaries in order to gain a panoramic view of the whole scientific enterprise in all its breathtaking scope.

The key to these achievements is Professor Hazen's insight that only a course organized around the common principles of scientific inquiry can put science in its proper light as a unique way of knowing.

Four Reasons to Become Scientifically Literate

Dr. Hazen cites four reasons why you should strive to become scientifically literate:

  • Scientific literacy helps you as a consumer make informed decisions—about health care, diet, nutrition, exercise, environmental issues, and the plethora of technological choices that we all face.
  • Many of today's jobs depend directly or indirectly on science as well as on technologies that are developed from scientific discoveries.
  • Scientific literacy helps you provide your children with a firm foundation as they study science in school.
  • Learning about science allows you to share the joy of humanity's greatest ongoing adventure of discovery and exploration.

What You'll Learn

Part I Highlights (Lectures 1–12):

Dr. Hazen begins by explaining the four-step cycle that defines the "scientific method" of knowing. He introduces you to five pivotal figures in early-modern science: Nicolas Copernicus, Tycho Brahe, Johannes Kepler, Galileo Galilei, and Isaac Newton. Astoundingly, during a single rural sojourn in 1665–66, Newton discovered calculus, many of the basic laws of optics, the three laws of motion, and the law of gravity. Newton's discoveries unified the supposedly separate domains of terrestrial and celestial motions.

Part II Highlights (Lectures 13–24):

Dr. Hazen introduces you to H. C. Oersted, the little-known figure who paved the way for a revolution in technology with his finding that electricity can produce a magnetic field. Out of this discovery came the electromagnet, the telegraph, the telephone, the electric motor, the generator, and many other inventions. You will also learn how James Clerk Maxwell offered the first mathematically rigorous description of the close connection between electricity and magnetism—and how Einstein, pondering a paradox that arose from Maxwell's equations, proposed and explored the principle of relativity.

Dr. Hazen shifts the focus of his lectures to the nature of matter, paying particular attention to atoms and quantum mechanics. He explains the chemical bonding of atoms, the different states of matter, and the principal force of change in the world of matter: chemical reactions.

Part III Highlights (Lectures 25–36):

Dr. Hazen then turns to the explanation of how specific physical systems work. Such systems manifest themselves in the properties of materials, as well as in the characteristics of atomic isotopes and their energy-producing nuclear reactions. You will learn about astronomy, the Big Bang theory, the solar system, and today's burgeoning field of extra-solar planetary systems.

Part IV Highlights (Lectures 37–48):

Dr. Hazen devotes lectures to the constant recycling of Earth's materials—water, air, and rock. He explores the question, "What is life?" You'll examine life's molecular building blocks: carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, and nucleic acids. You'll learn how biological information is passed from parents to offspring, processes first quantified by the Czechoslovakian monk Gregor Mendel.

Part V Highlights (Lectures 49–60):

Mendel's discoveries lead Dr. Hazen to focus on the great unifying biological principles of genetics, evolution, and ecosystems. He argues that no scientific discovery of the 20th century has had a greater impact than the deciphering of the genetic code, embedded in the double-helix structure of DNA first described in 1952 by James Watson and Francis Crick. Dr. Hazen goes on to address troubling ethical questions raised by genetic engineering. He examines both the chemical and biological evolution of life before delving into the interdependent communities of species and their physical environments known as ecosystems.

Dr. Hazen also raises questions about claims that science is approaching its end—that all there is of significance to be learned about the natural world will soon be known.

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60 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    The Nature of Science
    What distinguishes science from the many other ways humanity has devised to understand the cosmos? What makes knowledge "scientific"? Why is scientific literacy so important for citizens in the modern world? x
  • 2
    The Scientific Method
    Science is a search for answers, and thus needs well-conceived questions. How are these questions formed? At what do they aim? What is "the scientific method"? Is science purely systematic, or do accident and serendipity play a role? x
  • 3
    The Ordered Universe
    Scientists believe that our senses don't lie. Although this was not obvious to the ancients, the Roman scholar Pliny the Elder catalogued thousands of "facts." Ptolemy's famous geocentric model of the solar system was an early application of the scientific method. x
  • 4
    Celestial and Terrestrial Mechanics
    Pivotal figures in early-modern science, Nicolas Copernicus, Tycho Brahe, and Johannes Kepler, made significant contributions to astronomy. Galileo Galilei, the great Italian physicist and astronomer, was also a pioneer of experimental methods. x
  • 5
    Newton's Laws of Motion
    Isaac Newton built on the works of Kepler and Galileo by showing that motion everywhere obeys a single set of mathematical laws. During a rural sojourn in 1665–66, he formed many of his major contributions, including calculus, some basic laws of optics, the three laws of motion, and the law of gravity. x
  • 6
    Universal Gravitation
    Did a falling apple really inspire Newton to deduce the mathematical description of the universal force known as gravity? What do Newton's universal laws of motion and gravity reveal about the world? What are their implications for the study of natural phenomena? x
  • 7
    The Nature of Energy
    Energy is the ability to do work—i.e., to exert a force over a distance. What are the various forms in which energy comes? How have scientists defined and studied them? x
  • 8
    The First Law of Thermodynamics
    Energy constantly changes forms all around us. Study of such transformations has led to countless useful devices. Learn why, to many scientists, the first law of thermodynamics tells us something profound about the symmetry of nature. x
  • 9
    The Second Law of Thermodynamics
    What does the second law of thermodynamics mean? What is the difference between heat and temperature? How does heat flow? What does the second law imply about the limits on an engine's ability to convert heat energy into useful work? x
  • 10
    Entropy
    In its most general form, the second law of thermodynamics states that the degree of disorder, or entropy, of any system tends to increase over time. Among the deep and far-reaching questions raised by this concept is the origin of highly ordered local systems, such as life. x
  • 11
    Magnetism and Static Electricity
    Magnetism is one of the forces that can be studied in light of Newton's laws of motion. Because compasses are magnetic, magnetism was of great importance in the age of ocean exploration and commerce. Static electricity, by contrast, was little more than a fascinating curiosity. x
  • 12
    Electricity
    Most modern uses of electricity rely on electrons that move. Why was Alessandro Volta's battery a turning point in electrical science? What are the components of an electrical circuit? x
  • 13
    Electromagnetism
    H. C. Oersted found that electricity can produce magnetic fields, leading to the electromagnet, the telegraph, and the electric motor. Michael Faraday showed that moving magnets induce electricity—the principle behind most electric-power generation. James Clerk Maxwell described the links between electricity and magnetism in four elegant equations. x
  • 14
    The Electromagnetic Spectrum, Part I
    Maxwell's equations predicted the existence of electromagnetic waves. He predicted that invisible wavelengths would be found; Hertz discovered radio waves in 1889. How do scientists divide the electromagnetic spectrum? x
  • 15
    The Electromagnetic Spectrum, Part II
    The discovery and application of electromagnetic radiation has transformed science and technology in ways that you'll find familiar, but also in ways that may surprise you. x
  • 16
    Relativity
    Pondering a paradox that arose from Maxwell's equations, Albert Einstein stated and explored the principle of relativity, both special and general. Fatefully, Einstein also discovered that mass must be a form of energy. x
  • 17
    Atoms
    While the concept of the atom, the basic building block of all matter, was first proposed at least 2,500 years ago, its existence was not verified until the 20th century. John Dalton presented the first modern statement of the atomic theory. Learn how the discovery of radioactivity and a mathematical demonstration by Einstein provided the compelling evidence. x
  • 18
    The Bohr Atom
    Learn why Rutherford's concept of the atom was physically impossible, and what Niels Bohr proposed as an alternative. Bohr's model helped to explain many of the properties of light-matter interactions. Lasers make special use of the "quantum" interactions between light and matter. x
  • 19
    The Quantum World
    In 1900, Max Planck theorized that energy comes in discrete bundles called "quanta." Einstein's research later reinforced this idea. At the atomic scale, according to Werner Heisenberg's famous uncertainty principle, every measurement changes its object. Thus quantum-scale events can only be described in terms of probabilities, and electrons display the characteristics of both particles and waves. x
  • 20
    The Periodic Table of the Elements
    Long before Bohr, chemists realized that there are many kinds of atoms—the chemical elements. Elements cannot be broken down into other substances by any ordinary physical or chemical means. In 1869, Dmitri Mendeleev used observed similarities to draw up a periodic table of 63 chemical elements. Subsequent discoveries have lengthened the table but not altered its basic form. x
  • 21
    Introduction to Chemistry
    Learn why atoms bond to one another, and what makes some types of atoms particularly unstable and reactive. Learn what distinguishes covalent from ionic and metallic bonding. The most versatile of all covalently bonded elements is carbon, the element of life. x
  • 22
    The Chemistry of Carbon
    Carbon's unparalleled ability to form covalent bonds makes it the major focus of modern chemical research. More than 90 percent of known compounds are organic; that is, they contain carbon. Polymers, the chemical building blocks of plastics, form an important class of organic molecules. x
  • 23
    States of Matter and Changes of State
    The states of matter—solid, liquid, gas, and plasma—manifest the submicroscopic organization of atoms and molecules. How do scientists define these four states? x
  • 24
    Phase Transformations and Chemical Reactions
    Change is a hallmark of the material world. Wood burns, glue hardens, eggs cook, dead organisms decay, carbon graphite under high pressure becomes a diamond. Physical transformations reflect changes in the arrangement of atoms and their chemical bonds. What distinguishes a phase transformation from a chemical reaction? What are types of chemical reactions, and how do they occur? x
  • 25
    Properties of Materials
    Materials are useful because of distinct physical properties, including strength, hardness, and a variety of optical, thermal, magnetic, and electrical properties. These properties result from the kinds of atoms and their arrangements in three dimensions, and the way they are bonded. x
  • 26
    Semiconductors and Modern Microelectronics
    If conductors and insulators were the only materials we had, the world of electronics would be quite limited. Computers and other marvels of modern electronics rely on the microchip, or integrated circuit, which is a single semiconductor device. Learn what semiconductors are, and how they work. x
  • 27
    Isotopes and Radioactivity
    The discovery of radioactivity, and the subsequent exploration of the atomic nucleus, led to nuclear physics and nuclear chemistry. About one atom in a million is radioactive. Such atoms can decay through alpha, beta, or gamma radiation, all of which are dangerous because they can disrupt chemical bonds. x
  • 28
    Nuclear Fission and Fusion Reactions
    Prodigious amounts of energy can be released when atoms are split (fission) or when two nuclei, usually hydrogen, are forced together (fusion). Fission reactions can be controlled in reactors or unleashed by bombs. Attempts are now underway to control fusion reactions, which would provide sustained energy. x
  • 29
    Astronomy
    Nearly all the information that we have about distant stars comes from electromagnetic radiation traveling at 186,000 miles per second. Astronomers collect, analyze, and interpret this data to understand the spatial distribution, dynamic state, and past and future of the universe. x
  • 30
    The Life Cycle of Stars
    Our Sun is an ordinary or "main sequence" star, 4.5 billion years old. It has several billion more years of hydrogen-burning life left, during which the contractive force of gravity will strive against the expansive force of nuclear fusion. How do stars like the Sun die, and what is left behind? x
  • 31
    Edwin Hubble and the Discovery of Galaxies
    In 1924, Edwin Hubble discovered that galaxies are immense collections of gravitationally bound stars. Astronomers have since catalogued thousands of galaxies. Hubble also found a close relationship between a galaxy's distance and its "red shift," a change in light wavelengths caused by rapid movement away from us. As telescopes have improved, the estimated number of galaxies has grown to tens of billions. x
  • 32
    The Big Bang
    The Big Bang theory proposes that the universe came into existence at one moment in time and has expanded rapidly. The Big Bang was not an explosion but an expansion—of space itself, with all its matter and energy. What observations support this theory? What surprising conclusions do astronomers draw from galactic red shifts? x
  • 33
    The Ultimate Structure of Matter
    The search for a "theory of everything," a set of equations that describes all matter and forces in the universe, is one of the great frontiers in physics today. What will determine whether or not we make progress in this search? What are the four fundamental forces and particles in the universe, and why do some scientists think that, at some level, they are all the same? x
  • 34
    The Nebular Hypothesis
    According to Pierre Simon Laplace's widely accepted nebular hypothesis, a star forms when gravity draws interstellar dust and hydrogen gas into an increasingly dense, small cloud that flattens into a rotating disc with most of its mass pulled to the center. If solar systems form from such discs, then there must be many in our own galaxy. The Hubble Space Telescope has produced dramatic images of star-forming regions in nearby space. x
  • 35
    The Solar System
    In this lecture we journey through the solar system. We voyage from Mercury, alternately seared by the Sun and frozen in darkness, to Jupiter, whose four largest moons are distinct planetlike worlds of their own, and then beyond Uranus to the beautiful blue planet Neptune. x
  • 36
    The Earth as a Planet
    We complete our review of the solar system and look at the fascinating research field of extrasolar planetary systems. More than a dozen planets the size of Jupiter or larger have been detected, and more are being found every month. The Earth shares many characteristics with other planets of the solar system but is unique because it has so much liquid water—the essential medium for life. x
  • 37
    The Dynamic Earth
    The Earth's topography seems permanent, but a close look reveals signs of constant change. What first led James Hutton to propose the key geological doctrine of uniformitarianism, which holds that great changes occur incrementally over eons? x
  • 38
    The Plate Tectonics Revolution
    The plate tectonics theory produced one of the great scientific revolutions of the 20th century. Before the mid-1960s, Earth studies were localized and fragmented into subdisciplines. We examine the separate lines of observational evidence that led to this grand theory, and the wealth of specific and testable predictions that flow from it. x
  • 39
    Earthquakes, Volcanoes, and Plate Motions Today
    The mechanism of plate tectonics depends on the rigidity of rocks. The lithosphere, which includes the crust and the upper mantle, floats on the relatively soft, hot asthenosphere. The Earth's surface is divided into about a dozen lithospheric plates, with earthquakes and volcanoes clustered at their boundaries. How do geologists explain the presence of volcanism in mid-plate "hot spots"? x
  • 40
    Earth Cycles—Water
    All elements and compounds take part in geochemical cycles, which are described by identifying all the principal reservoirs, as well as the processes by which materials move from one reservoir to another. Three major Earth cycles are the water cycle, the atmospheric cycle, and the rock cycle. x
  • 41
    The Atmospheric Cycle
    Our atmosphere is an envelope of gases. Weather is the state of the atmosphere at a given time and place; climate is a long-term average of weather for a given region. What variables define the state of the atmosphere? What does paleoclimatology tell us about climate change? x
  • 42
    The Rock Cycle
    The rock cycle is epic both in terms of time and scale. What are the three major types of rock recognized by geologists? How does each form? Learn some of the amazing stories that rocks tell. x
  • 43
    What Is Life?
    Biology is the study of living systems. What characteristics do all living organisms share? What share of the estimated 50 million species has been identified? How does the Linnaean system for classifying species work? x
  • 44
    Strategies of Life
    Metabolism is the cell's process of obtaining energy from its surroundings and converting that energy into molecules. Kingdoms of organisms adopt different strategies for supporting metabolic activity—in other words, for staying alive. x
  • 45
    Life's Molecular Building Blocks
    All living organisms are exceptionally complex chemical systems, yet these systems are built from relatively simple parts. Life's varied chemical substances are constructed from a few molecular building blocks, which share a few essential characteristics. x
  • 46
    Proteins
    What are proteins? What do they do that makes them the chemical workhorses of life? What are amino acids, and what do they have to do with proteins? x
  • 47
    Cells—The Chemical Factories of Life
    All living things are composed of cells, the fundamental unit of life. All cells arise from previous cells. How can cells be compared to chemical factories? x
  • 48
    Gregor Mendel, Founder of Genetics
    Classical genetics, founded in the 19th century by Gregor Mendel, is the study of how biological information is passed from parents to offspring at the level of organisms and their traits. Mendel's work was ignored and unappreciated during his lifetime, but it formed a basis for genetic discoveries in the 20th century. x
  • 49
    The Discovery of DNA
    Mendel's laws of genetics were purely descriptive. Cellular genetics, the study of the transfer of biological information at the level of cells, set the stage for research in molecular mechanisms of genetics. The double-helix structure of DNA was first described in 1952 by James Watson and Francis Crick. x
  • 50
    The Genetic Code
    No scientific discovery of the 20th century has had a greater impact than the deciphering of the genetic code. The Human Genome Project will map for the genes on each of the 23 pairs of human chromosomes, and determine the sequence of all three billion letters of the human genetic message. x
  • 51
    Reading the Genetic Code
    Our growing understanding of genes raises troubling ethical questions. While each person's interests, abilities, and behavior arise from a complex interplay of environment and genetic attributes, a number of genetic diseases reveal that genes play an important role as well. What would it take to establish definitive links between heredity and personal traits? x
  • 52
    Genetic Engineering
    Humans, never content simply to observe nature, have begun to read and edit the genetic code. The questions that swirl around genetic engineering exemplify the opportunities and concerns associated with these new abilities. x
  • 53
    Cancer and Other Genetic Diseases
    Genetic research in humans is driven primarily by efforts to cure inherited diseases. Yet as we learn more about "editing" genes, we may learn to design entirely new organisms. Then the central question of genetics will not be "What is the language of life?" but rather "What limits must we place on using the language of life?" x
  • 54
    The Chemical Evolution of Life
    If all cells come from other cells, where did the first cell come from? What can science tell us here, and what are the competing scientific hypotheses? x
  • 55
    Biological Evolution—A Unifying Theme of Biology
    Biological evolution is the central unifying theme in the life sciences. What is the evidence that guides us in understanding life's history on our planet? What is molecular phylogeny now revealing about this history? x
  • 56
    The Fact of Evolution—The Fossil Record
    Evolution is an observational fact, though there are competing theories about how it occurs. The primary source of evidence for the evolution of life comes from the fossil record. x
  • 57
    Charles Darwin and the Theory of Natural Selection
    When Charles Darwin first formed his theory of natural selection, he was troubled by the lack of a known physical mechanism for change. What do we know today that fills that gap? x
  • 58
    Ecosystems and the Law of Unintended Consequences
    Species always occur as part of an ecosystem—an interdependent community of species and its physical environment. The law of unintended consequences states that any change in one part of a complex system may affect other parts of the system, often in unpredictable ways. How can we improve our understanding of our impact on ecosystems? x
  • 59
    The Ozone Hole, Acid Rain, and the Greenhouse Effect
    Modern technology and population growth have led to many concerns about their effects on the environment and global climate. Local problems are fairly straightforward, but as problems become less localized, both diagnoses and solutions grow more elusive. This lecture reviews three such problems: the ozone hole, acid rain, and the greenhouse effect. x
  • 60
    Science, the Endless Frontier
    Recently a number of science watchers have claimed that science is approaching its end—that all there is of significance to be learned about the natural world will soon be known. Are they right? x

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Your professor

Robert M. Hazen

About Your Professor

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

Joy of Science is rated 4.6 out of 5 by 95.
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Magical tour through majesty and mystery of scienc Confession time; here in the UK we are encouraged to specialise in subject choice from age 14 and I basically ignored science though i studied physics until 16 and Maths to 18. So this course was my way of plugging some huge gaps in my knowledge and it did that. Professor Hazen has verve and passion for his subject area and an easy and sympathetic style to convey sometimes complex topic areas. It is a superb primer on the scientific landscape and moves across all the science spectrum from cosmology to cellular concerns. The only cavaet i have is that the editiion that I heard in 2010 was recorded i think maybe close to 10 years earlier; so a lot of recent evidence is out. Come on TTC Professor Hazen is excellent and can we have a 2012 version!! I would buy it for sure.
Date published: 2012-03-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Fun Dr. Hazen is a funny and clear lecturer. The material, as can be seen by the lecture titles, can be applied to everyday life. He presents experiments that we can all relate to (and actually do, in our homes). It spans a huge array of topics and although a long course, I never lost interest and looked forward to the next topic. I'd highly recommend this to anyone wondering about "how and why things work".
Date published: 2011-12-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great course reviewing big ideas of science I just finished the Teaching Company’s course the Joy of Science. This course was essentially an overview of the main physical sciences and their interconnections. Through these lectures, one learns important facts in physics, astronomy, geology, chemistry, and biology. To appreciate this course, one need not already be well-versed in the material, and the course employs no math. Most of the principles and discoveries are placed in their historical time period, and many of the discoverers are given the appropriate introduction. The main strength of this course is showing the relationships between the fields and of reducing many explanations to a few. In this, the big theories of science—atomic theory, universal laws of motion, plate tectonics, evolution—help one make sense of the world. The main other benefit of the course is a realization of how new most of what we know is. Any date will be somewhat arbitrary, but let us just consider the tremendous changes in our knowledge from the past five hundred years. Since the 1400s, Gutenberg developed movable type, revolutionizing printing; the Europeans bumped into the Americas, effectively doubling the amount of known land; translations of the Bible bypassed the Church approved Latin and appeared in its original languages and in modern vernaculars; Galileo discovered the moons of Jupiter, the motion of the earth, and Kepler ultimately developed the elliptical heliocentric solar system; we discovered two new planets around our sun and hundred more around other stars; the estimated size of the universe went from around the now known size of the orbit of Venus (which, for comparison is one-sixth the size of Betelgeuse, visible in the northern winter in the constellation of Orion) to billions of light years across, and the age of the universe increased from a few millennia to billions of years; scientists discovered microscopic and deep sea worlds; chemists and physicists discovered atoms and how some of their decay powers currents which move continents, altering the earth’s surface, and forcing species to evolve or become extinct. While this course will not make you an expert in any of these fields, listening to two lectures a week for 30 weeks (as I did) will greatly improve one’s knowledge of these areas, show you how fragile this knowledge is, and why it is worth fighting for. It will throw light onto the world, make it more comprehensible, and make one a little prouder of what our species has learned.
Date published: 2011-11-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Best Course and Teacher - and important Of the Teaching Company courses I have listened to or seen, this is by far the best: its scope is enormous, and the teacher is truly gifted. His thought and sequence is logical and clear; there is no digression, he covers enormous topics, all of science, each worthy of its own lecture series, and he is able to focus and pull out the most essential line. He is also humane and in moments spirited, as when he reads a humorous quote of old: to share with us, the poetry implicit in this way. I get the impression, he is not merely teaching as a profession, but that this is for him the loftiest ideal for a life's devotion: to bring understanding of science to all people, for yes our individual enlightenment and more the nation's good, in universal hope for our human course.
Date published: 2011-11-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A true learning experience Covers all the subjects from the sub-atomic level to the universe and everything in between! Prof. Hazen is an excellent comunicator and his depth of knowledge amazing.
Date published: 2011-11-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An Excellent Place to Start This was the first of the Great Courses I took. And for me, it was the beginning of what I hope to be a very long relationship. The course and the presentation by Dr. Hazen are a winning combination for any student, whether he/she is a long time science buff or just getting aquainted with the subject. I have ordered several courses after completing this one, and found that all of them are of the same high caliber. The technical content of the course is sufficient to satisfy the Saturday afternoon scientist, yet not so technical as to deter those with a more modest background in science. As with other Great Courses I have since taken, I found myself watching several lectures more than once, not because I had difficulty understanding the material, but because I wanted to watch an immediate rerun of a particularly interesting and entertaining lecture. The type of lecture Dr Hazen delivers in quantity. If asked to point out any negative aspect of the course in my opinion, I would only suggest that in a couple of the lectures I believe the good professor could have left out some parts which I felt didn't add much to the topic at hand and could have been omitted with no loss of quality of the course content. A minor negative at best. I would highly recommend this course to anyone who wants to know more about the world around them, but doesn't have the time to pursue this course work at a local community college. All said, this is an excellent place to start that journey to life long learning.
Date published: 2011-09-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very good review Downloaded version. As part of my premed training I had to take many science courses (physics, chemistry, biology, etc.), so I was familiar with most of the material presented in this course. But I still found it interesting and enjoyable. It was a very nice review of the major concepts of “science,” which in this case involved everything from physics to astronomy to biology. This is my first course with professor Hazen. He sounds very nice, has a pleasant voice, a good delivery and an obvious enthusiasm for the subject. Sometimes he gets so excited that he speaks too fast and “swallows” the ends of his sentences, but that happens very infrequently. Prof. Hazen’s goal was to provide general information about various areas of science and I think he has succeeded admirably. If you have taken scientific courses, you will find it a nice review. But the most likely people to benefit from this course would be those who did not study physics, chemistry, biology, etc. Personally, I found the lectures about geology and astronomy particularly useful because I did not study them in college. I learned about the recycling of atoms. A carbon atom may be a part of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the air, it gets incorporated into a blade of grass, which is eaten by a cow, which uses it to make milk, which a person puts in his/her coffee, so it becomes part of the human body. When the person dies, this carbon atom is released into the environment and becomes part of something else. So we have molecules in out bodies that might have been inside the dinosaurs. This is fascinating. My only disagreement with the professor was in the area of life origin and evolution. I was raised as an atheist. I studied evolution in high school and firmly believed it to provide a perfect explanation for the foundation of life and the generation of the unimaginable number of living organisms on Earth. However, as I studied biology and medicine, I realized that living organisms are just too complex to have happened by chance alone. Even the professor pointed out that a single living cell is thousands of times more complex than anything created by men. Yet he presents the idea that life has originated as a result of some random combination of molecules that happened over the course of many millions of years. These molecules have gotten together and become organized, eventually leading to more complex structures, which created living cells. The cells then combined to created multi-cellular organisms, like plants, animals and humans. The idea is that anything can happen, given a very long period of time, but it is not so. It is like assuming that molecules of silicon combine to create a primitive computer chip. These chips combine to create a more advanced one, which produces something like a pager. It evolves into a telephone, then cell phone, then a smart phone, then finally into a computer. Most people would find this process improbable, even over the course of millions of years. Yet a computer is infinitely less complex than a single human cell. That is why I am now in the intelligent design camp. But overall, I think this is a great course, both for people familiar with science and those to whom these concepts may be new. I highly recommend it.
Date published: 2011-05-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Excellent choice of topics This course is not perfect, but it is very very good. Prof. Hazen has made a very good choice of topics, and teaches them all very well. He appears a little nervous at times, and misspeaks a little too often, and has an annoying habit of saying "Think about it!" He also likes to emote a little too much - as if his enthusiasm will either make us more interested in the subject or make the subject more understandable. But these imperfections aren't serious enough for me not to recommend the course. However, you should know that the course was released in 2001, and a couple of the lectures (mostly about astronomy, if I remember correctly) are out-of-date. Perhaps the Teaching Company can convince Prof. Hazen to record a 2nd edition!
Date published: 2011-04-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from My Hero Dr. Hazen is my hero. I'm almost finished listening to this course for the SECOND time. The funny part is, my son is taking earth science in school and it's amazing how much more I can help him now that I've listened again. My favorite course ever.
Date published: 2011-02-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent intro to world of science This is a college level general science course for non-science majors. It is flat excellent. Dr. Hazen is passionate about the topics, and is extremely talented as a teacher. I believe he is better here, than in his other course on the origins of life. He is in the same league as: Kloss, Brier, Fears. I would certainly buy any further courses he make. It would be grossly unfair to say this course is "dummy downed". But if you are a science major, or well read; there will be some parts of the course that offer little new to you. That caveat aside, this a very strong buy.
Date published: 2010-10-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good Intro to Science for Non-Science-Majors I bought this series 10 years ago on DVD and just recently finished watching it. I had to expend some effort to slog through the 60 lectures, but in the end it was worth while. This is a very wide-ranging series of lectures on the basics of science, pitched at an elementary level -- high-school or college freshman level at best. That was OK for me, as I studied liberal arts in school and don't have a strong background in science. Those who do, however, might be disappointed, and should instead consider TTC's more advanced offerings on astronomy, geology, biology, earth science, etc. Hazen isn't exactly a dynamic lecturer, but it's evident that he cares deeply about helping his listeners to understand the principles of science, and he's passionate about the subject matter. His delivery is extremely clear and understandable, and he often complements his verbal explanations with effective visual demonstrations aimed at driving home the points he is making. I found him to be an engaging and persusaive teacher. If you are looking for a basic introduction to the foundational principles of physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy, and geology, you can't go wrong with this course.
Date published: 2010-08-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A nice overview of a broad topic I am impressed with the broadness of the topic being tackled by one person. Everyone might find a minor fault here and there, but I (a biologist) would be hesitant to take on the challenge of teaching all facets of natural science for a course. The approach to most topics is simple and understandable. If you have taught for a few decades, you will appreciate his approach. If you are fresh out of graduate school, you will probably be more critical. I bought the set mostly to get some ideas for how to present science to students who have never had much in K-12, and for this it has been very good.
Date published: 2010-06-22
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Intro High School Course This course has value for the listener with little or no frame of reference for science. The terminology and presentation are very watered down and borderline condescending. Not a good review course for any individual with any scientific background. Promo says it stears clear of "jargon". Also stears clear of most meaninful terminology. I am not sure if he even recited Newton's three laws of motion as Newton wrote them or if he just squished around them. I stopped listening after 8 lecturtes. The thought of 60 lectures was just too much for me. The difference between potential and kinetic energy? Really? Wasn't that 5th grade?
Date published: 2010-06-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Quite Possibly The Best Professor Ever This course is a wonderful overview of the basic concepts in science. Hazen does an outstanding job, especially when one considers the monumental task of trying to cover so much material. The goal of this program is to stimulate one's interest in science and it does just that. After experiencing the joy of Hazen’s lectures, you may just find yourself searching for another course, by The Teaching Company, to gain a deeper comprehension of a particular topic covered in these lectures.
Date published: 2010-04-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Joy of Science The content of these materials was very good...just short of excellent. There were two areas in the presentation which I found annoying and unnecessary. The first: the presenter early in the lecture series apologizes to the audience for the fact that the vast majority of histories greatest scientists are white men... as if these incredible scientists made discoveries on the backs of women and people of color. We need to move beyond this type of sexism and racism. The second:The presenter talks about evolution late in the series and resorts to criticism of Christians and creationists. He commits many of the same closed-minded arguments that he is so ready to accuse the creationists of making, going so far as to read emails from his opponents and court decisions which favor evolution. This is typical arrogant academia liberalism and it has no place in this lecture series. If the science of evolution/Darwinism is good, then it will stand on its own merits. I was turned off by this and while Prof. Hazen is certainly entitled to his opinion (and he may be right), I would not want to pay my hard earned money to hear it. The Teaching Company customers would be better served if the professor stuck with the facts. Despite these annoyances, the "Joy of Science" series is highly recommended. Very informative and enjoyable!
Date published: 2010-04-29
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Excellent Integrative approach to the Sciences This course is an excellent overview of the sciences, The links between the different fields of science are regularly demonstrated; an approach I found very appealing. Dr. Hazen's breadth of knowledge is extremely impressive and his joy, excitement and fascination with the material is infectious. His non-dogmatic style conveys a real feel for the process as well as the facts of Science. I think that the Integrative approach is a great way to refresh a science education, as well as to present it for the first time. When I reached the last lecture, I felt like I had been on an epic journey through the history of our Universe. My only criticism is Dr. Hazen's frequently breathless delivery. I wished that he would slow down a bit so I could chew on some point he was making, before jumping into the next thought.
Date published: 2010-04-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Introduction to Science My science background is . . . deficient. When I started watching this course, I felt like a fool - Hazen speaks fast and I didn't understand half of it. However, over time, I got used to his energetic style and got swept up in his interest in his subject. This course changed me from being scientifically illiterate to scientifically semi-literate.
Date published: 2010-02-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Solid Overview of Science "Science" is such an all-encompassing term that it is impossible to go into depth on any one subject. In 60 lectures there is enough material to hold one's interest and at least get a flavor for the development of scientific ideas. The professor's enthusiasm shows from the start. However, if there is a particular subject of interest, the student is well advised to use this course material as an introduction, then seek more specific information from an more in-depth course.
Date published: 2009-12-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from New user/very impressed As an instructor in another field, I very much appreciate Dr. Hazen's relaxed informative style. As a layperson, I found the lectures fascinating and easily understood. Along with Calculus Made Easy, I'm well on my way to a PHD. Not really. I will most certainly view these lectures repeatedly. There are many more subjects to explore. If this series is any indication, my library will soon be expanded. Thank you for a really wonderful experience.
Date published: 2009-12-17
Rated 2 out of 5 by from DIFFICULT TO ENJOY I love science, but this course was difficult for me to enjoy. I imagine it would be even more difficult for a school child.
Date published: 2009-11-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from My favorite course so far This was my first teaching company course and it is still my favorite. I liked the broad scope of science it covered. Having been fascinated by astronomy as a child but being turn off by science in school before I was old enough to study physics, I especially enjoyed learning about the physics and astronomy that I never studied in school. I would certainly recommend this course to anyone wanting to get a broad overview of science.
Date published: 2009-11-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I listen to this while commuting. I feel like continuing to drive so I can listen longer. Well presented and very interesting. It's good to listen to someone speak so enthusiastically about a subject they obviously enjoy.
Date published: 2009-10-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good Overview Like many American public school graduates, my background in science was very weak. This lecture series at first made me feel even more inadequate since the author speaks very fast and energetically on almost every scientific topic. However, I got into the habit of watching some of the more complex lectures while doing puzzles, going over them, half-listening, several times. That way I caught up. By the end of the series, I enjoyed his lecturing style.
Date published: 2009-10-10
Rated 3 out of 5 by from DON"T BUY UNTIL NEW VERSION! This course is so out of date you will cringe. Hearing the professor talk excitely about biology and space science events that are supposed to happen in 2001 is just painful. Maybe the physics and geology are not as out of date, but hearing about how the human genome project will be completed soon was just a joke, its been done for nearly a DECADE! I am a molecular biologist and I have never heard anyone pronounce polymerase the way he does. I had a laughing fit the first time he said it and he kept saying it. How very very embarassing for him. All that being said - if this course gets updated and the professor fixes the errors others have pointed out and figures out how to say polymerase I'd highly recommend this course.
Date published: 2009-08-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Thorough Survey of Science I bought this course for my son, who was a high school student at the time, and ended up watching it all myself. It was a great review of subjects I hadn't had in decades, and an introduction to others I didn't take in school!
Date published: 2009-08-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from An excellent science overview I found Dr. Hazen's course extremely interesting and valuable. I went to MIT as an undergraduate (EE/ Computer Science) and have studied chemistry in great detail, and physics and biology and geology to a lesser extent. I found this course to be a wonderful refresher and a source of new insights into areas of science that I never studied or never really took the time to understand. Dr. Hazen's knowledge comes through, and so does his pure enthusiasm for the subject matter of science and for the joy of teaching. I want to watch this again with my son when he is old enough to appreciate it.
Date published: 2009-08-10
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Some Flaws but Worth the Time I was not a science major, so I found this course very informative, especially on the topics I had no familiarity with. That being said, I can definitely see how some reviewers could complain about the lack of depth in many areas. One of the course's main accomplishments is also one of its detriments: its scope. Dr. Hazen attempts to cover an enormously large amount of information in this course. While this is interesting for a neophyte such as myself, it necessarily means that much of the information is surface-level. I enjoyed the presentation and Dr. Hazen's obvious love for science, but the course works best for non-scientists.
Date published: 2009-07-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Our all time absolute favorite course! Dr. Hazen's "Joy of Science" is an impressive, 60 lecture tour de force of the study of science delivered with enthusiasm and knowledge. Even controversial subjects were well formulated and articulated yet sensitive to the many sides of the issues. Graphics and demonstrations were well integrated with explanations that served to further deepen the understanding of the subject matter. When asked our absolute favorite of the more than 100 courses we have watched THIS is it! Every single lecture was a hit!
Date published: 2009-06-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Good intro course, but hampered by presentation I have to say off the bat that I haven't finished the course yet. I'm about a quarter of the way through it, but if I don't write the review now, I'm unlikely to do so later, so here goes. The course is very good so far. I consider myself fairly sophisticated in science and expected that everything here would be review or even obvious. As several other reviewers have noted, however, Prof. Hazen brings a fresh (to me) perspective on a number of items. There is much even in the first 15 lectures that caused me to rethink my understanding. On the other hand, the brevity of treatment causes him to oversimplify in some cases. (His treatment of electricity, for example, conflates electrical energy and electric current in too many places.) My other problem with the course is Prof. Hazen's presentation. Although I think I am alone among all the reviewers, I was bothered by his sometimes halting presentation. His diction is not ideal and I found that to be quite distracting. But his enthusiasm is obvious and, while I wasn't infected by it, other reviewers obviously were, and I can certainly see how they might be. To be fair, I think when I get to the earth sciences section of the course, both of these criticisms might be eliminated, but through the first 15 lectures, that's my impression. Overall, the material, and even the presentation, are too good to overlook. In addition, his perspective of finding science in our everyday experiences is helpful and (in this area) infectious. I would certainly recommend this course, but don't expect a transporting experience (as you get with a number of other Teaching Company courses).
Date published: 2009-05-21
Rated 4 out of 5 by from It's good, but... …this is more of a History Channel or TLC approach to the subject matter that The Teaching Company typically avoids. To attempt to describe “Science” in a mere 60 lectures would be just as a silly as describing “History” in the same length. It simply isn’t practical. Now, as usual, Prof. Hazen is a very good lecturer. The problem with this course is simply that it attempts to describe and instruct the audience in something so magnanimous as “Science” in such a short length of time. This would be impossible for anyone. I wouldn’t recommend that you not buy this course. It was certainly entertaining, you should just know what it is you’re purchasing; a course that is quite rudimentary as compared most of the Teaching Company’s products. If you consider yourself to have only a very basic and elementary grasp of “Science” and need a refresher, this would indeed be a useful course to wet your appetite and discover which disciplines interest you the most and expand from there. If you consider yourself to be even somewhat well versed in the sciences, I recommend passing this one up and purchasing one of the more “specific” courses on the matter.
Date published: 2009-05-01
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