Oceanography: Exploring Earth's Final Wilderness

Course No. 1730
Professor Harold J. Tobin, Ph.D.
University of Wisconsin, Madison
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Course No. 1730
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Course Overview

Earth's ocean is a source of wonder, delight, sustenance, economic benefit, and awe in the face of its overwhelming mystery and power. It dominates the natural world in ways that scientists are only now beginning to understand. And although we call our home planet Earth, it would be more accurate to name it Ocean, since 71% of the globe is covered with water, and beneath the waves churn forces that make our world unique in the solar system:

  • Along mid-ocean ridges, lava flows from Earth's interior, forming new oceanic crust and driving the formation and movement of continents via the crucial process of plate tectonics.
  • The ocean's tremendous mass and thermal inertia serve as a climate control thermostat, moderating temperatures and making the planet habitable.
  • Life began in the ocean and was exclusively marine for billions of years; we owe our oxygen-rich atmosphere to the photosynthetic activity of oceanic organisms.

But for all its importance, the ocean hides its secrets, and it is only with the advent of new sounding and sampling techniques, satellite sensors, and deep sea submersibles that its riddles are being solved, shedding light on a domain that is breathtaking in its complexity and beauty.

Oceanography: Exploring Earth's Final Wilderness takes you on a scientific expedition to fathom the ocean's mysteries in 36 intensively illustrated half-hour lectures delivered by ocean scientist and Professor Harold J. Tobin of the University of Wisconsin–Madison, a researcher who has visited and mapped landscapes on the seabed that no human eyes had ever seen before.

Oceanography encompasses a wide range of fields, from biology and ecology, to geology, meteorology, chemistry, physics, and ocean engineering. No background in science is needed to follow these lectures, which provide a thorough appreciation for the ocean as a system that is arguably more intricate and fascinating than the continents, not least because it is a world that is fully three-dimensional, from the tidal zone to the deepest point on the ocean floor.

Piecing Together the Puzzle of the Ocean

Professor Tobin compares the exciting discoveries in oceanography in the past half-century to the exploration of a previously unknown planet. Scientists have been amazed again and again at what they've learned about the world beneath the waves. In these compelling lectures, you relive those discoveries, assembling the many pieces of the puzzle to gain a comprehensive picture of how the ocean works and how it affects the atmosphere, continents, and the web of life.

Among the discoveries you learn about are these:

  • New crust: Geologists once assumed that the ocean was a catch basin for sediments accumulating almost since Earth began. Instead, the seafloor is in a continual process of renewal and has the youngest rocks on the planet, far younger than rocks on land or even the water in the ocean itself.
  • Alien-like organisms: Biologists long believed that life could not exist at great depths. But not only does it exist, it flourishes in the utter darkness, cold, and high pressure of the deep sea in fantastic forms fit for a science fiction movie.
  • Living off Earth: Until recently, all life on Earth could be traced to photosynthetic processes drawing energy from the sun. But that was before the discovery of deep sea thermal vents, where organisms thrive on the primordial energy of the planet.
  • Rogue waves: Accounts of 100-foot-high "rogue" waves in the open ocean were long dismissed as physically impossible sailors' yarns. However, satellite and other measurements show that they occur and account for many ships that go missing.

Above all, you will learn to see the ocean as a single entity of striking complexity. Despite the names we have assigned to different regions of the ocean—Atlantic, Pacific, Indian, Arctic—they are all one continuous body of water, dominating the planet with features such as mid-ocean ridges that encircle the globe like the seams on a baseball.

A Story of Pure Exploration

The ocean is a huge subject, and you begin Oceanography by taking stock of the vast scope of the discipline. "This story is one of pure exploration," says Professor Tobin, and he approaches it by breaking the field down into its most important themes. First, he reviews the history of ocean exploration, before moving on to the topography of the seabed and how it is mapped. Diving deeper, he covers

  • the variety of habitats for ocean organisms;
  • the role of plate tectonics in creating and destroying the seafloor;
  • the origins of the ocean and life;
  • the sediments on the seabed and the conditions that produce oil and gas;
  • the reason that the sea is salty and why it isn't getting saltier.

Then he spends a lecture on water itself, investigating the special properties that make it indispensible to life. He continues with

  • the origins of waves and tides;
  • the diversity of marine life, from the ocean air to the deepest ocean trench;
  • the forces that shape coastlines;
  • the nature of bottom life, from tide pools to the deep sea;
  • and the links between weather, climate, and the ocean environment.
  • Professor Tobin closes the course with a glimpse into the future of the ocean and humanity's role in defining that destiny.

    The Ocean in Your Life

    Whether you live far from the coast or right on the water, the ocean touches on countless aspects of your life, from the climate to the oxygen-producing activity of ocean organisms to the many products that come to you by sea. The ocean's relevance also shows up in news stories about overfishing, ocean dumping, and other environmental issues, as well as in accounts of disasters such as the following, which Oceanography covers in detail:

    • Japanese tsunami: The devastating tsunami that engulfed coastal Japan in 2011 was set in motion by a gigantic undersea earthquake along a subduction zone, where the ocean floor is plunging beneath the rocks of the continent.
    • Gulf of Mexico oil spill: The Deepwater Horizon blowout in 2010 caused the largest uncontrolled release of oil and natural gas into the ocean ever recorded. You look at the expected—and unexpected—repercussions on marine life.
    • Hurricane Katrina: Unusually warm water in the Gulf of Mexico in the summer of 2005 turned an average hurricane into a category 5 monster. You investigate the ocean conditions that spawn hurricanes and the surprising power of their storm surges.
    • El Niño: Every few years the global climate enters a period of more extreme weather, when the Pacific trade winds slacken and the sea surface temperatures rise off the coast of Peru. You investigate the resulting cascade of effects, known as El Niño.

    Enrich Your Understanding of the Ocean World

    Oceanography is one of the most exciting areas in science, combining the thrill of exploring an otherworldly realm with the insights it gives into how the Earth works in all of its domains. Having spent nearly a year-and-a-half of his life cumulatively at sea on research expeditions, Professor Tobin is not only an expert on the subject but an eyewitness to the many wonders he describes.

    After taking this course, says Professor Tobin, you will gain "an appreciation for the complexity and richness of the ocean environment"—a world of organisms that have evolved to live in every conceivable niche in the sea, of ceaseless volcanic activity that is hidden beneath miles of water, of tides and currents that girdle the globe, and of other fascinating phenomena that make the ocean the most dynamic part of the planet.

    Next time you go to the beach, spend time on a sailboat, take a cruise, or even read a book or watch a movie or nature program about the sea, you will think of the expanse of blue water in a new way, with an enriched understanding of the ocean world.

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36 lectures
 |  Average 32 minutes each
  • 1
    Diving In—The Ocean Adventure
    Begin your study of the ocean from every angle, examining Earth's watery realm in light of geology, biology, chemistry, meteorology, and other fields. In this lecture, survey the extent of the ocean and the approaches that oceanographers take to understanding it. x
  • 2
    Explorers, Navigators, Pioneering Scientists
    The early explorers of the ocean were interested in charting its islands, dimensions, and resources—and in using it as a highway for trade. Relive the exploits of these mariners, who included Europeans, Chinese, and Polynesians. Only later did scientific exploration of the ocean begin. x
  • 3
    Ocean Basics and Ocean Basins
    As recently as the 1950s, geologists envisioned the ocean basins as a submerged version of the continents. Explore the topography of the seabed, discovering that it is shaped by geological forces fundamentally different from those on land. x
  • 4
    Mapping the Sea—Soundings to Satellites
    The ocean floor was once as mysterious as the surface of another planet. Investigate the technologies involved in measuring bathymetry, the undersea counterpart of topography. Weighted ropes and cables for gauging the depth of the sea have given way to sophisticated sonar from ships and radar from satellites. x
  • 5
    Habitats—Sunlit Shelves to the Dark Abyss
    Take a tour of organisms that live from the shallows to the ocean floor. Learn how to classify ocean zones, and discover the importance of temperature, chemistry, nutrients, light, and other factors for different life forms—from active swimmers to passive floaters and bottom dwellers. x
  • 6
    The Spreading Sea Floor and Mid-Ocean Ridges
    What made the ocean floor the way it is? Trace the evidence that ocean basins are geologically young and that new oceanic crust is being continually formed at mid-ocean ridges, pushing and rifting continental plates in a process called plate tectonics. x
  • 7
    The Plunging Sea Floor and Deep-Sea Trenches
    Investigate subduction zones, where oceanic crust plunges beneath an overriding tectonic plate. These margins are associated with deep-sea trenches, earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanoes. Examine other features, such as hotspots, which are a mid-plate phenomenon that includes the Hawaiian Islands chain. x
  • 8
    The Formation of the Earth and Its Ocean
    Cover 9 billion years of cosmic history—from the big bang, to the accretion of the sun and planets, to the formation of Earth's oceans 4 billion years ago. The water in the oceans came from water vapor in volcanic eruptions and possibly from comet impacts. x
  • 9
    The Early Ocean and the Origins of Life
    Explore scenarios for the origin of life, which may have begun around deep-sea hot springs. The oceans have maintained roughly the same conditions over the entire history of life on Earth, even though the sea floor has renewed itself many times over through plate tectonics. x
  • 10
    Marine Sediments—Archives of the Ocean
    Ocean sediments are like tree rings that can be "read" as a history of the ocean and climate through time. Investigate the different sources of sediments, which range from products of erosion on land, to the remains of sea creatures, to ejecta from asteroid impacts. x
  • 11
    Offshore Oil and Gas—Resources and Risks
    Learn the origin of petroleum and natural gas deposits, which formed under very specific conditions in marine sediments. As an example of the challenges of oil recovery, survey the technology of deep-water drilling, focusing on the disastrous blow-out in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. x
  • 12
    The Enduring Chemistry of Seawater
    Why is the sea salty? Why isn't it getting saltier? Probe these and other mysteries of ocean chemistry, looking at the remarkable stability and uniformity of seawater over time. Also study the role of water and the conjectured role of life in driving plate tectonics. x
  • 13
    How the Physics of Water Controls the Ocean
    Analyze the surprising properties that keep the ocean liquid and make water the defining physical substance for life. Among them is its ability to retain heat, which has kept Earth in a narrow temperature range hospitable to life for billions of years. Also investigate the propagation of light in water and why the ocean is blue. x
  • 14
    Waves—Motion in the Ocean
    Chart the dynamics of wind-generated waves, which include almost all ocean waves. See how they form, grow in size, travel for thousands of miles, and then break on shore. The big waves preferred by surfers come from remote regions that have the ocean's stormiest weather. x
  • 15
    Rogue Waves and Tsunami
    Long considered a mariners' tall tale, abnormally high "rogue" waves are now well documented. Understand the physics of why they form and the yearly toll they take on shipping. Then study tsunami, or seismic sea waves, which are generated when undersea earthquakes displace huge volumes of water, often with catastrophic results. x
  • 16
    Tides in Theory and Practice
    Tides are caused by the gravitational attraction of the moon and, to a lesser extent, the sun. Learn that the timing and height of tides are far more complex than the daily motions of the moon and sun suggest—due to the influences of coastal features, the Coriolis effect, and other factors. x
  • 17
    Marine Life, Energy, and Food Webs
    Trace the path of energy and food through oceanic ecosystems, which have a far higher turnover of biomass than the terrestrial equivalents. As a result, most of what grows in the oceans is very quickly consumed. Learn why warm, temperate seas are often nutrient-poor compared with polar waters. x
  • 18
    Tiny Plankton—The Most Abundant Life on Earth
    Survey some of the many species of plankton, which are passive, floating, and drifting organisms. Microscopic plankton are ubiquitous throughout the oceans and represent all three of the basic biological domains: Archaea, Bacteria, and Eukarya. x
  • 19
    Soft-Bodied Life in the Dark, Open Depths
    Investigate the soft-bodied organisms that live at great depths and have no skeletons or shells. Little known until recently, this group includes a variety of creatures whose amorphous bodies are often destroyed by nets and who only came to light through studies from submersibles. x
  • 20
    Swimming—The Many Fish in the Sea
    Contrasting with free-floating plankton, nekton are the ocean's swimmers. In this lecture, study the most numerous nekton—fish—focusing on their streamlining, gills, schooling, and other adaptations. Also, examine mollusks, including the octopus, squid, and nautilus. x
  • 21
    Marine Birds, Reptiles, and Mammals
    Turn to the nekton among birds, reptiles, and mammals. These feature some of the most magnificent creatures on the planet, including albatrosses, Sooty Shearwaters, sea turtles, manatees, seals, sea lions, whales, and dolphins. Focus on the adaptations that allow them to thrive in marine environments. x
  • 22
    Whaling, Fisheries, and Farming the Ocean
    Examine the economic exploitation of marine life, beginning with the history of whaling and continuing to the present, when fishing is the only significant source of hunted food. Weigh the alternatives of commercial fishing and mariculture in an era of rapidly declining fish populations. x
  • 23
    Where Sea Meets the Land and Why Coasts Vary
    Have you ever walked along a beach or stood on a high cliff overlooking the sea and wondered how the land got to be that way? Learn how erosion, deposition, sea-level change, plate tectonics, and other factors have produced the characteristic coastlines of the world. x
  • 24
    Where Rivers Meet the Sea—Estuaries and Deltas
    River mouths, deltas, tidal inlets, fjords, and enclosed bays are places where freshwater and seawater mix. Explore these complex zones, which are among the most biologically productive ecosystems on Earth. Many marine organisms carry out key parts of their lifecycles in such environments. x
  • 25
    Coastal Erosion—Beaches and Sea Cliffs
    Coastlines are constantly changing features. Examine what happens when structures are built to halt or reverse the change, especially at a time when sea level is rising. Most human-engineered solutions turn out to be short-term at best, and many have unintended consequences. x
  • 26
    Tidal Life, Sea Forests, and Coral Reefs
    Begin your survey of the organisms and ecosystems that flourish in the most complex and varied part of the ocean: the benthic zone, or sea bottom. Start in the shallows, where life inhabits a wide range of niches—from the crashing waves of tide pools to placid mudflats. x
  • 27
    Deep Bottom Life and Hydrothermal Vents
    Continue your investigation of the benthic zone by exploring the deep ocean bottom, where astonishing diversity exists in cold, darkness, and high pressure. Your tour includes sea cucumbers, brittle stars, herds of sea pigs, and the unique community around deep sea vents, which extracts energy from the Earth itself. x
  • 28
    Trade Winds—The Circulation of Heat and Wind
    Explore another ocean—the ocean of air—which interacts with Earth's seas through the force of wind on water. Investigate the cause of wind patterns such as the trade winds, westerlies, and polar easterlies. Two crucial factors are uneven distribution of heat and the Coriolis effect due to Earth's rotation. x
  • 29
    Heavy Weather—Storms and Hurricanes
    Gain insight into the world's largest storms by looking at the interaction of ocean, atmosphere, and land, and how it produces nor'easters, monsoons, and hurricanes. Focus on the life cycle of hurricanes—how they form, intensify, and often produce devastating storm surges, as happened during Hurricane Katrina. x
  • 30
    The Gulf Stream to Gyres—Vast Surface Currents
    Follow the chain of events that initiate surface currents in the ocean. Big currents such as the Gulf Stream are caused mainly by wind friction. The mapping of currents has been aided by incidents such as the accidental spill of thousands of floating bath toys in the Pacific in 1992. x
  • 31
    Upwelling, Downwelling, and El Niño
    Winds drive surface currents, and together wind and currents set in motion large-scale upwelling and downwelling. Study these patterns and the disturbances that lead to El Niño and La Niña cycles, which cause major disruptions in fisheries and weather. x
  • 32
    The Deepest, Slowest River—Polar Bottom Water
    While surface currents move a typical water molecule around an ocean basin in a year or two, down deep water circulates much more slowly, taking hundreds to thousands of years to make a circuit. Trace how dense, cold water masses from the polar regions slowly but inexorably move the great bulk of the ocean. x
  • 33
    The Ocean and Global Climate
    The ocean contains most of the heat in the ocean-atmosphere system, and surface currents distribute it around the planet. Begin your study of the ocean's reaction to increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which is leading to climate change worldwide. x
  • 34
    The Warming, Rising Sea
    Learn that one conjectured effect of global warming—the shutting down of the Gulf Stream leading to a new ice age in Europe—is unlikely. But the planet is already on a path to melting glaciers and steadily rising seas, with catastrophic implications for low-lying populated areas. x
  • 35
    Marine Pollution—The Impact of Toxins
    Turn to the problem of marine pollution, which includes runoff from land and deliberate dumping, in addition to acidification from atmospheric carbon dioxide. Also look at the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, where plastic particles and other debris have concentrated in a rotating mid-ocean current. x
  • 36
    The Future Ocean
    Finish the course by looking into the future. Constant change will continue to be the state of the ocean, just as it always has been. But humans can promote change for the better in a variety of ways, including using the national park model to establish marine sanctuaries. Learn other choices you can make to help preserve this wonder of the planet. x

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Your professor

Harold J. Tobin

About Your Professor

Harold J. Tobin, Ph.D.
University of Wisconsin, Madison
Dr. Harold J. Tobin is Professor of Geoscience at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He earned his B.S. in Geology and Geophysics from Yale University and his Ph.D. in Earth Sciences from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Professor Tobin was named a Best Instructor by students at UW-Madison, and he was elected a Fellow of the Geological Society of America. Among his other honors is NASA's Lyndon B. Johnson Space...
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Reviews

Oceanography: Exploring Earth's Final Wilderness is rated 4.3 out of 5 by 70.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Impressive amount of information Professor Tobin presents an amazing amount of information on the topic of the world's oceans...his knowledge and enthusiasm for the topic picks you up and carries you along with him. The visuals are well-done, pertinent and interesting. I especially enjoyed his discussions of the various habitats of the oceanic world and the creatures that inhabit them. A good deal of scientific info was presented, but in a user-friendly, non-intimidating way. The scope was broad, touching on many topics right out of current newspapers, but in-depth enough to give the listener the information necessary to grasp the subject and think about it well after finishing the last lecture.
Date published: 2014-01-21
Rated 2 out of 5 by from spends a lot of time on ocean sailing not on oceanography
Date published: 2014-01-21
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Very disappointing material and presentation I've purchased several science, art, music and religion courses and this is the first I've been disappointed with. Considering the other reviews, maybe the problem is my own knowledge deficiency, but I found this material way too detailed, way too advanced for a non-scientist's level of comprehension. I feel a scientist watching this course wouldn't need the level of detail, and a non-scientist would be, like me, bored and befuddled. I don't expect these courses to be on the level of a Nova presentation, but neither do I expect to be bewildered for 90% of the time I'm investing. Professor Tobin is charming but I'm more comfortable with lecturers who seem more certain (or more prepared) in their delivery. Overall, I would not recommend this course, and this is the first time I've had to say this. I'm returning it for a refund.
Date published: 2014-01-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Course Covering Most of the World More than 70 percent of our world is covered by the oceans. The majority of our World's biomass is in the oceans. Most of the geological activity associated with plate tectonics occurs in the ocean(s). The ocean's interaction with the atmosphere determines our weather. And 80% of the world's population lives within 200km of the ocean. Yet, much of the ocean, particularly at its depths, remains unexplored. This course is a great survey course on the science of oceanography. While the subtitle " Exploring Earth's Final Wilderness" may lead some to expect this course is a guidebook to the flora and fauna of the oceans, it is not strictly a course on Marine Biology. This area is certainly covered in 8 of the 36 lectures, but the course is about much more. Dr. Tobin takes the student on a fascinating journey from the creation of the oceans, their undersea geophysics, the physics of ocean dynamics, the sea's chemistry , the dynamics of the ocean's interaction with the continents, marine biology and the interaction of mankind with the oceans. The later of course includes not only human exploration, trade and ocean resource utilization but marine pollution and global climate change. Dr. Tobin provides some fascinating insights. For example, he explains why Tsunamis occur in the Pacific and Indian Oceans but are unlikely in the Atlantic. He shows how and why sea-level (after correcting for tides) is not the same throughout the world and that there are actually "hills" (other than waves) in mid-ocean. He explains not only how atmospheric winds affect the oceans (e.g. waves) but how the ocean affects the winds, even far out at sea. The course was produced in 2011 so it is relatively up to date. By definition it does not include Hurricane Sandy (although Dr. Tobin does point out some reasons a hurricane in NY/NJ would be devastating) nor typhoon Haiyun. He does cover the 2011 Japanese Tsunami, the 2010 BP Gulf of Mexico drilling disaster, and Hurricane Katrina. Dr. Tobin is obviously quite knowledgeable and presents his material with enthusiasm. He looks directly at the camera and uses a range of hand gestures to make his points. He speaks with inflection but does use his share of "ahs", "ums", "you knows" and "sortas". These seem to occur most often when he gets into a deeper technical area and seems a bit unsure what technical terms or descriptions to use with a lay audience. These "non-word" periods do not detract significantly from his message. In his last lecture on the Future Ocean his passion for his message results in a clear, relatively "non-word free" lecture. The production quality of this DVD course is first rate. There copious photographs, videos, animations, graphs and (especially instructive) satellite images. The later are presented both statically and dynamically to emphasize points. The lectures make effective use of side by side and picture in picture techniques with the content juxtaposed with the instructor speaking. The course guide is excellent. The lecture summaries provide the key points and are each followed with a definition of terms. There is a timeline, a glossary, and a detailed bibliography included. I would say that the guide for this course is among the very best of the 20 or so GC's I have taken. While a introductory college level background in basic classical physics, chemistry and biology will be helpful to get more out of this course, one can get the gist of things with a high school level understanding of these core sciences. No math beyond high school level is needed. Even as one of the 80% living within 200km of the ocean, as a scuba diver, as a voracious reader of books and watcher of documentaries on the ocean and as one who even plotted some of the first sea surface temperature plots for NASA as a college student intern in the early 70's; I still learned a tremendous amount about the ocean(s), the Earth's most dynamic feature and the basis of life. I strongly recommend this course.
Date published: 2013-12-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A SUPERB ADDITION FOR NON SCIENCE EDUCATED This review refers to the DVD's. If one, like me, has had a minimal or non-existent exposure to science courses in college, but is curious about the world around us, I would urge purchase of this series. It is the teaching of science at its best in my opinion. Yes, there are a few pictures of pretty fish floating in beautiful coral reefs, but most of the exhibits are confined to clear demonstrations of the hard science of what we know or think about the oceans. Dr Tobin is a personable lecturer who leads one through a vast range of facts and data about the oceans. You learn not only about the tides and animals in the sea. You are exposed to the sources and behavior of trade winds, ocean currents, variations in saline content of the water, the density layers of water beneath the surface, impact of the moon and sun and on and on. All this fascinating information is presented in a way to hold one's interest and add to one's understanding of this globe we inhabit. Dr Tobin touches on many subjects of other disciplines or specialties of science that provoke one curiosity to explore other TGC offerings. Little details such as his outlining the track of the first voyage of Columbus to the New World to demonstrate trade wind characteristics make the learning experience more enjoyable and memorable. This series should have appeal to almost anyone whether one has an interest in science or not, and is recommended. My only complaint is my long standing one with the TGC production staff about apparent utilization of the omniscient studio rug for much of the time with these gifted individuals rather than employing more time with exhibits and illustrations with voice over. That being said, it should not deter anyone from acquiring this important addition to TGC inventory.
Date published: 2013-09-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Oceans from start to today A fabulous overview of how life in the oceans works, how the oceans affect climate. After watching this one comes away knowing viscerally that the oceans are the foundation and key to a healthy globe. A delightful presentation style and some wonderful imagery to show children from 3 to 103.
Date published: 2013-06-04
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very good content, OK presentation Very good content about a full-scale range of topics. Average presentation and explanations. Professor Tobin makes too many small mistakes (like saying the Doppler effect has anything to do with sound volume) and uses too much unexplained jargon to be a good presenter. He also makes some unsubstantiated statements, like asserting that ocean animals who use echolocation “must at least be annoyed” by human noise sources. Still, the content and reasonable explanations a majority of the time make the course worthwhile; my wife and I recommend it.
Date published: 2013-04-28
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Beware: Physical oceanography not marine biology Although Dr. Tobin's course was interesting, it was disappointing. It was mostly about physical oceanography not marine biology. He spent just a few lectures on the life in the oceans, and at that had few pictures of life, which abounds there. This course was misrepresented --"to discover the wonder, delight, and awe-unspiring majesty of the Earth's ocean." This was not the case.
Date published: 2013-02-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from excellent introduction to the ocean I took this course with a specific goal: to update myself in a subject I earned an M.S. during the early-mid 1970's. Having changed fields, I had not kept up with major and some minor changes that are important. This course fulfilled my desires. The professor knows his field well; oceanography, by its very nature is an interdiciplinary subject, and Prof Tobin does an excellent job in covering the vast majority of topics. Since my day, the Antarctic Ocean was eliminated, and the Artic Ocean promoted from a mediterranean sea to an ocean; much data have been obtained from remote in-ocean and satellite sensors. More ocean-wide integration has been accopmplished. I agree with others that the choosing of some of the pictures could have been better given as diagrams. He glossed over too much ocanographic history in some areas. Hundreds of millions of samples over decades had been taken of the ocean by Nansen bottles-couldn't we have at lest seen a picture of it? However, I recommend this introduction to the study of 71% of the surface of the Earth, less known than the "far side of the moon".
Date published: 2012-12-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Superb course Professor is expert and passionate, and the course material is well organized. Very early in the course, the animation (slice across the Atlantic Ocean compared to slice across North America), carefully scaled, expertly and explicitly helps the student understand the fundamental point that "the average depth of the ocean is markedly greater than the average height of the continents." In lecture 10, diagrams of the ocean floor, with spreading and sinking away from the mid-ocean ridges, coupled with the explanation of the CCD (calcite compensation depth), explain the presence versus absence of calcareous ooze on various parts of the ocean floors. Throughout the course, the professor is careful to provide clear reminders of previous material; for example, the concentration of toxins (lecture 35) is carefully and clearly linked to the concept of "trophic level" (lecture 17). The course guidebook is of very high standard and includes an extensive, well-annotated bibliography. Some nitpicks to watch for: Course Guidebook: Page 57 revise phrase “…long and relatively narrow, but they are not very wide.” Redundancy. Page 58 revise “…shallow earthquakes of the trench to deeper and deeper earthquakes moving away from the trench going down.” – I suggest “…shallow-focus earthquakes at or near the trench; deeper-focus earthquakes at greater horizontal distances from the trench.” This revision would require defining “focus.” (Renton’s course!) Page 60 caption: Tobin uses the plural of “tsunami” as “tsunami” – this is correct, but perhaps unexpected; he might mention this plural form of an imported Japanese word in lecture and/or guidebook. Page 67: Next-to-last bullet point – On the basis of considerable reading in astronomy, I strongly disagree that nuclear fission is occurring in the Sun. The Sun converts hydrogen to helium using nuclear fusion. If the author adheres to his viewpoint, he should provide an explicit defense thereof. Page 69: Bullet 1, the simple past tense of “sink” is “sank,” not “sunk.” The iron and nickel sank toward the center. Pages 85 and 86: The continental margins represent 87% of all the sediments. The abyssal plains and ridges represent about 23% of the sediments. 110% is too much sediment! Page 86: Change “mixed of” to “of mixed”. Page 89: Change “include” to “includes”. Page 97: Change “cale” to “scale”. Page 147: Change “generating” to “generate”. Page 152: I submit that the last (4th) bullet point is seriously inaccurate. It now reads in its entirety: If cells become hypertonic, then water wants to move out of the cells, so they tend to shrivel up. The salinity is higher inside the cells, and water tends to come in and blow the cells up.” I suggest: If cells become hypertonic, then water wants to move out of the cells into the more saline ocean water, so the cells tend to shrivel up. Conversely, if cells become hypotonic, the salinity is higher inside the cells, and hence less saline ocean water tends to enter the cells and blow them up.” Page 153 (and elsewhere): Tobin uses “disphotic” as the antonym of “euphotic.” My pedantic soul prefers “dysphotic” – antonym of prefix “eu” is prefix “dys”. My unabridged dictionary agrees, listing “dysphotic” but not “disphotic”. In fairness, I found “disphotic” in another text (Pinet). Page 177: Change “streamlined in” to “streamlined”. Page 263: I submit that the diagram captions are misleading. I suggest changing the upper one to “Surface water moving off-shore due to Coriolis effect” and the lower one to “Surface water moving on-shore due to Coriolis effect”. Page 296: Bullet point 5, for consistency of style, I suggest that “concentration” be in boldface, as are “toxicity” and “persistence”. Lectures: In lecture 32, Tobin refers to the Doppler effect changing the volume of sound made by a passing train. My training in physics (such as it is) wants me to believe that the Doppler effect changes the pitch, not the volume. Videos: Overall, the figures are excellent; some have printing too small to read easily.
Date published: 2012-11-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Many courses in one. Ocean cartology, ocean geology, ocean biology, ocean chemistry, ocean physics, ocean ecology, the food chain, global weather and climate change are some of the topics covered in this course. Professor Tobin presented a full array of information about the oceans that cover over 70% of the earth's surface in an engaging manner. Flawless use of graphs, charts and video snippets added to the value of this course. While some of the course got technical, Professor Tobin defines his terms well.and one can go to the Glossary in the Course Guidebook if forgotten. Not only would i recommend this course to anyone interested in the world we live in but I will probably watch it again myself.
Date published: 2012-10-29
Rated 3 out of 5 by from 2nd Edition Needed The course presented a lot of good information. I love the ocean and read about half-way through a textbook on the subject before viewing the course, but I still learned quite a bit from the lectures. The coverage of marine biology was pretty basic. Very little coverage of the topics usually found in books on "seamanship" or "marine engineering" was included. Either of these topics could easily become an entire course in themselves, of course, but I would have liked to see at least an introduction here. It was surprising not to found several lectures going into details of sonar, given how important it is to the subject and given that entire books have been written on this subject. The speaker has a problem with over-use of filler words such as "like", "you know", "um", and so forth. Listening to this is quite painful and mars an otherwise competent and professional presentation. Please get a voice coach to help with this problem and redo these lectures. A little more detail on ocean-related chemistry would have been nice. Some thought into producing animations rather than still pictures would benefit this course. For example, anything related to the Coriolis Force would be a great candidate for animation. Having chimes sound when key points appear on the screen is annoying.
Date published: 2012-09-08
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Stay on-message! Prof Tobin gives a fairly cogent survey of the subject in the first 90% of the lectures but strays from his area of oceanic expertise near the end to try to explain atmospheric anthropogenic global warming in just two emotional lectures. Surely the complicated AGW topic deserves much deeper examination than just to pound away at CO2 as the sole cause of global warming a la Mann's hockey stick. Prof Tobin is pleasant enough and holds your attention for the most part but he should stick to his knitting and avoid interjecting the politically-motivated AGW agenda unless he is prepared to present the full range of the underlying science.
Date published: 2012-07-24
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Content fascinating, delivery comes up short This is a course that couldn't have been done a few years ago--the research just wasn't there. I found the material in the course fascinating and among the most worthwhile I have watched. The structure of the course was excellent, and one topic fed well into the next. The instructor was good, but I did feel at times that he was getting into topics that weren't his primary focus, and the lecture was a bit lighter in content. He handled the environmental issues extremely well--not strident, but calmly matter of fact, thorough, and clearly following from the content of his lectures. The main thing I would criticize the course for was the presentation. The directors had Tobin moving around all over the stage, and I found the constant change of direction and motion distracting. I much prefer a course where the professor is more stationary and looks up at the audience instead of looking all around him. Again, this was out of the control of the professor. The graphics, photos and videos were excellent. I would have liked to see more of the diagrams in the guidebook.
Date published: 2012-07-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of the Best This is one of the best courses I've purchased from The Great Courses and I've purchase quite a few. The lecturer is superb. He's clear, concise, descriptive, and I could go on. He's exactly what I'd want of professor in a college course. The material covered a very wide range of topics as seen in the course description, all of it with excellent visuals. By the end of the course I really felt as if I had an understanding of Oceanography, it's scope, and how I could make the most of reading about future research. I plan on watching it again. A Great course.
Date published: 2012-07-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Better than expected! This course is fantastic! I didn't expect to get such wonderful explanation also concerning ocean geology, such great info on wave models, and one of the best explanations of the tides and how the moon effects the seasons. Oceanography has come a long way, and now has to incorporate most of the other sciences as well. This course is fascinating and I recommend it for anyone, whether you are a serious student or a casual one. This is one of my favorite teaching company courses!
Date published: 2012-05-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from What a fabulous ride ! ***** One of the finest courses I've watched so far! A fantastic, compelling, absorbing, entertaining and thrilling journey through all aspects of oceanography... from plankton to whales, from deltas to hurricanes, from history to demographics, from coastal erosion to el niño...and more, much more. This is a stellar example of top-notch presentation style by an inspired professor combined with video technology to produce a smooth, logical flow of narrative with graphics, charts, pictures and movies to illustrate and highlight the various points. This major undertaking paid off handsomely, for we now have a course of inestimable value for our age and for years to come. Well done, Great Courses and Dr Tobin ! I'll be viewing this course again before too long. This is real learning.
Date published: 2012-05-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from wonderful Prof Tobin's passion for the subject matter is clear. Excellent coverage of what I mistakenly believed was a boring topic. Highly recommended
Date published: 2012-05-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The best of old and new. Wow. Do read the other reviews on the course content, but I'd like to comment on another aspect of the course: For those of us who've been with the Great Courses for all these years (remember the days when it was "the Teaching Company"?), you'll find this a combination of all that is best with both the good ol' TeachCo and the all new TGC. From the new: (1) fantastic explanatory graphics, (2) aesthetically and professionally presented. (3) For the most part, new the awkward "camera switching/ walking back and forth" business is fixed. Yea! From the old: (1) Relies on the inherently interesting nature of the material. [Make no mistake - it is *very* interesting and engaging] (2) Thoroughly authoritative. (3) the professor is a regular, humble guy. He's a good speaker but happily not overpolished. Enthusiastic but not theatrical. (4) 36 lectures! It's really a real college course! (5) Totally Genuine! There's no obvious "script". [In one lecture, for example, he's explaining sea floor spreading, and his intellectual excitement comes through when he stumbles through a sentence or two, just out of the sheer "coolness" of the idea.] Even bright kids as young as 10 would find it engaging. Perfect for the family! This course is so worth every penny. Get it. (I like to write good reviews! Let me know if this one was helpful to you. :-) )
Date published: 2012-05-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Short on drama, but deeply satisfying. DVD review. I don't live anywhere near the sea, but did take a scuba diving course as a teen. Unfortunately our lakes in Quebec are muddy and dark; not very interesting to visit. Our greatest ocean-related inspiration at the time was Jacques-Yves Cousteau (1910-97), a fantastic showman and communicator whose films during the 70s helped introduce the world to the wonders and fragility of aquatic life forms. Dr Tobin doesn't have the same visual platform, but his OCEANOGRAPHY is nevertheless an excellent "top-down" portrait of the sea. By this I mean that he approaches the oceans first as an interdependent system — plate tectonics, the physical properties of water, solar and lunar influences, etc. — before exploring local habitats and small-scale phenomena. So I must respectfully disagree with one reviewer who stated that only 6 of the 36 courses dealt with marine life. Tobin distinguishes between life forms that travel the world in search of food (the 6 lessons alluded to) and the ecologically much more important, though less dramatically startling, plant and animals either anchored in specific locations or floating almost passively near the surface. The survival of this second category of life forms is intimately connected with their immediate environment. Hence Tobin's emphasis on system-wide, impersonal factors. The closest analogy to his course I can think of among the sea documentaries we have all seen on TV is the BBC series "Blue Planet". That series used extraordinary photography, but concentrated mostly on the impersonal forces at work, without which ocean life would not exist. These forces are routinely ignored in Discovery Channel-style documentaries that focus mainly on carnivores like sharks (more dramatic) or use anthropomorphism — Can mama whale save her calf? — to tug at our heartstrings. Dr Tobin's course is closer to the BBC model. I loved it, but emotion and drama are in short supply. So be warned. PRESENTATION Tobin is a good communicator who stares straight at the camera. Eye contact is nevertheless rare because TTC's film crew illuminated him in such a way that their powerful lights are reflected almost continually in his glasses. Compared to other bespeckled lecturers (Nowicki's BIOLOGY for example), Tobin's eyes are virtually ablaze. But this is a small matter. I never felt bored or confused. Ocean-related problems are in the news every day. It is what distinguishes the Earth from the rest of the solar system. It is finally, an exotic "parallel universe" right at our doorstep, crucially important to our collective well-being. It complements Wysession's HOW THE EARTH WORKS very well, with some overlap due to plate tectonics. I strongly recommend it for natural science enthusiasts. It is also a fine overview of oceanography as a discipline for young people interested in it as a possible career choice.
Date published: 2012-05-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Deep Video download review. ©2011. Guidebook 355 pages. This was an enjoyable course with lots to learn. The graphics, charts, animations, satellite imagery, videos, pictures, and sound were all superb in that they added a good deal to my understanding. I certainly got a lot out of it. The Guidebook is comprehensive and very helpful for reinforcing material in the lectures. However, it is 355 pages, and reading PDFs this large is a not an inviting task. I would have preferred a printed copy. Downloading some files took about 2-3 minutes each (great), but a few took 10+ minutes (not TGC’s fault). So, in retrospect, I should have gotten the DVDs. It would’ve made my life easier. With more than a handful of false starts and hedges, quite bit of the content was prefaced by “um” and “actually.” That makes Professor Tobin less comfortable on stage than other professors, but I do give him high marks for his ability to make the content accessible to people like me. In that regard I appreciated the presentation. He’s still a likeable, easy-going guy. Many reviewers have noted that this is an introductory level course, but I found the material dense at times. I don’t live near the ocean and I don’t enjoy swimming or fishing, so as you can guess, my familiarity with many of the topics is limited. While some lectures were in fact straightforward intros due to my having more background knowledge, others were heavy with terminology and covered topics way out of my area of experience or understanding. This was especially true of the lectures on currents and meteorology, which I found complex. I’ll need to watch these again. Also worth appreciating is that this course was as up-to-date. Despite what they say in Alaska, the ocean is our last frontier, full of mystery and danger in its own right. When it’s all said and done, viewers will get a good sense of this otherworld. I loved the lectures explaining how scientists have gone about collecting data over the years, and I loved the historical anecdotes as well. In closing, it’s a high-value course with a lot of relevant content that should expand your horizons. But at 36 lectures, it’s considerable. Given the depth of coverage, I’m not sure it’s everyone’s cup of tea. If you have the interest and inclination, it’s worthwhile.
Date published: 2012-05-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Great Course This course was an excellent introduction to oceanography. It covered the main aspects of oceanography (physical, chemical, and biological) as well as can be expected by an introductory survey course. The professor was quite organized and easy to listen to. I especially enjoyed the pictures and graphics provided. The bibliography was well-thought out. I did enjoy the books that I managed to read from the bibliography -- although the Rachel Carson book is a bit dated. Thank you for another Great Course
Date published: 2012-04-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Introduction to Oceanography This course on Oceanography is excellent. It covers physical, geological, and biological oceanography but its strength is in the former two. I found Professor Tobin to be easy to watch, very organized, and easy to follow. He did keep the science simpler than what I need. I have one issue that annoyed me on every episode. The video effects department got a bit out of control. On screen text doesn't just fade in and fade out. It flashes in , often zooming across the entire screen, then zips off. Most annoying of all is that every text that appears is accompanied by a bell. It must be kept in mind that the course is meant as a survey. I would be happy to purchase subsequent lectures by Professor Tobin that explore the individual disciplines in greater detail. A separate course in Marine Biology would be espeacially appreciated.
Date published: 2012-02-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fascinating Course Living in Florida, I'm surrounded by water and amazed by it. This course helped me to understand many aspects of the sea and I found it to be a great addition to the Teaching Company courses I have completed on meteorology and geology. The professor has a great presentation style, supplemented by excellent graphics and animations. He recommends additional reading that is related to the course. For example, I completed the book "The Wave" by Susan Casey in its audio format. This book relates directly to this course and stimulated a lot of thinking on my part. The subject matter covered in this course is wonderful. I'm a canoe racer and in a recent race near Key Largo, I found that I was slowing down to look at the features of the coastline and the wildlife under the clear water as a result of studying this course. I highly recommend this course!
Date published: 2012-02-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Survey of Ocean Science Professor Tobin covers the basics of physical oceanography and marine biology, plus a little history and relevant meteorolgy. And he discusses a few special topics, such as ocean pollution, rising sea levels and the rewards and risks of mineral extraction from the ocean floor. He also provides some climatology in lectures 30-32, which relate to prevailing wind and ocean currents and how they interact. His explantion of Ekman transport was the clearest I've heard. I found these to be the most challenging to understand (although with careful study I did). Along the way you learn how chemistry, biology and physics apply to the interdisciplinary study of ocean science. One interesting fact I learned is that the ideal shape for a marine animal's body is that the its width should be .2 - .25 of the body length. This configuration minimizes drag (because water is such a viscuous medium) and maximizes a fish's speed, very important if it wants to evade capture by a larger fish! Another one is that most of the Earth's biomass is found in the ocean, in the form of phytoplankton. I found Dr Tobin's delivery relaxed and easy to listen to. He provides a good deal of information in each lecture but its well organized. There are plenty of graphs, photos and occasional video clips. Because he's a marine geologist Tobin spends more time on the geological and physcial aspects of oceanography, but I think he sufficiently covered the biology of the sea. I have three minor complaints. First the professor did not summarize every lecture. Second (and this is not the instructor's fault) I disliked the sound effects that would pop up whenever important terms appeared on the screen or when a rotating Earth was shown to illustrate a point. Lastly I wished the important terms would simply appear on the bottom of the screen, rather than appear oversized as they moved across the center of the screen. I have seen this in other recent Teaching Company courese that I have viewed, and its very annoying. Video editors please take note! This course is a great college-level introduction to oceanography. It provides enough detailed information in a given topic so that you will want to explore further on your own. Highly recommended!
Date published: 2012-01-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Incredibly Informative! This is a wide-ranging course covering multiple topics from a variety of scientific disciplines. Without exception, Professor Tobin is well-informed in all the areas covered. Although his presentations are a little dry, he is very well-spoken and explains concepts very clearly. The visuals are pertinent and enhance the course content. Overall, this is one of the top courses TC has produced in terms of both information and enjoyment of the subject.
Date published: 2012-01-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Packed with interesting, diverse material Absolutely fascinating course! Professor T brings several subjects together in this truly worthwhile course. If you like geology, physics, astronomy, zoology, botany, and cell biology this course is for you. These are all used to explain the various aspects of oceanography. He occasionally borders on too much information...several lectures get very complicated because of the quantity of material in them but they're worth going over a second time to grasp the information. The professor is very even handed in his presentation and very easy to listen to. The course is a great companion to the geology courses.
Date published: 2012-01-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved it... I enjoyed every lecture, and heartily commend this course to you. The Professor speaks clearly and is excellent at explaining his concepts to non-oceanographers. A splendid addition to the Great Courses corpus. Well done.
Date published: 2011-12-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Worthwhile Course, Though Not For All I would love to give this course 5-stars, if only for the importance of the subject, but I cannot. It will indeed be a very worthwhile course for many, but choose carefully. The subject is vast, and the course is necessarily a fast-moving overview. It covers the evolution of the oceans, which includes a lightening look at the formation of the earth; plate tectonics and the dynamics of the ocean floors; geology and geophysics, with some interesting looks at how our knowledge of these areas is obtained; ocean life; currents and their causes, including an excursion into atmospheric science; a smattering of relevant chemistry; global warming, pollution, and other environmental concerns; and a look at possible futures. (By the way, the science is at a very basic, descriptive level, quite easy to understand.) A surprise for me, which is a very individual response, was that I found much of the subject matter to be of far less intrinsic interest than I had anticipated. Prof. Tobin is a geologist and geophysicist, and the course emphasizes these areas. It devotes relatively little time to ocean life, which was the aspect I found most fascinating. Only six of the 36 lectures are focused on the biology of the oceans. While I think everyone should know the basics of geology, plate tectonics, and climate science, I found it hard to keep my mind from wandering during these lectures. More importantly, Prof. Tobin is not a natural lecturer. He speaks in a hesitant style, with an unvarying, monotonous intonation, each sentence sounding like every other. And the much repeated "you know," "sort of," "kind of," "um...uh," and "and things like that" were unhelpful and distracting. This unfortunately added to the difficulty I had maintaining my attention. The course is well-organized, with very good visuals, and Prof. Tobin is clearly both knowledgeable and deeply concerned about our planet and its oceans. Plus, the last few lectures are a very well done presentation of the evidence for global warming and other environmental concerns, and could be used as a mini-course for this area. I would very much appreciate, though, a full course on ocean biology, and an updated and balanced course on climate and global warming, with more specialized instructors in those areas. So - if you have a prior interest in geology and ocean science, or would like an overview of this area, this would be an excellent course to take. If your interest is primarily in ocean life, it will likely disappoint. And I honestly doubt, if you are not already drawn to these areas, that this course will inspire an interest. Take a good look at the lecture titles, and choose carefully.
Date published: 2011-12-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wow!!! This is a superbly presented course. The visuals as well as the presenter are very engaging. I watched this with a 94 year old friend. Watching two lectures back-to-back are just perfect. You must pay attention as the professor packs a lot of info into each lecture. Highly recommended! Wish every could was this good graphically. The professor knows his stuff.
Date published: 2011-12-24
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