Everyday Engineering: Understanding the Marvels of Daily Life

Course No. 1116
Professor Stephen Ressler, Ph.D.
United States Military Academy, West Point
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210 Reviews
94% of reviewers would recommend this product
Course No. 1116
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What Will You Learn?

  • Discover the amazing feats of engineering in our every day world, such as a roof, plumbing, phone, roads, and more.
  • Learn how raw water is treated to make it drinkable and about the incredible feats of engineering it takes to get that water to you.
  • Explore the deep, dark world of tunnel engineering and the highly specialized methods used to build them.
  • Examine the Great Northeast Blackout of 2003 and see what it can teach us about the world of everyday engineering.

Course Overview

Look around you. Great masterpieces of engineering are everywhere. As soon as you get out of bed in the morning, you are putting centuries of scientific and mechanical ingenuity to use. So familiar are these structures, inventions, and services that they are all but invisible. Yet they are just as remarkable as great works such as the Parthenon, the Eiffel Tower, and the Panama Canal.

Consider for a moment the wonders of these marvels that have likely already played an important part in your day today:

  • Residential construction: Built with common materials and simple tools, the modern house is a technological system for living. It provides protection and comfort, access to life’s necessities, and a flexible space for work and recreation.

  • Telecommunications: Able to link you to any phone in the world, the traditional phone system is miraculous enough. Even more wondrous is the array of services available through new telecommunications technologies such as cellular networks.

  • Transportation: You can get there from here, thanks to automotive engineering, petroleum drilling and refining, satellite navigation, and a road system that is fast, safe, and goes almost everywhere.

  • Water and power: Your house would be dark and bleak without connections to infrastructure systems that supply fresh water, dispose of wastewater, and furnish a power source—electricity—that provides illumination and animates most of your household appliances.

All of us use these technologies, and knowing how they work empowers us in major ways. Anyone who owns a home or is in the market for one benefits enormously from understanding how it is constructed and how the roof, insulation, plumbing, wiring, heating, and cooling systems are integrated into the building. Anyone who’s buying a car or needs to get one fixed can rest easier knowing how spark plugs, transmissions, tires, and brakes do their jobs.

And because the development and use of everyday technologies—from solar cells to cell towers—are often strongly influenced by public policy, understanding everyday engineering helps us make more informed decisions about the kinds of policy initiatives we wish to support.

Plus, the achievements of everyday engineering are worth admiring for their own sake. They represent some of the most inspired thinking of our civilization, and by looking under the hood to see how these technologies operate, you learn about basic scientific principles that apply throughout the world.

For these reasons and more, Everyday Engineering: Understanding the Marvels of Daily Life is an indispensable guide to the way things work in the world around you. Conducting this eye-opening tour is Professor Stephen Ressler of the United States Military Academy at West Point, an award-winning civil engineer and a nationally honored leader in engineering education.

In 36 half-hour lectures, richly illustrated with instructive physical models, computer animations, and graphics designed by Professor Ressler himself, you start by learning how a house is put together with all its subsystems. Then you move outside to trace the origin and route of water, power, and telecommunications networks. Finally, you hit the road to discover how automobiles function and how roads and highway bridges are engineered.

Along the way, Everyday Engineering investigates power plants, dams, aqueducts, railroads, communication satellites, home energy efficiency, simple machines around the house, recycling, and many other topics. No background in science or engineering is needed to follow this riveting presentation, which gives you deep insight into the underlying simplicity of the complex systems that enhance our lives.

See Familiar Things with New Eyes

As an example of how Professor Ressler can turn everyday devices into a fascinating lesson in creative problem solving, he devotes an entire lecture to the faucet, showing how the problem of delivering hot and cold water into a sink has elicited a host of solutions—some practical, others not. We are all familiar with automatic faucets in public restrooms that defeat our initial attempts to get them to work, or two-handled faucets that lack clues about which way to turn the knobs. You’ll be surprised by the subtlety of the problem and the wide array of approaches, which is typical for issues of user-centered design.

Other intriguing insights you’ll get from the course include:

  • The genius of building codes: Houses are such complex technological entities that you might think an engineer would be needed to design each one. But building codes effectively serve as a substitute for an engineer’s judgment, specifying construction methods at a high level of detail.

  • Gone with the wind: Compared to traditional masonry and timber-framed dwellings, modern light wood frame houses are so light and sturdy that it’s possible to imagine one being lifted from its foundation by the wind and transported intact far away—as happened in the classic 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz!

  • Save money and go green: Professor Ressler has plenty of advice for enhancing the energy efficiency of your home. People in the market for a new home should know about the latest trend in efficiency: the net-zero-energy house. Thanks to passive-solar design and in-home renewable energy sources, it requires no net input of energy over the course of a year.

  • Talking torque: The key to understanding how power is transmitted from an engine to the wheels of a car is the concept of torque—the tendency of a force to cause rotation—which helps explain power, acceleration, speed, fuel economy, and why internal combustion vehicles require multiple gears.

A Field Guide to Everyday Technology

Professor Ressler notes that his approach to Everyday Engineering is inspired by a very familiar genre: “Many people, myself included, find great satisfaction in identifying stars in the night sky, in distinguishing a red-tailed hawk from a turkey vulture,” he says. “The technological world is certainly no less interesting, but lacks the guidebooks available to stargazers and birdwatchers. I hope this course will provide just such a resource by serving as a sort of field guide to everyday technology.”

With this outlook and the enlightening information in these lectures, you will be able to look at the world around you and decipher mysteries such as these:

  • The unassuming utility pole: Next time you’re stuck in traffic, savor the complexity of the common utility pole, which typically has three high-voltage power distribution feeders, three insulators, and a neutral wire; and might also carry transformers, circuit breakers, low-voltage distribution lines, and telecommunications cables.

  • Ballet of the bulldozers, scrapers, and dump trucks: Ever wonder why so many kinds of earthmoving machines are needed at a highway construction site? They’re following precisely choreographed instructions on a mass diagram, with each type of vehicle moving soil according to its optimum operating range.

  • The power outage puzzle: Sometimes electrical power goes out and then seconds later returns. What’s usually happening is that a specialized circuit breaker, called a recloser, has tripped in response to a short circuit, such as a tree falling on a power line. The device automatically restores power if the fault has cleared.

  • Mystery of the missing web page: Web pages can get stuck in the process of loading, while you stare at the spinning wait cursor on the screen. The problem is usually heavy Internet traffic, which exceeds the storage capacity of a router somewhere in the network. The overflow packets of information that comprise the web page are sometimes simply lost.

One of the pleasures of Everyday Engineering is the meticulous care that Dr. Ressler has taken in preparing over 150 working models that explain everything from an arch dam to the universal joint in a car’s drive shaft. He also delights in the unexpected: in the last lecture he switches gears by examining a famous case when technology failed during the Great Northeast Blackout of 2003. Triggered by high electrical demand during a sweltering summer day, a short circuit due to overgrown trees, and a software bug that disabled a control room alarm system, the cascading series of breakdowns produced the worst-ever electric power blackout in North America.

This incident serves as a graduation exercise for the course. Having explored the workings of the electrical power grid in previous lectures, you’ll find that you understand the crisis in perfect detail. Indeed, you’ll be ready to apply your broad understanding of everyday engineering to any technological issue that crosses your path in the future.

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36 lectures
 |  Average 31 minutes each
  • 1
    Engineering and Technology in Your World
    Start the course by considering how engineering and technology influence your daily life—not just high-tech devices but also ordinary machines, buildings, and infrastructure that most people take for granted. In this lecture series you will learn to notice and understand these overlooked marvels. x
  • 2
    Your House as an Engineered System
    In the first of four lectures on your house as a technological system, review the eight engineered subsystems that go into modern dwellings. Then discover the miracle of building codes, which ensure that every new house is safe, constructible, and reasonably economical without involving an engineer in each design. x
  • 3
    Three Structural Systems for Load Bearing
    Examine one of the most important aspects of modern building codes: the design of a house for structural load carrying. Focus on two of the three major approaches to this crucial function: bearing wall construction and heavy timber frame construction. Both have been used for thousands of years. x
  • 4
    Platform-Framed Housing Construction
    Turn to the third major technique for building a house: platform-framed construction, which is a flexible arrangement of lightweight modular floor platforms, wall panels, and roof trusses. This efficient approach has been widely used in the U.S. for over a century. x
  • 5
    The Building Envelope
    Now that your house is framed, it needs a building envelope that can shed rainwater and melting snow, and also keep precipitation from entering through the foundation. Learn about the five integrated layers of protection: shingles and cladding, drainage plane, insulation, vapor barrier, and drywall. x
  • 6
    Site Design and Storm Runoff
    What happens to the precipitation that falls on your house, your lot, and your neighbors’ properties? Study the problem of site design, focusing on how storm runoff is directed away from homes and returned to a natural watercourse, without causing flooding along the way. x
  • 7
    Dam, Reservoir, and Aqueduct Design
    Now consider the water that you want in your house—for drinking, cooking, and bathing. Examine the technologies that collect water from a watershed and transport it to a municipality. Explore different designs for dams, and marvel at the Catskill Aqueduct that carries fresh water to New York City. x
  • 8
    Water Treatment and Distribution
    Learn how raw water from nature is treated to make it safe for drinking. Then trace the distribution system that supplies water under pressure to users. Professor Ressler demonstrates two crucial technologies in this system: the flocculation chamber and the water tower. x
  • 9
    Wastewater Disposal and Treatment
    What happens to the 150 gallons of water that the average person uses and then sends down the drain each day? Delve into wastewater disposal and treatment. Among the details you investigate are the S-shaped trap in a waste pipe and that most ingenious of plumbing fixtures: the toilet. x
  • 10
    Fossil Fuels: Coal, Oil, and Natural Gas
    Coal, oil, and natural gas power the vast majority of electrical generating plants in use today. Learn how fossil fuels are extracted from the earth and how new technologies such as longwall mining and fracking have revolutionized the industry. Also examine some of the environmental drawbacks of these endeavors. x
  • 11
    Power Generation from Coal
    Focus on the dominant source of electricity in the U.S. today: coal. Begin by reviewing concepts from thermodynamics that explain how power plants work. Then follow the processes that turn a hopper full of coal into abundant electrical power, extracting the maximum amount of energy along the way. x
  • 12
    Oil, Gas, and Nuclear Power
    Probe the tradeoffs of oil, natural gas, and nuclear fission for generating electrical power. For example, natural gas is plentiful and flexible, but it involves fracking and produces carbon dioxide emissions. By contrast, nuclear power produces essentially zero emissions but poses potentially catastrophic safety risks. x
  • 13
    Renewable Sources of Electricity
    Survey the three most important sources of renewable energy: hydropower, wind power, and solar power. Look at the inner workings of hydroelectric dams, wind turbines, solar-thermal power stations, and photovoltaic arrays to see how each takes a renewable energy source and converts it into electricity. x
  • 14
    Electrical Power Transmission: The Grid
    Study the technological marvel called the grid—the system that transmits electricity from its point of generation to users. Learn why electrical transmission lines come in threes, why AC power is used instead of DC, and the reason transmission voltages are so high. x
  • 15
    Electrical Power Distribution
    Trace the distribution of electrical power from a substation to your home. Begin with the transformer, discovering how this crucial device functions. By the end of this lecture, you will be able to read a utility pole like a book, analyzing the different services attached to these ubiquitous structures. x
  • 16
    Everyday Thermodynamics: Refrigeration
    Unravel the secret of refrigeration by focusing on the connection between heat, temperature, work, and energy. Then see how these thermodynamic concepts apply to the vapor-compression cycle in your refrigerator or air conditioner. Discover that a heat pump operates the same way. x
  • 17
    Heating, Ventilating, and Air-Conditioning
    Explore heating, ventilating, and air conditioning—known as HVAC. Begin by learning how thermostats regulate temperature. Then review how heat transfer takes place, and investigate the pros and cons of heating with a furnace, boiler, and heat pump. See how air conditioning integrates into each of these systems. x
  • 18
    Home Energy Efficiency
    Delve into the green building movement, which promotes structures that use natural resources more efficiently while reducing environmental impact. Focus on minimizing energy consumption through a well-insulated, airtight building envelope; energy-efficient windows and doors; and energy-efficient HVAC systems and appliances. x
  • 19
    Passive Solar and Net-Zero-Energy Homes
    How much energy can you save with a properly designed house? Would you believe all of it? Trace the trend in passive solar and net-zero-energy homes that are engineered to stay comfortable year-round by exploiting sunlight in winter and shielding against it in summer, with minimal operating costs. x
  • 20
    The Plain Old Telephone Service
    Begin the first of four lectures on telecommunications technology by tracking the landline telephone system, known in the trade as “plain old telephone service.” Follow the pair of copper wires from your landline phone to the multi-pair cables strung from power poles to the all-important local exchange and beyond. x
  • 21
    The Global Telecommunications Network
    Investigate the beauty and complexity of the public switched telephone network (PSTN). Optimized for transmission of the human voice, it comprises a vast array of conventional phone lines, fiber-optic cables, microwave links, and other media. Trace its evolution to the remarkable system in use today. x
  • 22
    Cellular Phone Technology
    Why is cell phone service sometimes so unpredictable? Get inside the cellular network to learn how clever engineering makes a surprisingly large number of two-way conversations possible over a very narrow broadcast spectrum. Also see how the system leads to dead spots, dropped calls, and other familiar cell phone hassles. x
  • 23
    Satellites and Satellite Communications
    Take wireless communications to a higher level: space. First master the rudiments of rockets, orbits, and satellite operations. Then focus on commercial satellite services such as television, radio, Internet, telephone, and navigation. Calculate the ideal orbit for communications satellites, and investigate the workings of the Global Positioning System. x
  • 24
    Simple Machines around the House
    Nothing embodies everyday engineering like simple machines—the basic mechanical devices used for thousands of years that we rely on more than we may realize. Probe the wonders of the inclined plane, screw, wedge, lever, wheel-and-axle, and pulley, and ponder their myriad applications. x
  • 25
    User-Centered Design
    Using the faucet as an example, study the bewildering number of ways that hot and cold water can be delivered into a sink, reflecting the challenges of designing everyday things. Along the way, consider the principles that go into a successful design: affordances, signifiers, mapping, constraints, and feedback. x
  • 26
    The Internal Combustion Engine
    Begin the first of four lectures on automotive engineering by exploring that marvel of mechanical sophistication: the internal combustion engine. Professor Ressler uses homebuilt models to demonstrate the ingenious design of the four-stroke power cycle and how it works in perfect synchrony with a host of other engine sub-systems. x
  • 27
    Torque, Power, and Transmission
    Trace the path of mechanical power from pistons to the engine crankshaft, then through the flywheel and clutch assembly to the transmission gearbox. Focus on the relationships between torque, rotational speed, and power, discovering the reason that transmissions require multiple gear ratios. x
  • 28
    The Drivetrain
    Follow the transfer of automotive power from the gearbox through the driveshaft to the differential and drive-wheels. Study working models of the universal joint and differential. Also explore the design of front-wheel drive, and peer inside an automatic transmission to expose the miracle of its smooth operation. x
  • 29
    Suspension, Steering, and Braking
    Conclude your survey of automotive engineering by studying the three systems that control a vehicle: suspension, steering, and braking. Begin with the technology that’s vital to all three: your tires. Close by analyzing the antilock braking system (ABS), learning how it works and how it knows when to engage. x
  • 30
    Highway Engineering
    Step into the work boots of a highway engineer, tasked with designing a freeway across hilly terrain to connect two other highways. Discover that features of a safe road that you take for granted—constant-radius curves, gentle grade, sturdy construction, and a well-drained surface—require detailed planning. x
  • 31
    Traffic Engineering
    Traffic engineers help to ensure the safe and efficient movement of vehicles and pedestrians within a road system. Focus on their approach to intersection design, examining the many factors that go into determining whether you’re faced with a traffic signal, an overpass, a flyover ramp, or some other means of traffic control. x
  • 32
    Everyday Bridges
    Find that everyday highway overpass bridges are more interesting than they appear. These ubiquitous structures deserve to be admired for their simplicity and practicality. Plunge into the principles of multi-girder spans, and learn that new construction techniques make highway bridges more efficient and elegant than ever. x
  • 33
    Tunnel Engineering
    Delve into tunnel engineering, a discipline every bit as impressive as bridge building, only less visible. Consider the challenges presented by the type of soil or rock being excavated for a tunnel, marvel at the work of mammoth tunnel boring machines, and weigh the tradeoffs between tunnels versus bridges. x
  • 34
    The Railroad
    Ride the rails to learn why rail transportation continues to thrive, two centuries after the modern railroad was introduced. Trace the origin of the standard rail gauge used in the U.S., probe the forces a locomotive must overcome to get rolling and then stop, and chart the rise of a revolutionary way of handling cargo: the intermodal container. x
  • 35
    Solid Waste Disposal and Recycling
    Compare the three main methods of dealing with the 700,000 tons of solid waste generated every day in the U.S.: landfill, incineration, and recycling. Explore the distinction between recycling, which is practical with many metals, and down-cycling, which is the fate of most plastics. x
  • 36
    The Future: Engineering for Sustainability
    Look beyond recycling to the higher goal of sustainability. Then close the course by considering the Great Northeast Blackout of 2003. Caused by inadequately pruned trees and a software bug, this cascading sequence of infrastructure failures holds important lessons for the world of everyday engineering. x

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Your professor

Stephen Ressler

About Your Professor

Stephen Ressler, Ph.D.
United States Military Academy, West Point
Dr. Stephen Ressler is Professor Emeritus from the United States Military Academy at West Point and a Distinguished Member of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). A registered Professional Engineer in Virginia, he earned a B.S. from West Point and an M.S. and a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering from Lehigh University, as well as a Master of Strategic Studies from the U.S. Army War College. Professor Ressler's papers on...
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Everyday Engineering: Understanding the Marvels of Daily Life is rated 4.9 out of 5 by 210.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Course, But Scary This is a course I bought because I wanted to fill in information I thought I "sorta knew." By the end of the last lecture it was clear I didn't really know most of the information contained in the course. But I do have a much clearer picture of the marvels of everyday engineering now, because Professor Ressler is an excellent teacher and a master in making the concepts behind complex systems pellucid. Whatever it takes to make everyday engineering comprehensible, charts, graphs, pictures, drawings, working models, even jokes, Professor Ressler will use to convey information. So why is the word "scary" in my review title? Because by the end of the course i realized just how vulnerable and how dependent we have become on everyday engineering. What would happen if, due to a man made or natural disaster, bridges fall, roads collapse, power grids are offline and refrigerators, gas pumps, dialysis machines and deliver systems were compromised over a large area. In short, what would we do if mainland America found itself in the same situation as Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. Maybe it's time to start thinking about it now. Maybe Professor Ressler could come up with a course of new ideas about recovering our everyday engineering marvels that would help.
Date published: 2018-08-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic Professor Ressler has a great delivery style of information. Combined with the scores of digital and physical models for demonstration of concepts along with the scores of photographs, the material was easily understood and the concepts conveyed. He also presents many mathematical formulas that would allow the student to do his/her own calculations later, but, importantly, does not make the math necessary to understanding the lessons. I feel I have a much clearer understanding of the world us that mostly goes unnoticed or ignored. Fascinating material, wonderfully presented and illustrated, kept my attention through this whole course.
Date published: 2018-07-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Engineering in daily lives. Professor Ressler brings to life the engineering that is a part of our daily lives with such simplicity and elegance. He explains how things work that we use and take for granted such as water systems, electricity, automobiles and cell phones to name just a few. I strongly recommend this and all of Professor Ressler's course to those who wonder how things work.
Date published: 2018-07-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very appropriate and captures your attention Just started on the first lectures after receiving it several days ago but being a retired engineer I find the course content and depth of detail refreshing. So far all the courses I have ordered and that is a wide variety have met or exceeded my expectations. I plan on ordering other courses by this professor.Thanks.
Date published: 2018-07-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very interesting! I have been watching about two of these episodes at a time. They are very informative, and the professor is just a good teacher. I bought another one of this professor's Great Courses, the DIY Engineering. I highly recommend this series.
Date published: 2018-06-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Tackles familiar subjects to some depth Dr. Ressler Has a way of explaining things in our lives in a clear and understandable way. Some may find these topics rather mundane while others will find them engrossing depending on your familiarity while these functions. Review the course topics to see where you fit.
Date published: 2018-06-25
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Fun course on the engineering of everyday systems This is a fun and fast-moving course on the everyday systems in our lives. It reminds me of my favorite high school or freshman college teachers using simple models to illustrate engineering principles. I have many years experience in physics and engineering and didn’t expect to learn much in this course but, to my pleasant surprise, I learned new things in each lecture. I looked forward to each lecture and the frequent ‘oh, so that’s how that works’ moments.
Date published: 2018-06-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The engineering topics were excellent........... The approach to the engineering topics were broad and detailed. I feel this course could be easily comprehended by middle school STEM students.
Date published: 2018-06-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Unravels the mysteries of the built world; superb! This 36-lecture course was one of the meatiest, most useful I’ve ever taken from The Teaching Company/Great Courses (and there have been dozens). Prof Ressler is a superb instructor who has the gift of explaining everything with instantly graspable lucidity. His handcrafted demonstrations bring the concepts to life and burn them in your visual memory. How do they build dams? How is electrical power generated, transported and distributed? How does your POTS (plain old telephone service) work, and why is it so indestructibly reliable? This was my long-overdue education in how the modern world functions — understanding the 7 engineering systems houses comprise; water use and disposal; power; trash; the combustion engine; transportation engineering; traffic; railroads, and sustainability. A massive unraveling of the mysteries of the built environment, I feel as if I now understand the world much better. Bonus: if you watch it on an iPad, you can zip through it at 2x speed, making this a supremely worthwhile 9hr investment.
Date published: 2018-05-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very Informative and Friendly! The first few episodes have been very informative and done in a nice casual tone which I enjoy. I hope all the other courses are at least as good.
Date published: 2018-04-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Profitably Rewarding, Highly Educative! Dear Reader, I was a complete engineering novice before I watched this, nowadays I discuss engineering principles with all types of contractors who come to carry out work either at my home or in my apartment block, which I assist with the management of. Apart from being educational, this course has been the direct cause of my more informed input with building contractors on two particular matters, which has saved us, as a block, thousands of pounds and for which the neighbours were very grateful to me. I, in turn, am entirely grateful to Professor Ressler. If you wish to understand the electricity grid and power distribution into your home, or satellite communications and GPS, what happens when you make a phone call, or the internal combustion engine, transmission, or braking system of your car, how your fridge works, or your A/C system, how to see your entire house as a system of systems, the mechanical advantage in a simple inclined plane or a screw, what makes a particular design (e.g. a tap or faucet) more or less functional, or even how civil engineers calculate the best method of soil removal when constructing freeways, this course has it all and more, and Professor Ressler delivers better than any I have ever seen. He is engaging, methodical, enlightening, and mellifluous, as pleasing to listen to as to watch. But I strongly advise the reader to watch the videos and not just listen on audio, at least not the first time round, as the models Professor Ressler has created to demonstrate key principles are a joy to behold as works of engineering art in and of themselves, and the graphics and illustrations are outstanding too. And well done also to the Great Courses for this fabulous educational production.
Date published: 2018-04-15
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Too simplistic and US Centric This is best for secondary school students, and only in the US as a lot of what he teaches applies only to America. Also we could do without the religious overtones in the first lecture.
Date published: 2018-04-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent demonstrations! If you ever looked at something and thought to yourself, “I wonder how they did that?” then this course is for you! Professor Ressler is very interesting, has beautiful graphics and has built wonderful models to illustrate various principles! I thoroughly enjoyed this course!
Date published: 2018-02-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Comprehensive and detailed I have all of Stephen Ressler's courses, and every one is brilliant. Excellent lecturer presentation with good graphics/animations and models. In his lecture which covers petroleum he does make one great blunder. My professional career was in the international petroleum exploration industry. Granite (an intrusive rock) could only (and very rarely) act as a cap rock if it was in the lateral position in a stratigraphic trap. Marble is a metamorphic (hardened and transformed by heat and pressure from limestone) and could only, again, rarely be found as a cap rock. The most usual seals to upward migration (and or leakage) are shales/mudstones and sometimes evaporites (the latter for example in Libya). Totally impermeable limestone can also act a a cap. In stratigraphic traps in the Gulf of Mexico, salt domes can also perform this function. One other detail, in the lectures on road construction, it would be better to list the four possible substrates as gravel-sand-silt-clay/mud as this is the correct direction of decreasing grain size. In a later lecture on waste disposal he correctly mentions that some place obtain energy by combustion. A couple of years ago I was on holiday in Venice. I found out the following interesting facts. Veritas is the company that provides fresh water and disposes of waste in Venice.  This is only the first part of the process. So where does it end up?  The answer is quite interesting; at Fusina, in the area of Marghera about 11km WNW of Venice on the mainland.  The capacity of the ENEL thermal power plant there to burn Refuse Derived Fuel was doubled in 2008 from 35.000 to 70.000 tons/year.  It has a capacity of 145.000 ton/y. RDF is obtained from the dry fraction of urban waste, after separating paper, glass and organic matter.  The resulting material has less than 15% of humidity and a calorific power of 18.500 kJ/kg, similar to that of coal.  By burning RDF in the local thermal power plant, the waste cycle is actually closed and all the waste produced by the Municipality of Venice is disposed of without need of landfilling.  At the same time, the sophisticated system of fumes depuration devices provide the highest degree of pollution abatement. The plant, which is the first industrial-scale facility of its kind in the world, has an overall capacity of 16 MW.  It comprises a hydrogen-fuelled combined cycle plant (commissioned in 2010), which generates both electricity and heat, and has an output of 12 megawatts (MW).  The efficiency of the process is increased by taking the heat from the emissions in order to generate high-temperature steam, which is sent to the nearby coal-fired plant to generate an additional 4 MW of power capacity. The plant, which uses 1.3 metric tons of hydrogen per hour, has an overall efficiency of about 42%, is essentially free of emissions of any kind.  The electricity generated, equal to about 60 million kWh a year, will be sufficient to meet the needs of 20,000 households, avoiding more than 17,000 metric tons of CO2 emissions a year.
Date published: 2018-02-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great introduction to various engineering fields This should be available to kids in High School who are not sure on what they want to major on, when they go to college. I just started the course on electricity, it is very interesting, learning how the grid works and how it is kept in synch.
Date published: 2018-02-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great description of our infrastructures operation Gives insite to all the things that make up our life and how they work. Describes the things we take for granted like electricity, phone, water, roads...etc and how they work.
Date published: 2018-02-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Tremendous Course I have taken approximately 30 courses from TGC- this by far, unequivocally, was the best course I have taken. I am a physician, and although I have a science background, I have never taken any engineering classes and had no basic knowledge of how anything the least bit mechanical worked prior to this course. After completion, I now have at least a reasonable understanding of home building, automotive mechanics, telecommunications, etc.. I have actually found myself, when traveling, seeing things I never noticed before, e.g. substations, water treatment facilities, cell towers, power lines and wind turbines, have wandered my home checking out pipes, the sump pump, furnace, and fuse box and have checked out all of the plastic materials I could find to look for specific recycling codes. In short, I'm looking at my environment with interest and understanding that I didn't have before. Most of this was new material for me, but was at a level I could understand yet had significant depth and complexity expected for a college-level course. Dr. Ressler teaches with an enthusiasm that is infectious. He clearly loves the subject matter. The supporting graphics (most computer generated) and models that he used were outstanding and made understanding the material much easier (this course should only be done in video format). My only criticism is that I wish there were more lectures. A truly outstanding course!
Date published: 2018-02-04
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good Basics I am about 60% through the course. Being an engineer, I thought the course might be too basic for me but I wanted to see the potential for my grandchildren. Definitely too basic for me but for a non-engineer it is informative and detailed. If you are interested in how the basic infrastructure of a society works, this is a good overview.
Date published: 2018-01-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Course I am in home improvements and I really enjoyed watching this course. Professor Ressler does a great job explaining his concepts, his examples are top knotch. I bought the dvd set and the transcript. This course is very well thought out and I appreciate his simple to follow style. I also bought his other title," Do it yourself engenering.", It will be a while until I get to that course I wish I had more time in the day but I look forward to gettting to that course as well. Thank you Professor Ressler.
Date published: 2018-01-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Highly Informative and Enjoyable Dr Ressler is very enthusiastic and presents his material in a clear and informative manner, with liberal use of diagrams and examples. As with all TGC packages, you know exactly what you will be getting via the excellent overview descriptions. This is not an in-depth course, but it succeeds in achieving the stated aims.
Date published: 2018-01-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wow-factor in full force Everyday Engineering is a gem. It’s for anyone and everyone who wants to appreciate the depth and spirit of human ingenuity. When it’s all said and done 36 lectures later, you come away with a sense of wonder and awe regarding modern technology. My take away is that this course illustrates how to think logically, in a problem-solution manner. Yes, it’s fun and educational. And it is chock full of facts and cool demonstrations. Graphics are an A+. But what I really love is the bottom-up progression of unit to system and how, in each lecture, problems are seen through to their solution. The end result is that you see the world through a different lens. A lot of reviewers have already given their 10 cents, so there’s no need here for redundancy. I’d just like to note that this course is indispensable for reflective individuals and especially our future leaders.
Date published: 2018-01-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent information and production The lecturer is excellent. He speaks very well, is easy to understand, is enthusiastic, and gets his points across using many diagrams and demonstrations I am a retired project engineer who truly enjoyed the variety of information in this course. I believe that I would have benefited greatly if I had this course as a freshman. This would have given me some practical insight instead of a lot of the theory that I never used. Also, this type of course would help freshmen decide on their engineering major. The lectures are loaded with useful information. For instance, I learned to use the many available Codes and Standards as a practicing engineer, but was totally unaware of them and their wealth of knowledge as a student. The lectures were broadly based on so many topics – housing construction, refrigeration cycles, power transmission, bridge construction, our telephone systems, and much more. Even the operation of toilets is covered. I do have one criticism regarding the tempo. Some of the lectures are loaded with so much information that the presenter seems to be using scripts that he reads at a fast pace. I have noticed that presenters in some of the other Great Courses do the same. The end result is that some presentations were hard to follow and made me sleepy. However I digress. If you want to learn about a wide variety of engineering concepts and practices in a well produced, well organized, and entertaining manner – do take this course. You won’t be disappointed.
Date published: 2017-12-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Engineering explained with clarity and purpose While everyday items are taken largely for granted in our modern life, Prof. Ressler shows that under the surface they display the cleverness and ingenuity that engineers have brought to advancing human welfare since ancient times. This course added considerably to my fuller understanding of how the modern world around us works. Among many enlightening episodes in the course (the domestic water supply and the automatic transmission, for examples), the penultimate lecture is on solid waste disposal and exposes the distressingly enormous consumption that takes place to maintain our modern lives. But in the final lecture on sustainability Prof Ressler offers some reason to hope that engineers and society at large can improve the efficiency of our civilization and establish a semi-sustainable future. There’s little work more important than that. While I’ve been a PE for over 40 years, Prof Ressler’s courses have back-filled my knowledge in several areas beyond my scope of practice and reinforced my appreciation for the ancient and venerable engineering profession. I learned a great deal from Prof Ressler’scourses and have recommended them often. Highest marks on the course content (the world’s aviation system might have been great to include as well, but there’s only so much room…). Prof Ressler’s models and demonstrations, the excellent computer graphics, and the course’s overall production quality served to help picture and reinforce the concepts under discussion I would especially encourage young folks contemplating an engineering career to view this Everyday Engineering course to get a feel for what engineers are accomplishing in the world to better our modern lives across so many different fields. The course Prof. Ressler put together should be represented in every engineering freshman’s curriculum.
Date published: 2017-12-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Remarkable and amazing This course is very well presented. It's obvious that a high level of forethought and insight went into the development of this course. It held my interest from start to finish.
Date published: 2017-12-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Superior Course Dr. Ressler is an exceptional educator who delves into the details of structural engineering with great enthusiasm. I have purchased several courses and enjoy one's that provide a clear and understandable content. My Hats Off!
Date published: 2017-12-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A thoroughly engaging and informative course. I really enjoyed this course. Professor Ressler has a gift for presentation; he leads you through the subject in a structured way, such as how we encounter the various technologies on a daily basis. The course expands into the details of each one, with plenty of diagrams, imagery and studio demonstrations to simplify things. I always felt on the level with the Professor, as he avoids needless technical jargon, and has such a friendly, and charming style. I regard this course as excellent value, and a great way to prevent myself from taking for granted my cellphone, water supply or other everyday engineering marvel. My thanks to TGC and Professor Stephen Ressler for such an entertaining and informative production.
Date published: 2017-11-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding content and presentation The wide range of everyday engineering topics covered really does cover so much of the quality of life advantages in a developed society, and their complex inter-relatedness -- yet does it in a very considerate way for non-engineers like myself and my wife. Dr. Ressler's presentation is lively, smooth and well illustrated with working models. Overall, an outstanding DVD course. We learned a lot.
Date published: 2017-10-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from The World Makes More Sense Now I don't remember why I bought this course. I probably had a reason. Maybe it was because I had no idea how the so-called marvels of daily life worked...like electrical power transmission, running water, sewage, dams, the telephone, the automobile. I always thought it had something to do with powerful crystals and maybe some sorcery. Now I know that's not the case. Professor Ressler was able to explain complex engineering systems in terms that even I could understand. I suppose that if you have a solid grounding in engineering, you might find this course a bit basic. One other nice feature was the use of in studio models. I will probably watch other courses by this professor just for the models alone. I should also mention the enthusiasm this professor has. I couldn't believe I found myself excited about highway design. If you're one of these people who says, "highway design is the most boring thing in the world", I defy you to watch this course. One small quibble: the picture that accompanies this course on the website has a long suspension bridge in it. That's fine except for the small fact that Professor Ressler does not cover those sorts of bridges in this course. I think he might have another course in which he does. In this course, he covers bridges, but only the normal ones that you never give a second thought to. I only mention this in case someone gets their hopes up about suspension bridges. I've had my hopes dashed countless times, so I know what's it's like.
Date published: 2017-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I am very happy with this program. The instructor is easy to follow and the graphics and demonstrations are very informational. I would highly recommend this course.
Date published: 2017-09-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Highly recommend for first time home buyers This is an excellent course for anyone with questions about how many of the most basic, and not so basic elements of our daily lives work. It covers a wide array of systems that we all take for granted because they work so well. Take for instance the subject of one of the last lectures Professor Stephen Ressler presented in the series. The unassuming landfill. I believe most of us would consider a landfill to be far from an engineered system – just a hole in the ground where trash is dumped, right? Far from it as our moderator points out in easy to understand terms, diagrams and photos of actual sites. This is not to say that everything that was covered is as mundane as landfills. On the contrary, anyone that is interested in learning more about the world around them will find fascinating information on at least a few of the subjects that are covered in the series. I found the coverage of electricity distribution and generation to be particularly enlightening which answered questions that I didn’t even know I had about the subject. While I learned more about the subject than I expected, the lectures also gave me more questions about electricity. But that’s a good thing that I can look into further in the future. In the beginning of the series, Professor Ressler spent quite a few lectures discussing various phases of home construction. While I didn’t find the subject matter that useful for me, it definitely occurred to me how valuable this information would be for first time home buyers. Especially anyone that is in the process of or is considering having a new home built for them. I would highly recommend the course just for the first 5 or 6 lectures if this is you. I can’t really think of any way this course could be improved. The lectures are photographed well and interspersed with animations and diagrams where appropriate, and Stephen Ressler often demonstrates with models and experiments to drive home his points. All in all a very good course.
Date published: 2017-09-19
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