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  • How Science Shapes Science Fiction

    Professor Charles L. Adler, PhD

    Available Formats: Instant Video, DVD
    View scientific knowledge through the lens of fiction in and explore theories, concepts, and formulas that may seem daunting in more academic settings. How Science Shapes Science Fiction showcases the ways fiction has an amazing capacity to teach us about ourselves and the nature of the world we live in.
    View Lecture List (24)
    View scientific knowledge through the lens of fiction in and explore theories, concepts, and formulas that may seem daunting in more academic settings. How Science Shapes Science Fiction showcases the ways fiction has an amazing capacity to teach us about ourselves and the nature of the world we live in.
    View Lecture List (24)
    24 Lectures  |  How Science Shapes Science Fiction
    Lecture Titles (24)
    • 1
      Science and Fiction! The Wayfarers Series
      Begin your journey into the heart of how science shapes science fiction with a look at the world created by Becky Chambers in her galaxy-spanning Wayfarers book series. As you examine the meta-question" of how authors decide to use science in their stories, you will zero in on four specific scientific ideas and how they utilize principles that are both real and imagined when creating a believable and engaging story." x
    • 2
      Cheating the Science: Protector
      Our understanding of science changes all the time. How do writers use science to help build their stories while also keeping these stories from becoming immediately dated or unbelievable? They cheat. Using Larry Niven's novel Protector, as well as several other books by Niven and other sci-fi authors, Professor Adler demonstrates how writers can simplify and bend scientific ideas like evolution for the sake of narrative. x
    • 3
      Prediction: From the Earth to the Moon
      Turn now to Jules Verne, considered the progenitor of hard" science fiction stories. As you look at one of the earliest literary excursions into science fiction and what it gets right about launching spacecraft, consider whether sci-fi can predict the future. Along the way, you will also look closely at how stories can use science in ways that are hopeful and adventurous, as well as realistic and informative." x
    • 4
      World-Building in The Left Hand of Darkness
      How do writers build fictional worlds that feel real, especially when a world is a completely different planet from our own? In this lecture, go on a scientific tour of two constructed worlds: the planet Gethen, from Ursula K. Le Guin's novel The Left Hand of Darkness, and Sukien, a world Professor Adler himself created for a Japanese television series. Look at the ways sci-fi writers pick and choose the science that makes these worlds work in fiction. x
    • 5
      Advanced World-Building in Avatar
      In this second lecture on worldbuilding, look at the habitable moon Pandora from James Cameron's blockbuster film Avatar. What kind of astronomical conditions must exist to allow a moon to develop an ecosystem similar to that of a planet? Dive into the science that supports the lush, exotic world of Pandora and its inhabitants and consider the possibility of such places in our universe. x
    • 6
      Action and Reaction in The Avengers
      Superheroes have their own special niche in science fiction. Dissect the reality that underlies the physics-defying powers of comic book heroes. How does Iron Man's suit work? Could a shield like Captain America's iconic accessory really exist? What conditions could allow a hero like The Flash to run on water? Look closely at the science of superhero cinema to answer these questions and more. x
    • 7
      Space Travel and 2001: A Space Odyssey
      Space travel may be the single most common feature of science fiction, but not every story treats the science the same way. Here, you will see why the space travel depicted in the Stanley Kubrick film 2001: A Space Odyssey has stood the test of time and is still among the best portrayals in the genre. Explore four aspects of space flight through the lens of this sci-fi classic. x
    • 8
      Interplanetary Travel and The Martian
      Could humans travel to Mars and survive there? This hypothetical scenario is the premise of the successful novel and film The Martian. Look closer at the story of Mark Watney's lone survival on the Red Planet and see how it raises numerous scientific questions about travel from Earth to other worlds, and how we would create a livable environment on a planet so unlike our own. x
    • 9
      Space Battles and Energy Weapons: Star Wars
      Space battles and interstellar warfare make a lot of appearances in science fiction. While no battles have actually happened in space in the real world, the Star Wars films present some fascinating hypotheticals about orbital mechanics, laser technology, space debris, and more. Consider the real science behind the classic battles that have come to define these iconic films. x
    • 10
      Advanced Rocket Systems in Star Trek
      A definitive science fiction series, Star Trek offers many scientific and technological ideas to explore. In this lecture, take a closer look at propulsion systems that may (or may not) be possible in the far future by digging into the science behind space travel experiments in the 20th and 21st centuries, including various forms of atomic power. x
    • 11
      Relativity and Time for the Stars
      Traveling to distant planets raises questions about time and relativity, which is what you will examine through Robert Heinlein's 1956 novel Time for the Stars. Dive into the history of Einstein's revolutionary theory and how it has been interpreted-and misinterpreted-by science fiction writers for decades. And learn why even the mistakes sci-fi writers make can help us better understand science. x
    • 12
      Black Holes, Wormholes, and Interstellar
      Another common scientific feature of many sci-fi stories are black holes and wormholes. As we continue to speculate and learn more about the nature of these mysterious phenomena in the real world, see how films like Interstellar offer a fascinating glimpse into the possibilities-while also offering an example of when an extreme focus on science can actually be hazardous to good storytelling. x
    • 13
      Time Travel and Doctor Who
      Dive into the concept of time travel with one of the longest-running science fiction television series in history: the British phenomenon, Doctor Who. Through the fan-favorite episode Blink," explore the nature of time and it's 4th-dimensional relationship to physical space, consider the many paradoxes of time travel, and think about whether time machines are even possible at all." x
    • 14
      Teleportation and Star Trek
      Take another look at Star Trek, this time with a focus on teleportation and transporter technology. While transporter technology was first introduced in the series to cut filming costs, it raises interesting scientific questions. Can matter be instantaneously moved across long distances? What are the risks of human teleportation? Is the modern 3-D printer a real-life version of the matter replicator? x
    • 15
      Cyberspace and the Singularity: Neuromancer
      Robots and artificial intelligence have been part of science fiction for over 100 years, though in reality we are still far away from meeting truly sentient machines. Consider the robotic characters featured in properties like Star Wars and Star Trek as you explore consciousness and the possibilities of the computerized future in William Gibson's cyberpunk novel Neuromancer. x
    • 16
      Steampunk Science and Leviathan
      There are a number of subgenres within science fiction with their own distinct styles and intents. One distinct subgenre is steampunk, which is defined by its historical time period and focus on rethinking the science of the past. Through Scott Westerfeld's novel Leviathan and other steampunk stories, Professor Adler explores the retro-scientific possibilities of genetic engineering, giant mechanical vehicles, and early computing technology. x
    • 17
      Design Your Own Dragon: Game of Thrones
      Science fiction writers don't just build worlds that are different from our own; many also design unique creatures to populate those worlds. Look at the intersection of biology and physics as you explore dragons in fictional stories like Game of Thrones. As you will see, there is probably a reason most stories featuring dragons are considered fantasy rather than science fiction. x
    • 18
      Planetary Ecology in Dune
      Ecology is a particularly complex science to get right in fiction. Turn to Frank Herbert's classic Dune to see how writers can use scientific principles to create entire ecosystems-and how they decide what science to highlight and what to ignore. Along the way, look at major real-world ecological projects and controversial theories that have influenced sci-fi. x
    • 19
      Extraterrestrial Intelligence and Contact
      Carl Sagan is the rare sci-fi creator who is more famous for being a science educator than a fiction writer. As you will learn, his extensive background in science not only allowed him to portray interstellar communication theories with accuracy in his novel Contact, but his work also influenced real-world research. Explore the possibilities of communication with alien species and why a lot of scientists believe we are not alone in the universe. x
    • 20
      UFOs, ESP, and The X-Files
      The long-running television show The X-Files explored a host of conspiracy theories and scientific mysteries. In this lecture, you will examine two popular topics the show tackled over the course of its nine-season run: UFOs and superhuman" abilities like ESP. While the show was great at using these mysterious phenomena to tell thrilling stories, much of the science may be unreliable at best." x
    • 21
      Social Sciences and the Foundation Series
      The social sciences play a huge role in any good science fiction story. Here, dive into the Foundation series by Isaac Asimov and explore how anthropology, sociology, history, and other subjects shape how worlds are created in science fiction. Along the way, you'll also look at sociology in other influential stories and see what chaos theory has to say about predicting the future. x
    • 22
      Designed Languages and Arrival
      Dive into the science of linguistics and language creation through the film Arrival, as well as other notable stories, through which Professor Adler explains the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis and the relationship of language to time and our perception of reality itself. Do we shape language or does language shape us? As you contemplate this question and other mysteries, you will also look at the challenges of creating fictional languages. x
    • 23
      Cosmology, the Mind, and Star Maker
      Many science fiction stories are told from the perspective of a few key characters. In this lecture, the scope widens astronomically as you consider Olaf Stapledon's influential 1937 novel Star Maker and how it manages to tell a story that encompasses a cosmic scale in terms of both time and space. Examine the different scales of potential civilizations in the universe and consider the possibilities presented by both scientists and storytellers. x
    • 24
      Science Fiction's Purpose: Childhood's End
      Arthur C. Clarke's novel Childhood's End brings this course to its fitting conclusion with a consideration of science fiction as a genre with limitless potential to explore some of our biggest questions. As you will learn, these questions are often scientific, but they are also much bigger than anything we can tackle with a mathematical formula or technological advancement alone. Ultimately, science fiction has the same goals as any other art: to explore the human condition through fiction. x
  • World War II: The Pacific Theater

    Professor Craig L. Symonds, PhD

    Available Formats: Instant Video, DVD
    World War II: The Pacific Theater—produced by The Great Courses in partnership with HISTORY®—takes you into the sweeping story of the American fight against the Japanese. Taught by Professor Craig L. Symonds, a distinguished military historian at the US Naval War College, these 24 vivid lectures chronicle the global trajectory of the war in the Pacific, from the attack on Pearl Harbor to the birth of the atomic age.
    View Lecture List (24)
    World War II: The Pacific Theater—produced by The Great Courses in partnership with HISTORY®—takes you into the sweeping story of the American fight against the Japanese. Taught by Professor Craig L. Symonds, a distinguished military historian at the US Naval War College, these 24 vivid lectures chronicle the global trajectory of the war in the Pacific, from the attack on Pearl Harbor to the birth of the atomic age.
    View Lecture List (24)
    24 Lectures  |  World War II: The Pacific Theater
    Lecture Titles (24)
    • 1
      The Road to War in the Pacific, 1931-1941
      The origins of the war predate December 7, 1941. In this opening lecture, trace the events that led up to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Investigate Japan's interest in taking over China, and the strategic need for oil and other supplies threatened by the US-controlled Philippines. x
    • 2
      Infamy! The Japanese Attack Pearl Harbor
      The attack on Pearl Harbor was a tactical success for Japan, in that it destroyed much of the US naval fleet. But it also proved to be one of the most reckless and irresponsible strategic decisions in the history of warfare. Witness the events that occurred on the day of infamy," and reflect on how and why the US was caught off guard." x
    • 3
      Japan Moves South, December 1941-May 1942
      During the first six months of 1942, the Japanese military juggernaut moved from success to success in the Pacific, conquering new territory at a dizzying pace. Learn how the Japanese were able to wreck Allied naval forces in the Java Sea, and examine the invasion of the Philippines, the Bataan Death March, and General Douglas MacArthur's escape to Australia. x
    • 4
      The Doolittle Raid on Japan, April 1942
      In 1942, the United States needed a morale boost, and the Doolittle Raid against Tokyo and other cities was a public relations coup. Here, as elsewhere, many of the operational decisions in the Pacific Theater revolved around logistics and supplies-such as how to equip planes with enough fuel to fly 650 miles over open sea while carrying 500-pound bombs. x
    • 5
      Station HYPO: Breaking the Japanese Code
      Codebreaking is one of the most captivating stories in World War II, both in Europe and the Pacific. While the British were breaking German codes, Americans stationed in Hawaii wrestled with Japanese intercepts. See what they were able to decipher, and how even partial codebreaking contributed to success in battle. x
    • 6
      Battle of the Coral Sea, May 1942
      The Battle of the Coral Sea was the first naval battle in history fought entirely by carrier-based airplanes, in which opposing fleets never caught sight of each other. Although the Japanese inflicted more tactical damage-including the sinking of the US carrier Lexington-they failed to achieve their objective: Port Moresby in New Guinea. x
    • 7
      Midway: 10 Minutes That Changed the War
      Why were the Japanese determined to capture an American base on a tiny atoll in the middle of the Pacific? The surprising answer has to do with the changing nature of naval warfare, and recognition of the important role carriers played. Go inside this astonishing battle, minute by minute, and reflect on how critical decisions affected the outcome. x
    • 8
      Guadalcanal: Jungle Warfare
      Even before the improbable victory at Midway, Ernest J. King, the Commander in Chief, US Fleet and Chief of Naval Operations, wanted to initiate an offensive. His first target was the island of Guadalcanal, where the Japanese were building an airfield. Meet the dueling personalities in the US command and go ashore with the Marines to seize and hold the airfield. x
    • 9
      Ironbottom Sound, 1942-1943
      The battle for the Solomon Islands-including Guadalcanal-was a grinding and wasting six-month campaign. After multiple bloody engagements on both land and sea, Admiral Yamamoto and the Japanese high command cut their losses. By then, so many ships had been sunk that the waters nearby became known as Ironbottom Sound."" x
    • 10
      MacArthur, Halsey, and Operation Cartwheel
      General MacArthur was a controversial figure, a brilliant but complex commander with a large ego, who found himself sharing command of the Pacific with US Navy Admiral Chester Nimitz. Watch these two commanders conduct a dual campaign on both New Guinea and in the Solomon Islands. x
    • 11
      The Big Blue Fleet and American Industry
      For all the military planning and hard fighting, much of the American success in World War II was due to the country's astonishing industrial output. From the Grumman-built F6F Hellcat fighter planes to new Essex-class aircraft carriers, the American industrial juggernaut produced weapons at an unprecedented rate. x
    • 12
      Battle for Tarawa: A Square Mile of Hell
      By 1944, the American offensive strategy was to island-hop across Micronesia, and the first step was the island of Tarawa, a name that haunts the history of the US Marine Corps. Follow the invaders to see how a tidal anomaly and Japanese defenders led to a bloodbath as 3,000 Marines were killed or wounded in only three days. x
    • 13
      A Three-Front Pacific War, January-May 1944
      By 1944, the momentum in the Pacific Theater had shifted decisively in favor of the Americans. Learn the lessons of Tarawa and continue your study of the stepping-stone strategy as the US military advanced from the Gilberts to the Marshalls and beyond. Then consider the Japanese quagmire in China and its effect on the war. x
    • 14
      The US Leaps to the Marianas, June 1944
      One of the reasons Japan attacked the United States in the first place was because it needed a secure supply of oil to fight China, but by 1944, Japan's supply lines were failing. The US, too, was stretched in June 1944, with simultaneous campaigns planned for both Normandy and the Marianas. Examine the set up for a decisive confrontation in the Pacific. x
    • 15
      Battle of the Philippine Sea, June 1944
      Since the 1930s, both the American and Japanese war strategists assumed that any war between the two countries would be decided by a major sea battle in the western Pacific. See why the Battle of the Philippine Sea was nothing like what the planners had imagined, how the battle actually played out, and what impact it had on the war. x
    • 16
      Bombing Japan: Fire from the Sky
      Shift your attention from the sea to the sky, where the US Army Air Forces conducted both tactical and strategic air campaigns. Review the technology and personalities of the air war against Japan and witness the devastation American bombs wrought on the Japanese homeland. x
    • 17
      American Submarines in the Pacific, 1944-1945
      American submarines played important roles in some of the biggest battles of the Pacific War, including the Battle of Midway and the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Yet the biggest contribution of the submarine force was not in sinking warships, it was in the destruction of Japanese maritime trade. Dive under the sea to explore US submarine warfare. x
    • 18
      MacArthur Returns to the Philippines
      When General MacArthur left the Philippines at the start of the war, he famously announced, I shall return." Go inside MacArthur's meeting with President Roosevelt and follow the general's long preparation for his return. Then, travel to the sandy beaches of the island of Leyte, the site of his return to the Philippines." x
    • 19
      Battle of Leyte Gulf, October 1944
      Here, find out why Professor Symonds calls the Battle of Leyte Gulf the greatest naval battle in history. The Japanese had a complex plan, and for several hours, the Americans in Leyte Gulf teetered on the brink of disaster. Find out how and why, despite confusion and misunderstandings, the US Navy was able to inflict a decisive defeat on the Imperial Japanese Navy. x
    • 20
      Admiral Halsey's Typhoons, 1944-1945
      Meet Admiral William F. Halsey, a fighting admiral and a man of action who led the American carrier forces during the Philippine campaign. In December 1944, he made several command decisions amid a typhoon that led to a naval investigation and inspired the movie The Caine Mutiny. Enter the high seas in a storm and see first-hand what the admiral faced. x
    • 21
      Battle for Iwo Jima, February-March 1945
      Iwo Jima is the iconic battle of the US Marine Corps, and a living symbol of the determination and sacrifice of the Marines. Review why Iwo Jima became a strategic target, watch the battle unfurl, and then consider its tragic consequences. x
    • 22
      Battle for Okinawa, April-June 1945
      By spring 1945, the United States sought to cut off Japan's supply line to the resource-rich islands of the South Pacific. An invasion of the island of Okinawa would achieve this objective. Codenamed Operation Iceberg," this bloody battle shattered any remaining prospect of Japanese victory in the war." x
    • 23
      Kamikazes: Japan's Special Attack Units
      During the bitter fighting for the Japanese island of Okinawa, American sailors confronted a horrifying new peril-Japanese suicide bombers from the sky. Explore both the Japanese justification for this new protocol and the history of this vicious battle tactic and experience the horror of being attacked by human bombs. x
    • 24
      Dropping the Atomic Bomb
      In this final lecture, reflect on a new era in human civilization. Although Japan was essentially defeated, the government refused to surrender. Travel with President Truman to Potsdam, Germany, where he and Churchill issued a declaration calling for prompt and utter destruction" if Japan refused to surrender. Then deconstruct the justification for the use of the atomic bombs." x
  • Written Communications: Being Heard and Understood

    Professor Allison Friederichs, PhD

    Available Formats: Instant Video, DVD
    Discover the secrets to sharpening your written, oral, and interpersonal communications skills In 12 rewarding lectures. With humor and enthusiasm, along with dozens of tools, examples, and exercises, Professor Friederichs will teach you how to select the right words; ensure proper grammar and punctuation; and analyze, craft, and edit your message—all while using a reader-centric lens.
    View Lecture List (12)
    Discover the secrets to sharpening your written, oral, and interpersonal communications skills In 12 rewarding lectures. With humor and enthusiasm, along with dozens of tools, examples, and exercises, Professor Friederichs will teach you how to select the right words; ensure proper grammar and punctuation; and analyze, craft, and edit your message—all while using a reader-centric lens.
    View Lecture List (12)
    12 Lectures  |  Written Communications: Being Heard and Understood
    Lecture Titles (12)
    • 1
      Impactful Writing
      Get an introduction to what makes your writing matter and learn how to employ empathy in order to shift your perspective, so you are focusing on your reader not your message. Professor Friederichs provides engaging activities to help you improve your writing skills. x
    • 2
      How Language Mirrors Culture
      Starting with an overview of the descriptive/prescriptive debate, Professor Friederichs examines how language has changed and evolved-and why knowing about these changes matters when you write-highlighting the importance of syntax. x
    • 3
      The Importance of Word Choice
      Continuing the discussion of language and words, Professor Friederichs reviews the two levels of meaning that every word has: denotation and connotation. She provides a framework called The Four C's" to help you select the right word, so your message is correct, concrete, clear, and contextually appropriate." x
    • 4
      Mastering Punctuation
      Proper punctuation may seem challenging, but as Professor Friederichs notes, it can make or break your professional message. She provides clarity for the most misunderstood rules of punctuation, including issues around commas, semicolons, quotation marks, and dashes, as applied to Edited Standard American English (ESAE). x
    • 5
      Mastering Noun and Pronoun Grammar
      Professor Friederichs moves from commonly misunderstood components of grammar to more formal rules, including capitalization issues with proper nouns, subject-verb agreement, pronouns, possessives, and dangling and misplaced modifiers. x
    • 6
      Mastering Verb and Adverb Grammar
      Grammar can also help determine the mood of your communication. Professor Friederichs demonstrates how as she covers verb usage, including passive and active voice, tense, and adverbs. You'll see how mastering these seemingly small components can have a big impact on the success of your message. x
    • 7
      Analyze: What Your Reader Needs to Know
      Professor Friederichs introduces you to the business-writing process called ACE, which stands for Analyze, Craft, and Edit. She details the analysis phase of ACE-including a checklist-to help you organize your thoughts and write with purpose. x
    • 8
      Craft: Building the Bones of Your Document
      Examine the best practices for drafting a document as Professor Friederichs introduces additional checklists to help you transcribe your purpose statement, craft the body of your message, and draft your conclusion. She provides a helpful toolkit of eight best practices that will help you craft a well-written draft. x
    • 9
      Edit: Perfecting Your Prose
      Learn how the editing step of the ACE process does not mean proofreading, but instead ensuring you are analyzing your document to confirm it says what you want it to say, in a structured, clear, and concise manner. A checklist for editing helps you review your document for organization, clarity, proper word choice, grammar, and punctuation. x
    • 10
      Applying the Analyze-Craft-Edit Process
      Using two common, real-life examples, Professor Friederichs demonstrates ways to practice applying the ACE process. As she takes you through the construction of business memos and newsletter articles, you'll put all your previous lessons into practice. x
    • 11
      Developing Your Professional Voice
      As you move closer to mastering the fundamentals of professional communications, Professor Friederichs provides ways to help you develop your professional writing voice. She provides a list of ideas that can help you achieve consistency in your writing, as well as activities to help you utilize the tools and practice the skills you've gained. x
    • 12
      Building Relationships through Writing
      Professor Friederichs demonstrates how you can build strong relationships through your communication-including the importance of your responses to another person's writing. You'll learn how to build strong professional relationships by being a good listener and utilizing a collaborative approach in writing. x