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Sioux Falls Scientists endorse The Science of Energy for
describing in detail the resources and power vital to our lives.

The Science of Energy
Resources and Power Explained
Lectures by Dr. Michael E. Wysession


The Science of Energy: Resources And Power Explained
(2016) - 24 lectures, 12 hours
The Science of Energy: Resources And Power Explained at TheGreatCourses.com

Coal and oil, sun, water, and wind-this course illuminates the science of energy sources. An expert geophysicist reveals how we power our lives.

Energy is, without a doubt, the very foundation of the universe. It’s the engine that powers life and fuels the evolution of human civilization.

Yet for all its importance, what energy really is and how it works remains a mystery to most non-scientists. For example:

  • Where does most of our energy come from, and how is it sourced?
  • How do energy technologies, both primitive and cutting-edge, generate power?
  • How do we store energy—and will there be enough to meet our future needs?
  • What are the pros and cons behind the forms of energy currently available to us?
  • How might we harness potential future energy sources such as earthquakes and supervolcanoes?

All too often, the answers to questions like these are bogged down in polemics and controversy. Imagine, then, how these and other questions could be discussed from a purely factual, scientific perspective. The truth is, to better put into perspective the various issues surrounding energy in the 21st century, you need to understand the essential science behind how energy works. And you need a reliable source whose focus is on giving you the facts you need to form your own educated opinions.

In the 24 lectures of The Science of Energy: Resources and Power Explained, award-winning professor and expert geophysicist Michael E. Wysession of Washington University in St. Louis presents an unbiased investigation into the energy sources that power our world. Vividly illustrated with animations, 3-D graphics, graphs, in-studio demonstrations, and other visuals that make scientific and mathematical concepts approachable and understandable, The Science of Energy is a marvelous window into the inner workings of energy that will keep you constantly engaged.

Professor Wysession walks you through a wide portfolio of renewable and non-renewable energy sources, including coal, oil, natural gas, solar, wind, geothermal, and nuclear fission. You’ll examine how these sources work, the engineering marvels that adapt them to human needs, the economic and environmental consequences of using them, and more. Whatever exciting, rapid changes await us in the coming decades (from food production to public transportation to industrial manufacturing), they’ll most certainly require lots of power. For this reason and many more, this course imparts essential information for any well-informed citizen of the world—whether you’re powering a major city or simply turning on the bathroom light.

Evoking Energy from Every Element

The Science of Energy provides you with a thorough, understandable introduction to the fundamentals of different energy sources that we often take for granted. With the same attention to detail and accessibility that makes Professor Wysession one of The Great Courses’ most popular science instructors, his lectures offer a fascinating way to grasp the essentials of the world’s varied energy sources.

  • Fossil fuels: Coal and petroleum are responsible for the remarkable industrial transformation of human culture over the past few centuries. A sedimentary rock, coal develops in stages with progressively more carbon—which determines how “dirty” or “clean” the coal burns. Petroleum, on the other hand, derives from the fossils of once-living ocean organisms (mostly one-celled plankton) tens of millions of years old.
  • Hydroelectricity: Hydropower provides an estimated 1/6 of the world’s total electricity. The basic principle behind how it works is that, as water falls down through the power plant, its gravitational potential energy converts into the kinetic energy of the motion of the water, which turns the turbines of a generator.
  • Nuclear energy: When most people talk about nuclear power, they’re referring to nuclear fission, or the splitting of large atoms to release energy. Relative to human time scales, nuclear energy can provide nearly unlimited power by processing ocean water for available uranium (only a small amount of which is needed to generate electricity).
  • Solar energy: Solar energy’s main engineering marvels are photovoltaic solar panels that convert sunlight directly into electricity using semiconducting materials that exhibit a photoelectric effect. While solar energy is constantly renewable, it’s also very geographically dependent; for example, solar power is less effective in a place like Seattle, where it rains a lot.
  • Wind energy: People have been harnessing the power of wind for thousands of years with technologies like sailing ships and windmills. But as civilizations have advanced, so too have the technologies to transform wind into a reliable (and renewable) power source. Wind turbines, for example, work like plane propellers in reverse: the natural wind blows through the rotors and then generates a force that powers the engine.

Dr. Michael E. Wysession is a Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis. He Earned his Ph.D in Geophysics from Northwestern University. An established leader in seismology and geoscience education, Dr. Wysession has received many awards for his research and teaching and has been a leader in university education reform. He is a frequent guest on television and radio programs concerned with earthquakes, Earth structure, and science education.

24 Lectures - 30 minutes each

1: Energy and Human Civilization 13: Sunlight: Inexhaustible Energy Source
2: Energy: Forms and Conversion for Use 14: Solar Power and Electricity
3: Heat: The Transfer and Flow of Energy 15: Wind Power and Electricity
4: Electricity: Ultimate Energy Converter 16: Hydroelectric Power: Electricity from Water
5: Chemical Energy, Biomass, and Photosynthesis 17: Biofuels: Biodiesal and Ethanol
6: Coal: Convenient, Energy - Dense Fuel 18: Geothermal Energy
7: Petroleum: Chemistry, Retrieval, and Use 19: Energy Storage Technologies
8: New Petroleum Directions 20: Energy Needs for Transportation
9: Fossil Fuel Energy: Issues and Concerns 21: Energy Efficiency: Technologies and Trends
10: Understanding Carbon Dioxide 22: Energy Sources: Economics and Politics Energy Sources
11: The Science Of Nuclear Power 23: Probable and Possible Future Energy Sources
12: The Nuclear Fission Fuel Cycle 24: Energy Trends: Planning for the Near Future


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The Science of Energy
Resources and Power Explained
Lectures by Dr. Michael E. Wysession

Sioux Falls Scientists endorse The Science of Energy for
describing in detail the resources and power vital to our lives.