Six New Releases!
Six New Releases!
  • The Age of Benjamin Franklin

    Professor Robert J. Allison, Ph.D.

    Available Formats: Video Download, Audio Download, DVD, CD

    The Age of Benjamin Franklin is a thorough—and sometimes surprising—course that presents a full portrait of a man defying easy definition. Over 24 insightful lectures, Professor Robert J. Allison of Suffolk University explores the many facets of Ben Franklin’s life and times. A pioneer in science, politics, diplomacy, and more, Franklin was truly one of the most extraordinary Americans ever to have lived.

    View Lecture List (24)

    The Age of Benjamin Franklin is a thorough—and sometimes surprising—course that presents a full portrait of a man defying easy definition. Over 24 insightful lectures, Professor Robert J. Allison of Suffolk University explores the many facets of Ben Franklin’s life and times. A pioneer in science, politics, diplomacy, and more, Franklin was truly one of the most extraordinary Americans ever to have lived.

    24 Lectures  |  The Age of Benjamin Franklin
    Lecture Titles (24)
    • 1
      Benjamin Franklin and the American Dream
      Begin your course with a look at Franklin's unfinished autobiography, a book in which he consciously created a persona for himself as a role model others may follow. Although there is more to Franklin than he showed on the page, surveying the Autobiography offers some foundational insights into his life, his worldview, and the times in which he lived. x
    • 2
      Meet the Franklins
      In many ways, the Franklins were a typical 18th century family—extended across space (New England, the West Indies, and Europe), and filled with comedy and tragedy, wealth and poverty. Here, you will meet his parents and siblings, learn the story of his wife and first-born son, and accompany Franklin on his travels as his family grew. x
    • 3
      Benjamin Franklin's Boston Beginnings
      We may associate Franklin with Philadelphia, but his roots lie in Boston. As you will find out in this lecture, many of the virtues Franklin would cultivate throughout his life grew from the values of the Boston Puritans. Delve into the Boston of the time to meet some of the people and witness the events that Franklin experienced in his youth. x
    • 4
      Benjamin Franklin and Philadelphia
      Shift your attention to the next stop on Franklin’s life voyage, the City of Brotherly Love. Not only was 18th century Philadelphia one of the leading cities in British America, it was one of the leading cities in the British Empire. Find out what made this city so important, and discover how the city shaped Franklin—and how Franklin shaped the city. x
    • 5
      Benjamin Franklin in London
      If Philadelphia was one of the British Empire's leading cities, London itself was becoming the metropolis of the Western world: the largest city in Europe, the financial center of the British Empire, and the nexus of global trade. From the royal exchange to the gambling dens, get to know this great city, and examine some of Franklin's pastimes. x
    • 6
      Benjamin Franklin: Printer and Postmaster
      The world was experiencing a major revolution in the 18th century thanks to the printing press. The rise in literacy, the spread of ideas, and the creation of communities across oceans and colonial boundaries re-shaped the world's intellectual landscape. Delve into Franklin's career as a printer, where he was at the center of this revolution. x
    • 7
      Benjamin Franklin: Scientist
      In addition to the print revolution, the 18th century saw scientific paradigms shift with the triumph of empirical knowledge. Franklin was a scientist—or, as he would have termed it, a “natural philosopher”—and his scientific contributions alone would have earned him a place in the history books. Examine some of his major inventions and ideas. x
    • 8
      Benjamin Franklin and Electricity
      Unpack Franklin's greatest scientific contributions, which were in the field of electricity. As one of his biographers put it, Franklin found electricity as merely a curiosity but he left it a science. Review his most important discoveries, experiments, and contributions, and reflect on the lasting legacy of Franklin as a scientist. x
    • 9
      Benjamin Franklin's Religious Beliefs
      Franklin lived during a great age of rationality and questioning, but also through one of the greatest religious revivals in world history. Franklin himself was a close friend of both George Whitefield, a famous evangelist, and David Hume, a powerful skeptic. Find out what Franklin made of these divergent intellectual movements. x
    • 10
      Benjamin Franklin: American Satirist
      The 18th century was also the golden age of satire, which provided an excellent way to question authority and challenge received wisdom. As you will learn in this lecture, Franklin was among peers with Swift, Defoe, and Voltaire, and he used personas like Silence Dogood to offer blistering critiques of society. x
    • 11
      The Musical Benjamin Franklin
      Among Franklin's lesser known abilities are his musical talents, which made effective use of his rational mind and his quest for understanding the world. After surveying the world of 18th century music, Professor Allison reveals Franklin's musical prowess, including the invention of a new musical instrument. x
    • 12
      Benjamin Franklin: Ladies' Man?
      Franklin has been called everything from a “babe magnet” to a “high-flying ladies’ man” to “the founding flirt.” Although he was conventionally married and had a family, he also had a number of unconventional liaisons around the world. Here, you will consider the many women in Franklin’s life, and his relationships with them. x
    • 13
      Benjamin Franklin: A Reluctant Politician
      Franklin loved science and ideas, but disliked controversy, a disposition that made him reluctant to enter politics. It is one of history's greatest ironies that this hesitant politician would become one of the most important political figures in the English-speaking world. Survey Franklin's entry into politics and consider his style as a politician. x
    • 14
      Benjamin Franklin and the American Indians
      It might be strange to consider, but Franklin knew more about Native Americans than modern historians do. The Iroquois, Delaware, and other natives loomed large in his world and held the balance of power in North America. Witness his negotiations with these groups and reflect on his views toward American Indians. x
    • 15
      Benjamin Franklin and Slavery in America
      Franklin's attitudes toward race and slavery changed over the course of his long life. During his life he owned four slaves, yet he came to despise the institution for the way it contradicted Enlightenment values. After surveying the institution of American slavery, Professor Allison walks you through Franklin's life as he wrestled with slavery. x
    • 16
      Benjamin Franklin and Colonies vs. Empire
      As with slavery, Franklin's attitudes toward the British Empire also shifted as Parliament struggled to govern far-flung colonies. Here, you will review Franklin's role as an American agent to London while tensions rose between Britain and the colonies. A steady drumbeat of war began to be heard. x
    • 17
      Benjamin Franklin and the Crisis of 1773
      Continue your study of the tensions between Americans and the British. In the wake of the Tea Act and Boston Tea Party, Franklin in London as an agent for the American colonies struggled to patch the relationship and salvage the empire, but by 1775, a break is imminent. x
    • 18
      Benjamin Franklin and Colonial Independence
      At 70 years old, Franklin played a central role in America's declaration of independence, the formation of a new government in Pennsylvania, and in diplomatic forays to Canada and France. Find out what lessons the reluctant politician had learned that would help him navigate the entirely new world being created around him. x
    • 19
      Benjamin Franklin and the Age of Revolution
      The late 18th century was an age of political revolution, and an era of philosophical revolution, as Enlightenment values spread across Europe and the Americas. As you'll learn in this lecture, Franklin was the American counterpart of his friends David Hume and Voltaire, all viewing the world with reason and skepticism. x
    • 20
      Benjamin Franklin: Acclaimed in France
      In December 1776, with independence declared and the American Revolution underway, Franklin traveled to Paris as an ambassador and was met with great acclaim. Journey with him through France over the next nine years, and learn how he adapted to French politics and culture, and cultivated an image of himself as a representative of the New World. x
    • 21
      Benjamin Franklin: Making Peace
      Although Franklin enjoyed himself in France, his primary mission was one of complicated diplomacy—first, to bring France into a military alliance with the United States; second, to negotiate with other European powers to support the American cause; and finally, to negotiate a peace treaty with Great Britain. Witness his strategy for achieving these ends. x
    • 22
      Benjamin Franklin: Framing the Constitution
      When he returned to America, he hoped to spend his remaining years enjoying life as a private citizen, but public duty called once again. Although America had won its independence, many challenges—from paying debts to establishing a government—remained. Delve into the debates and trials of a new nation. x
    • 23
      Benjamin Franklin's Critics and Enemies
      In his Autobiography, Franklin wrote a blueprint for how to win friends, but as you have discovered, he was much more complicated than the persona he created. From his beginnings as a ruthless businessman to his half-century as a political player, he developed numerous critics and even enemies. x
    • 24
      Benjamin Franklin's Remarkable Legacy
      Franklin lived an extraordinary life, but what's just as extraordinary is his legacy. Why has he been remembered so fondly when so many of his contemporaries have been forgotten? In this final lecture, consider why Franklin's legacy has endured, and examine the many ways he has been remembered by posterity. x
  • Ancient Mesopotamia: Life in the Cradle of Civilization

    Professor Amanda H. Podany, Ph.D.

    Available Formats: Video Download, Audio Download, DVD, CD

    Explore Mesopotamia, a civilization that flourished for more than 3,000 years. Mesopotamians built the first complex urban societies; developed writing, literature, and law; and united vast regions through warfare and diplomacy. However, much still remains to be discovered about this fascinating place. In Ancient Mesopotamia: Life in the Cradle of Civilization, you’ll witness a whole new world opening before your eyes.

    View Lecture List (24)

    Explore Mesopotamia, a civilization that flourished for more than 3,000 years. Mesopotamians built the first complex urban societies; developed writing, literature, and law; and united vast regions through warfare and diplomacy. However, much still remains to be discovered about this fascinating place. In Ancient Mesopotamia: Life in the Cradle of Civilization, you’ll witness a whole new world opening before your eyes.

    24 Lectures  |  Ancient Mesopotamia: Life in the Cradle of Civilization
    Lecture Titles (24)
    • 1
      Uncovering Near Eastern Civilization
      Although Egypt, Greece, and Rome may be better known to the public, in fact more written evidence survives from Mesopotamia, home to many of the great powers of the ancient world. As you embark on a journey through over 3,000 years of history, you will understand the ways we uncover ancient historical knowledge, and learn why Mesopotamia’s “rediscovery” is so valuable. x
    • 2
      Natufian Villagers and Early Settlements
      The spread of any technology tends to be slow. While today we may see the enormous value of plant and animal domestication, here you will discover the surprising theories about the transition from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle to agriculture and the challenges that farming presented. Also, gain valuable perspective on the cultural sophistication of pre-agrarian peoples. x
    • 3
      Neolithic Farming, Trading, and Pottery
      Though travel was dangerous, people transported valuable goods, like obsidian for knife blades, across hundreds of miles, perhaps via chains of merchants. Plunge into everyday life in Neolithic Mesopotamia, where homes and villages reflect a simple, unstratified society, but evidence of intricate pottery shows that technology was advancing and people cared about aesthetics. x
    • 4
      Eridu and Other Towns in the Ubaid Period
      The Ubaid people constructed the earliest monumental buildings, standardized some measurements, and must have had some sort of formal leadership to care for and control their populations. See how the people of the Ubaid coordinated their efforts to develop irrigation systems, despite a lack of written language. x
    • 5
      Uruk, the World's Biggest City
      Witness the rise of urban civilization 5,500 years ago, a mere 200 generations before modern times. Discover how and why the first writing system developed and examine the earliest-known evidence of warfare. x
    • 6
      Mesopotamia's First Kings and the Military
      Why did people accept the rule of monarchs? This lecture reveals the fascinating world of the first kings, including their numerous important duties—from conducting diplomacy to levying taxes—and explores how they believed that the gods supported and chose them. x
    • 7
      Early Dynastic Workers and Worshipers
      In a period where the causes of disease and natural disasters were not widely known, gods were believed to be the cause of, and the solution to, instability in life. Learn how evidence found in tombs suggests a belief in the afterlife, and discover just how large a workforce was employed by the grand temples where the gods were believed to live. x
    • 8
      Lugalzagesi of Umma and Sargon of Akkad
      Meet King Lugalzagesi who controlled several city-states in southern Mesopotamia. His much more powerful successor, Sargon, had a mysterious origin, but was able to build an empire and expand trade over a wider region than ever before. x
    • 9
      Akkadian Empire Arts and Gods
      The Akkadian Empire was a high point for artistic achievement in Mesopotamia. Depictions of humans were believed to possess some of the life force of the people they represented. Professor Podany shows how the many gods had differing roles and powers and were as much a part of everyday life as one's family. Examine an emotional hymn by a priestess, who is the world's first-known author. x
    • 10
      The Fall of Akkad and Gudea of Lagash
      Learn some of the theories behind the fall of the Akkadian Empire. Major kings during this time run the gamut from Naram-Sin, one of the few Mesopotamian kings who claimed to be a god, to Gudea, a pious and benevolent king who may have served as a model for later leaders. x
    • 11
      Ur III Households, Accounts, and Ziggurats
      Although rulers during this period attempted to create a “cult of the kings,” local leaders, merchants, and especially households performed essential roles in society. Cuneiform records reveal a remarkable level of organization, from taxes to diplomacy. x
    • 12
      Migrants and Old Assyrian Merchants
      An influx of immigrants greatly enriched the Mesopotamian region, and we see other issues that have echoes in today's world. This was a time of frequent warfare but also of increased literacy and private enterprise. Join merchants on their 800-mile caravans as they delivered tin and textiles in exchange for silver. x
    • 13
      Royalty and Palace Intrigue at Mari
      Here you'll gain an intimate glimpse into the lives of royal families in the mid-second millennium BCE, from diplomatic marriages to extravagant gifts to family squabbles. Archival letters show us how royal women served as informants for their fathers, while sometimes dealing with abusive husbands. x
    • 14
      War and Society in Hammurabi's Time
      Meet the mighty King Hammurabi, who ruled for an incredible 43 years. You'll also discover how the family can be viewed as a microcosm for Mesopotamian society, with each member playing an important role. Delve into the daily lives of families and the laws (both official and unspoken) governing their behavior. x
    • 15
      Justice in the Old Babylonian Period
      The Babylonians had a sophisticated legal system that emphasized evidence and truthfulness. Two trials provide an insider's look into the workings of this system. Uncover what court records reveal about the types of crimes prosecuted, as well as the people's most pressing concerns regarding family and finance. x
    • 16
      The Hana Kingdom and Clues to a Dark Age
      The kingdom of Hana and an intriguing Kassite text provide clues to a mysterious dark age, which may have lasted for 100 years. Few records survive from this period, so Professor Podany illuminates historians' detective work to fill in the gaps. x
    • 17
      Princess Tadu-Hepa, Diplomacy, and Marriage
      Discover how the kingdom of Mittani maintained a peaceful relationship with Egypt through the power of diplomacy. Letters between King Tushratta and the pharaoh demonstrate the roles of envoys in transporting letters and gifts over hundreds of miles, negotiating royal marriages, and defusing arguments. x
    • 18
      Land Grants and Royal Favor in Mittani
      In a world before mass media, learn how Mittanian kings maintained visibility and control across vast distances and large populations without much need for force. Perhaps somewhat ironically, the story of a gold statue reveals the decline of Mittani's golden era. x
    • 19
      The Late Bronze Age and the End of Peace
      This dramatic installment details the end of a period of peace and stability between great powers, as a result of possible natural disasters, attacks on cities, and movements of the mysterious Sea Peoples. The era that followed was one of smaller kingdoms that left few written records. x
    • 20
      Assyria Ascending
      Learn about the grand state of Assyria with its huge palaces and iconic winged lion sculptures. The long and stable dynasty of Assyrian kings always longed to expand the boundaries of the empire, believing that their great god, Assur, had instructed them to do so. Their kings could be brutal in putting down rebellions, but they were also effective in administering the growing empire, and were even generous, like throwing a 10-day banquet for almost 70,000 people, for example. x
    • 21
      Ashurbanipal's Library and Gilgamesh
      Here, discover the intellectual King Ashurbanipal whose library is one of the first in recorded history. In it, find clay tablets recording omens from the gods, as well as the world's oldest epic poem, The Epic of Gilgamesh. x
    • 22
      Neo-Assyrian Empire, Warfare, and Collapse
      Discover how the Assyrian empire was restructured by Tiglath-Pileser III, how the Assyrians struggled to keep Babylonia within their empire, and how they even attempted to conquer Egypt. Hear of the mysterious hanging gardens that sat magically on roofs. Bear witness to the fall of the Assyrian Empire at the hands of angry enemies, including the Babylonians. x
    • 23
      Babylon and the New Year's Festival
      Hear the glory of the Babylonian creation story involving Marduk and the evil goddess Tiamat. Through ancient records, relive the 12-day Akitu religious festival that involved priests, singers, artisans, musicians, and the king. You'll also explore the ritual humiliation of the king at the heart of the festival. x
    • 24
      End of the Neo-Babylonian Empire
      Finally, arrive at the end of the independence of Mesopotamia with the conquest of the Neo-Babylonian empire by the forces of the powerful Persian king, Cyrus the Great. Witness religious changes that were taking place across the Near East. Mesopotamian culture gradually died out, but it left an incredible legacy. x
  • Thinking About Religion and Violence

    Professor Jason C. Bivins, Ph.D.

    Available Formats: Video Download, Audio Download, DVD, CD

    In Thinking about Religion and Violence, award-winning Professor Jason C. Bivins takes you on a global, 24-lecture investigation of the roots of religious violence that offers more informed ways of thinking about it. You’ll consider how faiths view concepts like human sacrifice and martyrdom; the ways religious violence can be directed toward specific races and genders; and concepts like heresy and demonology.

    View Lecture List (24)

    In Thinking about Religion and Violence, award-winning Professor Jason C. Bivins takes you on a global, 24-lecture investigation of the roots of religious violence that offers more informed ways of thinking about it. You’ll consider how faiths view concepts like human sacrifice and martyrdom; the ways religious violence can be directed toward specific races and genders; and concepts like heresy and demonology.

    24 Lectures  |  Thinking About Religion and Violence
    Lecture Titles (24)
    • 1
      Religion and Violence: A Strange Nexus
      What is the essence of religious violence? What are the historical trends that explain the relationship between religious beliefs and violence? What are some problematic ways we often frame the issue of religious violence? Begin your exploration of these and other perplexing questions about this complex subject. x
    • 2
      Defining Religion and Violence
      Get a solid introduction to different ways of recognizing and studying religion as a way to start making sense of religious violence. Central to this lecture is the idea that religion and violence exist in a fluid relationship, which can make the boundary between religious and non-religious identities fuzzy as well. x
    • 3
      Violence in Sacred Texts
      Explore the special power and authority that sacred texts have for religious practitioners, and how some people invoke these stories and images to legitimize violence. Consider several prevalent themes found in sacred texts like the Bible, the Bhagavad-Gita, and the Qur'an: vengeful deities, holy wars, and holy suffering. x
    • 4
      Martyrdom, Sacrifice, and Self-Harm
      Sacrifice is one of the most fundamental building blocks of religion. Here, examine how and why people commit self-harm and sacrifice for religious purposes. Topics include animal sacrifice during India's Vedic period, self-denial and asceticism (such as vows of celibacy), and religious suicides from ancient Rome to the modern era. x
    • 5
      Scapegoating and Demonology
      Discover how religious violence is almost always justified by portraying its targets as something other than human, or as malevolent. Professor Bivins explains how the social process of Other-ing has led religions to process and create fear through scapegoats, demons and monsters, false gods, and Antichrist figures. x
    • 6
      Understanding Witch Trials
      One of the most effective ways of demonstrating religious power is through trial and punishment. Examine the use of law and the meanings of public displays of violence as seen in historical cases of witch hunting and witch trials. Witches, it turns out, are in many ways more reviled than demons. x
    • 7
      The Apocalyptic Outlook
      For humans, the world is always about to end. Using examples like the People's Temple, the Branch Davidians, and Aum Shinrikyo, as well as 19th-century America, explore the meanings of apocalypticism as a form of human meaning-making, as well as its role in the phenomenon of religious violence. x
    • 8
      Racial Violence and Religion
      Focus here on a very specific aspect of Other-ing: the idea of different races as the objects of religious violence. First, examine how religions generate racial ideas. Then, take a closer look at two very different expressions of racial religion: white supremacist Christianity and the Nation of Islam. x
    • 9
      Religion and Violence against Women
      In this lecture, investigate the gendering of religious language and the treatment of women's bodies in religious practices like menstrual seclusion and self-sacrifice. Also, study the anxiety around women that occurred during the Salem witch trials, as well as competing interpretations of women's freedom and constraint in Islam. x
    • 10
      Sexuality, Morality, and Punishment
      How have religious traditions responded to sexuality with demonization, social constraint, and physical assault? What are some of the oldest, most outlandish forms of religious self-discipline? How has religious and political persecution worked to target specific issues related to sexuality and morality (specifically abortion and homosexuality)? x
    • 11
      Heresies and Their Suppression
      Generally speaking, heresies exist in every religious tradition. Professor Bivins explains how religious violence can consist not only of physical harm against people or groups but of legal constraints, denials of basic liberties, and misrepresentation. Examples you'll consider include Pope Gregory IX's heresy courts and the trial of Galileo. x
    • 12
      Religion and Just War Theory
      When is it permissible to go to war? Learn how Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, Christians, and Muslims have all wrestled—morally, conceptually, strategically—with questions about how to balance religious ideals with real-world conflicts, and how religions define violence in the context of war as a necessary, limited evil. x
    • 13
      Peace as a Religious Ideal
      While sacred texts contain passages on warfare and violence, they also contain maxims, stories, and images exhorting believers to peace. What are the challenges of pacifism? Examine the issue through three historical cases: Mahatma Gandhi, 20th-century American Catholic pacifism, and the Muslim scholar Sheikh al-Hajj Salim Suwari. x
    • 14
      War Gods and Holy War
      Focus on the role of war gods in human cultures and sacred texts. Then, take an extended look at the medieval Crusades, as well as Cold War religious imagery. It turns out the roots of war gods aren't as removed from our present day as we'd like to think. x
    • 15
      Religious Violence in Israel
      A big challenge in understanding interreligious conflict is figuring out the role national identity plays. See why this is the case in modern-day Israel, where conflicts between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam demonstrate the fractious experience of overlapping histories and the limits of secular power in a complex religious world. x
    • 16
      Religious Violence in India
      First, look at the historical relationship of religious ethics to public life in India. Then, consider the legacy of colonialism in contributing to the rise of interreligious violence (especially surrounding Sikhism). Last, examine the Hindu hyper-nationalism known as Hindutva and the widely-discussed phenomenon called Saffron Terror. x
    • 17
      Religion's Relationship with Slavery
      How have religions wrestled with—but also condoned—the brutal institution of slavery (especially in the United States of America)? What you’ll learn in this eye-opening lecture is that, while some of slavery’s most powerful critics have been full-throated religious practitioners, the same can be said of slavery’s defenders. x
    • 18
      Native Americans and Religious Violence
      Trace the role of violence in and around Native American traditions. How common is land displacement or outright theft? What's the relationship between competing gods and vengeful ghosts? Is the story of indigenous peoples inseparable from colonialism and imperialism, which are often motivated to eradicate indigenous faiths? x
    • 19
      Violence and "Cults"
      Study the key characteristics that make a group a “cult,” including a desire for authenticity and a new pattern of life that breaks with mainstream culture. Then, use Mormonism, China’s Falun Gong, and the Solar Temple as ways to explore why some new religions provoke violence and others practice it. x
    • 20
      Anti-Catholicism in Europe and America
      In the first of two lectures on the power of stereotypes and misrepresentation to justify religious violence, look at how church reformers in Europe and the United States of America produced a series of enduring, negative images and stereotypes of Catholics: as degenerate, orgiastic, drunken, and power-mad. x
    • 21
      The Persistence of Anti-Semitism
      Turn now to one of the more glaring and persistent traditions of anti-religious violence: anti-Semitism. Why has this form of historical suffering become an intimate component of Jewish identity? How is it portrayed in scriptural stories like Exodus, as well as modern-day moments of persecution and social marginalization? x
    • 22
      Islam, Violence, and Islamophobia
      Here, look at Islam and violence from different perspectives. Shed light on the negative stereotypes and representations common to discrimination against Muslims. Explore how Islamophobia depends on generalization and exaggeration, then consider Muslim theological sources of violence in the modern world, as well as significant examples of Islamic revolution. x
    • 23
      Religion and Terrorism
      In this lecture, do more than just focus on how to define terrorism. Instead, try and understand how and why terrorists see the world as they do—a task worth undertaking if we’re serious about understanding contemporary problems with religious violence. Your case studies here: Gush Emunim, Hezbollah, and al-Qaeda. x
    • 24
      What We Can Do About Religious Violence
      How can we change a world that produces so much religious violence? Professor Bivins starts with tools for individuals and proceeding from there through communities, nations, and international institutions. The important thing: to think concretely about religious violence rather than be numbed into fear or inaction. x
  • Tai Chi Fitness Workouts

    David-Dorian Ross, International Master Tai Chi Instructor

    Available Formats: Video Download, DVD

    Looking for a workout that is calming and never stressful, that will always leave you feeling better physically and mentally than when you started? Welcome to tai chi. The Great Courses has partnered with YMAA Publication Center to bring you Tai Chi Fitness Workouts, a series of five lessons to introduce the mental and physical benefits of this beautiful and calming moving meditation. There’s nothing to learn or memorize. Just move, breathe, and enjoy.

    View Lecture List (5)

    Looking for a workout that is calming and never stressful, that will always leave you feeling better physically and mentally than when you started? Welcome to tai chi. The Great Courses has partnered with YMAA Publication Center to bring you Tai Chi Fitness Workouts, a series of five lessons to introduce the mental and physical benefits of this beautiful and calming moving meditation. There’s nothing to learn or memorize. Just move, breathe, and enjoy.

    5 Lectures  |  Tai Chi Fitness Workouts
    Lecture Titles (5)
    • 1
      Tai Chi Ball Workout for Beginners
      This lesson introduces you to the use of weighted tai chi balls as tools to help with body alignment and strength. The lesson includes three 20-minute workouts—one with open hands, one using two palm-sized balls, and the final workout using one larger ball. Mr. Ross explains that the entire workout is about repeating the movements over and over again to get a sense of the rhythm and to fully feel each technique. With excellent instruction on how to hold, rotate, and pivot the balls as you move your entire body—as well as how to check for muscle tension—you’ll enjoy incorporating these tools into your practice and you’ll certainly feel the benefits. Movements and postures you will see include Grasping the Bird’s Tail, Needle at the Sea Bottom, and Princess on the Mountain Top, among other tai chi postures. x
    • 2
      Tai Chi Fit: Strength
      This 60-minute lesson continues the practice of flow, adding in the element of strength building. With three, 5-minute segments that include the use of weighted tai chi balls, you will feel the muscular benefit as you continue to follow your instructor and the other students. If you don't have weighted tai chi balls, you can use 2-pound dumbbells, soup cans, or water bottles. And as Mr. Ross explains, you should feel free to put the weights down at any time or not use them at all, because there's no rush and no place to go. You'll begin this lesson by opening your heart, and opening and emptying your mind. Just follow along and keep breathing. In this practice, you will see Wagging the Tail, Snake Creeps through the Grass, and Swimming Dragon, among other tai chi movements. x
    • 3
      Tai Chi Fit: Flow
      This 50-minute practice introduces you to flow, the continuity of physical movement with the connection of the mind and spirit. Everything is in continual motion together—body, mind, and spirit—and comes to rest together at the end of the practice. One of the great benefits of flow, which Mr. Ross discusses in this practice, is the movement of the body’s energy, the qi (pronounced chee). Qi is life itself, and good health is maintained when the qi is continuous and harmonious in its circulations through the body. In this practice, you will learn to experience the state of flow and open movement of qi by calmly following the movements and breathing of your instructor, letting all self-judgment gently fall from your mind. In this practice, you’ll see Sinking the Qi, Descending the Mountain, Parting the Wild Horse’s Mane, and Playing the Lute, among others. x
    • 4
      Tai Chi Fit: Over 50
      This 30-minute workout provides benefits for people of any age, but is especially helpful to those over age 50. According to Chinese medicine, qi circulation is crucial to lifelong health and longevity, but the qi starts cooling off and losing some of its fiery energy as we age. In this practice, Mr. Ross includes special exercises to increase qi circulation by moving the qi up and down the spine. In addition, he stresses the importance of allowing the breath to move the body. Inhale, and you'll naturally float up; exhale and you'll naturally sink down. In this session, you'll see Princess in the Valley, Repulsing the Monkey, Brush the Knee, Draw the Bow, and more. x
    • 5
      Tai Chi Fit: To Go
      Almost everyone has an issue with work-life balance. How can we best keep our life energy flowing when we just can't find the time we'd like for a workout? This lesson offers three different 20-minute workouts for those days when you're limited in time or space. As with the other lessons in this course, you're not asked to learn anything and there's nothing to get right or memorize. All you have to do is keep moving and breathing. Mr. Ross discusses the goal of staying in the moment, not focusing on the length of the practice or anticipating which movement might be coming up next. As you continue to practice both the physical movements and being in a tranquil state, you'll learn how to attain that state of quietude more quickly, no matter the length of your practice. Here, experience Old Monk Chops Wood, Flaring the Cape, Lazy Monk Lays His Head on the Pillow, and Single Whip, among other tai chi movements. x
  • Nuclear Physics Explained

    Professor Lawrence Weinstein, Ph.D.

    Available Formats: Video Download, DVD

    Taught by Professor Lawrence Weinstein of Old Dominion University, this course explains the science, history, hazards, applications, and latest advances in nuclear physics. You learn the principles of radioactivity, how nuclear bombs and reactors work, the uses of radiation for cancer treatment and medical imaging, what makes some forms of radiation dangerous, plus you tour a linear accelerator.

    View Lecture List (24)

    Taught by Professor Lawrence Weinstein of Old Dominion University, this course explains the science, history, hazards, applications, and latest advances in nuclear physics. You learn the principles of radioactivity, how nuclear bombs and reactors work, the uses of radiation for cancer treatment and medical imaging, what makes some forms of radiation dangerous, plus you tour a linear accelerator.

    24 Lectures  |  Nuclear Physics Explained
    Lecture Titles (24)
    • 1
      A Tour of the Nucleus and Nuclear Forces
      Take a whirlwind tour of nuclear physics, getting a glimpse of the rich array of topics and concepts you will cover in this course. Professor Weinstein explains the constituents of the nucleus; what holds the nucleus together, its role in determining atomic identity; and the nature of isotopes. He introduces two key tools: the periodic table of elements and the table of nuclides. x
    • 2
      Curve of Binding Energy: Fission and Fusion
      See how the strong and electromagnetic forces shape the nuclei of all atoms. Focus on the curve of binding energy, which explains why heavy nuclei are prone to fission, releasing energy in the process, while light nuclei release energy by fusing. Then, visit some classroom lab equipment to explore the principles that govern particle accelerators, which are used to probe the structure of nuclear matter. x
    • 3
      Alpha, Beta, and Gamma Decay
      Now turn to unstable nuclei and the process of radioactive decay. Trace three types of decay—alpha, beta, and gamma—studying the particles involved, their charge (or lack thereof) and energy ranges. Measure radioactivity with a Geiger counter, and consider what it would take to shield against each type of radiation. x
    • 4
      Radiation Sources, Natural and Unnatural
      Survey the sources of radiation in the world around us, bombarding us from the sky (cosmic rays), found in the ground (uranium and other naturally occurring radioactive elements), zapping us in medical procedures, and found in consumer goods. Look at some long-discontinued radiating products such as shoe fluoroscopy and Radithor, an ill-advised radium-laced health tonic. x
    • 5
      How Dangerous Is Radiation?
      Radiation terrifies many of us, but how scared should we be? Probe the difference between ionizing and non-ionizing radiation, focusing on what high-energy emissions do to DNA. Consider a host of radiation sources—from the innocuous, such as cell phones and power lines, to nuclear explosions and dirty bombs. Finally, learn what to do if you are ever exposed to nuclear fallout. x
    • 6
      The Liquid-Drop Model of the Nucleus
      Now open the hood to see how the nucleus works. Start simple with a hydrogen atom, which has a nucleus of one proton orbited by a single electron. Build from there, adding neutrons and more protons, forging elements and their isotopes and seeing how the nucleus behaves much like a liquid drop. Then use the Fermi gas model to refine your understanding of nuclear structure. x
    • 7
      The Quantum Nucleus and Magic Numbers
      High school chemistry introduces students to the atomic shell model, which describes the distribution of electrons around the nucleus. In this lecture, learn the analogous nuclear shell model and the magic numbers that constitute full shells of protons and neutrons within the nucleus. Also, discover how an entire nucleus can ring like a bell or spin like a top. x
    • 8
      Particle Accelerators: Schools of Scattering
      Take a behind-the-scenes tour of the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in Newport News, Virginia, where Professor Weinstein and his colleagues use high-energy electron beams to probe the structure of the nucleus. Dr. Weinstein also explains other types of particle accelerators and their purposes, including the Large Hadron Collider in Europe. x
    • 9
      Detecting Subatomic Particles
      Subatomic particles are inconceivably small and move unbelievably fast. So how are they detected? To learn the ropes, go into an instrument facility where detectors are built. Begin with the simple circuitry of a Geiger counter, invented in the 1920s, and graduate to state-of-the-art tools that are millions of times more sensitive, including scintillators and wire chambers. x
    • 10
      How to Experiment with Nuclear Collisions
      Continue your tour of Jefferson Lab by learning how scientists design an experiment, get it approved, run it, and then analyze the results. Discover why interpreting the outcome of nuclear collisions is like reconstructing car crashes. One tool relies on the shock wave produced by particles moving faster than light, which is possible in mediums other than a vacuum. x
    • 11
      Scattering Nucleons in Singles or in Pairs
      Focus on specific experiments at Jefferson Lab's largest research hall, where mammoth machines smash electrons into nuclei and measure the scattered electrons and other particles. The goal is to understand the quantum orbits in nuclear shells. Professor Weinstein shows how nuclear physicists think in designing experiments to peel away the layers of the nuclear onion. x
    • 12
      Sea Quarks, Gluons, and the Origin of Mass
      Discover the fundamental particles that make protons and neutrons tick—namely, quarks and gluons. Learn why quarks are never seen in isolation and why the mass of ordinary valence quarks (three per proton or neutron) accounts for only a tiny fraction of their mass. The answer to both riddles lies in “sea quarks,” the swarm of quark-antiquark pairs within protons and neutrons, which can be infinite in number. x
    • 13
      Nuclear Fusion in Our Sun
      Study the fusion reactions that take place inside the Sun. First, consider the formidable barrier that hydrogen nuclei must overcome to fuse into helium. Then, see how the mass and temperature of a star govern the types of reactions it can support. One product of stellar reactions is neutrinos, ghostly particles that pass through the Earth (and us) in colossal numbers. x
    • 14
      Making Elements: Big Bang to Neutron Stars
      See how hydrogen, helium, and a few other light nuclei were forged in the fiery aftermath of the Big Bang. Then, trace the formation of heavier nuclei in the interiors of stars, in supernova explosions, and in the collisions of neutron stars. Special attention is paid to the sequence of reactions and the required conditions that gave us the complete periodic table of elements. x
    • 15
      Splitting the Nucleus
      The discovery of the neutron in 1932 led to the insight that neutrons can incite certain heavy elements to fission (break apart), releasing more neutrons and a prodigious amount of energy. In this lecture, lay the groundwork for understanding nuclear weapons and nuclear power by investigating nuclei that are prone to fission, how to initiate fission, and the “daughter nuclei” that result. x
    • 16
      Nuclear Weapons Were Never "Atomic" Bombs
      Often called “atomic” bombs, the fission weapons first exploded in 1945 are in fact nuclear bombs—as are the fusion-boosted “H-bombs” developed a few years later. Study how these devices work, the difficulty of producing their reactive material, and techniques for enhancing their yield and miniaturizing warheads. Also, understand why the search for peaceful applications of nuclear weapons proved fruitless. x
    • 17
      Harnessing Nuclear Chain Reactions
      Learn the fundamentals of nuclear reactor design, which has the task of sustaining nuclear reactions at a controlled rate in order to boil water, produce steam, and drive a generator. Explore why a nuclear reactor can't explode like a bomb, and consider pluses and minuses of the most common reactor designs in use. x
    • 18
      Nuclear Accidents and Lessons Learned
      Under specific circumstances, it has been possible for a nuclear reactor to fail catastrophically. Revisit the serious nuclear accidents at Three Mile Island in the US, Chernobyl in the Soviet Union, and Fukushima in Japan, drawing lessons on the fallibility of safety features and human operators. Track the cascading sequence of failures in each accident, leading to core meltdown and radiation release. Consider the health effects, which were severe for emergency workers at Chernobyl. x
    • 19
      The Nuclear Fuel Cycle and Advanced Reactors
      Explore the current state of fission power, now in its third generation since the dawn of the nuclear age, with a fourth generation in the works. Today's nuclear plants are designed to produce power more cheaply, more safely, with less waste, and less risk of proliferation than earlier designs. Survey the latest technology, from advanced light water reactors to molten salt and thorium reactors. x
    • 20
      Nuclear Fusion: Obstacles and Achievements
      The holy grail of nuclear power is fusion, which has been tantalizingly out of reach for decades. Learn why fusion power is so desirable and so difficult to achieve. Study the different strategies for attaining a contained, self-sustaining thermonuclear reaction, focusing on the tokamak, which confines a high-temperature plasma in a powerful toroidal magnetic field. x
    • 21
      Killing Cancer with Isotopes, X-Rays, Protons
      High-energy radiation has been used against cancer tumors since the discovery of X-rays in 1895. Discover the powerful arsenal of radiation sources and procedures that radiation oncologists use today. Visit the Hampton University Proton Therapy Institute to look at a technique that targets cancer cells with remarkable precision, while sparing the surrounding tissues. x
    • 22
      Medical Imaging: CT, PET, SPECT, and MRI
      The ability of radiation to penetrate the body and chart density and metabolic activity has led to a wide range of tools for medical imaging, including mammograms, PET scans, CT scans, bone-density tests, MRI, and other technologies. Learn how these tools work; what they reveal; and when, if ever, the doses of radiation might pose a significant risk. x
    • 23
      Isotopes as Clocks and Fingerprints
      The steady rate at which unstable isotopes decay, known as their half-life, makes them ideal for dating objects. Identify the radioactive isotopes best-suited for establishing age, such as carbon-14 for organic remains from human history and uranium-238 for billion-year-old geological formations. Also, see how stable isotopes can be used for fraud detection and studying ancient climates. x
    • 24
      Viewing the World with Radiation
      Finish the course by surveying the many uses of radiation on Earth and beyond. Passive detectors identify radioactive contamination and clandestine nuclear bomb tests. Cosmic rays can be used to “X-ray” ancient buildings and learn the secrets of their construction. And, see why some scientists speculate that humans thrive on Earth thanks to an ancient bath of radiation from a supernova explosion. x
  • Sci-Phi: Science Fiction as Philosophy

    Professor David Kyle Johnson, Ph.D., University of Oklahoma

    Available Formats: Video Download, Audio Download, DVD, CD

    In Sci-Phi: Science Fiction as Philosophy, Professor of Philosophy David Kyle Johnson, of King’s College, takes you on a 24-lecture exploration of the final frontiers of philosophy across several decades of science fiction in film and television. See how science fiction allows us to consider immense, vital—and sometimes controversial—ideas with a rare combination of engagement and critical distance.

    View Lecture List (24)

    In Sci-Phi: Science Fiction as Philosophy, Professor of Philosophy David Kyle Johnson, of King’s College, takes you on a 24-lecture exploration of the final frontiers of philosophy across several decades of science fiction in film and television. See how science fiction allows us to consider immense, vital—and sometimes controversial—ideas with a rare combination of engagement and critical distance.

    24 Lectures  |  Sci-Phi: Science Fiction as Philosophy
    Lecture Titles (24)
    • 1
      Inception and the Interpretation of Art
      Begin your journey with a look at why science fiction is one of the primary ways contemporary society engages with philosophical issues. Get an overview of the kinds of sci-fi media you will explore throughout the course and explore how you will address the interpretation of art with a look at the film Inception. x
    • 2
      The Matrix and the Value of Knowledge
      Which will you choose, the red pill or the blue? Look at different ideas concerning truth, knowledge, and reality through the film The Matrix, from Plato's definition of knowledge to the theories of Jean Baudrillard. Also, grasp the important distinctions between epistemology and metaphysics. x
    • 3
      The Matrix Sequels and Human Free Will
      Though panned by critics and science fiction fans alike, upon first release, the two sequels that followed The Matrix—Reloaded and Revolutions, respectively—provide surprisingly fertile ground for philosophical investigation surrounding the existence of free will. Compare multiple theories and see whether these oft-derided films can offer any answers. x
    • 4
      The Adjustment Bureau, the Force, and Fate
      Explore the concept of individual fate through the film The Adjustment Bureau and the larger concept of universal fate in Star Wars. Along the way, take a look at the ways conspiracy theories and supernatural claims invoke “fate” to explain real-world happenings and how philosophers handle these “explanations.” x
    • 5
      Contact: Science versus Religion
      Science communicator Carl Sagan believed science and religion could be compatible. But does Contact, the film based on his novel, prove his point or undermine it? Probe the many ways humans use personal experience to justify belief and whether or not such experiences can justify belief in the face of contrary scientific evidence. x
    • 6
      Arrival: Aliens and Radical Translation
      See how the 2016 film Arrival can help you examine the three questions that arise when discussing the possibility of alien life in the universe: How likely would a visitation be? What effect on society would it have? And, particularly pertinent to the film, would we be able to communicate with them once they're here? x
    • 7
      Interstellar: Is Time Travel Possible?
      This lecture will take a look at what metaphysics has to say about the possibility of time travel, focusing primarily on the film Interstellar. Along the way, you will also look at other influential time travel stories and the various theories they represent, like Back to the Future, Quantum Leap, Star Trek, Doctor Who, and Planet of the Apes. x
    • 8
      Doctor Who and Time Travel Paradoxes
      Open with a look at a fan-favorite episode of Doctor Who and explore the nature of paradoxes in time travel. You will also see that science fiction doesn’t always have to take itself seriously to tell a great story—or to explore fascinating philosophical questions—when you turn your attention to the Futurama episode “Roswell That Ends Well.” x
    • 9
      Star Trek: TNG and Alternate Worlds
      What can quantum mechanics tell us about the likelihood of alternate worlds? Explore the multiverse theory with Lieutenant Worf in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “Parallels” and see how science could support the idea of multiple worlds, while also grappling with the seeming untestable nature of such a theory. x
    • 10
      Dark City, Dollhouse, and Personal Identity
      The nature of personal identity is tied to numerous philosophical concerns: memory, consciousness, even the possibility of an afterlife. With films like Dark City and Moon and TV shows like Dollhouse, Professor Johnson guides you through the theories of great thinkers like Descartes, Locke, Leibniz, and their intellectual descendants. x
    • 11
      Westworld and A.I. Artificial Intelligence
      Sentient machines have been a staple of sci-fi for decades. Although here you will focus on a few key stories, you will also take a look at the long history of intelligent machines in film and TV—as well as get a glimpse into our very possible future—examining the ways we conceive of the mind and the implications of artificial intelligence. Machines can calculate, but could they one day be sentient? x
    • 12
      Transcendence and the Dangers of AI
      Science fiction has always been fascinated by the possibilities of artificial intelligence, with many storytellers focusing on the dangers of sentient machines. But human predictions of the future are often inaccurate, so here you will explore arguments both for and against the creation of AI through the film Transcendence, as well as through other iconic stories. x
    • 13
      The Thirteenth Floor: Are We Simulated?
      What is the likelihood that we are living in a simulated world right now? Some philosophers, using laws of subjective probability, would say it may actually be much higher than you might think. Examine the film The Thirteenth Floor and understand how creating a convincing simulated world could alter our conception of reality itself. x
    • 14
      The Orville, Orwell, and the “Black Mirror”
      The pervasive influence of social media makes life feel more performative than ever, yet it really just demonstrates an old dilemma heightened by new technology. Here, see how the anthology show Black Mirror and the Star Trek-influenced series The Orville offer episodes that examine extreme cases of objectification and mob mentality. Also, look back on a pre-internet example in George Orwell's much-adapted Nineteen Eighty-Four. x
    • 15
      Star Wars: Good versus Evil
      The original Star Wars trilogy is not morally ambiguous, but many other entries in the franchise present complicated gray areas when it comes to good versus evil. Professor Johnson demonstrates how the 21st-century films in the series, especially Rogue One, create a more complicated view of morality—and what Nietzsche can tell us about space politics. x
    • 16
      Firefly, Blake's 7, and Political Rebellion
      Many science fiction stories revolve around scrappy, sympathetic rebels and the overthrow of oppressive government powers. Here, look at how two series—Blake’s 7 and Firefly—take similar approaches to the experience of political oppression and individual defiance. Consider the implications of dissent within society and contemplate the perpetual dilemma of balancing freedom and social order. x
    • 17
      Starship Troopers, Doctor Who, and Just War
      From the overt (though satirical) militarism of Starship Troopers to the pacifism of the Doctor, examine how societies view war and the ways we are (or are not) able to justify it. As you compare and contrast two very different ways of confronting violence, you will also look at the middle ground via Just War Theory and ponder the difficulties of preserving life while sometimes having to cause harm. x
    • 18
      The Prime Directive and Postcolonialism
      What can science fiction tell us about the dangers of colonialism and moral relativism? Take a look at the Prime Directive—the rules that are supposed to prevent interference in other cultures—and the ethical ramifications of imposing one society’s values on another, as you plunge into several episodes from different iterations of Star Trek, including the classic series of the 1960s, The Next Generation, and Enterprise. x
    • 19
      Capitalism in Metropolis, Elysium, and Panem
      Capitalism is an economic philosophy as much as it is a practical system and, while it has many benefits, the capitalist system also has its share of pitfalls and ethical quandaries. Looking at the dystopian visions of the sci-fi films Metropolis, Elysium, and The Hunger Games, you will dive into the issue of balance and understand why an unregulated free market is a recipe for inequality. x
    • 20
      Snowpiercer and Climate Change
      Open this lecture with a look at how and why we get scientific information from experts (or don't) and why what we should conclude about climate change is as much of a philosophical issue as it is a scientific one. Then, through the film Snowpiercer, take a look at how a lukewarm approach to pressing issues can create narratives of false security and cast doubt on real dangers that will have consequences for the fate of humanity. x
    • 21
      Soylent Green: Overpopulation and Euthanasia
      When is it acceptable to end your own life? With the rising threat of overpopulation on Earth in the future, see what the 1970s film Soylent Green offers as a solution to dwindling space and resources. Also, consider other ways societies, in both science fiction and the real world, tackle the moral issues of euthanasia (both self-chosen and coerced) and population control. x
    • 22
      Gattaca and the Ethics of Reproduction
      Dive into the ethical questions of “designer babies,” genetic manipulation, and human evolution at the heart of the movie Gattaca, a film which NASA once considered one of the most plausible sci-fi films ever made. Then, turn your attention to a similar issue as you explore the philosophical and scientific ins and outs of cloning, via the Canadian TV show Orphan Black. x
    • 23
      The Handmaid's Tale: Feminism and Religion
      The television adaptation of Margaret Atwood's novel The Handmaid's Tale offers a grim vision of a future in which religious fanaticism reshapes the United States into a misogynist totalitarian state. Professor Johnson provides a brief overview of the meaning(s) and different stages of feminism in the 20th century and examines what the disenfranchisement of women says about the uses and abuses of power. x
    • 24
      Kubrick’s 2001 and Nietzsche’s Übermensch
      Analyze one of the most famous—and possibly weirdest—sci-fi films of all time: 2001: A Space Odyssey. Consider the imagery and ideas of Kubrick’s vision and determine whether, as some suggest, it reflects the concept of Friedrich Nietzsche’s Übermensch. Close with a brief glimpse of the science fiction worlds still waiting for you to explore them. x