Death, Dying, and the Afterlife: Lessons from World Cultures [TTC Video]

Death, Dying, and the Afterlife: Lessons from World Cultures [TTC Video]
Death, Dying, and the Afterlife: Lessons from World Cultures [TTC Video] by Mark Berkson
Course No 6822 | M4V, AVC, 854x480 | AAC, 160 kbps, 2 Ch | 24x30 mins | + PDF Guidebook | 2.29GB

It’s a universal truth: Everyone—including you—will eventually die. Other forms of life on our planet will also die, but we might be the only living creatures who cannot help but contemplate our own mortality. After thousands of years of pondering it, we still find death one of life’s most perplexing mysteries—yet it doesn’t have to be the most frightening.

Death serves as the horizon against which our lives unfold and shapes the choices we make about how to live. In fact, the knowledge of mortality has inspired much of human activity—religion, philosophy, music and visual arts, even scientific endeavors and monumental architecture have all been driven by our understanding of death. Whether viewed as a transition to paradise or punishment, an ultimate separation or ecstatic joining, the end of existence or the beginning of a new way of being, many cultures have learned to see death as a window into the true meaning of life. The subject, therefore, deserves our close consideration.

Death, Dying, and the Afterlife: Lessons from World Cultures is an uplifting, meaningful, and multidisciplinary exploration of life’s only certainty. While we’re predisposed to look on death with fear and sadness, it’s only by confronting and exploring death head-on that we can actually embrace the important role it plays in our lives. Death, it turns out, is a powerful teacher, one that can help us

  • think responsibly and deeply about the meaning and value of life;
  • connect with the beliefs and traditions of cultures and faiths different from our own;
  • gain the wisdom and guidance to live a richer, more fulfilling life while we have it.

As religion scholar and award-winning Professor Mark Berkson of Hamline University says, “Reflecting on death and dying is an essential part of the examined life.” Take a wide-ranging look at this undeniably confounding and fascinating subject. Bringing together theology, philosophy, biology, anthropology, literature, psychology, sociology, and other fields, these 24 lectures are a brilliant compendium of how human beings have struggled to come to terms with mortality. You’ll encounter everything from ancient burial practices, traditional views of the afterlife, and the five stages of grief to the question of killing during wartime, the phenomenon of near-death experiences, and even 21st-century theories about transcending death itself. Prepare for a remarkable learning experience that brings you face-to-face with the most important topic mortals like us can consider.

Get Answers to Profound Questions about Death

“Thinking about death is not simply the price we have to pay for a fuller, more honest understanding of our lives,” says Professor Berkson. “Reflecting on death can have a remarkably positive effect on one’s life.”

With personal and cultural enlightenment as the overarching goal, his lectures provide you with comprehensive, eye-opening answers to several major questions surrounding the topic of death.

  • How do we think and feel about death? Several lectures are devoted to the ways we conceptualize and form attitudes about death—as good, as bad, or as nothing at all. Topics you’ll explore include common symbols of death, different medical and spiritual definitions of death, the phenomenon of death denial, and the rationality of fearing our eventual death.
  • How do we experience death? Emphasizing the fields of sociology, anthropology, and psychology, you’ll get an in-depth look at how human beings from a cross-section of cultures and traditions experience death—both their own and that of loved ones. How do different people cope with grief in different ways? What are the backstories behind various burial rituals? What does it mean to die well?
  • How do religions approach death and what comes after? A major part of this course is devoted to comparing and contrasting Jewish, Christian, Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist, Daoist, and Confucian attitudes toward death. You’ll learn how these great world faiths explain the existence of death, their beliefs regarding what happens to us after we die (including various manifestations of paradise and hell), their rituals for handling corpses, and much more.
  • When (if ever) is it justified to take a life? You’ll also get an opportunity to plunge into the fierce debates over the deliberate taking of a human life, whether through suicide, euthanasia, or warfare. In all cases, Professor Berkson presents both sides of the argument, giving you the cultural background and information you need to better understand others’ opinions and beliefs, and to better support—or revise—your own.
  • How important is death to our understanding of our humanity? Spend time focusing on what natural science has revealed about death and the process of dying—and the possibility of somehow transcending or avoiding death entirely. Also, probe historical efforts to extend human life, and ponder the ethical and social dilemmas of immortality.

Professor Berkson is a gentle but persistently curious guide, leading you through these topics with wonder, reverence, and occasionally even humor.

Join Great Thinkers in Pondering the Problem of Death

Throughout Death, Dying and the Afterlife: Lessons from World Cultures, you’ll hear a chorus of voices from multiple disciplines, cultures, and time periods as they offer their unique, sometimes shocking, and sometimes refreshing perspectives on the problem of death. These voices range from noted poets and celebrated scientists to philosophers (both ancient and modern) and spiritual leaders, including:

  • the Buddha, who, in an effort to help people find freedom from suffering, taught that if we don’t have a distinct self to begin with, death really takes nothing from us
  • St. Paul, whose writings in the New Testament about the defeat of death through Jesus Christ (“O death, where is thy sting?”) have gone on to inspire billions of Christians around the world
  • Epicurus, the ancient Greek philosopher who believed that because death deprives us of sense experience (and all good and bad consists of experience), it can’t be bad for us at all
  • Albert Camus, the popular Existentialist writer who questioned whether or not suicide was the appropriate response to the hopeless absurdity of life
  • Elizabeth Kübler-Ross, whose groundbreaking book On Death and Dying (1969) introduced readers to the now-classic five stages of the grieving process
  • Dylan Thomas, whose oft-recited poem, “Do not go gentle into that good night,” is a rousing cry of defiance, urging the reader to fight back against death as long as possible

Some of these voices and viewpoints will console you; others may trouble you. But all of them will add intriguing layers to your understanding of what death and dying have meant to so many people who came before you.

Lectures That Will Magnify Your Life

A master scholar and multi-award-winning teacher, Professor Berkson is a wonderful instructor who treats the subject of death in great detail—while respecting the importance of numerous beliefs and ways of thinking about the topic. He’s as adept at talking about Puritan burial rites in colonial America as he is breaking down the ethical complexities of taking a life to alleviate suffering. He’s a teacher who’s not only an expert in such heady subject matter but also someone constantly in awe at just how powerful death has been across cultures and throughout time.

Death, Dying, and the Afterlife: Lessons from World Cultures acts as a memento mori (a reminder of death common to medieval art): something used not for the sake of morbidity but as a spur for people to perfect themselves while still alive.

“Many religious traditions teach that a form of regular death reflection can deepen one’s appreciation for life,” Professor Berkson notes. “And in some traditions, it can actually lead to spiritual transformation or awakening. As the poet Rainer Maria Rilke wrote, “Whoever rightly understands and celebrates death at the same time magnifies life.”

Death, Dying, and the Afterlife: Lessons from World Cultures [TTC Video]

Dark Matter, Dark Energy: The Dark Side of the Universe [TTC Video]

Dark Matter, Dark Energy: The Dark Side of the Universe [TTC Video]
Dark Matter, Dark Energy: The Dark Side of the Universe [TTC Video] by Sean Carroll
Course No 1272 | AVI, XviD, 512x384 | MP3, 128 kbps, 2 Ch | 24x30 mins | 4.3GB

There's more to the universe than meets the eye—a lot more. In recent years, scientists have discovered that 95% of the contents of the cosmos are invisible to our current methods of direct detection. Yet something is holding galaxies and galaxy clusters together, and something else is causing space to fly apart.

Scientists call these invisible components dark matter and dark energy; "dark" because these phenomena do not emit light, not because we are not learning more and more about them. In fact, dark matter and dark energy are the most eagerly studied subjects in astronomy and particle physics today.

If and when we discover this matter, it will further validate the "standard model" of physics which, so far, is the best description of how our universe works; if we cannot find this matter, or if it does not exist, then we will completely need to rethink the current "standard model" theory.

Join the exciting search for these mysterious phenomena in Dark Matter, Dark Energy: The Dark Side of the Universe, a mind-expanding, 24-lecture course taught by Dr. Sean Carroll, a theoretical physicist with a profound knowledge of the field. Starting with the early 20th-century work of Albert Einstein in theoretical physics and Edwin Hubble in observational astronomy, Dr. Carroll takes you through the key concepts of this revolutionary view of an expanding universe, concepts which have brought us—for the first time in history—to the brink of knowing what the universe is made of.

Welcome to the Dark Side

Everything you see with your eyes and with powerful instruments—stars, planets, galaxies, dust, and gas—and everything that you think of as atom-based matter is only 5% of what we now know exists. The rest is what Dr. Carroll calls the "dark sector," which consists of the following:

  • Dark matter: First proposed in the 1930s, the idea that there is missing mass influencing the behavior of galaxies began to look more and more likely from the 1970s on. We know that it is matter because we can detect its gravitational influence on visible matter, but we cannot see it. An inventory of the distribution of dark matter throughout space shows that it constitutes 25% of the energy density of the universe.
  • Dark energy: The greatest discoveries are the unexpected ones, which was the case in the late 1990s when two teams of astronomers competing to measure the rate at which the expansion of the universe is slowing down (as virtually everyone thought it must be) discovered that it is speeding up instead. A previously unknown, all-pervasive dark energy must be at work, representing 70% of the energy density of the universe.

Together, dark matter and dark energy account for all but a tiny fraction of everything there is; the ordinary matter that is left over is like the seasoning on the main dish. The story of how we arrived at this startling cosmic recipe is an absorbing drama that takes you through the breakthrough discoveries in astronomy and physics since the turn of the 20th century.

Concept by concept, Dark Matter, Dark Energy gives you the tools to appreciate this subject in depth. Dr. Carroll explains why scientists believe we live in a smooth, expanding universe that originated in a hot, dense state called the big bang.

You investigate the features of the infant universe that led to the large-scale structure we observe today, explore the standard model of particle physics and see how it provides the framework for understanding the interaction of all matter and radiation, and come to understand why dark matter and dark energy are logical consequences of a range of scientific theories and observations and how together they complete a grand picture of the universe.

Deduce the Existence of the Dark Sector

Several significant clues disclose the existence of dark matter and dark energy. In the case of dark matter, we have the evidence of:

  • Galaxy dynamics: The motions of the stars in galaxies and galaxies within clusters indicate that there is far more matter than is implied by visible stars and gas.
  • Echoes of the big bang: Variations in the leftover radiation from the big bang demonstrate that there must be dark matter pulling the ordinary matter we see.

Dark matter is clear to see compared to dark energy, which reveals itself subtly but unmistakably through:

  • Exploding stars: Type Ia supernovae provide a standard candle to measure the distances to faraway galaxies. By combining this information with redshift (which measures how fast a galaxy recedes), astronomers conclude that something is causing galaxies to recede at a faster and faster velocity.
  • Geometry of space: Observations that space is "flat" (with neither positive nor negative curvature) imply a total energy density for the universe that is stunningly consistent with the dark energy hypothesis.

Each of these techniques deduces the existence of dark matter or dark energy from the gravitational fields they cause. But what if our theory of gravity is faulty? Could adjustments to Einstein's general theory of relativity, which forms our modern understanding of gravity, do away with the need for the dark sector?

You explore a theory called Modified Newtonian Dynamics, which successfully dispenses with dark matter in individual galaxies. This theory fails, however, when applied to clusters and has nothing to say about the expansion of the universe.

"It is impossible, in principle, to think of a theory in this day and age that will completely do away with dark matter," says Dr. Carroll, pointing in particular to a convincing piece of evidence from the aftermath of the collision of two galaxies.

Known as the Bullet Cluster, it shows a central region of ordinary matter (evident through telltale x-ray emissions), on either side of which are far more extensive clouds of what can only be dark matter, disclosed by gravitational lensing.

Explaining away dark energy is similarly difficult, because it requires revising the fundamental equation of general relativity. "The problem is that this equation of Einstein's is actually quite remarkable," says Dr. Carroll. "If you try to mess with it just a little bit, you break it."

The overriding question remains: What are dark matter and dark energy? We do not yet know for certain, but physicists have come up with an array of creative ideas and ways to test them. Dark Matter, Dark Energy covers the most promising proposals and looks ahead to experiments that will dramatically improve our understanding of the dark sector.

Take a Voyage of Scientific Discovery

Dr. Carroll has a knack for explaining the latest complex picture of the universe in easy-to-follow terms—a skill honed by his more than 250 scientific seminars, colloquia, educational discussions, and popular talks. Relaxed, eloquent, wryly funny, and brimming with ideas, he has received the Graduate Student Council Teaching Award from MIT for his course on general relativity, as well as research grants from NASA, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the National Science Foundation.

With his expert guidance, your previously held ideas about the fate (and possibly the origin) of the universe will be altered permanently. A rich voyage of scientific discovery, Dark Matter, Dark Energy provides you with a comprehensive look at these two mysterious phenomena—and their startling implications for our understanding of the universe.

Dark Matter, Dark Energy: The Dark Side of the Universe [TTC Video]

The Rise of Humans: Great Scientific Debates [TTC Video]

The Rise of Humans: Great Scientific Debates [TTC Video]
The Rise of Humans: Great Scientific Debates [TTC Video] by John Hawks
Course No 1612 | AVI, XviD, 640x480 | MP3, 128 kbps, 2 Ch | 24x30 | + PDF Guidebook | 8.27GB

Trying to understand our human origins has always been a fundamental part of who we are. One of the core things we want to know is how we came to be. Thousands of years ago, human civilizations developed elaborate stories to explain the origins of humans. But today, with the help of dramatic archaeological discoveries and groundbreaking advancements in technology and scientific understanding, we are closer than ever before to learning the true story. In recent decades, paleoanthropology has exploded, bringing us closer than ever before to making sense of this controversial subject and providing us with a richer understanding of our origins. It's also sparked continued debate among the greatest minds in the field and prompted anthropologists to revise, update, and even, in some cases, overturn ideas and theories about key issues in human evolution.

  • Was Australopithecus afarensis really our earliest ancestor?
  • Did early humans evolve in Africa alone, or in regions throughout the world?
  • Do Neandertals play an important role in our genetic heritage and, if so, how?
  • Why did prehistoric humans form cooperative communities and create art?

Complete your understanding of the most up-to-date science behind our origins with The Rise of Humans: Great Scientific Debates. Delivered by expert paleoanthropologist and professor John Hawks of the University of Wisconsin–Madison, these 24 lectures bring you to the forefront of scientific arguments and questions that will become more important in the coming years. Surveying both the questions that continue to rile the world's greatest minds in anthropology and the cutting-edge science responsible for them, this course is an expert guide to the wide-ranging debates over the most essential questions we can ask. Meticulously crafted and packed with insights, this rewarding and sometimes even provocative course is a fascinating investigation of the branches, trunk, and roots of the greatest family tree there is.

Profound Answers to Questions about Your Origins

Each lecture of The Rise of Humans focuses on a single profound question about human origins and the sometimes surprising, sometimes fierce, and always illuminating debates surrounding them. You'll learn how paleoanthropologists have used everything from the tiniest fossil remains (such as teeth and fragments of jawbones) and stone tools to DNA sequencing and genetic mapping in an effort to definitively determine how we got to be the way we are today.

Here are just four of the many exciting debates Professor Hawks describes in this masterful course.

  • Was Africa or Asia more central to human origins? Charles Darwin believed that Africa was the most likely place for humans to have originated because of our relationship to African apes. Other scientists, such as Ernst Haeckel, argued that Southeast Asia was the most likely site of human origins because geography would have differentiated us from African apes. While it's now clear that early hominins were all found in Africa, debate continues over whether our genus Homo might have involved a time of evolution in Asia.
  • What did prehistoric cultural groups look like? Early archaeologists systematized the stone tool traditions in prehistory by recognizing types of artifacts that might be found in one tradition and not others. The debate over two different perspectives on differences in stone tools—that they reflect different traditions or that they reflect the tasks a single group of prehistoric people performed—has deepened our understanding of rich archaeological sites.
  • How long ago did humans reach the New World? Scrutiny over archaeological discoveries in the United States led to the "Clovis first" hypothesis, which held that the first humans to enter the New World came over ice sheets that once covered northern North America about 12,000 years ago. Yet during the 1990s, geneticists began to contribute to the debate, tracing the origins of today's American Indians to a small population that left Asia sometime closer to 15,000 years ago.
  • How important was symbolic representation to modern humans? Prehistoric art found in caves throughout France and Spain show a growing interest among our ancestors for artistically representing the world. Anthropologists still debate the importance of this kind of representation to our evolution; some argue that prehistoric art is fundamental to our cultural abilities, while others posit that it's merely a side effect of human intelligence.

Reunite with Some of Your Earliest Ancestors

With these lectures, you'll travel across time and around the world, from Ethiopia and Tanzania to Pakistan and Java to Sumatra and North America. You'll peer over the shoulders of archaeologists as they unearth fossils, tools, and other artifacts from the earth and reconstruct the bodies and lives of our earliest ancestors. You'll follow geneticists as they use mitochondrial DNA to draw startling connections between prehistoric human populations from around the world. And you'll encounter some of our most intriguing distant relatives.

  • Australopithecus afarensis: In the 1970s, paleoanthropologist Mary Leakey uncovered evidence for the earliest known hominin in Tanzania, at a site that preserved not only the jaws and teeth of this prehistoric species but also fossil footprints showing its adaptation to upright walking. Paleoanthropologists still argue over whether better evidence for the ancestry of Homo will come from A. afarensis or some earlier, as-yet-unknown species.
  • Homo habilis: A series of skulls dating back to around 2 million years, with larger brains than other species, was described by paleoanthropologist Philip Tobias as the earliest members of our genus Homo. With a body like Australopithecus and a meat-based diet, H. habilis could be part of our genus; although with some evidence of Homo erectus dating back to the same age as these fossils, it could be a totally different kind of hominin.
  • Homo floresiensis: A recent burning debate in paleoanthropology is over the identity of Homo floresiensis. A fossil skull found on the island of Flores suggests an extremely small-bodied population with individuals about three to four feet tall. Found together with indigenous animals such as pygmy mastodons and giant storks, these "hobbits" could represent a unique population of humans isolated from the rest of humanity.
  • Neandertals: Neandertals were the earliest fossil humans to have been found and, at the time of their discovery, there was debate over whether they were our ancestors or part of a much less specialized population. We now understand that humans and Neandertals trace a common ancestry to sometime before 250,000 years ago and that the early population of Europe may reflect the emerging Neandertal population. In fact, people of European descent can have up to 4% of Neandertal genes in their DNA.

Your Guide to Human Evolutionary History

What makes The Rise of Humans so unique is the approach Professor Hawks brings toward explaining the field's hottest debates. One of the first paleoanthropologists to study fossil evidence and genetic information together in order to test hypotheses about human prehistory, Professor Hawks is adept at looking at human origins not just with one lens, but with two.

He has traveled around the world to examine delicate skeletal remains and pore over the complex results of genetic testing. His research and scholarship on human evolutionary history has been featured in a variety of publications, including Science, American Journal of Physical Anthropology, Slate, and Journal of Human Evolution.

But more than that, Professor Hawks has crafted a course that demonstrates the passion and excitement involved in the field of paleoanthropology. With his engaging lecturing style and his use of fossil finds taken from his personal collection, Professor Hawks will capture your attention and show you all the drama and excitement to be found in eavesdropping on the latest debates about human evolutionary history.

So join him for this engrossing and eye-opening learning experience—one that will bring you to the cusp of our 21st-century knowledge about the origin of humans, that will fill in critical gaps in your understanding of where we come from, and that will better prepare you for the great discoveries and fresh debates of tomorrow.

The Rise of Humans: Great Scientific Debates [TTC Video]

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