Introduction to Judaism [TTC Video]

Introduction to Judaism [TTC Video]
Introduction to Judaism [TTC Video] by Shai Cherry
Course No 6423 | AVI, XviD, 640x480 | MP3, 128 kbps, 2 Ch | 24x30 mins | + PDF Guidebook | 4.36GB

What could be simpler than a single people worshiping a single God for more than 3,000 years? But Judaism is far from simple, and as a religion, culture, and civilization, it has evolved in surprising ways during its lengthy and remarkable history. Consider the following:

  • Although Judaism is defined by its worship of one God, it was not always a pure monotheism. In I Kings 8, King Solomon addresses the Lord by saying, "There is no God like You," suggesting that the Israelites recognized the existence of other gods.
  • The practice of Judaism was focused on animal sacrifice until the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans in the 1st century, which forced a radically new approach to worship.
  • The political emancipation of the Jews in 18th-century Europe transformed a 1,000-year-old style of Jewish life. "You can’t find an expression of Judaism today that is just like [the way] Jews lived 300 years ago," says Professor Shai Cherry.
  • Yet for all it has changed, Judaism has maintained unbroken ties to a foundation text, an ethnicity, a set of rituals and holidays, and a land.

A Journey of Religious Discovery

In these 24 lectures, Professor Cherry explores the rich religious heritage of Judaism from biblical times to today.

He introduces you to the written Torah, and you learn about the oral Torah, called the Mishnah (which was also later written down), and its commentary, the Gemara. And you discover how the Mishnah and Gemara comprise the Talmud, and how they differ from another form of commentary called Midrash.

He teaches you about the three pillars of the world defined more than 2,000 years ago by Shimon the Righteous: Torah, worship, and deeds of loving kindness.

He takes you through the calendar of Jewish holidays, from the most important, the Sabbath, to the key holidays of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Passover, and Pentecost (Shavuot); and to historically minor celebrations such as Channukah, which is now a more visible holiday.

You also learn about the origins and attributes of the different Jewish movements that formed in the wake of Emancipation in the late 1700s and the resulting full emergence of Judaism into Western society. These include the Reform, Conservative, Modern Orthodox, and Reconstructionist movements.

"Although Jewish history is not one long tale of travails," says Professor Cherry, "there have been several catastrophes that powerfully shaped the Jewish consciousness." He includes discussions of the impact on Jewish thought of the Babylonian exile and the destruction of the Second Temple in antiquity, and the Holocaust in the 20th century.

"We will see that for every topic that we cover we have a multiplicity of responses and a multiplicity of answers," says Professor Cherry, noting that this course could just as easily be called "An Introduction to Judaisms."

What’s in a Name?

Judaism’s sacred text is the Bible, also called the TaNaKH, the Torah, the Hebrew Bible, and, by Christians, the Old Testament. As Professor Cherry points out, these terms have different implications:

  • TaNaKH: This is the Hebrew acronym for the three sections of the Bible—the Torah (the first five books, known as the Pentateuch), Nevi’im (Prophets), and Ketuvim (Writings).
  • Torah: The word torah means "a teaching," and it can refer to the Pentateuch, the entire TaNaKH, or even the whole corpus of Jewish thought.
  • Hebrew Bible: This is a religiously neutral term used by scholars for the TaNaKH. Professor Cherry notes that his expertise is in the TaNaKH, not the Hebrew Bible, since he approaches the text from the Jewish interpretive tradition.
  • Old Testament: Christians refer to the TaNaKH as the Old Testament, since in their eyes it has been superseded by the New Testament. For Catholics, the Old Testament has a number of books that are not included in the TaNaKH.

Interpreting the Scriptures

Jews and Christians not only have different names for the Bible, they understand it very differently. For example, Christianity takes an episode that is relatively minor in Jewish tradition—the temptation of Adam and Eve—and extracts from it the doctrine of original sin.

Similarly, early rabbis took the repeated phrase, "And there was evening and there was morning," in the enumeration of the six days of creation and concluded that the day begins in the evening, which is why Jews start the celebration of their holidays at sundown.

As a case study in interpretation, Professor Cherry delves deeply into the prohibition against seething (boiling) a kid in its mother’s milk, mentioned in Exodus and Deuteronomy, which led to the kosher practice of strict separation of meat and milk products. Recently, a scholar pointed out that the original Hebrew could be interpreted to mean fat instead of milk.

A prohibition against seething a kid in its mother’s fat makes more sense, because it is another way of saying that the mother and offspring should not be slaughtered on the same day, in accord with the biblical injunction against killing two generations of the same species on the same day.

But the rabbis had very good reasons to read the passage as they did, says Professor Cherry, who shows the theological logic that has resulted in the dietary separation of meat and milk, a practice observed by traditional Jews today.

Unlocking Mysteries of Jewish Thought and Ritual

"Let’s unpack this," Professor Cherry says often during these lectures, as he takes a concept, a biblical passage, or an episode from history and explores its meaning in Jewish thought and ritual.

In doing so, he is following the footsteps of the acknowledged master of this form of analysis, the medieval Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides, who figures prominently throughout the course and is treated in depth in Lecture 14.

There, Professor Cherry focuses on Maimonides’s Guide of the Perplexed and its discussion of creation, prayer, and the reasons for the commandments. Maimonides is filled with insights into how Judaism evolved as it did, noting, for example, that the practice of ritual animal sacrifice in early Judaism was God’s way of taking a pagan rite that the Israelites had learned from the Egyptians and redirecting it.

In a subsequent lecture, Professor Cherry shows how Maimonides’s success at putting Judaism on a logical footing set the stage for a reaction that produced the Jewish mystical system called the Kabbalah.

Professor Cherry unlocks other mysteries, such as why the first day of the seventh month (Tishrei) is the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah). It seems likely, he says, that "this was the time of the Babylonian New Year. So when the Jews were exiled to Babylonia, they saw that the Babylonians celebrated their New Year on that day, and said, ‘We’ve got some sacred occasion where we blow the trumpets, so let’s make that our New Year, too.’"

He also explores different concepts of the Messiah, profiling two controversial candidates. The first is Shabbatai Tzvi, who was proclaimed Messiah by followers in 1665, and whose travels across Eastern Europe eventually landed him in Turkey, where he converted to Islam to avoid execution by the authorities.

The other candidate is Rebbe Menachem Mendel Scheersohn, a charismatic leader of the Lubavitch Chassidim in Brooklyn, who died in 1994. Rebbe Scheersohn’s widely touted messianic credentials created intense debate and division in the Ultra-Orthodox community.

From the Decalogue to Fiddler on the Roof

From the first lecture on the Torah to the last on the Jews as the Chosen People, this course is packed with fascinating information, including:

  • Jews use the term Decalogue, instead of Ten Commandments because there are actually more than 10 commandments in the Decalogue. For instance, "On six days you shall work and the seventh day shall be a Sabbath to you." Usually that counts as one: that you should have a Sabbath on the seventh day. But there is also, "On six days you shall work."
  • The prophets in the biblical period served the same function as today’s free press. They tell the king what he doesn’t want to hear.
  • When people die in the TaNaKH, everyone goes to the same place, Sheol—a shadowy underworld that is neither heaven nor hell.
  • After crushing the Bar Kochvah revolt of the Jews in the 2nd century, the Romans changed the name of the land of Israel and Judaea to echo the Israelites’ ancient enemies, the Philistines. This is how the region came to be called Palestine.
  • Today, the designation "Temple" on a Jewish house of worship is usually a sign that it is a Reform congregation because Reform Jews no longer look toward the dream of rebuilding the Jerusalem Temple.
  • Orthodox Judaism is just as much a product of modernity as is Reform because several varieties of Orthodoxy emerged in the 19th century as a response to Emancipation, the Enlightenment, and the founding of the Reform movement.

In addition, Professor Cherry devotes several lectures to complex issues such as the problem of evil and suffering, the Zionist movement, the place of women in the Jewish world, and how Judaism understands Christianity.

Throughout, Professor Cherry is articulate, engaging, and passionate, with a gift for making a point by means of a memorable cultural reference. He calls attention to an echo of Jewish mystic Rav Kook in a Joni Mitchell song; to the Kabbalistic nature of "the force" and "the dark side" in George Lucas’s Star Wars; and to the Sabbath lesson given by Gene Wilder as an Old West rabbi in The Frisco Kid, when he dutifully dismounts his horse at sundown, risking capture by bandits.

Professor Cherry notes that when he teaches introductory Judaism at Vanderbilt University, he asks his students to see two films: Fiddler on the Roof, for its picture of the breakdown of tradition as Jews confront modernity; and Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors, for its treatment of secular Jews grappling with contemporary issues of faith and ethics. Both films repay viewing in light of the lessons you’ll learn in this course.

In his final lecture, Professor Cherry sums up: "The Judaisms we’ve examined in this course reflect the ongoing struggles of the Jewish people from their ancient life as a sovereign nation, to the travails of exile, to the opportunities of acculturation in modernity, and finally to the re-establishment of the state of Israel. Hearing God’s words anew—receiving Torah every day—has meant reinterpreting the tradition, creatively rereading the words of the past, whether they relate to core ideas like the notion of evil and the notion of the Chosen People, or mitzvot such as the prohibition of idolatry, or the laws of marriage and divorce. Even the basis for reinterpreting the tradition, the claim that God’s words do not cease, is itself a rereading of Torah."

Introduction to Judaism [TTC Video]

Understanding the Brain [TTC Video]

Understanding the Brain [TTC Video]
Understanding the Brain [TTC Video] by Jeanette Norden
Course No 1580 | AVI, XviD, 496x368 | MP3, 56 kbps, 2 Ch | 36x30 mins | 7.02GB

Everything that goes on inside your body and every interaction you have with the outside world is controlled by your brain. It allows you to cope masterfully with your everyday environment. It is capable of producing breathtaking athletic feats, sublime works of art, and profound scientific insights. It also produces the enormous range of emotional responses that can take us from the depths of depression to the heights of euphoria.

Considering everything the brain does, how can this relatively small mass of tissue possibly be the source of our personalities, dreams, thoughts, sensations, utterances, and movements?

Understanding the Brain, a 36-lecture course by award-winning Professor Jeanette Norden of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, takes you inside this astonishingly complex organ and shows you how it works, from the gross level of its organization to the molecular level of how cells in the brain communicate. With its combination of neurology, biology, and psychology, this course will help you understand how we perceive the world through our senses, how we move, how we learn and remember, and how emotions affect our thoughts and actions.

Solving the Mystery of the Brain

The ancient Egyptians discarded the brain during mummification while carefully preserving other organs; to them, the brain was of no importance. Starting with the Greek physician Hippocrates, however, observers began tracing more and more of our sensory, nervous, and intellectual activities to the brain—and eventually to specific regions of the brain.

The brain is still a mystery in many respects—for example, we still are unsure as to how consciousness is generated—but recent decades have seen unparalleled advances in understanding how the brain does what it does. In the last 50 years, an explosion of knowledge about the brain's structure and function has occurred. Scientists have performed amazing research by using tools such as MRIs and PET scanning to get a better grasp on deciphering the mysteries of how this important organ works.

Due to these technological advances, we can now pinpoint:

  • where light that enters the eye is converted into the subjective experience of sight
  • where pressure waves that reach the ear are processed into sound
  • where fear is generated
  • which areas of the brain are involved in spoken and written language
  • where the deep chemistry of love is kindled

What You Will Learn

Understanding the Brain provides you with an in-depth view of the inner workings of your brain. Your tour starts with the organization of the central nervous system at the gross, cellular, and molecular levels, then investigates in detail how the brain accomplishes a host of tasks—from seeing and sleeping to performing music and constructing a personal identity.

  • The Structure of the Brain: Lectures 1–11 cover the cellular structure and the overall layout of this intricate organ. You learn how the brain develops during gestation, and are introduced to the technical vocabulary that you will use throughout the course.
  • Brain and Mind: Lectures 12–19 explore how the brain and mind are thought to be related by examining the sensory functions of sight, hearing, and bodily sensation. You analyze the motor system, which governs how movement is initiated and coordinated, and explore Parkinson's disease and its progressive impairment of movement.
  • Higher-Order Cognitive Functions: Lectures 20–29 discuss the areas of the brain thought to be responsible for language, emotion, executive function, and cognition—abilities that, in large part, define us as humans. You look at the underlying neurological mechanisms and explore their role in various phenomena like depression, musical ability and appreciation, and drug use.
  • Special Topics: Lectures 30–36 look at several subjects of universal interest. Are the brains of males and females different? How does the brain regulate sleep and dreaming? What is consciousness? And how can you understand the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer's disease?

Our insights into the functioning of the brain often come from cases where something has gone wrong, such as strokes, tumors, injuries, neurological diseases, and mental illnesses—pathologies that vividly demonstrate the distinct roles played by the various affected regions. An expert neuroscientist, Dr. Norden provides a fascinating presentation of these cases.

Know Your Mind

We now know that something important is always going on inside our brain and, as Understanding the Brain illustrates, if you know what to look for, you can observe specific aspects of your own brain in action:

  • Vision: The "now you see it, now you don't" feeling you get when you see an illusion is your brain trying to interpret raw data from the eyes. Far from taking a picture of the world and sending it to the brain, the eyes actually transmit very little information; "seeing" is a creation of the brain.
  • Thought: Sometimes, you can have trouble thinking after taking an antihistamine. This is because antihistamines do not just combat the effects of an allergy, they also block histamine as a neurotransmitter in the brain, altering your ability to think and process information.
  • Motor skills: When you learn how to walk, ride a bicycle, knit, dance, or perform some other motor skill, you reach a point where all of a sudden you are able to coordinate the new movement. That is because specialized neurons in your brain's cerebellum are now firing in sequence.
  • Emotion and memory: Think about doing your taxes. Does that thought elicit a particular emotion? We do not just remember something; our memories are colored with emotion. All of our experiences are influenced by previous experiences through complex loops in the brain's limbic system.
  • Social bonding: Your feeling of well-being with your spouse or friends has a neurochemical basis. The neurotransmitter oxytocin is found in very high concentrations in the limbic systems of animals that bond socially.
  • Consciousness: Sometimes, you can arrive at work with very little memory of the details of your journey; obviously you were not unconscious, but you were not fully aware either. This occurs when your brain is in "autopilot" mode—where it was in control without your being conscious of all that was happening around you.

Appreciate the Wonder of the Brain

As a researcher, Dr. Norden has participated in an ongoing scientific revolution. She is also a nationally recognized educator, singled out as one of the most effective teachers in America in What the Best College Teachers Do. Among Dr. Norden's special qualities cited in the book is this simple, but highly effective, approach to teaching: "Before she begins the first class in any semester, she thinks about the awe and excitement she felt the first time anyone explained the brain to her, and she considers how she can help her students achieve that same feeling."

You can share her consuming passion for the intricacies of the brain in this lively and engaging course, which Dr. Norden has designed specifically for those without a background in science. "All you need to bring is your own brain and a desire to learn," she says.

Thus equipped, you will explore a broad range of exciting topics in neuroscience. Above all, you will come away from Understanding the Brain with a deeper knowledge of how the brain is organized—and a feeling of wonder and appreciation for all that it accomplishes.

Understanding the Brain [TTC Video]

Robotics [TTC Video]

Robotics [TTC Video]
Robotics [TTC Video] by John Long
Course No 1312 | WMV, WMV3, 640x360 | WMA, 128 kbps, 2 Ch | 24x30 mins | 10.51GB

Robots. The mere word conjures up a bevy of mind-bending images pulled straight from popular science fiction tales. But robots aren’t just the stuff of entertainment. They’re real. They’re everywhere around you. And they’re transforming your life in ways you can’t imagine.

Ours is a world increasingly defined by the cutting-edge field of robotics. Today, we live among marvelous machines that can do things like:

  • provide support for soldiers in challenging terrain,
  • assist highly trained surgeons in performing medical procedures more precisely,
  • explore the harsh environments of space that astronauts can’t yet visit,
  • manufacture products with a speed unmatched by human hands.

In short, the future of human civilization depends on collaborative robotics: humans and machines working together. According to robotics expert and award-winning professor John Long of Vassar College, “Robots are what computers and self-propelled vehicles were to the 20th century: a technological revolution that impacts nearly every aspect of our lives, businesses, and security.”

Yet for all their seen (and unseen) prevalence, robotics remains mysterious to most of us. How exactly do robots work? What does it take to build a robot that can, for a period of time, perform tasks and make decisions with little human input? What are the most revolutionary robots at work today? How do we balance the technological benefits of robots with the potential risks they pose to pre-existing ways of life?

To answer these and other questions is to take an in-depth journey into an exciting world; a journey Professor Long and The Great Courses present in the 24 incredible lectures of Robotics. Using in-studio robot demonstrations, videos of other state-of-the-art robots, 3-D animations, and other amazing visual aids, Professor Long demystifies the world of robots and provides a comprehensive introduction to these intelligent machines. Whether you’re looking to grasp the hard science of how robots work or simply curious about the implications of robots for society, consider this course your official passport to an astonishing new world.

Intriguing Scientific Terrain

Professor Long’s course is an encyclopedic yet accessible introduction to one of the most important areas of modern science. From the concept of robotic autonomy to the inner workings of sensors to the intriguing possibilities of the future, Robotics covers every major topic in the field.

  • How robots work: To better appreciate robots, you have to know how they operate. You’ll watch Professor Long take robots apart to demonstrate how they work using actuators, controllers, and other key parts; discover how roboticists design robots using insights from animal and human behavior; and even learn DIY skills for building your own robot.
  • Where robots work: Many lectures focus on the wide range of environments and real-world scenarios where robots are already proving to be indispensable to how you live. You’ll explore robots in factories, homes, and hospitals; in the air, on land, and under the sea; on mission-critical battlefields and awe-inspiring voyages to distant planets.
  • Robots and our future: With so many robots around us, it seems like the future is already here. So what do the next decades have in store? Swarm robots, humanoid robots, robots that learn from each other, and even self-reproducing robots are just some of the many topics you’ll uncover as Professor Long explains the latest research in robotics.

As you proceed through this course, you’ll also get a look at some of the major ideas and ethical dilemmas involved in the world of robotics.

  • Trade-offs: Robots can’t do everything well. One universal lesson about robot bodies is that there are always trade-offs involved in designing them (such as building a robot for maneuverability instead of efficiency).
  • The Three Laws of Robotics: Isaac Asimov’s famous principles emphasize that robots may in no way injure humans. So how are these laws compromised (or circumvented) by military robots designed to target and eliminate human threats?
  • The uncanny valley: Developed in the 1970s, this hypothesis proposes that as robots become more human in appearance, our affinity for them grows. But once robots appear too human, they simply become disturbing.

Fascinating Robots of Today—and Tomorrow

Of course, the most enjoyable part of

Robotics
is the robots themselves.

You’ll get the opportunity to meet, learn about, and even witness in action an amazing roster of robots that are transforming our everyday lives. Robots that are simple and complex, large and small; robots that work on land, that hover in the air, that swim underwater; robots that work in our homes, our factories, our hospitals; robots that clean rooms and mow lawns and even perform surgery.

  • Roomba: This popular home robot cleans floors by using infrared sensors to detect walls and a homing beacon to return it to its charging station. The design trade-off with a robot like Roomba is that while it can easily transition from bare floors to carpet, it can’t move up and over stairs.
  • Wave Glider: This robotic “platform” has solved two major challenges aquatic environments present to robotics. Since Wave Glider’s wave-based power supply is endless, energy isn’t a problem. And because Wave Glider lies at the water’s surface, it can easily navigate using GPS.
  • Robonaut 2: One of the most exciting projects in orbital robotics is Robonaut 2, a humanoid robot consisting of a head, torso, and two independently functioning arms. Its goal is to safely assist astronauts working in the International Space Station.
  • Da Vinci: A variation on the classic robot arm, Da Vinci is a tele-operated robot helping to lead the charge in medical robotics. This highly advanced robotic surgical system moves robotic arms and tiny hand-like manipulators inside the human body, making minimally-invasive surgery even less invasive
  • EATR: The Energetically Autonomous Tactical Robot (EATR) actually ingests organic matter for fuel. This wheeled ground robot’s external combustion engine uses biomass to generate electrical power—making it perfect for operating in remote areas for long periods of time.

Not only will these and other robots open your eyes to the intricate details of how robots are designed, built, and improved upon, they’ll illuminate how roboticists tackle everyday challenges and create technological advancements that are central to the way we live today – and the way we’ll live tomorrow.

Robots—Explained by a Brilliant Innovator

Transforming our studios into a veritable robotics laboratory, Professor Long lets you experience the trials and triumphs of robotics firsthand. Director and co-founder of Vassar’s Interdisciplinary Robotics Research Laboratory, he’s researched, designed, and built robots with funding from major government agencies, including the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Small Business Administration. He takes you behind the scenes to show you what worked, what didn’t, and why.

You’ll also witness how robots operate at the level of the wire and sensor; how they’re built, taken apart, and rebuilt for different uses; how they’re designed using the latest technological advancements; and more. Packed with robot demonstrations and 3-D animations, these visually stimulating lectures are an exciting exploration of robotics at every level.

Ultimately, it’s all in service of Professor Long’s overarching goal: to make you more informed and engaged with this increasingly important technology, which brings together the fields of engineering, computer science, neuroscience, and biology. Robotics shows you how we have been using robots to transform our world for decades—and how, in the decades to come, they will continue to revolutionize our lives.

Robotics [TTC Video]

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