Years That Changed History: 1215 [TTC Video]

Years That Changed History: 1215 [TTC Video]
Years That Changed History: 1215 [TTC Video] by Professor Dorsey Armstrong, PhD
Course No 3323 | MP4, AVC, 1372 kbps, 960x540 | AAC, 128 kbps, 2 Ch | 24x31 mins | + PDF Guidebook | 7.96GB

What is so important about the year 1215? There are some history buffs who may be able to tell you that 1215 is the year the Magna Carta was signed, but there are even fewer who know that King John of England’s acceptance of this charter was only one of four major, world-changing events of this significant year. In fact, the social, cultural, political, geographical, and religious shifts that occurred in this year alone had such a huge impact on the entire world, it warrants an entire course of study for anyone truly interested in the pivotal points of history that brought us to where we are now.

As it turns out, the year 1215 was a major turning point in world history. Although the drafting of the Magna Carta is perhaps the best-known event of 1215, anyone in Europe at the time would have told you the meeting of the Church’s Fourth Lateran Council was much more significant. Meanwhile, in Asia, a Mongol ruffian named Genghis Khan was embarking on a mission for world domination, highlighted by his success at the Battle of Beijing, while Islam was experiencing a Golden Age centered around Baghdad’s House of Wisdom. Other cultures and societies around the globe were also experiencing pivotal moments in their development—from the Americas to Africa and Asia and beyond.

These seismic events were only possible thanks to a confluence of global conditions, starting with the climate. Although we might not be familiar with the specifics, the ripple effect from these events can still be felt all over the world today. Years That Changed History: 1215 is a unique course, offering you the chance to delve into one of the most interesting periods in world history. Over 24 fast-paced lectures, Professor Dorsey Armstrong of Purdue University gives you the Big History of this surprisingly impactful year, introducing you to the people, events, and wide-ranging influences of the year 1215.

Among other fascinating discoveries, you will:

  • Investigate how climate changes affected the population of Europe.
  • Explore the circumstances for the Magna Carta, which originally had nothing to do with rights or liberty for everyday people.
  • Find out what a Lateran council is, why the fourth one mattered so much, and what happened at the earlier councils.
  • Tour the world beyond Europe to gain a true sense of global history.

This last point about “global history” is an important one. Most history courses have to select a theme, which by its nature limits the scope of the curriculum. In choosing a year as her theme, Professor Armstrong is able to take you around the world, from the ancient Maya to the House of Baghdad to Shogun Japan.Years That Changed History: 1215 takes the world as its theme—and what a truly captivating world it is!

Explore the Big History of a Little Year

Eight centuries ago, in the span of just 12 short months, the world witnessed a series of historic milestones—from the signing of the Magna Carta to the conquest of China by the Mongols—but history is only as interesting as the context that shapes it. What led to these events? How did they change the world? And why do they matter to us now? The historical approach known as Big History is one that gives context by widening the lens on singular events—and that’s exactly what Professor Armstrong does throughout this course.

To take one example, we think of the Magna Carta today as a powerful document. After all, it’s the Magna Carta—the “Great Charter”—and provides the foundation for English law and the subsequent drive for human rights and democracy. Doesn’t it?

Well, maybe. As you’ll learn early in the course, the Magna Carta was actually a document designed to appease a handful of aristocrats who had taken umbrage at King John. The king and 25 nobles gathered in a field at Runnymede, agreed on the terms laid out in this charter, and—supposedly—settled their differences. Three months later, King John had the pope annul the document, nearly reducing it to what could have been a mere footnote in history.

Of course, that’s not the only story—nor the end of the document. To give you a truly thorough look at the Magna Carta and its impact, Professor Armstrong takes you back to the Battle of Hastings and lays out the post-Conquest development of medieval English society. She then follows the story out of the Middle Ages, through the Early Modern period, and into the Enlightenment to show how the Magna Carta was resurrected, edited, and rewritten to suit the needs of future people over a long period of evolution.

Throughout this course, you’ll encounter event after event that seemed small on the surface—for instance, when Genghis Khan invaded modern-day Beijing, the locals quickly threw in the towel—but that had consequences that echoed through time. You’ll also take time to consider how it was that an uneducated, lower-caste man from the Mongolian steppes was able to become one of the best military strategists the world has ever seen—arguably a singular event in world history.

History Is a Story about People

Great events matter because of the impact they have on the human story, and this course takes you inside some of the most consequential events in world history. If you stepped back in time to 1215 and asked anyone in Europe what the most important event of the year was, everyone would likely answer the Fourth Lateran Council—the convening of Church leaders to hash out the finer points of theological debate.

Professor Armstrong takes you inside this massive gathering, analyzes the debates, and outlines the worldwide repercussions of the Council. Although seldom discussed today, one of the most monumental results of the Council was the elevation of marriage to the level of a sacrament. Other major consequences include attempts at curbing unlicensed religious figures (an attempt that mostly failed, as the appearance of the character of the Pardoner in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales over a century later would attest), the doctrine of transubstantiation, and the celibacy of the priesthood.

Despite the seemingly clear-cut, linear way we often learn history, as you’ll discover, history is the result of messy human affairs and processes. To bring this material to life, Professor Armstrong introduces you to the people behind the headlines. For instance:

  • See why St. Francis of Assisi formed his own religious order.
  • Find out what insights Hildegard of Bingen, Héloïse, and Eleanor of Aquitaine give us about women in the medieval world.
  • Meet Avicenna, Averroës, Saladin, and other figures critical to intellectual life in the Islamic Golden Age.
  • Delve into the players and tensions surrounding the Great Schism of 1054, and the relationship between Rome and Constantinople in 1215.

As you travel around the world during this year, you’ll also explore the culture of the Samurai in Japan, unpack the Catholic Church’s rationale for the Crusades, dive into the weird world of the Icelandic Saga, and so much more.

One of the most fascinating stories you will encounter is that of the Mongols. Because so many of us have experienced history taught from the Western perspective, you were likely led to think of the Mongols as bloodthirsty barbarians who sacked great cities and wreaked havoc on the world. The truth, however, is much more complicated—and more interesting. Professor Armstrong takes you into the Mongolian Empire and shows you how Mongol leaders actually strove to take care of their conquered territories.

Travel the World in 1215

People are indeed at the heart of this powerful history, and Professor Armstrong brings her trademark depth and passion to this truly historic moment across the globe. Leave Europe to explore life in the Pueblo, Inca, and Maya communities in the Americas. Then head to Africa to survey empires in modern-day Ethiopia, Mali, and Zimbabwe—and even travel to the real city of Timbuktu.

The world of 1215 was not connected like it is today, but in surveying so many corners of the globe, you will see common themes that connect us all. Years That Changed History: 1215 is, ultimately, not about a year—but about people.

Years That Changed History: 1215 [TTC Video]

Understanding Greek and Roman Technology: From Catapult to the Pantheon [TTC Video]

Understanding Greek and Roman Technology: From Catapult to the Pantheon [TTC Video]
Understanding Greek and Roman Technology: From Catapult to the Pantheon [TTC Video] by Professor Stephen Ressler, PhD
Course No 1132 | MP4, AVC, 2000 kbps, 1280x720 | AAC, 192 kbps, 2 Ch | 24x30 mins | + PDF Guidebook | 11.08GB

Famed for great thinkers, poets, artists, and leaders, ancient Greece and Rome were also home to some of the most creative engineers who ever lived. Many of their feats have survived; others have disappeared into the mists of time. But modern research is shedding new light on these renowned wonders—impressive buildings, infrastructure systems, and machines that were profoundly important in their own day and have had a lasting impact on the development of civilization.

The glories of ancient Greek and Roman engineering include these iconic buildings:

  • The Greek Parthenon: Arguably the most aesthetically pleasing structure ever built, the Parthenon achieves this effect through astonishing precision in its architectural plan and stone masonry construction.
  • The Roman Colosseum: This ingeniously designed, mammoth arena represents a grand compromise between traditional stone masonry and a revolutionary construction method incorporating brick and concrete.
  • The Roman Pantheon: The ancient world’s most ambitious engineering achievement, the Pantheon is known for its cast concrete dome that has never been equaled in beauty or construction ingenuity.

Also on the list of impressive achievements are ancient technologies that you use every day:

  • Roads: Networks of well-drained, hard-surfaced roads are a legacy of the Romans, who even installed curbs, wide shoulders, and periodic steps to aid travelers in mounting horses or carriages.
  • Water systems: Large-scale systems for supplying clean water and drains for carrying away wastewater were also developed by the Romans, whose aqueducts and sewers transformed urban life.
  • Pumps: The Greeks and Romans invented a variety of techniques to move water. One, Archimedes’ screw, remains in widespread use today in devices from combine harvesters to snowblowers.

These and many other developments grew out of the same conditions that produced new political institutions, stunning sculptures, outstanding literary works, and empires that constituted much of the known world. In such a climate, is it any wonder that technology also flourished? Yet the engineering exploits of the Greeks and Romans are not as celebrated as they deserve to be, and they have been long discounted by some historians. However, new discoveries combined with a reevaluation of evidence show just how clever our ancient ancestors were.

In 24 lavishly illustrated lectures, Understanding Greek and Roman Technology: From Catapult to the Pantheon gives you an in-depth appreciation for what the Greeks and Romans achieved and how they did it. Your guide is Dr. Stephen Ressler, a former professor at the United States Military Academy at West Point, a civil engineer, and a nationally honored leader in engineering education.

A Golden Age of Engineering

Understanding Greek and Roman Technology is a fascinating introduction to basic engineering principles and the science behind them. The course also gives a new perspective on one of the most productive periods in the history of civilization: classical antiquity. In case after case, you will find that engineering solutions reached during this era would not be surpassed for another thousand years or more.

These lectures are also ideal preparation for anyone planning to visit Greek or Roman sites. Even ancient building rubble is captivating if you know what to look for: tool marks, holes for joining pegs, projections used for lifting, and other signs that tell the purpose of a particular block of stone. Professor Ressler describes a field trip to an archaeological site in Turkey, where one of his students noticed chiseled Greek letters on foundation stones—markers that were clearly used to place the stones in their correct positions.

Clue by clue, Professor Ressler assembles a detailed picture of how ancient engineers went about their work. First you learn about the building materials available in antiquity and their strengths and weakness under different loads. Then you proceed to the three major sections of the course, which cover structures, infrastructure, and machines. Here is a taste of what you will learn:

  • Concrete: The versatility of form and composition of concrete made possible enormous structures and efficient new architectural forms in Rome’s awe-inspiring building program. Professor Ressler demonstrates the role of concrete in a sturdy Roman wall.
  • Cranes: Trajan’s Column in Rome consists of marble drums weighing as much as 60 tons each. How were they lifted into place? Professor Ressler shows how cranes powered only by human muscles were up to the job.
  • Catapults: Engineers improved catapults over a period of 700 years, developing new ways to store energy and propel a heavy projectile to its target. Innovations associated with this weapon include the universal joint, now used in automobiles.
  • Triremes: Professor Ressler’s favorite piece of ancient technology is the trireme, the racehorse of Greek warships, with three banks of oars and a bronze ram. Details of its design and construction were long uncertain—until 20th-century enthusiasts decided to build one.
  • Lead pipes: One of the many theories explaining the fall of Rome blames chronic lead poisoning from lead pipes used in water systems. But Professor Ressler explains why this idea does not “hold water.”
  • Slaves: A widespread theory contends that the Greeks and Romans had no incentive to develop labor-saving machines because of their access to slaves. But Professor Ressler proves that many ancient projects would not have been possible without unprecedented technology.

Get inside the Classical Mind

An engineer in the mold of his versatile predecessors in antiquity, Professor Ressler not only created all of the physical models used in this course but most of the computer models as well. Unlike off-the-shelf graphics, these animations are tailor-made to answer specific questions in the lectures, deepening your understanding of how ancient engineers worked and giving you a realistic picture of ancient problem solving in action.

Understanding Greek and Roman Technology opens with a thought-provoking lesson. In 480 B.C., Greek naval forces decisively defeated the invading Persian armada at the Battle of Salamis, thanks to the Greeks’ superior deployment of technology. The Greeks maximized the performance of their trireme warships to overcome a Persian advantage of 3 to 1. Had they not achieved this crucial edge, they surely would have lost, halting the growth of classical civilization before it could spread. What better demonstration of the influence of technology on the course of human events!

Understanding Greek and Roman Technology: From Catapult to the Pantheon [TTC Video]

Impossible: Physics beyond the Edge [TTC Video]

Impossible: Physics beyond the Edge [TTC Video]
Impossible: Physics beyond the Edge [TTC Video] by Professor Benjamin Schumacher, PhD
Course No 1299 | MP4, AVC, 2000 kbps, 1280x720 | AAC, 192 kbps, 2 Ch | 24x30 mins | + PDF Guidebook | 11.03GB

Physicists spend a lot of time thinking about impossible things, since probing the constantly shifting bounds between the possible and impossible is one of the best ways to discover unexpected phenomena and new laws of nature. And for nonscientists, exploring this extraordinary realm is one of the best introductions to the immensely rich subject of physics.

Consider these questions:

  • Can machines produce limitless energy?
  • Is time travel possible?
  • Can anything travel faster than light?
  • Is it possible to escape from a black hole?

Each is a puzzle that requires pieces from different parts of physics to solve. And after investigating these and other questions, you begin to see how all of physics is tied together in a system that is consistent, logical, beautiful, and often very surprising.

For example, the question about whether time travel is possible leads you to a study of the nature of time and space. The paradoxes you encounter there are directly related to Einstein's concepts of space-time and the constancy of the speed of light from his theory of relativity. This, in turn, takes you to exotic ideas such as black holes and wormholes, which some theorists believe may be potential shortcuts through space-time.

Before you know it, a staple subject of science fiction—time travel—has taken you through many layers of investigation to reveal profound truths about the universe.

Impossible: Physics beyond the Edge uses this ingenious approach in 24 delightful half-hour lectures that will entertain and nourish your mind, while teaching you more physics than you ever imagined. Your guide into the realms of the impossible is veteran Great Courses Professor Benjamin Schumacher of Kenyon College, a pioneering theorist in quantum information, which is a field dealing with things once deemed impossible.

Is It Possible?

Designed for those with no previous knowledge of physics, Impossible: Physics beyond the Edge will also appeal to the spirit of whimsy and adventure in those already well grounded in the subject. The course is illustrated with hundreds of diagrams, 3-D animations, and images to convey fundamental ideas at the core of physics—all in pursuit of the answer to the question, "Is it possible?"

Thanks to today's science-fiction-rich media, people are more inclined than ever to think that the fanciful is real, that imaginary creations such as perpetual motion machines and warp-drive space engines are feasible technologies. Impossible: Physics beyond the Edge serves as an enlightening corrective to this outlook.

On the other hand, modern physics is full of real phenomena that are so counterintuitive that they seem like science fiction. Here are a few that you encounter in this course:

  • Near-absolute zero: Reaching the coldest possible temperature—absolute zero at -273.15º C—is probably impossible. But as some substances approach this limit, electrical resistance and viscosity drop to zero, and a strange new form of matter emerges.
  • Time dilation: According to Einstein's special theory of relativity, a clock in motion keeps time more slowly than one at rest—from the point of view of an observer at rest. However, an observer accompanying the moving clock notices no time slowdown at all.
  • Quantum tunneling: In the quantum world, particles can do the equivalent of walking through walls—appearing on the other side of an apparently impassable energy barrier. The effect has many uses, including the scanning tunneling microscope, which can "see" atoms.
  • Entanglement: In the strangest of all quantum effects, a pair of particles acts together as a system; if something happens to one particle, the other responds instantly, even if it is millions of miles away. It seems like a violation of faster-than-light communication, but it isn't.

From Thermodynamics to Information Theory

Professor Schumacher begins the course by investigating three ways that scientists interpret the impossible and how these approaches inspired important breakthroughs by Euclid, Isaac Newton, and James Clerk Maxwell. Historically, some inventions and discoveries were called impossible shortly before they were actually achieved, and you learn how there is a danger of being like the eminent scientist Simon Newcomb, who in 1903 declared that humans would never fly, just a few weeks before the Wright brothers took off over Kitty Hawk.

The opposite risk is chasing a dream that the laws of physics won't allow. The most notorious example is a device that produces limitless energy—a perpetual motion machine. Professor Schumacher's discussion of this long and fruitless quest leads you to one of the most important sets of ideas in physics: the three laws of thermodynamics, which were developed in the 19th century in concert with the technological innovations of the industrial revolution.

From here, you survey the advancing frontier of physics, as startling new theories changed our perception of what's possible and what's not, including such revolutions as these:

  • Relativity and quantum theory: Starting in the early 20th century, these two groundbreaking theories have done more than anything else to remap the border between the possible and impossible.
  • Chaos theory: The discovery that the future is hostage to unpredictable, chaotic fluctuations in present conditions destroyed the dream that the future can ever be forecast with any certainty or precision.
  • Noether's theorem: In the early 20th century, mathematician Emmy Noether made the remarkable discovery that the great laws of physics, such as the conservation of energy, result from symmetrical features of space and time.
  • Information theory: Information is a powerful idea in physics and at the heart of many impossible phenomena, such as the impossibility of anything traveling faster than light—in which "anything" means "information."

You will also see how the square-cube law in mathematics was used as long ago as the 17th century to conclusively dismiss an idea that still won't die: that gigantic insects and other larger-than-life creatures are plausible life forms.

Impossibility as a Tool of Understanding

By the end of the course, you will have probed the nature of the impossible from many points of view and in many branches of physics—discovering that racing a light beam, hovering over a black hole, chasing quantum particles, trying to reverse the flow of time, and other astounding adventures make an excellent education in the fundamental laws of nature. These laws work together to create the sometimes perplexing, frequently surprising, and always wonderful world in which we live. As Professor Schumacher says, "If our goal is understanding, then there is nothing more practical than the impossible."

Impossible: Physics beyond the Edge [TTC Video]

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