Science of Self [TTC Video]
28 February 2016, 17:12
Course No 1592 | AVI, XviD, 640x480 | MP3, 128 kbps, 2 Ch | 24x30 mins | 4.51GB
Some of the most profound secrets about what it means to be human are now being revealed, thanks to the amazing tools of biotechnology. The Human Genome Project, completed in 2003, opened the book on the genetic instructions that go into making a human. Now other species are being studied at the same level of detail, providing astonishing insights into the whole range of life on Earth.
Armed with these and other findings, scientists are beginning to address age-old mysteries, including these:
- What is the difference between living organisms and nonliving things?
- How does DNA instruct a single-cell embryo to create a body with a brain that produces a self-conscious mind?
- What makes us human? Our minds, genes, appearance, or something else?
- Is the human species at the end of an evolutionary line, or will it evolve into something entirely different?
In 24 thought-provoking lectures designed for nonscientists, The Science of Self explores these and many other questions in today's exciting field of genomics, the study of the vast storehouse of information contained within chromosomes.
Your professor is Princeton University biologist Lee M. Silver, an acclaimed teacher, scientist, and author of popular books on biotechnology, genetics, and its impact on society. As a participant in the ongoing revolution in biology for the past three decades, Professor Silver has seen his field radically transformed. Even so, he says that he and his colleagues are astonished by the pace of discoveries in recent years and by how much has been learned about the human condition from studying the basic ingredients in genes. "We're teasing out all of the secrets," he marvels.
Enlivened by Dr. Silver's clear and enthusiastic presentation, The Science of Self is an unrivaled opportunity to investigate this dramatic new picture of our past, present, and future as a species.
DNA: Your Genetic "Hard Drive"
Professor Silver begins by surveying the history of ideas about life and inheritance, from Aristotle's remarkably prescient scientific model of life to Darwin's theory of natural selection, Mendel's laws of heredity, and Watson and Crick's discovery that the molecule DNA encodes genetic information in an elegantly simple way. In one of his many vivid analogies, Professor Silver compares genetic information to music files purchased over the Internet. The music is not a material substance; it's simply a string of numbers copied to the hard drive of a computer. Similarly, the only thing that survives through the generations of life is immaterial genetic information, copied to the cellular equivalent of a hard drive, the DNA in the chromosomes and their constituent genes inside the cell nucleus.
Cracking the Code
Equipped with this powerful understanding of heredity as information, you peer into the human genome to read its code, compare it with the genomes of other species, and trace how information is translated into individual humans with all of our rich diversity. In a riveting example of the details hidden in our genes, Dr. Silver recounts the results of genetic profiling recently done on his own DNA:
- The analysis shows that Dr. Silver has a relatively common allele, or mutation, that leads to a dopamine deficiency in one part of the brain—a trait associated with risk taking, which may explain his love of travel.
- His maternal line can be traced back 35,000 years to Spain and the original hunter-gatherers who invaded Europe and then retreated after the onset of the last ice age.
- His paternal line emerged more recently, in the last 3,000 years, among members of a Jewish tribe in Israel that left the Middle East between 2,000 and 1,000 years ago.
- Intriguingly, Dr. Silver has DNA markers that point to a Chinese ancestor about 300 to 500 years ago, who may have been one of the innumerable descendants of Genghis Khan!
The Biotech Tool Chest
Part of the fascinating story of The Science of Self involves the technological tool chest that allows scientists to decipher the intricacies of living things. These sophisticated procedures and devices are part of the biotech revolution, and Professor Silver introduces you to some of the tools in detail, so that you can understand through graphics and his descriptions how we have arrived at our current state of knowledge. For example, you investigate the following:
- Gene sequencing: In the early 1970s a multiyear effort decoded an unprecedented 63-letter sequence of DNA. The invention of DNA sequencer machines in the 1980s allowed the decoding of the entire human genome of 3 billion letters by 2004. A few years from now, complete genomes for any individual will be sequenced as part of routine medical care.
- FISH: Standing for Fluorescence In Situ Hybridization, this technique identifies major features on chromosomes. Among its many applications, FISH has been used to compare humans and chimpanzees, showing that the chromosomes of the two species are virtually indistinguishable—except for an intriguing difference.
- DNA microarray: Built like a computer chip, this small but powerful device allows scientists to observe genes in action, something few experts thought would ever be possible. The technique can link particular genes to diseases that are quite complex, such as juvenile-onset diabetes.
- Molecular clock: The known rate at which genetic mutations occur can be used as a clock to calculate how far apart two species are in terms of evolution. The technique shows that humans and Neanderthals share a common ancestor from about 700,000 years ago, while humans and mice trace their mutual ancestor to 75 million years ago.
A Sense of Wonder
At Princeton University, Professor Silver is a member of both the Department of Molecular Biology and the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, straddling both the world of science and the public policy realm that is addressing the momentous implications of genomic research. Early in his career, he worked under the direction of Nobel laureate James D. Watson, a codiscoverer of the structure of DNA and later the first director of the Human Genome Project.
But beyond these impressive credentials, Professor Silver's most important qualification as a teacher is that he has never lost his sense of wonder. "I'm still amazed by the fact that a single cell, smaller than I can see, is all that it takes to create a complete human being with a human brain," he says at the outset of the course. Such cells are hardly different in size from the protozoa that have been swimming around the planet for more than 3 billion years, he points out. "And yet, somehow, in these cells there are DNA molecules that contain the complete genetic information required to give rise to a person who can think and who can present lectures, as I am doing."
Watching this very timely course, you will feel the same sense of awe as you probe deeply and wondrously into The Science of Self.
A History of Eastern Europe [TTC Video]
27 February 2016, 18:49
Course No 8364 | MP4, AVC, 720x404 | AAC, 128 kbps, 2 Ch | 24x30 mins | + PDF Guidebook | 4.82 GB
Eastern Europe has long been thought of as the “Other Europe,” a marginalized region rife with political upheaval, shifting national borders, an astonishing variety of ethnic diversity, and relative isolation from the centers of power in the West. Yet in recent years, Eastern European nations have begun integrating with Western Europe—joining NATO and the European Union—as the region has gained a new measure of self-determination in the wake of communist collapse.
Nonetheless, Eastern Europe still maintains an aura of “otherness” and mystery, due to its relatively tumultuous timeline and complex cultural tapestry. Indeed, history haunts this region, so to truly understand Eastern Europe today, it is necessary to examine its past in the broader context of world history, asking such questions as:
- Who are the diverse ethnic groups that make up the region, and how have they cooperated and clashed?
- How and why have national borders shifted so frequently?
- What is the region’s relationship to Western Europe?
- How has the region been isolated from—and connected with—the West?
You’ll find the answers to these questions and more in A History of Eastern Europe. Taught by Professor Vejas Gabriel Liulevicius, an award-winning professor at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, these 24 insightful lectures offer a sweeping 1,000-year history of Eastern Europe with a particular focus on the region’s modern history. You’ll observe waves of migration and invasion, watch empires rise and fall, witness wars and their deadly consequences—and come away with a comprehensive knowledge of one of the world’s most fascinating places.
This course goes far beyond issues of military and political history. Professor Liulevicius delves deeply into the cultures of this region—the 20 nations that stretch from the Baltic to the Black Seas. You’ll meet the everyday citizens—including artists and writers—who shaped the politics of Eastern Europe, from poets-turned-politicians to proletarian workers who led dissident uprisings. Breathtaking in scope and crucially relevant to today’s world, A History of Eastern Europe is a powerful survey of a diverse region and its people.
Discover the Historical Context for Today’s Eastern Europe
The story of Eastern Europe is very much in flux today. In 2014, Russia invaded Crimea during a time of chaotic unrest in the Ukraine. Slide back to the 1990s, and the Balkan states erupted into a brutal civil war that rewrote the national boundaries of Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, and others. Slide back another few years, and you witness the 70-year-old USSR disintegrate, leaving in its wake a hodgepodge of nations with crumbled economies and uncertain national identities.
These events are products of more than recent history—or even modern history. To truly understand the ongoing news in Eastern Europe, it’s necessary to step back a thousand years to find the foundations of today’s world.
- See how the waves of invasions by Mongols, the Ottoman Turks, and others left their mark on Eastern Europe in the Middle Ages.
- Trace the origins of the Slavic peoples, the Magyars, Germanic tribes, the Roma, and other ethnicities who make up the region.
- Discover how events such as the Crusades and the Black Death led to a large influx of Jews to modern-day Poland.
- Witness the battles, political strife, and nationalism that gave rise to nations such as Poland-Lithuania and empires in Russia, Prussia, and Germany.
Studying this history helps explain Eastern Europe’s wide mix of languages, religions, and cultures. In this course, you will see how these cultures clashed internally—and how a vast array of external enemies and empires have tried repeatedly to carve out territories or spheres of influence within the region. Professor Liulevicius brings to life the local people’s struggles—through cooperation among coalitions as well as through armed conflicts—for survival and self-rule.
Gain a New Perspective on Europe’s East vs. West Divide
Eastern Europe has long been a marginalized region—considered the home of “barbarians” by the Greeks, far-flung backwater provinces to the Romans, fair prey for the Mongols—a vast land for civilized empires to “enlighten.” But in the 20th and 21st centuries, the divide between East and West grew more pronounced as the world globalized and the United States and Soviet superpowers jockeyed for spheres of influence—epitomized by the imposition of the Iron Curtain across Europe and the rise of the Berlin Wall.
Professor Liulevicius offers you a different perspective on the last hundred years of history, beginning with the end of World War I. Whereas Western Europe viewed the Great War as a total catastrophe marked by years of stalemate and a shaky peace, Eastern Europeans viewed the war as a fiery baptism of national independence. Likewise, when the guns fell silent and stability returned to the West after World War II, a series of bloody conflicts continued in the East. And of course, the Iron Curtain that partitioned East and West for half a century has left deep marks on the Eastern Europe of today.
This course presents the grand sweep of all this history and clues you in on the context necessary to understand today’s world. Professor Liulevicius also gives you specific, unique insights that are fascinating in their own right—and seldom mentioned in the history books. Among other historical details, you will:
- Go inside the Jewish shtetls, most of which were destroyed during World War II.
- Gain insight into the Nazi-Soviet Pact, including the motivating worldviews of Hitler and Stalin.
- Learn about the waves of ethnic cleansing in Eastern Europe after World War II, and the resulting orphans known as “wolf children.”
- Study the little-known Baltic Forest War, which, incredibly, continued until the late 1970s.
- Experience daily life behind the Iron Curtain, from mass surveillance and the police state to the broken economies and worker uprisings.
- Meet leaders such as the Yugoslavian President Josip Tito, the Polish dissident worker Anna Walentynowicz, the Czech writer-turned-president Václav Havel, and many other people who shaped the course of history.
You’ll also witness the stunning collapse of communism across Eastern Europe, sparked by mass protests and fueled by governmental ineptitude. The widespread chaos created great suffering, reshaping the region’s economies, politics, ideologies, and geographical boundaries.
Study the Cultural History of the Region
George Orwell once said, “Every joke is a tiny revolution.” Created and shared under circumstances of high pressure and risk, Eastern European jokes and satirical—or nationalistic—works of art are full of humorous and passionate expressions of resistance, defiance, despair, and the will to survive. Professor Liulevicius bridges the personal and the political in this course, analyzing the meaning and impact of widespread dark humor and introducing you to poets, writers, artists, and other cultural figures who all made an impact on Eastern European history. In fact, studying the history gives you a whole new context for understanding authors such as:
- Franz Kafka
- Czes³aw Mi³osz
- Milan Kundera
- Václav Havel
- Herta Müller
- And many others
In addition, he introduces you to some authors who are relatively obscure in the West, such as Jaroslav Hašek (author of The Good Soldier Švejk, one of the funniest and most profound antiwar novels in existence), and Zlata Filipovic (a 12-year-old whose diary from the Bosnian War has been compared to the Diary of Anne Frank).
Professor Liulevicius is an ideal guide for this course, having focused on Germany and Eastern Europe during his entire academic career. From a period of study in Moscow and Leningrad in 1989, to dissertation research in Freiburg, Germany, and Vilnius, Lithuania, in the early 1990s, to his term as president of the international Association for the Advancement of Baltic Studies (A.A.B.S.) for 2010–12, he has spent decades pursuing and disseminating knowledge of this fascinating region. His insights into the clashes and unexpected alliances of empires, peoples, and philosophies will clarify the complex twists and turns of the narrative of Eastern European history.
In Eastern Europe, culture and politics are inextricably linked with centuries of tumultuous change, and this in-depth course will explore the intersection of these factors to give you a comprehensive understanding of the region and its status in the world today. A History of Eastern Europe is a marvelous overview of the story of an essential and often overlooked area of the globe, and will fill in many critical gaps in the social and political history of the world.
Earth at the Crossroads: Understanding the Ecology of a Changing Planet [TTC Video]
26 February 2016, 18:12
Course No 1720 | AVI, XviD, 640x480 | MP3, 128 kbps, 2 Ch | 36x30 mins | + PDF Guidebook | 6.75GB
Every plant, microorganism, and animal on Earth exists within an ecosystem: a complex network of interdependent relationships in which each individual strand is important and contributes to the success of the whole. Ecosystems, in turn, interact with one another to form the biosphere: the zone of life on our planet.
But these systems, so important to the world around us, are far from stable. Instead, ecosystems are constantly changed by the pressures of biological, geological, and physical forces. In addition, the rapid growth of human populations and their attendant technologies has created unprecedented forces of ecological change. Only when you look beyond the individual level and observe how populations of different species interact with themselves, with other species, and with their physical environment, as well as how they respond and adapt to change, can you fully understand how life truly works.
Now, with Earth at the Crossroads: Understanding the Ecology of a Changing Planet, you can explore the rich interconnections that make up the great and fascinating web of life on Earth. In this compelling 36-lecture course, behavioral ecologist Eric G. Strauss of Boston College provides you with a comprehensive overview that is a hallmark of the study of ecology. With Professor Strauss as your guide, you'll investigate the remarkably complex workings of Earth's biosphere and learn about the myriad forces that shape the world's habitats, from the movement of water and nutrients within an ecosystem to the reproductive strategies employed by plants and animals around the world.
As you delve into the biosphere's intricate network of relationships, you develop a deeper appreciation of the rich complexity of the life around you. You'll also strengthen your understanding of some of the most important debates in current affairs, including questions of climate change, protection of endangered species, and alternative energy sources. Earth at the Crossroads exposes you to the science behind these debates, allowing you to develop your own opinions and back them up with the latest scientific evidence.
Examine Ecology's Most Intriguing Questions
The key to understanding and bringing to life these relationships lies in the field of ecology. A science that has come into its own during the modern era, ecology helps humans comprehend—and put into a more coherent perspective—the "big picture" of life on Earth.
In Earth at the Crossroads, you examine the same intriguing questions that ecologists themselves contemplate as they study life from this unique perspective:
- What forces shape the living systems around us?
- How do relationships like predation and competition affect communities of organisms?
- What happens when a new organism is introduced into an environment?
- How does climate change affect plants and animals in a single ecosystem—or even the world at large?
And perhaps the most crucial question of all:
What role do you as a member of Earth's living community play, and how can you use your understanding of these complex patterns to ensure that you and your fellow organisms survive and thrive?
The field of ecology is an applied science whose impact can be felt in a range of areas. The knowledge gained from the study of Earth's living systems has allowed us to
- conserve endangered habitats,
- more wisely manage our natural resources,
- produce higher and healthier yields of agriculture,
- better prepare for public health concerns, and
- understand how highly artificial environments such as major cities follow the same rules as more "natural" environments.
Understand the Complexity of Life on Earth
Earth at the Crossroads opens with an introduction in which you explore the development of ecology as a scientific discipline distinct from biology and other related areas of study. Through vivid examples and accessible explanations, Professor Strauss explicates the field's key theories and raises thought-provoking questions that motivate scientists in this vital area of study.
Next, you move into the fundamental topics covered in the field, which are explored in three units:
- In lectures 5 through 18, you examine the important forces that impact ecosystems, such as the way energy, nutrients, and water are used and recycled in these systems.
- In lectures 19 through 32, you focus on specific ecological interactions and processes, including microevolution, population growth, migration, disease, and coevolution.
- In lectures 33 through 36, you consider some of the latest scientific contributions that suggest how we can intervene in ecosystems in a beneficial way.
Throughout the course, you also learn about the remarkable and often surprising ways that organisms compete, coexist, and cooperate:
- The interaction of ants and aphids: Living in a relationship not unlike that of the farmer and the dairy cow, ants harvest the nutritious fluid that aphids suck from plants while protecting their wards from predators.
- The survival strategies of the Monarch butterfly and its imitators: Monarchs feed on poisonous milkweed, which makes them toxic to predators, a fact they signal with their bright coloration. Other species have developed similar markings to "trick" predators into leaving them alone.
- The surprising relationship between wolves, elks, and river ecosystems in Yellowstone National Park: When the park's wolves were almost hunted to extinction, populations of elk skyrocketed while nearby river ecosystems declined. Freed from the pressure of predation, the elk were able to graze these fragile ecosystems, damaging them significantly. When wolf populations were restored, the elk returned to their traditional habitats, and the river systems revived.
- The paradoxical relationship between humans and bacteria: As people increasingly use antibacterial soaps, antibiotics, and disinfectants to protect themselves against microbial disease, they drive these organisms to develop a tolerance to these products, putting human beings at an even greater risk of infection by "superbugs."
As you explore these fascinating examples, you experience the sense of wonder that is at the heart of the study of ecology.
The Whole Earth: City and Country
Delving deeply into ecology, you quickly see that this field of study extends beyond what we usually think of as "nature." Ecologists espouse a "whole Earth" view that incorporates both pristine wilderness regions and modern urban settings. From this perspective, the city is simply another form of ecosystem, alive with organisms that are interconnected in complex relationships.
You examine how wildlife adapts to new urban settings, as seen in the example of hawks that thrive on the tops of skyscrapers and feed on urban pigeons. Earth at the Crossroads also illuminates how city settings can generate their own microclimates, evidenced in the "heat island effect," in which the reduced greenery and increased hot, bare surfaces produce higher urban temperatures.
This examination of life in the modern world also takes you to the suburbs, where you'll discover an abundance of life forms dwelling in complicated relationships that rival the complexity of wilderness communities.
Professor Strauss is the perfect guide for exploring the ecological implications of our modern world. As a specialist in urban ecology, he brings classic and cutting-edge scientific studies to bear on his consideration of urban populations, suburban spread, and the ways in which human populations affect and are affected by the ecosystems in which they live.
Humankind's Place in the Biosphere
As you ponder life in these varying ecosystems—both wilderness and urban—you ultimately arrive at an intriguing question: What role does humankind play in this great web of life?
As Professor Strauss explains, humanity has a unique role in the world. We have an unprecedented capacity to shape the biosphere and make thoughtful, informed choices about the actions we take.
In this course, you see how human history is full of examples of how we as a species have changed the world around us, from the development of agriculture to the spread of often-dangerous chemicals that can alter the genetic material of living organisms. But it's also a history of successes and solutions, as innovative scientists and engineers have developed new technologies and practices that allow humankind to thrive while reducing our impact on other species.
As Professor Strauss considers the role humans play in the biosphere, he provides examples of both humankind's mistakes and innovations. The result is a thoughtful and balanced consideration of the role of humanity within Earth's living communities—one that will allow you to develop better-informed opinions regarding crucial questions about the world in which we live.
The Great Web of Life Made Accessible
The goal of ecology is to provide a comprehensive view of the world as an interconnected complex of relationships. In Earth at the Crossroads, this complicated topic is made accessible by an experienced and accomplished instructor. Professor Strauss provides an engaging and thorough overview of this intriguing field of study through the use of compelling anecdotes, easy-to-follow explanations, and helpful visual aids. A leading scholar and researcher in urban ecology, Professor Strauss presents cutting-edge findings that encourage a "whole world" perspective on life on this planet.
Join Professor Strauss as he traces the fascinating links that are at the heart of the study of ecology. You'll discover new ways to view the world of surprise and wonderment that exists all around us in this great web of life.