By Jonny Lupsha, Wondrium Staff Writer
The Great Courses is proud to continue its long-running mission of creating educational lecture series with top educators and world-renowned institutions. Our new course Mind-Blowing Science resulted from working with Scientific American—here’s what you’ll find in it.
The Great Courses is widely known for publishing independently created educational content in the form of a lecture series, on a wide variety of subjects. We have also created several partnership lecture series with household names like the Smithsonian and National Geographic. With our new series Mind-Blowing Science, we’re continuing our tradition of partnering with the foremost names in the field by working with Scientific American to release 10- to 20-minute lecture videos.
Scientific American is the oldest continuously published monthly magazine in the United States, offering insightful articles that are both academic in their expertise and accessible to the common reader. For Mind-Blowing Science, The Great Courses brings five article topics to life with engaging videos: “How Dinosaurs Grew So Large and So Small,” “Are We the Only Intelligent Life in the Galaxy,” “Decoding the Puzzle of Human Consciousness,” “Why Your Brain Needs Exercise,” and “The First Monster Black Holes.”
Here are some highlights of what’s launched so far, with new episodes coming monthly.
It’s in My Brain
Our video “Why Your Brain Needs Exercise” is adapted from a Scientific American article written by Dr. David A. Raichlen, Professor of Biological Sciences and Director of the Evolutionary Biology of Exercise Laboratory at the University of Southern California, and Dr. Gene E. Alexander, Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry and Director of the Brain Imaging, Behavior, and Aging Laboratory at the University of Arizona.
The video explores the developing understanding that mature brains are in fact capable of growing new neurons. First, it looks at how we can “flex the brain” by selecting exercise routines that will build up the hippocampus and enhance its cognitive function. Then it “examines the evolutionary relation between the brain and the body,” in the narrator’s own words, by looking at seven million years of changes in our behavior and physiology.
Meanwhile, Dr. Susan Blackmore, Visiting Professor at the University of Plymouth, inspired “Decoding the Puzzle of Human Consciousness,” which looks at the efforts—and difficulties—involved with studying human consciousness. The video first looks at the concepts of bats and “philosophical zombies,” before moving on to discuss the implications of the meaning of pain and suffering and comparing different types of brains in search of clues.
Beyond the Infinite
On the opposite end of the physical spectrum, several videos from Mind-Blowing Science detail recent thoughts on outer space.
“The First Monster Black Holes” comes from a Scientific American article by Dr. Priyamvada Natarajan, a theoretical astrophysicist at Yale University. As the name suggests, the lecture discusses the universe in its infancy and the earliest appearances of quasars, which are “extremely bright objects powered by gas falling onto supermassive black holes,” the video said. Later, it explains the process of feeding a black hole and how scientists look for proof of various elements involved in their creation and existence.
Finally, “Are We the Only Intelligent Life in the Galaxy?” examines one of life’s great mysteries, as described in an article by Dr. John Gribbin, Visiting Fellow in Astronomy at the University of Sussex. Using arresting visuals and a compelling narrative, the lecture considers the “long chain of implausible coincidences” that led to the origins of life on Earth, from our special location in the Milky Way to the presence of prokaryotes that helped get the ball rolling.
Mind-Blowing Science is available now Wondrium.