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How the Earth Works

Narrated by: Michael E. Wysession
Length: 24 hrs and 31 mins
Categories: Non-fiction, Environment
5 out of 5 stars (24 ratings)

Non-member price: $73.77

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Publisher's Summary

How the Earth Works takes you on an astonishing journey through time and space. In 48 lectures, you will look at what went into making our planet - from the big bang, to the formation of the solar system, to the subsequent evolution of Earth. 

You will travel to the center of our planet and out again, charting the geologic forces that churn beneath our feet to push the continents and seafloor around like froth on the surface of soup. Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and tsunamis are byproducts of our planet’s ceaseless activity, and you will focus on specific examples of each to learn why and when they occur. Volcanic activity has produced the atmosphere as a side effect, and you will learn how this sea of air functions at the global scale. Earth’s surface is mostly water, and you will explore the cycling of this vital substance throughout the planet, along with its role in climate, erosion, plate tectonics, and biology. 

Not only are humans at the mercy of our planet’s natural forces, but we ourselves have also become agents of change. We are altering the Earth’s land, water, and air faster than any other geologic process. This will be another theme of your journey: how humans have transformed watersheds, leveled mountains, changed the balance of gases in the atmosphere, and caused the extinction of enough species to hasten the end of the 65-million-year-old Cenozoic era. It is vitally important that we understand the nature of our geologic powers if we are to have any hope of controlling them. 

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

©2008 The Great Courses (P)2008 The Teaching Company, LLC

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  • Doug B.
  • 23-05-2019

Excellent course

Professor Wysession presented this course in a manner that made me feel as if someone was talking to me rather than lecturing to me. I continually wondered how he seemed to effortlessly pull in-depth knowledge from his head because he certainly didn’t seem to be reading his presentation.
He used simple, practical demonstrations to help the listener understand how the earth works. Although these demonstrations must have been videoed, his descriptions were so vivid I could picture them in my mind.
He enthusiastically gave a thorough history of the earth from the beginning until now and even into the future. He showed no political bias, didn’t dwell on controversies about his subject, and displayed no annoyances which often arise from listening to one lecturer for twenty four hours.
I will certainly listen to the series again to better digest many of the points I surely missed the first time.

99 people found this helpful

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  • Happy Husband
  • 18-10-2019

Frustrating

The material was awesome but I was so frustrated that I couldn't see the props he was using. I lost my patience when he started to drip wax into a fish tank and aluminum foil. he needs to say what hes seeing.

46 people found this helpful

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  • Catherine Puma
  • 03-10-2019

Good Review of Complex Planetary Science

This is probably more like 4.5 out of 5 stars. Dr. Michael Wysession is a Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, MO, and "How the Earth Works" is his 24+ hour long The Great Courses audio recording. Through nearly 50 lectures at about 30 minutes a lecture, Wysession explains different aspects of our planet's inner-workings to demonstrate how fascinating and complex the system is.

Released in 2008, "How the Earth Works" might be a little outdated in its climate change projections, but most of the discussions focus on fundamental geological phenomena such as volcanism and plate tectonics, so there is so much that is still relevant here. I saw a review of this that said something like, "this course covers more than you can ever remember, but it's all fascinating", which articulates the experience of listening to this really well. Sometimes geology can be perceived as dry because often it is difficult or boring to identify individual rock samples, but Wysession does a great job of placing basic scientific knowledge into a context of how larger systems influence one another. For example, he explains how local volcanic activity can influence seasons, such as that which caused the harsh winter leading up to the "let them eat cake" episode and subsequent French Revolution.

This course journeys back in time to describe how our planet was formed and climate created. Then it explains how current ocean, land, and atmospheric movements function. And lastly, one of the final lectures discusses what scientists know about exoplanets and signs of life on other planets, both in our solar system and beyond.

As much as I enjoyed this review of important and interesting earth science information, I give this only 4.5 stars for a few minor reasons. The first is that I do not think those who have not taken a formal academic geology or other earth sciences course will understand everything being discussed. This is not a substitute for an introductory undergraduate course on the same topic. I just do not think that topics like plate tectonics and earthquakes can be adequately taught without the aid of quality infographics, videos, and other visual tools. Secondly, while Wysession was good about describing what he is doing while giving demonstrations, those sections still distract from the main discussion when the audience cannot see what is going on.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed listening to this over the course of a week or so, and I'm glad I did. I appreciated Wysession's ability to recognize and address the complexity of Earth's many systems constantly working together. I recommend this to any student of geology, earth science, planetary science, climate science, seismology, volcanism, plate tectonics, atmospheric chemistry, and/or science communication.

29 people found this helpful

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  • Audy Meadow Davison LMT
  • 02-07-2019

This changes how it feels to live on Earth<br />

There is so much mind bending, time expanding, Earth changing exploration. I look at mountains, rocks, sea shores, rainstorms, and this continent differently now. Living on this changing land seems more temporary
and much more fragile somehow. But also more amazing.

43 people found this helpful

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  • Melanie
  • 11-10-2019

All is Revealed

Over the past decade I have struggled to understand how we/mankind got to this place. Our place on the Earth and then within the universe.

this course is the story of how we began, not we Man, we the Earth. it's about how the Earth was able to become our home. if you have ever wondered how it all fit together and how we fit in it, listen or watch this course.

I have left listened to about 50 of the great courses. some through audible and some through the prime great courses channel channel. Most of them have been about science. .

Of all that I have listened to, this has been the most thought-provoking and insightful. It has my highest recommendation. Listen to it, think about it and then listen again. You will not leave this course without understanding and wonder.

20 people found this helpful

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  • Claudia Mastroianni
  • 15-10-2019

Audio version of a video course

Be aware that there are demos of geological principles that you will not see! With that caveat, this seems to be a thorough introduction to many topics of geology, from a pleasant lecturer.

8 people found this helpful

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  • Brian
  • 18-05-2019

Superb Course

Dr Wysession knows how to teach and keep things interesting. His depth of knowledge is impressive and he ties things together superbly. The best of 10 courses I listened to.

37 people found this helpful

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  • Diane Schmitt
  • 31-05-2019

Fantastic!!!

This course is the most amazing I’ve listened to yet and that’s saying something!! Totally interesting from beginning to end. I just finished and am going to start it over. Fantastic!!

23 people found this helpful

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  • Mary and Steve
  • 22-07-2019

Very good course

Dense at the beginning, but very interesting. Second half really applies what you learned. Highly recommended.

19 people found this helpful

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  • Anthony James Pologruto, Jr
  • 07-08-2019

Understand our world (and universe) better.

An amazingly deep dive into the geologic processes that formed our world from the big bang to the future. Briefly discusses the other Planets in our Solar System those found beyond. Ending the course will leave you with more of an appreciation for our world and the rest beyond.

16 people found this helpful

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  • Mr D Owers
  • 10-08-2019

Everyone should hear this

This guy Professor Wysession is some sort of genius. It sounds like he's reeling this all off from memory. Why weren't the lecturers at my university this good? My only criticism is that he keeps saying the phrase "it turns out" and he says "the classic example" quite a lot as well. (As if that matters)

In all seriousness this is a comprehensive, fascinating, well-structured series of lectures that I will be listening to again and again. The last few chapters are exceptional, and are an antidote to some of the alarmist climate change commentators that we hear so often on the news - listen to THESE lectures to really get a picture of how the earth works.

12 people found this helpful

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  • C. Bamford
  • 13-09-2019

I learned a lot.

A well organised, well delivered and complete overview of all the systems and processes which have made the earth what it is and what it may be in the future.
The content is very USA-centric and aimed at Americans, and sometimes that became tiresome.

9 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 02-03-2020

It turns out that......

the narrator wasn't told how annoying repeated phrases can be. Good intro to geology. Half the course is plate techtonics, half is the really interesting stuff!

3 people found this helpful

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  • Toby
  • 18-12-2019

"Well it turns out!"

"Well it turns out!" this is a very good audio book. you get alot for your money and it gets you thinking differently.

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  • mrfids
  • 22-09-2019

Turns out this is a great course on Earth science.

A very interesting course coving all areas of Earth science. It's a US production so expect a lot of US based geology. Also seems to be the audio from a video course so some visual references are lost. Despite this I found it very entertaining and very informative...

2 people found this helpful

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  • Monica
  • 03-10-2019

amazig storytelling

loved the course. very informative and amazingly well read. it challanges the imagination and the listener to look into all the aspects of life and how they interconnect, frkm the smallest element to to the biggest dreams.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Kindleblorp
  • 29-09-2019

Enthusiasm, engaging!

Professor Wysession brings great enthusuasm to his subject, breathing life into the rocks. A well-delivered and engaging series of lectures. Having officially studied Geology at a basic level, I still learnt new things and new ways of looking at the world. Subjects range from tectonic plates, to the impact of humanity on the planet, to even Fermi's paradox and the place of Earth in the universe. There's the odd miss-speak and rare error, but in a 24 hour lecture series that is normal; I have listened to enough of these to know. This must be the best Geology audiobook around.

1 person found this helpful

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  • "penginear"
  • 14-05-2019

Great book, very informative

Really liked this book. Such a depth of information and great background to the complexities of climate change.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Disco
  • 26-07-2020

I love this series!

Bravce yourself, fan boy review coming up.

I have a vague unexplored interest in geology and earth science, derived from liking glaciers as a kid.

I found myself at almost 50 years old never having delved into this vague interest. And then came these lectures.

Wide-ranging and comprehensive while still being engaging. It has felt like a gift and privilege to have this master of the subject and great communicator condense what he knows into 24 hours.

I listened to them intently with great enjoyment. Since then, being a poor sleeper, I've had them playing through a small speaker under my pillow at night. After about a year of this, I still thoroughly enjoy them.

So, if you have an interest in nature and the environment, dive in. Entertaining and compelling.

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  • ROBERT MADIGAN
  • 26-07-2020

Worthwhile and thought provoking.

Well paced, delivered and enjoyable. Necessary listening. Helped to appreciate a little further the march of time.