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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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What listeners say about How the Earth Works

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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.

109 people found this helpful

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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.

43 people found this helpful

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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.

64 people found this helpful

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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.

16 people found this helpful

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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.

23 people found this helpful

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This changes how it feels to live on Earth

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.

46 people found this helpful

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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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It turns out to be decent

The course is detailed and well-structured. The absolute worst is that every sentence starts with either “ it turns out” or “now,”.

4 people found this helpful

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turns out

Turns out, this guy drives me nuts. I made it as far as I could until "Turns out" I can't listen anymore.

4 people found this helpful

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annoying lecturer

The lecturer in this course is super annoying. it is like he is trying too hard to keep people interested and over emphasizing every other word. He seriously distracts listeners from the material... we are not 5 year olds learning this for the first time, so stop speaking to us as if we are. The only reason I gave this more than one start is because of the material itself.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Mr D Owers
  • 08-10-19

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.

15 people found this helpful

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  • C. Bamford
  • 09-13-19

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.

10 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 03-02-20

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
  • 12-18-19

"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.

2 people found this helpful

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  • mrfids
  • 09-22-19

Turns out this is a great course on Earth science.

A very interesting course covering 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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  • Ellie Kenworth
  • 09-12-20

it turns out....

This is excellent, thoroughly recommend. It turns out that the phrase 'it turns out' is used 743 times during the entire course. Often more than once in a sentence. Peculiar, as it's an entirely redundant addition, must be a tic of some kind. It would be wonderful to have an update, a lot has happened to the environment since this was recorded - all of it bad.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Monica
  • 10-03-19

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
  • 09-29-19

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"
  • 05-14-19

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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  • Anonymous User
  • 08-04-21

Tricky following along on the move but very good!

Glad I listened and great to hear someone who clearly loves their subject and is a true expert. Would benefit from a broadening out of vocabulary as opposed to the repetitive "Turns out" and "Enormous". Full of fascinating facts except at the end, where a couple of oddities and speculative peculiarities appear - such as political organisations like the EU being naively held up as a natural evolution of global unity which will presumably expand into wonderful philanthropic supranational entities? Thankfully, he sticks to his subject specialism in the main and it turns out, he has created an enormously interesting piece of work :-).

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  • Mani S.
  • 08-13-21

insightful and detailed

These really were great lectures. They spark curiosity and answer a lot of big questions but also help you organise your pre-existing knowledge in a more cohesive way. The early lectures with a lot of science required more attention and sometimes two or three listens. But the big picture lectures were for a much wider audience. Really enjoyed this series. And also the prof sounds so much like Jerry Seinfeld that I was waiting for him to make a joke about airline peanuts.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 06-18-21

This will change the way you look at the Earth

I thought geology is boring. Then this audiobook happend to me. Now i love geology!