The Nature of Matter
Understanding the Physical World

The Nature of Matter - Understanding the Physical World
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24 episodes in this series

Episode 1 Matter, Energy, and Entropy
Starting with a deck of cards tossed into the air, explore the key concepts of matter, energy, and entropy, which are the building blocks of the physical universe. Study examples…
Episode 2 The Nature of Light and Matter
Trace a scientific revolution that started with a curious observation about light and a seemingly nonsensical explanation. Learn how Max Planck's proposal that energy is related to frequency, and Albert…
Episode 3 A New Theory of Matter
Discover how the idea that light comes in discrete packets called "quanta" led to a startling new theory of matter: quantum mechanics. One prediction is that matter, like light, behaves…
Episode 4 The Structure of Atoms and Molecules
Understand atomic and molecular structure with the help of a simple analogy: the rooms of a house and the collection of houses in a city. See how the electrons of…
Episode 5 The Stellar Atom-Building Machine
Where did atoms come from? Trace the story of nucleosynthesis--the formation of complex nuclei and atoms. Cover this process from the big bang, which filled the universe with hydrogen and…
Episode 6 The Amazing Periodic Table
Investigate an astonishingly powerful scientific tool: the periodic table of the elements. Delve into the insights that led Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev to construct the first modern version of the…
Episode 7 Ionic versus Covalent Matter
Embark on an atomic adventure that explains the differences between vitamins and minerals, among other marvels of the chemical realm. Use your background in electron shell structure from Lecture 4…
Episode 8 The Versatile Element: Carbon
Study the amazing properties of the carbon atom, which can attach itself to other carbon atoms to form the hardest known mineral (diamond) and also one of the softest (graphite).…
Episode 9 The Strange Behavior of Water
Analyze one of the weirdest of all substances: water. While we think of water as normal, its boiling, freezing, dissolving, and heat-storing properties are quite extraordinary compared to other molecules.…
Episode 10 Matter in Solution
Explore the nature of chemical solutions, which can be liquid, solid, or gaseous, and are ubiquitous in daily life. Examples include dental fillings, air, blood, and soft drinks. Study the…
Episode 11 Interactions: Adhesion and Cohesion
Probe the forces that allow lizards to walk up walls: adhesion and cohesion, which are ways that materials interact with themselves and with other materials. By examining these forces in…
Episode 12 Surface Energy: The Interfaces among Us
A surface is a discontinuity, or interface, between one phase of matter and another. Focus on this crucial boundary, which affects everything from a spacecraft reentering the atmosphere to the…
Episode 13 The Eloquent Chemistry of Carbon Compounds
Delve into the richness of organic chemistry--the study of carbon compounds that have links to living things. Learn some of the basic terminology, and survey common organic compounds such as…
Episode 14 Materials for Body Implants
Today, medicine can replace many parts of the human body thanks to an improved understanding of materials and their biochemistry. Trace the progress in body implants from dental fillings and…
Episode 15 The Chemistry of Food and Drink
Explore the chemistry of food and drink from the point of view of the cook and the consumer. What are the chemicals in an egg, a piece of toast, a…
Episode 16 Fuels and Explosives
Study the different ways that stored chemical energy is released in substances such as gasoline, coal, natural gas, nitroglycerine, and TNT. Learn the difference between detonation, which is what high…
Episode 17 The Air We Breathe
Analyze the mix of gases in air, from the most abundant--nitrogen and oxygen--to minor constituents such as argon and carbon dioxide. Explore the phenomenon of air pressure and how it…
Episode 18 The Stone, Bronze, and Iron Ages
The rise of civilization went hand in hand with advances in the understanding of materials. Learn how the Stone Age gave way to the Bronze Age and then the Iron…
Episode 19 Again and Again: Polymers
The mystery of a bouncing rubber ball launches you into the study of polymers--long molecules with many repeating subunits. Explore their immense variety, from "poly" synthetics like polyethylene and polyester…
Episode 20 Recycling Materials
Investigate the ease of recycling some materials, such as aluminum and asphalt, and the impracticality of reusing others, such as certain plastics. Look at the different types of plastic, metal,…
Episode 21 Resistance Is Futile: Superconductors
Under special conditions, some materials lose all resistance to electron flow, becoming superconductors that transmit electricity with 100 percent efficiency. Probe this phenomenon at the atomic level, and learn how…
Episode 22 Resistance Is Useful: Semiconductors
How does a tiny piece of impure silicon launch an electronics revolution? Follow the development of semiconductors from the invention of the transistor in the 1940s to ever-smaller circuits that…
Episode 23 Out of Many, One: Composites
When different materials combine to create something very unlike its individual components, you have a composite. Learn what gives composites superior properties. Explore a wide range of examples, including concrete,…
Episode 24 The Future of Materials
Close your study of the nature of matter by looking ahead at ambitious goals for future materials, and review examples of past science fiction that's now science fact. Achievements like…

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The Nature of Light and Matter
Episode 2 of The Nature of Matter
Trace a scientific revolution that started with a curious observation about light and a seemingly nonsensical explanation. Learn how Max Planck's proposal that energy is related to frequency, and Albert Einstein's application of this principle to light, gave birth to modern physics.