Energy, Environment, and Everyday Life

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Explore the intricate nexus of energy, environment, and daily life in this enriching course. Delve into the origins and utilization of energy, the environmental repercussions of fossil fuels, renewable energy sources, and the complexities of nuclear power. Engaging multimedia segments and quizzes reinforce learning. Uncover the economic underpinnings of energy policy and discover 24 segments on "How Things Work," imparting diverse insights into everyday phenomena. This course is designed to inform and entertain, offering a holistic understanding of energy and its impact on our world.

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Energy, Environment, and Everyday Life
Course Modules

Embark on a comprehensive journey through 8 modules, encompassing diverse topics such as energy sources, environmental impact, renewables, and nuclear power. Engaging multimedia content and quizzes reinforce learning, ensuring a holistic understanding of energy and its impact on our world.

Course Orientation

This module introduces the course and includes guidelines, syllabus review, discussions, and quizzes. Participants will engage in demographic surveys and get to know their classmates, aligning expectations for a collaborative learning experience.

Week 1: How It All Starts and Ends

Week 1 delves into the fundamentals of energy, its origins, global distribution, and utilization. Multimedia segments explore topics such as fireworks, the creation of sound, and chemical versus nuclear energy, culminating in comprehensive quizzes.

Week 2: Getting and Using the Power

Week 2 explores energy conversion and utilization, covering temperature, liquid nitrogen, heat engines, electricity, and the smart grid. Participants will gain insights into hybrid cars, shockwave phenomena, and engaging lightning displays.

Week 3: Why Coal Is Dirty

Week 3 delves into the environmental impact of fossil fuels, examining coal, its usage, and the subsequent environmental effects like acid rain and global warming. Participants will explore geoengineering and the effects of climate change, culminating in an assignment on climate change.

Week 4: Oil and Gas – With Us Forever?

Week 4 focuses on oil and gas, exploring their formation, extraction, refining, and economic impact. The module also addresses topics like tar sands, pipeline controversies, hydraulic fracturing (fracking), and the environmental implications of natural gas production.

Week 5: Renewables – What Is New under the Sun

Week 5 delves into renewable energy sources, including solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, and biofuels. Participants will explore the economics of biofuels, energy from garbage, and engage in solar experiments, enhancing their understanding of sustainable energy.

Week 6: More Renewables and Your Radioactive World

Week 6 further explores renewables, including small and large-scale hydropower, hot rocks, and the economics of nuclear power. It also delves into radiation, addressing the health and environmental implications of nuclear energy, concluding with a focus on home improvements.

Week 7: Nuclear Power Problems and Solutions

Week 7 delves into nuclear power problems and solutions, exploring the history and impact of incidents such as Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima. Participants will gain insights into uranium enrichment, economics of nuclear power, and decommissioning, culminating in a deep dive into the future of nuclear energy.

Week 8: Our Future Is Bright!

Week 8 explores our nuclear future, addressing high and low-level nuclear waste, reactor technologies, and the potential of fusion energy. Participants will gain insights into breeder reactors, reprocessing, and the progress of magnetic and inertial confinement fusion, concluding with reflections on the nuclear option.

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