Auschwitz Captured in Haunting Drone Footage (and a New Short Film by Steven Spielberg & Meryl Streep)

Drones can give us an extraordinary view of cities still in their prime — cities like Los Angeles, New York, London, Bangkok & Mexico City. They can also give us a rare glimpse of places no longer inhabited, places quieted by the unspeakable. We’ve shown you a drone’s-eye view of Chernobyl. This week, it’s Auschwitz. Shot by the BBC, this sobering footage carries us over the massive Nazi concentration, built in Southern Poland, where 1.1 million people died during World War II, most of them (90%) European Jews. Many died in the gas chambers. Others of starvation, forced labor, infectious diseases, and sadistic medical experiments.

Below, you can also watch a newly-released short documentary on Auschwitz. Produced by Steven Spielberg and narrated by Meryl Streep, it premiered last week before 300 Holocaust survivors in Auschwitz, helping to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the camp.

Dan Colman is the founder/editor of Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox.

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The Geometric Beauty of Akira Kurosawa and Wes Anderson’s Films

Last month, we featured Every Frame a Painting, Tony Zhou’s series of video essays examining the filmmaking techniques of directors like Martin Scorsese, Edgar Wright, Steven Spielberg, and David Fincher. His newest piece looks at just one element of just one scene, but one directed by one of the highest figures, if not the highest figure, in the cinematic pantheon: Akira Kurosawa. Zhou, as any cinephile might expect, has a full-length examination of “the Emperor” of Japanese film in the works, but for now he’s put out a short video essay on the geometry of a couple minutes from The Bad Sleep Well (1960).

That 1960 release, a non-period piece not quite as well known as Kurosawa films like Seven SamuraiRashomon, and Kagemusha, tells a Hamlet-like tale against the cultural backdrop of postwar Japanese corporate corruption. Despite its non-epic nature, it has drawn my own attention again and again over the years, just as it seems to have drawn Zhou’s. Here, he uses it to illustrate Kurosawa’s penchant for constructing scenes not out of, as Hitchcock once put it, “photographs of people talking” — a dull practice that more than persists on screens today — but out of geometrical shapes.

You might like to compare this brief study of Kurosawa’s geometry with video essayist Kogonada‘s look at the geometry of Wes Anderson’s movies. Just as you can’t watch the Every Frame a Painting mini-episode on The Bad Sleep Well without looking for shapes in the next Kurosawa pictures you watch, you can’t watch “Centered” without drawing a mental line down the center of your next screening of Bottle RocketRushmoreThe Royal Tenenbaums, or their Andersonian successors. Zhou says he feels bored when subjected to the undisciplined visual composition in most major films, but here we have two filmmakers one can always rely on for the antidote.

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Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture as well as the video series The City in Cinema and writes essays on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Hear Isolated Guitar Tracks From Some of Rock’s Greatest: Slash, Eddie Van Halen, Eric Clapton & More

It seems like nearly everything that’s ever been recorded eventually makes its way to Youtube—at least for a while. From historic speeches by Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. to the rambling conspiracy theories of obscure basement dwellers, you can hear it all. One particular phenomenon in recent years is that of the “isolated track,” the vocal and individual instrument recordings from well-known songs, usually taken directly from the master tapes. We’ve featured many of these, from famous drummers like John Bonham and Stewart Copeland to bassists like Sting, Paul McCartney, and Queen’s John Deacon.

Today, we bring you isolated tracks from some of rock ‘n’ roll’s most celebrated guitarists, and we do so in full anticipation of a slew of outraged “What about so and so!” comments. So to pre-empt some inevitably hurt feelings, bear in mind that the selection of isolated tracks online is—despite Youtube’s many riches—rather limited. We’re working with what’s available here. And if you don’t see your Joe Pass or Bonamassa—two guitarists I greatly admire—or any other jazz or blues players, it’s because we’re focusing specifically on rock guitarists.

That said, let’s begin with what is arguably the most recognizable guitar line since Jimmy Page’s work in “Stairway to Heaven.” You’ve heard the intro to “Sweet Child O’ Mine” an uncountable number of times—played beautifully by Slash and his talented imitators, and badly by struggling students in music stores. But have you ever really heard what the premier 90s rock guitarist is doing in the rest of the song? Once Axl Rose starts wailing, it’s a bit hard to listen to anything else. So take six minutes and play through the entire isolated track above. It’s a pretty stunning mix of delicate arpeggios, punchy overdriven rhythms, and, of course, the soaring sustained lead lines and wah-wah madness we know from those oh-so memorable solos. OnStage magazine has a nice little breakdown of Slash’s technique and tone. For a very thorough dissection of the exact rig he used in the studio to make these sounds, check out this article.

Before the mighty Slash, the most influential rock guitarist was without a doubt Eddie Van Halen, whose signature maneuvers and technical innovations completely changed how rock and metal guitarists approached the instrument. Van Halen, writes Ultimate Classic Rock, “virtually single-handedly re-invented the entire rock guitar lexicon with his blend of tone, technique and sheer musicality.” He did it two-handedly also, more-or-less inventing two-handed tapping, “a technique in which Van Halen uses the fingers of his right hand to fret notes on the neck of the guitar, which allows him to phrase passages very rapidly without the limitations of a pick.” You can hear several examples in this list of top 10 Eddie Van Halen solos.

Just above, in the isolated guitar track for “Panama,” hear an often unremarked aspect of Van Halen’s playing—his exceptional rhythm work. Punctuated with gritty slides, dives, and bends, and the song’s familiar three-note riff, Van Halen’s rhythms are extraordinarily fluid, musically expressive, and commandingly dynamic. His solo work here is subtle—not nearly as flashy as in so many other songs—but that allows us to focus all the more on how brilliant his rhythm playing really is. Like Slash, Van Halen had to compete with a ridiculously flamboyant singer, and like Slash, he often emerges as band’s real main attraction.

Play “Free Bird,” man. No, I won’t. Well, not the whole thing. But listen to that solo, all 4 plus minutes of it, above, played by Allen Collins. Lynyrd Skynyrd’s three-guitar attack of Collins, Ed King, and Gary Rossington may have seemed extravagant, or just plain indulgent, but it served an important purpose: duplicating the album recordings perfectly onstage. Bandleader Ronnie Van Zandt “was such a stalwart and stickler for perfection—so much so that everyone was supposed to play more or less the same solos they did on the album,” writes the blog One Week//One Band, “because that’s what the audience came to hear.” Collin’s screaming solo—number 3 in Guitar World’s top 100—came about by chance, as did the entire song, in fact, pieced together impromptu by the band during rehearsal. But why does “Free Bird” never, ever seem to end? Rossington has the story:

… We started playing it in clubs, but it was just the slow part. Then Ronnie said, “Why don’t you do something at the end of that so I can take a break for a few minutes?” so I came up with those three chords at the end and Allen played over them, then I soloed and then he soloed… it all evolved out of a jam one night. So, we started playing it that way, but Ronnie kept saying, “It’s not long enough. Make it longer.”

On the studio version, “Collins played the entire solo himself on his Gibson Explorer.” Says Rossington, “He was bad. He was super bad! He was bad-to-the-bone bad… the way he was doin’ it, he was just so hot! He just did it once and did it again and it was done.” And there you have it.

If this list didn’t have any Clapton on it, I’d probably get death threats. Luckily we have an isolated Clapton track, but not from a Clapton band. Instead, above, hear his guest work on the George Harrison-penned and -sung Beatles’ song “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” from 1968. In a previous post on this masterfully iconic recording, Mike Springer described Clapton’s technique and gear: “For the impression of a person weeping and wailing, Clapton used the fingers on his fretting hand to bend the strings deeply, in a highly expressive descending vibrato. He was playing a 1957 Gibson Les Paul, a guitar he had once owned but had given to Harrison, who nicknamed it ‘Lucy.’”

I’ll admit, I grew up assuming that Harrison played the leads in this song, an assumption that colored my assessment of Harrison’s playing in general. But while he’s certainly no slouch, even he admitted that this was better left to the man they call “Slowhand” (a nickname, by the way, that has nothing to do with his playing). Typically humble and understated, Harrison described to Guitar World in 1987 how Clapton came to guest on the song:

No, my ego would rather have Eric play on it. I’ll tell you, I worked on that song with John, Paul, and Ringo one day, and they were not interested in it at all. And I knew inside of me that it was a nice song. The next day I was with Eric, and I was going into the session, and I said, “We’re going to do this song. Come on and play on it.” He said, “Oh, no. I can’t do that. Nobody ever plays on the Beatles records.” I said, “Look, it’s my song, and I want you to play on it.” So Eric came in, and the other guys were as good as gold–because he was there. Also, it left me free to just play the rhythm and do the vocal. So Eric played that, and I thought it was really good. Then we listened to it back, and he said, “Ah, there’s a problem, though; it’s not Beatley enough”–so we put it through the ADT [automatic double-tracker], to wobble it a bit.

It’s the wobble, I think that made me think of Harrison, but now listening to it again above, pulled from its Beatley context, I just hear Clapton.

Just above, we have a guitarist most people have probably never heard of. But for certain 90s music fans and players, myself included, John Squire was an unsung hero of a British band many felt deserved more attention than Blur and Oasis combined. I’m talking about The Stone Roses, Madchester colleagues of bands like The Happy Mondays and The Chameleons. Although the scene as a whole thrived on sixties-revival dance grooves with harder drugs, Squire stood out for his quiet self-confidence, second career as a painter, and bluesy, Hendrix-inspired playing. I learned by heart his outro solos on the band’s barnburner “I Am The Resurrection,” a wickedly inventive bit of work that anyone who knows the band knows well.

Unfortunately, the follow-up to their 1989 self-titled debut, 1994’s The Second Coming, was critically shunned and almost ignored by former fans. Unfortunate timing, I’d say. Jack White and the Black Keys had yet to make blues rock cool again, and the band had mostly moved from playing like the Byrds to playing like the Yardbirds. Just above from that unloved second and final record, hear Squire’s isolated playing on “Love Spreads,” a song second only to “Driving South” as the band’s most potent appropriation of the blues. Squire, in my book, is a criminally underrated guitarist who did some of his best work on a criminally underrated album.

Finally, some excellent guitar work by a guitarist I love, playing with a band I don’t. But as much as I may dislike the Red Hot Chili Peppers songs, I stand in awe of their mind-blowing musicianship. While bassist Flea gets most of the attention, their longtime on-again, off-again guitarist John Frusciante is just as much, if not more, of a standout player. A musical prodigy, Frusciante—who replaced Hillel Slovak after the latter’s 1988 overdose—joined the band at just 18 and completely transformed their sound overnight with, writes Rolling Stone’s David Fricke, “Hendrixian force.”

In RHCP’s once inescapable ballad—“Under the Bridge”—he concocts a “poignant Beatlesque melody” joined with funk licks and chorus-drenched chordal phrases. Frusciante plays with a distinctive personality that’s instantly recognizable, whether it’s with the Chili Peppers, The Mars Volta, Duran Duran (!), or his own totally oddball solo records. An always unpredictable musician, his once amateurish experiments with electronic music have grown into full-blown acid house that sounds nothing like John Frusciante. Great stuff, but I hope he picks up the guitar again soon.

So yeah, I could have included isolated tracks from Dimebag Darrell or Jake E. Lee, brilliant guitarists both. And lots of people seem to like those Avenged Sevenfold guys, though it ain’t my cuppa tea. But this list is just a sampling and doesn’t pretend to be complete by any stretch. If you happen to find some isolated guitar tracks online that you think our readers should hear, by all means post them in the comments.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness.

The Paintings of Filmmaker/Visual Artist David Lynch

I Burn Pinecone and throw it in your house

David Lynch

It was 1967, and David Lynch, a student at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, was up late in his studio when he had a vision. The plants in the painting he was working on seemed to be moving. “I’m looking at this and hearing this,” he recalled, “and I say, ‘Oh, a moving painting.’ And that was it.”

That thunderbolt of an idea put him on the road towards creating some of the most unsettling and surreal images in cinema from the dancing dream dwarf in Twin Peaks to those freaky little people in Mulholland Drive. His first step was the multimedia work “Six Men Getting Sick” – a large-scale work consisting of painting, sculpture and a one-minute film loop, Lynch’s first foray into film. His subsequent early film work, from The Grandmother to Eraserhead, feels like an extension of his fine art work. “As a painter, you do everything yourself, and I thought cinema was that way,” Lynch said, “like a painting, but you have people helping you.” Of course, by the time he made his big budget dud Dune, he was thoroughly disabused of that notion.

Yet while becoming one of Hollywood’s most influential directors, he continued to paint. Last year his alma mater unveiled a retrospective of his artwork from 1965 to the present called “David Lynch: The Unified Field.” Much of the work is from the late-90s on, a time when Lynch found himself detaching more and more from Hollywood. His last feature film, Inland Empire, came out in 2006. Apparently, he was spending much of his free time in the studio.

At 3 A.M. I Am Here With The Red Dream

David Lynch

His work during this period is intentionally crude and childlike, combining cartoonish images with pregnant, semi-intelligible text. Sure, his paintings don’t have the primal, psychosexual power of his movies, but there is still something compelling about them. Take, for insistence, the multimedia work “I Burn Pinecone and throw it in your house” (top). It looks like a demented children’s book narrated by a crazed mountain man.

“At 3 A.M. I Am Here With The Red Dream” (middle) looks like the product of a mental patient, complete with smudged out text and Henry Darger-esque girl legs.

Grim Augury

David Lynch

Of course, Lynch didn’t restrict himself to painting. He has also worked in digital photography. In his 2009 work, Untitled (Grim Augury #1), (bottom) Lynch depicts a Sunday dinner gone horribly, inexplicably, wrong.

You can watch a video of the exhibit below. Find an online gallery of Lynch’s artistic works here.

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Jonathan Crow is a Los Angeles-based writer and filmmaker whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hollywood Reporter, and other publications. You can follow him at @jonccrow. And check out his blog Veeptopus, featuring lots of pictures of badgers and even more pictures of vice presidents with octopuses on their heads.  The Veeptopus store is here.

Stanford Launches Free Course on Developing Apps with iOS 8

i0s8 apps stanford

Quick note: Whenever Apple releases a new version of iOS, Stanford eventually releases a course telling you how to develop apps in that environment. iOS 8 came out last fall, and now the iOS 8 app development course is getting rolled out this quarter. It’s free online, of course, on iTunes.

You can now find “Developing iOS Apps with Swift” housed in our collection of Free Computer Science Courses, which currently features 117 courses in total, including some basic Harvard courses that will teach you how to code in 12 weeks.

As always, courses from other disciplines can be found on our larger list, 1100 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox.

Arthur C. Clarke Predicts in 2001 What the World Will Look By December 31, 2100

Clarke_sm

“Clarke sm” by Amy Marash. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

When you want a vision of the future, I very much doubt you turn to Reader’s Digest for it. But Arthur C. Clarke did once appear in its small-format pages to provide just that, and when Arthur C. Clarke talks about the future, you’d do well to listen. Last year, we featured a 1964 BBC documentary in which the science-fiction luminary predicted the internet, 3D printers, and trained monkey servants. Today, we’d like to link you up to his Reader’s Digest predictions from the comparatively recent year of 2001 — one in which, for obvious reasons, Clarke made the media rounds — which you can read in full at arthurcclarke.net. Some highlights of his speculative timeline from 2001 to 2100:

  • By 2010, commercial nuclear devices, household quantum generators, and fully re-engineered automobile engines will have ended the Fossil Fuel Age. We’ll have seen the first acknowledged human clone and seen off the last human criminal.
  • By 2020, we’ll have discovered a 76-meter octopus, fly on “aerospace-planes” (one of which will carry Prince Harry), and trade in “mega-watt-hours” instead of any now-known currencies, and tsunamis caused by a meteor will wreck the coasts of Greenland and Canada (prompting the development of new meteor-detecting technologies).
  • By 2030, artificial intelligence will have reached human level, we’ll have landed on Mars, computer-generated DNA will make possible a real-life Jurassic Park, and the neurological “braincap” will allow us the direct sensory experience of anything at all.
  • By 2040, the “universal replicator” will allow us to create any object at all in the comfort of our own homes, resulting in the phase-out of work and a boom in arts, entertainment, and education.
  • By 2050, Buckminster Fuller-style self-contained mobile homes become a reality, and humans scattered as far as “Earth, the Moon, Mars, Europa, Ganymede and Titan, and in orbit around Venus, Neptune and Pluto” celebrate the centenary of Sputnik 1.
  • By 2090, Halley’s comet will have returned, and on it we’ll have found life forms that vindicate “Wickramasinghe and Hoyle’s century-old hypothesis that life exists through space.” We’ll also start burning fossil fuels again, both as a replacement for the carbon dioxide we’ve “mined” from the air and to forestall the next Ice Age by warming the globe back up a bit.
  • By 2100, we’ll have replaced rockets with a “space drive” that lets us travel close to the speed of light. And so, Clarke writes, “history begins…”

You’ll notice, of course, that we’re already behind Clarke’s vision, according to which many a still-improbable development also lies ahead in the near future. In any case, though, the end of crime, the beginning of private space travel, and the era of the Dymaxion home must come sooner or later, mustn’t they? And as Clarke himself admits, one plays a mug’s game when one predicts, even when one does it with uncommon astuteness. “In 1971 I predicted the first Mars Landing in 1994,” he remembers in the preamble to his list. “On the other hand, I thought I was being wildly optimistic in 1951 by suggesting a mission to the moon in 1978. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin beat me by almost a decade.”

But to this day, Clarke’s scorecard looks better than most of ours: “I take pride in the fact that communications satellites are placed exactly where I suggested in 1945, and the name “Clarke Orbit” is often used (if only because it’s easier to say than ‘geostationary orbit’).” Who knows what he could tell us to watch out for now if, as he predicted in 2001, he’d lived to see his hundredth birthday aboard the Hilton Orbiter Hotel?

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Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture as well as the video series The City in Cinema and writes essays on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Stream Classic Poetry Readings from Harvard’s Rich Audio Archive: From W.H. Auden to Dylan Thomas

harvard poetry

Founded in 1931, the Woodberry Poetry Room at Harvard University features (among other things) 6,000 recordings of poetry from the 20th and 21st centuries. There you can find some of the earliest recordings of W. H. Auden, Elizabeth Bishop, T. S. Eliot, Denise Levertov, Robert Lowell, Anais Nin, Ezra Pound, Robert Penn Warren, Tennessee Williams and many others.

In the “Listening Booth,” a section of the Poetry Room website, you can listen to recordings of classic readings by nearly 200 authors, including John Berryman, Robert Bly, Jorge Luis Borges, Joseph Brodsky, Jorie Graham, Seamus Heaney, Jack Kerouac, Adrienne Rich, Anne Sexton, Wallace Stevens, Dylan Thomas, Anne Waldman, William Carlos Williams and more. The sound files are all free to stream. And if this is your kind of thing, make sure you visit the Penn Sound archive at the University of Pennsylvania, which is an equally rich and amazing audio archive. We previously featured it here.

Dan Colman is the founder/editor of Open Culture. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus and share intelligent media with your friends. Or better yet, sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox.

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An Illustration of Every Page of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick

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Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, the work he is most known for in death, had the effect in life of ruining his literary reputation and driving him into obscurity. This is but one of many ironies attending the massive novel, first published in Britain in three volumes on October 18, 1851. At that time, it was simply called The Whale, and as Melville.org informs us, was “expurgated to avoid offending delicate political and moral sensibilities.” One month later, the first American edition appeared, now titled Moby Dick; Or, The Whale, compiled into one huge volume, and with its censored passages, including the Epilogue, restored. In both printings, the book sold poorly, and the reviews—save those from a handful of American critics, including Melville’s fellow Great American novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne—were largely negative.

Another irony surrounding the novel is one nearly everyone who’s read it, or tried to read it, will know well. We’re socialized through visual media to approach the story as great, tragic action/adventure. As Melville’s friend, publisher Evert Augustus Duyckinck, described it, the novel is ostensibly “a romantic, fanciful & literal & most enjoyable presentment of the Whale Fishery,” driven by the revenge plot of mad old Captain Ahab. And yet, it is not that at all, or not simply that. Despite the fact that it lends itself so well to adventurous retelling, the novel itself can seem very obscure, ponderous, and digressive to a maddening degree. The so-called “whaling chapters,” notably “Cetology,” delve deeply into the lore and technique of whaling, the anatomy and physiology of various whale species, and the history and politics of the venture.

Throughout the novel, ordinary objects and events—especially, of course, the whale itself—acquire such symbolic weight that they become almost cartoonish talismans and leap bewilderingly out of the narrative, forcing the reader to contemplate their significance—no easy task. Depending on your sensibilities and tolerance for Melville’s labyrinthine prose, these very strange features of the novel are either indispensably fascinating or just plain excess baggage. Since many editions are published with the whaling chapters excised, many readers clearly feel they are the latter. That is unfortunate, I think. It’s one of my favorite novels, in all its baroque overstuffedness and philosophical density. But there’s no denying that it works, as they say, “on many levels.” Depending on how you experience the book—it’s either an incredibly gripping adventure tale, or a very dense and puzzling work of history, philosophy, politics, and zoology… or both, and more besides….

md001_08052009

Recognizing the power of Melville’s arresting imagery, artist and librarian Matt Kish decided that he would illustrate all 552 pages of the Signet Classic paperback edition of Moby Dick, a book he considers “to be the greatest novel ever written.” He began the project in August of 2009 with the first page, illustrating those famous first words—“Call me Ishmael”—above. (At the top, see page 489, below it page 158, and directly below, page 116). Kish completed his epic project at the end of 2010. He used a variety of media—ink, watercolor, acrylic paint—and incorporated a number of different graphic art styles. As he explains in the comments under the first illustration, he chose “drawing and painting over pages from old books and diagrams because the presence of visual information on those pages would in some ways interfere with, and clutter up, my own obsessive control over my marks.” All in all, it’s a very admirable undertaking, and you can see each individual illustration, and many of the stages of drafting and composition, at Kish’s blog or on this list we’ve compiled. (You can also find links to the first 25 pages at bottom of this post.) The entire project has also been published as a book, Moby-Dick in Pictures: One Drawing for Every Page, a further irony given the obsessive literariness of Melville’s novel, a work as obsessed with language as Captain Ahab is with his great white nemesis.

md116_12282009

Nonetheless, what Kish’s project further demonstrates is the seemingly inexhaustible treasure house that is Moby Dick, a book that so richly appeals to all the senses as it also ceaselessly engages the intellect. Kish has gone on to apply his wonderful interpretive technique to other classic literary works, including Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities. These projects are equally striking, but it’s Moby Dick, “the great unread American novel,” that most inspired Kish, as it has so many other artists and readers.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

The Little Albert Experiment: The Perverse 1920 Study That Made a Baby Afraid of Santa Claus & Bunnies

The field of psychology is very different than it used to be. Nowadays, the American Psychological Association has a code of conduct for experiments that ensures a subject’s confidentiality, consent and general mental well being. In the old days, it wasn’t the case.

Back then, you could, for instance, con subjects into thinking that they were electrocuting a man to death, as they did in the infamous 1961 Milgram experiment, which left people traumatized and humbled in the knowledge that deep down they are little more than weak-willed puppets in the face of authority. You could also try to turn a group of unsuspecting orphans into stutterers by methodically undermining their self-esteem as the folks who ran the aptly named Monster Study of 1939 tried to do. But, if you really want to get into the swamp of moral dubiousness, look no further than the Little Albert experiments, which traumatized a baby into hating dogs, Santa Claus and all things fuzzy.

Albert-and-rabbit-1024x718

In 1920, Johns Hopkins professor John B. Watson was fascinated with Ivan Pavlov’s research on conditioned stimulus. Pavlov famously rang a bell every time he fed his dogs. At first the food caused the dogs to salivate, but after a spell of pairing the bell with dinner, the dogs would eventually salivate at just the sound of the bell. That’s called a conditioned response. Watson wanted to see if he could create a conditioned response in a baby.

Enter 9-month old Albert B., AKA Little Albert. At the beginning of the experiment, Albert was presented with a white rat, a dog, a white rabbit, and a mask of Santa Claus among other things. The lad was unafraid of everything and was, in fact, really taken with the rat. Then every time the baby touched the animals, scientists struck a metal bar behind him, creating a startlingly loud bang. The sound freaked out the child and soon, like Pavlov’s dogs, Little Albert grew terrified of the rat and the mask of Santa and even a fur coat. The particularly messed up thing about the experiment was that Watson didn’t even both to reverse the psychological trauma he inflicted.

Little-albert

What happened to poor baby Albert is hard to say, in part because no one is really sure of the child’s true identity. He might have been Douglas Merritte, as psychologists Hall P. Beck and Sharman Levinson argued in 2009. If that’s the case, then the child died at the age of 6 in 1925 of hydrocephalus. Or he might have been William Albert Barger, as Russ Powell and Nancy Digdon argued in 2012. He passed away in 2007 at the age of 87. He reportedly had a lifelong aversion to dogs, though it cannot be determined if it was a lasting effect of the experiment.

Later in life, Watson left academics for advertising.

You can watch a video of the experiment above.

via Mental Floss

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Jonathan Crow is a Los Angeles-based writer and filmmaker whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hollywood Reporter, and other publications. You can follow him at @jonccrow. And check out his blog Veeptopus, featuring lots of pictures of badgers and even more pictures of vice presidents with octopuses on their heads.  The Veeptopus store is here.

Bill Nye the Science Guy Takes the Air Out of Deflategate

Did the weather have anything to do with those balls deflating in New England during the AFC championship game? It’s unlikely, very unlikely. Bill Nye explains why with science, but not without putting the hyped controversy into perspective first. Take it away Bill.

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