What Gravitational Waves Sound Like: New Audio of Black Holes Colliding Confirms Predictions Einstein Made 100 Years Ago

On Thursday, scientists announced that they had recorded the sound of two black holes colliding a billion light years away, providing the first real proof that gravitational waves actually exist–something Albert Einstein predicted 100 years ago in his famous paper on general relativity. If you would like an introduction to the whole concept of gravitational waves, I’d recommend watching the animation below, created by PhD Comics–the same folks who created a handy animation explaining the Higgs Boson when it was confirmed back in 2012.

But, for the moment, I’d really like you to listen to the “Gravitational Wave Chirp,” the audio recording unveiled by scientists this week. (Hear it up top.) As The New York Times describes it, the chirp rises to “the note of middle C before abruptly stopping,” And it’s likely to “take its place among the great sound bites of science,” ranking up there with Alexander Graham Bell’s “Mr. Watson — come here” and Sputnik’s first beeps from orbit.” Decades from now, you can tell your grandkids you heard it here first.

Related Content:

The Higgs Boson, AKA the God Particle, Explained with Animation

Free Online Physics Courses, part of our larger collection, 1150 Free Online Courses from Top Universities

Gravity Visualized by High School Teacher in an Amazingly Elegant & Simple Way

Music in the Brain: Scientists Finally Reveal the Parts of Our Brain That Are Dedicated to Music

The late neurologist and writer Oliver Sacks had a big hit back in 2007 with his book Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, addressing as it did from Sacks’ unquenchably brain- and music-curious perspective a connection almost all of us feel instinctively. We know we love music, and we know that love must have something to do with how our brains work, but for most of human history we haven’t had many credible explanations for what’s going on. But science has discovered more about the relationship between music and the brain, and we’ve posted about some of those fascinating discoveries as they come out. (Have a look at all the related posts below.)

But now, a study from MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research has revealed exactly which parts of our brains respond specifically to music. They’ve put out a brief video of this research, which you can watch above, explaining their process, which involved putting subjects into an MRI and playing them various sounds, then studying how their brains responded differently to music than to, say, the spoken word or a flushing toilet. Not looking to test any hypothesis in particular, the research team found “striking selectivity” in which regions of the brain lit up, in their specially designed analytical model, in response to music.

“Why do we have music?” asks the McGovern Institute’s Dr. Nancy Kanwisher in a New York Times article on the research by Natalie Angier. “Why do we enjoy it so much and want to dance when we hear it? How early in development can we see this sensitivity to music, and is it tunable with experience? These are the really cool first-order questions we can begin to address.” The piece also quotes Josef Rauschecker, director of the Laboratory of Integrative Neuroscience and Cognition at Georgetown University, citing “theories that music is older than speech or language,” and that “some even argue that speech evolved from music,” which “works as a group cohesive. Music-making with other people in your tribe is a very ancient, human thing to do.” Which all, of course, goes to support the bold hypothesis put forth by the late Tower Records: No Music, No Life.

Related Content:

The Neuroscience of Bass: New Study Explains Why Bass Instruments Are Fundamental to Music

The Neuroscience of Drumming: Researchers Discover the Secrets of Drumming & The Human Brain

Playing an Instrument Is a Great Workout For Your Brain: New Animation Explains Why

New Research Shows How Music Lessons During Childhood Benefit the Brain for a Lifetime

Why We Love Repetition in Music: Explained in a New TED-Ed Animation

This is Your Brain on Jazz Improvisation: The Neuroscience of Creativity

Free Online Psychology & Neuroscience Courses

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

LIFE Magazine’s Guide to Kissing, Circa 1942

Once upon a time, in the middle of World War II, there was a right way to do it. And a wrong way to do it. Are there rules in 2016? And what would they look like? That’s your homework assignment for this Valentine’s Day weekend.

Related Content:

Brokeback Before Brokeback: The First Same-Sex Kiss in Cinema (1927)

The Story Behind Rodin’s ‘The Kiss’

Three “Anti-Films” by Andy Warhol: Sleep, Eat & Kiss

Celebrate Valentine’s Day with a Charming Stop Motion Animation of an E.E. Cummings’ Love Poem

Valentine’s Day draws nigh, and we can only assume our readers are desperately wondering how to declaim love poetry without looking like a total prat.

Set it to music?

Go for it, but let’s not forget the fate of that soulful young fellow on the stairs of Animal House when his sweet airs fell upon the ears of John Belushi.

Sarah Huff, a young and relentlessly crafty blogger, hit upon a much better solution when animating E.E. Cummings’ 1952 poem [i carry your heart with me(i carry it in] for an American Literature class’ final project at Sinclair Community College.

Her construction paper cutouts are charming, but what really makes her rendering sing is the way she takes the pressure off by setting it to an entirely different love song. (Echoes of Cummings’ goat-footed balloon man in Terra Schneider’s Balloon (a.k.a. The Beginning)?)

Released from the potential perils of a too sonorous interpretation, the poet’s lines gambol playfully throughout the proceedings, spelled out in utilitarian alphabet stickers.

It’s pretty puddle-wonderful.

Watch it with your Valentine, and leave the read aloud to the punctuation-averse Cummings, below.

[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in

my heart)i am never without it(anywhere

i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done

by only me is your doing,my darling)

                                                      i fear

no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want

no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)

and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant

and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows

(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud

and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows

higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)

and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart

Related Content:

E.E. Cummings Recites ‘Anyone Lived in a Pretty How Town,’ 1953

Famous Writers’ Report Cards: Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, Norman Mailer, E.E. Cummings & Anne Sexton

The Mystical Poetry of Rumi Read By Tilda Swinton, Madonna, Robert Bly & Coleman Barks

This is Your Brain in Love: The Stanford Love Competition Shows What Love Looks Like on an MRI

We hear it so often it’s almost a cliché, one I’m sure I’ve repeated without giving it much thought: You can’t measure love in a laboratory. But we probably can, in fact. Or at least neuroscientists can. Last year, one joint Chinese and American team of neuroscientists did just that, defining the feeling we call love as “a motivational state associated with a desire to enter or maintain a close relationship with a specific other person.” This doesn’t cover the love of pets, food, or sunsets, but it gets at what we celebrate with candy and red tchotchkes every year around this time, as well as the love we have for friends or family.

Using fMRI scans of three groups of 100 men and women, the researchers found that an “in-love group had more increased activity across several brain regions involved in reward, motivation, emotion, and social functioning,” reports Medical Daily. The longer people had been “in love,” the greater the brain activity in these regions. Whether the brain states cause the emotion, or the emotion causes the brain states, or they are one in the same, I can’t say, but the fact remains: love can be quantifiably measured.

Meanwhile, Brent Hoff separately decided to exploit this fact for what he calls a “Love Competition.” With the help of Stanford’s Center for Cognitive Neurobiological Imaging (CNI), Hoff enlisted seven contestants of varying ages—from 10 to 75—and genders to enter an fMRI machine and “love someone as hard as they can” for five minutes. Whoever generates the most activity in regions “producing the neurochemical experience of love” wins. Gives you the warm fuzzies, right?

While “the idea that love can be measured may seem deeply unromantic,” writes Aeon magazine, “the results were anything but.” The contestants were not restricted to romantic love. Ten-year-old Milo gives his love to a new baby cousin, because “she’s very cute.” Dr. Bob Dougherty of CNI predicts early on that an “older guy” like himself might win because experience would better help him control the emotion. But at the beginning, it’s anyone’s game. Watch the competition above and find out who wins.

Given that this is billed as the “1st Annual Love Competition,” might we expect another this year?

Related Content:

What is Love? BBC Philosophy Animations Feature Sartre, Freud, Aristophanes, Dawkins & More

This Is Your Brain on Jane Austen: The Neuroscience of Reading Great Literature

Steven Pinker Explains the Neuroscience of Swearing (NSFW)

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

The Cramps Play a Mental Hospital in Napa, California in 1978: The Punkest of Punk Concerts

“We’re The Cramps, and we’re from New York City, and we drove 3,000 miles to play for you people.”
So begins one of the oddest but also the punkest of punk rock concerts in history, as The Cramps play for a crowd at a state mental hospital in Napa, California.

The date was June 13, 1978, a time when Napa was more known for the hospital than for its burgeoning wine industry.

Lead vocalist Lux Interior made this introduction after the first number, “Mystery Plane.” The band played on a patio, several steps above the courtyard at the institution, while the band’s friends hung out with the 100 or so patients in attendance.

“And somebody told me you people are crazy, but I’m not so sure about that,” Lux continues in the video. “You seem to be all right to me.” Indeed, most everybody seems to be having a hell of a time, some dancing as if they’re at a sock hop, others just completely thrashing about.

This wasn’t the first band to have played at the institution, as the hospital’s Bart Swain, who invited The Cramps to Napa, often brought in musicians to expand the patients’ horizons. But on that night a video camera was also brought along to record the set. (Swain worried about preserving the anonymity of the residents.)

Another band on the bill, The Mutants, didn’t get videotaped, possibly because the sun had gone down around this time. Either way, it is a very rare slice of punk history, with few comparisons apart from the Sex Pistols playing Chelmsford prison and when a little known thrash metal band called Gobstopper played a Christmas party at a home for developmentally disabled kids and adults.

According to this article on the event, Napa State still stands but the chances of such a concert happening again are slim. The majority of its tenants are now both violent offenders and mentally unstable, too dangerous a venue for anybody to play, no matter how punk.

via Noisey/Vice

Related Content:

The Sex Pistols Do Dallas: A Strange Concert from the Strangest Tour in History (January 10, 1978)

The Talking Heads Play CBGB, the New York Club that Shaped Their Sound (1975)

The Ramones Play New Year’s Eve Concert in London, 1977

Posters Promoting the 1970s L.A. Punk Scene: Black Flag, The Plimsouls, The Runaways & More

Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the artist interview-based FunkZone Podcast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, read his other arts writing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.

Hear Gabriel García Márquez’s Extraordinary Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech, “The Solitude Of Latin America,” in English & Spanish (1982)

From the very beginning of Europe’s incursions into the so-called New World, the ecology, the people, and the civilizations of the Americas became transmuted into legend and fantasy. Early explorers imagined the landscape they encountered as filled with marvels—creatures that arose from their own unconscious and from a literary history of exotic myths dating back to antiquity. And as the native people assumed the character of giants and monsters, savages and demons in travel accounts, their cities became repositories of unimaginable wealth, ripe for the taking.

Foremost among these legends was the city of El Dorado. Sought by the Spanish, Italians, and Portuguese throughout the 15th and 16th centuries and by Walter Raleigh in the 17th, “El Dorado,” says folklorist Jim Griffith, “shifted geographical locations until finally it simply meant a source of untold riches somewhere in the Americas.” A couple hundred years after Raleigh’s last ill-fated expedition, Edgar Allan Poe suggested the location of this city: “Over the Mountains of the Moon, down the Valley of the Shadow, ride, boldly ride… if you seek for El Dorado.”

These colonial encounters, and the feverish accounts they produced, “contained the seeds,” says Gabriel García Márquez in his 1982 Nobel Prize acceptance speech, “of our present-day novels.” El Dorado, “our so avidly sought and illusory land,” remained on imaginary maps of explorers well past the age of exploration: “As late as the last century, a German mission appointed to study the construction of an interoceanic railroad… concluded that the project was feasible” only if the rails were made of gold.

As Márquez’s work has often recounted, especially his epic One Hundred Years of Solitude, other commodities sufficed when the gold didn’t materialize, and the struggle between conquerors, adventurers, mercenaries, dictators, and opportunists on the one hand, and people fiercely determined to survive on the other has made “Latin America… a boundless realm of haunted men and historic women, whose unending obstinacy blurs into legend. We have not had a moment’s rest.”

Márquez’s speech, “The Solitude of Latin America,” weaves together the region’s founding history, its literature, and its bloody civil wars, military coups, and “the first Latin American ethnocide of our time” into an accumulating account of “immeasurable violence and pain,” the result of “age-old inequities and untold bitterness… oppression, plundering and abandonment.” To this catalogue, “we respond with life,” says Márquez, while “the most prosperous countries have succeeded in accumulating powers of destruction such as to annihilate, a hundred times over… the totality of all living beings that have ever drawn breath on this planet of misfortune.”

From the utopian dream of cities of gold and endless wealth, we arrive at a dystopian world bent on destroying itself. And yet,“faced with this awesome reality,” Márquez refuses to despair. He quotes from his literary hero William Faulkner’s Nobel speech—“I decline to accept the end of man”—then articulates another vision:

We, the inventors of tales, who will believe anything, feel entitled to believe that it is not yet too late to engage in the creation of the opposite utopia. A new and sweeping utopia of life, where no one will be able to decide for others how they die, where love will prove true and happiness be possible, and where the races condemned to one hundred years of solitude will have, at last and forever, a second opportunity on earth.

You can hear all of Márquez’s extraordinary speech read in English at the top of the post, and in Spanish by Márquez himself below that. The latter was made available by Maria Popova, and you can read a full transcript of the speech in English at Brain Pickings.

via Brain Pickings

Related Content:

Read 10 Short Stories by Gabriel García Márquez Free Online (Plus More Essays & Interviews)

Gabriel García Márquez Describes the Cultural Merits of Soap Operas, and Even Wrote a Script for One

William Faulkner Reads His Nobel Prize Speech

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

Neil Gaiman Presents “How Stories Last,” an Insightful Lecture on How Stories Change, Evolve & Endure Through the Centuries

gaiman how stories last

Image by Thierry Ehrmann, via Flickr Commons

Everybody knows Neil Gaiman, but they all know him best for different work: writing comic books like Sandman, novels like American Gods, television series like Neverwhere, movies like MirrorMask, an early biography of Duran Duran. What does all that — and everything else in the man’s prolific career — have in common? Stories. Every piece of work Gaiman does involves him telling a story of one kind or another, and so his profile in the culture has risen to great heights as, simply, a storyteller. That made him just the right man for the job when the Long Now Foundation, with its mission of thinking far back into the past and far forward into the future, needed someone to talk about how certain stories survive through both those time frames and beyond.

“Do stories grow?” Gaiman asks his years-in-the-making Long Now lecture, listenable on Soundcloud right below or viewable as a video here. “Pretty obviously — anybody who has ever heard a joke being passed on from one person to another knows that they can grow, they can change. Can stories reproduce? Well, yes. Not spontaneously, obviously — they tend to need people as vectors. We are the media in which they reproduce; we are their petri dishes.” He goes on to bring out examples from cave paintings, to secret retellings of Gone with the Wind in a Nazi concentration camp, to a warning to future generations not to dig into nuclear waste sites — designed for passage into the minds of posterity as a robustly crafted story.

Stories, writes the Long Now Foundation founder Stewart Brand, “outcompete other stories by hanging over time. They make it from medium to medium — from oral to written to film and beyond. They lose uninteresting elements but hold on to the most compelling bits or even add some.” He knows that, Gaiman knows that, and I think that all of us who have told stories sense its truth on an instinctive level: “The most popular version of the Cinderella story (which may have originated long ago in China) has kept the gloriously unlikely glass slipper introduced by a careless French telling.”

Another beloved British teller of tales, Douglas Adams, also had thoughts on the almost biological nature of literature. “We were talking about The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” Gaiman recalled elsewhere, “which was something which resembled an iPad, long before it appeared. And I said when something like that happens, it’s going to be the death of the book. Douglas said no. Books are sharks.” And what did he mean by that? “Sharks have been around for a very long time. There were sharks before there were dinosaurs, and the reason sharks are still in the ocean is that nothing is better at being a shark than a shark.” So not only do the best stories evolve to last the longest, so do the forms they take.

You can find 18 stories by Neil Gaiman (all free) in this collection.

Related Content:

George Saunders Demystifies the Art of Storytelling in a Short Animated Documentary

48 Hours of Joseph Campbell Lectures Free Online: The Power of Myth & Storytelling

Neil Gaiman Reads “The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury”

Where Do Great Ideas Come From? Neil Gaiman Explains

Amanda Palmer Animates & Narrates Husband Neil Gaiman’s Unconscious Musings

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, the video series The City in Cinema, the crowdfunded journalism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Angeles Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Take a Free Online Course on Making Animations from Pixar & Khan Academy

It’s a good month for nurturing your creativity: the California College of the Arts just launched a free course on making comics. And now comes another free course that will teach you the basics of animation. Pixar and Khan Academy have teamed up to create “Pixar in a Box,” a free online curriculum that shows how Pixar artists use computer science and math concepts to create their innovative films. Topic include Rigging (how characters are brought to life with controls), Rendering (how pixels are painted using algebra ), Character Modeling (how clay models are transformed into digital characters using weighted averages) and more. Enter the self-paced series of lessons, each filled with instructive videos, here.

via Make

Related Content:

Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling … Makes for an Addictive Parlor Game

Take a Free Online Course on Making Comic Books, Compliments of the California College of the Arts

Lynda Barry’s Illustrated Syllabus & Homework Assignments from Her New UW-Madison Course, “Making Comics”

Download 15,000+ Free Golden Age Comics from the Digital Comic Museum

1150 Free Online Courses from Top Universities

Download Hundreds of Van Gogh Paintings, Sketches & Letters in High Resolution

VG Self Portrait 1887

As a callow young art student in high school, I dearly wanted, and tried, to see the world with the same furious intensity as Vincent van Gogh, and to capture that kind of vision on paper and canvas. I later realized with chagrin as I stood in a line several blocks long for a wildly popular exhibit (Van Gogh’s Van Goghs at the National Gallery of Art) that I was but one of millions who wanted to see the world through Van Gogh’s eyes.

After waiting for what seemed like forever, not only could I barely get a glimpse of any of the paintings through the scrum of tourists and gawkers, but I felt—in my protective bubble of Van Gogh veneration—that these people couldn’t possibly get Van Gogh the way I got Van Gogh.

VG Portrait of Theo

Well, everybody has their own version of Van Gogh, perhaps, but one I’ve outgrown is the mad, magical genius whose mental illness acted as a tragic but necessary condition for his transcendently passionate work. Maybe it’s age and some familiarity with life’s hardship, but I no longer romanticize Van Gogh’s suffering. And perhaps a more realistic view of what was likely debilitating bipolar disorder has given me an even greater appreciation for his accomplishments. During the brief 10-year period that Van Gogh pursued his art, he was as dedicated as it’s possible to be—producing nearly 900 canvases and over 1,100 works on paper, and altering the way we see the world, all while experiencing severely crippling bouts of depression, anxiety, and self doubt; having his neighbors ostracize and evict him from his home; and spending most of his final year in an institution.

VG Head of a Skeleton

Sadly, he felt himself a mediocrity at best, a failure at worst. As the Metropolitan Museum of Art writes, “in 1890,” the final year of his life, “he modestly assessed his artistic legacy as of ‘very secondary’ importance.” (This despite the appreciation he’d begun to receive from several gallery showings.) The posthumous reception of his work—ubiquitously reproduced and admired by countless throngs in exhibit after exhibit—can do nothing now to lift his spirits, but surely vindicates his prodigious effort. Van Gogh’s fame has had the unfortunate side effect of crowding out many students of his art from gallery exhibitions. Yet this difficulty need not now prevent them from surveying and seeing up close his huge body of work in digital archives like that of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, the largest Van Gogh collection in the world.

VG Letter to Theo with Willow

By entering the collection, you can see, for example, Self Portrait with Straw Hat, at the top, from 1887, or the strikingly similar portrait of his brother and staunch supporter Theo from the same year, just below it. Further down is the darkly humorous Head of a Skeleton With a Burning Cigarette from 1886, and just above, see an 1882 letter to Theo, with a beautiful sketch of a Pollard Willow, an image he committed to canvas that year. Just below, see an interesting example of the very beginnings of Van Gogh’s posthumous canonization—an 1891 cover sketch and short tribute article in the French satirical magazine Les hommes D’Aujourd’hui.

VG Les Hommes cover

You can search or browse the collection, and download and view these images, and many hundreds more paintings, sketches, drawings, letters, and much more, in resolution high enough to zoom in to every individual brushstroke and ink pen flourish. [When you click on an image in the collection, look for the down arrow ↓ that lets you start a download.] Missing from the experience is the three-dimensionality of Van Gogh’s heavily textural painting, but nowhere else will you have this level of accessibility to so much of his work and life.

VG Head of a Woman

And if you feel, as I once did, a need to get inside that life and walk around a bit, a new Art Institute of Chicago exhibit will allow you to do just that, with a three-dimensional recreation of his painting The Bedroom, including, writes This is Colossal, “all the details of the original painting, arranged in haphazard alignment to imitate the original room.” (The more morbidly curious can see a living replica of his infamous ear, recreated using his own DNA.) The room went up for rent on AirBnB yesterday. Best of luck getting a reservation.

Related Content:

Van Gogh’s 1888 Painting, “The Night Cafe,” Animated with Oculus Virtual Reality Software

The Unexpected Math Behind Van Gogh’s “Starry Night”

Artist Turns a Crop Field Into a Van Gogh Painting, Seen Only From Airplanes

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