The Odds on America’s Collapse

jdiamond1Jared Diamond became a household name with his Pulitzer Prize-winning book Guns, Germs & Steel (2003). Later, the UCLA geographer climbed the charts again with Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (2005). Now, based on this last book, he's putting odds on whether the United States will survive this crisis, and he's putting them only at 51-49. Not too great. And he goes on to say that our best chance of surviving is if America's wealthy elite suffers far more than it already has. For more, listen here.

via Big Think's Twitter Feed. Get our Twitter Feed here.

Watch Educational Videos Offline with YouTube

It's another good day for the open education movement. As part of an experiment, YouTube has partnered with a select number of universities (StanfordUC BerkeleyDuke, and UCLA) to make lectures, courses and other videos available for free download. This gives educators and lifelong learners the freedom to watch educational videos offline, whenever and wherever they want, including airplanes or classrooms with limited connectivity. The videos (all high-resolution mp4s) can be watched on any computer loaded with QuickTime and also on many portable devices, including newer iPods. When I spoke with the YouTube team today, they flagged another perk: the videos are being distributed under a Creative Commons license, which means that you can reuse them under certain non-commercial conditions.

For someone who has helped develop courses appearing in Stanford's YouTube collection, today's news was certainly welcome. These courses are not cheap to develop, and we do it as a public service. So we're always happy when we encounter new ways of getting the educational content to a broader audience. This new download capability does just that. It extends our reach just a little more, and it's hard to quibble with that.

As a practical note, if you're wondering how to download the YouTube videos mentioned above, here's what to do. Find a video from StanfordUC BerkeleyDuke, or UCLA, look at the lower left-hand corner of the video, click the "Download this video" link, and you should be good to go.

Related Content: 

  • To quickly find intelligent video collections appearing on YouTube, visit this page.

A Guide to E-Books (and 100 E-Text Classics)

A quick fyi: Mark Glaser at PBS's MediaShift has just published a handy guide to e-books. It covers the history of e-books, the competing e-book readers, the pros and cons of working with e-books, what Google and Apple are now doing in this space, and more. Good stuff.

Separately, I also wanted to flag a collection that features e-texts of 100 major literary classics. You'll find it over at universitiesandcolleges.org.

Neil deGrasse Tyson Explains What Would Happen If You Fell into a Black Hole

Perhaps you've pondered your own mortality. But have you ever imagined perishing as you fall into a black hole? Probably not. But if you're intrigued by this admittedly unlikely scenario, then watch the clip above. Neil deGrasse Tyson, an astrophysicist who heads up the Hayden Planetarium in NYC, breaks down the scene for you step-by-step and in a fairly humorous way. This talk is based on his well-reviewed book, Death by Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries.

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Our Rapidly Changing Digital World

In case you needed a reminder, we're no longer living in your grandfather's world. This video makes that plainly clear. Everything is changing in a blink, and education offers you and your kids the best way to navigate it all. Don't take it for granted.

via The DigitalBlur. Thanks Jillian for the tip on this one.

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Bridging the Science-Religion Divide

Is there "a philosophical incompatibility between religion and science. Does the empirical nature of science contradict the revelatory nature of faith? Are the gaps between them so great that the two institutions must be considered essentially antagonistic?" These were the questions raised by Jerry Coyne, a professor at the University of Chicago, in a long and meaty book review ("Seeing and Believing") appearing in The New Republic. Over at the Edge.org, a number of scientific thinkers, who regularly engage with these essential questions, have offered their own thoughts on the matter. You'll find short pieces by Stephen Pinker, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, George Dyson and others. This one passage by Karl Giberson particularly struck me (though it's not exactly a reflection of my worldview):

Empirical science does indeed trump revealed truth about the world as Galileo and Darwin showed only too clearly. But empirical science also trumps other empirical science. Einstein's dethronement of Newton was not the wholesale undermining of the scientific enterprise, even though it showed that science was clearly in error. It was, rather, a glorious and appropriately celebrated advance for science, albeit one not understood by most people. Why is this different than modern theology's near universal rejection of the tyrannical anthropomorphic deity of the Old Testament, so eloquently skewered by Dawkins? How is it that "science" is allowed to toss its historical baggage overboard when its best informed leaders decide to do so, even though the ideas continue to circulate on main street, but religion must forever be defined by the ancient baggage carried by its least informed?

The world disclosed by science is rich and marvelous, but most people think there is more to it. Our religious traditions embody our fitful and imperfect reflections on this mysterious and transcendent intuition—an intuition that, as articulated by some of our most profound thinkers, seeks an understanding of the world that is goes beyond the empirical.
 


Milton Friedman on Greed

The new Treasury Secretary unveiled his plan this morning, and apparently the markets hate it, which pretty much guarantees that we'll be living with our financial mess for a good while longer. As we know, this crisis could have been avoided. But greed got the better of us. So, I wonder what readers think when they see Milton Friedman's 1979 defense of capitalism and greed. Is it a model, a line of argument, that's now discredited? Or do we grudgingly concede his points and say that capitalism is the worst economic model except for all the others that have been tried (a cheap play here on Churchill), and then figure out how to mop it up?

via Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish

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