“The Periodic Table Table” — All The Elements in Hand-Carved Wood

In 2011, Theo Gray (co-founder of Wolfram ResearchPopular Science columnist, and element collector) won the ACS Grady Stack Award for Interpreting Chemistry for the Public. And here you can see why. In this clip, Gray introduces you to his DIY masterpiece - the world's first "periodic table table." Yes, we're talking about a hand-carved wooden table that brings to life the Periodic Table, and lets you play with the elements. The project began back in 2002, and now, a decade later, Gray puts it on display in a video produced by the American Chemical Society.  H/T BoingBoing

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Jefferson Airplane Plays on a New York Rooftop; Jean-Luc Godard Captures It (1968)

Just when you think you've seen everything Jean-Luc Godard has ever shot, something like this surfaces. If you're only now considering tucking into the feast that is Godard's filmography, don't let his abundance of uncollected odds, ends, clips, and shorts intimidate you. Not only do they promise a little thrill down the road when you've already digested his major works, but they offer quick bursts at any time of the revolutionary cinematic zest with which the filmmaker took on the world. With the man alive and working, I should perhaps say "the revolutionary cinematic zest with which the filmmaker takes on the world," but that gets into one of the most fascinating conversations that swirls around him: has Godard still got it?

Some say yes, that his latest picture Film Socialisme presents the logical continuation of all Godard has ever represented; some say no, that the Godard to watch remains the scrappy star of the 1960s' French New Wave. In his study Everything is Cinema: The Working Life of Jean-Luc Godard, New Yorker film blogger Richard Brody somehow makes both claims.

In the chapter "Revolution (1968-1972)" he describes Godard's improvised method of shooting a 1968 Jefferson Airplane concert:

He took over from the specialists and operated the camera from the window of Leacock-Pennebaker's office on West Forty-fifth street, shooting the band on the roof of the Schuyler Hotel across the street. (Pennebaker recalled him to be an amateurish cameraman who could not avoid the beginner's pitfall of frequent zooming in and out.) The performance took place without a permit, at standard rock volume: as singer Grace Slick later wrote, "We did it, deciding that the cost of getting out of jail would be less than hiring a publicist..."

Amateurish or not, a piece of the footage has surfaced on YouTube. Listen to the Airplane perform "The House at Pooneil Corners," watch Godard's dramatic swings of focus and zoom as he attempts to convey the spectacle of the band and the spectacle of countless surprised Manhattanites at once, and think for yourself about this peculiar intersection of two bold lines in the era's alternative zeitgeist. As Jefferson Airplane co-founder Paul Kantner said in a 1986 interview, "Just for a while there, maybe for about 25 minutes in 1967, everything was perfect." But these seven minutes in November 1968, from opening shouts to inevitable arrest, don't seem so dull themselves.

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Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.

Harvard Thinks Big 2012: 8 All-Star Professors. 8 Big Ideas.

Earlier this month, Harvard students made their way to the Sanders Theatre for the 2012 edition of Harvard Thinks Big. It's a TED-style event which gets pitched like this: "8 all-star professors. 8 big ideas. All ten minutes each." You get the gist.

This year's version had as much substance, though perhaps not quite the same sizzle, as the 2011 version, which featured talks by Steven PinkerLawrence Lessig, Daniel Gilbert and Elaine Scarry. Above, we have one talk from the latest Harvard Thinks Big. It features Daniel Lieberman, the renowned biologist (perhaps you know his work on barefoot running?) talking about how evolutionary biology explains why obesity is on the rise in the United States.

Other speakers at the event included Doug Melton, Eleanor Duckworth, Nicholas Christakis, Kaia Stern, Donhee Ham, Stephen Greenblatt, and Jill Lepore. The lectures can be watched via YouTube (follow the previous links) or via iTunes. Regrettably the talks by Greenblatt, Ham and Lepore haven't made it to the web, at least not yet. When they do, we'll mention it on our Twitter stream, where we post lots of other cultural goodies.

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The Birth of the Moon: How Did It Get There in the First Place?

The Moon is a mystery. For all its familiarity--the regularity of its phases, the fact that everywhere on Earth it looks the same--the Moon has always been an enigma, a luminous question mark rolling across the night sky.

In this new video from Cosmic Journeys, we learn about some of the latest scientific research into the structure and history of the Moon. In particular, we learn the latest ideas on what is perhaps the greatest of lunar mysteries: the question of how the Moon got there in the first place.

The leading candidate for an answer is the Giant Impact Hypothesis, which posits that sometime in the early stage of the Solar System--about four and a half billion years ago--a large proto-Earth collided with a Mars-sized body named "Theia," causing a huge cloud of material from both bodies to fly out into space. Some of the material remained in the Earth's orbit and coalesced into the Moon. It's a fascinating hypothesis. To see more videos from the same series, visit the Cosmic Journeys channel on YouTube, or the SpaceRip blog.

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Watch Battleship Potemkin and Other Free Sergei Eisenstein Films

As a carless cinephile, I’ve spent hours upon hours listening to film podcasts while riding my bike or the train. Battleship Pretension, hosted by knowledgeable but still knowledge-hungry young critics Tyler Smith and David Bax, has long held top priority on these rides — and even if the title’s referent doesn’t flood your mind with memories of artistic awe, you probably get the pun. But if you want to go deeper and talk about how film editing went from grunt work to art form, you have little choice but to talk about Battleship Potemkin (1925) and its director, Sergei Eisenstein. A Russian double-threat of filmmaker and film theorist in the 1920s through the late 1940s, Eisenstein pioneered many now-essential editing techniques, figuring out how images could be arranged to serve not just a film’s story but its rhythm, its tone, and even its themes.

Like cinema itself, Eisenstein came from the theater. Unlike most of his contemporaries, he made great strides in dragging cinema out of the theater behind him, casting off staid storytelling habits in favor of the vast possibilities of the then-new medium, most of which remain uncharted even today. Tasked by his government with producing what came down to revolutionary propaganda, Eisenstein couldn’t push the thematic envelope very far. Even so, today's filmmakers looking for ways to advance their form, or today's filmgoers eager to learn more about how movies work, would do well to look at what Eisenstein managed to do 85 years ago, and how aesthetically exhilarating it all remains.

This you can do from the comfort of your computer by browsing Open Culture’s collection of Free Movies Online, where you’ll find links to Eisenstein pictures viewable at the click of the mouse, including the sweeping Alexander Nevsky, the doomed ¡Que viva México!, and of course, the iconic Battleship Potemkin (above). Watch a few, and you’ll see why Battleship Pretension’s listeners voted Eisenstein into the top hundred directors of all time. Smith and Bax called on yours truly to write his blurb on the list, but don’t take my word for the filmmaker’s importance; his movies, whether you catch them in a grand revival screening or on your web browser right now, show you everything you need to know.

Complete list of free Eisenstein films: Alexander Nevsky (alternate version), Battleship Potemkin, October: Ten Days that Shook the World, Old and New, ¡Que viva México!, Romance Sentimentale, Strike.

Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.

Princeton v. Yale, 1903: The Oldest College Football Game on Film

You can thank Thomas Edison and his motion picture camera for many things: Bike Tricks Caught on Film in 1899Footage of Mark Twain from 1909The World’s First (and Slightly Scandalous) Hand-Tinted Motion Picture (1895)The First Kiss in Cinema, 1896; and now this -- footage of the 1903 Princeton v. Yale football game. The two teams were undefeated, and 50,000 spectators were on hand. The video starts with the players taking the field (Princeton first, Yale second) and some panoramic views of Yale's stadium. Then (around the 2:00 mark) we get to the highlights of the game.

The clip above is apparently the oldest collegiate football footage surviving today. And, in case you're keeping score, Princeton won the game 11-6.

But if you're counting the number of Free Courses provided by the two universities, we have the score at 38-1, with Yale coming out way on top.

via Retronaut and the Reel Mudd

Thelonious Monk, Bill Evans and More on the Classic Jazz 625 Show

In April of 1964, the British Broadcasting Corporation launched BBC Two as a highbrow alternative to its mainstream TV channel. One of the new channel's first programs was Jazz 625, which spotlighted many of the greatest Jazz musicians of the day. Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Dave Brubeck, Bill Evans and others performed on the show, which featured straight-forward camera work and a minimalist set. The focus was on the music.

The title of the show referred to the channel's 625-line UHF bandwidth, which offered higher resolution than the 405-line VHF transmission on BBC One. Among the surviving episodes is Thelonious Monk's March 14, 1965 performance at the Marquee Club in London. You can watch a 35-minute excerpt above. The quartet features Monk on piano, Charlie Rouse on tenor saxophone, Larry Gales on bass and Ben Riley on drums. They perform four numbers:

  1. Straight No Chaser
  2. Hackensack
  3. Rhythm-A-Ning
  4. Epistrophy

You can learn the story behind Jazz 625 by reading an article by Louis Barfe at Transdiffusion. And to see more from the shows, scroll down.

The Oscar Peterson Trio:

Above is a 25-minute excerpt from the Oscar Peterson Trio's October 1, 1964 performance. The original show, like other episodes of Jazz 625, was over an hour long. The trio features Peterson on piano, Ray Brown on bass and Ed Thigpen on drums.

The Bill Evans Trio:

Above are two 35-minute episodes, shown back-to-back, featuring the Bill Evans Trio. The two sets were recorded on March 19, 1965 and feature Evans on piano, Chuck Israels on bass and Larry Bunker on drums.

The Modern Jazz Quartet:

The Modern Jazz Quartet performed for Jazz 625 on April 28, 1964. Above is a 27-minute except, featuring the Quartet's musical director John Lewis on piano, Milt Jackson on vibraphone, Percy Heath on bass and Connie Kay on drums. Brazilian guitarist Laurindo Almeida makes a special appearance.

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