George Mason Students Create Revolutionary Fire Extinguisher That Uses Sound Waves to Blow Out Fires

If you haven't seen it already: two George Mason University engineering students -- Viet Tran and Seth Robertson -- have created a potentially revolutionary device, a new-fangled fire extinguisher, that uses low-frequency sound waves to snuff out fires. According to TechExplore, Tran (a computer engineering major) and Seth Robertson (double e major) "started with the simple idea that sound waves are also mechanical or  (due to the back and forth motion of the medium in which they pass through), which can cause an impact on objects." Through trial and error, the students figured out that ultra-high frequencies didn't do very much, but lower frequencies (in the 30 to 60 Hertz range) can blow a small fire right out. Just watch above.

Related Content:

Free Online Computer Science Courses

Free Online Engineering Courses

Watch Leonardo da Vinci’s Musical Invention, the Viola Organista, Being Played for the Very First Time

A Short Animated History of Daylight Saving Time, Narrated by Stephen Fry

Several weeks back, we contemplated how, in the 1650s, the economic history of the West changed irrevocably when Christiaan Huygens invented the pendulum clock  -- a timepiece that enabled us to measure time in accurate, uniform ways, making us attentive to the passage of time and focus on things like productivity and performance. Watch "A Briefer History of Time" to get more on that.

By the 18th century, Ben Franklin, America's great Enlightenment figure, thought of another way to discipline time and squeeze more productivity out of us. While an envoy in France, Franklin suggested that Parisians save money on candles by getting out of bed earlier and profit from the morning sunlight. Not a surprising suggestion from the man who famously said: "Early to bed, and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise." In the video above, Stephen Fry tells you the rest of the Daylight Saving story. And just a reminder, Europe springs its time forward tonight.

Would you like to support the mission of Open Culture? Please consider making a donation to our site. It's hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best free cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere.

Also consider following Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and sharing intelligent media with your friends. Or sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

Related Content:

How Clocks Changed Humanity Forever, Making Us Masters and Slaves of Time

Stephen Fry Explains Humanism in 4 Animated Videos: Happiness, Truth and the Meaning of Life & Death

Stephen Fry Explains the Rules of Cricket in 10 Animated Videos

Download 576 Free Art Books from The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Met 1

You could pay $118 on Amazon for the Metropolitan Museum of Art's catalog The Art of Illumination: The Limbourg Brothers and the Belles Heures of Jean de France, Duc de Berry. Or you could pay $0 to download it at MetPublications, the site offering "five decades of Met Museum publications on art history available to read, download, and/or search for free."

If that strikes you as an obvious choice, prepare to spend some serious time browsing MetPublications' collection of free art books and catalogs.

You may remember that we featured the site a few years ago, back when it offered 397 whole books free for the reading, including American Impressionism and Realism: The Painting of Modern Life, 1885–1915; Leonardo da Vinci: Anatomical Drawings from the Royal Library; and Wisdom Embodied: Chinese Buddhist and Daoist Sculpture in The Metropolitan Museum of ArtBut the Met has kept adding to their digital trove since then, and, as a result, you can now find there no fewer than 576 art catalogs and other books besides. Those sit alongside the 400,000 free art images the museum put online last year.

met museum free art books

So have a look at MetPublications' current collection and you'll find you now have unlimited access to such lush as well as artistically, culturally, and historically varied volumes as African IvoriesChess: East and West, Past and PresentModern Design in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1890–1990; Vincent Van Gogh: The Drawings; French Art Deco; or even a guide to the museum itself (vintage 1972).

chess east and est

Since I haven't yet turned to art collection — I suppose you need money for that — these books don't necessarily make me covet the vast sweep of artworks they depict and contextualize. But they do make me wish for something even less probable: a time machine so I could go back and see all these exhibits firsthand.

Related Content:

Download Over 250 Free Art Books From the Getty Museum

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Puts 400,000 High-Res Images Online & Makes Them Free to Use

The Guggenheim Puts 109 Free Modern Art Books Online

Where to Find Free Art Images & Books from Great Museums, and Free Books from University Presses

800 Free eBooks for iPad, Kindle & Other Devices

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.

An Online Gallery of Over 900,000 Breathtaking Photos of Historic New York City

Grand Central

What is any major American city if not an industrial gallery bustling with people and machines? Sometimes the images are bleak, as with the photo essays that often circulate of Detroit’s beautiful ruin; sometimes they are defiantly hopeful, as with those of the rising of New Orleans; and sometimes they are almost unfathomably monumental, as with the images here of New York City, circa the 20th century---or a great good bit of it, anyway.

Queensboro Bridge

You can survey almost a hundred years of New York’s indomitable grandeur by perusing over 900,000 images from the New York City Municipal Archives Online Gallery.

Photos like the astonishing tableaux in a sunlight-flooded Grand Central Terminal at the top (taken sometime between 1935 and 41) and like the breathtaking scale on display in the 1910 exposure of the Queensboro Bridge, above.


The online gallery features large-format photos of the human, like the sea of bathers above; of the human-made, like the vaulted, cavernous City Hall subway station below; and of the melding of the two, like the painters posing on the cables of the Brooklyn Bridge, further down.

City Hall Station

These images come from a selection of photos culled from the various galleries by The Atlantic. For more, see the NYC Municipal Archives site, which you can search by keyword or other criteria. “Visitors,” writes the site, “are encouraged to return frequently as new content will be added on a regular basis. Patrons may order reproductions in the form of prints or digital files.”

Brooklyn Bridge

Many of the images have watermarks on them to prevent illegal use. Nonetheless the gallery is a jaw-dropping collection of photos you can easily get lost in for hours, as well as an important resource for historians and scholars of 20th century American urbanism. See The Atlantic’s selection of images for even more dazzling photos. Or better yet, start rummaging through the New York City Municipal Archives Online Gallery right here.

Related Content:

New York Public Library Puts 20,000 Hi-Res Maps Online & Makes Them Free to Download and Use

Great New Archive Lets You Hear the Sounds of New York City During the Roaring 20s

Vintage Video: A New York City Subway Train Travels From 14th St. to 42nd Street (1905)

Designer Massimo Vignelli Revisits and Defends His Iconic 1972 New York City Subway Map

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

Download 100,000 Free Art Images in High-Resolution from The Getty

getty free

When I want to get a good look at the city of Los Angeles, I go up to the Getty Center in the Santa Monica Mountains. I can also, of course, get a pretty good look at some art at the museum there. But if I don't feel like making that trek up the hill — and if you don't feel like making the trek from wherever you live — The Getty can give you, in some ways, an even better way to look at art online. Just visit the Getty's Open Content Program.

Japanese Ladies

Seeing as this sort of free cultural resource fits right into our wheelhouse here at Open Culture, we've tried to keep you posted on the archive's development over the past few years. Last time we passed the word along, the Getty's digital public-domain archive of high-resolution images had grown to 87,000, and now it has nearly hit the 100,000 mark (99,989, to be exact)— which sounds to us like just the time to keep you posted on what you can find therein.

Rue Mosnier

In its current state (which promises further expansion still), the Getty's Open Content Program offers images like Abandoned Dust Bowl Home (top image), Dorothea Lange's vividly stark evocation of Depression-era American desolation, as well as other photographic time (and place) capsules, such as Kusakabe Kimbei's hand-colored prints of life in late 19th- and early 20th-century Japan (Japanese Ladies pictured here); impressionist canvases like Édouard Manet's 1878 The Rue Mosnier with Flagsand even views of Los Angeles itself, like Carleton Watkins' shot of the city's plaza circa 1880.

Plaza Los Angeles

To download an image for which you've searched, you first need to click on that image's title. That link takes you to the image's own page (like those we linked to in the paragraph just above), where you'll find a download link. Look for the word "download" beneath the image, and then click that link. It's just that simple — far simpler, in any case, than visual access to such a range of artwork has ever been before. Though if you do make it to Los Angeles, don't hesitate to make the effort to visit the Getty Center; the tram that takes you up to it makes for a pretty fascinating cultural experience and view of the city in and of itself.

Related Content:

The Getty Adds Another 77,000 Images to its Open Content Archive

Download 35,000 Works of Art from the National Gallery, Including Masterpieces by Van Gogh, Gauguin, Rembrandt & More

Download Over 250 Free Art Books From the Getty Museum

40,000 Artworks from 250 Museums, Now Viewable for Free at the Redesigned Google Art Project

LA County Museum Makes 20,000 Artistic Images Available for Free Download

The Rijksmuseum Puts 125,000 Dutch Masterpieces Online, and Lets You Remix Its Art

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.

Hysterical Literature: Art & Sexuality Collide in Readings of Whitman, Emerson & Other Greats (NSFW)

Without shame the man I like knows and avows the deliciousness of his sex, 

Without shame the woman I like knows and avows hers.

Thus spaketh Walt Whitman in Leaves of Grass. 160 years after that poem’s publication, how might that most American of American Romantics react to the spectacle of an attractive young woman pleasuring herself with his work, as an unseen hand beneath the table surreptitiously pleasures her with the Cadillac of vibrators?

The peephole is much larger than it would’ve been in 1855. Hysterical Literature was conceived as an online project in which each session’s featured female participant chooses a resonant text, then reads it aloud until a Hitachi Magic Wand puts an end to her ability to form coherent sentences.

Creator Clayton Cubitt has complained that the orgasmic element and the status of certain celebrity participants like comedian Margaret Cho  have preoccupied the press. His preference is for viewers to take a more holistic approach, viewing the experience with some “mystery and magic and ‘WTF.’”

Accordingly, let us focus upon some of the selected works:

Beloved by Toni Morrison

Sexing the Cherry by Jeanette Winterson

The Necrophilia Variations by Supervert

Really, no Anaïs Nin? I would've thought...

The most recent contributor to the series is also its oldest, 60-year-old Janet, below, who had to take leave of Whitman’s pal, Ralph Waldo Emerson, not once but twice in eight minutes.

Cumulatively, these sessions make a marvelously frank primer for actors or directors charged with creating realistic sex scenes. The dichotomy of Hysterical Lit’s staging ensures that things are fairly respectable above the waist, thus satisfying YouTube’s Community Guidelines.

Daring female lovers of literature should be advised that Cubitt seeks to include more women of color, older participants, and non-English texts. No word on who exactly is under that table. Drain your pent-up rivers by applying here.

via Kottke

Related Content:

Read Fanny Hill, the 18th-Century Erotic Novel That Went to the Supreme Court in the 20th Century

This is Your Brain on Sex and Religion: Experiments in Neuroscience

An Introduction to World Literature by a Cast Of Literary & Academic Stars (Free Course)

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Follow her @AyunHalliday

William Faulkner Resigns From His Post Office Job With a Spectacular Letter (1924)


Working a dull civil service job ill-suited to your talents does not make you a writer, but plenty of famous writers have worked such jobs. Nathaniel Hawthorne worked at a Boston customhouse for a year. His friend Herman Melville put in considerably more time—19 years—as a customs inspector in New York, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather. Both Walt Disney and Charles Bukowski worked at the post office, though not together (can you imagine?), and so, for two years, did William Faulkner.

After dropping out of the University of Mississippi in 1920, Faulkner became its postmaster two years later, a job he found “tedious, boring, and uninspiring,” writes Mental Floss: “Most of his time as a postmaster was spent playing cards, writing poems, or drinking.” Eudora Welty characterized Faulkner’s tenure as postmaster with the following vignette:

Let us imagine that here and now, we’re all in the old university post office and living in the ’20’s. We’ve come up to the stamp window to buy a 2-cent stamp, but we see nobody there. We knock and then we pound, and then we pound again and there’s not a sound back there. So we holler his name, and at last here he is. William Faulkner. We interrupted him. . . . When he should have been putting up the mail and selling stamps at the window up front, he was out of sight in the back writing lyric poems.

By all accounts, she hardly overstates the case. As author and editor Bill Peschel puts it, Faulkner “opened the post office on days when it suited him, and closed it when it didn’t, usually when he wanted to go hunting or over to the golf course.

He would throw away the advertising circulars, university bulletins and other mail he deemed junk.” A student publication from the time proposed a motto for his service: “Never put the mail up on time.”

Unsurprisingly, the powers that be eventually decided they'd had enough. In 1924, Faulkner sensed the end coming. But rather than bow out quietly, as perhaps most people would, the future Nobel laureate composed a dramatic and uncharacteristically succinct resignation letter to his superiors:

As long as I live under the capitalistic system, I expect to have my life influenced by the demands of moneyed people. But I will be damned if I propose to be at the beck and call of every itinerant scoundrel who has two cents to invest in a postage stamp.

This, sir, is my resignation.

The defiant self-aggrandizement, wounded pride, blame-shifting… maybe it’s these qualities, as well as a notorious tendency to exaggerate and outright lie (about his military service for example) that so qualified him for his late-life career as—in the words of Ole Miss—“Statesman to the World.” Faulkner’s gift for self-fashioning might have suited him well for a career in politics, had he been so inclined. He did, after all, receive a commemorative stamp in 1987 (above) from the very institution he served so poorly.

But like Hawthorne, Bukowski, or any number of other writers who’ve held down tedious day jobs, he was compelled to give his life to fiction. In a later retelling of the resignation, Peschel claims, Faulkner would revise his letter “into a more pungent quotation,” unable to resist the urge to invent: “I reckon I’ll be at the beck and call of folks with money all my life, but thank God I won’t ever again have to be at the beck and call of every son of a bitch who’s got two cents to buy a stamp.”

via Letters of Note

Related Content:

The Art of William Faulkner: Drawings from 1916-1925

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

William Faulkner Outlines on His Office Wall the Plot of His Pulitzer Prize Winning Novel, A Fable (1954)

Guidelines for Handling William Faulkner’s Drinking During Foreign Trips From the US State Department (1955)

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

« Go BackMore in this category... »