Over the past two days, NPR’s Fresh Air has devoted two programs to interrogating whether religion and science can co-exist. On Wednesday, air time was first given to Richard Dawkins, the famed Oxford University scholar of evolution who, with his recent publication of The God Delusion, has launched a vigorous defense of atheism. As you could well imagine, Dawkins (iTunes – feed – stream) is hardly willing to make accommodations for religion, and he’s comfortable living in a world where Darwinist thought solves problems that religion itself usually tries to sort out — that is, the basic hows and whys of existence. It has been said that Dawkins comes off as being as zealous in his atheism as his religious counterparts are in their faith. But no matter how you look at him, you have to admire his ability to make an artful argument …. and also his sense of humor. Yes, he claims half in jest to wear an “Atheists for Jesus” t-shirt. (See a photo here.)
Next, on Thursday, Terry Gross invited Francis Collins (iTunes – feed – stream) onto the show. Collins is a geneticist, and not just any one. He is currently the director of the National Human Genome Research Project, and he most notably led a team that cracked the human genome back in 2000. He is also an evangelical Christian, and, again, not just your average one in that he accepts the validity of evolution. Having recently published a new work, The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief, Collins is subtly looking to steer a middle course, to find ways to let religion and science co-exist and not let the one undermine the integrity of the other. How well the arguments hang together is an open question. But it’s nonetheless genuinely interesting to hear how he’s thinking things through. And certainly it’s worth listening to Dawkins and Collins’ interviews side by side. This is NPR at its best, and, yes, I’d gently challenge one of our readers to find anything on Fox News that’s on an equally intelligent plane. (See the user comments at the bottom of this page.)
Earlier this week, we discussed the recent release of Apple TV, the new gadget that lets you wirelessly download videos from iTunes to your cushy widescreen TV. For many consumers, the logical question to ask is whether there’s much to watch if they plunk down the $299 for the hardware. (Check it out in our Amazon store.) And our readers might particularly wonder whether there’s much in the way of cultural video. With these questions in mind, we’ve put together a sampling of worthwhile video podcasts (otherwise called “vodcasts”) that you can immediately start consuming with Apple TV. These videos can also be found in our podcast library.
Hosted by Ted Koppel, this panel discussion focuses on the global challenges that we’re facing in this century. Panelists include: SupremeCourt Justice Anthony Kennedy, former Secretary of State GeorgeSchultz, former Secretary of Defense William Perry, Yahoo co-Founder
Jerry Yang, and Stanford President John Hennessy, among others.
Now here’s the slight rub. Wikicharts
purports to list the 100 most viewed pages on Wikipedia’s English
language site, and very quickly the numbers suggest that netizens
aren’t always making scholarly use of the web’s free encyclopedia.
Here’s how some of the numbers break down: In March 2007, 12 of the
100 most viewed pages on Wikipedia (including 4 of the top 20) deal with sex, some of
which goes beyond explaining the simple birds and bees. (Consult the list for more on that.) Meanwhile
another 30+ entries delve into pop culture — South Park, Britney
Spears, Anna Nicole Smith, you get the point.
So, how many touch on more squarely educational topics? About 35.
And many of those include straightforward entries on countries (France,
India, Canada, etc.), or pieces that elucidate the new blockbuster
film, The 300. And while it’s good to see people using Wikipedia to understand the film, we all know that these more obscure historical entries will fall off the top 100 list as quickly as movies come and go. That doesn’t leave too many entries that
are reminiscent of an encyclopedia. In the top 100, you get a handful of classic topics — entries on Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, and Global
Warming — but that is about it.
All of this suggests that there’s something of a disconnect between
how we perceive Wikipedia (or how Wikipedia portrays itself) and how it
often gets used. Does this undermine the value of the more substantive
pieces that you can find on the encyclopedic site? Certainly not.
Wikipedia can be a great resource when it is at its best. But it does
suggest that Wikipedia’s enriching content is not its most popular, and
conversely that Wikipedia’s highest traffic is flowing to content that
probably won’t be showing up on Wikipedia’s homepage any time soon.
Entrepreneurship and Business Planning is a free course available via podcast (iTunesFeedMp3) that parallels a classroom course being offered at Carnegie Mellon within the Masters in Information Systems Management (MISM) program. Taught by Mark Juliano, an adjunct professor who otherwise works in the private sector, the course covers the ins-and-outs of starting a new venture. Following a very logical trajectory, it starts with the fundamentals — developing ideas for new companies, writing business plans, and creating teams — and then moves through more advanced materials that you’d typically find covered in b-school: marketing, competitive strategy, sales, pricing, funding and finance. Finally, when you dive into the podcasts, you’ll realize that Juliano has clearly taken pains to present an accessible course for listeners. Along with clearly presented lectures, you get a host of supporting online materials, plus a course blog. A very nice touch.
Next, the business-minded folks among us will also want to pore over the stellar collection of entrepreneurship education resources assembled by the Stanford Technology Ventures Program. Their media content trove includes a solid collection of podcasts featuring talks with business thought leaders (iTunesFeedWeb Site), not to mention a cache of videos highlighting presentations by the executives and VCs who make Silicon Valley tick. Just generally, you’ll want to explore the many other resources in the Educators Corner.
When Steve Jobs announced Apple’s new lineup of gadgets at Macworld in January (listen on iTunes or stream it), all eyes were focused on the planned release of the iPhone. Relatively lost in the commotion, however, was Apple TV, which started shipping this week. (Check it out in our Amazon store.) Despite the name, Apple TV doesn’t come with a TV. But, for $299, you do get a piece of hardware that lets you wirelessly sync your iTunes collection to your widescreen TV. And, with that, you can watch downloaded movies, TV shows, and video podcasts in a much more suitable and pleasurable environment. (Eventually, you’ll be able to watch videos via Apple TV in high def.) If given the choice between watching your video downloads on a small iPod screen or a cushy plasma TV in your living room, the decision becomes a no-brainer. The new gadget instantly makes Apple a credible player in the video distribution market, and it clearly furthers along the company’s transformation into a more diversified consumer-electronics and media company.
For Open Culture readers, Apple TV has some benefits on the near horizon. Over the past several months, we’ve noticed more podcasts coming out in a video flavor. (See our podcast library.) And that trend should only pick up over time. (Indeed, Robert X. Cringley, the astute observer of tech trends, foresees a video glut this year that could overwhelm the current capacity of the Net.) Thanks to Apple TV, you might soon be able to use your television as much as your iPod to consume high quality cultural content. And this may become all the more true if the rumors pan out that Apple and Google have been talking about distributing Google Video through iTunes. Just think of the possibilities that lie ahead.
For more information on Apple TV, you can visit Apple’s site, check out the coverage on Engadget and CNET, or watch the Walter Mossberg video below.
This is just a quick heads up. You can now watch online the first episode of This American Life. Showtime just started airing a televised version of thelong-running and very popular radio program (which is also available as a podcast iTunesFeedWeb Site). If you’re wondering how the show’s distinctive feel comes off in video, here’s your chance to take a quick, easy and free look.
Open Culture scours the web for the best educational media. We find the free courses and audio books you need, the language lessons & educational videos you want, and plenty of enlightenment in between.