The Ancient Origins of the Olympic Games (Two Free Lectures)

In antic­i­pa­tion of the 2008 Olympic Games in Bei­jing, The Teach­ing Com­pa­ny has made avail­able two free lec­tures that sur­vey the ancient Greek ori­gins of the Olympics. Pre­sent­ed by Jere­my McIn­er­ney, a pro­fes­sor of Clas­sics at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia, these talks, each run­ning about 30 min­utes, bring you back to 776 BC, to the ancient Greeks, who com­pet­ed in order to demon­strate their alle­giance to the Home­r­ic ideals of hero­ism, hon­or and man­hood. You can lis­ten to Lec­ture 1 here (MP3 — MP4) and Lec­ture 2 here (MP3 — MP4) LINKS HAVE BEEN REMOVED AT THE REQUEST OF THE TEACHING COMPANY. And, as a quick fyi, you can down­load a com­plete MP3 course on Ancient Greece by the same pro­fes­sor. (It’s on sale for $35.) I’ve actu­al­ly lis­tened to it, and found it to be quite good.

For more good edi­fy­ing lec­tures, see our big col­lec­tion of Free Uni­ver­si­ty Cours­es here.

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Tsunami Surfing

A lit­tle sum­mer ran­dom­ness. It’s actu­al­ly quite beau­ti­ful …

(And, no, I’m not sure if this is tech­ni­cal­ly a tsuna­mi.)

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George Orwell: Blogger

What makes a diary like a blog? The Orwell Prize is offer­ing up a new answer to that famil­iar ques­tion in August when it fires up the Orwell Diaries, a blog that will post each entry from George Orwell’s pri­vate mus­ings exact­ly 70 years after it was writ­ten. I like this idea because it com­bines the imme­di­a­cy of the per­son­al jour­nal with all the use­ful archi­tec­ture of the dig­i­tal blog.

The diary runs from August 9, 1938 to Octo­ber 1942. These were inter­est­ing times for Orwell, and you can fol­low him as he recov­ers from a life-threat­en­ing lung haem­or­rhage in Moroc­co (1938), lat­er returns to the UK, and then offers his thoughts on Europe’s lapse into World War II.

Don’t for­get to down­load a nice & free ver­sion of Orwell’s 1984 here.

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(Via Boing­Bo­ing).

Learning Arabic (and Other Languages) with YouTube

YouTube’s Trendspot­ting Tues­day focused this past week on the grow­ing num­ber of videos that can teach you a for­eign lan­guage (for free, of course). Among the 12 video col­lec­tions fea­tured here, you’ll find ones that offer lessons in French, Span­ish, Mod­ern Greek, Latin, Japan­ese and Swahili, among oth­ers. They also high­light clips that demon­strate how to write Ara­bic. (Find the first clip below.) Straight­away, you’ll notice that these videos have a home brewed feel to them, and they’re not nec­es­sar­i­ly as sub­stan­tive as what you can get for free via pod­cast. (See our large For­eign Lan­guage Les­son Pod­cast Col­lec­tion). But, at least when it comes to demon­strat­ing some­thing visu­al (such as how to write Ara­bic) they have their pur­pose.

(P.S. With the video below, I have no idea how much the “instruc­tor” actu­al­ly knows about Ara­bic. The point isn’t to pass this off as a defin­i­tive source of knowl­edge, but more to show how the video plat­form is being used.)

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The Randy Pausch Video You (Probably) Haven’t Seen

By now, most every­one knows that Randy Pausch sad­ly died of pan­cre­at­ic can­cer last week. And, if you have an inter­net pulse, you’re already acquaint­ed with his lec­ture that caught the pub­lic imag­i­na­tion last year: Real­ly Achiev­ing Your Child­hood Dreams. What you may not have seen is the short, six-minute speech Pausch made at Carnegie Mel­lon’s grad­u­a­tion in late May — a short two months ago. The phi­los­o­phy here remains the same. The pitch is just short­er and to the point. It’s added to our YouTube playlist. Here it goes:

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Cuil: The New Search Engine

Just in case you haven’t seen it yet, some for­mer Google engi­neers launched a new search engine, Cuil (pro­nounced “cool”), which claims to be the “world’s biggest search engine,” index­ing 120 bil­lion web pages, or rough­ly about three times what Google sup­pos­ed­ly does. (Get more info on the new site’s schtick here.) A quick round of test­ing indi­cates that Cuil has some room for improve­ment — the rel­e­van­cy of search results could be much bet­ter. But Cuil does have some momen­tum. On the very first day, it was the fifth largest web site refer­ring traf­fic to, and the traf­fic was wide­ly dis­trib­uted. (In oth­er words, one search term did­n’t send traf­fic to the same page.) Not bad for the first day out of the gate.

A Year in Antarctica Boiled Down to Six Minutes

1200 peo­ple live in Antarc­ti­ca dur­ing the sum­mer, and about 200 in win­ter. Assum­ing that you’re not among them, we’ve post­ed this time lapse video to show you what you’re miss­ing:

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What Wikipedia Founder, Jimmy Wales, Thinks about Knol, the New Google Competitor

Here is Jim­my Wales, Wikipedi­a’s founder, being inter­viewed after Google debuted Knol. Inter­est­ing that his first thought is that users should copy Knol con­tent and bring it to Wikipedia … :

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.