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.