Download a Free Copy of Cory Doctorow’s Bestseller, Little Brother

Here’s a good item that came out of yesterday’s book giveaway — Benjamin L called our attention to the fact that you can download a free copy of Little Brother, the new novel by Cory Doctorow, who writes for the popular BoingBoing blog and has consistently backed the whole idea of “open culture.” Released in late April, the novel spent six weeks on the NY Times bestseller list, and, as Benjamin notes, the main themes of technology and freedom are very relevant to the readers of our own blog. As you will see, the official downloads come in several formats: Plain text, HTML, and PDF. But, you can also snag copies in other versions that fans have put together. Take for example a version that you can read on an iPhone, or one that you can access via a Sony e-Reader. You can find all formats here, or buy the book in print (which I did) here.

As a last note, I want to thank everyone who participated in the book giveaway. I was really pleased with your contributions (you have good taste) and wish that I had more books to give away. In the next day, I will contact those first ten contributors, and next week I will post all of your pieces of open culture. Many thanks to all. And, any time that you want to recommend a good piece of media for the benefit of your fellow readers, don’t hesitate to do so.

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The World Without Us: Get A Free Copy of the NY Times Bestseller

worldwithout2.jpgWhat if we disappeared from the face of the earth tomorrow? All of us, just like that? What would happen? How would the remaining world survive or thrive without us? That’s the scenario that gets examined by science writer Alan Weisman (who we interviewed last year) in his non-fiction eco-thriller, The World Without Us.

Now out in paperback, the book, which spent 26 weeks on The New York Times bestseller list, sees things playing out like this:

With no one left to run the pumps, New York’s subway tunnels would fill with water in two days. Within 20 years, Lexington Avenue would be a river. Fire- and wind-ravaged skyscrapers would eventually fall like giant trees. Within weeks of our disappearance, the world’s 441 nuclear plants would melt down into radioactive blobs, while our petrochemical plants, ‘ticking time bombs’ even on a normal day, would become flaming geysers spewing toxins for decades to come… After about 100,000 years, carbon dioxide would return to prehuman levels. Domesticated species from cattle to carrots would revert back to their wild ancestors. And on every dehabitated continent, forests and grasslands would reclaim our farms and parking lots as animals began a slow parade back to Eden.

The World Without Us is a great read. And now some of our readers can get their hands on a free copy. We have 10 copies to give away, and here’s how we propose doing it. We’ll give a copy to the first 10 readers (living in North America) who add a quality piece of “open culture” in the comments section of this post. That is, you will need to post a link to an enriching video, podcast or mp3 that fellow readers will enjoy, and tell us a little about why. When we get ten quality clips, we will then package them in a post and share them with the larger community. In short, think of it as you get as you give. How nice. Very Kumbaya. (Watch Joan Baez sing it). Now let’s see what you’ve got.

NOTE: We can only ship to readers in North America. And, yes, that includes Canada this time, and Mexico too. To our many international readers, I apologize for the geographical limitation. And we’ll try to make things up to you down the line. We do appreciate you.

Also please note that if you’re selected, I will also eventually need your name and mailing address.

Watch Quality Films on Hulu for Free

Fimoculous has nicely highlighted a series of good films that Hulu has made freely available. The one obvious downside is that, unless something has changed at Hulu, the flicks will only be available to viewers in the US. (Hulu needs to do better than this!) Nonetheless, here they are, and thanks to for helping flag these. (Update: For many excellent films, please see our collection of Free Movies Online.)

Lost in Translation

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Requiem for a Dream


The Fifth Element

28 Days Later


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Stephen Hawking Asks Big Questions About The Universe

Speaking at the 2008 TED conference, physicist Stephen Hawking asks some Big Questions about our universe: How did the universe begin? How did life begin? Are we alone? And, during his ten minute talk, he offers some thoughts on how we might go about answering these big enchilada questions. (We’ve added the clip to our YouTube playlist.)

How to Pronounce Beijing Once and For All

Is it Bay-jing? Or Bay-zhing, as some American broadcasters are inclined to say it? Below, you’ll find the answer according to Two Chinese Characters, a video team composed of Carsey Yee from China, and John B. Weinstein who teaches Chinese at an American university. Give a watch. It’s intentionally campy and amusing. And for more from Yee and Weinstein, check out their piece on the other Chinese cities helping host the 2008 games.

PS: If you’re looking to learn Chinese for free, check out our many Mandarin and Cantonese lessons in our Foreign Language Lesson Podcast Collection.

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Jean-Luc Godard Meets Woody Allen

Filmed in 1986, Meetin’ WA is a short (26 minute) film that not many have seen. What you get is Godard, one of the driving forces behind La Nouvelle Vague, in conversation with Woody Allen. The trademark Godard approach to film, the expected dose of Woody Allen neuroses – they’re all there. Hat tip to Metafilter for bringing this one to light.

Replaceable You (and Other Free Stem Cells Courses)

Here’s another free, downloadable course coming out Stanford, which will tell you how regenerative medicine can keep your body parts almost new. You can access it here on iTunesU, and below we have posted the course description. If stem cells happen to pique your interest, then you may want to explore these two other related Stanford courses: Straight Talk about Stem Cells and Stem Cells: Policy and Ethics. Also remember that you can download at least 200 free university courses here.

Replaceable You: Stem Cells and Tissue Engineering in this Age of Enlightenment

“The good part about getting older is that we gain some wisdom and patience. The bad part is that our bodies (knees, hips, organs, and more) start to wear out. But what if our bodies could be “reprogrammed” to grow new parts? The new field of regenerative medicine is trying to do just that, and it takes advantage of the process of regeneration, which is nature’s solution for repairing damaged tissues.

Although humans cannot re-grow their limbs like salamanders and newts can, the capacity to regenerate injured or diseased tissues exists in humans and other animals, and the molecular machinery for regeneration seems to be an elemental part of our genetic makeup. The prevailing opinion is that the genes responsible for regeneration have for some reason fallen into disuse, and they may be “jump started” by the selective activation of key molecules. Using this knowledge, scientists are developing new strategies to repair and, in some cases, regenerate damaged or diseased tissues in both young and old patients. In this course, we will explore the exciting field of regenerative medicine and learn a little about what makes stem cells so special. We will also discuss some of the recent discoveries that can potentially allow us to be fit and healthy well into old age. Here, you will learn what is merely science fiction and what, remarkably, has become science fact in our new medical age.”

Jill Helms
Associate Professor, Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery
Jill Helms joined the Stanford faculty after eight years at UC San Francisco, where she was the Director of the Molecular and Cellular Biology Laboratory in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery. Her research focuses on the parallels between fetal tissue development and adult tissue regeneration. She received a PhD in developmental neurobiology and a clinical degree and spends the majority of her time in clinically related research.

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Leni Riefenstahl’s Olympia: Diving at the ’36 Games

Produced at the request of the International Olympics Committee (and not at the behest of the Nazi propaganda machine), Leni Riefenstahl’s 1938 documentary, Olympia, is considered one of the more important sports documentaries of the 20th century. Below, we have posted a well known sequence that recalls the diving competition at the ’36 Berlin Games.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.