Academic Earth Goes Live

The open edu­ca­tion move­ment got a lit­tle stronger this week with the launch of Aca­d­e­m­ic Earth. Run by Richard Lud­low, a new social entre­pre­neur only a cou­ple of years out of Yale, Aca­d­e­m­ic Earth brings video lec­tures from lead­ing uni­ver­si­ties into a cen­tral­ized user-friend­ly site. What you’ll see here is an impres­sive ear­ly imple­men­ta­tion of where Aca­d­e­m­ic Earth plans to go. Take con­tent-rich videos from uni­ver­si­ties, orga­nize the videos well, make the visu­al expe­ri­ence attrac­tive, add per­son­al cus­tomiza­tion func­tion­al­i­ty and the abil­i­ty to engage with the con­tent, and you have a very use­ful ser­vice to bring to the world. I first start­ed talk­ing with Richard back in the fall and am real­ly glad to see his site now ready for show time. Check it out in beta and watch it grow.

John Updike at Rest

john-updike1Sad news. John Updike, one of the most pro­lif­ic authors of the last half cen­tu­ry, has died at the age of 76. The cause was appar­ent­ly lung can­cer. Get the obit here.

In Novem­ber, Updike pub­lished The Wid­ows of East­wick, a sequel to The Witch­es of East­wick, the best­seller he wrote back in 1984. On his book tour, he stopped in for an inter­view with Michael Kras­ny, here in San Fran­cis­co, and they cov­ered a wide range of issues — witch­es, sex, squir­rels, oak trees, Rab­bit Angstrom, his most famous char­ac­ter and how he died, and more. You can lis­ten here.

Added Con­tent:

As you prob­a­bly know, Updike was a fre­quent con­trib­u­tor to The New York­er mag­a­zine since 1954. Today, they’re high­light­ing a few of his pieces, includ­ing a 1960 reportage on Ted Williams’ last game, a short sto­ry called Here Come the Maples (1976), and a 2006 essay called Late Works, which looks at writ­ers and artists con­fronting the end.

You can read oth­er archives of Updike con­tent at The Atlantic, The New York Review Of Books, and The New Repub­lic. (Thanks to the Dai­ly Dish for point­ing these out.)

Also, for good mea­sure, we’re adding a lengthy clip from 2006, which fea­tures Updike read­ing from his post 9–11 book, The Ter­ror­ist: A Nov­el.

Darwin’s Legacy on YouTube

Back in Octo­ber, I men­tioned that Stan­ford had post­ed on iTunes a course called Darwin’s Lega­cy, which helped com­mem­o­rate the 200th anniver­sary of Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniver­sary of the pub­li­ca­tion of On the Ori­gin of Species.

The course brings togeth­er impor­tant schol­ars from across the US who explore Darwin’s lega­cy in fields as diverse as anthro­pol­o­gy, reli­gion, med­i­cine, psy­chol­o­gy, phi­los­o­phy, lit­er­a­ture, and biol­o­gy. It’s now avail­able on YouTube, and we’ve post­ed above a lec­ture by Daniel Den­nett, a lead­ing Amer­i­can philoso­pher who talks about the philo­soph­i­cal impor­tance of Dar­win’s the­o­ry of evo­lu­tion. To watch the com­plete course on YouTube, sim­ply access this playlist. You can also find the course, and many oth­ers like it, list­ed in our col­lec­tion of Free Uni­ver­si­ty Cours­es

Google and the Path To Enlightenment

In the lat­est edi­tion of The New York Review of Books, Robert Darn­ton, a promi­nent French his­to­ri­an who now runs Har­vard’s Library sys­tem, puts out a tan­ta­liz­ing idea: “Google can make the Enlight­en­ment dream come true.” Hav­ing set­tled its law­suit with pub­lish­ers and authors, Google is now steam­ing ahead with its effort to dig­i­tize mil­lions of books and cre­ate a vast dig­i­tal library avail­able to indi­vid­u­als and insti­tu­tions every­where on a sub­scrip­tion basis. (The fees apply to copy­right­ed texts only, not to those in the pub­lic domain.) This opens up the pos­si­bil­i­ty that Google can ful­fill the Enlight­en­ment promise of democ­ra­tiz­ing knowl­edge, enrich­ing the intel­lec­tu­al mar­ket­place, and dif­fus­ing the ideas that have the great­est social ben­e­fit. The ques­tion is whether Google will actu­al­ly make this hap­pen. Will Google’s pri­vate inter­ests line up with the pub­lic inter­est? Will the com­pa­ny keep the dig­i­tal library open and ful­fill the hopes of Voltaire, Rousseau, Franklin, and Jef­fer­son? Or will the pur­suit of prof­it grad­u­al­ly lead Google to dri­ve up prices and close off access? Giv­en the recent con­duct of the bank­ing com­mu­ni­ty, it’s hard to remain opti­mistic that mar­ket-dri­ven insti­tu­tions will act altru­is­ti­cal­ly. Yes, Darn­ton acknowl­edges, Google seems to be start­ing off with good inten­tions. But what the com­pa­ny does long-term with its near monop­oly on online infor­ma­tion is any­one’s guess, and it’s entire­ly up to Google to do the right thing. For more on the Enlight­en­ment and Google’s online book ini­tia­tive, you should dig deep­er into Darn­ton’s piece. Also you can join The New York Review of Books group on Face­book, or fol­low it on Twit­ter.

When a Volcano Erupts Beneath the Ice

I’m not sure that it’s quite as intrigu­ing as what hap­pens when waves freeze in New­found­land, but it’s still pret­ty neat.

Download New Horror Stories Free

Toron­to writer Robert Boy­czuk has released the short sto­ry col­lec­tion Hor­ror Sto­ry and Oth­er Hor­ror Sto­ries in trade paper­back. You can pur­chase it on Ama­zon, or down­load it in a free PDF for­mat here. Also now avail­able is a free audio/mp3 ver­sion of Boy­czuk’s short sto­ry, “Falling”. These finds were high­light­ed by Cory Doc­torow over at Boing­Boing. Doc­torow has else­where called Boy­czuk a “supreme­ly tal­ent­ed short-sto­ry writer.” For more infor­ma­tion on all this, browse this press release.

1000 Novels Everyone Must Read

What are the 1000 best nov­els? The Guardian thinks it knows. This list was put togeth­er by The Guardian’s review team and a pan­el of experts. As you’ll see, the defin­i­tive list is help­ful­ly sub­di­vid­ed into themes: love, crime, com­e­dy, fam­i­ly and self, state of the nation, sci­ence fic­tion and fan­ta­sy, war and trav­el.

On that note, I should also high­light a col­lec­tion of Life-Chang­ing Books put togeth­er by our read­ers. You’ll find many good reads here as well.

In Honor of Aretha Franklin’s Inauguration Hat

At least in my mind, Aretha Franklin stole the show on Tues­day. It’s hard to top her singing My Coun­try, ‘Tis of Thee — the beau­ty of the voice, the obvi­ous poignant sym­bol­ism of the moment, and then her hat. Yes, the hat that has cap­tured the pub­lic imag­i­na­tion. Just days lat­er, we have a Face­book group ded­i­cat­ed to her head­wear, and now on Flickr a series of pho­tos that cre­ative­ly super­im­pose the Franklin hat on oth­er celebri­ties, Col­bert and Bull­win­kle includ­ed.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.