Visit the Prado Art Collection with Google Earth

Thank­ful­ly, it’s not all bad news here in Sil­i­con Val­ley. Yes­ter­day, Google and the Pra­do (the major art muse­um in Madrid) announced that you can launch Google Earth from wher­ev­er you live, trav­el vir­tu­al­ly to Spain, and then take a close look at four­teen of the muse­um’s finest paint­ings. And, by “close,” I mean close. Accord­ing to a Google spokesman said: “The paint­ings have been pho­tographed in very high res­o­lu­tion and con­tain as many as 14,000 mil­lion pix­els (14 gigapix­els).” “With this high lev­el res­o­lu­tion you are able to see fine details such as the tiny bee on a flower in The Three Graces (by Rubens), del­i­cate tears on the faces of the fig­ures in The Descent from the Cross (by Roger van der Wey­den) and com­plex fig­ures in The Gar­den of Earth­ly Delights (by El Bosco).” The four­teen paint­ings include pieces by Fran­cis­co de Goya, Diego Velázquez and Hierony­mus Bosch. You can begin the tour (and get Google Earth soft­ware) from this land­ing page. The video below also offers a nice visu­al illus­tra­tion of what this project is all about. (A quick tip: if you have Google Earth, make sure that you have “3D Build­ings” checked off under “Lay­ers.” Then do a search for “Pra­do” and click on “Museu del Pra­do.” From there, click on the image of the muse­um. Next, you should see a series of paint­ings that you can begin to explore.)

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Leonard Bernstein Conducting Shostakovich’s Fifth with Some YouTube Comments Sprinkled on Top

Imag­ine you’re surf­ing YouTube and come across a clip of Leonard Bern­stein con­duct­ing Shostakovich’s Fifth. It looks and sounds great. Now imag­ine that you lay­er on top a series of YouTube com­ments that accom­pa­ny the video. Sud­den­ly things get a lit­tle dif­fer­ent and bizarre. This piece comes from the YouTube Com­men­tary Project devel­oped by Artists Space, which we’ve added to our col­lec­tion, YouTube Edu­ca­tion: 80 Intel­li­gent Video Col­lec­tions on YouTube

PS The YouTube com­ments are rat­ed R, not PG. So watch this clip in the com­pa­ny of an appro­pri­ate audi­ence.

 via Kot­tke via The Rest is Noise

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“Stand By Me” Sung By Musicians Around the World

What hap­pens when you take Ben King’s 1961 hit, Stand By Me, and then trav­el around the world, hav­ing dif­fer­ent inter­na­tion­al artists offer their own inter­pre­ta­tions, and final­ly you stitch them all togeth­er in one seam­less tune?  The clip below starts in Cal­i­for­nia, moves to New Orleans, then heads off to Ams­ter­dam, France, Brazil, Moscow, Venezuala, South Africa and beyond. And I’m will­ing to bet that you’ll like how it turns out.  The clip comes from the doc­u­men­tary, “Play­ing For Change: Peace Through Music.” Thanks Jil­lian for the heads up on this one, and, you guessed it, this one’s added to our YouTube Favorites.

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Learning Ancient History for Free

For life­long learn­ers, cours­es on Ancient Greece and Rome always remain in steady demand. While these cours­es are poor­ly rep­re­sent­ed in under­grad­u­ate pro­grams (at least in the States), they seem be to mak­ing a come­back in con­tin­u­ing edu­ca­tion pro­grams designed for old­er stu­dents. Even­tu­al­ly, it seems, many come to the con­clu­sion that you can’t skip over the foun­da­tions and still make sense of it all. And so they go back to basics.

The Teach­ing Com­pa­ny, a com­mer­cial provider of cours­es for life­long learn­ers, has rec­og­nized this demand and built a sur­pris­ing­ly rich col­lec­tion of lec­tures ded­i­cat­ed to the Ancients. (See full cat­a­logue here.) These cours­es are pol­ished and well put togeth­er. But they cost mon­ey. If that’s a con­cern, then you should know about some of the free alter­na­tives. Thanks to the “open course” move­ment, you can now find a series of free cours­es online, includ­ing some from top-ranked uni­ver­si­ties. Let me give you a quick overview of your options:

Last fall, Yale Uni­ver­si­ty intro­duced a new round of open cours­es that includ­ed Don­ald Kagan’s Intro­duc­tion to Ancient Greek His­to­ry (YouTube — iTunes Audio — iTunes VideoDown­load Course). A lead­ing fig­ure in the field, Kagan takes stu­dents from the Greek Dark Ages, through the rise of Spar­ta and Athens, The Pelo­pon­nesian War, and beyond. You’ll cov­er more than a mil­len­ni­um in 24 lec­tures. As I’ve not­ed else­where, Yale’s cours­es are high touch. And what’s par­tic­u­lar­ly nice is that the course can be down­loaded in one of five for­mats (text, audio, flash video, low band­width quick­time video, and high band­width quick­time video). Sim­ply choose the for­mat that works for you, and you’re good to go.

When you’ve com­plet­ed the arc of Greek his­to­ry, you can move next to the UC Berke­ley course, The Roman Empire. The course taught by Isabelle Paf­ford moves from Julius Cae­sar to Con­stan­tine (rough­ly 40 BC to 300 AD) in 42 lec­tures. And the audio comes straight from the class­room, which means that you’ll get sol­id infor­ma­tion but you’ll also have to endure some extra­ne­ous talk about home­work assign­ments and exams. (It’s free, so don’t com­plain.) You can down­load this course in one of three ways: iTunes, streamed audio, or via rss feed. Last­ly, I should note that Paf­ford has taught anoth­er relat­ed course at Berke­ley — The Ancient Mediter­ranean World (iTunes — Feed - MP3s).

Once you have the big sur­vey cours­es under your belt, you can switch to some more focused cours­es com­ing out of Stan­ford. Let’s start with Patrick Hunt’s course Han­ni­bal (iTunes). As I’ve not­ed in a pre­vi­ous post, this pod­cast­ed course takes you inside the life and adven­tures of Han­ni­bal, the great Carthagin­ian mil­i­tary tac­ti­cian who maneu­vered his way across the Alps and stunned Roman armies in 218 BC. The course also gives you glimpses into cut­ting-edge trends in mod­ern archae­ol­o­gy. Because Han­ni­bal still remains a fig­ure of intense his­tor­i­cal inter­est, it’s not sur­pris­ing that this course has ranked as one of the more pop­u­lar cours­es on iTune­sU.

Anoth­er short course worth your time is Virgil’s Aeneid: Anato­my of a Clas­sic. Pre­sent­ed by Susan­na Braund (a Stan­ford clas­sics pro­fes­sor at the time), the course teas­es apart the epic poem that was an instant when it was writ­ten 29–19 BC), and still endures today. Divid­ed into 5 install­ments, each run­ning about two hours, this pod­cast offers a good intro­duc­tion to one of the cen­tral texts in the Latin tra­di­tion.

Final­ly, let me throw in a quick bonus course. The His­tor­i­cal Jesus, anoth­er Stan­ford course taught by Thomas Shee­han, looks inside the historical/Roman world of Jesus of Nazareth. This is a his­to­ry course, not a reli­gion course, and it uses the best lit­er­ary and his­tor­i­cal evi­dence to answer the ques­tions: “Who was the his­tor­i­cal Jesus of Nazareth? What did he actu­al­ly say and do…? What did the man Jesus actu­al­ly think of him­self and of his mis­sion…? In short, what are the dif­fer­ences — and con­ti­nu­ities — between the Jesus who lived and died in his­to­ry and the Christ who lives on in believ­ers’ faith?

UPDATE: Thanks to a read­er, I was remind­ed of anoth­er relat­ed course: 12 Byzan­tine Rulers: The His­to­ry of the Byzan­tine Empire (iTunesFeedSite). These pod­casts cov­er the lega­cy of the Roman Empire that emerged in the East (after it had col­lapsed in the West). You can read more about this course in one of my ear­ly blog posts.

All of these cours­es can be found in the His­to­ry Sec­tion of our larg­er col­lec­tion of Free Cours­es. There you will find 200 high qual­i­ty online cours­es that you can lis­ten to any­time, any­where.

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Alex the Parrot and the Hidden World of Animal Intelligence

Alex the Par­rot spent his days work­ing with ani­mal psy­chol­o­gist Irene Pep­per­berg at Har­vard and Bran­deis. And, along the way, he upend­ed the belief held by many sci­en­tists that birds lack basic intel­li­gence and can only mim­ic words, and not real­ly use them in any mean­ing­ful way. As you’ll see below, Alex (who died in 2007 at the age of 31) could talk and do much more. To learn more about Alex, you can lis­ten to an extend­ed inter­view with Pep­per­berg here, or get her well-reviewed book Alex & Me: How a Sci­en­tist and a Par­rot Uncov­ered a Hid­den World of Ani­mal Intelligence–and Formed a Deep Bond in the Process.

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The Whole Earth Catalog Now Online

Between 1968 and 1972, Stew­art Brand pub­lished The Whole Earth Cat­a­log. For Kevin Kel­ly, the Cat­a­log was essen­tial­ly “a paper-based data­base offer­ing thou­sands of hacks, tips, tools, sug­ges­tions, and pos­si­bil­i­ties for opti­miz­ing your life.” For Steve Jobs, it was a “Bible” of his gen­er­a­tion, a kind of Google 35 years before Google came along. (On a side note, I high­ly rec­om­mend the com­mence­ment speech where Jobs made those com­ments.) The very good news is that The Whole Earth Cat­a­log and some relat­ed pub­li­ca­tions are now avail­able online. You can read them for free, or down­load them for a fee. Start delv­ing into things here.

While we’re on this sub­ject, I should also high­light a project that has more recent­ly occu­pied Stew­art Brand’s time.  The Sem­i­nars About Long Term Think­ing is a month­ly speak­ing series host­ed by Brand and orga­nized by the Long Now Foun­da­tion, which hopes to pro­vide a coun­ter­point to today’s “faster/cheaper” mind set and to pro­mote “slower/better” think­ing. You can access the thought-pro­vok­ing sem­i­nars as a pod­cast (iTunes — Feed — Web Site) and oth­er­wise find it host­ed in our Ideas & Cul­ture Pod­cast Col­lec­tion. Have a good week­end.

via Boing Boing

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Audio Book FYI

A quick fyi: We’ve spent some time beef­ing up our col­lec­tion of Free Audio Books. The col­lec­tion now fea­tures over 250 works of fic­tion, non-fic­tion and poet­ry, all of which can be down­loaded to your com­put­er or mp3 play­er for free.

Among the new addi­tions you’ll find some media from The New York­er Mag­a­zine, includ­ing a series of mp3’s that fea­ture Paul Ther­oux read­ing a short work by Jorge Luis Borges, T. Cor­aghes­san Boyle read­ing Tobias Wolf­f’s Bul­let in the Brain, and Junot Diaz read­ing his short piece, How to Date a Brown Girl (Black Girl, White Girl, or Hal­fie). Also you will find new­ly added works by Charles Dick­ens, Alexan­dre Dumas, F. Scott Fitzger­ald, James Joyce, Shake­speare, Kurt Von­negut and more. You can peruse the full col­lec­tion here.  Enjoy.

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What Will Change Everything? (According to the World’s Leading Scientific Minds)

At the start of each new year, the asks some of the world’s lead­ing sci­en­tif­ic thinkers a big enchi­la­da ques­tion. This year, it’s “What Will Change Every­thing? What game-chang­ing sci­en­tif­ic ideas and devel­op­ments do you expect to live to see?” Here you can find the answers giv­en by 151 thinkers. (Col­lec­tive­ly, the full set of replies runs 107,000 words.) Some of the intrigu­ing answers include:

  • The detec­tion of extrater­res­tri­al life. And this life may take the form of dig­i­tal organ­isms that can move through the uni­verse at the speed of light (wow!),
  • A major upgrade of the human brain through tech­nol­o­gy,
  • Our  life span will poten­tial­ly be extend­ed to 150 years through genomics,
  • The dis­cov­ery of anoth­er uni­verse with­in our own uni­verse,
  • The dis­cov­ery of new time space dimen­sions, and 
  • The cre­ation of a uni­ver­sal trans­la­tion machine that will facil­i­tate trans­la­tion across the globe.

For the longer list, vis­it the full col­lec­tion.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.