Film Version of Michael Pollan’s Botany of Desire Now Online

Michael Pollan’s best-selling book, Botany of Desire, is now a film, and you can watch it online, courtesy of PBS. (Click to watch complete film.) The film takes you inside our relationship with the plant world, and shows “how four familiar species — the apple, the tulip, cannabis and the potato — evolved to satisfy our yearnings for sweetness, beauty, intoxication and control.” According to a piece in The San Francisco Chronicle, it took eight years to pull together the funding for the film, and that’s simply because marijuana was in the mix. The film runs close to two hours. The preview is above, the full film is here. For more films, please visit our collection of Free Movies Online.

Stephen Colbert on Particle Physics

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Gotta love comedy that riffs on the Large Hadron Collider. I’ll have some more serious things to say about the LHC in the coming weeks. In the meantime, enjoy the comic bit. Have a good weekend…

Sita Sings the Blues Now on YouTube

Nina Paley, a self-taught animator, released in 2008 an 82-minute animated film, Sita Sings the Blues, that mingles the classic Indian myth, The Ramayana, with contemporary autobiographical events, and it’s all set to the 1920’s jazz vocals of Annette Hanshaw. The film, which launched the San Francisco International Animation Festival, has won awards and gathered a lot of fans. In late February, Paley handed the film over to the public, releasing it under a Creative Commons license (download it here). And she has now made it available on YouTube. Hence the visually stunning film above. Naturally, we’ve added Sita Sings the Blues to our collection of YouTube favorites.

In the meantime, check out our new collection, 30 Places to Watch Free Movies Online

Free Philip Glass Album (Act Today)

A quick note: Amazon will let you download a Philip Glass sampler that contains 21 tracks. You can get them as mp3s, and they’re all free. But the deal ends (it seems) by the end of the day. So act quickly.

via Lifehacker

This American Life Demystifies the American Healthcare System

When the global financial system collapsed last year, This American Life and its sister program, Planet Money (iTunes – RSS Feed – Web Site) began doing something that few others could pull off. They took very complex problems and made them understandable, often demystifying difficult concepts in a reliably engaging way. Now, they’re at it again. This time, they’re breaking down the American healthcare system and getting at the core question. Why can’t we control ever-rising healthcare costs? That’s what the raging healthcare debate is effectively all about. And, if you want to be an informed participant in the debate, it’s worth listening to these two episodes that tease things out. The first episode, called More is Less, looks at doctors, patients, insurance companies and their tangled relationship. (Click here, then scroll down and find the “Full Episode” icon.) The second episode, Someone Else’s Money, gets you inside the world of drug and insurance companies and patients. Have a listen, and thanks to Bob in Brooklyn for the tip here.

Galapagos Rap: 3.5* ’til infinity…

Stanford students head to the Galapagos Islands, then rap about what they’ve learned. Evolutionary rap. What a concept…

Meanwhile, the professor whose voice you hear at the outset, Bill Durham, taught a course in Stanford Continuing Studies (my day job) last year, and we have made it available as a free podcast. It’s called Darwin’s Legacy, and it brought together some of the world’s leading Darwin scholars for the 200th anniversary of Darwin’s birth. You access and learn more about the course here.

via Stanford’s Facebook page

Richard Dawkins v. Bill O’Reilly: Round 2

Back when Richard Dawkins (Oxford University) published The God Delusion in 2007, he made a fairly unexpected appearance on Bill O’Reilly’s show. Quite the contrast in characters. Now that he has published his latest book, The Greatest Show on Earth, it was time for Dawkins to meet up with the bumptious one again. Here it goes. Watch above.

Yale Adds New Batch of Free Open Courses

A quick update for you. Yale University has added its third batch of courses to its open education initiative, bringing the total number of courses to 25. (Find the complete list here.) The latest round is slightly bigger than previous ones, which bucks the trend that we’re generally seeing. (Open Courses have been in a noticeable slump for the past year.) Below, I have listed the newly added courses and provided links to iTunes, YouTube, and pages where you can download the courses in various other formats. I have also added these courses to our online collection of Free Courses from top universities. This collection now features over 250 free courses, all ready to download to your computer or mp3 player. iPhone owners can also find many other courses on our free iPhone app.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.