First Glimpse of Apple’s New eReader

Wel­come the new Kin­dle com­peti­tor. Above, you’ll find some of the first pic­tures show­ing the ebook capa­bil­i­ties of Apple’s new iPad. We should have more thoughts on the iPad com­ing lat­er today. Pic­tures come via, which has been pro­vid­ing excel­lent live cov­er­age of the Apple event.

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A History of the World in 100 Objects

Work­ing with the BBC, Neil Mac­Gre­gor, the Direc­tor of the British Muse­um, has launched a down­right smart project. A His­to­ry of the World in 100 Objects uses impor­tant pieces from the muse­um’s col­lec­tions to recount the long his­to­ry of human­i­ty. Through­out the year, the seri­al­ized radio pro­gram will air 100 episodes, each aver­ag­ing 15 min­utes, and they will cov­er two mil­lion years of human inno­va­tion and artis­tic cre­ation. Below, I’ve includ­ed a recent episode that revis­its the Oldu­vai hand axe, a tool invent­ed some 1.2 mil­lion years ago that proved vital to human evo­lu­tion and our migra­tion out of Africa. You can access the full series in audio via iTunes, RSS Feed, as well as oth­er for­mats found here. A big thanks to Stephen in the UK for flag­ging this pro­duc­tion for us.

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The History of the Seemingly Impossible Chinese Typewriter

The Chi­nese lan­guage has tens of thou­sands of char­ac­ters, and many have con­sid­ered it near­ly impos­si­ble to fit these char­ac­ters onto a sin­gle work­able type­writer. But that has­n’t stopped inven­tors from try­ing … and, to a cer­tain degree, suc­ceed­ing. Stan­ford his­to­ri­an Thomas Mul­laney is now writ­ing the first his­to­ry of the Chi­nese type­writer, and he has found evi­dence for numer­ous patents and pro­to­types that incor­po­rate the most com­mon­ly used char­ac­ters. In addi­tion to mak­ing a polit­i­cal impact in Chi­na, these machines have also poten­tial­ly influ­enced inno­va­tions in mod­ern com­put­ing. You can read more about Mul­laney’s work on Stan­ford’s Human Expe­ri­ence web­site, and also watch him dis­cuss his work in this YouTube clip.

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Lessig on Political Corruption in America

Pub­lic con­fi­dence in the U.S. House and Sen­ate is at an all-time low, and, after last week’s Supreme Court deci­sion, it’s bound to sink even low­er. On Jan­u­ary 19th (the day before the deci­sion), Har­vard law pro­fes­sor Lawrence Lessig returned to Stan­ford and high­light­ed the degree to which “insti­tu­tion­al cor­rup­tion” — in the form of lob­by­ists and cor­po­rate influ­ence — per­vades Con­gress, dic­tates leg­is­la­tion, and brings large sums of mon­ey to cam­paigns and, yes, even rep­re­sen­ta­tives’ per­son­al bank accounts. (Rough­ly 50% of U.S. Sen­a­tors become lob­by­ists, work­ing for indus­tries they once assist­ed polit­i­cal­ly, and earn sub­stan­tial incomes.) The talk, accom­pa­nied by a rapid fire Pow­er­Point pre­sen­ta­tion, runs a sol­id hour and details var­i­ous instances in which lob­by­ists have shaped unfath­omably bad leg­is­la­tion. Hap­pi­ly, the talk also ends with Lessig out­lin­ing pos­si­ble solu­tions. Pol­i­cy changes can offer some answers. But, a lot of it comes down to this: get­ting the pas­sive priv­i­leged to rein in a cor­rupt­ed elite.

Note: To see Lessig’s imme­di­ate response to the SCOTUS deci­sion, look here.

Richard Dawkins on the Awe of Life & Science

Here’s some vin­tage Richard Dawkins. Back in 1991, the Oxford Uni­ver­si­ty biol­o­gist pre­sent­ed a series of lec­tures for the Roy­al Insti­tu­tion. In the very first lec­ture (pre­sent­ed above), Dawkins forces his audi­ence to con­front some big ques­tions. (What’s the ori­gin of life? Where do we fall in the scheme of life on plan­et Earth? What’s our role in the larg­er uni­verse? etc.) And he reminds us that we’re extreme­ly priv­i­leged to have the brains and tools (name­ly, rea­son and sci­ence) to make sense of the awe­some won­ders that sur­round us. We’ve evolved and grown up, he says. We don’t need super­sti­tion and the super­nat­ur­al to explain it all. We just need our­selves and our faith in sci­ence and its meth­ods. It’s clas­sic Dawkins.

The 55-minute talk is now added to our YouTube favorites, and we’ve also added Dawkins’ YouTube Chan­nel to our col­lec­tion of Intel­li­gent YouTube Chan­nels.

via TED

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Introduction to New Testament History and Literature: A Free Yale Course

Taught by Yale pro­fes­sor Dale B. Mar­tin, this course offers an intro­duc­tion to New Tes­ta­ment His­to­ry and Lit­er­a­ture, and cov­ers the fol­low­ing ground:

This course pro­vides a his­tor­i­cal study of the ori­gins of Chris­tian­i­ty by ana­lyz­ing the lit­er­a­ture of the ear­li­est Chris­t­ian move­ments in his­tor­i­cal con­text, con­cen­trat­ing on the New Tes­ta­ment. Although the­o­log­i­cal themes will occu­py much of our atten­tion, the course does not attempt a the­o­log­i­cal appro­pri­a­tion of the New Tes­ta­ment as scrip­ture. Rather, the impor­tance of the New Tes­ta­ment and oth­er ear­ly Chris­t­ian doc­u­ments as ancient lit­er­a­ture and as sources for his­tor­i­cal study will be empha­sized. A cen­tral orga­niz­ing theme of the course will focus on the dif­fer­ences with­in ear­ly Chris­tian­i­ty (-ies).

You can watch the 26 lec­tures from the course above, or find them on YouTube and iTunes. To get more infor­ma­tion on the course, includ­ing the syl­labus, vis­it this Yale web­site.

Intro­duc­tion to New Tes­ta­ment His­to­ry and Lit­er­a­ture will be added to our col­lec­tion, 1,700 Free Online Cours­es from Top Uni­ver­si­ties. There you can find a spe­cial­ized list of Free Online Reli­gion Cours­es.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

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Test Your Awareness

So how did you do?

Thanks Scott for the tip on that one.

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Jared Diamond Explains Haiti’s Enduring Poverty

Jared Dia­mond, the Pulitzer Prize-win­ning author of Guns, Germs & Steel (and Col­lapse: How Soci­eties Choose to Fail or Suc­ceed), offers some time­ly thoughts on why Haiti, once a fair­ly pros­per­ous coun­try, has sunk into endur­ing pover­ty — a con­di­tion not com­par­a­tive­ly shared by its neigh­bor on the same island, the Domini­can Repub­lic. Accord­ing to Dia­mond, Haiti’s envi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions offer a par­tial expla­na­tion. But you will also find clues in the coun­try’s lan­guage, and in the lega­cy of slav­ery that has shaped Haiti’s eco­nom­ic rela­tion­ship with Europe and the US. This inter­view — quite a good one — aired this morn­ing in San Fran­cis­co. You can lis­ten to it below, or access it via MP3,  iTunes or RSS Feed.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.