The Essential Kurosawa

Akira Kurosawa, the great Japanese director, would have turned 100 today. And to mark the occasion, The Guardian has assembled a handy guide to ten key Kurosawa movies. Above, we highlight a clip from Seven Samurai (1954), an enormously influential film both in Japan and abroad. The Guardian guide celebrates this and nine other major Kurosawa films, so it’s definitely worth a visit. Meanwhile, you’ll conveniently find two important Kurosawa works (Rashomon and Throne of Blood) listed in our collection of Free Online Movies.

Our Thirsty World: A Free National Geographic Download

A little belated something for World Water Day (yesterday): National Geographic has released a special issue that delves into the challenges facing our most essential natural resource. “Water: Our Thirsty World” will be soon available at newsstands everywhere. But, right now, you can now download a free interactive version that includes all of the print magazine content, plus lots of extra online goodies. The free download requires registration and is available only until April 2.

A great find by Maria Popova aka @brainpicker

For a Tiny Instant, Physicists Broke a Law of Nature

An intriguing bit of news from the Yale Bulletin. It begins:

For a brief instant, it appears, scientists at Brook haven National Laboratory on Long Island recently discovered a law of nature had been broken.

Action still resulted in an equal and opposite reaction, gravity kept the Earth circling the Sun, and conservation of energy remained intact. But for the tiniest fraction of a second at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC), physicists created a symmetry-breaking bubble of space where parity no longer existed.

You can read more about what went down here. And, if you want to brush up your physics, head over to the Physics section of our Free Online Course collection. There you’ll find free physics courses from Yale, Stanford, MIT and other fine institutions of higher learning.

Nature by Numbers: Short Film Captures the Geometrical & Mathematical Formulas That Reveal Themselves in Nature

For centuries, artists and architects have used some well-known geometrical and mathematical formulas to guide their work: The Fibonacci Series and Spiral, The Golden and Angle Ratios, The Delauney Triangulation and Voronoi Tessellations, etc. These formulas have a reality beyond the minds of mathematicians. They present themselves in nature, and that’s what a Spanish filmmaker, Cristóbal Vila, wanted to capture with this short film, Nature by Numbers. You can learn more about the movie at the filmmaker’s web site, and also find his latest film here: Inspirations: A Short Film Celebrating the Mathematical Art of M.C. Escher.

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Amazon Releases Kindle App for the iPad & Mac OS X

A quick fyi: Amazon has released an app that will let you read Kindle texts on your Mac (finally!) and the upcoming iPad. If you’re looking for free Kindle texts, we’ve produced a long list here, including many great classics. You can find Kindle apps (all free) for other devices below.

Thanks Wes for the info…

Open Video Coming to Wikipedia

Wikipedia is now opening the online encyclopedia to video, giving contributors a new way to convey information in a richer way. And they’re making a point of using video in an open format (Ogg Theora).

Among the confluence of factors coming together in 2010 are: 1) the growing awareness that video is the dominant medium of the web and that video can help make Wikipedia articles even richer; 2) the development of open source players and codecs (alternatives to Flash, Quicktime, Windows Media, and H.264, 3); the introduction of public browser tools—Firefox’s Firefogg extension, for example—for uploading and playing nonproprietary video formats; 4) the willingness of nonprofits like the Participatory Culture Foundation and the Open Video Alliance and for-profits like Kaltura and Intelligent Television to dedicate themselves to open video; and the provision of strategic funding from the Mozilla Foundation and Ford Foundation, among others, to support developers, programmers, and activists.  As Wikipedia board member S. J. Klein explains in a recent Open Video Alliance video short, the day is fast coming where video will be as easy for users to write, edit, annotate, and remix as text is today. (You can find more details on the campaign here and here.)

What are the recommendations for video contributed to Wikipedia? They should be related to current articles, short and under 100 MB, free, and available to share and reuse (offered under a Creative Commons BY-SA or equivalent license). In coming weeks new videos are expected to proliferate and new strategies will be unfurled for working with educational repositories of legacy video.

This post was contributed by Peter Kaufman, the CEO and president of Intelligent Television, who shares our passion for thoughtful media.

Cannes for Free!

Right in time for the weekend… Working in partnership with Stella Artois, is now featuring a selection of its favorite films that have played at the Cannes Film Festival.

The lineup, including many prize winners, features movies by Federico Fellini (Amarcord), Wong Kar-wai (Happy Together), Michelangelo Antonioni (L’avventura), Jacques Tati (Mon oncle), and others. There are nine movies in total, filmed between 1958 and 2008. And they’re free until June. These films should be available worldwide, but registration is required. Kick back and start watching here.

For more great classics, see our collection of Free Movies Online.

Mark Twain Captured on Film by Thomas Edison in 1909. It’s the Only Known Footage of the Author.

Here’s a little nugget for you. The great inventor Thomas Edison visited the home of Mark Twain in 1909, and captured footage of “the father of American literature” (says Faulkner) walking around his estate and playing cards with his daughters, Clara and Jean. The film is silent and deteriorated. But it’s apparently the only known footage of the author who gave us Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer. Twain would die the next year.

Find works by Twain in our collection of Free Audio Books and Free eBooks.

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Related Content:

Mark Twain Shirtless in 1883 Photo

Thomas Edison Recites “Mary Had a Little Lamb” in Early Voice Recording

Thomas Edison’s Boxing Cats (1894), or Where the LOLCats All Began

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