Reporting the Good News

You’ve heard the complaint before. Why do papers only report the bad news? And why does the good news go unnoticed? If you’ve ever had this thought, then today is (kind of) your lucky day. Here’s what happens when the New York Times goes happy . Watch the video above, and visit the paper online

And, of course, if you want some true sources of good news, you can visit the following sites recommended by one of our readers: Good News Network and Good News Daily.

Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin (Listen Online This Sunday)

Brian Wilson was the driving force behind The Beach Boys, the band who gave us Pet Sounds (1966), the LP ranked 2nd on Rolling Stone’s list of “The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.” Now, almost 50 years after forming the band, Wilson will release a new solo album next Tuesday. Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin features covers – imaginative re-interpretations, if you will – of classic songs written by the iconic Gershwin Brothers. The video above spells out the backstory behind the album. But if you want a real taste of the project, then get this. This Sunday, the album will be streamed live on Brian Wilson’s web site at 12:00 noon Pacific Time. And thereafter Wilson himself will take questions on his Facebook page for one hour (12:45pm – 1:45pm). Get the details here. And also check out this good find: Gershwin plays Gershwin: Rhapsody in Blue.

How to Find Cheaper College Textbooks

A quick fyi for any college student looking to save some money on textbooks this year. Last week, The New York Times published a helpful guide to lowering textbook costs. The comprehensive list tells you where you can find free ebooks and cheap electronic textbooks online, while highlighting e-commerce vendors that rent traditional textbooks at a reduced cost. (Take Chegg for example.) In total, the guide lists 20 different resources. If you’re heading to college soon, it’s well worth a look.

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This conceptual little video keeps you thinking about words and their uses. Will Hoffman and Daniel Mercadante produced it to accompany a new Radiolab episode called quite simply “Words.” (Listen via MP3iTunes – Web Site) If this is your first introduction to Radiolab, you’ll eventually thank us. Hands down, it’s one of the best cultural productions on radio/the web.

This video comes to us via Bill, who discovered it on Devour, a new web site that hopes to intelligently curate YouTube’s millions of videos.

Bill Gates: The Internet Will Displace the Traditional University in 5 Years

Speaking at the Techonomy conference in Lake Tahoe last week, Bill Gates argued that the cost of college needs to come down, and the only way to accomplish this is through technology and lessening the importance of “place-based” colleges. That’s how you keep college education open to all. During the talk, he went further and asserted, “Five years from now, on the Web for free, you’ll be able to find the best lectures in the world. It will be better than any single university.”

To be sure, I don’t dispute this particular point. You can already find hundreds of free courses online, and that’s part of our reason for being. But, as I have frequently reminded people, listening to lectures doesn’t mean you’re getting a rounded education. Lectures inform you. They’re great in that way. But you get an education when you couple lectures with readings, when you chew over ideas in a discussion section, when you analyze the lectures and readings in critical papers, when you take exams that force you to synthesize everything you’ve learned during the entire semester, etc. Right now, it is very hard to accomplish this online. On a relative basis, e-learning tools have evolved strikingly slowly during the past decade. The widely deployed tools are often still klunky and rudimentary. And it still takes considerable time, money and labor to produce a truly excellent online course. (At least that’s what I have found during my ten years in the space.) Will we make progress here? Yes. Would I welcome it? Of course. But will we offer a substantive and highly scalable online alternative in five years? Very doubtful, unless a catalyst comes along who can dramatically sweep away the existing major players (who just bog things down) and introduce some serious innovation. Mr. Gates, are you that catalyst?

via Wired Campus

Michael Sandel on Justice, Aristotle & Gay Marriage

We have mentioned him here many times before. Michael Sandel teaches philosophy at Harvard, including the ever-popular course, “Justice,” taken by some 14,000 students during the past two decades. (The legendary course is now freely available online.) Speaking at the Aspen Institute not too long ago, Sandel gave a very abbreviated version of the course. Call it “Justice in Under an Hour.” (My title, not his.) And, by the time he wrapped things up, he got down to a timely question in America. Is it just for the state to withhold the institution of marriage from same sex couples? What would Aristotle (who laid the foundation for western thinking about justice) have to say about this question? And how do Sandel’s Harvard students grapple with it? The full presentation is available above; the particular section on gay marriage is here.

Looking for free philosophy courses? Have a look through the Philosophy section of our big collection of Free Online Courses.

Visit 890 UNESCO World Heritage Sites with Free iPhone/iPad App

The new Fotopedia Heritage app for the iPhone and iPad lets the world come to you. (Download here.) Drawing on 20,000 curated photos taken by thousands of photographers from the Fotopedia community, this FREE app lets you visit (at least virtually) 890 UNESCO World Heritage sites. In a matter of minutes, you can move from Notre Dame in Paris, to the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, to Machu Picchu in Peru, to the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt. You get the picture. And speaking of pictures, it’s worth noting that all photos are released under a Creative Commons license. A very nice touch. Let me finally mention that the app has some smart mashup features, including maps showing the location of each site, plus Wikipedia entries offering background information on each location. You can start downloading the app right here. (Many thanks to Jane for calling this out.)

Related Content:

Visit Pompeii (also Stonehenge & Versailles) with Google Street View

Richard Dawkins & John Lennox Debate Science & Atheism

No one debates quite as well as an Oxford professor. And so today we feature two Oxford profs – atheist biologist Richard Dawkins and Christian mathematician John Lennox – debating God and science in … of all places … Birmingham, Alabama. The debate turns largely on a question raised in Dawkins’ 2006 bestseller, The God Delusion: To what extent can religious belief and serious scientific discovery go hand-in-hand? The debate is lively, and the thought serious. A good way to spend 90+ minutes. And Brazilian readers, you’re in luck. You get subtitles. If you would like to purchase a copy of the debate, you can buy it through the Fixed Point Foundation, the Christian organization that organized the event. You can also watch a version of the debate on the Fixed Point web site here.

Related Content:

50 Famous Academics & Scientists Talk About God

50 Famous Academics & Scientists Talk About God – Part II


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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.