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.

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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.

Don’t miss Open Cul­ture on Twit­ter and Face­book!

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.