How Large is the Universe?

For cen­turies, human­i­ty has been utter­ly trans­fixed by the cos­mos, with gen­er­a­tions of astronomers, philoso­phers and every­day pon­der­ers striv­ing to bet­ter under­stand the grand cap­sule of our exis­tence. And yet to this day, some of the most basic, fun­da­men­tal qual­i­ties of the uni­verse remain a mys­tery. How Large is the Uni­verse? is a fas­ci­nat­ing 20-minute doc­u­men­tary by Thomas Lucas and Dave Brody explor­ing the uni­verse’s immense scale of dis­tance and time.

“Recent pre­ci­sion mea­sure­ments gath­ered by the Hub­ble space tele­scope and oth­er instru­ments have brought a con­sen­sus that the uni­verse dates back 13.7 bil­lion years. Its radius, then, is the dis­tance a beam of light would have trav­eled in that time – 13.7 bil­lion light years. That works out to about 1.3 quadrillion kilo­me­ters. In fact, it’s even big­ger – much big­ger. How it got so large, so fast, was until recent­ly a deep mys­tery.”

For more on the sub­ject, see these five fas­ci­nat­ing ways to grasp the size and scale of the uni­verse.

Maria Popo­va is the founder and edi­tor in chief of Brain Pick­ings, a curat­ed inven­to­ry of cross-dis­ci­pli­nary inter­est­ing­ness. She writes for Wired UK, GOOD Mag­a­zine and Desig­nOb­serv­er, and spends a great deal of time on Twit­ter.

The Junky’s Christmas: William S. Burrough’s Claymation Christmas Film

Back in 1993, the Beat writer William S. Bur­roughs wrote and nar­rat­ed a 21 minute clay­ma­tion Christ­mas film. And, as you can well imag­ine, it’s not your nor­mal hap­py Christ­mas flick. Nope, this film – The Junky’s Christ­mas – is all about Dan­ny the Car­wiper, a junkie, who spends Christ­mas Day try­ing to score a fix. Even­tu­al­ly he finds the Christ­mas spir­it when he shares some mor­phine with a young man suf­fer­ing from kid­ney stones, giv­ing him the “immac­u­late fix.” There you have it. This film pro­duced by Fran­cis Ford Cop­po­la appears in our col­lec­tion of Free Movies Online, or you can buy it on Ama­zon here. via @UBUWeb

Relat­ed Con­tent:

William S. Bur­roughs Shoots Shake­speare

William S. Bur­roughs on Sat­ur­day Night Live, 1981

William S. Bur­roughs Reads Naked Lunch, His Con­tro­ver­sial 1959 Nov­el

A ‘Lil Bob Dylan Christmas

The Lit­tle Drum­mer Boy. Ani­mat­ed. Off of Dylan’s 2009 Christ­mas album. Have a joy­ful and safe hol­i­day…

Fantasmagorie: The First Animated Film

Today, we’re adding to our col­lec­tion of Free Online Movies a great lit­tle film by Emile Cohl, oth­er­wise known as “The Father of the Ani­mat­ed Car­toon.” Made in 1908, Fan­tas­magorie stitched togeth­er 700 draw­ings, each dou­ble-exposed, cre­at­ing the first ful­ly ani­mat­ed film. Cohl made over 250 films between 1908 and 1923, of which 37 sur­vive in film archives. And sev­er­al – Le cauchemar de Fan­toche (1908) and The Hash­er’s Delir­i­um (1910) – appear right here on YouTube.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Ear­ly Exper­i­ments in Col­or Film (1895–1935)

Franken­stein Hits the Sil­ver Screen (1910)

Where Hor­ror Film Began: The Cab­i­net of Dr. Cali­gari

My Blackberry Is Not Working!

Clas­sic… This fruity sketch just aired on the BBC pro­gram The One Ron­nie. Great work by Ron­nie Cor­bett and Har­ry Enfield.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Conan O’Brien @ Google
The Mon­ty Python Phi­los­o­phy Foot­ball Match Revis­it­ed
Father Gui­do Sarducci’s Five Minute Uni­ver­si­ty

Sir David Frost Interviews Julian Assange Upon Release from Jail

Let me pref­ace things by say­ing this will like­ly be our last Wik­iLeaks post for a while. Don’t want to slip into Wik­iLeaks overkill. With that said…

Yes­ter­day, Sir David Frost land­ed the first tele­vi­sion inter­view with Julian Assange since his release from a Lon­don jail. The 24 minute inter­view aired on Al Jazeera Eng­lish (where Frost hosts a show called Frost Over the World) and pret­ty quick­ly they dive into some impor­tant ques­tions: Do gov­ern­ments have the right to keep state secrets? And do media orga­ni­za­tions have the right to divulge such secrets? Assum­ing so, where (if any­where) must jour­nal­ists draw the line? Why has Wik­iLeaks recent­ly tak­en aim at the Unit­ed States? Is it fair to char­ac­ter­ize Wik­iLeaks as an anar­chic orga­ni­za­tion? The list of ques­tions goes on, includ­ing ones delv­ing into Assange’s legal prob­lems. Thanks for @eacion for the heads up on this one…

Shaq Conducts The Boston Pops: A Little Christmas Delight

This Mon­day, the great Shaquille O’Neal, now play­ing for the Boston Celtics, made his con­duct­ing debut, lead­ing the Boston Pops Orches­tra and Tan­gle­wood Fes­ti­val Cho­rus at the Hol­i­day Pops Con­cert. You’ll imme­di­ate­ly rec­og­nize the tunes: the Christ­mas stan­dard, “Sleigh Ride,” lead­ing into Queen’s pow­er bal­lad “We Are the Cham­pi­ons.”

via Moth­er Jones

Neil Gaiman’s Dark Christmas Poem Animated

39 Degrees North, a Bei­jing motion graph­ics stu­dio, start­ed devel­op­ing an uncon­ven­tion­al Christ­mas card this year. And once they got going, there was no turn­ing back. Above, we have the end result – an ani­mat­ed ver­sion of the uber dark Christ­mas poem (read text here) writ­ten by Neil Gaiman, the best­selling author of sci-fi and fan­ta­sy short sto­ries. The poem was pub­lished in Gaiman’s col­lec­tion Smoke and Mir­rors.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.