Mathematics in Movies: Harvard Prof Curates 150+ Scenes

Oliv­er Knill teach­es cal­cu­lus, lin­ear alge­bra and dif­fer­en­tial equa­tions at Har­vard, and, sev­er­al years back, he pulled togeth­er a fair­ly nifty col­lec­tion of Math­e­mat­ics Scenes in Movies. Over 150 films are rep­re­sent­ed here, every­thing from Good Will Hunt­ing, A Beau­ti­ful Mind, Juras­sic Park (above) to Alice in Won­der­land (1951), The Mal­tese Fal­con and Apoc­a­lypse Now. You can watch each scene in flash for­mat on Knil­l’s site, or down­load them as a quick­time file. And, math buffs, don’t miss our col­lec­tion of Free Online Math Cours­es, a sub­set of our meta list, 1,700 Free Online Cours­es from Top Uni­ver­si­ties.

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!

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Miss USA 2011: Should Schools Teach Evo­lu­tion? … or Math?

Mul­ti­pli­ca­tion: The Vedic Way

The Math Guy Radio Archive

Stephen Fry & Friends Pay Tribute to Christopher Hitchens

On Novem­ber 9th, Stephen Fry and friends came togeth­er in Lon­don to cel­e­brate Christo­pher Hitchens’ life, loves and hates — all while Hitch watched from his hos­pi­tal bed. Staged in Lon­don by Intel­li­gence², the event brought togeth­er Richard Dawkins, Christo­pher Buck­ley, Salman Rushdie, Lewis Lapham, Mar­tin Amis, poet James Fen­ton and actor Sean Penn, with some pay­ing trib­ute in per­son, oth­ers via satel­lite.

Orig­i­nal­ly, the sell-out audi­ence of 2,500 expect­ed to see Hitchens and Fry talk­ing togeth­er about pol­i­tics, lit­er­a­ture, and ‘the things that make life worth defend­ing — foes like faith and false con­so­la­tion.’ But at the last moment, Hitchens, already suf­fer­ing from esophageal can­cer, fell ill with pneu­mo­nia and plans changed. Now, instead of being an inter­locu­tor, Fry became mas­ter of cer­e­monies, coor­di­nat­ing what odd­ly felt like a eulo­gy before the fact.

The pro­gram runs 45 min­utes, and you can watch it for free. Also don’t miss a pre­vi­ous Intel­li­gence Squared Debate where Fry and Hitchens take posi­tions on the Catholic church and whether it’s a force for good.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Christo­pher Hitchens: No Deathbed Con­ver­sion for Me, Thanks, But It Was Good of You to Ask

A Big Bach Download: The Complete Organ Works for Free

We men­tioned this one long ago, and it’s time to men­tion it again: You can down­load for free the com­plete organ works of Johann Sebas­t­ian Bach. They were record­ed by Dr. James Kib­bie (Uni­ver­si­ty of Michi­gan) on orig­i­nal baroque organs in Leipzig, Ger­many. Feel free to start with a col­lec­tion of Favorite Mas­ter­works, or get the com­plete works that have been divid­ed into 13 groups for easy down­load. Once you down­load these zip files, you will need to unzip them before play­ing the tracks. Enjoy, and don’t miss our relat­ed post: How a Bach Canon Works. It’s rather bril­liant.

Fol­low us on Face­bookTwit­ter and now Google Plus.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Genius of J.S. Bach’s “Crab Canon” Visu­al­ized on a Möbius Strip

The Open Gold­berg Vari­a­tions: J.S. Bach’s Mas­ter­piece Free to Down­load

New­ly Dis­cov­ered Piece by Mozart Per­formed on His Own Fortepi­ano

Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” Mov­ing­ly Flash­mobbed in Spain

The Battle for LA’s Murals

Los Ange­les has long been known as the street mur­al cap­i­tal of the world. But in the past few years the city has paint­ed over more than 300 murals, accord­ing to the Los Ange­les Times, enforc­ing a decade-old ordi­nance that makes it a crime to cre­ate murals on most pri­vate prop­er­ties. “The mur­al cap­i­tal of the world is no more,” street artist Saber told the Times. “They buff beau­ti­ful pieces, harass prop­er­ty own­ers and threat­en us like we are in street gangs.”

Some of the prob­lems start­ed in 1986, when the city was look­ing for a way to alle­vi­ate the grow­ing scourge of bill­board blight. The city was being blan­ket­ed with unsight­ly com­mer­cial adver­tis­ing, so the Los Ange­les City Coun­cil adopt­ed a code to reduce com­mer­cial bill­boards. The new restric­tions exempt­ed art­work. Adver­tis­ers respond­ed by suing the city, argu­ing that they had the same right of free speech as the mural­ists. So in 2002 the Coun­cil “solved” the mat­ter by amend­ing the code to include works of art. “The law left many murals tech­ni­cal­ly ille­gal,” wrote the Times in an Oct. 29 edi­to­r­i­al, “no mat­ter how tal­ent­ed the artist or how will­ing the own­er of the wall or how inof­fen­sive the sub­ject mat­ter.”

Since then, murals that were already in exis­tence have come under increas­ing threat from two sides: from graf­fi­ti “artists” who mark their ter­ri­to­ry by defac­ing murals, and from a city that seems deter­mined to find any pre­text to paint over them. This is the sub­ject of Behind the Wall: The Bat­tle for LA’s Murals (above), a six-minute doc­u­men­tary by stu­dents in the Film and TV Pro­duc­tion MFA pro­gram at the Uni­ver­si­ty of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia. It was direct­ed by Oliv­er Riley-Smith, shot by Qian­bai­hui Yang, and pro­duced and edit­ed by Gavin Gar­ri­son.

With­out address­ing the issue head-on, the film makes some progress toward illu­mi­nat­ing the dis­tinc­tion between street art and van­dal­ism. Mural­ists like Ernesto De La Loza, who is fea­tured in the film, receive per­mis­sion from prop­er­ty own­ers and then spend months cre­at­ing their art. Lat­er, some­one comes along with a can of spray paint and tags it. Should the mural­ist and the graf­fi­ti artist have equal cul­tur­al sta­tus?

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Always Bank­able Banksy

Lt. John Pike Pepper Sprays His Way Into Art History

Pep­per spray stu­dents in the face on Fri­day, and you wake up the face of evil on Sat­ur­day. Then, the brunt of some clever jokes on Mon­day. Look! There’s Lieu­tenant John Pike pop­ping into the famous paint­ing, The Spir­it of ’76, and mac­ing a wound­ed sol­dier while he’s down. That’s low.

Now the sym­bol of French free­dom, Delacroix’s Lib­er­ty Lead­ing the Peo­ple. Is Pike using pep­per spray? Or, on clos­er inspec­tion, is that a shot of deodor­ant? Quel con ce mec.

Free­dom from Want is part of Nor­man Rock­well’s Four Free­doms series of paint­ings. And guess who is ruin­ing free­dom, Thanks­giv­ing and every­thing whole­some?

Yes, he even­tu­al­ly des­e­crates Picas­so’s anti-war mur­al, Guer­ni­ca, too.

A baby seal? WTF Pike?!!

More art his­to­ry fun awaits you at the Pep­per­Spray­ing­Cop Tum­blr site.

H/T Heather and Wash­Po

Iconic Photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson Takes You Inside His Creative World: Watch “The Decisive Moment”

The great artists are often the ones who are best at rec­og­niz­ing and exploit­ing the unique char­ac­ter of their medi­um.

In the ear­ly 20th cen­tu­ry, pho­tog­ra­phy was mired in an inten­tion­al­ly fuzzy Pic­to­ri­al­ism. The pre­vail­ing view was that pho­tog­ra­phy had to imi­tate paint­ing, or it was­n’t “art.” So in the ear­ly 1930s Edward West­on, Ansel Adams and a few oth­ers on the West Coast formed Group f/64 in protest. They embraced their medi­um’s inher­ent strength by plac­ing large for­mat cam­eras on tripods and stop­ping the lens­es way down (all the way to f/64) to cap­ture scenes with a lev­el of detail and clar­i­ty that a painter could only dream of achiev­ing.

Across the Atlantic an even greater rev­o­lu­tion was tak­ing place. With the intro­duc­tion of the 35mm Leica cam­era and fast films, Euro­pean pho­tog­ra­phers in the late 1920s and ear­ly 1930s were begin­ning to explore the medi­um’s aston­ish­ing abil­i­ty to freeze time. Not only could pho­tog­ra­phy ren­der a sta­t­ic scene with more detail than paint­ing, it could iso­late and pre­serve an oth­er­wise tran­si­to­ry moment from the flux of life. No artist seized upon this essen­tial aspect of pho­tog­ra­phy with greater bril­liance and con­sis­ten­cy than the French­man Hen­ri Carti­er-Bres­son.

“In pho­tog­ra­phy,” wrote Carti­er-Bres­son, “there is a new kind of plas­tic­i­ty, the prod­uct of instan­ta­neous lines made by move­ments of the sub­ject. We work in uni­son with move­ment as though it were a pre­sen­ti­ment of the way in which life itself unfolds. But inside move­ment there is one moment at which the ele­ments in motion are in bal­ance. Pho­tog­ra­phy must seize upon this moment and hold immo­bile the equi­lib­ri­um of it.”

Carti­er-Bres­son would often say that his great­est joy was geom­e­try. When he was 20 years old he stud­ied paint­ing under the cubist André Lhote, who adopt­ed for his school the mot­to of Pla­to’s Acad­e­my: “Let no one igno­rant of geom­e­try enter.” Carti­er-Bres­son took an ear­ly inter­est in math­e­mat­i­cal­ly sophis­ti­cat­ed painters. “He loved Pao­lo Uccel­lo and Piero del­la Francesca because they were the painters of divine pro­por­tions,” writes Pierre Assouline in his book, Hen­ri Carti­er-Bres­son: A Biog­ra­phy. “Carti­er-Bres­son was so immersed in their works that his mind filled with pro­trac­tors and plumb lines. Like them, he dreamed of diag­o­nals and pro­por­tions, and became obsessed with the mys­tique of mea­sure­ments, as if the world was sim­ply the prod­uct of numer­i­cal com­bi­na­tions.”

At the same time the young artist fell under the sway of a teacher whose approach was decid­ed­ly less ratio­nal. While still in his teens, Carti­er-Bres­son began sit­ting in on André Bre­ton’s leg­endary Sur­re­al­ist gath­er­ings at the Café de la Place Blanche. He had lit­tle regard for Sur­re­al­ist paint­ing, but was intox­i­cat­ed with the Sur­re­al­ist phi­los­o­phy of life: the empha­sis on chance and intu­ition, the role of spon­ta­neous expres­sion, the all-encom­pass­ing atti­tude of revolt. It made a pro­found impres­sion. In  Hen­ri Carti­er-Bres­son: The Ear­ly Work, Peter Galas­si describes the Sur­re­al­ist approach to life in a way that also neat­ly cap­tures Carti­er-Bres­son’s even­tu­al modus operan­di as a pho­tog­ra­ph­er: “Alone, the Sur­re­al­ist wan­ders the streets with­out des­ti­na­tion but with a pre­med­i­tat­ed alert­ness for the unex­pect­ed detail that will release a mar­velous and com­pelling real­i­ty just beneath the banal sur­face of ordi­nary exis­tence.”

The geo­met­ric for­mal­ism of Renais­sance paint­ing and the serendip­i­ty of Sur­re­al­ism were two key influ­ences on Carti­er-Bres­son’s pho­tog­ra­phy. A third came as an epiphany when he stum­bled upon a repro­duc­tion of Mar­tin Munkác­si’s “Three Boys at Lake Tan­ganyi­ka.” The pic­ture showed a group of African boys frol­ick­ing in the water. If the pho­tog­ra­ph­er had pressed the shut­ter a mil­lisec­ond ear­li­er or lat­er, the beau­ti­ful­ly bal­anced, inter­lock­ing com­po­si­tion would not have exist­ed. “I sud­den­ly under­stood that pho­tog­ra­phy can fix eter­ni­ty in a moment,” Carti­er-Bres­son lat­er said. He gave up paint­ing and bought his first Leica.

Over the next half cen­tu­ry Carti­er-Bres­son would trav­el the world with a Leica in one hand, the strap twist­ed around his wrist, ready to raise it to his eye and fix eter­ni­ty at any moment. Inward­ly he held onto the spir­it of Sur­re­al­ism while out­ward­ly call­ing him­self a pho­to­jour­nal­ist. As a pho­to­jour­nal­ist he wit­nessed some of the biggest events of the 20th cen­tu­ry. He was with Gand­hi a few min­utes before he was assas­si­nat­ed in 1948. He was in Chi­na when the com­mu­nists took over in 1949. “He was the Tol­stoy of pho­tog­ra­phy,” said Richard Ave­don short­ly after Carti­er-Bres­son’s death in 2004 at the age of 95. “With pro­found human­i­ty, he was the wit­ness of the 20th Cen­tu­ry.”

“To take pho­tographs,” Carti­er-Bres­son once said, “is to hold one’s breath when all fac­ul­ties con­verge in the face of flee­ing real­i­ty. It is at that moment that mas­ter­ing an image becomes a great phys­i­cal and intel­lec­tu­al joy.”

Hen­ri Carti­er-Bres­son: The Deci­sive Moment (above) is an 18-minute film pro­duced in 1973 by Scholas­tic Mag­a­zines, Inc. and the Inter­na­tion­al Cen­ter of Pho­tog­ra­phy. It fea­tures a selec­tion of Carti­er-Bres­son’s icon­ic pho­tographs, along with rare com­men­tary by the pho­tog­ra­ph­er him­self.

Reading Marx’s Capital with David Harvey (Free Online Course)

David Har­vey, an impor­tant social the­o­rist and geo­g­ra­ph­er, has got the right idea. Take what you know. Teach it in the class­room. Cap­ture it on video. Then dis­trib­ute it to the world. Keep it sim­ple, but just do it.

Har­vey is now mak­ing avail­able 26 hours of lec­tures, dur­ing which he gives a close read­ing of Karl Marx’s Das Kap­i­tal (1867). This work, often con­sid­ered to be Marx’s mas­ter­piece, is where he elab­o­rat­ed a cri­tique of cap­i­tal­ism and laid the ground­work for an ide­ol­o­gy that took the 20th cen­tu­ry by storm. Har­vey is no stranger to this text. He has taught this class for over 40 years now, both in uni­ver­si­ties (Johns Hop­kins and CUNY) and in the com­mu­ni­ty as well.

The first lec­ture, pre­ced­ed by an intro­duc­to­ry inter­view last­ing rough­ly six min­utes, appears above. The rest of the lec­tures can be accessed via Har­vey’s web site, YouTube, and iTunes. Also, we have placed the course in our col­lec­tion of Free Online Cours­es, which keeps on grow­ing. Find it under the Eco­nom­ics sec­tion.

UPDATE:  David Har­vey is look­ing for vol­un­teers to trans­late his lec­tures into 36 lan­guages. If you want to help you, you can get start­ed here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Cri­sis of Cap­i­tal­ism Ani­mat­ed (with David Har­vey)

Hayek v. Keynes Rap

A 3D Tour of Picasso’s Guernica

In June 1937 Pablo Picas­so paint­ed Guer­ni­ca, a mur­al that memo­ri­al­ized the events of April 27, 1937, the date when Ger­many sup­port­ed its fas­cist ally Fran­cis­co Fran­co and bombed Guer­ni­ca, a rather remote town in the Basque region of north­ern Spain. For the Nazis, the mil­i­tary strike was an excuse to try out their lat­est mil­i­tary hard­ware, estab­lish a blue­print for ter­ror bomb­ings of civil­ian pop­u­la­tions, and pull Spain into the fas­cist fold. After the bomb­ing, the repub­li­can gov­ern­ment on the oth­er side of the Span­ish Civ­il War com­mis­sioned Picas­so to cre­ate the mur­al for dis­play at the 1937 World’s Fair in Paris.

You can learn more about the famous anti-war paint­ing, now housed at the Museo Reina Sofía in Madrid, by check­ing out the Smarthis­to­ry primer post­ed below. In the mean­time, we’re high­light­ing today a dig­i­tal­ly-ren­dered 3D tour of Picas­so’s land­mark work. It’s the cre­ation of Lena Gieseke, a visu­al effects artist who, once upon a time, was mar­ried to the film­mak­er Tim Bur­ton. Some will con­sid­er the idea of putting Guer­ni­ca in 3D down­right blas­phe­mous. Oth­ers will find it instruc­tive, a chance to see parts of the mur­al from a new per­spec­tive. The video above runs three min­utes.

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!

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Gestapo Points to Guer­ni­ca and Asks Picas­so, “Did You Do This?;” Picas­so Replies “No, You Did!”

Guer­ni­ca: Alain Resnais’ Haunt­ing Film on Picasso’s Paint­ing & the Crimes of the Span­ish Civ­il War

Picas­so Paint­ing on Glass

Dear Mon­sieur Picas­so: A Free eBook

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.