Archive of Handwritten Recipes (1600 — 1960) Will Teach You How to Stew a Calf’s Head and More

If you’ve ever tried to fol­low a recipe from your grandmother’s col­lec­tion, squint­ing at her spi­dery writ­ing on a stained 3x5 card, you might be a can­di­date for the Uni­ver­si­ty of Iowa Libraries’ lat­est DIY His­to­ry project.

The University’s spe­cial col­lec­tions man­ages the Sza­th­mary Culi­nary Man­u­s­cipts and Cook­books, a hand­writ­ten col­lec­tion of Amer­i­can and Euro­pean recipes from the 1600s to the 1960s.

Help­ful food­ies, his­to­ry buffs and hand­writ­ing sleuths are invit­ed to par­tic­i­pate in UI’s crowd­sourc­ing his­to­ry project by tran­scrib­ing dig­i­tized images of recipes.

It’s not the first time the uni­ver­si­ty has out­sourced a por­tion of its archival hand­work. Last year the Civ­il War Diaries and Let­ters Tran­scrip­tion Project was pow­ered by vol­un­teers, who tran­scribed more than 15,000 pages of mate­r­i­al. All you need to do is select a page from with­in the col­lec­tion and get start­ed. So far more than 17,000 pages have been tran­scribed and vol­un­teers chat and post ques­tions on a dis­cus­sion forum.

An exam­ple of the his­tor­i­cal nuggets uncov­ered while tran­scrib­ing: a pos­net is an 18th cen­tu­ry term for a small met­al pot, a spi­der is a skil­let, and to scearce is to sift. Of course no cook­book his­to­ri­an has com­plet­ed their task until they have actu­al­ly tried the recipes them­selves. This could be inter­est­ing for the lucky tran­scriber of a recipe from Abi­gail Welling­ton Townsend’s cook­book, cir­ca 1840:

To stew a calf­shead, let the calf­shead be split and open and cleaned put it in the stew pan with water to cov­er it stew it quite ten­der take it and cut it to pieces put them on again in the stew pan with the water it was first boiled in  put with it six large onions half a pint of claret a lit­tle catch up a lit­tle mace & pep­per & salt to your taste when it is stewed ten­der thick­en the gravy with yolks of six eggs boiled hard & braid in a lit­tle of the gravy put in six yolks of eggs boiled hard & fry’d forced meat.

Kate Rix writes about dig­i­tal media and edu­ca­tion. Find more of her work at  and

Mountain Biker Joy Rides on a $13,000 Carbon Road Bike

Pro­fes­sion­al cycling has cer­tain­ly seen bet­ter days. Last week, the Inter­na­tion­al Cycling Union for­mal­ly stripped Lance Arm­strong of his sev­en Tour de France titles. This came after Arm­strong refused to con­test an evi­dence-filled case pre­pared by the U.S. Anti-Dop­ing Agency, and after Arm­strong’s for­mer team­mates start­ed con­fess­ing to dop­ing one by one. (On that note, Tyler Hamil­ton, once a domes­tique for Lance, gave a rather reveal­ing radio inter­view this week, along with Daniel Coyle. Togeth­er they co-wrote a new book, The Secret Race: Inside the Hid­den World of the Tour de France: Dop­ing, Cov­er-ups, and Win­ning at All Costs.) Any­way, this is all a long way of say­ing that cycling fans could use some­thing to smile about. And maybe this fits the bill: Above, we have Mar­tyn Ash­ton, a well-known moun­tain bik­er, tak­ing a $13,000 Pinarel­lo Dog­ma 2 out for a very casu­al rad­i­cal spin. Enjoy.

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Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi Square Off in a Monstrous Game of Chess (1934)

Long before the release of the cult film Drac­u­la vs. Franken­stein (Rot­ten Toma­toes calls the 1971 movie “a slap­dash epic of bad film­mak­ing”), the orig­i­nal stars of Drac­u­la and Franken­stein met face to face–for a game of chess.

The scene is from an ear­ly 1934 episode of Colum­bia Pic­tures’ Screen Snap­shots, a series of short films fea­tur­ing the off-screen lives of Hol­ly­wood stars. Carl Laemm­le at Uni­ver­sal Pic­tures had recent­ly come up with the idea of cast­ing Boris Karloff, who played the mon­ster in the 1931 film Franken­stein, and Bela Lugosi, star of the same year’s Drac­u­la, togeth­er in one movie. The Black Cat, based very loose­ly on the short sto­ry by Edgar Allan Poe, pre­miered in May of 1934 with Karloff and Lugosi at the top of the bill.

The appear­ance by Karloff and Lugosi on Screen Snap­shots #11 was essen­tial­ly a covert pro­mo­tion for The Black Cat, but because Colum­bia and Uni­ver­sal were rivals the film isn’t men­tioned. Instead, the two hor­ror stars talk about the “Film Stars Frol­ic,” a fundrais­ing event for the Screen Actors Guild that coin­cid­ed with the open­ing of Gilmore Sta­di­um in Los Angeles–and, as it hap­pened, with the pre­miere of The Black Cat. The Screen Snap­shots vignette begins with an atmos­phere of men­ace as the two men frown at one anoth­er.

“Are you ready for the test, Drac­u­la?” says Karloff.

“I’m ready, Franken­stein,” says Lugosi.

“Then–let us begin.”

At which point the two men break out laugh­ing as the cam­era pulls back to reveal a chess board. For some rea­son Drac­u­la has the white pieces.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Bela Lugosi Dis­cuss­es his Drug Habit as He Leaves the Hos­pi­tal in 1955

Isaac Asimov Explains His Three Laws of Robots

A hand­ful of futur­ists, philoso­phers, and technophiles believe we are approach­ing what they call the “sin­gu­lar­i­ty”: a point in time when smart machines became much smarter, stronger, and faster than their cre­ators, and then become self-con­scious. If there’s any chance of this occur­ring, it’s worth­while to pon­der the con­se­quences. But we do already, all the time—in exis­ten­tial­ly bleak sce­nar­ios like Blade Run­ner, the Ter­mi­na­tor series, the reboot­ed Bat­tlestar Galac­ti­ca (and its failed pre­quel Capri­ca).

The prospects are nev­er pleas­ant. Robot­ic engi­neers in these worlds hard­ly seem to both­er teach­ing their machines the kind of moral code that would keep them from turn­ing and destroy­ing us (that is, when they aren’t explic­it­ly designed to do so).

I won­der about this con­cep­tu­al gap—convenient as it may be in nar­ra­tive terms—given that Isaac Asi­mov, one of the fore­fa­thers of robot fic­tion invent­ed just such a moral code. In the video above, he out­lines it (with his odd pro­nun­ci­a­tion of “robot”). The code con­sists of three laws; in his fic­tion these are hard­wired into each robot’s “positron­ic brain,” a fic­tion­al com­put­er that gives robots some­thing of a human-like con­scious­ness.

First Law: A robot may not injure a human being, or, through inac­tion, allow a human being to come to harm.
Sec­ond Law: A robot must obey the orders giv­en it by human beings except where such orders would con­flict with the First Law.
Third Law: A robot must pro­tect its own exis­tence as long as such pro­tec­tion does not con­flict with the First or Sec­ond Law.

Isaac Asi­mov devot­ed a good deal of his writ­ing career to the sub­ject of robots, so it’s safe to say, he’d done quite bit of think­ing about how they would fit into the worlds he invent­ed. In doing so, Asi­mov had to solve the prob­lem of how robots would inter­act with humans once they had some degree of free will. But are his three laws suf­fi­cient? Many of Asimov’s sto­ries–I, Robot, for example–turn on some fail­ure or con­fu­sion between them. And even for their chase scenes, explo­sions, and melo­dra­ma, the three screen explo­rations of arti­fi­cial life men­tioned above thought­ful­ly exploit philo­soph­i­cal ambi­gu­i­ties and insuf­fi­cien­cies in Asimov’s sim­ple sys­tem.

For one thing, while Asimov’s robots were hunks of met­al, tak­ing only vague­ly humanoid form, the robots of our cur­rent imag­in­ings emerge from an uncan­ny val­ley with real­is­tic skin and hair or even a genet­ic code and cir­cu­la­to­ry sys­tem. They are pos­si­ble sex­u­al part­ners, friends and lovers, co-work­ers and supe­ri­ors. They can deceive us as to their nature (a fourth law by Bul­gar­i­an nov­el­ist Lyuben Dilov states that a robot “must estab­lish its iden­ti­ty as a robot in all cas­es”); they can con­ceive chil­dren or desires their cre­ators nev­er intend­ed. These dif­fer­ences beg impor­tant ques­tions: how eth­i­cal are these laws? How fea­si­ble? When the sin­gu­lar­i­ty occurs, will Skynet become aware of itself and destroy us?

Unlike Asi­mov, we now live in a time where the ques­tions have direct applic­a­bil­i­ty to robots liv­ing among us, out­side the pages of sci-fi. As Japan­ese and South Kore­an roboti­cists have found, the three laws can­not address what they call “open tex­ture risk”— unpre­dictable inter­ac­tions in unstruc­tured envi­ron­ments. Humans rely on nuanced and often pre­con­scious read­ings of com­plex social codes and the fine shades of mean­ing embed­ded in nat­ur­al lan­guage; machines have no such sub­tle­ty… yet. Whether or not they can devel­op it is an open ques­tion, mak­ing humanoid robots with arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence an “open tex­ture risk.” But as you can see from the video below, we’re per­haps much clos­er to Blade Run­ner or AI than to the clunky, inter­stel­lar min­ing machines in Asi­mov’s fic­tion.

Josh Jones is a doc­tor­al can­di­date in Eng­lish at Ford­ham Uni­ver­si­ty and a co-founder and for­mer man­ag­ing edi­tor of Guer­ni­ca / A Mag­a­zine of Arts and Pol­i­tics.

The Known Universe: The Hayden Planetarium’s Tour of the Cosmos Gets a Hans Zimmer Soundtrack

The Ger­man com­pos­er Hans Zim­mer has made a name for him­self (and earned a star on the Hol­ly­wood Walk of Fame) by cre­at­ing orig­i­nal scores for films. You’ve heard his music, even if you haven’t heard of him. The Lion King, The Dark Knight and Incep­tion are a few of the films he scored.

If you’ve seen Incep­tion then the music behind this video will sound famil­iar. Zim­mer’s music plays behind a small video with vast sub­ject mat­ter: The Known Uni­verse, a six minute tour of, that’s right, the entire known uni­verse. Put togeth­er in 2009 by the Hay­den Plan­e­tar­i­um in NYC, the video orig­i­nal­ly had a more New Agey, orches­tral score. Zimmer’s track is beau­ti­ful and thank­ful­ly some­body decid­ed to lay it down behind the Plan­e­tar­i­um’s video. The results are amaz­ing, a slick­er ver­sion of Charles and Ray Eames’ famous film Pow­ers of Ten, but with a more dis­tant start­ing and end­ing point.

Where Pow­ers of Ten start­ed its tour out at a bird’s eye lev­el above Earth, The Known Uni­verse begins above the planet’s high­est point, above the Himalayan Moun­tains, and quick­ly pans out to show the Moon’s orbit, the orbits of the oth­er plan­ets in our solar sys­tem, and beyond.

Real­ly beyond—all the way into the after­glow of the Big Bang. And even though it’s a sim­u­la­tion, it’s an accu­rate one.

The Known Uni­verse was made using the Dig­i­tal Uni­verse Atlas, a four-dimen­sion­al map of the uni­verse main­tained and updat­ed by astro­physi­cists at the Amer­i­can Muse­um of Nat­ur­al His­to­ry. (You can down­load your own copy here.)

Slip into your head­phones and enjoy Zimmer’s music. The piece is called “Time (We Plants are Hap­py Plants Remix)” and it’s a tune­ful, upbeat sound­track that’s out of our galaxy.

Are you watch­ing, Carl Sagan?

Kate Rix writes about dig­i­tal media and edu­ca­tion. Find more of her work at .

Watch James Burke’s TV Series Connections, and Discover the Unexpected History of Innovation

Even if we did­n’t grow up as sci­ence fans, all of us caught at least the occa­sion­al tele­vi­sion show on sci­ence his­to­ry. Some came expert­ly pro­duced. Oth­ers packed the infor­ma­tion to a very high den­si­ty (by TV’s stan­dards, at least). Oth­ers cracked jokes to keep our wits engaged. Oth­ers got us intrigued enough about a par­tic­u­lar dis­cov­ery to per­form our own fur­ther research at the library or on the inter­net. But those of us who came of age dur­ing a run of one of James Burke’s Con­nec­tionsseries got all of that at once, exe­cut­ed on a high­er plane, and with quite dif­fer­ent philo­soph­i­cal premis­es. Design­ing each of his pro­grams to exam­ine a dif­fer­ent nexus between sev­er­al ele­ments of sci­ence, nature, and  engi­neer­ing, Burke premis­es these nar­ra­tives on the insep­a­ra­bil­i­ty of human inge­nu­ity, his­tor­i­cal coin­ci­dence, and sheer acci­dent. How, for instance, did we end up in a world of film pro­jec­tors (cur­rent­ly being dis­placed by dig­i­tal pro­jec­tors though they may be)? For the answer, Burke argues, you’ve got to start with medieval cas­tle for­ti­fi­ca­tions. Then you work your way through can­nons, map­ping, lime­light, bil­liard-ball ivory, gun­cot­ton, the zooprax­is­cope, Morse code, and the phono­graph. These tech­no­log­i­cal threads all con­verge to give us the cin­e­mat­ic expe­ri­ence we enjoy today — or enjoyed in 1978, any­way.

If you enjoyed that episode of Con­nec­tions back then, know that you can now relive it on a Youtube chan­nel ded­i­cat­ed to Burke and his shows. If you nev­er watched any in the first place, you can now catch up on not just the ten episodes of the orig­i­nal Con­nec­tions, but 1994’s twice-as-long Con­nec­tions2, and the final series, 1997’s Con­nec­tions3I rec­om­mend begin­ning at the begin­ning, with Con­nec­tions’ first episode, “The Trig­ger Effect,” embed­ded above. It gets you into the mind­set of Burke’s “alter­na­tive view of change” by break­ing down and illus­trat­ing the very con­cept of human reliance on com­plex­ly con­nect­ed net­works. The pro­gram’s clear and fast-mov­ing but no-stone-unturned method­ol­o­gy of expla­na­tion takes you through the New York Black­out of 1965, ancient Egypt­ian agri­cul­ture, and the oil fields of Kuwait. Reach the end of the third series, and you wind up learn­ing just how much the Eif­fel Tow­er has to do with the Elgin Mar­bles, Ben­jamin Franklin, Lon­don Bridge, and the ZIP code. Burke empha­sizes that none of the his­tor­i­cal agents involved in all these scat­tered small inno­va­tions that enabled the big ones — the ones with such effects on our mod­ern lives — could have planned for things to go the way they did. His sto­ries thus grant us more than a bit of humil­i­ty about pre­dict­ing the inno­va­tions of the future, built as they will be atop the kind of com­plex­i­ty that not even Con­nec­tions ever described.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Exquis­ite Paper Craft Ani­ma­tions Tell the Sto­ries of Words

The Sci­ence of the Olympic Flame; Ancient Style Meets Mod­ern Tech­nol­o­gy

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

50 Free Online Certificate Courses Starting Soon (Including Intro to Philosophy)

A quick heads up: Sev­er­al weeks back, we rolled out a handy list of Free Cours­es Grant­i­ng Cer­tifi­cates from Great Uni­ver­si­ties. We start­ed with 60 cours­es, and we’ve now added anoth­er 50. They all start in the near future (between Novem­ber and Jan­u­ary), and they most­ly come from the two biggest providers of Mas­sive Open Online Cours­es — Cours­era and Udac­i­ty (which just land­ed $15 mil­lion in fund­ing last week).

Above we’re fea­tur­ing a clip pro­mot­ing a course called Intro­duc­tion to Phi­los­o­phy. It comes cour­tesy of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Edin­burgh, an insti­tu­tion first found­ed in 1583, that hopes to teach a time­less dis­ci­pline in a new way. So far, Cours­era and Udac­i­ty have only offered cours­es in sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy  — in dis­ci­plines that yield rather quan­tifi­able answers. Now it’s time to see how they can han­dle sub­jects where the ques­tions and answers are more sub­tle. The free course begins on Jan­u­ary 28, and any stu­dent who suc­cess­ful­ly com­pletes the inter­ac­tive course will receive “a cer­tifi­cate signed by the instruc­tors.” Sign up here, and find a com­plete list of online cer­tifi­cate cours­es here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The Big List of 530 Free Online Cours­es from Top Uni­ver­si­ties (New Addi­tions)

55 Free Phi­los­o­phy Cours­es

A Big List of 375 Free eBooks for Your iPad, Kin­dle, Nook and Oth­er Devices

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Kermit the Frog Learns to Love Jazz Through “Visual Thinking” (1959)

Jim Hen­son launched his first tele­vised pup­pet pro­gram, Sam and Friends, when he was a fresh­man at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Mary­land. The show ran for six years on NBC affil­i­ate WRC-TV in Wash­ing­ton, DC. Dur­ing the pro­duc­tion of Sam and Friends, Hen­son devel­oped the design of his flex­i­ble, foam-rub­ber pup­pets, which moved much more nat­u­ral­ly than wood­en mar­i­onettes. And they became the pro­to­types of the beloved Mup­pets that would make him famous. In the short film above from Sam and Friends, “Visu­al Think­ing,” an ear­ly ver­sion of Ker­mit the Frog has an exchange with a ston­er char­ac­ter called Har­ry the Hip­ster, who intro­duces him to an advanced form of visu­al think­ing that moves from sin­gle notes, to chords, to clas­si­cal pas­sages to jazz.

The sketch rep­re­sents a unique com­bi­na­tion of pup­petry and ani­ma­tion that would come to char­ac­ter­ize some of Henson’s most rec­og­niz­able work, such as Sesame Street. Although it’s in black and white and obvi­ous­ly not pro­duced for chil­dren, it’s very much in the style of the lat­er Hen­son, who main­tained a kind of beat sen­si­bil­i­ty through­out his career, whether work­ing in fan­ta­sy with The Dark Crys­tal or mad­cap pup­pet ensem­bles like The Mup­pet Movie. In the above sketch, Ker­mit and Har­ry work out the intri­ca­cies of jazz phras­ing by visu­al­iz­ing the notes in white squig­gles on the screen, which Har­ry eras­es by scat­ting them back­wards. Even­tu­al­ly, they’re over­whelmed and erased by jazz, in a kind of trib­ute to the form’s com­plex inde­ter­mi­na­cy. The sketch is one of the few ear­ly films to fea­ture Ker­mit, since the character’s rights are owned by Dis­ney. Pro­duced in 1959, the sketch was remade for The Ed Sul­li­van Show in 1966 and again for The Dick Cavett Show in 1971.

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:

Jim Hen­son Pilots The Mup­pet Show with Adult Episode, “Sex and Vio­lence” (1975)

Pup­pet Mak­ing with Jim Hen­son: A Primer

Jim Henson’s Zany 1963 Robot Film Uncov­ered by AT&T: Watch Online

Josh Jones is a doc­tor­al can­di­date in Eng­lish at Ford­ham Uni­ver­si­ty and a co-founder and for­mer man­ag­ing edi­tor of Guer­ni­ca / A Mag­a­zine of Arts and Pol­i­tics.

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