Watch Episode #4 of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Cosmos: The Big Bang, Black Holes & More (US Viewers)

On Sun­day evening, Fox aired the lat­est episode of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Cos­mos series. This episode, called “A Sky Full of Ghosts,” explored some more out-of-this-world sub­jects — the speed of light and how it helps us under­tand the Big Bang; the sci­en­tif­ic work of Isaac New­ton, William Her­schel, James Clerk Maxwell; Albert Ein­stein’s The­o­ry of Rel­a­tiv­i­ty; dark stars; black holes; and more. US view­ers can watch the entire­ty of Episode 4 online (above), along with pre­vi­ous episodes in the series below (or on Hulu). For view­ers out­side the US, we have some­thing per­haps bet­ter for you: Carl Sagan’s Orig­i­nal Cos­mos Series on YouTube. Plus, we have a bunch of Free Online Astron­o­my Cours­es in our col­lec­tion of 875 Free Online Cours­es. Enjoy.

Pre­vi­ous Episodes:

Episode #1: “Stand­ing Up in the Milky Way”

Episode #2: “Some of the Things That Mol­e­cules Do”

Episode #3: “When Knowl­edge Con­quered Fear

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New York Public Library Puts 20,000 Hi-Res Maps Online & Makes Them Free to Download and Use


When I was a kid, my father brought home from I know not where an enor­mous col­lec­tion of Nation­al Geo­graph­ic mag­a­zines span­ning the years 1917 to 1985. I found, tucked in almost every issue, one of the magazine’s gor­geous maps—of the Moon, St. Peters­burg, the Himalayas, East­ern Europe’s ever-shift­ing bound­aries. I became a car­tog­ra­phy enthu­si­ast and geo­graph­i­cal sponge, por­ing over them for years just for the sheer enjoy­ment of it, a plea­sure that remains with me today. Whether you’re like me and sim­ply love the imag­i­na­tive exer­cise of trac­ing a map’s lines and con­tours and absorb­ing infor­ma­tion, or you love to do that and you get paid for it, you’ll find innu­mer­able ways to spend your time on the new Open Access Maps project at the New York Pub­lic Library. The NYPL announces the release with the expla­na­tion below:

The Lionel Pin­cus & Princess Firyal Map Divi­sion is very proud to announce the release of more than 20,000 car­to­graph­ic works as high res­o­lu­tion down­loads. We believe these maps have no known US copy­right restric­tions.* To the extent that some juris­dic­tions grant NYPL an addi­tion­al copy­right in the dig­i­tal repro­duc­tions of these maps, NYPL is dis­trib­ut­ing these images under a Cre­ative Com­mons CC0 1.0 Uni­ver­sal Pub­lic Domain Ded­i­ca­tion. The maps can be viewed through the New York Pub­lic Library’s Dig­i­tal Col­lec­tions page, and down­loaded (!), through the Map Warp­er.

What does this mean? Sim­ply put, “it means you can have the maps, all of them if you want, for free, in high res­o­lu­tion.” Maps like that above, of New York’s Cen­tral Park, issued in 1863, ten years before Fred­er­ick Law Olm­st­ed and Calvert Vaux com­plet­ed their his­toric re-design.

Can you—as I did with my neat­ly fold­ed, yel­low­ing archive—have all the maps in full-col­or print? Well, no, unless you’re pre­pared to bear the cost in ink and paper and have some spe­cial­ized print­ing equip­ment that can ren­der each map in its orig­i­nal dimen­sions. But you can access some­thing worlds away from what I could have imagined—a dig­i­tal enhance­ment tech­nol­o­gy called “warp­ing,” also known as “geo­rec­ti­fi­ca­tion.”

nypl map

This, explains the NYPL, “is the process where dig­i­tal images of maps are stretched, plac­ing the maps them­selves into their geo­graph­ic con­text, ren­dered either on the web­site or with tools such as Google Earth.” For exam­ple, below see a “warp­ing” of the 1916 Redraft of the 1660 “Castel­lo Plan” for then-New Ams­ter­dam over a cur­rent-day Google Earth image of low­er Man­hat­tan (and note how much the island has been expand­ed past its 17th cen­tu­ry shores). The “warp­ing” tech­nol­o­gy is open access, mean­ing that “any­body with a com­put­er can cre­ate an account, log in, and begin warp­ing and trac­ing maps.” User con­tri­bu­tions remain, “a la Wikipedia,” and add “one more piece to this new his­tor­i­cal geo­graph­ic data mod­el.”


The “warp­er” is a spe­cial fea­ture that helps place his­tor­i­cal maps in a mod­ern visu­al field, but it in no way ruins the enjoy­ment of those maps as archival pieces or art objects. You can see car­tog­ra­ph­er John Wol­cott Adams orig­i­nal 1916 Castel­lo Plan redraft below, and vis­it NYPL’s Dig­i­tal Col­lec­tions for a high res­o­lu­tion image, ful­ly zoomable and, yes, print­able. For more on the incred­i­ble warp­ing tech­nol­o­gy NYPL makes avail­able to us, see this extend­ed blog post, “Unbind­ing the Atlas: Work­ing with Dig­i­tal Maps.” Over ten thou­sand of the collection’s maps are of New York and New Jer­sey, dat­ing from 1852 to 1922, includ­ing prop­er­ty, zon­ing, and topo­graph­ic maps. In addi­tion, over one thou­sand of the maps depict Mid-Atlantic cities from the 16th to the 19th cen­turies, and over 700 are topo­graph­ic maps of the Aus­tro-Hun­gar­i­an Empire between 1877 and 1914. That should be enough to keep any ama­teur or pro­fes­sion­al map-lover busy for a good long while. Start dig­ging into the maps here.


Relat­ed Con­tent:

The British Library Puts 1,000,000 Images into the Pub­lic Domain, Mak­ing Them Free to Reuse & Remix

Down­load 15,000+ Free Gold­en Age Comics from the Dig­i­tal Com­ic Muse­um

Down­load Over 250 Free Art Books From the Get­ty Muse­um

14,000 Free Images from the French Rev­o­lu­tion Now Avail­able Online

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

Download De La Soul’s New Mixtape “Smell the Da.I.S.Y.” for Free

free delasoul download

Last month, De La Soul cel­e­brat­ed the 25th anniver­sary of their debut album 3 Feet High and Ris­ing by let­ting fans down­load near­ly their entire back cat­a­log of albums for free.

This month, the hip hop trio is giv­ing away new music — their mix­tape “Smell the Da.I.S.Y.,” which fea­tures their col­lab­o­ra­tions with the late-great hip hop artist,  J Dil­la.

Hap­py down­load­ing.…

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An Introduction to Dylanology, or How to Understand Bob Dylan by Digging Through His Garbage

You may nev­er have heard of “Dylanol­o­gy” before, but rest assured that the field cov­ers the intel­lec­tu­al ter­ri­to­ry you sus­pect it does. Even if you have heard of Dylanol­o­gy, you may nev­er have heard of A.J. Weber­man, the man who holds rea­son­able claim to hav­ing fathered the dis­ci­pline. In John Reil­ly’s musi­cal­ly bio­graph­i­cal 1969 short film above, The Bal­lad of A.J. Weber­man, we wit­ness the tit­u­lar Bob Dylan obses­sive engag­ing in one of his many research meth­ods: in this case, the also neol­o­gism-anoint­ed pur­suit of gar­bol­o­gy. This “sci­ence” has Weber­man go through Dylan’s trash “in order to gath­er scraps of evi­dence to sup­port his the­o­ries,” says the dili­gent fan’s entry in the web’s Bob Dylan Who’s Who. These the­o­ries include, accord­ing to Rolling Stone’s Marc Jacob­son, the notion that “Dylan, the most angel-head­ed head of the gen­er­a­tion, had fall­en prey to a Manchuri­an Can­di­date-style gov­ern­ment plot to hook him up to sen­si­bil­i­ty-dead­en­ing hard dope.”

The page also men­tions that “after three years of self-pub­lic­i­ty” as the “world’s lead­ing Dyla­nol­o­gist,” Weber­man “final­ly met Dylan in 1971.” But much of his noto­ri­ety comes not just from hav­ing met Dylan in the flesh, not just from habit­u­al­ly dig­ging through Dylan’s garbage, and not just (or so he claims) hav­ing tak­en a right­ful beat­ing at the hands of Dylan, but from hav­ing con­versed with Dylan, can­did­ly and at length, over the tele­phone. These chats even­tu­al­ly emerged on vinyl as the album Robert Zim­mer­man vs. A.J. Weber­man, and you can hear the whole thing at Ubuweb, or below:


Jan­u­ary 6, 1971

Jan­u­ary 9, 1971

“The con­ver­sa­tions were record­ed in Jan­u­ary, 1971, in the weeks fol­low­ing a demon­stra­tion out­side Bob’s NYC apart­ment orga­nized by Weber­man [ … ] a mis­guid­ed 60’s rad­i­cal who felt (cor­rect­ly enough) that by the ear­ly 70’s, rock music had ceased to be a force for rad­i­cal polit­i­cal upheaval in the U.S. and had been co-opt­ed by the estab­lish­ment,” writes one con­trib­u­tor to the Dylan Who’s Who. “Like any of Bob’s songs, they must be heard to be tru­ly under­stood.”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Bob Dylan Final­ly Makes a Video for His 1965 Hit, “Like a Rolling Stone”

Bob Dylan Reads From T.S. Eliot’s Great Mod­ernist Poem The Waste Land

Hear the Nev­er-Before-Released Bob Dylan Song “Pret­ty Saro” (1970)

The 1969 Bob Dylan-John­ny Cash Ses­sions: Twelve Rare Record­ings

Bob Dylan and George Har­ri­son Play Ten­nis, 1969

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on cities, lan­guage, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

Jorge Luis Borges, After Going Blind, Draws a Self-Portrait

borges self portrait blind

Jorge Luis Borges (1899–1986), one of the great writ­ers to come out of Argenti­na, went blind when he was  only 55 years old. As unset­tling as it must have been, it was­n’t par­tic­u­lar­ly a sur­prise. He once told The New York Times, “I knew I would go blind, because my father, my pater­nal grand­moth­er, my great-grand­fa­ther, they had all gone blind.”

In the years fol­low­ing that life-chang­ing moment, Borges nev­er learned braille and could no longer read. But he did con­tin­ue to write; he served as the direc­tor of Argenti­na’s Nation­al Library; he trav­eled and deliv­ered an impor­tant series of lec­tures at Har­vard on poet­ry (click to lis­ten); and he even took a stab at draw­ing — some­thing he did fair­ly well ear­li­er in life. (See our pre­vi­ous post: Two Draw­ings by Jorge Luis Borges Illus­trate the Author’s Obses­sions.)

Above, you can see a self por­trait that Borges drew in the base­ment of the famous Strand Book­store in New York City. Accord­ing to the Times, he did this “using one fin­ger to guide the pen he was hold­ing with his oth­er hand.” After mak­ing the sketch, Borges entered the main part of the book­store and start­ed “lis­ten­ing to the room, the stacks, the books,” and made the remark­able obser­va­tion “You have as many books as we have in our nation­al library.”

If you’ve ever been to The Strand, you know how many books it holds. Indeed, the store boasts of being “New York City’s leg­endary home of 18 Miles of new, used and rare books.” My guess is that Argenti­na’s nation­al library might have a few more vol­umes than that. But who is real­ly count­ing?

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:

Jorge Luis Borges’ 1967–8 Nor­ton Lec­tures On Poet­ry (And Every­thing Else Lit­er­ary)

Borges: Pro­file of a Writer Presents the Life and Writ­ings of Argentina’s Favorite Son, Jorge Luis Borges

Jorge Luis Borges Chats with William F. Buck­ley on Fir­ing Line (1977)

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Bill Murray Croons a Soulful Cover of “The House of the Rising Sun”

Bill Mur­ray began his singing shtick on Sat­ur­day Night Live back in the 70s. Any­one who watched the show dur­ing its hey­day will sure­ly remem­ber his “Nick Win­ter” lounge singer char­ac­ter belt­ing out the tune of the Star Wars theme song. Years lat­er, Mr. Mur­ray tick­led us with a karaoke scene in Lost in Trans­la­tion. And yet anoth­er decade lat­er we find him singing “The House of the Ris­ing Sun,” the Amer­i­can folk song record­ed numer­ous times since 1934, but per­haps most famous­ly by The Ani­mals in 1964. Bil­l’s ver­sion took place last night at the annu­al Cad­dyshack Celebri­ty Golf Char­i­ty Event. If you enjoy hear­ing Bill sing, you should real­ly lis­ten to him read poet­ry. We’ve got the below.

via Rolling Stone

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Bill Mur­ray Reads Great Poet­ry by Bil­ly Collins, Cole Porter, and Sarah Man­gu­so

Bill Mur­ray Reads Poet­ry at a Con­struc­tion Site

Bill Mur­ray Reads Wal­lace Stevens Poems — “The Plan­et on The Table” and “A Rab­bit as King of the Ghosts”

George R.R. Martin Releases a Free Chapter From The Winds of Winter: Read It Online


In recent days, George R.R. Mar­tin pub­lished a blog post that begins, “Hiya kids, hiya hiya hiya. With sea­son 4 of HBO’s GAME OF THRONES almost upon us, I thought the time was ripe for me to give my read­ers anoth­er taste of WINDS OF WINTER.” The new chap­ter, he tells us, “is actu­al­ly an old chap­ter.  But no, it’s not one I’ve pub­lished or post­ed before.” The chap­ter, called “Mer­cy,” opens with these words:

She woke with a gasp, not know­ing who she was, or where.

The smell of blood was heavy in her nos­trils… or was that her night­mare, lin­ger­ing? She had dreamed of wolves again, of run­ning through some dark pine for­est with a great pack at her hells, hard on the scent of prey.

Half-light filled the room, grey and gloomy. Shiv­er­ing, she sat up in bed and ran a hand across her scalp. Stub­ble bris­tled against her palm. I need to shave before Izem­baro sees. Mer­cy, I’m Mer­cy, and tonight I’ll be raped and mur­dered. Her true name was Merce­dene, but Mer­cy was all any­one ever called her…

Except in dreams. She took a breath to qui­et the howl­ing in her heart, try­ing to remem­ber more of what she’d dreamt, but most of it had gone already. There had been blood in it, though, and a full moon over­head, and a tree that watched her as she ran.

You can read the chap­ter in full here. Mar­tin notes that you can also enjoy a new Tyri­on chap­ter, “that is live and avail­able with the ICE & FIRE app.” It’s free on iTunes.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Neil Gaiman’s Free Short Sto­ries

Down­load 33 Great Sci-Fi Sto­ries by Philip K. Dick as Free Audio Books & Free eBooks

Free: Isaac Asimov’s Epic Foun­da­tion Tril­o­gy Dra­ma­tized in Clas­sic Audio

The Ware Tetral­o­gy: Free Sci­Fi Down­load

575 Free eBooks: Down­load Great Books for Free

Great Shakespeare Plays Retold with Stick Figures in Three Simple Drawings


Oth­er than Romeo and Juli­et and pos­si­bly Ham­let,  Shake­speare does­n’t exact­ly lend him­self to the ele­va­tor pitch. The same creaky plot devices and unfath­omable jokes that con­found mod­ern audi­ences make for long wind­ed sum­maries.

Not to say it can’t be done. Mya Gosling, a South­east Asia Copy Cat­a­loger at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Michi­gan, has been amus­ing her­self, and more recent­ly oth­ers, with “Good Tick­le Brain,” a web com­ic that reduces each of the com­plete works to a mere three pan­els. (Titus Andron­i­cus’ blood­bath required but one.)

Those of us who are semi-versed in the Bard should delight in the way major char­ac­ters and com­plex side plots are glibly strick­en from the record.

(Methinks Lady Mac­Beth would not be pleased…)

And what high school­er won’t expe­ri­ence a per­verse thrill, when the obscure and bor­ing text his class has been pars­ing for weeks is dis­patched with the swift­ness of your aver­age Garfield? (The wise teacher will be in no rush to share these rev­e­la­tions…)


Gosling, whose dad intro­duced her to Shake­speare at an ear­ly age, knows the mate­r­i­al well enough to sub­vert it. Who cares if her artis­tic tal­ent max­es out with stick fig­ures? Famil­iar­i­ty allows her to nail the end­ing of Troilus and Cres­si­da (“Home­r’s Ili­ad hap­pens”). The mid­dle pan­el of Win­ter’s Tale is devot­ed to “some poor guy” get­ting eat­en by a bear, and why should­n’t it be, when the author’s famous stage direc­tion is the only thing most peo­ple can dredge up with regard to that par­tic­u­lar play?

As for the title of her web com­ic, it’s an insult from one of her faves, Hen­ry IV, part 1. My kind of geek­ery, for­sooth.

H/T Michael Good­win, the author of Economix, a book that explains The His­to­ry of Eco­nom­ics & Eco­nom­ic The­o­ry with Comics. See a sam­ple by click­ing here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Free Course: A Sur­vey of Shakespeare’s Plays

Dis­cov­er What Shakespeare’s Hand­writ­ing Looked Like, and How It Solved a Mys­tery of Author­ship

The Bea­t­les Per­form a Fun Spoof of Shakespeare’s A Mid­sum­mer Night’s Dream (1964)

Ayun Hal­l­i­day’s 16-year-old daugh­ter plays a small part in Michael Almerey­da’s Cym­be­line. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday

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