Carl Jung: Tarot Cards Provide Doorways to the Unconscious, and Maybe a Way to Predict the Future

It is gen­er­al­ly accept­ed that the stan­dard deck of play­ing cards we use for every­thing from three-card monte to high-stakes Vegas pok­er evolved from the Tarot. “Like our mod­ern cards,” writes Sal­lie Nichols, “the Tarot deck has four suits with ten ‘pip’ or num­bered cards in each…. In the Tarot deck, each suit has four ‘court’ cards: King, Queen, Jack, and Knight.” The lat­ter fig­ure has “mys­te­ri­ous­ly dis­ap­peared from today’s play­ing cards,” though exam­ples of Knight play­ing cards exist in the fos­sil record. The mod­ern Jack is a sur­vival of the Page cards in the Tarot. (See exam­ples of Tarot court cards here from the 1910 Rid­er-Waite deck.) The sim­i­lar­i­ties between the two types of decks are sig­nif­i­cant, yet no one but adepts seems to con­sid­er using their Gin Rum­my cards to tell the future.

The emi­nent psy­chi­a­trist Carl Jung, how­ev­er, might have done so.

As Mary K. Greer explains, in a 1933 lec­ture Jung went on at length about his views on the Tarot, not­ing the late Medieval cards are “real­ly the ori­gin of our pack of cards, in which the red and the black sym­bol­ize the oppo­sites, and the divi­sion of the four—clubs, spades, dia­monds, and hearts—also belongs to the indi­vid­ual sym­bol­ism.

They are psy­cho­log­i­cal images, sym­bols with which one plays, as the uncon­scious seems to play with its con­tents.” The cards, said Jung, “com­bine in cer­tain ways, and the dif­fer­ent com­bi­na­tions cor­re­spond to the play­ful devel­op­ment of mankind.” This, too, is how Tarot works—with the added dimen­sion of “sym­bols, or pic­tures of sym­bol­i­cal sit­u­a­tions.” The images—the hanged man, the tow­er, the sun—“are sort of arche­typ­al ideas, of a dif­fer­en­ti­at­ed nature.”

Thus far, Jung has­n’t said any­thing many ortho­dox Jun­gian psy­chol­o­gists would find dis­agree­able, but he goes even fur­ther and claims that, indeed, “we can pre­dict the future, when we know how the present moment evolved from the past.” He called for “an intu­itive method that has the pur­pose of under­stand­ing the flow of life, pos­si­bly even pre­dict­ing future events, at all events lend­ing itself to the read­ing of the con­di­tions of the present moment.” He com­pared this process to the Chi­nese I Ching, and oth­er such prac­tices. As ana­lyst Marie-Louise von Franz recounts in her book Psy­che and Mat­ter:

Jung sug­gest­ed… hav­ing peo­ple engage in a div­ina­to­ry pro­ce­dure: throw­ing the I Ching, lay­ing the Tarot cards, con­sult­ing the Mex­i­can div­ina­tion cal­en­dar, hav­ing a tran­sit horo­scope or a geo­met­ric read­ing done.

Con­tent seemed to mat­ter much less than form. Invok­ing the Swe­den­bor­gian doc­trine of cor­re­spon­dences, Jung notes in his lec­ture, “man always felt the need of find­ing an access through the uncon­scious to the mean­ing of an actu­al con­di­tion, because there is a sort of cor­re­spon­dence or a like­ness between the pre­vail­ing con­di­tion and the con­di­tion of the col­lec­tive uncon­scious.”

What he aimed at through the use of div­ina­tion was to accel­er­ate the process of “indi­vid­u­a­tion,” the move toward whole­ness and integri­ty, by means of play­ful com­bi­na­tions of arche­types. As anoth­er mys­ti­cal psy­chol­o­gist, Ale­jan­dro Jodor­owsky, puts it, “the Tarot will teach you how to cre­ate a soul.” Jung per­ceived the Tarot, notes the blog Fae­na Aleph, “as an alchem­i­cal game,” which in his words, attempts “the union of oppo­sites.” Like the I Ching, it “presents a rhythm of neg­a­tive and pos­i­tive, loss and gain, dark and light.”

Much lat­er in 1960, a year before his death, Jung seemed less san­guine about Tarot and the occult, or at least down­played their mys­ti­cal, div­ina­to­ry pow­er for lan­guage more suit­ed to the lab­o­ra­to­ry, right down to the usu­al com­plaints about staffing and fund­ing. As he wrote in a let­ter about his attempts to use these meth­ods:

Under cer­tain con­di­tions it is pos­si­ble to exper­i­ment with arche­types, as my ‘astro­log­i­cal exper­i­ment’ has shown. As a mat­ter of fact we had begun such exper­i­ments at the C. G. Jung Insti­tute in Zurich, using the his­tor­i­cal­ly known intu­itive, i.e., syn­chro­nis­tic meth­ods (astrol­o­gy, geo­man­cy, Tarot cards, and the I Ching). But we had too few co-work­ers and too lit­tle means, so we could not go on and had to stop.

Lat­er inter­preters of Jung doubt­ed that his exper­i­ments with div­ina­tion as an ana­lyt­i­cal tech­nique would pass peer review. “To do more than ‘preach to the con­vert­ed,’” wrote the authors of a 1998 arti­cle pub­lished in the Jour­nal of Para­psy­chol­o­gy, “this exper­i­ment or any oth­er must be done with suf­fi­cient rig­or that the larg­er sci­en­tif­ic com­mu­ni­ty would be sat­is­fied with all aspects of the data tak­ing, analy­sis of the data, and so forth.” Or, one could sim­ply use Jun­gian meth­ods to read the Tarot, the sci­en­tif­ic com­mu­ni­ty be damned.

As in Jung’s many oth­er cre­ative reap­pro­pri­a­tions of myth­i­cal, alchem­i­cal, and reli­gious sym­bol­ism, his inter­pre­ta­tion of the Tarot inspired those with mys­ti­cal lean­ings to under­take their own Jun­gian inves­ti­ga­tions into para­psy­chol­o­gy and the occult. Inspired by Jung’s ver­bal descrip­tions of the Tarot’s major arcana, artist and mys­tic Robert Wang has cre­at­ed a Jun­gian Tarot deck, and an accom­pa­ny­ing tril­o­gy of books, The Jun­gian Tarot and its Arche­typ­al Imagery, Tarot Psy­chol­o­gy, and Per­fect Tarot Div­ina­tion.

You can see images of each of Wang’s cards here. His books pur­port to be exhaus­tive stud­ies of Jung’s Tarot the­o­ry and prac­tice, writ­ten in con­sul­ta­tion with Jung schol­ars in New York and Zurich. Sal­lie Nichols’ Jung and Tarot: An Arche­typ­al Jour­ney is less volu­mi­nous and innovative—using the tra­di­tion­al, Pamela Cole­man-Smith-illus­trat­ed, Rid­er-Waite deck rather than an updat­ed orig­i­nal ver­sion. But for those will­ing to grant a rela­tion­ship between sys­tems of sym­bols and a col­lec­tive uncon­scious, her book may pro­vide some pen­e­trat­ing insights, if not a recipe for pre­dict­ing the future.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Ale­jan­dro Jodor­owsky Explains How Tarot Cards Can Give You Cre­ative Inspi­ra­tion

The Tarot Card Deck Designed by Sal­vador Dalí

Twin Peaks Tarot Cards Now Avail­able as 78-Card Deck

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

Jared Leto Stars in a New Prequel to Blade Runner 2049: Watch It Free Online

Blade Run­ner, as any­one who’s seen so much as its first shot knows, takes place in the Los Ange­les of Novem­ber 2019. Though the film flopped when it came out in 1982, the acclaim and fans it has drawn with each of the 35 years that have passed since did­n’t take long to reach the kind of crit­i­cal mass that demands a sequel. After numer­ous rumors and false starts, the Octo­ber release of Blade Run­ner 2049, pro­duced by Blade Run­ner direc­tor Rid­ley Scott and direct­ed by Arrival direc­tor Denis Vil­leneuve, now fast approach­es. The new movie’s pro­mo­tion­al push, which has so far includ­ed trail­ers and mak­ing-of fea­turettes, has now begun to tell us what hap­pened between 2019 and 2049.

“I decid­ed to ask a cou­ple of artists that I respect to cre­ate three short sto­ries that dra­ma­tize some key events that occurred after 2019, when the first Blade Run­ner takes place, but before 2049, when my new Blade Run­ner sto­ry begins,” says Vil­leneuve in his intro­duc­tion to the brand new short above.

Tak­ing place in the Los Ange­les of 2036, the Luke Scott-direct­ed piece “revolves around Jared Leto’s char­ac­ter, Nian­der Wal­lace,” writes Col­lid­er’s Adam Chit­wood, who “intro­duces a new line of ‘per­fect­ed’ repli­cants called the Nexus 9, seek­ing to get the pro­hi­bi­tion on repli­cants repealed,” the gov­ern­ment hav­ing shut repli­cant pro­duc­tion down thir­teen years before due to a dev­as­tat­ing elec­tro­mag­net­ic pulse attack for which repli­cants took the blame.

A time­line appeared at Com­ic-Con this past sum­mer cov­er­ing the events of the thir­ty years between Blade Run­ner and Blade Run­ner 2049, though in very broad strokes: in 2020 “the Tyrell Cor­po­ra­tion intro­duces a new repli­cant mod­el, the Nexus 8S, which has extend­ed lifes­pans,” in 2025 “a new com­pa­ny, Wal­lace Corp., solves the glob­al food short­age and becomes a mas­sive super pow­er,” in 2049 “life on Earth has reached its lim­it and soci­ety divides between Repli­cant and human.” The two oth­er short films to come should just about tide over fans until the release of Blade Run­ner 2049 — not that those who’ve been wait­ing for a new Blade Run­ner movie since the 1980s can’t han­dle anoth­er month.

The short Blade Run­ner 2049 pre­quel, enti­tled “Nexus: 2036,” will be added to our list, 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Blade Run­ner 2049’s New Mak­ing-Of Fea­turette Gives You a Sneak Peek Inside the Long-Await­ed Sequel

The Offi­cial Trail­er for Rid­ley Scott’s Long-Await­ed Blade Run­ner Sequel Is Final­ly Out

Philip K. Dick Pre­views Blade Run­ner: “The Impact of the Film is Going to be Over­whelm­ing” (1981)

The Blade Run­ner Pro­mo­tion­al Film

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. He’s at work on the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

The Periodic Table of Elements Presented as Interactive Haikus

British poet and spec­u­la­tive fic­tion writer recent­ly got a lit­tle cre­ative with the Peri­od­ic Table, writ­ing one haiku for each ele­ment.


Show-steal­ing diva,
throw your­self at any­one,
decked out in dia­monds.


Locked in rock and sand,
age upon age
await­ing the dig­i­tal dawn.


Dead­ly bone seek­er
released by Fukushi­ma;
your sweet days long gone.

You can access the com­plete Ele­men­tal haiku here.

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!

via Men­tal Floss

Relat­ed Con­tent

Inter­ac­tive Peri­od­ic Table of Ele­ments Shows How the Ele­ments Actu­al­ly Get Used in Mak­ing Every­day Things

The Peri­od­ic Table of Ele­ments Scaled to Show The Ele­ments’ Actu­al Abun­dance on Earth

Peri­od­ic Table Bat­tle­ship!: A Fun Way To Learn the Ele­ments

“The Peri­od­ic Table Table” — All The Ele­ments in Hand-Carved Wood

World’s Small­est Peri­od­ic Table on a Human Hair

“The Peri­od­ic Table of Sto­ry­telling” Reveals the Ele­ments of Telling a Good Sto­ry

Chem­istry on YouTube: “Peri­od­ic Table of Videos” Wins SPORE Prize

Free Online Chem­istry Cours­es

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Man Ray and the Cinéma Pur: Watch Four Groundbreaking Surrealist Films From the 1920s

Man Ray was one of the lead­ing artists of the avant garde of 1920s and 1930s Paris. A key fig­ure in the Dada and Sur­re­al­ist move­ments, his works spanned var­i­ous media, includ­ing film. He was a lead­ing expo­nent of the Ciné­ma Pur, or “Pure Cin­e­ma,” which reject­ed such “bour­geois” con­ceits as char­ac­ter, set­ting and plot. Today we present Man Ray’s four influ­en­tial films of the 1920s.

Le Retour à la Rai­son (above) was com­plet­ed in 1923. The title means “Return to Rea­son,” and it’s basi­cal­ly a kinet­ic exten­sion of Man Ray’s still pho­tog­ra­phy. Many of the images in Le Retour are ani­mat­ed pho­tograms, a tech­nique in which opaque, or par­tial­ly opaque, objects are arranged direct­ly on top of a sheet of pho­to­graph­ic paper and exposed to light. The tech­nique is as old as pho­tog­ra­phy itself, but Man Ray had a gift for self-pro­mo­tion, so he called them “rayo­graphs.” For Le Retour, Man Ray sprin­kled objects like salt and pep­per and pins onto the pho­to­graph­ic paper. He also filmed live-action sequences of an amuse­ment park carousel and oth­er sub­jects, includ­ing the nude tor­so of his mod­el and lover, Kiki of Mont­par­nasse.

Emak-Bakia (1926):

The 16-minute Emak-Bakia con­tains some of the same images and visu­al tech­niques as Le Retour à la Rai­son, includ­ing rayo­graphs, dou­ble images and neg­a­tive images. But the live-action sequences are more inven­tive, with dream-like dis­tor­tions and tilt­ed cam­era angles. The effect is sur­re­al. “In reply to crit­ics who would like to linger on the mer­its or defects of the film,” wrote Man Ray in the pro­gram notes, “one can reply sim­ply by trans­lat­ing the title ‘Emak Bakia,’ an old Basque expres­sion, which was cho­sen because it sounds pret­ti­ly and means: ‘Give us a rest.’ ”

L’E­toile de Mer (1928):

L’E­toile de Mer (“The Sea Star”) was a col­lab­o­ra­tion between Man Ray and the sur­re­al­ist poet Robert Desnos. It fea­tures Kiki de Mont­par­nasse (Alice Prin) and André de la Riv­ière. The dis­tort­ed, out-of focus images were made by shoot­ing into mir­rors and through rough glass. The film is more sen­su­al than Man Ray’s ear­li­er works. As Don­ald Faulkn­er writes:

In the mod­ernist high tide of 1920s exper­i­men­tal film­mak­ing, L’E­toile de Mer is a per­verse moment of grace, a demon­stra­tion that the cin­e­ma went far­ther in its great silent decade than most film­mak­ers today could ever imag­ine. Sur­re­al­ist pho­tog­ra­ph­er Man Ray’s film col­lides words with images (the inter­ti­tles are from an oth­er­wise lost work by poet Robert Desnos) to make us psy­cho­log­i­cal wit­ness­es, voyeurs of a kind, to a sex­u­al encounter. A char­ac­ter picks up a woman who is sell­ing news­pa­pers. She undress­es for him, but then he seems to leave her. Less inter­est­ed in her than in the weight she uses to keep her news­pa­pers from blow­ing away, the man lov­ing­ly explores the per­cep­tions gen­er­at­ed by her paper­weight, a starfish in a glass tube. As the man looks at the starfish, we become aware through his gaze of metaphors for cin­e­ma, and for vision itself, in lyri­cal shots of dis­tort­ed per­cep­tion that imply hal­lu­ci­na­to­ry, almost mas­tur­ba­to­ry sex­u­al­i­ty.

Les Mys­tères du Château de Dé (1929):

The longest of Man Ray’s films, Les Mys­tères du Château de Dé (the ver­sion above has apparenl­ty been short­ened by sev­en min­utes) fol­lows a pair of trav­el­ers on a jour­ney from Paris to the Vil­la Noailles in Hyères, which fea­tures a tri­an­gu­lar Cubist gar­den designed by Gabriel Geu­vrikain. “Made as an archi­tec­tur­al doc­u­ment and inspired by the poet­ry of Mal­lar­mé,” writes Kim Knowles in A Cin­e­mat­ic Artist: The Films of Man Ray, “Les Mys­tères du Château de Dé is the film in which Man Ray most clear­ly demon­strates his inter­dis­ci­pli­nary atti­tude, par­tic­u­lar­ly in its ref­er­ence to Stéphane Mal­lar­mé’s poem Un coup de dés jamais n’aboli­ra le hasard.”

The films will be list­ed in our col­lec­tion, 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Clas­sics, Indies, Noir, West­erns, Doc­u­men­taries & More.

Note: An ear­li­er ver­sion of this post appeared on our site in April, 2012.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Man Ray Designs a Supreme­ly Ele­gant, Geo­met­ric Chess Set in 1920 (and It’s Now Re-Issued for the Rest of Us)

Man Ray Cre­ates a “Sur­re­al­ist Chess­board,” Fea­tur­ing Por­traits of Sur­re­al­ist Icons: Dalí, Bre­ton, Picas­so, Magritte, Miró & Oth­ers (1934)

Man Ray’s Por­traits of Ernest Hem­ing­way, Ezra Pound, Mar­cel Duchamp & Many Oth­er 1920s Icons

Four Sur­re­al­ist Films From the 1920Watch Dreams That Mon­ey Can Buy, a Sur­re­al­ist Film by Man Ray, Mar­cel Duchamp, Alexan­der Calder, Fer­nand Léger & Hans Richter

An Animated Introduction to Ludwig Wittgenstein & His Philosophical Insights on the Problems of Human Communication

In the record­ed his­to­ry of phi­los­o­phy, there may be no sharp­er a mind than Lud­wig Wittgen­stein. A bête noire, enfant ter­ri­ble, and all oth­er such phras­es used to describe affronts to order and deco­rum, Wittgen­stein also rep­re­sent­ed an anar­chic force that dis­turbed the staid dis­ci­pline. His teacher Bertrand Rus­sell rec­og­nized the exis­ten­tial threat Wittgen­stein posed to his pro­fes­sion (though not right away). When Wittgen­stein hand­ed Rus­sell the com­pact, cryp­tic Trac­ta­tus Logi­co-Philo­soph­i­cus, he admit­ted his stu­dent had gone beyond his own ana­lyt­ic insights in the pur­suit of absolute clar­i­ty. Wittgenstein’s long­time men­tor and friend, famed logi­cian and math­e­mati­cian Got­t­lob Frege, expressed crit­i­cism. Some have sug­gest­ed he did so in part because he saw that Wittgen­stein had ren­dered much of his work irrel­e­vant.

Alain de Bot­ton gives a brief but fas­ci­nat­ing sketch of Wittgen­stein’s ideas and incred­i­bly odd biog­ra­phy in the School of Life video above. The eccen­tric Aus­tri­an savant, he asserts, “can help us with our com­mu­ni­ca­tion prob­lems” through his pen­e­trat­ing, though often impen­e­tra­ble, claims about lan­guage. That may be so. But we may need to rede­fine what we mean by “com­mu­ni­ca­tion.” Accord­ing to Wittgen­stein in the Trac­ta­tus, an over­whelm­ing per­cent­age of what we obsess about on a dai­ly basis—political and reli­gious abstrac­tions, for example—is so total­ly inco­her­ent and mud­dled that it means noth­ing at all. He revised this opin­ion dra­mat­i­cal­ly in his lat­er thought.

Though he pub­lished noth­ing after the Trac­ta­tus and soon became a near-recluse after his star­tling entry into ana­lyt­ic phi­los­o­phy, notes from his stu­dents were col­lect­ed and pub­lished as well as a posthu­mous book called Philo­soph­i­cal Inves­ti­ga­tions. This ver­sion of Wittgenstein’s approach to the prob­lems of com­mu­ni­ca­tion involves a devel­op­ment of the “ostensive”—or demonstrative—role of lan­guage. Wittgen­stein made an argu­ment that lan­guage can only serve a social, rather than a per­son­al, sub­jec­tive, func­tion. To make the point, he intro­duced his “Bee­tle in a Box” anal­o­gy, which you can see explained above in an ani­mat­ed BBC video writ­ten by Nigel War­bur­ton and nar­rat­ed by Aidan Turn­er.

The anal­o­gy uses the idea of each of us claim­ing to have a bee­tle in a box as a stand in for our indi­vid­ual, pri­vate expe­ri­ences. We all claim to have them (we can even observe brain states), but no one can ever see inside the the­ater of our minds to ver­i­fy. We sim­ply have to take each oth­er’s word for it. We play “lan­guage games,” which only have mean­ing in respect to their con­text. That such games can be mutu­al­ly intel­li­gi­ble among indi­vid­u­als who are oth­er­wise  opaque to each oth­er has to do with our shared envi­ron­ment, abil­i­ties, and lim­i­ta­tions. Should we, how­ev­er, meet a lion who could speak—in per­fect­ly intel­li­gi­ble English—we would not, Wittgen­stein assert­ed, be able to under­stand a sin­gle word. The vast­ly dif­fer­ent expe­ri­ences of human ver­sus lion would not trans­late through any medi­um.

Just above, we have an expla­na­tion of this thought exper­i­ment from an unlike­ly source, Ricky Ger­vais, in an attempt­ed expla­na­tion to his com­ic foil Karl Pilk­ing­ton, who takes things in his own pecu­liar direc­tion. Though Wittgen­stein used the idea for a dif­fer­ent pur­pose, his obser­va­tion about the unbridge­able chasm between humans and lions antic­i­pates Thomas Nagel’s provoca­tive claims in the 1974 essay “What is it like to be a bat?” We can­not inhab­it the sub­jec­tive states of beings so dif­fer­ent from us, and there­fore can­not say much of any­thing about their con­scious­ness. Maybe it isn’t like any­thing to be a bat. Luck­i­ly for humans, we do have the abil­i­ty to imag­ine each other’s expe­ri­ences, in indi­rect, imper­fect, round­about, ways, and we all have enough shared con­text that we can, at least the­o­ret­i­cal­ly, use lan­guage to pro­duce more clar­i­ty of thought and greater social har­mo­ny.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hear Wittgenstein’s Trac­ta­tus Logi­co-Philo­soph­i­cus Sung as a One-Woman Opera

In Search of Lud­wig Wittgenstein’s Seclud­ed Hut in Nor­way: A Short Trav­el Film

Lud­wig Wittgenstein’s Short, Strange & Bru­tal Stint as an Ele­men­tary School Teacher

Wittgen­stein and Hitler Attend­ed the Same School in Aus­tria, at the Same Time (1904)

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

Margaret Hamilton, Lead Software Engineer of the Apollo Project, Stands Next to Her Code That Took Us to the Moon (1969)

Pho­to cour­tesy of MIT Muse­um

When I first read news of the now-infa­mous Google memo writer who claimed with a straight face that women are bio­log­i­cal­ly unsuit­ed to work in sci­ence and tech, I near­ly choked on my cere­al. A dozen exam­ples instant­ly crowd­ed to mind of women who have pio­neered the very basis of our cur­rent tech­nol­o­gy while oper­at­ing at an extreme dis­ad­van­tage in a cul­ture that explic­it­ly believed they shouldn’t be there, this shouldn’t be hap­pen­ing, women shouldn’t be able to do a “man’s job!”

The memo, as Megan Molteni and Adam Rogers write at Wired, “is a species of dis­course pecu­liar to polit­i­cal­ly polar­ized times: cher­ry-pick­ing sci­en­tif­ic evi­dence to sup­port a pre-exist­ing point of view.” Its spe­cious evo­lu­tion­ary psy­chol­o­gy pre­tends to objec­tiv­i­ty even as it ignores real­i­ty. As Mul­der would say, the truth is out there, if you care to look, and you don’t need to dig through clas­si­fied FBI files. Just, well, Google it. No, not the pseu­do­science, but the careers of women in STEM with­out whom we might not have such a thing as Google.

Women like Mar­garet Hamil­ton, who, begin­ning in 1961, helped NASA “devel­op the Apol­lo program’s guid­ance sys­tem” that took U.S. astro­nauts to the moon, as Maia Wein­stock reports at MIT News. “For her work dur­ing this peri­od, Hamil­ton has been cred­it­ed with pop­u­lar­iz­ing the con­cept of soft­ware engi­neer­ing.” Robert McMil­lan put it best in a 2015 pro­file of Hamil­ton:

It might sur­prise today’s soft­ware mak­ers that one of the found­ing fathers of their boys’ club was, in fact, a mother—and that should give them pause as they con­sid­er why the gen­der inequal­i­ty of the Mad Men era per­sists to this day.

Hamil­ton was indeed a moth­er in her twen­ties with a degree in math­e­mat­ics, work­ing as a pro­gram­mer at MIT and sup­port­ing her hus­band through Har­vard Law, after which she planned to go to grad­u­ate school. “But the Apol­lo space pro­gram came along” and con­tract­ed with NASA to ful­fill John F. Kennedy’s famous promise made that same year to land on the moon before the decade’s end—and before the Sovi­ets did. NASA accom­plished that goal thanks to Hamil­ton and her team.

Pho­to cour­tesy of MIT Muse­um

Like many women cru­cial to the U.S. space pro­gram (many dou­bly mar­gin­al­ized by race and gen­der), Hamil­ton might have been lost to pub­lic con­scious­ness were it not for a pop­u­lar redis­cov­ery. “In recent years,” notes Wein­stock, “a strik­ing pho­to of Hamil­ton and her team’s Apol­lo code has made the rounds on social media.” You can see that pho­to at the top of the post, tak­en in 1969 by a pho­tog­ra­ph­er for the MIT Instru­men­ta­tion Lab­o­ra­to­ry. Used to pro­mote the lab’s work on Apol­lo, the orig­i­nal cap­tion read, in part, “Here, Mar­garet is shown stand­ing beside list­ings of the soft­ware devel­oped by her and the team she was in charge of, the LM [lunar mod­ule] and CM [com­mand mod­ule] on-board flight soft­ware team.”

As Hank Green tells it in his con­densed his­to­ry above, Hamil­ton “rose through the ranks to become head of the Apol­lo Soft­ware devel­op­ment team.” Her focus on errors—how to pre­vent them and course cor­rect when they arise—“saved Apol­lo 11 from hav­ing to abort the mis­sion” of land­ing Neil Arm­strong and Buzz Aldrin on the moon’s sur­face. McMil­lan explains that “as Hamil­ton and her col­leagues were pro­gram­ming the Apol­lo space­craft, they were also hatch­ing what would become a $400 bil­lion indus­try.” At Futur­ism, you can read a fas­ci­nat­ing inter­view with Hamil­ton, in which she describes how she first learned to code, what her work for NASA was like, and what exact­ly was in those books stacked as high as she was tall. As a woman, she may have been an out­lier in her field, but that fact is much bet­ter explained by the Occam’s razor of prej­u­dice than by any­thing hav­ing to do with evo­lu­tion­ary deter­min­ism.

Note: You can now find Hamil­ton’s code on Github.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

How 1940s Film Star Hedy Lamarr Helped Invent the Tech­nol­o­gy Behind Wi-Fi & Blue­tooth Dur­ing WWII

Meet Grace Hop­per, the Pio­neer­ing Com­put­er Sci­en­tist Who Helped Invent COBOL and Build the His­toric Mark I Com­put­er (1906–1992)

How Ada Lovelace, Daugh­ter of Lord Byron, Wrote the First Com­put­er Pro­gram in 1842–a Cen­tu­ry Before the First Com­put­er

NASA Puts Its Soft­ware Online & Makes It Free to Down­load

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

How to Listen to Music: A Free Course from Yale University

Taught by Yale pro­fes­sor Craig Wright, this course, Lis­ten­ing to Music, oper­ates on the assump­tion that lis­ten­ing to music is “not sim­ply a pas­sive activ­i­ty one can use to relax, but rather, an active and reward­ing process.” When we under­stand the basic ele­ments of West­ern music (e.g., rhythm, melody, and form), we can appre­ci­ate music in entire­ly new ways. That includes every­thing from clas­si­cal music, rock and tech­no, to Gre­go­ri­an chant and the blues.

You can watch the 23 lec­tures above, on YouTube, or Yale’s web­site, where you’ll also find a syl­labus and infor­ma­tion on each class ses­sion. The main text used in the course is Lis­ten­ing to Music, writ­ten by the pro­fes­sor him­self.

Lis­ten­ing to Music will be added to the Music sec­tion of our ever-grow­ing col­lec­tion, 1,700 Free Online Cours­es from Top Uni­ver­si­ties.

It’s also worth not­ing that Prof. Wright has cre­at­ed an inter­ac­tive MOOC called Intro­duc­tion to Clas­si­cal Music. You might want to check it out.

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:

Eve­lyn Glen­nie (a Musi­cian Who Hap­pens to Be Deaf) Shows How We Can Lis­ten to Music with Our Entire Bod­ies

Down­load 400,000 Free Clas­si­cal Musi­cal Scores & 46,000 Free Clas­si­cal Record­ings from the Inter­na­tion­al Music Score Library Project

Play­ing an Instru­ment Is a Great Work­out For Your Brain: New Ani­ma­tion Explains Why

1200 Years of Women Com­posers: A Free 78-Hour Music Playlist That Takes You From Medieval Times to Now

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Alice in Wonderland Gets Re-Envisioned by a Neural Network in the Style of Paintings By Picasso, van Gogh, Kahlo, O’Keeffe & More

An artist just start­ing out might first imi­tate the styles of oth­ers, and if all goes well, the process of learn­ing those styles will lead them to a style of their own. But how does one learn some­thing like an artis­tic style in a way that isn’t sim­ply imi­ta­tive? Arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence, and espe­cial­ly the cur­rent devel­op­ments in mak­ing com­put­ers not just think but learn, will cer­tain­ly shed some light in the process — and pro­duce, along the way, such fas­ci­nat­ing projects as the video above, a re-envi­sion­ing of Dis­ney’s Alice in Won­der­land in the styles of famous artists: Pablo Picas­so, Geor­gia O’Ke­effe, Kat­sushi­ka Hoku­saiFri­da Kahlo, Vin­cent van Gogh and oth­ers.

The idea behind this tech­no­log­i­cal process, known as “style trans­fer,” is “to take two images, say, a pho­to of a per­son and a paint­ing, and use these to cre­ate a third image that com­bines the con­tent of the for­mer with the style of the lat­er,” says an explana­to­ry post at the Paper­space Blog.

“The cen­tral prob­lem of style trans­fer revolves around our abil­i­ty to come up with a clear way of com­put­ing the ‘con­tent’ of an image as dis­tinct from com­put­ing the ‘style’ of an image. Before deep learn­ing arrived at the scene, researchers had been hand­craft­ing meth­ods to extract the con­tent and tex­ture of images, merge them and see if the results were inter­est­ing or garbage.”

Deep learn­ing, the fam­i­ly of meth­ods that enable com­put­ers to teach them­selves, involves pro­vid­ing an arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence sys­tem called a “neur­al net­work” with huge amounts of data and let­ting it draw infer­ences. In exper­i­ments like these, the sys­tems take in visu­al data and make infer­ences about how one set of data, like the con­tent of frames of Alice in Won­der­land, might look when ren­dered in the col­ors and con­tours of anoth­er, such as some of the most famous paint­ings in all of art his­to­ry. (Oth­ers have tried it, as we’ve pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured, with 2001: A Space Odyssey and Blade Run­ner.) If the tech­nol­o­gy at work here piques your curios­i­ty, have a look at Google’s free online course on deep learn­ing or this new set of cours­es from Cours­era— it prob­a­bly won’t improve your art skills, but it will cer­tain­ly increase your under­stand­ing of a devel­op­ment that will play an ever larg­er role in the cul­ture and econ­o­my ahead.

Here’s a full list of painters used in the neur­al net­worked ver­sion of Alice:

Pablo Picas­so
Geor­gia O’Ke­effe
S.H. Raza
Fri­da Kahlo
Vin­cent van Gogh
Saloua Raou­da Chou­cair
Lee Kras­ner
Sol Lewitt
Wu Guanzhong
Elaine de Koon­ing
Ibrahim el-Salahi
Min­nie Pwer­le
Jean-Michel Basquiat
Edvard Munch
Natalia Gon­charo­va

via Kot­tke

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey Ren­dered in the Style of Picas­so; Blade Run­ner in the Style of Van Gogh

What Hap­pens When Blade Run­ner & A Scan­ner Dark­ly Get Remade with an Arti­fi­cial Neur­al Net­work

Google Launch­es Free Course on Deep Learn­ing: The Sci­ence of Teach­ing Com­put­ers How to Teach Them­selves

New Deep Learn­ing Cours­es Released on Cours­era, with Hope of Teach­ing Mil­lions the Basics of Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence

The First Film Adap­ta­tion of Alice in Won­der­land (1903)

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities and cul­ture. He’s at work on the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les, the video series The City in Cin­e­ma, the crowd­fund­ed jour­nal­ism project Where Is the City of the Future?, and the Los Ange­les Review of Books’ Korea Blog. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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