Zoom Into a Super High Resolution Photo of Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night”

“Just as we take the train to get to Tarascon or Rouen, we take death to reach a star,” Vincent Van Gogh wrote to his brother from Arles in the summer of 1888:

What’s certainly true in this argument is that while alive, we cannot go to a star, any more than once dead we’d be able to take the train.

The following summer, as a patient in the asylum of Saint-Paul-de-Mausole in Provence, he painted what would become his best known work — The Starry Night.

The summer after that, he was dead of a gunshot wound to the abdomen, commonly believed to be self-inflicted.

Judging from thoughts expressed in that same letter, Van Gogh may have conceived of such a death as a “celestial means of locomotion, just as steamboats, omnibuses and the railway are terrestrial ones”:

To die peacefully in old age would be to go there on foot.

Although his window at the asylum afforded him a sunrise view, and a private audience with the prominent morning star he mentioned in another letter to Theo, Starry Night’s vista is “both an exercise in observation and a clear departure from it,” according to 2019’s MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art:

The vision took place at night, yet the painting, among hundreds of artworks van Gogh made that year, was created in several sessions during the day, under entirely different atmospheric conditions. The picturesque village nestled below the hills was based on other views—it could not be seen from his window—and the cypress at left appears much closer than it was. And although certain features of the sky have been reconstructed as observed, the artist altered celestial shapes and added a sense of glow.

Those who can’t visit MoMA to see The Starry Night in person may enjoy getting up close and personal with Google Arts and Culture’s zoomable, high res digital reproduction. Keep clicking into the image to see the painting in greater detail.

Before or after formulating your own thoughts on The Starry Night and the emotional state that contributed to its execution, get the perspective of singer-songwriter Maggie Rogers in the below episode of Art Zoom, in which popular musicians share their thoughts while navigating around a famous canvas.

Bonus! Throw yourself into a free coloring page of The Starry Night here.

Related Content: 

A Gallery of 1,800 Gigapixel Images of Classic Paintings: See Vermeer’s Girl with the Pearl Earring, Van Gogh’s Starry Night & Other Masterpieces in Close Detail

Vincent Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night”: Why It’s a Great Painting in 15 Minutes

1,000+ Artworks by Vincent Van Gogh Digitized & Put Online by Dutch Museums: Enter Van Gogh Worldwide

Rare Vincent van Gogh Painting Goes on Public Display for the First Time: Explore the 1887 Painting Online

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Become a Project Manager Without a College Degree with Google’s Project Management Certificate

As we first mentioned last year, Google has launched a series of Career Certificate programs that allow students to gain expertise in a field, ideally enough to start working without a 4-year college degree. This initiative now includes a Certificate in Project Management, which consists of six courses.

  • Foundations of Project Management
  • Project Initiation: Starting a Successful Project
  • Project Planning: Putting It All Together
  • Project Execution: Running the Project
  • Agile Project Management
  • Capstone: Applying Project Management in the Real World

Above, a Program Manager talks about “her path from dropping out of high school and earning a GED, joining the military, and working as a coder, to learning about program management and switching into that career track.” An introduction to the Project Management certificate appears below.

The Project Management program takes about six months to complete, and should cost about $250 in total. Students get charged $39 per month until they complete the program.

You can explore the Project Management certificate here. And find other Google career certificates in other fields–e.g. UX Design and Data Analytics–over on this page. All Google career courses are hosted on the Coursera platform.

Find more online certificate programs from an array of providers here.

Note: Open Culture has a partnership with Coursera. If readers enroll in certain Coursera courses and programs, it helps support Open Culture.

Related Content 

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Google’s UX Design Professional Certificate: 7 Courses Will Help Prepare Students for an Entry-Level Job in 6 Months

3D Print 18,000 Famous Sculptures, Statues & Artworks: Rodin’s Thinker, Michelangelo’s David & More

To recent news stories about 3D printed gunsprosthetics, and homes, you can add Scan the World’s push to create “an ecosystem of 3D printable objects of cultural significance.”

Items that took the ancients untold hours to sculpt from marble and stone can be reproduced in considerably less time, provided you’ve got the technology and the know-how to use it.




Since we last wrote about this free, open source initiative in 2017, Scan the World has added Google Arts and Culture to the many cultural institutions with whom it partners, expanding both its audience and the audience of the museums who allow items in their collections to be scanned prior to 3D printing.


Community contributors have uploaded scan data for over 18,000 sculptures and artifacts onto the platform.

China and India are actively courting participants to make some of their treasures available.

Although Scan the World is searchable by collection, artist, and location, with so many options, the community blog is a great place to start.

Here you will find helpful tips for beginners hoping to produce realistic looking skulls and sculptures — control your temperature, shake your resin, and learn from your mistakes.

Got an unreachable object you’re itching to print? Take a look at the drone photogrammetry tutorial to prep yourself for taking a good scan — rotate slowly, remember the importance of light, and get up to speed on your drone by test-driving it in an open location.

Keep an eye peeled for competitions, like this one, which was won by a photo editor and retoucher with no formal 3-D training.

Art lovers with little inclination to crack out the 3D printer will find interesting essays on such topics as the Gates of Hellscanning in the pandemic, and the history of hairstyles in sculpture

You can also embark on a virtual tour of some of the global locations whose splendors are being scanned, programmed, and rendered in resin.

virtual trip to Paris takes in some of the Louvre’s greatest 3-dimensional hits: the Venus de Milo, Winged Victory, and Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss.

(Any one of those oughta class up the ol’ bedsit…)

The virtual trip to Austria includes Kierling’s monument to Franz Kafka, the Beethoven memorial in Vienna’s Heiligenstädter Park, and Klaus Weber’s tribute to Hugo Rheinhold’s Darwinian sculpture, Monkey with Skull. (1,868 downloads and counting!)

Google map awaits those who would tour the original flavor inspirations in person.

Begin your explorations of Scan the World here, and do let us know in the comments if you have plans for printing.

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The Earth Archive Will 3D-Scan the Entire World & Create an “Open-Source” Record of Our Planet

The British Museum Creates 3D Models of the Rosetta Stone & 200+ Other Historic Artifacts: Download or View in Virtual Reality

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker, Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine, and sometimes, a French Canadian bear known as L’Ourse.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Google & Coursera Launch Career Certificates That Prepare Students for Jobs in 6 Months: Data Analytics, Project Management and UX Design

We live in an age of less-than-total agreement as to the purpose of higher education. Should it immerse students in the best that has been thought and said? Provide an environment in which to come of age? Produce “leaders”? Or should it, as increasingly many argue, first and foremost secure professional futures? In the practice of recent decades, higher education has done a bit of each, to the satisfaction of some and the dissatisfaction of others. It has, in other words, become an industry subject to “disruption” by other players offering specialized solutions of their own. Take for example the new Career Certificates offered by Google and the online education platform Coursera.

“Designed to prepare learners for an entry-level role in under six months,” as Coursera CEO Jeff Maggioncalda explains it, these newly-unveiled Career Certificates “don’t have any prerequisites,” which means that most anyone interested in earning them can do so right now. This goes for “new grads landing their first job, front-line workers seeking stable employment, mid-career professionals making a pivot, or parents planning their return to the workforce,” and presumably myriad other walks of life besides.




Available in Data Analytics, Project Management, and User Experience (UX) Design, “each certificate is completely online, self-paced, and costs $39 per month” — significantly less than most existing forms of higher education, even of the most professionally or technologically oriented varieties.

If you’ve dipped into our list of online courses, you’ve probably encountered Coursera, a leading platform for massive online open courses (or MOOCs) used by some of the world’s best-known traditional universities. Its new provision of Google’s Career Certificates should go some way to making more familiar — at least to those us who’ve already learned online — a reimagining of professional education. This program’s “disruptive” potential, due not least to Google’s own consideration of these certificates as equivalent to a four-year degree, has already been well noted. “But while the new programs offer a fast track to new skills and possibly even a new job in a fraction of the time of a degree program,” writes Inc.‘s Justin Bariso, “students shouldn’t expect the courses to be a walk in the park.” And given that they’re unlikely to get easier, anyone interested in earning a Career Certificate would do well to look into it today.

Below, you can find a list of the new Career Certificates.

  • User Experience (UX) Design Professional Certificate – UX design jobs are projected to steadily grow over the coming years, with median salaries for an entry-level role around $82,000. This seven-course certificate explores UX principles, UX terms, and industry-standard tools, including Figma and Adobe XD. By the time they complete the program, learners will have three portfolio projects to use in their job applications.
  • Data Analytics Professional Certificate – In the U.S., there are nearly 15,000 open entry-level data analytics roles, with an annual median entry-level salary of more than $63,000. This seven-course certificate explores analytical skills, concepts, and tools used in many introductory data analytics roles – including SQL, Tableau, RStudio, and Kaggle.
  • Project Management Professional Certificate – Employers will need to fill nearly 2.2 million new project-oriented roles each year through 2027, according to the Project Management Institute. This six-course certificate prepares learners to launch a project management career. It covers industry-standard tools and methods, including the agile project management system, and key soft skills, such as stakeholder management, problem-solving, and influencing.
  • IT Support Professional Certificate – Prepare for an entry-level job as an IT support specialist. In this program, you’ll learn the fundamentals of operating systems and networking, and how to troubleshoot problems using code to ensure computers run correctly. This is for you if you enjoy solving problems, learning new tools, and helping others.
  • IT Automation Professional Certificate – This is an advanced program for learners who have completed the Google IT Support Professional Certificate. This is for you if you want to build on your IT skills with Python and automation.

The new certificates have been added to our collection, 200 Online Certificate & Microcredential Programs from Leading Universities & Companies.

Note: Open Culture has a partnership with Coursera. If readers enroll in certain Coursera courses and programs, it helps support Open Culture.

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Coursera and Google Launch an Online Certificate Program to Help Students Become IT Professionals & Get Attractive Jobs

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

The Blob Opera Lets You Create Festive Music with Ease: An Interactive Experiment Powered by Machine Learning

Tis the season when we’re never more than one singalong Messiah away from wishing we had a better voice.

David Li’s interactive Blob Opera allows us to pretend.

The machine learning experiment takes its cues from four opera singers—soprano Olivia Doutney, mezzo-soprano Joanna Gamble, tenor Christian Joel, and bass Freddie Tong—who provided it with 16 hours of recorded material.

The result is truly an all-ages activity that’s much easier on the ears than most digital diversions.




Click and drag one of the gummy-bodied blobs up and down to change its pitch.

Pull them forwards and backwards to vary their vowel sounds.

Once all four are in position, the three you’re not actively controlling will harmonize like a heavenly host.

You can disable individual blobs’ audio to create solos, duets and trios within your composition.

Press record and you can share with the world.

The blobs don’t sing in any discernible language, but they can do legato, staccato, and shoot up to incredibly high notes with a minimum of effort. Their eyes pinwheel when they harmonize.

As Li describes to co-producer Google Arts & Culture below, it’s not the original singers’ voices we’re channeling, but rather the machine learning model’s understanding of the operatic sound.

Click the pine tree icon and the blobs will serenade you with the most-searched Christmas carols.

Begin your collaboration with Blob Opera here.

If you find yourself wanting more, have a go at the interactive Choir Li created for Adult Swim.

Related Content:

Stephen Fry Hosts “The Science of Opera,” a Discussion of How Music Moves Us Physically to Tears

The Met Opera Streaming Free Operas Online to Get You Through COVID-19

The Opera Database: Find Scores, Libretti & Synopses for Thousands of Operas Free Online

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. She most recently appeared as a French Canadian bear who travels to New York City in search of food and meaning in Greg Kotis’ short film, L’Ourse.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

An Artist Tricks Google Maps Into Creating a Virtual Traffic Jam, Using a Little Red Wagon & 99 Smartphones

Sometimes the miraculous time-saving conveniences we’ve come to depend on can have the opposite effect, as artist Simon Wickert recently demonstrated, ambling about the streets of Berlin at a Huck Finn-ish pace, towing a squeaky-wheeled red wagon loaded with 99 secondhand smartphones.

Each phone had a SIM card, and all were running the Google Maps app.

The result?




A near-instantaneous “virtual traffic jam” on Google Maps, even though bicyclists seem to vastly outnumber motorists along Wickert’s route.

As a Google spokesperson told 9to5 Google’s Ben Schoon shortly after news of Wickert’s stunt began to spread:

Traffic data in Google Maps is refreshed continuously thanks to information from a variety of sources, including aggregated anonymized data from people who have location services turned on and contributions from the Google Maps community.

In other words, had you checked your phone before heading out to the Baumhaus an der Mauer (Treehouse on the Wall), the Urban Art Clash GalleryOMA’s Café, or some other spot close to Wickert’s little red wagon’s trail of terror—like Google’s Berlin office—you might have thought twice about your intended path, or even going at all, seeing bridges and streets change from a free and easy green to an ostensibly gridlocked red.

As long as Wickert kept moving, he was able to continue fooling the algorithm into thinking 99 humans were all using their phone’s Maps app for navigational purposes in a small, congested area.

Obviously, a couple of buses could easily be responsible for carrying 99 smartphones in active use, but it’s unlikely those phones owners would be consulting the map app in the passenger seats, when they could be scrolling through Instagram or playing Candy Crush.

Wickert also discovered that his virtual traffic jam disappeared whenever a car passed his wagonload.

The spokesperson who engaged with Schoon put a good-natured face on Google’s response to Wickert’s hack, saying, “We’ve launched the ability to distinguish between cars and motorcycles in several countries including India, Indonesia and Egypt, though we haven’t quite cracked traveling by wagon. We appreciate seeing creative uses of Google Maps like this as it helps us make maps work better over time.”

Meanwhile, the artist’s puckish stunt, which he describes as a “performance and installation,” seems anchored by sincere philosophical questions, as evidenced by the inclusion on his website of the below excerpt from “The Power of Virtual Maps,” urban researcher Moritz Ahlert’s recent essay in the Hamburger Journal für Kulturanthropologie, :

The advent of Google’s Geo Tools began in 2005 with Maps and Earth, followed by Street View in 2007. They have since become enormously more technologically advanced. Google’s virtual maps have little in common with classical analog maps. The most significant difference is that Google’s maps are interactive  – scrollable, searchable and zoomable. Google’s map service has fundamentally changed our understanding of what a map is, how we interact with maps, their technological limitations, and how they look aesthetically.

In this fashion, Google Maps makes virtual changes to the real city. Applications such as Airbnb and Carsharing have an immense impact on cities: on their housing market and mobility culture, for instance. There is also a major impact on how we find a romantic partner, thanks to dating platforms such as Tinder, and on our self-quantifying behavior, thanks to the nike jogging app. Or map-based food delivery apps like deliveroo or foodora. All of these apps function via interfaces with Google Maps and create new forms of digital capitalism and commodification. Without these maps, car sharing systems, new taxi apps, bike rental systems and online transport agency services such as Uber would be unthinkable. An additional mapping market is provided by self-driving cars; again, Google has already established a position for itself.

With its Geo Tools, Google has created a platform that allows users and businesses to interact with maps in a novel way. This means that questions relating to power in the discourse of cartography have to be reformulated. But what is the relationship between the art of enabling and techniques of supervision, control and regulation in Google’s maps? Do these maps function as dispositive nets that determine the behavior, opinions and images of living beings, exercising power and controlling knowledge? Maps, which themselves are the product of a combination of states of knowledge and states of power, have an inscribed power dispositive. Google’s simulation-based map and world models determine the actuality and perception of physical spaces and the development of action models.

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A Planetary Perspective: Trillions of Pictures of the Earth Available Through Google Earth Engine

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Ancient Rome in 3D on Google Earth

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join Ayun’s company Theater of the Apes in New York City this March for her book-based variety series, Necromancers of the Public Domain, and the world premiere of Greg Kotis’ new musical, I AM NOBODY. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Visit the Largest Collection of Frida Kahlo’s Work Ever Assembled: 800 Artifacts from 33 Museums, All Free Online

Some films achieve the rare feat of being both colorful escapist fantasy and artful means of reconnecting us with our imperiled humanity. Pixar’s wonderful, animated Coco is such a film, “an exploration of values,” writes Jia Tolentino at The New Yorker, “a story of a multigenerational matriarchy, rooted in the past—whereas real life, these days, feels like an atemporal, structureless nightmare ruled by men.” Central to its fictionalized celebration of Mexican culture and history is a historical figure every grown-up viewer knows—that foremother of Mexican modernism, Frida Kahlo, an artist who seems as necessary to remember now as ever.

Not that Frida Kahlo is in danger of being forgotten. She is adored around the world, an icon for millions of people who see themselves in the various intersections of her identity: Mexican, mestiza, queer, disabled, feminist, uncompromisingly radical, etc….




Kahlo’s identities matter, and she made them matter. She would not be erased or let her edges be planed away and sanded down. Like other confessional artists to whom she is often compared, Kahlo turned her tragically painful, joyously vibrant life into enduring art. To crib Audre Lorde’s description of poetry, her work is a “revelatory distillation of experience.”

But the confessional understanding of Kahlo can present a critical problem, namely the emergence of what Stephanie Mencimer calls “the Kahlo Cult.”

…her fans are largely drawn by the story of her life, for which her paintings are often presented as simple illustration…. But, like a game of telephone, the more Kahlo’s story has been told, the more it has been distorted, omitting uncomfortable details that show her to be a far more complex and flawed figure than the movies and cookbooks suggest.

In any case, we may not need more hagiography of Frida. We find her life, flaws and all, in her work. From the ravages of childhood polio and a horrific traffic accident at 18 (depicted in the drawing below but never in a painting), from love affairs, a deep immersion in Mexican folk art, and a commitment to socialism and the Mexican Revolution, Kahlo created an autobiographical oeuvre like no other. That said, Kahlo herself is so undeniably fascinating a character that “no one need appreciate art to justify being a Kahlo fan or even a Kahlo cultist,” as Peter Schjeldahl once wrote. “Why not? The world will have cults, and who better merits one?”

For the art appreciators and Kahlo cultists alike, Google Arts & Culture has created a project that brings together her life and work in ways that illuminate both, with biographical and critical essays, and a thorough exhibit of her work from museums all over the world, including many little-known pieces like her sketches, drawings, and early works; a look at her letters and many photographs of her throughout her life; an online exhibition of her famous wardrobe; several features of her influence on LGBTQ artists, musicians, fashion designers, and much, much more. It’s “the largest Kahlo curation ever assembled,” notes My Modern Met. “The best part? No need to pay a museum fee—it’s available online for anyone to enjoy for free.”

A collaboration “between the tech giant and a worldwide network of experts and 33 partner museums in seven countries,” notes Hyperallergic, Faces of Frida contains 800 artifacts, “including 20 ultra-high resolution images… never digitized till now.” Some of these artifacts are extremely rare, such as “early versions of her work, sketched and etched onto the backs of finished paintings, unseen by anyone without the ability to touch them.” You can also see the places that most influenced her career through five Google Street view tours, “including the famous Blue House in Mexico City in which she was born and died.”

This comprehensive online gallery seeks to encompass every part of Frida’s life, but rarely takes the focus from her work. “Of the 150 or so of her works that have survived,” notes Mencimer, “most are self-portraits. As she later said, ‘I paint myself because I am so often alone, because I am the subject I know best.’” Working outward from herself, she also painted the specific resonances of her time and place, and explored human experiences that transcend personality. “As with all the best artists,” says author Frances Borzello in one of the Google Arts features, “Kahlo’s art is not a diary ingeniously presented in paint but a recreation of personal beliefs, feelings and events through her particular lens into something unique and universal.”

Though a superstar in the land of the dead, during her life Kahlo’s work was greatly overshadowed by that of her famous husband Diego Rivera. She only had two shows in her lifetime, one of them arranged by surrealist Andre Breton, who called her painting “a ribbon around a bomb.” After her death in 1954, she “largely disappeared from the mainstream art world.” There is a certain irony in pointing out that fascination with Kahlo’s work sometimes reduces down to interest in her biography, since it took a 1983 biography by Hayden Herrera to bring her back into the public consciousness. “When it was published” Mercimer writes, “there wasn’t a single monograph of Kahlo’s work to show people what it looked like, but the biography, which could have been the basis for a Univision telenovela, sparked a Frida frenzy.”

How things have changed. No reader of Herrera’s book, or any of the many treatments of Kahlo’s life since then, will come to it sight unseen. Frida’s face—defiant, mustachioed, monobrowed—stares out at us from everywhere. The Google exhibit guides us through a comprehensive contextualization of that haunting, yet familiar gaze. The letters and biographical entries contain insight after insight into the artist’s private and public lives. But ultimately, it’s the paintings that speak. As Borzello puts it, when we really confront Frida’s work, we may be struck by “how helpless words are in the face of the strange richness of those images.” She invented new visual vocabularies of pain, pleasure, pride, and perseverance. Visit Faces of Frida here.

via Google’s blog

Related Content:

Frida Kahlo’s Colorful Clothes Revealed for the First Time & Photographed by Ishiuchi Miyako

1933 Article on Frida Kahlo: “Wife of the Master Mural Painter Gleefully Dabbles in Works of Art”

Artists Frida Kahlo & Diego Rivera Visit Leon Trotsky in Mexico: Vintage Footage from 1938

The Frida Kahlo Action Figure

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

Google Launches a Free Course on Artificial Intelligence: Sign Up for Its New “Machine Learning Crash Course”

As part of an effort to make Artificial Intelligence more comprehensible to the broader public, Google has created an educational website Learn with Google AI, which includes, among other things, a new online course called Machine Learning Crash Course. The course provides “exercises, interactive visualizations, and instructional videos that anyone can use to learn and practice [Machine Learning] concepts.” To date, more than 18,000 Googlers have enrolled in the course. And now it’s available for everyone, everywhere. You can supplement it with other AI courses found in the Relateds below.

Machine Learning Crash Course will be added to our list of Free Online Computer Science Courses, a subset of our collection, 1,700 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

Would you like to support the mission of Open Culture? Please 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.

Also consider following Open Culture on Facebook and Twitter and sharing intelligent media with your friends. Or sign up for our daily email and get a daily dose of Open Culture in your inbox. 

via Google Blog

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