Take an Intellectual Odyssey with a Free MIT Course on Douglas Hofstadter’s Pulitzer Prize-Winning Book Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid

In 1979, math­e­mati­cian Kurt Gödel, artist M.C. Esch­er, and com­pos­er J.S. Bach walked into a book title, and you may well know the rest. Dou­glas R. Hof­s­tadter won a Pulitzer Prize for Gödel, Esch­er, Bach: an Eter­nal Gold­en Braid, his first book, thence­forth (and hence­forth) known as GEB. The extra­or­di­nary work is not a trea­tise on math­e­mat­ics, art, or music, but an essay on cog­ni­tion through an explo­ration of all three — and of for­mal sys­tems, recur­sion, self-ref­er­ence, arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence, etc. Its pub­lish­er set­tled on the pithy descrip­tion, “a metaphor­i­cal fugue on minds and machines in the spir­it of Lewis Car­roll.”

GEB attempt­ed to reveal the mind at work; the minds of extra­or­di­nary indi­vid­u­als, for sure, but also all human minds, which behave in sim­i­lar­ly unfath­omable ways. One might also describe the book as oper­at­ing in the spir­it — and the prac­tice — of Her­man Hesse’s Glass Bead Game, a nov­el Hesse wrote in response to the data-dri­ven machi­na­tions of fas­cism and their threat to an intel­lec­tu­al tra­di­tion he held par­tic­u­lar­ly dear. An alter­nate title (and key phrase in the book) Mag­is­ter Ludi, puns on both “game” and “school,” and alludes to the impor­tance of play and free asso­ci­a­tion in the life of the mind.

Hesse’s eso­teric game, writes his biog­ra­ph­er Ralph Freed­man, con­sists of “con­tem­pla­tion, the secrets of the Chi­nese I Ching and West­ern math­e­mat­ics and music” and seems sim­i­lar enough to Hof­s­tadter’s approach and that of the instruc­tors of MIT’s open course, Gödel, Esch­er, Bach: A Men­tal Space Odyssey. Offered through the High School Stud­ies Pro­gram as a non-cred­it enrich­ment course, it promis­es “an intel­lec­tu­al vaca­tion” through “Zen Bud­dhism, Log­ic, Meta­math­e­mat­ics, Com­put­er Sci­ence, Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence, Recur­sion, Com­plex Sys­tems, Con­scious­ness, Music and Art.”

Stu­dents will not study direct­ly the work of Gödel, Esch­er, and Bach but rather “find their spir­its aboard our men­tal ship,” the course descrip­tion notes, through con­tem­pla­tions of canons, fugues, strange loops, and tan­gled hier­ar­chies. How do mean­ing and form arise in sys­tems like math and music? What is the rela­tion­ship of fig­ure to ground in art? “Can recur­sion explain cre­ativ­i­ty,” as one of the course notes asks. Hof­s­tadter him­self has pur­sued the ques­tion beyond the entrench­ment of AI research in big data and brute force machine learn­ing. For all his daunt­ing eru­di­tion and chal­leng­ing syn­the­ses, we must remem­ber that he is play­ing a high­ly intel­lec­tu­al game, one that repli­cates his own expe­ri­ence of think­ing.

Hof­s­tadter sug­gests that before we can under­stand intel­li­gence, we must first under­stand cre­ativ­i­ty. It may reveal its secrets in com­par­a­tive analy­ses of the high­est forms of intel­lec­tu­al play, where we see the clever for­mal rules that gov­ern the mind’s oper­a­tions; the blind alleys that explain its fail­ures and lim­i­ta­tions; and the pos­si­bil­i­ty of ever actu­al­ly repro­duc­ing work­ings in a machine. Watch the lec­tures above, grab a copy of Hofstadter’s book, and find course notes, read­ings, and oth­er resources for the fas­ci­nat­ing course Gödel, Esch­er, Bach: A Men­tal Space Odyssey archived here. The course will be added to our list, 1,700 Free Online Cours­es from Top Uni­ver­si­ties.

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

How a Bach Canon Works. Bril­liant.

Math­e­mat­ics Made Vis­i­ble: The Extra­or­di­nary Math­e­mat­i­cal Art of M.C. Esch­er

The Mir­ror­ing Mind: An Espres­so-Fueled Inter­pre­ta­tion of Dou­glas Hofstadter’s Ground­break­ing Ideas

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

Blockchain and Money: A Free Online Course from MIT

Taught by MIT pro­fes­sor Gary Gensler, Blockchain and Mon­ey is “for stu­dents wish­ing to explore blockchain tech­nol­o­gy’s poten­tial use—by entre­pre­neurs and incumbents—to change the world of mon­ey and finance. The course begins with a review of Bit­coin and an under­stand­ing of the com­mer­cial, tech­ni­cal, and pub­lic pol­i­cy fun­da­men­tals of blockchain tech­nol­o­gy, dis­trib­uted ledgers, and smart con­tracts. The class then con­tin­ues on to cur­rent and poten­tial blockchain appli­ca­tions in the finan­cial sec­tor.”

You can watch all 23 lec­tures above, or on YouTube. A syl­labus and oth­er course mate­ri­als can be found on MIT’s web­site. More relat­ed cours­es are list­ed below.

Blockchain and Mon­ey has been added to our list of Free Busi­ness Cours­es, a sub­set of our col­lec­tion, 1,700 Free Online Cours­es from Top Uni­ver­si­ties.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

Relat­ed Con­tent 

What Actu­al­ly Is Bit­coin? Princeton’s Free Online Course “Bit­coin and Cur­ren­cy Tech­nolo­gies” Pro­vides Much-Need­ed Answers

Bit­coin and Cryp­tocur­ren­cy Tech­nolo­gies: A Free Course from Prince­ton

Cryp­tocur­ren­cy and Blockchain: An Intro­duc­tion to Dig­i­tal Currencies–A Free Online Cours­es from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia

The Prince­ton Bit­coin Text­book Is Now Free Online

How to Speak: Watch the Lecture on Effective Communication That Became an MIT Tradition for Over 40 Years

In his leg­endary MIT lec­ture “How to Speak,” pro­fes­sor Patrick Win­ston opens with a sto­ry about see­ing Olympic gym­nast Mary Lou Ret­ton at a Celebri­ty Ski Week­end. It was imme­di­ate­ly clear to him that he was the bet­ter ski­er, but not because he had more innate ath­let­ic abil­i­ty than an Olympic gold medal­ist, but because he had more knowl­edge and prac­tice. These, Win­ston says, are the key qual­i­ties we need to become bet­ter com­mu­ni­ca­tors. Inher­ent tal­ent helps, he says, but “notice that the T is very small. What real­ly mat­ters is what you know.”

What some of us know about com­mu­ni­cat­ing effec­tive­ly could fill a greet­ing card, but it’s hard­ly our fault, says Win­ston. Schools that send stu­dents into the world with­out the abil­i­ty to speak and write well are as crim­i­nal­ly liable as offi­cers who send sol­diers into bat­tle with­out weapons. For over 40 years, Win­ston has been try­ing to rem­e­dy the sit­u­a­tion with his “How to Speak” lec­ture, offered every Jan­u­ary,” notes MIT, “usu­al­ly to over­flow crowds.” It became “so pop­u­lar, in fact, that the annu­al talk had to be lim­it­ed to the first 300 par­tic­i­pants.”

Now it’s avail­able online, in both video and tran­script form, in the talk’s final form from 2018 (it evolved quite a bit over the decades). Pro­fes­sor Win­ston passed away last year, but his wis­dom lives on. Rather than present us with a dry the­o­ry of rhetoric and com­po­si­tion, the one­time direc­tor of the MIT’s Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence Lab­o­ra­to­ry offers “a few heuris­tic rules” dis­tilled from “prax­is in com­mu­ni­ca­tion approach­es that incor­po­rate Neu­rolin­guis­tics, Lin­guis­tics, Pale­oan­thro­pol­o­gy, Cog­ni­tive Sci­ence and Com­put­er Sci­ence,” writes Min­nie Kasyoka.

Winston’s research on “cre­at­ing machines with the same thought pat­terns as humans” led him to the fol­low­ing con­clu­sions about effec­tive speak­ing and writing—observations that have borne them­selves out in the careers of thou­sands of pub­lic speak­ers, job seek­ers, and pro­fes­sion­als of every kind. Many of his heuris­tics con­tra­dict decades of folk opin­ion on pub­lic speak­ing, as well as con­tem­po­rary tech­no­log­i­cal trends. For one thing, he says, avoid open­ing with a joke.

Peo­ple still set­tling into their seats will be too dis­tract­ed to pay atten­tion and you won’t get the laugh. Instead, open with an anal­o­gy or a sto­ry, like his Mary Lou Ret­ton gam­bit, then tell peo­ple, direct­ly, what they’re going to get from your talk. Then tell them again. And again. “It’s a good idea to cycle on the sub­ject,” says Win­ston. “Go around it. Go round it again. Go round it again.” It’s not that we should assume our audi­ence is unin­tel­li­gent, but rather that “at any giv­en moment, about 20%” of them “will be fogged out no mat­ter what the lec­ture is.” It’s just how the human mind works, shift­ing atten­tion all over the place.

Like all great works on effec­tive com­mu­ni­ca­tion, Winston’s talk illus­trates his meth­ods as it explains them: he fills the lec­ture with mem­o­rable images—like “build­ing a fence” around his idea to dis­tin­guish it from oth­er sim­i­lar ideas. He con­tin­ues to use inter­est­ing lit­tle sto­ries to make things con­crete, like an anec­dote about a Ser­bian nun who was offend­ed by him putting his hands behind his back. This is offered in ser­vice of his lengthy defense of the black­board, con­tra Pow­er­Point, as the ulti­mate visu­al aid. “Now, you have some­thing to do with your hands.”

The talk is relaxed, humor­ous, and infor­ma­tive, and not a step-by-step method. As Win­ston says, you can dip in and out of the copi­ous advice he presents, tak­ing rules you think might work best for your par­tic­u­lar style of com­mu­ni­ca­tion and your com­mu­ni­ca­tion needs. We should all, he empha­sizes, hone our own way of speak­ing and writ­ing. But, “while he nev­er explic­it­ly stress­es the ulti­mate need for rhetor­i­cal devices,” Kasyoka points out, he demon­strates that they are imper­a­tive.

Pro­fes­sor Win­ston mas­ter­ful­ly uses per­sua­sive tech­niques to ham­mer on this point. For exam­ple, the use of anadiplo­sis, that is the rep­e­ti­tion of a clause in a sen­tence for empha­sis, is very man­i­fest in this snip­pet from his talk: “Your careers will be deter­mined large­ly by how well you speak, by how well you write, and by the qual­i­ty of your ideas… in that order.” 

How do we learn to use rhetoric as effec­tive­ly as Win­ston? We lis­ten to and read effec­tive rhetoric like his. Do so in the video lec­ture at the top and on the “How to Speak” course page, which has tran­scripts for down­load and addi­tion­al resources for fur­ther study.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Lit­er­ary The­o­rist Stan­ley Fish Offers a Free Course on Rhetoric, or the Pow­er of Argu­ments

Nov­el­ist Cor­mac McCarthy Gives Writ­ing Advice to Sci­en­tists … and Any­one Who Wants to Write Clear, Com­pelling Prose

The Shape of A Sto­ry: Writ­ing Tips from Kurt Von­negut

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

MIT Presents a Free Course on the COVID-19 Pandemic, Featuring Anthony Fauci & Other Experts

Most of us use the terms “coro­n­avirus” and “COVID-19” to refer to the pan­dem­ic that has gone around the world this year. We do know, or can fig­ure out, that the for­mer term refers to a virus and the lat­ter to the dis­ease caused by that virus. But do we know the full name “severe acute res­pi­ra­to­ry syn­drome coro­n­avirus 2,” or “SARS-CoV­‑2” for short? We will if we take the online course “COVID-19, SARS-CoV­‑2 and the Pan­dem­ic,” which MIT is mak­ing avail­able to the gen­er­al pub­lic free online. We’ll also learn what makes both the virus and the dis­ease dif­fer­ent from oth­er virus­es and dis­eases, what we can do to avoid infec­tion, and how close we are to an effec­tive treat­ment.

All this is laid out in the course’s first lec­ture by Bruce Walk­er, direc­tor of the Ragon Insti­tute of Mass­a­chu­setts Gen­er­al Hos­pi­tal, MIT and Har­vard. Walk­er intro­duces him­self by telling us how he grad­u­at­ed from med­ical school when HIV was at its height in Amer­i­ca, tim­ing that placed him well for a career focused on dead­ly viral dis­eases.

The course’s com­plete line­up of guest lec­tur­ers, all of them list­ed on its syl­labus, includes many oth­er high-pro­file fig­ures in the field of epi­demi­ol­o­gy, immunol­o­gy, vac­cine devel­op­ment, and relat­ed fields: Har­vard’s Michael Mina, Yale’s Akiko Iwasa­ki, the Broad Insti­tute’s Eric Lan­der, and — per­haps you’ve heard of him — the Nation­al Insti­tute of Aller­gy and Infec­tious Dis­eases’ Antho­ny Fau­ci (find his ses­sion below).

“COVID-19, SARS-CoV­‑2 and the Pan­dem­ic” began last Tues­day, and its lec­tures, which you’ll find uploaded to this Youtube playlist, will con­tin­ue week­ly until Decem­ber 8th. Even if you have no back­ground in med­i­cine, biol­o­gy, or sci­ence of any kind, don’t be intim­i­dat­ed: as lead­ing pro­fes­sors Richard Young and Facun­do Batista empha­size, this course is meant as an intro­duc­to­ry overview.

And as Bruce Walk­er’s first lec­ture demon­strates, it’s not just open to the gen­er­al pub­lic but geared toward the under­stand­ing and con­cerns of the gen­er­al pub­lic as well. Tak­ing it may not reas­sure you that an end to the pan­dem­ic lies just around the cor­ner, but it will give you clear­er and more coher­ent ways to think about what’s going on. The virus and dis­ease involved are still incom­plete­ly under­stood, after all — but thanks to these and oth­er researchers around the world, get­ting bet­ter under­stood every day.

“COVID-19, SARS-CoV­‑2 and the Pan­dem­ic” will be added to our list, 1,700 Free Online Cours­es from Top Uni­ver­si­ties.

via Kot­tke

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Free Cours­es on the Coro­n­avirus: What You Need to Know About the Emerg­ing Pan­dem­ic

Watch “Coro­n­avirus Out­break: What You Need to Know,” and the 24-Lec­ture Course “An Intro­duc­tion to Infec­tious Dis­eases,” Both Free from The Great Cours­es

Inter­ac­tive Web Site Tracks the Glob­al Spread of the Coro­n­avirus: Cre­at­ed and Sup­port­ed by Johns Hop­kins

Why Fight­ing the Coro­n­avirus Depends on You

Use Your Time in Iso­la­tion to Learn Every­thing You’ve Always Want­ed To: Free Online Cours­es, Audio Books, eBooks, Movies, Col­or­ing Books & More

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include 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, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

This Is What an 1869 MIT Entrance Exam Looks Like: Could You Have Passed the Test?

The late 19th Cen­tu­ry was the time of Charles Dar­win and James Clerk Maxwell, of Thomas Edi­son and Alexan­der Gra­ham Bell. It was a gold­en age of sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy. So you might won­der how hard it was to get into one of the top tech­ni­cal uni­ver­si­ties in that era.

The answer, accord­ing to this video? Not very hard.

At least that was the case in 1869 at the Mass­a­chu­setts Insti­tute of Tech­nol­o­gy, or MIT,  as the young Aus­tralian sci­ence and math teacher Toby Hendy explains on her excel­lent YouTube chan­nel, Tibees. MIT was brand new and des­per­ate for tuition rev­enue in 1869, so the object of the test was­n’t to whit­tle a mas­sive field of appli­cants down to a man­age­able size. It was sim­ply to make sure that incom­ing stu­dents could han­dle the work.

MIT opened in 1865, just after the end of the Civ­il War. The idea was to cre­ate a Euro­pean-style poly­tech­nic uni­ver­si­ty to meet the demands of an increas­ing­ly indus­tri­al econ­o­my. The orig­i­nal cam­pus was in Boston, across the Charles Riv­er from its cur­rent loca­tion in Cam­bridge. Only 15 stu­dents signed up in 1865. Tuition was $100 for the whole year. There was no for­mal entrance test. Accord­ing to an arti­cle from the school’s Archives and Spe­cial Col­lec­tions,

The “con­di­tions for admis­sion” sec­tion of MIT’s cat­a­logue for 1865–66 indi­cates that can­di­dates for admis­sion as first year stu­dents must be at least six­teen years old and must give sat­is­fac­to­ry evi­dence “by exam­i­na­tion or oth­er­wise” of a com­pe­tent train­ing in arith­metic, geom­e­try, Eng­lish gram­mar, geog­ra­phy, and the “rudi­ments of French.” Rapid and leg­i­ble hand­writ­ing was also stressed as being “par­tic­u­lar­ly impor­tant.” By 1869 the hand­writ­ing require­ment and French had been dropped, but alge­bra had been added and stu­dents need­ed to pass a qual­i­fy­ing exam in the required sub­ject areas. An ancil­lary effect was to pro­tect unqual­i­fied stu­dents from dis­ap­point­ment and pro­fes­sors from wast­ing their time.

A cou­ple of years ear­li­er, in 1867, the MIT Exec­u­tive Com­mit­tee report­ed that fac­ul­ty mem­bers had felt it nec­es­sary to ask par­ents of “some incom­pe­tent and inat­ten­tive stu­dents to with­draw them from the school, wish­ing to spare them the mor­ti­fi­ca­tion of an exam­i­na­tion which it was cer­tain they could not pass.”

Nowa­days, the stu­dents who make it into MIT have aver­age SAT and ACT scores in the 99th per­centile. Of 21,312 first-year appli­cants hop­ing to join the Class of 2023, only 1,427 made it. That’s an admis­sion rate of 6.7 per­cent. What a dif­fer­ence 150 years can make!

To take the 1869 entrance exam­i­na­tion in Eng­lish, Alge­bra, Geom­e­try and Arith­metic, and to see the cor­rect answers, vis­it this cached arti­cle from the MIT web­site.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Free Online Math Cours­es

Albert Ein­stein’s Grades: A Fas­ci­nat­ing Look at His Report Cards

Teacher Calls Jacques Der­ri­da’s Col­lege Admis­sion Essay on Shake­speare “Quite Incom­pre­hen­si­ble” (1951)

MIT Researchers 3D Print a Bridge Imagined by Leonardo da Vinci in 1502— and Prove That It Actually Works

Pho­to by Gretchen Ertl, via MIT News

Unfor­tu­nate though it may be for the dream­ers of the world, we’re all judged not by what we imag­ine, but what we actu­al­ly do. This goes dou­ble for those specif­i­cal­ly tasked with cre­at­ing things in the phys­i­cal envi­ron­ment, from engi­neers and archi­tects to inven­tors and artists. Leonar­do da Vin­ci, the orig­i­nal “Renais­sance man,” was an engi­neer, archi­tect, inven­tor, artist, and more besides, and five cen­turies after his death we con­tin­ue to admire him for not just the works of art and tech­nol­o­gy he real­ized dur­ing his life­time, but also the ones that nev­er made it off his draw­ing board (or out of his note­books). And as we con­tin­ue to dis­cov­er, many of the lat­ter weren’t just flights of fan­cy, but gen­uine inno­va­tions ground­ed in real­i­ty.

Take the bridge Leonar­do pro­posed to Sul­tan Bayezid II, who in 1502 had “sent out the Renais­sance equiv­a­lent of a gov­ern­ment RFP (request for pro­pos­als), seek­ing a design for a bridge to con­nect Istan­bul with its neigh­bor city Gala­ta,” writes MIT News’ David L. Chan­dler. Writ­ing to the sul­tan, Leonar­do describes his design as “a mason­ry bridge as high as a build­ing, and even tall ships will be able to sail under it.”

At the time, such bridges required the sup­port of piers all along their spans, which pre­vent­ed large ships from pass­ing under­neath. But Leonar­do’s design would do the job with only “a sin­gle enor­mous arch.” About ten times longer than the typ­i­cal bridge of the ear­ly 16th cen­tu­ry, it took a page from the bridges of ancient Rome, designed as it was to “stand on its own under the force of grav­i­ty, with­out any fas­ten­ers or mor­tar to hold the stone togeth­er.”

Image via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

Alas, Leonar­do, who had bet­ter luck with Ital­ian patrons, did­n’t win this par­tic­u­lar com­mis­sion. His bridge design must at least have impressed the sul­tan with its sheer ambi­tion, but would it have held up? A team at MIT con­sist­ing of grad­u­ate Kar­ly Bast, pro­fes­sor John Ochsendorf, and under­grad­u­ate Michelle Xie recent­ly put it to the test, scru­ti­niz­ing the mate­r­i­al Leonar­do left behind, repli­cat­ing the geo­log­i­cal con­di­tions of the pro­posed site, and build­ing a 1:500 scale mod­el out of 126 3D-print­ed blocks. Not only could the mod­el bear weight using only the strength of its own geom­e­try, the design also came with oth­er fea­tures, such as sta­bi­liz­ing abut­ments (which Chan­dler com­pares to the legs of “a stand­ing sub­way rid­er widen­ing her stance to bal­ance in a sway­ing car”) to keep the bridge upright in that earth­quake-prone area of mod­ern-day Turkey.

That par­tic­u­lar loca­tion did­n’t get a bridge until 1845, when Valide Sul­tan ordered the con­struc­tion of the first, wood­en, Gala­ta Bridge. It stood for 18 years until its replace­ment by anoth­er wood­en bridge, part of an infra­struc­ture-build­ing push before Napoleon III’s vis­it to Istan­bul. The third Gala­ta Bridge, com­plet­ed in 1875 from a design by a British engi­neer­ing firm, float­ed on pon­toons. The fourth was a Ger­man-designed float­ing bridge in use from 1912 until a fire dam­aged it in 1992. Only the fifth and cur­rent Gala­ta Bridge, with its tram tracks above, its pedes­tri­an­ized deck full of shops and mar­ket spaces below, and it draw­bridge sec­tion in the mid­dle, was built by a Turk­ish com­pa­ny. In all its iter­a­tions, the Gala­ta Bridge has become one of Istan­bul’s cul­tur­al ref­er­ence points and major attrac­tions as well — not that hav­ing been designed by Leonar­do would have hurt its image any.

via MIT News/Pop­u­lar Mechan­ics

Relat­ed Con­tent:

How to Build Leonar­do da Vinci’s Inge­nious Self-Sup­port­ing Bridge: Renais­sance Inno­va­tions You Can Still Enjoy Today

Leonar­do da Vin­ci Draws Designs of Future War Machines: Tanks, Machine Guns & More

Watch Leonar­do da Vinci’s Musi­cal Inven­tion, the Vio­la Organ­ista, Being Played for the Very First Time

An Ani­mat­ed His­to­ry Of Avi­a­tion: From Leonar­do da Vinci’s Sketch­es to Apol­lo 11

Leonar­do da Vinci’s Huge Note­book Col­lec­tions, the Codex Forster, Now Dig­i­tized in High-Res­o­lu­tion: Explore Them Online

A Com­plete Dig­i­ti­za­tion of Leonar­do Da Vinci’s Codex Atlanti­cus, the Largest Exist­ing Col­lec­tion of His Draw­ings & Writ­ings

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include 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.

A Free Course from MIT Teaches You How to Speak Italian & Cook Italian Food All at Once

At MIT, Dr. Pao­la Rebus­co usu­al­ly teach­es physics to fresh­men. But, on behalf of the MIT Exper­i­men­tal Study Group, Rebus­co has devised an appeal­ing course — Speak Ital­ian with Your Mouth Full — where she com­bines teach­ing two things many peo­ple love: learn­ing to speak Ital­ian and cook­ing Ital­ian food. The course sum­ma­ry reads:

The par­tic­i­pants in this sem­i­nar will dive into learn­ing basic con­ver­sa­tion­al Ital­ian, Ital­ian cul­ture, and the Mediter­ranean diet. Each class is based on the prepa­ra­tion of a deli­cious dish and on the bite-sized acqui­si­tion of parts of the Ital­ian lan­guage and cul­ture. A good diet is not based on recipes only, it is also root­ed in healthy habits and in cul­ture. At the end of the sem­i­nar the par­tic­i­pants will be able to cook some healthy and tasty recipes and to under­stand and speak basic Ital­ian.

As Rebus­co explains in a short video, this course has the advan­tage of mak­ing the lan­guage lessons a lit­tle less abstract. It gives stu­dents a chance to apply what they’ve learned (new vocab­u­lary words, pro­nun­ci­a­tions, etc.) in a fun, prac­ti­cal con­text.

Above, we start you off with the first lan­guage les­son in the sem­i­nar. It begins where all basic cours­es start — with how to say your name. Below, you can watch the class learn to cook fresh pas­ta. Along the way, the course also teach­es stu­dents how to make espres­sorisot­tohome­made piz­zabruschet­ta, and bis­cot­ti. Lec­tures for the course can be found on the MIT web site, YouTube and iTunesSpeak Ital­ian with Your Mouth Full also appears in our col­lec­tion of Free For­eign Lan­guage Lessons and 1200 Free Cours­es Online. Buon Appeti­to!

Ingre­di­ents & Cook­ing Instruc­tion:

Food Prepa­ra­tion

Note: An ear­li­er ver­sion of this post appeared on our site way back in 2012.

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:

How Bak­ing, Cook­ing & Oth­er Dai­ly Activ­i­ties Help Pro­mote Hap­pi­ness and Alle­vi­ate Depres­sion and Anx­i­ety

53 New York Times Videos Teach Essen­tial Cook­ing Tech­niques: From Poach­ing Eggs to Shuck­ing Oys­ters

Sci­ence & Cook­ing: Har­vard Profs Meet World-Class Chefs in Unique Online Course

David Lynch Teach­es You to Cook His Quinoa Recipe in a Weird, Sur­re­al­ist Video

The Futur­ist Cook­book (1930) Tried to Turn Ital­ian Cui­sine into Mod­ern Art

How to Bake Ancient Roman Bread Dat­ing Back to 79 AD: A Video Primer

Tattoos Can Now Start Monitoring Your Medical Conditions: Harvard and MIT Researchers Innovate at the Intersection of Art & Medicine

Once reserved for rebels and out­liers, tat­toos have gone main­stream in the Unit­ed States. Accord­ing to recent sur­veys, 21% of all Amer­i­cans now have at least one tat­too. And, among the 18–29 demo­graph­ic, the num­ber ris­es to 40%. If that num­ber sounds high, just wait until tat­toos go from being aes­thet­ic state­ments to bio­med­ical devices.

At Har­vard and MIT, researchers have devel­oped “smart tat­too ink” that can mon­i­tor changes in bio­log­i­cal and health con­di­tions, mea­sur­ing, for exam­ple, when the blood sug­ar of a dia­bet­ic ris­es too high, or the hydra­tion of an ath­lete falls too low. Pair­ing biosen­si­tive inks with tra­di­tion­al tat­too designs, these smart tat­toos could con­ceiv­ably pro­vide real-time feed­back on a range of med­ical con­di­tions. And also raise a num­ber of eth­i­cal ques­tions: what hap­pens when your health infor­ma­tion gets essen­tial­ly worn on your sleeve, avail­able for all to see?

To learn more about smart tat­toos, watch the Har­vard video above, and read the cor­re­spond­ing arti­cle in the Har­vard Gazette.

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:

Meet Amer­i­ca & Britain’s First Female Tat­too Artists: Maud Wag­n­er (1877–1961) & Jessie Knight (1904–1994)

Browse a Gallery of Kurt Von­negut Tat­toos, and See Why He’s the Big Goril­la of Lit­er­ary Tat­toos

A Daz­zling Gallery of Clock­work Orange Tat­toos

Free Online Biol­o­gy Cours­es 

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.