UC Berkeley Is Offering Data Science, Its Fastest-Growing Course Ever, for Free Online

It’s worth passing along a message from UC Berkeley. According to its news service, the “fastest-growing course in UC Berkeley’s history — Foundations of Data Science [aka Data 8X] — is being offered free online this spring for the first time through the campus’s online education hub, edX.” More than 1,000 students are now taking the course each semester at the university.

Designed for students who have not previously taken statistics or computer science courses, Foundations of Data Science will teach you in a three-course sequence “how to combine data with Python programming skills to ask questions and explore problems that you encounter in any field of study, in a future job, and even in everyday life.”

When you sign up for the courses, you will be given two options: 1) the ability to “audit” the courses for free, or 2) pay to take the courses and receive a professional certificate. If you’re looking for free, the audit option is your friend.

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Watch UC Berkeley’s Free “Edible Education 101” Lecture Course, Featuring Michael Pollan, Alice Waters and Other Sustainable Food Superstars

edible education

Dinner at Berkeley’s famed Chez Panisse shows up on a lot of foodie’s bucket lists. Its founder, Alice Waters, has been promoting the importance of eating organically and locally for nearly half a century.

With the Edible Schoolyard Project, she found a way to share these beliefs in true hands-on fashion, by involving thousands of children and teens in kitchens and gardens across the country.

We will all benefit from this revolution, though I can’t help but envy the kids at its epicenter. Back when Waters was pioneering California cuisine, I was suffering under my school lunchroom’s mandatory “courtesy bite” policy. The remembered aroma of Salisbury steak and instant mashed potatoes still activates my gag reflex.

The University of California’s Edible Education 101 course has been continuing the Edible Schoolyard’s work at the collegiate level since 2011. It’s a glorious antidote to the culinary traumas experienced by earlier generations. UC Berkeley students can take Edible Education 101 for credit. The public is welcome to sit in on lectures featuring a pantheon of sustainable food superstars, including Waters, author Michael Pollan of The Omnivore’s Dilemma, above, and course leader Mark Bittman (you know him from The New York Times and his new startup The Purple Carrot).

Fortunately for those of us whose bucket list splurge at Chez Panisse requires such additional expenses as plane tickets and hotel rooms, many of the lectures are also viewable online.

The range of topics make clear that edible education is not simply a matter of learning to choose a locally grown portobello over a Big Mac.  Transportation, technology, marketing, and pubic policy all factor into the goal of making healthy, equitably farmed food available to all at an a non-Chez Panisse price.

A complete playlist of 2015’s Edible Education 101 lectures is here, or stream them right above. A list of 2016’s topics and guest lecturers is here. The Edible Education lectures will be added to our collection, 1,700 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

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

Hear Sun Ra’s 1971 UC Berkeley Lecture “The Power of Words”

Reading David Byrne’s How Music Works the other day, I came across a passage where the Talking Heads frontman recalls his formative early exposure to the distinctive compositions and persona (not that you can really separate the two) of Sun Ra. “When I first moved to New York, I caught Sun Ra and his Arkestra at the 5 Spot, a jazz venue that used to be at St. Mark’s Place and Bowery,” Byrne writes. “He moved from instrument to instrument. At one point there was a bizarre solo on a Moog synthesizer, an instrument not often associated with jazz. Here was electronic noise suddenly reimagined as entertainment!”

Some might have written off Sun Ra and his Arkestra as indulging in formless artistic flailing, but in these shows, “as if to prove to skeptics that he and the band really could play, that they really had chops no matter how far out they sometimes got, they would occasionally do a traditional big band tune. Then it would be back to outer space.” As in Sun Ra’s music, so in Sun Ra’s words: as the jazz composer born Herman Poole Blount got increasingly experimental in his composition, the details of his “cosmic philosophy” underlying it, a kind of science-fiction-inflected Afro-mysticism, multiplied.

While many of Sun Ra’s pronouncements struck (and still strike) listeners as a bit odd, he could nevertheless ground them in a variety of intellectual contexts as a serious thinker. We offered evidence of this last year when we posted the full lecture and reading list from the course he taught at UC Berkeley in 1971, “The Black Man in the Cosmos.” Now you can hear it straight from the man himself in the playlist at the top of the post, which contains his lecture “The Power of Words,” also delivered at Berkeley in 1971, as part of the school’s Pan-African Studies curriculum.

But do heed the warning included with the videos: “Remember, Sun Ra was a ‘UNIVERSAL BEING’ not of this dimension or of a race category. With all his informative authority, in some cases during these lectures, the content will be shocking to hear.” Shocked or not, you may well come away from the experience convinced that not only did Sun Ra the musician understand the power of music, executed creatively, to take us to new aesthetic realms, he also understood the power of words to take us to new intellectual ones. But you’ve got to be willing to take the ride into outer space with him.

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Colin Marshall writes on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, and the video series The City in CinemaFollow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Hear Michel Foucault’s Lecture “The Culture of the Self,” Presented in English at UC Berkeley (1983)

Michel Foucault’s time in the United States in the last years of his life, particularly his time as a lecturer at UC Berkeley, proved to be extraordinarily productive in the development of his theoretical understanding of what he saw as the central question facing the contemporary West: the question of the self. In his 1983 Berkeley lectures in English on “The Culture of the Self,” Foucault stated and restated the question in a variety of ways—“What are we in our actuality?,” “What are we today?”—and his investigations amount to “an alternative to the traditional philosophical questions: What is the world? What is man? What is truth? What is knowledge? How can we know something? And so on.” So write the editors of the posthumously published 1988 essay collection Technologies of the Self, titled after a lecture Foucault delivered at the University of Vermont in 1982.

In that talk, Foucault notes that “the hermeneutics of the self has been confused with theologies of the soul—concupiscence, sin, and the fall from grace.” The technique of confession, central even to secular psychoanalysis, informs a subjectivity that, for Foucault, always develops under the ever-watchful eyes of normalizing institutions. But in “The Culture of the Self,” Foucault reaches back to ancient Greek conceptions of “care of the self” (epimelieia beautou) to locate a subjectivity derived from a different tradition—a counterpoint to religious confessional and Freudian subjectivities and one he has discussed in terms of the technique of “self writing.” (The Care of the Self also happens to be the subtitle of the third volume of Foucault’s History of Sexuality, and “The Culture of the Self” the title of its second chapter.)

The notion that one is granted selfhood through the ministrations of others comes in for ridicule in the first few minutes of his “Culture of the Self” lecture above. Foucault relates a story by second century Greek satirist Lucian to illustrate a humorous point about “those guys who nowadays regularly visit a kind of master who takes their money from them in order to teach them how to take care of themselves.” He identifies the ancient version of this dubious authority as the philosopher, but it seems that he intends in modern times to refer more broadly to psychiatrists, psychologists, and all manner of religious figures and self-help gurus.

Foucault sets up the joke to introduce his first entrée into the pursuit of “the historical ontology of ourselves,” a consideration of Kant’s essay “What is Enlightenment?” In that work, the most prominent German Enlightenment philosopher describes “man’s emergence from his self-imposed nonage,” a term he defines as “the inability to use one’s own understanding without another’s guidance.” From there, Foucault opens up his investigation to an analysis of “three sets of relations: our relations to truth, our relations to obligation, our relations to ourselves and to the others.” You’ll have to listen to the full set of lectures, above in all five parts, to follow Foucault’s inquiry through its many passages and divergences and learn how he arrives at this conclusion: “The self is not so much something hidden and therefore something to be excavated but as a correlate of the technologies of self that it co-evolves with over millennium.”

The Q&A session, above, was held on a different day and is also well worth a listen. Foucault addresses several queries about his own methodology, issues of disciplinary boundaries, and other clarifying (or not) concerns related to his main lecture. See this site for a transcript of the questions from the audiences and Foucault’s insightful, and sometimes quite funny, answers.

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

Sun Ra’s Full Lecture & Reading List From His 1971 UC Berkeley Course, “The Black Man in the Cosmos”

A pioneer of “Afrofuturism,” bandleader Sun Ra emerged from a traditional swing scene in Alabama, touring the country in his teens as a member of his high school biology teacher’s big band. While attending Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University, he had an out-of-body experience during which he was transported into outer space. As biographer John Szwed records him saying, “my whole body changed into something else. I landed on a planet that I identified as Saturn.” While there, aliens with “little antenna on each ear. A little antenna on each eye” instructed him to drop out of college and speak through his music. And that’s just what he did, changing his name from Herman Blount and never looking back.

Whether you believe that story, whether Sun Ra believes it, or whether his entire persona is a theatrical put-on should make no difference. Because Sun Ra would be a visionary either way. Combining Afrocentric science fiction, esoteric and occult philosophy, Egyptology, and, with his “Arkestra,” his own brand of free jazz-futurism that has no equal on earth, the man is truly sui generis. In 1971, he served as artist-in-residence at UC Berkeley and offered a spring semester lecture, African-American Studies 198, also known as “Sun Ra 171,” “The Black Man in the Universe,” or “The Black man in the Cosmos.” The course featured readings from—to name just a few—theosophist Madame Blavatsky, French philosopher Constantin Francois de Chasseboeuf, black American writer and poet Henry Dumas, and “God,” whom the cosmic jazz theorist reportedly listed as the author of The Source Book of Man’s Life and Death (otherwise known as the King James Bible).

Now we have the rare opportunity to hear a full lecture from that class, thanks to Ubu.com. Listen to Sun Ra spin his intricate, bizarrely otherworldly theories, drawn from his personal philosophy, peculiar etymologies, and idiosyncratic readings of religious texts. Hearing him speak is a little like hearing him play, so be prepared for a lot of free association and jarring, unexpected juxtapositions. Szwed describes a “typical lecture” below:

Sun Ra wrote biblical quotes on the board and then ‘permutated’ them—rewrote and transformed their letters and syntax into new equations of meaning, while members of the Arkestra passed through the room, preventing anyone from taping the class. His lecture subjects included Neoplatonic doctrines; the application of ancient history and religious texts to racial problems; pollution and war; and a radical reinterpretation of the Bible in light of Egyptology.

Luckily for us, some sly student captured one of those lectures on tape.

For more of Professor Ra’s spaced out presentation, see the Helsinki interview above, also from 1971. And if you decide you need your own education in “Sun Ra 171,” see the full reading list from his Berkeley course below, courtesy of the blog New Day.

The Egyptian Book of the Dead


Alexander Hislop: Two Babylons

The Theosophical works of Madame Blavatsky

The Book of Oahspe

Henry Dumas: Ark of Bones

Henry Dumas: Poetry for My People eds. Hale Charfield & Eugene Redmond, Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press 1971

Black Fire: An Anthology of Afro-American Writing, eds. Leroi Jones & Larry Neal, New York: William Morrow 1968

David Livingston: Missionary Travels

Theodore P. Ford: God Wills the Negro

Rutledge: God’s Children

Stylus, vol. 13, no. 1 (Spring 1971), Temple University

John S. Wilson: Jazz. Where It Came From, Where It’s At, United States Information Agency

Yosef A. A. Ben-Jochannan: Black Man of the Nile and His Family, Alkibu Ian Books 1972

Constantin Francois de Chasseboeuf, Comte de Volney: The Ruins, or, Meditation on the Revolutions of Empires, and the Law of Nature, London: Pioneer Press 1921

The Source Book of Man’s Life and Death (Ra’s description; = The King James Bible)

Pjotr Demianovitch Ouspensky: A New Model of the Universe. Principles of the Psychological Method in Its Application to Problems of Science, Religion and Art, New York: Knopf 1956

Frederick Bodmer: The Loom of Language. An Approach to the Mastery of Many Languages, ed. Lancelot Hogben, New York: Norton & Co. 1944

Blackie’s Etymology

Countless other free courses from UC Berkeley can be found in our collection, 1,700 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

via Dangerous Minds and audio courtesy of Sensitive Skin Magazine

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

Are the Rich Jerks? See the Science

F. Scott Fitzgerald was right. The rich really are different from you or me. They’re more likely to behave unethically.

That’s the finding of a group of studies by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley. The research shows that people of higher socioeconomic status are more likely to break traffic laws, lie in negotiations, take valued goods from others, and cheat to increase chances of winning a prize. The resulting paper, “Higher Social Class Predicts Increased Unethical Behavior,” [PDF] was published last year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Perhaps most surprising, as this story by PBS NewsHour economics reporter Paul Solman shows, is that the tendency for unethical behavior appears not only in people who are actually rich, but in those who are manipulated into feeling that they are rich. As UC Berkeley social psychologist Paul Piff says, the results are statistical in nature but the trend is clear. “While having money doesn’t necessarily make anybody anything,” Piff told New York magazine, “the rich are way more likely to exhibit characteristics that we would stereotypically associate with, say, assholes.”

via Dangerous Minds

Michael Pollan Presents an Edible Education, A Free Online Course From UC Berkeley


When seized with the desire to learn where their food comes from, many of today’s readers turn to Michael Pollan, author of books like The Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food, and Food Rules. Perhaps you know him as the guy who popularized the guiding words, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” If you’ve studied at the University of California, Berkeley, you might also know him as a professor at their Graduate School of Journalism. Possessed of both a journalist’s curiosity about sources and processes and a professor’s ability to explain — not to mention based in the same consciously hedonistic city that gave rise to Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse — Pollan has positioned himself well to remain America’s foremost public intellectual of the edible. Who else would UC Berkeley want to lead their Edible Education courses?

Above you’ll find Pollan’s opening session for the latest Edible Education lecture series, “Telling Stories About Food and Agriculture.” Open to members of the public as well as Berkeley students, the course examines the real and potential effects of the way we eat food and how that food gets to us in the first place. Other lecturers include theatre director Peter Sellars, radio producers the Kitchen Sisters, and “rock star of social justice writing” Raj Patel. Having “passed” the class, look into our archives and you’ll find the ideal follow-up for next semester: Harvard University’s Science and Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to the Science of Soft Matter, also free online. Never before has a practical education on our everyday food been so easily accessible — or as lively.

Both courses mentioned above appear in our collection, 1,700 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

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Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on literature, film, cities, Asia, and aesthetics. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.

Philosophy with John Searle: Three Free Courses

You can’t dabble in the world of philosophy very long without encountering John Searle. One of America’s most respected philosophers, Searle did important work on “speech act” theory during the 1960s, then later turned to consciousness and artificial intelligence, out of which came his famous “Chinese room” thought experiment. Searle has taught philosophy at UC-Berkeley since 1959, and, until recently, his courses were only available to matriculated students. But this fall semester, the good folks at Berkeley recorded three courses taught by Searle, and made them available online. We have added them to the Philosophy section of our big collection of Free Online Courses. Or, you can simply access the courses below, using your computer or your smart phone.

  • Philosophy of Language – iTunes – John Searle, UC Berkeley
  • Philosophy of Mind – iTunes – John Searle, UC Berkeley
  • Philosophy of Society – iTunes – John Searle, UC Berkeley

Note: All of these courses can also be accessed on YouTube (in audio format) using this big playlist.

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