Carl Sagan Explains Evolution in an 8-Minute Animation

Biological evolution: never has a phenomenon so important so lent itself to such clear, understandable, elegant explanations. But just as evolution itself produces a seemingly infinite variety of life forms, so the human understanding of evolution has produced countless educational and entertaining kinds of illustrations by which to explain it. In the video above, astronomer-astrophysicist-cosmologist Carl Sagan, no stranger to demystifying the once seemingly unfathomable phenomena of our universe, shows how evolution actually works with eight minutes of crisp animation that take us from molecules in the primordial soup, to bacteria, to plants and polyps, to lampreys, to turtles, to dinosaurs and birds, to wombats, to baboons and apes, to us. Then he goes back and does the whole four billion-year evolutionary journey again in forty seconds.


This concise lesson concerns itself not just with how we human beings came about, but how everything else came about as well. That wide-angle view of reality won a great deal of acclaim for Sagan’s Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, the 1980 television series on which the segment originally appeared. Though most of its original broadcasts on life, the universe, and everything still hold up as well as this clip on evolution, a 21st-century successor has lately appeared in the form of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, hosted by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, doubtless the most suited heir to Sagan’s tradition of enthusiasm and rigor in public science communication. For a more extended treatment of evolution, see also our post from earlier this week on deGrasse Tyson’s episode on the subject, in which he spends an entire hour on his equally fascinating explanation of what, up to and including you, he, and I, natural selection has so far come up with.

Note: An earlier version of this post appeared on our site in 2014.

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

DIY Air Purifiers for Teachers: Free Designs & Step-by-Step Instructions Online

If you’re a teacher returning to the classroom, you may want some extra COVID protection. Thankfully, some researchers and practitioners have created “a design for an in-room air purifier which can remove a significant amount of COVID-19 virus from the air.”

“The design involves making a ‘box’ out of four 20″ MERV-13 filters (the ‘sides’ of the box), a 20″ box fan (the ‘top’ of the box), and a cardboard (the ‘bottom’ of the box’). Air flows in through the filter sides, removing particulates of the sizes that can transport COVID-19 particles, and then flows out through the fan at the top.” These devices can be built from parts available at Home Depot, Walmart and other big box stores, and assembled in about 30-60 minutes. Total cost runs $70-$200. Find designs and a step-by-step instructions here. And read more about the purifier at NPR.

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Foo Fighters Perform “Back in Black” with AC/DC’s Brian Johnson: When Live Music Returns

At Saturday’s benefit concert, “Vax Live: The Concert to Reunite the World,” the Foo Fighters took the stage and performed “Back in Black” with AC/DC’s Brian Johnson. It’s a tantalizing taste of the world to come, if we all do our part…

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Peanuts Plays Yes’ “Roundabout”

Digital filmmaker Garren Lazar gives us a creative parody video and a badly-needed mental health break. Enjoy.

To watch previous Peanuts parodies of songs by Queen, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Journey & more, click here.

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via LaughingSquid

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Alan Turing Will Be Featured on England’s New £50 Banknote

This week, the Bank of England announced that it will feature Alan Turing on its £50 banknote, thus completing the political rehabilitation of the English mathematician, computer scientist and code breaker. The new note will go into circulation in 2021. Find more at The Guardian.

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And 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 cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere. You can contribute through PayPal, Patreon, Venmo (@openculture) and Crypto. Thanks for your support!

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Bryan Cranston Narrates the Landing on Omaha Beach on the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day Invasion

75 years ago today, the Allies launched the D-Day invasion in Normandy, which marked a critical turning point in World War II–the beginning of the freeing of Europe from Nazi control. Above, actor Bryan Cranston commemorates the anniversary by reading a letter that Pfc. Dominick “Dom” Bart sent to his wife. A 32-year-old infantryman, Bart took part in the harrowing first wave of the massive amphibious assault. Below, we also hear Cranston reading the words of Pfc. Jim “Pee Wee” Martin, describing “his first taste of battle as a paratrooper in the D-Day invasion.” As Cranston reads, you can watch “never-before-seen restored high-resolution 4K footage from Omaha Beach.”

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And 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 cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere. You can contribute through PayPal, Patreon, Venmo (@openculture) and Crypto. Thanks for your support!

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Download the ModulAir, a Free Polyphonic Synthesizer, and Make Your Own Electronic Sounds

Over the years, we’ve talked a fair share about electronic music–from the earliest days of the genre, through contemporary times. Now, we give you a chance to make your own electronic sounds.

According to Synthopia, a portal devoted to electronic music, “Full Bucket Music has released ModulAir 1.0 – a free polyphonic modular synthesizer for Mac & Windows.” (For the uninitiated, a polyphonic synthesizer–versus a monophonic one–can play multiple notes at once.) The ModulAir “is a modular polyphonic software synthesizer for Microsoft Windows (VST) and Apple macOS (VST/AU), written in native C++ code for high performance and low CPU consumption.” Watch a demo above, and download it here.

via Synthopia

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.