The Stoic Wisdom of Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius: An Introduction in Six Short Videos


Though it enjoys a particular popularity here in the twenty-first century, the rigorously equanimous Stoic worldview comes to us through the work of three figures from antiquity: Epictetus, Seneca, and Marcus Aurelius. Epictetus was born and raised a slave. Seneca, the son of rhetorician Seneca the Elder, became an advisor to Nero (a position that ultimately forced him to take his own life). Marcus Aurelius, the most exalted of the three, actually did the top job himself, ruling the Roman Empire from 161 to 180 AD. He also left behind a text, the Meditations, that stands alongside Epictetus’ Enchiridion and Seneca’s many essays and letters as a pillar of the canon of Stoicism.

It is from the Meditations that this series of six videos from Youtube channel Einzelgänger draws its wisdom. Each of them introduces different aspects of Marcus Aurelius’ interpretation of Stoicism and applies them to our everyday life here in modernity, presenting strategies for staying calm, not feeling harm, accepting what comes our way, and not being troubled by the actions of others.

Though the importance of these aims can be illustrated any number of ways, their achievement depends on accepting the notion central to all Stoic thought: “the dichotomy of control,” which dictates that “some things are in our control and others aren’t.” When life hurts, “it often means that we care about things we have no control over, and by doing so, we let them control us.”

All the Stoics understood this, but for Marcus Aurelius, “being unperturbed by things outside of his control allowed him to cope with the many responsibilities and challenges he faced as an emperor, and to focus on the task he believed he was given by the gods.” He knew that “it’s not the outside world and the events that take place in it, our bodies included, that hurt us, but our thoughts, memories, and fantasies regarding them.” To indulge those fantasies means to live in perpetual conflict with reality, and thus in perpetual, and futile, grievance against it. The stronger our judgments about what happens, “the more vulnerable we become to the whims of Fortuna, the unpredictable goddess of luck, chance, and fate,” forces that eventually get the better of us all — even if we happen to have the world’s mightiest empire at our command.

Related content:

An Animated Introduction to Stoicism, the Ancient Greek Philosophy That Lets You Lead a Happy, Fulfilling Life

Every Roman Emperor: A Video Timeline Moving from Augustus to the Byzantine Empire’s Last Ruler, Constantine XI

How to Be a Stoic in Your Everyday Life: Philosophy Professor Massimo Pigliucci Explains

Three Huge Volumes of Stoic Writings by Seneca Now Free Online, Thanks to Tim Ferriss

350 Animated Videos That Will Teach You Philosophy, from Ancient to Post-Modern

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.

Everything You Wanted to Ask About Psychedelics: A Johns Hopkins Psychedelics Researcher Answers 24 Questions in 2 Hours


These days, psychedelic research is experiencing a renaissance of sorts. And Matt Johnson, a professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins, is leading the way. One of “the world’s most published scientists on the human effects of psychedelics,” his research focuses on “unraveling the scientific underpinnings of psychedelic substances, moving beyond their historical and cultural context to shed light on their role in modern therapeutic applications.” Like some other researchers before him, he believes that psychedelics ultimately have the “potential to bring about a paradigm shift in psychiatry, neuroscience, and pharmacology.” In the Big Think video above, the professor answers 24 big questions about psychedelics, from “What are the main effects of psychedelics?,” to “How do psychedelics work in the brain?” and “What are the biggest risks of psychedelics?,” to “Will psychedelics answer the hard problem of consciousness?” Johnson covers a lot of ground here. Settle in. The video runs 2+ hours.

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Michael Pollan, Sam Harris & Others Explain How Psychedelics Can Change Your Mind

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Psilocybin Could Soon Be a Legal Treatment for Depression: Johns Hopkins Professor, Roland Griffiths, Explains How Psilocybin Can Relieve Suffering

Artist Draws 9 Portraits While on LSD: Inside the 1950s Experiments to Turn LSD into a “Creativity Pill”

New LSD Research Provides the First Images of the Brain on Acid, and Hints at Its Potential to Promote Creativity

Inside MK-Ultra, the CIA’s Secret Program That Used LSD to Achieve Mind Control (1953-1973)

Aldous Huxley, Psychedelics Enthusiast, Lectures About “the Visionary Experience” at MIT (1962)

A Mesmerizing Music Video for Brian Eno’s “Emerald and Stone” Made with Paint, Soap & Water

Brian Eno turned 75 years old this past spring, but if he has any thoughts of retirement, they haven’t slowed his creation of new art and music. Just last year he put out his latest solo album FOREVERANDEVERNOMORE, videos from whose songs we featured here on Open Culture. However compelling the official material released by Eno, the bodies of fan-made work it tends to inspire also merits exploration. Take French visual artist Thomas Blanchard’s short film “Emerald and Stone” above, which visualizes the eponymous track from Eno’s 2010 album Small Craft on a Milk Sea, a collaboration with Jon Hopkins and Leo Abrahams.

“Emerald and Stone,” which you’ll want to watch in full-screen mode, consists entirely of “riveting imagery built from a simple concoction of paint, soap and water.” So says Aeon, in praise of the film’s “ephemeral dreamworld of flowing music and visuals that’s easy to sink into.”

Its drifting, glittering bubbles have a planetary look, contributing to a visual aesthetic that suits the sonic one. Like many of the other compositions on Small Craft on a Milk Sea, “Emerald and Stone” will sound on some level familiar to listeners who only know Eno’s earlier work developing the genre of ambient music in the nineteen-seventies and eighties.

That same era witnessed — or rather, heard — the rise of “new age” music, which played up its associations with outer space, seas of tranquility, the movement of the heavenly bodies, and so on. Eno’s work was, at least in this particular sense, somewhat more down-to-earth: he called his breakout ambient album Music for Airports, after all, having created it with those utilitarian spaces in mind. Appropriately enough, Blanchard’s short for “Emerald and Stone” evokes the cosmos without departing from the fine grain of our own world, and appears abstract while having been made wholly from everyday materials. Eno himself would surely approve, having premised his own on not escaping reality, but placing it in a more interesting context.

via Aeon

Related content:

The Brian Eno Discography: Stream 29 Hours of Recordings by the Master of Ambient Music

Watch Videos for 10 Songs on Brian Eno’s Brand New Album, FOREVERANDEVERNOMORE

“Day of Light”: A Crowdsourced Film by Multimedia Genius Brian Eno

Brian Eno Explains the Origins of Ambient Music

Watch Brian Eno’s Experimental Film “The Ship,” Made with Artificial Intelligence

Brian Eno on the Loss of Humanity in Modern Music

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.

700 Years of Persian Manuscripts Now Digitized & Free Online

Too often those in power lump thousands of years of Middle Eastern religion and culture into monolithic entities to be feared or persecuted. But at least one government institution is doing exactly the opposite. For Nowruz, the Persian New Year, the Library of Congress has released a digital collection of its rare Persian-language manuscripts, an archive spanning 700 years. This free resource opens windows on diverse religious, national, linguistic, and cultural traditions, most, but not all, Islamic, yet all different from each other in complex and striking ways.

“We nowadays are programmed to think Persia equates with Iran, but when you look at this it is a multiregional collection,” says a Library specialist in its African and Middle Eastern Division, Hirad Dinavari. “Many contributed to it. Some were Indian, some were Turkic, Central Asian.” The “deep, cosmopolitan archive,” as Atlas Obscura’s Jonathan Carey writes, consists of a relatively small number of manuscripts—only 155. That may not seem particularly significant given the enormity of some other online collections.

But its quality and variety mark it as especially valuable, representative of much larger bodies of work in the arts, sciences, religion, and philosophy, dating back to the 13th century and spanning regions from India to Central Asia and the Caucuses, “in addition to the native Persian speaking lands of Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan,” the LoC notes.

Prominently represented are works like the epic poem of pre-Islamic Persia, the Shahnamah, “likened to the Iliad or the Odyssey,” writes Carey, as well as “written accounts of the life of Shah Jahan, the 17th-century Mughal emperor who oversaw construction of the Taj Mahal.”

The Library points out the archive includes the “most beloved poems of the Persian poets Saadi, Hafez, Rumi and Jami, along with the works of the poet Nizami Ganjavi.” Some readers might be surprised at the pictorial opulence of so many Islamic texts, with their colorful, stylized battle scenes and groupings of human figures.

Islamic art is typically thought of as iconoclastic, but as in Christian Europe and North America, certain sects have fought others over this interpretation (including over depictions of the Prophet Mohammad). This is not to say that the iconoclasts deserve less attention. Much medieval and early modern Islamic art uses intricate patterns, designs, and calligraphy while scrupulously avoiding likenesses of humans and animals. It is deeply moving in its own way, rigorously detailed and passionately executed, full of mathematical and aesthetic ideas about shape, proportion, color, and line that have inspired artists around the world for centuries.

The page from a lavishly illuminated Qurʼān, above, circa 1708, offers such an example, written in Arabic with an interlinear Persian translation. There are religious texts from other faiths, like the Psalms in Hebrew with Persian translation, there are scientific texts and maps: the Rare Persian-Language Manuscript Collection covers a lot of historical ground, as has Persian language and culture “from the 10th century to the present,” the Library writes. Such a rich tradition deserves careful study and appreciation. Begin an education in Persian manuscript history here.

Note: An earlier version of this post appeared on our site in 2019.

via Atlas Obscura

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15,000 Colorful Images of Persian Manuscripts Now Online, Courtesy of the British Library

The Complex Geometry of Islamic Art & Design: A Short Introduction

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

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The Lunar Codex Will Digitize the Work of 30,000 Artists, and Then Archive Them on the Moon

There may not yet be civilization on the moon, but that doesn’t mean there’s no culture up there. We’ve previously featured the tiny ceramic tile, smuggled onto the Apollo 12 lunar lander, that bears art by the likes of Claes Oldenburg, Robert Rauschenberg, and Andy Warhol. “Fallen Astronaut, an aluminum sculpture by the Belgian artist Paul van Hoeydonck, was left on the lunar surface by the Apollo 15 crew in 1971,” writes the New York Times‘ J. D. Biersdorfer. “The Arch Mission Foundation has sent Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy and millions of Lunar Library pages into space,” and artists like Jeff Koons and Sacha Jafri are among the artists currently aiming to install their own work on the moon’s surface.

The Lunar Codex has grander ambitions, having assembled works from “over 30,000 artists, writers, musicians, and filmmakers, from 158 countries, in four time capsules launched to the moon.” You can browse their contents at the project’s official web site, which breaks it all down into not just eight “galleries” of visual art, but also sections dedicated to film, television, music, and poetry, among other forms and media. There’s even a section for books and novels (as well as another, oddly, for novels and books), which includes a large number of curious titles to represent the achievements of human civilization: Kamikaze Kangaroos, Goofy Newfies, Don’t Taco ‘Bout Murder, In Bed with Her Millionaire Foe.

Also among all these books, stored on either digital memory cards or a nickel-based medium called NanoFiche, is The Zoo at the End of the World by one Samuel Peralta, who also happens to be the mastermind of the Lunar Codex project. “A semiretired physicist and author in Canada with a love of the arts and sciences,” Peralta has selected for preservation on the moon everything from “prints from war-torn Ukraine” to “more than 130 issues of PoetsArtists magazine” to images like “New American Gothic, by Ayana Ross, the winner of the 2021 Bennett Prize for women artists; Emerald Girl, a portrait in Lego bricks by Pauline Aubey; and the aptly titled New Moon, a 1980 serigraph by Alex Colville.”

All the work to be placed on the moon through the Lunar Codex was created by artists who are now active, or have been active in the past decade or two. As such, it reflects a particular moment in the cultural history of humanity, constituting what Peralta calls “a message in the bottle for the future that during this time of war, pandemic and economic upheaval people still found time to create beauty.” They also found time to create podcasts, as will be evidenced by the inclusion of a quarter-century-long archive of Grace Cavalieri’s interview show The Poet and the Poem, which has reached a new audience in recent years through that relatively new format — one that, to future generations of spacefarers making a stop on the moon, will offer as good a representation as any of life on Earth in the twenty-first century.

via Metafilter/Smithsonian

Related content:

Carl Sagan Sent Music & Photos Into Space So That Aliens Could Understand Human Civilization (Even After We’re Gone)

NASA Enlists Andy Warhol, Annie Leibovitz, Norman Rockwell & 350 Other Artists to Visually Document America’s Space Program

There’s a Tiny Art Museum on the Moon That Features the Art of Andy Warhol & Robert Rauschenberg

Laurie Anderson Creates a Virtual Reality Installation That Takes Viewers on an Unconventional Tour of the Moon

NASA Puts Online a Big Collection of Space Sounds, and They’re Free to Download and Use

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 5 Innovative Bridges That Make New York City, New York City

The Brooklyn Bridge ignites the passions of tourists and locals alike.

For every 10,000 visitors who pause in its bike lanes to snap selfies, there’s an alum of nearby PS 261 who celebrated its birthday with a song that mentions the fates of its engineers John and Washington Roebling to the tune of I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.

(A sample chorus: Caisson’s disease! Caissons disease! Caisson’s disease is really bad!)

Native son Adam Suerte of Brooklyn Tattoo estimates that he inks its likeness on a half dozen customers per month. (A temporary option is available for those with commitment issues…)

In 1886, a hustler named Steve Brodie claimed to have survived a jump off of it, a tale propagated by Bugs Bunny.

We watch movies at its feet and draw attention to causes by marching across it.

It continues to mesmerize artists, poets, filmmakers and photographers.

But, as architect Michael Wyetzner makes clear in his most recent video for Architectural Digest, it’s not the only bridge in New York City.

Also, despite what you may have heard, it’s not for sale.

Understandably, the hybrid cable-stayed/suspension superstar connecting Brooklyn to lower Manhattan takes the lead in Wyetzner’s coverage of five bridges that have had an enormous impact on the development of a city whose five boroughs were once traversable solely by ferry.

The other notable players:

The Hell Gate Bridge – a feat of WWI-era railroad engineering connecting Queens to Randall’s and Wards Island over a particularly perilous stretch of waterway, it was once the longest steel arch bridge in the world.

In his 1921 book New York: The Great Metropolis, painter Peter Marcus noted that “if laid over Manhattan it would reach from Wanamaker’s store at Eighth Street, to One Hundred and Twenty-fifth Street.”

Macomb’s Dam Bridge, a low lying swing bridge whose center portion pivots to accommodate boat traffic on the Harlem River. When construction began in late 1890, the New York Times gushed that it would be a “street built in mid-air” between the Bronx and Washington Heights in upper Manhattan:

It is hardly enough to say of it that it will be the greatest piece of engineering of the kind in the world. Nothing like it has ever been attempted.

The High Bridge – Originally part of the Croton Aqueduct, it is technically the oldest surviving bridge in the city, as well as a community-led preservation campaign success story. Having languished in the latter part of the 20th century, it is now a beautiful pedestrian bridge whose killer views can be enjoyed without the hassle of Brooklyn Bridge-sized crowds.

The George Washington Bridge – a major money maker for the Port Authority, it’s not only the world’s busiest bridge, it puts a lot of the bridge in “bridge and tunnel crowd” by connecting Manhattan to New Jersey.

Architecture buffs can geek out on the Concrete Industry Board Award-winning bus station and storied Little Red Lighthouse in its shadow.

The GWB’s most ardent fan has got to be artist Faith Ringgold, who immortalized it in her Tar Beach story quilt and related children’s book:

 I never want to be more than three minutes from the George. I could always see it as I grew up.  That bridge has been in my life for as long as I can remember.  As a kid, I could walk across it anytime I wanted.  I love to see it sparkling at night.  I moved to New Jersey, and I’m still next to it.

Wyetzner, whose architectural round up shoehorns in a lot of interesting information about public health, economics, transportation, labor practice and New York City history, is actively courting viewers to suggest bridges for a sequel.

We’ll throw our weight behind the Manhattan, the Williamsburg, the Queensboro, the Verrazzano, and the admittedly dark horse 103rd Street Footbridge.


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– Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine and author, most recently, of Creative, Not Famous: The Small Potato Manifesto and Creative, Not Famous Activity Book. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

When the Wind Blows: An Animated Tale of Nuclear Apocalypse With Music by Roger Waters & David Bowie (1986)

Humanity has few fascinations as enduring as that with apocalypse. We’ve been telling ourselves stories of civilization’s destruction as long as we’ve had civilization to destroy. But those stories haven’t all been the same: each era envisions the end of the world in a way that reflects its own immediate preoccupations. In the mid nineteen-eighties, nothing inspired preoccupations quite so immediate as the prospect of sudden nuclear holocaust. The mounting public anxiety brought large audiences to such major aftermath-dramatizing “television events” as The Day After in the United States and the even more harrowing Threads in the United Kingdom.

“As a youngster growing up in the nineteen-eighties in a tiny village in the heart of the Cotswolds, I can attest to the fact that no part of the country, however remote and bucolic, was impervious to the threat of the Cold War escalating into a full-blown nuclear conflict,” writes Neil Mitchell at the British Film Institute.

“Popular culture was awash with nuclear war-themed films, comic strips, songs and novels.” This torrent included the artist-writer Raymond Briggs’ When the Wind Blows, a graphic novel about an elderly rural couple who survive a catastrophic strike on England. Jim and Hilda’s optimism and willingness to follow government instructions prove to be no match for nuclear winter, and however inexorable their fate, they manage not to see it right up until the end comes.

In 1986, When the Wind Blows was adapted into a feature film, directed by American animator Jimmy Murakami. Among its distinctive aesthetic choices is the combination of traditional cel animation for the characters with photographed miniatures for the backgrounds, as well as the commissioning of soundtrack music from the likes of Roger Waters, David Bowie, and Genesis — proper English rockers for a proper English production. If the adaptation of When the Wind Blows is less widely known today than other nuclear-apocalypse movies, that may owe to its sheer cultural specificity. It would be difficult to pick the movie’s most English scene, but a particularly strong contender is the one in which Hilda reminisces about how “it was nice in the war, really: the shelters, the blackout, the cups of tea.”

“The couple are fruitlessly nostalgic for the Blitz spirit of the Second World War, convinced the government-issued Protect and Survive pamphlets are worth the paper they’re printed on, and blindly under the assumption that there can be a winner in a nuclear war,” writes Mitchell. “These sweet, unassuming retirees represent an ailing, rose-tinted worldview and way of life that’s woefully unprepared for the magnitude of devastation wrought by the bomb.” You can see further analysis of the film’s art and worldview in the video at the top of the post from animation-focused Youtube channel Steve Reviews. In the event, humanity survived the long showdown of the Cold War, losing none of our penchant for apocalyptic fantasy as a result. However compulsively we imagine the end of the world today, will any of our visions prove as memorable as When the Wind Blows?

Related content:

Protect and Survive: 1970s British Instructional Films on How to Live Through a Nuclear Attack

The Atomic Café: The Cult Classic Documentary Made Entirely Out of Nuclear Weapons Propaganda from the Cold War (1982)

The Night Ed Sullivan Scared a Nation with the Apocalyptic Animated Short, A Short Vision (1956)

Duck and Cover: The 1950s Film That Taught Millions of Schoolchildren How to Survive a Nuclear Bomb

How a Clean, Tidy Home Can Help You Survive the Atomic Bomb: A Cold War Film from 1954

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.

Johnny Cash Sings “Barbie Girl” in the Style of “Folsom Prison Blues” … with a Little Help from A.I.

The YouTube channel There I Ruined It creates new versions of songs using AI-generated voices. For Dustin Ballard, the channel’s creator, the point is to “lovingly destroy your favorite songs.” Take the example above. Here, an AI version of Johnny Cash’s voice sings the lyrics of Aqua’s “Barbie Girl,” set to the music of Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues.” Recently, Ballard explained his approach to Business Insider:

My process for these is a little different than most people. I first record the vocals myself so that I can do my best imitation of the cadence of the original singer. Then I use one of their own songs (like ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ rather than the original ‘Barbie Girl’ music) to add to the illusion that this is a ‘real’ song in the artist’s catalog, though clearly all done in jest. Finally, I use an AI voice model trained on snippets of the original artist’s singing to transform my voice into theirs. I have a guy in Argentina I often call upon for this training (although the Johnny Cash one already existed).

If you head over to There I Ruined It, you can hear other AI creations: Hank Williams sings “Straight Outta Compton,” Louis Armstrong sings Flo Rida’s “Low,” Frank Sinatra sings Lil Jon’s “Get Low” and more.

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Clocks Around the World: How Other Languages Tell Time

When we start learning a language, we soon find ourselves practicing how to ask for the time. This can feel like a pointless exercise today, when each glance at our phone tells us the hour and minute with precision, but it can be justified as a practical way of getting the language’s numbers down in a familiar context. Yet not every culture’s way of time-telling is equally familiar: in Tanzania, for example, so near the equator that “the sun rises around the same time every morning, six in the local time zone,” and “everyone’s up and starting their day at seven. With such a reliable standard time-keeper, that winds up being 1:00 Swahili time.”

“Swahili time” is just one of the concepts introduced by Youtuber Joshua Rudder, creator of the channel Nativlang, in the video above.

He also touches on the medieval six-hour clocks of Italy; the Thai time-tellers who “count the hours from one to six, four times a day”; the ancient Egyptian method of letting the length of hours themselves expand and contract with the amount of daylight; the Nahua division of dividing the “daylight day” into four parts and the night into seven; the bewilderingly many Hindustani units of time, from the aayan, ruthu, and masa to the lava, renu, and truti, by which point you get down to “divisions of microseconds.”

To a natively English-speaking Westerner, few of these systems may feel particularly intuitive. But most of us, from whichever culture we may hail, will see a certain sense in the Japanese way of allowing late nights to “stretch to twenty-five o’clock, twenty-nine o’clock, all the way up to thirty. Maybe you feel like if you’re up past midnight, it’s not tomorrow yet, not really, and you haven’t even gone to bed.” Hence this extended clock, whose last six hours “overlap with what will have been the technical start of your twenty-four hour day when you wake up tomorrow” — but, with any luck, don’t overlap onto any early-morning language classes.

Related content:

How Clocks Changed Humanity Forever, Making Us Masters and Slaves of Time

Why Time Seems to Speed Up as We Get Older: What the Research Says

An Animated Alan Watts Waxes Philosophical About Time in The Fine Art of Goofing Off, the 1970s “Sesame Street for Grown-Ups”

The Rarest Sounds Across All Human Languages: Learn What They Are, and How to Say Them

Was There a First Human Language?: Theories from the Enlightenment Through Noam Chomsky

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.

Steely Dan’s “Do It Again” Performed on the Gayageum, a Korean Instrument Dating Back to the 6th Century

Every now and then, we check in on the fascinating musical world of Luna Lee–a musician who performs Western music on the Gayageum, a traditional Korean stringed instrument which dates back to the 6th century. Over the years, we’ve shown you her adaptations of Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Voodoo Chile;’ David Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold The World;” Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah;” blues classics by John Lee Hooker, B.B. King & Muddy Waters; and Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb,” “Another Brick in the Wall” & “Great Gig in the Sky.” To keep the tradition going, we bring you today Luna’s take on Steely Dan’s 1972 classic, “Do It Again.” The original recording featured an electric sitar solo by Denny Dias. Above, you can hear how Lee translates that same solo to the gayageum. Enjoy!

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newsletter, please find it here.

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!

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How the Human Population Reached 8 Billion: An Animated Video Covers 300,000 Years of History in Four Minutes

Having come out less than two weeks ago, the American Museum of Natural History video above incorporates up-to-date information on the number of human beings on planet Earth. But what’s interesting here isn’t so much the current global-population figure (eight billion, incidentally) as how we reached it. That story emerges through an animated visualization that compresses a period of 300,000 years — with all its migrations, its growing and declining empires, its major trade routes, its technological developments, its plagues, and its wars — into about four and a half minutes.

“Modern humans evolved in Africa about 300,000 years ago,” says the video’s explanatory text. “Around 100,000 years ago, we began migrating around the globe,” a process that shows no signs of stopping here in the twenty-first century.

The same can’t be said for the way our numbers have increased over the past few hundred years, at least according to the projection that “global population will peak this century” around ten billion, due to “average fertility rates falling in nearly every country.” For some, this is not entirely unwelcome, given that “as our population grows, so has our use of Earth’s resources.”

It’s been a while since the developed world has felt a widespread fear of overpopulation, which had a climate change-like power to inspire apocalyptic visions in the nineteen-seventies. Nowadays, we’re more likely to hear warnings of imminent global population collapse, with low-birthrate countries like South Korea, where I live, held up as cautionary demographic examples. From another perspective, the patterns of humanity’s expansion thus far could also be used to illustrate calls to explore and colonize other planets, not least to secure our species a path to survival should something go seriously wrong here on Earth. However our population graph changes in the future, we can rest assured that we’ll always think of ourselves as living at one kind of decisive moment or another.

Related content:

Hans Rosling Uses Ikea Props to Explain World of 7 Billion People

How Humans Migrated Across The Globe Over 200,000 Years: An Animated Look

Buckminster Fuller Creates an Animated Visualization of Human Population Growth from 1000 B.C.E. to 1965

Colorful Animation Visualizes 200 Years of Immigration to the U.S. (1820-Present)

Who Is the World’s Most Typical Person?

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.

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