Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘education’

09 NOVEMBER, 2010

The Music Animation Machine


In the 1970s, composer, inventor and software engineer Stephen Malinowski had a hallucination. He envisioned an easier, more visual way of reading music scores. A friend of his suggested he animate the bar-graph scroll and another proposed doing it with a… gasp… computer. In 1985, Malinowski created the first version of the Music Animation Machine and, a quarter century later, it remains a treasure trove of mesmerizing music visualizations. From Tchaikovsky’s Dance of the Sugarplum Fairync to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons to Chopin’s Nocturne in E-flat Major, the project brings an intuitive, visceral, almost synesthetic understanding to some of the most musically complex masterpieces in history.

Music moves, and can be understood just by listening. But a conventional musical score stands still, and can be understood only after years of training. The Music Animation Machine bridges this gap, with a score that moves — and can be understood just by watching.” ~ Stephen Malinowski

Malinowski has made the MIDI player available as freeware (sadly, Windows-only) so you can download it and create your own visualizations.

You can support the project by buying a DVD of the visualizations, but Malinowski has kindly offered the DVDs free of charge to any public schools, libraries, music schools and educators of music theory, appreciation, or history. Many of the animations are also available on the Music Animation Machine YouTube channel.

As a hidden treat, the site also features a free visual harmonizer for iPad — a wonderful educational tool exploring the relationship between pitches.

via Quipsologies

Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s an example. Like? Sign up.

09 NOVEMBER, 2010

The Cassiopeia Project: Free Science Education Online


What a mysterious retired physicist has to do with the future of learning.

In 2008, The Cassiopeia Project began quietly publishing high-definition videos exploring in an intelligent yet digestible manner nearly every corner of the science spectrum, and releasing them online for free. With more than 100 videos to date available on iTunesU and YouTube, the project offers an invaluable resource on everything from quantum mechanics to evolution to the theory of relativity — another wonderful piece in the ever-expanding puzzle of free educational content online that is changing how we think about learning.

We believe that if you can visualize it, then understanding it is not far behind.”

The project, operating under the slogan “No science teacher left behind,” is funded by an adamantly anonymous retired scientist who, after weighing the benefits of helping academic institutions versus helping teachers, he chose the latter and made it his mission to champion science literacy in the US.

All the content is open-source and educators are encouraged to edit, remix and otherwise customize the footage. While all videos are self-contained, a companion sci-fi / romance novel, CounterClockWise, is used as a contextualizing plot vehicle to pique interest in the project.

The project is named after the Cassiopeia Constellation at the edge of the Milky Way, known for its wayfinding capcaity; once you find Cassiopeia, you can easily locate all other constellations in the Northern hemisphere — a beautiful metaphor for the illuminating mission of the project.

Sadly, the effort appears to be in stagnation since 2009, but we sincerely hope to see it resurface with more fantastic content. Meanwhile, explore the existing video library and appreciate the wonders of grassroots, web-enabled education.

via MeFi

Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s an example. Like? Sign up.

03 NOVEMBER, 2010

An Awesome Book of Thanks! Dallas Clayton Celebrates Gratitude


In 2008, LA-based artist and writer Dallas Clayton made us smile with An Awesome Book! — a lovely, awesome even, illustrated children’s book about dreaming big. This season, he’s back with An Awesome Book of Thanks! — a gem of a sequel about gratitude and the art of being thankful, both timeless and perfectly timed with Thanksgiving.

Written in a style that would make a Dr. Seuss lover swoon and illustrated with the kind of colorful whimsy that tickles your eternal inner kid awake, this is positively one of the most creative, most heart-warming children’s books we’ve ever come across.

You can read the full book online, but the screen doesn’t do Clayton’s vibrant, playful illustration justice — on the bound and printed page, it leaps to life with boundless charm and exuberance.

Clayton wrote the original book for his son, them made some copies and put it all on online just to share it with his friends. Before he knew it, the books were selling out, batch after batch, and he was doing readings in high schools, children’s hospitals, churches, playgrounds and other kid havens.

And just when you begin pondering whether it’s possible to get any more “awesome,” it does: For every copy of the book sold, Clayton’s Awesome Foundation gives one away to a child in need.

An Awesome Book of Thanks! hits bookstores on November 11, but you can already pre-order it on Amazon.

Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s an example. Like? Sign up.

25 OCTOBER, 2010

The School of Life


The classes you actually wanted to take in college, or how to master coolness while munching on a caramel bar.

We’re always thrilled to discover creative ways of organizing information in a novel educational experience and never omit to rave about it. Today, we’re particularly excited to uncover an educational social enterprise that aims to address the fundamental needs of the modern self.

In London’s Bloomsberry, between hairdressing saloons and restaurants — the location is an accidental metaphor for where true wisdom is found — sprouts a small, old-fashioned shop with a sign that humbly reads “The School Of Life.” Founded in September 2008 by an eclectic group of London writers, artists and friends, amongst whom the philosopher Alain de Botton, it offers night classes on a variety of topics with the unifying goal to satisfy its students’ hunger for a more meaningful life. For £30.00 and three hours of your evening, you could contemplate whether being single really is the end of the world in How Necessary Is A Relationship, find out what the mysterious virtues of coolness are in How To Be Cool, or learn to reduce the superficial chit chat of your life in How To Have Better Conversations.

The classes are centered around traditional lectures using various tools and resources, from movies to books and art to active discussions to humor. The school also offers additional weekend activities, daily curated bookshelves (selections vary from How To Enjoy Your Own Company to For Those Feeling the Credit Crunch), conversational menus (prompting you to ponder why you haven’t achieved your goals), and Sunday secular sermons, from Alain de Botton on pessimism to Barbara Ehrenreich on optimism to Ruby Wax’s brilliant, hilarious and insightful On Loving Your Ego. Oh, and Milk-Chocolate Coated Caramel bars, of course.

Most importantly, unlike the competitive and often cold atmosphere of traditional university education, The School Of Life offers the comforting environment of a community of people gathered not to memorize facts, evaluate each other or impose dogmas, but to help understand, explore and improve each other’s lives. Because, as Alain de Botton puts it:

The point of learning is not snobbery, not sounding clever, not passing an exam — it’s to help you live.”

Teddy Zareva is a young filmmaker and photographer currently located in Sofia, Bulgaria. She is prone to excessive dancing and impulsive traveling. Her favorite activities are eating chocolate, hunting for music, and shooting humans.

Brain Pickings has a free weekly newsletter and people say it’s cool. It comes out on Sundays and offers the week’s best articles. Here’s what to expect. Like? Sign up.