Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘education’

10 NOVEMBER, 2010

A Short Illustrated History of Nearly Everything

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What charcoal has to do with democracy, equality and the cultural necessity for absurdity.

A couple of weeks ago, after raving about one of our all-time favorite books, Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything, reader Ian Shepherd alerted us to the recent publication of an illustrated version of the book. Needless to say, A Short History of Nearly Everything: Special Illustrated Edition is just as fantastic as you’d expect.

Today, courtesy of Ian’s photographic skills, we take a peek inside as we await our copy in the mail:

For the uninitiated, the book is a captivating exploration of how life evolved and how we humans came to make sense of it all. In 600 pages, Bryson offers a manifesto for scientific thought, written in a way that non-scientists can not merely understand but be swept away by, absorbing the author’s keen insight and chuckling at his well-timed wryness.

“This is a book about how it happened. In particular how we went from there being nothing at all to there being something, and then how a little of that something turned into us, and also what happened in between and since.” ~ Bill Bryson

A Short History of Nearly Everything: Special Illustrated Edition is currently 34% off on Amazon but wherever you choose to grab it, the important thing is that you do — it’s eye and brain candy of the best kind.

Images by Ian Shepherd

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09 NOVEMBER, 2010

The Music Animation Machine

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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

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09 NOVEMBER, 2010

The Cassiopeia Project: Free Science Education Online

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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

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03 NOVEMBER, 2010

An Awesome Book of Thanks! Dallas Clayton Celebrates Gratitude

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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.

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