Monday, February 26, 2007

Democratizing Education

Here's an article from the WSJ last week discussing how many major universities are now putting many of their course online, for free. These course are commonly referred to as OpenCourseWare.

Per the WSJ:
Following the lead of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and other highly competitive schools, more institutions are posting online everything from lecture notes to sample tests, and even making audio and video files of actual lectures publicly available. The sites attract anywhere from thousands to more than one million unique visitors each month.
MIT's pioneering "OpenCourseWare" program, which was launched in 2003, posts the syllabus and class notes for more than 1,500 courses online for anyone who wants them. By this November, it aims to publish materials from virtually all 1,800 of its courses across all its schools.

I think this is absolutely fantastic. I have always thought, and often remarked that one can get just as good of an education at a local public library as at any renowned institution - just with a little more will and determination. Now with OpenCourseWare, there is no need even to go to the library. You can take classes on line, for free. In fact, I know many people that are enrolled in schools where they don't usually go to class, but rather read the PowerPoint and web lectures which are e-mailed to them by their professors. The only difference between them and what you can do with this OpenCourseWare is that they are paying a small fortune, and you don't have to. Obviously taking an OpenCourseWare class is not exactly like attending the school, and you get no recognized credit for your work, but you are able to absorb the exact same knowledge and information as the privileged students at these renowned institutions. I say, terrific.

I have been to several of the websites, cited in the article, and below are links to the two which I find most user-friendly:

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Monday, February 19, 2007

turbid \TUR-bid\, adjective:

1. Muddy; thick with or as if with roiled sediment; not clear; -- used of liquids of any kind.
2. Thick; dense; dark; -- used of clouds, air, fog, smoke, etc.
3. Disturbed; confused; disordered.

Although both are found in the same waters, black crappies usually prefer clearer, quieter water, while white crappies flourish in warmer, siltier and more turbid water.
-- Tim Eisele, "Crappie Facts", Capital Times (Madison, Wisconsin), May 8, 1998

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Happy Valentine's Day

Read about this history of Valentine's Day, here.

Also, here is a nice Wikipedia article covering Valentine's Day.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Friday, February 09, 2007

Mr. Orwell, you may be Correct

This article brings to mind ideas eerily similar to the Thought Police in George Orwell's epic dystopian novel, 1984. Per the article:

A team of world-leading neuroscientists has developed a powerful technique that allows them to look deep inside a person's brain and read their intentions before they act.

The research breaks controversial new ground in scientists' ability to probe people's minds and eavesdrop on their thoughts, and raises serious ethical issues over how brain-reading technology may be used in the future.

Read the full article, here.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Pyrrhic victory \PIR-ik\, noun:

A victory achieved at great or excessive cost; a ruinous victory.

Technically it was a victory for the British, who attacked the patriot fortifications -- but a Pyrrhic victory if ever there was: out of 2,200 British soldiers 1,034 were killed or wounded, including one in nine of all the officers the British lost in the whole war.
-- Geoffrey Wheatcroft, "A Revolutionary Itinerary", The Atlantic, April 2001

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Amen Break

This is a rather long (about 18 minutes) video explaining the Amen break. The Amen Break is an influential and oft-heard drum loop. It is 5.20 seconds long and consists of 4 bars of the drum-solo sampled from the song "Amen, Brother" as performed by the 1960s funk and soul group, The Winstons.

You can read more about it here.