10 Amazing Online Courses You Can Sign Up For in May 2019

iStock.com/Deagreez
iStock.com/Deagreez

The internet is a near-limitless resource of information and knowledge, but it’s not always easy to consolidate all of that into a structured educational experience. That’s why online courses can be a huge benefit. They offer the convenience of learning in your pajamas with the guidance of the kind of formal curriculum you'd find in a college class.

If you want to acquire a new skillset or become more proficient in a topic this May, there is no shortage of options, with sites like Udemy, Coursera, and edX offering a wide array of subjects. Best of all, most are free, with a fee charged only if you request proof of completion. We’ve narrowed down 10 of the best, including courses on cats, medieval magic, creativity, and more.

1. How to Argue Like a Pro

When you find yourself contesting another person’s reasoning—or someone is contesting your own—it helps to understand how to navigate contentious dialogue. This Duke University course led by philosophy professors Walter Sinnott-Armstrong and Ram Neta will teach you how to deconstruct an argument and identify key phrases when challenging someone’s opinion. You’ll also learn how to mount effective reasoning of your own.

Sign up on Coursera for free. The optional certificate costs $30.

2. Learn to Wield Medieval Magic

Revise your stereotypes of magic in the Middle Ages with this course from the Universitat de Barcelona that dives into spells, geomancy, and astrology in medieval Europe, exploring how society alternately revered and persecuted alleged spell-casters. Disclaimer: There’s no extra credit for turning your significant other into a toad.

Sign up on Coursera for free. The optional certificate costs $49.

3. Communicate With Your Cat (and Craft Homemade Toys)

Cats are inscrutable creatures, prone to fits of adoration and violence in equal measure. Now you can learn to better relate to their moods and desire for play with this course that advises on good human-to-feline interactions and offers recommendations for cat toys you can craft yourself.

Sign up on Udemy for $11. A certificate of completion is included in the price.

4. Unlock Your Creativity

Hungry to express yourself but not sure how to begin? This course from bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert (of Eat, Pray, Love fame) outlines a path to take your creative spark and organize it into a fulfilling and successful reality. Even if you’re not an artist or writer, Gilbert still has lessons for anyone looking to pursue their curiosity and see their ambition through.

Sign up on Udemy for $45. A certificate of completion is included in the price.

5. Boost Your Brain Power

If your knowledge of increased cognitive performance extends to a double espresso shot, you’ll likely benefit from this course by Karima Benameur, an assistant professor at the Department of Neurology at Emory University. You’ll learn the best diet for brain health, how exercise helps mental performance, and how meditation and sleep can improve your focus.

Sign up on Coursera for free. The optional certificate costs $49.

6. Sharpen Your Math Skills for Knitting

To go from knitting novice to knitting ninja requires a basic understanding of math. Measuring yarn and figuring out patterns is the foundation for knitting success, and instructor Kate Atherley will provide the tools you’ll need to make numbers a part of your skill set.

Sign up on Bluprint. The individual course is $40, or you can get access to this many other courses with a subscription for $8 a month.

7. Become a Speed-Reading Machine

Ever wonder how some people can flip through hundreds of pages and still wind up with a working understanding of the text? Now you, too, can unlock the power of speed reading by learning how to read up to three times faster than your average, turtle-like college graduate. In addition to plowing through books, you’ll also learn how to retain your newfound knowledge and develop the ability to grasp new concepts like languages with (relative) ease.

Sign up on Udemy for $11. A certificate of completion is included in the price.

8. See America Through Foreign Eyes

The culture, history, and policies of the United States get a new lens in this course, which examines how foreign countries perceive America. Learn how citizens China, France, Mexico, and parts of Africa regard the U.S. as a result of trade, intervention, and education.

Sign up on Coursera for free. A certificate of completion is included.

9. Discover the Physiology of Fitness

Everyone knows that they should exercise, but few of us know exactly what exercising does to the body. The Science of Exercise, a course from the University of Colorado Boulder, will help you go beyond popular ideas like "run more, weigh less" or "eat protein, build muscle." If you’re interested in understanding why our body reacts the way it does to exertion and nutrition, check out this tutorial on what kind of fuel our body uses to function, the role of the respiratory system, and how to prioritize certain tasks depending on your goals.

Sign up on Coursera for free. The optional certificate costs $49.

10. Create an iOS App

Think you have the next big app idea but too intimidated by the programming it would require? This tutorial will walk you step-by-step through the Swift programming language and Apple developer tools so you can make the jump from concept to downloadable product. No previous coding experience is required.

Sign up on edX for free. The optional certificate costs $99.

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This Caturday, Watch Two Kitties Duke It Out in the World’s Oldest Cat 'Video'

VladK213/iStock via Getty Images
VladK213/iStock via Getty Images

Yes, Thomas Edison’s invention of the first commercially successful light bulb indisputably altered the landscape of modern technology. But was it really his most important contribution to the world as we know it? This first-ever “cat video,” shot in his Black Maria Studio in New Jersey, suggests the answer is "No.”

In the 20-second short film from 1894, two cats bedecked in boxing gloves and harnesses duke it out inside a tiny ring. According to the Public Domain Review, the cat-thletes were members of Professor Henry Welton’s touring cat circus, which also featured cats riding bicycles and doing somersaults.

The film’s subject matter is actually pretty on par with the level of eccentricity reached in Edison’s other early recordings, which weren’t always animal-friendly. Atlas Obscura reports that he electrocuted an elephant, filmed a trapeze artist undressing, and also captured the first copyrighted film, “Fred Ott’s Sneeze.” In it, Fred Ott sneezes.

The decision to film a couple of kitties seems oddly prescient in the wake of today’s internet culture, where viral cat videos reign supreme. But if you’ve studied ancient Egypt even a little, you know that 1894 was hardly the beginning of our obsession with fascinating felines.

Hopefully, you’re not forcing your own cat to entertain the neighborhood with boxing matches, but are you treating her as well as you could be? Find out the best way to pet a cat here.

[h/t Atlas Obscura]

15 Jokes From the World's Oldest Jokebook

Images: iStock. Collage: Lucy Quintanilla, Mental Floss.
Images: iStock. Collage: Lucy Quintanilla, Mental Floss.

The oldest recorded joke—a lowbrow Sumerian quip stating "Something which has never occurred since time immemorial; a young woman did not fart in her husband's lap"—dates back to 1900 BCE, eking out a pharaoh wisecrack from Ancient Egypt by a solid three centuries.

But to pilfer one of the oldest jokes in the book means dusting off the Philogelos (meaning "Laughter Lover"), a Greek anthology of more than 200 jokes from the 4th or 5th century. From gags about dunces to jests at the expense of great thinkers, here are 15 jokes from the oldest existing collection of jokes, as translated by now-retired classical languages professor William Berg.

1. A student dunce goes swimming

comedians
Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library // Public Domain

"A student dunce went swimming and almost drowned. So now he swears he'll never get into water until he's really learned to swim."

2. An intellectual visits a friend

ancient dancers
Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library // Public Domain

"An intellectual came to check in on a friend who was seriously ill. When the man's wife said that he had 'departed,' the intellectual replied: 'When he arrives back, will you tell him that I stopped by?'"

3. The miser's will

ancient roman theater masks
Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library // Public Domain

"A miser writes his will and names himself as the heir."

4. The sharp-witted spectator

ancient theater
Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library // Public Domain

"A sharp wit observes a slow runner: 'I know just what that gentleman needs.' 'What's that?' demands the sponsor of the race. 'He needs a horse, otherwise, he can't outrun the competition!'"

5. The hot-headed doctor

ancient roman theater masks
Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library // Public Domain

"Consulting a hotheaded doctor, a fellow says, 'Professor, I'm unable to lie down or stand up; I can't even sit down.' The doctor responds: 'I guess the only thing left is to hang yourself.'"

6. The cowardly sailor

treater rehearsal
Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library // Public Domain

"A coward is asked which are safer, warships or merchant-ships. 'Dry-docked ships,' he answers."

7. The jealous landlord

ancient roman theater masks
Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library // Public Domain

"An envious landlord sees how happy his tenants are. So he evicts them all."

8. The drunk barkeeper

ancient roman theater masks
Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library // Public Domain

"A drunk opens a bar, and stations a chained bear outside."

9. The guy with bad breath

ancient comedian
Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library // Public Domain

"A guy with bad breath decides to take his own life. So he wraps his head and asphyxiates himself."

10. The wife-hater

ancient roman theater masks
Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library // Public Domain

"A wife-hater is attending the burial of his wife, who has just died. When someone asks, 'Who is it who rests in peace here?', he answers, 'Me, now that I'm rid of her!'"

11. The luckless eunuch

ancient roman theater masks
Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library // Public Domain

"A luckless eunuch got himself a hernia."

12. The husband with halitosis

Roman woman holding a mask
Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library // Public Domain

"A husband with bad breath asks his wife, 'My dear, why do you hate me?' She give him an answer: 'Because you kiss me.'"

13. The gluttonous gifter

ancient roman theater masks
Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library // Public Domain

"A glutton is marrying his daughter off to another glutton. Asked what he's giving her as a dowry, he responds, 'She's getting a house with windows that look out onto the bakery.'"

14. Too tired to care

ancient roman theater masks
Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library // Public Domain

"Two lazy-bones are fast asleep. A thief comes in, pulls the blanket from the bed, and makes off with it. One of them is aware of what happened and says to the other, 'Get up! Go after the guy who stole our blanket!' The other responds, 'Forget it. When he comes back to take the mattress, let's grab him then.'"

15. The forgetful teacher

ancient roman theater masks
Art and Picture Collection, The New York Public Library // Public Domain

"An incompetent teacher is asked the name of Priam's mother. At a loss, he says, 'Well, we call her Ma'am out of politeness.'"

An earlier version of this story ran in 2014.

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