Chris Higgins is the author of The Blogger Abides and writes for This American Life, The Atlantic, Breakfast on Mars, and The Magazine. You can follow him at chrishiggins.com.
So, recently YouTube started showing whole movies for free -- much like Hulu, there are occasional ads interspersed, but they're not too bad. The video quality is better than average for a YouTube video, and of course, it's free, so what do you have to lose? In this roundup, I'll point you to four great documentaries currently live on YouTube...and later in the week I'll focus on a fifth that might just blow your mind.
This 1999 documentary follows Milwaukee filmmaker Mark Borchardt... READ ON
Here's your daily dose of science video: in this BBC production, "A flood hits a fire ant colony in the Amazon jungle. ...The species has adapted to water to protect their queen." Only three minutes long, but an amazing look at a colony of ants handling an emergency and ultimately surviving.
(Via... READ ON
Update: thanks to astute commenter Baby Friday, apparently a few of these items are bogus. Snopes has a great writeup on this list, categorizing it as a "mixture of accurate and inaccurate information." Anyway, check out both the list and the Snopes writeup for a complete picture of Lincoln's travails (which were many, though perhaps not that many).
My friend Will Maier found a gem: a list of the failures Abraham Lincoln suffered before he finally achieved the presidency in 1860. (To be fair, there... READ ON
Nerd parent alert: new TMBG album of science stuff for kids available now! (iTunes Link)
Indie pop icons They Might Be Giants have long been known for embedding factoids in their songs. For example, their cover of "Why Does the Sun Shine" features the opening hook: "The sun is a mass of incandescent gas; A gigantic nuclear furnace; Where hydrogen is built into helium at a temperature of millions of degrees!" (To be fair, TMBG didn't write that tune; see the original version by Tom Glazer.) But then... READ ON
Ever wondered how a differential gear on a car works? Well, if you're like me, your first question is just what the heck is a differential? Wikipedia says (emphasis added):
A vehicle's wheels rotate at different speeds, mainly when turning corners. The differential is designed to drive a pair of wheels with equal force, whilst allowing them to rotate at different speeds. In vehicles without a differential, such as karts, both driving wheels are forced to rotate at the same speed, usually on a common... READ ON
Tonight let's take a look back at the 1980 film Xanadu starring Olivia Newton-John, Michael Beck, and Gene Kelly. Newton-John was nominated for a Grammy for her performance of "Magic," though she didn't win. The film was also nominated for seven Razzies (in the Razzies' first year) and won one (Worst Director, Robert Greenwald). Despite generally poor reviews from film critics, the film's soundtrack was a huge hit, spawning five Top 20 hits on the Billboard Hot 100.
First up, the title track "Xanadu"... READ ON
Tonight let's take a look back at the Beatles hit "Across the Universe," first released nearly 40 years ago in late December 1969. With its signature opening guitar hook and stream-of-consciousness lyrics, it's an irresistible song for other artists to cover. Below, I present you some of the best covers available online, and at the end, two videos showing you how to play the song on guitar. Enjoy!
Rufus Wainwright, Moby, and Sean Lennon
Sean's the one on the left, in case you were... READ ON
Here's a provocative little clip of physicist Richard Feynman talking about uncertainty. What an odd topic, right? Effectively Feynman obliquely addresses issues of religion versus science here, and seems to paint himself as the quintessential scientist -- someone to whom uncertainty is simply a normal state of being, and presumably the jumping-off point for most of life's explorations. Below is a complete transcription of the clip (it's under one minute) with some emphasis added, then the clip itself.... READ ON
Guitar great Les Paul died this week, and I've been thinking about what I could post in tribute. The most fitting tribute I can find is his own words: an excellent "What I've Learned" interview conducted by Esquire in September 2008 -- actually one of his last interviews. Read it here: Les Paul: What I've Learned, or check out my favorite bit below:
Last time I saw Count Basie, he was in a wheelchair. They wheeled him up onto the stage, he sits down at the piano, and he gives the downbeat, and... READ ON
Neuroscientist Jim Fallon studies psychopathic killers, and why they do what they do. Is there something different about their brains genetically, due to damage, or is their behavior (murder) caused by environment? Interestingly, psychopathic murderers often have damage to their orbital cortex -- a part of the brain just above the eyes -- as well as certain genetic markers. Fallon explains in a fascinating, brief TED Talk what his research has revealed -- including a personal connection to his work, as... READ ON
Yawning is so contagious that it can spread to dogs and monkeys.