Einstein’s Theory of Relativity Explained in One of the Earliest Science Films Ever Made (1923)

Albert Einstein developed his theory of special relativity in 1905, and then mentally mapped out his theory of general relativity between 1907 and 1915. For years to come, the rest of the world would try to catch up with Einstein, trying to understand the gist, let alone the full … | Continue reading

@openculture.com | 1 hour ago

16th-Century Japanese Historians Describe the Oddness of Meeting the First Europeans They Ever Saw

Go to Japan today, and the country will present you with plenty of opportunities to buy pan, tabako, and tempura. These products themselves — bread, cigarettes, and deep-fried seafood or vegetables — will be familiar enough. Even the words that refer to them may have a recognizab … | Continue reading

@openculture.com | 22 hours ago

Watch the Earliest-Known Charles Dickens Film: The Death of Poor Joe

A little over a decade ago, a curator at the British Film Institute (BFI) discovered the oldest surviving film featuring a Charles Dickens character, “The Death of Poor Joe.” The silent film, directed by George Albert Smith in 1900, brings to life Dickens’ character Jo, the cross … | Continue reading

@openculture.com | 23 hours ago

What’s Under London? Discover London’s Forbidden Underworld

When the words London and underground come together, the first thing that comes to most of our minds, naturally, is the London Underground. But though it may enjoy the honorable distinction of the world’s first railway to run below the streets, the stalwart Tube is hardly the onl … | Continue reading

@openculture.com | 3 days ago

Roger Federer’s Dartmouth Commencement Address: “Effortless Is a Myth” & Other Life Lessons from Tennis

In 2006, David Foster Wallace published a piece in the New York Times Magazine headlined “Roger Federer as Religious Experience.” Even then, he could declare Federer, “at 25, the best tennis player currently alive. Maybe the best ever.” Much had already been written about “his ol … | Continue reading

@openculture.com | 4 days ago

Hear Edgar Allan Poe Stories Read by Iggy Pop, Jeff Buckley, Christopher Walken, Marianne Faithful & More

In 1849, a little over 175 years ago, Edgar Allan Poe was found dead in a Baltimore gutter under mysterious circumstances very likely related to violent election fraud. It was an ignominious end to a life marked by hardship, alcoholism, and loss. After struggling for years as the … | Continue reading

@openculture.com | 4 days ago

Harvard Removes the Human Skin Binding from a Book in Its Collection Since 1934

In June of 2014, Harvard University’s Houghton Library put up a blog post titled “Caveat Lecter,” announcing “good news for fans of anthropodermic bibliopegy, bibliomaniacs, and cannibals alike.” The occasion was the scientific determination that a book in the Houghton’s collecti … | Continue reading

@openculture.com | 5 days ago

How the 13th-Century Sufi Poet Rumi Became One of the World’s Most Popular Writers

The Middle East is hardly the world’s most harmonious region, and it only gets more fractious if you add in South Asia and the Mediterranean. But there’s one thing on which many residents of that wide geographical span can agree: Jalāl al-Dīn Muḥammad Rūmī. One might at first ima … | Continue reading

@openculture.com | 5 days ago

Download Issues of “Weird Tales” (1923–1954): The Pioneering Pulp Horror Magazine Features Original Stories by Lovecraft, Bradbury & Many More

We live in an era of genre. Browse through TV shows of the last decade to see what I mean: Horror, sci-fi, fantasy, superheroes, futuristic dystopias…. Take a casual glance at the burgeoning global film franchises or merchandising empires. Where in earlier decades, horror and fan … | Continue reading

@openculture.com | 6 days ago

How a Bach Canon Works. Brilliant.

Brilliant. This moving manuscript depicts a single musical sequence played front to back and then back to front. Give the video a little time to unfold and enjoy. | Continue reading

@openculture.com | 7 days ago

The Romans Stashed Hallucinogenic Seeds in a Vial Made From an Animal Bone

What’s popular in the metropolis sooner or later makes its way out into the provinces. This phenomenon has become more difficult to notice in recent years, not because it’s slowed down, but because it’s sped way up, owing to near-instantaneous cultural diffusion on the internet. … | Continue reading

@openculture.com | 7 days ago

How Las Vegas’ Sphere Actually Works: A Looks Inside the New $2.3 Billion Arena

If the United States of America is the Roman empire of our time, surely it must have an equivalent of the Colosseum. A year ago, you could’ve heard a wide variety of speculations as to what structure that could possibly be. Today, many of us would simply respond with “the Sphere, … | Continue reading

@openculture.com | 7 days ago

Oh My God! Winston Churchill Received the First Ever Letter Containing “O.M.G.” (1917)

Winston Churchill is one of those preposterously outsized historical figures who seemed to be in the middle of every major event. Even before, as Prime Minister, he steeled the resolve of his people and faced down the Third Reich juggernaut; even before he loudly warned of the Na … | Continue reading

@openculture.com | 10 days ago

Get Unlimited Access to Courses & Certificates: Coursera Is Offering 40% (or $159) Off of Coursera Plus Until June 23

A heads up on a deal: Between today and June 23, 2024, Coursera is offering a 40% discount on its annual subscription plan called “Coursera Plus.” Normally priced at $399, Coursera Plus (now available for $239.40) gives you access to 7,000+ courses for one all-inclusive subscript … | Continue reading

@openculture.com | 11 days ago

Is Reality Real?: 8 Scientists Explain Whether We Can Ever Know What Objectively Exists

Ask aloud whether reality is real, and you’re liable to be regarded as never truly having left the freshman dorm. But that question has received, and continues to receive, consideration from actual scientists. The Big Think video above assembles seven of them to explain how they … | Continue reading

@openculture.com | 11 days ago

The Roads of Ancient Rome Visualized in the Style of Modern Subway Maps

Sasha Trubetskoy, formerly an undergrad at U. Chicago, has created a “subway-style diagram of the major Roman roads, based on the Empire of ca. 125 AD.” Drawing on Stanford’s ORBIS model, The Pelagios Project, and the Antonine Itinerary, Trubetskoy’s map combines well-known histo … | Continue reading

@openculture.com | 12 days ago

Patti Smith Reads Her Final Letter to Robert Mapplethorpe, Calling Him “the Most Beautiful Work of All”

If you go to hear Patti Smith in concert, you expect her to sing “Beneath the Southern Cross,” “Because the Night,” and almost certainly “People Have the Power,” the hit single from Dream of Life. Like her 1975 debut Horses, that album had a cover photo by Robert Mapplethorpe, wh … | Continue reading

@openculture.com | 12 days ago

Behold the Codex Gigas (aka “Devil’s Bible”), the Largest Medieval Manuscript in the World

Bargain with the devil and you may wind up with a golden fiddle, supernatural guitar-playing ability, or a room full of gleaming alchemized straw. Whoops, we misattributed that last one. It’s actually Rumpelstiltskin’s doing, but the by-morning-or-else deadline that drives the Br … | Continue reading

@openculture.com | 12 days ago

James Joyce Picked Drunken Fights, Then Hid Behind Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway seemed to feud with most of the prominent male artists of his time, from Wallace Stevens and T.S. Eliot to F. Scott Fitzgerald. He had a “very strange relationship” with Orson Welles—the two came to blows at least once—and he reportedly slapped Max Eastman in the … | Continue reading

@openculture.com | 13 days ago

The Radical Artistic & Philosophical World of William Blake: A Short Introduction

Over the years, we’ve featured the work of William Blake fairly often here on Open Culture: his own illuminated books; his illustrations for everything from the Divine Comedy to Mary Wollstonecraft’s Original Stories from Real Life to the Book of Job; pairs of Doc Martens made ou … | Continue reading

@openculture.com | 13 days ago

Stephen King Names His Five Favorite Works by Stephen King

Stephen King has no doubt forgotten writing more books than most of us will ever publish. But even now, in his prolific “late career,” if you ask him to name his own most favored works, he can do it without hesitation. Stephen Colbert tried that out a few years ago on The Late Sh … | Continue reading

@openculture.com | 14 days ago

When a Drunken Charles Bukowski Walked Off the Prestigious French Talk Show Apostrophes (1978)

Charles Bukowski didn’t do TV — or at least he didn’t do American TV. Like a Hollywood movie star shooting a Japanese commercial, he did make an exception for a gig abroad. It happened in 1978, when the poet received an invitation from the popular French literary talk show Apostr … | Continue reading

@openculture.com | 14 days ago

Ray Bradbury Wrote the First Draft of Fahrenheit 451 on Coin-Operated Typewriters, for a Total of $9.80

Image by Alan Light, via Wikimedia Commons It sounds like a third grade math problem: “If Ray Bradbury wrote the first draft of Fahrenheit 451 (1953) on a coin-operated typewriter that charged 10 cents for every 30 minutes, and he spent a total of $9.80, how many hours did it tak … | Continue reading

@openculture.com | 17 days ago

How Well Does Medieval Armor Actually Stand Up to Medieval Arrows?: A Historical Re-Creation Lets You See

The popular image of the medieval suit of armor looks formidable enough that any of us could be forgiven for assuming that, with its steel-plated protection, we’d emerge from even the most harrowing battle without a scratch. Yet if we really found ourselves transported to, say, t … | Continue reading

@openculture.com | 18 days ago

Sci-Fi Author J.G. Ballard Predicts the Rise of Social Media (1977)

Say you were a fan of Steven Spielberg’s moving coming-of-age drama Empire of the Sun, set in a Japanese internment camp during World War II and starring a young Christian Bale. Say you read the autobiographical novel on which that film is based, written by one J.G. Ballard. Say … | Continue reading

@openculture.com | 19 days ago

When the CIA Studied Psychic Techniques to Alter Human Consciousness & Unlock Time Travel: Discover “The Gateway Process”

By now, it’s widely known that the Central Intelligence Agency ran a decades-long program of experiments involving LSD and other psychoactive drugs called MKUltra from the nineteen-fifties to the seventies. As one might suspect, that wasn’t the only research project into the mani … | Continue reading

@openculture.com | 19 days ago

This 392-Year-Old Bonsai Tree Survived the Hiroshima Atomic Blast & Still Flourishes Today: The Power of Resilience

Image by Sage Ross, via Wikimedia Commons The beautiful bonsai tree pictured above–let’s call it the Yamaki Pine Bonsai–began its journey through the world back in 1625. That’s when the Yamaki family first began to train the tree, working patiently, generation after generation, t … | Continue reading

@openculture.com | 20 days ago

Ancient Greek Armor Gets Tested in an 11-Hour Battle Simulation Inspired by the Iliad

By Greek law, every male citizen over the age of eighteen must spend from nine months to a year in the Hellenic Armed Forces. As in every country with such a policy of mandatory conscription, this is surely not a prospect relished by most conscripts-to-be. But then, it can’t be a … | Continue reading

@openculture.com | 20 days ago

Philip K. Dick Theorizes The Matrix in 1977, Declares That We Live in “A Computer-Programmed Reality”

In 1963, Philip K. Dick won the coveted Hugo Award for his novel The Man in the High Castle, beating out such sci-fi luminaries as Marion Zimmer Bradley and Arthur C. Clarke. Of the novel, The Guardian writes, “Nothing in the book is as it seems. Most characters are not what they … | Continue reading

@openculture.com | 21 days ago

Watch Philosophy Lectures That Became a Hit During COVID by Professor Michael Sugrue (RIP): From Plato and Marcus Aurelius to Critical Theory

If we ask which philosophy professor has made the greatest impact in this decade, there’s a solid case to be made for the late Michael Sugrue. Yet in the nearly four-decade-long career that followed his studies at the University of Chicago under Allan Bloom (author of The Closing … | Continue reading

@openculture.com | 21 days ago

Hunter S. Thompson’s Harrowing, Chemical-Filled Daily Routine

E. Jean Carroll’s 1993 memoir of Hunter S. Thompson opens like this: I have heard the biographers of Harry S. Truman, Catherine the Great, etc., etc., say they would give anything if their subjects were alive so they could ask them some questions. I, on the other hand, would give … | Continue reading

@openculture.com | 22 days ago

A 6‑Step Guide to Zen Buddhism, Presented by Psychiatrist-Zen Master Robert Waldinger

Robert Waldinger works as a part-time professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, but he also describes himself as a “Zen master.” This may strike some listeners as a presumptuous claim, but he has indeed been officially accepted as a rōshi in two different Zen lineages in … | Continue reading

@openculture.com | 24 days ago

Hear the Song Written on a Sinner’s Buttock in Hieronymus Bosch’s Painting The Garden of Earthly Delights

There’s something unusually exciting about finding a hidden or discreetly placed element in a well-known painting. I can only imagine the thrill of the physician who first noticed the curious presence of a human brain in Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam: God, his retinue of an … | Continue reading

@openculture.com | 25 days ago

Fritz Lang First Depicted Artificial Intelligence on Film in Metropolis (1927), and It Frightened People Even Then

Artificial intelligence seems to have become, as Michael Lewis labeled a previous chapter in the recent history of technology, the new new thing. But human anxieties about it are, if not an old old thing, then at least part of a tradition longer than we may expect. For vivid evid … | Continue reading

@openculture.com | 25 days ago

9‑Year-Old Edward Hopper Draws a Picture on the Back of His 3rd Grade Report Card

In a 2017 press release, the Edward Hopper House announced that it would receive over 1,000 artifacts and memorabilia documenting Edward Hopper’s family life and early years. The collection “consists of juvenilia and other materials from the formative years of Hopper’s life and i … | Continue reading

@openculture.com | 26 days ago

The First Professional Footage of Pink Floyd Gets Captured in a 1967 Documentary (and the Band Also Provides the Soundtrack)

British filmmaker and novelist Peter Whitehead has been credited with inventing the music video with his promo films for the Rolling Stones in the mid-60s. According to Ali Catterall and Simon Wells, authors of Your Face Here, a study of “British Cult Film since the Sixties,” Whi … | Continue reading

@openculture.com | 26 days ago

Monty Python’s Michael Palin Presents His Favorite Painting, J. M. W. Turner’s Rain, Steam and Speed

Of all the English comedians to have attained worldwide fame over the past half-century, Sir Michael Palin may be the most English of them all. It thus comes as no surprise that the National Gallery would ring him up and invite him to make a video about his favorite painting, nor … | Continue reading

@openculture.com | 26 days ago

Medieval Cats Behaving Badly: Kitties That Left Paw Prints … and Peed … on 15th Century Manuscripts

“The more things change, the more they stay the same.” –Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr (1808–90) When Emir O. Filipovic, a medievalist at the University of Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, visited the State Archives of Dubrovnik, he stumbled upon something that will hardly surprise … | Continue reading

@openculture.com | 27 days ago

Why Medieval Bologna Was Full of Tall Towers, and What Happened to Them

Image by Toni Pecoraro, via Wikimedia Commons Go to practically any major city today, and you’ll notice that the buildings in certain areas are much taller than in others. That may sound trivially true, but what’s less obvious is that the height of those buildings tends to corres … | Continue reading

@openculture.com | 27 days ago

Isaac Asimov Predicts the Future of Online Education in 1988–and It’s Now Coming True

“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” Though that line probably originated with a Canadian novelist called Grant Allen, it’s long been popularly attributed to his more colorful nineteenth-century contemporary Mark Twain. It isn’t hard to understand why it n … | Continue reading

@openculture.com | 28 days ago

Hear Leo Tolstoy Read From His Last Major Work in Four Languages, 1909

In years past, we’ve brought you rare recordings of Sigmund Freud and Jorge Luis Borges speaking in English. Today we present a remarkable series of recordings of the great Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy reading a passage from his book, Wise Thoughts for Every Day, in four language … | Continue reading

@openculture.com | 28 days ago

“The Virtues of Coffee” Explained in 1690 Ad: The Cure for Lethargy, Scurvy, Dropsy, Gout & More

According to many historians, the English Enlightenment may never have happened were it not for coffeehouses, the public sphere where poets, critics, philosophers, legal minds, and other intellectual gadflies regularly met to chatter about the pressing concerns of the day. And ye … | Continue reading

@openculture.com | 1 month ago

RIP David Sanborn: See Him Play Alongside Miles Davis, Randy Newman, Sun Ra, Leonard Cohen and Others on His TV Show Night Music

It’s late in the evening of Saturday, October 28th, 1989. You flip on the television and the saxophonist David Sanborn appears onscreen, instrument in hand, introducing the eclectic blues icon Taj Mahal, who in turn declares his intent to play a number with “rural humor” and “wor … | Continue reading

@openculture.com | 1 month ago

A Playlist of the 3,300 Best Films & Documentaries on Youtube, Including Works by Hitchcock, Kubrick, Errol Morris & Other Auteurs

?si=yCx1pqpcATHND90L Once upon a time, the most convenient means of discovering movies was cable television. This held especially true for those of us who happened to be adolescents on a break from school, ready and willing morning, midday, or night to sit through the commercial- … | Continue reading

@openculture.com | 1 month ago

Meet Fanny, the First Female Rock Band to Top the Charts: “They Were Just Colossal and Wonderful, and Nobody’s Ever Mentioned Them”

When the Beatles upended popular music, thousands of wannabe beat groups were born all over the world, and many of them–for the first time ever, really–were all-female groups. This Amoeba Records article has a fairly exhaustive list of these girl bands, with names like The Daught … | Continue reading

@openculture.com | 1 month ago

Read 20 Short Stories From Nobel Prize-Winning Writer Alice Munro (RIP) Free Online

Note: Back in 2013, when Alice Munro won the Nobel Prize in Literature, we published a post featuring 20 short stories written by Munro. Today, with the sad news that Alice Munro has passed away, at the age of 92, we’re bringing the original post (from October 10, 2013) back to t … | Continue reading

@openculture.com | 1 month ago

Wes Anderson Directs & Stars in an Ad Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Montblanc’s Signature Pen

One hardly has to be an expert on the films of Wes Anderson to imagine that the man writes with a fountain pen. Maybe back in the early nineteen-nineties, when he was shooting the black-and-white short that would become Bottle Rocket on the streets of Austin, he had to settle for … | Continue reading

@openculture.com | 1 month ago

Hannah Arendt Explains the Rise of Totalitarian Regimes–and the Strategies Needed to Combat Them

“Adolf Eichmann went to the gallows with great dignity,” wrote the political philosopher Hannah Arendt, describing the scene leading up to the prominent Holocaust-organizer’s execution. After drinking half a bottle of wine, turning down the offer of religious assistance, and even … | Continue reading

@openculture.com | 1 month ago