August 08, 2010

Free Knowledge

Free Knowledge: As a first test run, I typed the word "music" into the search bar on the Harvard Libraries website. 277,126 entries were returned. Just to narrow down the field a little, I chose to view only music scores only. All 80,909 of them. As this was still a little wide a field for me to explore on my first journey through the site, I decided to limit my search to music manuscripts published in the last ten years. Which was a little less than ten thousand. As I like orchestral works, I limited again my search terms to just orchestral works. I finally had a number small enough to work with. I had the manuscripts for 394 orchestral works of music produced in the past decade.

Let's try another word now: Physics. This returned 67,773 entries, well below those returned for music. Which was surprising, but nevertheless we shall carry on. But which subject of physics should I click on? Physics Philosophy (1,235 entries)? Gauge fields (210)? Relativity (1,096)? Music Acoustics and Physics (580)? I think I'll combine this search with one of my other, interests, History (831). I could stay here and ponder the historical evolution of the sciences that we call physics, but I won't. The point is that I could. With this tool we have access to a vast reservoir of knowledge. For free. We can study any subject that we please, all we have to do is type it into the search bar.

Free Class: Of course, not all knowledge can be offered for free. If we want someone to dedicate their life to spreading the knowledge that they have gained than we must give them the money necessary to live. So I have no problem with paying for education, because teachers deserve some recompense for their work. But on the other hand, sometimes knowledge can be given away for free. Because what is a class, ultimately, above and beyond simply acquiring information? It's actively participating in the lesson. It is in working with the teacher yourself in order to understand. However, setting up a camera during certain classes could provide an immense amount of information to those who haven't actually attended a class. Which is exactly what Michael Sandel's class Justice does. He makes freely available on the Harvard website recordings of his classes. Now, this works rather better with his class than with some of the other things I have already mentioned. Music takes actually playing an instrument in order to fully understand music theory. Physics is sp often arcane, difficult, complex, and plain old confusing that simply having a recording of other people learning about the science is often insufficient to learn the science yourself. However this class is all about philosophy, morality, and of course, justice. Which makes it the better choice to have filmed. If you have any interest in the issues that effect us today than I suggest bookmarking this page.

Quarterly Shift: There are a large number of issues that are effecting the midterm elections coming up soon, and many that effect the White House. This article from the New York Times gives a run down of some of those issues, and how President Obama is handling them. Some of these issues have occurred since Obama took office, and some are holdovers from before. According to the article, Obama has had some losses these past two years, but is finishing with a string of wins recently. This article gives a good abstract of the atmosphere going into the final quarter before midterm elections.

Americans At War: In this article from CBS News it appears that the RNC chairman Michael Steele is preparing to wage war on the democratic party. He intends these next three months to be very difficult for democrats, both in session and in the polls. Does Steele really believe that the GOP can regain the majority in the senate this November? Probably not. He knows that by winning a handful of seats his party can confidently halt any legislation proposed by the enemy, the democrats. If this happens, than the GOP will have less reason to fear if a few republicans waver in their loyalty to the GOP. But should the GOP be working to stop the democrats at every turn, or should it be working in the best interests of the nation as a whole?

Tid Bits: And finally here's a few quick links. The first comes from TechDirt and explains to some small extent the byzantine copyright laws regarding audio recordings.

And not to leave out space, the second is a photo gallery of the recent alignment between Jupiter, Venus and the Moon. Thanks to CNN for the pictures.

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