Translating a Free Online Education into a College Diploma

Photo: wohnai

Over the last couple years an exciting new trend has emerged amongst universities across the country – they are providing courses online for free! Harvard, Yale, Stanford, MIT, UC Berkeley, Columbia, UCLA, and John Hopkins are just some of the schools that have lecture videos of entire courses online.

Why the heck are these schools doing this?
It is the free information movement. Just like there was a free love movement in the 1970’s, there is a similar free knowledge movement in the early part of the new century. Wikipedia is the epitome – its free information has become a part of the way we research just about everything. Another manifestation of this is the huge open source software movement providing free software to the masses. Examples are the Linux operating system, Mozilla Firefox web browser, and Android phone operating system. It is a cultural and economic phenomenon that deserves much more attention than a few sentences, but there is not room in this post so I will refrain – just be sure to take advantage of it!

What exactly are they offering?
It varies widely from school to school and even class to class. The organization OpenCourseWare currently has 200 schools with 13,000 courses offered online – some just have the lecture videos, while others also have the assignments and exams complete with solutions. Beyond what is posted you are on your own – there are no help resources such as teacher assistants or other class members to contact.

Keep reading …

Is .9 Repeating Less Than 1? – Not So Fast …

Image: Melchoir

.99999 repeating is the representation of an endless string of 9s. Just when you think it should end, add another 9. Then do it again. Intuition tells us that without rounding this number is less than 1. We know it must end in a 9, and any decimal that starts 0.999… regardless of how many 9s you write, has to be less than 1. Well here is proof that you are wrong!

x = .999…
10x = 9.999…
10x – x = 9.999… – .999…
9x = 9
x = 1

How is this even possible? Why wouldn’t you just right 1 instead of .9 repeating? Now you can – if anyone questions you show this proof to blow their mind! You also now have the right to tell the joke “How many mathematicians does it take to change a lightbulb? Point nine repeating!”

Things You Didn’t Even Know Had a Name

Photo: White Gold Wielder

Just about every obscure item you can imagine has a proper name. Someone before you previously attempted describing the item, discovered that “blue thingy” was not descriptive enough and took the liberty to making up a name that everyone can use. But of course not everyone knows the official name and the item is inevitably still referred to as adjective + “thingy”. I am not advocating adding thousands of nouns to your vocabulary in the off chance that you may one day want to refer to the flap of skin on your hand between your thumb and index finger (purlicue). But there are a few that I would like to pass on to my readers in hopes that they will be widely used one day. Try dropping these into conversations:

  • Aglet – the hard plastic part at the end of a shoelace
  • Cairn – a pile of stones made by hikers
  • Ferrule – the metal piece at the end of the pencil that holds the eraser on
  • Muselet – the wire thing on the top of a bottle of champagne to keep the cork from flying off under the pressure
  • Zarf – the cardboard coffee sleeve you receive at Starbucks to keep you from burning yourself through the thin cup

Photos: Tom Wefald, Ian W. Fieggen, Steve Webel, Fredrik Thommesen

When you do in fact use one of these words in conversation, you will undoubtedly have to explain the meaning. This is a perfect opportunity to share all five of these words, which will make you look like a genius and promote the use of adding of these words into common use!