Best Online Lectures

I watch a lot of lecture videos. Below are my favorites. A work in fleeting progress (begun January 2009). [Stephen Balbach]


*Joseph Cirincione. Nuclear weapons policy [Watched June 2009]
Nuclear weapons policy is boring. At least, until I watched this video. It turns out there is a massive sea-change in policy thinking going on, led equally by conservatives and Republicans, to *eliminate nuclear weapons from the planet.* This has been a far-left utopian dream for generations and now with Obama's help it may get started. Watch this dynamic and annimated talk and see what it's all about, things are really changing and it's more than just talk.
*Daniel J. Siegel. Mindsight: The New Science [Watched June 2009]
Very very interesting talk about how the brain works and new insights on what makes a "healthy mind." This talk inspired me (along with Norman Fischer's talk below) to take up meditation. Or at least initially to buy Siegel's book and see the practical advice on how to get started. If nothing else this video is worth watching for its explanation of how the brain is structured using ones hand as a model.
*Thomas Ricks The Gamble: General David Petraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq [Watched May 2009]
Excellent summation of the Iraq War 2006-2008 (near present). Dispells a lot of common myth. Ricks probably knows more about the war than any reporter. Ricks is a very good speaker and credible. This is a sequel to his better known Fiasco, one of the canonical books about the IW.
*Trevor Paglen. Blank Spots on the Map: The Dark Geography of the Pentagon's Secret World [Watched May 2009]
Trevlor Paglen takes an academic approach to discovering what can be learned about top secret world of the US military which has an annual budget in the 10s of billions. Similair to how astronomers learn about the universe through looking at invisible forces such as gravity, Paglan finds where the "Dark World" intersects with the real world and uses deductive logic to infer what it means. Part science, part spy thriller, part art, this is a neat lecture with a fresh approach that transcends the rediculous old "Area 51" type conspiracy theorists.
*Ben Saunders. Arctic explorer [Watched April 2009]
Otherwise normal middle class British guy walks solo to the North Pole, only the third person ever to accomplish - it's been called 10 times harder and more dangerous than Everest. Interesting lecture and slides, sound and video technical problems but not insurmountable for the intrepid armchair traveler.
*Sean Carroll. Dark Matter and Dark Energy [Watched April 2009]
Author Sean Carroll gives an passionate overview of what we know about the Universe. It's technical enough to be challenging but accessable enough to feel a sense of learning something new and staying up to date with the latest theories about dark matter and energy, multiple dimensions.
*Simon Winchester. The Man Who Loved China [Watched April 2009]
Simon Winchester is just as good speaking as he is in writing. A summary of his latest book, articulate and engrossing.
*Peter Reinhart. Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads [Watched Feb 23 2009]
Peter Reinhart is the leading artisian bread baker in the US, with best-selling books, restaurants and schools to his name. In this lecture, starting about 1/3 in, he describes the 12 steps of bread making. It's spiritual and deep and worth watching even if you have no interest in bread, it transcends food. He gave a similar talk at TED called Peter Reinhart: The art of baking bread which is a little shorter at 15 mins. The Authors@Google talk is much longer and goes into more detail.
*Michael Heller . The Gridlock Economy [Watched Feb 10 2009]
Tragedy of the anti-commons is the opposite of tragedy of the commons - it's when too many owners create grid-lock, nothing can get accomplished. It exists everywhere from copyright law, tech patents, music industry, airport runway expansion, medicine, etc.. it is pervasive across all aspects of modern capitalist societies. The concept was coined by Professor Michael Heller who published a book in 2008 called The Gridlock Economy: How Too Much Ownership Wrecks Markets, Stops Innovation, and Costs Lives. In an excellent Authors@Google video, Michael Heller explains what it is and how it undermines capitalism, in particular over the past 30 years with increased privatization.
*Elizabeth Blackburn. Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn [Watched February 8 2009]
The lecture starts out slow and is a little technical but is rewarding. Towards the end it becomes clear how important the emerging science of telometric DNA will be in the future. Blackburn is a pioneer in the field (Time Magazine's most influential people in the world 2007). It's possible that many diseases, even aging, can be explained by telemerase health. There is no magic pill or food, but stress is the biggest factor. Important and fascinating stuff. Blackburn is a gentle and pleasant speaker. Nice introduction to telomese research. Update: (Oct 5 2009) Blackburn awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine for telemerase research.
*Dean Karnazes. 50/50: Secrets I Learned Running 50 Marathons in 50 Days [Watched January 2009]
Dean Karnazes is an inspirational athelete sort of the same calibur as Lance Armstrong, but lesser known outside the world of marathon and long distance endurance runners. He's a little tweaked, and that makes him a lot of fun to listen to - uplifting and fun lecture.
*Dexter Filkins. The Forever War [Watched January 7 2009]
Filkins is a New York Times reporter who spent the last 8 years in Iraq and Afghanistan. In this lecture he has just returned to the US, just off the boat for only a week. He's a good speaker and has great slides and stories, but most interesting is to watch his obvious culture shock. Half way through the lecture he seems to break down, taking off his jacket and hair standing on end.. the sense of someone who has lived his life on the edge and still in Iraq with his life on the line is clear. Fascinating first-hand account.
*Joseph Stiglitz. Cost of the Iraq War [Watched January 8 2009]
Nobel Prize winner Joseph E. Stiglitz did a study showing the cost of the Iraq War as being around 3 to 5 trillion. Much of the cost is hidden intentionally. This is a fascinating lecture with mind blowing "wow" stories one after the next about the incredible mis-management of money surrounding the Iraq War and the Bush Administration.
*Kevin Devlin. The Unfinished Game: Pascal, Fermat, and the Seventeenth-Century Letter that Made the World Modern. [Watched December 21 2008]
Devlin is an animated, energic and fascinating speaker. In this stimulating talk he combines world history with mathematics for a general audience, speculating that there have been three times in human history when mathematics fundamentally changed human perspective on the world.
*Philip Zimbardo. The Time Paradox: The New Psychology of Time That Will Change Your Life [Watched December 2008]
Zimbardo (President of the American Psychological Association) presents a new model of psychology based on how one percieves the past, present and future. Zimbardo is a charismatic speaker and the model is compelling. He argues it is one of the most compelling factors that influences people, and even nations.
*Norman Fischer. Sailing Home [Watched December 2008]
Norman Fischer is one of the most senior Zen teachers in America. Fischer has a contagious sense of deep relaxation. The lecture seems to be targeted towards the skeptical secular person and I found it really persuasive that we all need some religion, at some time in our lives, whatever religion it is, to see us through the difficult periods. Very insightful and relaxing lecture.
*Leslie Chang. Factory Girls [Watched December 2008]
"Factory Girls is the first look into the everyday lives of the migrant factory population in China. China has 130 million migrant workers - the largest migration in human history. In Factory Girls, Leslie T. Chang, a former correspondent for the Wall Street Journal in Beijing, tells the story of these workers primarily through the lives of two young women, whom she follows over the course of three years as they attempt to rise from the assembly lines of Dongguan, an industrial city in China's Pearl River Delta."
*Michael Dobbs . One Minute to Midnight: Kennedy, Khrushchev, and Castro on the Brink of Nuclear War [Watched November 2008]
This is a light but fascinating talk by a US reporter who researched what exactly happened in the 4 or 5 days of the Cuban Missle Crisis. In the end he discovers mostly a lot of mis-communication and unknowns. In the big picture it seems a miracle nuclear war didn't happen and is a lesson about how easily things could have turned out differently. Good speaker with good slides and new discoveries using Google Earth.
*Ferran Adria. A Day at elBulli: An Insight into the Ideas, Methods and Creativity of Ferran Adria [Watched November 2008]
Ferran Adria is generally recognized as one of the best Chef's in the world because of his totally new methods of cooking using high tech tools, known as "molecular gastronomy." This video shows what the avant garde food looks like and how it's made. Required viewing for any foodie. What a blast. Note: This 600-page book with 30-recipes costs $350(!).

Stanford University Summer Science Lecture Series

*Stephen Schneider. Global Warming: Is the Science Settled Enough for Policy? [Watched March 2009]
Excellent in-depth talk about Global Warming by one of the members of the IPCC. Touches on many issues in the public debate and provides clear ways of thinking about it.
*. [Watched 2009]