Learn about adjustment layers and layer masks in Photoshop

I've been using Photoshop for years, but I don't know what I'm doing. When I get stuck, I often turn to the YouTube channel Phlearn to learn how to do something. In this easy-to-understand 10-minute video, I learned how to use adjustment layers to make changes to all colors in an image and how to use layer masks to changes the colors of certain areas of an image. I wish I'd learned about these a long time ago. Read the rest

Scientific tips on how to cram for an exam

ASAP Science provides some excellent tips for intensive, last-minute studying of just about any subject where you need to remember a lot of information. The video covers a lot of ground, from memory palaces and cortisol to metacognition to other things I can't remember because I didn't study enough.

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Excellent starter kit for people interested in learning about Arduino

Arduino is an easy-to-learn prototyping platform that lets you create interactive electronic projects. This Arduino compatible kit is the one I recommend to people who ask me how to get started. The reason I recommend it is because it's very cheap and it has a bunch of components that would cost a lot more if you were to purchase them separately.

Two things it doesn't have, but should if you really want to have fun with Arduino: a potentiometer and a servo motor. This kit, which has these components and many more, is available for about twice as much as the basic kit above.

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The best maker YouTube channels

Over at Cool Tools, Kevin Kelly reviews over 40 YouTube video channels by makers, experimenters, and explainers. It's a great list. I'm subscribing to all the ones I haven't already subscribed to.

I have descending into the YouTube click hole. Forget TV, movies, Netflix; I spend most of my discretionary media time watching YouTube tutorials. I go to them whenever I need to learn anything, and in particular when I need to make or repair anything. Nothing appears missing in the YouTubeverse. The most obscure esoteric subject, item, skill, technique, problem will have five videos dedicated to it. At least one will be good. Against this very uneven quality of the average random YouTube episode, I have discover a good shelfful of dependable high-quality YouTube channels dispensing amazing information on a regular basis. Below are the YouTube channels I currently subscribe and return to often. They are informational, rather than entertaining, and they are biased to makers and do-ers. I have divided them into four groups: Experimenters, Makers, Explainers, and Nichers -- esoteric interests that probably won’t appeal to many. Don’t take the categories too seriously; there is much overlap. I emphasize that these are the channels I personally subscribe to, and so reflect my interests, and do not include such obvious other maker-type channels like food, cooking, travel, makeup simply because those are not my interests. But I for sure have missed some great channels. So in the comments please tell me what channels you subscribe to. To be most useful, state what they are about, and why you think they should be included.

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Fun and helpful blog on homophones is coming out as a book

The blog Homophones, Weakly helps young learners and iffy spellers master English homophones with fun and simple graphic mnemonics. Now, it's coming out as a book. Read the rest

Nice interactive history of generative music

Generative music is music that isn't traditionally composed. It's created by establishing patterns, randomness, and instructions to produce interesting sounds. Tero Parviainen's website, "How Generative Music Works: A Perspective" is a fun way to learn about the history of generative music and try generating some for yourself.

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Free video course taught by astronomer: The Sun and the Total Eclipse of August 2017

This is neat: "A free, one-hour online class anyone can take to learn everything they need to know about the eclipse. It’s part of a real college course at University of Colorado, Boulder taught by Prof. Douglas Duncan, a professional astronomer and director of the Fiske Planetarium."

A total eclipse is one of the most spectacular sights you can ever see! It looks like the end of the world may be at hand. There is a black hole in the sky where the sun should be. Pink flames of solar prominences and long silver streamers of the sun's corona stretch across the sky. It gets cold, and animals do strange things. People scream and shout and cheer, and remember the experience their whole life. But total eclipses are important scientifically as well. They let us see parts of the sun’s atmosphere that are otherwise invisible. A total eclipse presented the first chance to test Einstein’s prediction that matter can bend space – like near a black hole. The best total eclipse in the United States in 40 years happens August 21st, 2017.

This course has two primary goals:

1) to get you excited for the total solar eclipse coming in August 2017 and prepare you and your community to safely view it

2) to provide an inviting overview of the science of the sun and the physics of light

If you are most interested in preparing for the eclipse, you can hop right into Week 5! If you want the full course experience, and to get some fun scientific context for what you'll be seeing on August 21st, start with Week 1 and move through the course week by week!

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Useful: a cheatsheet for critical thinking

When you encounter new information, here's a list of questions to ask yourself and others. It was produced by the Global Digital Citizen Foundation, "a non-profit organization dedicated to cultivating responsible, ethical, global citizens for a digital world."

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Interactive website teaches music fundamentals

I've been playing with Ableton Live's Learning Music website. It starts by showing you how to use an electronic drum kit, then moves to notes, chords, basslines, etc. You get to experiment on almost every page and see the structure of famous songs. A very cool learning resource! Read the rest

The Everything You Need to Ace series is like borrowing notes from the smartest kid in class

Looking through these books, I find myself wanting to shout out phrases I haven’t thought of in decades: the Triangular Trade! Crispus Attucks! Isthmus of Panama! Read the rest

Learn how to play piano chords in under 8 minutes

Even if you've taken a lesson or two, this brisk run through the basics of musical chords probably will remind you of something you've long forgotten. Read the rest

Meet Japan's 10-year-old philosopher, published author, and grade school dropout

Tofugu (where Carla is executive editor) interviewed Bao Nakashima, the 10 year old author of the hit Japanese book, Seeing, Knowing, Thinking.

Q. You said, "No need to read the air." What do you mean by that?

It literally means "Having a life that follows your honest feelings." Air is data, so I think we can leave it to artificial intelligence.

Q. What is your current study method?

If I had to give my study method a name, it might be "open-ended." Although it is like learning the concept of social interest in Adlerian psychology, I think my study method doesn't have a name yet.

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Ask a Science Teacher - book with 250 questions about almost everything

Larry Scheckel was a high school physics and aerospace teacher for almost 40 years, and he wrote a book called Ask a Science Teacher: 250 Answers to Questions You’ve Always Had About How Everyday Stuff Really Works that answers common questions on a wide range of topics.

Why are we attracted to unhealthy foods? How does your heart pump? Why is chickenpox so much worse for adults than it is for kids? What is the lowest temperature known in nature? How does the moon affect the ocean tides? Why can't we create a perpetual motion device? Why don't school buses have seatbelts? What is quantum physics? Who or what built Stonehenge?

The answers (they are 1-3 pages long) are clearly written, and filled with fun insights and anecdotes. This is a fantastic book for a curious kid or an adult such as myself who likes to learn how the world works. Read the rest

Podcast interview with memory champion and Memrise founder Ed Cooke

Monocle interviewed Ed Cooke, the founder of the language learning site, Memrise.

During a three-month hospital stay when he was 18 years old, Ed Cooke studied memory techniques to overcome boredom. By the age of 23 he was a Grand Master of Memory, someone who can memorise 1,000 random digits in an hour and the order of a deck of cards in two minutes. Cooke is now the founder of a fast-growing start-up called Memrise, which allows people to learn a language quickly while also having fun. He outlines the value of a good memory and tells us how Memrise gained tens of millions of users. Read the rest

Atomic Chemistry Set - cool Kickstarter project

The Atomic Chemistry Set is a "modern chemistry set - 47 chemicals, glassware, lab apparatus, and insane chemical reactions." It looks great! Read the rest

How Machines Work: Zoo Break! – An interactive book of building machinery and moving gears

See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Walking through the children’s section of any given book store, this book will immediately catch your eye. The front cover has gears sticking out the side, and if you turn them, you can see one of our main characters moving up and down on a wheel and axel system. Open the book, and you’ll be treated to even more interactive illustration done in the book’s playful art style.

The plot of the story follows two friends who live in a zoo, Sloth and Sengi. After many years of living there, they have decided to escape using some simple machines. Along the way, they encounter many problems (as you can imagine would occur when a sloth and a variety of elephant shrew attempt to scale a zoo enclosure). Each page outlines a different type of machinery and invites the reader to learn about how each system functions. When Sloth and Sengi try and use an inclined plane to escape, the narrator demonstrates why it takes less effort to climb up an inclined plane than straight over the vertical fence. Later on, this idea of the inclined plane returns when Sloth and Sengi try and use a screw to escape. Probably my favorite section of the book involves the section on levers. The author outlines how a lever functions with an effort, a fulcrum, and a load. You can construct a lever from cardboard cut-outs in the book, and then use it to try and fling Sloth and Sengi over the fence of their enclosure, usually with more success than our main characters. Read the rest

Take my video class on becoming a maker

Introduction to DIY: Becoming a Maker An Online Skillshare Class by Mark Frauenfelder

Skillshare is a terrific online learning community for creative people. It teaches you new skills through well-made videos with great production values. I've been using Skillshare to teach myself Adobe After Effects. All the videos feature people who are professionals in their field. I love this site.

I taught a couple of classes for Skillshare as part of its Month of Learning for January. One of my classes is about learning how to use the Arduino electronics prototyping platform and the other is about how to develop a maker mindset. You can use this link to sign up for my classes.

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