The Cassiopeia Project
November 6, 2010 2:09 AM   Subscribe

The Cassiopeia Project is quietly producing dozens of high-quality science videos and making them freely available online.

Funded by a mysterious retired physicist to address science illiteracy in the US, the courses are professionally produced and available in Windows Media or Quicktime format. There's even an accompanying scifi novel, CounterClockWise, intended to generate interest in many of the subjects covered.

Perhaps more conveniently, the 100+ videos are available on the project's YouTube channel and via iTunes.
posted by knave (21 comments total) 65 users marked this as a favorite

Very cool! Thanks for the heads up. I'm glad to see people funding things like this. It gives me a tiny bit of hope for the US.
posted by InsertNiftyNameHere at 4:47 AM on November 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

To heck with the quantum mechanics. If they can make basic chemistry comprehensible, my hat's off to them.
posted by Faze at 5:26 AM on November 6, 2010

Those are so cool! Thank you knave

For those particularly interested in science videos like these,
Previously, somewhat previouslier, previouslier, even previouslier, yet more previouslier, and previousliest.
posted by Blasdelb at 5:32 AM on November 6, 2010 [8 favorites]

There's a global warming denial video in general science section.
posted by rainy at 7:48 AM on November 6, 2010 [3 favorites]

"There's a global warming denial video in general science section."

ewww... and its a particularly nasty one too
posted by Blasdelb at 8:18 AM on November 6, 2010

All the other videos seem to be *really* good, both in production values and content. Odd.
posted by rainy at 9:03 AM on November 6, 2010

If you want entertaining and instructive science videos, watching some Demonstrations in Physics by Julius Sumner Miller.
posted by neuron at 9:15 AM on November 6, 2010 [3 favorites]

I must have meant "be watching".
posted by neuron at 9:16 AM on November 6, 2010

There's a global warming denial video in general science section.

Hmmm... I was prepared to like this site until you mentioned that. It starts to make the whole site seem a bit astroturfy, like a way to smuggle this odious political meme. Here is this authoritative voice with computer graphics explaining basic science clearly in twenty different subjects. By sneaking this bit of controversial political thought in with all this science, read by the same slow-speaking voice and accompanied by the same "BZOWM" sound effects, they help to further muddy the waters between the two.

It also gives us reason to suspect the motives of that "mysterious retired physicist."
posted by JHarris at 10:37 AM on November 6, 2010 [3 favorites]

shhhhhhhhh, science
posted by beepbeepboopboop at 10:51 AM on November 6, 2010

There's a global warming denial video in general science section.

Wow, I didn't see that before posting. It's disappointing to see, but I've seen other intelligent people come down on the side of skepticism as well. I doubt it's a conspiracy to sneak it in among good science content, it's probably just an unfortunate choice on the part of the site's creators. At least the series on evolution is awesome.
posted by knave at 11:32 AM on November 6, 2010

Some discussion of the anti-global warming video.
posted by lukemeister at 12:18 PM on November 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

It's disappointing to see, but I've seen other intelligent people come down on the side of skepticism as well.

Let's be careful with our terms here. "Skepticism," in general, is an admirable quality to have. There is a magazine called "Skeptic," after all, that seems to be pretty good. The word was originally used in favor of real science, but has been claimed by some of the sillier communities out there. When I hear some folk on Coast To Coast AM using it to describe themselves uncritically, I can't help but think it has become a bit debased.

What climate change deniers have is not skepticism. What they possess is willful ignorance. When the climate change video opens off saying "The opinion count stands at 31,000 to 52" in a condescending tone of voice, they could only be referring, respectively, to scientists supporting climate change vs. scientists denying. But no, it turns out that the 31,000 are somehow the ones denying global warming.

These kinds of introductory videos work best when they confine themselves with things that are generally accepted. If one goes to, say, the video on electron shells and says to every point "that's obviously bunk, atoms are composed of fairies that carry electrical charge," well, what has that one learned? This sort of instruction only works if the material delivered is utterly beyond question, completely uncontroversial. It is not a medium that lends itself to checking resources, and it is entirely inappropriate for denying climate change. J. Random Screwball might say that it is also unsuited to unquestionably accepting climate change, and Mr. Screwball might have a point. The case for allowing a climate change accepting video is much stronger than one against, but it would probably be best, in that case, just to include neither. Otherwise it casts the veracity of the entire site into doubt.

I note that, of all the videos on the site, this is the only one with references, but that the references aren't given in text form but as another video*, with the same obnoxious editing, sound effects and camera pans GOD I LOATHE THOSE and that it is included not in a climatology section but in General Science. I'd really like to be able to dismiss this video as some of the others on the site seem pretty good, but it is hard to escape the conclusion that it was included as a trojan horse.

*Just want to note how jarring it is that the videos are so slickly produced, and yet what does the references video begin with but a slow pull-back from a screen capture of a web page headlined in Comic Sans that looks like it was designed in 1996.
posted by JHarris at 12:19 PM on November 6, 2010 [4 favorites]

Well, there's a Sky King shout-out in ch 2 of Relativity.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 12:20 PM on November 6, 2010

lukemeister: That thread makes for really interesting reading. Thanks!
posted by JHarris at 12:37 PM on November 6, 2010

Nice posting, I watched a few of the videos, and was constantly kinda freaked out by the production quality and strange visual choices made by the director / production company. I enjoyed the lessons despite the freaky production.

All of the material is free (with no restrictions of copyright etc) to whom ever wants to use them, the videos could be stripped of the vocals and reproduced by someone with a visual style that kids would actually watch (not so freaky and lame). Some of the production graphics are useful and not too bad. The sell the videos to schools to recoup the cost of a good production minus the development cost and time.

I did not watch the global warming video, but it fits with the freaky production visual choices;
ie: avatar clothing, accent of the woman character, avatar design and quality, cheap virtual images on and on...
posted by analogtom at 1:48 PM on November 6, 2010

There's just a very sharp contrast between that one video and the rest. Most of them cover accepted scientific facts. There are only two "polemic" videos, one is a multi-part, extremely through evolution section, while GW video is much shorter and skimpier on details. One would expect to see the opposite - when you make a far-out claim, you want to show extraordinary evidence and lots of it. The GW video is also the only video that sounds combative - there's a mention of some bad, fuzzy science that resulted in GW claims, there's a judge with a gavel (!) declaring against GW. There's the argument that CO2 is really great for the forest and animals, with a clip of a bunny munching on grass - you really go away feeling that if anything, we should be pumping more of the stuff in the atmosphere if we know what's good for us.

Basically, it sticks out like a sore thumb. Something's fishy here.
posted by rainy at 1:53 PM on November 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

doh: through/thorough
posted by rainy at 1:54 PM on November 6, 2010

I watched the "Complexity" one - first part - and it was terrible.
posted by odinsdream at 5:17 PM on November 6, 2010

Maybe it's a test. Certainly seems scientifically illiterate to me.
posted by wobh at 5:26 PM on November 6, 2010

I watched the glycolysis one and wish they'd pronounce hexokinase appropriately.
posted by oonh at 7:41 PM on November 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

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