Pixar in a Box is a free online animation training curriculum developed as a joint venture by Pixar and the Khan Academy. The classes include effects, character modeling, rigging, sets and staging, and rendering, as well as a number of important topics that may not have occurred to you are part of the process. I am signing up with Khan Academy (mostly so I can save my progress and don’t have to wonder where I am on a given course) and checking out the wide range of free math, science, and computer programming online classes they have to offer, starting with the animation training. That isn’t all they have of course; history, art, economics, and many more topics are also available. But I only have so many hours a day that aren’t spent at work, so I have to choose which classes I take carefully. To give you an idea of what they have on offer, here is the Pixar class overview that they start the training with.

And you can learn how to do that in 20 minutes, by watching this excellent TED video by Josh Kaufman. If you are not already a major TED fan, you should check the project out. This is the way to help yourself become the best version of you that you can create; by learning how to learn, and grow, and develop. This particular lesson is only the tip of the iceberg.

The folks over at Academic Earth believe everyone deserves a world-class education, so they have put together a collection of free online courses from the top schools on the planet, including Harvard, MIT, and Stanford. Not content to stop there, they have also put together a wonderful little collection of short educational videos they refer to as Electives, designed to tweak your curiosity, engage your attention, and encourage you to seek out more information. The example I am embedding here is from a true literary classic, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, a book named for the temperature at which books burn. I will be ransacking this excellent site for months and years to come taking advantage of the resources freely on offer, and I urge you to do the same. Thanks to the folks at Worlds Without End for the heads up on this one.

Created by AcademicEarth.org

Coming up on Thursday the 28th at the Gunn Center for the Study of Science Fiction at Kansas University, Cory Doctorow will be doing a lecture entitled The Coming War on General Purpose Computing: Every single political issue will end up rehashing the stupid Internet copyright fight. I wish I was anywhere near there so I could attend and hear one of the most innovative and insightful thinkers of the last dozen years give this presentation. If you are nearby, don’t miss it; seating is free, but limited, so you want to get there early. If someone records it and puts in on TED or YouTube, I will post it here, which will at least be better than missing it entirely.

Doctorow Poster

In the meantime, here is a very related presentation he gave back in 2011 that should give you an idea of the subject matter. The Copyright and Intellectual Property questions are very complex, because the solutions to protect one group’s rights would often wipe out every other group’s rights, and what we need is a system that will protect everyone’s rights at once. There is a solution to be found, but not without a lot of work to find common ground and implement a best practices list that actually works for all of us. I appreciate the fact that Doctorow looks at the problem from lots of angles and is not shy about expressing his opinions about all of the components involved with the process.

This stuff is important; it deserves your attention and understanding. Yeah, it may take a bit of time and effort to comprehend but the rewards of getting it right will be amazing for the entire human race. Don’t let the future be determined without taking a moment to find out about the arguments and making your voice heard in favor of the aspects you consider worth fighting for.

Over the years, Disney has done some of the best educational work ever assembled, translating complex concepts about science and history into forms we can all easily understand. This is one of my all time favorites from that collection, a story about the history of space science, and how we came to understand how it works. Mind, Disney did nothing about resolving the scientific questions, but it sure explained them so we all understood, and gave us a fun little animation to watch while doing so. I like it a lot, and appreciate the education it has given so many, including me.