8 Harvard University courses you can take right now, for free

An Ivy League education without the Ivy League price tag. 

A recent graduate, wondering how he can easily continue his education at home for free.
A recent graduate, wondering how he can easily continue his education at home for free.

We recently published an article outlining how you can take Yale University courses for free. Given the response to that article, we have decided to show you more classes that you can access at no cost. Just like last time, a certificate of completion is available for all of these classes for a fee, if you want to prove that you have bettered yourself this way. 

So, here are 8 Harvard University courses you can take right now, for free.

Introduction to Computer Science
Knowing how to code is a vital skill in in today’s digital world. This entry level course teaches the basics of computational thinking, programming problem solving, data structures, and web development, among other things. It will leave the learner able to code in several languages including C, Python, and Java.

The class is self-paced, and consists of a time investment of 10-20 hours to finish nine problem sets and a final project, which is done online. This class will help you learn several of the five programming languages that Bjarne Stroustrup, inventor of C++, says you should learn in his Big Think interview.


 

The Architectural Imagination
Art and science are often viewed in opposition to one another, but in the field of architecture they meet in fantastic and beautiful ways. In this class, students will learn both the technical and cultural aspects of architecture, and gain a better understanding of how the buildings we inhabit relate to history, values, and pragmatic concerns.

The class is self-paced and consists of 3-5 hours of work over 10 weeks.



Super-Earths and Life
What life lies beyond our small world? Thirty years ago we only knew about nine planets; today we know of thousands orbiting nearby stars. In this course, students will learn about exoplanets, which ones might be the best candidates for harboring life, and why those planets are of the greatest interest. Combining concepts in astronomy and biology which have rarely been put together before, the class is an excellent introduction to one of the most interesting eras in astrobiology; today.

This class is self-paced and is offered over six weeks of 3-5 hours investment. What might life on those exoplanets look like? Jonathan Losos, also of Harvard, explains in his Big Think interview. 

 

Justice
What is the right thing to do in a given situation? Would you still act justly if you could get away with acting horribly? These are some of the oldest and most important questions in philosophy. In this class, students will learn differing perspectives of justice from thinkers like Aristotle, John Locke, Immanuel Kant, John Stuart Mill, and John Rawls. The class is taught in English, but subtitles are available in Chinese, German, Portuguese, and Spanish.

It requires a time commitment of 2-4 hours a week for 12 weeks.


Leaders of Learning
How do you learn? Why do you learn? Can you name three people who would share your answers? In this class, students will identify their own style of learning and find out how that style fits into the ever-changing landscape of education. Later lectures focus on how to apply that knowledge to leadership, organizational structure, and the future of learning.

This course is self-paced, and is taken for 2-4 hours per week for six weeks.


Using Python for Research
Do you want to learn to code, and then learn how to actually use it? In this course, students will review the basics of the Python coding language and then learn how to apply that knowledge to research projects by means of tools such as NumPy and SciPy. This class is an intermediate level course, and a basic understanding of the Python language is ideal before beginning.

This course is self-paced, and is taken for 4-8 hours a week for four weeks.

American Government
The federal government of the United States can seem like a far off and alien system, one which acts in strange ways; but it is a powerful force in the life of every American. To not understand how it works, and your place in it as a citizen and voter, is to be an irresponsible citizen. This course introduces students to the function, history, institutions, and inner workings of American government. No previous study or understanding of American politics is required, making the course ideal for non-American students who want to understand what exactly is going on there.

This course is self-paced and is taken for 3 hours per week for 16 weeks. It is a great start on issues that NYU law professor Kenji Yoshino finds can be remarkably difficult to interpret:

 

Humanitarian Response to Conflict and Disaster
We live in a world with staggering humanitarian crises, and responses to them that are often lacking. In this class, students will ask questions on how to deal with humanitarian disasters through the case studies of Zaire, Syria, The Balkans, and elsewhere. The history of humanitarian responses, and the frameworks that those responses past and present operate in, will be covered as well, and students will be challenged to ask if they remain sufficient.

This course lasts five weeks and requires 3-4 hours of time investment per week.

The Opioid Crisis in America
One of the greatest challenges facing the United States today is the spike in opioid addiction. In this course, medical experts explain the causes of the crisis, the science of getting hooked, the realities of addiction, treatment options, and more. The class is free, and currently offers credit for SHRM-CP.

This course requires a 1-2-hour commitment per week, for seven weeks. 

Many other great courses are available if these subjects aren't quite what you're looking for. They're free, they're great, and you're looking at them right now: what are you waiting for?



A landslide is imminent and so is its tsunami

An open letter predicts that a massive wall of rock is about to plunge into Barry Arm Fjord in Alaska.

Image source: Christian Zimmerman/USGS/Big Think
Surprising Science
  • A remote area visited by tourists and cruises, and home to fishing villages, is about to be visited by a devastating tsunami.
  • A wall of rock exposed by a receding glacier is about crash into the waters below.
  • Glaciers hold such areas together — and when they're gone, bad stuff can be left behind.

The Barry Glacier gives its name to Alaska's Barry Arm Fjord, and a new open letter forecasts trouble ahead.

Thanks to global warming, the glacier has been retreating, so far removing two-thirds of its support for a steep mile-long slope, or scarp, containing perhaps 500 million cubic meters of material. (Think the Hoover Dam times several hundred.) The slope has been moving slowly since 1957, but scientists say it's become an avalanche waiting to happen, maybe within the next year, and likely within 20. When it does come crashing down into the fjord, it could set in motion a frightening tsunami overwhelming the fjord's normally peaceful waters .

"It could happen anytime, but the risk just goes way up as this glacier recedes," says hydrologist Anna Liljedahl of Woods Hole, one of the signatories to the letter.

The Barry Arm Fjord

Camping on the fjord's Black Sand Beach

Image source: Matt Zimmerman

The Barry Arm Fjord is a stretch of water between the Harriman Fjord and the Port Wills Fjord, located at the northwest corner of the well-known Prince William Sound. It's a beautiful area, home to a few hundred people supporting the local fishing industry, and it's also a popular destination for tourists — its Black Sand Beach is one of Alaska's most scenic — and cruise ships.

Not Alaska’s first watery rodeo, but likely the biggest

Image source: whrc.org

There have been at least two similar events in the state's recent history, though not on such a massive scale. On July 9, 1958, an earthquake nearby caused 40 million cubic yards of rock to suddenly slide 2,000 feet down into Lituya Bay, producing a tsunami whose peak waves reportedly reached 1,720 feet in height. By the time the wall of water reached the mouth of the bay, it was still 75 feet high. At Taan Fjord in 2015, a landslide caused a tsunami that crested at 600 feet. Both of these events thankfully occurred in sparsely populated areas, so few fatalities occurred.

The Barry Arm event will be larger than either of these by far.

"This is an enormous slope — the mass that could fail weighs over a billion tonnes," said geologist Dave Petley, speaking to Earther. "The internal structure of that rock mass, which will determine whether it collapses, is very complex. At the moment we don't know enough about it to be able to forecast its future behavior."

Outside of Alaska, on the west coast of Greenland, a landslide-produced tsunami towered 300 feet high, obliterating a fishing village in its path.

What the letter predicts for Barry Arm Fjord

Moving slowly at first...

Image source: whrc.org

"The effects would be especially severe near where the landslide enters the water at the head of Barry Arm. Additionally, areas of shallow water, or low-lying land near the shore, would be in danger even further from the source. A minor failure may not produce significant impacts beyond the inner parts of the fiord, while a complete failure could be destructive throughout Barry Arm, Harriman Fiord, and parts of Port Wells. Our initial results show complex impacts further from the landslide than Barry Arm, with over 30 foot waves in some distant bays, including Whittier."

The discovery of the impeding landslide began with an observation by the sister of geologist Hig Higman of Ground Truth, an organization in Seldovia, Alaska. Artist Valisa Higman was vacationing in the area and sent her brother some photos of worrying fractures she noticed in the slope, taken while she was on a boat cruising the fjord.

Higman confirmed his sister's hunch via available satellite imagery and, digging deeper, found that between 2009 and 2015 the slope had moved 600 feet downhill, leaving a prominent scar.

Ohio State's Chunli Dai unearthed a connection between the movement and the receding of the Barry Glacier. Comparison of the Barry Arm slope with other similar areas, combined with computer modeling of the possible resulting tsunamis, led to the publication of the group's letter.

While the full group of signatories from 14 organizations and institutions has only been working on the situation for a month, the implications were immediately clear. The signers include experts from Ohio State University, the University of Southern California, and the Anchorage and Fairbanks campuses of the University of Alaska.

Once informed of the open letter's contents, the Alaska's Department of Natural Resources immediately released a warning that "an increasingly likely landslide could generate a wave with devastating effects on fishermen and recreationalists."

How do you prepare for something like this?

Image source: whrc.org

The obvious question is what can be done to prepare for the landslide and tsunami? For one thing, there's more to understand about the upcoming event, and the researchers lay out their plan in the letter:

"To inform and refine hazard mitigation efforts, we would like to pursue several lines of investigation: Detect changes in the slope that might forewarn of a landslide, better understand what could trigger a landslide, and refine tsunami model projections. By mapping the landslide and nearby terrain, both above and below sea level, we can more accurately determine the basic physical dimensions of the landslide. This can be paired with GPS and seismic measurements made over time to see how the slope responds to changes in the glacier and to events like rainstorms and earthquakes. Field and satellite data can support near-real time hazard monitoring, while computer models of landslide and tsunami scenarios can help identify specific places that are most at risk."

In the letter, the authors reached out to those living in and visiting the area, asking, "What specific questions are most important to you?" and "What could be done to reduce the danger to people who want to visit or work in Barry Arm?" They also invited locals to let them know about any changes, including even small rock-falls and landslides.

Harvard study finds perfect blend of fruits and vegetables to lower risk of death

Eating veggies is good for you. Now we can stop debating how much we should eat.

Credit: Pixabay
Surprising Science
  • A massive new study confirms that five servings of fruit and veggies a day can lower the risk of death.
  • The maximum benefit is found at two servings of fruit and three of veggies—anything more offers no extra benefit according to the researchers.
  • Not all fruits and veggies are equal. Leafy greens are better for you than starchy corn and potatoes.
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Cephalopod aces 'marshmallow test' designed for eager children

The famous cognition test was reworked for cuttlefish. They did better than expected.

The common cuttlefish

Credit: Hans Hillewaert via Wikicommons
Surprising Science
  • Scientists recently ran the Stanford marshmallow experiment on cuttlefish and found they were pretty good at it.
  • The test subjects could wait up to two minutes for a better tasting treat.
  • The study suggests cuttlefish are smarter than you think but isn't the final word on how bright they are.
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If we do find alien life, what kind will it be?

Three lines of evidence point to the idea of complex, multicellular alien life being a wild goose chase. But are we clever enough to know?

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