1. Computing

Websites That Will Make You Smarter

Useful Knowledge, Served Up with 21st Century Pizzaz

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Forget formal schooling for 30 minutes. Here are outstanding examples of how a simple half-hour of web reading can increase your ability to understand and influence the world around you. Want to get smarter at understanding taxes or the economy? Want to better understand your own risk fears or why your teenager is so defiant? Want to improve your leadership ability at the office? Here are some free websites that are guaranteed to improve your brain power.

1. RSA Animate: Hand-Illustrated Presentations

RSA Animate: Hand-Illustrated Videos
RSA Animate
People who love TED.com also love RSA Animate. The RSA is a non-profit society that seeks to innovate solutions to modern social problems: hunger, social care, crime, political oppression, the environment, education, social justice. The RSA delivers many of their thought-provoking messages (often from TED speakers) through the novel means of hand-drawn illustrations. The RSA Drive animation is one of my personal favorites, along with dozens of other thought-provoking videos.

2. Inc.com

Inc.com
Inc.com
Inc.com (named for 'incorporation) is an intelligent and inspirational resource for the business world. Focused on modern theories of business growth and organizational development, Inc.com has a deep library of modern blogging and thought-leader insights. How great leaders inspire others, how to create a customer-centered work culture, how to avoid the pitfalls of starting your own company, why top performers fail in the modern business world: the insights and advice at Inc.com are modern and profound. If you are a manager, team leader, executive, or hopeful business owner, you must visit this site.

3. Discover Magazine

Discover Magazine
Discover Magazine
If anyone can make science sexy, it is Discover Magazine. Somewhat like Scientific American, Discover seeks to bring science to the world. Discover is special, however, because it focuses on making science clear *and* motivating. Why did homo sapiens survive while other species died out? How do you dismantle a nuclear warhead? Why is autism on the rise? Discover is not a non-profit company, but its product definitely makes its customers smarter. This site is highly recommended to all thinking people. p.s. Discover Magazine is not the same organization as the Discovery Channel Company.

4. Brain Pickings

Brain Pickings is a discovery engine for 'interestingness and curiosity quenchers'. Brainpickings.org is a treasure chest of anthropology, technology, art, history, psychology, politics, and more. The blog itself may seem a bit high-brow when you first visit, but definitely browse for a good 10 minutes. Pay particular note to the 'Beatles photographs', 'NASA and Moby' and 'Freud Myth' blog entries.

5. HowStuffWorks

HowStuffWorks.com
HowStuffWorks.com
Inquisitive minds absolutely love HowStuffWorks.com! This site is a division of the Discovery Channel Company, and the high quality production shows in every video here. See how tornadoes work, how diesel engines run, how boxers do mitt practice, how sharks attack, how serial killers get caught. Imagine Khan Academy, but with a massive budget. This is outstanding video learning for the whole family.

6. TED: Inspirational Ideas Worth Spreading

TED: Ideas Worth Spreading
TED.com
'Technology, Entertainment, Design' was the original acronym meaning for TED. But over the years, this remarkable website has grown to cover nearly every contemporary topic about humanity: racism, education, economic prosperity, business and management theory, capitalism vs. communism, modern technology, modern tech culture, the origins of the universe. If you consider yourself a thinking person who wants to learn a little more about the world you live in, you absolutely must visit TED.com.

7. KhanAcademy.org

KhanAcademy.org
KhanAcademy.org
As a philanthropic non-profit group, the Khan Academy seeks to provide world-class education to the world for free. The knowledge here is intended for every kind of person: teacher, student, parent, employed professional, trades worker... the learning videos are very valuable to anyone seeking to learn. Most any scholastic topic is available at Khan, or is in the process of being made available. You can even volunteer to help translate or dub the videos into other languages. Khan Academy is another example of why the Internet is so valuable as a democratic form of free publishing.

8. Project Gutenburg

Project Gutenberg
Project Gutenberg
It started in 1971 when Michael Hart digitized the US Declaration of Independence for free sharing. His team then set a goal to make the 10,000 most-consulted books freely available to the world. Until optical character recognition came about in the late 80's, Michael's volunteer team entered all these books in by hand. Now: 38,000 free books are available at Project Gutenberg's website. Most of these books are classics (no licensing issues), and are some splendid reads: Bram Stoker's Dracula, the complete works of Shakespeare, Sir Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, Melville's Moby Dick, Hugo's Les Miserables, Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan and John Carter series, the complete works of Edgar Allen Poe. If you have a tablet or e-reader, you MUST visit Project Gutenberg and download some of these classic books!

9. Merriam-Webster

Merriam Webster online
Merriam Webster online
Merriam-Webster is far more than an online dictionary and thesaurus. M-W.com is also an English-Spanish translator, a medical jargon quick reference, an encyclopedia, a digital mentor in improving your vocabulary, a coach in using modern jargon and slang, and a trend analyzer of how people are speaking English in the modern world. Plus: there are some really engaging word games and curiosity quizzes for a daily injection of brain stimuli. Definitely: this site is much more than a simple dictionary.

10. BBC Science: Human Body and Mind

BBC Science
BBC Science
The British Broadcasting Corporation has always had a reputation of credibility and objectivity. With a presentation that is somewhat less flashy than American-based science sites, the BBC Science site delivers very motivating and highly engaging articles on nature, the hard sciences, and the human body and mind. How do you cope with stress? Can we have electricity without wires? What will the Kepler space telescope find? How does your mind process morality? What is your brain sex? How musical are you?

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