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Michael Milburn

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  • 6 reviews
  • 6 completed
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Summary: I enjoyed the class, but it's not quite what I expected. It's not really so much about the emergence of life, as it is a history of life at various stages in the earth's history, along w/ an out of place final quiz concerned a great deal about NASA's mission to Pluto? My background: I have casual familiarity w/ the topic. I read quite a bit of Stephen Jay Gould as I was growing up, and am generally interested, but I am not a scientist professionally. I just like learning and thinking about these things. Positives: Both Bruce Fouke and Carly Miller are good in the videos. As with any class where the science is still in question there may be some things in the lectures that are disagreeable/contestable (like naked RNA world hypothesis) and you'll see that mentioned in other reviews, but that didn't really bother me so much as it leads to good questions in my mind along w/ spurring me to learn more. Visit the discussion boards that accompany the class as I picked up quite a few good counterpoints/references to studies/other information there. I particularly enjoyed the videos w/ Carly Miller describing the morphological characteristics of fossils - such as hip bone shapes, skull shape features, teeth, etc - and how those features inform identification and infer biological characteristics. There was a quiz section on dinosaur tracks and the mathematical relationships to strides, height, creature speed that I found particularly interesting. Discussion of birds, and with flight evolving 3 separate times independently was good - showing the morphological differences. Negatives: If you're already familiar w/ the topic, much of the class will feel "surfacy." I consider myself having just casual interest and I enjoyed quite a bit of it, but I can imagine others who are wanting to learn in depth will desire quite a bit more detail than is here. (the discussion boards can be your friend in this regard). In the end, I guess I enjoyed the class, but wished there was more about "emergence" - that point when systems transitioned from chemical like reactions into something more life-like. As with anything, what we see is probably through the lens that we bring to the class, but I think it strengthens my view that ecological space is needed for new organisms to evolve. Following extinction events we rarely see the same type of animals evolve again (success of mammals probably doesn't happen without extinction of dinosaurs) - but it does seem to take a catastrophe/extinction event to often open up space for nature to do some radical new experimenting. This observation informs views on other evolving systems - like economic systems - and the dynamics of corporations within those economies.
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I was reading 3 of Dan Ariely's books as I was taking the class, and the course seemed to follow the books pretty closely. Much of what is covered is based in his personal research projects and papers. My main interest in signing up was centered around irrationality in group behaviors (like financial bubbles), but the class doesn't really address that. It's much more about individual irrationality - and reveals many facets of the skewed nature of our decision making process. It'll make you keenly aware of how marketers manipulate you to get you buy things. The primary difference in this course than others I've taken is this class has heavy emphasis on reading academic papers. What I liked: Dan and his staff put alot of effort into the class, lectures, and even provided weekly video updates responding to class questions. The lectures were uniformly interesting, thoughtful, and thought provoking. I might even say entertaining. What did I disliked: Probably I burned out reading some of the academic papers. This isn't my field of study, and the some of the longer papers were a bit of slog to read through, for what I perceived as bit less bang for the buck. There was a path "for distinction" that I did not pursue that involved taking information from the research papers presented, and building additional experiments to further research into the topic area (peer reviewed). Again, I didn't do the "distinction" path, but it is available if you're more into the research process side of the topic. Overall - this is a very well done course if you're interested in gaining understanding behind irrational aspects of human behavior and thinking. Highly recommended.
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I entered the class with little background in global energy, and was interested as a survey class for investing purposes primarily (especially natural gas in US). There's a couple weeks of the lectures that are perfect for helping frame global energy flows and markets. For those weeks alone it met my expectations. There are quizzes each week and two short paper submissions that are peer reviewed. I learned a considerable amount simply researching sources for the 2 paper submissions. I did my short papers on coal demand, and rooftop solar, but other options are available on topics if those are uninteresting to you. What I liked: The survey/overview nature, particularly the section on BP global energy survey, and tradeoffs between coal, gas, nuclear, oil, and alternatives. Reserves, consumption, production. Also the geographic of energy sources informs geo-political events. What I didnt like: Weekly topics were a bit uneven in terms of my interest level. Sometimes I felt like I was just googling to find reliable data sources because of the size of the subject matter.
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I've written and recorded songs since I was young - starting on my Tascam cassette 4-track up through digital on PC now. I'm not new to songwriting - but I had not had any formal songwriting training. The Good: I found the video lectures and weekly exercises/assignments to be very good. I feel Pat's lectures helped me alot with storytelling - phrasing - and prosody. The content of the video lectures is excellent - and the process of crafting songs around those concepts is worth the effort. I wrote 5 songs during the class - and I liked 4 of them. I've written lots of songs - so for me to say I got 4 good songs out of it is an endorsement. And they're "different" songs than I would have otherwise written. The class did change how I approached lyrics/storytelling/phrasing, and it's good to see my songwriting grow. Note: This is NOT a music class. This is a lyrics/storytelling class. For the assignments you can record the songs with as little or much production as you like - and most people submitted pretty minimal recording - so don't let that aspect deter you. The Bad: While the class and content is excellent, Peer review in my opinion was of low value - primarily imho because if the peers I reviewed are any indication - there's alot of folks grading my stuff that don't have much idea what they're doing - at least based on the work I saw. The lack of confidence in peer reviews taints all of the reviews. Sure - there's some feedback to take from it, but it's of limited value since much of it is thoughtless, short, and some even seems a bit spiteful - especially when you know your stuff is better (often considerably better) than most of what you're grading in peer review. Now - that doesn't mean the class isn't worth taking - I'd encourage you to take it if you're interested in songwriting - but just be prepared to be frustrated with peer reviews. Technical stuff: I was already familiar with digital recording software - I used Sony Acid but any DAW would work fine - and I already had mics and preamps and drum loops to work with - so when it came to recording the songs I didn't have to learn the software and production - so the recording part took time, but it wasn't new. I felt good that if I could write the song I could get it recorded OK. The class provides some musical loops folks can work with if you don't play your own instruments. Musical level: I've played guitar for about 30 yrs. My skill level is not pro - but I'd say I have semi-pro level. I can play in a band setting and hold my own, but I do have to practice. I'm not the guy who can learn a set in a night or two.
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Summary - a good interactive way to learn the basics of python. This is a collection of introductory exercises in the most basic way possible - so if you need something from the ground floor it's a good starter course. You'll progress to some more advanced ideas - but the basics are there too. Most of the exercises are done in small bite-sized chunks which is good for learning. The main drawback to this approach is it's bite-sized nature though - most of the exercises are small so you really have to pursue your own projects to use the concepts on a larger scale. That's not a bad thing - but just something to be aware of. Learning the concept can be different that having it interact with a bigger chunk of code. I took the coursera Python course from Rice University after taking the codecademy exercises and felt well prepared and feel the two could be used in conjunction with each other in that order.
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I had a great time in this class and learned a lot. I can't complement this class and the instructors enough. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. I had learned basics of python prior to taking this class - mainly from codecademy's python exercises and I'd worked on a few of my own projects. I found this class excellent for conveying the "how" and "more proper" structures and ideas of how to put code to use to build games in a usable way. Previously I was hacking stuff together that would run and could do some interesting things - but it was a mess of code. This class in particular helped me understand object oriented programming and proper use of classes. One caveat: If you're new to programming make sure you are self-motivated as the difficulty can ramp up quickly. I found the blackjack project very challenging - that was the first project where we were exposed to object oriented programming and it was a bear to understand imho. Also: while many in the class were able to get by in maybe 3-6 hrs of programming on weekly mini-projects - I was not one of those. I easily spent 10+hrs on most weeks and 20-40hrs on the later projects - although some of that time was me polishing up and adding onto the programs. I actually wish the class went on for several more weeks with some additional projects because I found the structure and developmental processes utilized beneficial in clarifying my thinking about how to code. Seeing the process of how to think about the code makes a difference. I'm going to go on and do some of my own projects with python and probably pygame now - but I gotta admit I think I'll miss simplegui that is used in the class quite a bit.