Engineering

The Science of Flight—Breaking the Sound Barrier and Beyond

September 15, 2017

During and just after World War II, the quest for ever faster fighter planes reached an apparent natural barrier—the speed of sound. Yet, on approaching this limit, aircraft became unstable and uncontrollable. In this full lecture, discover how a new approach to aircraft design solved the problem of compressibility and shock waves in this transonic region, paving the way for supersonic flight and paved the way to breaking the sound barrier. […]

Photo of a red, white, and blue conestoga wagon
American History

The Conestoga Wagon: The Road Westward

September 6, 2017

Conestoga wagons originated in the mid-1700s, near Lancaster, Pennsylvania and the Conestoga River. They were used to carry people and goods westward and ultimately paved the way for modern highways like U.S. Route 40. […]

Astronauts from the Project Mercury missions
American History

Project Mercury, a Chimp, and the Moon: The Cold War in Space

August 31, 2017

On October 4, 1957, the Soviets launched Sputnik I putting pressure on the United States space program as the cold war played out in space. The Mercury Seven was a group of test pilots recruited as the first American astronauts. Before launching a human into space, NASA successfully sent Ham, a chimpanzee, into orbit and assured his safe return. NASA and the United States were now ready to grow their space program to the moon and beyond. […]

An artistic rendering of a solar eclipse
Astronomy

Eclipse Glasses Not Required

August 21, 2017

The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory has created a free Smithsonian Eclipse app, allowing users to watch a live NASA stream of the eclipse as it moves across the country. […]

Hobby and Lifestyle

Italy Travel Tips: 5 Roman Sites Not To Miss

June 20, 2017

Ever walked through a Roman sewer? Have you found the source of light that illuminates a stained glass window? In The Guide to Essential Italy, the Great Courses and Smithsonian Journeys take you on a rich and diverse tour that explores the crown jewels of Italian civilization. These 5 Italy travel tips are just the beginning of what this course offers. […]

image of Benjamin Franklin's walking stick
American History

Symbol of Liberty: Benjamin Franklin’s Walking Stick

June 19, 2017

Benjamin Franklin, one of America’s Founding Fathers, cherished his walking stick. This relatively simple object, adorned with a liberty fur cap at the top, conveys a powerful message about America’s national character at its inception and reveals the success of Franklin’s diplomatic efforts with France during Revolutionary times. […]

American History

Who Helped Fund America? — The History of Robert Morris

June 12, 2017

Money issues abounded in the new United States. Why was the abundance of land (and lack of hard coin) such a problem? What compelled states to print so much of their own unsecure paper money? how did Robert Morris attempt to restore the links between commerce, agriculture, and government finances? […]

Image of The Hope Diamond
American History

The Curse of The Hope Diamond

March 12, 2017

There had been, over the years—even decades—numerous stories about how the Hope Diamond carried an ancient curse. Several commentators questioned the wisdom of accepting the diamond. If the Smithsonian was the national museum of the United States and it acquired the Hope Diamond, then the country would own it. Would the American people then be cursed? […]

Beginner Japanese language learner writing Hello word in Japanese kanji characters
Communication

The Japanese Language: Context Is Everything

February 14, 2017

Japanese language is highly contextual. It’s hard to know how to say something in Japanese unless you know the details of the social context. And that reflects a long-standing Japanese concern with order, with hierarchy, and with consensus. […]

statue of liberty
American History

Symbols of Freedom: The Statue of Liberty

February 14, 2017

The Statue of Liberty is a symbol of freedom, recognized around the world, and it heralded this wave of immigration that gave America a much more diverse face, though it didn’t start out that way, or with that purpose in mind. […]