Collaborative communities

My thanks to Rob Reynolds and the NextThought team for his series on “The Power of Connections.” Here’s an excerpt from an interview with me on open access and “collaborative communities.” For more, see Rob’s Power of Connections blog.

Kerry Magruder and Rob Reynolds – Open Access from NextThought on Vimeo.

Kerry Magruder and Rob Reynolds discuss open access to learning materials

Posted in Education | 2 Comments

Tower of Pisa on Fox morning news

The Tower of Pisa project of the OU College of Engineering was featured last Friday, July 24, for the Fox News 25 morning show, broadcast live from the lobby of Bizzell Memorial Library. Four brief reports featured footage of the Tower under construction, as well as interviews with various College of Engineering students and faculty (including Chris Ramseyer and Theresa Marks); Chelsea Julian (Galileo’s World Project Manager); and myself.

Watch the four reports on the Fox25 website.

For updates on the Galileo’s World exhibition at OU, follow

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Song of Falling Leaves

by Susanna Joy Magruder

Listen to the song of falling leaves.
Observe with a hastening breath. for
Before the hour of their demise
Their faces shine with a burning sun;
Many jewels across the tumbling wind.
From a sulfur glazed fire,
To the fur of a brown-backed mouse.
Watch the hair of the trees, spiraling down,
To land in a pond with shining grace,
With hardly a ripple from where they touched,
To expose this meeting of untold life

Posted in Art-Music-Lit, Family | Tagged | Leave a comment

Watch not ESPN

Football connects across generations.

When they were young, my daughters and I used to enjoy gathering together precisely at 8 pm on Monday nights in time to belt out “Are you ready for some football?” together with Hank Williams, Jr. Then, as we watched together on the couch, I would try to point out the basic aspects of the game and, over the years, they developed an intelligent sense of what was going on.

We have also enjoyed the mega-spectacle of Sooners home games in Norman, filled with energy and excitement. Just as memorably, Dad used to take me to Bulldog games growing up. Each of my daughters have also enjoyed Bulldog games with him in the same small college stadium. Hannah performed the national anthem in sign language before homecoming one year. Mmmm, nothing is quite as nice as hot chocolate and hot dogs to cut the chill, as the band plays and the Bulldogs move the football down the field.

Remarkably, so far as I can remember, my father and I have never missed watching football games together on New Years Day. Last year’s Sugar Bowl was so compelling that we had standing room only in Mother and Dad’s living room as the family gathered together. Even those of us who had seats were seldom using them, but rather yelling and shouting as the Sooners pulled out an upset for the ages over the super heavily favored Alabama squad. Indeed, I later watched the game over again, downloaded in HD from iTunes, at least 2 additional times during the past year.

But we are not watching football tonight. Despite our love of football, we are not day-in day-out sports fans, and therefore we are shut out of watching the first ever College Football Playoff Championship game this year. It is broadcast only on cable, while we receive our TV with a digital antenna in the attic that pulls down local stations and PBS in HD onto our iMac using eyeTV.

To invest in the hundreds of cable channels would not make financial sense for us, as we watch TV mainly for local weather and special live broadcast events. We select movies and television shows via Netflix (generally), iTunes (when HD offers added value), and youTube (it’s easy to spend an entire evening enjoying the Piano Guys or Studio C).

Tonight is the end of an era, the era of casual family football. The cable-only broadcast of tonight’s game is harmful for the future of the sport. From now on, families who are not sports junkies will no longer enjoy together in their own homes the end-of-season football games.

How long can football afford to sell its soul to cable providers? Cable providers will not unbundle channels like ESPN, and ESPN will not unbundle high-draw events such as tonight’s game. We would gladly purchase it through ESPN online or on our iPads, but it is unavailable from the ESPN website, even as pay-per-view. Nor does the Watch ESPN app provide an answer for us; through it, the game is available only to those who already subscribe to a cable provider. If we were sports junkies, we could subscribe to cable and receive all of the ESPN and other sports channels to our hearts content. But we only want to watch occasional or special games, as a family, not to have sports dominate our lives, nor to clutter our evenings with cable channels that we will never use.

With the playoff comes a schedule extended well into the new year. If the championship game were still broadcast over the holidays, we would gather at my parents’ home, for they have cable. But this is January 12, and they are more than 500 miles away.

But never mind. The girls are up to something in the other room. They won’t miss the game. They won’t remember the first college football playoff year. They will not find college football filled with vivid memories of the underdog Ducks and Buckeyes, who were never supposed to make it this far. For my family, tonight’s cable-only broadcast means good-bye, college football excitement. I think they’ve found a puzzle to work on; wonder if it might be a picture of a Wyoming landscape we might visit later this year…

Watch Not ESPN

Football once connected families across generations. Due to cable bundling of the most important college game of the year, now it does so no longer.

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Peace 1914-2014

McCutcheon TrenchesIn Advent we are stirred to contemplate the mystery of the Incarnation in light of hope, peace, joy and love. This year, as we mark the centenary of the first world war, let us take hope by reflecting upon the elusive but inspiring peace experienced among many soldiers along the front lines on Christmas Day, 1914.

“My name is Francis Tollivar, in Liverpool I dwell…” So sings John McCutcheon in “Christmas in the Trenches,” his classic folk song about the Christmas truce of World War I . The song was released on McCutcheon’s Winter Solstice CD, one of our all-time top-ten Christmas albums featuring McCutcheon’s enduring songwriting and masterful hammered dulcimer arrangements. A few years ago, it inspired a storybook illustrated by Henri Sorensen.

This year, the story of the Christmas truce has even inspired a chocolate company:

Remarkably, this high-production quality video was released as a Christmas ad. The blue-wrapped chocolate bar featured in the film is being offered for sale this season at Sainsbury’s stores in England, with 100% of proceeds going to the Royal British Legion, to benefit armed forces families, past and present. Far from trivializing the nature of war, the video expresses the longing for peace in every human heart, the validation of which we celebrate in Advent. If I lived in England, I would be buying a lot of these, but unfortunately they’re not available online, so I’ll follow their example and wrap my own chocolate bars.

Sainsbury’s produced another video to accompany the Christmas ad, “The story behind our Christmas ad,” explaining the historical background of the Christmas truce:

A third video, “The making of our Christmas ad,” explains the care and detail that went into the production:

In this centenary year, a number of books have appeared which reflect on the significance of the war for shaping 20th century culture and intellectual life and, particularly, its implications for Christian belief. Profoundly impacted by the horror of the war, many writers (e.g., Karl Barth, Tolkien and Lewis) grappled their way to an escape from despair, imaginatively creating a vision of hope and peace that nourishes readers for the rest of the century, and for generations to come.

The story of the Christmas truce foreshadows the undaunted resiliency of Advent hope and peace, even after a century filled with wars and rumors of war.

Related links:

Brown 1914Weintraub SilentNight Joyeux Noel


Update: Robin pointed out to me that the Royal Shakespeare Company is putting on a new play for families this Christmas season, The Christmas Truce. Here’s the trailer and synopsis:

Update #2: Prince William unveils a memorial to the WW1 truce, designed by ten-year-old Spencer Turner:

William ww1truce

Let’s slightly amend what Prince William said: “”Football [AND CHOCOLATE!] had the power to bring people together and break down barriers. It is vital that 100 years on we keep the Christmas truce story alive.”


Here’s a reflection from Joseph Tkach on the Christmas truce and the advent of the Prince of Peace:

Posted in Holidays | Tagged | 1 Comment

Wolves in Yellowstone

Posted in Nature | Leave a comment

Janux videos available

Cross-posted from

Camille Flammarion, L'Atmosphere: Météorologie Populaire (Paris, 1888), p. 163.  Colorized by Susanna J. Magruder. Courtesy History of Science Collections, University of Oklahoma Libraries.A series of “From the vault” videos is now available on OU’s Janux platform and at the Janux site on YouTube. These short videos, filmed on location by NextThought in the OU History of Science Collections, show rare treasures for a given topic along with a concisely-worded comment or story. Think of them as behind-the-scenes moments in a tour of the rare book vaults. Most are only 5-10 minutes long. They are not recorded lectures; rather than offering comprehensive information about a subject, they are designed to appeal to the imagination, to awaken interest in the history of science by conveying something of the physical presence of the rare books themselves. For this reason, they may be useful as auxiliary instructional resources for other courses across the various natural sciences including physics, astronomy, medicine, biology, geology, meteorology, chemistry, mathematics and engineering, as well as in humanities disciplines such as history, art, literature and the history of science.

To find the videos on YouTube, go to the Janux section (where videos from many courses are posted) and find the History of Science Online playlist. (Update: the videos are temporarily down now; I’ll remove this notice and update the links when they reappear. For now, you’ll have to watch them through signing up for Janux as explained below.)

To access the videos on the Janux platform, go to, and look in the Archive section for the History of Science to the Age of Newton course (HSCI 3013). As noted here previously, the course was offered in the 2014 spring semester, but the videos are still accessible to anyone by registering for the free version of the course. (The course icon, “Boldly go…,” may help you spot it quickly.) Within the course in the Janux platform, click the Lessons tab to view course content arranged week by week. The outline below will help you quickly find the videos of interest to you.

Have an iPad? A Janux app makes accessing the videos a breeze.

The numbers in the outline below are discontinuous; only the “From the Vault” videos (FTV) for each weekly unit are included. Not listed below (but equally accessible) are companion videos, filmed in a studio setting, which for each week’s topic invite students to consider what they know of the cultural context (“Starting Assumptions”) and to engage thought-provoking points of view (“Interpretations”).

  1. Week 1, Exploring the Past
  2. Week 2, Origins of Ancient Astronomy
  3. Week 3, Science in Ancient Egypt and the Aegean
  4. Week 4, Ancient Greek science
  5. Week 5, Hellenistic science
  6. Week 6, Roman science
  7. Week 7, Islamic and Early Medieval science
  8. Week 8, 14th-century science
  9. Week 9, 15th-century science
  10. Week 10, 16th-century Life sciences
  11. Week 11, 16th-century Astronomy
    • 11.2 Astronomy before Copernicus (see Dive Deeper instructions)
    • 11.2 Astronomy after Copernicus (see Dive Deeper instructions)
  12. Week 12, Science in Asia
  13. Week 13, Galileo
  14. Week 14, 17th-century science
    • 14.2 Competing paradigms (FTV not yet available)
    • 14.3 The Meaning of science (FTV not yet available)
  15. Week 15, Newton
    • 15.2 Newton’s works (FTV not yet available)
    • 15.3 Janus faces (FTV not yet available)

In addition to the above “From the Vault” videos for each week, there are also videos for “Starting Assumptions” and “Interpretations.” Watch these on Janux at YouTube or on the Janux platform.

Posted in History of Science | 3 Comments