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CMU Professor Randy Pausch's 'Last Lecture' 93

This is a bit of an unusual story for Slashdot- it's the "Last Lecture" of a professor at CMU who is terminally ill. His early research in VR has benefited everyone and even if you have never heard of Randy Pausch I think this is worth your time. It's a 2 hour long wmv filled with insight, laughs and wisdom from a man who has really done some amazing work. I've been watching it all morning and I think it would really be worth your time if you can spare it to listen to what he has to say. From virtual reality to education to stuffed animals and childhood dreams, there's a lot here worth your time. Thanks drew for the link. Update: 09/21 15:44 GMT by Z : The link is already a little shakey, so you might want to turn to this cut up YouTube version of the talk instead.
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CMU Professor Randy Pausch's 'Last Lecture'

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  • Moving.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kraemate ( 1065878 ) on Friday September 21, 2007 @12:21PM (#20697843)
    I havent seen the lecture, but the story in some Pittsburgh newspaper (sorry, dont have the link - it appeared on reddit yesterday) is really moving. Amazing, so 'close' to death but still in such good spirits. Sad that i came to know of such a great spirit when i know i wont be hearing more from/about him. Sad indeed.
    • Re:Moving.. (Score:5, Informative)

      by kraemate ( 1065878 ) on Friday September 21, 2007 @12:24PM (#20697907)
      Here is the good article describing the lecture, for those who cannot download the lecture itself.
      http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/07262/818671-85.stm [post-gazette.com]
    • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

      by Seumas ( 6865 )
      It's too bad we put ridiculous priorities on things. Imagine what we could cure, probably including his terminal illness, if we only had a trillion dollars to spare on research.

      Gee, if only there were some place we could find a trillion dollars in the last four or five years of the budget that was wasted and could have been better spent improving the world.


      Can't think of any place, whatsoever.
      • Re:Moving.. (Score:5, Informative)

        by Mindwarp ( 15738 ) on Friday September 21, 2007 @02:09PM (#20699597) Homepage Journal
        To be honest you're probably not going to find a cure for Pancreatic cancer any time soon, even with a trillion dollars thrown at it. The problems with this form of cancer are:

        1) It's in the endocrine system, meaning it has easy access to a lot of other vital organs that the cancer can spread to,
        2) The pancreas is vital to survival (it produces insulin, as well as a host of pancreatic enzymes that the body needs to be able to process food and regulate metabolism) so you can't just chop the whole thing out if it becomes cancerous
        3) It's nestled in the middle of a complex set of nerves, arteries and veins meaning that it's extremely difficult, and often impossible, to perform surgical or radiation treatments,
        4) Screening programs often don't work, as the cancer is completely capable of developing without showing up in any blood tests,
        5) This is the real kicker - the early symptoms of PC are identical to a host of other minor illnesses such as gallstones, back ache, indigestion or acid reflux. By the time the symptoms have become serious enough for the patient to go to the doctor with them, and by the time the doctor has ruled out all the simpler ailments the symptoms point to, it's almost always too late. That's why this disease has a 5 year mortality rate of 98% and a 1 year mortality rate of over 75%, along with being the U.S.'s most fatal cancer.

        Even if we could implement an accurate and early-detection screening programme, the cancer is so aggressive that we really need a paradigm shift away from current radiation and chemotherapy treatments. It's not so much that we're lacking money in researching into new forms of treatment as it is we're lacking the knowledge necessary to advance in these areas right now. There are plenty of well funded people working to solve the problems of cancer - right now we're waiting for one of them to have the 'eureka!' moment.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by HuguesT ( 84078 )
          The problem is that cancer is not *a* disease. All cancers are different, have different causes, and are even sometime heterogeneous within one single patient, meaning some cancer cells will respond well to a kind of treatment, but not others. It only takes one surviving cancer cell to restart the whole thing. The odds of beating this soon are slim.
    • Seeing his lecture (the live link was spread around among CMU graduates), it seems to me that, even before his diagnosis, Pausch lived every day as if it could be his last.

      I think that's perhaps the main reason why, despite his situation, he's in as good spirits as he is.

    • by sjdude ( 470014 )
      It is not often in life that someone tells you important things, and when they do, you should listen. What Randy Pausch has to say in this 'last lecture' is important. He is, in fact, teaching us to the very end.
  • Worth it? (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I'm just not sure that it's worth my time.
  • He was the man who introduced me to Doom.
    • by viega ( 564643 ) <viega@l[ ].org ['ist' in gap]> on Friday September 21, 2007 @01:02PM (#20698545) Homepage
      Haha, me too (I was one of Randy's students back when he was at UVa). I didn't get too into Doom, but when the Quake test code came out, many of us spent pretty much every waking hour playing, for several months. In the meantime, we were supposed to be working on an Alice deliverable for SIGGRAPH. I think the turning point for my entire life was a few months before SIGGRAPH, when Randy called a couple of us out for being too much play and not enough work. I went cold turkey, and didn't pick up another video game for 10 years. I firmly believe if he hadn't done that, I'd have accomplished very little professionally, and would be holding down a crappy 9-5 mid-level programming job while thinking forward to what I was going to play on my XBox 360 on any given night. To this day, I can't really get much enjoyment out of a video game, but I think that's a good thing! Randy definitely taught me to pick a prize and keep my eye on it. He used to like to tell me, "John, you're a strong rocket with no fins," that I would never get to the moon and would come crashing back to earth if I didn't focus. I didn't like it at the time, but I needed to hear it. I think about that advice all the time, and it is just as relevant to me today. Randy has always attracted amazing talent and amazing people. The people in that lab were the greatest group of people I ever worked with in many respects. I'm proud they're my friends, and I'm thankful to Randy for providing the environment and putting us together.
      • by ari_b ( 1159899 )
        Randy has had a similar effect for me in the almost-15 years since I first enrolled in one of his classes at UVa. Some of the lessons didn't sink in at first (my fault, not his!), but over time I realized how rare Randy was and how fortunate I was to have met such a teacher and mentor. Nowadays, one of my most valuable tools for any major decision (and even some of the small ones) is to ask myself, "Would I be embarrassed to tell Randy about this?".

        Not many people make you want to live up to their standa
      • by 6Yankee ( 597075 )
        Would that all of us could live to read something so moving about ourselves, to know we made a difference.
  • Slashdot stories (Score:5, Insightful)

    by flynt ( 248848 ) on Friday September 21, 2007 @12:27PM (#20697951)
    This is actually the type of story I love to see on Slashdot. A nice break from yet another "YRO" stuff.
  • by antifoidulus ( 807088 ) on Friday September 21, 2007 @12:33PM (#20698047) Homepage Journal
    because they are worried that anything over 10 minutes is probably a copyright violation....they should at least create some mechanism whereby material that provably doesn't violate copyrights could have more than 10 minutes alloted to it....how you would prove it is another issue entirely, but I would imagine they could implement some type of peer review system.
    • What about storage costs? Those data centers ain't cheap ...
    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 21, 2007 @12:43PM (#20698233)
      You can find the full version on Google Video [google.com].
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by kebes ( 861706 )

      they should at least create some mechanism whereby material that provably doesn't violate copyrights could have more than 10 minutes alloted to it....

      YouTube evidently is able to serve up videos past the 10-minute limit. The official Google channel [youtube.com] and the Google Talks channel [youtube.com] have plenty of long videos. So, at least for those trusted channels the limit doesn't exist. I'm not sure if there is any way to get YouTube to trust your channel.

      how you would prove it is another issue entirely, but I would imagine

    • Sorry, but you're incorrect (if a single counter-example proves such).

      My favorite channel on youtube has plenty of videos over 10 minutes. (http://www.youtube.com/viperkeeper) This is not meant as any sort of plug, I have no relationship with the director of this channel, other than being a fan.
      • I guess what I really wanted to point out in my original post is that I think it's a storage limit, rather than a time limit to avoid something so abstract as violating copyright...
        • by kebes ( 861706 )

          I guess what I really wanted to point out in my original post is that I think it's a storage limit, rather than a time limit to avoid something so abstract as violating copyright...

          But a per-video limit doesn't make much difference to storage space if they allow you to upload an unlimited number of videos. Anyways, according to the official YouTube blog, the reason is indeed copyright concerns [youtube.com]:

          we're constantly trying to balance the rights of copyright owners with the rights of our users. We poked around th

          • I appreciate the research. The director I referenced had approximately 50 videos with thousands of views before any of them crossed 10 minutes. The pieces fit!
          • This is not necessarily true. I have a video series for Magic the Gathering (youtube.com/mrorangeguy) and I am not a "big player" in the least. I began like everyone else, in the 10min limit. Then I begged and pleaded and bugged the hell out of them until I became a Director. This was about a year ago now.

            They've since changed the policy and the methods by which you become a Director, so this may be moot. However, I know I'm just a guy making videos with the tools he has and no corporate backing. I also rea
    • I miss the days of a avi mpg or mov YOU COULD DOWNLOAD and play instead of horrid bad codec rendered streamed dreck cut to heck. Oh yes I cna get usilt which allow me to download the dreck but WHY? I will wait till someome finally archives the real thing and
    • by antdude ( 79039 )
      It could be on other video hosting site like Google Video (no limit I think). YouTube does offer no time length limit if you're a subscriber.
  • by NiMSiM ( 667159 ) on Friday September 21, 2007 @12:38PM (#20698145) Homepage
    It was an amazing lecture. If you dare to dream and dare to follow through, then he's the man to emulate.
  • Time management talk (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday September 21, 2007 @12:45PM (#20698273)
    It's kind of off-topic, but I read some inspirational lecture slides by Randy Pausch about time management [alice.org] a little while ago. In light of his illness, I guess there's two ways to take it: Perhaps time management isn't that important in the end, or perhaps the limited amount of time each of us may have makes it even more important.

    (Or, I suppose, the stress related to worrying about time management may affect your health...)
    • How ironic, procrastinating from doing something else by reading a Time Management seminar.
    • Perhaps time management isn't that important in the end, or perhaps the limited amount of time each of us may have makes it even more important.

      Yeah, that's the question I had when I read through his PowerPoint slides [cmu.edu] yesterday morning, after the WSJ video came up in the course of my daily hour of mindless Fark surfing.

      Pausch's methods are great for people who value a highly-regimented life, or who require the same to accomplish anything at all. There are people like that, and maybe he's one of them, but h
      • by Tyler Durden ( 136036 ) on Friday September 21, 2007 @03:06PM (#20700629)
        I finally managed to refute Pausch's dictums by imagining myself trying to persuade a Zen Buddhist practitioner to follow them.

        Actually Zen Buddhist monks live very strict, regimented, structured lives. Espcially those in Japan. They would consider anybody with a tendency to daydream or procrastinate as failing to live "in the moment". One great quote I remember hearing goes, "Don't do nothing. Do nothing." One monk from the non-fiction book "Ambivalent Zen" would pay any bills he received as soon as he received them so that he could better keep his mind clear.

        That said, I'd have a hard hard time changing my own daydreaming, procrastinating ways.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    This sucks.

    He was one of my classmates when I was going to graduate school in the CMU CS department (back then, it was "just" a department, not a school). He was a nice guy (and a bit of a clown).

    I hadn't kept in touch, so this is the first I've heard about the cancer. (And with three young children ...)

    Here's hoping he's among the "15% - 20%" for whom the pallative care actually extends life, and that his quality of life will be (as) good (as it can be).
  • by blind biker ( 1066130 ) on Friday September 21, 2007 @01:43PM (#20699109) Journal
    This was the most valuable lecture I've ever attended. And it's the kind of lecture I can talk about with my girlfriend, with my friends, and with anyone I care about. It's the stuff of life.

    This man has lived an amazing life, and no doubt, this gives him the courage and the peace of mind to leave in such a graceful way, in an ultimate act of generosity. "Take a piece of me" he said somewhere at the beginning, when inviting people in the audience to take away his stuffed animals. And I feel I received a piece of him, even though I am thousands of kilometers away from this great person.

    If you want your children to persevere in their lives and reach their dreams, show them this lecture (I saw the videos on YouTube), and talk about it with them.
  • Met when @ UVA (Score:2, Interesting)

    by sleight ( 22003 )
    I had the pleasure of taking Randy's first course on "User Interfaces" back in 92 or 93. How many courses have you heard of where the professor begins the first class by assailing the poor UIs of clock radios and VCRs only to immediately smash them Gallagher style in front of a classroom of undergrads. Randy was one of three truly inspirational teachers that I had the pleasure of studying under during my entire formal education. I still retain and use much of the knowledge that I learned from him.

  • by six11 ( 579 ) <johnsogg&cmu,edu> on Friday September 21, 2007 @04:02PM (#20701565) Homepage
    I was in the 10th row, or so. The talk was given in the biggest auditorium on campus, with overflow locations in other big rooms watching it onscreen. I have to say that this really was one of the most moving, intense moments I've ever experienced. This was compounded by the sense that it was being shared with thousands of other people laughing, thinking, and occasionally crying together. At the close of his talk he received a standing ovation that did not even begin to wane after what seemed like ten minutes, until Randy Bryant (in my opinion somewhat rudely) brought it to an end. For that hour, all of CMU was on the same page. In the days since then I've had conversations with several people who were there, and my sense is that people will remember the talk and Randy Pausch's message for the rest of their lives. I know I will. Especially since he's a nerdy smartass just like me.
  • I think this is a very pertinent slashdot topic. The fellow in question is a Computer Science prof. If he were a humanities prof, I'd feel less so. Sure, the story is a tear-jerker and contemplating the imminent demise of someone who's a nice guy is a downer.

    But I'd rather see this story on slashdot than something political. And I've seen far too much political bull on slashdot. If you wear a t-shirt that says Rush is Right or Impeach Cheney First, there's a 50% chance you'll end up nattering on about stuff
  • He is... under the label biggest dick and largest ego.

    His ego is, I swear to God, bigger than that of Steve Jobs, really, no joke. When I was in school at CMU he required an Interview (uppercase I) to get into his class. What kind of professor tells undergrads that they don't deserve to have "an educational experience" in 3d, VR, game technology, etc?

    I sumbitted. I didn't want to because i wholey disagreed with his philosophy of education. His class seemed interesting enough that i let it go. The inte
    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      His ego is, I swear to God, bigger than that of Steve Jobs, really, no joke. When I was in school at CMU he required an Interview (uppercase I) to get into his class. What kind of professor tells undergrads that they don't deserve to have "an educational experience" in 3d, VR, game technology, etc?

      That's nothing. When I was at CMU, I was seated next to him at a dinner and he practically required an audition for me to keep the seat. And it wasn't even his dinner. It was honoring someone infinitely more grac

    • "What kind of professor tells undergrads that they don't deserve to have "an educational experience" in 3d, VR, game technology, etc?"

      In my opinion he's right on the mark, I think he wanted to filter out weak students wouldn't survive in industry. Plus if I was in his position I wouldn't want students who are simply not interested in the work. Too many teachers have to deal with dumbing down their classes to the lowest common denominator. Not that I disagree that it can be hard or that maybe he's an idio
      • Yes it makes sense... Filters ARE needed for classes. But that's why they have required classes for a class. He took it to a completely new uncalled for level.
        • by Rakishi ( 759894 )
          Required classes are BS, trust me I should know as I easily met requirements despite not having what it takes (lazy and very intelligent). Just because you KNOW something doesn't mean you have the passion to take up to another level (so to say). For some classes dedication is a lot more important than knowledge. If you need to be in lab 40 hours a week for a class it doesn't matter how well you did beforehand if you don't have the will power to actually be in lab 40 hours a week.
    • I agree completely. I was in one of his classes at CMU as well. I'm not happy to see anyone get a disease, but man, if I had to make a list of people who have to leave planet earth, Randy Pausch would be in the top 100. Egomaniacal self-centered narcissist that lied to, and about, his students. He's all show, all marketing, all glitz.
    • by spads ( 1095039 )

      Though I cannot detract from some valid and very compelling things he said, ultimately I think he is a very interesting study in the modern academic culture. For one thing, he's got folks on one side saying he's brilliant, and on the other hand he said he blew his GREs. I have noticed that it isn't always the deserving who win in that game. The culture is self-serving, and likes to retain the ones who basically make them feel good. Honestly, I have to include the drive to increase women and minorities i

      • by Rakishi ( 759894 )
        There is more to life than passing some test and your intelligence doesn't matter as much as you think it does. In every single field who you know matters a whole lot more than anything else. Getting to know those people and knowing how to use them is a skill in itself. Likewise your intelligence is worthless if you can't work hard but also work smart, take advantage of your time in other words.

        Anyway he seems to have the ability to manage and drive people, something people utterly lacking them seem to enjo
    • by Rude-Boy ( 25678 )
      I love how even when you tell the story you come off as the self important jerk. Hilarious.

      Just because he required an interview for his course doesn't make him a jerk, it just means he wants people in the class who really want to be there. Similarly with his comment to you, I think he was looking for a little more then "I want to take it" as a reason for getting in.
      • Yup, Hilarious. All that talk of being greater than thou! WOW. Indeed.

        Requiring an interviewing for his course doesn't make him jerk. I just believe he doesn't understand pedagogy. Who would want to take a class whose professor, they believed, didn't understand the principles of undergraduate education?
        Alas, who says that kind of thing within the first 30 seconds of meeting someone? That's being a jerk.
        Have you ever been in an interview? You need to start somewhere. "I'm really excited to be here",
    • by Rakishi ( 759894 )

      What kind of professor tells undergrads that they don't deserve to have "an educational experience" in 3d, VR, game technology, etc?
      The type who actually wants to provide a good experience to those who do get in. If it's a heavily team based class than a single fuck up can ruin it for half the class.
    • Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain, and most fools do. ~Benjamin Franklin javalizard, I hope your family reads your comment here; they will be so proud - NOT!!
  • I had Randy Pausch for an undergrad CS class at UVA in either 88 or 89.... so that was either his first or second year teaching there. Without a doubt, he was the best teacher I had in all four years. I can only imagine that he got even better after almost 20 years of practice. He truly engaged the students. I've been in the software business for 17 years now, and I continue to enjoy it today. I have to think he's partly the reason I ended up there (since I was in the EE program).
  • And just want to say: thank you.
  • by Fantastic Lad ( 198284 ) on Friday September 21, 2007 @11:51PM (#20707867)
    I just watched the video via youtube, and was happily impressed. Randy carries his light and encourages others to do so, and thus makes ripples which go on to affect the world in very positive ways. He reminds me of Joseph Campbell ("Follow your Bliss") and Ray Bradbury ("Live on the edge of your hysteria") in this regard.

    Those two gents made a huge impact upon me when I was growing through high school, and all I had access to were a few recordings and videos of them speaking, but the philosophies they broadcast were powerful enough to change me forever.

    Teachers of this caliber are golden.

    The very best thing you can do for the world is to Live Your Light. --Just doing so and encouraging others to do so changes the world in ways which are not immediately obvious, but it is enough to win the war against the dark side.


  • Yes, I viewed the whole video, and specifically noticed his remark, something like please don't come up to me with 'herbal remedies' etc. Which is maybe too bad, because it might not be coincidental that he's at CMU which is fairly North, and perhaps he also uses sunscreen, might even be a religious sunscreen user. You saw it coming - MY religion can be found by Googling (( Holick p53 tumor ))- what if he "got religion" and vowed to spend his final days on the beach, and experienced a miraculous recovery ?
  • I've only had a chance to read his "cancer update page" but I am in awe. His spirits are amazingly high and he's living life to the fullest as long. I couldn't read it at work as I read the following and nearly lost it (my wife & I have a 9 month old)

    And tomorrow Dylan & I are taking a 3 day "Dylan and Daddy trip" to Florida to do a dolphin swim and see Mickey Mouse!

    Reminds me so much of that episode of The Simpsons when Homer thought he was dying. But with actual feelings. Gets one thinking what th

If a camel is a horse designed by a committee, then a consensus forecast is a camel's behind. -- Edgar R. Fiedler