Skip to content
  • Audio
  • 5 mins
  • Level 1: Introductory

OpenLearn Live: 11th August 2016

Updated Thursday 11th August 2016

Why Rio isn't rio, and a machine for detecting smells. Then more free learning through the day.

OpenLearn Live is the place where the world of learning makes sense in your world. This page will be updated across the day.

Yesterday, we took an academic view of the Olympics, inspected the cross section of magic and science, and inspected a tool for understanding health claims

On this day last year, Google became Alphabet, Brian Cox was in a cage and we met Yasunari Kawabata

See the complete collection of OpenLearn Live


Today's posts


Something odd in the sky

Scientists have spotted something odd in the sky - more precisely, a bit beyond Neptune. New Scientist has the story:

“I hope everyone has buckled their seatbelts because the outer solar system just got a lot weirder.” That’s what Michele Bannister, an astronomer at Queens University, Belfast tweeted on Monday.

She was referring to the discovery of a TNO or trans-Neptunian object, something which sits beyond Neptune in the outer solar system. This one is 160,000 times fainter than Neptune, which means the icy world could be less than 200 kilometres in diameter. It’s currently above the plane of the solar system and with every passing day, it’s moving upwards – a fact that makes it an oddity.

The TNO orbits in a plane that’s tilted 110 degrees to the plane of the solar system. What’s more, it swings around the sun backwards unlike most of the other objects in the solar system. With this in mind, the team that discovered the TNO nicknamed it “Niku” after the Chinese adjective for rebellious.

Read the full story at New Scientist: Mystery object in weird orbit beyond Neptune cannot be explained


BBC Radio Four, 4.30pm this afternoon: Inside Science

This afternoon, we hook up with some old friends, as we begin another 26 week run of co-productions with the BBC Inside Science team.

This week's programme will look for signs of life on other planets, root about in beehives, explore the Royal Society Book prize shortlist AND still have time to find out how science is influencing one of this year's Proms.

We've missed you, Inside Science.

From an earlier edition, here's the OU's Claire Turner showing off her odour detector:

See more about this edition of Inside Science


BBC Two, 8pm tonight: Full Steam Ahead

Continuing tonight at 8pm, it's Full Steam Ahead. Tonight, our train-tripping-time-travellers come to Milton Keynes, the home of The Open University - and Wolverton rail works. They'll be discovering how the railways led to the development of instant, electrical communications.

Read: What links the railways with 999 calls?

See more about this episode of Full Steam Ahead


A week in Rio: The misnomer

This week, we're moving beyond the sport and discovering some other stories from Rio. Yesterday, we heard the pros and cons of painting the favelas. Today, we're going back to the start, and asking 'why is the city called that?'

 Foundation of the City of Rio de Janeiro - Quadro Fundação da Cidade do Rio de Janeiro by Antonio Firmino Monteiro Copyright free image Icon Copyright free: Antonio Firmino Monteiro / digitised Halley Pacheco de Oliveira The founding of Rio de Janeiro in 1565, depicted by Antonio Firmino Monteiro

The European settlers who had driven out the bay's local population of Tupi, Puri, Botocudo and Maxakalí people were French; a small Francophone enclave in what Portugal saw as theirs by right. If not by treaty - the Treaty of Tordesillas, signed in 1494, had supposedly carved up South America and settled the matter. The Portuguese founded the city in 1565, to give a strong base for their activities against the French.

At that time, the city was proclaimed as São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro. The first bit is simple enough - São Sebastião, Saint Sebastian - the patron saint of Portugal's then Monarch, Sebastian of Portugal.

The second bit adopted the name for the area that had been proclaimed by Gaspar De Lemos. He'd led the party which discovered the bay in 1502. In January, 1502, to be precise, which is why the city is called 'River of January'.

The only problem is - there isn't a river. Gaspar had seen the massive bay, and assumed it had to be the mouth of a mighty river. But it wasn't. So when people shorten the place's name to Rio - as we''ve been doing repeatedly over the week - they're actually calling it 'river', when there's not a river at all.

Still, if the Portugese geography was a little out, it wasn't as bad as that of the French, who called the area by a name which translates as Antarctic France.

Interested in how language works? Explore linguistics with OpenLearn

 

For further information, take a look at our frequently asked questions which may give you the support you need.

Have a question?