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- Nobel Laureates: Shinya Yamanaka
- ICYMI: Catch-up
- Futurama's maths doesn't square
- Listen over lunch: BBC Inside Science
- Radio 4, 4.30 today: More or Less
- BBC Two, 7.00 tonight: Hairy Bikers Bakeation
- Sylvia Plath & the language of depression
- Stonewall: The Movie
Two guest pieces explain why the new movie about the Stonewall riots has set off its own shockwaves:
People aren’t upset just because of this movie; they’re upset because this has been happening since 1970 when Silvia Rivera was first asked not to speak at the 1st anniversary of Stonewall, the very 1st PRIDE. And you would think that perhaps someone might do their research and realize how incredibly frustrating it has been for the trans community to experience this erasure, especially after being dumped from legislation that benefited the LG and not the T. That is, there’s a history to the history.
Can linguistics detect when people are experiencing depression? The OU's Zsófia Demjén believes you can, and has explored the work of Sylvia Plath to test her theory:
She seemed to relate external events and goings on to herself and to view things mostly from her own inner perspective. This, to some extent, is expected in diaries and autobiographies, but Plath overused first-person pronouns statistically significantly compared to similar types of texts. This allows us to say that she was actually more focused on her own perspective than would be expected in the genre that she was writing in.
Our intrepid journey round Europe - exploring the universal language of baked goods - is getting a small-portion second outing on BBC Two in the evenings right now. The Hairy Bikers explore each nation, pick up some of the culture and taste some of the food. Here on OpenLearn, we'll feed your curiosity just a little more.
If you're watching in Scotland, tonight's episode takes you to the Low Countries, while for the rest of the UK, it's Germany. Of course, if you're watching UK TV in the Low Countries, you'll see programmes from England, so you'll be watching Germany.
Having sorted your lunch break, now we're coming after the tea break. Today's More Or Less will be looking at the claims of "swarms" of migrants, whether deworming programmes really work, how well you can predict football matches and more.
Switch on your radio at 4.30 - sorry, we can't do a link for that
Catch up with the BBC/Open University weekly science guide. The episode that was broadcast yesterday is ready to suck down as an mp3 - allowing you to follow the implications of the Scottish GM ban, the chance the magnetic poles might be about to flip, and the birth of a new galaxy.
The writers of Futurama, like their colleagues on The Simpsons, like to slide mathematical in-jokes into their show. Only... sometimes, they get it wrong. Ad if there's one thing the internet loves more than a nerdy joke, it's a nerdy joke you can pick a hole in. SKRules, on Reddit, came across this claim in a Futurama Easter Egg:
10011101 = 157, the largest known number with a square that is an anagram to the square of the next integer (158)
That didn't sound right to them, and so they set about working to disprove it:
I was still skeptical, since this really doesn't seem like a very difficult property to satisfy. So I coded up a very quick Python script and set it up to run on my machine overnight.
They rose in the morning to the announcement that 9132 = 833569 and 9142 = 835396. And that wasn't the end of it...
There are about a gazillion demands on your time - so you might have missed some of our entries during the week. Here's a quick dip into some highlights you might have missed:
- The academic legacy of Reggie Perrin
- Rocky Horror reconsidered
- Sunshine map
- Google rebrands
- When Heath met Nixon
- The Tijian Inferno
This week, we've been profiling five Japanese winners of Nobel Prizes. If you've missed any, here's those we've featured already:
So we've heard about prize winners in chemistry, peace, literature and physics; we're going to complete the set with Shinya Yamanaka (山中 伸弥), who took the 2012 award for Physiology or Medicine.
Yamanaka's story is great inspiration for those of us who've made a false start, as he started out as a surgeon, and was terrible at it. Really, really terrible - as he told The Asahi Shimbun:
He recalls his failure to remove a benign tumor even after an hour, although a good doctor can finish the procedure in 10 minutes or so.
“I am sorry,” he told the patient, his longtime friend Shuichi Hirata, lying on the operating table. Yamanaka’s hands, holding scalpels, were covered with Hirata’s blood.
“What do you mean by ‘I am sorry’?” Hirata, who was only given a local anesthetic, said. “Hang in there.”
Some bad-mouthed seniors called the young doctor “Jamanaka,” a pun on “jama,” a Japanese word for an obstacle.
He decided that surgery wasn't for him, and switched to studying pharmacology, but even here he ran into a jama. Arriving newly qualified at Osaka City University, he expected to be set to work researching, but instead found himself mostly looking after lab mice. Finding it hard to remain motivated, he applied for work at Nara Institute of Science and Technology with the aim of understanding embryonic cells. He got the job, and this latest reinvention worked.
In a way, Shanamaka's discovery echoes the pattern of his life, as his Nobel award came "for the discovery that mature cells can be reprogrammed
to become pluripotent." Or, in other words, he worked out that a cell which is apparently at the end of its development process can be taken, and reworked to become something - anything - else. He shared the 2012 prize with John Gurdon, who had first suggested that cells could do more than just get more and more mature; other researchers building on Shanamaka's work have been able, for instance, to take skin cells and rework them into heart cells - with obvious medical implications.
Shanamaka got off to a shaky start, but found an area at which he excelled, and went on to become globally significant in his field (although he modestly talks of himself as being one of many researchers in the field). That's a positive thought to end a week on.