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Science, Maths & Technology

OpenLearn Live: 1st December 2015

Updated Tuesday 1st December 2015

The woman who took Korea into space. Then more free learning during the day.

OpenLearn Live is where free learning connects with your world. This page will be updated during the day, and you can also follow us on Twitter.

Yesterday, we explored airport design and caught up with Simon Reeve's trip round Ireland

See the complete collection of OpenLearn Live


Today's posts


Are your lights affecting your wifi?

Here's another Christmas worry, in case you haven't had enough of them: Do your fairy lights block your wifi?

Before the terrible jokes start and we all declare that this is a fit of “Bah Humbug!” from the telephone regulator, the warning is correct – your fairy lights could indeed be a wi-fi downer. But then so could many other devices. Ultimately, it is a matter of how much of a problem they actually cause.

Read Do Christmas lights interfere with your wifi?


Pauper's graves

The number of burials in "pauper's graves" is on the rise again, according to BBC News. But what were the original pauper's graves actually like? A tragedy in a Victorian graveyard gives us some insight:

The grave was what was termed a deep grave and had been opened for about four weeks. The grave was what is called a pauper's grave. Such graves as these were kept open until there 17 or 18 bodies interred in them; there was only the body of a still-born infant in the one in question. It was not the custom to put any earth between the coffins in those graves, except in case where the persons died of contagious diseases and in that case some slaked lime, and a thin layer of earth, were put down to separate them.

Read What were pauper's graves like?


World Aids Day

Today is World Aids Day. The theme this year is 'ReThink HIV', and the world is being encouraged to reconsider attitudes to people who are HIV+ - for example, by stressing that most people who are diagnosed with HIV aren't infectious:

The life expectancies of people living with HIV are now comparable to the general population, both in first world countries and developing countries.

Antiviral drugs work by interfering with the replication of HIV. This results in a drop in the viral load – the concentration of virus detectable in blood.

This doesn’t mean, however, that the virus is eradicated. HIV can hide in sanctuary sites in the body (known as “latency”) and will quickly become detectable if the antivirals are stopped. In many people taking treatment, the concentration of virus is often undetectable, but this doesn’t exclude the possibility of very small amounts of circulating virus that are below the limit of the tests that detect them.

Read Explainer on the risks of HIV

See our World Aids Day collection


Rosa Parks: 60 years on

Sixty years ago today, Rosa Parks defiantly sat at the front of a segregated bus in America. Her subsequent arrest set in chain a series of events which crystalised the US civil rights movement.

Rosa Parks is one of our real wonder women of the 20th Century

Watch our short video on civil disobedience


It's advent

It's the first of December, which means it's the start of advent (at least as measured by calendars with disappointing chocolates in; the Christian advent started on Sunday.)

As our festive gift to you, we've created an only slightly over-engineered advent calendar behind which you'll find something great from OpenLearn from across the last year.

Visit our advent calendar


First people in space: Yi So-yeon

This week, as Tim Peake prepares to be the second (unequivocal) Briton in space, we're celebrating some of the people who are currently the only person of their nationality to have gone into space. Yesterday we blasted off with Mongolia's Jügderdemidiin Gürragchaa. Today, we're moving on to South Korea, and Yi So-yeon.

Yi So-yeon Copyright free image Icon Copyright free: NASA

So-yeon's achievement of being the first Korean in space is all the more remarkable given how difficult it could be for women to study science at all in South Korea. As she told an Israeli newspaper, it's not exactly a welcoming atmosphere:

"In the faculty building there were no bathrooms for women," she tells TheMarker, during her visit to Israel. "When they built the building they included a women's bathroom, but then there was no need for it so they made it a men's bathroom as well. There were only two women in my class, including me, you see. It's not uncommon in South Korea for a building to not have a women's bathroom. Even today, many times I enter a room and there are about ten guys and only one woman: Me."

She entered space as part of the Russian Space Flight Participant Programme, with the South Korean government paying USD20 million for her place on Soyuz TMA-12. She hadn't been the first choice to make the flight - a man had been selected, but he breached security protocols and wasn't especially adept at the planned experiments, so So-yeon moved from understudy to astronaut.

She didn't have the easiest time in space on board the ISS. Younger than the typical astronaut, her spine was more flexible and she grew almost three centimetres as soon as she was in orbit. Amongst the experiments she conducted, she took photos of her face with a specially designed camera six times a day in order to document the effects of space travel on her face.

If being in space was difficult, coming back to earth was worse - returning on Soyuz TMA-11, a malfunction meant the re-entry was rough, with So-yeon and her fellow astronauts experiencing multiple g-forces. They landed quite a way off target, too, in Kazakhstan - where the first on the scene "thought we were aliens".

Last year, citing "personal reasons", Yi So-yeon resigned her position on the South Korean space programme. She is reported to be studying for an MBA.

See more from OpenLearn on space exploration

 

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