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OpenLearn Live: 29th November 2016

Updated Tuesday 29th November 2016

A closer look at rabbit frost. Then learning and research across the day.

OpenLearn Live plucks the best learning and research from around the web. This page will be updated across the day.

Yesterday, we visited roadside shrines in Lithuania, marked the death of Castro and caught up with FutureLearn

See the complete collection of OpenLearn Live


Today's posts


The daredevil life of Sophie Blanchard

Vice's Motherboard feature celebrates the life of Sophie Blanchard, aviation pioneer:

Over the course of her high-flying career, Blanchard gained a massive fanbase nad pioneered new flight techniques. Her test flights resulted in multiple near-death experiences before she finally perished in a fatal blaze of glory in 1819. It was a dizzyingly eventful life of 41 years, and worth celebrating on Blanchard’s 237th birthday.

Despite how flagrantly Blanchard flirted with death her whole life, she was a shy, nervous person, terrified of loud noises and riding in carriages. But when she married the ambitious early ballooner Jean-Pierre Blanchard in 1804, she finally discovered her ideal habitat—the quiet bliss of high altitudes.

Read at Motherboard: ​The Daredevil Life and Pyrotechnic Death of Sophie Blanchard

Previously on OpenLearn Live: Therese Peltier, first woman to fly in a plane

Previously on OpenLearn Live: The Short Brothers


When love breaks down

We've something a little different for you this week - a five-part drama of internet infidelity, I-Spy. Follow our couple as they court disaster as mutual suspicion gets multiplied by a laptop tracking their every move...

Watch I-Spy


Ice pack: Rabbit frost

This week, we're waking each morning with a different ice-related item. Yesterday, we watched some ice pancakes. Today, we're looking at another natural oddity, rabbit frost.

Rabbit frost Creative commons image Icon Mark Adams under Creative Commons BY-ND 4.0 license

This phenomenon isn't only known as rabbit frost - depending on where you live, you might have heard it called rabbit ice, or ice flowers, or frost flowers or even ribbon ice. Or maybe even needle ice.

Perhaps the world's foremost expert in rabbit frost is James R. Carter of Illinois State University, who has researched the icy filigree - chasing it back to the 19th century and following it around the world:

In summary, we know the formation of frost flowers, ice flowers or ice ribbons is a physical process, not related to the growth of a biological organism.  These ice formations occur on the stems of a few species of plants and on certain pieces of rotten wood on the ground.  I thought I could count the numbers of species on which these form, and then I hear from a woman in central Tennessee who found these on New York Ironweed Veronia noveboracensis.  She convinced me she knew her plants and thus I added the stems of another plant on which these occur.  And, through these web pages I have heard from others and now have identified about 40 plants on which these occur.  I thought they occurred only on dead stems, but last fall I saw them form on stems that we alive.  

The University of Arkansas took an even closer look:

Using time-lapse photography, Forrest Mims III from Texas shows that these ribbons of ice grow outwards from the split stem of the Verbesina he is photographing. The ice is added to from the base of the ribbon, not crystallized near the terminus of the formation. In Dr. Carter's experiments with pipes that have had their ends smashed flat, we see coiled ribbons of ice that grow from the ends of the pipe as the ice freezes and expands. Plastic pipes Carter used in the beginning weren't tough enough to stand up to the pressure of expanding ice, and split.

The Weather Channel has some video of rabbit frost in the wild

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