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OpenLearn Live: 10th August 2015

Updated Monday, 10th August 2015

This week, we're starting with Japanese Nobel Laureates and then following free online learning and insight across the day.

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OpenLearn Live is updated frequently during the day, where our IT system allows us to; or you can follow our Twitter feed @openlearnlive.

On Friday, we completed a week of musical scientists, checked in on the GOP debates and explored the Perseid Showers.

See the full collection of OpenLearn Live

Today's Posts

Map for Monday: Sunshine in England and Wales

If you're interested in environmental health - and how deep the impact of where you live can be on how you live - you might be interested to discover the Environment And Health Atlas. This is a creative commons licenced online publication which collects and presents a variety of health-related data on a searchable map of England and Wales. It shows both data about health conditions and factors which might impact on health - fungicide and herbicide use, for example; or, as in this example, the average daily hours of sunshine across the countries between 1980 and 2005:

Map showing the average sunshine hours for England and Wales Creative commons image Icon The Environmental Health Atlas under a CC-BY-ND licence under Creative-Commons license

Explore the original map

Explore the Environment And Health Atlas

Try our free course Seeing The Light - on how the sun affects everything you do

I didn't get where I am today not recognising the impact of Reggie Perrin on British life

David Nobbs, whose death was announced yesterday, wrote many memorable scripts. But his greatest contribution to British life was, unquestionably, Reginald Perrin. Not just because he created a superior sitcom character, but because Reggie's storyline has entered the popular consciousness as a reference point. Here's a few examples of how a reference to Nobbs' character has helped shaped an academic perspective.

First, Barbara Brownie, lecturer in visual communication, writing on her Costume & Culture blog about abandoned clothes:

Abandoned clothes on beaches have connotations of suicide – real and fake.  Labour minister John Stonehouse faked his death in 1974 by leaving a pile of clothes on Miami Beach. In the British TV series The Rise and Fall of Reginald Perrin, Reggie fakes suicide by leaving his clothes and personal effects on Brighton Beach. This scene of “psudocide” has been recreated so many times that “the British refer to it as doing a Reggie Perrin”.

Abandoned clothes attract attention because we know they are not supposed to be there. More precisely, they are not supposed to be alone. Clothes in a public space are meant to be attached to a body. What is notable, therefore, is not the clothes themselves, but the absence of a human form inside them.

(For the pub quizzers amongst you, before you write in, yes, it was actually West Bay in Bridport. The beach is doubly famous, as it was also used in Broadchuch).

In a 1978 speech for The Marketing Assocation, Ian MacLaurin - then managing director of Tesco - suggested Reggie Perrin represented the torpor of British society:

In the past half dozen years the optimism of the sixties seems to have vanished; the intellectuals have done a u-turn. First came talk of the limits of growth; then it was found that small may be beautiful; now it's being suggested that we are little more than a museum piece to the past. Somewhere, it appears, something has gone radically wrong with our once-upon-a-time prospects. Somehow it is Reggie Perrin, who so firmly declines to rise, who has come to represent our contemporary dilemma — the dilemma of a society that seems to have lost confidence in itself.

It's not just Reggie - his boss, then employee, CJ makes appearances in works on management; usually cited as an example of how not to go about things. South Yorkshire Police's Richard Wells drafts in CJ's assistance to make a point in an article for Total Quality Management:

One of the most helpful of recently emerging beliefs is that senior personnel have no monopoly on wisdom when it comes to creative ideas. Although it is a statement of the very obvious, it is probably overlooked in just those organizations where it most desperately needs to be recognized. It is the Reggie Perrin archetypal boss who proclaims `I didn’t get where I am today by . . .’ . Many company employees will readily recognize the caricature. Senior people who have succeeded to their posts by deference and the principle of Buggin’s turn are left vulnerable in a rapidly changing world. Often without flexibility, adequate knowledge or understanding beyond their own narrow role, they recoil into defensive mode. Many of them will have grasped intellectually the importance of listening without investing emotionally in the process. The result is the all too frequently heard declaration, `I hear what you say’ - the verbal equivalent of people who, at cocktail parties, gaze over shoulders scanning for their next encounter. When questioned about the importance of tapping into employees’ views, they will typically have an inflated view of their achievements in that direction when compared with their employees’ assessment. 

One of the frustrations for CJ was Reggie's inability to arrive at the office on time - normally down to British Rail and excuses as varied as "badgers ate a junction box at New Malden" and "derailment of container truck, Raynes Park". This persistent disruption, and its knock on effects, was noted by John Elliott in a 2010 article for Public Money & Management:

There is a coincidence between government policy aims and companies’ own self-interest, although many firms have yet to realize this. If we want to minimize company costs, and especially if other measures such as road pricing and parking place charges are introduced, it is strongly in a company’s interests to reduce car dependency. It also makes sound commercial sense, as excessive traffic delays commercial operations and, for workers, it causes frayed tempers and less productivity. It can even waste time at work when, after a bad journey, people talk about traffic problems—the ‘Reggie Perrin factor’. Excessive use of space for cars, whether moving or parked, is a waste of land that could be developed for other purposes.

Above all, Reggie Perrin was a suburban hero, set against a bureaucracy that shaped his life, his employment and even his evironment. Mark Twedwr-Jones, writing in the Berkley Planning Journal, saw the Perrinesque representation of town planners as part of a British tradition:

Since the late 1970s, television representations of planning or the planner have been predominantly technocratic and bureaucratic - useful themes for television comedies; see, for exmaple, how the planner is portrayed in David Nobb's Reggie Perrin, and Tom Sharper's Blott On The Landscape and Restoration for the BBC, and the Secret World of Michael Fry and Demolition for Channel 4.

The futility of Perrin's attempt to escape middle-class drudegry was exposed by Frank McDonough in a chapter on Class and Politics for British Cultural Identities. The life Perrin fought to escape had become the one everyone wanted to live:

In the 1970s prejudice against a conformist life continued. The popular comedy show The Fall And Rise Of Reginald Perrin portrayed the dull life of a middle-class executive who takes the same route from his semi-detached house to work each day. AQt work, Reggie grows tired of life with equally dull people, at home he despairs of his boring relatives whose idea of fun is to drink prine wine and visit a safari park at the weekend. To break free of this middle-class Alcatraz, Reggie Perrin fakes his own suicide and disappears.

In the 1980s, however, Reggie Perrin came back from the dead to find the boring middle-class lifestyle he escaped had become, of all things, fashionable. Everyone aspired to own a dull semi-detcahed house in the suburbs and go to work in a dull job in the City. A middle-class hero suddenly became something to be.

To create a character who remains well-loved forty years on is remarkable - nobody cries for the return of Mrs Noah, or cites John Inman's Mr Jones as an example of gendershifts in the office. But to create a comic universe so relatable that it can be dropped into management thinking, classist considerations of the state of the nation, debates on transport policy and speeches about the direction of British industry - that's quite a remarkable feat.

More on transport & sustainability from OpenLearn

More on management from OpenLearn

More on the language of class from OpenLearn

New on FutureLearn this week

As is our custom on Monday, here's a quick look at the new courses starting this week on FutureLearn:

From the University of Birmingham: Co-operation in the Contemporary World - Unlocking International Politics

From The Open University: The Science of Nuclear Energy

and: Basic Science - Understanding Experiments

You can also study the Basic Science course here on OpenLearn

Rocky Horror Reaches 40

To outsiders, the fandom around Rocky Horror can look less like a cosplay and quote-along cult, and closer to a Kool Aid and quit-your-family type. Simon Price used to be distrustful of the faithful. As the film-of-the-play turns 40, however, he explains at The Quietus how when seen in its original context, it becomes much more than "boil-in-the-bag perversion for sexually repressed accountants":

The past is another country, and as vanilla, softcore and on-the-nose as the show may seem to modern sensibilities, the Britain of 1973 was in the grip of a growing illiberal backlash against the freedoms of the 1960s, led by the Christian reactionary Mary Whitehouse and her National Viewers And Listeners Association. After the liberal gains of the Harold Wilson era, which had seen the relaxing of abortion laws and the decriminalisation of homosexuality (in addition to the Theatres Act), the socially-conservative Edward Heath was now Prime Minister. The whole country, after a jump to the Left, was taking a step to the Right.

Read Into A Time Slip at The Quietus

More on 70s Britain: The Winter Of Discontent

Japanese Nobel Laureates: Hideki Yukawa

Good morning, and welcome back to another week of OpenLearn Live. For our start-up segment this week, we're going to profiling a different Japanese Nobel Laureate every morning, and we're kicking off with Hideki Yukawa, or 湯川 秀樹.

Hideki Yukawa Copyright free  image Icon Copyright free: Public domain image

Yukawa was the first Japanese person to win a Nobel, taking the award for his work in predicting the existence of what are now called mesons. So, what are mesons?

His work addressed one of the biggest puzzles for atomic scientists in the early 1930. By this point, it was accepted that the nucleus of an atom contained a lot of positve charged protons; but it was equally known that positive charged things should repel each other. On that basis, atoms should have been constantly exploding as the like-charges of the protons pushed them apart. Yukawa's theory was that the negatively-charged electrons and the positively-charged protons pulled each other closer together by exchanging subatomic particles - the mesons - and thus kept the atom together.

He published On the Interaction of Elementary Particles in 1935, predicting the existence of the mesons. His theory would be proved in 1947, when British scientists, lead by Cecil Frank Powell, observed the first meson. His theory proved, Yukawa was awarded the Nobel for Physics in 1949; the following year Powell received the same award.

Beyond science, Yukawa had an interest in philosophy and published a comparison of Eastern and Western approaches to intution and creativity. He was one of the signatories of the Russell-Einstein Manifesto, alerting the world to the risk posed by nuclear weapons and calling upon national governments to find peaceful ways to solve conflicts. It led to the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, although not so much to national govenments finding peaceful ways to solve conflicts.

Inspired? Discover more about studying physics with The Open University

The Russell-Einstein Manifesto

The Nobel Prize for Physics 1949





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