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OpenLearn Live: 12th November 2015

Updated Thursday 12th November 2015

How do you run a railway uphill? Then more free learning through the day.

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Yesterday we asked where leaves come from, explored the colours of peacocks and looked at what's in our drinking water

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Today's posts


Narendra Modi's visit: A short reading list

Today, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been starting his visit to the UK with speeches in Parliament and joint press conferences with David Cameron. Here's a quick reading list to bring you up to date.

For an Indian view of how the British press are covering the visit, try The Indian Express:

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who begins a three-day visit to the United Kingdom On Thursday, is expected to showcase India’s vast opportunities and look for greater investments in the country under his pet programme – Make In India.

However, his visit to the United Kingdom, the first by an Indian Prime Minister in a decade, is set to be covered by protests ranging from the ongoing intolerance debate in India, the anti-Sikh riots protests and Modi’s alleged role in the 2002 Gujarat riots.

As part of the renewed focus on the 2002 Gujarat riots, the New York Times offers a timeline of events:

For more than a decade, Indians have asked whether Narendra Modi, India’s new prime minister, could have slowed or stopped the bloody 2002 riots in Gujarat. Muslims make up about 14 percent of the Hindu-majority nation founded on a secular constitution. Religion has been used by many parties for political gain. Following is a reconstruction of key developments before, during and after the riots.

Writing for OpenDemocracy, Amrit Wilson explained the motivations some of the protestors waiting to greet Mr Modi:

Meanwhile, however, a growing number of people of Indian origin in the UK are planning what is likely to be a massive protest at Downing Street at 12.00 noon on 12 November  - the time and place where Modi is due to meet Prime Minister David Cameron. The demonstration (#ModiNotWelcome #NotInOurName) is organised by a network of groups - the Awaaz Network, in solidarity with the many who are protesting in India: the more than 40 writers from across India who have returned their awards, the trade unionists who staged the largest all-India strike in recent history and the people of Bihar who decisively rejected Modi's politics of hate in a state election on 8 November. 

While the current visit is about strengthening ties between two nations with some history between them, The Economist says it's as much about sending signals to bases at home:

the theatre of Mr Modi’s visit is designed for domestic consumption as much as anything else. The support of the Indian diaspora has been crucial to Mr Modi’s success in India. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a Hindu-nationalist outfit that has strong influence within Mr Modi’s BJP has helped to organise the big rally at Wembley. That event will be projected back to India as a massive show of support—handy for a man who just lost a vital state election in Bihar (see article).

Mr Cameron has plenty to gain as well. At the general election in May, according to one report, for the first time the Tories polled 1m votes from among ethnic minorities, the overwhelming majority of whom were Asians. Among Hindus and Sikhs, the Tories even outpolled Labour. Putting in a Wembley appearance alongside the popular Mr Modi probably won’t do the prime minister’s own political ratings any harm either.

At The Conversation, Jaideep Prabhu suggests the deals between the UK and India to keep an eye open for:

The visit of the leader of India, with its huge and rapidly-growing economy, to the UK is bound to bring exciting announcements. Anything of the scale of the billion pound nuclear agreement the UK did with China recently, though, is unlikely. Instead, a number of smaller deals seems a stronger possibility. Indeed, Philip Hammond, the UK’s foreign secretary, has said: “As the Indian economy has a very large and important private sector, many of the deals will be commercial and private sector deals rather than government to government.”

UPDATED: Here's the full text of Prime Minister Modi's speech to the UK parliament:

Strong as our partnership is, for a relationship such as ours, we must set higher ambitions. We are two democracies; two strong economies; and, two innovative societies. 

We have the comfort of familiarity and the experience of a long partnership. Britain's resurgence is impressive. Its influence on the future of the global economy remains strong. 

And, Mr. Speaker, India is new bright spot of hope and opportunity for the world. It is not just the universal judgment of international institutions. It is not just the logic of numbers: a nation of 1.25 billion people with 800 million under the age of 35 years. 

This optimism comes from the energy and enterprise of our youth; eager for change and confident of achieving it. It is the result of bold and sustained measures to reform our laws, policies, institutions and processes. 


BBC Radio 4, tonight, 8.30: The Bottom Line

Tonight's edition of the long-running boardroom-level business chat show sees Evan Davies exploring businesses which break the mould. Guests include Brewdog's James Watt and Sarah Wood from Unruly Media.

See more about the programme

Discover some of the challenges of start-up businesses with Blinx founder Suranga Chandratillake


Transgender stories on screen

As EastEnders and Hollyoaks cast transgendered actors in transgendered roles, and Tangerine arrives in cinemas, are non-binary stories finally getting a fair slice of screen time?

When it comes to TV drama or film, there is agreement that trans characters should be played by trans actors. Laverne Cox paved the way with her role in the US Netflix hit Orange is the New Black. More recently trans actors have been seen in the UK with Rebecca Root’s role in Boy meets Girl, the BBC’s “groundbreaking ” rom-com.

A key marker in queer film-making was Paris is Burning (1990). Directed by Jennie Livingstone, this documentary was set in New York City in the mid-late 1980s and focused on the culture of “drag balls” amongst the African-American and Latino gay and transgender men. It is widely recognised for the force of its social commentary on norms of gender, race, sexuality and class, set against a backdrop of homophobia, racism and socio-economic deprivation.

Read Have transgender storylines gone mainstream?


British engineers: John Barraclough Fell

This week, we're marking what would have been George Jennings' birthday by looking at achievements of some British engineers. Yesterday, Beryl Platt and her work on wartime and civil airplanes was our focus. Today, it's the work of John Barraclough Fell.

The Mont Cenis railway Copyright free image Icon Copyright free: Public domain Barraclough's Mont Cenis Railway

Born in London in 1815, it was when Fell moved to the Lake District that he came into his own as an engineer. First working on steamships, he rapidly progressed to the then-booming railway sector, helping build the Whitehaven to Furness line.

In demand, his skills took him to Italy, where he was involved in the construction of many lines; it was here that he had his greatest inspiration. The early story of railway construction was about seeking flat, or nearly flat, lines; Mont Cenis proved a challenge to that desire. While one group of engineers focused on boring their way through the guts of the mountain, slowly, Fell invented a system that would allow a temporary line to run up the side of Cenis.

His addition was a third rail, which was gripped between two wheels at 90 degrees to the 'normal' wheels on the outside tracks. These provided the traction (and, just as importantly, braking) which allowed the locomotive to climb and descend steep inclines.

Although boring technology (for drilling, obviously) improved so rapidly the Cenis line wasn't required for very long, the idea spread. Fell Railways were put into place throughout Italy and France; they were found on the Isle of Man, in Brazil and across New Zealand. The last full Fell Railway remained in service until 1976; the Snaefell Mountain Railway in the Isle of Man still uses Fell's third rail braking system today.

The Fell Railway was superceded by cog railway systems; Fell's attention moved on to light rail and, working with the UK War Office, ways of building rail systems rapidly in conflict zones. He died in 1902; his obituary from the Institution Of Civil Engineers recorded what he saw as his greatest achievements:

Mr. Fell took pleasure in relating three events in his life, namely, that he placed the first steamer on the English Lakes, launched on Windermere in the year 1851 and christened by Mrs. Fell; that he constructed the first railway in the Papal States of Italy; and that he carried the first railway over the Alps.

To the top of the Alps, and through the Vatican. John Barraclough Fell's engineering kept taking him close to the heavens.

Watch: The making of the Docklands Light Railway

Try our free course Introducing Engineering

 

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