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OpenLearn Live: 13th December 2016

Updated Tuesday, 13th December 2016

The cake that went to court and how social media slowed the size zero trend. Then learning and research from across the day.

OpenLearn Live sticks in its thumb, and pulls out the plums of learning and research from online. This page will be updated across the day.

Yesterday, we heard how monkeys can type using their brains and found out Lennon's mawkish music can make us better people

See the complete collection of OpenLearn Live

Today's posts

Social media v skinny models

Writing for The Conversation, Susan Winfield explores how social media - and rising awareness - has helped turn back the Size Zero tide just a little:

If the tide is changing in favour of more diverse body types in the fashion and media worlds, then this might also explain the move by many brands to embrace more “real” models. In 2015, designer Marc Jacobs cast his S/S campaign using 11 models selected entirely from social media snaps uploaded to the Instagram page #castmemarc.

US lingerie brand, Aerie, also ran a successful campaign in 2014 using untouched models to “challenge supermodel standards for women”. This campaign was significant as its target demographic as young women aged 15-21 who most typically are influenced negatively by idealised images of perfect bodies in the media.

This campaign led to a 32% increase in sales, which perhaps explains the interest of many brands, including sportswear leader, Nike – which now seems to be promoting more inclusive, body-positive campaigns.

Read more at The Conversation: How social media sounded the death knell for super-skinny models

From OpenLearn: Dove's new beauty

New free course: Recovery strategies

If you're a sportsperson, or a coach, you might be faced with the question 'how do I recover quickly after working hard'? Our new free course might be able to help you out - and explain why this is important:

ecovery is an essential part of the training process. It is a normal response for the physiological stress placed on the body during exercise to cause what is termed ‘exercise-induced muscle damage’ (EIMD). The delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) commonly experienced following intensive exercise is a symptom of EIMD.

Other symptoms of EIMD include reduced muscle strength, reduced range of motion, swelling and intracellular protein in the blood (Hill et al. 2014). These symptoms are temporary, but require a period of recovery to repair. If an individual moves into their next training session without being fully recovered from the previous one, their ability to perform at their best will be inhibited. Therefore, any strategy aimed at increasing the speed of recovery is potentially advantageous.

As well as being important to making physiological changes in response to training, recovery is also important in limiting negative responses to training overload. Positive responses to overload (i.e., training gains) are an appropriate response to training, but if the body responds negatively to overload (i.e., no gains in performance, or regression) the individual may be suffering from overtraining syndrome or burnout.

Try the free course extract: Recovery strategies

Why do we believe confident people?

Our brains - suggests new research from the University of Sussex - are designed to be influenced by confident-seeming people:

The scientists examined the active brains of 23 healthy volunteers and found that expectations of success could be influenced by three key elements: personal experience, learning what the majority people believe and, most importantly, learning what confident people believe. 

The first two had widespread effects on the brain’s reward system, which predicts how satisfied we will be when we choose something. Opinions of confident people, however, had an additional effect on this reward system – and only in a part of the brain that appeared late in our evolution.

Read the full news release at Sussex: How our brains are biologically tuned to be influenced by confident people

Read the original research at the Journal of Neuroscience: Independent Neural Computation of Value from Other People's Confidence

Aah, Vienna: The Sachertorte

This week, to celebrate our new series on the history of Vienna - BBC Four, Thursday evenings - we're telling some other stories from the capital of Austria. Yesterday, we checked in with the Wiener Werkstätte collective. Today, we're taking a slice of the Sacher torte:

Sacher Torte Creative commons image Icon vjamnicky under Creative Commons BY 4.0 license

This cake is Austria's signature dessert. It was invented in 1832, when a combination of a hungry prince, Clemens Lothar Wensel Metternich, eager for novelty crossed paths with a chef filling in for a an unwell superior. The fill-in chef, Franz Sacher, created a heavy chocolate cake with a layer of apricot jam. The sachertorte was born.

According to 1952's Viennese Cooking, this is the original recipe:

3/4 cup (170 g) butter; 6 1/2 oz. (180 g) semi-sweet chocolate; 3/4 cup (170 g) sugar; 8 egg yolks; 1 cup (120 g) flour; 10 egg whites, stiffly beaten; 2 tbls. apricot jam; icing: 1 cup (225 g) sugar; 1/3 cup (80 ml) water; 7 oz. (200 g) semi-sweet chocolate;

Beat butter until creamy. Melt chocolate. Add sugar and chocolate to butter; stir. Add egg yolks one at a time. Add flour. Fold in egg whites. Grease and butter 8-9" cake tin. Pour mixture in. Bake in 275 degree F (140 degree C). oven about 1 hour. Test with toothpick or straw. Remove to board; cool. Cut top off and turn bottom up. Heat apricot jam slightly and spread over top. Cover with chocolate icing, prepared as follows:Cook sugar and water to thin thread. Melt chocolate in top of double boiler. Add sugar gradually to chocolate. Stir constantly until icing coats the spoon.

Pour on top of cake

If you prefer your recipes as a cookalong, let's dip into the wisdom of the baking experts:


The cake might have been forgotten had Franz's son, Eduard, not opened a grand hotel in Vienna. Under the direction of Eduard's wife, Anne, the Sacher Hotel became the heart of Austrian society and intrigue, and the Sachertorte the focus of the place's charms.

For reasons that aren't entirely clear, the next generation of Sachers sold the recipe to their titular product to a small bakery and cafe, Demel. The realisation that a signature product had been passed out of the family business struck late, but when it did, it kicked off decades of litigation. The torte went to court. There was debate over torts over tortes. It was - genuinely - known as the cake wars.

Eventually, the case was settled in the hotel's favour - Demel can still produce Sachertorte, but only Hotel Sacher may call its torte the original.

That so much effort was put into the battle confirms what we have often suspected: chocolate cake is a very important thing indeed.

Explore the language and baking of Austria

More about the series Vienna: Empire, Dynasty & Dream




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