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OpenLearn Live: 13th July 2015

Updated Monday, 13th July 2015

Something to think about - free learning, insight and research from around OpenLearn and beyond

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Updates regularly throughout the day - or keep an eye on our Twitter feed at OpenLearnLive.

Friday's OpenLearn Live included a massive rockfall, plankton eating plastic and a course in strategy

Tomorrow's OpenLearn Live includes Bastille Day and Spiderman

Today's posts

Is the pill the answer to climate change?

Wrting in The Conversation, Niki Rust and Laura Kehoe suggest that the pill might save the polar bear. Not by prescribing birth control to the animals themselves, obviously. The pair suggest encouraging the human population of the planet to stop growing. And the idea isn't just about birth control, but education and access:

 Fertility rates decline the longer a girl spends in school. By simply providing better female education, the overall population in 2050 could be 1 billion less than current projections. This is because women who are empowered through education have fewer children, as well as having them later in life and therefore have the resources to provide them with better care. Along with this, one in five women – 800m worldwide – have an unmet need for modern contraception; in developing countries this can be as high as 60%.

We aren’t suggesting any evil population control schemes here – it’s about providing resources to girls who want an education and women who want access to family planning. The benefits can be seen relatively quickly: between 1960-2000, contraceptive use by married women in developing nations increased from 10% to 60%, reducing the average number of children per woman from six to three.

It's not a totally new idea - as Rust and Kehoe explain, there have been attempts to link safer sex and protecting the planet in the past, not least through the distribution of condoms packaged with phrases like "wrap with care... save a polar bear" and... this one:

Condoms with a phrase linking safer sex and environmental protection Creative commons image Icon AIDS/SIDA NB under CC-BY licence under Creative-Commons license

Read: Endangered species condoms: ‘Safe intercourse saves the dwarf seahorse’

Read: Rust & Kehoe Could the Pill save the polar bear? at The Conversation

Read: Explaining fertility decline from a feminist perspective

Read: How fertility rates affect population

Sugar-spun spinsters

In the LA Review Of Books, Briallen Hopper takes issue with Kate Bolick's book Spinster: Making A Life Of One's Own:

[M]y fundamental resistance to Spinster isn’t just about the bait and switch of its title and content. It comes down to the way Bolick’s small and not especially spinster-based archive radically limits the potential of her book, both culturally and politically.

In history and literature, the spinster is not typically cool and stylish like Bolick’s glamorous “awakeners.” She is often weird, difficult, dissonant, queer — like an unnerving dream, or a pungent dose of smelling salts. And her social and emotional life is not primarily oriented around the familiar forms of straight romance — dating men, hooking up with men, living with men, getting engaged to men, marrying men, divorcing men, etc.; in other words virtually all the important adult relationships in Bolick’s book. Instead, the spinster may find herself immersed in an ocean-deep existential solitude that remains impervious to Tinder or brunch. Or she may forge powerful forms of female love, friendship, commitment, and community, like the Boston marriage, the matriarchal family, or the settlement house. These varied modes of life are what make spinsters different from single ladies, debutantes, divorcées, and wives. Why would a book called Spinster gloss over them?

Read On Spinsters

Read Women Of Substance: wealthy unmarried women of the 19th Century

Do the right thing

A new piece of research published today in the Journal Of Politeness Research suggests that passers-by are more likely to intervene in an argument when they feel they're in a position to take the moral high ground:

"The findings clearly showed that outspokenness is triggered by what the intervener sees as the impermissible violation of the victim's rights. These rights are so basic that the person intervenes despite the risk of seeming impolite in interfering in someone's private affairs or worse,” said Dr Rosina Márquez-Reiter from the University of Surrey.

“The person intervening sees the alleged violation as part of the public's business despite the fact that the action taking place is essentially part of the couples’ and individuals’ private lives.  Further research is needed to understand the relationship between morality and politeness in a wider range of communicative contexts and establish its transcultural validity,” added Professor Daniel Kadar from the University of Huddersfield.

Read the full story: Taking the moral high ground drives motivation to intervene in public situations finds new study

At the other end of the spectrum: what is the cause of bystander apathy?

New on FutureLearn today

FutureLearn has launched three new courses today - all for free...

England In The Time Of Richard III from The University of Leicester

World War One: Aviation Comes Of Age from The University of Birmingham

Introduction to Cybersecurity from The Open University

If you're intrigued by Introduction to Cybersecurity, you can study the same course here on OpenLearn.

BBC One looks into your wallet

Starting today, and all this week, on BBC One is a series about money: having it, looking after it, using it wisely. It's full of handy advice about stretching your cash. Advice like this:

As part of the programme, The Open University Business School's Mark Fenton O'Creevy has collaborated on a BBC iWonder guide to work out what sort of spender you are - are you a careful spender, a rash spender, or does it turn out you're Jimmy Nail's tough-talking detective Spender? (The last one is, to be fair, a bit unlikely.)

Try the 'what type of spender are you' quiz

Watch the first programme from Right On The Money on iPlayer

Try our free Managing My Money course

Pluto gets ready for its close-up

Astonishingly, some people online were complaining over the weekend that NASA was releasing "fuzzy" pictures of Pluto. It's a pictue of Pluto. In space. And people were mumbling that this scientific achievement wasn't delivering crystal-clear shots, for all the world like they were taking back their snapshot of a moment on Splash Mountain.

For the rest of us, though, the achievement of the New Horizons mission is astonishing.

Pluto Copyrighted  image Icon Copyright: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute

The New Horizons mission homepage

Pluto comes into sharp focus - but it's still not a planet

How were objects in the solar system originally discovered?

Listen over (late) lunch

Well, that's been a busy morning which means we're a bit behind the sharing.

If you've not had your lunch yet, and are looking for something interesting to listen to while you eat, how about this week's Bottom Line?

Evan Davis was joined by John Ridding, Chief Executive of the Financial Times; Ashley Highfield, Chief Executive of the Johnson Press and Andrew Miller, out-going Chief Executive of the Guardian Media Group. They discussed whether the newspaper industry has a future and, if it does, whether it's a profitable one.

Download the mp3 of The Bottom Line

Read more about the programme

Great fictional universities: Borchester University

Welcome back to a second week of OpenLearn Live, our experimental pilot service bringing you interesting learning from across OpenLearn and around the web.

Before we get to the business of real universities, we thought it'd be fun to start up each day this week with a quick look at a university that doesn't exist at all.

First up: Borchester University.

You might think this is about The Archers, but it isn't.

Curiously, British soap operas have a difficult time with universities - Weatherfield doesn't appear to have an higher education institute, despite Corrie's real-life twin city, Salford, being home to a well-regarded uni; in the real world you would have thought Walford might have had a nearby Poly which could have become a University Of The East End when the binary divide was closed by Kenneth Clarke's 1992 Further and Higher Education Act. Generally, though, teenage residents of Albert Square and Coronation Street have to head further afield after A-Levels, which means they're then forced to drop out when the storyliners need them back home from dramatic purposes. (Someone should research the terrible drop-out rates amongst fictional students in soap operas.)

Both Brookside and Emmerdale tried to get round this problem by having characters attend a nearby, real-life institution - Karen Grant attended Liverpool University for a year, although she moved South before completing her studies; and during the strange period when planes were falling from the sky on Beckindale/Emmerdale, the story followed some younger characters into Leeds while they studied.

The Archers and their Borsetshire residents have a fictional uni - most recently involved in the story when deciding that it might be better able to teach without the presence of Kate Aldridge on campus. But Borchester University is not part of Borsetshire's wider infrastructure. It's more interesting than that.

In 2012, Angela Thody investigated the position of Emeritus Professors at a (real-world) University - the research being to understand better how academics who had continued to work beyond 'retirement' were supported, and the contribution they made. In order to make the research anonymous, Thody remade the place under study as Borchester University.

The fictional Borchester University wasn't great at supporting its emeriti, it turned out, as the THE reported:

The university seems to play a very limited role in all this activity.

Many of the emeriti questioned self-funded their research. Although 11 of them had publications that formed part of Borchester's submission to the 2008 RAE, five were submitted for other universities.

"The v-c at my retirement made much of his desire that I should remain research-active," one comments, "but I have found it more convenient to continue research with colleagues no longer at Borchester."

Warm words and broken promises. Borchester University might find it fits in better with the Archer clan's bickering and hugging than they might have thought.

Read at THE: Research intelligence - The emeriti seizing a late licence to roam

Read at THE: How universities fared after the end of the binary divide

Want to have a better chance of success with your studies than a soap opera character? Prepare yourself with our free course, first steps into Higher Education





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