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OpenLearn Live: 17th September 2015

Updated Thursday, 17th September 2015

The language that made the web possible; earthquakes explained - then more free learning across the day.

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OpenLearn Live works to bring you the links between the world of learning and research, and your world. This page is updated during the day; you can also follow us on Twitter.

Yesterday, we dipped into Gamechangers reviews, caught up with Scotland a year on from the Referendum and asked if trees could slow fires

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Today's Posts


On iPlayer now: BBC Inside Science

The latest edition of BBC Inside Science is now available, with a feature on images of Pluto, questions about space elevators, and insect migrations.

Listen to BBC Inside Science on iPlayer

Download BBC Inside Science as a podcast

Find out more about BBC Inside Science

You can also hear this episode at 9 pm on BBC Radio 4


Learn to be a Viking

We're really proud of our nearing 1000 courses here at OpenLearn, and we think that we've managed a pretty broad spread of subjects. There's always going to be areas we don't quite reach, though, and one of those is Being A Viking courses. According to the New York Times, the Norwegian government is now funding courses in Vikinghood. (Vikingness?):

Mr. Garly last month began a new job on a hillside campus in central Norway as the director of Scandinavia’s first government-funded training course on how to live like a Viking.

Or, that is, a politically correct one, purged of the bloodthirsty aggression that made the Viking Age a byword for macho violence.

“I am a very peaceful man. I have never plundered anything,” said Mr. Garly, a 36-year-old Dane whose modest stature, jocular manner and portly figure belie his enthusiasm for ancient warriors. He does, at least, have a beard.

“Rape and pillage are not part of the curriculum,” Mr. Garly added.

Read: Norway again embraces the Vikings, minus the violence

Watch: The Vikings - a people on the waves

We don't have Vikings but try one of our other hundreds of courses


Listen over lunch: Beth Shapiro on de-extinction

If you're in the mood for something interesting to listen to over lunch, why not try Five Books' interview with Beth Shapiro? She's an expert on evolution, and she talks about the process of de-extinction - bringing creatures back from extinction. It's not possible in a Jurassic Park style:

De-extinction, the idea of bringing a species back to life after it is gone, extinct, would require cloning. That requires a living cell. Once an animal is dead, there aren't any living cells in its body. The DNA starts to be broken down right away by water and oxygen and UV light and by microbes living in the soil chewing up the DNA. That's not possible.

There is something, though, that is possible, and Beth explains what that process is. She also chooses five books that describe her field of knowledge.

Listen to Five Books: Beth Shapiro on de-extinction

Should we worry about extinction?

Read: Amphibians in decline


BBC Four, tonight, 9 pm: Calculating Ada - The Countess of Computing

As part of the Make It Digital season on the BBC, tonight we're bringing you a documentary on the life and work of Ada Lovelace. The daughter of Lord Byron, an enchantress of numbers, and, crucially, the person who saw the power of Babbage's analytic engine, Ada is an extraordinary figure and - although she lived in the 19th-century figure, she is a hero for our times. Tonight, Hannah Fry tells her story.

Watch clip: The true legacy of Ada Lovelace

Find out more about Calculating Ada

Read: Ada Lovelace Day


Free course: Earthquakes

There's been a huge quake in Chile overnight, setting off tsunamis. To understand the forces which cause these natural disasters, try our free course Earthquakes.


This is 1990: HTML

This week, we're starting up each day with one of the stories from 1990 that won't make it into Shane Meadows' This Is England 1990. Yesterday, we discovered how interest rates in Brazil nearly hit 800,000% a year.

Today, we're going to visit the birth of a new language.

Tim Berners-Lee Creative commons image Icon Kristina DC Hoeppner under CC-BY-SA licence under Creative-Commons license Tim Berners-Lee

The reviews of This Is England observed how Lol's generation is probably the last you could realistically portray as not being online the whole time. It's not just accurate of how we lived in 1990; although the gang could have theoretically used the internet in 1990, they wouldn't have been able to access a page written in HyperText Mark-Up Language. Not until the end of the year, anyway, as Tim Berners-Lee hadn't invented it at the start of the year.

Like most languages, HTML wasn't totally original but built on earlier languages. Hypertext as a concept had existed for a while - Berners-Lee had gone to ECHT 90 in November, a conference which brought together European technologists interested in linking things together. And for the shape of his invention, Berners-Lee was guided by a programming language already in use at CERN, Script Generalized Mark-up Language (SGML).

The main innovation that makes HTML different from SGML - the magic which makes the web the web - was an "a" tag (the a standing for anchor). This was the signal to the machine that the text that followed was a link to elsewhere; and that one letter would drive the development of the world wide web, and the broader internet, over the following years.

Inarguably, HTML is the widest-used computer programming language in the world and even people who don't consider themselves programmers can quickly learn to use many of the basics of the language to develop simple webpages. It's possible that by now, more people are fluent in HTML than in English.

Watch Tim Berners-Lee on net neutrality

Read The Early History of HTML at Infomesh

Want to take a step beyond HTML? Try our simple coding introduction

 

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