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Health, Sports & Psychology

OpenLearn Live: 18th March 2016

Updated Friday, 18th March 2016

Man against horse, and how nanotechnology might help prevent AIDs. Free learning from across the day.

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OpenLearn Live brings free learning to the heart of things that matter to you. This page will be updated during the day.

Yesterday, we considered the abolition of the Local Education Authorities, and marked St Patricks Day

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Today's posts

Energy efficient houses

A scientist has built a house to try and work out what changes reallly make the difference in efficiency:

Often, when a home is made more energy efficient, people simply decide to absorb the savings – in both money and heat – by keeping their houses warmer. Energy consumption may even increase. This is known as the “take back effect”, or Jevons Paradox. In the UK, this effect accounts for an average of 35% of the initial saving, although individual homes may be more extreme. This further confounds the predicted models that the improvements may have been sold on.

Perhaps the most contentious reason for efficiency improvements not performing as designed is simply down to poor design or installation. Wall insulation could be missing, windows could be poorly fitted, or the actual materials used could be different from those dictated in the original design. Research on new build homes has found this “performance gap” can make these buildings less than half as efficient as they were supposed to be.

Read the full article: Scientific evidence...

Transgender competitors join the Olympics

The rules have changed to allow more transgender people to compete at the highest level of sports - but, as you'd expect, some people are unhappy. Katharina Lindner explores the issue:

Transgender athletes will now be allowed to compete in the Olympics without having to undergo sex reassignment surgery. Which is possibly set to impact women’s sport more than men’s. Achieving eligibility to compete in male competition is now easy - you just have to say you are male. Whereas eligibility to compete in female competition is subject to a number of tests for hormone levels.

For some, this step away from surgical requirements was enthusiastically welcomed and considered an important milestone towards greater equality and inclusion in the sporting world. But there were also much more critical responses. These included concerns around the possible impact on the integrity and fairness of competition. And fears that women in particular would be even further disadvantaged within sport than they already are.

Read the full article: What do sports authorities have to do...?

A new HIV vaccine?

Research at Cardiff University might lead to a new vaccine against HIV:

Published today in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, researchers from the University’s Institute of Infection and Immunity describe having administered a vaccine into human skin samples and test tubes, which elicited a specific anti-HIV immune response capable of defeating the virus.

Scientists applied the vaccine using micro-needle patches. 

They say that this method of administering nanoparticles into the skin is more effective than other approaches involving injections into fat or muscle tissue, given that the skin is highly vascularised and contains a large amount of immune cells.

Read more at the University of Cardiff: New route to HIV vaccine

More from OpenLearn on HIV & AIDs

Sports week: Man against horse

Today is Sport Relief day, and to mark the event we've been celebrating some notable sporting events this week. If you've missed any, here's what we've featured so far:

We're rounding off the week with an age old battle: man against animal. In particular, man against horse.

A man and a horse taking part in a man versus horse marathon Creative commons image Icon Joethelibrarian under Creative Commons BY-SA 4.0 license Two participants in the man versus horse marathon

The idea of pitching humans against animals for sport - or something like it - isn't especially novel, but the annual man versus horse marathon race is less about conflict, and more about a genuine sense of competition. Created in 1980 out of a pub bet, the Llanwrtyd Wells event now attracts a field of 600 people, and 50 horses (1,400 legs in all).

Generally, the horses always win, although on occasion human endurance outstrips equine strength. The first two-legged winner was in 2004, when Huw Lobb cantered home two minutes ahead of Kay Bee Jay to claim the prize fund of £25,000.

Is it a fair race, then? Well, it depends. A similar event in 2014 saw one man (Adam Holland) take on just one horse (Tango) in Devon. Equine phisiology expert Dr David Martin explained to the Plymouth Herald why it wasn't all in the horse's favour:

“In terms of biomechanics, the horse has the advantage because it has four legs. It uses less energy  and is more efficient.

“Of course, not all horses are as good as one another.

“At 27, Adam is at his peak fitness, while the horse is still quite young. Endurance horses usually peak at between eight and ten years old.

“Tango has a better capacity to use oxygen, but with heat production  is at a disadvantage, because it is bigger and produces more heat.

“As for Adam, he can manipulate his exercise programme and diet to maximise his energy stores before the race.

“On the course, Adam can maintain a consistent speed, but with the changes in ground condition, the horse will use up energy slowing down for turns and then speeding up again.

“It’s not straightforward, but if I had a bet I would probably put money  on the horse.”

For the record, David would have lost his money - Adam beat Tango.

Want to set and achieve your own goal - however unlikely? Try our personal best videos

Find out how to be part of Sport Relief 2016





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