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OpenLearn Live: 19th April 2016

Updated Tuesday, 19th April 2016

The shower curtains which stuck together and changed the world; why the 'gay' lions aren't; and a trip inside the large hadron collider. Free learning from across the day.

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What is free learning, and what does it mean to you? OpenLearn Live is just one answer to that question. This page will be updated across the day.

Yesterday, we caught up with FutureLearn and heard about science in pubs

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Today's posts

The 'gay' lions are actually genderqueer lions

The internet got excited with the circulation of a picture showing - apparently - two male lions trying to mate:

But it's not quite what it seems. Slate's Christina Cauterucci explains more:

Apparently, it’s more likely that the bottom lion is a female with a mane, a common sight in Botswana, where Cambré took the photos on safari.

But there’s a silver lining to this traditional P-in-V love story—namely, that it’s not so heteronormative after all! A biologically female lion with a mane is a gender ninja, a masculine-of-center nonbinary lion, or some kind of fabulous drag king. This genderqueer savanna cat will not hem in its gender presentation to conform to your suffocating boxes or your feel-good assimilationist gay love story. This male top is actually maybe vers, and just because his sex partner isn’t femme doesn’t mean he’s gay. Just because his partner was assigned female at birth doesn’t mean he’s straight, either. Botswana’s lion scene has achieved a level of queerness the modern LGBTQ movement should strive to reach.

The takeaway?

anthropomorphizing an animal can blind us to just how bizarre and wonderful its differences from humans might be.

Read the full article at Slate: Those “Gay” Lions Are Actually Queer, Thankyouverymuch

What is happening in Brazil?

The decision to take the impeachment proceedings against the President is a symptom of a Brazilian political system that's got into a mess. If you're not sure what's happened to get the nation to this point, Brazilian journalist Taisa Sganzerla has pulled together a primer to bring you up to speed:

The turbulence started earlier this month when federal police brought in Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Brazil’s president between 2003 and 2010, for questioning. Next, sitting president Dilma Rouseff appointed Lula her chief of staff, in what appears to be a move to shield him against prosecution.

“Operation Lava Jato”—a wide-ranging investigation into a graft scheme involving the state-run oil company Petrobras and several large construction companies—has led to the arrests of more than a dozen politicians since 2014. Now prosecutors are investigating whether Lula received favors from the companies implicated in the scheme. After his arrest on March 4, Lula was released without formal charges.

Read the full article: What is happening in Brazil?

Inside the Large Hadron Collider

Through the wonder of 360 degree video, let's have a wander inside the Large Hadron Collider.


More on the LHC

Latin American scientists

If you're a scientist working in a South or Central American country, how do you get your research to cut through when much of the world's science reporting is dominated by anglophone coverage? That's a challenge that Red LBC is attempting to overcome:

Under the hashtag #CienciaLatina, there's an initiative to spread scientific news on networks created by scientists of the region. Its objective is to create and expand a network of scientific blogs and to contribute to efforts to spread scientific knowledge. The idea behind Ciencia latina is that this information needs to reach the general public in colloquial, familiar language, so that it can also be part of the discoveries and innovations shared throughout the world.

Read the full article Throwing light on research by South & Central American scientists

Fifties forward: Bubble Wrap

This week, we're celebrating people, places and things rooted in the 1950s which shape our lives today. Yesterday, we looked at the Royal Society Of Arts Bicentennial Medal. Today, we're celebrating an invention.

A cat enjoying some bubble wrap Creative commons image Icon dancing_stupidity under Creative Commons BY-ND 4.0 license Everyone loves Bubble Wrap

In 1957, Marc Chavannes and Alfred Fielding were working away in Hawthorne, New Jersey, attempting to create a three-dimensional wallpaper. (History doesn't record why.) They came up with the idea of sticking together two shower curtains, capturing air between the sheets. It looked pleasing, but the pair discovered the world didn't beat a path to their door to purchase the new wall decoration.

Not to be defeated, they tried a different tack. Maybe it would be a great insulation material for greenhouses?

Again, they didn't make their fortune.

One last attempt. They changed their company name to the Sealed Air Corporation, and went looking for people who might want a protective wrapping for their items. Happily, IBM was searching for a way to ship their new 1401 computer around the country. Chavannes and Fielding had, on the third attempt, discovered a purpose for their product.

The business took off - by 2006, the company was doing sales of USD255 million a year - the core Bubble Wrap line still providing 10% of value in a business which has expanded into other packaging products (mainly for the food industry). That basic product, though, still does amazing things, as the company told Forbes:

The bubble-heads have set up 35 labs where they woo prospects with demonstrations of packages being dropped on concrete floors, vibrated as if they were on the back of a truck driving over cobblestones or placed in vacuum chambers to see how the bubbles respond to altitude. In 2000 Sealed Air even entered a pumpkin-dropping contest in Iowa, releasing an 815-pound pumpkin–nicknamed “Gourdzilla”–onto layers of Bubble Wrap, from a 35-foot-high crane. “The pumpkin survived the drop,” Hickey says. “The problem was that it bounced.”

In measuring Bubble Wrap's success, you could also factor in its value as a cheap way of relieving stress - something Red Dwarf got an episode and two alternate timelines out of.

So light is the product, you can even use it to pad out a news broadcast on a slow day:


And, in the 21st century, the idea that Bubble Wrap's tiny pockets of trapped air could be used as a way of insulating windows - a flop in the 1950s - has been adopted by the frugal and planet-conscious. 

If that isn't circular enough, you can even find people selling shower curtains made from the stuff. That's a product made from a product which was originally two of that product stuck together.

Inspired? Try our free course Invention and Innovation





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