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OpenLearn Live: 1st September 2015

Updated Tuesday, 1st September 2015

A four day week, starting with four things; then free learning across the day.

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OpenLearn Live is an experiment in short, reactive learning - we'll be updating this page across the day, but you can also watch our Twitter feed @OpenLearnLive.

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Today's Posts

More on Oliver Sacks

Three further pieces celebrating the life and work of Oliver Sacks, who died this weekend.

Vaughan Bell on Sacks as an inspiration:

Years later, I went to see him talk in London following the publication ofMusicophilia. I took along my original copy of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, hoping to surprise him with the news that he was responsible for my career in brain science.

As the talk started, the host mentioned that ‘it was likely that many of us became neuroscientists because we read Oliver Sacks when we started out’. To my secret disappointment, about half the lecture hall vigorously nodded in response.

Matthew Wade on Sacks and his work:

Examples include Temple Grandin (an esteemed animal welfare academic), Steven Wiltshire (an artist with extraordinary memory retention), and Carl Bennett (the pseudonym of a surgeon with Tourette’s syndrome whose tics are quelled when he is operating).

Or those with Charles Bonnet syndrome (characterised by persistent hallucinations, usually following the degeneration of sight in old age), who can often live comfortably with their odd visions if they are simply reassured of their sanity. Or indeed those with Williams syndrome, who display such an openness to the pleasures of life.

Josh Bernoff on Sacks as a master storyteller:

I feel about Dr. Sacks as I do about all great non-fiction writers: I admire at his abilities, I am amazed that his simple prose is so effective, and of course, I am envious. All I want is to do what he does. Is that so much to ask?

Listen over lunch: Oliver Sacks

Dr Oliver Sacks, who worked tirelessly to understand how the human brain works, and no less tirelessly to explain those workings to non-specialists, died on Sunday at the age of 82.

He was a guest on this episode of Tell-Tale Hearts, where he looked back on his career and achievements. (You'll also hear Molly Webster tell a story of what happens when a heart starts to work against you.)

It's unsurprising that a man who has published as widely and as openly as Dr Sacks is frequently referenced in our free courses here on OpenLearn. Here's just a few times his insight has helped shape the ways we understand the world:

Talking about ausitic savants, from The Autistic Spectrum

On his experiences as a patient in a medical institution, from Caring In Hospitals

On the 'disembodied woman', from Minds and Mental Phenomenon

New on FutureLearn this week

There's a bumper collection of new courses on FutureLearn which started yesterday - so lots of time, still, to complete the week one section...

Blue whale crashes live TV

If you were out and about at the weekend, you might have missed one of the most astounding pieces of live TV this year. Even if you weren't out and about, we bet you want to see it again...


An amazing moment as a blue whale undertakes the ultimate photobomb, from BBC One's Big Blue Live on Sunday.

How did whales evolve? Our free course can help you understand that

What do whale - and other skeletons - on our beaches tell us about our history?

Four things: The Four Freedoms

Good morning, and welcome to a short week on OpenLearn. As we've got four days to play with this week, we're going to celebrate the number four - and offer a start-up segment of four things that are four things. It'll make sense as we go along, honestly.

Our first four pack is The Four Freedoms.

Franklin D Roosevelt signs the Social Security Act, August 14, 1935 Copyright free  image Icon Copyright free: Library Of Congress FDR signing the social security act into US law

The Four Freedoms were at the heart of Franklin D Roosevelt's 1941 State Of The Union address - which has come to be known as the Four Freedoms Speech. Talking against a background of a war in Europe, FDR outlined a set of four fundamentals which everyone "in the world" were entitled to live by - freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear.

There was a single phrase which captured the weight of Roosevelt's vision:

"As men do not live by bread alone, they do not fight by armaments alone."

The speech is sometimes seen as being one of the factors which underpinned American support when, later in the year, the nation abandoned a non-interventionist stance and join the Allies fighting the Second World War. However, opinion polls at the time suggested that national self-interest was a greater motivating factor in domestic support for joining the war, and desire for revenge following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour was more influential yet.

Other critics pointed out that FDR's pledge that he was talking about the "rights of men of every creed and every race, wherever they live" sat awkwardly coming from a Commander In Chief who oversaw an army that fought in segregated units, for example.

Despite the contradictions, the Four Freedoms were enshrined in American war aims, underpinned by the creation of an Office of War Information. They continue to be a strong strand of American political thought in the 21st Century, with a strong cheerleader in the Four Freedoms Center, part of the Roosevelt Institute.

You can listen to the Four Freedoms Speech online

See more from OpenLearn on the Second World War

Study history with The Open University





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