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OpenLearn Live: 21st January 2016

Updated Thursday 21st January 2016

The writer who was hounded by the Nazis and the anti-Communists. Then more free learning through the day.

OpenLearn Live discovers the links between the world of free learning and the world you live in.

Yesterday, we found out how to restart a career in STEM and looked at what we can learn from NSA whistleblowers

See the complete collection of OpenLearn live

Today's posts

BBC Radio 4, 4.30pm: BBC Inside Science

There's another edition of Inside Science this afternoon, which will be bringing you the latest insight into science stories behind the news. That's all we know for certain right now, as they're too busy making the programme to let us know what will be in it.

Find out more about the series

Listen online or download (after the programme has broadcast)

Here comes the micro:bit

The BBC micro:bit - a tiny device which offers school children the chance to get coding - is soon to find itself in the hot little hands of Year 7 pupils around the country. The BBC's Sinead Rocks has blogged about the project's presence at BETT:

At Bett, Samsung will be unveiling the official BBC micro:bit Android app. We know from our work so far that this is the type of thing that really enables children to let their creativity run wild. With it, you can code and control your BBC micro:bit from a phone or tablet. Or you can use your micro:bit to control your phone - the choice is yours...

We've worked with hundreds of children through the process of developing the micro:bit and so far, we've seen them use these tiny devices to control the music on their mobiles, to create remote controls for selfies and even to make their own video games. Their creativity has been inspiring and a constant source of motivation throughout an initiative that has been as challenging as it is ambitious.

The IET is providing teachers with free BBC micro:bit teaching resources and is working with the National Science Learning Network and the Design and Technology Association to offer teachers free training on how to use the micro:bit in their lessons.

Want to keep up? Try our guide to simple coding

Try our learn to code for data analysis free course

What is polonium?

The report into the death of Alexander Litvinenko has been released, once again putting polonium at the centre of news reports. Let's just take a step back and remind ourselves why polonium is so dangerous...

The toxicity of radioactive materials is usually measured in terms of the radiation emitted and/or absorbed. However, to compare with more conventional toxins, the median lethal dose (LD50) for 210Po that is usually quoted is about 1μg, or one millionth of a gram.

That is one ten thousandth the dose of VX – the most potent nerve gas.

Contamination is treated in the same way as other heavy metal poisoning, with chelating agents that bind to the metal and make it more likely to be excreted. However, once a victim shows the symptoms of 210Po poisoning, the effects are likely to be fatal.

Read the full article: What is polonium and why is it so dangerous?

An address in Berlin: Bertolt Brecht

Bertolt Brecht Creative commons image Icon German Federal Archive under Creative Commons BY-SA 4.0 license In celebration of the links between David Bowie and Berlin, this week we're exploring the relationship between creative minds and the German capital. Yesterday, we met Ernst Kummer, at the heart of a trio of talented mathematicians. Today, we're focusing on Bertolt Brecht.

Brecht was born Eugen Berthold Friedrich Brecht in Augsburg, in Bavaria. His birthplace is, understandably, proud of their famous son - there's a festival in his name held annually - but even Bavarians know in their hearts that Brecht and Berlin are entwined.

Brecht came to Berlin in 1924. He was already a writer of some note, but in order to keep body and soul together in a new city, Brecht at first took a job as a dramaturg with Max Reinhardt's forward-thinking Deutsches Theater. It wasn't a demanding role, but gave Brecht space to develop his own writing, and a place at the heart of a creative realm. He developed his Man Equals Man (Mann ist Mann) play - this would not only be his first written in his new home, but also provide the nucleus of what would go on to become known as the Brecht Collective. This loose group of collaborators would provide a framework and a unique way of working that would sustain Brecht's creativity over the next few years.

Moving to Berlin bought Brecht success, support, a new name (he had been working as Bert Brecht before relocating) and a new philosophy - it was on the streets of the city that his anti-establishmentism discovered the allure of Marxism.

It also bought danger, and as the Nazis started to consolidate power, Berlin started to become an uncomfortable place to be a questioning artist. He went into exile - first, to Scandanavia in 1933; then to America in 1941. Living in Santa Monica, it was perhaps inevitable that Brecht would find his way to working with Hollywood. Here, in the words of his poem Hollywood Elegies - he found a world driven by different motivations:

Every day, I go to earn my bread
In the exchange where lies are marketed,
Hoping my own lies will attract a bid.

He was dragged before Congress to testify before McCarthy's House Un-American Activities Committee:

Judged to be as big a threat to the American dream as he was to the Nazi regime, Brecht left America in 1947. First he settled in Zurich, but the pull of Berlin and the stage was too strong, and by the middle of the century he was running his own theatre in East Berlin. The Communists didn't trust him any more than the Nazis or the Americans, although he was presented the oxymoronic Stalin Peace Prize in 1955. He died in Berlin in 1956.

Listen to the Ghosts of Berlin

More from OpenLearn on theatre





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