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OpenLearn Live: 21st November 2016

Updated Monday, 21st November 2016

Are we enjoying a wet autumn, or a soggy fall? Plus, NASA's new weather satelitte, patent boxes and champagne science. Learning and research from across the day.

OpenLearn Live kicks the big pile of online learning and research to discover the best leaves. This page will be updated across the day.

On Friday, we completed a week in Birmingham, heard about a plan to save Leicestershire's seeds and asked what "taking back control" really means

See the complete collection of OpenLearn Live

Today's posts

Champagne science

One of the ways you can tell Christmas is getting closer is that the Brown Palace in Denver, Colorado, does its annual champagne cascade.

Here's a video of the cascade from 2010:

Rather than just wonder at the conspicuous consumption on display, you may find yourself thinking about all those bubbles. They behave in a similar way in a 6,000 glass tower as they do in a single glass, and the UCLA can explain what they're doing:

Bubbling patterns actually change over the time that the champagne is within the glass. The bubbles start out as strings that rise in pairs, then gradually transition to bubbles in groups of threes, and finally settle down in a clockwork pattern of regularly spaced individual bubbles. A team of physicists in the Champagne region of France have performed extensive research to figure out the science behind champagne fizz and the interesting patterns the bubble strings form.

The patterns are determined by the vibration rate of the gas trapped at the nucleation point and the growth rate of the bubbles outside. These factors are determined by  atmospheric pressure on the surface of the champagne, temperature, and the size of the nucleation point in the glass, among other factors. 

Read more at UCLA Food & Science blog: The Science of Champagne Bubbles

Listen to our guide to the science of wine making

Patent boxes

As Theresa May outlines a new industrial strategy which echoes Harold Wilson's famous 'white heat of technology', one of the proposed tools which could help stimulate investment in innovation is the patent box.

Read the report at BBC News:  Is this the PM's 'white heat' of technology moment?

Britain has had a patent box since Gordon Brown's government, with official guidance originally published in 2007:

The Patent Box enables companies to apply a lower rate of Corporation Tax to profits earned after 1 April 2013 from its patented inventions. The relief will be phased in from 1 April 2013 and the lower rate of Corporation Tax to be applied will be 10%.

Read at Corporation Tax: the Patent Box

You may wonder whether using a box to protect profit on patents isn't just a convoluted way of encouraging research and development, and why not just provide the tax relief there. A report produced for US Congress by the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation in 2011 explained the key difference:

Patent boxes tax qualifying profits (those derived from patents or in some nations additional kinds of IP) at a lower rate in order to incentivize innovation. Patent boxes differ from R&D tax credits in that they provide firms with an incentive for commercialization of innovation, rather than for just the conduct of research. Commercialization of innovation, rather than the simple conduct of R&D, is a key driver of economic growth. Thus, proponents of patent boxes argue that creating tax incentives linked to success at commercializing innovation is an important strategy for growth, competitiveness, and job creation.

Read the full report at ITIF: Patent Boxes: Innovation in Tax Policy and Tax Policy for Innovation

Maybe a more important question is 'do they work'? Some research into this has taken place at the Oxford University Centre For Business Taxation:

We find that patent boxes have a strong effect on attracting patents mostly due to their favourable tax treatment, especially so for high quality patents. Patent boxes with a large scope in terms of tax base definition have also stronger effects on the location of patents. The size of the tax advantage offered through patent box regimes are found to deter local innovative activities while R&D development conditions tend to attenuate this adverse effect. Our simulations show that on average countries imposing such development conditions tend to grant a tax advantage which is slightly larger than optimal from a local R&D impact perspective.

Read the full research at OUCBT: Patent boxes design, patents, location and local R&D

Discover what the Open University Business school could do for you

GOES-R: NASA's new weather satelitte

What did you do over the weekend? NASA launched a new satelitte. One of the things it will do is bring weather forecasting to a new level - which mostly will benefit Americans, but this satelitte is also going to keep an eye on space weather. And that could help us all.

Try our free course: Watching the weather

More on space from OpenLearn

Autumn statements: Fall or autumn?

This week, Philip Hammond presents his first Autumn Statement to the House of Commons. So, to mark this point in the political year, we're starting up every day this week with a focus on something autumnal.

Today, it's the name of the season itself.

And the question: what's the difference between 'autumn' and 'fall'?

The simple answer is this is autumn:

Autumn leaves Copyright free  image Icon Copyright free: Public Domain Pictures

And this is The Fall:


Really, though, how is it that Americans call the season between summer and winter "fall", and British people plump for "autumn"? And which is "correct"?

It depends what you mean by correct, of course. Many language pedants on this side of the Atlantic consider "fall" (derived from "fall of the leaf") to be a brash, recent, American invention - but the word was actually in common English use long before the Pilgrim Fathers went off to invent thanksgiving - and it was emigrants from the UK who took the word to the New World. 

Autumn, on the other hand, is dervied from the French automne, and only became a common term in the British Isles in the 18th Century. As people adopted "autumn", so "fall" was seen increasingly as an archaic term, and - in Britain, at least - went the way of "gadzooks" and "cordwainer".

The idea of there being a separate season other than summer or winter, though, is also a fairly new concept - the two 'main' seasons have had fairly stable names down the centuries, but spring and autumn have had something of a slippery history. Agreement of when 'autumn' even happens is hard to find. Earl R Anderson details the disgareements about whether autumn is over by December, or if it starts in August, as evidence that in the 18th Century, there wasn't much sense that there was an entity that even required a name.

The bigger question, though, might be - if Americans say "fall" and Brits say "autumn", what do Anglophone Canadians say? There's actually an official Canadian government page which has an answer:

For most Canadians, fall is the informal, everyday choice. Use fall when speaking—autumn seems overly formal and a bit pretentious in most everyday contexts.

In writing, both autumn and fall are correct. But when we need a more formal word (or one with two syllables), we speak and write about autumn.

So, avoid autumn if you don't want to be thought a pretentious, unless you need a two syllable word for your poetry. That seems a fair compromise.

From old English to Modern English

Free course: Exploring the English language






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