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OpenLearn Live: 22nd July 2015

Updated Wednesday 22nd July 2015

We're back after a short break with more interesting free learning, research and analysis from OpenLearn and around the web

We'll be updating this page during the day - or keep an eye on our Twitter feed @OpenLearnLive

Our last OpenLearnLive looked at the Liberal leadership, student nurses, oral history and more

Today's posts

Rat catcher's day

Rounding off today, let's mark Rat Catcher's Day. Or one of them - depending on whether you favour The Grimms or the Robert Browning version of the legend of the Pied Piper, you either mark 26th June or 22nd July at Rat Catcher's Day.

You can read an early version of the legend here on OpenLearn

That's it for today; we'll be back tomorrow morning.


The power of screams

It's that time of the year when universities throw light onto some of their shall-we-say quirkier research, and in that spirit we're thrilled to hear that the University of Leicester has been calculating if screams could power the UK. 

Screaming child Copyright free image Icon Copyright free: Amanda Catherine I know, I know, I should comfort this child, but I've got a lasagne in the microwave so I need him to scream for another few minutes...

The good news is that, yes, we could probably run the country on scream power alone:

Screams extracted from the population of Britain, as seen in the Disney and Pixar film Monsters, Inc,. could theoretically be used to generate enough energy to power the country, according to students from the University of Leicester.

However, the sizeable energy requirements of the UK would need everyone in the country to scream 2,800,000,000 times a day at the highest volume humanly possible (129 dB) – surely leading to many hoarse throats. 

While this might seem like a piece of whimsy, there's actually a serious basis to this sort of sideways thinking:

Dr Cheryl Hurkett from the University of Leicester’s Centre for Interdisciplinary Science said: “An important part of being a professional scientist (as well as many other professions) is the ability to make connections between the vast quantity of information students have at their command, and being able to utilise the knowledge and techniques they have previously mastered in a new or novel context.

“The Interdisciplinary Research Journal module models this process, and gives students an opportunity to practise this way of thinking. The intention of this module is to allow students to experience what it’s like to be at the cutting edge of scientific research."

Read: Could screams power Britain?

Read the research in full

Try a more conventional approach to power generation with Power My Postcode

Reading ePubs

As you might have spotted, we've recently made it easier to find the ePub version of courses with a button just under the navigation block on the left hand side of the page:

ePub downloa d button Creative commons image Icon The Open University under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0 license

Some people are having trouble working with these files, so we've added some advice on how to use ePubs on our status page

Society Matters: Prison education

Creative commons image Icon Catherine Pain under Creative-Commons license

In our Society Matters section, today we've published a piece exploring the role that education can play in preparing prisoners for their life beyond incarceration:

Gove is not the first to reach such conclusions about the benefits of education and there has been a legislative framework permitting education in British prisons since 1815. After the Second World War, Durham Local Education Authority ran classes for prisoners and, following legislation, others authorities followed. By 1948 there were 700 weekly classes and by 1961 there were 3,000. Gove nodded towards the past in that he quoted Churchill (who was imprisoned during the Boer War) on the need to transform the ‘soul’ of prisoners through rehabilitation.

Read: Learning to be citizens

Catch-up on iPlayer: Great Ormond Street

Last night the second episode of our observational documentary exploring the often heartbreaking work of the staff at Great Ormond Street was on BBC Two.

Reviewing the episode for The Independent, Ellen E Jones acknowledged that it's not always the easiest programme to watch, but that it has an important message:

The truth is, I've been strenuously avoiding Great Ormond Street, the three-part documentary about seriously ill children that started last week on BBC2.

Aside from it being an obvious downer, it just feels wrong that real human misery of this kind should be sandwiched in the television schedules between such entertainment shows as Holby City and the reality competition Hair. Then came this week's news that the number of people donating organs after death has fallen for the first time in 11 years and the value of hearing patient stories like these once again became apparent.

You can see last night's programme, Fight To Breathe, on iPlayer

Listen to: should we pay for organ transplants?

Read more about the series


Listen over lunch: History Of Ideas

Today's suggestion for something to put in your ears while you navigate a middle-of-the-day calorie intake is History Of Ideas, a co-production between the BBC and The Open University which is coming towards the end of its stately year-long progress.

This week's theme is 'how should we live together' - introduced on Monday by Melvyn Bragg and guests.

Download the introductory episode for this week

Yesterday, Justin Champion discussed toleration

Listen to the Toleration episode on iPlayer Radio

And, a few minutes ago, Kate Barker spoke about the free market

Listen to the Free Market episode on iPlayer Radio

Here on OpenLearn, you can watch a series of short videos that give a quick hit guide to the themes:

Watch Does an invisible hand guide the economy?

Watch John Locke and toleration

See more about The History Of Ideas

Three by three: The Gorgons

To mark our return with a just a short week, and to make ourselves feel better about only doing three Lives, we're going to start each day with a celebration of the power of three.

An archaic Medusa wearing the belt of the intertwined snakes, a fertility symbol, as depicted on the west pediment of the Artemis Temple in Corfu, exhibited at the Archaeological Museum of Corfu Creative commons image Icon Dr K under CC-BY-SA licence under Creative-Commons license An archaic Medusa wearing the belt of the intertwined snakes, a fertility symbol, as depicted on the west pediment of the Artemis Temple in Corfu, exhibited at the Archaeological Museum of Corfu

The Gorgons were described in many ways throughout Ancient Greece, but the commonest version was three sisters, Medusa, Stheno, and Euryale. Punished for refusing to keep quiet when Medusa was raped by Poseiden, the trio were turned into monsters with snakes for hair and the power to turn those who looked upon them into stone.

Medusa is probably the best-known in the 21st century - the only mortal of the trio, she was slain by Perseus who then went on to use her head as weapon. Oddly, though, many people get their Greek heroes muddled up, and assume that the murder of Medusa was one of the tasks undertaken by Heracles. In fact, although Medusa and her hissing hair is familiar, the details escape many. This was observed by Mary Valentis and Anne Devane when researching their book Female Rage: Unlocking Its Secrets, Claiming Its Power:

When we asked women what female rage looks like to them, it was always Medusa, the snaky-haired monster of myth, who came to mind ... In one interview after another we were told that Medusa is 'the most horrific woman in the world' ... [though] none of the women we interviewed could remember the details of the myth.

People remember her rage, but not why she might have been justified in that rage. Society changes very slowly indeed.

Read Finding Women In Greek Literature

Try our free online course, Introducing the Classical world





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