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OpenLearn Live: 23rd July 2015

Updated Thursday 23rd July 2015

Learning, insight and analysis from around the internet, and across OpenLearn

This page will be updated across the day; and don't forget to keep an eye on our Twitter feed at OpenLearnLive.

Yesterday, we considered Gorgons, the Pied Piper, chemical reagents and more

Today's Posts

Should traditional politicians be worried?

Peter Bloom thinks so - the wave of support for Donald Trump and Jeremy Corbybn might be ideological foes, but both are being carried on a popular desire for something different in politics:

In every election there is support for candidates who set out their stall on the fringes of the political mainstream. The sacred centre is called so for a reason – it reflects a supposed middle ground between competing radical extremes. But these candidates seem to be having far more success than most. Their popularity cannot be easily disregarded. They represent a clear and present danger to perceived frontrunners.

The establishment has taken notice and gone on the offensive. As it became clear that Corbyn was a serious contender , Tony Blair emerged from political retirement to blast him and his followers. He warned that shifting back to the far left would be an ideological and electorial mistake for Labour. “People who say their heart is with Jeremy Corbyn,” he advised, “get a transplant”.

US politicians are similarly disparaging towards the upstarts. To centrist Democrats, Sanders is unelectable and indirectly helping the opposition by continuing to stand against fellow Democrat, Hillary Clinton. Many Republicans are distancing themselves from Trump after his recent comments attacking John McCain’s record as a “war hero”. They remain largely quiet on his demonisation of Mexican immigrants as “rapists”, mind you.

Read 'The Angelic Upstarts'

Does it matter what an octopus thinks?

Common octopus Creative commons image Icon Opencage under CC-BY-SA under Creative-Commons license A common octopus. That's not a value judgement, it's just what its called.

Should we be bothered by questions of whether octopus and other cephalopods are conscious of their own existence? Yes, says Mike Liewiski:

More than 4 million tonnes of cephalopods were harvested from the oceans in 2007, according to the FAO yearbook of Fishery and Aquaculture Statistics for that year. Perhaps particularly troubling, depending on the capacity of cephalopods to suffer, is the practice of eating extremely fresh cephalopods – that is, those who are still alive (or killed/incapacitated just prior to eating,) which, as a quick YouTube search will attest, is not unheard of in southern Asia and maybe elsewhere. In addition to their use as food, smaller numbers of cephalopods are kept as pets, as research animals, and in aquaria. If the study of the possibility of consciousness in cephalopods is necessary to inform our ethics regarding how we treat cephalopods (and it seems like it is, given how important consciousness appears to be to our common-sense notions of “suffering”, and even some philosophical formulations thereof) then we should get on the ball and pursue this research.  That is, if we accept the welfarist position, and we want to have a scientifically reasonable ethical viewpoint, both of which I think are relatively conservative assumptions.

Read: Does it matter if an octopus has consciousness?

Your iPod can tell us how you think

New research published today shows the link between the sort of music you enjoy, and the type of thinker you are:

The researchers conducted multiple studies with over 4,000 participants, who were recruited mainly through the myPersonality Facebook app. The app asked Facebook users to take a selection of psychology-based questionnaires, the results of which they could place on their profiles for other users to see. At a later date, they were asked to listen to and rate 50 musical pieces. The researchers used library examples of musical stimuli from 26 genres and subgenres, to minimise the chances that participants would have any personal or cultural association with the piece of music.

People who scored high on empathy tended to prefer mellow music (from R&B, soft rock, and adult contemporary genres), unpretentious music (from country, folk, and singer/songwriter genres) and contemporary music (from electronica, Latin, acid jazz, and Euro pop). They disliked intense music, such as punk and heavy metal. In contrast, people who scored high on systemizing favoured intense music, but disliked mellow and unpretentious musical styles.

Read: What you listen to shows how you think

Want to change your mind? Read Appreciating music

Making rice safer

Rice. Delicious, lovely, fluffy rice. It's our friend, right?

Well, not totally. Rice naturally contains high levels of arsenic and studies of people from regions where diets include lots of rice shows that many have worrying levels of arsenic in their bodies as a result.

There might be a simple answer, though, discovered by researchers at Queens University Belfast - a percolator:

Andy Meharg, Professor of Plant and Soil Sciences at Queen's Institute for Global Food Security said: “This is a very significant breakthrough as this offers an immediate solution to decreasing inorganic arsenic in the diet.

“In our research we rethought the method of rice cooking to optimise the removal of inorganic arsenic and we discovered that by using percolating technology, where cooking water is continually passed through rice in a constant flow, we could maximise removal of arsenic.

“Chronic exposure to inorganic arsenic can cause a range of health problems including developmental problems, heart disease, diabetes and nervous system damage. However, most worrying are lung and bladder cancers. This new breakthrough is the latest example of the commitment of researchers at Queen’s to changing lives and advancing knowledge that will have a lasting impact around the globe.”

Although the solution doesn't require special technology, Queens are applying on a patent for a device which percolates as it cooks the rice.

Read at Queens: Queen’s researchers discover simple solution to worrying levels of arsenic in our rice

Read: Eating for health

Listen over lunch: Thinking Allowed

Want something to listen to while you have lunch today? (Or, possibly, don't have lunch. Maybe you're going to spend your lunch break doing squat thrusts. You can listen to something then, too.)

Why not try this week's Thinking Allowed?

Yesterday, Laurie Taylor was joined by John Harvey and Bidisha to discuss how the colour black came to have so many dispirate meanings, and heard from Miri Song about how multiracial parents with white partners talk to their children about race and identity.

Download Thinking Allowed as an mp3

Read more about the programme

Three by three: Triplet spin states

Good morning. Because this is a three-day week, we're kicking off each morning with something that comes in threes. Today, oxygen - a unique molecule which exists in a triplet state at room temperature (most molecules exist in a singlet state).

A Sailor fills aircraft oxygen tanks with liquid oxygen on the flight deck aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman Copyright free image Icon Copyright free: US Navy Filling tanks with liquid oxygen - the oxygen has been cooled, and so reacts

As a result of this state, oxygen would have to undergo a forbidden transformation to become reactive - in order to make oxygen react, it needs to be photochemically or thermally activated.

If you're with us so far, here's a short video which explains a bit more about singlet and triplet states:

How does oxygen affect sports performance?

More physics from OpenLearn





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