Skip to content

OpenLearn Live: 24th July 2015

Updated Friday 24th July 2015

Free learning, research and thinking - the best of OpenLearn and the world of thought.

This page will be updated during the day; there's also a Twitter feed @OpenLearnLive.

Yesterday's OpenLearn Live included octopus consciousness, listening to music, and Thinking Allowed

See all OpenLearn Live


Today's Posts


Labour Leadership: A reading list

Finally for this (shortened) week, a quick reading list of pieces about the Labour leadership contest:

Jeremy Corbyn: Not a totally fantastic economist - Alan Shipman on the pragmatism at the heart of Corbyn's bid:

Careful emphasis on the current deficit hides the guilty secret of Corbyn’s plan. He is happy for deficits to continue on the capital budget – the money set aside for capital expenditure – enabling a future Labour government to borrow more for public investment. Anglo-Saxon economies have long been unique in lumping public capital and current spending together, so that re-stocking the Department of Transport’s canteen is the same kind of “expense” as building a new railway. Corbyn’s plan relies on ending this accounting separation, for which private businesses would be ridiculed but Whitehall has a perennial affection.

The Angelic Upstarts - Peter Bloom on how the public are embracing alternatives to the centre:

This embrace of less-conventional candidates is associated with the failure of “legitimate” politicians to adequately deal with pressing problems of economic inequality, climate change and the growing power of financial capitalism – among others. Citizens are less tolerant of the politicians who find the status quo acceptable, particularly given the damage caused by their “legitimate” politics.

Here, the interests and commonly extreme policies of a small elite are portrayed as “common sense” and unassailable in their correctness. But the disastrous Iraq War and the 2008 financial crisis have revealed the true cost of these “legitimate” policies and the price that will be paid for re-electing the kind of politicians who steered the world towards them.

Could Corbyn resurrect Labour in Scotland? - Craig McAngus on the Scottish angle for The Conversation:

Indeed the more left-wing you are, the more likely you are to be unhappy with the constitutional status quo, and presumably still committed to Scottish independence. Many voters who may well be receptive to Corbyn if they lived in other parts of the UK would therefore be likely to place a lot of blame on Labour for its role in securing a No vote. They are unlikely to be quickly or easily be tempted to vote for the party for the foreseeable future.

The Corbyn surge - The New Statesman says Corbyn's success shows a party still in pain:

That he is leading the contest reiterates just how traumatised and angry many Labour members are following their defeat in May. In many ways, Mr Corbyn is an unreformed Bennite. The next month could decide the future of Labour as a viable, election-winning party. 

The rival factions at war over Labour’s leadership contest - in The Spectator, Hugh Pemberton and Mark Wickham-Jones profile the sides at war and the role of the unions:

Another way by which a trade union alignment within the PLP might be identified is through financial contributions to an MP’s constituency. And on this measure, there is also a relationship between union money and candidate backed. Average donations to CLPs whose MPs went on to nominate Jeremy Corbyn (£5,934) and Andy Burnham (£5,657) were higher than those to CLPs whose MPs went on to endorse either Yvette Cooper (£4,552) or Liz Kendall (£3,564).

That's it for this week. Thanks for joining us - and we'll see you again on Monday.


Road trip via books and your PC

Robert Pirsig Creative commons image Icon Ian Glendinning under CC-BY licence under Creative-Commons license Robert Pirsig American literature - and it's gone past four on a Friday so we can afford ourselves a little sweeping claim or two - is often happiest when it's parading around America. Even Earth Abides, which is a dystopian future type of book, manages to find time to send some of its survivors off for a quick jaunt to the East Coast.

Keeping track of all these books criss-crossing the US isn't easy, so hats off to Richard Kreitner and Stebe Melendez who have created, for the Atlas Obscura website, an explorable map which diligently plots the journeys in a dozen US books - from Robert Pirsig's Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintainence to The Lost Continent by Bill Bryson.

And when we say diligently, we mean diligently; down to a street-level pinning of events in On The Road. It's a work of love, and a joy to explore.

Explore the map at Atlas Obscura

Dip into our 20th Century Authors connections tool


Tonight, BBC Three, 9pm: Wanted - A Very Personal Assistant

Part of BBC Three's Defying The Label season, this brand new co-production between the BBC and The Open University challenges young people to see if they have what it takes to be care workers:

This groundbreaking series explores what happens when four young ambitious disabled people put all their care needs in the hands of unemployed people their own age. But there's a catch - to ensure applicants come with an open mind, the exact nature of the job and the employer's disabilities aren't revealed until the final job interview.

Will seeing the world from a different point of view help break down preconceptions of disability and unemployment? Could challenging shared experiences lead to lasting friendships and even a rewarding new career?

The programme is on BBC Three tonight at 9pm; you can see it again at 3am tomorrow morning.

Find out more about the programme - and get involved with the debates

Read: Social model of disability


Listen over lunch: Kill Shakespeare

Kill Shakespeare isn't the first reimagining of the works of the bard as a comic book, but Anthony Del Col's approach is one of the more interesting ways of bridging the gap between Elizabethan England and inks and colours. So interesting, in fact, that The Globe Theatre produced this short series of features on the books.

Is Shakespeare still relevant today?

60 second Shakespeare


Latte art

The attraction of latte art is a bit lost on us, to be honest - who has time to wait to look at coffee before drinking it? But it's quite a thing.

A dog drawn in the froth on the top of a coffee Creative commons image Icon Zanpei under CC-BY-ND licence under Creative-Commons license

But how is it that people can draw such exquisite images on top of a cup of coffee? (We'll leave the 'why' for another time.)

The UCLA SpinLab has an explanation of the science that creates the froth that allows the art to happen:

Read at UCLA Science & Food blog: The science of steamed milk

... and find out what coffee does to your body


Meg Barker takes the Biscuit

Congratulations to the OU's Meg Barker, who has been included on Biscuit magazine's first Purple list, honouring people whose work helps advance the bisexual community.

See the Purple List in full

Read about The Bisexuality Report Meg co-authored

Read Meg on the need to move beyond simplistic labels


Three by Three: PVC

Concluding our stumpy three-day week, we're rounding off our collection of three things relating to three. You might have seen the symbol on the right on products just before you throw them away. Or before you don't throw them away, as the symbol appears on products made from PVC as an indication that they should be recycled. PVC recycling logo

What is PVC, though? (Besides a song by Kenickie, of course.) Obviously, it's a type of plastic - and, more precisely, it's a thermoplastic. And it's because it's a thermoplastic that makes it easy - in theory - to recycle:

[A thermoplastic is] defined as a material which softens and hardens reversibly on heating and cooling. In theory these reversible physical changes will take place without a corresponding change in the chemical structure of the material. This is why scrap thermoplastic can be re-used. In practice, some thermal and oxidative degradation occurs and recycling must be done only with an understanding of the effect that it has upon the properties of the final moulding.

Some thermoplastics are naturally occurring - shellac, for example, a resin which is extruded from bugs, is a thermoplastic. Before PVC came along and was used for making records, shellac had been the natural choice.

The question is, though: how does PVC get recycled? Here's a short video from the not-for-profit organisation Vinyl Plus, which spearheads the efforts of the European PVC industry to become sustainable.

More about thermoplastics from the free Introduction to Polymers course

What can you recycle? Try our game

 

For further information, take a look at our frequently asked questions which may give you the support you need.

Have a question?