Skip to content
Science, Maths & Technology

OpenLearn Live: 28th November 2016

Updated Monday, 28th November 2016

Strange circular chunks of ice - what's the story of ice pancakes? And religious shrines by the side of Lithuanian roads. Learning and research across the day.

OpenLearn Live shakes the best bits of learning and research out of the internet, before your very eyes. This page will be updated across the day.

On Friday, we rounded off a week of autumn, heard about children caring for parents with Parkinsons and checked out a leap forward in quantum computing

See the complete collection of OpenLearn Live

Today's posts

Lithuanian roadside shrines

We know you've been thinking "I enjoy OpenLearn Live, but really think the lack of material about folk art in the Baltic States lets it down." Lets put that right now, by flagging this piece from 3 Quarks Daily by Carol A. Westbrook on the Kryžius of Lithuania:

"Kryžius" (pronounced "kree'-jus) means "cross," and refers to the tall, totem-pole-like wooden carvings which appear as roadside shrines throughout Lithuania. The tradition goes back to pagan times, when they were used to mark sites of cult offerings, especially at crossroads and burial grounds. The monuments featured folk carvings, with peaked roofs for protection from the elements. When Christianity arrived at the end of the 14th century, the pagan monuments were topped with crosses, allowing for their preservation by converting them into emblems of faith. Every region in Lithuanian had its particular cross-making traditions, incorporating folk symbols, pagan cults, geometrical shapes and religious icons.They were found throughout the countryside, but especially at crossroads and cemeteries, continuing in the pagan tradition. 

Read the full article at 3quarksdaily: At the crossroads

What is Britain's most sacred site?

FutureLearn this week

The clock ticks to midnight. The calendar flips to Monday. Down at FutureLearn headquarters, new courses go live.

Amongst this week's new courses:

You can also study the Basic Science: Understanding numbers course here on OpenLearn

The death of Castro

Fidel Castro, the long-term leader of Cuba, died at the weekend. Mervyn Bain offers a guide to how his dictatorship shaped the history of Cuba:

Internally the Castro regime has fundamentally changed Cuban society. In the early 1960s, a programme to spread literacy throughout Cuba was initiated. A healthcare system was created which would not only become the envy of countries in the global south, but also the global north. Cuba also has a highly advanced biotechnology industry .

These internal advancements and expansive foreign policy have all been achieved in the face of continual US aggression and an economic embargo which has endured for more than 50 years.

Some within the island have been dissatisfied at the lack of political freedom, but large scale protests against the government have been absent since 1959. However, recently the “ladies in white” (originally relatives of those arrested in the spring of 2003 crackdown) have protested weekly in the Miaramar district of the capital.

Read the full article: How did Fidel Castro shape Cuba's history?

Finally, Wednesday is finished

We had a slight problem on Wednesday which meant some of our updates didn't show up until, well, a few moments ago: You can now see all Wednesdays entries.

Ice pack: Ice pancakes

After last week celebrating all thing autumnal, this week we're dropping the temperature a few degrees further to explore the wonderful world of ice. And we're starting with the strange world of ice pancakes.

Ice pancakes Creative commons image Icon Sally Wilson under Creative Commons BY-SA 4.0 license

These are a strange formation of ice that occur on bodies of water under the right conditions. Normally found in places like the Baltic, they're sometimes seen in Scotland such as on the River Dee a couple of years ago.

This video of ice pancakes (and related ice balls) at Grand Haven in Michigan may give a hint as to how they're formed:

The water is, you'll have noticed, somewhat choppy.

America has a National Snow & Ice Data Center - and they have a clear explanation of the process which causes the ice to develop like this. In short, as ice forms on the surface of a turbulent body of water, the small ice sheets are bounced off each other, causing the edges to ridge and create these lily-pad like discs of ice. There's a lip under the water, too - that's known as a keel.

They can grow quite large, too - in the Arctic it's not unknown for 20 metre tall ridges to develop.

Eventually, the pancakes merge together to form more familair looking ice sheets - but, underneath the sheet, the origins of the sheet is recorded in a far-from smooth bottom.

Previously on OpenLearn Live: Weather curiosities

Researching Antarctic ice sheets





Related content (tags)

Copyright information

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

Have a question?