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OpenLearn Live: 3rd December 2015

Updated Thursday, 3rd December 2015

The Spaniard who is both astronaut and cosmonaut. Then more free learning through the day.

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OpenLearn Live explores the links between your world and the world of free learning. This page will be updated across the day, and you can also follow us on Twitter.

Yesterday, we explored some of the questions at the heart of Parliament's Syria debate and caught up with Power To The People

See the complete collection of OpenLearn Live


Today's posts


Hey, Jack Kerouac

Just appeared over on OpenCulture is links to all of Jack Kerouac's spoken-word albums - including Spotify playlists collecting them all.

A reader's guide to On The Road

Hear all of Jack Kerouac's albums


What now for science funding?

To the relief of scientists, science funding has been protected in the Autumn Statement. Richard Brooks looks at some of the fine print:

For example, a big chunk of the science budget, £1.5 billion, will come from a new Global Challenges Fund. This looks like double counting money from overseas aid, meaning that a portion of UK research may be eschewed towards the funding priorities of the Department for International Development. Worthy goals, no doubt, but does this support the needs of the domestic economy?

Read the full article: Reviewing science funding

See more from OpenLearn on the 2015 Autumn Statement


How long can you go between meals?

Okay... maybe not between meals, but how long can you go without eating?

In a 1997 editorial in the British Medical Journal, Peel briefly reviewed the available literature regarding human starvation. Generally, it appears as though humans can survive without any food for 30-40 days, as long as they are properly hydrated. Severe symptoms of starvation begin around 35-40 days, and as highlighted by the hunger strikers of the Maze Prison in Belfast in the 1980s, death can occur at around  45­ to 61 days.

The most common cause of death in these extreme cases of starvation is myocardial infarction or organ failure, and is suggested to occur most often when a person’s body mass index (BMI) reaches approximately 12.5 kg/m2.

Read the full article: How long will you live if you stop eating and drinking?


Bees with backpacks

How do you keep track of what bees are up to? Okay, it sounds like the start of a dodgy Christmas Cracker joke, but for researchers trying to understand the drop in honey bee numbers, it's a genuine problem that needs solving. Up until now, tiny bee backpacks have fallen short - but researchers are hoping that by using the bee to power their own transmitters, more resilient devices could be possible:

Three major challenges need to be overcome for tracking devices to become truly useful: their weight, range, and how long their power source lasts. We’re aiming to reduce the transmitter weight by harvesting the energy the bee generates while flying. This will allow us to do away with the battery, which is normally the heaviest component. The final bee backpack will weigh less than 50 milligrams (about two grains of rice) and will be the size of a match head.

Read: Why would you want to make a bee wear a backpack?


First people in space: Pedro Duque

Pedro Duque Copyright free  image Icon Copyright free: NASA As Tim Peake prepares to become the second Briton in space, this week we're meeting some of the space explorers who are currently the only representative of their nationality to have gone into orbit. Yesterday, Mexican Rodolfo Neri Vela was our subject. Today, we're touching down in Europe and focusing on Spain's Pedro Duque.

It's sometimes difficult to know whether you can use "astronaut" and "cosmonaut" interchagably - although fundamentally the same thing, there hangs in each word an implication of which government was ultimately picking up most of the cost of the spacecraft and insulated suits. For Pedro, though, it doesn't matter which you use, or whether you use both, as he has gone into space twice - once on a Russian craft, once on an American one.

Pedro graduated in 1986 with a degree in aeronautical engineering. He joined the European Space Agency, and worked supporting the Euromir 94 programme as the key point of contact in ground control between the crew in space  and the team on the ground.

The following year, he was selected to go into space himself, joining the crew of the STS-95. In 1998, he climbed aboard the Discovery. Alongside his human companions, he was accompanied into space by two toadfish who were monitored as part of experiments on the effects of low gravity on the inner ear. Pedro himself chose to take a taste of home with him, carrying León chorizo and some Manchego and Mahón cheeses to add to his rations.

Five years later, Pedro was back in space, travelling out on Soyuz TMA-3 and returning on Soyuz TMA-2 during an ISS crew changeover. While in space, he oversaw European Space Agency supported experiments - the Cervantes Mission. These included a live link-up with Spanish primary schools.

Pedro is still with the European Space Agency - currently leading flight operations in Munich - and although you might not be able to follow him into space, you can follow him on Twitter.

See more about space exploration from OpenLearn

 

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