Skip to content

OpenLearn Live: 5th February 2016

Updated Friday, 5th February 2016

A tribute from one poet to another, and a mouse who made a bad choice. Then more free learning across the day.

This page was published over five years ago. Please be aware that due to the passage of time, the information provided on this page may be out of date or otherwise inaccurate, and any views or opinions expressed may no longer be relevant. Some technical elements such as audio-visual and interactive media may no longer work. For more detail, see our Archive and Deletion Policy

OpenLearn Live makes sense of free learning by bringing it into your world. This page will be updated across the day.

Yesterday, we renewed an interest in renewable energies, rebranded and considered bottled water

See the complete collection of OpenLearn Live

Today's posts

The 747 starts to drop from the skies

A cargo-carrying 747 Copyright free  image Icon Copyright free: Wikimedia Images

Why has Boeing started to wind down production of its mighty 747?

Today, the industry has moved towards twin-engine aeroplanes such as the Boeing 777 and the Airbus A330, with three-engine aeroplanes being relatively unpopular because of the high labour costs of working on an engine bedded into the aeroplane fin. The four-engine 747 retained a clear place in the market because twin-engine planes must stay within a certain distance from an airport in case of engine failure. This allowed the 747 to achieve shorter journey times on the longest routes because it can use more direct flight paths.

However, improving engine reliability means authorities have slowly increased the distance a twin-engine airliner can fly from a runway, gradually reducing the advantage of having four engines. And of course, those newer, more reliable engines have also been bigger and more efficient.

Read the full article: Deplaning

On iPlayer: More or Less

Our regular dose of news-laced statistics went out a short time ago on BBC Radio 4, and is now available to digest at your convenience via the magic of the internet. Amongst the topics this week are e-cigarettes, US presidential statistics and the chances of a father and a child sharing the same birthday.

Listen via iPlayer

Download the episode

See our 2016 US Presidential coverage

Rugby special

Tomorrow the Six Nations kicks off, filling the rugby-ball shaped hole in your lives. See our Six Nations collection.

Mouse may fail to appreciate dramatic irony

If you're a mouse, and have the run of a University museum collection, what's the one exhibit you should stay away from? A mouse at the University of Reading made a bad choice:

Discover how mice might help fight migraines

The people in the poems: Dylan Thomas

This week, our start-up segment has been looking at some of the real people who inspired notable poems. If you've been busy doing other things, here's who we've come across so far:

We're rounding off the week with one poet's elegy for another - Edith Sitwell's poem about Dylan Thomas.

A statue of Dylan Thomas in Swansea Creative commons image Icon Tony in Devon under Creative Commons BY 4.0 license

Black Venus of the Dead, what Sun of Night
Lies twined in your embrace, cold as the vine?

You can read the poem, Elegy For Dylan Thomas, in full at the poetry foundation website. Edith, who all writers have to call "one of the literary Sitwells" and "part of the Artistocratic Sitwell clan" at least once in every article, was as enthusiastic about supporting other poets as she was about her own writing; her home would become a community centre for others, often at the start of their writing careers. Thomas was one who came into her orbit in this way, and as Lady Elizabeth Spender recalls, a strong bond developed between the two:

Her friendship with Dylan Thomas had a special place in her heart. Not only did she think him a genius, but it was clear in her indulgence towards his unruliness, that for her he was the son she never had. I remember how Dylan sat at her feet at a party given by Humphrey Searle and heatedly criticised her for undertaking only fashionable well-paid readings in America. He asked why she despised poor students at non-Ivy League universities, when she could have been far more valuable to talented young writers needing her influence.

She listened meekly, apparently chastened, but of course unable to mention that her very rocky finances obliged her to use what energy she had for lucrative performances. Few of her friends would have cared (or dared) to give her such a public scolding.

Perhaps the most extraordinary outcome of the friendship was that the pair made a record together - Dylan Thomas And Edith Sitwell Read And Discuss Her Poetry. Released in America in 1971, this album saw Dylan Thomas and Edith Sitwell reading and discussing her poetry.

Thomas' background was vastly different to Sitwell's - Edith was born into an artistocratic family and fled to London to avoid their fortunes; Thomas had been born into a solid middle-class family and was travelling to make his. Thomas - upon whom writers are obliged to bestow the word "troubled" - was a great poet, but also understood the value of profile; amongst the wider public he was as well as known for his talks on the BBC, and later tours of America, as for his writing itself.

It was on one of these tours that Thomas' luck would run out. Suffering the effects of alcoholism, an already-ill Thomas would arrive in New York during a particularly bad period of smog. (The November 1953 smog claimed the lives of 200 New Yorkers.) He slid into a drunken coma; moved to a hospital; and departed the world between the 5th and 9th of November. Although at the time it was believed he had drinked himself to death, more recent work has suggested that his passing was more complex - the doctor failed to identify that Thomas was suffering from pneumonia and, in order to treat the alcohol poisoning, adminstered treatments that exacerbated his breathing problems. (The official autopsy spotted the pneumonia, but believed that it had developed during Thomas' stay in hospital - a side effect, rather than a root cause.)

However it happened, the Black Venus of the Dead had claimed the Sun of Night.

Try our free course What is poetry





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?