Skip to content

OpenLearn Live: 7th December 2016

Updated Wednesday, 7th December 2016

Straddling our relaunch, learning and research across the day - including remembering Mary Hesse and how Romans kept warm.

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 Please be aware that due to the passage of time, the information provided on this page may be out of date or otherwise inaccurate, and any views or opinions expressed may no longer be relevant.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

There's a lot of learning and research online. OpenLearn Live tosses the chaff and embraces the best. This page will be updated across the day.

Yesterday: the loss of Gary Slapper; editing women on Wikipeida; the price of a 747 and more

On this day last year: The Arc Di Triomf in Barcelona; Mizuki Shigeru; and Hanukkah

See the complete collection of OpenLearn Live

Today's posts

What is the Foehn effect?

There's going to be a sudden rebound in the temperatures across the UK today - from around freezing yesterday to the mid- to high-teens in some places. It's all down to something called the Foehn effect. How does that work, then?


Create some extreme weather in your own kitchen

We're going away for a little while

If you're reading this and it's after lunch, skip down to the next bit. If it's not lunch yet, we're about to go offline for a rather uncomfortably large period of hours in order to take on a new look and feel for the site. See you around three pm, all being well.

How did Romans keep warm on the Wall?

The current custodians of Hadrian's Wall, English Heritage, reveal how the first custodians of the border survived the winter in the northern outpost of Empire:

We associate the Romans with armour which exposed their arms and legs. However, during the winter they added to their uniform donning woolly cloaks, trousers and sheepskin boots which looked rather like the popular sheepskin boots sold today.

Read the full article at English Heritage: How did Romans cope with snow?

Take a trip round Hadrian's world

Vale 2016: Mary Hesse

Our start-up segment this week is celebrating the lives of some of those we have lost this year. Yesterday, we met Pam Royds, children's publisher. Today, we're connecting science and philosophy with the life of Mary Hesse.

The center third of Copyright free  image Icon Copyright free: Photo: Sage Ross / Window: Louis Comfort Tiffany The center third of "Education" (1890), a stained glass window by Louis Comfort Tiffany and Tiffany Studios, located in Linsly-Chittenden Hall at Yale University. It depicts Science (personified by Devotion, Labor, Truth, Research and Intuition) and Religion (personified by Purity, Faith, Hope, Reverence and Inspiration) in harmony, presided over by the central personification of "LightLoveLife".

Mary Hesse was born on 15th October, 1924 - the same day that the Surrealist Manifesto was published. She died on October 2nd this year. She studied Mathematics at Imperial during the last years of the Second World War, and then delivered a thesis on electron microscopy to earn her PhD.

Her teaching career took her to Leeds and Holloway, but in 1960 she joined the staff at Cambridge and started the work with which she would make her mark. Specialising in the Philosophy of Science, she became well known on both sides of the Atlantic.

A lavish website dedicated to Mary, her life and work goes into far greater detail than we have space for here, but we'll borrow this short description:

Mary Hesse's work manifests both continuity and change. Throughout her writings her view of the essential role of analogies, models and metaphors in science persists. Her interest in the hermeneutical aspects of all intellectual work is another recurring theme. In her later writings, she has turned her attention to new areas, such as the social sciences and to the sociology of scientific knowledge (in Revolutions and Reconstructions in the Philosophy of Science, 1980) were of major importance to the recongnition of sociological approaches to the understanding of science in society. Her open mind and intellectual curiosity are also shown in her way of taking feminist concerns into consideration. Although she has never defined herslef a feminist, she took feminist challenges to  science seriously and in the 1990s she wrote about and analysed the critique of mainstream philosophy of science from a gendered point of view.

She was Gifford lectuerer, and the notes to her contribution there throw light on another aspect of her philosophical approach:

In the 1980s Hesse turned away from purely logical questions about science and focused on social analyses of science. In effect she argued for the view that there is no rigid criterion like falsifiability that distinguished science from other forms of human belief. Consequently she was quite happy with the notion that science was best viewed as ‘one among many’ forms of human knowledge. Hesse believed that science was as subject to the same biases as these other ideologies.

After retirement, she returned to studying, exploring landscape history. A true teacher knows: there's always more learning to be done.

Watch: exploring philosophy with The Open University

Discover philosophy courses at The OU





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?