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OpenLearn Live: 8th January 2016

Updated Friday, 8th January 2016

Completing our look back at 2015 on OpenLearn Live - and exploring the world of Blade Runner. It's free learning through the day.

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OpenLearn Live makes sense of the world of free learning. Or at least we try to. This page will be updated across the day.

Yesterday, we heard about how the virgin's disease was cured, and what lucid dreamers might tell us about all our minds.

See the complete collection of OpenLearn Live

Today's posts

Iran and Saudi Arabia

The Middle East has started 2016 in a way no less disturbing than the way it ended 2015, but has added a new element of jeopardy to the mix, as Iranian-Saudi Arabian relations have taken several steps backwards. What's happening? Edward Wastnidge shares his perspective in Society Matters:

The execution of the Saudi Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr on January 2, however, has brought the mutual mistrust that plagues relations between these two states fully into the open. This crisis will clearly have a major impact on the various regional conflicts that Iran and Saudi Arabia are embroiled in – but with the sanctions imposed before the nuclear dealpossibly about to be lifted , it also speaks volumes about Iran’s rapidly improving diplomatic position.

Read the full article: Saudia Arabia is paying the price for Iran's rehabilitation

On BBC Radio 4 and iPlayer: More Or Less

Great news - our long-running partnership with BBC Radio 4's More Or Less is continuing, and there's a new series starting today. (You can hear it in a couple of minutes on the radio, and then it'll be on iPlayer for at least a year afterwards.

See more about the series

Blade Runner

Today is another one of what seems like an increasing number of days where we've caught up with the futures of science fiction:

To mark the day, here's a couple of pieces on the movie. First - what does Blade Runner have to tell us about town planning? More than you might think...

Blade Runner offers a profound, and in many ways alarming, vision of the city of the future. Scott, who directed the film in the context of discussions about post-industrial society, used industrialist imagery to convey the city as an enormous machine. The replicants  central to the film’s plot, the metal and glass exteriors of the city, and the constant presence of smoke and pollution reaffirm the exaggerated industrial qualities of the film’s Los Angeles. Furthermore, the only animals in the film are fake, signaling a heightened dichotomy between the built and natural environments.

Read the full article Urbanism in Blade Runner

More broadly, how does the "science" in this part of sci-fi stand up? 

Set in 2019 in Los Angeles, cutting-edge genetic engineering and bionic technology (or at least what was considered cutting edge in the 80s) is shown to have advanced to the point at which synthetic humanoid beings, called Replicants, are produced. These humanoids are synthesised by the Tyrell Corporation, whose motto is “more human than human”.

The film explores the relationship between humans and Replicants – in particular the need to “retire” rogue Replicants – raising questions about artificial life and where the boundaries of what we consider ethical and human lie. In this way, it provides the perfect catalyst for ideas about emerging biotechnology and its wider philosophical implications.

Read the full article Blade Runner: What's the balance between science and fiction?

Best of 2015: Miscellany

This week, we're using our start-up segment to collapse the universe in on itself, and highlight some of the other themes that you might have missed during the last year. We've already looked back at people and places, so today, we're picking three of our other start-up themes from everything else.

An engine start button Creative commons image Icon Mark Walker under Creative Commons BY-SA 4.0 license

One of our first big themes was parks - from the smallest, to the largest.

If parks was a bit much to handle, maybe a week of fascinating trees might be more suitable?





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