Summer course 1 - July 2016 - difficult group - lesson 3
- Jen, are you alright?
- I'm perfectly fine! Why?
- Well... you keep looking out of the window as if you're looking for someone!
- We're on the thirty-fifth floor! There's nobody out there! What is it, Jen?
- Oh, alright... I'll tell you. But you must promise that everything I say will be strictly between you and me.
- My lips are sealed! So, what's the story?
- I think... I think I had an encounter last night. You know, with… Extraterrestrials.
- Are you telling me you saw aliens?
- Shush! Quiet!.. No one else must hear this, or I'll be a laughing stock!..
- Sorry. So, were you abducted or something? Did they take you to their flying saucer?
- What? No, don't be silly! Flying saucers don't exist! They don't need those to travel between dimensions...
- Of course. How stupid of me... So what did they want from you?
- They came to tell me some crucial information about the future of our planet. I can't wrap my head around most of the things they said, but they told me they'd be coming back to explain.
- Right... Now, maybe you just had a particularly vivid dream? You know, one that seems real?
- Oh I wish! This morning, a man on the bus said something, and now I'm certain it had all been real!
- What was that?
- He looked me right in the eye... And said, 'Good morning, Miss. Did you have a good night?' And then he winked at me! He winked! As if he knew!
- Oh, Jen... Why don't you take the afternoon off and get some quality rest!
- I don't think I'll ever sleep again!
2 LOUIS BRAILLE
Louis Braille was only four years old when he lost his sight as a result of an accident. Yet he turned his personal tragedy into a great and lasting triumph. In 1818, at the age of 10 he went to a school for the blind in Paris, where he learnt the alphabet by running his fingers along big letters formed by pieces of wood. He then learned to read by feeling his way over enlarged words in special books. Each letter was about 7 cm high and 5 cm wide, so not only were the books very big but they also took a long time to read. So Louis set out to devise a compact code with raised symbols for words and phrases. He tried various codes based on squares, circles and triangles cut out of leather. He then heard of a new system of 'night writing' that would enable soldiers in the field to communicate with each other during darkness. This system consisted of a series of raised dots and dashes punched into strips of cardboard that could be read by touch without using a light. This became the basis of Braille's system which he revised and perfected, including even musical notations, until death at the early age of 42 in 1852.
3 DREAMS AND CREATIVITY
Presenter ... next week. In the next part of today's programme, we investigate the power of dreams. We all know the benefits of a good night's rest, but our sleeping minds are by no means inactive. Kathryn Harrison explains.
Kathryn Published in 1818, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is regarded by many as the world's first science-fiction novel. But did you know that the image of the famous monster came to the author in her sleep? In the summer of 1816, at the age of just nineteen, Mary visited the home of the poet Byron in Switzerland. Forced to stay indoors by stormy weather, Mary and Byron's other guests amused themselves by reading from a book of German ghost stones, and Byron suggested that they each write their own supernatural tale. A short time later, Mary got the idea for Frankenstein from a dream:
Mary When I placed my head upon my pillow, I saw a pale student kneeling beside the monster he had put together and then, on the working of some powerful engine, it came to life. I opened my eyes in terror, but then the idea broke upon me: 'I have found my story! What terrified me will terrify others, and I need only describe the monster which haunted my sleep."
Kathryn The next day, Mary began writing. But it's not only in the arts that dreams have been important. One of India's greatest mathematical geniuses, Srinivasa Ramanujan, was inspired by dreams in which a Hindu goddess called Namagiri would appear and present him with mathematical formulae. As Ramanujan describes it:
Srinivasa There was a red screen formed by flowing blood. I was observing it. Suddenly, a hand began to write on the screen. I was fascinated. The hand wrote a number of mathematical equations. They stuck in my mind. As soon as I woke up, I copied them down.
Kathryn Many of our most important scientists and engineers get a lot of inspiration from dreams as well. Perhaps the most famous scientific dream story of all involves the German chemist August Kekule, who was trying to work out the chemical structure of benzene. One day in 1865, Kekule had a strange experience:
August I was sitting and writing, but the work did not progress. My thoughts were elsewhere. I turned my chair to the fire and slept. I saw atoms dancing before my eyes. I had had visions of this kind before, but could now see larger structures, long rows of atoms connected together and twisting like a snake. But look! What was that? One of the snakes was eating its own tail, and the form, like a circle, spun before my eyes.
Kathryn Kekule realised that benzene molecules, like the snake made of atoms in his dream, have the shape of a circle or ring. Thus he made one of the most important discoveries of nineteenth-century chemistry. So, the next time you have an unusual dream, why not think about what your mind is trying to tell you? It could give you the answer to a puzzle that's been bothering you, or the idea for a great work of art.
Presenter That was Kathryn Harrison on the power of dreams. Now. as you may remember, in last week's competition we asked you to think of...