Monday, 21 March 2016

Photography: The Solent Eye

by Tony Hicks

The new attraction for Southsea is named the Solent Eye. I took these photographs on Friday, 18th March, just after the Eye had been assembled. 



The 100-foot wheel features 24 gondolas, each seating six passengers. It was made in Italy by attractions firm Technical Park. It cost £750,000 to have it made.




Friday, 18 March 2016

Happy Easter From Portsmouth Point

Wishing all of our readers a relaxing and revivifying Easter break - from the editors of Portsmouth Point. 


Image of Bluebells in a Wood by Oliver Stone (PGS' Head of Photography)

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Join the Portsmouth Point Editorial Team

In this video, we investigate what it takes to be a Portsmouth Point editor (thanks to Caleb Barron for co-ordinating and to Jason Baker for his cinematographic skills):






Portsmouth Point has a dynamic team of 50 dedicated editors and contributors offering provocative articles covering a dizzying range of topics on a daily basis. Since our launch in Spring 2012, we have published over 1,800 articles and received over 460,000 page views; recently, we were described as "sophisticated" and "erudite" by the School Inspectors. 

We are currently seeking new editors, from Years 10-12, to join the team. You can write about whatever is of interest to you: sport, science, music, art, film, philosophy, current events, literature, religion, psychology, history, TV, travel, art, drama, economics, photography  . . . or anything else you can think of. 

If you are interested in becoming an editor/contributor or would like to find out more about what the job involves, please contact Mr Burkinshaw at j.burkinshaw@pgs.org.uk or ask any of our current editors. 

Thank you.

The Editors








A Misunderstood Philosophy?

by Henry Ling




Satan is seen by many, especially Christians, as a symbol for evil, corruption and temptation. Satan represents the "sins" which humans commit. Satanism is then seen as a corrupt, immoral and evil cult which focuses its attention on human sacrifices and committing sins. However the Satanic Bible as written by Anton Szandor LaVey offers an alternative and fascinating interpretation of Satanism, where Satan, the Devil, Lucifer, Baphomet, or any of the 68 other names for him, act as a symbol for the cardinal desires of man, and instead of suppressing them as "sins" we should embrace them as the natural order of life. Now I would like to mention that this article is not attenuating to the satanic arts, but it is merely trying to distinguish the reality of modern day Satanism from its primal images. As a heavy metal enthusiast and intellect, I decided to read the book purely for intellectual curiosity. Having been taught about the Bible, the Koran and Torah I decided to look further into religious teaching. I have never been a very religious person, however I understand and respect those who have found faith and when I started reading the Satanic Bible I expected it to be as unruly as one would expect, however, I was actually pleasantly surprised to find it interesting and, mostly, reasonable.

The main reason why Satanism has gotten a bad reputation is actually due to Christian intervention. For example, the pentagram is one of the most widely used symbols for Satanism, although it was originally a pagan symbol for the goddess of nature, it is only when Christianity decided to destroy the old pagan religions that the pentagram or pentacle become a symbol of the Devil. And in fact the pentagram, be it a goddess of nature or the symbol for the ruler of hell, has some very interesting properties which only a mathematician like myself would truly enjoy. The ratio of the lengths of the segments of the pentagram form the famous and most beautiful number Phi (1.618...), also known as the golden ratio.

So what is it that modern day Satanism actually talks about? The Satanic Bible in many regards is a compass for one to follow. It suggests using Satan as a symbol not even necessarily as a deity, although some fanatics may view him as a God. The beginning of the book sums up a typical atheistic view of standard religions, condemning the nature of mainstream religions. It then talks about how you can use Satan as a symbol for following ones natural human desires rather than bowing before another saying, if one wishes to make a deity in man’s image, why not make yourself the deity. It even mentions one’s own birthday as the only religious holiday. The argument being, follow your own desires in life and indulge in all of life’s delicacies as we only have one opportunity to do it.

I Want to Hold Your Hand

by Dawn Sharpe, mother of Seb Sharpe.


David in a Bench Production of Bent
Having noticed on the PGS Twitter feed recently that Mr Frampton had given a talk about the devastation AIDS caused, particularly in New York City, during the 1980s, I was prompted to share my own, personal experience of those dark days.

I met my ‘best friend’ David when we were both eager 11 year olds showing up for our first session at a youth theatre group in Havant.  We bonded immediately. It’s an old cliché I know, but he really did seem larger than life, more vibrantly coloured in if you like; David had the kind of charisma that makes heads turn and everybody want to be his friend.  We didn’t attend the same school until Sixth Form College where we were able to give full reign to our inseparability.

Days studying for our A levels were the usual embryonic adult mixture of hard work and heady socialising.  This was the early 1980s and we had thrown ourselves wholeheartedly into the New Romantic movement.  Having suffered the, yes I will use the word, torment, of going through David’s long, slow ‘coming out’ to friends and family, the New Romantic music, fashion and licence to act as flamboyantly as was humanly possible years were the perfect setting for my eye-catching gay friend, with his brilliant talent for acting, singing, dancing and writing, to shine. I, of course, was only too pleased to bask in his reflected glory revelling in minor celebrity status amongst our peers.
But happy though they were, those days were underpinned with a growing sense of dread. Not just for us, but it for the wider world.  You may have seen the advertisements of the time warning in sombre, Hammer House of Horror voiceovers, of the dangers of unprotected sex, particularly in the gay arena.  We were being harshly made aware of a new disease, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome – or AIDS as it was more often known – or HIV/AIDS.

 I, like many of my friends at the time, was absolutely petrified of catching it; I was convinced that I would meet a terrible end, wasting away dramatically in a hospital bed, shunned by society. These were the images we were bombarded with in an attempt to keep us safe.   Most of us lived in the grip of fear.

Photography Club: VW in B/W

by Mimi de Trafford





The Art of the Self

Alice Priory explains the philosophy underpinning her art. She is exhibiting her work in the Residency Studio (O1) on Thursday, 17th March (4-5 pm, refreshments available). 





Socrates states, ‘know thyself’. This exhibition explores the issue of identity, with a female focus. Colours, media and technique within portraits, can show that humans consist of complex layers, which continuously evolve. Our external image is a vital aspect of our identity; however, it can become distorted by technology and natural reflections, hindering the pursuit of our true self. My artwork considers the limitations of only viewing myself in the form of reflections; perhaps, I will never truly ‘know [myself]’.



 Technology hegemonizes our society, making identity a particularly relevant issue; the publicization of our lives on social media instigates hyper awareness of how we present ourselves to others. The Selfie Grid enabled me to explore whether the ‘selfie’ phenomenon fosters narcissism or authenticity. Ironically, these photos show a lack of self-consciousness, as I unapologetically gaze into my own eyes, and this absolute focus on the self removes any external context, narrowing the perspective. In The Ethics of Authenticity, Charles Taylor says our reliance on technology advocates individualism, and to live authentically we must acknowledge horizons of significance (external reference points), along with our inner voice. 



The Selfie Grid highlights the internal and external imbalance, which prevents us discovering our identity. The staged selfies may be a sterile interpretation of my identity, as they do not represent my true self. On the contrary, perhaps we do not have one nature, but are continuously re-defining ourselves, as Sartre says: ‘existence precedes essence’. This series of 9 quick, spontaneous selfies are therefore a simple means of self-exploration, allowing me to share who I am at that particular moment.



Photography Club: Quad

by Tilly Goldman





Ithaka Prize Finalist: Work, Rest and Pay

Adam Blunden investigates whether we can solve the productivity gap and asks what the consequences might be for inflation. 


At the time of writing, the Bank of England had recently released its quarterly Inflation Report along with the decision and minutes of the month’s MPC meeting. The report clearly forecasts a tendency for CPI inflation to increase in the next four years, assuming nominal base interest rates and asset purchases remain constant, however this increase is likely to be very well controlled to avoid exceeding the 2% target. Aggregate demand in the economy is growing steadily at rates similar to those from before the recession of 2008-9, rising by 0.7% in Q2 2015, up from 0.5% in Q1 2015. Consumption remains the largest component of aggregate demand, and supported by increases in nominal income through both increased employment and wages, very high consumer confidence, and real incomes being boosted by falling prices in many costs of living such as fuel, food and selected imports, this is expected to continue, although is likely to depend on the variation of retail interest rates offered by commercial banks.

The newly-installed Conservative government has been reacting to this news in the best way it can- promoting its own (now-clichéd) phrase- the long-term economic plan, and how it is working to improve the economy for the people of the UK. Their definition of economic improvement is certainly up for question, but is surely a topic for another essay. The first Budget of the new government laid out the first year’s fiscal intentions- the most headline-grabbing being the introduction of a living wage, but with other significant policies such as a reduction in the rate of corporation tax to 17% in 2017 and 18% in 2020, £3,000 removed from the National Insurance contributions made by employers, and increasing the personal income tax-free allowance to £11,000 and the higher rate tax threshold to £43,000 all make this budget key for attempting to improve the economic outlook (in terms of GDP at least) of the UK as a whole.

Outside of the UK, one of the fastest growing economies, China, looks set for a slowdown across labour (possibly as a result of the children of the One-Child Policy now reaching working age, leading to a decline in those of working age in the economy), capital (China has seen its debt climbing to 250% of GDP[i] through the most recent financial crisis- allowing it to keep growing but leaving it with huge future burdens) and productivity (largely fuelled by labour falls and rapid wage rises in line with the cost of living[ii]); initial signs of these fears were confirmed in the stock markets on `Black Monday’- Monday 24th August 2015, when the Hang Seng fell by 5.17%, and the Shanghai Composite Index fell by 8.52%- its worst single-day fall in eight years. The most reasonable cause is appropriated to the government’s recent decision to devalue the Yuan in an attempt to boost economic confidence in the markets (through making exports cheaper), although the government’s abilities in pretence were weakened by poor results from industrial growth, which sent other markets relying on Chinese industry spiralling in addition to the country’s own. The foreign markets recovered, but China’s are still suffering. Economic confidence in the country is weakened, but for productivity to improve there need to be significant structural changes such as automation and greater research and development, reducing the dependency on a decreasing labour force and repetitive investment on credit.

Copyright The Economist Newspaper Limited,
London (September 24th, 2013) (used with license)
German productivity is also an interesting case to consider. The gap in productivity between the UK and Germany has widened in recent years[iii] , yet German workers work for considerably less time on average[iv]. There is an inversely proportional relationship between hours worked and GDP per hour worked in OECD countries, suggesting that as productivity increases, the increase in output may cause an increase in pay, allowing the worker to increase their leisure time in maintaining a steady income.

There is also the possibility that increased pay will increase the chance a worker will work longer hours to maximise income, although the motivation is also to maximise future leisure time (e.g. for a pension or large saving target). Increased hours may lead to inefficiency and a fall in productivity, while a worker wanting to maintain a steady income will work at the same level or possibly harder in the shorter period of time, maintaining or increasing productivity. Research and development is also key to German productivity, with 17% [v]more workers in this sector than the UK, often spurred on by a more friendly relationship with the EU and tax relief encouraging investment. 

Photography Club: Staircase

by Georgina Haslam





A Reality Check on The ‘War on Terror’

In a short story, Luke Farmer explores the troubling psychological and moral consequences of the 'War on Terror'.



I turn left. I am greeted by the low hum of a wall light close to expiring behind its plastic exterior. There is a distinctive musty smell which penetrates my nostrils as we steadily descend the cold and colossal corridor. It is dark and damp. I think it may be mildew which I notice in patchy intervals, but I cannot entirely place it: it is entirely foreign to the fresh paint and uneconomical extravagance of the upholstery of the atrium we have just left.

As we progress further and the amount of light increases, I become aware that the walls which enclose us like sentinels are also peppered with mould and wear water stains as adornments. They will stand for generations to come and yet, will never know the sunlight. We move forward, without talking; it is stilted and awkward, I almost feel enervate.

I think back to the leather upholstery of the Range Rover and how it felt cool to the touch; suitably cooling on such a scorching hot day, although it had not been able to calm me or, in fact, offer any comfort at all. My hands had still felt clammy and my shirt was starting to dampen down my spine. The tinted windows had not allowed anyone to see in and yet it had not prevented me from noticing the stark contrast as we had driven out of the city and into the suburbs. I had noticed the children most prolifically: unkempt and wild. Their dirty faces a parody of city life. They stalked one another in their games of chase, wearing looks a mixture of determination, anger and will power.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Images of Moscow

Ethan Creamer has recently returned from a visit to Moscow and shares images of some of the most significant sites in the Russian capital.






England’s Chances In This Year’s t20 World Cup

by Monideep Ghosh

Not many pundits and fans would fancy England to make an impact in a world
tournament that is being held at the sub-continent. After the 1987 World Cup
Not many pundits and fans would fancy England to make an impact in a world tournament that is being held at the sub-continent. After the 1987 World Cup (where they made it to the final), there have been five major tournaments held at this part of the world with England failing to make it to the semi-finals on all occasions. But this time around they are buoyed and are confident of putting up a good show in the World T20 2016.



Twelve months ago, things were different as they got thumped by Bangladesh
in the 2015 World Cup in Australia. And now, the limited-overs misfits have
been removed from the side and there is a sudden influx of young and exciting
players who are ideally suited to this format. Their brand of cricket has
changed and despite losing the two-match Twenty20 International (T20I)
series in South Africa recently, they look ready. The selectors did throw a
surprise by picking an uncapped spinner in the 15-member squad. Hampshire's
Liam Dawson bowled well for England Lions against Pakistan A in the UAE
and considering the spinner-friendly surfaces that would be on offer in India,
he was selected as the backup spinner. England also chose to ignore senior
pacer Stuart Broad for the tournament despite his recall to the limited-overs
squads recently. Even though he has been in good form of late, Kevin Pietersen
was not considered as well.

Recent form: England lost the two-match T20I series against South Africa last
month but that should not deter them. They fought back brilliantly to almost
win the first game before Chris Morris took it away in the final over and then
were comprehensively beaten by an AB de Villiers special in the second. Prior
to this, they faced Pakistan last year in November where they put up an
incredible performance to win the series 3-0. Considering that series was
played in similar conditions that they would encounter in India, that win was
vital.

How to Survive the Rest of the Year in One Piece

by Sophie Whitehead



…And no I don’t mean protect yourself from a nuclear bomb, a terrorist attack or even a zombie apocalypse (although all such things seem to be becoming a closer and closer threat!) If you want advice on the latter I suggest buying ‘SAS Survival Guide: How to Survive in the Wild, on Land or Sea (Collins Gem)’ which totals at roughly £5 from Amazon, or other similar stockists. It’s a brilliant guide and could well inform my next article, but with focus to the here and now; this article is instead focused on something far closer in scale to our everyday lives - how to survive the stress of exams.

Now, many of you will know and will have no doubt read hundreds, if not thousands, of articles focusing on ‘dealing with stress’ ‘not letting stress overtake your life’ ‘how to fight and combat stress’ etc etc all which are much the same and to be fair, most people know how to deal with stress by the time you are taking GCSE’s or A Levels; afterall no one is living a perfect, hassle free. A latest survey conducted by NeuroBliss saw results that surveyed more than 1,200 Americans aged 18 and older, where 76% of Americans said they spend at least half their day-to-day life stressed out, and only 9% are happy during their average workday.Yet I thought with approaching deadlines for coursework (IB’ers I’m looking at you!) looming exams for the GCSE’ers and A Level’ers alike, what could be more perfect than yet another article which aims to put a few minds and hearts at ease through a short and sweet, painless method of stress free reduction.

Firstly, stress - what is it? The dictionary definition of stress is a specific response by the body to a stimulus, as fear or pain, that disturbs or interferes with the normal physiological equilibrium of an organism. To cut a long story short, the physiological and psychological process of stress is one which can interfere with your every day life by making you more susceptible to worry and doubt your own decisions. This obviously is not ideal when you are placed in an environment which needs a confident and articulate attitude; such as that of exam time. Stress effects people in all different ways and can manifest itself in an entirety of situations. People can eat less; eat more; turn to alcohol to combat their inhibitions; become reclusive or try and fight it completely by throwing in the towel and attempting not to care at all. The problem with stress is that it is something that everyone will face thousands of times in their life, even if you are not someone who usually gets affected by it, there will most probably be one time when you need something to go well, and panic about making it right. It is thus important that we try and target it early so that later on in life we have an easy remedy to feel good again. So, with that in mind, here are my top tips on how to stay as calm as possible in the run up to the summer, as well as being the most prepared.

Islamophobia

by Alex Sligo-Young



This article is the script from my talk on Islamaphobia and the sources that I used. My main source was Adam Curtis’s documentary ‘Bitter Lake’ which is still available to watch on the Internet. To compliment this I used his three part series ‘The Power of Nightmares’ along with other news articles that I found online that helped to explain my point.  I recommend watching the documentaries but if you don’t have the time then it is probably quicker just to read this.

Obviously as I am not a Muslim it’s hard for me to speak about life as a Muslim in Britain. So I’m going to look at Islamaphobia from a slightly different perspective. After looking at how Islam has been portrayed over recent years, it appears that it has become the archetypal villain in the world, and the more we have defined it as this the more that Islamic extremists have rallied to meet this definition. This definition has also led to the degradation of the public perception on Muslims, making them a target for groups like Britain First, anti-Islam alliance and liberty GB.

I personally believe that this whole problem stems from the oversimplification of Middle Eastern issues in an attempt to be able to understand them. Isis is not the singular product of the Islamic religion, America’s quest for oil or the culture that they were brought up in, but a combination of every issue and ideology that has entered the Middle East. However, this is not a satisfactory explanation for those in power. How can you be a strong leader and simultaneously state that Isis is no ones fault? So to enable the public to understand these issues they are grossly simplified to provide a Hollywood style fight between good and evil, an Isis are the perfect pantomime villain: they release gory videos, kill women and children and reject any notions of westernisation.

So to go some way to demonstrating the complexity of the issue I will begin by looking at the Middle East after World War II. This dam was meant to be just the start of the development that The King of Afghanistan dreamt of. However, this is the Afghanistan we see today, Kabul was previously described as the Paris of the middle east and is now just another where battle field where a scrabble for power takes place. So how did a semi conservative country that wished to be modernised in a similar way to America in the 1930’s get to this situation? To try and explain this I am just going to have to ignore lots of different causes but hopefully by exploring only a few chains of causation you will be able to understand how unbelievably complex the situation is. This new dam raised the water table, bringing salt to the surface of the soil, which enabled poppies to grow. Many Afghans protested, but the American government stepped in and insisted that the project should be finished, as the scheme had now become a draw to get Afghanistan to side with America in the cold war. Latterly, the previously nomadic Pashtun leaders realised their position of power and got America to allow them settle near the dam. However, what the Americans didn’t realise was that they had unwittingly entered into a power struggle between different Afghani groups.

However, this narrative is over simplified and I want to introduce another one to try and demonstrate how complex the situation is. To do so you have to go back to the birth of the Saudi-American relationship. This began with Roosevelt and King Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia as America was looking for a partner that it could rely on for oil. They decided that Saudi Arabia would be that partner, In exchange for America’s power and money the Saudis asked for one thing, that their Wahhabi or ultra conservative Islamic faith was left alone by the Americans. This Wahhabism was a reaction against imperialist European forces, and was harnessed by Abdul Aziz in order to gain power. However, the soldiers he used wanted to establish a Caliphate across the whole of the middle east and Aziz did not agree with this so he machine gunned the soldiers that had given him power. But their ideology lived on. When King Faisal took to the throne the religious leaders that ascribed to this ideology put pressure on him to stand up to western modernisation. However, Faisal had plans of modernising Saudi Arabia, so in order to divert the religious leaders attention he turned against communism by setting up Wahhabi schools all over the middle east to turn Islam into a unified international force strong enough to stand up to communism. This created stability in his country and directed the religious fever outwards; here we begin to see his political power. Later on in his reign Egypt attacked Israel due to a hatred of the Jews (which Saudi Arabia shared). However, America stepped in, supporting the Israelis and causing Egypt to retreat. But the Saudis didn’t like this so raised the price of oil putting America in an economic headlock and social chaos, consequentially showing how the balance of power in the world had now shifted to the countries that controlled the supply of oil. This resulted in numerous problems such as friction between employers and unions that wanted raises to cover the increased cost, more expensive goods and regular protests.

I now have to return to Afghanistan to continue the narrative. 

Ithaka Prize Finalist: Becoming Bilingual

by Catriona Ellis

A child exposed to two languages from birth and an adult moving into a country where another language is dominant will both be faced with the challenge and opportunity of becoming bilingual. Discuss the similarities and differences in the processes and outcomes of language learning for these two types of learner.[1]


“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, it goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.”[2] This statement perhaps epitomises all that meant by being truly bilingual: the subconscious understanding of all the quirks and nuances of a language, the appreciation for the history and culture of a tongue, and the realisation that speech in a country’s native language is the most powerful and precise method of communication for its inhabitants. Franz Fanon said, “to speak a language is to take on a world, a culture.”[3] I believe that it is possible for almost anyone to achieve this, whether they are a child exposed to two languages from birth or an adult moving into a country where another language is dominant. It is true that there are many more differences than similarities in the processes of acquiring a second language for these two types of learner, but ultimately the outcomes are almost identical: the most significant difference could be in eventual pronunciation or accent.

Stephen Krashen’s[4] widely recognised theory of second language acquisition (SLA) details five hypotheses which each explain an aspect of SLA. One of these is the Input hypothesis, which states that, “the learner improves and progresses along the 'natural order' when he/she receives second language 'input' that is one step beyond his/her current stage of linguistic competence.”[5] Thus, anyone wishing to become bilingual must be exposed to “‘comprehensible input’ that belongs to level ‘i+1’”[6], where they are currently at a level ‘i’. This relates to both types of learner with which I am concerned because on the surface, the process of SLA for an adult in a country where another language is dominant and a child exposed to two languages from birth are similar due to their equally immersive natures. Therefore, there should be no limit of i+1 level language for either learner and both should progress “along the ‘natural order’[7]”.

However, in reality the child is far more likely to be exposed to constant i+1 level language because, for them, all human communication will prove to be of i+1 standard due to the fact that they will generally only be communicating with older people. Whilst some of this language will be of too higher a level to be considered comprehensible[8] to the child, it is my opinion that there will still be no lack of i+1 input because the majority of people who converse with a child who has not yet acquired language tend to use simple language by default, which is the correct level of input to allow the child to progress naturally. This does not mean that the child will continue acquiring the second language (L2) and the adult stop, but simply that the child is less likely to have to search for the optimally comprehensible level of language input.

An adult attempting to acquire a second language (L2) may struggle socially if they wish to discourse with people of their own age because these communications will likely be at too high a level to be considered “comprehensible input”. Consequently, the adult will be exposed to i+2 or i+3 level language, which, according to Krashen, does not aid SLA. By way of solving this problem, the adult, in my opinion, has three options. Firstly, they can expose themselves to i+1 communications by talking with those who are themselves also undergoing SLA but have acquired slightly more language (native speakers of a younger age). However, this option is likely to be socially unsatisfying over an extended period of time because this group of people may only be 3 or 4 years old. Secondly they can ask adults whom they wish to talk with to use more simple language and structures although this may hinder adult conversation because of the constant need to over-simplify adult conversation topics. Alternatively, they can choose to seek formal instruction. Due to the potential problems with the first two options, adults tend to pick the final one: to attend formal instruction by way of language classes.

What is the Zika virus and actually how dangerous is it?

by Charlotte Randall




The Zika virus disease is a disease caused by the Zika virus, which is transmitted through a bite of an infected mosquito (very similar to malaria.) While incidents of Zika virus have occurred before, especially noted after its discovery on 1947, the current pandemic, confirmed throughout South America in October, has gained huge publicity. While the total number of cases cannot be confirmed, as some symptoms of the disease are so minimal they are ignored, it is estimated that thousands have come into contact with disease. This has suggested that there will be huge repercussions for South America not only in terms of health care but also in terms of the economy.

Symptoms of the disease:

The effects of the disease can vary massively. Only one in four people bitten by the mosquito develop the disease and the symptoms of the disease can last from two days until a lifetime. Typical symptoms include fever, skin irritation, muscle and joint pain and, sometimes conjunctivitis. However, in worse case scenarios Guillain-Barre syndrome can develop, caused when the immune system attacks some of the nervous system. Guillain-Barre syndrome can even result in paralysis. Moreover, it is beginning to become clear the Zika virus is being linked to Microcephaly, a birth defect where babies are born with small heads due to an undeveloped brain.

Threats to South American health care

It is becoming clear that the Zika virus may have serious implications on health care in South American countries. This is mostly due to the limited knowledge we have about the Zika virus, which means that doctors cannot be sure when the virus leaves the body, how to destroy the virus and how it is transmitted. These uncertainties have led to the fear that the virus could be transmitted in the blood; especially in Brazil where it has been believed that there has been transmission through blood donations. This may effect screening time blood donations, which could result in a delay that for some people may mean that they may not get the donation they need in time. Also, there is a growing fear that Zika could be transmitted sexually, which could have an effect on birth rates. Moreover, the health care systems will have to accommodate for the growing number of children with microcephaly, which is estimated to be about 745 in Brazil. Moreover, it is predicted that doctors will have to look out for the psychological effects of the disease amongst the mothers.

Monday, 14 March 2016

Ithaka Prize Finalist: Is Our Information Safe? by Henry Ling

Ithaka Prize Finalist: Is Mathematics Relative or Universal? by Hakan Hazzard

Photography: Spring Tulips

by Oliver Stone



Why Leonardo DiCaprio May Well Be Overrated

by Rebecca Emerton




I realise that, as a result of my writing this, most people will end up hating me.

I’m sure if anyone is much like me, they will have been paying close attention to many of the awards ceremonies taking place in 2016. Admittedly, I have yet to see The Revenant, but from what I’ve seen so far…I’m not sure I would enjoy it too much, seeing as I don’t enjoy things that make me jump or physical journey films too much. However, I suppose just to see the most recent appearance of Leonardo DiCaprio as he wows us again with his determination to achieve that golden statue he’s been aspiring to for so long, it may be justified, and I’m sure, worth it.

From what I have seen already in the advert, it looks like an outstanding piece of film with incredible cinematography and directing skills as well as the remarkable physical endurance that DiCaprio was supposedly put though in making the film. I must also point out that I do, one hundred percent, believe he deserved to win Best Male Actor in both the BAFTAs and the Oscars. I understand what good acting skill is and, as much as I love Eddie Redmayne, I too believe it’s high time Leo was awarded for his work.

Perhaps the title is unclear. I don’t think Leonardo DiCaprio is a bad actor in the slightest, and I do agree that he was the best winner for the award this year; however I do believe that he is consistently placed in the limelight as the ‘best actor in the world’ and so on, when there are many other people in the same league as him. More importantly, many other people that have also not won that beautiful golden figure – the Oscar award.

For years on end, people have discussed the outrageous fact that Leonardo DiCaprio has never won an Oscar (until this year). Yet many people fail to forget that some of the other, most phenomenal actors of our time haven’t either, some of whom arguably deserve to win one more than our beloved Leo.

A few that really shocked me include:
·         Tom Cruise
·         Michelle Pfeiffer
·         John Travolta
·         Robert Downey, Jr.
·         Will Smith
·         Bradley Cooper
·         Harrison Ford
·         Ralph Fiennes
·         And most importantly JOHNNY DEPP

New Molecules in TV screens, that detect bacteria, explosives and track cancer cells

by Zita Edwards



Recent advances in science have focused on the applications of fluorescent molecules to in OLED screens and as a non-invasive method of tracking cancer cells in patients. Fluorescent molecules release energy in the form of light and are small enough to travel through the bloodstream of a patient or in a thin TV screen. However, an issue arises when the molecules all gather in one area and they begin to block out the light emitted by each other, rendering the whole technology obsolete.
Dr. Ben Zhong Tang, at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology has discovered a kind of fluorescent molecule that shines brighter and for longer the slower the molecules are moving, thus, solving the problem of multiple molecules cancelling out the effect of each other. Dr Tang discovered a powder that illuminated until dissolved in water. The reason behind this, is that when the molecules are spaced out in a solution they have enough space to release their energy as heat but when brought closer together as a solid the molecules are forced to release energy as light. Scientists have named this process aggregation-induced emission and have tested the use of ethanol and water as solvents. Tang tested out this theory by further adding thicker substances to a solution of the new molecule, applying pressure to the solution, freezing the solution and manipulating the molecules by locking them in place; all of which produced a material that shone brighter and for longer.

Friday, 11 March 2016

England’s Continuing Search for a Consistent Opening Batsman

by Oliver Wright




Since the retirement of Alastair Cook’s seemingly ever-present test match opening partner, Andrew Strauss in 2012, England has struggled to replace the consistency he produced at the top of the order. Together, he and Cook managed to help England rise to the number 1 spot in the test rankings, averaging an extremely respectable 42.75 per partnership. Yet this dependable start to the innings has not been reciprocated by any of the 8 openers tested since, because although there have been fleeting moments of promise, such as Adam Lyth’s century against New Zealand, this has not been maintained for a lengthy period, causing the selectors to axe each player before they reached the 10 game mark.

The most recent example of this has been the frequent collapses of England’s top order in their latest test tour in South Africa. Where, although they scraped a 2-1 series win against a weakened South African line up (absentees including Dale Steyn, arguably the best bowler in the world), the matches were often saved by heroic batting from the explosive middle order. The middle order championed the aggressive and independent new philosophy galvanised by Trevor Bayliss (England’s new head coach), which encourages the players to think for themselves. This however, has seemingly been found difficult by some of the higher order players, who are apparently struggling to reconcile this new style with their natural way of playing. As a result, I believe there to be many suitable solutions to prevent the predictable capitulation at the top of the order.
           
Alex Hales

The 27 year-old Nottinghamshire opener is the current opening partner of Alastair Cook, chosen by the selectors in an attempt change England’s traditional approach to the start of the innings. Coming off the back of a surprisingly successful season in the County Championship, and having already established himself as a destructive batsman in the shorter formats of the international game, Hales seemed to have shown that he should be given the chance to prove himself in the upcoming tour in South Africa as a replacement for Adam Lyth. Unfortunately, he was generally dominated by the South African bowling attack, highlighting his difficulty with a consistent, swinging ball around his off stump. In 20 and 50 over cricket, Hales could get away with this issue through brute force and a lack of slips, however in test cricket it was proven that he couldn’t, ending the series with an average of 17.00.

Although this is a serious technical issue in need of correcting, it is possible that they will continue with him. If so, I hope that rather than trying to contradict his naturally attacking instincts by emulating past, traditional openers, he takes the game to the opposition. This is because Hales is clearly never going to survive in test cricket with a defensive attitude. It isn’t the way he knows how to play, and it would result in the continuation of his poor test form; he would be far more comfortable sticking to his strengths, demonstrated by his re-found form leading him to being the leading run-scorer in the subsequent one-day series. If he were to successfully transfer his usual attacking intent and confidence into the test arena, it would contrast the more defensive style of Alastair Cook, in turn placing more pressure on the opposing bowlers early on in the innings. Although unorthodox, it has been proven to work by the rise of Australia’s David Warner, the world’s most effective opening batsman in the world since his test debut in 2011 (averaging 50.64). He made a similar change to Hales, progressing to the test stage through white ball cricket.

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Harry Potter and the History of the Novel

Mariamne Gordon-Puller, Cicely Podmore, Hope Hopkinson and Tasmin Nandu-Swatton have rewritten the opening of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone in the style of Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe. In General Studies, they have been learning about the history of the novel and the purpose of this task is to show them how bare eighteenth century novels were in comparison to the rich detail of modern novels.  


To the Honourable
Duchess of Cambridge 


Harry Potter and The Philosopher's Stone

I who was orphaned in the year 1989 as an infant was left in the care of my ghastly Aunt and Uncle Dursley of Privet Manor in the grand county of Surrey. The Dursleys are not of a noble line, although made up for this with their pompous attitudes and success in the drilling business. Mr Vernon Dursley was betrothed to the vile Petunia, who spawned the wretched Dudley, and there they lived in harmony until my unexpected arrival upon their doorstep. I lived here henceforth unaware of my magical capabilities.


I was the sole heir to James and Lily Potter who tragically met their fate in the great massacre at the wand of He Who Must Not Be Named. After this night I was divorced from the magical realm, however multiple correspondence ensued from the great institution of Hogwarts which reaffirmed my suspicions of my magical grandeur. 

Ithaka Prize Finalist: The Evolution of the Brain, Past and Present

by Lucy Tyler





As he closed The Origin of Species (1859), Charles Darwin stated that: “In the distant future I see open fields for far more important researches. Psychology will be based on a new foundation, that of the necessary acquirement of each mental power and capacity by graduation.”

In doing so he claimed that our minds and mentalities had evolved and will continue to evolve. Just like other anatomy, our neuroanatomy is subject to evolution by the environment. Humans share 98% of their DNA with the great apes1, but how do our brain structures and functions compare? I question whether human superiority is a perceived quality or genuine attribute based on brain function and cognitive ability. What were the selection pressures that have shaped our neuroanatomy and give differentiation in cognitive ability between species? The extent to which the marked differentiation between humans is established by the interaction of cellular activity and genetics and also their environment, is a concept that feeds the nature versus nurture debate.  However I seek to find where genetics and the environment converge in exploration of the field of epigenetics. Moving away from the role of genetics, environmental stimuli are fundamental in human development when considering neuroplasticity, the remarkable property of the brain that means seemingly trivial exposures alter neuronal circuitry, creating inclinations and abilities. I am intrigued by the mechanism for neuroplasticity and how far it shapes an evolving individual throughout life. These changes to our neuronal configuration can be brought about by simple lifestyle choices. As well as several striking historical exhibitions of plasticity in human development, alterations occur in our neuronal networks continuously to which we have no access. We have such limited awareness of their implications despite their integral role in our quest to overcome brain dysfunction.

Intelligence can be considered a result of evolutionary change. The intelligence of the Homo sapiens, relative to the other species with whom it shares planet Earth, is the quality to which the superiority of man in conquering and thriving on the planet is often attributed.  Within the animal kingdom, as a taxonomic order, the primates are singled out as having great intelligence. I am defining intelligence as the ability to acquire and learn new skills and gain knowledge. We perceive primates and specifically humans to have great intelligence because of their ‘complex’ abilities giving rise to versatility in a changing environment as well as acquiring a multitude of skills throughout a lifetime. Using the belief that intelligence is what separates primates from other taxonomic orders, one can infer that the brain of the common ancestor was physiologically or structurally altered for that to be the case.

Suzana Herculano-Houzel, a research scientist at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro sought to find out whether size has any relationship with intelligence and brain function. She devised a technique in which individual neurons were counted in a known volume of a sample of brain and the number scaled up with respect to the full brain volume. The results gave an accurate estimate of the proportion of brain matter that was neuron cells. Studying a range of rodents, she found a positive correlation between size and the number of neurons and furthermore with glial cells. An additional finding made was that individual neurons increased in size as the brain size increased. The results indicated that larger rodent brans had greater processing power. The fact that organisms with more neurons had larger neurons, appeared to support the assumption that brain size has significance in terms of the intelligence of the species. This is based on the idea that the more neurons there are in an organism’s brain, the greater the brain function and the organism can perform more complex cognitive activity. Greater regions of brain can be allocated to the control of particular functions, for example, the sense of smell, therefore containing a greater number of neurons. Alternatively, a greater number of neuronal territories can be established which enable more cognitive skills and abilities, thus ‘complexity’.

Upon extending this method to primate brains, Herculano-Houzel found that data from primate brains did not conform to the same observation. Despite larger brain size, neurones were not larger, facilitating a marked increase in the number of neurones per volume of brain.  The last primate brain from which data was collected was a human brain. The results fitted the general primate trend found previously. Perhaps this greater neuron density has allowed primates to have their intellectual superiority.

Intelligence might not be the best determinant to judge the way in which brains have evolved. A definition of intelligence applicable to different species and organisms is highly debated. There are some factors that we perceive as indicative of relative intelligence that as humans we cannot understand, for example language. As humans, we could argue that our own methods of communication are far superior to those of other species simply because we have no awareness of either the existence or meaning of potential language or means of communication. Moreover, in my own view, ‘cognitive superiority’ cannot exist when comparing organisms of a different species, as apparent differences in intelligence may arise from limitations of anatomy independent of neuronal function.

It is a relatively recently accepted theory that particular regions of the brain are not solely responsible for certain activities, and that neuronal circuitry is fundamental to the capability of performing cognitive tasks. By neuronal circuitry, I refer to the interaction between individual neurons, the efficiency by which it occurs and the number of networks possible. Lars Chittka from Queen Mary University of London is critical of the studies relating brain size and intelligence. He argues instead that it is neuronal circuitry that has greatest significance in determining differences between species. The basis for his belief stems from his study of bees. With a brain of only 1mm3, bees have the ability to build large nests, work cooperatively with other individuals in a community with a hierarchical arrangement. A study, documented by John Pearce in Animal Learning and Cognition, found that bees are capable of learning faster than some vertebrates including human infants. My interest is not to compare the level of intelligence of the two species but to emphasise the significance that a high level cognitive ability can be achieved by a small number of neurons. This suggests that efficiency and cellular activity along these neuronal pathways gives an organism its cognitive ability and is further evidence of the lack of causation between brain size and cognitive ability.

Ithaka Prize Finalist: Why We Should All Learn A Foreign Language

by Katherine Lemieux


„Wer fremde Sprachen nicht kennt, weiß nichts von seiner eigenen“
He who knows no foreign language, knows nothing of his own

A 21st century manifesto for Modern Languages in the United Kingdom


In England gibt es eine Fremdsprachenkrise, weil immer weniger Studenten Fremdsprachen studieren und leider wird es erwartet, dass dieser Trend in der Zukunft fortfahren wird. Im Vergleich zu Deutschland, wo 64% der Bevölkerung Englisch sprechen kann[1], kann nur ungefähr 5% der britischen Bevölkerung Deutsch sprechen[2] und das macht mir Sorgen. Fremdsprachen sind sehr nützlich, besonders in dem globalen Arbeitsmarkt, und deshalb habe ich mich entschieden herauszufinden, warum es ein Mangel an Fremdsprachenkenntnisse in Großbritannien gibt, und wie man diese Situation verbessern kann. Es ist sehr wichtig, dass wir zusammen arbeiten, um alle zu ermutigen, Fremdsprachen zu lernen, weil es uns künftig helfen wird. Ich hoffe, dass eines Tages die Mehrheit der Briten diesen Absatz verstehen wird. Das wäre fantastisch.

En Angleterre il y a une crise de langues vivantes parce que le nombre d’étudiants qui apprend les langues vivantes diminue et malheureusement on craint que cette tendance ne continue à l’avenir.  En comparaison de la France, où au moins 39% de la population sait parler l’anglais,[3] seulement 15% des Britanniques  ont des connaissances de français[4] et cela m’inquiète.  Les langues vivantes sont très utiles, surtout sur  le marché du travail mondial et par conséquent j’ai décidé d’examiner cette crise. J’ai pour but de découvrir la cause de ce manque de connaissance de langues étrangères en Grande-Bretagne  et comment améliorer cette situation. Il est important de travailler ensemble pour que tous soient inspirés d’apprendre les langues vivantes, qui nous aideront à l’avenir. J’espère qu’un jour la plupart des Britanniques comprendront ce paragraphe. Cela serait fantastique.

If you find that you can read and understand either of the two paragraphs above, the chance is that you appreciate the value of learning a foreign language. In a world where the desire for linguists is so great, the words of the German writer, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, could not be any more relevant or important. Britain is facing a foreign languages crisis with only one quarter of British adults having the ability to hold a conversation in a foreign language.[5] Personally, I find the study of modern foreign languages fascinating as not only do you gain the ability to communicate in a foreign language, but you also benefit from wider knowledge, such as the cultural backdrop associated with that specific language. I find it a great shame that so few people are choosing to study languages and so I have therefore decided to take on the challenge of highlighting in this project, using a wide variety of sources and my own fieldwork via a survey, the severity of this languages crisis and perhaps even more crucially the possible solutions, which include offering language courses alongside degrees at university, exploring creative teaching methods and making foreign languages relevant to today’s world.

Without a shadow of a doubt, the study of modern foreign languages in Britain is declining rapidly. Fewer and fewer pupils are opting to study foreign languages and worryingly this trend is expected to continue. According to Speak to the Future, a campaign for languages backed by the British Council, GCSE entries for German have dropped by 43% over the past 10 years and French has also seen a 38% decline in its entries.[6] The Joint Council for Qualifications reports a similar story for A Levels, with a 65% drop in French entries between 1993 and 2015 and a drop of 67% for German entries.[7] This crisis has led to fears that certain languages may even become extinct from the curriculum in British schools and colleges, which has most recently led to promises from Nicky Morgan, Education Secretary, that the government will "guarantee the future" of GCSEs and A-levels in minority languages such as Polish, Gujarati, Bengali and Turkish.[8] However, it still remains questionable whether these words will suffice.