Friday, 22 June 2018

Does Intense Schooling cause Myopia?

by Emily Stone

Myopia, or nearsightedness, is a refractive error, which means that the eye does not bend or refract light properly to a single focus in order to see images clearly. The disorder causes close objects to look clear but distant objects to appear blurred. It is the leading cause of visual impairment that affects on average 30-50% of adults in the United States and Europe. It can be inherited and is often discovered in children between the ages of eight and twelve. However during the teenage years, when the body grows rapidly, myopia may become worse. Patients with myopia have a higher risk of developing a detached retina, and a serious condition has a higher risk of developing glaucoma and cataracts.

Recently, a study has shown a possible link between the intensity of schooling and the onset of myopia. As societies have developed formal education systems, incidences of myopia has increased from around 1% to as much as 80- 90% in young adults. There is a direct correlation between rapid increases in the prevalence of myopia and rapid changes in access to education. An example of this is in East Asia after the Second World War and in China at the end of the cultural revolution.

Looking at East Asia in more detail, there has been a trend of increasingly early onset of myopia in the school years in East Asia This is probably due to early intense educational pressures such as homework at preschool level, combined with little time for play outdoors. As a result, almost 50% of children in East Asia are now myopic by the end of primary school, compared with less than 10% in the British ALSPAC study. The number of people affected by myopia is expected to increase from 1.4billion to 5 billion by 2050, based on existing trends. This would affect around half of the world’s population.

Whilst researchers have long been aware of the correlation between myopia and education, it has not been clear whether increasing exposure to education causes myopia, myopic children are more studious, or socioeconomic position leads to myopia and higher levels of education. However a new study by researchers at the University of Bristol and Cardiff University used a technique to Mendelian randomisation in order to prove the causation between myopia and education.

Monday, 11 June 2018

BBC Radio 2 500-Word Challenge Final

by Samir Patel

The grand final for the BBC Radio 2 500-word challenge was held at Hampton Court Palace this year. The event was hosted by Chris Evans with performances from John Newman, Bastille, HRH Duchess of Cornwall, a choir, a musical fanfare and many more.

Although my story wasn’t selected as a top 50 in the challenge I did get tickets, so I could attend the event. It happened on the eighth of June 2018 from 6am to 10am.

At 5am they made a queue so the 3,000 people attending could wait in a line. By half past everyone had arrived, and the line snaked back and forth, but it was a good rest for everyone after the long journey there.

There were two categories 5-9 & 10-13 years of age, and there was a bronze, silver & gold award in both categories. The stories were fun, entertaining and often politically correct.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Review: Machinal

by Daniel Hill

Based on a true story, Machinal is a play by Sophie Treadwell which is told through episodes and was the single play that was published within her lifetime out of the thirty nine that she wrote. The Almeida Theatre stage is transformed as Natalie Abrahami, whose recent work includes Wings at the Young Vic and Queen Anne for the RSC, directs this thought provoking play.

Sophie Treadwell’s play tells the harsh story of Ruth Snyder (or Young Woman) who was the first woman to be executed by Electric Chair at Sing Sing Prison in New York. We see Young Woman go through her life as she seems almost trapped within certain situations including, work, home and marriage. It is only when her affair begins that she is able to have some freedom on the side of her life and it is perhaps that accelerates her decline into insanity. Natalie Abrahami directs this piece with a deep insight into the harshness of the main character, without losing the sight of the bigger picture which possibly suggests she is trapped in a prison throughout her life. In the final scene, she cried out the words, “No more - not now - I’m going to die - I won’t submit.” which gave us a clearer insight into how she had felt her whole life in a world of entrapment.

Emily Berrington is brilliant in the role of Young Woman who shows this uncontrollable emotional side of the character throughout. Particularly in her monologue during Episode 2 in which she is questioning her mother in regards to the almost unwanted love she received from her boss and future husband. It was delivered with ease and confusion which really brought her performance to life. The rest of the cast supported her well and were able to create the foundations of the performance.

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

Review: 'Fatherland'

by Daniel Hill

Frantic Assembly’s new production, Fatherland, premiered in Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre and has since found its way down to the Lyric Hammersmith in London where I was lucky enough to see it. The play is mainly verbatim, but does push the boundaries of this form by introducing a character who was not based on the real life interviews that the three playwrights performed. It is written by Scott Graham, Simon Stephens and Karl Hyde who interviewed a range of men from their hometowns, confronting them on the subject on Fatherhood. On stage, we see some of these interviews brought to life by the all male cast. It is directed by Scott Graham who is able to craft the scripts into a thought provoking performance.

The play repeatedly returns to Scott, Simon and Karl questioning various people who range from young adults to their own fathers which gives the audience a snapshot of the memories of their fathers, and what being a father means to them. What originally sounds somewhat unlike a lot of Frantic’s known work, such as Lovesong, Beautiful Burnout and more recently Things I know to be true, the audience are transported to their world with moments of unity between the cast, as well as mesmerising physical theatre which make Frantic Assembly who they are. The almost dance-like movements are paired with powerful choral chanting from the main cast along with the Chorus of Others, a group of volunteers who swarmed the theatre, which gave me goosebumps as I was watching the play.

The three actors playing the playwrights are good, but it is a few of the interviewees that stand out. David Judge plays the role of Daniel who gains a lot of sympathy from the audience, as we hear the story of his distance relationship with his father. His softer attitude towards the subject gives his portrayal a unique aspect in this production. Tachia Newall plays the role of Craig who has a young daughter of his own and Newall gains a lot of support from the audience throughout which is also added to by his vocals which are also brilliant. He conveys a real sense of understanding throughout his moments on stage. Craig Stein plays the role of Luke and by doing so breaks the rules of Verbatim Theatre. The questioning nature he provides to the piece gives it a sense of freshness. The chanting sound created by the combination of actors does give this piece a sense of unity as well as power. We are treated to this once again when leaving the theatre, as the Chorus of Others are chanting in the foyer.

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Macron: Taking Off the Training Wheels

by Philippa Noble

Emmanuel Macron, after being elected in 2017 to bring about change in France, has since implemented his unemotional and self-described Jupiterian style through a long list of reforms. Recent examples include changes in pay for Air France employees, higher taxes on pensions, and changes in university applications allowing universities to select students on academic grounds. Yet none of these wide-ranging and provocative reforms have created half the reaction that reforms to SNCF have stirred up. In aiming to tackle the huge debt and excessive benefits of SNCF (the French train network), Macron provoked a three month long strike which has interrupted (so far) 20 days of travel. On the 50th anniversary of the infamous May 1968 protests, how can Macron justify such a controversial reform and how will he pull it off?

Even in Macron’s campaign title “En Marche!”, he reflected his goals for his entire presidency, ending France’s stagnation with a new party and drastic change.  His long list of reforms has only gone to reinforce this with edits of the beloved Code du Travail and cuts to public sector spending, amongst other policies. A more SNCF-specific goal, however, is to reduce the company’s debt - totalling at around 46 billion euros at the latest count. Increasing productivity, reducing factor costs (for instance, through cutting the benefits for employees of SNCF), and pushing for an efficient use of funds will all create a more competitive and efficient company, something that is crucial for its viability in the future. The reforms proposed by Macron aim to fulfill all these goals by limiting benefits for new employees and privatising the company in the not-so-far future. Opening up the train network to other companies will create a need for a more efficient use of funds and capital to keep up with a growing market - hopefully avoiding failures such as ordering 2,000 new trains that were too large for station platforms in 2014. Competition will also push the market price of train tickets down, creating a better outcome for the public. With SNCF reforms, it could be argued that Macron is following Lewin’s Model of Change. Despite being an organisational model, its base argument holds when applied to an economy. Small changes often fail as it is too easy to revert back to the old system. Using this model to unfreeze the status quo, change what is necessary, then freeze the organisation or society into the new status quo allows change to be cemented in place. Macron here has unfrozen society with his entire “En Marche!” campaign, gained his mandate for change, and is attempting to cement it in law. Although complete change will not be fully secured until the last of the current cohort of SNCF workers are out of the company (as this reform is gradual, applying only to new employees), the shift in policy will be signed into law and will hold until the next radical change.

What Is The Fastest TV Cancellation Ever?

by Nicholas Lemieux

Cancellation: Every TV show’s worst nightmare. On the one hand, a show’s cancellation could mean it’s a good thing; if it gets the chance to wrap up its storylines, give a final farewell to its characters and go out on its own terms, chances are it’ll be remembered fondly as a show that didn’t outstay its welcome, droving on endlessly like an undead zombie (Season 30 of The Simpsons coming this September!). However, in other circumstances, a show may end up cancelled too soon, potentially ending with a tantalising cliffhanger and untied ends that end up leaving many a fans frustrated until the end of their life. In light of the many recent cancellations of various shows, most notably police procedural sitcom Brooklyn Nine-Nine getting cancelled by Fox and shortly afterward revived by NBC all within less than 36 hours, I’ve decided to investigate and find out the fastest a show has been cancelled.

Regarding cancellation, there are many a shows that instantly come to mind, and some of which were also revived. Cult sitcom Arrested Development had a great tale, cancelled after three seasons and then seven years later revived by streaming service Netflix (Season 5 premiering May 29!). Sci-Fi western Firefly, despite inheriting a massive cult fandom, was cancelled after one season of fourteen episodes, most of which were aired out of order, until briefly returning with a one-off theatrical film Serenity. Even Netflix, revered for giving cancelled shows another chance, received a mass fan outrage after cancelling Sci-Fi series Sense8 after only two seasons, until they were eventually compelled by to bring the show back for a two-hour series finale.

Among my investigations, I also encountered various obscure shows that were cancelled after only airing one episode. Perhaps the most infamous one I found out was Heil Honey I’m Home!, a short-lived sitcom revolving around Adolf Hitler and his wife Eva dealing with and getting into many antics with their Jewish neighbours. The pilot episode involves Hitler trying to keep his neighbours out of the way whilst Neville Chamberlain comes to dinner. Suffice to say, eleven episodes were produced and only one was aired (later episodes planned to include Joseph Stalin and Hermann Goring as guest stars).  However, in spite of all this, I was still wondering, was there ever a show so bad, so horrible to watch, it couldn’t even air the entirety of one episode, a show cancelled in something of a state of limbo, incomplete and unfinished. The answer, bizarrely, and to my eventual shock and horror, is yes.

Monday, 21 May 2018

Photography: Bomber in the Camber

by Tony Hicks

Is there a place for Geography in a ‘post-truth’ world?

by Lewis Wells

“Meeting the needs of today’s population without compromising the needs of future generations”

One would think it would be easier to do, or at least work towards, than ever before. May that be through our technological advancements, encouragements and creations of geographical leaders in areas from Agriculture to the facilitation of active communities, our scope of involvement in the development of our world has accelerated in our effort, execution and thus progress.

But we’ve hit an unusually abstract stumbling block.

Notice the emphasis upon “we”, because it seems not only as if this so-called phenomenon has been able to impact a great number of people, it has been provoked by us both intentionally and unintentionally also. Introducing, the very selection of the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year for 2016 as “post-truth”. The selection identifies a surge in post-truth behaviour, such conduct. In 2016, the majority of the participating electorate in the United Kingdom made the decision to leave the European Union, a union set up during the 1960s, purposely for trade, emotionally for peace. What since has such a promising-sounding Union become? Such digression is important to consider. However, the focus is on how the decision made was influenced by a plethora of accusations, evidence and information. From the outset, one would assume all information provided is, as it always claims, factual and truthful. But the presence of political favouritism, desperation for victory, but more importantly, the presence of opportunity to manipulate people more easily than ever before, worked to shake this natural conception.

Information was manipulated in unseen manners in order to incite action and participation for the respective “Remain” and “Leave” campaigns- resulting in a country arguably more divided since the Troubles, political uncertainty during the 1970s or even in the wake of the Second World War. Such ‘post-truth’ behaviours during the referendum have left the country reeling
to this precise date. The analysis of content, may that be intentionally manipulative or blatantly incorrect, wages on. We may never know why, or how, some comments came to be
apparent, where they originated from, and to what extent they served an influential purpose.
But they nonetheless did...

Review:Shakespeare's 'Julius Caesar' (Bridge Theatre, London)

by Alex Porter

The Bridge theatre which can be found overlooking the River Thames and Tower Bridge, is the first commercial theatre to be built in central London since 1973. It was set up by Nicholas Hytner and Nick Starr, in October 2017 who wanted to open a large theatre that was not in the West End of London. The theatre is very adaptable and it allows productions to be performed in ‘promenade formats’, with reduced seating.

Over the Easter break I was lucky enough to go and see an amazing contemporary production of ‘Julius Caesar’ at ‘the Bridge’ where David Calder (Julius Caesar) David Morrissey (Mark Anthony) and Ben Whishaw (Marcus Brutus) performed brilliantly. 

The production was particularly special as the audience were the crowd/mob in the play and we had to hold up posters, cheer loudly, lie on the floor and also pass a huge sheet of red cloth over our heads when Julius Caesar was arriving triumphantly at the Senate unaware that Brutus and his conspirators were waiting to kill him. Although the production used Shakespeare’s original script, Julius Caesar wore a red baseball cap and Mark Anthony had a track-suit with his name on it which also made the characters mingle with the crowd. Platforms were rising and falling all the time throughout the performance so the crowd had to move as the platforms changed and simple props and clever stage changes were also used so you really felt part of each scene. The production was also very noisy as it had loud sound tracks and explosions throughout; it lasted two hours (without an interval), although the time seemed to pass quickly as the audience had to be so involved in it all.