Sunday, 11 November 2018

Photography: Portsmouth Marks the Centenary of the Armistice

by Tony Hicks

Last night, Portsmouth Guildhall was illuminated to remember those from the city and from across the world who gave their lives in the First World War. Today marks the centenary of the Armistice that ended that war at 11 am on the 11th November. 

Friday, 9 November 2018

Astrophotography: Night Sky above the Downs

by Benedict Blythe

Photo specs:
Camera: Canon 750d
lens: Canon 18-55mm kit lens + UV filter
ISO: Auto (Around 800)
Aperture: 3.5
Shutter speed/ exposure time: 20 seconds

Was Trump Correct to Call the Midterms a ‘Tremendous Success?’

by Alex Gibson

(Wiki Commons)
After the midterm elections on Tuesday, President Donald Trump, in his usual vein, tweeted that the outcome was a ‘Tremendous Success! Thank you to all!’ Instantly, as is always the case, he was met with backlash, with the majority of people questioning this statement - he had lost the House of Representatives after all. However, after examining the results, is he correct? Well, to an extent,  yes.

I say ‘to an extent’ because he obviously lost his majority in the House of Representatives, with the Democrats now having a majority of 28, at the time of writing (there are still 15 seats to be announced). This will of course lead to issues for Donald Trump and, although the likelihood of articles of impeachment being submitted are very low, the Democrats now have full access to the investigative powers of House committees by having majorities in these bodies, and so a higher level of scrutiny can take place. This could lead to further enquiries into any relations or dealings with Russia building up to the 2016 election or the president’s tax returns being released. If anything of interest is found here, naturally Trump may come under further pressure. I would make the argument that this will be be beneficial, even if just for the sake of clarity and closure. It is a fair assessment, in my view at least, to say that parts of the Trump administration are shrouded in secrecy.

However, there are reasons as to why Trump could come out of this ‘defeat’ very well. Firstly, the Democrats claimed that there would be a ‘blue wave’ and any Trump support would be decimated in this midterm vote. If I’m being honest there was more of ‘blue puddle.’ I say this because it was predicted that Trump would lose the House and maintain control of the Senate (the surprising aspect of all of this is that there were no major surprises in terms of the result). At the time of writing the Republicans have lost 28 seats, this is fewer than in the first terms of the Clinton and Obama tenures. So it is possible to say that this is no humiliating defeat for Trump and the victory for the Democrats is nowhere near as significant as some were perhaps hoping for. As a result, Trump could be seen as somewhat successful.

Poem: Paper Chains

by Amy Mitchell

I am a paper man, bound by paper chains.
We scream silently, numbers in a game,
Our plight dulled to invisible bloodstains.
Glory, they say. No dancing bones, no shame

As friends become numbers. We ravage them,
Taunting; haunting. Choose feathers over lies.
But we are nothing now, just an emblem,
A postcard, yellow, though still she cries.

He stands and reveres a life unlived:
I writhe, suffocating, in no-man’s dust.
My remains are sold, carved by care contrived
A violent struggle, a paper head unjust.

My life a sentence on an unread page,
As a lady lays a rose on a fresh grave.

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Photography: Where Will Today Take You?

by Nicola Watson

An Ode to Materials Science and Engineering

by Katie O'Flaherty

The Secret Story of Stuff: Materials of the Modern Age


This is the latest of my forays into the world of materials science and engineering. Starting with my interest in a career improving chemicals and creating new ones, I began my search for a degree which would help me fulfil my want to maintain contact with the breadth of the sciences, while also being able to be up close and personal with the most fundamental building blocks of substances. A number of google searches later, and I stumbled across a new field; materials science. A few taps on the keyboard later, and I was immersed in video upon video of the most fantastic, unimaginable materials, and plethora of passionately-written articles on the wonders of some new product of a lab. Thus my new way of procrastinating was born.

So back to the first, still unexplained, sentence. On the surface, it seems to be a run of the mill documentary, shown by the BBC last week, and left to live out its life on iPlayer without a second thought. To me, however, it helped to show a world under the surface of our day to day life; a world of tiny yet monumental revolutions in the way the simplest tasks are performed. If you have any interest in fashion, technology, security, medicine, the environment, fire prevention, or stopping a bullet, then this documentary is well worth the watch. Designer and engineer Zoe Laughlin presents cutting edge science in an easily understandable manner, her obvious excitement at the wonders of her field never far, and all too infectious.

To pick out one of myriad fields shown which is being fundamentally changed by the research done into materials, ‘five dimensional’ glass is being used to store more data than imaginable on a tiny disc. Using a laser, nanoscale dots are inscribed in the glass, with each dot able to have up to 256 variations of shape and variation, allowing them to contain up to 8 bits of data each. So far, scientists have been able inscribe 200 layers of dots on top of each other on a single disk half a centimeter thick. Thus, each disk is able to contain up to 5 trillion dots. A normal CD can hold up to 128GBs of data. A CD-sized glass disk can hold up to 360TB. That’s nearly 3000 times the data storage, for the same size, with both simply using a laser to leave marks for another laser to read. Not only this, but the glass discs are predicted to be able to survive the lifetime of the universe without degrading, making them impenetrable fortresses of data storage.

Photography: The Old Town Walls Revealed

by Tony Hicks

It looks like they have uncovered the old town walls dating back to the 17th/18th century somewhere between the town bastion and east bastion.

Photography: There Have Been Some Amazing Sunsets This Last Week or So

by Tony Hicks

Review: Come from Away

by Daniel Hill

On the 11th September 2001 the world changed forever. Come From Away tells the true story of what happened that day, from the perspective of the residents of Gander, Newfoundland. 38 planes landed with almost 7000 people being left stranded on the island off the coast of Canada. The show is written (Book, Lyrics and Music.) by David Hein and Irene Sankoff and it is directed by Christopher Ashley.

The musical portrays the reaction of the population of Gander and the 6579 passengers when they land in Newfoundland. We see the passengers unaware of what happened in New York and the camaraderie of the inhabitants who unite in order to provide the visitors a home for what turned out to be for five days. The friendliness of Newfoundland’s population is depicted clearly in the musical as we see the sheer sadness as people get to leave the island. The musical also shows the friendships created in this time of both community and devastation felt around the world. As the musical says “Tonight we honor what was lost, but we also commemorate what we found.” This quote encapsulates what happened over the five days and then the ten-year anniversary of 9/11.

The staging of the show was particularly gripping. The use of the chairs in order to create the setting often seemed simplistic yet struck the audience as very effective. With the direction/musical staging the musical seemed quite intimate and moving throughout with the unity coming across clearly to the audience. Moments which incorporated the lighting also provided another element to the piece. The integration of the band within the piece through some of the number further established the sense of community that the play communicated.

The 12-man cast was extremely strong with the power of voices often making it appear that there were more than 12 people on stage. It would be wrong not to mention Jenn Colella individually as she stole the show. In the role of Beverly Bass, the song “Me and the Sky.” was both beautiful and powerful. The song tells the story of Beverly Bass’s journey as a pilot up until the 9th of September 2001 and she delivers it with conviction and excitement as well as sorrow. In her other role, she is also good, although it is mainly her solo that allows her to steal the show. The rest of the cast were also good and I thought that Joel Hatch also deserved a mention in the role of the mayor as he guides the audience through the true story.

I had never seen a show that received a standing ovation as soon as the blackout came until Come From Away. Whether this was due to story, music, the fact it was true, the connection with New York, the talent on display or a combination of all of this I think it was definitely deserved. With this musical transferring to the West End in 2019 I would highly recommend this for anyone.

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Review: Wise Children

by Daniel Hill

Emma Rice has been on an interesting journey for this piece to finally materialize, starting off with her desire to adapt and stage this book before her time as Artistic Director at Shakespeare’s Globe. Luckily for us, the wait is now over as both the play and her new company, both named Wise Children, has hit the world. I was lucky enough to see this production at the Old Vic, London before it sets off on a nationwide tour. Much like any other piece created by Rice, it is filled with joyous, comedic and moving moments.

Wise Children tells the story of twins Dora and Nora and how they have ended up where they are today including an invite to a party from Melchior Hazard, who we later find out is their long-lost father. As we see them grow up Rice takes us on a journey from puppets to actors who both respectively morph into their older self. 

Emma Rice’s directing adds both comedy and sorrow into the lives of each character we see on stage, something which I have only seen in her productions. We see the heartbreak and joy from every character as their story evolves and the actor seems to be truly invested within the story as they become the characters with true conviction.

Emma Rice’s direction is exceptional as ever. Everyone in the audience laughed, some shed tears and they all seemed to enjoy it. Both through her direction, the choreography from Etta Murfitt (who also starred in the play) and the lighting design from Vicki Mortimer this production proves the amount of joy a piece of theatre can carry. It is clear to me how reliant Rice is on the technical aspects of her shows which really add a crucial element to the pieces. Without the lighting, some of the most memorable and breathtaking moments would not have been quite so effective which really gives credit to the design team behind this production as they enhance Rice’s and the cast’s brilliant work.