Monday, 30 November 2015

Photography: Perspective

by Thomas Locke

World AIDS Day: A Personal Reflection

World AIDS Day is on Tuesday, 1st December. Reverend Hayley Young, who has spoken to PGS' Pride Society, describes her own experience of being HIV Positive. 

My name is Hayley and I am HIV Positive!

Yeah, for some people that is a big deal for others it’s really not – my hope is one day everyone will react to me no differently because of it, but the reality is today they do.

People look,
People stare,
People comment,
People looked worried when I touch someone!

I contracted HIV in 2013 and was forced by people I once trusted to make it public.  I told the community in which I work and live in May 2015. When I told people, most were amazing and supportive; they wanted to know how they could help. Others - well, honestly, I thought I had travelled back to the 1980s.

The stigma that some have placed on HIV and the prejudices that some people treat me with has made me more determined to talk about being HIV positive.

Having HIV is not the end of the world; although it’s not the best thing in the world either!
Due to advancements in medicine, if HIV is picked up early enough it will have almost no impact on your daily life.  You can carry on as normal, that’s why it is so important to get yourself checked.

As someone living with HIV, I take a cocktail of anti-viral drugs everyday that help suppress the virus in my body.  Due to other infections and the right combination of drugs not being used straight away, the path for me was a bit complicated.

But the treatment means that I still have a future

Sunday, 29 November 2015


The author of this article has requested to remain anonymous. 

Life. A wondrous thing. Life is something so complex and vital that only the word itself can hope to explain it because any other words try to make it something mundane, something describable. Life.

Yet, it’s also something so utterly painful, challenging and filled with sorrow. With life comes the inevitable counterpart: death. Death is the black of a dreamless sleep, that oblivious state which we enter and depart with no memory of what happens between. It terrifies, it soothes, it obscures, it gives perspective. If life is the vitality, then death is the reason to embrace that vitality.

Sitting, surrounded by life, death seems so utterly distant, so far from the comprehension and reality of Sixth Form life. Surely it’s all a lie, it doesn’t truly exist. Watching boys crowd a window to watch the unremarkable, hearing the girl to my left giggle in response to the lame joke of the guy she clearly likes, I’m left wondering one thing: how can this all just end? 

For some, of course, it doesn’t. Death is the beginning of a second incarnation, or the beginning of the life after this one. Perhaps we are returning to a greater entity, or perhaps we are becoming something else, something other. The only thing that is certain is that you, upon death, are lost to this world and everyone in it.

Sat in a hospital, watching as the man I love, the man who has always been there for me, cringes and groans as new stitches pull and the sheer fatigue presses down on him, makes me think of all this: of an end. It’s not until you hear words like ‘accident’ or ‘surgery’ or ‘heart attack’, that the vitality of life truly takes on a perspective that I truly wish we were all born with. For me, in that chair, watching my father in pain, hearing the beep of the infernal monitors, it was another word that had me pondering the finality of things and the beauty of the blip of life: Cancer. 

Cancer is a word that shatters, a word that tears and a word that exists in an unbreakable union with sorrow. It runs around in your head, filtering into every thought, into every movement and never lets you alone. Perhaps the true evil of cancer is its malignant traits in both the diagnosed and the loved ones around them.

My father has cancer. Bowel cancer to be precise. His life is a cycle of chemo and injections and you know what? We’re all right. We were lucky. The tumour was caught before it had progressed too far and the diagnosis was good: the outlook looked positive. He hasn’t lost his hair (what he has left of it anyway), he is still able to move around without much fuss and is still a pain in my ass. I wouldn’t change his annoying, irritating habits for the world. 

Illness, and the sudden confrontation with death changes you, it forces you to recognise the fleeting reality of life. 

Should General Relativity Still Exist, Given the Rise of Quantum Theory?

On the 100th anniversary of Einstein's Theory of General Relativity, James Stuart-James asks whether it should still exist.

General relativity has grown into becoming the standardised formulation of gravitational theory since its inception 100 years ago by Albert Einstein. Nowadays, it finds itself unquestioned in its several applications in astronomy and physics due to having won progressive dominance over the course of its existence despite it  being fiercely contested when first published. I wish to invite you to examine this status and question whether such uncontested standing can truly be justified after all this time or whether more progressive theories should be given their time in the spotlight instead.
However, I should first offer some background information on the events that preceded General Relativity’s existence. Newtonian gravitational theory had been unsuccessful in monitoring various effects such as the re-fraction of light at the limb of the sun, the gravitational lensing of distant galaxies, what would come to be known as gravitational redshift and the radiation emitted by gravitationally accelerated bodies. Consequently, it was seen that Newtonian theory would not last and needed to inevitably be replaced by a more all-encompassing theory.

The Rise of General Relativity
Then in 1905 Einstein published ‘The Special Theory of Relativity’, which covered electromagnetism and the mechanics of inertial systems but it still seemed to be incapable of treating gravitation. With this background, General Relativity’s successes (since its publication in 1915) have given it a monopoly on all matters concerning gravitation. As a result, the act of questioning general relativity nears insanity, and those who raise doubts concerning it often reap indifference (if not scorn) from the intellectual community that would usually be reserved for heretics and cranks. Nevertheless, every theory, including General Relativity, should be open to critical analysis. Without further apology, I shall discuss some shortcomings or outright failures of the theory and from there suggest why its opposition to other theories should not discredit them on an inherent basis.


Equation for
Gravitational Redshift
The last major implication of General Relativity was the prediction of “black holes”. These are suggested by the Schwarzschild metric which has a singular surface known as the event horizon at a specified distance about a compact mass. Point singularities abound in physics, but a black hole is unique. This uniqueness should be an area of caution as we still (probably) lack knowledge on the majority of the universe. Furthermore, there is no method of observable identification relating to a black hole that doesn’t remain highly ambiguous. It cannot be discriminated from a possible “non-black hole” of equal mass and radius. One may therefore in my opinion be forgiven for developing a healthy scepticism in the confident identification of a multitude of these objects and may even take the stance that the implied existence of said black holes could be a possible failure of the theory.

Furthermore, it is stated that photons cannot escape from a black hole. As such I would like to postulate a scenario in which a photon is emitted radially within the black hole. What happens then? It cannot decelerate and reverse itself, as a mass particle would, so perhaps it may be ‘redshifted’ into extinction. However, surely this would oppose the equation for gravitational redshift? It seems to me this may be an interesting topic of debate to propose one day.

Furthermore, I wish to examine the models in which the theory was applied. Some of the earliest applications of general relativity were to models of the universe. Therefore, it is characteristic of all such models that they are finite in mass, volume and age. However, the British astrophysicist, Edward Arthur Milne, found a hole in such a model back in the thirties. He inferred from the conditions already stated that if one were to view the model correctly, one should also view the model universe must therefore have unique mass and velocity centroids, which are features that relativity was apparently intended to avoid as one of its purposes, thus suggesting that it may have failed in one of its primary aims in existence. 

Milne then followed this up by suggesting that expanding models necessitate that matter be created at the boundary during expansion and that oscillating models require the destruction of matter during the contracting phase. As a result, one could argue nowadays that these models lack cosmic background radiation, though this was not remarked upon at the time since the cosmic background radiation would not be discovered until several decades later.

Another criticism of these general relativistic models could be the very fact that they are ultimately hydrodynamic, meaning that they run along the assumption that the matter in the universe is spread continuously throughout existence. This may become an issue because the real existing universe is atomistic and granular as it consists of objects such as electrons, protons, molecules, planets, stars, galaxies and even clusters of galaxies. At its core, general relativity is a field theory and does not account for the granular nature of the cosmic background radiation’s appearance or the vast seemingly empty spaces between galaxies. 

However, the theory may also be denounced as being ambiguous. It relies on observation which is not inherently problematic as appeals upon observation should always be applied to a theory but the ambiguity comes in the sense of the subjective manner in which observers are to carry out this observation as the theory does not outright state whether its model universes are oscillating, static or forever expanding. Thus this decision is left to the observing parties rather than the theory itself.

Can General Relativity and Quantum Theory Work Together?

Objectivism and Ayn Rand

by Alex Sligo-Young

“Sweep aside those hatred-eaten mystics, who pose as friends of humanity and preach that the highest virtue man can practise is to hold his own life as of no value. Do they tell you that the purpose of morality is to curb man’s instinct of self-preservation? It is for the purpose of self-preservation that man needs a code of morality. The only man who desires to be moral is the man who desires to live.” Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

Objectivism is a philosophical concept created by Ayan Rand, a twentieth-century philosopher. Rand’s ideas were popularised in America, as her notions of individual freedom struck a chord with a society fighting against communism in the form of the Soviet Union. It is this captivation of the American psyche that brought objectivism to the forefront of modern philosophical thinking. Randian thought has given rise to the idea that individuals should care only about themselves, and that by doing so they become virtuous ‘Randian heroes’. But do these ideas hold true?

Ayn Rand was born in St Petersburg, Russia on 2nd February, 1905. She was immediately noticed for being bright; she taught herself to read by the age of two and had decided to become a fiction writer by the age of nine. However, her ideas were at odds with the mysticism of Russian culture and were more in line with European thought. In her last year of school, she studied American history, developing ideas of freedom and the power of the individual in society.

In 1925, Rand obtained permission to visit relatives in America for a short period of time. However, she never returned to Russia and went to Hollywood to pursue a career as a screenwriter. It was here that she met and married the actor Frank O’Connor. After a mostly unsuccessful career, she began to write The Fountainhead, a book that became a bestseller two years after its release and crowned Rand as a champion of individualism. Rand continued to write and published her most notable novel Atlas Shrugged in 1957 after eleven years of writing. In the novel, she dramatized her philosophical ideas into a narrative that integrated ethics, metaphysics, epistemology, politics, economics and sex.

Although she identified herself as a fiction writer, she realized that in order to create great fictional characters, she had to identify the philosophic principles that make such individuals possible. After this book, Rand wrote and lectured about the philosophy behind it, championing the idea that everyone should become ‘Randian Heroes’ by following their own desire.

One of Rand’s central ideas was that the pursuit of the virtues that we value in society is responsible for the world's decline. It is this sole reason and nothing else that the world can be seen to be in a ‘moral crisis’. This is because in achieving these virtues we make a number of sacrifices. We sacrifice justice for mercy, wealth for need and happiness for duty; but still the world is unsatisfactory. Hence, it must be seen that the immoral world we see around us is not caused by a privation of virtues, but by the negative results we create in our pursuit of them. Thus, Rand argues that it is logical to suggest that ‘the pursuit of [an individual’s] rational self-interest and of his own happiness is the highest moral purpose of his life’. If everyone adheres to this idea then we will live in a perfect society.

A Poem for Sunday

by Fenella Johnson

I remember how we cried only when we hit the pavement
our cheeks blotchy with shameful blood, the colour of a rusted out car
we rejoiced in the martyrdom of our softness
the faraway magenta hush of traffic and the daring of no helmet, no handlebars-
just the grazing of skin in the mellow copper dust and the thick hum of evening beginning,
the half tempo beat of waiting for the end.

I remember how we skipped and slid through that summer
watching the flies slush themselves against the off-milk white of the garden walls like postcards stuck to a fridge,
the perturbed blue of the sky
our limbs ripening to June brown,
the slow unbothered winding of walking with nowhere to go
the whole word turned momentarily golden.
Sun stoned, sun startled, sun smothered, we dreamt of trickles of harsh crisp water;
every day was like a closing of a door or a paper cut
and everything we ate was squishy or frozen or sweet.

I remember crouching in the overbearing sun soaked night
over the dead cat we had found
its limbs twisted in a petulant vicious question mark
how we knew even though the sour juice of overripe spoiled peaches ran down our chins
that the taste was gritty with ash
how we knew we would never revel in our softness again:
the hot leather gasp of a car door opening somewhere
was a signal to abandon the bikes,

to run home.

Music Streaming - Is it Killing or Saving the Music Industry (and where does my £9.99 go)?

 by Georgia McKirgan

I was born at the end of the CD age and in my lifetime, the music industry has been confronted by many challenges. First, it was piracy sites like the original Napster, then iTunes downloads and now, streaming services like Spotify and Google Play Music. To listen some some stars like Thom Yorke and Taylor Swift, you might think that streaming services are killing the music industry. Given the numbers, I can understand why the industry is worried. Music industry revenues have been almost halved in 15 years:

This overall decline has masked some different dynamics. Over this period, the sales of physical formats have declined but the value of downloads, while growing, has not made up for all of this decline. As the market for streaming services is growing, it seems to be at the expense of the download market. So are streaming services killing the music industry? To answer this question, you need to look closer at the development of streaming services. The first point to make is that streaming services were first established as a legal response to illegal piracy sites which paid artist nothing. Their business model is based upon migrating people from a limited free service supported by adverts, to more comprehensive paid-for packages. Let's look more closely at the market leader, Spotify.

Spotify has been very successful at growing both its free and paid-for subscriber base:

This growth has enabled Spotify to significantly increase the amount of money it pays out to music rights holders:

The complaints from musicians suggests that we, the customers, are getting too much and paying too little for their valuable music. The data, however, suggests that musicians should be aggressively supporting the growth of streaming services. It seems that Spotify users spend more money on music on average than non-subscribers.

Streaming services talk about a business model called 'music as water' to describe a model where once you have paid a fixed fee, you have unlimited use. They obviously come for a country that doesn't have water meters but I get the message! I suspect that the complaints from the music industry come from the fact that they are caught in the gap between the decline of physical format sales and the growth of these legal streaming services. How does this growth feed through to the musicians?

The news stories reduce the arrangement to a 'price-per-stream' but there is actually a complex algorithm:

The subscriber growth mentioned above has led the average price-per-stream to increase from $0.006 to $0.0085 but what does this mean for the typical artist? The figures below refer to real albums but the names have been generalised:

These are US$ numbers per month. I can't understand why artists, such as Taylor Swift, would be upset to only receive almost half a million dollars per month on top of their download and concert revenues. To the extent these numbers are not enough to satisfy the musicians, the solution seems to be growing the use of streaming services rather than going to war against them.

Does Probability Govern Our Universe? Why Einstein is Wrong

by Henry Ling

Albert Einstein: wrong on this one?
“God does not play dice” said Albert Einstein, which seems to be suggesting that the world is not governed by probability; the supposed ruler of the universe does not simply play dice with the world’s future. 

However, is there a strong argument to convey that in fact the world around us is really a probabilistic mind game? I would argue that probability is the ruling figure of our existence, be it at a quantum level the state of electrons in our very atoms or be it in the macro world by the probability of getting to work on time.

Before I continue, I must of course discuss what probability really is. Probability is, in essence, the likelihood of an event taking place. Winning the lottery is a difficult task as you need to select 1 number out of a possible 13,983,816 different numbers, and therefore we say that it is of low probability, whereas the probability that it rains on a given day in England is much greater. 

The most famous expression of probability is through the coin toss. It is equally likely that you will get a head as you will a tail when you flip it in the air. If you measures the Tails and Heads, then eventually it will get to a near 50:50 ratio. However, this is where slight alterations may change these odds: the way in which someone tosses the coin, the side which the coin starts on, the wind speed, the weight of the metal on each side - all have an effect on the outcome of the toss. Getting an exact 50:50 ratio is, therefore, next to impossible; however, there is still a system of probabilities at work here.

I would argue that the world is just a plethora of probabilities and that humans are set on a certain path from birth. Being able to understand and utilise probability is a necessary skill today - especially when we take the leap to the quantum world, where probabilities are all we really know about what is truly happening within the world of atoms that underpins our very existence. The state of particles and decay processes rely on probabilities as does a lot of computer software which we take for granted each day. Probabilities are also very useful tools when looking at the financial market and financial forecasting. If you are looking at investing money in the stock market, you want to play with probabilities to seek to find the company which is currently low but has the highest probability of increasing in the future. It is also useful if you wish to earn a quick buck against your friends in one a poker night; if you look at the cards that have been played and compare them to the moves that people have made during the night, you can predict the probability of your opponent having the winning hand. Pretty useful isn’t it?

However, despite my belief that everything in this world can be quantified by its likelihood of occurrence and that God is indeed playing dice with the universe, one must not neglect that these are only probabilities and that they are not certainties. In the poker game, even with the odds on your side, you may still lose; the stock market may hit a financial snag and the coin may always come up with heads. If you live your life by abiding by these probabilities, you will end up in a state of severe loneliness and depression. If you don’t leave the house because there is a chance you might die, then you will never leave the house. Sometimes you need to take risks against the probabilities. God’s dice may roll in your favour and you get that perfect partner you’ve always dreamed of - or they might go against you, and leave you crying on the sidewalk.

This discussion although interesting does not answer the question of whether the universe is governed by probability. Despite Einstein’s clear brilliance, I would dispute his claim that “God does not play dice”. 

Review: 'The Raven Cycle'

by Ananthi Parekh

So, as a new student to the school, it seemed to me that Portsmouth Point was the perfect club to join; writing, active, social, my type of thing. However, when my name appeared on the latest editorial schedule, my heart stopped: what was I supposed to write? What can I write? And what am I passionate enough about to write? 

However, upon seeing a friend write about a favorite podcast of his, I was inspired to write about a series of books that have changed my perspective on literature and remain one of the most beautiful and captivating stories I have ever read.

The Raven Cycle is a series of three (for now) books about a girl called Blue, who lives in a household full of psychics. I was first introduced to the book when I was given it as a Christmas present by one of my closest friends at the time, and was instantly intrigued. The author, Maggie Stiefvater, had already written a few books that my friends had raved about, and, despite the annoyingly overused phrase, the front cover painted mystery, adventure and heart.

I must admit, it took me a few tries to actually get in to the book, but now, used to Maggie’s unusual writing style, I fall in love with it with each and every word, whether I’m reading them for the first time or the thousandth. Blue, the protagonist, and just like every other character in the book, has been presented in such a way that she has come alive in my mind in a way unlike any other character. Little details of her personality that you wouldn’t even have thought of are slipped in among the lines of the novel; she is a complete and complex character - faulted, selfish, argumentative and completely unique in comparison to every other 16 year old female protagonist I’ve ever read about (or seen on screen or stage). She is positively filled to the brim with a personality that is as true as anyone real and you see her grow - just as someone real would do.

Euthanasia: A Moral Dilemma

by Eloise Peabody-Rolf

So many people think the subject of death is taboo. This has always seemed backwards to me, to not discuss a subject which is inevitable to all of us.  So often the focus is on life; however we, as students, are always encouraged to look into the future, and far into the future is death. But, if one discusses such a topic, you’re deemed pessimistic or possibly even suicidal in thoughts. 

Over the summer, the Assisted Dying Bill was presented to Parliament through the ballot procedure. I followed the bill with interest due to my political and psychological studies, plus my interest in pursuing law in the future. The purpose of the bill was to enable adults who are terminally ill to be able to choose to have supervised assistance to end their own life, for various reasons, to relieve them of their suffering.  

Suicide is defined as the act of intentionally ending one's own life. Before the Suicide Act 1961, it was a crime to commit suicide, and anyone who attempted and failed could be prosecuted and imprisoned. Although suicide ceased to be a criminal offence in the UK, at this point in time it is illegal to help anyone kill themselves, and assisting someone in suicide can lead to imprisonment of up to 14 years.

Many of you will probably remember that in 2012 Tony Nicklinson, who had Locked-In syndrome, being paralysed from the neck down after suffering a stroke, pursued High Court action to fight for the right to die and the ability to legally end his life. Tony said his illness was ‘the closest thing to being buried alive’. In the end he made the decision to refuse food and starve himself to death.

Like Tony, the vast majority of cases who consider euthanasia are in an incurable state of illness, and the action to end their life is usually carried out by the person wanting it; however, on occasion, they bring their decision to doctors and relatives with a plea for their assistance. As mentioned earlier, Tony Nicklinson ended up killing himself without euthanasia, which most likely put his family and friends through far more pain to watch him deteriorate.

However, had Tony lived in the Netherlands, his situation would have been different. In 2002, the Netherlands was the first country to legalise euthanasia and assisted suicide, although imposing a strict set of conditions: the patient must be suffering unbearable pain, their illness must be incurable, and the demand must be made in "full consciousness" by the patient; this would have enabled Tony to end his life.

In Belgium, also, the law states doctors can help patients to end their lives when they freely express a wish to die because they are suffering intractable and unbearable pain. Patients can also receive euthanasia if they have clearly stated a desire to do so before entering a coma or similar vegetative state. Germany allows assisted suicide, but ensuring that the term “euthanasia” is avoided due to its connotations within the Nazi period. The key difference in German law is that the person committing suicide must take the action, so a doctor could not give a lethal injection but could leave tablets to be taken.

Probably the most well-known of all is Switzerland: here the law is more relaxed, and thus probably explains the reasons to why people travel there to end their life so often in comparison to other countries. It allows assisted suicide as long as there are no "self-seeking motives" involved. Switzerland has tolerated the creation of organisations such as Dignitas, which provide assisted dying services for a fee. 

But, as in England, euthanasia and assisted suicide are against the law in France and Norway, so why in Europe is there such contrast in opinion?

Are Mobile Phones Dangerous?

by Gabriella Watson

source: teens4safecellphones
Growing up in Great Britain today is quite different from earlier generations of the 1960s,’70s and even the 80s. For one thing people living in the ‘60s would not have known what a mobile phone was, unlike today where 6.8 out of the 7 billion people in this world have a mobile phone. The average person unlocks his or her phone 110 times a day, according to the Daily Mail. Even though mobile phones are a great phenomenon in today’s society, they actually run the risk of becoming a huge hindrance for our generation.

When thinking about mobile phone usage the stereotypical picture is one of a teenager at the dinner table, uninterested in engaging in conversation, and instead being completely occupied with text messaging and social media on their phones. Instead of interacting with the people around them, our generation ignores face-to-face conversations for virtual ones. Mobile phones dehumanize the dynamics of human contact. Some people may not even know how to interact with others around them anymore, preferring the safety and comfort of a well-timed SMS.

Not only have mobile phones damaged our social standing, but they are unhygienic. There are 18 times more harmful bacteria on the surface of a mobile phone than a toilet seat. Inevitably, humans are prone to touching dirty things. The problem is, we are also always touching our phones, transferring the germs to our devices.  We wash our hands, but never or rarely clean our phones. Furthermore, mobiles don't just collect the bacteria, they breed it! Phones, usually warm from battery usage, and stored in dark spaces such as pockets, are the optimum conditions for germs to replicate.

However, mobile phones can provide important safety benefits too, enabling a young person to make contact and be contacted. They can also act as a location finder for emergency services. Nonetheless, talking on a cell phone can then distract you from other activities, which leaves you more vulnerable to accidents. Therefore it can actually cost lives when drivers focused on texting or social media lose control of their vehicle and have major accidents.

Autism around the World

by Jack Rockett

The general opinion of autism around the world has just as wide a spectrum as the autism spectrum itself. Here in the UK, it is very well accepted in society and people with a negative view on autism are generally treated critically, especially over social media as our younger population has a very high awareness of the autism spectrum and respect for those upon it. However, many other countries around the world either don’t register the existence of autism or fail to offer state support for those on the autism spectrum; the result can often be a negative opinion of people with autism on the part of most of the neurotypical population of those countries. Even economically developed countries like France and the USA have appalling records with regard to support for and attitude towards those on the autism spectrum.

The countries who provide the worst support for those on the autism spectrum are usually acting upon out-of-date information (often from decades ago) and those on the spectrum are stigmatised socially. The most common misconception is the Vaccine Myth, which, even though it has been disproved multiple times (causing the person who completed the erroneous report to lose his medical licence for life), is still believed by too many people in Italy and the USA to be a cause. In Italy, the state even gives out compensation to families who have a child on the autism spectrum if they received the MMR vaccine. The country furthest behind in information, unsurprisingly, is Russia, where only low-functioning children on the autism spectrum can be diagnosed; beyond the age of 18, their diagnosis of autism is replaced by one of either "psychosis" or "mental retardation"; this failure by the Russian authorities to recognise autism as a lifelong condition leads to huge stigma among the Russian public, which sees people on the autism spectrum as grotesque and unfit for society.

Very surprisingly, a similar social stigma continues in South Korea, one of the most economically developed countries in the world. South Korean parents dread a diagnosis of autism as it brings shame to the whole family; families have not been able to move house in South Korea as nobody wants to buy a house that has been inhabited by a person on the autism spectrum, as they worry that their children will end up with autism. However, on a more positive note, after the release of a movie about a South Korean man on the autism spectrum who ran marathons, the social stigma has lost prevalence, since the man's mother doesn’t see autism as bad in any way. This has been a mixed blessing. As a result of the film, South Korean parents are increasingly using autism as a way to describe their children to other people, meaning that many South Koreans are starting to believe that all people on the autism spectrum are the same, instead of recognising that autism covers a spectrum. 

As well as countries that provide wrong information, there are also countries which don’t provide anywhere near enough. I chose the autism spectrum as my theme for my Spanish-speaking AS exam and I had to find out information about the situation in Spanish-speaking countries. There was next to no resources from Latin America and information provided by Spain was very limited. Also, Spanish social and cultural conventions do not make allowances for people on the autism spectrum but the idea of changing this to help was never mentioned in any of the articles that I read, one of which even suggested throwing a party for a child with autism on World Autism Day even though children on the autism spectrum usually dislike parties due to the loud noise.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

National Remembrance: PGS CCF Pays Tribute

by Charlie Henderson

As part of the National Remembrance events, PGS’ CCF Contingent took part in two services. On Remembrance Sunday a squad of 20 cadets were given the honour of representing the school at Portsmouth’s official remembrance service on Guildhall Square, alongside veterans and serving representatives from the three service branches including the Royal Marines Band. The poignant service was led by the Dean of Portsmouth Anglican Cathedral and Father John Paul Lyttle of St John’s Roman Catholic Cathedral; with readings made by the other leaders of the city’s multiple faiths. Following the traditional two minutes silence, marked by gun fired from the naval base, wreathes were laid by Tom Cleary, the Senior Cadet of the RAF section and representatives from the Junior School.

Friday, 27 November 2015

Review: The Circle

by Sian Latham

Circle is simple in its setting: one room, 50 people and dim lighting. This movie is not reliant upon dramatic action sequences, or flashy graphics or even complex character background stories. The beauty of the move is in its simplicity. The premise is such that these 50 people are in a room, trapped within a system which results in the death of a member of the group every two minutes. 

The Twist? That the person who dies is chosen by the group, a democratic voting system with the purpose of murder. The film questions what it means to be human, what our morals and ethics really mean when we are facing imminent death. What do we value? What would we do? 

The film is not a light-hearted, fluffy, pink affair. It is challenging at times, dramatic and scarily intrusive. You find yourself highlighting who you would kill off, which characteristics you value, not realising that it in many ways you are playing the game as well.               

It appears that many, if not all, major strands of humanity end up in this kaleidoscopic group. Though the American origin of the film is evident in the groups and issue raised at times. We have moments at which the value of race is questioned, career, relationship, status, sexual preferences, gender and age. If you are old, is your life worth less than the young? Female more precious than male? Gay more sinful than straight? All these questions are thrust upon the viewer and the participants within the space of an hour and a half: not all are easy to determine. 

Thursday, 26 November 2015

‘Curiouser and curiouser!’: 150 Years of 'Alice in Wonderland'

by James Burkinshaw

one of the original illustrations
by John Tenniel
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll was first published 150 years ago. He originally told the story to entertain seven-year-old Alice Liddell and her two older sisters, Lorina and Edith, during a river picnic near Oxford, after she had begged him for a story “with plenty of nonsense in it”.

Lewis Carroll’s real name was Charles Dodgson, a Mathematics don at Christ Church, Oxford, who, in Alice, presents nonsense as indistinguishable from logic. Puns and puzzles subvert any attempts to make sense of the world that Alice encounters, a feeling of anxiety underlying the sense of wonder: ‘Alice felt dreadfully puzzled. The Hatter’s remark seemed to have no sort of meaning in it, and yet it was certainly English. “I don’t quite understand you,” she said, as politely as she could.’ This sense of ontological uncertainty is suggested from the very opening of the book, with Alice’s dizzying descent into the rabbit hole: ‘Down, down, down. Would the fall never come to an end!’  

With its vertiginous holes, time-obsessed White Rabbit, random growing and shrinking, counter-intuitive logic and dreamlike setting (in which time and space seem arbitrary and unpredictable), it is particularly appropriate that Alice’s 150th anniversary should coincide with the 100th anniversary of Einstein’s formulation of the Theory of General Relativity (see Elliot Ebert's article here). Although written in the mid-nineteenth century, Carroll's classic children's novel seems in many ways more at home in the modernist, twentieth century universe of Einstein, Freud and even Kafka.                          

Is Equality Possible - and Is It Desirable?

by Loren Dean

(image source: totalwomenscycling)
I have always been baffled by the harsh unfairness of the world, where people in the UK waste what they believe to be common luxuries yet others in Africa barely survive on 35p a day. Whenever I felt hard done by when I was younger, I always began my complaint with: "But it's so unfair!" and often was curtly cut off with "Life isn't fair." 

However, we are in 2015 and Christmas is around the corner - a time of festive togetherness; yet some have no one or nothing. Surely with all the expertise of modern society we should be able to create a totally fair place to live.

The Oxford Dictionary definition of equality is the state of being equal especially in status, rights and opportunities. I believe this is extremely important to strive for in all walks of life to the best of each person's ability. The section of equality under most scrutiny at the present time is social equality which I think is the most interesting and diverse.

In an ideal world, everyone will be accepted for who they are without any form of discrimination. So all will be provided with equal opportunities where they are judged by ability not subject to prejudice. Total social equality would require an absence of the class system, or at least a diminished role within society - no mean feat. This would create a more communist ideological country and world. And as Winston Churchill famously said: "Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it." Therefore the route of a corrupt communist dictatorship, like that of Stalin in the USSR, is quite simply pointless. A true Marxist ideology may seem to be a feasible way to achieve this genuinely fairer society and it is often thought that higher taxation of the rich is the right approach; however, this is decidedly not the case as it would create more bitterness and also lead to more avoidance of taxation, which is detrimental in the long term.

So how do we start to achieve this world? 

Free Speech vs Respect - Do We Have The Right To Not Be Offended?

by Alex McKirgan

Ben Affleck and Bill Maher argue over free speech
Sometimes one comes across a contemporary social or political issue that illuminates the problems of a society trying to find a path through competing rights and values. I came across an issue recently that took me on a fascinating trip through this landscape.

On many university campuses today, the big hot topic is the battle between advocates of free speech and those trying to create 'safe spaces' free from discrimination and hostile speech. I actually first came across this issue close to home. Before PGS hosted a hustings meeting for the candidates in the Portsmouth South constituency for the 2015 General Election, I searched on YouTube and found a video of a similar event at Portsmouth University. Before the meeting started, the President of the Student Union stood up and reminded everyone that Portsmouth University has a 'Safe Space' policy, so no hostile or discriminating speech would be allowed during the meeting. The expression of puzzlement on the face of the UKIP candidate was priceless but this was the first time I'd come across this kind of policy. I searched the Internet and found the policy published by the University of Manchester which is typical (my emphasis):


1. The University of Manchester Students’ Union believes in liberation for all and everything that we do has equality and liberation at its heart. By enabling all of students to participate in the work that we do, we are helping to progress towards a fairer and more equal society.
Students are expected to respect the right of all members and staff to enjoy the Students’ Union as a safe space environment, defined as a space which is welcoming and safe and includes the prohibition of discriminatory language and actions.

2. The Students’ Union is committed to providing an inclusive and supportive space for all students. This policy is applicable to the whole student community, whether an individual or a member within a group, including but not limited to; Students’ Union societies, volunteering projects and assemblies and public social media. The Students’ Union believes all students should be free from intimidation or harassment, and from prejudice or discrimination on the grounds of age, disability, marital or maternity/paternity status, race, religious beliefs, sexual orientation or sexual activity, gender identity, trans status, socio- economic status, or culture, or any other form of distinction.

3. The Students’ Union believe strongly in the right to free speech however acknowledge that this should not be to the detriment of the rights of other individuals and groups. Freedom of speech is important, yet intention to incite hatred is never acceptable.

This reads like the right to free speech on campus is secondary to the right of other students not to be offended or upset and as a progressive and a committed atheist, I had a problem with this. Shouldn't universities, of all places, be somewhere you can be exposed to all sorts of competing views? Even if they are offensive?

Next, I was watching one of my favourite TV shows Real Time with Bill Maher, and he was talking about how he had been dis-invited from giving the Commencement Address at the UC Berkeley Graduation Ceremony. This was just after his infamous argument with Ben Affleck on attitudes to Islam and the justification for withdrawing his invitation was that his robust views on Islamism might cause offence and create hatred towards Muslims on campus. Bill thought this this was ironic given the history of the Berkeley Free Speech movement in the 1960s.

As a progressive and a committed atheist, I was instinctively on the side of Bill Maher and the free speech advocates. Surely free speech only has meaning if it robustly challenges conventional thinking. I rejected the idea that young minds should be coddled and wrapped in cotton wool.

I was feeling pretty settled in my opinions when another story caught my eye. I read a story in The Atlantic Magazine about an issue at Yale University. Before Halloween, the university sent out an email reminding students that some traditional Halloween costumes could cause offence to other students (Pocahontas, black-face, Mariachi etc). In response, a lecturer with a background in child psychology sent an email to students suggesting that an important part of growing up is occasionally breaking boundaries and taboos, suggesting that the university email was petty and restrictive. Cue outrage, protest and an attempt to get the lecturer fired. This came a week after the President of the University of Missouri had been forced to resign over not being sympathetic enough to the concerns of minority students. To contain the protest, Yale announced:

-    a doubling of the budgets for the African-American, Native-American, Hispanic-American and Asian-American cultural centres on campus.
-    an expansion of the financial aid program for low-income applicants.
-    The creation of a multi-disciplinary centre studying the issue of race, gender and social identity.

What appeared like an over-reaction seemed to confirm my earlier view. Weren't the students who were protesting being a bit immature when they suggested that the email from the lecturer had caused them so much distress, they were unable to attend class? Just when this all seemed to fit my idea of Regressive Liberals pushing Political Correctness too far, I listened to the weekly Political Gabfest podcast from Slate Magazine. On the podcast I heard Jamelle Bouie, an African-American journalist who attended a university not unlike Yale. He explained what it is like being a minority student in a white, privileged environment. He also pointed out that some African-American students at Yale are living in a house named after John Calhoun, the intellectual brain behind the Confederacy and advocate of slavery.

Listening to Jamelle, I stated to understand what it might feel like to be a minority in an environment that appears not to accept or welcome you. There may be many things that either make you feel uncomfortable or reinforce the feeling of being 'other' or different, like you don't belong. Finally, I was struck by his closing comment. 'It's not really on for white, privileged males to tell minorities or women what they should and shouldn't be upset or offended by'. This helped me to see that while some efforts to impose Political Correctness seem to go too far, the motivation is noble. We should be aspiring to create a society where some groups of people don't feel discriminated against or marginalised. The desire to create an environment in universities, which were historically white and male-dominated, that is more welcoming to people that don't fit that description is a good one.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

General Relativity, 100 Years On

by Elliot Ebert

The current best theory we have for explaining the force of gravity has its 100th birthday today, 25th of November. This theory, known as Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, conceived by Albert Einstein in 1915, describes, with the use of ten field equations, how mass and energy exert an attractive force on all matter.

Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity was preceded by his Theory of Special Relativity which was published in 1905. The Special Theory of Relativity describes the implications of a finite, uniform speed of light (proved by Mickelson and Morley in 1887) for all observers, irrespective of their motion, on the laws of physics. Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity leaves us with some implications which are rather counter-intuitive. These include the following: the faster you move, compared to a stationary friend, your watch will run slower than theirs and to them, you will appear contracted in the direction of your motion. Just to illustrate this, if we imagine a 4-metre-long, rocket-powered F1 car moving past you at 90% of the speed of light, you will perceive it to be just 1.74m long. Just by moving fast, its length has decreased by over two metres. Of course, these effects are only noticeable at large proportions of the speed of light (so fast that with the naked eye you would have no chance of actually measuring the effect). However, this is no optical illusion as the F1 car is actually shrinking from your point of view. This effect has been tried and tested repeatedly and it has yet to fail any of the challenges it faces. Furthermore, now that two observers of one event could have different measures of time depending on the speed they are travelling, there cannot be one universal ‘clock’. Every observer must have their own clock and so this leads to the creation of a four-dimensional space-time, consisting of the normal three spatial dimensions plus one time dimension.

Anyway, enough about Special Relativity. Its centenary has already been and gone. General Relativity is, so far, science’s best attempt at explaining the large-scale structure of the Universe and how gravity shapes it to be the way we observe it. Newton’s Theory of Gravitation was the first attempt at explaining the gravitational force and, in most cases, it serves perfectly well and can provide us with incredibly accurate models of orbits and gravity. However, in certain cases, Newton’s theory does not work, namely in particularly strong gravitational fields. This can be observed in the orbit of Mercury, which hardly varies from Newton’s theory’s predictions. However, if a scientific theory disagrees with observations even slightly, it must either be amended or abandoned. This is where Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity steps in.

The General Theory of Relativity is Einstein’s attempt at incorporating acceleration into the Special Theory of Relativity (since Special Relativity only describes the effects of uniform motion). Einstein devised some thought experiments, including one with an astronaut in a spaceship free from the gravitational pull of any other celestial objects. Einstein said that, if the ship were stationary or moving at a constant velocity, the astronaut would feel weightless. However, if the spaceship were to accelerate, the astronaut would feel a force like that of gravity and be pushed against a wall/floor (depending on the direction of the acceleration). If the spaceship were to accelerate at the acceleration due to gravity that we feel here on Earth, the astronaut would be unable to distinguish whether or not he was still on the surface of the Earth (assuming the spaceship is windowless), as he would feel the same force acting upon him as he would if he were in the Earth’s gravitational field. Einstein called this the Principle of Equivalence. This showed there was a deep relationship between systems that are accelerating and systems that are in gravitational fields.

Einstein then used some geometry he was introduced to by Carl Friedrich Gauss and Bernhard Riemann to calculate how his space-time would be affected by the energy (and mass, although they are interchangeable through Einstein’s E=mc2) it contains. He found that the presence of energy curves space time and that other objects feel a gravitational pull because they pass through these curved regions. It is much like placing a bowling ball in the centre of a trampoline and rolling a golf ball in a straight line through the deformed part of the fabric. The golf ball will roll towards the bowling ball. All objects try to follow a straight line through space-time. However, when passing through curved space time, they trace out lines called geodesics. This is what we perceive to be the force of gravity. Light can also be affected by this gravity, as it too follows a geodesic path through space-time, so Einstein’s theory was proved during the eclipse of 1919, when a star that would normally be hidden behind the sun was sighted due to its light being bent around the sun by the sun’s gravitational field. These observations agreed with Einstein’s predictions, so strengthening the support of his theory.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Germany’s Greatest Wartime Machines

by Will Hall

With Remembrance Day falling just a couple of weeks ago, it got me thinking about the variety of wars that have occurred in the last century or so. The thought crossed my mind about the scale of the two World Wars; after all, they were called ‘World Wars’ for a reason.

Wars always demand a rapid growth of technological advancements, as you always need to try and stay ahead of your enemy if you want a good chance of winning. It’s not known to all that Germany had a massive technological lead over the rest of the world in WWII, though most of their inventions came too late to have a dramatic effect on the war, and couldn’t save them from a two-fronted invasion. With almost unlimited resources from occupied countries like Czechoslovakia and Hungary, combined with a seemingly infinite supply of gold, Hitler had no trouble funding his scientists, which makes it not exactly surprising that they managed to design and actually use these weapons of war.

  1. Me262
    The jet engine. Basically all powered aircraft of any variety used by any faction in the war was powered by propellers. As you will know, a jet aircraft has vastly higher top speeds than a propeller driven plane. The Germans came up with two revolutionary aircraft: one was a bomber, the Arado Ar 234, and one was a fighter the Messerschmitt Me 262. These aircraft were almost impossible to shoot down, as they eclipsed any allied aircraft in sheer speed, but only 200 Ar 234’s were built and less than 1,500 Me 262’s were put into service, meaning they came too late and there were too few to have an impact on the war.
  2. The V2 Rocket was the world’s first ballistic missile, developed to bomb allied cities. Hitler didn’t choose to use them on military targets, which seems strange considering they were unmanned, guided missiles that could have been used to actually destroy enemy units rather than innocent civilians. Either way, the V2 was an incredible invention that sparked a global race to build the largest ballistic missiles.
    V2 ballistic missile

Photography Club: PGS in Bloom

by Saskia Egeland Jensen

James Taylor: The Start of a Dynamic Era for English Cricket

by Monideep Ghosh

(source: Wiki Commons)
In current modern times in the ever changing sport of cricket, pulverising the opposition ranks with a volley of fiery strokes has become the template for a batsman to taste success in the abridged versions of the game. However, England's James Taylor is a bit of an obscure candidate. Taylor is not the kind of batsman who launches a series of good length deliveries sailing several metres into the stands like compatriots most notably Jos Buttler. His method is a throwback to an era gone by - placidity, rotating-strike and nimble footwork to counter the spinners and pace bowlers alike. In the shifting sands of UAE, Taylor used this tried and tested method to glue England's batting line-up. The likes of Jason Roy, Alex Hales, Eoin Morgan and, more recently, Jos Buttler have piled on the runs at a breathtaking pace. But with Joe Root not exactly hitting top form in the first three One-Day Internationals against Pakistan, the batting line-up still appeared slightly creaky. It was Taylor, who held the innings together.

Taylor was calmness personified at the crease. In fact, both his fifties in the series came when the tourists found themselves in precarious positions. In particular, his match-turning half-century in the third ODI underpins Taylor's fluid run-making ability and to not let pressure get the better of him. On a track that was assisting the spinners, he combined selective power and steadfast defence to essay a knock of adroitness and deliberation. When Pakistan's spinners exposed Hales and Morgan's weakness against spin and winkled them out, England seemed to be slipping towards a defeat.

Taylor, though, put on a workshop to showcase how the spinners can be tackled. He mainly camped on the back foot and brought out his delectable wrists to pepper the field on both sides of the wicket. When he pressed forward, he did so with decisiveness. When Malik tried to beat him with flight, Taylor larruped the spinner dispassionately over the mid-wicket fence. He and Jos Buttler then combined to pick apart the Pakistani bowlers, as the visitors coasted towards the target. In the recent past, Taylor has shown unwavering self-belief to give a fitting riposte to his critics. Taylor's detractors, including myself, questioned his tendency to close the bat face too early. There was even a claim that he was too short to be rewarded with higher honours of being picked for Test cricket.

However, whether in the final Test of the three-match series against Pakistan in Sharjah or the ODIs that followed, Taylor batted without fear. It is always intriguing to note that when you play without the fear of failure, there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with your game. Taylor is a street-smart cricketer who has toiled hard to broaden his game. Him loosening his bottom-handed grip while attempting to drive through the cover-region amply illustrates that point. On occasions, the wrists and the leading elbow still seem to collapse while attempting a drive, but that Taylor is willing to learn and adapt should help him overcome the technical glitch.

Photography Club: Chipped Lamp

by Kate Baldey