Friday, 15 February 2019

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Veganism – Fake News!

by John Taylor

Before you read this article, I’m aware that meat-eating can be quite a controversial topic, with many people having one view and one view only. However, whether you’re a vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, or a meat-eater, take a deep breath and chill out. There is nothing wrong with disagreeing with what I write, everybody is entitled to their own beliefs and opinions, so be open minded, relax, stay calm and enjoy.

I write this article in light of so-called ‘Veganuary’, a month in which one can chose to become Vegan. Matthew Glover, the co-founder of the event, wanted to inspire people to try Veganism for January, and hopefully the rest of the year. This year, with over 250,000 people signing up and many more unofficially doing it at home, people have been labelling 2019 as the ‘Year of the Vegan’. From 2006 to 2016, the number of Vegans in the UK quadrupled, while in the US, the number of people choosing the new lifestyle has increased by 600%. So there is clearly a positive attitude towards veganism and it must surely be entirely positive, right? Well, not entirely!

The obvious argument for vegans is that they don’t want to kill or cause harm to any animals. Well, I’m afraid to say it, but they do. The beans, the rice, the tofu, the super fruits, the nuts, the avocados, the lentils, the list goes on. Many of the foods that are now being overproduced to allow vegans to get the nutrients that they need to survive, all harm or kill animals. Farmers have to kill every squirrel, every frog, every mouse, every rabbit, every fox, every bird, every chipmunk, every mole, in fact every animal that inhibits their planting, ploughing, or harvesting of crops will be killed. Yes, I fully agree that factory farming is wrong and don’t want any animals to suffer in that way. However, the vegans who claim to have some sort of ‘moral high ground’ over non-vegans are simply wrong. Let’s not forget the habitats that have to be destroyed to make way for their crops and the animals that are poisoned by fertilisers. Pesticides are designed to kill animals. If you eat lots of processed meat and regularly eat at fast food restaurants, yes, you are going to be eating meat produced from factory farms. However, if you buy responsibly from farms that have raised their produce in moral and humane ways, then there is nothing wrong with having to kill animals to feed mankind. We have evolved this way as omnivores, as evidenced by our canine teeth and digestive enzymes.

The second biggest argument for being Vegan is that it’s better for the environment. In many ways yes, being vegan is good for the environment, as the meat industry is renowned for having a large Carbon Footprint, but most of all, emitting huge amounts of methane. The meat industry as a whole is responsible for almost 20% of global carbon dioxide emissions, which is why I strongly encourage everyone reading this article to try and reduce their intake of meat. However, the ‘meat industry’ has such a wide range of produce, from cows, to pigs, to chickens, to rabbits, to turkeys, so it’s no wonder that it has such a high carbon footprint. Compare it to a single crop, such as rice, which alone produces almost 3% of all CO2 emissions. The arable farming industry is far from good for the environment. Arable farming accounts for 30% of all greenhouse gas emissions.  The flooding of rice fields not only produces methane, but also Nitrous Oxide, more commonly known as laughing gas. It is 300 times more harmful than CO2 and 5 times more than Methane. Rice is the second most used crop in the world, and used by many vegans on a daily basis. The flooding of the fields also destroys ecosystems and ground soil. The disturbance of ground soils leads to Greenhouse Gas emissions and means that more fertiliser must be used to regenerate the soil, which also produces Greenhouse Gases and poisons animals. So, maybe if you’re a vegan, just consider the hidden damage you may be causing when you buy that extra pack of rice.

Sunday, 10 February 2019

Why I Chose to Make a Documentary

by Douglas James

I’ve always been fascinated with various aspects of filmmaking. As an avid actor, this has of course meant that I’ve always wanted to make my own fictional film. Nearly everything about it interests me, from the editing to the camerawork, the composition of the score, the directing, the writing and of course the acting itself. But it wasn’t just this type of film that interested me. While it does interest me the most, even the making of trailers, the news and documentaries caught my attention. So when I realised that I had the opportunity to expand the PGS Extend project further than the restrictions of a simple essay, I naturally went with something that utilised multiple skills, and allowed me to write something less formulaic.

The Battle of Agincourt had always been something that I wanted to learn more about. Not least because it’s a good story to tell in the midst of French person if they mention the American Revolution, but also because there seemed to be so much more to the English victory than just ‘the mud’. I had caught hints around that there was a deeper, political backstory, and I finally realised that I could combine my interests and skills into a massive project in a attempted to slap my love for science, english literature, politics and of course history into my (somewhat limited) skills of presenting, narrating, editing, music composition and even gaming and create something brilliant. So I decided to make a documentary, something that seemed natural even to my friends (notably Alex Gibson (gotta give him some sort of credit)) as it was suggested to me shortly afterwards.

I quickly decided that I needed a good way to show the Battle of Agincourt for the viewer so they could get a sense of what actually happened before I analysed the true reason for French failure. I realistically had three options: film a reenactment of the battle, animate the battle using army blocks similar to YouTube channels like Baz Battles, or I could use what I knew was a good Total War: Attila game mod for the medieval era and film that cinematically. Obviously the first one was out of the question I had a very small budget in comparison to the millions that would probably cost. I had no previous skill or experience with animating, so learning how to do that would use up valuable time. So the third option it was. I purchased the game while it was reduced and started my research.

Photography: Goldfinch on Museum Road

by Tony Hicks

The World Record Egg: a Good Message

by Claudia Bishop

I am sure that many of you have heard about the world record egg. It seemed like a passing trend I heard about non-stop for about 2 weeks. For those of you who don't know what this was, on the 4th of January an Instagram (@world_record_egg) was created with one photo posted of an egg. The creator of this Instagram told everyone to share and like this photo to get it to be the most liked photo of Instagram. Surprisingly this actually worked and the egg now has 52,678,756 which exceeds the mere 18,715,844 likes of the previous most liked photo of Kylie Jenner's baby announcement.
You may be asking what this means. This seems simply like another trending joke that would die out instantly much like the yodelling Walmart kid. Both of these viral posts have a short shelf life and can be shown when looking on google trends.
However, I believe that the world record egg is actually a lot more important than what meets the eye. After its infamous first post, the account kept on posting other photos of the egg that seemed to be cracking. Most people ignored this as the joke seemed to be dead by now. On the 4th of February the world record egg posting a video. This video was a way of showing that the pressures of social media can lead to people “cracking” and advised the viewer to seek help if they needed it. They have set up a website which is set up by country with websites to go to if you are suffering from mental health issues.

'Friends': The End?

by Sophie Mitchell

For years I have been absolutely obsessed with Friends – I have Friends slippers, Friends pyjamas, Friends keyrings – you name it, I probably have a Friends version of it. But recently, when watching one of the many episodes that spanned over 10 seasons, I noticed a different side to the sitcom I love.

Let me take your mind back to Season 9, in particular Episode 13 – the one where Monica sings. The usually jovial episode had a different meaning to me, possibly shaped by a feminist perspective that has recently become more prevalent in the era of #MeToo, certainly more so than in the 1990s when the series was first developed. 

After Chandler plucks Joey’s eyebrows, they claim that since they spent an hour doing ‘feminine’ activities, they need to do some ‘manly’ actions to counteract it. Normally, this comment would’ve glossed over me. Yet, in this recent era, the comment struck me: the idea that men could not do such feminine actions without some fear of retribution of judgement. 

It’s a bizarre concept and one foreign to my generation. It indicates how the pressures of society were even shown in TV sitcoms, and people were okay with it. Let me remind you this was set in 2002, a time not all that long ago. It acts to show just how quickly society has changed - actions are no longer labelled feminine or masculine and neither do people feel the need to assert their gender. It's a time where people, men and women, can do what they want, without fear of judgement.

Friday, 8 February 2019

VAR- Why Is It a Potential Problem in Football at the Moment?

by Alex Porter

What is VAR and why is it used in football? Video Assistant Referee is an assistant referee who reviews the decisions which are made by the referee using video footage and a headset for communication and verification. VAR was written into the rules of the game in 2018 after a number of trials in major competitions such as major league soccer, La Liga and the last Fifa World Cup in Russia last year. There are 4 specific decisions that can be reviewed by the VAR referee, most notably the ability to call whether there was any violation in the play to a goal such as offside or foul. Penalty decisions are reviewable also, as well as direct red card decisions and mistaken identity in awarding a ‘red’ or ‘yellow’ card. In order to overturn a referee's original decision there must be a ‘clear error’ but this can also be identified as a ‘clear and obvious error’.

The foul which lead to the controversial penalty
in the EFL cup semi final first leg this year
So why has VAR become a potential irritation and problem in football for players, managers and supporters? In the FA cup and EFL cup this season in English football, VAR is being tested to see whether it should be used in the Premier League, England’s primary division. During its use so far this season it has caused many problems and wrong decisions appear to have been made. The main problem with VAR at the moment is that the review of the original decision given, is taking far too long to be made. In the worse case scenario, taking up to 15 minutes of the 90 minute game. Even though the time for the decision to be made has been shortened, it has still caused unnecessary hassle, especially as a considerable amount of the game could have been played in the time it took the VAR decision to be made. This is considerably annoying for many fans and players as when time is added after the 90 minutes has finished, it hasn’t taken into consideration the extra time the VAR decision took out of the game. I believe that to avoid this problem it may be better to stop the game clock altogether which is currently the procedure in rugby. This would therefore result in fewer complaints from fans and others about questions surrounding the amount of added time given (it could also be that referees should just add on the correct amount of added time anyway!).

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

Birds in the Winter Sun

by Tony Hicks

Goldfinch and bluetit enjoying the sun.

The Power of Music

by Miranda Gent

Music is powerful in so many different ways and has a profound effect in the lives of people of every age that I could only describe as positive.

For me, music evokes numerous memories as it has always been a large part of my life, having attended a prep school where you were weird if you didn't play an instrument or couldn't read music.

When I think of music in general, endless images of concerts and gigs spring to mind, making a collage of memories of the butterflies and excitement of stage nerves, whispering or dancing backstage with friends, seeing applauding audiences and the incredible sense of pride and achievement that comes with it.

However, there are many songs or pieces of music that hold particular individual memories for me, and it is the link between memory, music and emotion that I wish to explore in this article.

The main form of music that I spend my time on now is songwriting. I wrote my first fully-formed and competed song when I was 13, and I have been writing ever since.

For me, songwriting is so incredible as it is, in my opinion, the purest form of self-expression, as it combines the forces of music and language, both of which are able to encapsulate emotions beautifully. I think of songs as poems set to music, and since I am in love with both poetry and music, I am very much in love with songwriting. Having said this, I also fully appreciate the use of visual art as a form of self-expression and all the wondrous and inventive ways that emotions and meanings can be conveyed in this way.

Personally, I use songwriting as more of a stress reliever than anything else now, as I find that when I'm upset or angry about something I can't focus on anything else or move on from it until I've written a song. Then, I sing this song repeatedly until it's just a song like any other and it no longer feels personal to me, which helps me to move on from the negative feeling. So, songwriting has partly become a way in which I cope with difficult situations.

Tuesday, 5 February 2019

Sunset over the Hard

by Tony Hicks

Krispy Kreme Sale A Huge Success!

by Oscar Mellers

Last Thursday break time and lunch, The Pupil’s Uganda Group hosted a Krispy Kreme sale in aid of Kikaaya College School in Uganda.

Pupils and Miss Nicholson (head of the club) sold six-hundred original glazed doughnuts to pupils and staff, eagerly waiting for the wonderous, melt-in-the-mouth taste. Three-hundred pounds profit was made at selling them originally at one pound and then reducing them slowly. Five bins were filled with rubbish!

All that money will be going to fund good Internet provision for the school. Miss Nicholson said they are trying, “To support Kikaaya College School as an institution but also to enable academic work to be done between our schools.”

What We Are Doing to our Oceans

by Lily Eldrid

“No water, no life, No blue, no green." - Sylvia Earle

So, if you have read the title, you might be a bit confused on what issue I am talking about; poaching, pollution (plastic and fumes), overfishing, poisonous algae from our sewers… the list could go on forever. But unfortunately for me, because I would kind of like to do all of them, we are going to be talking about climate change and how it is affecting our precious oceans. What I am trying to say is, sit down, shut up and join me on this coffee infused rollercoaster I randomly decided to do about an hour ago. Excuse me if I get anything wrong, I am not a scientist nor close to being one. Hope you enjoy it. I will, I am listening to “wake me up before you go-go” as I write this.

One of the first effects on what climate change does to our oceans is called coral bleaching. Now if you don’t know what this is, it is when the coral is wiped of its colour and slowly dies. This coral is important for the ecosystem  because it almost harbours marine life. Many fish use it to hide from their larger predators and also as a food resource from all the algae that has grown there. The reason why it is dying is because it cannot handle the new, longer heat waves caused by climate change. Some scientists have suggested that we deploy large, floating shade cloths or maybe pump cold water into the places that could be affected by the waves of heat hitting them. Although some people think it is a bad idea to disrupt the animals and their territory.

Moving onto my second effect; mass fish migration. This one is really easy to explain. It is when the change in temperature is too much for the fish, and they know that if they stay in the place they have settled, they will die. So, they migrate to colder waters. It has made towns whose main business is fishing have to either move or close the business. And it is not only fish that are making these mass migrations, the famous “American Lobster” has moved from its also famous city, Long Island, to an astounding five hundred miles away off the coast of Maine. As we cannot control the fish, we will just have to live with the consequences that we made for ourselves. 

Moving onto my third effect; drowning wetlands. England is covered with muddy areas next to lakes and small rivers that could be affected by this certain point. What I mean is these areas could overflow and take up the land endangered birds and thriving plants inhabit. This could also happen to coral reefs and sea grass meadows and that is not good. So, to help we need to keep an eye on how healthy they are and how clean the water is.

Sunday, 27 January 2019

Breaking Down The Atom OR Inside the Atom.

by Katie O'Flaherty

Everything we see around is made up of atoms. From the screen you’re reading this on now, to the food you eat, and the water you drink, it’s all made up of tiny structures called atoms, all bonded together to form the materials you see in front of you, with the properties you know so well.

Until the 18th century, there was no concrete evidence for the existence of atoms, with Joseph Dalton using comparisons between reactions to prove every substance is made up of lots of smaller ‘parts’, called atoms. J.J Thompson’s discovery of electrons in 1897 further deepened our understanding, Ernest Rutherford’s famous ‘Rutherford Scattering’ refined our understanding of the structure of atoms in 1909, with the discovery of the neutron in 1932 by James Chadwick finally completing the picture.

Yet, there were still unexplained properties. A number of anomalies in observed effects, such as the Zeeman Effect, could not be explained with the models we had. In 1927 Paul Dirac suggested that electrons could have both a positive and a negative charge, thus introducing the idea of the positron. The first two subatomic particles, the positron and the electron (both types of lepton), were now known. Over the next century, over 200 more subatomic particles were to be found, with the ‘Quark Model’ being put forward by Gell-Mann and Zweig in 1964. This proposed that hadrons (particles such as protons and neutrons) were not elementary particles, but rather could be broken down even further into quarks and antiquarks. Their model was the first step down a long road of discovery.

Use of the Standford Linear Accelerator Centre in 1968 proved the existence of quarks, even though a significant proportion of the science community refused to accept their existence for many years. It showed that the proton contained much smaller, point like objects, thus was not an elementary particle. Simply put, the accelerator uses electric fields to accelerate an electron (or other lepton) to exceptionally high speeds, then collide it with a target hadron (subatomic particle made of two or more quarks), in an attempt to ‘knock’ a quark out of it. This is called deep inelastic scattering. The displaced quarks are then detected due to the process of hadronisation (the formation of hadrons from 2 or more quarks combining), which produces different, observable particles.

Less is More

by Lottie Allen

In a society dictated by consumerism; the land of milk and honey. A place for prosperity, searching for our own ‘american dream’: the white picket fence, large suburban house, luxury car, the flashiest possessions, and the six-figure salary all associated with success. We have seen young individuals skip to fame and become internet sensations - near enough - overnight. Then, we are fed their carefully curated lives plastered on social media and overwhelmed by our throw-away society that demands everyone has the latest trends; the basis that the fast fashion industry was built on. But do we really need all of these material objects, or should we consider being more minimalistic?

So, what is minimalism? It’s simple really: to be a minimalist you can’t own any more than 100 things at a time, you can’t own a car or a television and a house is strongly advised against (if you do own a house, it must be a small white room with no windows, furniture or pictures!), you can’t have a career, you can’t ever buy anything new, you must become a full-time backpacker, you must have a blog, you must only take black & white photographs and you must come from a privileged background.

I’m joking, of course. Although, on a number of occasions, friends and family members have used these ‘restrictions’ to explain why they could ‘never be a minimalist’. Those are some of the misconceptions of minimalism. It is not about deprivation but rather about intentionality: being mindful of yourself and your impact; landfill and pollution. I’m not saying that owning material possessions is inherently wrong - the problem is when we give material possessions meaning beyond their use, or when we are enticed into purchasing items we neither want or need. For example: how often do you go on that shopping trip for one specific item and come back with three ‘bargains’ that you might only wear once? Or worse, never!

Poem: A Spring Afternoon

by Monica Ghosh and Evie Abrams-Wilson

Flowers have bloomed and the world looks at peace
you noticed that leaves are back on all the trees

The birds are singing in the trees
you can feel the warmth of the gentle breeze

The buds of the flowers are starting to grow
when in full Bloom make a wonderful show

Chocolate eggs hidden Easter has come
little children excited searching such fun

The light warm winds making the daffodils sway
catching a glimpse of the Golden sun's rays

Blossom on the trees such a beautiful sight
Finally the darkness of winter is becoming light

Why YouTube Rewind 2018 Failed

by Nicholas Lemieux

2018 was a rather...unique year for YouTube overall. Things already got off to a patchy start within the first days of January over the entire controversy over infamous YouTuber Logan Paul recording a video featuring a dead body and posting it on the site. Since then, things haven’t entirely improved, with various controversies such as TanaCon, the TidePod challenge incidents, and the case of more and more content creators becoming demonetised due to YouTube’s unpopular restriction policies. So when YouTube Rewind, a yearly video which recaps the past year for YouTube, was released last December to celebrate the year, it was overwhelmingly panned by critics, viewers and YouTubers alike. Within 24 hours, the video had amassed 29. 4 million dislikes and, in less than a week, it had overtaken Justin Bieber’s Baby as the most disliked video on the entire site. So, what was the cause for the negativity?

Firstly, it should be noted that the rewind videos had been declining in quality for the past couple of years, as many of the viewers can attest. One notable point of contention has been the increasing prominence of already well-known celebrities in these videos, whom many viewers believe steal the limelight from the content creators who justly deserve to be the main focus. Recent years featured appearances from celebrities such as Dwayne Johnson, James Corden and Stephen Colbert, but this year definitely takes the cake with Will Smith, the Fresh Prince himself, playing a prominent role alongside talk show hosts such as Trevor Noah and John Oliver. Much of the YouTube community were angered by the snubbing of various creators whom they felt deserved the limelight more. PewDiePie for example, the most subscribed creator on the platform, didn’t even warrant a mention; the most he got was a blink-and-you-miss-it appearance by his trademark chair in a brief animation. His playful feud with channel T-Series, considered one of the highlights of YouTube that year by many, was never brought up, as were other notable events such as the notorious boxing match between KSI and Logan Paul and Shane Dawson’s documentary on the infamous Jake Paul. But hey: At least Will Smith’s weird grunts beame a meme.

Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Bicycles: Reinventing the Wheel for a Modern World

by Matt Bryan

Like any sport in recent years, top-level cycling has become obsessed with improvement, and that comes in the form of previously-unthinkable speed. To the untrained eye a bike is just two wheels and a frame, but to the devoutly religious sect of self-confessed “bike nerds”, myself included, the bike is a piece of art, and at its heart, the very thing that makes it move: a drivetrain.

Before 1937, the bicycle drivetrain was a simple and pure affair. The moustached and fearless racers of the early Tour de France editions rode exclusively fixed gear bikes; with just three components, a chainset, chain and sprocket, the bikes were light and hard work. For a typical day’s stage, a distance of almost 200km (124mi), ranging in gradients from flat to upwards of 15% and downwards of -20%, only one gear could be used, a compromise that limited speed on the flats leaving riders “spinning out” with excessively fast pedalling, but then left them “grinding” on the alpine climbs. By the start of the Second World War, Campagnolo and Simplex had pioneered what they called a “dérailleur”, deriving from the word for a train coming off of its tracks; it allow use of multiple sprockets at the rear, lined up in a cassette, which gave the ability to change gear ratios whilst riding and without having to use a whole lot of elbow grease to remove a gear that had tightened itself on through use. Needless to say, it was a transportation revolution, making a bicycle a much more accessible and less daunting affair.

At the same time came the mass adoption of the freewheel, radically different from the fixed wheel bikes that came before, allowing a rider to stop pedalling without bringing the bike to a complete standstill. There is nothing scarier than storming down a mountain having ridden up it on a low-geared fixed wheel, as when the wheel moves at speeds of 70kmh (43mph) or more, so do the pedals with the riders legs still attached! Fixed gear bikes became a relic, only used in track racing for their greater ability to conserve momentum (as some of the pedalling motion is driven by the already moving wheel), but they have enjoyed a considerable revival amongst urban bike-messengers and hipsters.

And that brings “a brief history of bicycle gearing” firmly into the modern era. Ever since the dawn of the derailleur, there has been significant development driven by the racers of the time in the development of additional numbers of gears. First incarnations of rear cassettes had as few as 2 or 3 gears, but by the 80s, 6 speeds were common and by the new millennium, Campagnolo introduced 10 speed, meaning when coupled with three chainrings, a bike could have 30 gears. But modern advancements have changed the way gearing is developed; last year, Campagnolo introduced the Super Record EPS 12 groupset to the pro peloton, an exotic name for an exotic technology with an exotic price tag. Almost every part from the crank arms, to the derailleur, to even the chainrings themselves are carbon fibre, and everything else is titanium. The electronic version is currently unreleased to consumers, but uses electronic shifters to change between gears quicker than any spring and cable actuated derailleur ever could, and with millimeter precision. The non-electronic version has a price-tag of £2600, so it's only reasonable to expect it to cost around £4000 on its full release. Granted, it’s ridiculously expensive; for the same price you could buy a decent used car, which has thousands more precision-made moving parts, but in many ways, you are paying for what you cannot see.

Photography: Winter Birds at Southsea Castle

by Tony Hicks

These pictures of a sanderling, sandpiper and robin were taken by Southsea Castle. The white bird is a sanderling; the purple one is a sandpiper. 

Shall I Compare Thee to a Brexit Wall?

by Simon Lemieux

Unless you have taken up hermiting (and in a locale without internet access), it will not have escaped your notice that two of the world’s self-declared beacons of democracy and constitutional government are currently gridlocked. In the US there is a partial government shutdown as President and Congress (well the House of Representatives to be exact) cannot settle on a budget and whether it should/should not incorporate around $5 billion in funding for a border wall with Mexico. In the UK, the Westminster Parliament cannot agree a way forward for Brexit: soft deal, Mrs May’s deal, no deal or a second referendum. This article seeks to compare these two instances of governments being essentially unable to govern and reach a clear outcome on vital policy matters. In particular what do these two examples tell us about the conflict of sovereignties and where does the buck (of power) stop?

So how did we get to this pair of deadlocks? In short the reasons are remarkably similar on both sides of the Atlantic. In theory, the constitution (essentially the rulebook of politics and government) in each country should be capable of sorting out the problem. If the referee following the rulebook, calls handball then it’s handball, resulting in a a yellow card or a disallowed goal etc. Ah, if only everything was so simple. The problem in each country is that the respective constitutions were not designed to deal with these scenarios.

In the US, the Constitution itself is sovereign. The problem is, the framers of the constitution in 1787 deliberately set out to write rules for a political game that dispersed not fused power. In theory this was to promote collaboration and compromise. Thus, Congress (parliament) makes the laws and sets the national budget but the President must agree, if he doesn’t – no budget and the current situation of a partial government shutdown. Similarly, the President is the head of government and is expected to exercise leadership and implement policies, but Congress holds the ‘power of the purse’ and must approve spending. As both are elected by the people (albeit indirectly in the case of the President) both can claim a legitimate democratic mandate. The people therefore spoke when they voted in Trump and also Congress. The trouble was they were bilingual; they spoke Republican in 2016 and put Trump in the White House, and spoke Democrat in 2018 when they voted for members of the House – just to complicate things further, they allowed the Republicans to retain and indeed increase their control of the Senate but let’s not swell too much on that. So, when the people speak in different political tongues, are we surprised it ends up a mess. ? The US at least has form on government shutdowns, 21 days in 1995-96 and 16 days in 2016 to name but a couple.

The United Kingdom by contrast prides itself on a ‘strong and stable’ constitution; we elect MPs, MPs belong to disciplined parties, the biggest party runs the government and its leader becomes Prime Minister. No powerful second chamber here to frustrate the will of the Commons, no directly elected head of government to claim a rival mandate, and a figurehead head of state whose figurehead appears on stamps, and whose husband might perhaps suit a cameo role in Top Gear, or perhaps The Grand Tour might be better with its regal overtones and Clarkson hosting. Even the testing early days of a hung Parliament following the inconclusive 2010 election turned out fine. Compromise prevailed, via the Coalition Agreement and Cabinet posts for five lucky Lib Dems. Five stable years of dual party government, with nothing to see of constitutional interest other than a damp squib of a referendum in 2011 on changing the voting system to the Alternative Vote where we the people obligingly voted to keep the status quo. The British concept of parliamentary sovereignty reigned supreme. What Parliament wants, Parliament gets, well the ruling party/parties do anyhow. Then it all went wrong. The people in their audacity voted in 2016 against the wishes of their political masters and establishment lords. Misled by Brexit lies and a £350 million magic money tree/courageously determined to free us from the shackles of Brussels and the metropolitan elites (please insert own interpretation here according to preference), we voted 52%/48% to leave the EU. This was the sovereignty of the people, direct and online, and distinctly off message. Who governs and whose will prevails? Our representatives in Parliament (MPs) who are roughly two thirds Remain, or the people consulted directly? Legally and constitutionally, it remains the former, but morally in a democracy do not the electorate prevail on this matter? Add in the little matter that the electorate voted without an indication of the option for their preferred choice of Brexit settlement (press 1 for no deal, press 2 for a deal that means I can easily take my pet on holiday with me to EU countries, press 3 for indifference etc), and you have the makings of a true constitutional crisis. 

Photography: Super Blood Wolf Moon Lunar Eclipse and Waxing Gibbous Moon

by Tony Hicks

Super Blood Wolf Moon Eclipse:

Waxing Gibbous Moon:

Why Chickens Are Underrated

by Miranda Gent

This is Lily, an ex-battery hen - before she was rescued and eight months later.

Everyone is always shocked when I tell them that I keep chickens as pets, but to me it really isn't odd at all.

I've kept chickens since the age of about six and I could not love them more. I think that they are much more adorable, charismatic and sociable than many other far more common pets, such as rabbits, who just blink at you and flare their nostrils, and guinea pigs, who spend their lives hidden deep under piles of straw and are terrified by the sight of you. These animals may be furry, but they are not my idea of friendly.

Chickens are simply far more interesting.

They are actually very sociable animals, which indicates intellect, who always stay very close together and like spending time with you, even when food isn’t involved, which is more than can be said for many pets, such as hamsters. For example, my chickens spend a lot of time sitting on our back doorstep where they can see us through the glass door and they even go to the lengths of jumping onto tables, into plant pots or bushes in order to be able to see us and (we like to think) to keep us company while we work or if we’re home alone, as they are always very aware of who's in the house, due to their amazing eyesight and hearing.

In fact, in many ways, my chickens shock my family and I with their intelligence. For example, they know that plates or bowls mean food, and have learnt their way around the ground floor of my house after sneaking in multiple times when the doors have been left open. They have also learnt to stay quiet when exploring the house because they know that if they get caught they will be abruptly escorted from the vicinity.

Furthermore, unlike many animals, like cats, they are not at all deceived by the confusing illusion that mirrors create of there being another identical chicken staring back at you. In fact, they are completely bored by their reflections and, after a momentary glance, they move on quickly in their search for food or something more interesting.

Indeed, chickens are actually extremely intelligent, as surprising as this may be to many people. At only three days old, chickens are able to perform basic arithmetic and discriminate qualities, as demonstrated by an experiment in which a group of chicks were presented with two sets of objects which were then hidden by a screen, and amazingly the chicks then managed to track the screen which hid the larger number of objects, therefore apparently performing simple addition and subtraction.

Moreover, chickens have been proven to exercise self-control, which doesn't usually appear in humans until four years of age. This is validated by an experiment in which a group of hens were given the option between a two second delay and six seconds of access to food, or a six second delay with twenty-two seconds of access to food. The hens decided to wait the six seconds for longer access to food.

In addition to this, chickens also have amazing eyesight and better motion sensing abilities than we do. They can actually see more of the colour spectrum than humans, as they can see ultraviolet light, so they see everything differently. Hens use this ability to see ultraviolet light in order to evaluate the condition of their chick’s feathers, which they can see by how shiny they are, allowing them to determine which of their chicks are the healthiest and most likely to survive. However, like humans, they are blind in the dark, making them vulnerable to predators at night time. They also have three eyelids, two which go up and down, and one which is clear and goes sideways across the eye in order to clean and protect it.

Monday, 14 January 2019

Size: It’s a Personal Thing

by Shapol Mohamed

We love to boast about big things like the size of our economy, and politicians love to boast about big cuts and big spendings. But, how would you know something is big or not? How would you know that £300 million or £400 million is a lot? How would you know that 32,000 airstrikes are a lot?
When Tony Blair was campaigning to become Prime Minister he promised that the government would spend £300 million over five years to create a million new childcare places. Any number with an -illion at the end is undoubtedly incomprehensible. However, is £300 million to provide for a million places a big number? From that one million places that will be created, it will mean that each place will get £300. Divide it by five years to find out how much each place gets annually and you are left with £60 per place. In a year, there are 52 weeks and that means each place is worth £1.15 per week. Is it possible to find childcare for £1.15 per week? Maybe in parts of rural Uzbekistan but not in the UK. So, £300 million is not a big number in this case.

Recently, the chancellor Phillip Hammond announced £400 million extra funding for state schools. Again, the number seems unimaginable; you sense the mental fuses blowing at anything about the price of a home. In the UK there are ten million students at state schools that means each child gets a one-off bonus of £40. Therefore, in this case, £400 million pound is not a lot for state schools. Perhaps, if children started dressing as potholes then schools might get more funding because in the budget more money was allocated to potholes than to improve schools.

The UK has also been actively involved in carrying out airstrikes in Iraq and Syria alongside with its allies. In Iraq, 15,000 airstrikes have been carried out and in Syria 17,000 airstrikes have been carried out according to Airwars. The reason why airstrikes are being carried out is to combat ISIS. At its very peak (2014-2016), ISIS had between 20,000 and 25,000 members according to the CIA. So, that means if each airstrike had killed a single ISIS member that would have meant that not a single ISIS member would be left. Unfortunately, they are still left. So, if airstrikes didn’t kill ISIS members who did they kill? The answer is innocent children, innocent mothers, and innocent fathers. According to Airwars, nearly 30,000 innocent civilians have been killed by airstrikes. That is innocent civilians, not ISIS members. I think airstrikes can be good at times but they should not be used in cities where innocent civilians are killed. They should only be used in the battlefields which are mostly desert and not cities. Furthermore, each airstrike costs £500,000. This means that in this case, 32,000 airstrikes are too much and I think the money should be spent elsewhere like our schools.

The Origins of New Year’s Resolutions

by Rebecca Stone

The start of January, appropriately named after the two- faced Roman god Janus (one face looking back, one looking ahead) is the time to look through the past year, and cathartically answer the question: how will you change yourself this New Year? For some, this may be to give up chocolate, or to work harder, or to start exercising regularly. However, looking back to approximately four thousand years ago, the original New Year’s resolutions would have been extremely different.

The first recorded origin of New Year’s resolutions can be traced back to the ancient Babylonians. Although their New Year began in what is our March, a more appropriate time for a year to begin, with the planting of new crops, they were seen to have started the tradition of making promises to one’s self and the gods. To celebrate the new year, a twelve-day festival, called Akitu, would be held, with sacrifices to their Pagan gods. The Babylonians also made promises to pay their debts and carry on observing their religious practices through the next year. If they kept these promises, they would please the gods and the gods would bless their year, and harmony would rule over the land, as well as the new king they appointed at this festival.

Similarly to this, the ancient Egyptians made sacrifices to their god of the River Nile, Hapi, for a fruitive and fertile year. The Romans, after Julius Caesar altered the ten-month calendar to the twelve-month Julian Calendar, starting on January 1st, made promises of good conduct to the god, Janus. In the mid-eighteenth century, Christians viewed New Years as a time to look back at their failings from the past year, and make resolutions for the future. John Wesley, in 1740, introduced the Watchnight Service on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, for readings, prayer and singing.

What Would a Secular World Be Like?

by Anushka Kar

There is always the question, after studying and understanding religion, what the world would be like without the concept. Would we be better off without worshipping a higher being, or would we simply be confused, searching for something else within our universe to dedicate or ponder our lives upon? Would we be more at peace, or at war? Would we be surrounded by more love, or hate?

After reading and analysing poems by both Larkin and Duffy -in particular ‘Water’ and ‘Prayer’- the question of whether a secular ‘religion’ would be just inbetween what the world perhaps needed was raised in a discussion I had. A religion not based around a higher being, but the concept of the maintenance of unity by a common human need, and ethical reasoning. Interpretations of the poem ‘Water’ by Larkin suggest that with a religion constructed around a common need for humans (water) and secularity, unity naturally falls into place. The concept is very much controversial to those who are in faith, but has an appealing simplicity to it. Would it be possible to live so simply, or would complications arise due to human nature?