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?