On this subject resources page, regular posts direct you to the latest websites, books or events etc. If you find a post useful, you might like to click on the tags at the bottom of it (Literature and Languages, Humanities, Maths and Sciences, or Social Sciences) to find other posts in the same broad area. Of course, you don't have to follow up on any of this, but you might look at the kinds of things we suggest and find yourself similar material in your own areas of interest - keep your eyes open!
Year 12 Subject Masterclasses in Cambridge
Subject-specific sample lectures are available. Credit: Horia Varlan
Here is a date for your diaries: In the week beginning 5 January, booking will open for some subject masterclasses organised by the central Cambridge Admissions Office. These masterclasses will take place on Saturdays in February 2015 and are for students in Year 12 (the penultimate year of school).
The subjects are:
- Genetics and Biochemistry
- Modern and Medieval Languages
- Philosophy and Theology
...and if the course you want to study is not in that list, don't worry because further masterclasses will be announced later in 2015.
For more detail, please read the information about Subject Masterclasses on the Cambridge Admissions website. When booking opens, the link will be available in the table on that page.
Going deeper into Mathematics
Lines and curves.
Credit: See-Ming Lee
If you like (or dislike!) mathematics, what is it about the subject that makes you feel this way? What does studying mathematics at unviersity level involve, and how can you work out if you will enjoy it?
We advise students who are curious about maths (and subjects related to maths) to read the following explanation of rich mathematics:
If the kind of maths that makes you think and encourages you to go deeper inside the subject appeals to you, make sure you explore the NRICH Mathematics website:
- Stage 5 material is for students in the last two years of school (normally aged 16-18).
- Stage 4 material is for students in Year 10 and Year 11 (normally aged 14-16)
- If you have a particular interest, you may also find the curriculum content section helpful
- Or have a go at some of the live problems and see if you can get your solution published!
Year 12 Science / Medicine Essay Competition
- How has astronomy benefited society?
- Suppose you could create a new checmical element. What physical and chemical properties would you ascribe to it, and what uses could this element be put to?
- If you could take one item, which must fit in your pocket, back to the year 1800 with the goal of advancing science or medicine, what would it be and what would you do with it?
- Is it more important to save tropical forests or the world's oceans? Why?
- How far is it to the moon?
- "Free health care at the point of delivery trivialises the service." Discuss.
These are the questions that Peterhouse College is asking Year 12 students to think about for this year's Kelvin Science Prize. If you are interested in researching and writing one of these essays, please read the information carefully on the Peterhouse College website (see especially the Kelvin Science Prize pdf here, which contains full details of the questions and how to enter). The deadline is 20 March 2015.
History Virtual Classroom
What role can a historical novel play in the study of History?
Credit: Martha Garvey
If you enjoy studying History and want to know more about what it is like at university level, make sure that you have a look at the History Faculty's virtual classroom:
The French Revolution: Tearing up History
The death of Marat. Credit: paukrus (cropped)
There's an interesting documentary on BBC iplayer, which explores the history of the French Revoution through the story of its art.
The programme is presented by Dr Richard Clay, Senior Lecturer in History of Art at the University of Birmingham.
OpenCampus at the University of Hull
- Drop into the Culture Café, which this term is focusing on Literature and Creative Writing. On Saturday 6 December at 11am, Dr. Daniel Weston, Lecturer in Twentieth-Century English Literature, is discussing 'Poetry for the City? Philip Larkin and Others.' This is part of the North and South Project, a collaboration betwen the University of Hull and the University of Southampton to explore what unites and divides their respective port cities. Next term's programme for the Culture Café is already available here.
- Join a Tea-Time Talk, a series which launched this term around the theme of Society and Culture. On Tuesday 2 December at 6.15pm, Dr. Simon Green, Senior Lecturer in Community Justice and Criminology, explores 'Deviancy, destitution and moral degeneracy.' Why, he asks, do politicians and commentators increasingly explain crime and disorder with reference to moral character, instead of socio-economic conditions?
Places are limited, so booking is essential. To find out more and book a place, please contact the OpenCampus team directly.
Can science make a cyclist faster?
Prof Tony Purnell will be giving the next lecture in the Cambridge Physics Lecture Series for Year 12 and Year 13 students at 6pm on Tuesday 2 December.
Please see the details and directions.
The lecture will provide an overview of how science and engineering contribute to the raw speed of all Olympic cycling disciplines.
No need to book - just turn up!
Punakaiki Rocks, West Coast of New Zealand. Credit: Jocelyn Kinghorn
What is the Earth made of? What processes shape and change it? What's happened to it in the past 4.5 billion years, and how do we know? What will happen to the Earth's climate in the future? The Cambridge Department of Earth Sciences has released a very useful introductory film:
If you'd like to find out more about physical and biological aspects of the Earth, here are two books that provide a good way into the subject:
- Martin Ince, Rough guide to the Earth (Penguin: 2007)
- Andrew Knoll, Life on a young planet (Princeton University Press: 2004)
Earth Sciences is just one of the many options available in the Cambridge Natural Sciences course, and no previous knowledge in geology or geography is required. You can combine it with your interests in other sciences, and you can specialise in it if you later choose to. Do explore the Department of Earth Sciences website for more detail.
Great Writers Inspire
Credit: Charlotta Wasteson
Great Writers Inspire is a University of Oxford website which brings together a wealth of literary resources for sixth formers.
You might like to explore the work of particular writers, such as Virginia Woolf, Thomas Hardy, or Jane Austen (to name just a few examples), or you could explore themes and questions, including Carribean writers, The Victorian Gothic, Political Literature, or What is literature and why does it matter?
Science Week at the University of York
Credit: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center
The University of York is offering science events as part of Science Week (16-22 November).
The events are open to all, so do go along to a talk if you live in or near York:
- Sun 16 Nov - Geometry: A secret weapon in the fight against viruses
- Mon 17 Nov - An evening of Psychology
- Tues 18 Nov - Our Dynamic Oceans
- Wed 19 Nov - Biology Bites: The Best Biology Snippets
- Thurs 20 Nov - What's the problem with planets?
- Fri 21 Nov - Meet the Chemistry Department
- Sat 22 Nov - York Physics Student Colloquium (booking required)
Excellence Hub for Yorkshire and Humberside
University taster events show you what studying a subject in depth at university-level would be like. Credit: John Robinson
The Excellence Hub for Yorkshire and Humberside is an exciting collaboration between the universities of Hull, Leeds, Sheffield and York to provide enrichment events through the year for students who have been identified as high achieving by their schools or colleges.
Look at the list of upcoming Subject Taster Events.
The events are open to students across the UK. You can apply to attend the events as an individual, or one of your teachers can apply for a group from your school to attend. Priority for places is given to students who meet one of the criteria below, then the remaining places are given to students who do not meet the criteria. Some events are for Year 12 students, others are for younger students.
- eligible to receive free school meals.
- no history of higher education (studying at university level) in your immediate family (including any siblings).
- living in local authority care.
Do keep an eye on this project. Further events will be advertised on the Excellence Hub website in due course.
Year 12 Politics and International Relations Essay Competition
Here is some food for thought from an essay competition set by Corpus Christi College:
- Is economic globalisation helping or hurting democracy in the world?
- Are most citizens knowledgeable enough to vote in their own interest at the ballot box?
- Should democracies try to promote regional stability in their foreign policies even if that means supporting authorotarian regimes?
- Is it desirable to limit the effects of money on politics even if doing so inhibits freedom of political expression?
- Would eliminating all nuclear weapons make the world a safer or more dangerous place?
Which question do you find most interesting? What approach would you take? Can you think of /research some examples to draw on?
If you are in Year 12 (the penultimate year of school in the UK) and would like to enter the competition itself, please see the details (the deadline is 15 February 2015). Further essay competitions are available in Law, English, Theology and Computer Science.
Year 12 STEP Correspondence Project
Credit: Eric S.
Cambridge (funded by the Department for Education) is offering a pilot correspondence course to Year 12 prospective mathematicians from UK state schools. This course is designed for students who would not normally receive much support for STEP Mathematics exams in Year 13.
In order to be eligible to take part, you must be:
- studying at a state-maintained school or academy in the UK
- taking, or about to take, Further Mathematics at A-level (or equivalent).
Please see the STEP Correspondence Project webpage for full details and the application forms.
The deadline for applications is Monday 1st December 2014
Both the student application form and the teacher support statement must be submitted by this date.
Preparing for interviews
We recommend that you explore topics that interest you further (there are a lot of ways to do this).
We interview most (but not all) students who apply for a place at Cambridge. The interviews are with subject specialists who ask you academic questions to explore your potential for the course you have applied for.
How do you prepare for a Cambridge interview? Here are some tips:
Long-term preparation (before you apply)
- If you enjoy learning, the good news is that you shouldn't need to change anything significant to prepare for interviews at Cambridge. The most important thing you can do is to develop your academic interests (which you're likely to find that you've already been doing!)
- Find a Cambridge course that genuinely interests you so that you have natural curiosity and enjoy developing your skills and finding out more.
- Look at the resources section on the relevant subject page for specific suggestions (e.g. Engineering), but also feel free to follow your own interests or use other resources and books that you find helpful.
- Understand that Cambridge interviewers will be interested in your academic interests and how you think and work, not only what you know. The interviews are academic interviews, designed to test this. This film shows what Cambridge interviews are about.
Short-term preparation (after you have applied)
- See this advice and our interview guidelines.
- Watch Film 1 and Film 2 to get a sense of what will happen if you are invited for interview.
- Carry on developing your academic interests. Use the resources section on the relevant subject page if you are looking for suggestions.
- Don't neglect your normal school work - if you are currently at school, we know how busy you are, and you can develop your interests within your school curriculum by putting your best into your homework assignments. Remember that most of your interview preparation has already been done at this stage.
- Don't worry excessively about the interview itself. Know that the interviews are not a test of how good you are at being interviewed (we're not looking for polish or perfection). They are about your subject(s), so the only way you can improve your chances is to carry on focusing on your academic work and interests.
- Try to trust your interviewers if you can! They are all teachers and they want you to achieve. They will know how to ask further questions to tease what they need out of you, and they know that interviewees are nervous so they are looking for raw ability and academic commitment, not perfection.
Cambridge Subject Films
Geography fieldwork. Credit: Richard Allaway
Are you exploring the courses available at Cambridge? One way to get a quick overview is to look at some of the subject films.
The films are only short, but they explain the structure and opportunities in each course, show you some of the faculty facilities, and have current students giving their views and reasons for choosing each subject, tips for applying from the lecturers, and information about what students go on to do when they graduate.
You may also find the advice about choosing a subject useful, and there are lists of transferable skills for most courses (or options within courses). These lists set out the advantages that each subject gives you for your future career.
The most important question to ask yourself, is what would you enjoy studying in depth?
Competition: Engineering in Sport
Credit: Basheer Tome
Have you thought carefully about the role of Engineering in sports that you enjoy?
EngineerGirl (a US National Academy of Engineering website) is running a competition asking you to describe the technology used in a sport of your choice. The competition is open to male and female school students both in the US / Canada and beyond.
- Competition details
(grades 9-12 in the US = Year 10-13 in the UK)
- How you essay will be scored
- Judging panel
- Ask a question / Essay contest FAQ's
You may also enjoy reading the rest of the EngineerGirl website.
Headstart: Try Before You Apply
Container Terminal, Port of Southampton. Image credit: Garth Burgess
Are you a student who loves science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) and is currently in Year 12, Scottish S5? Are you thinking about what you might like to study at university, but find it difficult to make up your mind?
Headstart provides engineering taster courses to encourage young people into technology-based careers. You could try Marine Engineering and Nautical Science at Southampton, Computer Science at Durham, Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Newcastle, or Material Science here in Cambridge.
Cambridge Sculpture Trails
Double Helix sculpture in Clare College. Credit: Nige Brown
Did you know that Cambridge has lots of 20th and 21st century sculptures in and around the city? You will find both pieces by major international figures and work by up-and-coming sculptors.
Cambridge Year 12 Law Conference
Lectures take place in the Faculty of Law.
Credit: Chris Huang
The annual Year 12 Cambridge Law Conference will take place from 16-19 March 2015.
Students on the conference have accommodation in one of the Cambridge Colleges. The mornings will be lectures with Cambridge University lecturers and speakers from the legal profession, then in the afternoons there are workshops run by City Law Firms and Barristers Chambers, helping you to develop relevant skills such as debating, advocay and negotiation. You will also be taken on a tour of Cambridge, attend a session on applying for Law at Cambridge, and have chance to visit some of the Colleges. The first evening is a social event, and later during the week there is a debate in the Cambridge Union between high-profile barristers and a mock trial.
There is a charge for this conference: it costs £150, which includes all meals, accommodation, lectures , workshops and tours. If you need advice on funding for this, there is an email address to write to so do look into it on the applications page.
Why Study Economics?
Hot air balloon problem
Credit: Brent Myers
A hot air balloon of mass 350 kg is carrying 5 people each of mass 70kg. The total volume of the baloon is 2800m3.
The balloon flies horizontally in dry air 1km above sea level. The atmopheric pressure at this altitude is 89.9kPa and the surrounding temperature is 9ºC. Given that the molar mass of dry air is 28.97g/mol, work out the temperature of the heated air inside the balloon. (You can take gas constant R=8.31J/mol K and you may assume that air behaves as an ideal gas).
This is one of the problems on I-want-to-study-engineering.org, a resource from Cambridge University Engineering Department with more than 200 problems to help you to practice problem solving skills relevant to Engineering. The website also provides general advice such as how to get onto a good Engineering course (whether at Cambridge or elsewhere).
Dylan Thomas poetry
If you enjoy language and thinking about how it can be used and the effects it can create, you might like to explore some of Dylan Thomas's work. It's a particularly good time to do this, as 2014 is the centenary of his birth.
- Poem: The Hunchback in the park (watch the BBC film, read the text, look at the GCSE Bitesize resource)
- Poem: Do not go gentle into that good night (read or listen to the text)
- Poem: Fern Hill (read or listen to the text, watch film about the place)
- Poetic 'Play for voices': Under Milk Wood (listen to the BBC Radio play)
Do you like one or more of these? Why? How would you describe Dylan Thomas's writing to someone who has never read any? Can you see any connections with other poets & poems that you have read?
Further reading & events
- John Goodby (ed), The collected poems of Dylan Thomas (Hachett, 2014).
- BBC Radio 3 Dylan Thomas Centenary essays, including Dylan's Bardic Heritage (links with Wales's poetic past), Dylan over the Pond (his influence on black American writers) and Crossing Dylan's Boundaries.
- Dylan Thomas Festival events in Swansea include:
- Mon 27 Oct onwards - Love of Words Exhibition
- Sun 26 Oct - A 36 hour reading of Thomas's works
- Thurs 30 Oct - A discussion with John Goodby about the new collection of Thomas's poems (see above)
- Thurs 6 Nov - Contemporary poets discuss Thomas's influence
Where is the Art in Science?
Do you have a love and flair for both the arts and the sciences? You're not alone!
The Royal Society of Chemistry's annual Bill Bryson Prize challenges students to think about science creatively. The 2014 competition asked 'where is the art in science?' Brynn Brunstromm found many connections in his winning video entry.
On Wednesday 5 November, the Departments of Chemistry and Fine Art at the University of Reading are running a workshop for Year 9 students to explore the intrinsic links between art and science. Teachers can contact the Chemistry Teachers' Centre to find out more.
History: more than just dates?
Tent City University at St. Paul's Cathedral during the Occupy London protest. Image credit: duncan c
- How did the tea bag become a symbol for a protest movement?
- How have protest movements, including the Occupy movement, used public spaces?
Cambridge History for Schools runs hands-on workshops for students in Key Stage 2 and 3 in the Cambridge area.
On the morning of Saturday 8 November at the Faculty of History, West Road, Cambridge:
- Key Stage 2 (ages 7 to 11): Will Riddington, 'More Than Just Dates: signs and symbols in history' - create a protest movement and symbols of your own
- Key Stage 3 (ages 11 to 14): Kristen Klebba, 'Public Parks and Their Politics' - design your own public space
Email or call 01223 335302 to book a place.
The Cambridge History for Schools programme continues into the New Year with more workshops scheduled for 28 February and 9 May. Please see the full programme for more information.
Physics. You work it out.
The Rutherford Physics Partnership runs an online platform for prospective Physicists, Engineers, and Mathematicians called Isaac Physics. It will help you to bridge the gap between your A Level and undergraduate studies by working through problems online.
The Cycle of Terms
'Parking problems': bicycles pile up outside King's. Credit: Phil Shirley
Full term began for our current Cambridge students last Thursday. To celebrate the new academic year, join them in their morning pedal to lectures by watching this video.
A number of our current students write about a typical day during termtime in their King's Student Perspectives.
All the best for the new academic year to everyone!
Beverley Literature Festival 2014
Beverley Minster: one of Britain's largest and most imposing parish churches. Image credit: Mill View
- On the closing weekend of this year's Beverley Literature Festival, there is still time to hear Shirley Williams talking about the life and work of her mother, pacificst and novelist Vera Brittain (1893-1970). Beverley Minster, 7.30pm to 8.30pm, Saturday 11 October
- The Festival on the Run continues: John Godber's specially commissioned play Who Cares about the NHS is being performed by the University of Hull's Drama Department. Catch it at Goole Library and Holme Village Hall on Saturday 11 October, Withernsea Centre on Saturday 18 October, and Hedon Library on Saturday 25 October
Our own Chapel at King's is a fascinating mix of religion, politics, history, art and architecture.
Have you ever thought about the relationship between religion and other subjects that you might study?
- History: Consider the impact of religious change on a society prior to 1900;
- Literature: Reflect on whether literary criticism requires a knowledge of sacred texts;
- Philosophy: Comment on the relationship between mortality and religion;
- Politics: Explore the idea of secularism and national politics;
- Science: Address the relationship between religion and a topic from the natural sciences;
- Sociology: Consider how an awareness of religion helps understandings of multiculturalism.
Cambridge Divinity Faculty encourages sixth formers to research and think about one of the topics above in a team of up to four 16-19 year olds. The challenge is to produce a film lasting no more than five minutes in response to your chosen topic. This should be academic in content, but the film could take any form: debates, documentaries or responses with artistic elements are all welcome.
If you are interested, do read the further details on the Divinity Faculty website. The deadline is Friday 14 November 2014.
Celebrate Science with Durham University, 28 - 30 October
The Celebrate Science marquee will again be pitched on Durham Palace Green (seen here with the University Library in the background). Image credit: Lawrence OP
Durham University's fifth annual Celebrate Science festival will take place this half-term from Tuesday 28 to Thursday 30 October:
- Take part in hands-on experiments run by Ogden Science Ambassadors (from Whitworth Park School; Tanfield School; St Bede's School & Sixth Form College, Lanchester; Parkside Academy; Bishop Barrington School)
- Explore the night sky in the Physics Department's mobile planetarium
- Learn how to speak robot with the School of Engineering and Computing Sciences
View the full programme of events.
Faith and religion at Cambridge Festival of Ideas
The Cambridge Festival of Ideas is a full programme of mostly free events encouraging you to explore the arts, humanities and social sciences, meet academics and students, and engage with the University.
If you are interested in faith and religion, you might enjoy some of the following events:
- Mon 20 Oct - Who am I? Buddhist angles.
- Tues 21 Oct - Are people born to believe?
- Tues 21 Oct - Fixed image & the created self
- Tues 21 Oct - Meet the Chaplains
- Wed 22 Oct - Identity and immortality
- Wed 22 Oct - ‘New Atheism’ in C17 England?
- Wed 22 Oct - Sport and religion in Britain today
- Thurs 23 Oct - Three theories of everything (booking required)
- Sat 25 Oct - Hindu identity in an age of migration (booking required)
- Sun 26 Oct - Festival Choral Evensong
- Mon 27 Oct - Health of the Church of England?
- Mon 27 Oct - The humanist condition (booking required)
- Wed 29 Oct - Identity politics & Anglican Church
- Thurs 30 Oct - Open-mindedness in science and religion (booking required)
- Thurs 30 Oct - Faith and national identity
- Fri 31 Oct - Medieval manuscripts of the Jewish festival prayer-book
- Sat 1 Nov - What is a Daoist?
- Sun 2 Nov - From the selfish me to the selfless self (booking required)
The X Factor: Multidisciplinary (and Interdisciplinary) Approaches to Classics
Image credit: Ingo Gildenhard
The Classics Faculty is divided into caucuses, each of which brings a different approach to the study of Classics: Caucus A (Literature); Caucus B (Philosophy); Caucus C (History); Caucus D (Art and Archaeology) and Caucus E (Linguistics).
Dr. Gildenhard gave an example of how his colleagues in different caucuses each brought a different approach to the study of Ovid's Ars Amatoria [The Art of Love] in a recent lecture series:
- A: Poetics, or: The (S)expert at Work
- B: Sexual Ethics [gender relations, feminist readings]
- C: The Empire Strikes Back [Ovid and Augustus, the politics of the Ars, Ovid’s banishment to the Black Sea]
- D: Sex and the City [Ovid and the monuments, his rewriting of Rome’s urban topography]
- E: The Language of Love (and Sex) [how can we understand the different range of meanings of Latin words to English dictionary equivalents - does raptor mean ‘rapist’ or ‘seducer’? and how does it relate to rapina and rapio?]
The students and academics gain enormously from exploring these multidisciplinary perspectives. If and when they combine two or more approaches to address a particular topic, thereby transcending any one discipline, their work becomes interdisciplinary.
For this reason, King's Classicist John Henderson and his colleague Geoffrey Lloyd pioneered an X Caucus (Interdisciplinary) in the 1980s, to allow and encourage Cambridge students and academics to cross disciplines in their study of the Classics.
Multidisciplinarity is not restricted to Classics! You will be able to find multidisciplinary (and interdisciplinary) approaches to almost any topic. Have you got the X Factor? Think of a topic that has caught your attention in one of your A Level subjects and ask yourself what your knowledge and skills in your other A Level subjects can bring to it.
Mythologies (Roland Barthes)
Apple icon - a 21st century myth? Credit: Szilveszter Farkas (cropped)
In 1957, Roland Barthes published Mythologies, in which he discussed the workings of 'myths' in the society of his time. Drawing on ideas from semiotics (the theory of how signs and symbols work), and in particular the work of Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure, Barthes was able to use language-like structures to study the social culture around him.
If you would like to read Mythologies, the most useful part for understanding what Barthes is doing is the second part (The Myth Today), in which he explains how myths form a communication system and what the value is of thinking about them in this way (how does it help us to understand the myths?). It gets a bit technical in places, so if there is more detail than you want, just take from it what you find useful. You might then like to look at some of the examples that Barthes gives in the first part of his book. NB. You will notice that Barthes's analyses are often political - they focus especially on the ways that bourgeois society uses myth to impose values on others.
- Original text in French: Roland Barthes, Mythologies (Seuil, 1957)
- Text in English translation, e.g. Roland Barthes, Mythologies (Vintage, 2000)
One difficulty for modern readers of Barthes's work is that his examples are drawn from the fifties - they can be difficult for us to relate to. Radio 4 is currently running a series called 21st Century Modern Mythologies, in which Barthes's techniques are used to dissect contemporary myths. Do listen to some of the programmes and see what you think:
Suggestion for further reading:
Cambridge Physics Lectures
How would you describe the patterns of juggling? Credit: Richard Leonard
The Cambridge Physics department runs a series of lectures through the year for Year 12 and Year 13 students. These are free to attend and you can just turn up (no need to book).
The first lecture this year is on Tues 14 October 2014, when Dr Colin Wright will speak on the Physics of Juggling. For further information about this and future lectures, please see the details on the department website:
If you live within range of a University, why not go on their website to see if there are any public lectures or lectures for sixth formers that might be interesting?
Credit: Horia Varlan
If you're aged 14-18 and you enjoy Chemistry, why not join the Royal Society of Chemistry's Chemnet? It offers free support and advice for all Chemistry students including:
- Chemistry events all over the UK
- The Mole magazine
- Help with your studies
- University and career guidance
The link to join Chemnet is here.
Freshers' reading groups
There's a great atmosphere in College as we help the new students to settle in.
Amongst the many activities that take place in Freshers' Week to settle new students into the College community, there are discussion groups in which tutors and students across all subjects meet to discuss a book that everybody has read in advance. This year's book is:
- George Monbiot, Feral: Rewilding the Land, Sea and Human Life (Penguin, 2014)
Monbiot is a journalist and activist who read Zoology at University. He presents his book as a polemic for "positive environmentalism". The book consists of a series of essays designed to promote the cultural and economic change that will be necessary to precede any ecological shift. On some level Feral is a radical book with a radical argument, however the question for the King's freshers is how substantial, how convincing is Monbiot's argument and his evidence, and how much of it is the ideological enchantment of a liberal public intellectual?
If you fancy reading this book for yourself, you may be interested to think about how Monbiot establishes the veracity of his claims. How scientific is his thesis of "rewilding"? Does the book survive the lengthy anecdotal descriptions of his natural encounters, enchanting though they are? And is it telling that Monbiot is male, enjoys risky outdoor activity and has his moment of epiphany when he slings a dead deer over his shoulders and carries it home? Do you think that he would have a different environmentalism if he weren't so enamored by the wild in him? Or should we be cautious about any dismissal of his honesty? He discusses the effects of logging and mining on Yanomami lands at some length (and spent a fair amount of his own time experiencing it) - it is fair to say that his "rewilding" is borne of some knowledge of different cultural ecologies? Finally, do you think that we should be encouraged by this book, or discouraged?
Literature & Languages at Cambridge Festival of Ideas
The Cambridge Festival of Ideas is a full programme of mostly free events encouraging you to explore the arts, humanities and social sciences, meet academics and students, and engage with the University.
Festival events with relevance to language and literature subjects include:
- Mon 20 Oct - How to Read
- Mon 20 Oct - Mother Tongue Other Tongue (Booking required)
- Thurs 23 Oct - How to Read
- Sat 25 Oct - Medieval storytelling 1
- Sat 25 Oct - Medieval storytelling 2
- Sat 25 Oct - Taster session in Modern Greek
- Sat 25 Oct - Mills & Boon: Greek Style (Booking required)
- Sat 25 Oct - The vanishing monolingual
- Mon 27 Oct - Using the classics to unveil children’s knowledge
- Mon 27 Oct - How to Read
- Wed 29 Oct - Poetry reading and discussion (Booking required)
- Thurs 30 Oct - Spoken English in today’s Britain (Booking required)
- Sat 1 Nov - Early-modern magazines? Japanese ephemera
- Sat 1 Nov - What is a Chinese character made of?
- Sat 1 Nov - What is a Daoist?
- Sat 1 Nov - Bilingualism: Health and education (Booking required)
- Sun 2 Nov - Wordplay: Creative writing workshop (Booking required)
'Remember' National Poetry Day
Philip Larkin statue by Martin Jennings at Hull Paragon Interchange. Credit: summonedbyfells
It's National Poetry Day! This year's theme is 'Remember.'
As the National Poetry Society explains, whether it's Thomas Hood or Philip Larkin's 'I Remember, I Remember'; the centenary of the First World War; or the national Poetry by Heart recitation competition; memory is an important part of poetry.
- Share your favourite poem, using the hashtag
- Follow the Philip Larkin trail in Hull.
- See BBC Wales's animation of Dylan Thomas's poem 'The Hunchback in the Park,' narrated by Michael Sheen.
- Register for the national Poetry by Heart recitation competition
As our contribution to National Poetry Day, you may enjoy reading the King's Archive of the Month on Rupert Brooke and Ferenc Békássy. They were both King's graduates, both poets, and both victims of the First World War. You could reflect on how their poetry has shaped the way we remember the First World War and how we remember them.
Year 12 Shadowing Scheme 2015
Find out for yourself what living and studying at Cambridge is really like
If you are in Year 12 at a UK school and nobody from your family has studied at university / not many from your school have got places at Oxford and Cambridge, you might like to find out more by applying for a place on the CUSU Shadowing Scheme.
If you get a place, you would be invited to spend a few days in Cambridge, living in one of the Colleges and "shadowing" a current student studying the subject that you are interested in, that is, going to lectures, supervisions, social activities etc with them. It's a really good way to get a taste of what studying here is really like so do read the details if you think that you might be eligible to apply.
Social Sciences at Cambridge Festival of Ideas
The Cambridge Festival of Ideas is a full programme of mostly free events encouraging you to explore the arts, humanities and social sciences, meet academics and students, and engage with the University.
Festival events in the social sciences include:
- Mon 20 Oct - Chilean Time: a documentary film
- Tues 21 Oct - Assaults on identity (booking required)
- Wed 22 Oct - Running the British Economy (booking required)
- Fri 24 Oct - Experiences of a diplomat in Asia (booking required)
- Fri 24 Oct - A climate of conspiracy (booking required)
- Sat 25 Oct - Common European identity: myth, reality or aspiration?
- Mon 27 Oct - Nationalism 101: should we be afraid? (booking required)
- Thurs 30 Oct - Faith and National Identity
- Fri 31 Oct - The cost of non-Europe (booking required)
- Sat 1 Nov - The greatest show on earth? International relations
- Sat 1 Nov - Asian territorial disputes in the East and South China Seas
- Sat 1 Nov - Shia Identity and the Arab Spring
- Sun 2 Nov - Role of diasporas in international development (booking required)
The Round Church. Credit: Richard Ash (cropped)
It's Open Cambridge this weekend with talks, walks and themed tours, including:
Choosing school subjects
For Cambridge Economics, Maths is required and Further Maths is very helpful where available.
If you have just started Year 11 (15-16 year olds), you will soon need to start thinking about which subjects you will take next year.
If you would like to study at a selective university such as Cambridge or another university in the Russell Group, it is especially important to make sure that you choose subjects that will give you good preparation for courses that you may want to apply for. You may already have a favourite subject that you can research, but don't worry if you don't know yet - the advice about making well-informed choices will help to put you in the best position for when you choose a university course later on.
As well as the subjects you already do at school, it is worth remembering that there are a lot more courses available that you start new at university - the perfect course for you may be something you've not thought of yet!!
To help you with this process:
- Cambridge University as a leaflet called The Subject Matters.
- The Russell Group also has a leaflet called Informed Choices.
- There are Year 11 The Subject Matters events that you can attend in Cambridge. Please see the central Cambridge Admissions webpage for information and booking if you are interested.
- If you want to research courses at Cambridge, you might like to start with the course choices film and look at some of the short subject films. There is a page for each course on the Cambridge website and on the King's website (the information about applying on these pages gives details of any required or suggested subjects to take at school).
- Why not read about some subjects you've not studied before to get a sense of what is available? Maybe Asian and Middle Eastern Studies; Engineering; Human, Social and Political Sciences; Psychological and Behavioural Sciences; Anglo-Saxon Norse and Celtic; Linguistics or choose another subject?
Beginning New Testament Greek
Theology and Religious Studies students at Cambridge study a scriptural language in first year, choosen from New Testament Greek, Hebrew, Qur'anic Arabic or Sanscrit. You don't need to have studied foreign languages before, and this is a great opportunity to learn one of the original languages in which the texts of a major world religion were written.
If you are interested in New Testament Greek, we hope that you will find the new website launched by Cambridge Divinity Faculty useful:
Maths / Physics lectures
The Millenium Maths Project has put films of some recent lectures for sixth form students up online. These were given at an event for 16 and 17 year olds, which took place at Cambridge University on 27 June this year.
If you enjoy maths and would like to receive notification of Millenium Maths Project events and resources, you might like to register to be on their mailing list or follow them on Twitter/Facebook.
Law in Action
Leicester Magistrates' Court. Credit: Steve Cadman
If you are interested in studying Law at university, it can be helpful to get some feel for the law in action, for example by observing a local court in session. You could visit your local Magistrates' and/or County Courts (or regional equivalent, such as the Sheriff Court in Scotland).
Open House London (Sat 20 & Sun 21 September)
On the weekend of 20 and 21 September, there's a chance to explore building design and architecture in London. This is Open House London, which encourages you to explore buildings and spaces, including ones that aren't normally open to the public.
Economic Success Drives Language Extinction
Uluru, Northern Territory, Australia, named by the local Pitjantjatjara people. The Pitjantjatjara language is classified as vulnerable by UNESCO. Image credit: Sjoerd van Oosten.
A new study has revealed that economic growth and globalisation are driving the loss of minority languages.
The researchers, including Cambridge Zoologist Tatsuya Amano, used the criteria for defining endangered species (as defined by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature) to measure the rate and extent of language loss. They then analysed the geographical distribution of the endangered languages in order to draw conclusions about how and why they have gone into decline. Dr. Amano explained that:
As economies develop, one language often comes to dominate a nation's political and educational spheres. People are forced to adopt the dominant language or risk being left out in the cold - economically and politically.
The researchers argue that conservation efforts should therefore be focused on minority languages in more economically developed regions, such as northwestern North America and northern Australia.
Read the researchers' findings in full in Tatsuya Amano et al, 'Global Distribution and Drivers of Language Extinction Risk,' Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 281 (October 2014).
Consult the UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger.
Look into the conservation efforts of the Endangered Language Alliance in New York City and the online Endangered Languages Project. National Geographic's Enduring Voices project has produced eight online talking dictionaries in an effort to conserve minority languages.
- What are the benefits / risks of applying the criteria for defining endangered species to minority languages?
- How best can minority languages be protected? Or should they be protected at all?
As well as the podcasts, there is also a book. Credit: Mark Larson (cropped)
Philosophy Bites is a good source of short interview podcasts with professional philosophers on all kinds of topics.
Recent interviews include:
- Tamar Gendler on Why Philosophers Use Examples
- Amia Srinivasan on Genealogy
- Seth Lazar on Sparing Civilians in War
- Chris Betram on Rousseau's Moral Psychology
- Roger Scruton on the Sacred
- Regina Rini on the Moral Self and Psychology
- Simon Blackburn on Narcissism
- Norman Daniels on the Philosophy of Healthcare
- Tom Stoneham on George Berkeley's Immaterialism
- Michael Ignatieff on Political Theory and Political Practice
If there is a particular area that interests you, you may like to look at this list organised by theme.
The Baroque in Britain
Credit: Adam Foster (cropped)
Radio 4 iplayer has a useful series of 15 minute programmes on the Baroque in Britain presented by Tim Marlow:
- Klaus Carl and Victoria Charles, Baroque Art (New York: Parkstone Press International, 2014)
- Ernst Hans Gombrich, The Story of Art (several editions)
Language and spatial conceptions of time
In most languages time is talked about in spatial terms, with the future presented as being 'in front' of the person experiencing it. For example, in English we speak about 'looking forward' to doing something.
A recent study in Psychology looked at the conceptualisation of time in Moroccan speakers of Arabic. Although in linguistic terms, the future is 'ahead' in Arabic just as it is in English, Juanma de la Fuente and colleagues found that Moroccan Arabic speakers went against this convention in their hand gestures, with implications for how we understand space-time mappings. (1)
Juanma de la Fuente and colleagues also mention Aymara, a language from the Andean region of western Bolivia. In Aymara, the relation between time and space does not seem to work in the same way. To quote a different article:
In Aymara, the basic word for FRONT (nayra, "eye/front/sight") is also a basic meaning PAST, and the basic word for BACK (qhipa, "back/behind") is a basic expression for FUTURE meaning. [...] Is it in fact an instance of the same mappings as we have seen in other languages, "reversed" in some way, or are there quite different metaphoric mappings involved? How would we know? (2)
How do you think that the differences between English and Aymara would be of interest to researchers in Linguistics and Psychology? Can you think of any research questions or hypotheses? How would you design an experiment to test your ideas?
You may be interested to look at:
(1) This British Psychology research digest post about the research by Juanma de la Fuente and colleagues.
(2) This difficult but interesting article about Aymara: Rafael Nunez and Eve Sweetser, 'With the Future Behind Them: Convergent Evidence from Aymara Language and Gesture in the Crosslinguistic Comparison of Spatial Construsals of Time' in Cognitive Science 30 (2006), pp1-49
If you would like to keep yourself informed about research topics in Psychology, do keep an eye on the British Psychological Society Research Digest Blog.
The Year In Industry Scheme
Credit: Terry Ross
The Year In Industry Scheme places talented students in degree-relevant, paid work placements in the UK during a gap year between school and a university degree in science, technology, engineering and maths subjects.
This opportunity would allow you to gain relevant work experience in your intended field, add new skills and knowledge to your CV, and deepen your understanding for your chosen degree subject. The Year in Industry Scheme applies to companies on your behalf, helps to coordinate any interviews, and supports you during the placement. Additional Maths courses are available through the Year In Industry to ensure that you keep your maths skills sharp while away from the academic environment.
Information for all students interested in taking a gap year is on our gap year page.
Law Virtual Classroom
Credit: Janet Lindenmuth
If you want to study Law at university and have not studied the subject formally before, you might enjoy Pembroke College's virtual classroom.
Through exercises in the Understanding Law and Legal Skills sections, this resource aims to give you a better understanding of the nature and function of law, as well as some of the debates that surround the law. It will also help you to develop some of the skills involved in studying and practising law.
How Chemistry Changed the First World War (Cambridge, 11 September)
Credit: Ed Uthman
If you are interested in History and/or Chemistry and live close to Cambridge, you might be interested to attend Michael Freemantle's public lecture on how “The Great War” was a Chemists’ War.
The lecture will discuss how Chemistry underpinned military strategy and determined the shape, duration and outcome of the First World War. Chemistry was not only a destructive instrument of war but also protected troops, and healed the sick and wounded. From bullets to bombs, poison gases to anaesthetics, khaki to cordite, Chemistry played a pivotal role in the trenches, in the casualty clearing stations and military hospitals, in the tunnelling operations in the air, and at sea.
Michael Freemantle is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry. He is the author of Gas! GAS! Quick, boys! How Chemistry Changed the First World War (History Press, 2014).
If you live too far away to visit Cambridge
Different people need different facilities. This is one of the treadmills in the King's Vaults gym.
It is not unusual to make a successful application without ever having set foot in Cambridge. Don't worry if it is not practical for you to visit as there is no requirement to do so.
Since we welcome applicants who live a long way from Cambridge, we do our best to ensure that all the infomation that you need to make a strong application is on our website (see the relevant subject page and how to apply in particular), as well as virtual tours and the life and facilities sections so that you can get a sense of King's as a place:
- The grounds of King's - 360 degree tour
(click on 'Navigate' in the top left corner to explore other parts)
- King's College Library - 360 degree tour
- King's College Chapel - 360 degree tour
- Life at King's
We also have a dedicated page for if you don't feel very well supported for your application, and the student perspectives are particularly useful.
Cambridge College Open Days for Year 13
The Porters' Lodge, just inside the entrance of King's on King's Parade
If you are planning to apply to Cambridge this October and would like to attend a College Open Day, do see this page for the events available.
Here at King's, we welcome bookings for our open afternoon on Tuesday 16 September - see our open days page for details and the form.
If you are visiting other Colleges and would like to see King's on the same day, do introduce yourself at the porters' lodge and say that you will be applying to Cambridge. The porters will be happy to let you walk around the public areas, and you might find our self-guided tour useful so that you know what you are looking at. NB if there is a 'College Closed' sign at the front gate, please don't be put off as this just means that tourists cannot enter.
If you are visiting Cambridge on your own, you might also enjoy the Following in the Footsteps audio tour.
Young Geographer of the Year Competition
A glacial river. Credit: Mike Beauregard
The annual Young Geographer of the Year Competition is run by the Royal Geographical Society in conjunction with Geographical Magazine. There are four categories for different age groups including 14-16 (Years 10 and 11) and 16-18 (Years 12 and 13), as well as younger pupils.
This year's question is: How can Geography help you?
- Students in Years 10 and 11 are asked to produce an annotated diagram or map to answer the question
- Students in Years 12 and 13 are asked for a 1,500 word essay, which can include illustrations, maps or graphs.
The deadline for entries is Friday 24 October 2014.
If you might like to enter, please read the full information on the Royal Geographical Society website.
Cambridge Science Centre: Extreme Engineering
Have you ever thought about ant hills? Credit: Elroy Serrao
As well as the exhibitions, there will be lots of opportunities to meet research engineers in Cambridge and get a feel for the projects that they are working on. For details, please see the Extreme Engineering website and twitter feed.
- 24 August - Robogals (Engineers from Cambridge University) will be running a workshop about programming and robotics using Lego
- 29 August - Find out more about the ingenious structures created by animals with the Museum of Zoology
Credit: Juan Pablo Ortiz Arechiga (cropped)
Have you read George Orwell's Animal Farm (first published in England in 1945)? It is just under 100 pages and is widely available in local libraries - why not read the book (or listen to it) without reading anything about it, and see what you make of it. Can you briefly jot down your impressions of what is important in the book? If you are able to get to a local library, you could then do some research about what other people have written on the themes in it.
- George Orwell, Animal Farm (Penguin, 1996)
Cambridge Centre for Mathematical Sciences
Don't be discouraged if STEP material looks very difficult when you first look at it - the style is very different from A level, IB etc. STEP exams normally require plenty of preparation and practice in order to do well, and there are lots of online resources to help you with this. Your work on STEP will help you a lot with the transition to the kinds of mathematical problem-solving you will meet at Cambridge. Once you get into it, we hope that you will enjoy working on the material!
Here are some resources to help you with your work on STEP:
- This booklet by Stephen Siklos (from the Cambridge Maths Faculty) provides a useful introduction to STEP.
- NRICH Mathematics offers free online STEP preparation, which you can start once have completed one year of A level Maths (or equivalent).
- The Exam board's STEP website includes practical information about sitting the test, details of the material covered, past papers and examiners' reports.
- The Cambridge Mathematics Faculty also has its own page about STEP.
- The Further Mathematics Network can offer support for STEP preparation. See online courses.
Thames Tideway Tunnel
London City Airport and the Thames. Credit: pencefn
According to King’s Engineer Mark Ainslie, ‘engineers are people who apply Maths and Physics to solve problems … in a creative way.’
So try applying your own Maths and Physics to a real life engineering problem: how to tackle the problem of overflows from London's Victorian sewers. Designed for up to 4 million people 150 years ago, the sewers are not big enough to serve 8 million Londoners today, causing 55 million tonnes of raw sewage to wash into the tidal Thames every year.
Thames Water's proposed solution is the Thames Tideway Tunnel, running for 25 kilometres, at a depth of up to 65 metres below the river. Tunnelworks is an online resource put together by Thames Water, in which you are asked to apply your Mathematics and Physics to the project.
Taking place for the first time throughout September 2014, Totally Thames is an exciting new, month-long celebration of the river across its 42 London miles:
- On Sunday 7 September, Kirkaldy Testing Museum presents Safe to Cross? Testing London's Bridges. Visit the pioneering Victorian engineer David Kirkaldy's workshop on the South Bank and see his hydraulic powered Universal Testing Machine test metals to destruction.
- On Sunday 7 and Sunday 14 September, visit Crossnesss Pumping Station, part of Sir Joseph Bazalette's original Thames sewerage system, to see the 150 year-old pumping engines.
Hull History Centre
Image credit: gnomonic
The Hull History Centre brings together the material held by the City Archives and Local Studies Library with those held by the University of Hull. These include the City’s borough archives, dating back to 1299 and amongst the best in the country; records relating to the port and docks of Hull; papers of companies and organisations reflecting Hull’s maritime history; papers of notable individuals including Andrew Marvell, Philip Larkin, Amy Johnson and William Wilberforce; records relating to local and national politics and pressure groups; and over 100,000 photographs, illustrations; maps and plans, newspapers, special collections and reference sources relating to Hull and the East Riding.
BALTIC, Gateshead: get involved with contemporary art
It is currently showing exhibitions by Daniel Buren (until 12 October) and Lydia Gifford (until 2 November). The gallery is free to use and open to all daily from 10am to 6pm (10.30am on Tuesday). You can also drop into the BALTIC Library, in which you can browse books and journals on contemporary art and design.
BALTIC is currently recruiting a team of enthusiastic and motivated 14 - 25 year-olds to help create and curate new ways to get involved with contemporary art. See the BALTIC website to find out more.
CREST Awards: for project work in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics
Making a pin-hole camera. Credit: Tess Watson
The British Science Association supports, assesses, and awards students undertaking project work in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. You can register and work towards one of their CREST Awards either through your school / college or independently. You could build a pin-hold camera, design a bespoke fitness regime and diet for an athlete, or investigate the effect of natural and chemical additives in bread.
Look at the British Science Association website to find:
- More project ideas for your CREST Award
- How to register for, and get started on, your CREST Award
- Your CREST Award local coordinator
Good luck and enjoy!
AS / A2 Level Travel Writing Competition (for students in the South of England)
Sign outside a restaurant in Lugano, Italian-speaking Switzerland. Credit: Eric Andresen
Based on your travel experiences, write a feature article of no more than 500 words in your chosen target language (French, German, Spanish, or Italian). You could win a £50 Amazon voucher for your efforts! The closing date for the competition is 1 September and the winners will announced on the European Day of Languages (26 September).
For more information, please see the competition website.
'The words on the page': practical criticism
Close reading. Credit: Radek Szuban
Practical criticism is a skill required in all three years of the Cambridge English degree. Developed by Cambridge literary critic I. A. Richards in the 1920s, the exercise is designed to make you focus on 'the words on the page.' You are given an unseen text and asked to respond to its form and meaning.
This year, Cambridge students hit the headlines when they were asked to analyse Morrissey's Autobiography (2013) and Andre Letoit's (Koos Kombuis) 'Tipp-Ex Sonate' (1985) (a poem with no words, only punctuation) in their practical criticism papers.
Why not try your hand at practical criticism yourself? The Faculty of English's Virtual Classroom provides a good starting point:
You can also read I. A. Richards, Practical Criticism (1929).
Siegfried Sassoon's war diaries published in the Cambridge Digital Library
Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967). Credit: Pere Ubu
The Cambridge University Library holds the papers of its former student and First World War poet Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967). Now, for the first time, Sassoon's journals are freely available online as part of the Cambridge Digital Library.
Amidst the daily minutiae of life in the trenches, Sassoon recorded:
- the first day of the Somme, 'a sunlit picture of Hell,' on July 1916
- the Battle of Arras, during which he was 'fully expecting to get killed,' but was instead shot in the shoulder by a sniper, causing a dramatic deterioration in his handwriting from 15 - 16 April 1917
- draft and fair copies of his 'Soldier's Declaration' against the conduct of the war, written and issued in June-July 1917
- an early version of his poem 'The Dug-Out,' with an additional, excised verse, written in July 1918 and published in Picture-Show (1919)
The Siegfried Sasoon diaries had previously been edited by Rupert Hart-Davies and published in the 1980s. So how does seeing the original manuscript versions change our perceptions of Sassoon's life and poetry? Does seeing the mud and candlewax on their pages add to a historian's understanding of Sassoon's experience in the trenches? How useful is either textual criticism (the effort to establish a text as nearly as possible to its original form) or genetic criticism (the effort to trace and understand the process of writing a text) to a literary scholar?
Women in Engineering
"the number of women in engineering remains very low at 6%, which has not significantly changed in all the years this survey has been carried out."
Why are there so few female engineers? Zoe Conway reported from the Crossrail 2 project on why engineering remains a male-dominated industry for Radio 4's Today programme this morning.
The Women's Engineering Society was founded in 1919 by women engineers in the First World World War who wished to continue their work in peacetime. They support prospective women engineers in gaining the Advanced Leaders Award for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics).
Here in Cambridge, the Department of Engineering holds an Athena SWAN Bronze Award, in recognition of its commitment to promoting and supporting the careers of women in engineering. Ann Dowling, Head of the Department, offers the following advice to young women engineers:
- try always to respond positively to opportunites that come your way;
- don't wait for the 'perfect time' before applying for things - sometimes you just have to have a go;
- find a field of resarch that really interests you and has scope to expand in the future.
Biologising the Social Sciences
Spoiling for a fight? Credit: driki
Academics have increasingly turned to evolutionary explanations for the human condition, variously arguing that:
- The male human face has evolved to withstand fist fights. See David R. Carrier and Michael H. Morgan, ‘Protective buttressing of the hominin face,’ Biological Reviews (2014).
- Babies cry at night to prevent parents further procreating, resulting in potential sibling rivals. See David Haig, ‘Trouble Sleep: Night waking, breastfeeding and parent-offsprng conflict,’ Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health, 2014 (2014), 32-39.
- Teen boys develop acne on their faces to deter females from fertile but psychologically immature mates. See Dale F. Bloom, ‘Is acne really a disease?’ Medical Hypotheses, 62 (2004), 462-469.
But are there limits to the explanatory power of evolution? David Canter, Professor of Psychology at the University of Huddersfield, thinks so. He made a trenchant case against biologising the social sciences in David Canter, ‘Challenging neuroscience and evolutionary explanations of social and psychological processes,’ Contemporary Social Science, 7 (2012), 92-115.
You can listen to David Canter debate the issues with Alice Roberts, Professor of Public Engagement in Science at the University of Birmingham, on Radio 4's Inside Science programme (the item begins at 18 minutes).
How far would you take evolutionary explanations of human behaviour?
Languages Summer School at Sidney Sussex College - places available!
Image credit: fdecomite
Sidney Sussex College is running a residential summer school for Language-based subjects on 18-20 August this year. If you are in Year 12 and considering an application to study languages at Cambridge, please do apply for this opportunity!
This course is suitable for students interested in studying:
- Modern and Medieval Languages
(French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese or Russian)
- Asian and Middle Eastern Studies
(Arabic, Persian, Hebrew, Chinese or Japanese)
(Greek and Latin)
Through sample lectures, classes and small group tuition you will have the opportunity to see what it is like studying languages at university level, find out more about languages and cultures themselves, and mix with other students from all over the country who share your interests. You will also experience the College environment, which will be helpful whichever Cambridge College you eventually apply to.
There is no charge for the summer school. If you are eligible for free school meals, Sidney Sussex may be able to help with travel costs.
If you are interested in attending the summer school, please email Carly Walsh at Sidney Sussex College for further details.
Mathematical ways to spend your summer
A spiral pattern in an aloe plant. Credit: Kai Schreiber
NB the 'stages' mentioned on the NRICH website correspond to UK Key stages. As a guide:
- Stage 3 uses maths you would normally meet before the age of 14
- Stage 4 uses maths you would normally meet before the age of 16
- Stage 5 uses maths you would normally meet post 16.
One of the things that interviewers look for is genuine interest. Image credit: THX0477
We interview most people who apply to Cambridge (more than 80%). It is in interviews that subject specialists are able to work with you directly, see how you think and work, and really explore your academic potential for the course that you've applied for.
We hope that you will find the following new Cambridge University film useful, and we particularly hope that it will put any summer work that you are doing to develop your interests into context!
Centre for Computing History
A Namco NeGcon controller for Playstation. Image credit: Blake Patterson
A Centre for Computing History opened in Cambridge earlier this year, which offers a fascinating exploration of the historical, social and cultural impact of developments in personal computing. It is open to visit Wed - Saturday each week, and there are also lots of workshops and talks over the summer that may be of interest. See full details on the website.
Online resources include:
For information about the history of computing at Cambridge, you may be interested in:
Sutton Hoo and the British Museum
The Sutton Hoo helmet at the British Museum. Image credit: Rob Roy
If you would like to explore Anglo-Saxon history and archaeology, you might enjoy visiting the sixth and early seventh century burial mounds and the Exhibition Hall at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk, or the Sutton Hoo and Europe AD300 - 1100 collection at the British Museum in London.
- AD700 - Sutton Hoo on the Current Archaeology website (part of the Current Archaeology timeline of Britain)
- The Sutton Hoo Helmet - a Radio 4 programme in the History of the World in 100 objects series.
- King Raedwald - a Radio 3 programme in The Essay series.
- Martin Carver, Sutton Hoo: Burial Ground of King's? (London: British Museum Press, 2000)
The College gardens are regularly used for outdoor theatre in the summer.
In the nice weather, you might enjoy some outdoor Shakespeare if you're visiting Cambridge. The Cambridge Shakespeare Festival is on at the moment and four new plays are about to start their run:
- Othello in Trinity College Gardens (28 July - 16 August)
- Twelfth Night in St John's College Gardens (28 July - 16 August)
- The Merchant of Venice in Robinson College Gardens (28 July - 23 August)
- The Taming of the Shrew in Homerton College Gardens (28 July - 23 August)
Performances start at 7.30pm, and if you bring proof that you're a student in full-time education, you can get a concession ticket for £11. Please see the Cambridge Shakespeare Festival website for full details and booking.
Navigation at sea in the eighteenth century
Navigation at sea was a real problem in the eighteenth century. Although ships could work out their latitude from the position of the sun, it was difficult to know how far east or west they were. In 1714 a Longitude Act was passed, offering rewards of up to £20,000 for anyone who could solve the problem of finding longitude at sea.
The National Maritime Museum and Cambridge University have put the archives relating to this period of exploration and invention online - do watch the film and explore the website. If you live near enough to visit Greenwich, you may enjoy one of the Longitude Season events.
The Rise, Rise, and Rise of Chemical Engineering
Everyday Plastics. Art Exhibition in Christchurch Botanical Gardens. Credit: Geof Wilson
The Royal Academy of Engineering estimates that the UK needs 100,000 graduates in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) simply to sustain its existing industries. So Geoff Maitland, President of the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE), is right to celebrate the rise in the numbers of applications for Engineering in general, and Chemical Engineering in particular.
Are you thinking of studying Engineering at university? Why not Chemical Engineering? IChemE explains:
Chemical engineering is all about changing raw materials into useful products you use everyday in a safe and cost effective way. For example petrol, plastics and synthetic fibres such as polyester and nylon, all come from oil. Chemical engineers understand how to alter the chemical, biochemical or physical state of a substance, to create everything from face creams to fuels.
- What is Chemical Engineering? What do Chemical Engineers do?
- Studying Chemical Engineering. Find out more about Chemical Engineering at Cambridge.
- Careers in Chemical Engineering
- Taster Courses. This year Headstart ran a Year 12 taster course in Chemical Engineering at the University of Bath. You can apply from 1 September for courses in 2015.
- Work Experience. In particular, The Year In Industry can help you find a work placement following your A Levels or during your undergraduate studies.
Girl Summit 2014
Alimatu Dimonekene speaking. Image credit: UK Department for International Development
The Girl Summit 2014 was held in London yesterday, focusing on domestic and international efforts to end female genital mutilation and child, early and forced marriage.
- Listen to the talks
- Speeches by David Cameron and Nick Clegg
- Commitments made at the summit
- Youth for Change Event
How should an anthropologist study female genital mutilation?
- Edward J. Hedican, 'Genital Mutilation: The Relativist Dilema' in Edward J. Hedican, Social Anthropology: Canadian Perspectives on Culture and Society (Canadian Scholars’ Press, 2012), pp. 18-20.
- New World Encyclopedia contributors, 'Ethnography', in New World Encyclopedia (3 April 2008)
- Ellen Gruenbaum, The Female Circumcision Controversy: An Anthropological Perspective (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2001)
- Joy Hendry and Simon Underdown, Anthropology: A Beginner's Guide (Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 2012)
How well do you know your local area?
Berwick upon Tweed, Northumberland. Image credit: Laszlo Ilyes
If you live in England or Wales, do have a look:
Further ways of exploring the census data are available in:
Tony Blair: Twenty Years On
Tony Blair in Davos in 2009. Credit: World Economic Forum
Key figures and commentators from the Blair years have been reflecting on Blair's legacy in the newspapers:
- John McTernan, 'Tony Blair: his legacy will be debated but not forgotten,' Telegraph, 20 July 2014
- John Rentoul, 'Two decades on, what is Tony Blair's legacy worth,' Independent, 20 July 2014
- Michael White, 'Twenty Years of Tony Blair: totting up the balance sheet,' Guardian, 21 July 2014
You could follow up on these assessments by reading more about Tony Blair in his own words...
- Tony Blair, The Journey (London: Hutchinson, 2010)
... and in the view of political scienitsts:
- Blair's Britain, 1997 - 2007, ed. by Anthony Seldon (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007)
How have assessments of Tony Blair's leadership and legacy changed over the course of the past twenty years and why?
Edgar Jones Philosophy Essay Competition (Year 12)
Middlesbrough Central Library. Image credit: summonedbyfells (cropped)
If you have just finished Year 12 and are looking for some Philosophy questions to get your teeth into during the summer, you may be interested in the 2014 Edgar Jones Philosophy Essay Competition which is being held by St Peter's College, Oxford.
You are asked to choose one of the following two questions:
- Does the fact that our senses can deceive mean that we can have no perceptual knowledge?
- Could you be a bad person and yet do the right thing all the time?
The closing date for submissions is 12 September 2014, there's a word limit of 2000 words, and you will notice that the judges are looking for clarity of thought and expression and cogency in your arguments in particular. Do read the full details on the St Peter's College website before you start your research!
The Virtual Chopin
The Chopin statue in Deansgate, Manchester. Image credit: Mike Kniec (cropped)
Have you come across any music by Fryderyk Chopin that you can think of? He was a nineteenth century composer and is the subject of The Virtual Chopin presented by Professor John Rink from Cambridge University Faculty of Music.
- You can listen to Chopin's music on the British Library website.
- The website for primary sources that Prof Rink mentions is the OCVE (Online Chopin Valiorum Edition)
- See Chapter 7 in Richard Taruskin, Music in the Nineteenth Century (Oxford University Press, 2009)
- You may also enjoy the Fryderyk Chopin resources on BBC Music
The Raspberry Pi
A Raspberry Pi. Photo credit: Teardown Central
The Raspberry Pi is a flexible low-cost computer. It is great for experimenting with programming and electronics.
The Raspberry Pi website includes an introduction, quick start guide, software downloads and lots of other information to help you get started on all kinds of projects.
There are three models:
- Model A (15 British pounds / 25 US dollars)
- Model B (22 British pounds / 35 US dollars)
- Model B+ (22 British pounds / 35 US dollars)
There are lots of resources available online so if you have a particular interest, do search for it. Here are a few useful sites:
- Frequently asked questions about the Raspberry Pi
- Adafruit Tutorials
- Robot and sensors workshop
- BCPL Programming on the Raspberry Pi
- Google CODER for Raspberry Pi
Trainers, pumps, plimsolls or daps?
Plimsolls? No, daps. Credit: dave
How do you refer to the appropriate footwear for a PE class? Trainers, pumps, plimsolls, or daps? The word you use almost certainly reflects where you live, or where you grew up.
Researchers in Linguistics can use lexical variation (our choice of words or phrases), phonological variation (the way in which we pronounce certain words), and syntactic variation (the way in which we construct sentences) to draw maps of dialect variation, such as those produced by the Multilingual Manchester project.
King's teacher and researcher Bert Vaux and his colleague Scott Golder created a dialect survey whilst he was at Harvard in 2002 which went viral when it was featured in the New York Times last year. Bert says:
"What's been most exciting about the newest viral episode is the demonstration over a pool of several million test subjects that it is possible to identify the regional origins of English speakers just from subtle lexical 'tells.'"
You can hear Bert discussing the latest success of the survey and the conclusions he drew from it on National Public Radio (NPR) in the U.S. in February.
If you'd like to contribute to Bert's ongoing research, you can take the Cambridge Online Survey of World Englishes now.
RIBA Stirling Prize 2014 Shortlist
The Shard from Tower Bridge. Credit: Loco Steve
The Shard: do you love it or hate it? The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) have nominated the controversial London skyscraper for its Stirling Prize 2014. The Prize is awarded annually to the best building in the UK by RIBA chartered architects and International Fellows, or in the rest of the EU by a RIBA chartered architect.
The full shortlist is:
- Library of Birmingham
- London Aquatic Centre
- Liverpool's Everyman Theatre
- London School of Economics Saw Swee Hock Student Centre
- London Bridge Tower / The Shard
- Manchester School of Art
The debate about the worthiness of the contenders, the injustice of the omissions, and the rightfulness of the eventual winner has begun. Join in the debate on Building Design Online.
The Euro and Its Impact
Credit: Images money
What does economics tell us about the operation of single currency areas and currency unions (such as the Eurozone)?
This is one of the questions that the Euro and Its Impact resource asks you to consider. This pdf was produced by the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), and is designed for sixth formers with an interest in economic affairs and policy. It provides information on the topic as well as suggestions for further reading.
If you would like to find out more about the Institute of Economic Affairs and what it does, do have a look at its IEA website. If you have a particular area of interest, you may find the policy areas section useful for finding relevant material.
Trinity College's Robson History Prize (Year 12)
What is to be gained by studying the histories of seas or oceans?
Image credit: AvidlyAbide
If you are interested in History (including historical aspects of a wide range of courses from Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic to Economics, Philosophy and Theology) why not think about some of the questions that Trinity College has set for their Robson History Prize? There's a wide choice of 59 titles, so you are bound to find a topic that you would enjoy studying.
Here are just a few of them:
- What was the role and influence of Queens in Anglo-Saxon England?
- Was the Hundred Years War really a single conflict?
- What were the causes of the European ‘witchcraze’ in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries?
- What sort of a revolution was the French revolution?
- How did the Atlantic slave trade affect state formation and economic growth in West Africa?
- Why was the Spanish civil war so bloody?
- ‘The Attlee government’s failure to create a socialist commonwealth was as much due to ideological shortcomings as economic constraints.’ Discuss.
- To what extent do market forces pose a threat to the accuracy of popular history?
- Is the goal of Aristotle’s Politics to arrive at a theory of the best state?
If you would like to work on an essay to enter in the competition, the deadline is 1 August and do make sure that you read the full details (including the full list of titles) on Trinity College's website before you start. If you don't have chance or don't want to do that, do have a look at the titles nonetheless as there's plenty of inspiration for research and thought.
Summer Reading (and Writing)
Credit: Pam loves pie
As you break up for the vacation, you may be resolving to read through the pile of books that has built up on your bedside table during a busy academic year. But how do you make your summer reading count? As the University of Cambridge advises its students:
Reading for a degree requires different reading skills to reading for pleasure. Developing understanding through reading needs to be an active process, whereby you engage with the text, question and develop your ideas in response to it.
Listen to Hanna Weibye (one of the King's Fellows in History) making a similar point, when she recommends that you read as widely and as critically as possible.
One way to read effectively is to... write! Once you've read a text, why not write and share a review of it? The Wellcome Trust blog offers advice on how to write a news story from a scientific paper. The Guardian's Blogging Students advise on how to blog.
The Life Scientific
In the Life Scientific on Radio 4, Professor Jim Al-Khalili talks to leading scientists about their life and work, finding out what inspires and motivates them. It is fascinating to hear how their academic interests were sparked and developed as they studied and how this led them to forge a career in science.
This morning's programme featured Jeremy Farrar, Director of the Wellcome Trust, Britain's largest medical research funding charity. Farrar reflected on how his undergraduate studies in Medicine at University College London took him away from medical practice and into clinical research:
The degree opened my eyes to the fact that you could dream a little bit beyond facts and you could ask questions and you could design things to try and answer them.
As a result of his experience as a junior doctor treating patients infected with HIV in the early 1980s, Farrar was inspired to take a PhD in immunology. For sixteen years he was Director of Oxford University's Clinical Research Unit in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, where he researched the outbreak of SARS and avian influenza in the region.
If you wish to pursue a career in clinical research, like Farrar, there is the possibility of combining your clinical studies with a PhD. You can read about the MB/PhD programme at Cambridge here.
The Wellcome Trust works to make inspiring, high-quality science education available to all young people. It publishes the Big Picture, an online journal exploring the implications of cutting-edge science. Its June issue includes a feature on citizen science and makes suggestions of how to get involved in scientific research yourself over the summer vacation.
BODY WORLDS Vital - the exhibition of real human bodies (Newcastle, 17 May - 2 November)
The Life Science Centre in Newcastle. Credit: Samuel Mann
If you are interested in anatomy, physiology and health, there's a fascinating exhibition of real human bodies, specimens, organs and body slices at the Life Science Centre in Newcastle upon Tyne. The exhibits have been preserved through Plastination (which you can learn more about at the exhibition).
World population day
Credit: Sherrie Thai
It was World Population Day this week (11 July). Here are some of the articles published:
- History, facts and risks of overpopulation (International Business Times article)
- Which six countries hold half the world's population? (Pew Research Center article. What is the Pew Research Center?)
Pierre Bourdieu: What affects our tastes?
For Bourdieu, cultural consumption is 'an act of deciphering, decoding, which presupposes practical or explicit mastery of a cipher'. Renoir image credit: freeparking
How much is taste shaped by education and social influences? Pierre Bourdieu was a French sociologist, anthropologist and philosopher who looked into these questions, most famously in his 1975 book, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste.
In the introduction, Bourdieu writes:
Taste classifies, and it classifies the classifier. Social subjects, classified by their classifications, distinguish themselves by the distinctions they make, between the beautiful and the ugly, the distinguished and the vulgar, in which their position in the objective classifications is expressed or betrayed.
Bourdieu collected information through questionnaires which asked people questions about their tastes in art, literature, music etc. For example, he compared preferences for different musical pieces and charted these against information about each particpant's social background:
Bourdieu's text includes diagrams and charts which plot his results and show correlations that he found in the data. A key idea in this book is that of 'cultural capital', that is, 'assets' that people acquire, such as education and cultural experience, which can affect social mobility regardless of financial means.
If you have the opportunity to look at Bourdieu's work, do have a think about this way of looking at taste. Do you agree / disagree / recognise aspects of it? Can you think of any examples in modern culture and society? What do you think of the way that Bourdieu collected and used his data? Does his work have wider implications for questions of taste, sociology and identity?
- Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste (Routledge, 2013) or look at this online text.
- If you would like to look at the original text in french, see Pierre Bourdieu, La Distinction. Critique sociale du jugement (Les Éditions de Minuit, 1979)
- Youtube video: Bourdieu introductory lecture (ignore some technical issues with the sound early on - it gets better)
Wrexham Science Festival (17 - 25 July, North Wales)
St Giles Church, Wrexham.
Image credit: Alan Myers
- Climate Change: The truth, the whole truth and nothing but… what the world’s top climate scientists agree upon
- Black Holes — What are they and why are they so weird?
- Heavy Metal Marine Biology - A Rocking Guide to the Seas
- How well do renewable energy technologies pay back the carbon and energy that is initially invested in them?
Engineering - how to prepare for an application
A bulk superconductor over a magnet
King's Electrical Engineer, Mark Ainslie, is looking at how superconductors can make electric motors work better, and is part of a team that has just broken the world record for the strongest trapped magnetic field in a bulk high-temperature superconductor:
Listen to Mark Ainslie giving advice about how to prepare for your application to study Engineering, and what to expect in your interviews.
Virginia Woolf exhibition (London, 10 July-26 October)
Orlando (1928) is a semi-biographical novel. Credit: crowbot
Virginia Woolf is amongst the most well-known writers of the twentieth century. Do you know what her writing is like?
There is a Virginia Woolf exhibition over the summer (10 July to 26 October) at the National Portrait Gallery in London. It explores Woolf's achievements as a novelist, intellectual, campaigner and public figure.
If you plan to visit the exbibition, you may like to read some of Woolf's work in advance. If you're not sure where to start, here are some suggestions to choose from:
- Novels such as Mrs Dalloway (1925), To the Lighthouse (1927), or The Waves (1931)
- Collections of short stories e.g. A Haunted House and Other Short Stories (1944)
What makes a good question in mathematics?
Credit: Roland O'Daniel
Here are some questions that +plus Magazine has explored:
...and here are some puzzle questions (and links to solutions):
BBC Radio 3 resources
Credit: Jason Hollinger
If you are interested in studying Music, we advise you to get to know as much music as possible, including musical repertoires other than those related to your principal instrument(s). Have you explored the BBC Radio 3 resources? These include:
Cambridge Architecture: exhibition of student work (11-16 July in London)
Preparation in Cambridge for a previous ArcSoc exhibition
ArcSoc, the Cambridge University Architecture Society, invites you to attend its summer show:
- Dates: Friday 11 to Wednesday 16 July 2014
- Location: Testbed 1, 33 Parkgate Road, London, SW11 4NP
- Opening times: 10am-6pm
- Website: ArcSoc
This annual exhibition is entirely planned, built and curated by students. It's a great opportunity to get an insight into the Architecture Department and the work of students from first year to fifth year.
Free public lectures and a day for prospective students are also planned - see the ArcSoc website.
Viktor Shklovsky: making things strange
In his 1917 essay, 'Art as Technique', Russian writer Viktor Shklovsky argues that often we don't notice things because they are familiar to us. However, art (a term that Shklovsky uses in a broad sense to include literary writing) can present things in a strange or unfamiliar way, which makes us look at them for longer:
Habitualization devours work, clothes, furniture, one's wife, and the fear of war. "If the whole complex lives of many people go on unconsciously, then such lives are as if they had never been." [Shklovsky is quoting Tolstoy's diary] And art exists that one may recover the sensation of life; it exists to make one feel things, to make the stone stony. The purpose of art is to impart the sensation of things as they are perceived and not as they are known. The technique of art is to make objects "unfamiliar," to make forms difficult, to increase the difficulty and length of perception because the process of perception is an aesthetic end in itself and must be prolonged. Art is a way of experiencing the artfulness of an object.
What do you think of Shklovsky's description of the purpose of literary writing? Does his argument apply to all literary texts? Are there genres where you would expect to find this technique more frequently? Can you think of any examples in texts you have read / are reading where something is presented in a strange way that makes you notice it? And can you think of any limitations to Shklovsky's argument?
- 'Strider: the story of a horse' (short story) in Leo Tolstoy, The Devil and other Stories ed. by Richard Gustafson, trans. by Louise Maude and Aylmer Maude (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009) or available on the Great Authors website.
- The chapter on Russian Formalism (pages 24 to 45) in Modern Literary Theory: a comparative introduction ed. by Anne Jefferson and David Robey (London: Batsford, second edition, 1986)
James Dyson Foundation Challenge: Geodesic Domes
Biosphere in Montreal. Credit: Nic Redhead (cropped)
Do you know what a geodesic dome is? It is a structure named in 1949 by an American Engineer called Richard Burkminster Fuller. Amongst the interesting features of geodesic domes is their structural strength and that they are relatively easy to construct.
To build your own geodesic dome out of jelly sweets and cocktail sticks and explore the structure, see this challenge designed by Neil, an electronics engineer at Dyson. Can you describe in as much detail as possible why the geodesic dome is a strong structure?
- To find out more about the concepts behind geodesic domes, see the Geodesic dome page on the Burkminster Fuller Institute website.
- For more Dyson Foundation Challenges and information about design Engineering, you might like to explore the James Dyson Foundation website, which has a section for secondary school students.
Precision: the Measure of All Things
Big Ben: accurate to one second an hour, but today we can build clocks that loose one second in 138 million years. Credit: Taz Wake
There was an interesting TV documentary last night telling the history of the science of measurement.
Throughout our history, developments in our ability to measure the world around us have changed our lives. In the documentary, Prof. Marcus du Sautoy explores how seconds and metres came to be as two of the most fundamental units of measure, how distance and time are linked, and the quest for ever greater precision in science.
Catch it on BBC iplayer:
Further documentaries in the same series will be on in the next couple of weeks:
Screenshot from Duolingo. Credit: Kristian Bjornand
One of the challenges of learning a foreign language is that you're constantly learning new vocabulary and grammar, yet you also need to meet words that you've previously learnt regularly enough for them to stick in your mind and become part of your active vocabulary.
Here are some resources that you may find useful and enjoyable:
- Duolingo enables you to learn languages whilst translating the internet.
- Anki allows you to build and practice your own vocabulary lists.
- Memrise uses memory technology as you work through courses. You can read about how it helps you with your language learning. When browsing courses, if you use the search function, you can type in say 'A level French' and find courses such as:
- You might like to take the 1,000 words vocabulary challenge.
Reading in your language is an important habit to get into. It is not easy, but the more you do it, the more enjoyable it becomes. Do ask your teacher to recommend texts that you could try at your current language level, and look at magazines / newspapers as well.
Credit: Damian Cugley
There are a range of ways to approach reading, and it's good to vary what you're doing. Sometimes you might read a short passage and look lots of words up, other times you could read to get the gist, and only interrupt yourself to look occasional words up. You may also like to explore parallel texts, as these have the language you're learning on one side and the text in English on the other, which can be very helpful.
Medicine essay competition (Year 12)
'I have three supervisions every two weeks, requiring me to write an essay for each.' Shedeh (Medicine).
Photo credit: rhodesj
Are you interested in studying Medicine? As well as needing a strong grounding in your sciences/maths subjects (which is likely to need most of your focus), it's worth remembering that the course requires you to write regular short essays for supervisions. Robinson College is holding an essay competition for prospective Medicine students. The deadline for entries is 1 August 2014, and you can choose between three essay titles.
In Our Time
A King's supervision in progress
What do we mean when we say that we're looking for students who can think critically and independently?
Listening to Radio 4's In Our Time programme will give you an insight into what Cambridge is looking for in our students, our methods of teaching and learning, and our interviews. Each week, presenter Melvyn Bragg discusses a topic in depth with three academics. You'll notice how in the course of forty-five minutes the guests identify the key questions to be addressed, examine all sides of the debate, frame clear and confident arguments of their own, and engage enthusiastically and flexibly with each other. Much of the teaching and learning at Cambridge happens in similar small group discussions, known as supervisions. In many respects, our interviews model the format of a supervision, so that we admit the students who will benefit most from this style of teaching.
But most importantly, tuning into In Our Time will give you insight into your subject, whatever it may be! The BBC has an archive of 646 programmes and counting, which cover wide-ranging topics in culture, history, philosophy, religion, and science. Last week, Melvyn Bragg and his guests discussed the philosophy of solitude. This week, they'll discuss the medieval writer and mystic Hildegard of Bingen. Whatever your interests, you'll find a relevant programme. You're just as likely to become fascinated by a topic you'd never heard of or thought about before.
Universities Celebrate the Tour de France in Yorkshire and Cambridge
Bicyles outside King's Credit: Paul Shirley
The Grand Départ of the Tour de France 2014 is coming to Britain!
The West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds is showing Maxine Peake's tribute to British cycling champion Beryl Burton from 30 June to 19 July. The theatre is also host to a panel discussion on women in sport on 30 June.
The University of York cycled the solar system last weekend in readiness for Stage 2.
Academics from Sheffield Hallam University will lead athletes and commentators in a discussion of the Tour de France's impact on science and techology, health, and economy in its Science of Cycling event on 30 June.
The peloton will roll past King's College at the start of Stage 3. The University of Cambridge Museums are marking the occasion. The Polar Museum is holding an exhibition called 'Reinventing the Wheel: Bicyles in the Polar Regions' from 10am to 4pm on 1 - 12 July. The Fitzwilliam is hosting Cambridge Cycle of Songs on the steps of the museum from 11.30 to 12.30 on 7 July. Local school choirs will sing from nine pieces specially commissioned from composers and poets to celebrate iconic locations along the Tour's route in Cambridge.
As the Tour crosses the English Channel again, Britain's celebration of the bicycle continues. The annual Stockton Cycling Festival returns on 11 - 13 July.
Architecture - Exploring spaces
What catches your eye? If you're thinking of studying Architecture at university, the summer is a great time to practice your drawing skills, to have a go at capturing your interests with a camera, and to think about the spaces and effects that you notice around you through explorative work in a range of media.
You can do this very well on your own, following your interests. You might like to read the information about portfolios if you would like some advice about work that you can later use in an application to Cambridge, and there are also some examples of application portfolios available - see Portfolio 1 and Portfolio 2.
If you are looking for events to attend, as well as any websites about what is on in your local area, RIBA (The Royal Institute of British Architects) has a good What's On? page for events up and down the UK, or you can look up events all over the world on the e-architect website.
Last chance to book for Cambridge Law Open Day!
The Law Faculty reception area
If you'd like to book a place on a Cambridge Law Faculty Open morning or afternoon on Wednesday 2 July, do send your booking form as soon as possible. The deadline for the faculty to receive your form is Wednesday 25 June (you need to post or email the information).
- If you cannot attend, there are films available of previous Law Faculty Open Day talks, and you might like to read Brioni's account of what studying Law is really like.
- If you are at school in the north of England, Scotland or Ireland and need overnight accommodation on the night of Tues 1 July, please see the opportunity at King's.
- For students attending the Cambridge Open Days on 3 or 4 July, there will also be Law faculty talks as part of these. See page six in the 2014 Cambridge Open Days programme or the information about booking for 3 or 4 July.
Tails You Win: The Science of Chance
Credit: David Melchor Diaz
There is another opportunity to watch David Spiegelhalter's Tails You Win: The Science of Chance documentary on the BBC iPlayer. David Spiegelhalter is "Professor Risk," or more properly Winton Professor for the Public Understanding of Risk in the Statistical Laboratory at the University of Cambridge. He shows us how to use (or how not to use!) statistics to understand the risks we face in everyday life.
The 2014 Cambridge Open Days Programme is published!
The large Cambridge Open Days are on Thurs 3 and Fri 4 July. This event is for students who are considering an application in September/October 2014.
Do explore the 2014 Cambridge Open Days programme for details of course presentations and sample lectures in your subject, College opening times and locations. If you are interested in visiting a particular College, their website will normally have more detail. At King's, we're open from 9 until 5.30pm as part of the Cambridge Open Days, and we invite you to join tours of the College, subject meetings (students only for those) and chat with current students and admissions staff. See the details for Thurs 3 July and for Fri 4 July.
Booking is required. Although there are no general places left for the Cambridge Open Days, there are still plenty of places available for students who book to attend a College Open Day (you will also be able to attend Cambridge Open Day events in the afternoon) or a North East Welcome Event (please email us for details if you're from the North East). Please see the information about how to attend the Cambridge Open Days now that registration has closed.
We hope to see you there! If you can't attend, don't worry though, as the information that you need to make a successful application is also available online, and you are welcome to email us with any questions.
Use Your Local Library
King's graduate Zadie Smith (English, 1994-1997) celebrated and defended local libraries in this 2012 essay, explaining that:
"Well-run libraries are filled with people because what a good library offers cannot be easily found elsewhere: an indoor public space in which you do not have to buy anything in order to stay."
As your exams come to an end and a lovely, long Summer beckons, you'll have more time to read around your subject. If you don't already use your local library, you will find out where it is and what it has to offer here. If your local library doesn't have what you're looking for, you can request an inter-library loan.
Your local university library may be able to help, too. For example, Newcastle University's Sixth Form Access Scheme provides reference facilities for Year 12s and 13s in the North East of England. The University of Reading Library offers similar opportunities to local sixth formers.
Are you going to a UCAS Higher Education Convention?
Hull Paragon Station.
Credit: Phil Richards
There are lots of UCAS Higher Education Conventions on at the moment. These are a great opportunity to talk to reps from different universities and explore your options further. There will be a lot of people there, so our advice is to make a list of the universities that you particularly want to talk to, and also to think about what questions you will ask them before the event. Good luck!
- 17 June - Hertfordshire and Humberside
- 18 June - Cambridgeshire and West and North Yorkshire (18 & 19th)
- 20 June - Sheffield
- 23 June - Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire & Milton Keynes (23 & 24th)
- 24 June - Essex (24 & 25th)
- 26 June - East London
- 27 June - South East London and North and West Cumbria
- See the UCAS Events section for later events
English Literature essay competition (Year 12)
It's important not just to read, but to think about the books.
Credit: Robert (cropped)
Essay titles from Trinity College:
- 'Homer and the other poets... composed false stories which they told and still tell to mankind.' (Plato); 'Now, for the poet, he nothing affirmeth, and therefore never lieth.' (Philip Sidney). Discuss any aspect of the relationship between literature and lying, with detailed reference to at least one work.
- 'The only advice, indeed, that one can give another about reading is to take no advice, to follow your instincts, to use your own reason, to come to your own conclusions.' (Virginia Woolf). How much is reading a matter of instinct, how much is it a matter of reason, and does reading ever bring instinct and reason into conflict? Discuss with reference to one or more works.
These are just two of the six possible essay titles that Trinity College, Cambridge has set for students who would like to enter their Gould Prize for essays in English Literature (open to students in Year 12). See the Trinity College website for full details (including the rest of the possible essay titles). The submission deadline is 1 August 2014. Good luck to those who enter!
Summer Science Exhibition in London (1-6 July)
The Royal Society has an annual display of the most exciting cutting-edge science and technology in the UK, including everything from artifical intelligence and car crash investigation to tropical storms, ultrasonic waves, and immune-bacterial interactions
Do make a note if you live close enough to visit. The dates are 1-6 July this year, and the exhibition will take place at 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5AG (near Charring Cross tube station).
Gender in Japanese Studies - Free book for your school library?
A book of undergraduate dissertations was published last year, exploring emerging and divergent gender issues in Japan. It is called Manga Girl Seeks Herbivore Boy: Studying Japanese Gender at Cambridge, and it offers some fascinating insights into modern Japanese culture and society, as well as a great way to get a flavour of the kinds of material that you could study if you choose Japanese in the Asian and Middle Eastern Studies course (even if you've never studied Japanese before!). To find out more about the book, read the news article.
In order to introduce Japanese Studies, the department is offering a free copy to 50 school libraries. Why not ask your school librarian to click here for further information and the request form!
Slavery: Past and Present
Street art by Paul Don Smith. Credit: MsSaraKelly
The University of Hull's Wilberforce Institute for the study of Slavery and Emancipation hosts research into both historical forms of slavery and contemporary forms of enslavement. You can watch Prof. Catherine Hall (UCL) deliver the Institute's Annual Alderman Sydney Smith Lecture on 'Re-thinking the Legacies of Slavery.'
Hull Museums have extensive collections celebrating the work of local son and anti-slavery campaigner William Wilberforce (1759 - 1833). You can visit Wilberforce House Museum to see the collections for yourself.
Liverpool is home to the International Slavery Museum.
The University of Cambridge offers some resources for the study of slavery here.
Anti-Slavery Day is on Saturday 18 October this year. How will you mark it?
What's on Radio 4?
Credit: Adam Foster (cropped)
If you're interested in economics, politics or sociology, recent programmes available on bbc iplayer radio include:
- Capitalism on Trial
- Analysis: Deirdre McCloskey
(and see other Analysis programmes ordered by category)
- Any Questions?
- The Unmaking of the English Working Class
To find other programmes, do explore the Radio 4 website.
Free Taster Day in Latin and Classics - Saturday 21 June
If you're considering an application for Classics at Cambridge and you've never studied Latin at school or college, we invite you to book a place on a free taster day in Cambridge on Saturday 21 June. Fifty travel bursaries of up to £50.00 are available on a first come, first served basis.
Fantasy GCSE Set Texts
What set texts did you read for your GCSE English Literature?
In the Guardian this weekend, authors chose the set texts they would like GCSE students to read. Cambridge Classicist Mary Beard took the opportunity to 'bring in the classical world by the back door, via some great works of English literature.' She set William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar (1599); Robert Graves, I Claudius (1934); Chrisopher Logue, War Music (1959 - 2011); and Carol Ann Duffy, The World's Wife (1999).
- Which texts would you set GCSE students?
- In making your choice, what is the most important consideration? Introducing students to classic works, or engaging their interests? Representing a range of literary genres and periods, or promoting particular approaches and topics? Capturing the national heritage, or celebrating cultural diversity?
'Eugene' Passes the Turing Test
Sixty-five years ago, King's mathematician and pioneer computer scientist Alan Turing famously asked 'Can Machines Think?' To answer his own question, he conceived a test in which questions would be put to both a human and a machine, in an attempt to distinguish one from another. On Saturday, the Turing Test was passed for the very first time by supercomputer 'Eugene Goostman,' which convinced some of the judges that it was a thirteen year-old boy from Odessa, Ukraine.
- Is 'Eugene' really thinking?
- What are the limits to artificial intelligence?
Talk to 'Eugene' yourself (you may have difficulty accessing this site due to the extent of public interest at the moment!)
Read more about the sixty-five year history of the Turing Test in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Treating MS - science and clinical trials
When a patient has MS (Multiple Sclerosis), the immune system begins to attack the body's own healthy nerve cells. The disease strips away their protective sheath, and prevents electrical signals from moving effectively between the brain and the body.
Researchers at Cambridge have been working on a treatment for MS for some time, and the drug that they have developed was recently approved for use in people with MS. The following film explains the science and clinical trials behind this:
Illustration from The Pickwick Papers. Credit: Sue Clark
Have you read a book by Charles Dickens?
The University of Warwick have a Celebrating Dickens website, on which you can access articles, videos, podcasts, and a documentary about different aspects of the work of Charles Dickens and the Victorian era in which he lived. There's also a mobile app if you prefer.
Problem-solving website for Engineering
Connel Bridge in Scotland
When you're doing exercises in maths and physics, how much do you feel like you're relying on previous examples that you have memorised, and how much time do you spend problem solving, or working on a kind of question that requires more thought?
Cambridge University Engineering Department has a website designed for developing and practicing problem solving in many contexts - do explore this resource:
Universities Week: 9 - 15 June 2014
Elvet Bridge on the River Wear, Durham. Credit: Tim Rawle
Next week is Universities Week! From Monday 9 to Sunday 15 June, universities across the UK are inviting us to be inspired, get involved and discover the work that they are doing to improve the way we live our lives.
As part of Universities Week 2014, you can...
- Dive into Durham. Find out about the amazing discoveries made by Gary Bankhead, underwater archaeologist at the University of Durham, in the River Wear. The exhibition opens at Palace Green Library, Durham, on Saturday 7 June
- Try to tell a human from a machine at Turing 2014. King's mathematician Alan Turing famously asked 'Can machines think?' The University of Reading is conducting live Turing tests - pitting man against machine - at the Royal Society in London on Saturday 7 June
- View the Cleveland College of Art and Design's Degree Exhibition 2014. The students' work will be showcased to the public at Church Square, Hartlepool from Friday 6 to Saturday 14 June
Subject Conferences at the University of York
Booking is open for Year 12 subject conferences at the University of York, offering an insight into degree-level study in specific subjects.
- 27 June - Philosophy Conference
- 11 July - Chemistry Conference
See the York University website for details and booking.
Literature of the liberation (1944-1946)
Cambridge University Library
What sort of books do you think were published in France just after the liberation of Paris in 1944? This website and film are part of an exhibition at Cambridge University Library exploring the first writings of French authors on their experiences in the War, occupation and liberation.
Once Paris was free and the Vichy government had collapsed, there was no more censorship. Books were published even while the War was still being fought in some parts of France.
If you're near enough to also visit, this free exhibition is open from 7 May until 11 October. See details for visiting.
Vice Chancellor celebrates Britain's 'living languages'
Credit: Helder da Rocha (cropped)
Leszek Borysiewicz, Vice Chancellor of Cambridge University, yesterday made a persuasive case for learning languages. He was speaking from personal experience; as the Welsh-born son of Polish refugees, he spoke Polish at home and learned English when he began school at the age of five. He has found that bilingualism is an asset, both to the individual and to the nation:
These are real languages: living languages that give people a huge insight into culture and give the children who can speak them additional opportunities.
'I'd love to see more children in Britain having more than one language,' he concluded.
Whether or not you study a language as part of your degree, you can always take a language course alongside your undergraduate studies. The MML Certificate and Diploma is available, both for students starting new languages, or those continuing a language they studied at school. There are also a range of Language Centre Courses, as well as opportunities to study a language independently using the Language Centre's resources. The Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic Department provides free classes in Modern Icelandic and Irish. There are also more informal opportunities to learn and speak a foreign language. Student societies organise conversation meetings, such as the CU German Society's Stammtisch where society members meet in the pub to socialise in German.