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You may have read our advice about developing your academic interests. Once you've chosen a course, do have a look at the 'reading, resources and events' section on the relevant subject page.

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 (let's say 'Literature and Languages') 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!

Tony Blair: Twenty Years On

Tony Blair at the World Economic Forum in Davos in 2009Tony Blair in Davos in 2009. Credit: World Economic Forum

Twenty years ago today Tony Blair was elected leader of the Labour Party.

Key figures and commentators from the Blair years  have been reflecting on Blair's legacy in the newspapers:

You could follow up on these assessments by reading more about Tony Blair in his own words...

... and in the view of academics:

How have assessments of Tony Blair's leadership and legacy changed over the course of the past twenty years and why?

Posted: 21 July 2014

Edgar Jones Philosophy Essay Competition (Year 12)

Middlesbrough Library

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:

  1. Does the fact that our senses can deceive mean that we can have no perceptual knowledge?
  2. 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!

Posted: 21 July 2014

The Virtual Chopin

Chopin statue in Manchester

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.

Further exploration:

Posted: 20 July 2014

The Raspberry Pi

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:


Posted: 19 July 2014

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.

Posted: 18 July 2014

RIBA Stirling Prize 2014 Shortlist

The London Shard from Tower BridgeThe 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 an RIBA chartered architect.

The full shortlist is:

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.

RIBA offers extensive information and guidance on becoming an architect and runs regular educational activities. Get involved!

Posted: 17 July 2014

The Euro and Its Impact

Euro notes

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.

Posted: 17 July 2014

Trinity College's Robson History Prize (Year 12)

Sea

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.

Posted: 16 July 2014

Summer Reading (and Writing)

Pile of booksCredit: 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.

The University of Southampton, the University of Manchester, and the Open University all offer useful advice on how to read in an engaged way.

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.

Posted: 15 July 2014

The Life Scientific

Julia Lohmann, Co-Existence (2009). An art work made of petri dishes commissioned and exhibited by the Wellcome Trust. Credit: gwire

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.

 

Posted: 15 July 2014

BODY WORLDS Vital - the exhibition of real human bodies (Newcastle, 17 May - 2 November)

Life Science Centre

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).

If you can get to Newcastle, it's easy to visit as the Life Science Centre is very close to Newcastle train station. You do have to pay for tickets (see ticket prices).

Posted: 13 July 2014

World population day

Map of the world

Credit: Sherrie Thai

It was World Population Day this week (11 July). Here are some of the articles published:

Posted: 12 July 2014

Pierre Bourdieu: What affects our tastes?

Beach Scene by Renoir

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?

Further exploration:

Posted: 11 July 2014

Wrexham Science Festival (17 - 25 July, North Wales)

St Giles Church, Wrexham

St Giles Church, Wrexham.
Image credit: Alan Myers

Do check the list of public events at the Wrexham Science Festival in North Wales on 17-25 July, and book your tickets if you live close enough!

Talks include:

  • 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?
     
Posted: 10 July 2014

Engineering - how to prepare for an application

A bulk superconductor

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:

We asked Mark to explain what students interested in studying Engineering can do to develop their interest in the subject and prepare for an application. Listen to what he said:

Preparing for an Engineering application

 

 

Posted: 9 July 2014

Virginia Woolf exhibition (London, 10 July-26 October)

Book cover

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)
     
Posted: 6 July 2014

What makes a good question in mathematics?

Question marks

Credit: Roland O'Daniel

What sorts of questions do you enjoy working on in maths and physics? Read Marianne Freiberger's article on mathematical questions in +plus Magazine.

Here are some questions that +plus Magazine has explored:

...and here are some puzzle questions (and links to solutions):

Posted: 3 July 2014

BBC Radio 3 resources

Violin

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:

Posted: 2 July 2014

Cambridge Architecture: exhibition of student work (11-16 July in London)

Preparation for the exhibition

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.

Posted: 1 July 2014

Viktor Shklovsky: making things strange

Horse

In Tolstoy's Kholstomer (Strider), a horse is sometimes the narrator.
Image credit: Phil Roeder

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.

You might like to read the full text of 'Art as Technique', which was published in English translation in Russian Formalist Criticism: Four Essays, ed. by L,T. Lemon and M, J. Reis, pages 3 - 24.

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?

Further reading:

Posted: 29 June 2014

James Dyson Foundation Challenge: Geodesic Domes

Geodesic dome

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?

Posted: 28 June 2014

Precision: the Measure of All Things

Big Ben

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:

Posted: 26 June 2014

Language learning

Screenshot from Duolingo

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:

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.

Parallel text book cover

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.

Posted: 26 June 2014

Medicine essay competition (Year 12)

Laptop and notebook

'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.

Posted: 25 June 2014

In Our Time

Students discuss their work with their supervisior in a King's supervision.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.

Posted: 25 June 2014

Universities Celebrate the Tour de France in Yorkshire and Cambridge

Bicyles outside King's College, CambridgeBicyles outside King's Credit: Paul Shirley

The Grand Départ of the Tour de France 2014 is coming to Britain!

Stage 1: Leeds to Harrogate

The University of Leeds has been counting down to the start of Stage 1 with a timepiece crafted by Engineering students, among other events.

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.

Stage 2: York to Sheffield

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.

Stage 3: Cambridge to London

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.

Posted: 24 June 2014

Architecture - Exploring spaces

The Shed (temporary auditorium)

The Shed by Haworth Tompkins - an example of pop up architecture. Image credit: David Holt

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

Posted: 22 June 2014

Last chance to book for Cambridge Law Open Day!

Inside the Law Faculty

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).

Posted: 21 June 2014

Tails You Win: The Science of Chance

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.

Read more of David Spiegelhalter's work on his Understanding Uncertainty website and in the archive of his columns for Plus magazine.

Posted: 18 June 2014

The 2014 Cambridge Open Days Programme is published!

Cambridge Open Days programme cover

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.

Posted: 18 June 2014

Use Your Local Library

Student studying in King's College 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."

At Cambridge, our students have 114 libraries to choose from.  You can take a virtual tour of the King's College Library and watch Cambridge students' quest for the perfect desk.

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.

Posted: 17 June 2014

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!

Posted: 15 June 2014

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!

Posted: 14 June 2014

Summer Science Exhibition in London (1-6 July)

What do you know about the evolution of butterflies?
Credit: Dennis Jarvis (cropped)

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).

See the exhibition website, which includes details of the events and exhibits.

Posted: 13 June 2014

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!

Posted: 12 June 2014

Slavery: Past and Present

Anti-Slavery Graffiti by Paul Don Smith

Street art by Paul Don Smith. Credit: MsSaraKelly

The Queen's Speech last week included the announcement of a Modern Slavery Bill, which promises to strengthen the prosecution of  human traffickers and improve the protection of victims.

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.

M Shed in Bristol reflects on the city's role in the slave trade. You can visit the museum, or browse its Transatlantic Slave Trade collection online.

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?

Posted: 11 June 2014

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:

To find other programmes, do explore the Radio 4 website.

Are you struggling to access Radio 4? Click on 'How to listen' in the menu on the left of this help section. If you are outside the UK, see the iplayer access information.

Posted: 11 June 2014

Free Taster Day in Latin and Classics - Saturday 21 June

Credit: Giovanni

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.

Please see the Classics Faculty website and further information for details of the event and how to book your place.

Posted: 10 June 2014

Fantasy GCSE Set Texts

William Shakespeare (1564 - 1616)

Credit: tonynetone

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?
Posted: 9 June 2014

'Eugene' Passes the Turing Test

Alan Turing

Alan Turing

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?

Find out more about the successful Turing Test 2014, organised by the University of Reading and hosted by the Royal Society.

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.

Posted: 9 June 2014

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:

Posted: 8 June 2014

Celebrating Dickens

Illustration from 'The Pickwick Papers'

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.

Posted: 7 June 2014

Problem-solving website for Engineering

Connel Bridge

Connel Bridge in Scotland
Credit: artq55

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:

Posted: 6 June 2014

Universities Week: 9 - 15 June 2014

Elvet Bridge, Durham

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

Find an event near you.

Posted: 5 June 2014

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.

Posted: 5 June 2014

Literature of the liberation (1944-1946)

Cambridge University Library

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.

Posted: 4 June 2014

Vice Chancellor celebrates Britain's 'living languages'

Italian books

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.

Cambridge offers opportunities to learn and use languages in its Modern and Medieval Languages, Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, Classics, and Anglo-Saxon Norse and Celtic courses.

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.

Posted: 4 June 2014