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Essay Competition

Robinson College

Robinson College

Robinson college is setting some interesting questions for Year 12  students to discuss (with reference to any academic discipline or area of interest) for its annual Essay Prize:

  1. 'Science has made us Gods even before we are worthy of being men.'
  2. 'Poetry is the art of uniting pleasure with truth.'
  3. 'The real purpose of books is to trap the mind into doing its own thinking.'
  4. 'Science may set limits to knowledge, but should not set limits to imagingation.'
  5. 'It's in literature that true life can be found. It's under the mask of fiction that you can tell the truth.'

If you would like to write an essay for this competition, the deadline is 1 August 2015. Do read the full information on Robinson College's website.

Date posted: 

Wednesday 8 July 2015

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Extract from Sartre's 'La nausée'

Book cover

Whatever books you enjoy, reading a little in the language you are studying most days will make all the difference

Here's an extract from Sartre's La nausée for those who are studying French at an advanced level - see how you get on with it. Can you describe the ideas that the narrator conveys? Can you pick out a few key sentences? Which words, phrases or grammatical constructions are new to you?

Quand on vit, il n'arrive rien. Les décors changent, les gens entrent et sortent, voilà tout. Il n'y a jamais de commencements. Les jours s'ajoutent aux jours sans rime ni raison, c'est une addition interminable et monotone. De temps en temps, on fait un total partiel : on dit : voilà trois ans que je voyage, trois ans que je suis à Bouville. Il n'y a pas de fin non plus : on ne quitte jamais une femme, un ami, une ville en une fois. Et puis tout se ressemble : Shanghaï, Moscou, Alger, au bout d'une quinzaine, c'est tout pareil. Par moments — rarement — on fait le point, on s'aperçoit qu'on s'est collé avec une femme, engagé dans une sale histoire. Le temps d'un éclair. Après ça le défilé recommence, on se remet à faire l'addition des heures et des jours. Lundi, mardi, mercredi. Avril, mai, juin. 1924, 1925, 1926.

Ça, c'est vivre. Mais quand on raconte la vie, tout change; seulement c'est un changement que personne ne remarque : la preuve c'est qu'on parle d'histoires vraies. Comme s'il pouvait y avoir des histoires vraies ; les événements se produisent dans un sens et nous les racontons en sens inverse. On a l'air de débuter par le commencement : « C'était par un beau soir de l'automne de 1922. J'étais clerc de notaire à Marommes. » Et en réalité c'est par la fin qu'on a commencé. Elle est là, invisible et présente, c'est elle qui donne à ces quelques mots la pompe et la valeur d'un commencement. « Je me promenais, j'étais sorti du village sans m'en apercevoir, je pensais à mes ennuis d'argent. » Cette phrase, prise simplement pour ce qu'elle est, veut dire que le type était absorbé, morose, à cent lieues d'une aventure,  précisément dans ce genre d'humeur où on laisse passer les événements sans les voir. Mais la fin est là, qui transforme tout. Pour nous, le type est déjà le héros de l'histoire. Sa morosité, ses ennuis d'argent sont bien plus précieux que les nôtres, ils sont tout dorés par la lumière des passions futures. Et le récit se poursuit à l'envers : les instants ont cessé de s'empiler au petit bonheur les uns sur les autres, ils sont happés par la fin de l'histoire qui les attire et chacun d'eux attire à son tour l'instant qui le précède : « Il faisait nuit, la rue était déserte. » La phrase est jeté négligemment, elle a l'air superflue; mais nous ne nous  y laissons pas prendre et  nous la mettons de côte : c'est un renseignement dont nous comprendrons la valeur par la suite. Et nous avons le sentiment que le héros a vécu tous les détails de cette nuit comme les annonciations, comme les promesses, ou même qu'il vivait seulement ceux qui étaient des promesses, aveugle et sourd pour tout ce qui n'annonçait pas l'aventure. Nous n'oublions que l'avenir n'était pas encore là; le type se promenait dans une nuit sans présages, qui lui offrait pêle-mêle ses richesses monotones et il ne choisissait pas.

J'ai voulu que les moments de ma vie se suivent et s'ordonnent comme ceux d'une vie qu'on rappelle. Autant vaudrait tenter d'attraper le temps par la queue.

Jean-Paul Sartre, La nausée (Gallimard,‎ 1938) pp. 62-64.

Date posted: 

Tuesday 7 July 2015

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What do Cambridge scientists read?

Middlemarch book cover

Credit: Chris Drumm

Do you enjoy literature and science? Are these interests compatible? Do you think that fictional works can be useful and interesting to scientists? Or is fiction too different to science?

As you think about these questions, here's a series of films in which Cambridge scientists talk about fictional texts that have inspired or helped them in various ways.

Novel Thoughts:

Article on the Novel Thoughts series.

Date posted: 

Tuesday 23 June 2015

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FutureLearn

Basic Science: understanding numbers from the Open University is a four week course beginning on 6 July. The course explains how you can use numbers to describe the natural world and make sense of everything from atoms to oceans.

Here's an opportunity to explore and develop your academic interests this Summer, whatever your subject, wherever you live.

FutureLearn offers free online courses, developed by leading universities and cultural institutions. For example, beginning next week (29 June) you could explore Literature of the English Country House with the University of Sheffield, or deploy Real World Calculus with the University of Sheffield.

Date posted: 

Tuesday 23 June 2015

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Isaac Physics Partnership - resources and events

The Isaac Physics Partnership provides resources to offer support and activities in physics problem-solving to students (and teachers) working from GCSE (Year 11), through sixth form (Years 12 & 13), and to university.
 

The partnership also runs free UK events (funded by the Department for Education) for AS and A2 Physics and Maths education. Here is a list of forthcoming events - do click on the links below for details and booking.

Date posted: 

Friday 12 June 2015

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Year 12 STEP Correspondence Course

A student solves a mathematics equation at the blackboardA student solves a mathematics equation at the Mfantsipim Boys School in Ghana. Image credit: World Bank Photo Collection

The University's STEP Correspondence Course is recruiting a new intake to start in September 2015.

You are eligible to apply if you are:

  • currently in year 12
  • attending a state-maintained school, college or academy in the UK
  • studying (this year or next year) Further Mathematics A-level, or something equivalent
  • intending to study Mathematics at a university that requires or recommends STEP

The deadline for applications is Friday 3 July 2015.

If selected, you will be expected to complete fortnightly assignments and will receive personalised feedback on each assignment.

Click here for more info and to sign up.

Date posted: 

Thursday 11 June 2015

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Economics: Maths is important!

Calculator

Mathematical techniques are an essential tool for Economics. Credit: Horia Varlan

To thrive on the Cambridge Economics course, you need to enjoy (and be good at!) Mathematics at school and have an interest in applying mathematical and statistical tools to economic problems. The first year at Cambridge includes a compulsory course in Quantative Mathods that covers Maths and Statistics (you can read the paper description if you'd like to).

When you look at the course requirements for the Cambridge Economics course, you will notice that Mathematics is a required subject (you can't apply without it). Depending on what qualifications you are applying with, this may be A level Mathematics (there are multiple exam boards), IB Higher Level Mathematics, an Advanced Higher in Mathematics from the Scottish system, Pre-U Mathematics, Advanced Placement Calculus BC if you're taking US qualifications, or Mathematics up to your final year in one of the many other qualifications that we can admit you with.

In A level terms, you are presumed to have mastered the material in modules C1 - C4 by the end of your school maths course, and you will find it easier to tackle the Quantitative Methods course if you have taken module S1. If you don't know what we're talking about, the topics are set out at the top of page 2 in the paper description, or you could always have a look at an A level syllabus specification to compare the content with the maths you've been doing.

If you have the opportunity to take Further Mathematics, that would be very helpful once you start the course, especially the Pure and Statistical options (rather than Mechanics or Decisions Maths). 

Sample questions resource

We know that it can be tricky (especially if you're not studying for A levels) to work out if your mathematical skills will give you a good preparation for Economics at Cambridge. The Director of Studies at King's has prepared some sample mathematical and analytical questions for you to look at. If you work through these questions, we hope that this will give you a good sense of the kind of mathematical and analytical skills that we will be looking for when we consider you for a place.

For more information, do read the Economics course information and the reading, resources and events section on the page about studying Economics here at King's College!

Date posted: 

Wednesday 10 June 2015

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Mathematics for Biologists and Chemists

Test tubes in the laboratoryImage credit: Horia Varlan

Undergraduate Biologists and Chemists will find they need some mathematics in order to access and make the most of their science. Natural Scientists at Cambridge can choose between three first year Mathematics courses: Mathematics (usually taken by those specialising in Physical Sciences), Mathematical Biology (usually taken by those specialising in Biological Sciences), and Elementary Mathematics for Biologists (designed for Biological Scientists who did not take A Level Mathematics or equivalent).

Our Natural Scientists explain that 'knowledge of mathematics is essential for all scientists; it is the language with which we formulate theories and natural laws and express our ideas.' But what can you do to gain fluency in mathematics?  They advise you to 'practise thinking mathematically in non-routine contexts.'

Date posted: 

Monday 8 June 2015

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Luminarium - a website for students with a curiosity for English Literature

An old book

Credit: popturf.com

If you're interested in studying English at Cambridge, we recommend that you try to read material from a number of different periods if you can, as the course will introduce you to the full range of literature from the Middle Ages to the present day.

If you want to explore what you could read from some of the earlier periods and are wondering what you might enjoy, why not spend some time browsing the Luminarium website? It's an anthology of English Literature with particularly well-developed sections for Medieval Middle English Literature (1350-1485), Renaissance Literature (1485-1603)Early 17th Century Literature (1603-1660), and Restoration & 18th Century Literature (1660-1785).

Here's a poem by Henry Vaughan (1621-1695) to get you started:

Quickness

False life! a foil and no more, when
                Wilt thou be gone?
Thou foul deception of all men,
That would not have the true come on!

Thou art a moon-like toil ; a blind
                  Self-posing state ;
A dark contest of waves and wind ;
A mere tempestuous debate.

Life is a fix'd, discerning light,   
                   A knowing joy ;
No chance, or fit : but ever bright,
And calm, and full, yet doth not cloy.

'Tis such a blissful thing, that still
                   Doth vivify,
And shine and smile, and hath the skill
To please without eternity.

Thou art a toilsome mole, or less,
                   A moving mist.
But life is, what none can express,
A quickness, which my God hath kiss'd.

For poem and source, see Luminarium. The poet page has further resources including book recommendations.

Date posted: 

Thursday 4 June 2015

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Language-learning: Essay Competition

Scrabble letters

Credit: Taro Taylor

Are you interested in how language works? If so, you might like to consider working on an entry for Trinity College's Essay Competition, which invites students in Year 12* to think about the following topic:

‘A child exposed to two languages from birth and an adult moving into a country where another language is dominant will both be faced with the challenge and opportunity of becoming bilingual. Discuss the similarities and differences in the processes and outcomes of language learning for these two types of learner.’

You don't have to be studying any particular subjects to enter, but it's a good chance to see if you enjoy working on topics in the broad area of Linguistics. Full details of the competition and how to enter are available on the Trinity College website, and the deadline for entries is 1 August 2015.

*Year 12 is the academic year before students sit A level exams, the International Baccalaureate or equivalent qualifications.

Date posted: 

Tuesday 2 June 2015

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