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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.

Date posted: 

Friday 18 July 2014

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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 a 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!

Date posted: 

Thursday 17 July 2014

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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.

Date posted: 

Thursday 17 July 2014

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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.

Date posted: 

Wednesday 16 July 2014

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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.

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.

 

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.

Date posted: 

Tuesday 15 July 2014

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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.

 

Date posted: 

Tuesday 15 July 2014

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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:

Date posted: 

Saturday 12 July 2014

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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:

Date posted: 

Friday 11 July 2014

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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:

Listen to Mark Ainslie giving advice about how to prepare for your application to study Engineering, and what to expect in your interviews.

 

Finally, do read about the maths and physics that you need to make a competitive application.

Date posted: 

Wednesday 9 July 2014

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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)
     

Date posted: 

Sunday 6 July 2014

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