What is the power of a volcano?

Volcanoes aren’t always about eruptions and the catastrophic natural disasters we often see in the news. Many people live close to volcanoes and face other hardships and issues even aside from the possibility of an eruption – so what is life like for them?  Think for a moment about a volcanic eruption you have studied…

Telling the time with volcanoes

Scroll to the bottom of the page for today’s task! It’s not all gushing lava and pyroclastic flows – sometimes the excitement of volcanoes lasts long after they erupt, in the form of radioactive rocks! Find out how radioactive decay and preserved ash can be used to date volcanic eruptions… Dating volcanic eruptions For geographers…

I came, I saw, I ate fried dormice

What’s the connection between volcanoes and food? Archaeological discoveries (including preserved food remains from thousands of years ago!) can give us an amazing glimpse into the dining rooms of the Roman Empire. Take a look at artefacts from Pompeii and beyond to see if you’d have enjoyed some of the delicacies they were used for……

The power of Vesuvius in the ancient world

Scroll to the bottom of the page for today’s task! The eruption of Vesuvius has led to an interesting combination of destruction and preservation… Although the volcano buried the towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum, this means they are very well preserved. But recently they’ve come under threat from more destruction thanks to human activity. So…

Eruptions and transformations: volcanoes in poetry and songs

Scroll to the bottom of the page for today’s task! Volcanoes, plate tectonics and Roman gods – not necessarily your standard subjects for poems or songs… Read on to discover where the word ‘volcano’ comes from, and what volcanoes have come to signify in literature and music – and have a go at writing your…

The power of volcanoes in art

What can volcanoes signify in art? Sometimes the aim is just to show volcanoes informatively, some artists want to explore their cultural significance, whilst on some occasions they’ve even been used symbolically. Volcanoes aren’t always just there to look spectacular – delve into their deeper meanings, and you might never look at them in the…

Year 12 Summer School – Research Posters

We have had a fantastic selection of research posters submitted by students as part of the Inspire Programme Summer Schools. Listed below are all of the Year 12 posters, covering a huge variety of subjects, from Genetics to Graph Theory. All of the posters have been completed to a high standard – very well done…

Quiz: What is the power of a volcano?

So you think you know some things about volcanoes… Now’s your chance to test yourself–take this short quiz to see what you already know about volcanoes! Over the next few months we’ll be releasing articles which will help you learn the answers to any questions you’re not sure about now. Take Our Survey

Successful Open Days at St John’s

We were delighted to welcome over 5000 visitors to St John’s on 3rd and 4th July for the first Open Days of 2019. Prospective students, along with their parents and carers, were taken on tours of the college with our brilliant Student Ambassadors, had the chance to sample lunch in Hall, and also met our…

Evolution, ecology and volcanoes

There are many questions one can ask that link evolution and ecology to volcanoes… Let’s start at a small scale in both space and time. Are plants and animals growing on and near active volcanoes different from those growing elsewhere? Yes, they are! Volcanic soils are rich in certain minerals, and plants like coffee grow…

Progress on Access and Admissions

The President of St John’s College, Professor Maggie Snowling, wrote about an exciting Summer term for access and admissions at Oxford: I have had the privilege of chairing the Admissions Committee on behalf of the collegiate University as well as the working group developing major initiatives to enable Oxford to reach the stretching targets required…

St John’s College’s first ever study day in Maths

On Saturday 18th May 2019, we were delighted to welcome 61 Year 12 students from state schools across the UK. The day began with a talk about Oxford admissions given by Alexander Lawrence from the college’s Access and Outreach team. Afterwards, Mathematics tutors Dr David Seifert and Dr Tom Crawford discussed the MAT test, which…

Easter Challenge Winners

Winner Matyl K, The Sacred Heart Language College It is evident that the video game industry is the fastest growing industry from $10 billion in 1990 to almost $135 billion in 2018. Arguably, this is a result of their ability to engage and transfix people, achieved by the emotional reward that they offer: feelings of…

‘Mythology in the Ancient World’ at the Classics Study Afternoon

On 25th April, 58 school pupils all the way from Scotland to the South Coast of England came to St John’s to enjoy our annual Classics Study Afternoon. All of the students had entered the annual St John’s Classics & Ancient History Essay Competition, which is open to all students currently studying in Year 12…

Making money from video games

This week we asked you to think about the question: What would be the advantages and disadvantages of giving a video game away for free? Very well done to everyone who sent us their answers. Here are the best responses we received: Overall Winner Jay K (Greenford High School) Personally, I believe that giving video…

Year 11 Inspire – Issue 5 “How to make money from video games”

In the fifth edition of Year 11 Inspire, we will be thinking about the economic value of video games. We will be hearing from St John’s economics tutor, Dr Kate Doornik, about how free games such as Fortnite can be incredibly lucrative, and looking at issues surrounding copyrights. Please follow this link for Issue 5…

Year 11 Inspire – Summer School

We are running a summer school our Year 11 Inspire Programme students on Monday 5th and Tuesday 6th August 2019. This is an excellent opportunity to see what being an Oxford student might be like! For full details, please see our flyer: If you would like to attend, please complete an application form and return it…

Should violent games be banned?

Some of the most popular video games contain high levels of violence – Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto, Red Dead Redemption – to name a few. In Issue 4 “What can we learn from video games?”, we asked our students to consider whether the content of video games should be more strictly regulated. Here…

Year 11 Inspire – Issue 4 “What can we learn from video games?”

In this fourth edition of Year 11 Inspire, we will be considering what we might be able to learn from video games. We will be hearing from Oxford historian Dr Philippa Byrne about the historical significance, and discussing the role of violence in video games. We will also be challenging you to think how video…

Turtle Academy Programming Challenge

Well done to everyone who participated in our Turtle Academy Programming Challenge as part of Year 11 Inspire’s third issue “Design your own video game”. Turtle Academy is a simple-to-use website providing free lessons in basic computer programming. Using the LOGO language, you can create amazing shapes and patterns – give it a try! Here…

Year 11 Inspire – Issue 3 “Design your own video game”

In the third edition of Year 11 Inspire, you will be thinking about designing your own video game. We will be hearing from James Hyde, a games designer himself who works for Creative Assembly in Horsham, West Sussex, and using Flowlab to get some insight into how computer programmes are generated. Please follow this link…

St John’s College launches innovative pre-GCSE Inspire Programme

St John’s is excited to announce the creation of a new in-depth programme aimed at highly-able, pre-GSCE state school students in the College’s link regions of Ealing and Harrow. It will launch in September 2019 for 40 teachers and 400 students at the start of Year 9 (13-year-olds) and will run until the end of…

Year 11 Inspire – Issue 2 “Building Characters and Worlds”

In the second issue of Year 11 Inspire, we will be looking at how designers and developers use language to build characters and worlds inside their video games. We will be hearing from St John’s English Tutor, Professor Carolyne Larrington and Oxford Graduate in Linguistics, Maren Fichter. Please follow this link for Issue 2 “Building…

Year 11 Inspire – Issue 1 “Are video games bad for you?”

In this first issue, we will look at whether video games can be considered bad for you, and will ask the question: “Is it possible to become addicted to video games?” We will hear from former St John’s English student Dr Tom Chatfield, and there will be articles, quizzes and challenges to try. Please follow…

Year 11 Inspire – Welcome to the programme!

30 minutes a week to help get you ready for university. A warm welcome to everyone who has signed up for our Year 11 Inspire Programme! This programme aims to provide you with opportunities to pursue your academic interests, to develop your study skills, and to encourage you to become more confident in your abilities….

Candy Crush Challenge

Well done to all of our Year 11 Inspire students, who have been battling hard in this week’s challenge: Candy Crush! How to play Candidates were asked to play Candy Crush on their devices for 15-30 minutes, then take a screenshot of their highest scores and e-mail it to inspire@sjc.ox.ac.uk. The top three contestants on…

Lively Autumn Term for St John’s Access and Outreach Office

Members of the Access and Outreach Office at St John’s College have had a brilliant start to the academic year, having either run or attended a total of 24 events both at St John’s and at schools and colleges across the linked regions of East Sussex, West Sussex, Brighton and Hove, Ealing and Harrow. Not…

A hands-on Theology Study Day

On Saturday 6th October, Professor Katherine Southwood and the St John’s Access and Outreach team hosted a Theology Study Day for students from a variety of backgrounds. The Theology Study Day offered A-Level students an insight into the Theology course at the University of Oxford and focused primarily on biblical studies and religious literacy, with…

The Inspire Programme celebrates its first birthday

St John’s is delighted to be celebrating the first birthday of its innovative Inspire Programme. This dynamic outreach initiative is focused on non-selective state schools in our link regions of the London Boroughs of Ealing and Harrow, and consists of a carefully structured programme for students from Years 9 to 13. Over these five years,…

The Physics of Sandcastles and Ladders

We invite any aspiring physicists to try their hand at these physics problems dealing with light, atoms and force: Estimate the number of visible photons leaving a 60W light bulb per second. How big would a sandcastle be if you made it from the same number of grains of sand as there are atoms in…

Meet Dan, 3rd Year Maths

Dan is a third year maths student currently studying at St John’s. Here he talks about discovering maths at an Open Day and some of his favourite things he’s learned so far at university… Produced by Tom Crawford.

LINGO: Where words are a matter of life and death

Learning a language is very much like playing a game: you need to be strategic, know how to identify what’s important and what’s not so essential. You must assess probability and take risks. Sometimes you must make do with little (your word bank, your range of structures) but you must also try to be accurate….

How to earn billions by giving something away for free

Few people can have escaped the massive success of Fortnite: Battle Royale. Launched in late 2017, the game had 250 million players by March 2019. In 2018 Fortnite made more money than any other game in history:  $2.4 billion.  While creativity and technology are essential to the success of a video game, economic decisions can…

Momentum and Energy

We invite any aspiring physicists to try their hand at these physics problems dealing with the concepts of momentum and energy: Martial arts such as Judo, Aikido and Japanese Jiu Jitsu teach dynamic throws. These are explained to students as redirecting their attacker’s momentum. Can you explain this by separately considering the linear motion of…

Crime Scene Investigation

Test out your Chemistry (and detective) skills with this conundrum from St John’s Chemistry Tutor Professor Richard Compton and his research group. Q: In some movies, the crime scene investigators spray chemicals to find traces of blood even if most of them have been cleaned or removed. Fluorescent blue light is normally shown in the place with…

Chemistry through time

Put your knowledge of Chemistry to the test with these history-themed questions from St John’s Chemistry Tutor Professor Richard Compton and his research group. Q: The Ashmolean Museum in Oxford is one of the renowned museums owned by Oxford University. Here you can see galleries full of paintings and sculptures made of white marble or blackened bronze, from…

Kitchen Chemistry

Test your chemistry knowledge with these kitchen-themed questions from St John’s Chemistry Tutor Professor Richard Compton and his research group. Q: How radioactive is a banana? Q: What is the main process happening when cooking or frying fish? And what other method, without applying heat, would give a decent meal? Q: Brew kettles are made from…

Using Language to Build Characters and Worlds

Designing an immersive world is all about getting the details right. In a video game, the world consists of a number of elements, including the visual space, the characters that navigate it and the soundscape (music, sound effects and speech). It is in the finer details of these elements that the most immersive and fascinating…

Meet Diamor, 1st year Maths

Diamor is a first year maths student currently studying at St John’s. Here he talks about his passion for numbers and some of his favourite things he’s learned so far at university…  Produced by Tom Crawford.  

Meet Leo, 2nd year Maths

Leo is a second year maths student currently studying at St John’s. Here he talks about when he discovered his interest in maths and some of his favourite things he’s learned so far at university… Produced by Tom Crawford.

Human powered helicopter

Try your hand at some physics problems based on gravity set by St John’s Physics tutor Professor Tony Weidberg… Q: Many proposals have been made for a human powered helicopter. Consider the case of such a machine with a rotor 10 metres in diameter. Could a human create enough power to overcome gravity? The density…

Heating and cooling

Try your hand at some physics problems based on heating and cooling set by St John’s Physics tutor Professor Tony Weidberg… Q: You want to heat a cold room using a simple electric bar heater. This consists of one conducting wire connected to the mains via a plug. In order to maximise the power, should you…

The physics of making a cup of tea

St John’s Physics Tutor Professor Tony Weidberg loves a good cup of tea, so why not make yourself a brew and have a go at his physics brainteasers… Q: At the interval during a football world cup game, some people watching at home make a cup of tea using electric kettles. Make a reasoned order of…

Thick and sticky fluids

Viscosity is a property of a fluid on the molecular scale and is a measure of the strength of the internal friction between fluid particles. What this means in practice is that the thicker and stickier the fluid, the higher its viscosity. The task that you have been set by St John’s Maths Tutor Dr…