The St John’s Inspire Programme for Years 12 & 13 (Inspire 12 & 13) primarily consists of a series of online Twilight Sessions throughout the year. Sessions include a combination of in-depth academic taster talks by scholars from Oxford or other leading universities, and expert guidance on skills development and how to make an effective…
Ancient poetry and evolution
We don’t often think of art and poetry as historical evidence – but they often give us a view into the ideas held at the time. In this article, Dr Emma Greensmith discusses three poems which describe different creation myths. When one thinks of ancient evidence for ideas about evolution, what examples come to mind?…
Biblical evidence does not support creationism
How did the world come into being? How did life originate on Earth? Opposing theories of evolution and creationism have sparked large debates on the topic. In this article, Professor Katherine Southwood looks at Biblical evidence for theories other than creationism. Biblical scholars engage with Biblical texts. This primary evidence exists in multiple copies and…
Evolution in Greek and Roman thinking about human society
The philosophers of the ancient world were fascinated with the environment and how it affected the development of human society. Dr Georgy Kantor discusses the merits and problems of their thoughts – and whether any similar assumptions can be found in modern political thought. Is my title paradoxical? Darwin’s theory of evolution was of course…
In previous articles in this class, we have learned about some of the many mysteries around the workings of the human brain. In this article we will examine a slightly more well-understood change that can happen in the brain: addiction. Addiction, when a behaviour becomes compulsive despite negative consequences, is a chronic disease which involves…
How did brain development evolve to produce the human brain?
How could evolution produce a highly complex, efficient and still-evolving structure such as the human brain? In this article we look at the evolution of the brain across humans as well as other creatures to begin solving this mystery. Charles Darwin stated, “community in embryonic structure reveals community of descent.” Thus, to understand how the…
The Evolution of Gas Turbines
A gas turbine is a type of combustion engine that can convert fuel into energy. How does this work, and how did this manner of producing energy come about? Read on to learn about how gas turbines evolved, and what role they play in our lives now… The Basic Principles Gas turbines use the possibility…
The Mathematics of Natural Selection
How do we use mathematics to study natural selection? In this article, we will derive equations that will help us to calculate the probability of a gene being passed down in a population. You’ll even get the chance to try these equations out for yourself! Professor Alan Grafen, Tutorial Fellow in Quantitative Biology
What is consciousness? The notion of consciousness is one of science’s big mysteries, and in this article we will begin to explore what we do know about what consciousness is, how it evolves and how it affects our daily realities. The mystery of human consciousness has plagued the minds of scientists and philosophers alike for…
Should we all speak the same language?
What do you think: Should we all speak the same language?
Evolving Stories: A brief chronological overview of the novel
Evolution is not simply a scientific phenomenon. In the humanities, it is as important to examine the process by which something becomes the object we know today as to examine the object itself.
The evolution of the book: A brief history
For over 1,600 years, the book has existed as a collection of rectangular sheets of parchment or paper with text and/or illustrations, folded into pages, bound together, and covered by a binding.
Leisure and technological change
As culture has evolved, so has the way we spend our leisure time. Dr Severine Toussaert investigates how the evolution of technology has impacted our leisure time – and how the digital economy affects the leisure economy.
In the past year, our lives have all been disrupted because of the pandemic caused by the Covid-19 virus. But what is it that actually happens within our bodies and immune systems when we encounter such a virus?
Sex and evolution
What role does sexual reproduction play in evolution? In this article, we will consider how recombination and genetic variation drive evolution.
Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection states that the adaptations of an organism to its environment arise because of the greater chance of survival of those offspring that have a favourable variation caused by random mutation, which they then pass on to their offspring.
Darwin’s Origin of Species still provides the best single account of evolution, but modern discoveries allow us to fill in some details and make some additions. Learn about some of these here!
Quiz: Why does evolution matter?
So you think you know some things about evolution… Now’s your chance to test yourself – take this short quiz to see how much you know!
Evolution occurs in culture as well as in the natural world. One example of this is language evolution.
How has music evolved?
While some principles of evolution, like natural selection, do not work quite the same in music as in biological evolution, this is still a useful metaphor for examining changes in the history of music itself, as well as changes in the role of music in society.
Evolution: Making sense of life
“Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.” This was famously said by Theodore Dhobzhansky, one of the most eminent biologists of the 20th century, and practically every biologist in the world agrees with him. But what does such a sweeping claim mean?
Fossils record the history of life on Earth in rocks. But how can we learn about evolution, origination of new species and mass extinctions from fossils?
Is your computer more intelligent than you?
We have so far been looking at evolution from the perspective of Biology and Geology, but the principles of evolution can help us understand other kinds of change as well. For example, evolution can tell us a lot about how computers and artificial intelligence are developing now, and where they may be going in the future.
Digital English: What even are words anymore?
Nowadays, language is changing faster than ever before. In this article, you will learn about the impact of technology and the internet on the evolution of English.
Reading the runes
In Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth, a volcano in Iceland proves to be the way to enter the depths of the Earth… but how do the protagonists of this story figure this out from a complex encoded text? Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth (1864) tells the story…
Determining the size of a volcanic eruption using only maths
If I told you that to determine the size of a volcanic eruption all you needed were three important measurements, you’d most likely think I’d lost the plot. Well, there’s a little more to it – aka some amazingly simple maths, but that is exactly how it’s done. Suppose you were given the daunting task…
Did volcanoes kill the dinosaurs?
Scroll to the bottom of the page for today’s task! It’s the age-old question – how did the dinosaurs die out? What if volcanic activity was responsible for their extinction? And are we heading for another mass extinction today? Step back 66 million years and try to uncover the answers to these questions and the…
What’s the price on your head?
How much would you spend to save a life? How do you make that decision? It’s much more complicated than you think… Read on to discover the difficult implications of putting a monetary value on saving lives. When Nevado del Ruiz erupted in Colombia in 1985, about 23,000 people died as a result. If you…
What we can learn from the archive of a Pompeian banker family
One result of the eruption of Vesuvius is that we have an excellently preserved snapshot of Roman life in AD 79, meaning historians can build an amazing picture of what life at this time was really like! Discover how even the tiniest of details uncovered by historians can give us a fascinating insight into the…
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…
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 know about volcanoes! All the answers to these questions can be found in our ‘What is the power of a volcano?’ series. Take Our Survey
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…
7 Ways Games Reward the Brain
Dr Tom Chatfield, an ex-ST John’s English student, talks about the ways in which games reward the brain.
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…
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…
Learn to programme
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 in next to no time – give it a try and see what you can come up with!
Fun and games at the circus
See if you can outrun the lions and solve this puzzle from St John’s Maths Tutor Dr David Seifert…
A Tetris puzzle
If you fancy yourself as a Tetris whizz, try your hand at this puzzle set by St John’s Maths Tutor Dr David Seifert… One of the most successful video games of all time is Tetris. There are seven different Tetris pieces: the long piece, the square, the T-piece, two L-pieces and two Z-pieces. Each piece…
Is video game addiction a mental disorder?
Is video game addiction a mental disorder? Cast your vote here!
Donkey Kong or King Kong?
Donkey Kong was one of Nintendo’s most famous video game series, chronicling the adventures of the title character Donkey Kong. The game quickly became a bestseller, strengthening Nintendo’s standing as an industry leader. The gigantic ape is immediately recognisable for most video game enthusiasts. In fact, the character of Donkey Kong has proved so popular…
Maths in video games
My name is James Hyde and I am a build engineer at the UK’s leading games studio – Creative Assembly (CA) – currently working on several titles – including our brand-new IP! I’ve been with CA for two years now; my first project was Halo Wars 2 (HW2) – the sequel to one of my very…
A good story is key
The most successful kind of plot for computer games – and indeed for all kinds of other stories, from international folk-tale, to medieval romance, to the great fantasy works of the twentieth- and twenty-first centuries, is the quest. The hero sets out from home on a quest to find something or with a mission to…
Make your own video game
Using the free website https://flowlab.io/ we want you to create your very own video game! It’s simple to use and doesn’t require any coding: simply drag and drop the game pieces into position and build your own virtual world. The tutorial is a great place to start.
What’s the best way to win at Monopoly?
Monopoly may have started out as a humble board game in 1935, but it has since evolved into a multi-platform, multi-million dollar titan of the gaming world, appearing on almost every major games console over the last 30 years. The ultimate question then, is how can you improve your chances of winning? Watch the video…