Population genetics

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!

Viral immunity

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.

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!

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.

Language Evolution

Evolution occurs in culture as well as in the natural world. One example of this is language evolution.

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.

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…

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!

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…

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…

The Game of Life

The Game of Life is one of the simplest video games ever to exist, and yet is one of the most addictive! It’s known as a zero player game as you simply choose your initial layout of black and white squares and then leave the game to evolve over time following a set of four…

What can we learn from video games?

What’s the point of a historical video game? What do you get from setting a battle in ancient Rome or on the battlefields of the Second World War, rather than in space, the far distant future, or an imaginary world? From a historian’s perspective, we might gain a number of new insights by playing through…

Why are video games addictive?

Psychologist Amy Orben discusses whether or not video games are addictive, and whether or not this should be considered a mental disorder.