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

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…

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…


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…

Class 1 Competition Results 2021

Well done to everyone who submitted an entry to Class 1 of the Inspire Programme for Years 10 & 11! The quality of entries we received was extremely high – so high in fact that we ended up awarding even more prizes than we had planned! You can click on the links below to read some…

Competition 1.3 Results 2021

Thank you very much to everyone who submitted an entry to Competition 3: Evolution of flight! Here you can see some of the winning entries, as selected by our team of markers. 1st place (Year 10): Lili S Lili’s winning entry 1st place (Year 11): Melanie H. Melanie’s winning entry The evolution of birds, and their…

Competition 1.2 Results 2021

Thank you very much to everyone who submitted an entry to Competition 2: Create your own organism. We had great fun looking through the very creative inventions of our programme participants! Below you can see some of the winning entries, as selected by our team of markers. 1st place (Year 10): Amy A. & Jessica T….

Competition 1.1 Results 2021

Thank you very much to everyone who submitted an entry to Competition 1: The fossil record! Below you can read some of the winning entries, as selected by our team of markers. 1st place (Year 10): Vienna D. & Eleanor G. Vienna’s winning entry Palaeontologists estimate that only around 1% of all animals to have ever…

Year 10 Class 6: Competition results

We’re delighted to announce the winners of the latest set of Pre-GCSE Inspire competitions for 2021! In Class 6, Books, Literature & Leisure, we looked again at evolution through a cultural lens, exploring how books and novels have evolved through different formats, styles and practices that reflect the societies producing them. We then turned to…

Human Consciousness

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…

St John’s Inspire Programme for Years 10 & 11: Class 2

It’s now time to move on to Class 2 of our Inspire Programme for Years 10 & 11: you’ll find the new class at the Year 11 webpage. In the previous class, we learned about evolution as a driver of biological change. But other kinds of change function in quite similar ways, and today we…

Year 10 Class 5: Competition results

We’re delighted to announce the winners of the first set of Pre-GCSE Inspire competitions for 2021! Class 5, Evolution and Volcanoes in review, was a little different from previous classes: we looked back at some of the topics we’ve covered over our last two themes stretching back to the summer school – ‘What is the…

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.

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.

St John’s Inspire Programme for Years 10 & 11: Class 1

Dear Year 10 and 11 pupils, We hope you’ve had a wonderful holiday season and New Year’s! We’re excited to welcome you back to the Year 10 and 11 Inspire Programme with the first class materials. Today we are excited to release the first class materials for our Year 10 and 11 Inspire Programme. This…


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.

Sex and evolution

What role does sexual reproduction play in evolution? In this article, we will consider how recombination and genetic variation drive evolution.

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?

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!

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.

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.


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?

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?

Inspire Year 10 and 11 Launch

St John’s College, as part of Oxford for South East, is excited to announce the Year 10 and 11 Inspire Programme for 2020-21!

Year 10 Class 1: Competition results

We’re delighted to announce the winners of this year’s first Pre-GCSE Inspire competitions! Click here to explore the fantastic entries we received…

Access and Admissions – summer update

Despite the suspension of all face-to-face access and admissions activity at St John’s in March 2020, the Access and Admissions team has continued to work hard throughout the lockdown, providing information, advice and dedicated digital resources to students and teachers across the UK.

Inspire Virtual Summer Schools in review

Following last week’s Virtual Summer Schools on the Inspire Programme, we are excited to announce the winners of last week’s Year 9 and Year 12 competitions!

Biodiversity and Conservation for Year 9, Day 1

There is a huge variety of wildlife found locally, in our gardens and local green spaces. It is important to monitor this diversity, to see whether it changes seasonally, or over time as our green spaces in Britain become more urbanised.