Orphan X By Gregg Hurwitz | Florence G

“Do you need my help?”

It was the first question he asked. They called when they had nowhere else to turn.

The Nowhere Man is a legendary figure spoken about only in whispers. It’s said that when he’s reached by the truly desperate and deserving, the Nowhere Man can and will do anything to protect and save them.

But he’s no legend.

Evan Smoak is a man with skills, resources, and a personal mission to help those with nowhere else to turn. He’s also a man with a dangerous past. Chosen as a child, he was raised and trained as part of the governments Orphan program, designed to create the perfect deniable intelligence assets— assassins. He was Orphan X. Evan broke with the program, using everything he learned to disappear.

Now, however, someone is on his tail. Someone with similar skills and training. Someone who knows Orphan X. Someone who is getting closer and closer. And will exploit Evan’s weakness—his work as The Nowhere Man—to find him and eliminate him.

Evan’s training, unlike that of the other Orphans, left his deep seated moral code intact. He carries guilt and remorse with him everywhere, as well as his conscience. He’s one of the good guys, but don’t get on his bad side. His humanity is evident, but he still strictly adheres to the rules instilled within him by his handler- Jack- a man who was more like a father to him.

Still, Evan’s personality is muted, as he fiercely controls all his emotions. The secondary characters provide the dramatic dialogue, while Evan internalizes and reminds himself of how to respond to complex situations. There is no reliance on gimmicks, no slick polish or shine, the dialogue is sparse, to the point, without a lot of time spent on descriptive text. The story moves at an incredibly swift pace, formatted almost like long form vignettes. It has a unique presentation but that helps to create a tense, suspenseful atmosphere, adding just the right amount of poignancy to the story, allowing one to fall under Evan’s spell. One finds oneself cheering him on, developing a connection to him, caring about what may happen to him as he continues his lonely journey.

Orphan X hits all of the right notes – fantastic action, more than a few twists, some excellent character development, and some pretty cool gadgetry. In lesser hands, Evan could have been turned into a stereotypical assassin-with-a-heart, but Gregg Hurwitz gave him a lot of complexity, which made him all the more fascinating.

It’s a book filled with plot, action, terror, blood and guts.

“I do.” A man’s desperate voice. “Dios mio, I do more than anything. Is it true? Is it true that you can help me?”

Image Link: https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/A1Nk2UrPPWL.jpg (16/04/21)

Seeing the Unseen – Mathematics, a hidden spectrum of beauty | Naomi W

Mathematics is intrinsically beautiful. It is an eye through which we can view the elegance in organic natural phenomena. Even the seemingly random motion of particles can be modelled as complex interactions of mechanical formulae. We can explore new worlds which don’t even exist in the physical such as the fourth and fifth dimensions; seeing the patterns formed by colours invisible to the human eye and even calculating with imaginary numbers. Classifying mathematics as a science has long been accepted as standard practice but I would argue that maths has much more in common with the arts than with the sciences. Interestingly, I would not be alone. Richard Brown, a Pure Mathematics Professor, in his Tedx talk entitled Why Mathematics? argued convincingly that Mathematics is “not a science at all” but “perhaps it is an art” instead.

Firstly, he dispelled the theory of maths as a science by stating simply that, unlike science, Mathematics does not try to describe or explain the real world, and it is not about experimentation. This in fact links to one of my favourite qualities of mathematics, which is that, although it is always growing and developing it is almost never contradictory and new discoveries do not displace ancient theorems. Cutting edge research is just as relevant to modern mathematics as the papers written hundreds of years ago by geniuses like Einstein and Newton. Maths never dies! This is the opposite of scientific progress which is all about forming new conclusions based on the observation of patterns and trends within experimental data. Often new scientific theories disprove previously accepted ideas. Maths is a tool used by science but it is not itself a scientific discipline.

Richard Brown then goes on to suggest that Mathematics is more comparable to an art form. Its paralleled most profoundly with music. In his talk Prof. Brown references Paul Locker, author of an essay entitled The Mathematician’s Lament who wrote passionately of the appalling way in which maths is taught within the education system of today. He claimed that if we taught music in the way in which currently teach mathematics then throughout primary and KS3 we would spend our days learning scales and we would not hear any music at all until GCSE/A-Level. It wouldn’t be until university and beyond that we would actually be encouraged to hum a tune or create any music for ourselves as this is akin to research.

“Mathematics is the music of reason”

Paul Locker

Richard Brown goes on to expand on this view, pointing out that both Mathematics and Music are governed by a rigid set of strict rules and conventions which have to be obeyed, but both disciplines also exhibit infinite creativity.

He continues to expand on his analogy by demonstrating that mathematical theorems, in the same way as compositions in music, have a “very well defined, very refined sense of value” an “aesthetic quality” from which they cannot be separated. This I know to be true, as a maths student it is not enough to simply understand how to apply mathematics, but instead I desire to understand where the equations come from and how they fit into the complex structure of mathematics.

Prof. Brown refers to the highly acclaimed eccentric mathematician Paul Erdos who had a unique yet beautiful view of mathematics’ value.

‘Paul Erdos has a theory that God has a book containing all the theorems of mathematics with their absolutely most beautiful proofs and when he wants to express particular appreciation of the proof, he exclaims “This is from the book!” ’

Ross Honsberger

Interestingly, in my own research I found that Paul Erdos also compares mathematics to music, when asked why numbers are beautiful he responded: “It’s like asking why Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony is beautiful. If you don’t see why, someone can’t tell you. I know numbers are beautiful. If they aren’t beautiful, nothing is” However further on in Richard Brown’s talk he went on to explain that unlike music you have to be mathematically literate to appreciate maths, whereas anyone who can hear music can form an opinion about its value. Because as he puts it, unlike music, in mathematics “nothing we create is real … it only lives in the collective consciousness of everyone who has ever thought about mathematics”. It can only be communicated through a “brain to brain connection, imagination to imagination”.

I would like to conclude by comparing this to the electromagnetic spectrum. We live within the limitations of our visibility so we can only see a tiny fragment of the spectrum from red through to violet but either side of these colours is an invisible spectrum of beauty which we will never fully understand, but which, using UV and infrared cameras, we can translate this into something visible to the human eye. In the same way, we encounter just a small amount of mathematical phenomena in the real world but we can never truly represent mathematics in the physical. However we can use the language of mathematics to see the invisible beauty of the ever expanding spectrum that mathematicians dedicate their lives to exploring.

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5 Inspirational Environmentalists | Eco Team

Marina Silva

Silva is a Brazilian politician. She worked closely with Chico Mendes to lead demonstrations against deforestation in the Amazon rainforest. She also helped build environmental programmes to keep protecting the rainforest sustainably whilst supporting the people. In 1996 she was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize and in 2007 named a ‘Champion of the Earth’ by the UN’s Environment programme. Over her time in politics, she has served as Minister for the Environment from 2003-2008 and has run for president of Brazil twice, in both 2014 and 2018, although she took up the role of running for president in 2014 after the candidate Eduardo Campos died in a plane crash during the campaign. She is inspiring for her work in protecting the rainforest and fighting for it on a political level.

Sir David Attenborough

One cannot have a list of inspiring environmentalists without including Sir David Attenborough. He has brought environmental issues to the people, with Blue Planet II (narrated by him) being the most watched programme of 2017, bringing in 14 million UK viewers in the first episode. He has also been a major figure in the BBC, being the director of television programming from 1968-72. He began to write and narrate programmes on natural history from 1979 when the notable Life series began. He was knighted in 1985.

Dr Vandana Shiva

Shiva is an Indian environmentalist and scholar. She has been prominent with her views on many social issues. In 1982 she founded the Research Foundation for Science, Technology, and Natural Resource Policy, which is dedicated to developing sustainable methods of agriculture. Shiva has also supported and founded many environmental campaigns, mostly centred around farming. She now advises many governments across the world, currently working with the Government of Bhutan to make it 100% organic.

Leonardo DiCaprio

Although known mainly for his work as an actor, Leonardo DiCaprio is also a prominent environmentalist, setting up the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation in 1998. It has funded over 200 projects helping to combat global climate change and other environmental issues, one being the California Program supporting schemes on a local level to promote sustainability. It has awarded $100 million in grants. It has also worked closely to help support indigenous rights to defend their territory and put renewable energy solutions in place. DiCaprio himself has spoken at the United Nations at their climate summits and plays a key role in promoting environmental issues.

Dr Heather Koldewey

Dr Heather Koldewey is a conservation scientist working for the Zoological Society of London. She began in 1995 as a research scientist and has since been the curator of the ZSL London Zoo Aquarium and is now Head of Marine and Freshwater Conservation Programmes. Koldewey works to protect endangered marine species particularly seahorses. She co-founded Project Seahorse in 1996 and is a leading authority on seahorse conservation. She has also worked on many other programmes both practical work and raising awareness of marine conservation.

Image Link: https://static01.nyt.com/images/2020/10/02/arts/david1/merlin_177964626_bf6d5d2b-0c70-433b-86b7-463d4135d68c-mobileMasterAt3x.jpg (10/04/21)

You Don’t Have to be Fearless | Rukaiya S

Help me feel at home. In a world where I am a stranger. At home. Relaxed. At ease in my mind, help me feel at peace. In a world where I am a traveller. A plane in the sky, help me feel free. In a world where I am an angel. Help me stay alive. In a place where I am able, help me. Gain power, a tycoon in a tower, help. Me stretch my knowledge, help me. In a fairground where I am an adult. Help me find my ride, in the sea. Where I am drowning, help. My mind, in a mixture, a confusion. Help me in a plan. In a time. Help. My tears. The help. Me in. Where I. No not. In a flame. Burning. Burning. Burnt in a world. Where I am alone.
Help me feel at home.

For I Am Fearless | Jess G

A trail of sins chained to me, 
I search for thee in my call to repent, 
Towards the chapel - my hand the key 
To inner awareness I’ve ascent. 
What lies ahead in the unknown abyss, 
Apprehension drawn from my body as I am blessed, 
I look to you - am I ready for this? 
You urge me to follow and continue the quest 

For father, thou art my saviour, 
Through times of uncertainty, secure as monarch to throne 
And like a soldier decorated in armour, 
You’ll fight for my freedom until your gravestone.  
In your presence I am fearless, 
For I know I may be weak - yet you make me strong 
As even through times of loss or illness, 
You shelter me from the storm and empower me to belong. 
Eternally you are by my side, 
Every hidden sacrifice, 
Through it all you stride bravely and guide 
Me to safer shores that thou deem shall suffice. 
	 'He will never leave you, nor forsake you’ 
As true as deuteronomy speaks 
‘do not be afraid; do not be discouraged’ 
For he shall protect those that seek. 
In your presence I am fearless, 
For through all weathers I have known 
I am not alone in the vast orbiting stillness, 
as thou shall nurture and teach me until I am grown. 
Each year I light a candle to your ascension 
And closely watch the warmth of the flame fill the room, 
Its body’s lively allegro catching attention 
Alike the risen from the tomb. 
After eighteen years I vow to thee, 
From my family one is now parted 
For you loosened the chains guiding me, 
Now I shall disembark courageous and stout-hearted. 
In your presence I am fearless, 
Yet in your absence thou art still with me 
For in every step I see your faithfulness 
And know it is time to be set free.  
In your presence I am fearless, 
For through the years you have taught your vower. 
In your absence I shall be fearless, 
For you have given me a spirit of power. 

Grief Carries Bluebells in his Pocket | Holly B

The snow falls like an afterthought.
Church shoes struggle for grip on frozen ground and
Crimson lips stand bold against ashen faces.
Grief has donned a thick black coat and a pair of red rimmed eyes.
He takes his place among the mourners,
Standing to attention in the slow procession.
The air around him tastes like ashes.
Chapped fingers curl inside thin gloves,
A memory falls loose from their grip.
The battered black box is a weight on grieving shoulders.
New hands will take this from them,
Pushing back the veil of winter
And seal with a summer’s kiss.
The bell will toll.
The casket carried, the burden buried.
Weak sun will wash the tear stains from their faces.
And soon,
There will be nothing left of the one they buried
‘Side the bluebells that grow at his feet.

Image Link: https://64.media.tumblr.com/7ab385895f5d706e017e9a8c22b06a79/82aa4a32a4c82493-bb/s1280x1920/c72d2b8268be5aa190aced6ae09f6890de8cd1db.png (03/04/21)

New Beginnings, An Interview with Mrs H-T | By Jess C-J and Lexy D

An interview with Mrs H-T on starting a new job in an new environment.

What made you first become interested in Chemistry?

I was quite good at it in secondary school and I found it quite easy. I also like Games, but when it came to A levels I didn’t have a choice for Games or PE or any of that. So I picked Chemistry, Biology and Maths and just stuck with it because I’ve always found it reasonably straight forward.

What is it like starting somewhere new where you don’t know anyone?

Pretty awful! I was at my previous school for 10 years, so I was the kind of person that people would come to when they were new. To answer questions like, “Where do you get your photocopying done?”’ or “Who does this?” and “What’s that?” I had moments of complete doubt of what I was doing, why was I starting somewhere new and it’s stupid little things, not how to teach or how to do the important bits of my job, but it’s how to get photocopying done or what do I do if this happens. It’s just really quite scary, but after about 3 weeks it didn’t matter. It was all perfect.

How easy is it to adapt when you come to a new school?

Schools are all the same. Well, there’s little intricacies that are different, but effectively schools are all the same: people come in, they learn, they go. So once you’ve got the basics of that, it’s quite straightforward and, yes, I would say within the first month I felt a lot more settled. When we had our first staff meeting we were asked for anecdotes about what made us feel happy and what made me feel happy was that it felt like I’d been here forever — in a good way. I was settled, I was happy. Every day is a learning day, so every day I find out something new, but I would say within a month it was quite easy to be settled.

‘I feel like I’ve been here forever – but in a good way’

Mrs H-T

Do you think it’s harder to contribute ideas when you are newer than other people?

It goes both ways, really. I am quite happy to contribute ideas, but that all comes from being comfortable in my environment. I think if I was having a different year and I was still wary about what was going on or who’s who, I probably wouldn’t contribute as many ideas and I definitely wouldn’t start an equestrian club! I think because the school has helped me settle so quickly it’s just been quite easy.

What is the best thing about the High School?

Well, there’s lots of best things. I think it’s the atmosphere because everybody wants to learn and it’s not just the girls that want to learn, the teachers want to learn how to be better teachers to make the girls learn better. I think it’s just that everybody works together as one big team. Even if you’ve had a little bit of a falling out with somebody, it’s fixed, you move on. It’s great. So I think the atmosphere is the best thing.

Do you have any advice for students that are about to start university or get a job next year?

This school is very good for preparing you for the future but not scaring you. I think my best piece of advice if I was going to leave and go off to university is to do everything that you want to do but challenge yourself at the same time. Don’t just sit back and do something because it’s easy; don’t sit back because it might be fun; do it as a challenge. Do it because you want to, but get it all done and dusted and out of the way so when you know what you want to do for the rest of your life you can get on and do it.

Finally, what is the best thing about chemistry?

The best thing about chemistry has to be that it’s a practical subject and it’s indoors where it’s warm. My other choice was teaching PE where it’s cold! So you can do lots of practicals and even if you don’t like it you’ll find an aspect about it that you do because it’s vast and clearly is the best science!

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“The Night Circus” by Erin Morgenstern | By Florence G

The Circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it… It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.

Two magicians of indefinite but certainly magically long lifespan – one a public performer named Prospero the Enchanter, aka Hector Bowen; the other known only as ‘the man in the grey suit’ or ‘Mr. A. H—’ – are engaged in a profound rivalry, played out over many generations by appointed pupils. In the late 19th century, Bowen elects his six-year-old daughter Celia, while his counterpart chooses a nameless nine-year-old orphan who will be called Marco Alisdair. These two are bound into a lifelong challenge, the rules and limits of which are never fully explained to them; and for years they do not know their opponents.

There is one thing the opponents do know: they must choose a venue for their part of the game to take place. And that is The Night Circus. Also known as ‘Le Cirque des Reves’ the Night Circus is a place of magic and imagination. All the tents are black and white, all the performers wear black and white and yet nothing is the same. Each tent transports you to somewhere else and each is more confounding than the last. It is as magical as its characters and will bind you to it’s world forever. All its performers have something to hide.

The Night Circus is a dazzling and enchanting novel that you will not easily forget and nor should because it is truly amazing.

The book was first published in 2011 by Erin Morgenstern. It was Erin Morgenstern’s first big hit as a writer and she herself describes her writing as ‘a fairy-tale in one way or another’.

The only response that really sums up the novel is ‘wow’. It is so rich in description and intrigue, making you hunger for every word and where the book will take you next. It is a breathtaking feat of imagination that creates a strikingly beautiful world, in spite of its occasional darkness.

I recommend this book for anyone over the age of 12. It is a book for everyone and anyone; it will leave you spellbound.

Image Link: https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/815D5sneiNL.jpg (28/03/21)

Women in 1200-1900 | By Lexy D

In this essay, we will be looking at the way the role of women has changed between the 13th century and the 20th century. We will be looking at three areas: behaviour and expectations, work and money and leisure activities. In each section, we will first look at the 13th century and then compare it to the 18th-20th centuries. Finally, we will summarise whether things improved for women or not in the 700 years we will be looking at.

The behaviour and expectations held against women, in my opinion, have not changed all that much. For example: in both 1200 and 1900 women were expected to do all the tedious, unwanted and dangerous jobs in factories, fields or at home. They were expected to clean, look after the children and keep an eye on the servants. In 1200, they had to behave how their husbands wanted them to behave, and if they didn’t behave well their husband could sell them, beat them or even use a scold’s bridle. In 1900, it was slightly better, but not by much. Girls were finally allowed to go to school, but women’s jobs did not improve.

Money for women, as with all their other possessions, was actually owned by their husbands or fathers. They worked in very simple, repetitive jobs that men did not want to do. They were therefore required to have very little skill. Even if they managed to do jobs that the men would do, they would be paid substantially less than them. All the work was some kind of manual labour, such as farming. Once they were married, they would normally become a housewife. Here, they would have to look after children and their husbands, and they would also have to do all the cleaning in the house. If they managed to get a bit of spare time in amongst all the housework, they would be expected to either do spinning or sewing; still manual labour that was required to help them live.

Throughout the next few hundred years, things didn’t get much better for women in the workplace. In fact, the conditions of their jobs were actually getting worse and were gradually becoming more dangerous. They were still given the tedious jobs that men didn’t want to do and it was always manual labour. Even by the 1900s, they still had no financial control and all their hard earned money would automatically belong to their husband or father. The scenery had also changed too; instead of just being housewives, women could now get jobs as farm hands, although few chose this option as they still had to do most of the work a housewife would do anyway.

During the limited spare time of women in the 1200s, they were very restricted on how they could relax. They most wealthy of them would be allowed to go riding and most would be able to visit friends, mainly female, and if they were to visit male friends, it would never be unaccompanied. If their house contained a garden, then they would quite often be found relaxing there, sometimes reading a book, if they were literate. Everyone would have been religious, and therefore religious practices would be allowed, although, as it was something that was expected of all people, not just women, I cannot justly say that it was something done for leisure.

Nothing changed at all in the years before 1900, the only freedom that was given was that women were now allowed to play games of cards, although everything they did, they could only do with fellow women. Things may have got a bit better, but not a lot had changed and women were still greatly underprivileged.

I don’t think that any progress had been made for women between 1200-1900. In fact, in certain areas, I think that the status of women had decreased, although only slightly. By 1900, women were still greatly inferior to men and they were still basically owned by men. Everything they did was controlled by men and they were hardly ever allowed to do anything without a man watching over them. I think this was greatly unfair and I would have expected more progress to have been made in the way of a woman’s rights and status over a period of 700 years.

“L’Intouchables” (2011) dir. Olivier Nakache & Éric Toldeano | Ezri M

An irreverent, uplifting comedy about friendship, trust and human possibility, L’Intouchables has broken box office records in its native France and across Europe. Based on a true story of friendship between a handicap millionaire (Francois Cluzet) and his street-smart ex-con caretaker (Omar Sy), L’Intouchables depicts an unlikely camaraderie rooted in honesty and humour between two individuals who, on the surface, would seem to have nothing in common.

‘The movie is overflowing with wonderful moments’

The screenplay cleverly uses the structure of a romantic comedy to frame the (platonic) friendship between the two very different men, fueled by mutual respect, a love of fast cars, and musical diversity.

L’Intouchables is full of little inspirational moments – the kinds of scenes that remind us how much joy can be found on a screen. Whether it’s Driss and Philippe speeding down the highway while “September” is blaring on the stereo, Driss dancing up a storm at Philippe’s stodgy birthday party, Driss acting as Philippe’s barber, or Driss’ reaction to his first opera, the movie is overflowing with wonderful moments. Humour and drama are well-balanced, things never get too maudlin, but, although there are laughs, this is not a straight-forward comedy. It respects the characters and their situations.

A part I really enjoy is that the film also avoids cluttering up the narrative with too many subplots. There are other things going on beyond the development of the central relationship, but they are kept in the background. This was a good choice by the director, Olivier Nakache. Additionally, the use of a flashback was well chosen and gave a very nostalgic feel to the film.

‘This is not a straight forward comedy’

As is always the case with buddy films/romantic comedies, the actors and their chemistry represent the foundation upon which all else is built. In this case, both leads are winners. They “get” their characters, inhabit them fully, and interact with each other with genuine warmth. These actors deserve praise and recognition for what they accomplish: they are the heart, soul, and funny bone of L’Intouchables. L’Intouchables was a huge hit when it opened in France in November 2011. Not only did it do well at the box office, but it was nominated for nine César Awards, winning one: Omar Sy for Best Actor.

Image Link: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/9/93/The_Intouchables.jpg (20/03/21)