Changes in the Climate Crisis | Mr Earp

On behalf of the Eco Team I have been asked to write a short article exploring the evolving response to the ongoing climate change crisis and in particular to consider if the recent transfer of power within America to the Democrat Joe Biden represents a significant moment of change in the trajectory of our response to this pressing threat.

It is worth beginning by considering the last seemingly significant global change in our climate response, which was represented by the COP21* (Paris 15) climate agreement, at which, with near unanimity the countries of the world committed to meaningful targets to limit future emissions to keep warming below the 2 degree threshold (considered by many scientists to represent the upper boundary between a much more dangerous and unstable amount of global heating and our current, already changing climate); this link is to the IPCC report on Global Warming of 1.5oC. Following so closely on the awful terrorist atrocity perpetrated in the city a short time before the summit, Paris 15 seemed to represent genuine hope for humanity and a path forwards towards a more stable, sustainable future.

However the years that followed have not lived up to the optimistic expectations that arose from Paris 15, most spectacularly with the abrupt withdrawal of the USA from the agreement under the populist President Donald Trump, who cast doubt on climate science, at times referring to climate change as ‘a hoax’ and pursuing policies in opposition to reducing carbon emissions, including removing information relating to climate change from government websites and seeking to boost oil and gas production. Whilst only one country it is undeniable that the US remains one of the most influential countries on the planet; these actions have set a poor example for others to follow and have in part contributed to the lack lustre action and failure to meet targets in many countries; the recent UK decision to open a new coal mine in Cumbria could potentially be seen in this context (although this is to be reviewed).

To gain a global perspective the independent Climate Action Tracker (see link) monitors the progress of individual countries towards meeting their climate goals and at the time of writing their analysis predicted 2.9oC of warming (i.e. well into the more dangerous, potentially ‘runaway’, phase of climate warming). A multitude of other sources paint the picture that too little is being done to meet targets and that the impacts of warming may be more severe than we realised; for example recent findings suggest sea level rise models are insufficiently sensitive and that up to 25cm of extra sea level rise could occur by 2100 (up to 1.30m relative to today, threatening cities such as New York, Shanghai and Bangkok). A further factor to consider is the argument that Paris 15 was too weak in the first place but that is beyond the remit of this article.

However the election of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the USA is seen by many as a hopeful sign that the response to the climate crisis, particularly within America, is about to become more serious; the BBC reported in November that Biden’s proposed environmental policies are the most ambitious in history, pledging to spend 2 trillion dollars in his first four years to cut US emissions, including through home insulation, investment in public transport and incentives to purchase electric cars (BBC News). Whilst election pledges can often be watered down or even abandoned entirely once a candidate takes office the early signs of the Biden era have so far been refreshingly positive; the tone was set on his very first day with the signing of an executive order to rejoin the Paris 15 climate agreement. Subsequent actions have included stopping the leasing of public lands for future oil and gas extraction and promoting an increase in the use of wind energy, the latter helping to create new jobs in the renewables sector. The positive governmental tone has been matched in some influential parts of the private sector, with the world’s biggest investment fund manager, BlackRock, threatening to divest from companies that do not disclose their plans to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 (Guardian).

It is to be hoped that over the coming months further positive progress is to be made, including the setting of more ambitious carbon reduction targets by the US to act both as mitigation for further climate change and as a clear example to other developed nations to take robust action. It is also to be hoped that more longer term environmental actions can be passed into legislation by the US Congress as opposed to presidential executive orders that are much easier to undo by subsequent administrations. However the recent priority given to meaningful environmental actions in the US can for now be welcomed as a positive, hopeful sign that the changes urgently needed are intensifying and that COP26 in Glasgow this November will mark an acceleration of our efforts to tackle the threats of climate change.

Image Link: (26/06/21)

Will the Covid-19 Pandemic Change Human History? | Jodie W

The year 2020 brought unimaginable change to the every-day lives of almost every person on the planet, but it is difficult to know how much of this will eventually impact the future and will genuinely be remembered by those who come after us. At every stage of the pandemic thus far, we have anticipated worsening circumstances but by now, the situation has entirely surpassed most people’s wildest nightmares. For many, the pandemic and the ‘stay at home’ order which came with it have served as a catalyst for positive change, whether that be a matter as simple as making time to exercise more regularly or utilizing our free time to protest for fundamental societal change. Changes have come both on a large scale, with closures of mass retail chains such as Topshop and Debenhams, and on more banal fronts, such as the way in which the ordinary workplace has adjusted to accommodate. The pandemic has also highlighted the rising cruciality of science and technology in our everyday lives which become more and more prevalent as vaccines continue to be rolled out in Great Britain and across the world. Of course as I write this, it is largely hypothetical, but what of this momentous year will people even want to remember? Or would those who lived through it simply rather forget the events altogether?

As a result of Covid-19, society has had to adapt massively. We have had to change our habits, forcing ourselves to recoil away from others in an effort to avoid contamination and this is likely to continue as we fear a continuation of the pandemic. Although many have been disproportionately affected by the measures imposed, such as children living in homes without an internet connection missing out on vital years of education, where society has been divided in many ways, in others it has been united. Everyone has faced some form of difficulty as a result of the disease and although obviously varying in extremity, it is easy to sympathise with one another. Invariably, sharing a common problem is likely to nurture the emergence of a common purpose within society, giving the human race as a whole one polarity of opposition; Covid-19. This has, of course, been seen previously in history too. During the blitz, a 56-day Nazi bombing campaign against the British Isles during the second world war, the cabinet under Winston Churchill witnessed what many described as an ascendance of human good, with British society uniting in an altruistic effort to benefit each and every person, having each experienced the same horrific actions. However when this is reflected on today, this is rarely the focus, instead being the loss of life and destruction which took place, suggesting that whether or not society is able to unite as a result of the pandemic may not truly have a historical significance. Furthermore, although in the past moments of historical significance such as the blitz have united us, this unity is rarely able to be maintained for long periods of time and given the high political tensions which the pandemic has acted as a catalyst to provide, it is unlikely that the unity demonstrated by the ‘clap for carers’ and other similar events around the world will change human history going forward.

On the contrary, there have been mass demonstrations of continual division within society as the news regarding covid-19 eventually blurred for many, leaving room for the promotion of more constructive change. Undoubtedly, George Floyd will be a name for the history books. His tragic death at the hands of three police officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota, was filmed by onlookers and posted online. His death led to countless protests, echoing the chant of ‘Black Lives Matter’ in an effort to raise awareness initially for police brutality but also for the need to eradicate institutionalised racism from our modern day society. This movement spread worldwide thanks to the ease of access improved through technology and social media, prompting the forced removal of the statue of Edward Colston, a known slave trader, in Bristol as well as many other drastic, memorable actions. In the United States, President Trump’s Administration’s mishandling of both these protests and the pandemic as a whole, swayed many voters towards Joe Biden in the November 2020 US Presidential Election, something which will inevitably change human history due to the drastically different policies of each of the respective politicians. The change which so many people have experienced is likely to alter the viewpoints of many individuals, leading to long term changes.

Not only has the income of so many people been jeopardised, along with the fears of an imminent economic recession but the increased time alone has forced so many people to consider who they truly are, what they value. People are now more likely to prioritise what they truly value as the magnitude and speed at which change can occur has become increasingly clear. Therefore, it seems foolish to suggest that the Covid-19 Pandemic will not bring tremendous changes to human history within society.

Furthermore, there have been drastic changes in the way in which education and the workplace will function. There has been a realisation of the necessity of technology in the workplace as almost all university lectures have been moved online with technology being the enabler so that people can work from home as instructed. It is likely that a sense of office camaraderie may become a thing of the past as the necessity to social distance is not possible in many bustling offices, resulting in the need for staggered work-shifts to ensure work spaces do not become overcrowded when not working from home, something which may have seemed unimaginable to many just less than a year ago. However, the opportunity to work from home has been positive for many as there has been a shift in the expectations of employees as they are able to prioritise their responsibilities outside of work, such as childcare, and workplace culture has adjusted to enable employees to be valued more for meeting targets rather than the time which they spend sat at a desk. It will be difficult to deny employees the option of working from home from this point onwards and this is also likely to reduce the number of people looking to commute to their workplace following the relaxation of restrictions. We may even hypothesize that the future will see the eradication of the 9-5 altogether. Although it is impossible to predict how many of these changes will be continued following the return of normality, it is easy to suggest that many of these changes in education and the workplace will be sustained, and although there may be less drastic changes than those within society, the pandemic has acted as a stimulant for changes in human history.

This pandemic has had one crucial difference from those comparable with it which happened in the past, the crucial role of technology. The tools of technology have undoubtedly saved the pandemic from having a worse impact than it may have had in a pre-technological age. Not only has technology played a pivotal role in spreading lockdown messages from governments and of course actually caring for patients ill with the virus, but it has also allowed for many people to authentically offer tools to help people cope with the lockdown measures. For example Joe Wicks, who will be receiving an MBE for his contribution to society through fitness classes which he provided daily through Youtube during the lockdown and Marcus Rashford, who will also be receiving an MBE for his contribution to the campaign against child food poverty, much of which was spread through social media. We have seen a global rise in the ease of access to medicine and doctor’s appointments, and although this has been done due to necessity it appears as though an awful lot of appointments could simply have been an e-mail or a five minute phone call. Technology has brought an unlimited sense of opportunity for change during the pandemic but it is difficult to know how much of these will be acted upon to the extent of truly changing human history or if society will simply wish to return to normality as these technological advancements make change far more gradually. It is certain that without technology, the human history of the pandemic would have been very different.

To conclude, it is evident that the pandemic will bring fundamental changes to our way of life as we move forwards. The Covid-19 pandemic has been the defining global moment of the 21st century so far and given it has had a global impact, the measures which have been put in place in an effort to prevent contamination, and of course the direct impact in terms of illness and death due to the disease itself, will change human history. It is now up to us to decide how it will do so.

Image Link: (22/06/21)

Artificial Intelligence (AI) | Leah T-S

AI is technology which can carry out ‘human’ tasks, such as decision making, visual perception and speech recognition. It is an area that is growing and developing massively, it will be increasingly used in our daily lives.

Loads of fast and interactive algorithms as well as data are developed giving the software the ability to automatically understand and learn from patterns and features in the data without being directly programmed. The AI can therefore have the capability to understand and make decisions from the situation they are in.

Although AI is on the path to reaching the out of reach science-fiction ideas of having robots which reflect human activity. There are still lots challenges that need to be overcome for us to reach these goals. For example, all the AI that we have in our daily lives are specialized with the software having a very specific function. This means that a system that will play chess would be unable to play poker. Therefore, AI is far from being a representation or replica of humans because our brains can do an unimaginable number of different things in a day, compared to the one task that the current AI is able to do. For AI to overcome this challenge a great number of algorithms would have to be developed for every single situation that we encounter. This is nearly impossible to develop.

So, why is AI important if the current software is unable to replicate the way we think? AI achieves incredible accuracy through deep neural networks. This was never previously possible, showing that developing AI is worth while, as it is successful and extremely useful. The accuracy has improved due to deep learning. This is a technique that analyzes the data more thoroughly using neural networks that have many hidden layers. The deep learning models learn directly from the data, so the more data you feed them the more accurate they become. Due to this great accuracy, AI techniques can now be used to find cancer on MRIs with the same accuracy as highly trained radiologists. This shows that AI is becoming increasingly helpful and important for us.

Every industry has a high demand for AI capabilities due to it’s amazing qualities. For example, question answering systems that can be used for legal assistance, patent searches, risk notification and medical research are areas that especially need support from AI software. Some industries where AI is used now include:

  • Health care– personalized medicine and X-ray readings can be provided through AI. Also, personal health care assistants will encourage patients to exercise, eat healthier and remind them to take any pills. The AI software can act as life coaches for many patients and help them through any recoveries.
  • Manufacturing– a specific type of deep learning network used with sequence data, called recurrent networks, can be used in manufacturing. These forecast the expected load and demand by analyzing factory IoT data as it streams from connected equipment.
  • Retail– AI can provide virtual shopping capabilities which are able to give personalized recommendations and discuss purchase options with the customer, making the experience effortless and more enjoyable with the extra help. Furthermore, AI can improve stock management and set layout technologies in retail (for example Specsavers framestyler app)
  • Sports– AI can capture images of game play and analyze data to provide coaches with reports on how to set out and organize the game better. This includes optimizing field positions and strategy.

The possibilities of AI gone on and on, but it is not going to take over humanity and leave us jobless anytime soon. AI is purely used to elevate and improve our tasks and routines and support us in many different ways. Therefore, robots ruling over us is not a reality that we are going to face.Overall, AI is there to support all of us and provide human-like interactions. They are not there as a replacement for humans, but instead it is software which can make decisions and carry out tasks in a human like way, due to the many algorithms and the deep learning techniques used. Although there are challenges which we need to be overcome, the technology is still developing and changing our lives in unbelievable ways.

Image Link: (24/04/21)

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.

Image Link: (16/04/21)

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: (10/04/21)

Top 10 Inventions of 2017 | Eeman Y and Olivia R

“New year, new me!” This is the usual cringeworthy saying to explain and show the beginning of a new era, a fresh start, the turning over of a new leaf, the next chapter of a book or, in this case, the latest technologies. We have what, we think, are the Top Ten Inventions of 2017! Let’s go…

10. Nintendo Switch

First off on our list we have as Number 10 the Nintendo Switch. This gadget would likely be more popular with the younger generations, although anyone is free to use it. Originally the device was made to be used as an easily transportable video game, complete with two consoles able to allow multi-player games. It’s extremely handy and entertaining on long, dull car rides or for just relaxing at home on your couch.

9. DJI Spark

Next, at Number 9 is the DJI Spark, which definitely will be lesser known to the public, but is just the company’s name for an airborne drone. It’s mostly used for taking artistic photos and images, but could similarly be used for making maps of a landscape; or, more seriously, for search and rescue missions. This clever design would help the authorities in scanning a large surface area more easily, more quickly and more efficiently as well! So, as well as being an ordinary tool for future photographers or filmmakers, it saves lives on a daily basis too.

8. Tasty One Top

For Number 8, we thought that the Tasty One Top was a pretty good fit! The Tasty One Top is a beneficial, smart device which can change its temperature when you are cooking so you can avoid getting things wrong when you guess. It will even tell you when your meal is ready or if you need to give it a stir, for example. As a nation, we are obsessed with finding new ways to create meals that are both edible, delicious and really healthy and good for you! Maybe more devices will follow after this one that will help us to be original with dishes that are low in fat.

7. Molekule

Coming up is our Number 7 … Molekule. The device purifies the air and can help those who have breathing difficulties or just want to breathe clean and fresh air. It can be particularly beneficial for people who live in larger cities such as London or New York, especially when pollution is a more significant and a bigger problem in these more populated cities. Perhaps this device could help combat our difficult situation with global warming?

6. Nike Pro Hijab

At Number 6 we have the Nike Pro Hijab. This specific sportswear encourages and helps women who choose to wear a hijab to participate in more sports and feel comfortable enough when they are doing sport, making sure it is appropriate for the religion. It is all one piece and made out of a wicking fabric. It isn’t overly expensive or hard to find and it could assist women that enjoy sports activities to proudly join in those games.

5. Bempu

Now, as Number 5, there is…Bempu! This neat device helps new mothers and fathers in developing countries to tell when their newborn is getting too cold to prevent them from getting hypothermia and can also warn of overheating. We find it mind-blowing that a small, simple device can stop death rates from increasing every year. Bempu uses an improved thermometer to monitor the baby’s temperature and, when they get too hot or cold, the wrist band flashes, alerting the parents to it straight away. This means that in developing countries, more children will live to adulthood.

4. NASA Mars Insight

On the slightly more technical side for Number 4 we have chosen the NASA Mars Insight. This module is made to help us find out if there really is life on Mars by taking important readings and scans of the planet. Other NASA modules have always brought back detailed and stunning photos, maybe this one will bring us one step closer to answering the question: is there life out there?

3. iPhone X

The Number 3 is, of course, the iPhone X! This device is packed full of tech, you can even turn yourself into a talking emoji. It was officially released on 3 November 2017, around two months after the previous iPhone 8 came out. Although expensive, the iPhone X has lived up to all the expectations that the other phones had brought with them. It’s handy for simple everyday tasks and can be quite entertaining to discover all the new tools.

2. Fenty Beauty

And second to last in Number 2 is … Fenty Beauty. The inventor of this cosmetics line – Robyn Rihanna Fenty, a singer, songwriter and actress – created this company to enable women of colour to buy makeup products that match and complements their skin tone perfectly. Because everyone knows that when you don’t have a foundation that matches your skin … then the whole look is basically ruined!

1. Fidget Spinner

To end this list we have chosen the FIDGET SPINNER as Number 1! We thought it should especially be here as it was a massive craze in 2017. Although it was not actually invented that year (it was originally created by Catherine Hettinger in the 1980s) it was brought back by Scott McCoskery. The fidget spinner was originally used to allow children to fidget or do something with their hands, helping with autism and ADHD.

Image Link: (05/03/21)

Eco Info | Charlotte F-S

The Amazon rainforest stretches over 7,000,000 km ² of land. It has unparalleled levels of biodiversity. One in 10 species on the planet can be found in the Amazon rainforest. To date, at least 40,000 plants, 2,200 fish, 1,294 birds, 427 mammals, 428 amphibians, and 378 reptile species have been specifically classified in the region. However, the Amazon is being destroyed at a rate of 150 acres a minute every minute every day. This is to make space for farm land, more specifically cattle farming, which not only decreases biodiversity due to loss of habitat, and potentially extinction, but increases methane emissions.

Ecologist Tip: Try to reduce eating red meat, more specifically beef. But if you are eating beef, make sure it comes from sustainably-run British beef farms.

Ecologist Tip: Have a go at making an eco brick. Fill a plastic water bottle with any plastic litter and use it for craft projects, or as a way of measuring how much litter you produce, or donate them to projects using eco bricks for construction.

Image Link: (13/02/21)

Why do we age over time? | by Sarah

Recently, Hilda Clulow passed away at a great age of 111, she was the UK’s oldest person. She was born on 15th March 1908 and witnessed momentous events including the discovery of antibiotics, the moon landing and the release of the first iPhone. It is unlikely that many of us will live to this great age, as the average life expectancy in the UK is only 80 years old, which is 31years less than Mrs Clulow’s record age.

Why even with improvements in medicine, is this? This is one of the unanswered quest ions of modern science. We still do not have a conclusive reason why with the passage of time our bodies age. Scientists have come up with many theories why our bodies biologically age, however, the common theory is that it is a combination of factors and not linked to one single cause.

One theory states that over time as our cells divide mutations accumulate and this accumulation can cause problems for the human body. On average, a human cell will divide between 50-70 times before cell death. There are trillions in our body so it is likely that some cells will not replicate correctly leading to mutations in our cells. Mutations in cells can also be caused by mutagens, for example, ultraviolet radiation. Most of the time, the mutations are harmless and DNA repair mechanisms fix the damage, but errors can slip through as we age. Ageing has been linked to the deterioration of these DNA repair mechanisms. This deterioration allows for permanent errors to become more common as we grow older. If the cell with mutated DNA is not corrected then, they can pose a health risk, for example, tumour cells contain a mutation which affects the cell’s genes which control cell division causing them to divide uncontrollably. This risk increases as we age due to the deterioration of the DNA repair mechanisms.

If a cell’s DNA becomes too damaged it will enter apoptosis where the cell dies at a programmed rate or the cell will become senescent. Senescence is a process where the cells kill themselves or become nonreplicating and become dormant.

However, it has been suggested that an accumulation of these cells can speed up cell ageing by releasing inflammatory cytokines (small proteins that are important in cell signalling). This is thought to contribute to atherosclerosis, a disease in which plaque builds up inside your arteries, and other ageing-related diseases. This theory states that ageing is directly affected by the damage to cells over time during division.

Another theory was developed in the 1950s by Denham Harman. It is known as the free-radical theory of ageing and states that ageing is caused by the accumulation of damage inflicted by reactive oxygen species (ROS). ROS is produced in all aerobic cells and is formed from products of oxygen. It can be beneficial to organisms as cell regulators, but in high doses, they become cytotoxic, often leading to cell death. Our cells’ levels of free radical damage increase with age and this has been linked to an increase of ROS over time. The free radical theory may also be used to explain many of the structural features that develop with ageing including DNA damage and a decline in mitochondrial function.

However, in the 1990s, scientists studying model organisms observed phenomena that contradicted the free radical theory. They showed that the enzymes that block the product ion of ROS didn’t extend the lifespan of mice. They found in worms, stressing the mitochondria at a certain stage of development actually increased life span. So we are still unsure whether this theory serves as an explanation to the main reason why we age or is just another factor of ageing.

A final theory states that ageing is due to an accumulation of our cells which lose the ability to replicate correctly. Our DNA strands become slightly shorter each time a chromosome replicates itself. Telomeres help prevent genes from being lost in this process but this means that as your chromosomes replicate, your telomeres shorten. An enzyme called telomerase helps prevent too much damage to your cells. This includes shortening of your telomeres. Telomerase does this by adding additional telomere sequences to the ends of your chromosomes. However, telomerase is only found in certain cells so most cell types in your body don’t have telomerase. This means that most of your telomeres continue to get shorter over time so the DNA polymerase cannot fully replicate the ends of chromosomes in most cells. If the telomeres shrink too much or are damaged, cells enter senescence. This slows the body’s ability to renew itself. Telomere damage has clear effects on ageing. Mice with short telomeres have diminished life spans and reduced stem-cell and organ function, while mice whose telomerase is enhanced in adulthood age more slowly. In humans, mutated telomerase is associated with disorders involving organ dysfunction and elevated cancer risk.

Yet even with all these theories we still have not got an answer exactly why these factors occur and how they function together. Maybe in the future, we will have conclusive proof of why, over time, our body ages, but will that take a couple of years or a couple of lifetimes to find. I guess we will have to wait and see what momentous events we will witness.

What’s inside a black hole? | by Lexy

Black holes were first theorised by John Michell in 1783. He named them ‘Dark Stars’. At that time, it was a common belief that light was made up of particles which reacted to gravity. Michell believed that these so called ‘dark stars’ were very large stars with a very strong gravitational field, so strong that no particles could leave, including light particles. This meant that ‘dark stars’ would be invisible to the human eye.

Progress was not made on the theory of black holes and dark stars until the 1900s, when Albert Einstein started work on his theory of general relativity. His theory stated that space and time were different directions in ‘space-time’. This was then bent, creating black holes.

The current theory of black holes came from John Wheeler in 1967. They originate as stars, formed when stars begin to die, cooling and shrinking, increasing in density, until it becomes a concentrated mass that bends space-time, punching a bottomless hole through it. The smaller and more dense the mass, the stronger it’s gravitational pull, eventually even light cannot escape. The Event Horizon is a point where the gravity is just strong enough to drag light backwards. Past this boundary, light can escape, meaning we can see up to, but not beyond, this point. Nothing can travel faster than light, so if light cannot escape the black hole, nothing else can. However, if you are beyond the event horizon, it is possible to resist the gravitational pull, albeit with great difficulty.

The stark lack of light is just as eye catching as a bright light. A black hole appears as a black void, in which nothing can be seen, not even a slight outline. Space is always lit up by stars, and so a sudden gap in light is noticeable.

The size of a black hole relates to how much matter is in it. A larger black hole contains more matter. Due to the uncertainty relation, a concept imagined by Werner Heisenberg in 1923, some particles are able to escape from a black hole, despite the fact that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light. The uncertainty relation means that with sub-atomic, and atomic sized objects, such as the particles in black holes, it is impossible to tell more than one aspect of its movement accurately. If the exact location of a particle is known, the exact speed cannot be known and vice versa.

In smaller black holes, the location is known, so the speed can only be estimated, and varies to a certain degree. This then makes it possible for particles to move just over the speed of light, despite what anyone’s ever been told about light being that fastest thing to ever move. Anything moving over the speed of light has the ability to ‘outrun’ the gravity that is pulling it back into the hole, meaning it can escape past the event horizon. Inside a black hole, the most popular theory is of a singularity. The remains of the dead star, once it has finally stopped shrinking. Atoms, in their common state, are mainly empty space.The gravity in a dying star becomes so strong that it causes these atoms to collapse on themselves, leaving no space, either between that atoms and within the atoms. This is the densest an object can ever become, and since the atoms no longer exist as atoms due to them losing their atomic structure, the singularity has no specific material or chemical elements.

It has been theorised, that in seeing the singularity, it would be possible to avoid hitting it and being compressed to become part of it. In simpler words, it would be possible to avoid being squashed to death. Instead, one could almost swim past it, falling through a wormhole. These are disturbances in the fabric of space-time. By falling through one, you would end up in another area of space-time; a different place, a different time, or both.

Some original uses of black holes appeared in fiction writing long before the idea had been properly investigated by scientists. To start with, they were imagined as ‘monsters’, the villains in a story that would consume anything near it. They may also travel through space, eating anything in it’s way. They were ‘vacuum cleaners for the universe’, often sucking up nearby stars and planets, and the occasional unlucky astronaut or space-explorer.

Later, they were adapted into wormholes, used as portals for people to travel between different places, galaxies and sometimes even universes. Being able to travel faster than light became a common occurrence, with both dystopian and utopian novels using wormholes as the futuristic method of transport. Sometimes, characters would appear in unpredicted places, however star-gates were also made, where each wormhole had a partner that linked to each other, much like a doorway between different sides of the universe.

They were also used as a method for people to travel in time, being able to see the future and travel to the past. This attribute could be used for both good and bad characters, used to fix the future or to change the past.

Featured image: By Event Horizon Telescope – (image link) The highest-quality image (7416×4320 pixels, TIF, 16-bit, 180 Mb), ESO Article, ESO TIF, CC BY 4.0,