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: https://www.genengnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/AI_Getty-1179477351-scaled-e1611778221405.jpg (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: https://www.theparisreview.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/istock-512102071.jpg (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: https://static01.nyt.com/images/2020/10/02/arts/david1/merlin_177964626_bf6d5d2b-0c70-433b-86b7-463d4135d68c-mobileMasterAt3x.jpg (10/04/21)

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!

Image Link: https://www.nunii-laboratoire.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/shutterstock_1241820865.jpg (03/04/21)

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 – https://www.eso.org/public/images/eso1907a/ (image link) The highest-quality image (7416×4320 pixels, TIF, 16-bit, 180 Mb), ESO Article, ESO TIF, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=77925953

Café-Sci with Dr David Howard | by Eeman

On Thursday 5 October 2017, Dr David Howard delivered a motivational speech to the students and family of Northampton High School about the never-ending opportunities in Science, Medicine and Surgery for girls.

If I had to describe this talk in one word, it would be…inspiring. Howard’s modern views on the futures of women in S(science) T(technology) E(engineering) M(math) subjects have revolutionised the thinking of men across the world, and his colleagues as well I’m sure!

“Medicine is not a job, it’s a vocation”

Dr David Howard, Imperial College London

Dr David Howard, Professor of Head and Neck Oncology at Imperial College of London. Most commonly known for his works in countries such as Ghana; or the extensive and detailed research on top of Mount Everest with a unit of his professors, scientists and geniuses which, by the way, is truly fascinating to hear about. Not to mention, Dr Howard performed the big surgery on the Stephen Hawking! An iconic scientist and hero for people all around the world.

He opened his lecture with an anecdote about his wife, an incredibly successful and well-respected female figure in the science world, Dr Rosemary Baker- naming her his “greatest influence” along with Dr Rosemary Franklin who unfortunately died in 1968. In my opinion, this shows Howard’s respect, not only towards women and their significance in our present world but to his wife. He praises the magnificent works of Dr Baker; also about a few of her exceptional achievements such as teaching a theatre full of 60 men about the wonders and realizations in science, also the head of the Physiology Dep. at Kings College London She certainly deserves a title as one of our female idols.

Howard then moved on to listing only a handful of life stories of friends or fellow colleagues. Starting with Professor Ambrose, who travelled to Germany to learn about the techniques and difficulties involved in surgery from Dr Alec Fowler, closely following with the story of his PA, who possesses multiple impressive skills and is “just amazing” according to Dr Howard. He mentions the infamous quote…”Never judge a book by its cover.”, referring to his assistant and how she was enormously qualified than he was at things like computers and paperwork, even though she was his secretary.

Do whatever you want… just do it well!

Dr David Howard, Imperial College London

Overall, for most, I think it was a genuinely remarkable experience that I will remember through my life and no doubt I would recommend it to future students to participate in. Dr Howard is truly an honourable and inspirational male figure and very wise did I mention, these are some of the clever quotes he stated: “Medicine is not a job, it’s a vocation”; “Do whatever you want…just do it well!” Both of which we should take with us on our journeys throughout life, no matter which path you take.