Sunday, 30 November 2008

S-Cool 'Gap Year Issue'

Working During your Gap Year
The thought of working during what is potentially a year of lazing around and burning your A-Level notes might seem crazy but it could possibly be the best experience of your life. It might seem like a year would be the optimum time to defrost your revision brain freeze (a state of mind filled with an abnormally large quantity of facts) but without interaction and mental stimulation, it’ll drag by like a duck in custard. So how do you fill your day with work, but not feel like you’ve morphed into the 9 to 5 nightmare?
Well, there’s all manner of activities you can get up to and most of them are extremely flexible to your time and skills.

For those who want a taster in working in the technical sector we recommend YINI[1] who are experts are finding both pre-university students and undergraduates work placements. They have regional offices which offer support to students who wish to apply via the YINI scheme. There are many well known corporations which you can go to, within the fields of engineering, science, IT, e-commerce, business, marketing, finance and logistics. You get paid, usually over £10,000 and a third of interns get sponsored through University, making this a very worthwhile starting point to develop a relationship with an established company. The range of projects that students work on during their placement ranges from testing toothpaste flow to evaluating calorimetry techniques.

If working in an office or lab isn’t your thing, or you want a totally different experience, travelling the world could be perfect for you. Many students structure their travelling with projects, whether it be teaching or working with a charity or working with animals. Teaching English allows many UK students to travel to exotic locations and rural villages. We recommend i-to-i [2] which offers life changing travel and Global Experience [3]for varied packages such as working in a Zoo in Argentina. Project planning is essential for this as it is usually unpaid and will require you to apply for funding, which is actually easier than it sounds!

Why not look close to home and consider volunteer work? This is cheaper and much more flexible and you might find some hidden opportunities. Some Universities take in students to help with their research and media jobs are always happy to welcome a volunteer, you never know, you could end up writing for your local newspaper or being on radio!

Thursday, 30 October 2008

S-Cool 'Nuclear Issue'

The Nuclear Revolution
The nuclear age is well and truly upon use. For the last decade nuclear power has undergone a transformation and has now become one of the government’s most invested sources of energy. Currently there are 19 reactors in the U.K which generate around 18% of our electricity. However, by 2023 only 1 will still be active. [1]The urgency to replace this loss in power has led to an incredible turnaround in popularity of the nuclear plant.

The depletion of fossil fuels has caused a huge energy crisis, leading to more imports of expensive foreign fuel and an uncertainty in supply. In 2006 the Prime Minister announced to Parliament that ‘nuclear power needed to be put back on the agenda’ and ‘without it we will not be able to meet any of our objectives on energy security’. This push towards nuclear was also reflected in the change of public opinion towards the new nuclear build with 65% in favour for it in 2007 than 20% in 2001.


This year has been crucial to the development of the U.K as a leader in nuclear power. In February we became the 21st member of the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership. Gordon Brown reiterated in his speech to the Labour Party conference in September about the government’s plan to cut carbon emissions from 60% to 80% by 2050[2]; something which would be impossible without the use of nuclear power as an alternative source. A £12.6bn takeover of British Energy, the U.K’s main atomic power provider, by EDF of France has led to further plans for new power station builds; 2 in Sizewell, Suffolk and 2 and Hinkly Point, Somerset[3]. Gordon Brown spoke of this as ‘new nuclear becoming a reality’, ‘good value for the taxpayer and a significant step towards the construction of a new generation of nuclear stations’


So what does this mean for us? Many have criticised the shift towards nuclear instead of renewable energy as irresponsible, with fears of a possible nuclear accident and the controversy surrounding radioactive waste and its safe disposal. The accidents at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl are constant reminders of the dangers of nuclear. However, the idea of power blackouts and the increase rise in the price of electricity that would inevitably occur if nuclear power was not taken on would be crippling to both our quality of life and economy. Like it or not, nuclear will be a part of our future and the best thing we can do is to inform you all about what nuclear power is, how it works and separate truth from myth.

[1] http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/inf84.html
World Nuclear Association
[2] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/ataglance-guide-to-gordon-browns-big-speech-939938.html
The Independent Online
[3] www.guardian.co.uk/business/2008/sep/25/edf.britishenergygroup
Guardian Online

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

S-Cool 'Olympics Edition'

How exercise can help revision
For many of us, exercising during that dreaded revision period doesn’t even register on the list of 101 ways to avoid compound fractions. The benefits of hitting the gym between hitting the books seem great; blood filled with oxygen is pumped to the brain and stress busting endorphins are released into the body. However, research conducted by the University of California has discovered another advantage to getting hot and sweaty.

It seems that doing aerobic exercise such as playing tennis triggers growth in brain matter. When you do exercise, the body is put under a lot of stress because its energy reserves are being depleted. The natural response of the body is to protect its most precious organ; the brain. Unlike cells in other organs, the neurons inside the brain are extremely vulnerable to changes in energy supply. ‘If deprived of energy for more than one minute, the neuron dies.’ explains Gomez-Pinilla of UCLA.

So how does the body defend itself?
Every single second of the day your brain is sending and receiving electric messages. The more you move, the more messages are sent. During exercise, the body moves faster than the speed at which the brain processes the messages and triggers a release of chemicals called growth factors. The neurons become stronger and more importantly, improve your ability to learn. To achieve intellectual bliss, it is recommended that you exercise for half an hour every other day. Being out of breathe and sweaty is the key to success; anaerobic exercise such as weight lifting doesn’t have the same effect and will only bulk up your muscles, and not your brain.

For those who are simply not athletically gifted there may be another option available. Recently this month, a paper published by the University of Chicago in the ‘Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences’ claimed that playing or even watching sports enhances your ability to process language about that sport. The experience of avidly watching sports, whether it be in the arena or in front of your TV, engages parts of the brain used to plan and control physical actions.

Researchers used functioning Magnetic Resonance Imaging to scan which parts of the brain responded to certain phrases. They used normal everyday words mixed with hockey phrases. Those who were fans of hockey had more brain activity when hockey words were said compared to the normal words. This suggests that engaging in an activity taps into brain networks not normally associated with language and boosts your overall understanding of the vocabulary used in that activity. So watching sports will only strengthen the brain in talking about, well, sport but you’d be surprised how descriptive Olympics commentaries are. You never know, it may just come in handy during an English language exam.