Here in the Oxbridge Applications office we’re always looking for ways to evolve and adapt our support for your application to Oxford or Cambridge. As such, this week we’re going to be looking at ways in which the ways that humans interact and analyse the world are being altered by cutting edge technology, and how ironically some cutting edge research is being carried out using some rudimentary equipment. One thing that has definitely evolved here is our Interview and Admissions Test Weekend, now going into its eleventh year in existence, and it’s got better every time! Also, we’re evolving the mid-week brain treat into a new format we’re calling ‘Something for the weekend’, so keep your eyes peeled for that…
It seems like technology is allowing us to push the boundaries of our social circles far further than ever before. It is even possible that technology is allowing us to push beyond our biological social limits and into another level of socialising. These biological social limits are famously constrained by Dunbar’s number, which ties the number of social ties we can effectively maintain into the size of our neocortex (commonly cited as 150). With modern technology however, we can keep in touch with several times this number and maintain occasional contact. This has led to an evolution in the notion of social number that we can maintain with an interesting new proposal known as Scoble's number, which measures the number of people we can interact with in a sporadic and intermittent sense. Furthermore, interesting research published today shows that seeing whether these weakly linked friends have voted can increase the number of votes cast in the election. This has implications for politics and the influence of social media on our everyday choices.
This is an interesting topic for those applying for Sociology, Psychology, Politics and anyone interested in how we interact with those around us.
The Paralympics have awakened us to a potential new era of sporting achievement. Whilst Oscar Pretorius may have only finished 8th in his semi-final, the fact that someone making use of prosthetics could feasibly compete with Olympians has raised the interesting question of when technology will allow us to perform at levels not physically possible. There is a constant debate about the effect of these technologies on sporting performance, and it seems like we are reaching a point where scientists are capable of driving the performance of even those at the top of their fields beyond human levels. With Stanford’s ‘the glove’ increasing recovery rates to super human levels how long is it before we have to separate sport on both a technological and physical level?
These topics should be of interest to anyone applying for Medical or Biological sciences.
Jockers of the University of Nebraska has come up with an algorithm which can measure the influence of authors on their successors, as well as the influence of their predecessors on them. Coming top of the 1800’s influence chart were Jane Austen and Walter Scott, who also notably were influenced very little by those around them. This method is leading to an evolution in the way we interpret literature, from just our subjective feeling of the book to how certain characteristics of the book interact with other books from their period.
This is interesting for anyone studying literature based subjects, as well as those interested in using computing algorithms to solve different problems. The original paper can also be found here.
If you were getting tired of reading about all the great and cutting edge technology being used to change our lives you may be relieved to read about some very mundane objects also being used for cutting edge science. For example researchers at the University of Toronto investigating superconductors have made a major breakthrough using humble scotch tape, the same as you’d use in a parcel! So next time you unwrap your post, be sure to be careful with the tape as you might be able to use it for an experiment! Also, a university student from the UK has managed to take breath-taking pictures worthy of a space programme using just a £30 camera and an A-level in Physics! Adam Cudworth managed to make his balloon-propelled camera reach heights of over 32,500m to take photos of the earth and film. Just makes you wonder what you could get up to with your A-levels….
These articles are just generally interesting, although they may hold a special interest for those applying for Physics or Engineering.