The Theory of Everything

As this is my first blog entry ever I wanted it to be something current and interesting, hence I chose the most common thing I could think of that was science related, and of course it is the movie that everyone’s been talking about: “The Theory of Everything”.

Since its release on January 1st earlier this year, it has caught the widespread attention of the media and many people, whether interested in science or not, most likely due to the jaw-dropping trailer that promises it to be a major motion picture (perhaps in the league of a James Cameron film?) and the facsination of the world renowned and very famous Professor Stephen Hawking. Funnily enough our school assembly this morning was about the film, encouraging us to watch it whether our knowledge of physics was to university level or, and I quote, “just about the extent of where to stand underneath the shower”- in my opinion this goes without saying, (although it should be said for those of you who have doubts) and I’m sure plenty of non-scientists over the world are eagerly buying their tickets right now. 🙌👏

For those of you who don’t know or haven’t heard about The Theory of Everything yet (how could you not!??) it is the story of Stephen Hawking’s life whilst studying for a PhD at Cambridge University (Trinity Hall to be exact👌), how he became diagnosed and battled with motor neurone disease, the release of his legendary book, “A Brief History of Time” and his relationship with his first wife, Jane Wilde- rather a lot to digest isn’t it? Which is probably why it makes this drama  so special and unbeatable in these respects.

Now I have always been a fan and an admirer of Stephen Hawking, who is widely considered to be the best physicist since Einstein and Newton, and this is definitely no exaggeration. I was surprised when my dad told me that he personally “knew” Steven Hawking in the 1980s when he was studying for a PhD in international and business law at Darwin College, Cambridge himself- around the time when Hawking was Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at the university. In reality he only saw Hawking and his wife, who pushed him in his wheelchair around campus and the closest contact he had to him was a few unreturned hellos, (of course, he wasn’t able to speak then- watch the film for more details) and perhaps a little small talk with Jane Wilde, so nothing to be too jealous about, but I was certainly envious that he had the opportunity to see this genius in real life! I don’t know what I would’ve done if I was able to see him- first of all I’d probably cry and then ask him if I could give him a hug 😊

I have always been one to read good biographies of the people who I admire and am interested in (currently reading the very large “An Unfinished Presidency” by Robert Dallek- regarded as one of the  best biographies around of President John F Kennedy, President Obama’s “The Audacity of Speech” and Malala Yousafzai’s “I am Malala” and so predictably I was delighted to find out that Hawking published another book, his autobiography “My Brief History” in 2013, and a very interesting and illuminating read it is. This book really gives the audience a first person insight to how his life was and what his life was like, particularly after his disease, but not quiite as powerful and moving in the way that the drama, the “Theory of Everything” portrays it to be- although this is subject to personal opinion.

However there has always been one question that has bothered me regarding Hawking: even though he is the top and most well known physicst of the modern age, how could he not have been given a Nobel Prize in Physics already, the most sought after and prestigious award that could be given to any scientist in the field? I googled this last night and most popular reason according to the sources was “due to the lack of experimental evidence in his major theories” such as his work on Black Holes. This does make sense, and a similar example of this would be that Einstein did not receive the Nobel Prize in physics for his groundbreaking Theory of Relativity, but for his Photoelectric Effect instead, although if I was a certified and qualified judge in the Nobel Committee, Professor Stephen Hawking would definitley have been awarded the Nobel Prize years ago. Others go as far as calling this an injustice (and I personally agree to an extent), comparing this to the Nobel Committee in Norway being arrogant enough to not give Ghandi the Nobel Peace a Prize for a number of years, despite being consistently nominated for the award until his assassination. Why he didn’t get the prize bewilders the majority of people to this day.

So…I think I have written a sufficiently long first entry that has snatched away an hour of my homework time from my Tuesday evening, so I’ll let you guys get back to whatever you were doing before you saw this blog asap ;). I am sure that this won’t be the end you’ve heard from me on the legend Professor Stephen Hawking and his movie… By the way, I have yet to see this remarkable film- I made it seem like I’ve seen it multiple times haven’t I? Hahaha well no, I can’t wait to watch it, and my dad and I shall hopefully be able to see it this weekend together- he refused to take me last weekend because it was raining.

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Black Holes- do they exist or not?

Black Holes – do they exist or not? 

Hi there, it’s been a while since I’ve written in my blog – blame it on chronic procrastination and indecent amounts of homework from certain teachers (hem hem Dr *czechoslovakia*) but this has caught my eye and deserves a full, proper article written about it.

Black Holes… Those mysterious ‘holes’ in the universe that suck up anything, anything that is unfortunate enough to be anywhere near its proximity and they cannot escape back out, whether it’s a neutrino or an asteroid, it’s fate literally sucks- pun intended 🙌 But some scientists think that there are actually no longer Black Holes or that there hasn’t actually been any black holes to begin with. Professor Stephen Hawking suggested that they were Grey Holes instead…

At least that’s the according to Dr. Laura Mersini-Houghton, a theoretical physicist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In a new paper submitted to the non-peer-reviewed online research paper repository ArXiv, she offers what she calls proof that it’s mathematically impossible for black holes to ever form. The paper suggests a possible resolution of the so-called “black hole information loss paradox,” in which Einstein’s theory of relativity predicts that black holes should form but quantum theory says no “information” can ever permanently disappear from the universe. A black hole forms when a dying star collapses under the force of its own gravity to become a single point in space. The gravity within the region surrounding this so-called singularity is so intense that not even light can escape–hence the term black hole. But according to Mersini-Houghton, a collapsing star sheds mass as it shrinks–so no black hole ever forms. Instead, as she and her collaborator–University of Toronto computational relativity expert Dr. Harald Pfeiffer–write in their paper, the star “stops collapsing at a finite radius…and its core explodes.”

Stephen Hawking has produced a “mind-bending” new theory that argues black holes do not actually exist – at least not in the way we currently perceive them- it is actually rather interesting, seeing as it defies to a certain extent of what we already know about, or at least what we think we know about Black Holes. Instead, in his paper, Information Preservation and Weather Forecasting for Black Holes, Hawking proposes that black holes can exist without ‘event horizons’, the invisible cover believed to surround every black hole. During a previous lecture, ‘Into the Black Hole’, Hawkins described an event horizon as the boundary of a black hole, “where gravity is just strong enough to drag light back, and prevent it escaping”. This is profound stuff!

For more info on Hawking’s paper:
Independen.co.uk- Stephen Hawking Black Holes

Check out this link if you want some more information- iflscience.com

Until next time adios!

Why I love Tae Kwon Do

Funnily enough I have never always liked Tae Kwon Do. At the start, when my parents signed my sister and I up for a local Tae Kwon Do club when I was 8 years old I always hated turning up to the club three times a week, doing the same kicks and the forms; I just found it really boring and that there was no way I was ever going to become a black belt. Almost every week we would complain to our parents that we wanted to quit because it was so dull and because we were never going to get attacked anyway- we thought training in a martial art was pointless if we didn’t have a high chance of getting beaten up. This continued for another three years, and we still had gradings but we didn’t progress to the level that we should have considering the time that we had already spent at the club- there was this other guy who was in my sister’s year who joined a year or so later and reached green belt before us- I remember him once asking me, “how come I’m a higher rank that you are, but you’ve been to the club longer than I have?” I just shrugged it off, saying that “well we go on holidays quite a lot during the summer, so we’ve lost training in the summer holidays” – which basically meant that we couldn’t be bothered to practise at home.

We kept hating on our parents for forcing us to go to Tae Kwon Do club so often until I reached red belt and everything about training just started to become more interesting: more complex kicks, harder contact sparring and flashier forms. I also started taking it more seriously because I was much more enthusiastic about it, putting more effort and force into my techniques to the point where my instructor noticed a difference and I was often asked to do demonstrations for my form and sparring. Two years later I achieved my black belt… finally after 5 years of training! When I was 10 years old, that was when I really started trying- baby steps at a time and its quite surprising how sometimes little changes can lead to big results.

Tae Kwon Do is one of those sports that has something of everything in: flexibility, fitness, strength and speed, unlike compared to some of the other martial arts such as wrestling and boxing where flexibility is not really important. Additionally one of the best things about Tae Kwon Do is that it only improves with age- now of course your speed will we be reduced but your techniques will only develop and improve as a result of many years of experience. I would say that Tae Kwon Do is not just about the physical but it is also about mental health and wellbeing- rather like yoga- those of you that have watched the Karate Kid (2010) know what I am talking about. Tae Kwon Do, Karate and Kung Fu are the three main spiritual and striking arts in which not only physical fitness and form is improved but also personal development- what Jackie Chan taught in the Karate Kid 2010 is true: “Kung Fu lives in everything that we do, from picking up a jacket to how we treat people.”

Tae Kwon Do, Karate, Kung Fu and pretty much all the martial arts is about “making peace with our enemies” and not about “kicking someone’s ass”. Honour, courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control, courage and community are the seven words that we begin each training session by and I don’t know about all the other Tae Kwon Do groups but my instructor always told us that through our training we would develop a sense of these responsibilities that were expected of any martial artist. Through sparring mainly we learn to keep our integrity, self control, courtesy and a respect for the opponent which helps with learning the virtue of respecting people in our lives, for example that one person who you cannot stand at school- I know that it’s helped me quite a lot! Learning to respect others and being a more honourable and honest person really does make you see everything in a better light, encouraging wisdom and allows you to appreciate those little things in life such as the beauty of sunrise that most people take for granted or haven’t experienced for themselves. Being able to think calmly in the face of fear and being more courageous is one thing that I have definitely learned from practising Tae Kwon Do for almost ten years now and something that is invaluable in applying to situations in everyday life and my value for hard work and perseverance has undoubtedly been improved by those high intensity workout and training sessions- that it really is up to you whether or not you succeed. “When life knocks you down, you can choose to get back up” – another beloved quote of mine from The Karate Kid (2010).

Tae Kwon Do is a lifelong journey- a religion- and not just a sport- that’s what I love the most about it and I really owe much of that to my parents for not letting me quit (don’t know about my sister though) because I never would have been able to recognize what Tae Kwon Do really was if I didn’t keep up my training; after all, that’s what made me fall in love with it back when I was just 10 years old and only a red belt.

5 Major things I’ve learned from Kung Fu Panda

1. Believe in yourself, even when nobody else does 

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Po’s dream was to become a Kung Fu Master, so when he was chosen by Master Ooguay as the Dragon Warrior, even though he couldn’t believe it himself at first, he did everything that he possibly could to make himself the best warrior he could be, in spite of the Furious Five initially disapproving him being selected- Tigress in particular- and Master Shifu’s derogatory comments on how he would only be nothing but a disappointment. Po believed in himself that he would be a great Kung Fu master, and because of his self belief and drive he trained equally as hard to prove everyone else who doubted him, in the end surpassing his own expectations.

Lesson #1: have faith in yourself then others will have faith in you

2. No pain, no gain… WORK HARD.

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I still wonder how someone who at first couldn’t climb more than about 10 steps at the start of the movie was able to become as physically fit as he was at the end of a seemingly short period of time. True, Master Shifu did use Po’s love for food as his main motivation in training, but it must have taken a huge amount of effort and relentless hours of exercise in order to get Po into warrior shape (well sort of) and that was undoubtedly through Po’s sheer will power and determination to reach his dreams. He had his opportunity and he took it, so every second in training he gave it no less than 100% because he knew that at the end of it, it would all mean something and be worth it- as soon as he realized this, he discovered the secret behind the success and awe of the Furious Five- good old hard work (that plus excellent training from an excellent master)

Lesson #2: you have to put the hours in, the work and work harder and smarter to notice a difference. Even small changes can lead to big results- it’s up to you.

3. Be humble

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Po is shown to be a very compassionate, good natured character throughout the film, showing respect and kindness to everyone he met before he became Dragon Warrior and afterwards this did not change- obviously apart from Tai Lung. Even when the other Five clearly disliked Po at the beginning, he did not retaliate aggressively or rudely. The only outburst that he had as far as I can remember was at Shifu after he expressed his frustration at him not treating him with a shred of respect when he was announced as the Dragon Warrior. After Po’s success at defeating Tai Lung in the second film, he remained the same humble, approachable panda that he always had been, even though he did like to make fun of his enemies in their fights, but hey they deserved it.

Lesson #3: Don’t let success get to your head. Own it, be proud of your accomplishments but don’t look down on others because of it.

4. Kung Fu isn’t all about violence

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Martial Arts is anything but (although, ok, maybe not for boxing)- martial arts is a form of self defence IN CASE you get attacked, instead of looking for trouble and beating up random people in the streets. Most people only see the self defence part of martial arts, which is fair enough because that is the primary focus and purpose, however few people see the spiritual side of it, that it is a life long journey that helps character building and personal development- something that cannot be said for many popular sports. Therefore, I consider martial arts to be more of a religion instead of just a sport, and Kung Fu Panda portrays this perfectly when in the second film, Po finds inner peace (before Shifu by the way) within himself through what Kung Fu taught him.

Lesson #4: at the end of the day martial arts is what you make of it- you could use it to turn yourself into an aggressive person, always looking for a good punch up such as Tai Lung, or you could use it to learn more about yourself, improve your character and as a result improve your life.

5. Anyone can achieve their dreams

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– even a fat Panda 😉

I just love how the most unathletic, unfit character in the movie transformed into the most admired Kung Fu Master in all of China, because of his deep love of Kung Fu (which was ultimately why Ooguay selected him as the Dragon Warrior- if Po wasn’t as passionate about Kung Fu as he was, he would not have had the determination to put in all those hours of training and become as awesome as he could have been). It wasn’t an easy journey and there were many huge milestones and hurdles to jump over, such as his lack of fitness for one thing, however this movie- even though it sadly isn’t real life- shows that if there is a will there truly is a way; you just need to find the right motivation to make it come true.

Lesson #5: Be brave enough to dream big- dare to dream. For you to be big (no pun intended), you gotta think big. If you really want to do something, you’ll find away somehow- if you don’t you’ll find an excuse. And as Chris Gardner once said in Pursuit of Happiness- “you want something? Go get it. Period”.

A brief history of martial arts

The origin of martial arts is a little hazy; different people have been told different things, passed down for generations, however the fundamental facts remain relatively the same. It is widely considered that all martial arts developed from the oldest form of martial arts- Kung Fu, around the 20th century BC, and the primary use of martial arts in this era was as a means of survival. At this period of time it was essential to be able to defend oneself from attackers and hunt animals in order to provide for the family- only those who were the ‘fittest’ in terms of self defence survived, therefore techniques such as kicking, tumbling and punching were developed. Many sources tell us that China’s Yellow Emperor, Huangdi began to develop the existing martial art into a form of wrestling that was then taught to the troops to make them more successful at fighting the enemy. This form of wrestling was known as Jiao Di and eventually became a sport in which contestants wore horned helmets and ‘head butted’ each other with their headgear- this was also a successful tactic used on the battlefield.

During the Shang and Zou Dynasties (17th Century BC- 221 BC) the martial arts evolved into more of an art, rather than just a mean of self defense- it was thought of to be a kind of dance- the army generals heavily promoted this and the dancing aspect helped the soldiers to train harder and increase their morale. Jiao Di became more competitive and many full contact tournaments were held during these dynasties- the most important of which were held by the Emperor himself twice each year to select the most advanced martial artists for battle. It was around this time that not only hand to hand combat was flourished, but also the use of weapons was optimized- most commonly being the sword, becoming more and more popular throughout the Qin and the Han dynasties in which they were a well respected sport in China.

Flashforward many years after this, many more different styles of martial arts developed, such as Tae Kwon Do and Capoeira and many more- Boxing however was thought to have been an Olympic Game in BC 670 and it is true that Kickboxing and Mixed Martial Arts have been heavily influenced by boxing, more so than the other striking martial arts- Karate etc. In short, after different styles of martial arts had been developed and established, organizations were founded to pay for tournaments, coaching and representation at the Olympics for many of these sports and this encouraged more people to get involved in the martial arts- for example since Tae Kwon Do first became an Olympic sport at the Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia in 2000 as predicted there was a sharp increase in the number of ITF Tae Kwon Do players transferring to the WTF style, inspired by the Olympic spirit, and overall there was an accelerated interest and popularity in Tae Kwon Do than ever before. Martial arts have clearly been with humans as not only a realistic means of survival- have developed into over 50 different styles, each one of them unique to the other.

  – Jiao Di    

Kung Fu

 – Boxing

 

Karate