Februa ry 2013
G lasgow University M agazi ne features art fashion politics music science
Issue 2 â€“ February 2013
Glasgow University Magazine
China – A Fragile Superpower? – Page 26
“In the fifty five years since we first started to escape our earthly bonds, the amount of junk we have managed to put into space is astronomical.”
F e at u r e s Balkanarama, New Year, Unity Centre, Cycling
Poli t ic s India Rape Crisis, China, Plagiarism, Tax Avoidance
A rt s Philip Roth, E-books, Poetry, Sonica
Music Midlands Interview, Con Fest, Philantrobeats, Evolution of Folk
Sci ence Documentary Problems, Viruses, Earth Orbit Debris, Superfluidity
There Goes the Neighbourhood
– Page 36
Fa s h i o n Blogging, Brian Chan, Fashion Shoot
Any views or opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of Glasgow University or the SRC
Februa ry 2013
Editor’s Letter Alexandra Embiricos
Ryan McNab Art Editor
Alice Healy- Smith Fashion Editor
Rose Henderson Politics Editor
GUM is back and better than ever. After
a successful launch party we’re happy to announce Issue #2 of your much loved student magazine, expanded to fit in an extra four pages of content for your vicarious minds.
stunning visual arts performances, looks at his motivations for entering the world of fashion. Onto our editorial fashion shoot PANOPTICON , which investigates the art of looking and being looked at in a manner that’s ever so stylish.
Daniel Patterson Music Editor
Lucy Molloy Science Editor
Alexandra Embiricos Design
In this edition we have a wealth of articles and artwork to keep you occupied through the remaining rainy winter months; the Features section opens with a bit of Balkan sunshine and an exclusive interview with Nema Problema Orkestra, before contemplating what New Year actually means. Onto a more serious note with a look at The Unity Centre, a place of aid for Asylum Seekers in Glasgow, before discussing exactly how to get around Glasgow in On Yer Bike! One might as well call the Arts section this Issue the Literature Section, with ramifications on the new wave of e-books flooding the market and their foreboding potential to eradicate the printed book, accompanied by a piece on one of the foremost printed authors of our generation, Philip Roth. I’m also happy to say that creative writing is back on the agenda, with a triptych of poems and a short piece by Sara Wengström. For those of us who find ourselves baffled with the high art of poetry never fear, we have something for you too with Poetry: A Tough Nut to Crack? Rounding up the arts section nicely is an insider’s look at Sonica, Glasgow’s premier celebration of all things Sonic Arts.
GUM has learnt over the years that meet-
ing your heroes is no easy feat, but when it does happen it can either be a disaster or, as shown by our interview with Midland, a dream. A dream much like the Australian mirage that is Con Fest, prepare to be taken to a new realm of hippy bliss with forty degree heat and yoga workshops. Back to Glasgow and a party for a cause in the form of Philantrobeats, before a dissection of – love it or hate it – folk music.
www.marcuspeabody.com Photo Editor
Jessie Lawson Cover illustration
Richard Dalgleish www.lmnsct.tumblr.com artwork
Helen Bradshaw Isabel Dickens Sophia Gore Tess Hokin Seán Gallen Lynne Bartie Cornelia Håkansson Sara Wengström Flora Cooper Maddocks Hanna Markkanen Kate Regan
I’m proud to announce that the science section is now in collaboration with GIST (the Student Insight into Science and Technology), who dedicated the first article Dying for Clarity to the hungry readers of GUM – creating bonds and bringing us all closer together. Extrapolating from the space theme of last Issue, we take a look at problems that face us closer to home, specifically Earth’s orbit and the mess we’re making of it. Then onto the dilemma of the virus, sorely misunderstood or a cold hearted killer? Finally, the end of ignorance is nigh as our very own Dr. Andrew Baggaley explains to GUM what on earth is superfluidity and how does it affect you and me?
Hannah Yoken Henrietta Eagle-Wilsher Michael Borowiec Laurie King Isabella Lewis Craig McInnes Zandi Coles Ballari Mukhopadhyay Adam Hughes Photographers
Yvonne Zhang Jessie Lawson Derrick Argent Stephen Edwards Alex Wong Marcus Peabody James Clothier
The fashion section starts up with a look at the omnipresence of Fashion blogging, with One Dress One Month kicking off in February it’s something social media will be flooded with. An exciting interview with Brian Chan, artist and designer featured in the GUM Launch Party with his
Politics opens the lens further with an examination of social crises across the world including China, the Indian rape upheaval, and a look at the tax avoidance scandals that have rocked the UK. Onto something all us students can relate to, a word we hear before every essay or report; plagiarism and the problems it entails.
Glasgow University Magazine
Alexandra Embiricos and Lucy Molloy chat to Balkanarama founder Saska Haramina and interview a few of the eclectic musicians which make up this unique night. Tess Hokin reports
‘Hot Balkan Instrumental Orgy!’ proclaim the posters for Balkanarama, one of the liveliest club nights ever to grace the sticky floors of the now deceased Chambre 69. Belly dancing, fire eating, and free shots of plum brandy are enveloped in an electric atmosphere of Balkan and Gypsy music, played by a myriad of talented live musicians from home and abroad. With an ever-expanding fan base, the Balkan musical movement seems to be gaining ground and competing with mellow beats and chart toppers for a spot as the musical soundtrack of a great night out.
a quartet of lads from West Lothian form AlbaRoma, a band who met on Gumtree and describe themselves as “The Pogues channelling Tom Waits in a Sarajevo nightclub. But based in Scotland.”
Funnily enough, a mere fraction of the players here tonight are natives of the Eastern European and Russian regions where Balkan music developed; most are musicians who’ve fallen into the genre almost coincidentally. Eduardo, cornet player for the Milan-based Nema Problema Orkestra, didn’t start playing music until he was eighteen, “I fell in love with traditional jazz music from the 1920s and started to study music, it wasn’t until later that I got into Balkan.” The connection, however, is not hard to see. There’s something infectious about the swirling, jangling sound of gypsy music, echoing the toe-tapping energy of the Jazz Age.
“People are surprised by Italians playing Balkan music” says Eduardo, “But we spent a lot of time in Serbia at a very huge festival celebrating Balkan music a couple of years ago. We won second prize in the international competition.” Yet the Balkan and gypsy genre seems to be crossing all kinds of borders; in fact, the other band who played at Chambre 69 is a home grown collective from Great Britain. Irish-born Sinead Fortune and
Vocalist Andy Jamieson writes the melodies and lyrics for the band, “I’m not classically trained or anything, it’s basically all anti-right-wing rants. We’re living in an interesting time and especially because we’re into Balkan music, we’re interested in expressing multiple viewpoints, but at the same time we’re trying to have fun, play music, and dance, you know? Hopefully that’s not dichotomous.” Bland certainly isn’t a word that enters the Balkanarama vocabulary; Andy cites influences like Rage Against the Machine and The Clash, and despite a drastically different sound, AlbaRoma’s vibe isn’t far from that of high energy, anti-establishment punk. There’s dancing, drinking, and plenty of excitement, yet “It’s not sleazy or aggressive,” says Andy, “it’s just a bunch of people coming together to celebrate live music and have fun.” Nema Problema Orkestra and AlbaRoma are just a sample of the fantastic talent on show at Balkanarama’s regular events. “For this kind of music, it’s known as the go-to night, and people talk about it no matter what type of music they’re into,” says Sinead, and the event is only gaining ground. After a wild Hogmanay celebration and banging night in early February at the Glue Factory, keep your eyes peeled for more boisterous Balkan boogying.
Februa ry 2013
Glasgow University Magazine
2012 – 2013
Cult of New Year
So here we are, 2013 is upon us and with it comes the promise of a fresh start. It is a chance for us all to reassess ourselves, to take the time to make positive steps towards becoming the person that we want to be. As hard as we try, however, what inevitably materialises are the halfbaked resolutions that began with good intentions yet often crumble away to give rise to popular vices, most notably heavy procrastination and a desire to reach new levels of hedonism never previously experienced by the human brain. It’s the cult of the new year that invites us in with the promise of a “new you”; flashy advertisements full of beautiful people telling us that if we buy this product we will become as attractive and successful as they are; “reasonably priced” gym memberships that are quickly forgotten about until rapidly depleting funds throw a sharp reminder that we should either make use of the facilities or cancel the direct debit in favour of saving beer money.
ifested in the most over-hyped event of the year: New Year’s Eve. There seems a perpetual struggle to improve on previous attempts at celebrations but, essentially, they all conclude with stumbling out of the most reputable establishment you can locate through an inebriated haze, Christmas trainers splattered with blood and vomit, neither of which you can be particularly sure are your own. The dedicated revellers will seek out an after-party where they can continue to descend into complete incomprehensibility. Eventually someone is asked to leave after they were found crouched in the corner of the kitchen, shovelling Rice-Krispies into their face by the handful and crying hysterically. Of course, I can’t speak for everyone and I’m sure many of you will have enjoyed a much more civilised affair, but this is the kind of reprobate behaviour I’ve come to expect from the wonderful folk I seem to end up sharing this hallowed social event with.
This concept of an annual metamorphosis is underpinned by the determination to ensure that this year’s you is better than last year’s you, and is most clearly man-
So, after you’ve attacked your liver and mental faculties with intoxicants as if you’re cleansing yourself of a previous life, what’s next? Like a phoenix rising
from the ashes of the previous year, you begin making promises to yourself: “I’m going to quit smoking”, “I’m going to the gym”, and “I’m going to make it to ALL of my lectures this semester”. These are just a few examples (incidentally, all of the resolutions I’ve made this year) in the broad spectrum of goals set and all of them are definitely achievable, but over time you come to realise that you enjoy smoking, the gym is too expensive, and Moodle exists for a reason. Of course, don’t let the opportunities that come with the new year pass you by; use the time to be productive and set yourself realistic targets, because if you don’t you become stagnant and tedious and that person at the party who always looks miserable. Nobody likes that person. Don’t let a cynic like myself con you into believing that 2013 will contain all of the gloom and misery that 2012 may have held because it won’t, but greater happiness can only be realised if you make it happen for yourself. I guess what I’m trying to say is: Happy New Year.
Februa ry 2013
Gimme Shelter! Isabel Dickens
shabby but homely white office sits round the corner from the imposing brick of the UK Borders Agency building. It is an anchor that monitors the ebb and flow of asylum seekers that filter through the UK system. In the small space there’s a gentle bustle of office activity, a kettle boiling and faces popping in and out with questions, jokes and smiles of reassurance. The door frequently rattles in its frame, signaling that another person is checking in. The Unity Centre near Cessnock Subway describes itself as a ‘radical grassroots campaigning group,’ which offers ‘friendly, practical solidarity and mutual aid to all asylum seekers, refugees and sans-papiers.’ It is a co-operative organisation run by committed volunteers, who take on the complicated and work-intensive job of attempting to welcome asylum seekers and migrants into the community, whilst working with them so that they understand the ins and outs of the application process, which is otherwise opaque and confusing for the new arrivals. Indeed, the first thing a volunteer is asked when they start training ‘is to be a friendly face,’ to help minimise the stress already colouring the days and nights of the people who use the centre. Volunteers can take on many roles in the Unity organisation but the day to day tasks in the welcome centre itself consist of constantly changing support for the needs of individuals as and when difficulties arise. Typical activities in a day revolve around the sign in book, which people have to sign in and out of before and after they check in at the Home Office. This is to make sure people can’t be arrested and put in detention without their families, friends, and Unity being alerted. There are also caseworkers that are there for when children need watching for a moment. They are responsible for individual cases; duties of which include, taking down the details of their experiences, guiding them through the legal processes, helping with any English issues, such as the understanding of official documents and finding and solving problems with lawyers. In the case that any person is detained or arrested for deportation, the volunteers campaign on their behalf, liaising with any group in the local community that they can, to get letters written, or petitions signed, to try and free asylum seekers, and gain them permission to stay.
www.unitycentreglasgow.org www.destitutionaction.org.uk www.rapecrisiscentre-glasgow.co.uk
The Unity Centre is funded by ‘Bikes, Books and Bargains’: four charity shops selling clothes, bikes and books in Govan and Cessnock, in addition to being where English lessons are sometimes held. Free clothes from charity donations, food in the World Café, and bikes are provided for destitute individuals. They also liaise with organisations such as Glasgow Destitution Network’s Night Shelter and United Glasgow, a football team
to provide a dose of exercise and team spirit. Volunteers are the blood that nourishes these different elements of the organisation, keeping a watchful eye on the individuals they want to help, and ensure that the structure remains solid, responsive, and as familiar as possible. Contrary to popular belief, around 90% of requests for asylum are refused, meaning that out of the current 2,000 applicants in Glasgow, 1,800 will be sent away. There are frequent incidences of refused cases where asylum seekers are not even deported, but made destitute by the fact that they cannot work legally and their benefits have been cut. Under the current policy, asylum seekers are provided with homes to stay in but not allowed to work, and provided with benefits fractional to citizens’. There are other instances where people are retained in detention and deported before they have been officially informed of their application’s rejection. Unity, with its day-to-day exposure to these practises, has a keen political edge that goes beyond its history as a one-time union, using protest and petition to pressure the home office into changing its policies. In 2011 and 2012 they held anti-dawn raid protests. Dawn raids is a controversial method of finding illegal asylum seekers, in which border agency officers arrive to detain them in the early morning. Although in the process of changing, at the moment the laws surrounding this can lead to separation of families. Simultaneously charity, pressure group, and centre for legal and emotional support, it’s clear that Unity is both provider and protector; a hub of solidarity in the South Side, trying hard to provide individuals with real security, in every way that they can.
Glasgow University Magazine
On Yer Bike Sophia Gore
All around us our attention is being drawn to the fact that another decadent Christmas is over and a new year is ahead of us, and although those vague promises we make to ourselves often amount to nothing, for a moment let’s trick ourselves into believing that it’s never a better time to make some resolutions and start something new. Certainly, we are all most likely feeling the pinch of our formerly comfortable jeans and are secretly full of overly optimistic but often unachievable resolutions to try and get fit and healthy. If you’re prepared to admit to a fraction of that New Year optimism, then I’m prepared to sit on my high horse and recommend some tips about something that is practical, cheap, and good for the soul: cycling. Since September I’ve been proudly whooshing through the West End on my very own metal horse, unapologetically becoming part of Glasgow’s ‘happening’ cycle circuit. My bike, aptly named Hermes, is made from the cast-offs, unused, and tragically abandoned limbs of once vibrant and gaudy human-powered-speed machines. I bought my trusty metallic steed from the charity ‘Gorblas Recycles’ bike shop (prizes for any guesses of where it’s located). The non-profit charitable organisation maintains and revamps old and disused bicycles. They made Hermes to request, were incredibly helpful, and serviced it before I’d even hopped on and cycled away in a haze of ecstatic delirium. Since then, neither of us has ever looked back, and we’re hopelessly devoted to one another. But it’s not just me who’s grown to love
the cycle lane; Glasgow has a large and ever expanding cycling community. Cycling in the city has never felt more en vogue and exciting, and it’s probably due to the influence of Scottish cycling demigod Chris Hoy and the upcoming 2014 Commonwealth Games. Indeed, the city is now home to the Chris Hoy Velodrome, the only indoor velodrome in Scotland. For only £10 you can try out the circuit and feel like an immortal Olympian, even going as far as imagining yourself with those gargantuan thighs if you so wish – you’ve payed your money, why the heck not! Certainly, as the numbers of cyclists grow, so does the sense of community and comradeship. There are many local organisations, charities, and groups in the city aiming to get people pedalling. For example, The Bike Station on Haugh Rd, is a great local bicycle haven which offers invaluable pearls of wisdom. The station teaches tricks of the trade for cyclists, including budget maintenance classes. Despite the bitter cycling winds causing one to suffer chilly ears, and the hilly topography, the push from Glasgow city council to encourage cycling means that the roads are steadily becoming more accommodating for us two wheeled hell raisers. There has been an on-going campaign by cyclists for improved conditions on the roads and it’s being recognized. If you have any qualms, a local group called Go Bike!, who have strong links with Glasgow City Council, encourage cyclists to write in and suggest places where possible amendments could be made to make the roads more cycle-friendly. It is partly due to this initiative that – as the observant ones may have noticed - work has started since November to upgrade the Kelvin walk/cycle way. The creation of suchlike groups just goes to show that pedantic complaining has its results and rewards. And, due to the lingering ‘cyclemania’ of the Olympics, surge of the green movement, and upcoming Com-
monwealth Games, it’s highly likely that local government, for once, will listen to you and changes will be made. The great thing about being one of the motley crew of ‘bikesters’ is the freedom it gives you – you can easily escape those pesky security guards when your maxedout overdraft has required you to smuggle those necessary mangos out of Sainsbury’s. Yeah, it may be pretty obvious to state, but it really is surprising just how much faster you reach your destination, meaning that those valuable extra minutes sleep each morning are always ridiculously appreciated. Sleep aside, I must not forget to mention that the cost of a bike is rapidly paid back through the money which is saved on the subway (£1.40 for a single, the bastards!) It also gives you a chance to get out of the city, get some fresh country air into your lungs, and channel that inner farmer. It’s super easy and cheap to get one too, the University offers schemes which subsidize the cost of getting a bike, such as the Bicycle User Group (BUG), in addition to being just generally very ‘bike-friendly’ (if you forget the fact that it’s located on a hill that rivals Everest); indeed, only recently I discovered that there is an ‘emergency repair kit’ located at the Main Gate House. So, having hopefully encouraged you to join me in that veraciously practical, yet simultaneously exhilarating, activity that is cycling, I’ll sign off with a quick shout out to my improved lungs and legs, who no longer conspire to make me wheezy and sweaty when I’m rushing into a lecture at quarter past. But one final word of advice - take a look at all the dismal looking frames, the corpses of old beloved bicycles which litter the Glasgwegian lampposts, their wheels missing, handles and seats slashed, like Jack the Ripper has moved onto attacking metal traveling devices instead of prostitutes ... whatever you do, get a decent lock.
Februa ry 2013
Ph i lip Roth Literature of a Generation Seán Gallen
ovember, 2012 was a big month for America; Obama secured his second term and would be able to follow through on the policies of his historical first term, cities on the East Coast were recovering from the shock of Hurricane Sandy, and quietly, in the shadows of the New York blackout one of the most important writers of the past forty years, Philip Roth, turned his back on literature. The seventy nine year old author announced his retirement without much fuss to French magazine LesInrocks by stating “Nemesis” (2010) would be his last book; a terse end to an industrious career of consistently delivering novels that poignantly dissect American history as we live in it. Roth took the reins from writers like Norman Mailer as a writer of the public, responsible for documenting the crashing decline of American culture in the twentieth century. His novels were shockingly contemporary, each presented individuals living in America being pushed into the most extreme circumstances of living. In a way he held a public position similar to poet laureate with the civic duty of forcing people to look at the environments they live in. He began with a more introspective, psychological look at the Jewish post-war generation with a deviant sense of humour in the Zuckerman series. Over the past twenty years, his novels began to detail life after modernist optimism and after post-modernist fatalism through characters that cling on to warped desires and beliefs in order to escape the brutal absurdity. So when Roth claims “I don’t know anything anymore about America today. I see it on TV, but I am not living it anymore.” it seems as if he has succumbed to the same post-modern crisis he was wrestling with.
Although this might sound like an obituary for Philip Roth it definitely isn’t an obituary for literature. Perhaps this marks a radical phase of transition from one form to another and the novel has been exhausted. The epic poem experienced a full cycle from Homer to Milton and the sonnet matured and expired in the same fashion so perhaps we are reaching the end of a crisis. The novel has experienced so many transformations and has been stretched in every direction that it has been drained of the radical energy it used to be charged with. For example, Jonathan Safran Foer took his favorite novel (Bruno Schulz’s ‘Street of Crocodiles’) and removed words and passages to create a new story, carving a post-modernst work of art and hopefully inspiring writers to experiment more . Roth famously put a post-it on his computer that simply stated “The struggle is over”, a declaration of independence from a life of labour but also an acceptance that the novel is in its terminal phase, the only thing left to do is search for something new.
To say the literature industry is floundering is hardly news but when a figurehead like Roth extricates himself from that world, we need to start asking questions about the future. Several contemporary authors were on hand to comment on Roth’s farewell but most fail to recognize its significance. Jonathan Ames merely said “sad” and Darin Strauss joked “I think it’s a short con; he’ll get the attention of the Nobel people, win, then crank out brilliant work again.” This tepid response is indicative of the current lack of new talent but also how lost the novel business is to not be able to recognize such an integral figure.
When asked about the current state of the novel, Roth responded; “I do not believe the novel is dying,” readership is dying out. That’s a fact, and I’ve been saying it for 15 years. I said the screen will kill the reader, and it has. The movie screen in the beginning, the television screen and now the coup de grâce, the computer screen.” Before retiring, Roth attempted to reread his favourite books and then reread his own books however he could only get past the first four of the latter, begging the question; if Roth can no longer be an active reader, how can the rest of us?
Glasgow University Magazine
The end of the printed book? Lynne Bartie
I recently attended a book launch, during which the speakers were discussing the hardship that publishers face in our current economy due to the growing market for eBooks. Publishing was already a difficult trade, with many publishers not making enough profit from sales to accommodate the time and effort required for printing books. The recent bankruptcy of HMV and Blockbuster are a clear sign that the way in which we consume art and culture is radically shifting. Walking down any high street, confronted with the ever increasing ‘Closing Down Sale’ and ‘To Let’ signs plastered on shop fronts, I find myself wracked with guilt over my use of digital media and the detrimental effect that it’s having on the industries which I so value and enjoy. But the cheap appeal of the eBook is hard to resist in this financially turbulent time. As students, we face expensive reading lists every semester. Out of curiosity, I recently investigated the price of all of my first and second year university texts on the Amazon Kindle and found all of the eBooks for free. My feelings of guilt were quickly replaced by feelings of regret for not buying the device earlier and saving a chunk of money! Although we may lament the fall of independent book shops and publishing houses, is it fair to blame the consumer for shopping cheaply and for convenience? No one can deny that the digitalisation of books is convenient; It’s brilliant on a lazy day when you finish one book and can click on a button and start reading the next instantly. It also integrates a social dynamic reading – incorporating the function of ‘tweeting’ that you’ve finished a book. Plus, I bet one of this year’s bestselling books, Fifty Shades of Grey, owes part of its success to the fact that people could read it on their E-readers ‘anonymously’ – without the awkward judgement of fellow train passengers.
Early e-reader devices were designed not only to emulate the experience of reading a book but also to try and improve this experience. E-reader screens are not reflective which means that they mimic the appearance of paper, as well as having adjustable font sizes. In later models, we see the E-reader becoming more of a multi-faceted tablet computer. It can be a struggle to encourage children to read but the new E-reader integrates sound and motion into the story to make reading more appealing for young children. But is this a good thing? Imagine how different your childhood would have been if Harry Potter was released as an eBook only. Wasn’t one of the main joys of these books seeing the newly printed front covers? How could we have felt that stab of achievement upon finishing the mighty Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, without our arms aching after reading it solidly for 24 hours? And wouldn’t Roald Dahl be astonished to see his books being enjoyed electronically when one of his best creations, Matilda, loves visiting the library every day for hours? E-books are undoubtedly changing the way we read – but how long will it be before we can only read books from a screen?
The e-reader has many advantages, but is the bookshop next on the list of high street closures? We are faced with the problem of deciding whether to base our shopping decisions on convenience and price, or on morality and hope for the future of books, libraries and publishers. Is going digital a move forward or a step back? Although my E-reader is a convenient novelty I still cherish the romance, nostalgia and tactile experience of reading a book. The downfall of the print industry would make for a huge cultural loss but complete digital immersion of art and media platforms seems inevitable and fast-approaching. In reality, eBooks have a lot to answer for.
‘The Components of War and Peace’ 677 Sheets of Paper 24.1 Grams of Ink Based on a Penguin Popular Classics Edition from 1997 Edwin Pickstone — Edwin Pickstone was born in Manchester in 1982. He became Artist in Residence and Typography Technician at The Glasgow School of Art in 2005, where he cares for the school’s collection of letterpress printing equipment. Focusing on the material nature of print Pickstone uses letterpress equipment in his own artwork as well as collaborating with artists and designers on a wide range of projects. His work spans academic, artistic and design worlds, with particular interest in the history of typography, print and the nature of the book. He has spoken and exhibited internationally.
Februa ry 2013
Glasgow University Magazine
A Tough Nut to Crack? Cornelia Håkansson
On what is this anxiety of reading poetry based, really? It could be the fact that the poetry most people are familiar with was written in a different time, in a different world. Or possibly it is due to some kind of underlying pressure to understand what the poem really is about, breaking the code for a magical message. The identity of poetry this creates has a tendency to keep people away from it. Novels can therefore seem more appealing to many; you know what to do with them, and you know where it starts and where it ends.
It is, one could argue, quite strange how we, with the help of literary terms and tools, consider ourselves able to figure out what a poet active a century ago was “trying to say”. We are looking for a hidden message that might not be intended be interpreted, or not even exist. That search is most likely to be the intimidating part of poetry reading. At the end of the day, one ought not to forget that analysing poetry is merely an attempt. Therefore, we should rather appreciate the diversity of possible interpretations than fear a lack of understanding something only authors would know the answer to, if even they do that is. Poetry can easily be compared with musical lyrics. Personally, there has never been any kind of trouble or discomfort in trying to read into and grasp a song, rather the opposite. This is strange, as the difference between poetry and lyrics is very fine. It is like poetry is merely for clever, intellectual folks, whereas any plain-brain can embrace the text to a song. Why don’t we go as far as equalizing these two types of written expressions? This would prove the fact that anyone that has ever been touched by a song is a qualified poetry reader. A brilliant example of this is the work of the artist Keaton Henson, which could easily be defined as either. When he puts his poetry into music, it is just as he
is singing poems. Not to mention rap music; wouldn’t that be the exact definition of poetry as lyrics? Similarly to most art forms, there is an air of ancient about poetry. Keats, Blake, Yeats are all elderly poets casting a shadow on contemporary poets, and their poetry. To be fair, those three gentlemen are probable to be the base or influence for many poets of today, but that is not equivalent with their poetry being produced according to a ‘right way’ of writing. To think otherwise would be a shame, as there are so many amazing active poets to be discovered. A recent personal discovery is the Canadian Shane Koyczan. His work can be read without any sort of literary glasses, and is perfectly unpretentious. I would encourage anyone to give in to the slightly notorious world of poetry, and individually discover what part of it is most enjoyable. Read it as you like, there are no rules for reading poetry, only tools to reach your personal interpretation.
6.59AM I’ve been told that people in the army do more by 7.00AM than I do in an entire day But if I wake at 6.59AM and turn to you to trace the outline of your lips with mine I will have done enough and killed no one in the process. – Shane Koyczan
Februa ry 2013
Poetry Sara Wengström
Photos by Steven Edwards www.stephenjedwards.com
Airport Illusions September: Stockholm Sitting at the subway station in early morning, feeling it was a day by the sea The sky so blue and the trees as if in late afternoon sun Headphone melancholy and dreams of childhood fairytales, that seems my autumn Always at the brink Always beginning with an end October: Glasgow On my way off back to I guess it makes me feel rootless Not a bad thing a day like this in an empty central station December: Glasgow The insanity of time strikes you with every hour a little more has come to pass
Is that The Hours soundtrack playing in the tax-free shop, she wondered? Have the perfumes and the chocolates gone holy? Is there a new reality waiting in the corner of gate 5 and 6? She wondered if maybe she hadn’t gone mad with dreams of English gardens in this common asphalt world. The panorama windows and stainless steel of this glasshouse waiting room; what is next approaching? ‘Tis a spying glass of unpredictable proportions. ‘Twas a spot on the rough surface of her jeans. She listened tentatively for the electricity in the motions of the others. The bustling, the scraping of shoes. Their hair, their mouths. Their hearts and suitcases. Such hurry. She felt a slight tingling spreading over her neck; turning around, turning back. When was the clock to strike? What news is there? What’s the latest? Or for a lack of better words, what is going on? This place, this non-place, that refuses definition, in the midst of all, and yet the feeling of being at the end of the world. The people restless. What dost thou see woman, buying post cards under florescent light? Greetings from no man’s land. Such crowded emptiness. Such claustrophobic vastness. Can you ever really get further than there and back again? She stared at the knee of the man sitting beside her and pondered the impossibility of reach. His hand, his phone. Was he also thinking of lighthouses and oak trees in the midst of all these paper mugs and deadlines? Surely, she thought. Over under through: something’s got to keep them moving.
The clock struck. Please make your way to the gate. She could feel her hand shivering from overpriced coffee and premonitions of the things beyond. Where to end up?
Glasgow University Magazine
Februa ry 2013
Son ica An Interview with Cathie Boyd Flora Cooper Maddocks
Cathie Boyd is founder of the renowned Glasgow-based producing art house Cryptic. We meet on a chilly winter’s afternoon to discuss the success of Sonica, the new Glasgow-wide celebration of international sonic art which took place last November and of which she is artistic director and co-curator. local artists such as Luke Fowler were celebrated in the two-week event as well as emerging international talents and inspiring producers of sonic art.
Firstly, what is sonic art? There is no simple way of defining Sonic Art. One could say it’s music with visuals or it’s visuals with sound. Certainly each art form needs the other in order for these pieces to work. It’s an experience that often immerses you in a way that say, classical music on its own might not. With Sonic Art it’s also all about being there. You’d miss a huge amount if you just heard the sounds on CD. You used a variety of spaces for Sonica. What do you look for in venues? Cryptic already have a long history with Tramway who housed a handful of the installations. They are always incredibly supportive of our projects. The graffitied Whisky Bond was perfect for Enlightened Sound, a collaboration piece between artists and musicians [using light, installation, film and sculpture]. The building is not crisp and clean but instead wonderfully grungy and dirty. We insisted that it shouldn’t be cleaned up or else the atmosphere would have been ruined. It really is an extraordinary space, ideal for a project with a multitude of musical happenings. What’s special about Glasgow and its artists?
What do you think is Glasgow’s best kept art secret? For me, it has to be Sven Werner’s studio, above MacCallum’s Fishmongers in Finnieston. It’s enormous, but contains his miniature peep show world. It’s the perfect place for his work. Once you get past the fishy close it really is the most absolutely magical space, it’s very special. Was Sonica’s first year the success you hoped? Absolutely. Sonica couldn’t have happened without its supporters, so we are extremely grateful. We consciously priced the festival so that people could see something for a fiver, and with a turn-out of just under 7000 people, I think it worked. But it isn’t about the money. It’s about giving people a memorable experience. From the feedback I think we succeeded. Although there was much national coverage for Sonica, I would have liked a little more support from the Scottish weekend press… but I’m too ambitious, I always want more!
The city has such a constant buzz and energy, and a thriving underground culture which was really evident in the festival. There’s also a great cross-over between musicians and visual artists. People here
are prepared to take a risk and I’m not sure you have that in every city. Robbie Thomson’s ‘Ecstatic Arc’ was incredible. The piece, commissioned by Cryptic Nights for Sonica, is an example of the vital support and encouragement we can give to artists fresh from Glasgow School of Art. Having been an artist, it helps me as a producer: it’s about understanding artists’ needs.
Glasgow University Magazine
Is fashion blogging bogging us down? Hanna Markkanen
I admit it. I’m a bit of a blog addict. I read fashion and style blogs every day – often several times a day. Blogs are a source of joy and inspiration to me; they give me ideas of what to wear and buy next and please the aesthete in me, who’s always craving for new and beautiful things to look at. That sounds perfect, right? Well, it’s not. There is another aspect to blogs – one that I’m becoming increasingly aware of every time I get sucked into my daily habit. Fashion blogs are an ever-growing phenomenon. A constant overflow of information and visual stimuli in the form of ‘outfits of the day’ and ‘inspiration’ posts are just a few clicks away. The level of positivity and beauty that a reader’s brain receives when reading blog posts is whopping – in fact, it sometimes seems that fashion and lifestyle blogs contain only that: beauty and perfection. This is what concerns me.
Blogs are different from fashion magazines in that they are not in most cases professional publications but rather ordinary people’s recordings of their own lives. A picture posted by a blogger of an outfit or a champagne brunch is thought to be real, not arranged like a fashion shoot in Vogue is understood to be. When we see enough of those beautiful pictures, our sense of reality gets blurred. The image of our own lives might change when we think we have gained access to someone else’s ‘perfect’ everyday: feelings of inadequacy or jealousy can emerge. And it’s not only fleeting moments of insecurity that follow – money is also involved. A blogger shows you a fabulous new jacket and tells you where to buy it; product placement is tightly linked to style blogs. Brands and companies use blogs as advertising channels by giving bloggers free products. Finnish style blogger Tiiu Puranen found that fashion blogs increase consumers’ willingness to
purchase and that’s no surprise to me as I certainly crave for new items after each of my blog reading sessions. So, ladies and gentlemen, hold on to your wallets! I’m not saying that bloggers are the villains of this story – the issue often has negative effects on them as well. Nasty comments and intrusive questions about incomes are the unfortunate by-products well-doing bloggers sometimes experience. A blogger, who is a student, might attract negative attention if his or her lifestyle is not that of student. The blogger might then experience pressure to give away private matters: financial details, for instance. The picture-perfect mentality of blogs is a similar phenomenon to other social media – for example Facebook – in the sense that you learn to reveal only the positive and beautiful aspects of your life: party pics and achievements in school or work. The occurrence of such a phenomenon in different media is alarming. It seems that the ‘picture-perfect’ is becoming our way of thinking – reality or the idea of reality as it should be: full of moments pretty enough to take pictures of and to share with others. What, then, should be done about this? Should we change blogs or change our attitudes? Or both? It would be an interesting addition to fashion blogs if they sometimes showcased the unattractive or negative as well; that too can be inspirational. Fortunately, many have already taken a step towards this through campaigns such as Bloggers Without Makeup Day, which showed bloggers bare-faced, highlighting the problematic aspects of blogging whilst also embracing the good things. Fashion blogs balance out the negative news from other media and should be taken as sources of inspiration in moments of wardrobe crisis, but not as goals or exact recordings of other people’s lives.
Trends in M en’s Fashion Spring 2013 – A dam Hughes Primary colours Popping primary colours bring a simple but fun edge to this season’s collections. Contrast with a light cream, sharp white or striking black as seen at Nautica. Military Although it never truly went away, military has returned in full force. A few select items in your wardrobe to add a touch of masculine cool will never grow old, whether that’s bold camouflage or a more subtle dash of khaki or olive. Though big and baggy combats are not trending, try a more slim and chic angle, as seen at J. Crew. Stripes A regular sight, but at the two extremes of the scale this Spring. Whether big and bold like a jacket or as a more subtle accent to an outfit such as a tie or a pair of shoes, all seen at Tommy Hilfiger. Bright and Bold Accessories Adding a splash of neon fun to a rather colour-neutral outfit can really make it stand out, be it a bright watch, or a pair of flashy trainers as seen at Ferragamo (above).
Februa ry 2013
Q &A: Brian Chan Rose Henderson Brian Chan is one of Scotland’s brightest design prospects; he fuses art and fashion in a fury of creative passion to create unique, bold pieces. Trust us, you haven’t seen anything like it. Chan is hailed as both creative artist and designer as he adopts a clothes-as-canvas approach turning art into fashion and, equally, fashion into art. His dynamic collections have kicked up such a storm that he is now due to show in London Fashion Week. GUM caught up with the designer to talk about his passion for fashion, art and - wait for it – the Scottish weather.
ever, Alexander McQueen inspired and directed me to see Art in a whole new perspective from where it’s exhibited to showcase work.
Tell us a little bit about yourself?
How do you go about creating a collection, from having the initial idea to creating and finishing the pieces?
My creative talents are a mix bag of; Drawing, Installation, Painting, Printmaking, Sculpture and Fashion. I recently graduated from The Glasgow School of Art completing my BA Hons Painting and Printmaking Degree. In saying this, it also required four portfolio submission attempts in order to finally study at the Art School. Beforehand I studied at Glasgow Metropolitan College and Anniesland College, achieving my HNC Fine Art and HND Public Art, the time needed to accomplish this allowed me to establish my own style and movement.
Why Glasgow - is there anything in particular about the city that inspires you? Firstly I was born and raised in Scotland; a persistent and unpredictable weather changing country with a large multicultural society. The constant change of weather is like energy for me, it gives me constant ideas.
I actually create individual pieces of work. I treat every work I create like it’s my last. So every piece I make is like a part of me as I give it my all to express my
emotions and ideas. Then one by one I gain a collection of ideas and inspirations for the next piece. Some gets assembled together as I feel it’s meant to be together, an artistic instinctive decision. I continue this motion until I feel I have expressed everything I can and no more creations can be made further. Your pieces are very artistic, do you consider fashion a form of art? What do you think the relationship between art and fashion is? I am fusing my Art and Fashion, I believes it’s a lifestyle; we live it so let’s wear it! What does the future hold for Brian Chan? I hope to be recognized in an international status.
How did you get started in fashion design? I decided to channel my creative energy with my interest in Fashion. As an Artist I always strive for new challenges and obstacles to overcome to create new work. I am now extending my art onto garments, a mode of direction to exhibit my work in a much broader perspective.
It was my passion for Art and my interest in Fashion that motivated me to expand into the Fashion Industry. How-
www.brianchan.co.uk Photo: Alex Wong
What/who inspired you to become a designer?
Glasgow University Magazine
Dress – Zara Jumper – Lexi, Saunt & Sinner Earrings – Heather McDermott Jewellery Necklace – Kirsty Fraser Jewellery Design
Eyewear – Brian Chan Blazer – H&M
Februa ry 2013
Special thanks to Nigel Hutchins and the Media Service team at Southpark House and to Claire McManus, Rachel Ward and Laura Forsyth
Photographer: Derrick Argent â€“ www.derrickargent.com Model: Heather McDowall Stylist: Rose Henderson Hair and Makeup: Macs Glasgow Nails: Kirsty Elizabeth at Nailcandi
Glasgow University Magazine
Februa ry 2013
Dress – Zara Necklaces – Heather McDermott Jewellery Earrings – Heather McDermott Jewellery
Glasgow University Magazine
the indian dilemma Kate Regan
The Delhi gang rape which took place in December and resulted in the death of a 23-year-old student has created an unprecedented level of discontent across India. The incident highlighted the country’s deep-set oppression of women, with reactions as diverse as the country itself, that is at once solidly eastern and inclined to flirtations with the west. A filigree of opposition spanning gender, religion, region and government, has emerged; conveying to the world just how fragmented India has become. Hundreds of protesters took to the streets to challenge the conventions and traditions that are seen to suppress women in India today; many claiming that it was these customs that allowed for the prolonged and horrific attack of December 16th. Yet this cry to end violence against women has not been echoed in all corners of Indian society. According to the Indian Express, Asaram Bapu, the famous and much revered spiritual leader, suggested
that had the girl addressed the accused as “brothers”, she may not have been raped, expounding that “mistakes are not committed merely by one side”.
lieve women are to blame for these incidents?” many answered in the affirmative – believing that women are at least sometimes, if not always, to blame.
A holy figure spouting such views is not only dangerous but an indication of the misogyny that still permeates South Asia, yet Bapu’s comment was not the only shocking reaction to the incident. Raj Thackery, the leader of the Maharashtrian Nationalist party, focused not on the rape but on the fact that the rapists were from Bihar; a state in Northern India termed a ‘bandit-state’ for it’s anti-establishment image stemming from complex caste system politics. In doing so Thackery encouraged an old prejudice against Bihar, provoking an angry response from the Bihari community. The political magazine Tehelka conducted a state-wide series of interviews and collated their answers to gauge what Indian men thought of women. The answers were diverse, but in response to the question “Do you be-
Throughout this media frenzy of finger-pointing, more and more rape cases have been brought to the public’s attention. A staggering 24,000 rape cases are registered in India each year, and even more go unreported. A UN human rights official even claimed that rape was a “national problem”. Deciding on the appropriate response to India’s “national problem” will be difficult for those in the west. Though heartened of course by any scenes of mass-remonstrance which call for social betterment and gender equality, it is hard to support a pro-women’s rights lobby which also fervently demands the execution of the criminals. Widely brandished placards simultaneously called for “Justice” as well as the need to “Hang all Rapists”. Before her death, the victim who can not be named for legal reasons,
reportedly requested that her attackers be burnt alive. In Delhi a fevered horde of protesters, outraged by the incident, killed police constable Subhash Tomar in early January, while the accused themselves struggled to obtain legal representation after the Saket District Bar Council announced none of its lawyers would defend them. They also claim police brutality. The case and the reactions to it have made for uncomfortable reading, with Government bodies putting together a proposal
Februa ry 2013
that will suggest chemical castration as punishment for rape - a barbaric response which ignores the cause of the offence. The furore has intensified, sprawling in all directions and away from the terrible crime which triggered it.
between tradition and modernity, India must address why shame is still attached to the family of the victim rather than the rapist. The ongoing difficulties surrounding class and gender could be deemed as a limiting factor on India’s huge potential in the twenty first century. Set to outrun China within the next forty years to become the worlds largest economy, one must question whether the country’s gender equality rights will advance at the same rate.
The events of December 16th have been the catalyst for hysteria across India; a crisis of sorts rooted in the country’s ambivalent identity and precarious position between east and west. Caught in the tug
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Glasgow University Magazine
Plagiarism Perfect Hannah Yoken
rying to meet a deadline can be daunting, especially if you are pressed for time or suffering from a lack of inspiration and incentive. It might seem like your options are to either give up or fake it. The media portrays academic and professional plagiarism as a growing problem. Self-plagiarising, academic dishonesty in the form of illicit collaboration, missing references… The range of ways in which plagiarism might be committed is vast. And the consequences can be deadly. If you are or have been a student at the University of Glasgow, it is likely that you have signed a Declaration of Originality Form. This two-page document is used to ensure that students are aware of academic integrity when submitting written work. But is signing a form enough to make students fully aware of what the university considers to be plagiarism? And how often does the detailed statement on the second page of the document get printed, let alone read? For those in search of a deeper understanding of the matter, a range of information concerning the University’s policies can be found on the Senate Office’s website. The annually published University Calendar offers a 22 point memo full of official rules and regulations of conduct. And of course there is also Turnitin, the plagiarism detecting software that tends to slow down to the point of malfunction whenever students need it most (usually an hour before assignments are due).
Plagiarism is often performed without the culprit being aware of their actions. The most traditional example is poor note-taking. One might jot down an idea from a source or conversation, only to later come across said idea and assume it to be their own. Reinventing the wheel, overestimating one’s own skills, plain stupidity – accidental plagiarism happens. There is also the question concerning what higher education regards as general knowledge. Deliberate cheating is not the only factor determining plagiarism accusations. The skills acquired at university do not exclusively focus on honesty. Students are also expected to pick up skills such as academic integrity, time management and the ability to perform well under pressure. The argument presented is that at the start of their academic journeys, students might plagiarise; either accidentally or due to last-minute panic. But the story does not end here. In recent years, several high-profile professionals have been caught red-handed. In May 2009, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd was accused of plagiarising journalist Josh Marshall’s blog entry for
the online publication Talking Points Memo. In her column, Dowd generously borrowed Marshall’s commentary regarding Nancy Pelosi, who at the time acted as the Speaker for the United States House of Representatives. Dowd attempted to avoid allegations by stating that she was not aware of Marshall’s blog entry, but had discussed the upcoming column with a friend who had unintentionally presented her with Marshall’s ideas. The irony of the Dowd vs. Marshall Case is that in September 1987, Dowd broke a story concerning politician Joe Biden that would cost Biden his run for president of the United States: Dowd exposed Biden’s rally speech to be a direct copy of British Labour politician Neil Kinnock’s speech from earlier that year. Maureen Dowd managed to escape the 2009 plagiarism scandal virtually unscratched. Not everyone is as lucky. In March 2011, German defence minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg had to resign after it was revealed that he had knowingly copied and plagiarised parts of his doctoral thesis published five years prior. “Baron zu Googelberg”, as the German media lovingly called him, had not forgotten to cite his notes. Nor had he been confused over what general knowledge means. His excuse? He had been extremely busy back in 2006. So what have we learned? There is an extensive amount of help offered for those worried about plagiarism at university. Turnitin never works. But most importantly, we have learnt that even those on top of the political food chain run their ideas by their friends, fold under pressure and fail at managing their busy schedules. Comforting to know.
Februa ry 2013
Tax Avoidance Henrietta Eagle-Wilsher Photo: Ruta K.
The past year has seen a tidal wave of revelations shaming companies and individuals that have taken advantage of legal loopholes in order to minimize their contribution to the Treasury. The enormous cuts that Britain’s public services continue to face only serve to fuel the anger of those struggling to pay their taxes while the wealthy manage to avoid doing so. One of the biggest exposés of 2012 was that of comedian Jimmy Carr – whose tax avoidance was a particularly shocking case as he had previously mocked bankers for their questionable finances on his show 10 O’Clock Live. The K2 scheme that Carr used is based in Jersey and allows many Britons to pay just 1% tax. It is an offshore wealth management scheme which works when high-earning individuals ‘quit’ their jobs before signing contracts with offshore shell companies. These companies then ‘rehire’ the person but take their earnings and pay them a significantly reduced salary. By using this loophole, earners are not breaking the law; they are just abusing the UK’s overly complex tax system.
However, people power has triumphed in embarrassing Starbucks into paying more to HMRC . Although the coffee chain has achieved UK sales of £1.2bn since 2009, it had reported no profit and paid no income tax. Yet following a flurry of sit-ins and protests, the corporation announced it would pay £20m over the next two years. The British public were outraged that Starbucks had not paid tax, but perhaps the issue isn’t as clear-cut as it seems. Some people argue that if the system allows tax avoidance, there is nothing wrong with taking advantage. If the government has a problem with people using these schemes, it should change the law, not condemn those who use them. After all, if public demonstration is the only way to make corporations pay their taxes, there is surely a problem with the system. Starbucks volunteered to pay tax. They were not obliged by law as they should have been. Likewise, Jimmy Carr stated “I now realise I’ve made a terrible error of judgement.” Yet it was public embarrassment that prompted him to change his mind because he could legally continue to use the K2 scheme. More popular ways to avoid tax include
setting up ISA s, or buying goods abroad to avoid Britain’s VAT. It seems that everyone tries to maximise their interests and pay as little tax as they can. Companies need to be as careful as possible today to ensure that they stay afloat, so it could be argued that in legally avoiding tax, executives are simply doing what is expected of them in order to prevent their company from being the next to fold. The key difference is that less-affluent citizens are trying to save money to feed their families and build a better future while the rich often have multiple properties around the world and can’t understand what life is like for those who need tax-funded public services. The wealthy depend on the British public who support their stores yet they seem to give back to the country as little as they can. It is obvious that due to tax avoidance, the UK misses out on the revenue it vitally needs, and that a more comprehensible system is necessary. David Cameron claims tax avoidance by multinational companies is “right at the top of the agenda” for this year’s G8 which the UK will host. This may signal a change but really the problem is within Britain itself. Our 11,500-page tax code requires urgent attention because it remains unclear and full of loopholes. Most citizens cannot opt out of paying their taxes - they are obliged to. There is no reason why the rich should be any different.
There is seemingly no end to the list of people and firms that have opted to go that extra mile to maximise profits. Vodafone, Amazon and Google are among the multinationals accused of using offshore schemes, while politician Lord Ashcroft and Lady Green, wife of Topshop
boss Philip Green, are just two of many non-domiciled Britons. This means they avoid paying income tax because although they live in the UK, they are registered as foreign nationals.
Glasgow University Magazine
China A F r ag i l e S up e r p ow e r ?
Februa ry 2013
ince the late seventies, a steady implementation of reforms along with an abandonment of Maoist ideology has led China to become the second biggest economy in the world, with the potential to supersede the USA within the next decade. Anyone who has picked up a newspaper in recent years will have noticed the eastern giant’s growing influence. China has a strong export-economy and is an attractive place for foreign investment. During recent US elections, it was largely portrayed as an aggressor that is not afraid to cut corners. China’s record on the environment and its unwillingness to cooperate with the United Nations on the deteriorating situation in Syria, have helped to perpetuate this image. Domestically, it has been criticised by many in the West for antidemocratic policies and crackdowns on human rights activists; both in the heartland and in semi-autonomous regions such as Tibet and Xinjiang. Recent news about China has been dominated by a series of diplomatic and military stand-offs with Japan. The main dispute involves a resource-rich archipelago in the East China Sea, which Japan has claimed as its own. Throughout the last four months, both countries have displayed semi-aggressive behaviour, by showing off their naval powers and indulging in a series of illwilled political gestures. However, the tensions over the Senkaku Islands (or Diaoyu Islands as they are known in China) could help us understand the fragile position that this rapidly-developing country now finds itself in. The Chinese state appears to be struggling to maintain control of its vast territories and to satisfy the growing demands of its upwardly-mobile population.
Given the strong economic ties the two countries have had since China opened up to the Western world, the extent to which the Communist Party is responsible for these anti-Japanese sentiments is unclear. It’s worth noting that Chinese representatives travelled to Seoul in September to meet with Japanese and South Korean officials to discuss future improvements on trade, amidst the archipelago-related tensions. This may suggest that the Chinese people, who it seems are increasingly willing to assert their wishes, perpetuated the majority of their anti-Japanese gestures. This could mean that by acting tough when addressing regional issues, the Chinese state is seeking to appease its citizens. Such behaviour is also a good way to distract from more pressing, domestic concerns such as corruption and environmental damage. The People’s Republic of China has experienced unprecedented growth in recent decades while at the same time having to deal with the challenges of modernising in a period far shorter than that afforded to any Western country. That said, the recent spar with Japan has helped to highlight the fact that China has significant obstacles to face in its own backyard. It must be seen as strong both domestically and internationally, without causing any major problems along its vulnerable borders. Failure to resolve these issues could result in lasting damage to the Communist Party and null the Golden Age that China appears to have been enjoying so far.
With territories both geographically and politically impenetrable to the north and west, China is increasingly reliant on its fourteen thousand kilometres of maritime borders. Its transformation into an economic superpower has been largely dependent on exported goods; ninety per cent of which require distribution via sea routes. Until the Communist Party secures a viable alternative, China’s economic success will depend heavily on the water corridors that link the country to Africa, Latin America and the Middle East. China’s need for a secure maritime border is all the more clear when we consider its neighbours in the region. Taiwan and Japan to the east, along with the Philippines and Vietnam to the south have historically had poor relations with China. One example of China’s increasing insecurity is the creation of the ‘string of pearls’, a chain of offshore naval bases, which critics see as a largely insubstantial and economically unsustainable deterrent. Furthermore, the United States’ growing military presence in the region is one reason why China feels the need to exert its strength so aggressively.
As well as the government’s handling of the Senkakus issue, it is also important to consider the domestic response to the row. The Chinese are known for extreme nationalism, a pride that was stained by Japan’s imperial ambitions of the past. The darker aspects of the two countries’ shared history, such as the Rape of Nanking of 1937, are far from forgotten in China even today. The public’s reaction to the dispute was predictably hostile; Chinese nationalists attempted to occupy the islands and a Chinese man tried to place an anti-Japanese message on top of Mount Fuji. More serious moves against Japan mustn’t go unnoticed either. There were mob attacks on Japanese factories and a staterun newspaper suggested the use of nuclear weapons to win the dispute. ‘Just skip to the main course and drop an atomic bomb. Simpler,’ the newspaper proclaimed, provoking both criticism and statements of support.
Glasgow University Magazine
Why It â€™s OK to Mee t Your Heroes Midland Interviewed by Lucy Molloy
Februa ry 2013
Why do you produce? Initially it was out of curiosity, now because its fun and I have started to understand it. Sometimes people like to release into the world on black plastic too, which lets face it is a bit of a buzz. What are you non-musical influences?
Ok. It’s happened. Something that neither I, nor most people who I’ve dragged to clubs for the past six years on the premise that ‘It’ll be really fun! This person who you’ve never heard of and don’t care about is playing’ would ever have predicted. I have come to a stage in my life where I no longer get a kick out of meeting DJ’s. In fact I don’t even want to go clubbing anymore. It’s a bit sad, but I’m dealing with it. Maybe it’s because I’ve realized that DJ’s are people too; people who are lazy, who are rude, who don’t reply to your emails, who turn up late, who are unprofessional, who ash on your carpet, and despite the hype aren’t necessarily that ‘cool’ – what – ever that’s supposed to mean anyway. I know you’re not supposed to meet your heroes, unfortunately for me I can’t help it, it’s all part and parcel of my fake job as a student journalist. So when I first contacted Harry Aigus aka Aus Music’s Midland I was pleasantly surprised; he was brutally honest and asked me to change my questions because he didn’t fancy ‘re hashing old answers.’
You’ve collaborated with Pariah, Ramadanman and Breach to name a few; what’s it like? Do you often have arguments or is it a relatively smooth process? Collaborating is all about balance. It’s not something I like to do often; all the people I have collaborated with were friends first. It not always a smooth process at first, it takes time to get into it, but when you start to get results it’s a great feeling. I’ve often noticed some DJs/Producers seem underwhelmed whilst playing. Is there an ideal situation or crowd for you? An Ideal situation is usually consists of the following. A working set of turntables and good monitors. A long enough set time, say two to three hours, because it always takes a bit of time to get into things and for the crowd to get into a vibe. Above all though, the single most important factor is a crowd that are open. You can usually tell in the first five minutes if the crowd are there for music or to be cool. There’s nothing like playing music and seeing a sea of smiles, its infectious, and suddenly it doesn’t feel like you are playing music to them, more that you are all listening to it together.
Well if there is a place to go ‘all over the place’ its Glasgow, it’s practically expected no? I do like to try and play stuff that gets people dancing but not in an obvious way. Its great when you play something freaky and weird and everyone goes berserk. I find that it can go right as often as it can backfire, but that’s just the risk you run when trying to do something a little different. What/who is on your DJing blacklist? People who squeeze into tiny booths, people who knock needles, and people who tell you what to play (with added spitting in face). I certainly won’t tell a bus driver how to drive, or someone in a cafe how to make coffee, so please kindly stop telling me to play something a bit more ‘dancey’. Pretend you win the promoting lottery and you get an unlimited budget and can book anyone alive or dead – where would it be held and who would make the cut? It would go something like this: Venue: A hilltop glass house overlooking a fjord in Norway. Line up: Zip, Optimo, Eli Verviene, Craig Richards. Can you reveal what you have in store for 2013? I have lots of stuff planned, but can’t divulge a huge amount. I will release another single on Aus, two tracks called Trace and For (Yacht) Club Use Only in March, and then start putting into effect the beginnings of my own label, although what shape that will take is still up in the air.
It’s taken a good few months of emails, a club night and a flat party where I inadvertently pissed off the host by rooting through his Hawaiian shirts (sorry about that), but here’s the result of my shattered dream – cheers Harry I hope you get your visa.
If I was to think of the things I do most when I’m not music’ing, it would revolve around food, art/photographs and my bike/London. I think those three things have a great influence on me. I find making music is very similar to making food, its all about balance and knowing what goes together and how sometimes odd combinations work.
The first time I saw you play was at the Chambre 69’s 1st Birthday way back in March 2012 what struck me about your set was how varied it was, do you enjoy fucking with the crowd’s expectations?
Glasgow University Magazine
ConFested – E n l ig h t e n e d
– Laurie King
he first three days of 2013 landed me in a magical world, deep in the bush of New South Wales, Australia. Con Fest, 850 kilometers West of Sydney and 400km North of Melbourne had us driving for two days. With the dusty surroundings gradually expanding, wild emus appearing in their hordes, and the mid-day sun releasing great rays upon our tender skin, we eventually reached an ageless, genderless, timeless paradise. Never before have I experienced an environment of such genuine happiness, such creativity. As midnight struck, with the onslaught of hugs and kisses came scenes of wonder: huge African drumming circles, brass bands, flutes, harps providing trances of moving bodies hidden among the trees. Moonbeams and starlight kept the forest glowing right through the night. People talked of ramblings with visiting aliens, trees that sang, you name it. But
in a place like Con Fest, you just believe it. The world outside and all the political structures that force people to live conventional and ‘rational’ lives simply melts away. Rationality, along with time, was temporarily obliterated. And the result was pure bliss. The days oversaw 40 degree heat: sipping on iced chai; swinging into the river; floating on mud pools; lying in the sun until our new coats fractured, then back in the river to feel them slowly melt away from our skin. Shady canvas would shelter gigantic frying pans serving up curries to share, meditation workshops, chess games and endless jamming sessions. Con
Fest’s complete lack of amplified music allows the rhythms and melodies to be more personal, more real, whilst beautifully reinforcing the whole atmosphere of timelessness. Taking part in a laughter yoga workshop introduced me to lovely new friends, with laughter handshakes and hugs sending us all into uncontainable fits 15 minutes in. The high is unbelievable, making it easy, as one guy said, to “slap those negative vibes across the face”. It’s true, uncontrollably rolling around on the floor for a good half hour makes you feel on top of the world.
s the evenings drew in, the air would shine with golden dust, hazily hanging beneath the crim-
Februa ry 2013
The most beautiful aspect of Con Fest was the sense of true harmony between
he festival, held on the same site every New Year’s and Easter, comprises of just a few thousand people. Whilst attracting those from across Australia and indeed the world, many come from Melbourne, hotspot of the country’s alternative lifestyles. Together they recreate the landscape, turning it into a wealth of embodied compassion. It
allowed me to believe that such communities are entirely possible, and although the whole experience is already beginning to fade into a dream-like space in my memory, it gives me faith in humankind to know that it was real, a lived experience. And I would whole-heartedly urge you all to go for yourselves. It may just change your life. Con Fest taught me a new word. Pronoia: the opposite of paranoia; believing that all others are there to help you.
son branches of Eucalyptus trees. With dusk, the drumming would intensify and human beings of all ages, in immeasurable combinations of dress, from dragon costumes to wizard hats, to as little as mere body paint, would merge to create dancing silhouettes. On and on the drums would beat, transfixing us, transforming our bodies, replenishing our exhausted limbs. Even as I finally slid off to sleep on the second night, the drumming would remain, distant, but incessant. In a flash I would wake to nothing but the melodious calls of a hundred birds. The best alarm clock I’ve ever had.
people and nature. And I know that’s the world’s biggest hippy cliché, but living it was remarkable. Enlightening, even. So easy was it to witness the tiniest feats of life, such as observing an ant, a speck to the human eye, triumphantly carry the body of a grasshopper up a slope the size of a couple of strides. Across the river stood a giant bird’s nest, constructed by human hands, a place to rest with other souls among the treetops, making instant connections lasting an hour or two, maybe months, maybe years.
Glasgow University Magazine
Philanthrobeats Isabella Lewis
Philanthropy Gives Glasgow Clubbers a Good Name
ocieties, clubs and fundraisers: whether you love them, hate them or don’t give a shit about them, they’re something you’ll come across throughout your time here. GUM catches up with the ‘Philanthrobeats’ team who combine all three, to get an insight into their work. Considering how late Philanthrobeats founder, Owen, was late for our interview one wonders if these guys could organise a piss up in a brewery. But that’s exactly what they do, except replace ‘brewery’ with the best electronic music venues in Glasgow. ‘Philanthrobeats’ is a non-profit organization run by students and focused on producing exceptional club nights from which the proceeds go to a charity related to the theme of the night.
The founders of Philanthrobeats, Owen Fenn, Marco Calzone and Colin Primrose began the project in December 2011; Owen was planning a fundraiser for Amnesty International and Marco offered to get involved. Despite being mid exam time the event was packed so they “figured it might be something people would be into,” Owen tells me, “But apart from that; it’s always £4 on the door, I know it’s not free, but we’re lucky that a lot of DJs who would ordinarily be getting quite a lot of money [Optimo and Slam] will come and play for free, so its affordable for everyone else and goes to a good cause as well.” They decided to make it a regular occurrence, gathering an exceptional team of hard-working philanthropists and christening it deliberately tongue-in-cheek. Owen adds, “I think Glasgow’s a very good place to do it as well, because people tend to be really friendly. I don’t want to say ‘charitable’ but it’s quite a socially aware city. I find it really hard to not sound obnoxious sometimes when I’m talking about this; we all really want to raise money for the great causes out there but we are aware it can come off like we were the most middle-class, obnoxious kids ever, which might be true but, uh, yeah. We all really enjoy throwing parties as well so it sort of works.” Philanthrobeats is determined to maintain a balance between charity and the event itself, and stress that the quality of the event takes a primary place; this includes the DJs, the venue and
the visual production.” Owen claims that “first and foremost we want to throw a good party as opposed to anything else because we are first and foremost a club night. In terms of fundraisers we tend to get annoyed by the attitude that people put on a fundraiser and expect people to turn up, despite the event quite often being sub-standard. We would rather people come for a good club night and then they would add the bonus that all the proceeds go to charity.” The guys work closely with visuals producers, Optik and Produ[K]t, to create an engaging atmosphere that reflects the fundraisers’ goals. The first event they held was for Amnesty with production loosely based on police states, visuals included a big eye reminiscent of 1984’s Big Brother. When I spoke to Owen they were preparing for their fifth ever event Apocalypse Now to give the good people of Glasgow a truly epic farewell on the night before the prophesied end of the world. If said prophecy failed to fulfill itself the money raised would help prevent the destruction of Glasgow’s beloved Otago Lane. The cataclysmic event managed to raise £620 for the cause. It’s a good thing that the Mayans were wrong, as ‘Philanthrobeats’ have a lot in store for 2013. The next event planned by the team comes in the wake of the abhorrent gang rape and murder of a medical student in Delhi. This Valentines day Philanthrobeats are teaming up with Rubix and taking over Subclub in support of V-Day – a Global movement which aims to combat violence against women. Rumour has it that the visuals will be based on the female reproductive system, which may raise a few eyebrows but according to the team is more about raising awareness and the “celebration of femininity and rejection of female art censorship”. By March, Philanthrobeats will be celebrating its first anniversary and plans are already underway for its birthday party, at which Slam is scheduled to DJ , something the guys are very excited about as “Slam tends to avoid playing for anyone except Pressure.” As well as continuing the production of club nights ‘Philanthrobeats’ is working towards establishing charity status for itself, with plans underway for an EP featuring tracks from Optimo’s DJ Twitch, and High Sheen’s HaHaHa. They will continue to fundraise for outside charities but proceeds from EP and T-shirt sales will go towards Philanthrobeats to set up workshops and classes in Glasgow. Owen states “I really like the idea of Philanthrobeats, the club nights and the EPs being a fundraising body for the actual work we do and people can directly see what the money’s going into, your partying is directly funding these local workshops; it’s something that will reflect well on Glasgow and gives clubbing a good name.”
Februa ry 2013
What the Folk? Tess Hokin
From Fjords to Fleet Foxes: the Evolution of Folk Music
Not so long ago, hearing the words ‘folk music’, might have conjured up mental images of a Little House on the Prairie style jam sesh, with a family gathered round their wagon, twanging away at their banjos and warbling about harvest time. Or, alternatively, a gaggle of ladies in long skirts dancing around the fire in a circle singing the names of sausages while large men in furry hats sang ‘Ohp Ohp Ohp!’ over a wheezing accordion. All of a sudden, ‘folk’ has taken on a whole new meaning. You’ll hear folk at the gym, you’ll hear it on Radio 1, and you’ll definitely hear it in the headphones of that guy who’s still looking cosy in his festive jumpers (listen bro, Christmas is over and we all know you bought it from Topman). So how did this happen? When did the traditional give way to the twee and the chart-topping, and are there any links left between the two?
Folk carried on happily for a good few hundred years until popular music took off and wars started to happen, overshadowing the gleeful songs of the hillside with patriotic warlore and radio hits. By the time World War II was over, folk was a dying art, limited to rural areas and diehard Morris dancers. Naturally, it was at this point that people started to panic over what was lost, frantically collecting any scraps of traditional folk they could find and colliding with the beatnik movement to produce the brand spanking new sound of ‘contemporary folk’. So how did this sudden transition occur? Good ol’ Bob Dylan has the answer. A prime example of the folk revolution, his song A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall swipes lines from Anglo-Scots folk balladry; “Where have you been, my blue eyed son/ Where have you been, my darling young one?” is a line from the ancient tune Lord
Randal. There were scores more artists like Dylan who revived traditional folk, including Donovan, the Pogues, and Billy Bragg who, with the help of the free-spirited nature of the 60s gave rise to movements like electric folk and folk-punk. Nowadays, the genre seems to encompass nearly anything involving an acoustic guitar, and if there’s a harmony or a guy with a beard involved, it’s folking royalty. Some commercially successful forerunners of the progressive folk movement like Bright Eyes, Iron and Wine, Fleet Foxes and Bon Iver seem to have abandoned all the conventions that make ‘folk’ folk in the first place, trading digeridoos for synthesizers, and lyrics about seasons for crippling heartbreak. Yet what ties the new brand of hipster-chic lamenting to the songs of the ancients is the feeling behind folk. Folk artists new and old seem to have in common a respect for musicianship, a love for art, and a sense of creating something for the people, by the people; and that, folks (sorry, couldn’t help it) is what keeps its integrity alive in the 21st century.
To find out, I chose the most obvious option: time travel. With Doc Brown by my side, I put pedal to the metal in the GUM time-mobile and did a grand sweep of ancient musical customs the world over. Conclusion number one: traditional folk music and traditional folklore have a lot
in common. Officially, it was William Thoms who coined the term ‘Folklore’ and, folk music came as a spin off in 1846. Back in its first heyday, folk songs generally came from unknown composers, and stood their ground against formally composed and commercial tunes.
Glasgow University Magazine
How do you begin to respond to an emotional story of loss and tragedy when you think that the methods used to tell the story are wrong? Not only wrong, but an affront to science? Couple this with the fact that the tragic story is conveyed via a heart-felt documentary, told by a grieving father and you have a delicate situation on your hands. Essentially, arguing against this story’s conclusions will make you out to be a heartless monster who wilfully ignores the plight of others to focus on ‘mere’ facts. None of this however, changes the point that the methods used were inappropriate. As I’m part of a growing number of people that harp on about badly communicated science at every chance they get, I must say something. In November 2012, I sat down to watch a documentary on BBC three called Dying for Clear Skin. The show focused on the use of the drug Roaccutane as a treatment for acne. Very quickly the show centred on the more serious potential side-effects of the medication and told a heart-wrenching story of suicide that could perhaps have been triggered by taking this drug. Being a BBC documentary, I had suspected that this emotional rollercoaster would be countered by good scientific evidence for or against the banning of this drug, which was ultimately the point of the show. Sadly however, I was disappointed. Instead, the show relied almost exclusively on personal accounts to paint a picture that didn’t accurately reflect the whole story. By cherry-picking the per-
Dying for Clarity Craig McInnes In collaboration with GIST
sonal accounts of a few, the show told an inherently biased story. Though I suspect that this approach made for excellent television, it removed the science from what was a valid scientific argument. The accounts used to tell the story were touching and at some points wholly concerning. But it’s important not to get drawn into these stories without checking the facts (something I suspect most viewers wouldn’t do). Checking some of the sources I discovered some disappointing truths. One of the people interviewed in the documentary, a young man named Stefan Lay, told his tale of how Roaccutane had led to feelings of depression and sexual dysfunction. He appeared as an intelligent person with an honest story to tell. However, his YouTube channel shows that he is a person who not only hates Roaccutane, but seemingly all prescription drugs. His YouTube channel is called “FireYourDoctor”, where he clumsily tries to discourage people from taking any medication whatsoever. Upon finding this out, I began to worry about this person’s motives and I can’t help but question his inclusion in the documentary. Undeterred, the film-makers interviewed him and used footage where he stated that Roaccutane had caused his inability to have sex and caused him to “feel dead inside”. Yet in his own review of the show, posted on his channel, he stated that these side-effects weren’t as bad as reported and that in fact, he was still able to have sex.1
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A fairly important contradiction I’m sure you’ll agree. After a few more personal accounts the documentary finally focuses on the evidence that is available in an attempt to link Roaccutane to depression or suicidal tendencies. In the two minutes (out of 57) dedicated to this, the facts were glossed over as irrelevant (presumably as they didn’t agree with the points being made) and fobbed off as incomplete. Sadly, the film missed its chance to have a serious debate about the drug by ignoring the science. The fact is this; out of half a million people who have been prescribed Roaccutane worldwide, reports of nine people committing suicide whilst taking the drug were made to the drug’s manufacturer. To add some context to this, that is 88% lower than the UK average (17 per 100,000 population 2). Not only this, but the film didn’t properly explain to its audience that these suicides could have been caused by any number of different reasons. You’ll hear it time and time again; correlation does not equal causation.
Isotretinoin is a compound used to treat severe cases of acne, such as cystic acne, and is the active ingredient in Roaccutane Isotretinoin also finds usage against certain aggressive cancers Isotretinoin is from a family of retinoids and is closely related to vitamin A Isotretinoin is a synthetic compound that treats acne by causing cell death in the sebaceous glands (glands that are responsible for causing acne)
to suicide made through the use of questionable and unscientific sources. The calls that came from the makers of this documentary (and some viewers) to ban Roaccutane were reactionary and misinformed. This sort of knee-jerk reaction to an emotional story is unsurprising, but the fact that it’s the aim of the documentary is discouraging to say the least. Scientific evidence is how we decide if drugs get their licence. Shouldn’t the story have followed the narrative that Roaccutane usage is on the increase, and GPs and dermatologists need to remember that they are prescribing an incredibly potent drug to potentially vulnerable users? Maybe a call to monitor side-effects much more closely would have been sensible. If nothing else, a call for more studies and more information would have been the logical thing to do. However that’s not what BBC three thinks its viewers want to see and instead they peddled a heartfelt but irrelevant story to an audience it clearly doesn’t respect. Not everybody tunes into the BBC to watch ‘Snog, Marry, Avoid?’. Come on BBC , you’re better than that.
Want more science? – www.the-gist.org 1
The thing is, I think there is a serious debate to be had here. Roaccutane usage is surprisingly common. The drug is not without its (proven) side-effects, 3 the mechanism of action is not fully understood and, worryingly, it appears that this “last option” treatment is sometimes used earlier than needs be.4 Yet all these points were forgotten in favour of the emotionally-manipulative story of an unproven link
Glasgow University Magazine
There Goes the Neighbourhood Zandi Coles
It has become an inescapable fact that our generation has been tasked with cleaning up the mess of our forefathers to create a better future for our children. What you may not know is that the mess extends beyond our planet.
In the fifty five years since we first started to escape our earthly bonds, the amount of junk we have managed to put into space is astronomical. Bad puns aside, this is a serious issue that poses a threat to both present and future space missions. Even though almost all of the artificial debris in orbit is a few centimetres in length they are travelling very, very fast. It is worth noting that the kinetic energy of an object is half its mass times the square of its velocity, making speed the greatest factor in how much energy it has – and how much damage it can inflict. To mortally wound a spacecraft it only takes a piece one centimetre in size. Oh, and also there are over 600,000 of them. The majority of space debris stems from rockets boosters, both as fragments and in their original form. There are also old satellites, parts of probes and even oddities like toothbrushes, the remnants of astronauts living in space. Collisions between these objects only make the issue worse, with fragments from these events
going on to propagate collisions of their own. One of the gravest concerns is that the density of debris will reach a critical point and cause a chain reaction of collisions (known as Kessler syndrome) that so litters our outer atmosphere we will be grounded for generations to come. It is thought by some we have already reached that point after the collision of the commercial satellite Iridium 33 and the defunct Russian satellite Kosmos – 2251 in 2009, which caused approximately 10% of the debris orbiting Earth today. While scientists across the globe try to think up ways to revert the current crisis, there are those closer to home who are developing ways to prevent the future build-up of debris. The Aerodynamic End of Life Deorbit System, or AEOLDOS , has been created by a team led by our own Dr Patrick Harkness of the School of Engineering for Clyde Space, producers of small and micro spacecraft systems. It is important to think of the debris as being within our own atmosphere, and not just in space. The effect of drag on the fragments at these altitudes, however, is so small that it could take millennia for them to slow down to a point where they can fall back down to Earth. AEOLDOS utilises this information and unfurls an
aerobrake akin to a sail once the satellite in question is decommissioned, creating enough drag at low Earth orbits so that it can return to the planet. As Clyde Space work with the small spacecraft called CubeSats, there is no danger of the satellite crashing because it will be small enough to burn up upon re-entry. The deployment system, wherein spokelike constructs shoot out and unfurl the aerobrake, holds further potential for uses in the future. Creator Malcolm McRobb of the School of Engineering explains “The technology could be used to enable solar sailing missions, where spacecraft can manoeuvre using the pressure of sunlight. Or it could form the basis of deployable antennae, increasing the sensitivity of small, low-powered spacecraft.” As we break new boundaries of technology, so too does our desire to push the limits of human discovery. Unless we succeed in mitigating the damage we have caused, we will be unable to explore the new frontiers opened to us by the pioneers on the ground. Prevention and cure cannot exist alone in a vacuum – without one the other is rendered woefully inept. Only by winning the battle against ourselves will we be able to realise the full potential that humanity offers.
Februa ry 2013
Viruses – Are They Baddies or are they Beautiful?
n the Smithfield Gallery, London, sits a beautifully constructed glass sculpture and one cannot fail to be struck by the way light seeps into each of the transparent loops and swirls. Each of the strands of the glass cocoon integrates with one another in a peaceful, organised way. It is hard to believe the sculpture is a 1 million times magnified glass model of the E. Coli bacteria. Constructed by British glass artist Luke Jerram, this piece of artwork is part of a collection of viral structures - including HIV, malaria and swine flu - made out of glass using a glass-blowing technique. Jerram’s depiction of killer viruses is unique; his artwork forces the viewer to ask the question, “Are viruses ugly or do they actually carry an element of beauty?” With the constant bombardment of reports of the ghastly effects of viruses such as malaria and HIV, it is hardly astonishing that a large proportion of the general public are of the opinion that viruses are terrifying microscopic villains. But what exactly are viruses and why do they scare us so much?
But can viruses be beautiful? From a biological standpoint, viruses have many advantages. For example, they naturally help control the size of a population. Viruses also have medical advantages, since they can provide immunity to other pathogens. Investigations are currently being carried out to establish if they can cure genetic conditions. Furthermore, viruses are currently being used to help treat diseases and build nanotechnology. Essentially, the list goes on. From an artistic standpoint, viruses have extraordinary structures. Each complex structure consists of interconnected parts that almost flow into each other in perfect harmony - much like Jerram’s glass sculptures. It registers with me, as I continue to view Jerram’s model of E.Coli, that it cannot be denied that viruses do have their advantages. And the advantages themselves are beautiful. Aesthetically, viruses are astounding organisms. The fact that they are slowly propelling the world forward definitely isn’t a bad thing. And the fact that they are helping cure diseases isn’t too shabby either. In fact, viruses aren’t all that bad at all. There is a small (and deadly) minority that petrifies the living daylights out of people and as a result, the rest of the viral world has to endure the horrendous stigma that comes with the responsibility of being a virus.
Viruses are tiny organisms which consist of either a DNA or RNA core, enclosed by a protein coat. Whether they qualify as organisms is debatable, as they are only active when they are present inside a host cell. The fact they can infect human cells, plant cells and bacterium, coupled with grotesque stories of epidemics only further reinforces the image that viruses are destructive and deadly. For instance, take the emerging Bas-Congo virus which has a viral genome that is completely unique from any other known virus. It killed 3 teenagers within days of each other in The Democratic Republic of Congo in 2009. Had it not been for the University of California’s swift intervention involving “deep sequencing” (a method that identifies and assembles informa-
tion from a sample into genomes) which allowed identification and eventual prevention of viruses, the Bas-Congo virus would undoubtedly have spread rapidly and killed many others. All things considered, it seems only natural to fear viruses and rely on science as our saviour from them. So viruses are ugly, tick box, check.
Glasgow University Magazine
Coffee, Cigarettes and Superfluidity with Dr. Andrew Baggaley Alexandra Embiricos
What defines the world around us? From the liquid in our coffee cups, to the weather we predict; behind the tangible lies a secret world of numbers and equations. Much of our understanding remains in the realm of the abstract; however, scientists and mathematicians are gradually getting closer to revealing what makes our reality tick, and it’s happening right here, on our very doorstep. Dr. Andrew Baggaley, a lecturer and researcher at the University’s School of Mathematics and Statistics, has recently discovered a cog in the grand machine.
Dr. Baggaley picks up his teaspoon at a Byres Road café and very deliberately begins to stir his coffee. “If you have, let’s say, something like honey” he begins, “it’s very viscous and has a lot of internal friction, to move a spoon through honey is hard work, to stir honey is harder still, if you can generate any movement at all.” He stirs his coffee, takes out a cigarette and lights it, directing my attention to the rising smoke. “The flow that you can generate in honey is very small, it’s what you call laminar” he continues, “It’s the same with this smoke, initially it will leave the cigarette and basically be a straight line, it rises in a very simple way. That initial flow is what’s known as the laminar flow.” But to think of lighting a cigarette and the smoke ascending calmly and orderly to the ceiling would be a strange sight indeed. The acceleration is rapid and quickly becomes chaotic, a mass of seemingly random swirls turning in on themselves and generating incredibly complicated flow; It is turbulent, a word we often hear but seldom understand. So what differentiates the laminar flow from the turbulent flow? The answer is a combination of a few different numbers, such as “how fast the air is flowing, how big the system is, and how viscous the fluid is,” Baggaley explains. “Now if you place your finger, for example, in the way of that initial laminar flow, we can mathematically predict the shape that the air would
move around the object. This would be useful if everything was in this regime of laminar flow” he ascertains, however here we come face to face with the essential problem. Theoretically, if everything was laminar, interpretations would be simple, but our reality is anything but, it is a turbulent and unpredictable one. “Mathematically things are very easy to deal with if they are linear. In school we’ve all seen y = mx + c resulting in a straight line graph, as well as non linear problems such as quadratics y = m x 2 .” However, nature is described by partial differentiation equations, an equation whose variables are ‘trapped’ as rates of change, here nonlinearity is a real problem. “It turns out that the equation which governs fluid motion is very nonlinear!” exclaims Baggaley, no surprises there. “In reality”, he continues, “we can’t describe what every little thing’s going to do, but we can describe on average how things are going to look statistically.” When something such as a fluid becomes turbulent it starts rotating, like the water at the bottom of a waterfall. “We have motion on incredibly large scales, and we also have motion on smaller scales, and all these things are intercommunicative.” “Picture a cloud” directs Baggaley, “if you only have motion on a particular scale it doesn’t particularly look like a cloud. Once you start adding in smaller scale motions, all that flow on different scales creates the whirling complexity we see.” Essentially turbulence is the interaction between these swirling motions,
Superfluids at different speeds. The dimples represent vorteces in the superfluid.
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with each swirl creating a vortex much like the one that appears in a cup of coffee when stirred.
several fixed vortices would appear spontaneously, like several little tornadoes in tandem.
It would be incredibly difficult to differentiate the size of the swirls in normal fluid, however, with each turbulent swirl layered upon each other and interacting in a way that makes them very hard to detect. This is where we turn to the world of very low temperatures.
Onto the world of the Quantized Vortex Filament, an impressive name for what essentially explains that vortices come in a fixed size in a superfluid. As Baggaley clarifies: “Vortices in these weird substances are like very thin lines, they can’t get any fatter or thinner, they’re quantized.” Around each quantized vortex filament flow is present, just like around the tornado you have flow of air, but in the superfluid world every tornado would come in the same size.
“Everything is a particle and a wave at the same time. We call this wave particle duality, and the smaller things become the more important this duality becomes.” It all seems very complex, but think of it this way: imagine yourself as wave, your wave length would be very small, which is essentially why you are in one body and not smeared over a large wavelength.
An excellent example of a superfluid is superfluid helium-4, used in cryocoolers to lower temperatures. “When cooled to its superfluid state the rotational motion vortices have a fixed strength and size” he explains. A revelation like this is mind-boggling, imagine if your coffee was a superfluid, instead of having one central swirl of a varying size according to your cup, a lattice for
So the simple understanding of turbulence has now become more complex. “Fundamental science tends to come in these really incremental steps” we muse over the dregs of our coffees, now cold. “Then someone like Einstein comes along and blows everyone out of the water!” Perhaps another paradigm shift is on its way.
“As you cool something down” Baggaley continues “its wave function becomes larger, so eventually you get a particular temperature where you’ve cooled things enough that the wave functions begin to overlap.” Picture in your mind each individual atom with its individual wave function, when it is cooled the atoms blur into each other and can behave as one coherent thing, eliminating the autonomy of an individual particle. When atoms behave as a unified whole in this way, friction between individual particles is eliminated, resulting in the magic word: Superfluidity.
Here Dr. Baggaley gets to the heart of what he and his team have discovered: that vortices have the ability to bundle together. Rather than thinking about a single superfluid vortex each with its own flow about it, think of several superfluid vortices bundled together with a single larger flow around them. This idea of topology can be found all over nature, from DNA molecules forming knots, to the very way our cities are designed. Thus, as the vortex filaments can form bundles they can act to create a bigger flow, rather than the spontaneous holes in your coffee. “Because of this bundling in the real world and in these really weird quantum worlds, the statistics match up” Baggaley concludes. Applying this exceptional physics to practical use would mean the ability to predict the weather to an extent never before imagined.
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