31st MARCH 2014 £1.00 Issue 1
IN SIGHT Economics SCIENCE GEOGRAPHY ENGINEERING POLITICS
KICKING OFF BRAZIL’s ECONOMY THE BUDGET PAGE 08 SNOWflake science PAGE 09 Google car PAGE 18 Christ Redeemer Statue in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Press photo ©
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Economics Threats to China’s Economic Growth Kicking Off Brazil’s Economy The Contentious Centra Bank Weapon The Chancellor’s Budget
Science The Chemistry of Snowflakes Heart Attacks: How to survive one Mitochondria How to Shrink Your Brain Graphane’s Potential
14 16 19
Geography Vienna: The City of Dreams Climate Change: Should we bother?
Engineering Dare to Innervate or Innovate A Better Reaction to Disaster Greenpower Competition Robots and Roads
THREATS TO CHINA’S ECONOMIC GROWTH
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Shahvir Magol China has experienced significant economic growth in the last few decades resulting in it growing to become the world’s second largest economy. But what are the threats to growth? Why isn’t China called a developed country yet? What is shadow banking and how is it a threat to China? What are the potential consequences of the economy being the ‘Factory of the world’ and selling so many goods to other countries? According to BBC News, “shadow banking” refers to ‘trusts, leasing and insurance companies - or any other non-bank financial institution which perform banking functions without a banking licence’. In other words, it is the name for the unregulated, unofficial banking system which operates on a huge scale in China. This business has become enormous over the years and is now a serious threat to China’s economy, especially since its debt is estimated to be a whopping 200% of its GDP! Businesses and even local governments have been borrowing from loan sharks to finance their short term debts since it is quicker than using an official bank. Savers have also been channelling money into the system with the hope of earning huge interest rates which one can never hope to gain from a commercial bank. However, in incidents where a shadow bank collapses i.e. if borrowers fail to repay, people could potentially lose all their savings and investors make massive losses. Many shadow banks in the
form of ‘Trusts’ have been set up as off-balance sheet subsidiaries of commercial banks so any losses made will directly affect banks’ profits and operations, hence causing major problems in the official banking system. The main fear of the central government and economists is that the financial system of China can come crashing down like it did in 2008 if the system is left to operate under free market conditions (i.e. with no government intervention and lax regulations). Recession, unemployment, riots by investors who have lost their money, depression for those who have lost their family savings, suicides by the shadow bankers, halts in production if businesses can’t repay loans and are forced to close...the list of consequences and repercussions goes on. Poverty and inequality are also considered threats to China’s growth since they are the main reasons why China has not been classified as a developed country, despite impressive growth rates. Although the high rates of growth have brought millions of people out of poverty, China still has the second largest number of people living in poverty in the world (after India). This means that although China’s GDP growth figures have been exceptionally high in recent years, not everyone has benefitted from the economic growth in China. Whilst Beijing and Shanghai are considered developed cities and trade hubs of the world, people in some parts of rural China are dirt poor and the infrastructure of
many villages is extremely poor, to the extent that paved roads, access to good education or decent health care are still sought after in some provinces. China has relied so much on exports to fuel growth in its economy in the last few decades to the extent that it is known as the ‘Factory of the world’. This dependence on exports is thought to be one of the main reasons for the slowdown it has experienced in recent years since European countries have experienced recessions and crises, limiting their purchasing power and their ability to import goods from China. This has meant that exports to European countries and the US have seen a significant decline due to the economic crises these countries have been facing since 2008. China’s export led growth model meant that a fall in exports caused a large slowdown in GDP growth, which is now 7.7% as opposed to 10% in 2007. To sum it all up, China may be classed as a world superpower but there are significant obstacles for growth in the country, which could severely hamper its future prospects if not dealt with properly by its policy makers.
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WILL THE WORLD CUP HELP BRAZIL’S ECONOMY KICK OFF? Vehesan Raman Less than 100 days to go. On the 12th June all eyes across the world will be focussed on the next month to see who will be crowned FIFA World Champions. The question all 199 million Brazilians are asking is what will happen to the economy after the World Cup: will it go on a match winning streak or will it go off the boil? There have been many critics within Brazil regarding the staging of the World Cup followed two years later by the Olympics with the economy being in such a precarious situation. Having previously experienced vast amounts of economic growth to become the 6th largest economy in the world as well as part of the coined BRICS countries (a term used to refer to the fast developing economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), it now has the lowest projected growth of 4.2% for the next 10 years amongst these countries. There has been social unrest in response to the vast amounts spent on hosting the World Cup as was seen with the protests at the Confederations Cup last year, usually seen as the dress rehearsal. Although there was success on the pitch last year as Brazil were crowned winners, there was not as much certainty amongst individuals for success for the country overall. Although it may seem like a great outlay, the economy will produce an extra R$142 billion (Brazilian Real) through investment and employment to build the infrastructure. In addition, the
BRAZIL’S ECONOMY GDP Rank GDP Growth GDP by sector
$2.503 trillion 7th 0.9% Agriculture: 5.5% Industry: 27.5% Services: 67% 21.4%
Population Below Poverty Line 54.9% of GDP Public Debt Foreign Reserves $377.5 billion
infrastructure that is built will not just disappear but stay to benefit future productivity. The 12 host cities will benefit from expanded airports, improved transport systems and better telecommunication services. Although these upgrades were necessary, they hardly would have taken place simultaneously were it not for the World Cup. Increases in productivity as a result of this can shore up Brazil’s previously low productivity. The increased investment will mean that both the price and non-price competitiveness of Brazil’s exports will improve in the global market. In fact at the moment small and medium sized businesses contribute less than 1% of all of Brazil’s exports. Although there is scepticism over the benefits of tourism in the long term, previous hosts of similar global events have enjoyed lasting benefits as people come back to see the places where memorable events occur such as people visiting the Bird’s Nest in Beijing where Usain Bolt broke sprinting world records.
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However Brazil may have scored an own goal in the cities they have decided to use as hosts for the World Cup. 4 out of the 12 cities such as Manaus in the Amazon Rainforest do not even have a local football team. Consequently, the costs to build the stadiums in these cities may not be recovered as the occasional music concert may not generate enough income to pay them off. They would become white elephants: not making any real money whilst also being too expensive to take down. There is also the opportunity cost of the 25 billion reals that is being spent on building stadiums which could have been used to invest in either schools or hospitals. The benefits of the global event may not be felt across the country as, whilst the host cities will feel the benefit of improved capital and infrastructure, it will not translate onto a national scale. The World Cup will hopefully will be held without the social unrest which would detract from the spectacle. This will also be a crucial time for the Brazilian government as there are general elections not long afterwards in October. The only thing they can do is hope that the economy will improve after the game changer rather than succumb to a howler.
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THE CONTENTIOUS CENTRAL BANK WEAPON Anthony Zhang The harsh economic crisis of 2008 hit the conventional central bank controls hard. It was a year later in 2009 when Mervyn King, the previous governor of the Bank of England, embarked on a 3 month, £75bn ‘quantitative easing’ (QE) Programme. Recently, Mark Carney, the current governor, announced the current quantitative easing stimulus, worth £375bn, was to be kept unchanged. But what does this actually mean? People often regard quantitative easing as printing money. But rather than simply creating heaps of newly minted coins and notes, central banks use a more complicated process to inject money into the economy. Essentially, the Bank of England creates money out of thin air by crediting its own bank account- electronically- and uses this to purchase assets (usually government bonds) from banks and other financial institutions. Naturally this increase in the demand for bonds causes an upward pressure on prices- from P to P1, as shown below. When coupled with the fresh new supply of money in their accounts, companies (who sold the bonds) will use the proceeds to invest in individuals and companies in the form of loans. This carries the hope that they will offer lower interest rates with these loans, thereby increasing the money spent in the economy by lowering the cost of borrowing. Once the economy has recovered, the Bank of England sells the bonds it has bought and destroys the money it has created, meaning that no extra cash generated in the long term. The idea was first tried by Japan with the purpose of escaping deflation following the burst of an asset bubble in the early 1990s, where the greatly inflated stock
and real estate prices of the previous decade suddenly crashed. Since 2007, the US Federal Reserve has put in $2.3tn into its own QE programme. This is with the intention of creating cheaper loans and consequently increasing consumption and investment. The problem with interest rates Effectively, interest rates cuts have had the same effects as the quantitative easing stimulus. However, what if they cannot be dropped further? Since the Bank of England was founded in 1694, its main interest rate has averaged 5%. When the financial crises struck in 2007 it stood at 5.75%, but since 2009, with the quantitative easing stimulus, it has remained at a record low of 0.5%. When it does rise, Mr Carney expects the increase to be in the region of 2-3%. When taking into account predictions made by the BCC (British Chambers of Commerce) stating that GDP in April this year will rise above the level at the start of 2008, as well as IMF predictions that UK growth will be 2.4% this year, the huge disparity in interest rates between 2007 and the present is hardly justified. In fact, if the interest rate was currently higher, the Bank of England could altogether stop its QE programme, since it would already have room to manoeuvre rates downwards.
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The bank explains the low equilibrium rate- the rate needed to keep inflation and economic growth uniform- by citing 2 factors. One is the fiscal contraction: with the state declining its output by reducing spending, the private sector is likely to expand to take up this spare capacity. A low interest rate is needed to encourage this activity. The second factor is ‘secular stagnation’: where falling investment demand in advanced economies, coupled with a swamp of savings in new emerging markets, created depressed interest rates within the UK. This downward pressure does not seem like it will evaporate anytime soon: the Eurozone shows hints of deflation risks, and if global stagnation persists, the pressure might even increase. It seems as if the only
way to fuel recovery, since interest rates cannot drop below zero, is through quantitative easing. A Total Success? Quantitative easing has not escaped criticism however; inflation has also been a large concern. Quantitative easing runs the risk of rampant inflation due to the rapid increase in the money supply. This debatably is the trade-off for confidence and growth, though many economists argue there is no proof to suggest that these benefits have been felt. The macroeconomic effects of the stimulus are simply not quantifiable. Companies now also worry about their pension scheme deficits. The cost of paying pensions is calculated based on the assumption that all their assets
are invested in bonds, so as the yield on bonds has dropped, these companies have to put more of their assets aside to generate the same level of pension income. The BBC has recently been forced to pay £750m into its pension scheme as it sees its pension deficit rocket to £2bn. Nevertheless, quantitative easing has been the last gasp of hope in the Bank of England’s arsenal, taking over where manipulation of conventional interest rates has failed. It will still be disputed whether injecting money is advantageous (the creator, Richard Werner, certainly does not think so anymore), or harmful. Then again, as Mark Carney is still keeping the stimulus running, all evidence suggests that he is confident that this weapon is a powerful one.
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THE CHANCELLOR’S BUDGET AND THE INFLUENCE OF THE 2015 ELECTION Neal Dattani This year’s budget was delivered on the 19th March and with the general election coming up next year it was expected that George Osborne would announce some measures that will boost his party’s chances of winning by offering something for everyone in his budget. When examining the impact of the budget we need to take into consideration the effect on businesses, people and the macroeconomic side (government objectives). So what exactly has the Chancellor said that will create optimism about the economy and the Conservative Party? The impact in people and businesses Firstly it is important to understand that despite the UK economy recovering at quite a substantial rate, ordinary citizens do not feel any better off than they did in 2010 when the last election took place and George Osborne delivered his first budget. This has prompted Osborne to introduce policies that will appeal to those who are still tentative about the economic recovery. The Conservatives need to gain the support of the C1 and C2 social classes (the lower middle and skilled working classes respectively) and in response to this the Chancellor has announced a rise in personal tax allowance from £10,000 to £10,500, which would mean that people are left with more disposable income. He has brought about a cut in beer duty and although this appears insignificant it is a small political ploy to bring those in the lower and
middle classes on board with him. He has also aimed to attract older, retired voters to put their faith in the Conservatives and this has been dubbed the ‘grey vote.’ The budget outlines that all tax restrictions on pensioners' access to their pension pots are to be removed. There is a New Pensioner Bond, paying "market-leading" rates, available from January 2015 to over-65s, with possible rates of 2.8% for one-year bond and 4% for three-year bonds – with a £10,000 limit on each bond. With this, Mr. Osborne hopes to appeal to ‘grey voters’ by introducing a policy that will not even have an effect until next year. The impact on macroeconomic objectives The Chancellor has stressed that although there has been an inspired recovery, the deficit will remain large and so further austerity measures will be required to minimise the country’s ever-increasing national debt. He has decided to put a cap on welfare spending at £119 billion which is just one example of austerity and probably one of the biggest talking points when cutting spending. The UK has had a current account deficit for many years and George Osborne has said the country was still borrowing too much whilst not saving, investing or exporting enough. Therefore we should expect to see a reduction in import expenditure and a rise in export revenue as the Chancellor outlines his policies to improve the current account. The economic outlook has been
improving for some time and forecasts today suggest that GDP is set to grow by 2.7% this year: the best performance the UK economy has had in seven years, faster than both Brazil and Russia in terms of growth. An increase in the annual investment allowance has been announced: where it is currently fixed at £250,000 per year, it will double to £500,000 from 1 April 2014 until the end of next year. This measure will provide businesses with the certainty of immediate tax relief on investments in plant and equipment, which should help encourage them to invest and grow their business. The Budget is an important event for everyone in the country because it will affect us all in some way or another. It is an opportunity to find out what the government’s fiscal stance is for the year whilst outlining all the government’s goals and policies. It has created some optimism about this year’s economic performance and people hope that this will bring with it some improvement in their daily lives.
Science | Insight | 9..... SNOWFLAKES: AN INTRODUCTION TO CLOUD SCIENCE Prajay Patel
tained, however each arm of the they remain in the atmosphere. How do Snowflakes Form? crystal may branch off the Snowflakes form inside clouds, centre differently. Snowflakes form when 2 condiwhich are made up of water tions are met: Super Saturation droplets, water vapour and variNo snowflakes are exactly alike: and Super Cooling ous impurities. When a cloudâ€™s There are more than 100 Super-saturation: The existence temperature decreases the features that can be identified of extra water vapour in the air. water molecules crystallise on a snowflake giving 10158 This normally occurs when around these impurities, formpossible snowflake configurathere is a decline in temperaing a hexagonal structure. These tions. These will be affected by ture, which results in more hexagonal structures are able to the slightest temperature and water vapour in the air than stack into sheets creating hexaghumidity differences. As a usual. The extra water vapour onal prisms. result of this, no two snowflakes crystallises into water droplets Once the prism grows, branchare exactly identical, ing causes the Microscopic dust particle in a cloud when it comes down to snowflake to develthe precise number of Water molecules condense onto the surface of the particle, op leg like strucand then onto each other in a hexagonal lattice formation water molecules, spin tures from the hexof electrons and the agonâ€™s corners. Due The hexagonal plate grows into a prism. isotopic abundance of to the 6 sided Different facets grow at difference rates, hydrogen and oxygen arrangements of depending on the conditions within them. Whilst it water molecules in Branching instabilities causes arms to grow on the corners. These grow faster than the rest of the crystal and become is entirely possible for snowflakes, they more pronounced two snowflakes to look have 6-fold symmeThe snow crystal is then blown into a new setof conditions which favour plate growth exactly alike, the try due to this proagain. The variability of conditions experiamount of factors that cess of crystallisaenced by each crystal accounts for the complexity of forms seen contribute to the tion. The hydrogen structure of a single bonding between snowflake means that water molecules is or ice. it is highly unlikely to have any responsible for the hexagonal Super Cooling: The existence of two which are identical. If the shape: the angle between the water under 0oC. Water does snowflake is formed under conhydrogen atoms in H2O is 104.5o not freeze at 0 Degrees Celsius sistent conditions, i.e. constant and hence when hydrogen due to the existence of Brownitemperature and humidity it bonding holds the water molean motion (Tap water freezes at may be symmetrical. cules together in the snowflake o 0 C due to impurities whilst structure the resultant shape is pure water freezes at -42oC) Why is Snow White? hexagonal. The basic shape of a snowflake Snowflakes have many light-reThe growth of a snow crystal crystal is dependent on the temflecting surfaces and scatter starts when some molecules perature at which it is formed: light into all of its separate connucleate around a tiny impurity. lower temperatures produce flat stituent colours, meaning that Changes in local conditions can and plate-like structures, whilst unlike water and ice we persubsequently alter the shape at higher temperatures longer, ceive snow to be white. and size of the crystal as it more needle-like crystals are forms. The snowflakes that fall formed. Shape it therefore So next time you see snowflakes, are between 0.2mm and 5mm determined by the atmospheric head over to: http://www.its.wide. Larger snowflakes break conditions experienced by an ice caltech.edu and find out what up in the wind due to their crystal as it falls. The six sided type of snow has fallen in your fragility and smaller snowflakes shape will always be mainarea. are not heavy enough to fall, so
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HEART ATTACKS: HOW TO SURVIVE ONE Shihaab Nawab A heart attack (also known as a Myocardial infarction), is one of the biggest killers in the UK. According to the British Heart Foundation, most deaths from coronary heart diseases are caused by a heart attack, with an estimated 103,000 heart attacks in the UK each year, though not all of them lead to death. For those who do not die instantly after a heart attack, the body produces an inflammatory response, where large quantities of immune cells like phagocytes and lymphocytes travel to the heart to prevent infection. You may think that this immune response is beneficial to us, but the opposite is actually true; while immune cells produced may be very effective at fighting off any microorganisms or pathogens that enter the body, toxins produced by these cells can actually damage surrounding tissue. This can cause even more damage and means the heart may not regenerate properly and have a slightly different structure to before which can make it inefficient, as well as lead to symptoms like shortness of breath, a limited ability to do exercise and an increased risk of having another heart attack.
For this reason, reducing or even preventing the damage caused after a heart attack is crucial, and a recent accidental discovery by Australian scientists may be the first step towards achieving this goal. The scientists found that they can use a Nanoparticle, which is a small particle which has at least one dimension less than 100 nanometres (1x10-9m), to greatly reduce the inflammatory response produced by the body, reducing the amount of damage done to tissues in the heart and surrounding the heart. The particles themselves are around 500 nanometres in length and are made of a similar material to the biodegradable stitches used in surgery. When these nanoparticles are given a negative charge and enter the bloodstream, they attract receptors on the surface of the cells which cause the inflammatory response. The nanoparticles bind to these receptors and can then divert these cells to the spleen, where a natural process is triggered that destroys these inflammatory cells before they reach the heart. The prevention of the inflammatory response means heart and muscle cells can regenerate better, leading to a better quality of life for the patient.
â€œThis is the first therapy that specifically targets a key driver of the damage that occurs after a heart attack," co-discoverer of the treatment Dr Daniel Getts said, referring to the fact that previous treatments have not been able to prevent the response. How soon will we see something like this become a treatment? Not for quite a while. Although experiments have managed to show the function of these nanoparticles, all experiments done so far have been done on mice, and so we do not fully know the effects of these Nanoparticles yet. Human trials will be conducted within the next few years in order to test if the nanoparticles work just as well in humans. And the potential doesnâ€™t stop there: this nanoparticle could also be used to prevent damage by inflammatory responses caused by other diseases such as inflammatory bowel cancer, and multiple sclerosis (where nerves in the brain and spinal cord are damaged). So while we may have not found something that prevents heart attacks altogether, this small particle may be a big step towards minimising the damage caused by heart attacks and ensuring more people survive them.
MITOCHONDRIA: HAVE YOU GOT THE ENERGY?
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Prajay Patel The Biochemistry of Mitochondria Synthesis of ATP The success and development of most cells is Mitochondria have two membranes: an outer based on two powerful, mutually supportive orgamembrane completely surrounding the inner nelles: the mitochondria, which extract energy membrane, with an inter-membrane space in from sources such as glucose, and chloroplasts, between. The outer membrane has many protein which capture light pores, making it permeaenergy for storage ble to ions and larger as glucose. Both of molecules, whilst the these cells have an inner membrane is more endosymbiotic restrictive and more origin. Endosymbiinvolved in protein synotic theory proposthesis. This membrane es that these orgasurrounds the mitochonnelles were once drial matrix, where ATP prokaryotic cells, A proton gradient is generated and is used to drive ATP synthesis takes place. living inside larger synthesis. The orange, green and pink structures host cells. The embedded in the inner membrane represent the pro- The catalysing process engulfed cells relied teins of the electron transport chain. Two electrons begins with a proton on the environ- pass along this chain (red arrow), passing along the from the intermembrane ment of the host three proteins stimulating the transport of a proton space entering the ATP cell, whilst the host (H+) from the matrix to the intermembrane space. The Synthase complex, cell relied on the two electrons are used for the conversion of oxygen to followed by another proton leaving the ATP prokaryote for water (Reduction). energy production, The build-up of transported protons in the intermem- Synthase complex exitin turn this led to brane space causes a gradient that is used by ATP syn- ing into the matrix space. the development of thase to produce ATP. ATP synthase is shown in blue, This is followed by the mitochondria. spanning the inner membrane. A black arrow shows rotation of the complex, protons (H+) moving from the intermembrane space, in order to prepare for Mitochondria are through ATP synthase, and out into the mitochondrial the next set of protons. semi-independent matrix. As this happens, the enzymatic activity of ATP This rotation produces within cells, with synthase synthesizes Adenosine Triphosphate from the energy required for ATP synthesis. The their own DNA. Adenosine Diphosphate. M i t o c h o n d r i a l At the inner mitochondrial membrane, a high energy lower portion of the ATP DNA (mtDNA) is electron is passed along an electron transport chain. Synthase complex comdescribed as ‘singu- The energy released pumps hydrogen out of the matrix bines ADP and Pi (inorlar double stranded space. The gradient created by this drives hydrogen ganic phosphate) in order to synthesise ATP. This circular super- back through the membrane, through ATP synthase. process is made continucoiled’ DNA moleOverall Reaction: ous by the ATP and Pi cules which are 3+ + 4+ 2+ HPO + H + nH ⇌ ATP + H O + nH ADP out in 4 2 molecules within the maternally inheritmatrix and the electron ed and consist of transport chain resulting in a proton gradient. small codes for few proteins. The mtDNA originatThe mitochondria’s’ main function is the produced from the circular genomes of the bacteria tion of energy in the form of ATP therefore mitoengulfed by the early ancestors of eukaryotes. chondrial cells multiply when a cells energy Replication is controlled in order to make sure that requirement increases. As a result of this cells daughter cells have the same amount of mitowhich need more energy such as heart, liver and chondria as their parents. muscle cells have a greater amount of mitochondria than cells with a lower energy requirement.
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COULD SLEEP LOSS BE SHRINKING YOUR BRAIN? Khilan Shah this production stopped hapods of time, and then letting Everyone has heard the perpetpening, with the cells dying at them nap to make up for this. ual rhetoric from health experts an increased rate. The scientists then examined that sleep is essential, and that This is the first time that nerve cells within the brain, you should get at least eight evidence has been found that particularly the locus coeruleus. hours of it every day. However long term sleep deprivation can Large amounts of brain damage new research indicates that lead to a loss of brain cells. "No were found in the mice, with sleep deprivation can lead to one really thought that the the mice losing 25% of the neupermanent lasting damage. rons in this particular bundle of brain could be irreversibly You may often pull all-nighters injured from sleep to catch up on that last bit of homework or New research conducted by the University of Pennsyl- loss," Veasey said. revision before an vania published in the Journal of Neuroscience suggests However this study exam, but long-term that a “Lack of sleep can lead to permanent brain dam- was only done on mice sleep deprivation age”• Mice lost 25% of neurons in the locus coeruleus, and the effect of sleep limits the brain’s which is involved with alertness and cognitive function, deprivation may be when sleep patterns were disrupted different in humans. capacity. The next step is to analyse the brains of shift nerve cells. What is more worThere is a widely held belief workers after death, to look for rying is that the locus coeruleus that you can catch up on lost any evidence of brain cell loss in is involved with alertness and sleep during the weekend or humans. There is still hope that cognitive function and produces through naps during the day. new drugs could be developed to noradrenaline, which triggers But according to Sigrid Veasey the ‘fight or flight’ response. increasing the amount of sirtuin from the University of Pennsyltype 3, thereby preventing the When the mice started to lose vania this does not appear to be loss of brain cells. So the next sleep, the nerve cells produced the case. time you think of pulling an sirtuin type 3, a protein thought Mice were put on a sleep schedall-nighter beware: it could be to protect and energise the ule to mimic that of shift worknerve cells. But after a few days doing more damage to you than ers. This involved constantly you think. of constant sleep deprivation waking them for different peri-
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GRAPHANE: THE POTENTIAL OF GRAPHENE’S YOUNGER BROTHER Shihaab Nawab Many of may have heard of the material Graphene: the material made of carbon that has been hailed as a ‘wonder material’ by some due to its various properties. For those who don’t know what it is, I’ll briefly explain: Graphene is an allotrope of carbon. Allotropes are different physical forms of an element, meaning that whilst they may all contain the same element, in this case carbon, they have different molecular structures. Other allotropes of carbon include diamond and graphite. Graphene has a very similar structure to graphite, meaning that it is comprised of carbon in a honeycomb-like structure. But unlike graphite, graphene is only a single layer thick. This makes it an extremely lightweight material, whilst staying strong and flexible, due to it being held together purely by covalent bonds. As well as this, it has an extremely low resistivity, as its electrons can move very freely throughout the structure, making it one of the best electrical conductors at room temperature known to man. It is these properties that make it show great promise for use in semiconductors in place of elements such as silicon in microchips and other electrical applications. However, graphene’s ability to conduct electricity can actually pose a problem: it conducts it almost too well. This means that
it is extremely difficult to make components such as transistors out of graphene as once it starts conducting, it is virtually impossible to ‘switch off’, meaning that they can’t really be used in circuits safely or effectively as of yet. In the search for a solution to this problem, scientists have managed to create another carbon based material: graphane. Graphane is a material which has exactly the same structure as graphene, except both sides of the carbon sheet have had hydrogen added to them (through a process known as hydrogenation). These hydrogen atoms bond to the free electrons in the graphene sheet, preventing them from moving freely throughout the structure. This means that whilst it completely loses the conductivity that graphene has, it retains the strength and lightweight nature of its older brother. This opens up a wide range of potential applications for a material like this. A very important one is its potential use in graphene based circuits. In circuits, graphene is used in very small strips, made by taking a sheet of graphene and then burning off large amounts of excess graphene until they are in the desired shape. Hydrogenating these excess areas to produce graphane provides a less wasteful alternative whilst achieving the same result, as electricity can conduct along
the graphene strips, without the risk of conducting along the graphane areas. Graphane itself also has potential for conducting electricity. Researchers at Rice University, Texas have discovered that by strategically removing hydrogen atoms from the graphane sheet it gains semi-conductive properties which are far more useful in circuits and semiconductors than pure graphene as it has fewer free-moving electrons, giving it potential to act as a substitute for silicon in such applications. These applications are only the beginning. Graphane is a relatively recent discovery, and so little research has gone into its full capabilities and its potential applications, though many see the potential it has as both an insulator and a semiconductor. Aside from its conductivity, scientists are also starting to look at how its strength and small mass can be used, as graphane is said to be as much as 1000 times stronger than steel. The discovery of graphane has also raised questions about other modifications to graphene, such as what would happen if we were to replace the hydrogen in graphane with an element like fluorine. There is so much more to learn about graphane before we can widely use it to its full effectiveness. Will we ever see it become widely used in our lifetimes? Only time will tell.
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VIENNA: THE CITY OF DREAMS Hemang Hirani We are always fed up of our boring, monotonous, stressful lifestyles here in the UK and constantly dream of moving to another ideal place in the world. Well, if this is the scenario you’re in, look no further, Vienna in Austria clearly is the right city for you. For the fifth consecutive year, Vienna was ranked as the number one city with the highest quality of life in the world, surpassing cities in Switzerland, Denmark, U.S and U.A.E. The title was bestowed by Mercer, a global consulting firm, and was based on a combination of traits such as stability, rising living standards, and advanced city infrastructures. Undoubtedly it is definitely something to consider as not only does Vienna boast a vibrant cultural scene, comprehensive health care and relatively cheap housing, there is also much more to the city that many do not know about. The city literally has everything; for the youth there is a thriving music and nightlife culture beneath the subway
between the Thaliastrasse and Nussdorferstrasse stations, with famous clubs like Chelsea and the Rhiz bar. For older residents, Vienna boasts a range of architecture, with pieces from the middle-ages all the way to the Baroque period. There are also museums, markets, world-renowned coffee shops and various other historic features which have led to the city being designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Therefore, socially the city is attractive to those of all ages, and it is therefore not hard to understand why it has been labelled as the city with the highest standard of living. However, it’s not only due to social reasons that the city has clinched first place, but economically the city is also highly appealing. Often referred to as the ‘city of dreams’, Vienna has the fourth highest GDP per capita rate in the world at €36,640, with the cost of living also being relatively cheap in comparison to other European countries. With fantastic transport links including those of the world renowned U-Bahn, you
can get around the city for under €1. This is not all: one of the most enticing aspects of the city is that it enables you to get a mix of both city-life and natural surroundings. With 45.6% of the city being green space and just over 5.1% being bodies of water, there is a perfect balance between the hectic lifestyle in the urban parts of the city, and the calm and serene environment towards the periphery. However, although all this seems to be brilliant, Vienna’s population is growing. Although steadily growing at a rate of just over 1.2% per year, this means that the pressure on the city is ever increasing and as people are realising that it is the best place to live in; spots are being taken rapidly which could soon mean that by the time we look to move, it may be too late. Nevertheless, by the time we are to move, there may be another city that will take the title. Therefore, if you remain optimistic, perhaps one day your dreams of living in your utopic city may come true.
Engineering | Insight | 15.....
CLIMATE CHANGE: WHY SHOULD WE BOTHER Hemang Hirani We all know what’s happened over recent months, torrential rainfall, heavy flooding and mass damage across our part of the world, but hot, sweltering and scorching temperatures on the other side of the world in Australia, which caused mass disruption to the Melbourne Open. So what’s the reason behind this sudden change in temperature levels from the norm? Hemang Hirani investigates. How is climate change related to flooding? Modern day practises like the release of Carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels and destroyed tropical forests accumulates in the atmosphere, trapping heat that would otherwise escape into space. This trapped heat raises the planet’s average temperature. Some of the extra heat evaporates water from the ocean and soil into the atmosphere. As average global temperatures rise, the warmer atmosphere can also hold more moisture, about 4 percent more per degree Fahrenheit temperature increase. Thus, when storms occur there is more water vapour available in the atmosphere to fall as rain, snow or hail. Worldwide, water vapour over oceans has increased by about 4 percent since 1970 according to the 2007 U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report. It only
takes a small change in the amount of water vapour in the atmosphere to have a major effect. That’s because storms can draw upon water vapour from regions 10 to 25 times larger than the specific area where the rain or snow actually falls, thus even a small change in climate and in temperatures, can massively impact on precipitation and floods. I guess it’s not all bad is it? Global warming could bring opportunities. Most people will enjoy warmer summers, provided they are not too hot. Farmers could use the longer growing season to expand their range of crops – as long as there’s enough water- meaning we could enjoy a wider range of fruits and vegetables. Higher levels of carbon dioxide may allow plants to grow faster – again if there’s enough water. Warmer temperatures will allow some plants and animals to expand their range. Think again… However, although these seem great, there is also another side to it. For most of us here in the UK, it means we will suffer from harsher Winters. The Environment agency has found that Winters are becoming wetter and more rain is falling in heavy downpours. Six of the seven major rivers in the UK show an increase in frequency of peak river levels. The autumn and winter floods of 2000 were the
worst in some areas for 270 years and devastated the lives of thousands of people. In total, 700 places were hit and 10,000 properties were flooded, some five times. Significant areas of farmland were flooded, causing an estimated loss of up to £500 million to the farming industry. So What next? There is a lot we can do to not only prevent ourselves from flooding and its effects, but also to stop the risk of flooding altogether –which is what we should focus on, particularly in order to be sustainable to future generations and so they too aren’t affected by climate change. Ranging from small things like reducing the amount of electricity we use to more major scale things like tree planting, every little thing done makes a huge difference to preventing climate change, as even the small ways we contribute can massively impact the climate.
.....16 | Insight | Engineering
DARE TO INNERVATE OR INNOVATE Alex Chinweze In a world where so much time is spent in virtual reality, it is often difficult to stop and appreciate having functional limbs. Those unfortunate enough to have lost their limbs are reliant on the constant evolution of prosthetic limbs. There are two main forms of prostheses used in current biomedical approaches to amputations: Body-powered and Myoelectric. Body-powered limbs are controlled by bike-like cables connected to the healthier alternative body part which is moved in a certain way in order to re-create motion. The technology available to engineers allows the limbs to weigh one half to a third of a myoelectric limb. Myoelectric limbs work by â€œlisteningâ€? to the electrical signals made by the remaining muscles in the arms and moving the prosthetic limb as naturally as possible. Their weight comes from the motors and batteries inside them. This week, Todd Kuiken, a Psychiatrist and Engineer at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, revealed a project, which if successful, would produce prosthetic limbs designed to facilitate senso-
ry capacities in bionic limbs. The concept behind this is called targeted re-innervation. When a limb is amputated, the neural signals will still exist. The goal, therefore, is to amplify the signal that the brain is sending to these sites so that they can be recorded on the skin surface:; the amplifier being muscles. Let us consider the arm. It is connected to four main nerves from the brain: the Median, Musculocutaneous, Radial and Ulnar Nerve. If some chest nerves were removed and these four allowed to grow into them, the chest could relay movement intended for the hands. This allowed for more intuitive control over the artificial limbs which responded to appropriate muscle movements. This was evident in more fluid and faster movement in the prosthetic limbs when tested on basic hand functions. In patients in whom this has been tested, there have been displays of sensation similar to that in the missing limbs in the areas that have been re-innervated. This unexpected gift has certainly displayed promise in the desire to give the handicapped the chance to feel normal again.
Engineering | Insight | 17.....
A BETTER REACTION TO DISASTER Alex Chinweze From a coffee cup to a four bed shelter, this device is proof that Engineers are inspired to innovate by their surroundings. We are all aware of the destruction Hurricane Katrina caused and the millions subsequently displaced out of homelessness. We are all also aware of the poor rehabilitation efforts carried out by the US government. Driven to solve a problem, Michael McDaniel designed the Exo housing system. The cheap, lightweight, easy to produce, recyclable, reusable Exo disaster relief shelter by Reaction is to become active in emergency aid following a natural catastrophe. Each unit provides 80 square feet of space and four single beds. It also contains portable generators that power four power outlets, a weather radio, solid-state LED lighting and a Nest-like AC system.
There are some interesting pieces of technology that feature in this design. For example, each system contains an imitation of the Nest AC system that learns your temperature preferences and adjusts accordingly. This status is relayed to a central populous app for easy maintenance of the systems. The structure of the design is not overly complex, but its implications could be profound. From disaster aid to housing efforts in Africa and other LEDCs all over the world, the possibilities are endless. The true brilliance, however, comes from its humble conception; inspired by the design of a Styrofoam coffee cup. Ideas are omnipresent, but doing something with them requires the ingenuity of an engineer.
THE GREENPOWER COMPETITION Sanchit Agrawal Have you ever wondered what it is like to drive an electric car… that you have built yourself? The Greenpower Competition is ideal for sixth formers, youth groups, apprentices and universities. Officially called the IET Formula 24+, the competition comprises of designing and building an electric car with a standard motor and sets of batteries. You work in a group to create a car – almost from scratch. The competition is run by the Greenpower Education Trust, whose objective is to inspire more young people to become engineers by presenting the engineering industry as an interesting and relevant career choice. Your mission is clear. You have to take your car into eight Championship rounds of 60 minutes
each and race it against other teams. But it’s not just fun and games – you need to design your car to be as aerodynamic and fast as possible, while sticking to the very strict regulations. You need to design every part of the car, taking care of every little detail. You will be designing the chassis, the brake system, the motor, and the axles – pretty much everything in a car. The best part about it is the freedom you have – you can try to design the car in any way that you like, with almost any shape (provided it meets the size requirements) – make it long and narrow, or short and wide, it’s your choice. A few teams from QE have previously attempted to enter the competition – but none have won anything in it. Do you think you’re good enough to get
.....18 | Insight | Engineering
ROBOTS AND ROADS: HOW DOES THE “GOOGLE CAR” WORK? Siddharth Menon You may have heard of the Google car – a self-driven vehicle which literally needs no one behind the wheel. Once a secret project, Google’s autonomous vehicles are roaming the streets of San Francisco, being taken out for test drives. The technology giant may not be using Lambos to prove a point, but their fleet of Toyota Priuses have impressed by driving over 300,000 kilometres. They have been documented covering busy highways, different terrains off-road as well as mountainous paths and there has.only been 1 recorded accident! But how do they do it? Stanford University professor Sebastian Thrun, who guides the project, and Google engineer Chris Urmson discussed these and other details in a keynote speech at the IEEE International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems in San Francisco last month. The car consists of four radars, mounted on the front and rear bumpers, that allow the car to "see" far enough to be able to deal with fast traffic
on freeways; a camera, positioned near the rear-view mirror, that detects traffic lights; and a GPS, inertial measurement unit, and wheel encoder, that determine the vehicle's location and keep track of its movements. There are some disadvantages at this stage of testing. It relies on very detailed maps of the roads and terrain, something that Urmson said is essential to determine accurately where the car is. Using GPS-based techniques alone, he said, the location could be off by several meters. The second thing is that, before sending the self-driving car on a road test, Google engineers drive along the route one or more times to gather data about the environment. When it's the autonomous vehicle's turn to drive itself, it compares the data it is acquiring to the previously recorded data, an approach that is useful to differentiate pedestrians from stationary objects like poles and mailboxes. Sometimes, however, the car has to be more "aggressive." When going through a four-way intersection,
Lidar A rotating sensor on the roof scans the area in a radius of 60 metres for creation of dynamic, three dimensional map of the environment Video Camera Mounted near the rear-view mirror, the camera detects traffic lights and any moving objects Distance Sensors Four radars, three on the frount bumper and one in the rear bumper, measure distances to various obstacles and allow the system to reduce the speed of the car.
for example, it yields to other vehicles based on road rules; but if other cars don't reciprocate, it advances a bit to show to the other drivers its intention. Now this will ensure road safety, so us QE boys don’t need to worry about being flattened on the way to school! So what does this car implicate? It could be the start of a complete change in the way our traffic system works. Vehicles would become a shared resource, a service that people would use when needed. You'd just tap on your smartphone, and an autonomous car would show up where you are, ready to drive you anywhere. You'd just sit and relax or do work. By the time you guys leave school, the traffic may not be manually controlled. This in fact may contribute to the final aims of the project – to reduce road accidents, road congestion and fuel consumption.
Position Estimator A sensor mounted on the left rear wheel measures lateral movements and determines the car’s position on the map
Politics | Insight | 19.....
MAGISTRATES: THE OLD, THE WHITE, THE MIDDLE CLASS Akber Khanbhai The public confidence in magistrates has become dangerously low, as they become ever more elderly, white and middle class, a new report has found. It concluded that despite the fact that every successive government has made an attempt to make the magistracies more representative of the people who they have to face in their courts, they are in fact becoming less diverse. According to the report, of the 22,377 serving magistrates in England and Wales, the amount of young, working class or ethnic minority justices has actually decreased during the last 15 years. Transform Justice, the charity who conducted the study and highlighted the trend, warned that unless immediate change was decreed to reverse this trend, it will “threaten the support they [magistrates] currently enjoy” and will hence defeat “the very purpose of having a lay magistracy-judgement by peers.” When one looks at the diversity among Magistrates, it is abundantly clear that change is necessary, with more than half of all magistrates aged 60 and over, compared to only a third in 1999. Thousands are nearing retirement and 60% are due to retire within ten years. Only 15.9% are under 50, compared with 25% in 1999. Ethnicity among Magistrates has also proved to be as unacceptable, as the report also said
that 91.7% are white compared with 85.9% of the population and that in the year leading to April 2013 the number of black magistrates dropped by more than a third. The study also found that magistrates are disproportionately middle-class with more than half in managerial, senior official or professional occupations and that 48% are male and 52% female. At present, there is a standstill when it comes to the recruitment of Magistrates, whose numbers have dropped significantly over the past 5 years, due to the fact that criminal courts are having less to deal with. This can be seen from there being 29,800 in 2007 to 23,400 in 2013, which is a 22% drop. Another dilemma is the fact that it can be very challenging for employers to allow staff to be magistrates or for volunteers to give up their time for a role with no pay. As a result, Hampshire is the only area in the entire country still currently accepting applicants for the bench. Also, Ms Gibbs, who was a magistrate for five years, said that several benches also recruited on a first-come, first-served basis and only the first few applications were considered after the number of eligible applicants had been reached, meaning that “diverse” applicants might be overlooked. Shailesh Vara, the Justice Minister, said: “Since 2003 the
number of women and members of black and ethnic communities serving as magistrates has increased. While there has been progress in encouraging a more diverse range of magistrates, we recognise that there is more to do. We want applications from people from all walks of life, and who have the necessary skills - regardless of factors such as gender, age or ethnicity. We will continue to try to ensure that our magistrates reflect the make-up of modern Britain.” The report made recommendations to increase diversity; including allowing the magistrates courts more to do, by giving some Crown Court cases to them. The problem of Crown Courts having access to larger sentences would be fixed by allowing Magistrates Courts to have this same right. Another option the report proposed is to introduce fixed tenure of say, ten years, for magistrates and to actively promote the appointment of under-represented candidates.
IN SIGHT 31st March 2014 £1.00 Issue 1