Top 4 Coding Courses for Teens

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Something that we can predict with almost certainty is that, at some point, coding will be the new degree – you will struggle to get jobs without it. More and more graduate vacancies aimed at physics graduates are requiring a proficiency in C++, Java, Python, etc. and the worrying part is that most physics undergraduate degrees do not include this as compulsory. Students that come to university already able to code are well ahead of the game whilst many of us went 2 years without needing to (or having a reason to practise this) to then be handed a final year project with programming skills at the very heart of operations!

The ICT curriculum is attempting to approach this but as with learning a language in school, class sizes and strained teachers leave the kids in the the class that exist as a minority in the “I want to learn” bracket neglected. Sometimes, it’s better to jump through the hoops of Key Stage 3 in class and get the learning in elsewhere.

Options exist: picking up books on coding, online courses such as CodeAcademy are fantastic, or events that accelerate learning in person. The latter approaches a problem that lots of Educational Technology can forget – the importance of social reinforcement. For kids that don’t want to do sports, this is an opportunity for a hobby that can turn into a professional career. The ability to design and write games is a hugely sought after skill and one that stimulates the young mind.

1. Fire Tech Camp

Fire Tech Camp currently offer 42 courses in Bristol, London, Manchester, Cambridge and Reading. Courses are £550 in London for 5 days of intensive training for teenagers older than 14.

2. Bermo Tech

This is a fantastic company that offers tons of courses for all ages and the ones suitable for minors are run by the founder herself, Narges Berry. Separate week long courses are available in the Summer for 6-8, 9-12 and 13-17 year olds, tailoring teaching to the appropriate age. iOs and Android app development courses exist as well as classes for the more flexible Java. Courses start at £350.

3. Tech Camp

With their camps, Tech Camp offers those near Hammersmith to select from 13 activities, including Laser Tag (where they programme the game themselves) and Rasperry Pi. Courses are run by teachers that are used to a classroom environment but also appreciate the relaxed setting of Tech Camp. Workshops begin at £250 for Mon-Fri.

4. FunTech

With 11 locations, FunTech have scaled well offering 9 different classes including Lego Robotics, 3D Digital Modeling/Animation/Printing courses, Java Coder and Minecraft Mods, offering something that will interest pretty much anybody. They offer Summer camps as well as regular classroom courses. Prices start at £495.

Most locations suit Londoners but it can be expected that courses for kids will diffuse throughout, offering places a bit further North the same opportunities to compete with the best. It’s an exciting time and it will be interesting to see who becomes the Rosetta Stone of computing for kids.

Oprah and the Physics Speaker

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Oprah is an example of a key person of influence that seeks to provide a daily nugget of inspiration to Americans ready to be moved. Such is the success of her empire, Winfrey is one of the most powerful and wealthy individuals around. With that money, she has changed lives and communities and is deserving of praise.

As any KPI should, Oprah continually updates how she connects with her following and the latest effort, “Live the Life You Want” has the motivator touring the US as she preaches faith, hope and love. Attendees will leave feeling touched by her words and honoured to share her presence. But there is a third party left feeling sour.

At these events, tickets are charged from $99 all the way up to a stinging $999. For that, attendees get to hear Oprah speak amongst other spiritual spoken journeys not by the mogul herself. Those speakers, revealed by one act asked to speak – Revolva – are simply not being offered financial compensation. Even travel expenses are a dollar too far.

Profits are important and keeping them shouldn’t involve taking advantage of organisations that need to build their public profile. It isn’t like Oprah can’t afford it.

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Paying Physics Entertainers
Not obviously relevant to physics and education (I don’t think Oprah has a physics degree), I mention the above as a series of conversations I had with some fantastic academics suggested that their ability to draw a crowd is valued enough to ask for their performance but not enough to charge accordingly. Usually, these leaders in science are volunteering their time on the basis that what they are saying should be communicated to the masses. It should, but they shouldn’t have to always do it for free.

I ran a society for a year and every month we would ask a speaker to give an evening lecture on behalf of our department and would offer plenty of wine as a thank you. We did not charge members to attend and did the events at a loss made up for by our generous school. But there are an increasing amount of events where attendees pay for tickets but speakers do not make any money. The fact that these talented physicists double as influential speakers and great entertainers should be celebrated and rewarded accordingly. There needs to be a movement towards paying for events and thus, speakers being paid for their time in not only delivering knowledge but their preparation and skill. Scientists are putting up with it but might not for much longer. Their role in getting our passion out there is priceless but surely deserving of a reward.

There isn’t really the money for it. Lots of people are doing it for free which means that those wanting to charge for their time can’t really do so. We, as attendees and supporters, have to be happy to start paying for events. Next time you attend a ticketed science event, consider how generous the performer is given the understanding that they probably aren’t being paid.

No Ordinary Genius

Richard Feynman. Very briefly, this individual was astonishing. His achievements, findings and overall contributions to physics were as vast as they were crucial. It is not possible be aware of his feats without jaw dropping awe. Oh, and he played the bongos in a Brazilian carnival…

Below is a documentary about him. Watch before it is removed and then purchase his book Surely You’re Joking, Mr Feynman?.

Where are all of the Physics Startups/Entrepreneurs?

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I can’t help but think the above question. Where’s all the hype about upcoming, innovative physics based technologies? The romance between technology, business and physics is quite a cold one compared to the marriage between technology, business and engineering. Engineers have been pushing and battling their way into tech but physicists are less famous for it yet physicists are arguably just as adept.

Currently studying MSc Technology Entrepreneurship at UCL, I’m exposed to some exciting theories about modern entrepreneurship with the theories mimicking a scientific approach being most enticing. “Learn → Build → Measure” with a hypothesis in mind, eliminate uncertainty whilst making sure that tests are free(ish) of bias – that’s pretty scientific. For something as unpredictable as business, it’s beautiful to see that success is more likely for those that test any assumptions, scrapping any theories that are shown to be obsolete.

Especially as an experimental physicist, I am naturally inclined to do the above. If I have a theory, I want to test it. I dislike conclusions based upon bad data and make an effort to disprove my theories as the truth is more important than feeling like I have discovered something. Ultimately in science, a bad theory will be thrown out and the implications in entrepreneurship are similar: even with a bit of momentum, ignoring or being dishonest about results to testing will eventually be exposed with implications in the regions of rejection from investors and failed ventures. Creating solutions for problems that people do not have.

Physicists know that humankind will never know everything, that there is always something to learn and so, we should endeavour to keep learning. This comfort with humility is a key aspect of potentially brilliant entrepreneurs. For me, it is a crisis that this enormously talented group are not being encouraged to get stuck into solving the world’s problems outside of the (metaphorical if you’re a theorist) laboratory. We may even see a time where physics makes grand advances privately away from academic institutions. If this is a byproduct of the development of useful products then so be it! There is no single answer to the title question but any progress will be a massive positive. With enough support, tomorrow’s physicist will be tomorrow’s best and most innovative entrepreneurs.

GET READY FOR HALLEY’S COMET!

What dat?

The prettiest thing everrrrr. 1705 and Edmond Halley did what he did best, he looked at the night sky and observed. “Ooooooo” said a starry eyed Edmond. Comets are massive chunks of ice and rock flying around in the solar system.We only get to see it a few times as it embarks upon a huge elliptical orbit of our starry lifegiver – the Sun. The ice melts when near the hot star creating a glittery trail of magical wetbeautydust.

Halley had a look at some reports of a big shiny thing being visible from Earth in 1531, 1607 and 1682. Hypothesising that this was from the same comet, he predicted the return to be in 1758 but of course, he died before that happened. The poor guy didn’t even get to see his theory play out.

When’s it here?

This big massive shiny thing wasn’t supposed to visit until 2061 but midnight on October 21st or 22nd (2014) is set to gift us with a view of the ice dust trail. I’m planning on being alive in 2061 but for those that don’t like those odds, this is the only chance you get as it continues its orbit of the Sun. Importantly, you can strip off and get your liberated, naked eye involved – no telescope necessary.

We haven’t seen it for 30 years, I certainly haven’t as I was not a living entity until 1991. 1986 was the year of the Argentinian World Cup champions, Oprah Winfrey’s first TV show and Halley’s Comet.

What has Halley’s Comet seen?

BC – the Chinese astronomers saw it in 239BC, then by the Babylonians in 164BC and then 87BC.

1066 – England was invaded by the Norman’s in the Battle of Hastings just after the comet showed itself. William the Conqueror listened to his ego, believing the star was for him, and kicked ass to become the first Norman King of England and the last successful leader of an invasion of England.

1682 – Halley saw the comet as a 20something.

1759 – The British did what they do best – acquiring land. Thank you, France, for the West Indies and Guadeloupe. Britain and France were not good friends, with France losing their hold of Quebec. Us Brits love us some bagels and poitine. Madonna releases one of her earlier albums.

1835 – President Jackson survives an attempt on his life by the idiot Richard “Dick” Lawrence in the same year that their national debt was reduced to $0. Think there is more chance that Halley’s comet will fall out the sky than the USA will ever completely alleviate their astronomical debt. Charles Darwin was having a gap year in South America backpacking, taking selfies in the Andes and probably first thinking about evolution as a result of an enlightening round of ayahuasca in some bloke’s hut. He claimed just went to Chile and the Galapogas Islands…

1910, April – Wikipedia says that April’s big event was the comet’s visit. Not wrong. Mark Twain was satisfied to pass the day after the comet’s perihelion, leaving the way that he arrived in the world, in sync with the comet. Destiny. The comet was spectacular this time as it approached to the tiny distance of 13.9million miles away.

Look at this beauty. First image of the comet on camera #nofilter credit to: Lowell Observatory, Arizona

1986, February – Top Gun was the year’s film to see and, taking inspiration from William, Duke of Normandy, Whitney Houston battled her way to number one in the week after its apparation with this: 

Fitting, seeing as it was written by Boy Meets Girl, singers of Waiting for a Star to Fall. Some big tunes there.

So.

You will be asked if you witnessed it and you should make the effort to. It’s the space event of October. In all honesty, it might be a bit shit because it is just the trail that we will be seeing. However, there is a chance that there will be cosmic fireworks (woo!). This should look like a bunch of shooting stars, roughly once every two minutes.

NOTE: Londoners will probably not see it due to smog/light pollution/collapsing after a long day. Just lie and say you did see and that it looked really nice. Easy.

Was Newton a Little Bitch?

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Maybs. Maybs it was the other people being utter knobs. This guy is loved by the physics community but the scientific legend had a few arch enemies. Yeah he was the father of mechanics and this and that but seriously, he could be seen as a bit of a prick.

Newton had some big ol’ issues with Robert Hooke and Gottfried “Got Fried” Leibniz, almost wiping out the memory of Hooke whilst the argument with Leibniz also involved other people. Clearly, Newton liked a bit of conflict.

Newton’s beef with Leibniz was a classic tale of “I did it first”, as in, who formed what would now be integral (whey!) to a modern calculus class. Leibniz and Newton were actually exchanging letters so that they could work on some maths problems and it is possible that Leibniz got his hands on one of Newton’s manuscripts giving GL an advantage on the road of ‘discovery’. Kind of reminds me of visits to The Louvre where plaques claim that explorers “found” those treasures. Maybe Newton was badly done here.

On to Rob Hooke. Rob Hooke is best known for his work on springs. He did other stuff and was quite the scientist but I’m more bothered about discussing the juicy goss. According to Hooke’s biorgrapher, Hooke was a miserable bastard that might be a bit of a hypocrite in the sense that he probably nicked work and said it was his, and then got pissy that someone else tried to steal it. One of the people he had a dispute with was Newton and Newton did what we all would do if our enemy died and we became President of the Royal Society – you’d burn all evidence of them, including paintings.

My favourite thing Newton did just because it is so wonderfully sarcastic was to make a reference to Hooke’s vertical challenges, saying in a that Newton saw further because he was stood on the shoulders of giants – they were friends at this point but it’s much more fun to imagine him pointing out that Hooke was a hobbit. Hooke basically said that Newton’s work on light was shit so Newton, having none of it, sought to crush his reputation, doing a pretty good job of it. Next time you get a 1997 £2 coin, check to see whether the former Master of the Royal Mint’s Hooke directed height insult is present.

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