Tag Archives: David Winlo

How to Learn Welsh – Useful Tips and Resources

by David Winlo

Welsh is a Celtic language spoken by around 0.7 million people, 5,000 of whom don’t live in Wales, or even the UK, but in the far-flung Chubut province of Argentina, known in Welsh as Y Wladfa. This is the first reason you might wish to learn Welsh, and this very reason is universal among languages – you’ll be able to talk to new people, not just in the country or countries where the language you’re learning is an official or main language. You’ll also be able to listen to Welsh folk music, and other genres, as well as reading Welsh books and poetry, as well as gaining a small amount of understanding with its related languages: Manx, Cornish, and to a lesser extent Scottish- and Irish Gaelic.

 

When learning Welsh, I would advise keeping the following in mind:

  1. Not all of those consonants are consonants. Welsh is famous for its distressing lack of vowels, in words like ‘chwech’ (six), ‘buwch’ (cow), and in various place names, such as ‘Amlwch’. Don’t worry about these. Certain letters which look like consonants are actually vowels, like the letter w in the above examples, which sounds approximately like an English ‘oo’, and y, which sounds a bit like a sound English speakers make when hesitating, namely ‘err’.
  2. Welsh is an X-Man of a language, a mutant. The letters at the start of a noun can change based on what is happening to the noun in the sentence, for example, ‘in Wales’ in Welsh is ‘yng Nghymru’, even though ‘Wales’ on its own would be ‘Cymru’. This means you might well recognise words that look similar to ones you’ve already learned if their ending is similar.
  3. Spelling, whilst initially seeming insane, makes much more sense than in English. Welsh has dropped some letters from English, such as k and x, but also has letters English doesn’t, which are made up of two characters, such as ‘Ll’, or ‘ll’ in lower case, and the above ‘Ng’, or ‘ng’ in lower case. Once you’ve worked out what these sound like, with a couple making sounds which don’t exist in English, Welsh is almost entirely phonetic in spelling, meaning words are spelled how they sound, something which non-native speakers of English would find very refreshing when trying to read words like.
  4. There are plenty of free resources out there for learning Welsh! Here are just a few: Duolingo, Omniglot, and various BBC materials.

I hope this is enough to convince or help you to learn Welsh. If so, pob lwc i chi!

 

 

Image ‘Welsh flag’ by Matthew Wilkinson is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0.

 

 

How to Learn German – Useful Tips and Resources

by David Winlo

So, you’ve been to Berlin on holiday, tried some bratwurst while there, come back and listened to some Rammstein, and now you’re intrigued – perhaps you could learn this language, and get more out of these things. Maybe find out what more the German-speaking world has to offer.

Continue reading How to Learn German – Useful Tips and Resources

James Parkinson – 200 Years On

By David Winlo

This year marks two hundred years since the discovery of a progressive neurological condition by James Parkinson, which was then called Shaking Palsy, but is now known with his name, as Parkinson’s disease. What did he discover? And what progress has since been made in its treatment?

Continue reading James Parkinson – 200 Years On

One Day Without Us Protest: A Protester’s View.

By David Winlo

On Monday evening, a group of people gathered in Anglia Square, off Magdalen Street, for a protest march through Norwich. This was part of the nationwide campaign ‘One Day Without Us’, which aims to highlight the contribution migrants make daily in the UK, as well as defending their rights and status in the country. As well as marching, there were banners and signs, and enthusiastic chanting throughout.

The chanting in particular garnered quite a response at several points during the march. A bus driver honked in rhythm with one chant, whilst other onlookers cheered and clapped for others, giving us protesters a great feeling of support. This was particularly welcome as the earlier stages of the march were not always met so warmly. At the end of the march we stopped near the marketplace, where, after some final chants, one of those leading the protest explained the importance of the protest to the onlookers.

Brexit has the potential to hurt many things: the economy, trade and other foreign relations, UK-based science, the environment, and, of course, the ability of students to put Marmite on their toast. But most importantly, after a campaign fought so unfairly and so heavily on misinformation and the human weakness of fear of ‘those who are different from us,’ it will hurt all migrants and refugees. The hate that saw a Romanian food shop in Norwich get its windows smashed and petrol-bombs thrown at it is widespread, even if it doesn’t always lead to such extreme action, it is a big problem and needs to be responded to, and dealt with, wherever it is found.

It is not too late to support migrants and refugees and make your voice heard where it isn’t already. Keep looking out for more protests to join, donate to organisations like the UN Refugee Agency and Amnesty International, support the migrants you know personally and sign e-petitions – they can work, with a good case and enough backing.

If you have experienced any hate or abuse because of where you’re from, you can contact the Norwich Nightline on 01603 597158, UEA security on 01603 456161 and of course you should tell your friends if you feel comfortable.

The protest has shown me that UEA and Norwich are welcoming places, and there will always be a friendly person to listen to you should you need it.

Image Courtesy of Natalie Froome

The Science of Christmas

By Luke Farnish and David Winlo

It’s that time of year again. Secret Santas are being set up, house Christmas dinners being planned, and many a slightly frozen student is heading to Unio for a seasonal hot drink. In other words, it is December, and Christmas will soon be upon us. Here at The Broad we celebrate Christmas in various ways, and we scientists are no different. So here is a scientific explanation of some, if not all things Christmas.

1. Santa is on his way, and what a way it is!

Even if we discount the children of parents from non-Christmas-celebrating backgrounds, Santa is going to have to deliver to around 700,000,000 children in a single night. Then we need to divide those children by household and assume even distribution of those households around the world, otherwise we’ll still be calculating by New Year’s. Now with 1.47 km between each house, Santa has a journey of 342,510,000 km on his hands, and we haven’t finished yet.

If Santa travels so as to maximise the length of the night of Christmas Eve, he has 32 hours. To travel over 342,000,000 km in that time will require him to really push his reindeer, as they’ll need to pull him along at 6,650,808 mph, or 10,703,438 kph, about 167 times faster than the fastest-moving machine ever made, the Voyager 1 space probe. So spare a thought for the poor guy and his reindeer, and leave them a mince pie and some cherry.

2. Christmas has its origins in religion.

For Christians, this time of year is about the birth of Jesus, and now, this is true for many physicists and astronomers. The bible writes that Jesus’ birth was accompanied by a new star in the sky and, what’s more, it’s not the only source from the time (5BC, a date even many high ranking church members agree with) to mention such an event. We call three of the visitors of Jesus the ‘three wise men’ but their true name is the Magi, followers of an ancient religion whose beliefs are focused on a single God and that contact may be made through the stars. They were astronomers! Texts of the time record the stars in fantastic detail and most scientists believe that there truly was a temporary ‘star’. But what was it? There are some strong contenders.

In 1614, Johannes Kepler, one of the most famous astronomers of all time, suggested a conjunction (overlapping from the perspective of Earth) of planets. It can be calculated that were a number around this time. However, they are not always very bright and many occurred in the wrong place for the Magi to follow. A supernova, an exploding star, can be VERY bright, even brighter than the moon. But, supernovae leave a trace, that being a nebula, a huge cloud of gas. No nebula of the correct age and position has been found, but, the Andromeda galaxy, our own galaxy’s neighbour has many nebulae and could have been in the correct place.

Another big contender is a comet, a large ball of ice that circles the sun in a huge orbit, meaning they can only be seen every few hundred years or so. Chinese astronomers noted one in 5BC that remained stationary in the sky for 70 days. What’s more, comets have huge tails of ice that could easily ‘point’ to the ground, much as in the Christmas card depiction of the star. The only major issue with this theory is human nature of the time, where comets were seen as bad omens. Perhaps we will be trying to work out what the ‘star’ was for many years to come, and perhaps that, to an astronomer, is the best sort of Christmas present.

3. The Nativity story.

Another Christmassy source of scientific intrigue is the Nativity story, in particular, the birth of Jesus to the Virgin Mary. What by many is held to be a highly significant miracle can be interpreted very differently by looking back through the translations of the Bible. The New Testament was written in Koine Greek, a form of the language no longer spoken natively. The writer of Matthew, the book which contains the Nativity story, referred to a passage from the Old Testament, saying ‘a parthenos shall conceive and bear a child’. ‘Parthenos’ is the word which translates to ‘virgin’ in the English translations of the New Testament, but can also simply mean ‘young woman’, which was the meaning of the Hebrew word ‘almah’ used in the passage the Greek author refers to.

Whilst Mary giving birth to Jesus may not have been an example of parthenogenesis, the scientific word for a virgin birth, there are plenty of animals which are. Among them is an animal likely to be seen on dinner tables across the nation this 25th of December – the turkey. In most cases the egg either doesn’t develop at all, or doesn’t develop normally. But some other animals, including various sharks, lizards and invertebrates, have been documented as being capable of parthenogenesis as a successful method of reproduction, though not a sole one.

4. On a rock band’s Christmas wish…

In 1973 Wizard told the world that they ‘Wish it could be Christmas every day’. Well, it can be, but only in one place, Christmas Island! Technically a part of Australia, despite being over 2,600 km (about 1,600 miles) from Perth near West Java. It’s not a big place, just 19 by 14 km with a population of about 2,000, the majority of the island’s inhabitants being of Chinese descent. Much of the island is made up of protected wildlife areas with the mining of guano (hardened bird faeces) for use in fertilisers being a well-known trade on the island since its initial colonisation.

It’s interesting, however, that Wizard mentions ‘every day’ because there is, in fact, a second Christmas island whose days are rather special. Kiritimati (pronounced ‘Christmas’ and previously spelt ‘Christmas’) is about 10,000 km (about 6,200 miles) east from Christmas Island and part of the Republic of Kiribati. It’s a fascinating place. The whole island is now a nature reserve (although much of its internal area is taken up by a lake), but in the 1950s the area was used for nuclear tests by the UK, leading to still detectable damage (many locals have suffered as the people of the island were not removed during tests). The towns of Kiritimati have rather unimaginative names including London, Paris (now abandoned), Poland and Banana, sometimes called Banana wells. But perhaps the most interesting fact about Kiritimati is its days. Christmas comes early here as Kiritimati is the only country in the UTC+14 time zone, meaning that a day starts for them 14 hours before it does in London (that’s the London in the UK, not their London!). This enabled the islands to trade more easily with other Pacific nations. So, not only is it Christmas every day, but for some, Christmas comes early.

We wish you all a wonderful Christmas from the both of us (and everyone at The Broad), and hope you enjoy all the science articles in 2017. ¡Feliz Navidad!

Image “Red Crab” by David Stanley is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Battle of the Bands for Migrant Solidairy Campaign

By David Winlo

If I were to ask you where you were exactly last Friday night, chances are many of you won’t remember. For those who do, if it wasn’t the Blue Bar, I’d say you missed out. Entertaining acts, DJs, dangling LED decorations and, most importantly, the chance to donate to a very worthy cause. It was, of course, Livewire’s ‘Battle of the Bands’ in aid of Migrant Solidarity.

Five acts took part in the competition, but for me there were two stand-out performances. Isobel Zarb impressed with her relaxed acoustic sound and her interesting guitar work. From chilled out music to something more loud and energetic: the rock group, ‘The Silver Jacks’ ended the night perfectly, with the audience being able to rock out and let off some steam in their performance.

Victory, however, went to ‘Saltfen’ for their energetic and intense alternative rock setlist. Big congratulations to the winners Tom Hall, John Kirby, and Tom and Alec Woolner of ‘Saltfen’, and I’m looking forward to seeing more of their work, and that of the other acts, in the future.

A great evening, we mustn’t forget ‘Battle of the Bands’ was in support of Migrant Solidarity UEA, which continues to strive to help with the ongoing refugee crisis, and it still isn’t too late to get involved. So if you missed out on a chance to help out on Friday, look for one of their next events, sign up on the SU website or donate to or support the cause elsewhere.

The Science of Finding Dory: What it Got Right and Wrong

By David Winlo

This will not be your ordinary film review. I’m not going to discuss the plot of the film, how funny it was or whether or not it will make you cry. I’m here to look at it scientifically, whilst ignoring the talking sea creatures of course. So here are some things that were and were not scientifically accurate in Disney’s latest animated animal adventure.

1. Right: Octopuses are amazing! They look weird, they squirt ink and they have sucker-covered tentacles. But octopuses are also excellent colour-changers and mimics, as seen in the film. The colour changing is done with chromatophores, coloured cells which are under the octopus’ conscious control. It basically just flexes its muscles in order to disappear.

2. Wrong: Marlin is not female. When a clownfish is born, it will always be male. In time, or when it is the larger member of a breeding pair, it will become female. If the female of a breeding pair dies as poor Marlin’s mate did, her mate will then become female. And you thought human relationships were complicated, right? So, here’s hoping that Marlin is a woman in the next film, should there be one.

3. Right: Beluga whales can use echolocation. Whilst I’m not at all sure about how it was depicted in the film, it is true that beluga whales can navigate and hunt by echolocation. They can hear a far greater range of sounds than humans can, and send out noises using a special organ in their skulls, which rather pleasingly is called a melon. These sounds then bounce off their prey or surroundings and are picked up again by the lower jaw, which sends a signal to the brain.

4. Wrong: Only clownfish can live in sea anemones. This is quite a common misconception, but there are in fact several species of clownfish, as well as other species which are also able to sit happily within the stinging tentacles. These include various cardinalfish, as well as some damselfish and wrasse species.

On a final cautionary note, I would like to indicate that in the unlikely event that anyone was enamoured enough by the new film to want a ‘Dory’ (or a regal blue tang, Paracanthus hepatus, to give the fish its scientific name) of their own, I would advise against it. Blue tangs don’t breed in captivity, so they’re all wild caught and don’t enjoy being handled by humans, as they tend to indicate using some surprisingly sharp and painful spines located near the base of the tail. By all means enjoy the film, but please do the proper research before buying any aquarium fish.

Image: “Blue Tang” by Liz Lawley is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Billy Talent Rock the LCR

By David Winlo

It has been some years since I first discovered Billy Talent, just as many since I started wanting to see them live, and roughly the same again since they last performed in the LCR. High time now then, after the release of their new album ‘Afraid of Heights’, for them to make a triumphant return to the venue.

The band played an outstanding setlist of songs from their 23-year career. The lead single and title track of the new album, a song partly about society needing to progress beyond its tendencies to exclude and hate things which are ‘other’, was pleasingly dedicated to Donald Trump. One of their older songs, ‘This Is How It Goes’, was played as though it was brand new, and is also about the illness from which drummer Aaron Solowoniuk suffers, this illness being the reason for his continued absence from performances. The setlist was impressive enough and delivered with such energy that I forgot that some of the band’s most famous and best-loved songs had been omitted… until they were included in the encore!

This tour has been given the name of the album it supports, and to that end, included five songs from the new album, as well as a mixture of previous releases. One particular of the performance was the extension of the guitar solo in ‘Devil On My Shoulder’, during which the guitar, bass and drums improvise what feels like a whole extra song together. Another was the fan-favourite ‘Red Flag’, which really got the audience going, in addition to being as important a song today as it was when it was released in 2006.

Wednesday’s performance was the first stop on their ongoing European tour, a highly enjoyable and exciting evening if you can still make it. If you can’t though, just go and grab a copy of the fabulous ‘Afraid of Heights’, and be sure to check out its review here on The Broad!

Photo by David Winlo

UEA Community Choir Launch

by David Winlo

I recently had the pleasure of watching the UEA Community Choir perform at its launch in the square on the UEA campus. After a short warm-up they sang an entertaining medley of songs, including ‘When the Saints Go Marching In’, and ‘I’m Gonna Sing’. The performance was very fun to watch, and very impressive when you consider that the event marked the first time that group of people had ever sung together as a group.

The choir was formed by its conductor, Stuart Dunlop, director of music at UEA, with the intention of bringing music to all: people who have sung all their lives, people who have never sung, and people who feel they can’t. If this last one includes you, believe me, you can. Aside from being a fan of its debut, I think the Community Choir is a very good idea because everybody can benefit from music. It has the ability to entertain, relax and connect us, so I think it’s important that there should be a place where anyone can practice and have fun with music.

The Community Choir rehearses for the first time this Wednesday, the 12th of October in the UEA Music Centre, starting with ‘Stand By Me’ and ‘Something Inside So Strong’. I encourage anybody who wants to sing to go and join, and am hopeful for more performances from the choir in the future.

Album Review – Sabaton’s Last Stand

By David Winlo

Everyone’s favourite Swedish power metal group is back, with another concept album. Upon hearing the first single from The Last Stand, titled ‘The Lost Battalion’, I must admit I wasn’t sure we were in for a worthy successor to the fabulous Heroes album. I didn’t exactly mind the change of style, as style changes are often very positive, but this felt like a step in the wrong direction, musically. When hearing the rest of the album though, the song fits in very well between two somewhat livelier tracks.

I immediately liked the story of this first track, of an American battalion making a last stand under terrible conditions whilst lost in the Argonne in France during WWI. The whole album is once again filled with an array of astonishing stories from history, this time all of dynamic ‘last stand’ battles. This album is more wide ranging than any previous effort from Sabaton, both musically and geographically in terms of inspiration. By track three we have visited Greece, Serbia and Scotland. By track nine we’ve been as far as South Africa and Japan. Long-time fans will be pleased by the new subject matter, which along with the general theme of last stands makes for a fascinating and lyrically exciting album.

Sabaton are a band who tend to stick to a formula when writing music. In some bands, this gets annoying very quickly. With some variations to it though, Sabaton have filled this album with soaring solos, catchy riffs and their classic and addictive keyboards. Fans of the band’s energetic live shows will enjoy some of these new songs. Personal favourites include ‘Blood of Bannockburn’ about the Scottish Revolution, ‘Shiroyama’ about the last stand of the samurai, in which every one of the last samurai was killed, and ‘Winged Hussars’ about the Polish Hussars and their role in the Battle of Vienna.

If you are a history student, or you have a non-academic interest in history, this album and this band are high on my list of recommendations to you.

Image from Sabaton.net

Why Learn a Language?

by David Winlo

 

So, you are a student now. A student of… biology? Or history, or English literature. You don’t need to know another language for that, do you?

Well, it might help quite a lot actually. Another language will enable you to read about your subject in other languages, talk to more people working or interested in your field and help your brain perform better, whatever you’re doing.

Depending on your subject you may well find some of the most useful literature is not written in your language. Reading foreign scientific literature may seem impossible, but it needn’t be. You may never have studied another language, or you may never have enjoyed studying another language because it wasn’t taught well in your school, but rest assured that now is a good time to start.

If you can’t decide what language you want to learn, what country you want to learn about, what nation’s studies will benefit yours the most, pop along to the languages fair. There you can hear more about why languages are important for your studies, career and more. You’ll see what languages UEA can offer you, how you’ll fit them in with the rest of your subjects and get advice on which language you should learn.

The languages fair will be in ARTS 0.24 (James Platt Centre) on Thursday 29th September from 13:00-14:00 and free to all first year students

 

Billy Talent Continue Change in Lyrical Theme With New Album ‘Afraid of Heights’

By David Winlo

Billy Talent have always shown a mixture of themes in their lyrics, mainly focusing on relationships, trust and politics, since their 2003 self-titled debut album. As of their 2012 album ‘Dead Silence’ though, the main focus has moved slightly from relationships and trust to politics. This is shown clearly on their new album, right from track one, ‘Big Red Gun’, an anti-gun, anti-Donald Trump song – something I’m sure we can all agree is needed these days.

The album’s central and titular theme, that we as a society should not be afraid of “heights” (in a metaphorical sense, of not limiting ourselves or our efforts to improve ourselves), is effectively conveyed throughout, both through Ben Kowalewicz’s lyrics and singing, and the band’s music. Billy Talent is known for their unique style, which has not been lost here. Fans of Ian D’Sa’s guitar work won’t have to go far on this album to find yet more original riffs, and a fair few interesting guitar solos. Jordan Hastings, drummer of Alexisonfire, also deserves special mention for his excellent work filling in for the band’s usual drummer Aaron Solowuniuk, who was unable to play for the recordings of ‘Afraid of Heights’ due to an MS relapse.

As yet unmentioned highlights include ‘Ghost Ship of Cannibal Rats’, which speaks of class struggle and our unsustainable treatment of the environment, ‘Louder Than the DJ’, which serves as an anthem for rock music, and ‘Leave Them All Behind’, which tells us not to listen to those who tell us what we can’t achieve and instead to let go of our worries of failure and, to put it simply, just go for it. I recommend this one to anybody struggling with an essay in the coming academic year!

Readers who are fans of Billy Talent or their new album may be interested to know they can catch the Canadian punks on Wednesday 12th October this year in the LCR. I look forward to seeing you there.

Image from Billy Talent’s website