GATE Students Update 4: Academy Conferences

This week, Year 11 student Peter Lang shares his experiences at the Gifted and Talented Conference hosted at Scots College on Thursday 11 May.

It isn’t often you get an opportunity to listen to a speaker as informative and entertaining as Julie Arliss, so it was no wonder so many students from around the lower North Island and even Nelson turned up at Scots to participate in the Gifted and Talented Conference. The talk started off with a thought-provoking search for a way to measure a ‘good life’, looking at how various philosophers have investigated this over the centuries and attempting to come up with a solution. This forced us to consider the norms we usually accept when thinking of what we want to achieve with our lives. After this we were talked through an Oxbridge question. Oxbridge questions, as they are known, are the questions prestigious universities Oxford and Cambridge ask potential students while interviewing them to see if they can think on their feet, such as “Why are there no wheels in nature?” or “Can you critique a recipe?”. The questions we looked at were “Can a statue move?” and “How would you tell a farmer that his cow had died?”. Although on the surface these questions may seem to have simple answers, when you dig a little deeper they can be very complex, as we found out. After this was morning tea, followed by a talk from esteemed psychologist Jeffrey Hodges on who should run a country, and how they should do so. Although it seems an obvious answer, democracy was scrutinised heavily and it made many (including me) question our current political system. After this was a look into our ever-changing understanding of time, covering everything from Einstein to the mediaeval church! This presentation certainly affected how I view the cosmos around me, and I am sure others there felt so too. Following this talk was the final event, an eye-opening and extremely colourful debate over whether love could be used as a commodity. Many students said after this that they were not sure which side they ended up supporting in this heated exchange and everyone had a lot to say about it afterward!

Certainly my favourite session of the day was the talk about time. In a lot of TV programs and books Einstein’s theories of relativity are brought up but, I feel, never properly explained. It is often brought up that speed affects the passage of time, although how and why are never really talked about. Julie Arliss was able to explain all of this in a way myself and others around me actually understood, which is very useful considering Einstein’s work was one of the most important scientific developments in the 20th century. Although I now understand the science, explaining it is still far beyond me, so I will not attempt to do so, if you are curious the best advice I can give you is to attend a Julie Arliss talk.

After talking about the day to others there, a common thread I think we all found was a greater understanding not so much of the individual topics covered, but of their significance and relevance to one-another, and about how we can learn about them- before today, I doubt many of us could have thought of how to investigate time, or what there is to investigate about it; the same is true for the other topics covered also. Most of all I think we all took away from the day a bigger-picture understanding of the what, why and how of knowledge; something I am sure we will all be able to apply throughout our future endeavours.

By Peter Lang (Y11)

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