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  1. #1
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    Default Burning Questions/Clearing up Confusion

    Not quite sure what to call this (clearly!) and although I had a feeling we sort of had something like this before I couldnae find it, but anyway...

    As opposed to the Question Time thread which is one answer to one question, often flippant or nonsensical (or is that just me?) this is a place to ask questions that you actually do want an answer to. On the basis that there are some pretty smart people on PS, somebody will surely know the actual answer.

    Obviously I'm mainly driven by my own ignorance, because I often find, with news reports especially, some statements are made as facts that we of course all know - and I quite often find myself not really knowing why. In particular at the moment-- does anybody know about bees?

    Specifically, we keep hearing that without bees we would all starve to death (or whatever). Is that really the case? Sure, we get a few bees buzzing round our garden but they seem mainly interested in the fuchsia bush. Am I being just a bit thick (feel free to say yes) but don't, just to take one example, carrots grow by planting seeds, making sure they get water and sunlight, etc.

    So, can anybody tell me what the bees are doing that is so important, or do they just have excellent PR?

    Thanks!

  2. #2
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    In order to produce seeds, plants have to indulge in sex. They need some way of transferring male sex cells (in pollen) to the female ones (usually trapped in some kind of flower structure - even for grasses etc.) - this is pollination. There are basically two ways of doing this, either physical stuff like wind or water, or other creatures like animals and especially insects.

    So the carrot seeds you're planting had to have come from carrots that were allowed to flower, were pollinated and then produced seeds.

    It is possible for plants to reproduce withouot sex, by effectively cloning themselves in sending out runners (like strawberries), and that's how some plants are produced commercially (gardeners taking cuttings for example). The advantage of this is the new plants will be identical genetically.

    Bees are important because flowers trick them into carrying pollen by giving them nectar. Any food that is based on eating a fruit (which develops to keep the seeds going) are mainly pollinated by insects of some kind. Lots of other food crops rely on seed to produce the next generation. However, it is being somewhat alarmist to say we would starve to death - lots of cereal crops don't need bees, and there are technological ways round the problem. It just may be that you never get to eat an apple or other orchard fuit ever again.
    Bazinga !

  3. #3
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    there are some pretty smart people on PS
    I rest my case.

    Thanks Jon. Based on that, I think the 'missing link' in my understanding (or lack thereof) is that the bees are involved in the production of the seeds for the next crop, rather than the production of the crop. Which makes a lot more sense.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Andrew Curnow View Post
    I rest my case.

    Thanks Jon. Based on that, I think the 'missing link' in my understanding (or lack thereof) is that the bees are involved in the production of the seeds for the next crop, rather than the production of the crop. Which makes a lot more sense.
    There was last summer an almost fascinating programme on the TV in which they costed manually pollenating many of our plants using people armed with paint brushes and paid at minimum wage and it ran into the hundreds of millions of pounds, because it seems bees are efficient little bug(ger)s.

    Thing is it's not just the bees; the bee is the cover star- a bit like the WWF has Sumatran tigers and giant pandas (because they raise more money than white clawed crayfish and some rare swamp moss)- but the bee is very conspicuous by its absence, as are many species of butterfly, and being colourful they're easier to identify.

  5. #5
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    Also, bearing in mind that plants with leaves convert the carbon dioxide we breath out back into the oxygen we breathe in in order to keep going, oxygen which is also needed as fuel for fires... Ergo the less of these plants exist, we, draw your own conclusions.

  6. #6
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    I have another question!!

    Does fuel consumption in a car more closely match time or distance? For example...

    The journey from A to B is a distance of 40 miles and takes 90 minutes
    The journey from A to C is a distance of 60 miles but takes 75 minutes (better roads, etc)

    So simply put, which journey uses less fuel? The shorter one, or the quicker one?

    (PS - this isn't a test, I genuinely don't know but feel I ought to!)

  7. #7
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    To be honest, I don't know either. But I suppose it would really depend on how much, or how often, you accelerate, brake and stop. I've regularly seen myself using less (or at least a similar amount of) fuel on a return journey visiting relations who live about 60 miles away (say a 120-mile round trip) compared with simply travelling back and forth to work all week (5 return journeys of around 4-5 miles plus a trip to the supermarket) - in the region of 60-65 miles, say. But the big difference is that, the long trip going to our relations we only have one set of traffic lights locally followed by main 'A' roads and motorway, and not many traffic light or roundabouts at the other end, but the small local trips it's stop and start all the way.

    My question...fracking. What EXACTLY is it and why, in the eyes of many people, does it herald the end of civilisation as we know it?

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    Fuel consumption is a black art of high sorcery. It depends on a huge number of factors - including stuff like having your tyres at the right pressure, having the windows open etc. in general your engine works most efficiently if it's at a certain Rev level for long periods of time, so long distance travel at a steady speed often works out best. Lots of braking means you are wasting lots of energy as heat in the brakes, so stopping and starting is gen bad. Watching quite a few top gear fuel challenges has convinced me that fuel consumption computers seem to be pretty much guessing.

    Fracking involves breaking down certain types of rocks called shales. These are a bit like sponges, with lots of tiny pockets of gas in them ( unlike traditional natural gas sources where you tend to get large gas filled cavities ). There,s lots of gas in there but you can't get to a big amount by drilling. So what they do is drill into the Rock and pump in lots of water (and sometimes other chemicals) under pressure. This causes the rock to fracture( hence the name) and hopefully release the gas.

    The concerns people have is that a) it's still using gas which we burn, so it's still contributing to global warming b) it has caused earth tremors in some of the test areas (although only tiny ones), and could potentially cause problems like subsidence c) in the US there had been cases of water supplies being contaminated with chemicals, and even gas coming out of people's taps. d) there are some legal concerns about who owns the fas if it's under your land ( remember that Simpsons episode when there was oil under the school ? )
    Bazinga !

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    Thanks Jon & Dave.

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    This one is maybe going to sound absurd to many of you, like the dumbest question ever to those of you south of the border (which, obviously with the exception of Ralph and Milky Tears is just about all of you...) but what exactly is a Grammar School? And why are they such a big deal? They seem to be all over the news recently...

    Just to put things into a little bit of perspective, the Scottish education system seems to differ from the English in some ways. Up here, generally we go to Primary School for 7 years, from roughly ages 5-12 (years which are known as Primaries 1-7) followed by Secondary Schools (or Academies) for a minimum of 4 years, until you reach the legal minimum school-leaving age. After which, of course, you have the choice of staying on in further education at school, going to college/university, getting a job/apprenticeship etc or just laze about to scrounge off the state...it seems simple to me, we sat 'O' levels at the end of 4th (Secondary) Year back in my day, in the early 80s followed by Highers in 5th/6th Year followed by College/Uni.

    Things just seem to work a bit differently down south, though. My nephew, who lives in Exeter, has a provisional acceptance at a Maths School in Exeter for next year/session/whatever (presumably starting around September) provided he passes an exam...but if he was living up here in Scotland he'd only be going into 4th Year at Secondary School and be preparing for his 'O'-levels (or whatever it is the modern equivalent is - Standard Grades, I think! He'll be 15 by that time) and apparently the school he's been provisionally accepted for was mentioned as a good example in the Chancellors Budget Speech the other day( something we're all proud of but which I don't quite understand....) Which actually brings me Full Circle to the reason I'm asking the question...

    What's a Grammar School? And what's a Comprehensive, for that matter? Are they different things? And basically, how does English schooling differ from Scottish based on the info I've given above?

  11. #11
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    In 'the old days' (that is, my parents' generation, not mine) there was an exam called "the 11+" which basically determined where you would go for 'Secondary' education after Primary School - in a nutshell those who passed went to Grammar Schools which were more 'academic' and I guess would quite often be the route to University. The alternative for those who failed the exam was, I think, the Comprehensive School which was probably more aimed at skills, presumably in those days ideally leading to apprenticeships or at least some kind of work after school.

    I must admit, though, I always thought that sort of "11+ pass/fail" streaming had been long since abandoned, and Grammar Schools with it - so have also been surprised to hear them talked about so much in recent years. I think the general sense of the Grammar Schools, though, is still that it's more academic than practical - certainly I heard somebody on the radio the other day objecting to having more Grammar Schools on the grounds that it would not serve those pupils who weren't academically gifted.

    In general terms, though, I think the general system 'down South' is Primary School from 5 to 11 (the year running from 1st September to 31st August, so your last year at Primary School is dictated by when you turn 11 rather than by calendar year - at Secondary School one of my daughter's best friends had a birthday on 31st August, so if she'd been born 1 day later, she'd have been in the year below). Secondary School generally then runs up to 16.

    I think I'm right in saying that it's now law that there has to be some kind of education or training up to the age of 18 - so that most likely would be Further Education (A Levels, BTEc, etc) or a job with day release, apprenticeship, etc. That for a long time has been sort of 'the norm' (I would say probably 80% or more of my daughter's year at school went on to the Further Education colleges, it was probably quite a bit less in my day - a lot of the people in my year, at 16, left school to go and work full time on the family farm, I'm not sure nowadays they'd be able to do that quite as easily).

    I'm not sure about your nephew's situation, unless he's especially good at Maths and it has been suggested he ought to be going to a dedicated school for that...?

    So I'm not sure if that necessarily answers the question, but I think the general objection to (more) Grammar Schools is that they aren't ideally suited to cater for the whole range of levels of ability of pupils.

  12. #12
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    Basically what Andrew has said, although in a few areas the Grammar Schools and by extension the 11+ has continued. I grew up in the Medway Towns in Kent and Grammar Schools are still in place. I took and passed my 11+ and went to one of them. In other parts of Kent there are also Grammar Schools but the parent decides whether their child will sit the 11+ (usually when the school indicate a likely pass) and there is also a test called the 13+ with Grammar Schools taking on some 'late developers'. Basically the 11+ was designed to identify the top 3-5% of students academically.

    The comprehensive schools are the alternative with each child in the same school regardless of ability, although classes may be streamed into sets of children based on ability in that subject.

    The issues around Grammar Schools is that historically it tended to be the middle classes whose children went to Grammar Schools so they were deemed elitist. However, in my experience that wasn't the case. Myself and a number of friends from my local area all went to a Grammar and were all from working class backgrounds.

    Sent from my HTC 10 using Tapatalk

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    Thanks guys, that clears that up a bit

    As for my nephew, Andrew, he's pretty good at maths so I think my sister sees this as a possible stepping stone to doing a mathematics course at college/university....

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    The original alternative to the grammar ( for those who failed the 11 plus) were called Secondary modern schools, and tended to offer a lot more vocational courses. Comprehensives came in later (often taking over Sec Moderns) and were designed to offer all students the same potential courses as grammars, without the exam entry requirement.
    Bazinga !

  15. #15
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    Which goes some way to explaining a Spike Milligan put-down from 1972 - "So you're one of Mrs Thatcher's incomprehensives!"

    It was perhaps a measure of the system that David Essex said in his autobiography that he deliberately failed the 11+ so that he could get into a secondary modern that had a good reputation for soccer: a bad move since it turned out to be a roughhouse.

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