Extended Research Project

At GCSE certainly, and at A-Level largely, students aren't responsible for searching out the knowledge they need to learn. It is spoon-fed to you. However, if you take your studies beyond that level, you will almost certainly have to carry out your own research. Sure, there are lectures (which are lessons in very large classrooms), but that's only part of the picture.

Well, it's never too early to get into good habits, so here is a challenge - should you choose to accept it. It involves producing an essay of at least 2000 words (more if you can manage it) on one of the following topics. There should be something here to interest you. The work wouldn't be required within the week. Indeed, there is no time limit, although the task shouldn't take you more than a month at most.

I have included some useful YouTube videos to give you an easy-to-digest source of information, and I'll add more to them in the next few days. By all means include information from them and any other source you choose to bring in, although you should list what references you use at the end of the essay. I can give you help on how to include your references, and they won't count towards the word total. You can also quote exact words from the sources, but, if you do, you should state where the quotation comes from.

Here are three possible topics. If you can think of any topic you'd prefer, please do run it past me. You should type your answers in a word processor, and then, when you are happy that your essay is as good as you can make it, we can discuss how to get it to me.

Social problems with Artificial Intelligence

Undoubtedly Artificial Intelligence (AI) has made amazing leaps and bounds in the last two or three decades. It is predicted by some AI experts that within twenty years, robots and computers will have achieved the ultimate goal of "general intelligence". After that, perhaps they will overtake us. While this is full of great promise, there are many potential problems that come with it. What might those problems be, and what might we be able to do about it?

Humans need not apply
The Dangers of Artificial Intelligence

The Fermi Paradox

The famous physicist Enrico Fermi once asked this question: "It would appear that the universe is full of habitats where life could exist - vast numbers of suns, with (no doubt) many planets orbiting them. Yet we don't see anyone. There are no signs of intelligent life anywhere, and we have received no signals that we can be sure are of alien origin. If the universe is full of life, where is everyone?" This is a question that has bothered many researchers and many solutions to this question have been posed over the years. In your essay you should outline the Fermi paradox and a few of the current theories. Don't forget to give your own opinion as to the answer.

The Fermi Paradox - Where are all the aliens (Part 1)
The Fermi Paradox - Where are all the aliens (Part 2)
10 Disconcerting Fermi Paradox Scenarios
Why alien life would be our doom - The Great Filter

Jack the Ripper

In 1888, an unknown man carried out a series of brutal murders of five prostitutes in Whitechapel, a dingy, run-down area of London. The police never caught the man, although they did have many suspects. He was given the nickname "Jack the Ripper" from his habit of slicing up his victims in a particularly gruesome manner. Since then, the mystery has caught the public imagination, and Jack has become the most famous serial killer in history. In your essay, you should mention the most popular suspects and, of course, give your opinion as which (if any) of them was Jack. You should not choose this option if you have a weak stomach. Some of the things you will see in these videos are really stomach-churning!

The Whitechapel Murders
The Story of Jack the Ripper