Veganism – Trends; Pros/Cons

Chelsea Whyte. (27 Jan 2018). Living on the Veg. New Scientist. London. [Ms Whyte is the New Scientist Magazine Physics Editor; at the time of publishing she has reverted to veganism]In the UK and US at least, there is a reported uptrend in veganism (diet with zero meat or seafood and their derivatives). Between 2014 and 2017, there was a 4% increase in US vegan numbers. Actress Natalie Portman and sportswoman Serena Williams called themselves vegan. Across the Atlantic ocean, the UK Vegan Society opined an increase of more than 300% from 2006 to 2015. Most adherents range from 15 to 34 years old. (age distinction?)Arguments for veganism are consequentialist based; it implies great benefits.

  • [Global/Government]
    • Soy protein results in 4.5 time less deforestation compared to meat protein (thus soy protein substitution would alleviate global warming)
    • Better health via a vegan diet would cut global healthcare costs in excess of $1 billion/year (Marco Springmann, University of Oxford academic)
  • [Individual] Springmann also forecasted that becoming vegan would decrease 8.1 million ‘early deaths’ each year worldwide

On the negative side:

  • [Healthcare/Individual/Government] Vaccine creation/preservation require eggs or gelatin(e) [glutinous material made from animal tissue], no alternative has been found yet. (The author did not suggest stopping vaccinations because they are non vegan).

See also


Artificial Intelligence (AI) – Translation

Timothy Revell. (27 Jan 2018). Code-cracking AI could unlock robot translation. New Scientist. London. 

University of Toronto academics used an AI algorithm (list of rules to follow in order to solve a problem – See BBC Bitesize link) to solve two classic encrypted codes. The AI did so without prior knowledge of the languages. The method used is related to frequency analysis (FA). It taps on the fact that the most common letter ‘e’ appears in about 13% of all texts. Currently, programmers are researching ‘unsupervised translation’ which would do away with English as the intermediate language required for translation. This could possibly lead to quicker translation.

Media Supervision – Evidence

Chris Baraniuk. (27 Jan 2018). Child’s Play.  New Scientist. London. 

London School of Economics psychologist Sonia Livingstone feels it is impossible to filter out all harmful online content. This is attested by a 2017 survey of more than 500 children where filtering efforts failed to reduce the probability for viewing negative material. She proposes parent-child discussions on the content when the children “are ready”.

Scary movies: –ve effects

Bernie DeGroat. (29 Mar 1999). Scary movies can have lasting effects on children and teens, study says. The University Record. University of Michigan.

  • More than 150 college students were surveyed
    • 90% media fright reaction stemmed from childhood/teenage years.
    • 26% reported ‘residual anxiety’.
  • Blood and gore in horror movies tended to cause the most phobic reactions. One person surveyed had nightmares for two months due to blood scenes. Sound effects came second in terms of the fear factor.
  • The research listed at least 20 negative effects.
  • The researchers felt parents were obligated to protect their children from such harmful media. (By extension, guardians would have to do the same for their wards/dependents).

Note: Threat of world war behind us? Think again.

Michael Vatikiotis. The Straits Times. 27 Jun 2014.

  • In spite of the numbers and figures pointing to peace, there seems to be more troubles or at least increased potential for conflict within countries (Iraqi Sunni insurgents linked to the Syrian civil war), and between countries (China and Japan) than before.
  • Iran, Saudi Arabia, Russia and the US were listed as external actors affecting the Syrian civil war.
  • Russian intervention into Ukraine conflict may catalyse further efforts of Russia to extend its influence.
  • Refugee numbers (2014) had exceeded 50 million people – more than post World War Two 1945.

Lifestyle, not medicine, for well-being

Examine the assertion that lifestyle, instead of medicine, is decisive in achieving well-being. (paraphrased – 2010 GCE A Level General Paper 1)

=> Take note, the below should be not taken as a substitute for consulting trained and qualified medical professionals such as doctors. 

=> Related GCE O Level and NA Level essay questions would be proposed at the end of this post

Sample body paragraph [each paragraph must discuss both lifestyle and medicine]

It is posited that medicine is vital for restoring mental health. When symptoms get out of hand, medications become a solution. Sarah Slade, trauma specialist and owner of Willow Tree Counseling in Clarksville (United States) voiced that medicine can act as a temporary tool to get patients back on track to recovery. However for some, this becomes a diversion toward long term decline. Medications after all can backfire. An American CBS News article cited a study from the journal <Frontiers of Psychology> that  anti-depressant users were almost twice as likely to have future bouts of depression than non users. In addition, there is the risk of antidepressant addiction. American and Danish researchers in recent years have raised alarms over this. Lifestyle strategies would have little of these drawbacks. Approaches such as hobbies and exercise have helped people cope with bipolar disorder (the afflicted experience periods of intense low mood but also periods of elation and increased energy which can lead to impaired judgement and risky behaviour). Studies quoted from the US National Library of Medicine suggest that exercise relieves depression. Similarly, patients with bipolar disorder are advised to avoid shift work to ensure proper and adequate sleep; and to follow regular routines instead. Based on the above, it appears that lifestyle remedies are, in general, both safer and more effective in comparison to medications for the attainment of good mental health.

O Level How far is it true that some teenagers live unhealthily? Provide rationale for your views. (paraphrased – 2016 Paper 1)

NA Level – Some people claim that technology is detrimental to the health of youths. What is your perspective on this? (modified – 2016 Paper 1)

Listening Comprehension – English Paper 3

This would be useful for students taking the Singapore-Cambridge General Certificate of Education (GCE) examinations in English. It would probably be more helpful for those taking the Express and Normal Academic papers. However, those under the Normal Technical stream may also find the general knowledge of value. [You are welcome to look at the post on Elements of Business (7066).]

Strategies for enhanced Listening

This was made for International English Language Testing System (IELTS) students. But there are (more) useful tips from minute 6 onward (about 14 minutes in total). These include predicting possible word type (adjective, noun, verb etc.), forecasting potential answers, differentiating numbers. Listening practice is definitely recommended!

IELTS Listening – Top 14 tips! Learn English with Emma. YouTube.

Past exam paper recordings


2016 GCE O Level Paper 3 Listening – English Language (Syllabus 1128). Adrian Tay. YouTube.

2016 GCE N(A) Level Paper 3 Listening – English Language Syllabus A (Syllabus 1190). Adrian Tay. YouTube.

Bitesize Podcasts/General Knowledge

6 Minute English. Learning English, BBC.