Royal College of Science Union
Science Challenge 2017

You can take on any task, but only one. Take your pick from this year's selection!

Make sure you don't include any personally identifying information in your submission.

Prof. Jonathan Butterworth's Question

"High-energy physics probes the smallest structures in nature, often using accelerators to get subatomic resolution. In the future, will we run out of resolution? What technologies might help us do better? And why should we even try?"

Answer this question via an essay, up to 1500 words

Alice Jamieson's Question

"We face a range of challenges; from climate change and population growth, to automation, infectious diseases and the scarcity of natural resources. What idea, discovery or technology from today will be most instrumental in preparing us for the future?

Answer this question via a feature article, up to 1500 words

Dr. Emily Mayhew's Question

"This question is set in memory of Dr Piers Sellers, scientist and astronaut who died in December 2016.  You can read about his extraordinary life and achievements here and see a photograph of Piers on board the Space Shuttle Atlantis here.

Piers was interested in all aspects of science, from climate change to space physics to medicine.  Above all he believed in the human capacity for progress in the face of change, writing: "First, we should brace for change. It is inevitable. It will appear in changes to the climate and to the way we generate and use energy. Second, we should be prepared to absorb these with appropriate sang-froid. Some will be difficult to deal with, like rising seas, but many others could be positive. New technologies have a way of bettering our lives in ways we cannot anticipate. There is no convincing, demonstrated reason to believe that our evolving future will be worse than our present, assuming careful management of the challenges and risks. History is replete with examples of us humans getting out of tight spots. The winners tended to be realistic, pragmatic and flexible; the losers were often in denial of the threat."

Imagine you are reading these words sometime in our evolving future, looking back at the Earth from the International Space Station (or International Moon Base).  What does the Earth look like in 2117, or 2317 or even 3017?  How did we get out of our tight spots?  In what ways are our lives more dangerous?  In what ways are our lives better?   You choose the time and place in which to write your response to Piers' vision of our human future and our capacity to shape it."

Answer this question via a creative writing piece, up to 1500 words

Vidish Athavale's Task

How will AI shape our future world? What are the possibility, and what are the dangers? How far along this road have we come so far?

Answer this question via a video or audio clip uploaded to YouTube, with a maximum length of 5 minutes, with the hashtag #RCSU_SciChal

We are looking for creativity, clarity, and accuracy.