The BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition – which you can find on Twitter and Facebook – showcases the best of school projects from across Ireland. Thousands of students submit projects and the students compete for a number of prizes. The event, which has been taking place in Ireland for more than fifty years, has also expanded to other countries, such as Tanzania. Check out some of the projects, which the students were kind enough to chat about, below.
The Power of Persuasion:
Leanne Finn and Niamh Byrne of St. Mary’s College, Wicklow, asked:
Can you be fooled by the power of persuasion?
We carried out a visual survey, where we showed people a short clip of the ploughing championships. We had a survey sheet. The survey asked for age and gender and we asked for ten details from the clip, and beneath that on the sheet, we answered a series of five questions.
But only one of the five items was actually in the clip. So for example, we asked ‘Did you see a yellow hi-viz vest?’ There was a hi-viz vest, but it was actually green.
We decided to look into the credibility of eye witnesses. We took a few trips to the courts and we sat in on cases, and we learned that there’s a lot of persuasion going on in the courts from both the defence and the barristers. We took a trip to the Guards and a solicitor. The Guard said eye witness reports are very credible, but the solicitor said the complete opposite and said she doesn’t believe eye witnesses are credible at all.
Perhaps arriving fresh at a scene, the Guards are probably more likely to view eye witnesses as people who have just observed whatever happened, and their observations are more credible. Have you heard of the phrase ‘leading questions’? Like your hi-viz vest example, they have seen a hi-viz vest so they will say Yes we saw it, without appreciating the colour at all?
Yes, you’re limiting options so they might feel they have to go with whatever colour is suggested. But witnesses might assume it was yellow without anyone even suggesting it.
The students also found that women’s memories were better, although they were more open to persuasion, while men remembered less but were less likely to be persuaded.
Haroon Hussain of Synge Street CBS learned some programming in order to conduct his project. His work related to prime numbers – specifically twin primes and the distinctions between them. Prime numbers are those that can only be divided by themselves and 1, with the result being a natural number with no fractions. 2, 3 and 7 are examples of primes – you can divide 3 or 7 by 2 but because the answers contain fractions – such as 1.5 or 3.5, they are prime numbers.
But what are twin primes?
Twin primes are a pair of primes that differ by 2 – so for example 3 and 5 are primes and since they differ by 2, they are twin primes. I asked the question which is: Are there consistent and distinct differences between the smaller number and the larger number in a set of twin primes?
Previous research has tended to treat twin primes as a unit, and concerned itself with questions primarily as to how the pairs are distributed. So I tried to differentiate the two numbers in the pair. I asked various questions and I asked if primes could be represented in those ways. I have six different ways of representing primes, and each of those ways shows consistent and distinct differences in the properties of the smaller and larger number in the pairs.
What is a representation exactly?
You can represent every prime greater than 5 as the sum of a prime and the square of an even number. For example 7 can be represented as 3 + 22, so this would be one representation.
Hasoon’s nuanced and detailed work with a kind of prime number called a Sophie Germain primes seemed to subvert previous representations – with the larger twin having more representations than the smaller.
Further work on my project will include running my program through a wider range of primes.
What are the practical applications? What are prime numbers actually used in?
Primes are used quite frequently in cryptography.
The BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition is online.