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Welcome to the tutor2u IB Diploma Programme Subject Blogs. The latest blog entries are listed below. Click these links to go to: IB Diploma Economics | IB Diploma Business & Management | IB Diploma Theory of Knowledge (TOK).

If you are an IB teacher who would like to contribute to our subject blogs please contact us using this form.


Theory of Knowledge

How much should one think?

Friday, June 15, 2012

How can we make good decisions in a complex world?  Read this article to find out what happens when we think too much

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What’s behind the human instinct to ‘trust’?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Neuro economist, Paul Zak demonstrates how the hormone oxytocin promotes a variety of virtuous behaviors in humans such as trust, empathy and generosity. After ten years of research, Paul Zak established that oxytocin is the “moral molecule”.  Click here for Paul Zak’s TED TALK on Trust, morality – and oxytocin.

How do we know who we are?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Watch Marcus Du Sautoy in this documentary where he embarks into a journey of ‘self awareness’. Marcus subjects himself to a series of experiments in his search for answers to the mysterious question:  How do we know who we are?  Does the unconscious mind preside over the conscious mind?  Is a sense of ‘self’ a trick of the ‘mind’?  Watch the entire documentary to know the answers.  It’s a great way to introduce TOK and the Ways of Knowing of Reason, Emotion and Perception to students.

What knowledge changes your perception of whether or not something is beautiful?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Join this TED discussion click here
click here for Richard Seymour’s video - ‘How beauty feels’

Science and Emotion

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Should scientists be emotionless?  Should they present cold, hard facts with no emotion whatsoever?  Is it possible to argue a scientific point by bringing in emotion?  These questions are raised in this interesting Science Blog.

What language do deaf people think in?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


What language do deaf people think in? Can we think without language? If you had never heard language would you use it to articulate your thoughts? Do babies think in a language of sorts? If you can’t articulate your internal thoughts in linguistic form have you really thought them at all? Is language integral to our understanding of ourselves? Do we need our brain chatter to be formed into words, rather than feelings, in order to make sense of our emotions?

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Why can’t computers think?

Thursday, September 08, 2011

With increasingly advanced computers being developed all the time Artificial Intelligence is no longer the reserve of science fiction novels. However, it has so far remained impossible to develop a computer which can fool humans into thinking it is also human. It’s thought processes have not lacked complexity but what is it that sets human thought apart from that of a computer?

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Model Dependent Reality???

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Information designer Tom Wujec talks through three areas of the brain that help us understand words, images, feelings, connections. How can we best engage our brains to help us better understand big ideas? This is a great ‘Beginners Guide to Brain Function’.

click here for the link

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Model-Dependent Realism

Thursday, January 06, 2011


Model Dependent Realism is discussed by Stephen Hawking in ‘The Grand Design’. Model Dependent Realism is the notion that there is no one version of reality. Reality is not linear or one dimensional. It cannot be known or understood to be such.

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Can robots have souls?

Monday, November 30, 2009

Kansei is a robot designed to look as closely human as possible. He is in constant movement and reacts emotionally to certain triggers. Apparently he responds to the word war with disgust, quivering his lip. He smiles at the word ‘love’ and so on. According to some those that have been working closely with him have ended up imbuing him with a soul. They genuinely believe that he has developed/ adopted something a little ‘other’ than he was programmed to do. Is Kansei’s soul a reality? Why do humans seem to desire to form relationships with a mechanistic objects? People name their cars for example and assume they have a personality.

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Cultural Paradigms

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Devdutt Pattanaik looks at the myths of India and of the West. He uses the myths that the two cultures have grown up on to show how these cultural paradigms have affected business and modern life. Well worth a look. Could similarities be drawn between the male and female paradigms? The male paradigm being closer akin to the Western linear ideals and the female paradigm being more cyclical and emotional?
click here for the link

Supercomputing the Brains Secrets

Monday, November 16, 2009

Henry Markram has built a brain in a supercomputer. He has a theory that metal illness, memory and perception all relate to neurons and electric signals, and are therefore re-creatable. He has a theory that the brain itself creates a version of the universe and then projects it around us. Markram tries to answer whether the brain is capable of perceiving itself. He argues our decisions are the key things that support out perceptual bubble. 99% of what we see is what we infer but not what comes through our eyes.
During his study he has developed a way of converting visual stimulus into music in order for the visually impared to ‘see’ through sound. He refers to our experience of the world being a ‘symphony of perception’.
One has to ask whether the super computer he builds that simulates the brain is capable of experiencing a sense of ‘I’
click here for the link to Henry Markram’s TED talk Supercomputing the Brain’s Secrets

How do we see things?

Beau Lotto argues that the sensory information that falls in through our eyes is meaningless unless we know how to interpret it. Perception is all important.

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Lessons from an Ad Man - Superb Microeconomics

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The wonderful Rory Sutherland wows the audience at the TED conference in Oxford with a superb sixteen minute talk on advertising and aspects of behavioural economics. It is an immensely watchable video that will allow you to discuss with your students concepts such as perceived value, symbolic value,intangible value, hedonic opportunity cost and some ideas for nudging personal behaviour in socially beneficial ways. We learn of the extraordinary value of placebos, the rebranding of the potato in Prussian Germany. That all value is subjective and that persuasion is better than compulsion. Some super examples too of Veblen Goods, price discrimination and how the framing of the Italian penalty points system for drivers in Italy has a different impact than for motorists in the UK.

One to Watch- Race and Intelligence

Friday, October 23, 2009

Monday night Channel 4 9pm.

In 2007, Nobel Prize winning US scientist James Watson was quoted referring to research suggesting that black people were less intelligent than other races. His comments caused a storm of controversy. In response to this Rageh Omaar meets scientists who believe that there is research to support the view that races can be differentiated in terms of intelligence. In the course of the program Omaar discovers that there are inequalities in society that are leading people with different backgrounds to perform differently and succeed differently. The idea that this is linked especially to race and intelligence is proven to be complete nonsense. It does however show that there are important issues within our society that need to be addressed.

This should make fascinating viewing (not least in light of the controversy surrounding Nick Griffins appearance on Question Time).
click here for the link to the channel 4 website
and here for an article discussing the issues in the Guardian newspaper

A Healthy Take on Time

Monday, September 28, 2009

Phillip Zimbardo (Leader of the Stanford Prison Experiment) believes the happiness and success that we experience are all linked to the ways in which we orient ourselves to the past, present and future. Those who can wait have higher IQ, are more self confident, and generally more successful. Dr Zimbardo proves that patience really is a virtue.
click here for the link

Why is it so hard to know what others want?

Why is it so hard to know what somebody else wants or believes? Why is it so hard to change what they believe?

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What Don’t We Know?

“We don’t know 1% of one millionth of anything”  (Eddison)
John Lloyd takes a look at all of the things that we don’t know - surprisingly his talk is only 10 minutes long. 
click here for the link

 

Hallucinations

Neurologist Oliver Sacks discusses Charles Bonnett Syndrome- when those with visual impairments experience incredibly lucid hallucinations. “We see with the eyes but we also see with the brain ... this is often called imagination .. but there are also hallucinations as well”.
Hallucinations seem to mimic perception. Dr Sacks looks at why they might occur.  Click here for the link

How do we know what other people want?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Rebecca Saxe discusses how the we figure out the needs and desires of others. How do we make moral judgements? Where does empathy come from? Rebecca studies what we think about other people’s thoughts. She considers how we sense the motives of others and tries to answer the age old question - How can we know what others want? Why is it so hard to change what others want or believe?
This is a really interesting look at how the brain judges the actions of others and how this then has an impact upon our moral sense.
click here for the link

How Twitter can change history

Thursday, June 25, 2009

This is a fascinating discourse on the ways in which communication technology has changed and how it now has the potential to aid / create real change. Reading the discussion blogs underneath it also proves interesting for debate.

click here for the link to Clay Shirky’s How Twitter can change history.

 

Why are we happy?

Friday, May 15, 2009

Dan Gilbert questions whether we will actually be unhappy if we don’t get what we want.

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Emotional Memory

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

We are more likely to remember emotionally loaded images than emotion neutral ones. We are also more likely to remember things if we are in an emotional state ourselves. This article also briefly looks at flashbulb memories - those ones where we remember exactly what we were doing when a certain event happened- eg the Twin Towers collapsing, Lady Diana and so on.
This is an interesting read with enough technical information without being too dry or boring.
Click here for the link to the BBC Radio 4 transcript

Michael Portillo on getting violent

Horizon: How Violent Are You? Tuesday BBC2 9pm
The programme is an attempt to have a look at the brain and its relationship to violence.
A lot of the programme is devoted to the Milgram Experiment, which is worth knowing about if you haven’t already come across it. The experiment is part of a study of obedience to authority. Participants think they are administering electric shocks to a stranger. 
There are also interviews with a child soldier and a former football hooligan.  click here for the link to BBCiplayer

Everything Connects -TOK

Monday, April 27, 2009


Emily Levine talks about science, maths, society and they way that everything connects. As a philosopher/comedian the discussion that results is very funny. Her work, whilst being hilarious, also makes serious connections between hard science and pop culture, between what we say and what we secretly assume.
The content is a little risque in parts- be warned.

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Using Maths to Predict the Future - TOK

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Bruce Buene de Mesquita uses mathematical analysis to predict events such as war, political power shifts and so on. A consultant to the CIA and the Department of Defense, Bruce Bueno de Mesquita has built an intricate computer model that can predict the outcomes of international conflicts with bewildering accuracy- 90%!
He is a scholar of rational choice theory, which says that maths underlies the nation scale consequences of individual acting for personal benefit.
This is important because if you can predict what people will decide then surely you can go some way to altering their decisions and therefore changing the world.

“If you listen to Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, and a lot of people don’t, he’ll claim that maths can tell you the future” (Michael Lerner, Good Magazine)

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Fibonacci Numbers

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Marcus du Sautoy discusses the secrets of the Fibonacci numbers. He also looks at the work of Virahanka, who discovered that these numbers also count rhyming patterns, and Le Corbusier, who applied these numbers to architecture. This is an excellent over view.
click here for the link to the article

Maths and Emotion

Amongst other things Marcus du Sautoy discusses the emotional attachment people have with maths.
click here to find out more about the relationship between maths and emotion, maths and the web, maths and rubics cubes, and even maths and McDonalds!

Projecting Identity and Creating it- Communication TOK

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Renny Gleeson talks about the fact that what we experience now is far less interesting than what we’ll tweet about it later.  As we lose the context of our identity then it becomes clear that the context that we share our identity through in fact become the reality of it. People aren’t projecting identity they are creating it. The language they are using, and the forms in which they communicate it are becoming increasingly important in constructing our reality.
His take on the subject lasts 3 mins and is an excellent thought point.
Click here for the link to the TED talk

Maths as a Creative Art

Friday, April 10, 2009

There is far more to mathematics than the rigid application of formal rules to meaningless systems of symbols. For some, it is creative, imaginative, deeply satisfying and in some ways similar to those disciplines sometimes considered diametrically opposed to mathematics, the arts.

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Golden Ratio

Monday, March 09, 2009

What is it and why is it so important?

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Golden Mean

The Golden Mean
People find the Fibonacci Rectangle aesthetically pleasing to the eye.
This short film looks at the significance of 0.618 in a number of areas. It is an excellent introduction to thinking about the implications of this number.

click here for the link to The Golden Mean (6mins 57)

Can Maths and Ethics be Related?

Friday, March 06, 2009

(Time saving Truth from Falsehood)

What are the implications for humankind if mathematics is involved in ethics?
Is our knowledge of right or wrong subjective or objective? Is ethical knowledge possible?
Price’s mathematical expression of the evolutionary purpose of altruism poses many questions.

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Verbal and Non Verbal Communication

Monday, March 02, 2009

Children communicate in a non verbal way often because they do not have the emotional maturity or the linguistic skills to speak about their feelings. This is painfully obvious in those children who have been emotionally damaged.

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What is Language

In My Language highlights the different methods of communication.
The author is autistic and has a different way of communicating with the world. It causes us to ask difficult questions of ourselves.
This is brings into the fore questions about the purpose of language, what is the function of communication as well as highlighting whether words are a necessary part of our interaction with the world.

Click here for the link

African Fractals

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Here is an example of maths being discovered after it had been invented!

 

 

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TOK Maths Discovered or Invented

Mathematics: Invention or Discovery?

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Four Philosophical Questions

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Four Philosophical questions to make your brain hurt

An interesting introduction to some of the issues that are relevant to the Theory of Knowledge IB Course.

Questions on the Truman Show

Question Sheet
Relevant to both the TOK course and the RE AS

The film focusses upon issues of perception and reality, Plato’s Cave,  knowledge and truth.

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TOK Connections Perception/ Knowledge

A stimulus sheet - pictures / buzz words

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Deductive Logic

The Headless Professor explains Deductive Logic using Venn diagrams really clearly.
Click here for the link
Headless Professor ‘Logic Stacks’ is also another very clear presentation of the way in which Deductive Logic works. Click here for the link. This is a good kinesthetic activity if you want to have a go yourself!

 

The Language of Love

Love- every language has a word for love. Love is a basic human emotion.

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Philosophers Football Match

Strange but true -
A board game simulating a football match between French and German Philosophers.
If you fancy a go then click here for the link. It contains all of the rules and everything you’ll need to play!

Moral Monkeys and Kant

In todays ‘Thought for the Day” Akhandadhi Das spoke about research presented last week to show that Monkeys express empathy and offer help when a fellow animal is in trouble. These findings seem to suggest that animals have a moral sense, thus calling into question the idea that humans are unique. Does this have implications for the Moral Argument as a proof for the existence of God?

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