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Promoting Literacy in School Libraries in Sierra Leone

Posted by on Dec 17, 2017 in UK Schools | Comments Off on Promoting Literacy in School Libraries in Sierra Leone


The heart of information literacy is contained within definitions used to describe it. Traditionally librarians have given ‘library induction’ or ‘library skills training’ in a limited role. Library users need to know where the catalogue is, what the services are, and most importantly where the enquiry desk is. This is not to reduce the value of traditional library induction, but libraries and information are also changing. The provision of information through a library in a traditional form has gone through radical alterations. Already in most library and information organisations staffs are adjusting their services with the provision of new media and access to information provision within these organisations. Thus librarians are talking about social inclusion, opportunity, life-long learning, information society and self development.

A plethora of definitions for information literacy abound in books, journal papers and the web. Some of these definitions centre on the activities of information literacy i.e. identifying the skills needed for successful literate functioning. Other definitions are based on the perspective of an information literate person i.e. trying to outline the concept of information literacy. Deriving therefore a single definition is a complex process of collecting together a set of ideas as to what might be, should be, or may be considered a part of information literacy. For example Weber and Johnson (2002) defined information literacy as the adoption of appropriate information behaviour to obtain, through whatever channel or medium, information well fitted to information needs, together with critical awareness of the importance of wise and ethical use of information in society. The American Library Association (2003) defined information literacy as a set of skills needed to find, retrieve, analyze, and use information. While CLIP (2004) defined information literacy as knowing when and why one needs information, where to find it, and how to evaluate, use and communicate it in an ethical manner. Succinctly these definitions imply that information literacy requires not only knowledge but also skills in:

• recognising when information is needed;
• resources available
• locating information;
• evaluating information;
• using information;
• ethics and responsibility of use of information;
• how to communicate or share information;
• how to manage information

Given therefore the variety of definitions and implied explanation information literacy is a cluster of abilities that an individual can employ to cope with, and to take advantage of the unprecedented amount of information which surrounds us in our daily life and work.


Sierra Leone’s current educational system is composed of six years of formal primary education, three years of Junior Secondary School (JSS), three years Senior Secondary School (SSS) and four years of tertiary education-6-3-3-4. (The Professor Gbamanja Commission’s Report of 2010 recommended an additional year for SSS to become 6-3-4-4). The official age for primary school pupils is between six and eleven years. All pupils at the end of class six are required to take and pass the National Primary School Examinations designed by the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) to enable them proceed to the secondary school divided into Junior Secondary School(JSS) and Senior Secondary School (SSS). Each part has a final examination: the Basic Education Certificate Examinations (BECE) for the JSS, and the West African Senior Secondary School Certificate Examinations (WASSCE) for SSS, both conducted by WAEC. Successful candidates of WASSCE are admitted to tertiary institutions based on a number of subjects passed (GoSL,1995)

The curriculum of primary schools emphasizes communication competence and the ability to understand and manipulate numbers. At the JSS level, the curriculum is general and comprehensive, encompassing the whole range of knowledge, attitudes and skills in cognitive, affective, and psychomotor domains. The core subjects of English, Mathematics, Science and Social studies are compulsory for all pupils. At the SSS level, the curriculum is determined by its nature (general or specialist), or its particular objectives. Pupils are offered a set of core (compulsory) subjects with optional subjects based on their specialization. Teaching is guided by the teaching syllabuses and influenced by the external examinations that pupils are required to take at the 3/ 4-year course. English is the language of instruction (GoSL,1995).

The countries two universities, three polytechnics, and two teacher training colleges are responsible for the training of teachers in Sierra Leone. The Universities Act of 2004 provides for private universities so that these institutions too could help in the training of teachers. Programs range from the Teacher Certificate offered by the teacher training colleges to the Masters in Education offered by universities. Pre-service certification of teachers is the responsibility of the National Council for Technical, Vocational and Other Academic Awards (NCTVA). There is also an In-service Teacher Training program (Distance Education Program) conducted for teachers in part to reduce the number of untrained and unqualified teachers especially in the rural areas.


In Sierra Leone as it is in most parts of the developing world literacy involves one’s ability to read, write and numeracy. It is the ability to function effectively in life contexts. A literate person is associated with the possession of skills and knowledge and how these could be applied within his local environment. For instance a literate person is believed to be able to apply chemical fertilizer to his crops, fill in a loans form, determine proper dosage of medicine, calculate cash cropping cost and profits, glean information from a newspaper, make out a bank deposit slip and understanding instructions and basic human rights.

Literacy is at the heart of the country’s development goals and human rights (World Bank, 2007). Wherever practised literacy activities are part of national and international strategies for improved education, human development and well-being. According to the 2013 United Nations Human Development Index Sierra Leone has a literacy rate of 34 %.Implicitly Sierra Leone is an oral society. And oral societies rely heavily on memory to transmit their values, laws, history, music, and culture whereas the written word allows infinite possibilities for transmission and therefore of active participation in communication. These possibilities are what make the goal of literacy crucial in society.

In academic parlance literacy hinges on the printed word. Most pupils are formally introduced to print when they encounter schoolbook. School teachers in Sierra Leone continue to use textbooks in their teaching activities to convey content area information to pupils. It is no gainsaying that pupils neither maximise their learning potential nor read at levels necessary for understanding the type of materials teachers would like them to use. Thus the performance of pupils at internal and public examinations is disappointing. Further pupils’ continued queries in the library demonstrate that they do not only lack basic awareness of resources available in their different school libraries but also do not understand basic rudiments of how to source information and materials from these institutions. What is more worrisome is that pupils do not use appropriate reading skills and study strategies in learning. There is a dearth of reading culture in schools and this situation cuts across the fabric of society. In view of the current support the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MEST) to establish literacy standards in school this situation has proved frustrating as teachers do not know how to better help pupils to achieve this goal. Thus they look up to the school librarians to play a more proactive role.


In everyday situations school pupils are expected to be able to identify and seek information they need. Providing a variety of reading and writing experiences using varied materials in the school library can help develop pupils’ literacy ability (Roe, Stoodt-Hill and Burns, 2004). The mode of assessment in schools in Sierra Leone includes class exercises, tests, written and practical assignments, as well as written examinations to see pupils through to their next levels. These pupils, for example, need to read content books and supplementary materials in school for homework. Pupils have even more literacy needs in their activities outside school. They need to read signs found in their communities, job applications, road maps and signs, labels on food and medicine, newspapers, public notices, bank statements, bills and many other functional materials. Failure to read and understand these materials can result in their committing traffic violations, having unpleasant reactions to food or medicine, becoming lost, losing employment opportunities and missing desirable programs. Equally so pupils need to write to their relatives and loved ones, instructions to people who are doing things for them, notes to themselves about tasks to be completed, phone messages for colleagues and many other items. Mistakes in these activities can have negative effects on them. Good literacy skills are especially important to pupils who plan to pursue higher education studies. The job market in the country calls for pupils to be literate. For instance most jobs advertised these days require people who have completed their JSS. The fact is that workers need to be able to understand graphic aids, categorized information and skim and scan to locate information. Also the nature of reading in the workplace generally involves locating information for immediate use and inferring information for problem solving. The reading and writing of a variety of documents like memos, manuals, letters, reports and instructions are necessary literacy skills in the workplace.


School libraries in Sierra Leone are perceived as integral aspect of the county’s educational system. These institutions bring together four major components of the school community: the materials, pupils, teacher and library staff. The main purpose for the establishment of these institutions in schools is to complement the teaching/learning process, if not to support the curriculum. This purpose is achieved in two ways: by providing pupils with the means of finding whatever information they need; and by developing in pupils the habit of using books both for information and for pleasure. Pupils need information to help them with the subjects they learn in school. The textbooks they use and the notes they take in class can be an excellent foundation. They may also be sufficient for revision purposes. But these could not be enough to enable pupils to write good essays of their own or to carry out group projects. School libraries then are expected to complement this effort and therefore are perceived as learning centres.

Pupils need information on subjects not taught in school. School libraries are looked upon as places pupils find information to help them in their school studies and personal development. Through these institutions pupils’ habit of using libraries for life-long education is not only developed but also school libraries could be used to improve pupils’ reading skills. In the school community both pupils and teachers use school libraries for leisure and recreational purpose and for career advancement. The culture of society is also transmitted through use of school libraries. Because of the important role school libraries play in the country’s educational system they are organised in such way that pupils as well as teachers can rely upon them for support in the teaching/learning process. Most of these institutions are managed by either a full-time staff often supervised by a senior teacher. Staffs use varied methods to promote their use including user education.


A pre-requisite for the development of autonomous pupils through flexible resource-based learning approaches is that pupils master a set of skills which gradually enable them to take control of their own learning. Current emphasis in teaching in schools in Sierra Leone has shifted from “teacher-centred” to “pupil-centred” approach thereby making pupils to “learn how to learn” for themselves so that the integration of process skills into the design of the school curriculum becomes crucial (GoSL,1995). It is in this area of “learning” or “information literacy” skills that one can most clearly see the inter-relationship between the school curriculum and the school library. For pupils to become independent users of information and for this to occur it is vital that they are given the skills to learn how to find information, how to select what is relevant, and how to use it in the best way possible for their own particular needs and take responsibility for their own learning. As information literate, pupils will be able to manage information skilfully and efficiently in a variety of contexts. They will be capable of weighing information carefully and wisely to determine its quality (Marcum2002). Pupils do recognise that having good information is central to meeting the opportunity and challenges of day-to-day living. They are also aware of the importance of how researching across a variety of sources and formats to locate the best information to meet particular needs.

Literacy activities in schools in Sierra Leone are the responsibility of content area teachers, reading consultants and school librarians. Of these the role of the school librarian is paramount. As specialist the school librarian is expected to provide assistance to pupils and teachers alike by locating materials in different subjects, and at different reading levels by making available materials that can be used for motivation and background reading. The school librarian is also expected to provide pupils with instructions in locating strategies related to the library such as doing online searches and skimming through printed reference materials. The librarian is expected to display printed materials within his purview, write specialised bibliographies and lists of addresses on specific subjects at the request of teachers. He should be able to provide pupils with direct assistance in finding and using appropriate materials; recreational reading can be fostered by the librarian’s book talks or attractive book displays on high-interest topics like HIV/AIDS, child abuse, child rights, human rights and poverty alleviation. In view of this the fundamental qualities expected of the good school librarian include knowledge of his collection and how to access it; ability to understand the needs of his users more so those of pupils; ability to communicate with pupils and adult users; and knowledge of information skills and how to use information.


Pupils’ success in school depends to a large extent upon their ability to access, evaluate and use information. Providing access to information and resources is a long-standing responsibility of the school librarian. The school librarian should provide the leadership and expertise necessary to ensure that the library becomes integral in the instructional program of the school. In school the librarian is the information specialist, teacher and instructional consultant. He is the interface responsible for guiding pupils and teachers through the complex information resources housed in his library (Lenox and Walker, 1993). He is looked up to assist and guide numerous users in seeking to use and understand the resources and services of the library. In this respect the school librarian should inculcate in these users such skills as manual and online searching of information; use of equipment; developing critical skills for the organization, evaluation and use of information and ideas as integral part of the curriculum (Lonsdale, 2003). The school librarian should be aware of the range of available information retrieval systems, identify that most suitable to the needs of pupils and provide expertise in helping them become knowledgeable, if not comfortable, in their use. Since no library is self-sufficient the school librarian can network with information agencies, lending/renting materials and/or using electronic devises to transmit information (Tilke, 1998; 2002).

As information specialist the school librarian should be able to share his expertise with those who may wish to know what information sources and/or learning materials are available to support a program of work. Such consultation should be offered to the whole school through the curriculum development committee or to individual subject teachers. The school librarian should take the lead in developing pupils’ information literacy skills by being involved with the school curriculum planning and providing a base of resources to meet its needs. He should be aware of key educational initiatives and their impact in teaching and learning; he should be familiar with teaching methods and learning styles in school; over all he should maintain an overview of information literacy programmes within the school (Herring, 1996; Kuhlthau, 2004).

Kuhlthau (2004) opined that information seeking is a primary activity of life and that pupils seek information to deepen and broaden their understanding of the world around them. When therefore, information in school libraries is placed in a larger context of learning, pupils’ perspective becomes an essential component in information provision. The school librarian should ensure that skills, knowledge and attitude concerning information access, use and communication, are integral part of the school curriculum. Information skills are crucial in the life-long learning process of pupils. As short term objective the school librarian should provide a means of achieving learning objectives within the curriculum; as long term information skills have a direct impact on individual pupils’ ability to deal effectively with a changing environment. Therefore the school librarian should work in concert with teachers and administrators to define the scope and sequence of the information relevant to the school curriculum and ensure its integration throughout the instructional programs (Tilke, 2002; Birks and Hunt, 2003). Pupils should be encouraged to realise their potential as informed citizens who critically think and solve problems. In view of the relationship between the curriculum and school library, the librarian should serve on the curriculum committee ensuring that information access skills are incorporated into subject areas. The school librarian’s involvement in the curriculum development will permit him to provide advice on the use of a variety of instructional strategies such as learning centres and problem-solving software, effective in communicating content to pupils (Herring, 1996; Birks and Hunt, 2003).

Literacy could be actively developed as pupils need access to specific resources, demonstrate understanding of their functionality and effective searching skills. In this regard pupils should be given basic instruction to the library, its facilities and services and subsequent use. Interactive teaching methods aimed at information literacy education should be conducted for the benefit of pupils. Teaching methods could include an outline of a variety of aides like quizzes and worksheets of differing complexity level to actively engage pupils in learning library skills and improving their information literacy. Classes should be divided into small groups so that pupils could have hands-on-experience using library resources. Where Internet services are available in the library online tutorials should be provided. Post session follow-up action will ensure that pupils receive hands-on-experience using library resources. Teaching methods should be constantly evaluated to identify flaws and improve on them.

Further the school librarian should demonstrate willingness to support and value pupils in their use of the library through: provision of readers’ guides; brochures; book marks; library handbooks/guides; computerization of collection; helpful guiding throughout the library; and regular holding of book exhibitions and book fairs. Since there are community radio stations in the country the school librarian could buy air time to report library activities, resources and services. He can also communicate to pupils through update newspapers. Pupils could be encouraged to contribute articles on library development, book reviews and information about opening times and services. The school librarian could help pupils to form book and reading clubs, organize book weeks and book talks using visiting speakers and renowned writers to address pupils. Classes could also be allowed to visit the library to facilitate use. More importantly the school librarian should provide assistance to pupils in the use of technology to access information outside the library. He should offer pupils opportunities related to new technology, use and production of varied media formats, and laws and polices regarding information. In order to build a relevant resource base for the school community the librarian should constantly carry out needs assessment, comparing changing demands to available resources.

The Internet is a vital source for promoting literacy in the school library. The school librarian should ensure that the library has a website that will serve as guide to relevant and authoritative sources and as a tool for learning whereby pupils and teachers are given opportunity to share ideas and solutions (Herring, 2003). Through the Internet pupils can browse the library website to learn how to search and develop information literacy skills. In order for pupils to tap up-to-date sources from the Net the school librarian should constantly update the home page, say on a daily basis, if necessary. Simultaneously the school librarian should avail to pupils and teachers sheets/guides to assist them in carrying out their own independent researches. He should give hands-on-experience training to users to share ideas with others through the formation of “lunch time” or “after school support groups”. Such activities could help pupils to develop ideas and searching information for a class topic and assignment.

Even the location of the library has an impact in promoting literacy in school. The library should be centrally located, close to the maximum number of teaching areas. It should be able to seat at least ten per cent of school pupils at any given time, having a wide range of resources vital for teaching and learning programs offered in school. The library should be characterised by good signage for the benefit of pupil and teacher users with up-to-date displays to enhance the literacy skills of pupils and stimulating their intellectual curiosity.


Indeed the promotion of literacy should be integral in the school curriculum and that the librarian should be able to play a leading role to ensure that the skills, knowledge and attitudes related to information access are inculcated in pupils and teachers alike as paramount users of the school library. But the attainment of this goal is dependent on a supportive school administration, always willing and ready to assist the library and its programs financially. To make the librarian more effective he should be given capacity building to meeting the challenges of changing times.


American Library Association (2003). ‘Introduction to information literacy.’
Birks, J. & Hunt, F. (2003). Hands-on information literacy activities. London: Neal-Schumann.
CLIP (2004).’Information Literacy: definition.’
GoSL (2010). Report of the Professor Gbamanja Commission of Inquiry into the Poor Performance of Pupils in the 2008 BECE and WASSCE Examinations (Unpublished).
___________(1995). New Education policy for Sierra Leone. Freetown: Department of Education.
Herring, James E. (1996). Teaching information skills in schools. London: Library Association Publishing.
__________________ (2003).The Internet and information skills: a guide for teachers and librarians. London: Facet Publishing.
Kahlthau, C. C. (2004). Seeking meaning: a process approach to library and information services. 2nd. ed. London: Libraries Unlimited.
Lenox, M. F. & Walker, M. L.(1993). ‘Information Literacy in the education process.’ The Educational Forum, 52 (2): 312-324.
Lonsdale, Michael (2003). Impact of school libraries on student achievement: a review of research. Camberwell: Australian Council of Educational Research.
Marcum, J. W. (2002). ‘ Rethinking Information Literacy,’ Library Quarterly, 72:1-26.
Roe, Betty D., Stoodt-Hill & Burns, Paul C. (2004).Secondary School Literacy instruction: the content areas. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.
Tilke, A. (1998). On-the-job sourcebook for school librarians. London: Library Association.
_________ (2002). Managing your school library and information service: a practical handbook. London: Facet Publishing.
Weber, S. & Johnston, B. ( 2002). ‘Assessment in the Information Literate University.’ Conference: Workshop 1st International Conference on IT and Information Literacy, 20th- 22nd. \March 2002, Glasgow, Scotland. Parallel Session 3, Thursday 21st March,2002.
World Bank (2007). Education in Sierra Leone; present challenges, future opportunities. Washington,DC: World Bank.

John Abdul Kargbo is Senior Lecturer, Institute of Library, Information and Communication Studies at Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone. Mail can be sent to him on

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Posted by on Dec 3, 2017 in UK Schools | 20 comments

What are the big differences between British and American schools? I’ve worked in both and have several comparisons to make for the UK vs USA education systems.

Mentioned Links and Expat Videos:

Differences Between British vs American Schools

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Tshirt is from: Use promo code SUNNY10 for a 10% discount on orders over , not including shipping.

The blog also features a ‘Guide to London for Visitors’ with tips and strategies for planning your first London visit.

A Guide to London for Americans- Visiting for a First Time

I am a Florida expat living in London. Subscribe to this channel for regular news and updates about London. You will learn advice for visiting London and things to do in London like events, attractions, hotels, restaurants, pubs, afternoon teas and more!

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Please watch: SECRET Things to Do in Covent Garden”


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Posted by on Nov 19, 2017 in School Workshops | 3 comments

We at Drumroots have had many years of working in schools to gather a wealth of experience leading exciting and inclusive African drumming and dance workshops to get the most out of children and young people from all backgrounds and from broad demographic boundaries. Until recently we have relied on only the powerful tool of word of mouth, as well as printed testimonials to allow other people to know how effective, uplifting and beneficial our work with children and young people in schools can be. However, keeping up with the times and acknowledging the importance on online media and resources, as well receiving more and more requests from school teachers wishing to see what can be achieved through our workshops, before inviting us into their school or centre, led us to produce this video.

In a single day we ran coordinated African drumming and dance workshops with the children of Stamford Park Junior School, aiming to produce an end of the day performance for the rest of the school and children’s parents — an idea which is becoming increasingly popular as it allows not only the pupils who participate in the workshops to reap the benefits, but also for the whole school, plus teachers and parents to see what can be achieved and to enjoy seeing their friends, pupils and own children performing this amazing art form.

This video was produced with the help and permission Stamford Park Junior, the work of African dancer Sens Sagna, and was filmed and edited by James Kelly of Eskimotion.0

Drumroots and Sens Sagna run exciting, inclusive and engaging African drumming and dance workshops in schools and for people of all ages. For more info, visit the website or call us of: 0161 408 5270.

More Info

Children and young people an are often natural musicians without even knowing it, and our Drumroots school workshops are designed to help pupils explore their individual musical abilities, as well as show them the value of working together as a team. Our workshops also focus on motor skills and coordination, whilst emphasising the importance of communication with fellow young drummers to bring out the best in their music.
We work with Infant, Primary and High School pupils, and our workshops can support key areas of the curriculum, as well themed school events such as Arts Weeks and the celebration of world cultures. The individual content and style of workshops reflects the age and ability of the pupils, and we always provide at least two enhanced CRB-checked and insured facilitators, one of whom is HSE certified first aider. We have particular experience of supporting pupils with special educational needs, including Aspergers and Autism. We also work with expelled, excluded and socially disadvantaged youngsters. in addition, we deliver training for teachers, and we are available for after school drum clubs.
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UK vs USA: University Differences! • Lingo, Class Structure, etc.

Posted by on Nov 5, 2017 in UK Universities | 40 comments

Here are some differences I’ve found between American college/university and university in England/the UK. Feel free to comment and let me know what you’ve experienced! (also, I’m sick in this video so sorry about that lol)

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INSTAGRAM • @mackenziebrielle

Hi, my name is Mackenzie. I’m a 22 year old grad student living in London! I love city lights, beautiful flowers, Chipotle, concerts, photography, food, and being creative. Want to know more? Let’s be friends!

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Posted by on Oct 22, 2017 in School Workshops | 3 comments

Ayaovi Kokousse teaching at the I’M DANCER COOLCAT WORKSHOPS at Global Dance Centre Almere . Order your dancewear at For more information and classes visit
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ACEMS is proud to present “Mathscraft,” a series of workshops for secondary students and their teachers. The goal of the program is to have students and teachers experience one important aspect of learning mathematics – namely, experiencing the immense satisfaction that comes from creating an idea and developing the idea to a point where you know it is either always right, sometimes right or never right! This video shows how the program works, what the students who took part think of it, and how the program is expanding to include more teachers around the country.

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The Universe Is Not There As We See It

Posted by on Oct 8, 2017 in UK Universities | Comments Off on The Universe Is Not There As We See It

The universe is the name that we gave to the vastness of everything that we know and we don’t. When people could not define the boundaries of the heavens above them, they called it collectively. From the first time the word was used, the universe has had a lot of different meanings, dimensions and ingredients. Now we are at an age where we think we are in the most advanced stages of understanding the universe. We also think that we hold the most advanced technology to probe through the space with equipments to comprehend more than our ancestors did. So what really is the universe? How big it is and how vast it is in its extension? I don’t know how big it could be, but I think it is not as big as we think.

The key element that is used to measure the universe and its contents is the size of things. The distances between elements are so huge that we adapted to use the light years as the measurement units for distances. Everyone knows what a light year means; it is the distance that light could travel in a year. Light travels a little more than a second to reach the moon. There are exact figures and I don’t want to go too scientific so that the concept is being diverted into formulas.

There is one thing that everyone seems like missing in the measurements. The stars have an estimated lifespan. The lifespan of a star depends mostly on its solar mass. They could range from a several million years to a several billion years. If a star on the other side of the known universe did begin to exist, the light would have started travelling ever since. If we fix a life span for that particular star, then we can imagine when the light will stop being emitted from the star. We also would calculate the time it would take the light to reach us based on the distance between us and the star.

Let’s fix the lifespan of this particular star to 100 billion years. That means, after 100 billion years, the star is not there. Let’s fix a distance from the star to us. Let’s say it is a 100 billion light years. A hundred billion light years might seem like a huge distance but is a very normal distance in the universe. With these two assumptions, what we can know is that when the first lights of the star reaches our eyes or telescopes, we will see the primitive star but in effect, there is no star at all. When we see the brighter emissions of light due to the explosion of the star as it disintegrates, the star would have been extinct for a hundred billion years. Why? Because the light took a hundred billion years to reach us and when we see that light, it has been 100 billion years after the event has happened.

When we first saw the primitive star, then we should expect the light to be coming in continuously for the next 100 billion years because we know that the star’s lifespan is 100 billion years. After those 100 billion years; that is after we had seen the star exploding, the light would stop. If we continued to receive light from that particular star for more than a 100 billion years that would mean that the star has a higher lifespan. So the time limit for which we can receive light from a star is exactly the time limit of the lifespan of that star. If a star lived only a million years, then we cannot receive light from the star for more than a million years.

This is where it gets tricky. We have limitations to the lifespan of stars. There is a maximum time when a star could exist. The real problem is that we are receiving light from stars that are too far away so that the light took too longer than the lifespan of the star to reach us. This means, all the stars that are beyond a certain distance are not there!

Even the stars within the distance boundary that would define the border of the maximum lifespan of a star that light could travel in, will still be in various stages than what we see them now. What we see as primitive stars a million light years away would really be hosting planets as we see them. When we look in the skies, we are only seeing the past. When scientists look at the center of the galaxy for a black hole activity, they are looking into thousands of years in the past. When the scientists are looking into the furthest edges of the universe, they are looking into something that is not there. When we see distant galaxies that are millions of light years away, there might actually be not a single star at all. They all could have become extinct at the time when the light reached us.

Not only we are seeing things that are not there, but we are also not seeing things that out there. Imagine the star light coming from a very bright star towards the earth from a hundred light years away. Now please imagine that a planet sized cosmic body started traveling through the earth from the same direction. Can you imagine what happens if that cosmic body came into alignment with the light that was travelling towards earth? The light would still be travelling towards us and then there is this cosmic body in the middle of the light beam blocking the rest of the light beam to come to us. Will we see the cosmic body yet? No, we will not; because we will still be seeing the star as all what we receive is the light from the star. If the cosmic body blocked the light some two light years away from earth, then it would take us two years to see that cosmic body. And it is not just light and visibility to the telescopes. Whatever device you use and whatever ray you are looking for, you will not see the body yet because the light from that body has not reached you. If that body was travelling closer to the speed of light, then when you realize that there is something, that thing would already be closer to you.

So we don’t really see everything in our vicinity. We are living in the present but all what we see in the skies are past events. The universe is a tale telling book for us to say what happened. It does not allow us to know what is happening right now.

It becomes even confusing when we know that the light does not essentially travel in linear paths. Forget about your science teacher; they just taught you the syllabus. Light bends over larger objects with larger masses. It was proven that light bent over the sun when it came by it from some distinct star. This is because the gravity is so big near the sun that even the light travelling closer to it would be pulled a bit in.

If we imagined a star from around a hundred billion years away from us; then how many stars are there in between? How many masses would the light have to pass by? The weirdest of all aspects of astronomy and the most important elements of the entire universe are the black holes. They are the power houses of galaxies. They are the ones that limit the star formation in a galaxy and they manage the mass of a galaxy by eating the mass and also pushing the gas dust away from forming new stars. These black holes are so dense that they hold around half a percent of the entire mass of a galaxy. Imagine a galaxy with some hundred million stars. Then the black hole in the middle of it should weigh the equivalent of at least around five hundred thousand stars. The volume of the black hole is so tiny that the gravity in it is almost infinitive. Can you imagine how much a beam of light travelling by a black hole would bend?

Think of the comets that come by the sun and how their paths are changed. It is exactly what would be happening to light that falls near the stars. The closer the light goes by, the more the bending effect would be. Like the comets hitting and disintegrating into the sun, there will be light that hits the black hole and gets consumed. There would also be light that is closer enough to be pulled by the black hole but not close enough to be consumed. These beams of lights will have largely varying trajectories. Some beams that were coming towards the earth would even turn back and travel away from earth just like the comets do upon coming closer to the sun.

The closer the galaxies are to us, the more that they are going to reflect the cosmic light away from us. This will again hide much of the contents in the universe that we think we know. Again; it is not just light, the X-rays, the gamma rays, the radio waves and photons of any kind would be affected in the same way. We are not allowed to know what is happening out there right now.

Our own galaxy has a black hole in the centre of it. Anything that we see in that direction that does not belong to our galaxy is not where we think it is. Our black hole is tremendously pulling light and causing curvature in the path of the light. So, all what we see as coming behind our galaxy is not really from behind our galaxy; those are to the sides of galaxy. It is only the light from them are diverted to come to us in a way that we think that the light is coming from right behind the galaxy. And all what seems to be in the sides of our galaxy are not really there because they are too far from us and they are being interacted by too many pieces of masses before reaching us.

The only way to find out the real path of light from one star to us would be to know exactly all the masses that are on the way of the light. Our current way of understanding the masses in between involves measuring the light emitted by those stars in some forms always. This only loops it up to us seeing only the past and the illusion of the universe and not the real one.

There is a way. We have to start mapping from the earth. We have to take the earth as the center of the universe once again. Back to the square once again; we have to perceive that the earth is the center of the universe. Why? Because everything else we see in the heavens are not there. We have to take a 3D map which is possible now with computers. Then we have to mark the center of the map as the earth. Then we have to go with the objects that are closer to us; starting from our moon. Mapping first object would only be in a 2D perspective if we did take the earth as a dot in the map. Here comes the wisdom; we should not mark the moon where it is now but we should mark the moon where it will be in the next one and a half second. That is where the moon is right now, but we will only see it after one and a half second because the light takes one and a half second to travel from the moon. We have to do this to all the cosmic bodies we have to map. We have to project the trajectory of the bodies and find out where they would be in the next unit of time that light would take to reach us from them. So when we mark the sun, we should mark it where it would be in the next eight minutes and twenty seconds; because that is where the sun is right now and we will see it only in eight minutes and twenty seconds. When we build up the map from inside, then we can see what we have been missing. There will be some bizarre revealing that the planets were not where we thought that they were. This would explain why we thought we had mathematical mistakes and anomalies in the universe. They were not just mathematical mistakes; they were epic failures of ours not to find out that we are looking for something that is not there.

The weirdness of the story does not end up there. The universe is like a hall fitted with mirrors all over the walls, floor and roof. When you stand inside this hall, what you are going to see is not what is really there. There are too many clouds and objects that are in the interstellar and intergalactic spaces that can act like mirrors and change the direction of light and other energy forms by various means. To the worst case, what we see as in one direction might really be a reflection of something in the other direction. We could be seeing instances of events took place in a single location but yet treat them as different objects.

For example, if you take a star that starts to form, the light from it would be travelling in all directions. If we took four particular directions that the beams were travelling then we can understand why the sky might be showing one object twice in different locations but at the same time. Consider a star that is a hundred million light years away from us. Now consider only two directions of light coming from the star; the one beam coming directly towards us and the other beam going directly away from us to the opposite direction. We will be seeing the star in a hundred million years. Now imagine that the light travelled in the opposite direction went close to masses that bent it here and there and made it bend in one direction all the time. The light would at some point, turn around and come back in the direction of us, but not exactly from where the star is. It would have travelled a few degrees away from that direction and is now coming from a few degrees away in the sky. What would we see is that these two light beams would be portraying two different ages of the star. The first beam would hit us first. The second beam will definitely come later. If it took the second beam to spend one million years in bending and turning before reaching us, then the two beams are separated by one million years. That means when the first beam carries light from a particular age of the star, the second beam would be carrying light from a million years younger star; because the second beam delayed a million years. This means not both of the beams will show us the same object. Also we will perceive these as two different objects because the lights are coming from two different locations separated by a few degrees in the sky.

What our astronomers with telescopes are going to find out is a younger star that has planets forming around it another older star that has planets orbiting around it; but in fact these are two events that happened to the same object in two different time frames. Sounds weird? This is not the worst part. Imagine the galaxies that you see all over the skies; of course with your telescopes. How many of those are repeated reflections and different videos of the same guy?

To me, the universe is a panoramic video of how we came into existence. It is not billions of billions of stars galaxies out there. The numbers are limited. There could only be a certain number of planets around the sun at maximum and the formation and retention of planets around the sun ceases. Well, let’s start from the smaller things. There is a limit for the number of electrons to be in an orbit around a nucleus in an atom. There is a limit for the maximum number of protons, neutrons and electrons to be in a stable atom.

There is a limit for the number of stars a galaxy can form and hold. There are limits for the local group and other galaxy clusters. There must be a limit for the universe. The universe is not infinite; neither is a black hole. The density and gravity of black holes could be measured when attempted in factuality. Things that were once science fiction had turned into real science and now science is turning into science fiction. This will stop when people realize a few basics that they put it wrong in the first place. The facts like “where Alpha Century is; is not where you think it is” have to be dealt with. The biggest problem with scientists is that they need proof to understand. No, that is not what science requires; you need evidence to proof but you don’t need proof to understand. All what you need to understand is apply some logical arguments.

The most intriguing of all things in the world is the boundary of the universe. Where is the boundary of the universe? Or is there even a boundary? The universe is not a 3D object. Our comprehension of a boundary is limited to a 3D space. Could there be physical boundaries to the universe? Definitely yes; and we can even calculate how long from the earth could the boundary be. To shed light on the physical boundaries of the universe, we need to turn on to the light once more.

There is a limit to mass of a star. A star could only weigh so much until it gets unstable and split into different bodies. There is also a limit to the minimum mass a star. If a star gets less than that mass, then it cannot produce the nuclear reaction that qualifies it to be a star. Based on the limits of the masses, we can also derive a maximum life span for a star. Let’s say it is around 1000 billion years at maximum. Then the universe could hold its boundaries at a maximum of 2000 billion light years from the earth in any direction. Is it that simple to calculate the physical boundaries of the universe? I think yes. Why?

We have to start from the big bang. Whenever in the past the big bang took place the entire universe started to expand. The reason why we have blue shift is because some stars rotating their galactic centers move towards the earth faster than the galaxies moving away from us. Necessarily all energy brought about by the big bang were distributed around the center of the bang. The energy, space and time expanded. That is a whole new set of theme to follow. I am not going deep into it. I have explained some of those in different articles of mine. I will stay on with the boundary of the universe.

So; when the universe expanded, the center of the explosion should have become more diluted when everything started to move apart. It is the space where we are that is the most diluted. We think that we are at the edge of our galaxy. We may be, but we are not at the edge of the universe. We are at the centre. There is no proof until you find out the boundaries of the universe. To find out the boundaries of the universe, let’s take this as an assumption because I know that nobody is ready to even think that the earth is in the centre of the universe. When the universe started expanding, all what it contained was pure energy in the beginning. Let’s say the universe had expanded to a few billion cubic kilometers when the first particles of mass started forming. The important thing is that all the particle formation should have been uniform all over the universe as it started; because the universe was closer to singularity and everywhere was similar. The basic particles should have been travelling back and forth into energy and mass for a while. Once there were stable mass particles, then the drama should have begun.

Mass would have affected the energy and vice versa. Now the particles are attracted towards each other and propelled away from each other by various forms of energy in the universe. As a result of the expansion, there would have been less density of energy and mass in the middle and the concentration would have been towards the edges. When the expansion gave enough space for the energy to slow down into mass, the particles formed. When particles got into each other, they started forming the first atoms all the way to galaxies. The most galaxies that were formed should have been formed at the edges of the universe because that is where the particles had been travelling to. The universe is still expanding, but it should be slowing down in contrary to the popular belief. Almost all of the first batch of galaxies should have formed in the same time. There should have been more galaxies at the edges of the universe; whatever shape the universe was.

The baby universe with the first batch of galaxies should have been full of light that if we would have been there, then there would have been no night. It would be day all day. As the galaxies fell apart and moved away from each other, the space expanded with them and the energy was distributed so that there would be gaps between light and energy. The galaxies were not moving in one direction. They moved at all directions but away from the center. The speed should have been higher as they were forming. There is one thing about the galaxies; they are massive bodies of mass. When there are two bodies of mass separated by distance, there comes the gravity. Once these massive bodies started forming, they should have pulled each other together. Since there were galaxies flying in all directions, the collective force of gravity would pull everything towards that center of the universe; but there is no need for a mass to be in the center. When all the galaxies are travelling away from each but then excerpting a pull towards the center, the only anticipated result is that they will all slow down. At one point, they will all stop from falling apart from each other and start coming back to the center.

This gives a conceptual physical boundary to the universe. There definitely should be a physical boundary to the universe. And by the way, since mass formed it has been excerpting gravity, the only form that the universe could have taken is spherical. We can only speak about shapes when we consider only the physical elements of the universe. The physical universe in the beginning should have been perfectly spherical and would have remained closely spherical all over the process. It will become perfectly spherical again when it hits its boundaries where the gravitational pull makes the masses stop travelling away in opposite directions. Once it gets perfectly spherical, then it will start shrinking back again. So what caused the last big bang? It might have been a big crunch the ended the universe before us. And the universe could be recycling again and again over given periods of time; recycling everything including time.

When the universe hits the maximum point of expansion or anywhere near there the light from the youngest forming stars would start travelling towards the earth. Let’s say a star with the maximum life span was formed there, and then the last light from the star would reach the earth in double the time of the lifespan of the star. So the distance to that star would be the so many years but into light years. As in my example above, if the maximum lifetime of the star was 1000 billion years, then the maximum distance of the star from earth would be 2000 billion light years. But what if the star moved beyond 2000 billion light years?

It could have, but if we are receiving light from a star that is more than 2000 billion light years away from us, then at the time when we first saw the star, the star was not there. It is dead and gone 1000 billion years ago. If we take the maximum lifespan of a star as 1000 billion years then everything that appears to be coming beyond 2000 billion years disappeared 1000 billion years ago.

What if there are stars beyond 2000 billion years away from us and we haven’t started to see their light yet? It is possible, but if it had happened, that will mean that universe had expanded beyond 2000 billion light years into the space. The fact that we are now seeing disintegrating stars billions of light years away means that they did so billions of years ago. Like how all the matter became into existence simultaneously, all the matter will hit the edge of the ages simultaneously and will start collapsing simultaneously. Simultaneous in the vast measurement of the universe would be a few million years. All the stars in the universe should have formed within a few million years of time frame and then star formation should have ceased. There cannot be new stars forming; not when the universe is expanding because the energy and matter consisted in the universe came from a single source; the big bang. The universe is not indefinite; it has a definite amount of ingredients. We only think it is infinite because we haven’t measured everything in it. We probably might not be able to measure everything completely at all.

The fact that we are seeing collapsing stars means that the process has begun. When the stars started collapsing, it means there is no more star formation. There cannot be any stars forming beyond 2000 billion light years away from us (if we consider 1000 billion years as the maximum lifespan of a star). Since we have started seeing the collapsing stars, there have been at least a few stars that have been through their life spans. This means we shouldn’t be receiving light anywhere away from twice the lifespan of the longest living star in light years that shows a star formation. If we did receive one, then that light has probably travelled around the universe before hitting us.

Another way to calculate the physical boundaries of the universe would be consider the maximum speed the galaxies could travel and the gravitational pull between them. If we consider that the galaxies started to fall apart at the speed of light, and then calculate the gravitational pull between two galaxies separated by 2000 billion years, which would be the least pull, then you can see at which point, the galaxies would cease to move apart. This will give the exact boundary where the universe will cease to expand. I am afraid that it will be the longest lifespan of a star.

I can only write up to 5000 words in a single article in here. So I had to cut the rest of the article to another place. It is another 1500 words of insanely intriguing thought process posted at for you.

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Reggie Watts – TEACH: HISTORY

Posted by on Sep 24, 2017 in Teaching History | 20 comments

Welcome to TEACH: HISTORY with Reggie Watts. In today’s episode, Mr. Watts discusses the Party Demon of 1815, Column-Bia, and Bananas.

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Founded and featuring original content by partners Sarah Silverman, Michael Cera, Tim and Eric, and Reggie Watts, JASH is the first fully realized network to offer all its comedic partners complete creative autonomy. At Jash we always strive to offer a variety of content with a unique voice: boundaries will be pushed, and disorientation is sure to ensue.

Reggie Watts – TEACH: HISTORY

Reggie Watts – TEACH: HISTORY
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Chair: David Trowbridge, Marshall University
Tona Hangen, Worchester State University
Russell Jones, Eastern Michigan University

This session was recorded at the 2014 OAH Annual Meeting in Atlanta, GA.

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