UK mobile phone comparison service recombu.com commissioned research into the number of people taking the time to shop around for the best mobile phone deals.

They claimed that despite 76% of Britains citing price as the most important factor when choosing a new mobile contract.

In terms of importance this is how customers rated different factors involved when choosing a mobile deal:

  • Price 76%
  • Number minutes/texts 49%
  • Phone brand 21%
  • Contract length 28%
  • Network coverage 26%

less than 7% of customers network in spite of 36% taking up to two weeks to shop around for alternative deals. All this in spite of the ongoing recession and that fact that many people simply do not have money to waste.

Another online comparison site mobilephonedeals.info believed there were a number of factors involved:

Whilst a significant numer of people could save money by switching network providers, often the price differential is not a big enough incentive. Other factors such as network coverage, multiple contracts in the same household or friends on the same network all come into play, as well as the additional effort of porting your number. Networks have done a great job of improving customer retention over the last few years, increasing contract lengths in response to increased handset prices and tying social groups in via discounted calls to friends and family or those on the same network.

Thoughts echoed by the Telegraph in response to the same report (commissioned with YouGov).

 

Every year, when the summer season approaches our thoughts start to turn to our eagerly anticipated holidays, and more importantly, what we will wear on them. With every passing week, the swimwear landing in shops begins to look more and more appealing to us, despite the fact that we already own a pile of perfectly adequate pieces from previous years. Why, when our current pieces of apparel are still in good condition, do we lust after new designs and styles? Maybe it is just part of our summer routine, helping us to gear up for the hotter time of the year, or maybe it owes to the fickle nature of fashion. Regardless of the reasons, there are a range of new swimwear trends for 2012 for you to indulge in and try out for yourself.

One such trend draws inspiration from styles that have been prevalent in main line collections for a few seasons; printed swimwear of all kinds is big this year. Most years, florals make an appearance in spring/summer collections, so it should be easy to work some into your beach wardrobe, whether in an intricate pattern or a large flower motif. Safari styles and animal prints are great for making an impression wherever you are. If you love leopard print, snake print, any animal print then this trend is perfect for you. Digital prints are also still in favour, and they will give an instant update to your beach look. The great thing about a print design is that they are available in any and all colours, so you can choose a shade that is most flattering to your skin tone.

Another style that has been popular for a while is sporty swimwear, which is especially relevant this year because of the Olympic influence. Think bold, block, primary colours with bands for contrast, zips, chunky shapes and thick material. This style is about practical but stylish pieces to accentuate and flatter your shape.

A great choice for anyone who loves to work up a tan throughout their holiday, white swimwear made appearances on several runways and is now arriving in droves in stores. Available in all kinds of styles, it is easy to find something that with suit your body shape. The colour is classic and timeless, and you can choose to reflect this or go for a more edgy piece to contrast the vintage influence. A lovely way to play with this style is to opt for crochet or knit swimwear, which will give you a great nod to the 70’s throwback style that is very popular this season.

Finally, cutaway, strappy or sculptural swimwear is good for creating the illusion that you are showing more skin than you are if you prefer a more conservative style, and is right on trend this season. There is an abundance of cut away one pieces in a variety of shapes and one-shoulder designs are especially popular at the moment.

The main thing to keep in mind when choosing new pieces to add to your collection is that you need to be comfortable in it and it should fit you well. Your choice should be guided by what you want to wear and what you like, rather than solely by what is fashionable at any moment in time. Whether you choose high street or designer, make sure it is the right choice for you.

Increasingly affordable camera equipment, ever improving technology and more and more ways to share your pictures, photography has gone through a spike in interest. Although many people enjoy taking photos simply as a pass time, others hope to, and do, pursue photography as a career. There are many different areas of photography to get involved in, such as fashion, editorial, commercial, fine art, travel, nature, documentary and portraiture. Photography is an expressive medium that can be controlled depending on technical aspects such as how you set the aperture or the angle you use etc., so it is a good artistic outlet for anyone who finds their talents do not lie in drawing, painting, or other methods. There are lots of different avenues to consider when pursuing any interest you may have.

If you are looking to improve your photography skills to help you become a professional photographer, there are plenty of informative books available, online courses, and most probably you can take a course somewhere close to you. If you are still in education, there are photography GCSE’s and A Levels you can take, depending on the institute that you are studying at, and there are other relevant qualifications for anyone outside of England. There are a many different degree courses you can study, ranging from an all encompassing photography degree to more specific and precise courses, such as documentary photography, editorial photography and fashion photography. You can make a living by marketing your photography as artwork, through photojournalism and publishing books of your photographs, maybe centering on a particular theme or concept. There are also jobs like being a wedding photographer, entering your photographs into a stock library or you could set up a studio to do professional photos for people. There are lots of specific and niche markets for photographs, but it is important to remember that it is a very competitive market to try and work in. To succeed, you need to stand out and produce quality shots.

Pursuing photography as a hobby is easy to do and there are lots of opportunities to take photos just for fun. If you wish to gain expertise and skill you can use the afore mentioned sources of information, or you could simply go out and try it for yourself and see what you like, what style works for you. There are some accepted standards as to the way a photograph should be arranged or constructed, but there is nothing wrong with discovering these conventions for yourself, or even defying them in order to create pictures that suit your taste.

There are many competitions out there for both amateur and professional photographers, some that you can enter for free and some that have an entry fee. It is worth researching these competitions if you enjoy taking photographs because there are often sizeable cash prizes or vouchers for camera equipment that will help further your pursuits. It is important to remember that competitions, especially the well established ones that offer large prizes, will be inundated with entries, so do not be disheartened if you do not find instant success. There are many different factors contributing to getting your work noticed, but producing original and well thought out work is the best foundation you can lay.

Following a worldwide recession in 2008 and subsequent problems with the UK economy, last year England’s Government decided that universities would be allowed to raise their undergraduate fees as high as £9,000. This will no doubt increase student’s worry and anxiety over their finances, and it may deter those from less privileged backgrounds from applying. Although this action has been as part of the austerity measures aiming to recover the economy, the government has to pay the fees in the interim between students studying and earning £21,000 a year or more by offering students loans, and, because more universities than anticipated raised their fees to the top price, there have been reports that the government will have difficulty providing these funds, and the government expects approximately 30% of the money to never be repaid.

A major problem has arisen from this whole situation for the liberal democrats, who promised to phase out fees if they came into power. By agreeing to this increase in fees, effectively turning their backs on their policy, they have forfeited the support and the faith of their supporters. As the junior member of the coalition, they were not in a strong position to combat these changes, but those who voted for them still feel betrayed. Obviously, the increases will have a very negative effect on those choosing to go on to further education, and it may also mean that some people will miss out because they are too worried about the costs. This new policy may feel even more unfair because there was a time when getting a university education was free, although this was at a time when less people applied for and attended university, so the strain on government funds would not have been as great. A major concern is that increased fees will deter students from families with less money than others, undoing any work to try and make universities places of equality.

Students who are planning to start university in September 2012 will be the first to experience the increased fees. Consequently, applications for English universities are down by 9.9% this year. Although there are other options for young people, with high unemployment rates (especially youth unemployment, with over one million young people unemployed) and some significant problems with the apprenticeship schemes currently in place, many young people may be at a loose end after school. Still, going to university will not immediately solve this problem for individuals, as graduate employment is also high, and the addition of student debt hanging over your head is never a good thing. It is predicted that students will leave university with debt of £45,000, making attending English university one of the most expensive options in the world.

One option is to study abroad. Students from England can get scholarships to colleges in America, and some of these scholarships will cover tuition, accommodation and even flights to and from the UK. It may be hard for English students to adjust to a different lifestyle in America, especially considering the differences between the two education systems, and scholarships are awarded to those with consistently high performance, but all in all it offers a great opportunity. Another way for UK students to avoid large fees is to study in Europe, where university education is free or partly subsidised by the government. This may not be a viable option everybody because of the cost of going home during the holidays etc., and the increased cost of living in cities. Also, not all European universities will offer their lectures/classes in English, and living in a country where you do not speak the language fluently is likely to be a difficult experience.
Despite all this, the fall in applications this year is somewhat smaller than was originally forecasted. As of yet, the extra student debt does not seem to be putting large numbers of people off, and with the student loan system the fees will hopefully be manageable for most people, as long as they handle their money responsibly. It seems that attending university is becoming a more accepted and accessible choice for people from all backgrounds, and gaining a further education is becoming a higher priority for young people. Although not for everybody, going to university is a great opportunity and it is better for it to be available to as many people who can benefit from it as possible.

A fashion icon is someone that others look up to and admire, someone with a unique and personal style. They often have some kind of celebrity status, so their fashion choices are broadcasted around the world by various forms of media, catching plenty of attention. This status can come about in a number of ways, for example; through being a celebrity, a political figure or even a popular blogger. Without a wide reaching influence it can be hard for an individual to make an impact on the general public with their fashion choices. An icon may have a signature look that is classic and timeless, kooky and out there, or dictated by current trends, showing runway clothes can be wearable. Whatever their distinctive style, a fashion icon has to be able to pull off their looks with aplomb.

Models are often up to date with the latest trends and in the know when it comes to the next big thing in the world of fashion, making them prime candidates for the role of a fashion icon. There have been some who have stood the test of time, such as Kate Moss, whose effortless style is present in her everyday life, not just when she is working. Other models have come in and out of favour over the years, their time as an admired fashion ambassador often corresponding with the limited span of a models career, but names like Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell are still widely known and are still able to conjure images of style on and off the catwalk.

Another example where exposure is a major factor in the making of a style icon is in the case of presenters and the stars of reality shows. For example, both Alexa Chung and Olivia Palermo still get lots of attention and coverage in magazines concerning the clothes they wear, having come into the public eye through appearing on television. They are now probably more well known for making appearances at fashion week and celebrity parties, and the outfits that they wear to attend these events. In some ways their style icon status has eclipsed their original careers, although it also benefits some aspects of their work life.

Another method through which a style icon can be born, one that is especially popular at the moment, is through being a political wife. There have been a few first ladies whose fashion choices have become iconic, such as Jackie O, famous for her shift dresses, pill box hats and classic accessories in the sixties, and more recently Michelle Obama, who is known to fly the flag for American fashion houses and turns out impeccable looks for any occasion. Also, Royal women receive very similar treatment; Princess Diana’s style was idolised at one time, in much the same way that Kate Middleton’s is now. It is often the case that if Kate or Michelle are seen wearing a particular piece, it will quickly reach the top of peoples must have lists. In many cases, their choices sell out within hours of them appearing in them, making these ladies invaluable to the fashion industry.

Some popular icons in today’s society are pop stars, most likely because they are accessible role models to young people. Rihanna, Katy Perry and Lady Gaga are all good examples. Whilst Rihanna’s style may be the most desirable and replicable, Katy Perry and Lady Gaga both shock with their looks. Those with more outrageous styles also earn their own portion of attention, and this is the case with celebrities like Solange Knowles, Anna Dello Russo and Tilda Swinton, They all have a distinctive style that sets them apart from the crowd, each of them daring for their own reasons. Tilda Swinton has very striking features and often wears masculine clothing that defies convention and flatters her looks, Solange uses bright colours, playful combinations and her natural Afro hair to make a statement and Anna Dello Russo simply uses crazy couture creations to make her mark on the fashion world. Chloe Sevingy and Daphne Guinness also have a quirky and often androgynous style, that has gained them lots of fans in the fashion world.

The kind of people viewed as fashion icons has changed considerably over time, depending on the style of the time. People who have figured largely throughout history include Marilyn Monroe, Twiggy, Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly and Princess Diana, although there are many more. These women either completely embodied the look popular during a particular era, or they ushered in a new style and defined that particular trend. For instance, Twiggy’s look revolutionised the modelling world, whereas Marilyn Monroe’s look encapsulated everything that was in favour at the time.

Although through taking inspiration from the wardrobes of fashion icons people are able to develop their own style, it is not necessary to base your own wardrobe, hairstyle, make up etc. on anyone else’s, or to measure your appearance against others. The best thing to take from these people is that trailblazing your own style is the best way to look good and get noticed. It is often a good idea to find your own, personal icons who you particularly admire, as this can guide you to develop a fashion sense that will last you a long time. Young or old, choose someone whose choices in clothing that you wish to emulate, or just go it alone, strike out and believe in your own tastes to guide you.

In the past few years, female artists have become more and more relevant in music as tastes have diversified and women have become more independent in an initially male dominated industry. They are great role models for young girls and show them that they can find success in wildly competitive industry through hard work and dedication. In particular, two British female singers have found more fame over the past year, with their second albums seeming to mark a turning point in their careers.

One of these artists is Florence Welch, the lead singer of the indie rock band Florence and the Machine. With the release of their first album, Lungs, the band, and in particular Florence, gained critical acclaim and a loyal indie following. Both her unique, striking look and her distinctive voice allowed her music to find a niche market. Sticking to her classic ethereal sound, but with ramped up vocals and anthem style tunes, the bands second album, Ceremonials, delivered exactly what her fans wanted and earned further success and respect. Her stunning live performances are likely to be a contributor to her image as a true artist, and her recent singles seem to have more appeal for the masses, gaining more recognition. Critics rated the second album even higher than the first, showing that the band has made progress from an already pretty great album.

The second artist is Marina Diamandis, better known as Marina and the Diamonds. Her career seems to be following a similar trajectory, although she is not quite as far along yet. Her first album, The Family Jewels, received some radio airplay, especially the single Hollywood, and earned her a number of fans, but wider acclaim eluded her. Following an image/character reinvention, she released a second album, which has so far reached a much wider audience and seems to have a more mature sound. The album features the number one single Primadonna, produced by Dr Luke and Cirkut, showing the calibre of the support she has for her latest venture. The album Electra Heart, released in April this year, debuted at number 1 in the UK, a testament to the number of fans she already had, and the number she gained.

There are other singers who have found a similar hike in their popularity and success with their second album. A good example is Adele, whose second album 21 received much more hype and interest than her first, 19. It also launched her career worldwide, allowing her to easily make a name for herself in America. It seems that the time between the first and second album gives artists a chance to reflect on their work and what they want it to be, and to improve their lyrics, sound and melodies. It is artists like these who keep their integrity and can be sure to not become one hit wonders or to disappear after one hit song.

The Opening Ceremony, commencing at 9pm on the 27th of July, was an excellent precursor to the 2012 London Olympic games. Directed by Danny Boyle, it showed the different phases that the country has been through, as well as showing British music through the years. Following this all of the countries walked out with their respective flags, and the Queen declared the Olympics officially open. Some of the teams were very large, whereas others comprised of just three or four members, showing the diversity of those participating and the different levels of dedication countries give to their sporting teams.

It is hoped that hosting the games in London will help encourage the UK’s athletes and possibly lead to more medal wins than in previous years. Having stands filled with support and the pride of having the games in their country seems to be working, as so far the athletes have been performing very well. At the moment, the United Kingdom is placed third in the league table, behind the China and the USA Hopefully this place will be retained and the UK will be ranked higher than the 4th place achieved at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. The next countries in the table are also big nations like South Korea, France and Germany. Unfortunately, there is quite a gap in terms of the number of medals between Great Britain and the 2 leaders in this area, but with 204 nations competing, 3rd place is still impressive. Great Britain’s medal total is 37, compared to the US’s 60 and China’s 61.

British gold medal winners include Jessica Ennis, Andy Murray, Chris Hoy, Victoria Pendleton, Greg Rutherford and many more. After years of training and hard work, it must be very gratifying for these individuals to receive the highest acclaim in their chosen sports at the Olympic games held in their country.

All in all, preparation for the Olympics has cost £24 billion, so it is hoped that tourist revenue will make up for this and help the UK economy get back on its feet. The money has been spent on the various venues that are being used for the array of sports, and on improving transport in and around London. Despite this investment in better transport links, London is likely to be much busier during the three weeks of the Olympics because of the influx of people from around the UK and the world. Certain postcodes around these venues are not allowed to receive deliveries because of the security risks surrounding such a large event that draws in so many people. There is also high security around the venues, to minimise the risk of any threats from getting into the buildings. Great care is being taken to ensure everything runs smoothly and safely.

The Opening Ceremony and the actual Olympic games themselves have so far been going very well, showing that London was a good choice as the host of the games, and bringing another impressive piece of history to Britain in 2012, a year when so much has happened already.

On the 4th July 2012, a lifetime’s worth of work appeared to finally come to a head, cumulating in what is believed to be the discovery of the Higgs boson particle. The Higgs boson is the last of 12 proposed sub atomic particles to be found, as part of the standard model. The results were found independently by two different groups of scientists, making the results more reliable and suggesting that the experimental results are consistent. More recent results suggest there is a higher certainty that it does exist, citing 5.9 sigma levels of certainty. 5 sigma levels of certainty are needed in particle physics to class results as a discovery, so this is a great breakthrough for all those who have worked on this research.

 

The theory of the standard model first came about in the early 1960’s, when it was discovered that there was more to the structure of atoms than first thought. The theory is able to explain many experimental results that were once confusing and inexplicable to those who found them. A boson is a particular type of sub-atomic particle proposed as part of the standard model. A boson is by definition any particle that obeys Bose-Einstein statistics, and it has no spin or electric charge.

Professor Peter Higgs, almost simultaneously with two other teams of physicists, first proposed the existence of the Higgs boson in 1964, Higgs being the only one to explicitly predict it to be a particle and to suggest what some possible properties of the particle might be. The papers published by these teams proposed how particles could acquire mass in a way that fits in with the other laws in particle physics. The existence of the Higgs boson would provide proof for the Higgs field, which is believed to be behind all the mass in the world. The detection of a bump in the energy measured in the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, Switzerland, that would be expected if a Higgs boson was detected, suggests that the field does indeed exist, although how it works exactly is still unclear. Despite this, the discovery as a whole means our understanding of the world at an almost unfathomable level is increasing as we begin to discover the mechanism behind some of the most fundamental processes taking place all the time. This could be possibly the most significant scientific break through in recent years.

The entirety of what this discovery will eventually bring to the field of particle physics is yet to be fully realised, but it does shows that the teams who have worked on this for 40 years were not wasting their time as it confirms their beliefs. The wide media coverage of the discovery also brings the work being conducted at the LHC to the attention of the general public, hopefully inciting interest in the field.

Although long-term devotees to the original Alien series may be disappointed by this prequel, Prometheus as a stand-alone project is pretty good. As someone who has not seen any other films from the Alien franchise, I can vouch for the fact that you do not need any prior knowledge of the concept to enjoy Prometheus, although it does mean some of the links to the other movies are likely to go unnoticed. In some ways it may be better to go into the cinema without any standards against which to measure the film, as I definitely was not sure what to expect.

 

One of the best things about the film is its excellent cast. Big names such as Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Guy Pearce and Noomi Rapace feature in the film. Believable performances help to suck you into the drama and make you feel as though you are involved, as does the powerful atmosphere created by Scott. The movie offers more than just action and thrills, there are also minor romantic plots woven into the main storyline, which is itself woven into the storyline of the saga. Well shot and directed, the whole film comes together well because of the contribution from all areas of production, including the screenplay, actors and the direction.

I found Prometheus to be an enjoyable film to watch, if a bit scary in some places, although what I deem to be frightening may be seen as child’s play by some. With an age rating of 15 compared to the usual 18 in the Alien series, the movie involves less gore than the others, although that aspect is still present, and is in some ways less scary, although there are still moments that will make you jump. It seems that in Prometheus, there is more focus on the concept and the story, rather than on the actual action with the aliens themselves. There are a few moments in the film that seem to drag at times, and as with any film, it is down to personal taste. Individual’s reception of the film probably also depends on expectations people have and what they want the film to be. In my opinion, it is well worth a watch.