14 December 2018

Ulugh Beg - The Man Who Unlocked the Universe - A film produced by Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva and Timur Tillyaev

When one thinks of the great scientists whose discoveries were far ahead of their time names such as Newton, Galileo, Kepler, Copernicus, and Leonardo da Vinci all leap out at you. Their discoveries and achievements were breathtaking and shaped our world.


Yet before them was Ulugh Beg. He was the ruler of Mavarannahr Khanate (Empire) from 1411 and transformed his native Samarkand now Uzbekistan into a hub of culture, arts, and science. During his reign, he made many crucial and little-known scientific discoveries and achievements, including building the largest observatory of all the time and accurately charting the position of stars in the night sky. His model was still being referred to centuries later and his achievements were made 150 years before Galileo invented the telescope.

Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva

His achievements were the subject of Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva and Timur Tillyaev’s documentary, Ulugh Beg - The Man Who Unlocked the Universe.

The film has won several awards and has received critical and commercial success, achieving a 9/10 score in an IMDB review.

Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva the woman behind the film

Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva together with her husband Timur Tillyaev brought the Ulugh Beg legend to life. She has been described as a philanthropist and is committed to helping others in her native Uzbekistan.  She was Uzbekistan’s envoy to UNESCO until 2018, holding the position for the last ten years. For thirteen years she held the position of President of the Federation of Gymnastics of Uzbekistan.

Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva’s Charity Work

Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva’s work with children has arguably been her main concern, heading two major charities dedicated to helping disadvantaged children in Uzbekistan. “You are not Alone” foundation, established in 2002, supports orphanages. The charity is dedicated to building and refurbishing Mercy Homes, providing state of the art facilities to orphanages with the goal of educating Uzbekistan’s orphans. The National Centre for the Social Adaptation of Children, established in 2004, provides educational and medical support to children with disabilities.

The Karimov Foundation, established by Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva in 2016, has instigated a number of successful projects and has recently signed a partnership agreement with the UNESCO Office in Uzbekistan on joint cooperation in the areas of education, science and culture. Two years ago, the Foundation launched a scholarship scheme to allow young Uzbeks to study for their Master’s degree at prestigious foreign universities.

The charities started in quick succession after she achieved her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in International Law from the University of World Economy and Diplomacy in Tashkent, and her doctorate degree in Psychology from Tashkent State University.

As well as these pursuits she was determined to bring the Ulugh Beg legend and his achievements to the world. Speaking of her film she has quoted, “I have been fascinated by Ulugh Beg ever since I was a child”.

“Every time I visited Samarkand and heard about the scientific discoveries made by this celebrated scholar and peace-loving ruler – a man who in the 15th century turned Samarkand into the epicentre of the world’s most advanced studies in astronomy − I thought that his extraordinary story should be told to the world.”

Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva’s film was released in 2017 and soon attracted critical and commercial acclaim. It has already won two awards. It collected the Kineo Prize for the Best Foreign  Documentary at the 74th Venice International Film Festival, and Best Documentary Award at the Ischia Film Festival.

Ulugh Beg, until the film was released was little known outside of Uzbekistan and to some degree the academic world. And yet, the man’s life is a story that just begged to be told.

Not forgetting his achievements with the observatory, he fulfilled his ambition to create a scientific centre where scholars could come and discuss the stars.  In 1417 construction began and the resulting madrassa was arguably one of the first universities to be established.  The building can still be seen in Registan Square in Uzbekistan.

As well as charting the position of fixed stars better than any previous scholars, he also determined the length of a sidereal year as 365d 6h 10m 8s thanks largely to his love of trigonometry and understanding of the universe. Nearly a hundred years later Ulugh Beg’s sidereal year model would be determined to be +58 seconds inaccurate. In 1525 Copernicus came up with a more accurate model for determining a sidereal year which was + 2 seconds inaccurate.

Ulugh Beg still had the last laugh, however.  His tropical year model had an error of +25 seconds, but this was still more accurate than Copernicus’ model which was +30 seconds inaccurate, despite Beg living a hundred years earlier and having less reliable instruments.

Ulugh Beg deserves to go down in history as one of the great scientists. His work although little known, helped others to understand the world and the universe in which we live.

It is hugely unlikely that Ulugh Beg is alone in having been lost to history. One cannot help but wonder how many other great minds are out there waiting to have their story told.  Thanks to Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva, Ulugh Beg’s achievements are now known to the world.

As well as charting the position of fixed stars better than any previous scholars, he also determined the length of a sidereal year as 365d 6h 10m 8s thanks largely to his love of trigonometry and understanding of the universe. Nearly a hundred years later Beg’s sidereal year model would be determined to be +58 seconds inaccurate. In 1525 Copernicus came up with a more accurate model for determining a sidereal year which was + 2 seconds inaccurate.

Beg still had the last laugh, however.  His tropical year model had an error of +25 seconds, but this was still more accurate than Copernicus’ model which was +30 seconds inaccurate, despite Beg living a hundred years earlier and having less reliable instruments.

Ulugh Beg deserves to go down in history as one of the great scientists. His work although little known, helped others to understand the world and the universe in which we live.


It is hugely unlikely that Beg is alone in having been lost to history. One cannot help but wonder how many other great minds are out there waiting to have their story told.  Thanks to Lola Karimova-Tillyaeva, Beg’s achievements are now known to the world.

9 December 2018

Bronze Mischief - The Sculptures of David Goode

Take a walk in an English country garden at this time of year and you never know quite what you are going to come across. One moment you are busy doing nothing and the next moment you are caught up in a world of playful if naughty creatures from a hitherto unseen world. And for sure these are naughty – they are goblins and elves. There is none of the wafty grace of the Cottingley fairies here. These guys are up to mischief.

In fact, this is the work of David Goode (pictured left), a British sculptor based in the English county of Oxfordshire.  After having spent many years studying the human form – he was the youngest ever waxwork modeller for Madame Tussauds – he turned his attention to another world entirely.

Having spent so much time with wax, when he turned his hand to bronze work he determined that he would also make his work as believable as possible in this medium.

8 December 2018

Veni, Vidi, Velcro


How Might We Relate Migration to Class?

By Eszter Pordany
I’m Eszter Pordany. I originally was born in Hungary, and moved to London to study, when I was about 14. Since then, unfortunately I have been faced with several inevitable disadvantages a so called “migrant” has to go through in the UK! As a sociology student I aim to contribute to issues in such a multicultural society, that perhaps aren’t given as much attention to as they would require. My main interests include: Prejudice/ discrimination- especially racism, migration as well as addiction to illegal substances. 

Migration in contemporary society is an extremely well-discussed and concerning issue to some. In order to begin to explore how migration might be related to different social classes, it is essential to outline to what definitions of the above-mentioned terms I shall refer to throughout this piece. Stephen Castles, Professor of Sociology at the University of Sydney alludes to ‘migration’ within his work, as being a “transitory, moving from place to place”, with the general aim of permanent stay (Castles, 2007). With regards to the term of ‘social class’ I have used Karl Marx’s definition as through this work I will be associating a few arguments with Marxist concepts. Marx argued, that “a class is defined in relation to the broad structure of the property system” and hence “a group of people belong to the same class when they occupy the same position within the property system governing labour, physical assets, and perhaps intangible assets” (Marx and Engels, 2010).

The structure of the essay was highly inspired by a book I have come across during my research – “A Seventh Man” written by John Berger (Berger, 2010). Berger divides his work into three sections, all portraying a different aspect of migrants’ life. Within this piece, I will use a similar frame by exploring lower class migration from consequential aspects, while maintaining the focal argument of the essay: migration of lower class is seen as not being desirable, in fact is of concern.

The aim of this work, is to introduce how the government responds to the “crisis” lower class migration causes, and explores the pre-cautions are being made, whether they are horrible situations created for them, or governmental policies. On the other hand, middle / upper class migration is not paid near as much attention to as lower class, and does not imply a deviant behaviour. Hence, by concentrating on lower class migration and its subsequent effect on the migrants, as well as the lack of research dedicated to middle class movements within a European context, I shall come to the conclusion that the Net Migration Policy was doomed to failure, and methodological practices studying migration are highly questionable.

7 December 2018

Earth Song


If you have ever been to Yorkshire Dales and Lake District national parks in northern England then you will have been, no doubt, struck by their incredible natural beauty.  They have never looked so magnificent in this short time-lapse film about the ever changing light and beauty in nature made by Alex William Helin. The stirring music is Epic Journey by David Tobin, Jeff Meegan and Malcolm Edmonstone.

A Conversation About Growing Up Black


In this short documentary, young black men explain the particular challenges they face growing up in America.  It makes for sobering viewing when you appreciate just how much the society in which they should feel in their element has effectively excluded them as full citizens.  Yet it is also a noteworthy tribute to the human spirit that these boys and young men refuse to conform to the stereotypes with which they have been assigned.

Swan Cake


Written, directed and produced by students Nikitha Mannam (India) and Amos Sussigan (Switzerland), Swan Cake is the result of an experiment of collaboration with an international crew. The movie has been entirely produced via Skype and Dropbox, involving artists and students from Canada, United States, England, Switzerland, Italy, Romania, Portugal, Iran, and several parts of India. It’s just lovely!

The Mystery of the Margate Shell Grotto

In 1835 a labourer was digging a field just outside the English seaside town of Margate.  His work was interrupted when he thrust his spade in to the soil and it simply vanished in to the ground.  The master of the nearby Dane House School, James Newlove, was made aware of this strange disappearance.  He volunteered his young son, Joshua, for the task of being lowered, candle in hand, in to the void via a length of rope

Regardless of our modern sensibilities about the health and safety of children, when Joshua was pulled back to the surface his wide-eyed tale astonished everyone. He told of a magical temple adorned in shells, hundreds, thousands… millions of them.  All told, 4.6 million.

2 December 2018

Write Four Things, List Four Things – Making GCSE English Language Paper 1 Question 1 in to a Competition

Ah, the much neglected Paper 1 Question 1 of GCSE English Language (AQA).  Neglected?  Perhaps overlooked is a better word.  We can make the assumption that it will look after itself: that it is only worth four marks anyway.  However, having had some students, albeit a handful, fall one mark (out of 160) short of a grade 4 in June 2018 I’m not going to take anything for granted in the future. The angst that goes with one mark short is indescribable and makes me want to find the nearest rabbit hole and to plunge head-first in to it. So Question 1 will not be overlooked again..

I wanted to create a fairly straightforward (i.e. easy) way to make this question the centre of attention but – keeping in mind the time I have to deliver the curriculum in an FE college – I felt the need to add some other skills in to the mix too – primarily writing for an audience.

1 December 2018

TES Resources for GCSE English Language 9-1

If you are looking for some great resources to aid in your teaching of GCSE English Language (the AQA board) then look no further.  Over the last few years I have created a stack of resources to help – particularly with the all-important question five on Paper One (and likewise for Paper Two).  They are also often known as P1Q5 and P2Q5 – just to make life easier.  So, please head over to my ‘shop’ on the TES website and if you are lucky enough to be reading this post on its day of publication, you will even get 20% off!

Amung Feedjit
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