How to Hypnotise a Chicken


There is more than one answer to this question; and, of course, it prompts other questions – not least the question of why you would want to hypnotise the poor chicken in the first place. It also suggests further areas of enquiry. What happens in the mind of the chicken once hypnotised? What happens to the mind of a human under hypnosis? What actually happens and what is it like in the mind of any other individual?

These questions and many more have been raised at the Senior School over recent days in the name of Curiosity Week. It is a festival of speculation. All homework is suspended in the Lower School and students are asked to find, and write up, areas of inquiry of their own, while across the school every class is invited to be especially curious. To celebrate, here are some of the questions that have been asked this week:

  • Why did William Shakespeare spell his name differently in each of his six surviving signatures?
  • Did Christopher Marlowe fake his own death and go on to write Shakespeare’s plays himself?
  • Why did the Islamic State use the Roman Theatre in Palmyra to stage acts of brutality? 
  • Will AI take over the world?
  • What can ruined buildings tell us about the people who built them?
  • How do fluid mechanics work?
  • Does Nick Bostrom’s hypothesis suggest that we are presently living in a simulated reality?
  • Why did Anne Lister describe marriage as legalised prostitution?
  • How do you hypnotise a chicken?
  • How can misinformation and cyber-crime be used to stage invisible warfare?
  • Why does growing seedless fruit eliminate the need for pesticides?
  • Why are bubbles round, and honeycombs hexagonal?
  • Who was Vasili Arkhipov, and did he single-handedly save the world?
  • How does a Monet painting completed in a single day encapsulate joy?
  • What can we learn from sharks, and why should we love them?
  • Why does a story about Jack and Jill being used as speed-bumps challenge our imagination and ways of thinking?
  • How many people attended the first Burns Night? How should you properly speak to a haggis – and what is in it?
  • Why was jazz called the devil’s music, and how did it change the social and musical landscape?

It has been a delight to witness these questions and many more being explored at school. I hope some of them catch your attention and prompt you to engage in some curious exploration of your own. 

Curiosity Week follows on from the sensational Detective Zone at the Junior School last weekend. The school was full of families embarking on investigations and exploration. Tea party crime scenes, solving locked box mysteries at 221B Baker Street, Abbey Cluedo, creating pressure sensors, assembling gadgets and much more: it was a brilliant way to celebrate the discovery and initiative that lie at the heart of an Abbey education.

Underneath all the business of school, behind all the lessons and the learning and the discussions and problems and solutions, great questions slowly turn for every student: what do I want to be? How do I want to live? What do I want from my future? They are questions we never stop asking. Staying curious and learning to explore our own paths are pretty good ways to keep finding rewarding answers to them.

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