On Tuesday 12th November, a group of 26 Lower Sixth Form physicists travelled to the Whitworth Hall in Manchester.
The building, part of Manchester University, is as tall, tasteful and sophisticated as its name suggests it should be, which was edifying. As a number of the speakers pointed out, it is but a stone’s throw from the lab where Ernest Rutherford performed his famous experiment to investigate the structure of the atom.
The day started with a useful presentation from an examiner, then got interesting, with top class academics giving us an insight into their specialist fields:
- Professor Frank Close: An Introduction to Nuclear Physics
- Dr Suzie Sheehy: The Secret Life of Particle Accelerators
- Dr Michael Brooks: Gravity
- Professor Jim Al-Khalili: Quantum Biology
- Dr Jessica Wade: Plastic Electronics.
Through quite different styles, all approachable and with simple graphical aids, we were led into some mysteries and complexities of the physical world and how our knowledge is used in technology. And some delightful little snippets of knowledge were handed out along the way.
Here are three of the Lower Sixth explaining why they enjoyed particular talks:
"My favourite lectures were 'An Introduction to Nuclear Physics' and 'Plastic Electronics'. The first one was very interesting and it left us with an ambiguous question on a theory that links electrons with quarks and also supports a stable proton. The second one was innovative and links to another subject I study - Computer Science. Dr Wade talked about OLED screens and explained how different type of polarisation can affect the material she studies."
"My favourite lecture was the one by Dr Michael Brooks about gravity because I find the universe and the physics connected with it very compelling and interesting. There is so much that we don’t know yet. Also the way he talked about Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity and the Black Hole Information Paradox was well delivered to us, who just do our A-Levels."
"I thoroughly enjoyed the day at Manchester University. In particular, I enjoyed the lectures on the ideas behind gravity and the lecture about quantum biology. Both lectures presented me with ideas and theories I had never considered. For example, could the reason we are living be behind the fact that our cells may behave the way particles do at 0°K? Similarly, I had never considered that the exploration of black holes may help us to understand gravity and other aspects of quantum mechanics."
And all returned cheerful to Shrewsbury, minds enriched and nourished with the wonders of physics.