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Langley Grammar School

Langley Grammar School

Year 12 Physics Visit

Year 12 Physics students recently enjoyed a stimulating day in London at the 'Physics in Action' conference. The day was an opportunity to develop a broader understanding of the subject and gain a taste of some of the latest academic research.

This article was written by Vianca Shah 6J

The day comprised of five lectures from professors in various fields as well as a study skills session, to ensure that we can get the most out of our physics A level course. The first lecture was by Clare Elwell – a professor at UCL in medical physics. Her research focused on thermal imaging using infra-red radiation in neonatal infants in intensive care, and to track the development of those with learning difficulties. We witnessed how this has had some astonishing results which could be revolutionary for future care for premature infants and to diagnose autism, even before the symptoms become apparent. What was perhaps even more interesting was her scheme using this imaging of the brain to analyse the effects of malnutrition in LEDCs on the brain and overall cognitive capacity. Not only did it help us understand the practical application of the theory we learn in class; but the extent of research that needs to be undertaken, requiring a number of scientists from all sorts of different fields.

Our second lecture was by Suzie Sheehy from the University of Oxford. All year 12 students started off their physics course learning about fundamental particles and radiation. This lecture helped us understand the reasoning and evidence for all we accept in our textbooks, from the exact physics behind particle accelerators to their practical uses such as CRT TVs, X rays and even PET scans using antimatter! Here we were able to understand what exactly the ‘largest fridge’ – the Large Hadron Collider - actually needed to have inside of it and how it can bend protons via its magnetic field and voltage synchronisation.

Perhaps what was most memorable about our third lecture, was Mark Miodownik from UCL using a hammer to smash a perfectly functioning iPhone 4 in front of us. Nonetheless, he did convince us that a single iPhone contains more than half of the elements in the periodic table. More interesting perhaps was his presentation on innovative technologies, such as self healing roads and bridges that use bacteria to repair themselves. 

Though weird and definitely strange, Michael Brooks’ depiction of the ‘weird world of quantum physics’ helped introduce many to the field that many including Albert Einstein feared. Though it all sounds a little like fiction – ‘spooky’ quantum entanglement between particles, a cat being dead and alive at the same time, the audience were confronted about how this developing field of research is very much alive and relevant – especially in future technology including quantum cryptography and quantum computers! To conclude, the lecture he demonstrated hotemperature could be measured with sound. This helped wrap up an exciting day.

We would like to thank all the teachers that accompanied us on the visit and the physics department for organising everything. The lectures were informative, indeed eye-opening and the study skills session helped us understand the relevance of what we learnt to our A Level studies.