Summer School – Physics

12th May 15

Abbey College Cambridge A Level Physics

The theme of the Physics Summer School this week has been to explore from the smallest constituents (atoms & particles) all the way up to the largest (stars, galaxies & the universe). On our journey we have also looked at electromagnetic and wave phenomena and have seen how they broadly fit into the laws of Physics.

On Tuesday (24/07) our topic was atoms & particles. We experimentally measured the size of atoms using nothing more than washing-up liquid & talc powder! We discussed the central role of atoms & particles. We saw the effects of colliding atoms by setting up a demonstration of Brownian motion and deriving Avogadro’s number. We also peered into the inner structure of atoms by looking at atomic line spectra of several gases.

On Wednesday (25/07) our topic was electromagnetism. We discussed the basic laws of electricity & magnetism and the role of well-known scientists such as Faraday & Maxwell in discovering them. We looked at high voltage discharges using a Van-de Graaf generator. We also experimentally measured the magnetic force due to a current carrying wire.  We used this knowledge to then build a working electrical motor.

On Thursday (26/07) we explored wave phenomena. We looked at waves on a string and in an air column, and discussed the mechanisms for wind and string instruments to create music. We produced two dimensional standing waves, and observed beautiful Chladni figures. We also experimented with light and polaroids. We investigated the refractive properties of glass, and linked our findings to the properties of fibre optics.

On Friday (27/07) we looked at the largest scales of the universe. We saw how the force of gravity dominates behaviour. We measured the mass of the earth by timing the oscillations of a pendulum. We explored Newton’s law of gravitation and how it accounts for planetary motion. We then took a guided tour of the universe looking at some of the properties of stars & galaxies. Finally we discussed the large-scale structure of the universe and how rather surprisingly it depends on the very particle properties we met on Tuesday.