St. Peter’s School celebrates successful physics outreach

5 March 2012

St. Peter’s School in York is celebrating a year of successful physics outreach activities in partnership with the Yorkshire branch of the IOP.

Men infront of rocket car

The long-running Physics Olympics continues to grow, last year attracting 32 schools from across the North of England entering teams of Year 8 pupils.

Events this year involved constructing the highest tower using only jelly babies and spaghetti, building a floating vessel to hold the most marbles, finding the mass of a fluffy duck and placing 10 resistors in order of increasing magnitude. 

In the Fermi Quiz, quantities have to be estimated to the nearest power of 10. 

One question in this year’s quiz was ‘If a golf ball was scaled up in size to be the size of the moon, how deep would the dimples be on this scale?’ (Answer: 10,000 m).

The school’s programme of public lectures is now a regular feature on the IOP calendar. 

Star shaped neon lights

In March of last year, Wing Commander Andy Green O.B.E. gave the lecture on Bloodhound Supersonic Car – the 1000 mph car. 

A full size replica of the car was brought up from Bristol and was on display at the front of the school on the day of the lecture.

In June, Dr. Liz Parvin from the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the Open University delivered a fascinating lecture entitled ‘Xposure! - X-ray imaging from 1895 to the present day’. 

Child looking through a telescope

As well as the history of the X-ray, she also made the audience realise how important Medical Physics is in modern medicine and how many of us experience new technology without questioning how it works or how was it developed.

In October the X-ray theme continued as St. Peter’s hosted the IOP Schools and Colleges Lecture: ‘From X-rays to Antimatter – the science of seeing inside your body’. 

In the two performances of the show, Dr Michael Wilson explained how physicists build machines that do what our eyes cannot – see inside the human body. The show involved hands-on demonstrations and some amazing audio-visual media that captivated the audiences.

The final lecture of 2011 was delivered in November by Professor Brian Foster from Oxford University and Jack Liebeck, the renowned concert violinist, to a full house. 

The lecture, titled ‘Einstein’s Universe’, linked Einstein’s favourite instrument, the violin, with many of the concepts of modern physics that he did so much to found, and was punctuated by interludes of music related to Einstein.

The first lecture of 2012, on March 14, will feature Revd Dr John Polkinghorne speaking on ‘The Friendship of Science and Religion’. Further information and details of the June and November lectures can be found on the branch calendar.

Children catching coloured balls in bags

In addition to this packed lecture programme, the school also hosted Stargazing Live events in January of 2011 and 2012 in conjunction with York University Physics Department and York Astronomical Society. 

The most recent event was a huge success, with a lecture titled ‘Things that go bang in the night’ delivered by Dr Andy Newsam of Liverpool John Moores University to a packed house.

Following the lecture and indeed throughout the evening the 300 to 400 or so people in attendance took advantage of the clear skies to look through the multitude of telescopes brought along by York Astronomical Society. Next year’s Stargazing evening is due to take place on Friday 11 January, 2013 when the guest speaker will be Dr. Chris Lintott.