Churchill College IB Physics Talks

Talks in curly braces {} are particularly tricky. No need to be put off, just a warning.

Talks highlighted by a hash sign # have been picked already for this year.

Bullet points give an idea of a framework: you probably shouldn’t talk about all of them in most cases.

Useful mathematics

Group Theory in Physics
More is Different – Complexity

In ancient times it was believed the rules governing the heavens were different from those on earth. Now we know better, but it is still surprising that the same rules can produce such diverse behaviour. The study of how following simple rules can produce complicated, difficult to predict behaviour has applications in all areas of science.

Knot Theory

Comment: it might be enough to present a simple renormalisation (scaling argument) approach to Fegenbaum's number. The maths is elementary and the basic idea is very cool.

Markov Chains (and Monte Carlo Methods)
Multivariate Analysis

An overview of techniques for finding correlations in large, complicated data sets.

Quaternions in Physics #
Dimensional Analysis and the Buckingham Pi Theorem
{Poisson Brackets}
Laplace Transformations: a Handy Way to Solve Differential Equations #

Earth Sciences, Astronomy & Cosmology

The Earth’s Magnetic Field
The Sun: Inside Out #
The Evolution of the Solar System
Stellar Evolution #

The Cosmic Microwave Background: Why all the Fuss? #
Black Holes #

Experimental Physics & Materials Science

The Coolest Thing in the Universe (Cold Atoms)

The study of cold atoms in the nano-kelvin regime is a very active area of research today. You should provide an introduction to the field.

Laser Physics #

Lasers are everywhere in the modern world. The aim of this talk is to provide an introduction to their design and operation.

NEMS/MEMS: the New Frontier

Nano- and micro-machines are becoming more sophisticated and robust. They have already started to appear in our day-to-day technology and they offer highly controllable experimental conditions which conventional experiments can only dream of.

Memristors and Circuit Theory
How to Build a Particle Accelerator
Particle Detectors #

Pick one particular type of detector. Explain how it works, why it is built the way it is. Examine some examples spanning the development.

Non-Linear Optics

Optics is usually thought of as the study of lenses and mirrors but when light passes through a crystal much more interesting and useful behaviour can be seen.

Mpemba Effect

If you place two glass of water in a freezer, one cold and one hot; which will freeze first? It turns out it's often the hot one. Why? Nobody knows for sure but many theories have been put forward. In this talk you should present some of these theories and evaluate their validity using 'back of an envelope' style calculations. You might even repeat the experiment yourself.

The Physics of Music/Acoustics

Choose some of:

But your presentation should be cohesive, so your selection should tell a story.

Liquid Crystals #

The phrase 'liquid crystals' is thrown around a lot in relation to monitors.

Recipes for Steel
Biomaterials: Why is Wood Good?

Theoretical & Computational Physics

Quantum Cryptography

We all use cryptography on a regular basis; whether to make an online purchase or just to use our mobile phones. It is arguably one of the oldest sciences still true to its’ roots. However, more and more powerful computers means many of the cyphers currently in use are not as strong as they were and a usable quantum computer would render them useless. Quantum cryptography offers a solution, it promises privacy guaranteed by nature itself.

Quantum Computers

The notion of putting on a Harry Potter style invisibility cloak seems an idea of pure fantasy but it might be closer than you think.

Entanglement and Quantum Teleportation
{The Casimir Force}

Two metal plates held close together will feel a force pushing them together. This is called the Casimir effect, after its discoverer.

{Symmetries in the Standard model}
{The Higgs Boson}
Nuclear Physics
{Non-linear Fluid Dynamics: The Shocking Truth}
Introduction To Information Theory
Nuclear magnetic resonance

Ask Mike for details mv333

Real World Problems

Green Energy - Can the Books Balance?

You should present a discussion of the various forms of green energy and their potential to avert a climate cataclysm. You should perform 'back of the envelope' calculations to go with your discussion and come to a well argued conclusion

Nuclear Energy #
Physics in the Movies

You should present a discussion of the use of physics in movies complete with 'back of the envelope' style calculations for comparison.

Scattering: Why is the Sky Blue and Clouds White?
Aerofoils: How Can Planes Fly Upside Down?
Golf Balls: Why all the Dimples?

Anybody who has seen a golf ball knows they have lots of dimples, and they didn't get there by accident.

The Physics of Sport

Faster, higher, stronger?

Flight of the Bumblebee

It is often asserted that physics cannot explain how a bumblebee can fly. That can't be right? Can it?

The Physics of Water Waves: From Capillaries to Surfing to Tsunami

Water has many interesting behaviours depending on the size of the container, the depth of the water and the velocity and amplitude of the wave. Questions you might like to consider are:

You should discuss the dispersion relation and the equations of motion for some of these cases.

Bubbles #
The Inside Story of Medical Imaging
How Does 3D Cinema Work?

Organic Semiconductors

Ask Mike for details mv333


Cell Motility

Ask Mike for details mv333

The Physics of Neurons

Ask Mike for details mv333

The Physics of the Heart

Ask Mike for details mv333


A History of Science at Cambridge

Seeing the Stars: The Development of the Telescope
A History of Computers
The History of Vision

The study of vision has a long history. Things you might like to address:

Some General Guidance

The degree of guidance given here is an indication of how much freedom you are likely to have in choosing the focus of you talk. For example, if you choose Physics of Sport you will be expected to come up with ideas for the focus of your talk more than if you choose say Stellar Evolution.

Your talk should take 20-30 minutes to deliver. You should then be prepared to answer questions. A few practice runs before the day is highly recommended!

When doing your research, as a real scientist would, you should evaluate what you are reading. Is it believable? Is the source reliable? Is it up-to-date? Whilst Wikipedia is a brilliant resource for getting an introduction to a subject it may not a very reliable source of information. So if you find things you like, check Wikipedia’s references and cite those instead (assuming they are more trustworthy, which they generally are).

Think about how your slides will look on a projector. You really can’t beat black and white for readability (yellow on dark blue is also favoured by some).

Too much text on a slide can be daunting and distract from what the speaker is saying. Generally slides should contain short key-points and pictorial aids.

Short cue cards are fine but it is strongly recommended NOT to use a script! They often turn people into wooden, monotonal puppets. Really, I swear I can see the strings. Doing it from memory is best, all the cues you need should be on the screen anyway. I always find it best to memorise completely the first 3 sentences I intend to say. After that I have found my rhythm and everything else flows.

When preparing think about your audience. In this case your peers. Will they understand what you're saying? Imparting a couple of interesting pieces of information clearly is more beneficial than a garbled explanation that only an expert would understand.

It is also important to ‘tell a story’ in your presentation. By which I mean your talk should flow smoothly from one idea to the next.

When you come to present don’t rely on the internet to provide videos etc. in the moment. It will go wrong, always does. Download them first. It’s also a good idea to have a copy of your slides on a pen-drive in case of a laptop malfunction, too many people learn this the hard way.

When presenting remember to stand so people can see your slides, speak as clearly as you can and remember to project your voice. Speak at a measured pace, nerves will make you rush, and pause to emphasise points. Make eye contact with your audience.

Finally, and this really is the most important ingredient of any presentation as well as the most difficult, relax and enjoy yourself. As with all performances if you're confident and relaxed your audience will relax and go with you. Preparation and practice really is the only way to achieve this (unless you’re one of those annoying naturals).

Remember these talks are meant to be informal and provide an opportunity to practice and make mistakes. So don’t be afraid of making them. When it comes to public speaking practice really is the only way to improve.