Fun with Fundamental Physics

254 TUTOR: Jonathan Genton

Each morning during this course, you will tackle a different aspect of Fundamental Physics. You will look at and play with a variety of demonstrations and pieces of equipment then discuss their consequences, both for the development of Theoretical Physics and the practical world as we know it. Aspects covered will include conservation laws, theoretical limits, wave-particle duality, particle physics and astrophysics. You will not need a science degree to enjoy this course, just genuine interest and curiosity as the approach will not be excessively mathematical.

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Course Notes

Each day, we will tackle a different aspect of Fundamental Physics. We will look at and play with a variety of demonstrations and pieces of equipment, then discuss their consequences, both for the development of theoretical physics and for the practical world as we know it.

Day One - Conservation laws and breaking them

Conservation laws are intimately connected to symmetry. Examples to be discussed will include energy, linear momentum and angular momentum. Newton's cradle is a simple but elegant starting point. To what extent can classical conservation laws be broken by quantum mechanics?

Day Two - Theoretical limits and (nearly) breaking them

The laws of thermodynamics limit the efficiency of heat engines. The Stirling engine is as efficient a design as can be achieved. The theory of relativity imposes a universal speed limit, recently threatened by neutrinos. Do any serious physicists think that tachyons exist?

Day Three - Wave-particle duality and uncertainty

Wave behaviour and particle behaviour were once considered to be independent areas of study by many. The hard border was blurred by the discovery of the photoelectric effect. Terminal blurring resulted from the discovery of electron diffraction, which will be demonstrated. How does Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle fit in?

Day Four - Particle physics and the very small

The Standard Model of particle physics has been remarkably successful, but is incomplete, as it is does not include gravity satisfactorily. Particle accelerators such as the LHC continue to increase the particle energies and consequently the resolution. The principles of particle accelerators will be demonstrated. Quantum computing is currently a major field of research. Is there a limit to the scale at which particles can be detected and manipulated?

Day Five - Astrophysics and the very large

Almost everything that we know about heavenly bodies comes from analysing the radiation that reaches us. The principles of spectroscopy will be demonstrated. Astrophysical theories have evolved dramatically in recent times, with the discovery of gravitational waves and the ongoing debates about dark matter and dark energy. Is there a limit to the scale beyond which we can never venture, even in theory?

Equipment to bring with you

You will not need any specialist equipment, just something to write on, something to write with, a ruler and a calculator.

Course Tutor

Jonathan Genton

About Jonathan

Jonathan has been involved in physics teaching for over thirty years, ever since graduating from Oxford, where he specialised in atomic and nuclear physics - and he still enjoys 'playing with toys'. Jonathan's interest in astronomy and astrophysics has grown ever since joining Marlborough College and discovering that the College possessed a magnificent ten inch Cooke refractor. Jonathan has been Head of Physics and Head of Science, teaching physics at all levels, as well as the excellent GCSE Astronomy course. He has tried to keep up to date by attending lectures such as the theoretical physics lectures for Oxford alumni that were, until recently, offered on one Saturday each term.

Over the years, Jonathan has been fortunate enough to visit many experiments of great scientific interest, including particle accelerators at CERN, world class observatories on La Palma, gravitational wave detectors at VIRGO and the Beecroft Building Basement at Oxford, where they are researching and building quantum computers. Since 2014, Jonathan has worked closely with his friend and colleague Gavin James, a talented local astrophotographer, to produce two books of stunning images in a series entitled 'In the Marlborough Night Garden'.

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All courses run for 5 days

WK 1 11 Jul - 15 Jul

WK 2 18 Jul - 22 Jul

WK 3 25 Jul - 29 Jul

WK 4 1 Aug - 5 Aug

Morning Courses

9.15AM to 12.15PM

Afternoon Courses

1.45PM to 4.30PM

All Day Courses

9.15AM to 4.30PM