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Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School Horncastle

Cambridge Physics Trip

After around a two-hour journey from Horncastle, we arrived at our most anticipated destination: Cambridge University! After having our lunch, we trekked across the enormous site to the Cavendish Laboratories. Everybody in the group was looking forward to talks and presentations.

Our first talk was delivered to us by a man who had previously worked at CERN and was now a programmer working at MATLAB. He talked about what his company does and the uses of learning how to code and what you can do with code. He even showed us a small experiment with a robot that automatically balanced itself. He asked plenty of questions, with people who answered the most obscure ones being given a very comfortable cap with the MATLAB logo on!

Our second talk was presented by a group of students studying computational science. As this is a very broad subject, they showed us a wide variety of examples from the Game of Life, a model of the Earth’s climate and a model of water molecules. They showed us how useful this area of science is, and even showed us some resources which we could use to learn the coding language python.        

Our third talk was from a member of the British Antarctic Survey, who talked about his multiple experiences in travelling to the Antarctic to measure ozone levels in the atmosphere. He explained the importance of the ozone layer, as it protects the planet from harmful UV radiation from reaching the surface of the Earth. However, due to the artificial release of CFCs into the atmosphere, a hole in the ozone layer formed. This is because the chlorine in the CFC compound reacts with the ozone in the atmosphere, destroying this protective layer and producing chlorine monoxide. As a result of the decrease of products containing CFCs, the hole is slowly disappearing, although CFCs can stay up in the atmosphere for around 500 years.

After a short break, our next talk was from a consultant engineer representing TPP. Although his talk was quite quiet, it was still enjoyable learning about what his job entails and the whole group was blown away when he said that his largest contractor had an investment of £10 million! 

Our penultimate talk was from a professor studying super conductivity. He explained his field in great detail, telling us that certain metals (when cooled down to a very low temperature around 30-50K) have 0 resistance, and current can flow through indefinitely if this temperature is maintained. This means it is much more efficient to use superconducting materials to transfer electricity, as no electricity is lost due to resistance (heat). He demonstrated an amazing experiment with hovering supercooled magnets being pushed along an elliptical magnetic track. This is due to something called the Meisner Effect, which is the expulsion of a magnetic field by the material when it reaches the temperature point where it becomes a superconductor. This created a cushion effect, where the superconducting material rested upon a magnetic field. We found this talk especially interesting and enjoyable, as many students participated in this very interesting experiment! 

Our final talk was by two researchers on the topic of material science. Here we participated in many experiments, such as scrambling eggs with only alcohol, placing a non-Newtonian fluid on Clingfilm over a speaker and watching the fluid/solid move to the sound vibrations as well as playing with a very bouncy yet malleable material, which bounced everywhere when you accidentally dropped it. This was all to demonstrate what you can do with polymers, long chains of molecules. 

After this, we were led to the city centre in order to spend an hour exploring Cambridge. Although everybody was almost run over by bikes, we had a great time there as well!

Everybody who went onto the trip thoroughly enjoyed it and would all like to thank Mr. Bouic and Mr. Cawthorne for their help organising, looking after us and getting us there!                             

By Ryan McFahn