July 14, 2022

Solving crimes with physics


In our first session back in person, we explored forensic physics. In the popular-science lectures we explored how physics is used in crime scenes to get information about what happened. The interesting part of the session was the experimental part, where we put the gained knowledge to test – we solved a crime ourselves.

In this crime a member of the School of Young Physicists was “murdered”, and we had to find his killer. There were 3 parts to the task. Students were given a list of suspects and their alibis and what they were doing at different times. Firstly, students had to narrow the time frame of the murder, this was done using Newton’s law of cooling. This allowed them to eliminate some of the suspects. The second task was blood splatter analysis, there was a sheet filled with blood splatter, and measuring the blood droplets, they could gain information on suspects height. The third task was ballistic analysis, figuring out the bullet’s trajectory. All the collected information allowed them to make a calculated guess at who is the “murderer”. They were able to check hypothesis by shining an ultraviolet light at their prime suspect’s hands, because the murderer’s hands were covered in “gunpowder”, which glows under UV light, they had one try, the most careful and attentive students found the “killer”.

This has been one of the more interesting experimental sessions we have had, students had a lot of fun and gave great reviews to the session, an interesting and fun experience for everyone.

The 12th season of the School of Young Physicists


The 12th season of School of Young physicists is over. A lot has happened the past year, however, we finally see a light at the end of the tunnel. We were able to hold the final two sessions of the season in person, although still limited to hundred students, however, this limitation will be gone by the next semester. Four sessions were held this semester. In February we learned about electromagnetic waves and how they are used for communicating, looking at how technologies like Bluetooth and wifi work. In March physical chemistry was our task. We looked at chemistry through physicist’s eyes – through quantum mechanics. We explored the subject of chemical bonds, what they are and how we study them. Finally, we looked at Schrodinger’s equation, and some problems physicist encounter while studying quantum chemistry using it. After this, in April, we finally were able to host a session in person, and we started with forensic physics. We explored how physics is used for solving crimes, and in the experimental part we solved a murder. In the last session of the season, in May, we went on a journey to explore different technologies. For example, how our phones work, what are OLED screens and explored augmented reality technologies.

This semester has brought forward different challenges; however, we have tackled them head on and surpassed them. We are filled with joy that we were able to finally hold sessions in person and we are awaiting the next semester and hope to bring physics to more and more people.

January 14, 2022

Tarzan and the magnets


This semester has been quite different because of the situation in Latvia. When the lockdown started, we decided, instead of the regular video lectures, to post a difficult physics problem for students to solve. This has resulted in two interesting physics problems.

The first one was about Tarzan. The question asked, how could Tarzan swing from one vine to another with a starting velocity v, and whether the velocity would be large enough to get to the other vine and at what angle should he release from the first vine to catch the other.

The second problem was about a magnet system. One magnet was attached to a spring and the other one was able to freely move. The question was: what is the distance between the magnets such that the magnet attached to the spring slips and sticks to the other magnet. And the result of this was used to experimentally measure the magnetic moment of the magnet.

These problems posed difficulties to not only the students but also physics professionals. But quite a few students submitted correct solutions and the fastest correct submissions were awarded with a popular-science book.

To more challenging and interesting physics problems next semester.

The first part of Season 12


The first part of the 12th season of School of Young physicists is over. This has been a challenging year because of the Covid situation in Latvia. The semester started with in-house sessions for the first time since 2020. We started by tackling the scientific method. Something that is not talked about often enough, especially in the times we are in now, that misinformation is rampant, it is of utmost importance to be able to tell the difference between what is true and what is misleading information. In this session we had guests from Scepticafe, a group, which has been doing work on educating the public on misinformation, critical thinking and debunking myths that people falsely believe in. The second session was about statistics and its use in physics. We learned about basic statistics and its use in physics, and delved deeper in error analysis, an important part of physics that is usually not taught in high school. However, after these sessions, with the covid situations going out of hand in Latvia, we had to move online, and after student suggestions, we decided to post monthly physics problem and a home experiment, more about that in the next article.

We look forward to working with students and seeing them back in the House of Science, a thing that we have missed immensely.

July 14, 2021

Q&A session with Jeff Wiener


In the last session of this season we had the great opportunity of having Jeff Wiener with us on our Q&A session. Jeff is a staff scientist, managing CERN's national and international teacher programme and conducting physics education research with high school teachers and students. Besides, he is investigating how best to use medical applications of particle physics as a tool for science diplomacy in low- and middle-income countries.

In the Q&A session we discussed, how it is working at CERN, and why there are people working there 24 hours a day, since when the experiments are done, they are running without a stop for a long period of time. He gave us ways how students could start working there. And we talked about the intricacies of working in CERN. One of my favourite stories Jeff talked about was about napkins. In the cafeteria in CERN, a couple of years ago the food providers wanted to stop giving paper napkins, but the scientists at CERN were enraged. The reason for this was because usually during lunch, when they are talking about what they were doing that day and explaining the problems they have come across, it is in these moments that often breakthroughs happen, and the solutions are always written down on these paper napkins. It is said that all of the important ideas are written down on napkins in CERN

We hope to have more brilliant people with us in the Q&A sessions next year as well.

The end of season 11


The 11th season of School of Young physicists is over. Another year full of interesting physics and fun experiments. In the second half of the season, we had sessions, in which we learned about computer modeling, and how we use math, programming and physics to simulate the reality on the amazing computers. The second one was about units, we explored the SI unit system and the bizarre world of natural units, where we say that the speed of light is equal to the Planck’s constant and both are equal to 1. In the third session we explored the world of biophysics and how physics can explain the deep blue of the morpho butterflies wings, we also looked at the interesting problem of protein folding, and why solving this problem is so important for the future medicine. Then followed the session on energy, where we looked at the types of energy and how they transform into one another, and untangled Albert Einstein’s famous equation E = mc2 and the bizarre outcomes it predicts. And we ended on the Standard model of particle physics. We explored the road of a proton in the particle accelerators from the hydrogen atom to the collisions that helped us discover the Higgs Boson particle. Besides that, we looked at symmetries and why they are so important in theoretical physics and of course dug deep into the Standard model to try to understand what it is.

As I said I would keep you updated on our survey of sin and cosine, I can now officially say  to cosine is the superior trigonometric function, as our Q&A session guests have voted in favor of it in 8 to 1.

This has been another great year of physics, and we are looking forward to the what the next season of SYP will bring.

January 14, 2021

Sine or Cosine

This year, to better accommodate to the times right now, we have slightly changed the format of our sessions. Instead of a thorough lecture of the sessions subject by a professor or a professional of it, we have added a Q&A session with them. This allows more of a back and forth discussion between the students and the guest. 

Students present question they want to ask them in the sign-up, which gives them time to think of interesting questions to ask. And after we are done with their questions, as an ending question to the Q&A session, we came up with a question of utmost importance:” Sine or cosine”. So far, in the four sessions we have had, cosine has been the preferred trigonometric function and has won with a result of 3:1. I guess it has better and more useful properties than sine, however, lets wait for the next semester and see what the others will say.