Tackling the complexities of quantum mechanics

Friday, 27 September 2013
Tackling the complexities of quantum mechanics

Quantum theories have puzzled many leading physicists. During the summer Marcus Fletcher in Worth School’s Year 13 headed to the University of Cambridge to understand more…

Worth School Student, Marcus Fletcher, explains; During the summer holidays I took part in the Senior Physics Challenge Symposium in Cambridge. It was a two-day course mainly focusing on Quantum Mechanics, although we also did do a practical on Laser Diffraction.

Worth School student Marcus Fletcher
Worth School student Marcus Fletcher.

About 25 students from different schools around the country were on the course, all of whom were looking to study Physics-based courses, whether Natural Sciences, Engineering or straight Physics.

I arrived at Churchill College mid-afternoon and after registering with the Professors at Churchill, headed to the first session which was on estimation. Prior to this I had no idea how important and useful estimation is in Physics – I didn’t realise how tough some estimations can be either!

We were set questions such as ‘How many bubbles are there in a standard bottle of champagne?’ and ‘If every person on earth dived into the sea, by how much would the radius of the earth increase?’. We were not allowed calculators or any other materials, so our thought-process could only rely on the maths formulae and the physical constants we knew.

Next morning we headed off to do Quantum Mechanics. This was definitely the highlight of the course. It was a great privilege to be able to work in the famous Cavendish Laboratory, the same building where many of the greatest breakthroughs in science have been made.

We were taught by Professor Mark Warner, a world-leading expert in Theoretical Physics, and the chief lecturer in the same subject at Cambridge. He explained the ideas of Quantum Mechanics – a subject that has been described as ‘intrinsically complex’ – very clearly. After lunch we had a practical in Laser Diffraction. After this we returned to a final session on Quantum Mechanics, before I then headed back to the train station, enthused by what the Symposium had covered.

This is a great course for all those interested in Physics. Quantum Mechanics is one of the most interesting and strange topics in Physics; and for those that enjoy a challenge the maths can be incredibly complex!

I would recommend this course especially to those who want to study Physics at Oxbridge. It really highlighted the standard of knowledge needed in Maths and Physics to study at the best universities we have.  Attending the course has really helped me apply myself, not just because of what I learnt over those two days but also because the course is run by Admission Tutors and Professors who are directly available to give you all the information you need about life at Cambridge and the application process. I also learnt a lot from the other students on the course who were in the application process at the same time as me.

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