Liverpool students join PLANCKS 2020

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Image from the talk on magnetic monopoles by Dr. Felix Flicker from New College Oxford
Image from the talk on magnetic monopoles by Dr. Felix Flicker from New College Oxford

Last month, teams from all over the UK travelled to Edinburgh to participate in the preliminaries for PLANCKS 2020 - an international university-level theoretical physics competition. Each participating country organises a preliminary competition to find the 3 best national teams to compete in the international finals, which this year will be held in London. The 4-hour competition consisted of 8 challenging problems designed to test knowledge in all fields of physics.

The competition itself lasted for a weekend. However, not all was about the exam. Throughout the few days that we stayed there, academics from different universities gave interesting talks about various branches of physics. More information on these as well as links for the lecture recordings can be found below.

During the time that participants had free, they took the opportunity to explore the beautiful city of Edinburgh and places such as the castle and the shops through Old Town.

‘Much Ado about Knotting’ by Dr Kristel Torokoff (Edinburgh)

This talk took a close look at the time-old quest for the fundamental building blocks that make up everything that is real. It untangled the ideas of symmetry, topology, particles and strings, and showed how quantum physics can help us understand mathematics better.

Lecture recording:

‘What next for Particle Physics?’ by Dr Gavin Hesketh (UCL)

This talk was about how the theory can work so very well, and yet miss so very much. Dr Hesketh explained more about this situation, and covered some of the new ways that physicists are searching for the next breakthrough in our understanding of the universe.

Lecture recording:

‘How to pull the north pole off a magnet’ by Dr Felix Flicker (Oxford)

In this talk, Dr Flicker reviewed the attempts to find `magnetic monopoles' (a north pole without a south, or vice versa), both as fundamental particles and as emergent properties of underlying systems. We learnt that we were able to create a vacuum charge within a solid and that we can control, giving an effect of a monopole.

‘Listening to Einstein’s Universe: the Dawn of Gravitational Wave Astronomy’ by Professor Martin Hendry

Prof. Martin talked about the resumed operation of LIGO and Virgo detectors in April 2019 with greater sensitivity and the new additions to a global network of gravitational-wave detectors. WIt discussed the plans to develop a spaceborne gravitational-wave detector, LISA, that will open up another lower frequency window on the gravitational-wave spectrum.

Lecture recording:

The exam itself took place on Saturday morning and, as our Liverpool group was the only attending second-years, they found it quite challenging. The exam contained questions from various fields written by academics from participating universities.

Unfortunately our team did not finish in the top 3 and as such are unable to participate in the PLANCKS final. The participating teams of Oxford, Cambridge and Imperial College London will compete in London during the 8th - 10th May (Although due to recent events, this is now likely to be rescheduled).

The organising committee created an amazing event of which the participants thoroughly enjoyed every second. Everyone returned very excited to see what will happen in the future and would love to participate again next year!

Congratulations to our team for participating and many thanks for representing our Department.

Image of the participants and organising committee for the PLANCKS 2020 Preliminaries

Image of the participants and organising committee for the PLANCKS 2020 Preliminaries