The International Physics Olympiad (IPhO) is one of a number of problem-solving contests that originated in the Soviet bloc to encourage science. This July the UK sent a team of five to Copenhagen, Denmark to fight for “honour and glory”. In addition to having great fun, the UK student team all won medals. The UK team consisted of: Madhi Elango - Queen Elizabeth Boy’s School; George Fortune - Altrincham Grammar School for Boys; Daniel Hu - City of London School for Boys; Yuting Li (Irene) - Westminster School; Matei Mandache - Loughborough Grammar School. They were accompanied by their leaders: Robin Hughes, Dr Anson Cheung and Dr Adam Patchett.
The 2013 International Physics Olympiad will take place in Copenhagen, Denmark. The invitation video for the event is shown below.
A student perspective from IPhO 2013
Having survived Round 1 (November) and Round 2 (January) of the BPhO papers, our team was selected at a training Camp at Oxford over Easter. We were joined by our reserves, Andrei Gorbatch (Concord College) and Joe Tomkinson (Holmes Chapel Comprehensive) for a week of training at Trinity College, Cambridge prior to the IPhO.
Ankomst (arrival) - On Sunday 7th July, after a short flight, we were taken to the “largest hostel in Europe”, while our leaders were snatched off to another location. We chatted to the Belorussian team and discovered that some of them were going to study at Moscow University for free because they were on the IPhO team! Daniel introduced our team to ultimate tic-tac-toe, an improved version of noughts and crosses which actually requires thought, and Matei a quantum version. We met our guide, Christian Brams, ate, and slept. The Åbningsceremonien (Opening Ceremony) on Monday saw us meeting teams from eighty other countries. After the fun of the ceremony, we were given an enormous park to roam in with several activities in the open grass, including boot in which a combined Brit/Croat team managed to beat the Chinese.
Tuesday was the day of the Teoretisk Eksamen (theoretical exam), held at the University of Copenhagen. The questions were very interesting, being about a meteorite, a steam generator and the Greenland ice sheets. However, they were all fairly long, and although we had five hours, many people didn’t have enough time to attempt all of them. In the afternoon we were given a tour of the Niels Bohr institute, preceded by a talk about the physics of the, now familiar, Greenland ice sheets.
The five hour Eksperimentel Eksamen (experimental exam) contributes 40% of the overall IPhO mark. This year it centred on optics, using a laser meter to determine the refractive index of an optical fibre, then of water, followed by measuring the properties of two solar cells. Very long questions, but after talking to other teams, it became clear that no one had finished the experimental exam, which was a relief. After dinner was the midterm party. We discovered our innate lack of talent for table football, so we swiftly gave up and played blind poker with members of the Vietnam team.
Our energy and excitement pervaded the atmosphere during our visit to the Experimentarium. Everybody let off steam whilst we waited for the results. In the afternoon we attended an official reception in Copenhagen City Hall where Kazakhstan was presented as the host of IPhO 2014. Saturday brought forth trips, museums and treasure hunts later. Suddenly in the middle of a card game, Irene received a message with our results. We had all got medals. The eighteen-year-olds (Irene, Daniel and Matei) had got silver medals while Madhi and George had got bronze medals.
We all had much fun at this Olympiad, learning lots of physics, and meeting many people from all over the world. From meeting and greeting many other teams, learning about Danish history, to people letting go of cups of water at the top of a Tivoli rollercoaster drop ride accelerating faster than g, and working with Bohr’s contribution to the atomic model. This IPhO was exciting and very well organised. Selection for the British team will begin with the British Physics Olympiad paper in November.
Further information about the IPhO 2013 can be found on the IPhO 2013 website: http://www.ipho2013.dk