Physics

The Physical World

Physics is about answering the questions that come from the world around us: from the smallest atomic particles to the distant galaxies above our heads. If you want to know the answers to the following, study Physics at Brentwood:

Why is the sky really purple? 
  • Why are sunsets red? 
  • How did God create the universe?
  • How can you measure the speed of light using marshmallows?

The aim of the Physics department is to try and inspire curiosity; to wonder about the world around us and to help students understand how we think it works.

Physics and Engineering are the basis of most of our modern technologically-based life. As lessons progress, we have vibrant discussions so that students are always considering what they learn in the context of ‘real world’ situations. For example: although we can do some things through scientific advancement, does it always mean that we should?

Physics is a subject that requires demonstrations and experiments to help bring it to life. We have an amazing range of equipment that allows students to perform experiments often done as demonstrations elsewhere.

 

CERN

One of the coldest places in the galaxy, one of the hottest places in the universe, home of the largest experiment on earth at 27km in length, spanning two countries and the birthplace of the internet. CERN is certainly one of the most impressive places on the planet. We should know - we have been there. 

However, far from being the only point of interest during our three day stay in Switzerland, the Physics trip to CERN saw us playing life-size chess in a scenic park, eating fondue whilst being serenaded by the majestic tones of the Alpine horn and taking a number of educational walks led by our very own Mr. Robson.

On arrival in Switzerland our first experience of Swiss efficiency came in the form of the Geneva tram system, which took us smoothly off in the opposite direction to our hostel.  Geography and languages are not the favourite hobbies of Physics Teachers.  On arriving at the hostel, which Mr Robson had been assured would be refurbished before our arrival, it was less finished than we had expected but fortunately the rooms were finished and restaurant was functional.

Our first image of the world leading research centre was the iconic wooden dome with an alpine backdrop of snow topped mountains. In the morning we visited CERN’s exhibition and learning centres followed by lunch in the centre’s cafeteria with real scientists! In the afternoon we received a guided tour of the ATLAS project. Our guides were a Croatian statistician and a Jordanian engineer.

The museum was hugely interactive with many world changing experiments on show.  As well as being hugely informative, they were thought provoking and tested out knowledge. There were exhibits on: the very big (the entire universe and its origins); the very small (the quarks, muons, leptons and neutrinos that build reality); and the fundamental forces binding matter together; the unseen (dark matter and dark energy).  To sum up our experience inside the world famous dome in a word – awe-inspiring (okay... two words hyphenated).  To try to describe the astronomical light show would be to spoil your own visit to this astounding place, so we won’t.

The tour took us around some of the more active areas of CERN; the huge ATLAS detector, one of the two sites that recorded the elusive Higgs boson, and the magnet testing facility. One was the site where history was made and the other contained some seriously cool magnets, both literally (operationally cooled to a temperature of around -260°C) and also in the awesome sense.

So with one day left, the question on all our minds was how on Earth could our final day live up to the magnificence of CERN? Our final evening meal was in a traditional restaurant with alpine yodelling and alpine horn blowing: many of our group accepted the invitation to take the stage and join in.  (The last day we were set loose on Geneva, exploring its treasures (in groups of no less than five mind you). Amongst the wonders of the town were a park filled with life-size chess pieces, a charming town square and a multitude of scenic antique shops. It truly was a struggle to leave a place of such beauty and inspiration when our time came to board the plane home…but at least we brought some chocolate with us!

Lewis Bruniges and James Cooke