The history of science and the discoveries made by some of the most famous scientists are the themes of a new competition for secondary school students being run by the Royal Society of New Zealand.
The competition requires a team of three students and one teacher to work together to produce a 5-minute video; the prizes are two all-expenses paid trips to Europe in June for the top teams.
The competition will be part of a whole year of celebrations for the 2005 International Year of Physics, which will have a particular focus on Albert Einstein’s achievements a century ago.
“To many, Einstein was a mysterious, almost god-like person, a sort of rare genius. But to physicists he was a marvelously creative thinker who greatly added to our understanding of nature,” eminent New Zealand physicist Professor Paul Callaghan, says.
“Since Einstein, science has branched out in all directions, so much so that most scientists can only hope to have real depth of knowledge in one small area. But we should all try to see the big picture and physics teaches us the basic rules governing the universe, knowledge which is very satisfying to the human mind.”
The brief for the competition videos is broad: students can choose to make a video on the “greatest human discoveries of all the time”; illuminate the life, times and discoveries of a famous scientist; or the students and their teacher can tackle the more complex subject of Albert Einstein’s work.
This competition follows the success of the Transit of Venus video competition; the Royal Society of New Zealand is organizing another nationwide competition, again with substantial sponsorship from Freemasons New Zealand.
“The Transit of Venus competition was so inspiring and motivating, and teachers and students so keen to be given another challenge, that we had no hesitation in funding another competition,” says the new Grand Master of the Freemasons David Mace. “Our members throughout the country will be actively encouraging their local schools to take part and taking a close interest in their work.”
The students’ continental European tour will have an “Einstein” theme, as they will visit Zurich in Switzerland, where Einstein lived as well as visiting CERN, the world’s largest particle physics laboratory and the place where the web was created.
The other team will visit the UK and will follow a “Rutherford” theme (after New Zealand’s own Nobel Prize winning physicist, Ernest Lord Rutherford). This group will visit the Cavendish laboratory where Rutherford worked as well as visiting major UK science exhibitions and sites.
The idea, says Glenda Lewis of the Royal Society of New Zealand, is for the students to enjoy themselves will slipping in a bit of science. Entries must be submitted by April 7.
n addition to the video competition, the New Zealand science community plans to put on a programme of international visitors, and top New Zealand ex-pat scientists. “The study of physics can be challenging, but everyone can enjoy knowing some of the basic principles,” says Professor Callaghan. “This is a chance for us to interest the public in areas they have always felt excluded from.”