In third year there is quite an unusual module, unlike other modules it does not have a strict syllabus. By this I mean you won’t be just studying one particular part of physics, in fact this module doesn’t even have lectures. The purpose of physics challenge is for students to use all the physics knowledge they have learned so far in their degree to tackle unusual physics problems.
At the end of semester one we were asked to organise ourselves into groups of 4-5 in preparation for physics challenge. Then we started physics challenge in semester two. Every two weeks we are given 2-3 physics problems to work through as a group. The problems are often quite unusual and can be tricky, you often have to use approximations, and it really tests how well you know the subject.
Then you and another group have to present your answers to one of the lecturers. This is where the challenge aspect comes in. The lecturer chooses members of each group to explain their solutions on the whiteboard. They get marks for each bit they get right, however if they get anything wrong the other group can steal these marks if they can provide the correct answer.
All together there are four sessions like this, I’m about halfway through and I am finding it quite enjoyable. I think if you get involved and engage in the work this can actually be quite a fun module. However, the module is 50% coursework and 50% exam. The exam has similar questions however, unlike other exams you are allowed a copy of Tipler (if you don’t know what Tipler is check out this blog). However, despite being an open book exam I have heard it is still a pretty hard, and to be honest I’m not looking forward to it. Luckily the courseworks seems to be going pretty well which will bump up my total mark, so I’m not worrying too much.
“It is wrong to think that the task of physics is to find out how Nature is. Physics concerns what we say about Nature.”