Briton Claridge ’13 was recently named the winner of the Physics Department’s 2013 Albert Holland Physics Lecture Competition after delivering an engaging presentation to faculty and peers titled “A Quick Derivation of E=MC2 and its Interpretation.” Claridge, the recipient of the Kappa Alpha Society Endowed Scholarship in memory of William H. Billings’44, received a cash prize for taking top honors.
The science-focused competition invites HWS students to conduct a 15-minute lecture in which some significant principle or application of physics is derived and explained. Contestants are evaluated for their scientific and oratorical excellence. Associate Professor of Physics Ted Allen describes the competition as “physics oratory,” an event akin to pianists playing piano pieces in a competition, with the lectures sometimes called “physics etudes.”
During the competition, Claridge effortlessly checkered the chalkboard with intuitive equations to illuminate Einstein’s relativity theory, while engaging the audience with good-natured humor. He also explained modern applications of the famous equation, including references to the Manhattan Project.
“Regardless of the individual outcomes of the Holland competition, the fact that the Physics Department was showcased to the campus community is the most important consequence,” Claridge said after the contest. “I am proud to have won, but I am most content with the education the Physics Department has given me. Ultimately, my professors have enabled my success here, and elsewhere. I chose physics both for the understanding of the questions it endeavors to answer about the world and the constant conceptual challenges I am faced with. It pushes me, and like Newton’s Third Law, I learn how to push back.”
The evening’s competition and prize were endowed by the late Professor of Physics Allan M. Russell P’81, P’86, for the purpose of encouraging physics discourse. The prize is named in honor and memory of past HWS President Albert Edward Holland. Students participating in this year’s Albert Holland Physics Lecture Competition were Chris Wilson ’16, Jose Muniz ’16, Daniel Choe ’16, and Alyssa Newman ’16.
“If you can stand in front of a group of people, like these five students did, and explain a difficult topic eloquently and succinctly, then you definitely understand it,” said Assistant Professor of Physics Ileana Dumitriu.
At the competition, Wilson, a double major in physics and math, delivered a careful explanation of his project titled, “The Physics of Sailing.” Wilson explained how boats go upwind, citing the complex Bernoulli equation.
Muniz kept the sports-theme going, by presenting “The Physics of Baseball.” Showcasing a cherry wood Mizuno bat, Muniz enthusiastically pointed out the bat’s “sweet spot,” the ideal section of the bat and a hitter’s dream, located exactly two-thirds down the length of the bat.
Also a major in physics, Choe presented his topic titled “CRASH!” He explained Newton’s Third Law and its relationship to football. Choe asked for several audience volunteers, and in a lively and interactive manner, explained that momentum is conserved when a force is zero. Demonstrating his project, Choe put a helmet on a cantaloupe and took a second cantaloupe without one, and dropped the pair to the floor, revealing the difference in the outcomes.
Closing out the show was Newman, a first-year double major in physics and math. She discussed “Light – Wave or Particle?” Newman explained to the audience that light was in fact both a wave and a particle at the same time, augmenting this by explaining the famous “Shrödinger’s cat” and describing other dualities.
After the presentations, the spectators and participants moved to Eaton 114 for refreshments and discussion while the judges convened to determine a winner. Following the break, Claridge was named the winner.
This year’s judges included Assistant Professor of English Kathryn Cowles, Assistant Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science Jonathan Forde, and Associate Professor of Physics Steve Penn. The panel of judges is comprised of one professor from the Physics Department, one from the English Department, and one representing any other discipline.