Physics Speaking Competition offers $500 – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Physics Speaking Competition offers $500

Are you ready to leave an audience speechless with your presentation of physics? If so, your 15 minutes is coming up at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 16 in Albright Auditorium when the Colleges host the 12th annual Holland Physics Lecture Competition. In addition to the prestige that the title brings, the competition’s winner will receive a check for $500.

Contestants generally enter the competition from a variety of science departments. However, any currently enrolled HWS student, from first-year to senior, is eligible. Students compete by presenting a result from the world of physics and are judged by both the scientific and rhetorical quality (clarity, style and effectiveness) of their presentations.

“The competition was first held in 1998,” said Professor of Physics Ted Allen. “The prize was conceived of, and endowed by, Allan Russell, professor emeritus of physics, to encourage and further the art of physics discourse, and to memorialize Albert Holland, a former president of Hobart and William Smith Colleges.”

Students are not expected to describe original research. Rather, the competition is modeled on, say, a piano competition, in which pianists are judged on the quality of their performances of pieces from the repertoire. The judges are three faculty members, including one from the Physics Department and one from the English Department.

“The prize gives students a chance to explain something publicly and gives the audience an appreciation of the quality of the students,” Allen explained. “It also gives students an idea of the difficulty of explaining something mathematically.” 

He continued, saying that, “Talks have ranged from explaining the sizes of black holes and the physics of ballet to the importance of the harmonic oscillator in physics and deriving the period of a pendulum.”

To enter the competition, contact either Allen, Research Professor of Physics Larry Campbell or Professor of Physics Donald Spector as soon as possible.

The public is encouraged to attend the event, which has proven to be impressive and exciting for scientists and non-scientists alike. A reception will follow.