Lincoln Physics Challenge 2019/2020

For a chance to win the first prize (£100 Amazon voucher), or one of our prizes for runners-up, submit your typed or neatly written (and scanned in a single pdf file) solutions of the following problems to Please include your full name, postal address and email, as well as the name and address of your school. The closing date is 15 February, 2020. The prize-giving ceremony will be held in Lincoln on 1 April 2020. It is possible to win a prize even if you have not completed all of the questions, so you are encouraged to submit solutions if you do only some of the problems. The competition is open to all young pre-university people in UK aged 15–18 years. It is not open to current university students. See full Terms and Conditions.

Question 1

Discuss the feasibility of propelling a sail boat in the absence of wind by having an onboard fan blowing some air into the sail. Justify your answer within a Newtonian mechanics framework.

Question 2

Two balls of identical size but different masses are dropped at the same time from the same height on Earth. Alice and Bob debate about which ball will reach the ground first according to Newtonian Mechanics.

  1. Alice claims that both balls would reach the ground at the same time if air resistance were neglected. What assumptions are necessary for her to successfully defend this idea?
  2. Bob, however, claims that even if air resistance were neglected, the heavier ball would reach the ground first. What assumptions are necessary for him to successfully defend this idea?

Question 3

Discuss whether the melting of the ice cap on Earth can affect the spinning rotation of the Earth. You shall ground your discussion with Newtonian mechanics.

Question 4

We denote E and B  the (non-radiating) electric and magnetic fields as observed in some inertial frame of reference.

  1. By giving an example of your choice explain how changing the inertial frame of reference can make the electric field and/or magnetic field appear or disappear (in the chosen frame of reference).
  2. We consider a situation where an observer only measures a static electric field in some inertial frame of reference. Is it possible to find an inertial frame of reference where the same electromagnetic field will be seen as a static magnetic field only?

About Fabien Paillusson

I am a theoretical and computational physicist. I am an Associate Professor in the School of Maths and Physics at the University of Lincoln. My interests lie in the modelling of complex matter, ranging from biological systems to powders, and in the foundations of physics.

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