Year 12 Physics trip to University of Canterbury and Rutherfords Den

By TBHS | Posted: Wednesday September 26, 2018

On 11 September, the two Year 12 Physics classes were given the opportunity to travel up to Christchurch for a series of workshops.

The day was planned by Miss Everitt in preparation for their final internal assessment for the year, Level 2 Atomic and Nuclear Physics, and marks the first time such an opportunity has been offered to senior physics students at this level. It was a successful day out that we hope to further refine and offer again in future years. With forty students and staff, it was a very busy day for all!

At Rutherford’s Den, the boys learned more about the history of the atom and Ernest Rutherford’s scientific experiments and discoveries – notably his “Gold Foil Experiment” which revolutionised our knowledge of the structure atoms. They also heard about the many practical applications of nuclear physics as well as the dangers of nuclear radiation.

At the University of Canterbury, the boys were taken through the Department of Physics and Astronomy and put to work in a first-year physics laboratory where they conducted two experiments of their own. First they investigated the effectiveness of biological materials (carrot slices) in absorbing beta and gamma radiation, to appreciate the effect of ionising radiation on exposed tissue or skin. Next they investigated the radioactive nature of unstable copper isotopes, monitoring the level of radioactivity and measuring beta particle emissions to calculate half-life. Finally the boys were treated to a number of exciting demonstrations, including using liquid nitrogen, to illustrate some of the experiments and opportunities they would have as a first-year physics student. 

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