Merton second-year undergraduate Chris Hamilton has been awarded the £100 first prize in this year's Department of Physics Speaking Competition. Chris's talk was on Chaos Theory, the study of dynamical systems which have very sensitive dependence on initial conditions. Chris explained why he chose this topic:
"Most people have heard of the 'butterfly effect' - the idea that a butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil can set off a tornado in Texas. The mathematical structure behind these sorts of events is what we call Chaos Theory, and has applications all over the sciences - everything from the study of turbulent air flow behind an airplane wing, to predicting how something will trend on Twitter. I was already interested in the physics behind Chaos Theory so when I discovered how extensive its applications were I decided it would be a great subject for my talk."
Chris first gave his talk as a compulsory part of his physics course at Merton, under the supervision of Professor Artur Ekert. Each college then chooses one student to represent them in the final of the competition, held earlier this month. The judges—Professors Jonathan Jones and Derek Stacey, Dr Karen Aplin, and Assistant Head of Teaching (Academic) Carrie Leonard-McIntyre—were very impressed with the quality and delivery of all the presentations, awarding Chris the first prize, and Fran Buist from Christ Church second prize.
Commenting on the award, Chris said:
"I was surprised to win the final, because the computer cut out twice during my presentation and for a while I had to improvise around a blank screen! Fortunately the tutorial system at Oxford trains you to think on your feet, so this wasn't too big a problem. I also did a lot of teaching towards the end of my school career which probably helped. Overall I really enjoyed preparing and presenting the talk and I'd like to try something similar again in the future."