Why do clothes look darker when they’re wet? Why might grass “sing” when you blow on it? And how can coffee-loving scientists avoid spilling their drink when walking between labs? These problems, along with 14 more, are the battlegrounds of this year’s Physics World Cup.

Five New Zealand teenagers, four from Wellington, will go head-to-head with 155 other students from Nigeria to Macau in a series of “physics fights” at the annual week-long International Young Physicists’ Tournament held in Thailand on June 27. “It’s not as violent as it sounds,” 16-year-old Onslow College student Matthew Randle said. “The scary is thing is that the jury is made up of university professors.”

Randle, along with Jack Tregidga, 16, and Tess Breitenmoser, 17,  from Wellington High School, Catherine Pot, 16, also from Onslow College and Nicholas Lam,17, from Riccarton High School, make up the New Zealand physics battalion. Since winning spots on the team, the students have been working overtime to prepare for the scientific scuffles.”I’ve already put in almost all my lunchtimes this year and almost every single weekday after school,” Randle said.

Breitenmoser was on a school trip to Japan but had been snapped studying physics on a Japanese bullet train. While for some teenagers this might sounds like torture, for these students it’s fun. “Physics is my social life,” Pot said. “I came to an open day once [at Onslow College] and got slightly stuck in the physics lab, because it was so interesting, and I haven’t really left.”

There was a bit of stigma around doing physics, but Randle wasn’t too worried. “Catherine and I are quite well known around the school as ‘the physics people’, but Catherine does heaps of sport and I write, too.” “There’s an expectation that I’m really nerdy, which I am, but it’s not a bad thing,” he said.

[Reprinted from an article by JESSY EDWARDS, Stuff.co.nz]

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