Wednesday, 4 July 2012

A good day

A good day for two reasons. Firstly an important day for physics: CERN has confirmed with nearly 100% certainty that the Higgs Boson exists. I won’t try to explain - or understand it but it is a very significant confirmation of the explanation of matter. It’s existence was forecast in 1964: earlier models couldn’t explain mass (weight to us) until this particle was added to the models. The whole elementary particle and quantum mechanics world is fascinating but difficult to take in: electrons - whose existence is fundamental to our modern high-tech world - don’t exist as ‘things’ in the sense that we understand, rather they have a probability that places them over a range of locations with a most likely location. When in university, I played with tunnel diodes - devices that have negative electrical resistance which can be explained by this probability theory. Light normally behaves as waves but can also exhibit characteristics of particles - photons. Proving the existence of these elementary particles is a complex game: they only exist for fractions of a second and need complex mechanisms to detect their existence. 

The second ‘good day’ reason was a Young Enterprise event at the Cooper School, Bicester. Sell for Success is a day of business games to give students an intensive introduction to enterprise and business skills. Groups of year 11 (5th form in old currency) students have to design, market and finance a game console. We had five groups of about a dozen each today from a range of Oxford schools. I played the role of Supplier of the consoles - manufactured in India. Each company has to decide on the spec for the console, sort out financing (another adviser plays bank manager) and market the device once they’ve decided on all the options. They don’t make a real console, of course, but do make a mock-up and have to make a presentation to the judges and the rest of the students. 

It’s a high-pressure day, particularly as most of the groups come together for the first time so they have to build themselves into a team very rapidly before negotiating with bank manager and me. They all did exceptionally well, gelling as teams very rapidly and having great fun. I’m sure they have started to develop a range of skills that they will find very useful whatever career they chose. One of the teachers reported that several had said that based on their experience of the day, they want to take part in the YE Company Programme during the next academic year. This involves groups of students forming their own companies and developing and selling products or services: no business games, this is for real.

Apart from the fun of the day, all the students today were great. Youngsters get such a bad press these days but everyone I saw today was well behaved, courteous and mature. Not the image one sees in the press.

Altogether a great day!

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