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IB Extended Essay Astrophysics Help

  1. Sep 8, 2010 #1
    Hello, I'm not sure if this is the right section for this. I am going to be writing an extended essay in physics for the International Baccalaureate and am in the process of trying to decide upon a topic. In an earlier post I was wandering about quantum theory general relativity and string though I came to the conclusion that the above might become overly complicated for the task at hand. I have moved on and decided thought that it might be a sensible thought to do something in astrophysics due to my supervisor having a PhD in that area. I am still trying to come up with an idea and have been tossing up ideas to do with Black holes and Pulsar stars. The task is to write a very focused 4000 word essay it can be and experiment, theoretical or data analysis essay. Perhaps something to do with the incredible small black holes that appear for an instant in the LHC?

    So I am trying to come up with a research question/ topic idea and am having trouble any help would be greatly appreciated. Very open to other topic suggestions as well!

    Below is an example of one given the International Baccalaureate Organisation.


    Black hole at the centre of the Milky Way

    Research question
    Is it possible to determine the presence of a black hole at the centre of the Milky Way?

    A data-based approach is taken. From the astronomical observations of a star following a Keplerian orbit around a compact radio source, the mass of a supermassive black hole is determined. The level of uncertainty is appreciated.


    Again Any help is greatly appreciated.

  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 8, 2010 #2
    As I recall, the IB program usually wants an experiment to go along with what your topic is. In that case, you may want to uses the principle of something cutting edge. For example, if you wanted to talk about atomic interferometry and the sagnac effect (just an example as this might be too advanced) you could talk about the sagnac effect in depth and run an experiment on the optical analog.
  4. Sep 9, 2010 #3
    The following is the International Baccalaureates description on the science categories.
    "Treatment of the topic
    Every extended essay in physics will involve some research into the background or theory of the topic selected. However, extended essays in physics may then vary. Students may choose any of the following approaches.

    Experimental: design and implementation of an experiment, then personal collection and analysis of the data.
    Data-based: location and extraction of raw or processed data, not collected directly by the student, which is then further refined and analysed.
    Theoretical: development of a quantitative or semi-quantitative description of some physical phenomenon, exercise of the model, predictions about its behaviour and limitations.
    Survey: formulation of a cohesive, ordered, analytical and supported (qualitative and quantitative) discussion of the topic.
    Combination: some combination of the approaches listed above."

    Do you think it would be possible to write a reasonable focused essay on the research question of "How can the existence of black holes be proven or not?"
  5. Sep 11, 2010 #4
    I did my EE on Physics as well way back when I was in IB. Okay, maybe not that long ago.

    You're way over-thinking. This is not a PhD dissertation, this is still high school physics. So with that in mind, look for some simple physical phenomenon that can be easily experimented on and be able to be described qualitatively. You don't get extra marks for having an impressive topic but will lose marks if you can't test your hypothesis with your own experimental data. And don't look for mathematically intensive physics since the marker will be mostly looking at your approach to your hypothesis through experiment and interpretation, not if you can solve a second order PDE. For example, I did an experiment on the elasticity of rubber bands under varying temperatures.
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