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Ideas for physics project

  • Thread starter Arcthor
  • Start date
34
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Hello. First off, I am sorry if this thread is in the wrong category, I did not really know where to put it.

Now to the problem. It is my last year of high school this year (well, Europe's equivalent), and during this year we are supposed to choose and work on a big project and it has to relate to the academic path we've chosen.

I have decided I want this project to be something within the realm of physics, astrophysics, math and programming (Java). I am really interested in these subjects and I guess I possess the same knowledge as what is taught in US high schools (I am 18 if that helps). If there's something I don't know, I could easily look it up.

I am very motivated and thus would love a challenge. So, any ideas? I've got a couple of days on me to figure out a project I will have to stick with until summer.
 
Last edited:

e.bar.goum

Science Advisor
Education Advisor
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A classic would be to do a N-body gravitational simulation - try to simulate the solar system "from scratch" - just with newtons laws of gravitation. It will teach you some physics, some astrophysics, some maths and some programming. Start off with 2 bodies interacting, (eg. earth-sun) then add another one (earth-sun-moon) and so on and so forth. You could then compare to reality, and see how close you get. This would be a nice opportunity to learn Python too!

The benefit of this is that all you need is a computer and time.

EDIT: Or you can simulate something a little more exotic, like the stars that orbit Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at the centre of our galaxy. Or, you could make a flexible N-body program that would let you do both!
 
34
1
A classic would be to do a N-body gravitational simulation - try to simulate the solar system "from scratch" - just with newtons laws of gravitation. It will teach you some physics, some astrophysics, some maths and some programming. Start off with 2 bodies interacting, (eg. earth-sun) then add another one (earth-sun-moon) and so on and so forth. You could then compare to reality, and see how close you get. This would be a nice opportunity to learn Python too!

The benefit of this is that all you need is a computer and time.

EDIT: Or you can simulate something a little more exotic, like the stars that orbit Sagittarius A*, the supermassive black hole at the centre of our galaxy. Or, you could make a flexible N-body program that would let you do both!
Wow, that sounds really interesting acutally. Maybe I could add some realistic graphics too.

Keep the ideas coming, I need a few to discuss with my teacher!
 

pmr

30
4
If you write a general gravity simulation then give all of the masses charge as well, with some having positive charge and some having negative charge. Now that the particles are charged, throw in a Coulomb force. Then on top of that throw in an "air friction" force that resists motion in proportion to ##v## or ##v^2##.

With that configuration of forces you'll get interesting stuff like crystal formation and dipole alignment, and it's really on the same order of complexity, source code wise, as the original gravity simulation.
 
Last edited:

e.bar.goum

Science Advisor
Education Advisor
949
388
Another good programming one is to investigate the realistic behaviour of a pendulum. Any time you've studied a pendulum up until now has probably been for the small angle approximation. You can model what happens when the angle is not small.
 

pmr

30
4
You could also take the pendulum example up a notch and do a double pendulum:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Double_pendulum

You'd have to learn Lagrangian mechanics, but if you're good at calculus and you understand why ##\vec F = \nabla U## then Lagrangian mechanics is easy to pick up.
 
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