PLANCKS UK Preliminaries:

Edinburgh 2020

What is PLANCKS?


PLANCKS is an international theoretical physics competition at University level; participants compete in teams of 3 to 4 bachelor's or master's students. The teams are given a problem set consisting of 8-10 challenging physics problems, and 4 hours to solve them. More information regarding PLANCKS can be found here.

Each country is responsible for organising their own preliminary competition to select and send two to three teams to the international finals that are held annually somewhere in the world. For the year 2020, the finals are going to be held in London, UK. 


This is the page for the combined United Kingdom and Ireland preliminaries for 2020, held in the beautiful city of Edinburgh. The prize for the three best performing teams in Edinburgh will be full participation and travel fees covered for the international competition. 



Please find the after-video here.


Here you can find:

The winners are:

  1. Merton - University of Oxford,

    Richard Chatterjee, Rayhan Mahmud, Oskar Maatta, Ross McDonald.

  2. The Conserved Currents - University of Cambridge,
    Liam Lau, Alexander Reeves, Wojtek Adamczyk.

  3. The Worldsheet - Imperial College London,
    Girish S Vishwa, Hongyi Wan, Bradley Martin.

Event Image Gallery

Packed Lecture from Dr. Torokoff
Packed Lecture from Dr. Torokoff

Flowers for Stunning Lecturer Dr. Torokoff
Flowers for Stunning Lecturer Dr. Torokoff

The Last Ceilidh Stragglers
The Last Ceilidh Stragglers

Packed Lecture from Dr. Torokoff
Packed Lecture from Dr. Torokoff


PLANCKS UK Preliminaries, Edinburgh 2020

21-23 February, 2020

The Event

The Edinburgh event is going to be the largest PLANCKS preliminary competition to date, with 116 participants in 31 teams, from 27 unique Universities and 4 countries (Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales).


Instead of simply having the aim of selecting three teams, it is going to be an immersive experience; an environment where the teams will be able to attend various events, including physics talks by respected professors, opportunities to socialise with fellow competitiors, and a formal dinner including a Scottish ceilidh. There will also be the opportunity to explore the city and campus and interact with Edinburgh University Physics students during the talks. You can find a copy of our event poster here.

For all participants, full board will be provided, which means that breakfast, lunch, dinner and accommodation will be offered from the evening of 21st of February until the 23rd of February. Unfortunately, we cannot afford to cover travel expenses. You are encouraged to ask your school to fund your travel. Attendees will stay at the Kickass Grassmarket & Greyfriars hostels. 

The Exam

This year's preliminaries exam will consist of eight physics problems, covering a wide variety of topics in Physics and requiring varying degrees of previous knowledge. The 4-hour exam will take place in the James Clerk Maxwell Building, the home of the Edinburgh School of Physics and Astronomy. The problems will be designed to push you to the edge of your problem solving ability, and give you various physical insights. 


An offline schedule may be found here, with personal data removed.


  • -17:00 Teams have arrived and checked in at hostel.

  • 17:00-18:00 Team register for competition at 50 George Square.

  • 18:00 Opening Ceremony.

  • 19:00-19:15 Tea and Coffee Break.

  • 19:15-20:15 Talk: "Much Ado About Knotting", Dr. Kristel Torokoff.

  • 20:30-21:30 Jovial Physics quiz with pizza for competitors.


  • 9:30-13:30 Exam at James Clerk Maxwell Building.

  • 13:30-14:30 Group Photo and Travel.

  • 14:30-15:30 Lunch at the Mosque Kitchen.

  • Free time.

  • 17:45-19:00 Talk: "What next for Particle Physics?", Dr. Gavin Hesketh.

  • 19:00-19:15 Tea and Coffee Break.

  • 19:15-20:15 Talk: "How to pull the north pole off a magnet", Dr. Felix Flicker.

  • 20:30 Formal dinner followed by ceilidh.


  • 10:45-12:00 Talk: "Listening to Einstein’s Universe", Prof. Martin Hendry.

  • 12:00-12:15 Tea and Coffee Break

  • 12:15-13:15 Results, Closing Ceremony.

  • 13:15- Departures


Public Talks

We are delighted to announce a series of high quality talks, that are going to be delivered during the event. The talks are open to the public (i.e. non-participants), but FREE registration through Eventbrite is required. PLANCKS competitors do not need to register.

Friday 21 February, 19:00 - 20:15
50 George Square G.03

Much Ado About Knotting Lecture Recording

Dr Kristel Torokoff (Edinburgh), specialism: Mathematical Physics.
Talk Name: Much Ado about Knotting
In this talk we will look closely at the time-old quest for the fundamental building blocks that make up everything that is real. We will untangle the ideas of symmetry, topology, particles and strings, and see how quantum physics can help us understand mathematics better.

Saturday 22 February, 18:00 - 20:15
50 George Square G.03

What next for Particle Physics Lecture Recording

How to pull the north pole off a magnet: Royal Institution Recording


Dr Gavin Hesketh (UCL), specialism: Experimental Particle Physics, author of The Particle Zoo.
Talk Name: What next for Particle Physics?
Abstract:  Particle physics has a problem: how can the theory work so very well,
and yet miss so very much? The discovery of the Higgs boson "completed" the Standard Model, yet left us with no explanation for the dark matter and dark energy that make up 95% of the universe. Gavin will explain more about this situation, and cover some of the new ways that physicists are searching for the next breakthrough in our understanding of the universe.

Dr Felix Flicker (Oxford), Astor Junior Research Fellow of New College, Oxford.
Talk Name: How to pull the north pole off a magnet
Abstract: Join us on an expedition to find the north pole! The last century saw teams of explorers from around the world brave the ices in attempts to reach the north and south poles. These days we are again working to discover the poles - but this time, the task is to isolate the individual poles of a magnet.

Cutting a magnet in half simply results in two smaller magnets, each with a north and south pole. In this talk Felix will review attempts to find `magnetic monopoles' (a north pole without a south, or vice versa), both as fundamental particles and as emergent properties of underlying systems.

Sunday 23 February, 11:00 - 12:15 (am)
50 George Square G.03

Listening to Einstein's Universe: Lecture Recording


Professor Martin Hendry, Glasgow Head of School of Physics and Astronomy, University of Glasgow, Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the Institute of Physics.
Talk Name: Listening to Einstein’s Universe: the Dawn of Gravitational Wave Astronomy
Abstract: The momentous gravitational wave discoveries of the past few years were just the beginning. The LIGO and Virgo detectors resumed operation in April 2019, with even better sensitivity, and since then have detected (as of Jan 2020) nearly 50 further candidate gravitational-wave events, including a second confirmed binary neutron star merger on April 25th 2019.  Moreover, these candidate events are now announced in real time, to maximise the prospects for making more multi-messenger discoveries.   By the middle of this decade two further ground-based detectors are expected to have joined the global network – in Japan and India – and plans are developing apace for a spaceborne gravitational-wave detector, LISA, that will open up another lower frequency window on the gravitational-wave spectrum.

Join Glasgow University astronomer Martin Hendry on a whistlestop tour of the new era of gravitational-wave astronomy, and a preview of the many exciting developments and discoveries that lie ahead.


Organising Committee

Ethan van Woerkom

Ethan van Woerkom


Christos Kourris

Christos Kourris


Marios Kalomenopoulos

Marios Kalomenopoulos

Exam Lead

Mike Chatzitoffi

Mike Chatzitoffi


Matthaios Chouzouris

Matthaios Chouzouris


Fedra Antoniadou

Fedra Antoniadou

Event Organiser

Julian Guassardo (IOP Student Engagement Officer), James Kneller and Samuel Lavery (IOP Student Community Scotland Representative) are supporting members of the Edinburgh PLANCKS Organising Commitee.



Facebook Page


This Event has been made possible by:

This event would not have been possible in its current form without the generous support of Institute of Physics, The University of Edinburgh School of Physics and Astronomy, and finally The University of Edinburgh Institute for Academic Development.

Many thanks also go to Ross Galloway as the main supporter and point of contact from the School of Physics, Constantina Antoniadou for her professional design of our logo, and Alex Richardson for his background image of Arthur's Seat.

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