Renowned physicist Stephen Hawking, best known for his work in cosmology and quantum physics, will attend the annual International Physics Olympiad, a brain-to-brain competition among the top physics high school students of 86 countries. The competition will be held this year in Isfahan, Iran, July 13 – 22.
Students from every continent gather each year to test their knowledge on advanced physics and also to experience the cultures of the countries they visit. This year’s Olympiad exemplifies the flow of free scientific exchange between countries. In previous years, students have visited China, Spain and South Korea, where they spent time visiting the families of the local students. The host country often also offers cultural events for these future scientists. The competition will be held at Iran’s prestigious Isfahan University of Technology.
The United States Physics Olympiad students will travel to the University of Maryland in June to prepare for the international competition. After a week of lectures, labs and exams, five students will be selected to the traveling team. The students will also experience the nearby attractions of the nation’s capital and visit their Senators and Representatives to encourage Congress to support physics.
Historically, the US has done well at the International Olympiad: from 1986 to 2005, the United States Teams have brought home 26 gold, 20 silver, and 26 bronze medals; and 11 honorable mentions.
Hawking will likely address the students at the competition, and many of them already know him as a strong role model for accomplishments in physics. The hosts of the competition will provide more information on Hawking’s visit as it becomes available.
The US team is sponsored by the American Association of Physics Teachers, the American Institute of Physics, the American Physical Society and many other scientific organizations and technology corporations.