Algebraic reasoning

Applying algebraic reasoning to solve numerical problems in a real life situation is a key concept in mathematics… Practice your algebraic reasoning with these questions, perfect for GCSE students.

Hydroelectric power

How do we harness the potential energy of water? These questions are suitable for GCSE and A-Level students.

Dr Harry’s Questions

Dr Harry’s Questions are a mixture of Physics-oriented questions, puzzles and brainteasers designed to challenge anyone and everyone interested in studying Physics.

Reading the runes

In Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth, a volcano in Iceland proves to be the way to enter the depths of the Earth… but how do the protagonists of this story figure this out from a complex encoded text? Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth (1864) tells the story…

Determining the size of a volcanic eruption using only maths

If I told you that to determine the size of a volcanic eruption all you needed were three important measurements, you’d most likely think I’d lost the plot. Well, there’s a little more to it – aka some amazingly simple maths, but that is exactly how it’s done. Suppose you were given the daunting task…

Did volcanoes kill the dinosaurs?

It’s the age-old question – how did the dinosaurs die out? What if volcanic activity was responsible for their extinction? And are we heading for another mass extinction today? Step back 66 million years and try to uncover the answers to these questions and the big one – did volcanoes kill the dinosaurs? Probably yes!…

What’s the price on your head?

How much would you spend to save a life? How do you make that decision? It’s much more complicated than you think… Read on to discover the difficult implications of putting a monetary value on saving lives. When Nevado del Ruiz erupted in Colombia in 1985, about 23,000 people died as a result. If you…

What we can learn from the archive of a Pompeian banker family

One result of the eruption of Vesuvius is that we have an excellently preserved snapshot of Roman life in AD 79, meaning historians can build an amazing picture of what life at this time was really like! Discover how even the tiniest of details uncovered by historians can give us a fascinating insight into the…

Telling the time with volcanoes

It’s not all gushing lava and pyroclastic flows – sometimes the excitement of volcanoes lasts long after they erupt, in the form of radioactive rocks! Find out how radioactive decay and preserved ash can be used to date volcanic eruptions… Dating volcanic eruptions For geographers and geologists, one of the most obvious questions to ask…

The power of Vesuvius in the ancient world

The eruption of Vesuvius has led to an interesting combination of destruction and preservation… Although the volcano buried the towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum, this means they are very well preserved. But recently they’ve come under threat from more destruction thanks to human activity. So what should we do next? Should we just preserve what’s…

Eruptions and transformations: volcanoes in poetry and songs

Volcanoes, plate tectonics and Roman gods – not necessarily your standard subjects for poems or songs… Read on to discover where the word ‘volcano’ comes from, and what volcanoes have come to signify in literature and music – and have a go at writing your own volcano-inspired poetry! Volcanoes take their name from Vulcan, the…

The Physics of Sandcastles and Ladders

We invite any aspiring physicists to try their hand at these physics problems dealing with light, atoms and force: Estimate the number of visible photons leaving a 60W light bulb per second. How big would a sandcastle be if you made it from the same number of grains of sand as there are atoms in…

Momentum and Energy

We invite any aspiring physicists to try their hand at these physics problems dealing with the concepts of momentum and energy: Martial arts such as Judo, Aikido and Japanese Jiu Jitsu teach dynamic throws. These are explained to students as redirecting their attacker’s momentum. Can you explain this by separately considering the linear motion of…

Crime Scene Investigation

Test out your Chemistry (and detective) skills with this conundrum from St John’s Chemistry Tutor Professor Richard Compton and his research group. Q: In some movies, the crime scene investigators spray chemicals to find traces of blood even if most of them have been cleaned or removed. Fluorescent blue light is normally shown in the place with…

Chemistry through time

Put your knowledge of Chemistry to the test with these history-themed questions from St John’s Chemistry Tutor Professor Richard Compton and his research group. Q: The Ashmolean Museum in Oxford is one of the renowned museums owned by Oxford University. Here you can see galleries full of paintings and sculptures made of white marble or blackened bronze, from…

Kitchen Chemistry

Test your chemistry knowledge with these kitchen-themed questions from St John’s Chemistry Tutor Professor Richard Compton and his research group. Q: How radioactive is a banana? Q: What is the main process happening when cooking or frying fish? And what other method, without applying heat, would give a decent meal? Q: Brew kettles are made from…

Human powered helicopter

Try your hand at some physics problems based on gravity set by St John’s Physics tutor Professor Tony Weidberg… Q: Many proposals have been made for a human powered helicopter. Consider the case of such a machine with a rotor 10 metres in diameter. Could a human create enough power to overcome gravity? The density…

Heating and cooling

Try your hand at some physics problems based on heating and cooling set by St John’s Physics tutor Professor Tony Weidberg… Q: You want to heat a cold room using a simple electric bar heater. This consists of one conducting wire connected to the mains via a plug. In order to maximise the power, should you…

The physics of making a cup of tea

St John’s Physics Tutor Professor Tony Weidberg loves a good cup of tea, so why not make yourself a brew and have a go at his physics brainteasers… Q: At the interval during a football world cup game, some people watching at home make a cup of tea using electric kettles. Make a reasoned order of…

Thick and sticky fluids

Viscosity is a property of a fluid on the molecular scale and is a measure of the strength of the internal friction between fluid particles. What this means in practice is that the thicker and stickier the fluid, the higher its viscosity. The task that you have been set by St John’s Maths Tutor Dr…

Chemistry Brainteasers

Test your chemistry knowledge with these brainteasers from St John’s Chemistry Tutor Professor Richard Compton and his research group. 1. How could you charge your phone using lemons as the energy source? 2. How can you measure the size of a molecule? 3. Can you estimate the minimum mass of graphene required to cover the entire surface of…

Fun with Bubbles

Bubbles are undoubtedly great fun, but do you know the chemistry behind some of their most famous behaviours? See if you can answer the questions below from St John’s Chemistry Tutor Professor Richard Compton and his research group. Q: There are plenty of videos online where people trigger explosions by adding Mentos to Coke. How…

Through the looking glass

Have a go at the questions below relating to glass courtesy of St John’s Chemistry Tutor Professor Richard Compton and his research group. Q: How long does it take for glass to flow appreciably? Q: Linking science and art, how could people many years ago create the stained glass windows seen in cathedrals and churches?

Spot the odd one out

In order to predict how chemicals might interact with each other, chemists must get a good understanding of the 3D shapes of molecules.  A great way to do this is to study their symmetry. If you can imagine rotating a molecule (or any 3D object) without changing the way it looks, you have identified some…

Learn to programme

Turtle Academy is a simple-to-use website providing free lessons in basic computer programming. Using the LOGO language you can create amazing shapes and patterns in next to no time – give it a try and see what you can come up with!

Make your own video game

Using the free website https://flowlab.io/ we want you to create your very own video game! It’s simple to use and doesn’t require any coding: simply drag and drop the game pieces into position and build your own virtual world. The tutorial is a great place to start.

Why are video games addictive?

Psychologist Amy Orben discusses whether or not video games are addictive, and whether or not this should be considered a mental disorder.

Physics Brainteasers

Try your hand at some fun Physics brainteasers set by St John’s Physics Tutor Professor Tony Weidberg… Q: Explain how many high tides would be observed per day at a given point on the Earth. Q: In a popular science article on nuclear fusion it was claimed that two parallel electron beams could attract each…

Magic money tree

See if you can answer the question below set by St John’s Economics Tutor Dr Kate Doornik… You have been given some magic money.  If you plant the money then it will grow into a magic money tree, which will grow more money for you to pick the following year. To be precise, if you…

Mathematicians through history

Try out these fun puzzles on the topic of maths history set by St John’s Maths Tutor Dr Tom Crawford… Puzzle 1 Can you place the (extremely) famous mathematicians below in order of the year that they were born, earliest first? Bonus points for telling me what they studied. Puzzle 2 Below are portraits of…