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'Unconventional Thinking Can Be Cultivated through Competitions Like Physics Tournaments'

Last week, university students from all over the country came to HSE University for the All-Russian Student's Tournament of Physicists. The tournament took the form of battles in which teams tackled physics problems while taking turns in the roles of speakers, opponents, and reviewers. Based on the competition results, the combined team 'Volume Dependence' emerged as the winner and will participate in the upcoming international tournament in Zurich.

Teams from MIPT, Voronezh State University, Moscow State University, Voronezh State Technical University, MEPhI, Penza State University, Peter the Great St Petersburg Polytechnic University, Moscow State University of Civil Engineering, Alferov State University, and Novosibirsk State University competed in solving 17 problems. After three days of competition, the combined team 'Volume Dependence' emerged as the winner.

The tournament took the form of battles in which teams tackled physics problems while taking turns in the roles of speakers, opponents, and reviewers. The first team was tasked with presenting their solution to a problem that participants had been working on since autumn, the second team had to pose questions and challenge the speakers' arguments, while the third team had to evaluate the work of their opponents. As a result, each team had the opportunity to demonstrate their abilities in all roles and earn well-deserved points from the jury members.

Inna Kotova, MEPhI, team 'Volume Dependence'

'I have known many of the tournament participants since school; we used to compete together in similar contests for children. This competition fosters the development of both hard and soft skills so comprehensively that you'll benefit even if you do nothing else. Although I didn't have the opportunity to present this time, I'm still incredibly happy to be part of the team and contribute to the tournament. The preparation was highly intense; we gathered for team meetings at which we discussed the problems, pitched ideas, challenged one another, and helped conduct experiments. Despite not knowing each other very well initially, we formed a tightly knit team. The tasks turned out to be much more humorous than those in school tournaments, while also covering deeper aspects of physics and demanding a greater fundamental understanding of mathematics.

I believe it's simply impossible to disregard the impact of the tournament on oneself, as it aids in becoming a more qualified member of the scientific community.'

The problems presented by the Organising Committee chaired by Vladimir Vanovsky, Associate Professor of the Department of General Physics at MIPT, covered a diverse range of physical phenomena, including echoes, antibubbles, vortex rings, and even salt rectangles in the Valley of Death. To solve certain problems, the participants had to conduct a series of experiments and then demonstrate them during team presentations.

Dmitry Malinitsky, HSE University, team 'Suitcase'

'While the tasks were known in advance, they were so extensive that sometimes one had to sacrifice sleep to solve as many as possible. The tasks themselves are quite unconventional, with many of them rooted in modern physics. I didn't get to present, but I really enjoyed participating. I am confident that this tournament will greatly benefit my future career, as I've had the opportunity to meet wonderful people in my field, and such connections can make a significant difference in today's world.'

The award ceremony was attended by Andrey Naumov, Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences. He observed that in the modern world, physicists are required in all fields.

Andrey Naumov
© The VK community of the All-Russian Student's Tournament of Physicists

'As we grapple with fundamental and applied problems across nearly every field, we realise that it's impossible to solve them solely within the confines of knowledge and skills from just one scientific discipline. Physics, increasingly, serves as the glue that binds all aspects together, as it studies the nature of phenomena and processes. Additionally, it should be noted that science and creativity are intricately linked in human life. Finding a solution to an unconventional problem is similar to composing a poem, text, or music. Competitions like the physics tournament that has just ended are specifically centred around solving such unconventional problems. Certain problems cannot be analytically solved using pre-existing formulas or an algorithm fed into an artificial intelligence system, as they lack an obvious solution ab initio. The only effective approach is to devise an original idea or an unconventional analogy, and this has led to incredible discoveries in scientific life.

In turn, solving such problems generates entirely new knowledge, which computers and artificial intelligence are not yet capable of creating. I am confident that such unconventional thinking can be cultivated through competitions like physics tournaments.

It's crucial that young people maintain this enthusiasm as they progress to writing their theses and dissertations. They need to remain excited and creative. And the creative streak can be nurtured within the framework of such tournaments.'

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