The Physics League Across Numerous Countries for Kick-ass Students (PLANCKS) was first held in the Netherlands by Studenten Physica in Nederland (SPIN), the Dutch umbrella association for physics study associations, as they decided to organise this international competition with the help of the International Association of Physics Students (IAPS). The first edition of PLANCKS took place in May 2014 in Utrecht, and since then PLANCKS is held annually in May.

PLANCKS is a physics competition for bachelor and master students. It is a three/four day event containing an opening symposium, the contest itself, and filled to the brim with numerous excursions and social activities, where the participants are encouraged to discover the research environment and culture of the hosting country.

Photo: Opening symposium at PLANCKS 2014 in Utrecht, the Netherlands. Lecture given by Professor Stephen Hawking. Β© PLANCKS 2014 Organising Committee, 2014

It provides physics students from all over the world with the opportunity to get in touch with each other. The intention is to increase international collaboration, host social activities and stimulate the personal development of individual contestants. By bringing physics students from various parts of the world together, a setting to exchange ideas and experiences, and to challenge each other, is created.

PLANCKS 2021 was going to take place in Porto, Portugal. However, due to COVID-19, the 2021 edition will be online. Physics students’ teams from anywhere in the world will be able to compete, independently of their time zone, as several activities are being planned round the clock. More information about how the online edition will happen can be found under Schedule.

The competition

Participants of PLANCKS compete in teams consisting of three to four bachelor or master students. The teams will, preferably, be comprised of students from the same country. During the competition they will answer challenging physics questions, designed to both challenge and entertain the competitors.

The problems are written by professors and cover different fields of physics. For example, questions about cradles, glaciers, particle physics, slinkies, graphene, beamsplitters, skyrmions, wind drift of icebergs, laser cooling, and oil and gas production have arisen in the previous editions, with even more areas of study being added to this years’ competition.

Photo: A team solving problems during the PLANCKS 2019 competition. Β© PLANCKS 2019 Organising Committee, 2019

During PLANCKS 2021, the competition will last for 36 hours non stop, to allow any team from any country to try and solve the problems. The teams will have online access to anything, but that also means the problems will be even more difficult ;). More information on how the competition will happen will be made available soon.

To give you an impression of the difficulty and type of problems you can face during the PLANCKS competition, previous problem sets and solutions are available here:

The rules

The general rules of PLANCKS can be found here. The PLANCKS 2021 Online rules can be found here.

The prizes

By participating in PLANCKS, you have the chance of winning one of three awards. The three teams that score the highest points will be awarded the following money prizes:

1st: (Δ§/2)x1037 € (527.29€)

2nd: (Δ§/3)x1037 € (351.52€)

3rd: (Δ§/4)x1037 € (263.64€)

Preliminaries

Only one team per country can be sent to PLANCKS 2021 to allow more countries to participate in this unique edition. Some countries organise preliminaries, and the winners of these preliminaries will participate in PLANCKS, while other countries select the interested participants at random. Most of these preliminaries will take place until March 14th 2021 (Pi Day!).

If you are interested in organising a preliminary in your country and you are a member of a National Committee (NC) or Local Committee (LC) of IAPS, please fill this form until January 17th 2021.

If you want to organise a preliminary in your country but you are not a member of a NC/LC, please contact the organising committee (oc2021@plancks.org) of PLANCKS 2021.

We have prepared a Preliminaries Booklet with tips and tricks. Information on how to organise a preliminary, some examples, and how to link your preliminary with other countries are included on the booklet, which you can find here.