The machine

The story

Static history

The challenge

For teachers

For reference


This Challenge was designed for a group of students about to start AS/A level courses in the UK. ( We hope it may be of use internationally).

Priestley's Physics Project

The Challenge


1. This Challenge was inspired by a study of an exhibit at the Science Museum, London. It is expected that you will want to read Priestley's story and read about his electrostatic machine.


Your teacher will set you tasks from the 'static electricity timeline' . A summary of these tasks is given here. The Task pages will give links to websites that will help with the challenge. This link is more general and may be a good starting point.

Task Title Practical activity Written/research Presentation
1 Thales Challenge  
2 Gilbert Challenge  
3 Guericke Challenge  
4 Hauksbee Challenge
5 Grey Challenge    
6 Dufay/Franklin    
7 Musschenbroek  
8 Watson Challenge  
9 Volta Challenge
10 Bennet Challenge  
11 Priestley/Coulomb  

These tasks are designed to be undertaken over the summer vacation. You will be expected to give a presentation to the group early after starting your A/AS study. The practical tasks are not difficult, but you will be expected to give a well prepared presentation of your findings. You may consider producing simple visual aids to get your ideas across and demonstrate any practical activity. Each presentation should not last more than ten to fifteen minutes.

An important part of the challenge is to assess your mathematical skills. Studying physics will require an ability to work with number.


Use Mr. Bunge's Algebra Practice Pages to check out your ability to rearrange simple equations. You should not have too much trouble with the first four lessons.

You will be able to take things further here. It is expected that you should be able to solve all the linear equations


When doing quantitative practical work, physicists are always looking for a straight line to their graph. If they find a curve then the next step is usually to manipulate the figures in order to find a straight line. Once you have a straight line, an equation is easy to obtain. As this is such a recurring technique, it is important that you understand the equations that form a straight line. Use Mr. Bunge's Algebra Practice Pages again to study linear equations.

Early on in your physics course your algeba will be tested. Are you ready ?




Physics deals with very large and very small numbers. You will need to become familiar with scientific notation.

The links below will also help you make sense of some of these numbers.

As you will need to be able to multiply and divide numbers expressed in scientific notation, a good calculator is useful.

You need to click in order to activate the scientific notation.

Get more information here.

Success in a Physics course at this level can only be achieved with research and independent learning. Physics texts may still the best resource but the World Wide Web can win out by being interactive, up-to-date, and exciting. You will be expected to search the web for resources that may be of useful during your study, and to share them with your fellow students. 


Here are a few links of general interest.

Physics 2000

Physics Classroom



 The are so many useful web pages it is hard to know where to start. You might like to look at a few interactive pages. Take a lucky dip - click on a jellybean, and see where you go! Don't expect to understand the information fully at this stage. Simply get a taste for what physics is about.


This part of the Challenge is to search the web for resources that might be of use to you during a physics course.
It might be a good idea to find out if your exam board has the syllabus available for download. So you might want to start here. Once you have a clearer idea of some of the topics you will be studying, you should search the web.
There are many different search engines. is good but there are many others to choose from . Try the search engines  below.

Enter the key word :

Select the Search Engine :


Open in a new window


To make the challenge a little more specific try to find three URLs of useful Physics web resources. Be prepared to explain why you like the resource, or why you feel it would be useful. 

 Your teacher may have encouraged you to log onto the Nicenet ICA, so that you can communicate with fellow students, and help each other with the tasks in hand. If this is the case you could post your web links there.


Lastly just for a light relief try the physics WORDSEARCH.