Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Cosmic Rays From Outer Space!!!

Today, I woke up, more ready than ever for physics, ready for the cloud chamber. But the cloud chamber would have to wait until after lunch. Our morning was packed with two lectures and a guest presentation. I learned so much in just three hours, which makes me wonder, is there a limit to how much a can learn in just three hours.

Craig started the first lecture on relativity. Relativity is how we can view one event from based on how it acts in comparison with an object.  He started off with the basic about how motion is relative, such as we are moving relative to the sun, but still relative to the earth. But there is one exception to the rule of relativity: light. No matter what the situation is, light’s speed is constant. This went into play that time is always relative, because as you approach light speed, time goes slower and slower, yet it is impossible for an object to reach light speed. As an object gains speed, it’s length decreases because its front end gains mass, while the back end decreases in mass, thus giving the back end a chance to catch up. The object will never be able to reach light speed because at a speed, it will be moving so fast that it will turn into energy. Knowing this, I look back at Hollywood writers disappointed. They gave me dreams of being able to reach light speed, which I now know is impossible.
After Craig’s interesting lecture on relativity, Bill went on to talk about magnets. I thought it was his favorite lecture because he played with a room filled with different types of gadgets and gizmos that all related back to magnetism, or how he would have named it: Electrodynamics. From this lecture, we moved to Dr. James Aguirre’s presentation on radio waves and how they have helped us understand the universe. I have always had a small alien fanatic side in me, and today it grew a lot more. Looking at how small we are, one planet in the whole universe and to be the only one with life, made me wonder that there is huge possibility for life changing things to be discovered in space…ALIENS! Even though he didn’t mention this, I regret not asking him if he believes that there is life outside of Earth.
After lunch, we moved into our interest groups. Instead of going head on to with the whole experiment, the copper wire, and the radioactive source, we tried to see if we could actual get the cloud chamber to work. We started off by cooling the chamber using dry ice and alcohol. Then we had to saturate the felt inside the chamber, so that we could get the cloud. The process sounds easy, but it is much more difficult than it sounds. The hardest part was to cool the chamber to the temperature of dry ice, constantly we had to add more, but not too much because we feared it would overflow. Then after an hour and half of adding and adding dry ice, we finally get tracks. Since we weren’t using a radioactive source, the tracks were made from particles falling from space, such as cosmic rays. Bill got really excited because we got it working on the first day, last year they didn’t. Since we had time left, he brought out some radioactive sources and placed them on top of the glass. It was amazing seeing tracks form all the sudden as he place the source. I am excited for tomorrow because not only will the source be inside the chamber, but we will also be controlling the electrons that shoot out, causing the tracks.

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