Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Double Dinner

Today was our first day in the Fisher-Bennet Hall. Clara and I found our way to the new building without difficulty, having passed it on our way to class for three weeks. This morning’s lecture was titled “Breakfast with the Bomb.” We feasted on bagels, donuts, and coffee while Ryan gave a presentation about nuclear bombs, nuclear fission, and nuclear fusion. He and Bill also discussed the ethical responsibilities that scientists have.

Although brief, this part of the talk was one of my favorite class discussions. We watched part of The Atomic Bomb Movie, which included statements from Edward Tellar about his role in the development of the atomic bomb during WWII. Bill talked about how war changes everyone who experiences it, and while scientists are lucky enough to be a step removed from the battlefield, they still have tremendous impact through their work in developing new weapons and technologies. It’s difficult to judge the actions of the participants of the Manhattan Project because the atmosphere that they lived and worked in was so different from my own life, but it’s still important to evaluate their decisions and keep the importance of ethics in mind no matter what your field of work.

Bill also referenced Jonas Salk and the development of the polio vaccine. Apparently, the first round of the vaccine didn’t work and wound up killing a hundred children, but Salk didn’t give up and eventually came up with the proper vaccine. I think that it was incredibly brave of him to continue his research even after the failure of the first vaccine. As it says in Spiderman, with great power comes great responsibility.  The ethical side of science is fascinating, and I think it’s really interesting to explore the question of whether you should do something just because you can.  

The afternoon was taken up with our first student presentations. Each of the Hershey Park groups presented on a lab about exponential growth and decay. My group’s lab was both an experiment with dice and a lab on the radioactive decay of barium. Our presentation went well, and our conclusion was well-supported by our data. Tomorrow we’ll continue with student presentations, these featuring our interest groups.

Tonight was a night for food. At 5:30 PM I met the rest of my floor and the corresponding boys’ floor to go to our RC dinner. Bianca and Kyle, the two RC’s, took us to an Indian restaurant called New Delhi. I ordered the buffet dinner, but didn’t eat nearly as much as I usually do because I had a second dinner to attend shortly after. I left dinner number one early and walked back to the quad to meet with the Penn Team to go to our monthaversary dinner with Mr. Lawrence.

Ivette enjoys her mushroom soup
We went to a place called White Dog, which had typical American-style food. I ordered mushroom soup, a chicken entrĂ©e, and blueberry crisp. The food was great, but I probably didn’t pay it the attention it deserved. For most of dinner, I was consumed with absorbing the chatter and laughter of my cohort. I’ve spent practically my entire summer with these people, and it could not have been a better experience. Mr. Lawrence was a great chaperone, and to show our appreciation we got him a card and a silly little gift that we all signed. I can’t deny that I’ll be glad to see my friends and family back in the Bay, but I have loved this experience with these people and I will miss them once we’re back. We’re all going to hang out and have reunions, but it can never be quite the same. The Penn girls were discussing packing strategies, as this was a problem on the way over and we’ve only acquired more stuff, and Ivette offered up some space in her suitcase to Clara. However, Clara had better be sure to get it back before we leave the airport, because WE WON’T BE GOING TO THE SAME HOTEL TOGETHER ANYMORE.

Mr. Lawrence opening his card
I still remember that sleepy shuttle ride to SFO at 3 AM on June 25, when eight strangers tried to stay awake and make small talk. If we were to repeat that scenario now, we would be laughing, talking in a secret language, sharing music, and falling asleep on each other’s shoulders. I love these people and I’m so glad that I got to know each and every one of them, amazing as they are. Penn Team, it’s been great sharing this experience with you.

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