Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Energy, Space, and Pick-Up Soccer

I enjoy every single day of class, but I must say, today was more exciting than most. We had two guest lecturers in physics, one of whom was an astronaut, and I had the first great workout I’ve had since leaving home. Not to mention, the fridge/microwave unit that my floor ordered finally arrived. I would never rent such a thing on my own, but $75 divided by 7 girls is not bad at all, especially considering the supposed vermin problem in the dorms.

The morning lecture was more hands-on than usual, because we were learning how to use oscilloscopes, commonly known as “those heart monitor things.” In actuality, oscilloscopes have a variety of uses, as they are very sensitive instruments that detect and record voltage. I am usually really terrible with technology, but after the morning workshop I feel fairly confident that I know how to record, manipulate, and interpret data on the digital oscilloscope. This is crucial for all of us because we’ll be using oscilloscopes to record and work on our data at Hershey Park this Friday.

A diagram of energy consumption in the U.S.
We returned to hear Professor Ken Lande, who lectured us on alternative energy and climate change. For me, climate change is one of those topics that I hear about in the news a lot and know that it’s a huge problem, but couldn’t really say anything specific about. Thanks to Professor Lande, I now know that for the United States to transition to using solely solar power, we would have to cover 1 state with solar panels. This doesn’t sound so bad, but for countries with population densities significantly higher than the U.S., there simply wouldn’t be enough real estate for solar energy to be a viable solution on its own. Professor Lande also spoke in detail about wind energy, as well as a more broad explanation about how heat disperses throughout Earth. I know that climate change is a huge issue that will have an enormous impact throughout my life, so it was great to hear a more comprehensive explanation of something that isn’t usually spoken about in this much detail.
Professor Ken Lande
In the afternoon we were fortunate enough to hear guest speaker Dr. Don Thomas, a former astronaut, physics major, and engineering PhD. He flew on four missions, three on the infamous Columbia shuttle. Dr. Thomas is quite an inspiring person–he knew he wanted to be an astronaut since age 6, and applied to become an astronaut 3 times before he was accepted by NASA. At no point in my life was I one of those kids who obsessed over space travel, but Dr. Thomas’s talk was so passionate that I almost found myself wanting to squeeze into a spacesuit and strap myself into a space shuttle.

There is zero gravity in space, so a bit of juice
just hangs in the air in a sphere

Space shuttle restroom facilities
Dr. Thomas talked about different aspects of space travel, both the scientific and the practical. In space, it takes an hour and a half to go through an entire day. However, NASA always keeps the astronauts on a strict 24-hour schedule, so they don’t know how the astronauts’ internal clocks would be impacted due to the severely shortened day. One of my favorite parts of the presentation, immature as this sounds, was when Dr. Thomas described the bathroom inside the space shuttle. Apparently, on one of his earlier missions, somebody didn’t follow the proper bathroom procedure and broke the bathroom on the first day. Luckily, the astronauts were able to fix it! I thought it was amazing that Dr. Thomas was able to take time out of his schedule to come and speak with us, and he gave a very captivating speech.
Madeline tries on a spacesuit
As we were walking back to the quad, David told me that he was planning to go to pick-up soccer at 5 PM. I instantly made him promise to take me, and I hurried up to my room and changed clothes in record time. We walked over in a big group to Penn Park and took advantage of the available turf field. Pick-up surpassed all my expectations–almost everyone there was really good at soccer and relatively supportive. There were two boys from Spain who were amazing, and a bunch of random guys there to work out ended up joining our game. Apparently, two of them were varsity players from Drexel! There were only two other girls, Kaley and Gabby, but they were both really nice. Both of them are in a culinary class at UPenn, which sounds fun and delicious. I hope to incorporate pick-up into my weekly routine, as it’s the best, most fun way to stay in shape. Clara and Christine are my witnesses; I didn’t shut up for a good two hours about how happy I was to play soccer again.

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