Friday, July 6, 2012


Friday is usually my favorite day of the week, but the next few Fridays are going to be especially awesome. Friday is field trip day AND mandatory movie night. What else could I possibly need? After our morning lecture on conservation laws, we had an early lunch and then boarded a huge bus to drive us all to the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum. This long name describes a big, air-conditioned building filled with old, million-dollar racecars that are owned by Professor Simeone, a neurosurgeon at UPenn.

These two Jaguars are in the list of cars that our professor would steal if the power mysteriously failed, leaving the museum vulnerable to the raids of automotive-loving physics professors

Although I’ve never been particularly interested in car racing before, Bill described the physics of it all in such an interesting way that I actually enjoyed hearing about it. The bank of the track applies centripetal force to the car, the grip of the tires on the track applies friction, and the curve of the car body is crucial for the aerodynamics of the vehicle. The position of the engine and transmission within the framework is crucial because it determines the distribution of mass, which is critical when attempting to turn at high speeds. Bill’s mini lectures about cars were a great reminder for me of how physics relates to everything in the world, from esoteric discoveries such as the Higgs boson to ordinary things like NASCAR.

This was Dr. Simeone's car in college...
obviously he has some Bay Area love
as evidenced by the "hella" stickers
Despite our professor’s obvious love for all things automotive, we did get around to doing our physics lab. Although the previous paragraph may suggest that we all strapped ourselves into NASCAR vehicles and played go-carts to study inelastic collisions, our lab in fact involved an unusual juxtaposition of bowling balls and brooms. Our goal was to study forces and the importance of timing when applying a force. We had to move the bowling balls (16 lbs each) around a track marked out on the concrete floor using only short sweeps of the broom, which as you can imagine was pretty challenging. 

Bill related this lab to racing and the importance of applying the brakes at exactly the right moment. We weren’t allowed to keep the broom in contact with the ball for long periods of time, so we had to apply lots of little pushes in order to keep accelerating and changing the direction of the ball. In some cases, the bowling ball had so much momentum that it went straight through the straws of the broom! I felt like I was developing muscles as I practiced stopping the bowling all using only the flimsy broom, and I’m sure this will help with keeping the house clean when I return home. Of course, I could also just use the vacuum cleaner. The lab culminated in a timed relay race around the marked track. I’m happy to report that my lab group won the relay race, due to careful planning and studying the techniques of the groups that preceded us.

Clara races around the track with her bowling ball and broomstick

 Although it’s hard to believe that our first week of class is over, we relaxed with a movie. The Penn Team, my roommate, Christine, and around 100 other Penn summer students all went to see Ted. There were definitely some pretty racist jokes in the movie, which was slightly awkward because our group encompassed so many different cultural backgrounds, but overall I thought it was pretty funny. However, Pride and Prejudice is still my favorite movie. That or possibly Tangled. Christine and I are both very excited to go to NYC tomorrow, for both a change of scenery and the chance to go shopping. Mama, I promise not to spend all my money. We’re going to tour Columbia for a couple of hours and then spend some time in Times Square, and I’m going to make sure my camera is completely charged so that I can post lots of pictures tomorrow. I’m sad that I won’t get to sleep in, but it’s going to be more than worth it to get to finally visit NYC.

No comments:

Post a Comment