Thursday, July 26, 2012

Red, Green, Blue

I feel like time is slowing down for our last few days at UPenn. In contrast to last week, which flew by like crazy, this week has passed at a more sedate pace. I’m glad that this is the case, since it means that I can savor my last days at UPenn more thoroughly. I remember that when I first came here, I felt like I didn’t have enough to do after class. Now, I feel as though there couldn’t possibly be enough hours in the day to do everything that I want to do before leaving.

This morning was our last lecture, a fact that didn’t fully sink in until writing those words. Bill gave a talk about thermodynamics, one of the topics covered in the latter part of a high school physics course. Most of the talk was review, but it was good to hear the information presented from a new perspective. The talk included heat energy, which is highly relevant to the current energy crisis. As always, our lecture ties in to something current, which just proves that physics is related to everything.

Bill’s lecture was followed by guest speaker Professor Phil Nelson, a faculty member here at UPenn. His talk covered human vision and the nature of color. After so many cosmologists, I enjoyed hearing about a completely new subject. Human eyes are made up of photoreceptive cells, and each cell is one of three different types that each read a different sensitivity on the light spectrum. The three main colors that the human eye detects are red, green, and blue. The rest of the shades are mixtures of these wavelengths. I was a little annoyed at Sesame Street during the presentation, because for most of my life they've led me to believe that the primary colors are red, yellow, and blue. Obviously, I was a bit confused as a child. Another cool thing we learned was that there are a few shades of color, like certain butterfly wings, than can be detected by the human eye but can’t be simulated by computers.

Today was our second day of student presentations. My interest group presented our radio astronomy project to the class, going up first.  We first gave a brief overview of the radio waves and their applications, and then explained our experiment and results. I had a lot of fun working on the radio telescope last week, and I’m glad that we had a chance to share our project with everyone. It was also great to hear about all of the other experiments; everything sounded fun and exciting. Like I said, this has been a powerful incentive for me to try and do some sort of research in college.

I met with my Hershey Park group immediately after class to go over our presentation. Clara put together the PowerPoint that we’ll show in class, and she did an amazing job. We went over which part of the ride each of us would be covering, and I think that tomorrow will go smoothly.

The rest of my day was a combination of two things–a fun activity and an impossible task. The fun bit was the Harry Potter marathon going on in the lounge, and I dropped in throughout the evening to see bits of the movies. I’m a huge Harry Potter fan, and I appreciated that Summer Discovery included that particular activity. I’m especially impressed with their weather control. Engineering a thunderstorm to come roaring in during the marathon was quite appropriate, and the UPenn weather wizards are to be congratulated.

My impossible task was to stuff all of my belongings back into my suitcase. I know that they used to fit because I brought everything here, but all of my possessions seem to have exploded and scattered themselves throughout my dorm room. Add the books, clothing, and souvenirs that I bought while I was here and my suitcase situation is looking pretty dicey. Christine and I will do a thorough room check before we leave to make sure we don’t forget anything, and I think that because I started packing a day early I’ll make everything work. I’m going to really miss Christine, but we promised each other to keep in touch, and I don’t plan to be the one who breaks that promise.

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