Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Slaying The Dragon

The beginning of my day today seemed like a very other day, giving me a feeling of routine. Obviously, this happens when I wake up, but once given a chance to think, I realize that no routine exists for my days at Penn. We usually have a lecture followed by a lab and then lunch, but today it was different. The day started off with a lecture, two guest speakers, and a really small lecture that Bill managed to sneak in.

To start off the morning, Bill explained to us the Doppler Effect and Doppler Shift. Both happen when an object moves towards or away from you, which result in a change of frequency. Frequency increases at it moves towards you and then decreases as it moves away. Doppler Shift happens the exact same way, but what changes is how the appearance. As it moves towards you the object appears blue, but as it moves away it appears red. Next, Dr. Doug Smith, a neurosurgeon for Penn, talked about the brain’s structure, various types of brain trauma, and the long-term effects of brain trauma. His presentation completely change my views on brain trauma, such as severe rotational acceleration of the head causes more damage than getting hit right in the forehead. Then he went on to talk about how people have tried to cause a controversy of roller coasters and how they cause brain damage. I loved the way how he talked about for this portion because he talked with such a passion, boldness, and best of all he said that those who started this speculation are basically ignorant.
As we waited for our next presenter, Bill saw that we had some time, so he sneaked in a small lecture about rock climbing. He talked about how climbers use friction, normal force, and everything that can give them more friction and safety, such as ropes and chalk. There was a slideshow of his rock climbing experiences that related to the material, but I think he was just showing off how cool he is, so far, he has passed any measurable scale of coolness.
Then the next presenter arrived, Professor Mark Trodden. He talked about modern cosmology, which involved dark matter and dark energy. I was really excited when he started talking because in my high school physics class, there was never the mention of dark matter and dark energy. I was surprised when he whipped his pie chart of what the universe is made up of. Only 4% is atoms, which left a whopping 96% of dark matter and dark energy. What surprised me even more was that we know little to nothing of this 96%. It made me wonder about physics, the more you know about it, the more you realize you know nothing at all.
After lunch, we broke up into our interest groups. I was confident that we were going to have a successful day because everyone knew what they had to do to get the cloud chamber to work. We moved away from the Sun and space as our beta source to radium. Within an hour, we had the cloud chamber working, this time with the added magnet field caused by the copper wire placed above and below the chamber. I felt proud when Craig walked in saying that we have slayed the dragon, accomplished what he couldn’t in college. It was hard to notice at first, but after focusing for a brief moment, the beta particles were curving. Holy cow, we were controlling beta particles in class today, something so small and so energetic, you don’t even notice them in everyday life.
Tomorrow, we will us an even stronger source, which adds on to the excitement and raises the stakes. Our group is destined for success again and we will not stop until we do.

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