Monday mornings are definitely not my favorite time of the week. After two days of no class, I’ve gotten used to operating at low brainpower until 11 AM or so. Unfortunately, since class starts at 9 AM, that isn’t really an option during the rest of the week. I still managed to make it down for breakfast with Clara, and we got to class with plenty of time to spare.
Bill gave this morning’s lecture, which was about exponential growth and decay. He talked about exponential functions and how they relate to real life topics such as population growth. He explained that when talking about education, the economy, and environmental issues, it’s critical to consider that the rate of the needs of society will never again be as slow as it is right now, because population is growing exponentially. Thinking about it was actually pretty scary, and it gave me a better appreciation of how difficult it must be to attempt to plan for this kind of concern.
We did a morning lab related to exponential behavior, but each Hershey Park group chose a different lab. My group got to do a fun lab investigating the radioactive decay of barium, using an amount of barium so small that it doesn’t register on any of the safety guidelines. Barium was the element of choice because of its quick decay rate, which happens in minutes as opposed to millions of years.
Aside from the exponential behavior lesson, part of the morning was spent on an overview of what we’d be doing for the next two weeks. As we are now upperclassmen, according to Bill, these next two weeks are where we we’ll get to do the “really cool stuff.” Starting this week, the class will split up into “interest groups” during the afternoon. Each group will focus on a different experimental physics topic. This is where we get to feel like real scientists, working in the lab. I chose the radio telescope group. We’ll work with Dr. Aguirre, who is a radio cosmologist, to build a working radio telescope and examine the waves from sun. Dr. Aguirre is also our guest lecturer tomorrow morning, and I’m looking forward to hearing more about his work.