Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Nature On A T-Shirt

Today, my head exploded. It wasn’t because we were playing with TNT in lab. In preparation for the CERN announcement tomorrow, Bill decided to teach us the basics of particle physics. We learned about different kinds of elementary particles, and I figured out that a lot of the stuff they taught us in middle school was not exactly right. For example, atoms are supposedly made up of protons, neutrons, and electrons. Apparently, protons and neutrons are actually made up of quarks, which is a word that I’ve heard of before but never really understood exactly what it meant. Of particular importance to us was the Higgs boson, a particle that would help prove the standard model of elementary particles. CERN has been doing research on the Higgs boson, and we’re all super excited to teleconference with them on Thursday. Although particle physics was almost totally new to me, I really enjoyed the way that my professor infused each lesson with humor. This morning, he described physics as trying to get nature so that it fits on a T-shirt.

During lunch, I went back to the quad to figure out what went wrong with my PennKey. Apparently, I just had the password down wrong, which is frustrating but at least there isn’t anything seriously wrong with my computer. Eli Lesser helped me make up a new password, and I was so grateful for his time and patience. I’m completely not a computer person, so sometimes even the simplest tech things confuse me. I can now post my blogs from my own computer, ensuring that Eli has something to read before he goes to bed. (Thank you so much, Eli!)

In the afternoon, we learned about refraction and total internal reflection. We never covered this in high school so it was fun and slightly confusing, but suffice to say we were playing with lights, lenses, and lasers. We would never get this kind of opportunity at ECHS for fear that people would blind each other, so this was really exciting for me.

Later this evening we hung out with Mr. Lawrence, as he had to stop by to give the Social Justice folks their books. We chatted with him about our studies, and he told us about the plan to go to Fourth of July celebrations as a cohort tomorrow. It’s super exciting to be in Philadelphia for the Fourth, as this is the place where everything really happened! We’re going to go to Independence Hall to hear the reading of the Declaration of Independence and see the parade, and then later tomorrow night we’ll go see the fireworks. I expect them to be spectacular, and hopefully I can get some pictures, although it’ll be quite dark so I’m not counting on it.

Every Tuesday night we have floor meetings with our RCs, and tonight was our first one. We talked about various activities for this week, including the mandatory trip to New York City (!!!) and the weekly Friday movies. Most of my friends, including the Penn Team and my roommate, Christine, signed up to go see Ted. I was talking with Christine about movies and she said that in Taiwan, there are assigned seats for movies, just as if you were going to the symphony or something, whereas here it’s open seating. It was a perfect example of how something so ordinary can change in little ways from culture to culture, and I look forward to many more such experiences in the next few weeks.

Working Out the Kinks

Today went much smoother than yesterday.  I got up early enough to get to breakfast at 7:30 AM and was one of the first people in line!  I was able to relax and enjoy my breakfast, and still had plenty of time to get to class.  In the morning portion of our class which lasts from 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM, we were introduced to the philosopher Zizek (through a Youtube video) who speaks out on issues regarding Social Justice.  We mostly discussed his analysis of former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's famous speech about "knowns" and "unknowns."  In Rumsfeld's speech he noted that there are Known Knowns, the things we know that we know, Known Unknowns, the things we know we don't know, and the Unknown Unknowns, the things we don't know we don't know.  An example for the Unknown Unknowns is that we know that Climate Change will have an effect on the planet, but we don't know what that change will be and what will be the consequences.  Yeah, a little confusing at first, but after watching the video of his speech multiple times and discussing it as a class, we were able to grasp these concepts.  Zizek however watched Rumsfeld's speech and took a logic approach to it.  By doing so, he immediately noticed a missing concept which is that there are also Unknown Knowns.  This term explains that there are in fact things that are so embedded in our everyday lives that we are not in fact aware of that we already know them.  For example, Prof. Lamas explained how a foreigner he had spoken to thought it strange that Americans spend most of their free time keeping themselves  busy instead of resting.  The majority of Americans tend to go shopping on the weekends, for instance, instead of simply taking both days off to rest their bodies.  Personally, I do not think that many Americans even realize this, I most definitely did not although I myself do it.  In class we watched a video on Zizek's theory of this last concept, and he conveyed the message in an extremely basic and uncommon way, using the toilets of different countries as an example to show how common objects can reveal entire ways of life in a community as well as how that community may think and act on certain issues.  By using a method of illustrating and examining everyday reality, one can become aware of common knowns that they were not previously aware of.  To end the class this morning, we were instructed to spend time alone reflecting on the intellectual experience of the class so far and then illustrate our feelings and thoughts on poster paper.  It was really interesting to see what everyone came up with and talk about the symbols of the works as well as the mental process each one of us experienced during this exercise.

Nearby Protest
During the second portion of the class, which runs from 2:00 PM to 5:00 PM, we went on a field trip to a park near Independence Mall and had the chance to hear from five different active members of the Occupy Movement.  From Philly to Albany, NY, these students and activists have had experience working on political campaigns, environmental protests, and social and political movements.  We all sat together in the middle of the park and listened intently as they answered our questions and replied to our concerns.  This was extremely interesting because I had not yet had an in-depth conversation with members of the Occupy Movement, and had only really received my knowledge of it from the news.  I love that we had the opportunity to engage people who are actually in the midst of this movement, as I feel that hearing from direct sources is an integral part of understanding where we ourselves stand on this issue, and how we really feel about the events taking place. 
Ivette and Susan

Clara and I

Cameron and I

The remainder of today was mostly spent regrouping with my cohort as we have not spent that much time together since we arrived here.  This time was well spent and I am completely loving being here!  Like I have said before, all of the staff and students are super nice and I have made a bunch of awesome friends already.   I can already tell that I will be really sad to leave this place at the end of July, but hopefully it won't pass by too quickly! 

The Real And The Virtual

I took a shower yesterday at night, so that I didn’t have to wake up extra early to beat the morning rush for showers and breakfast.  Yesterday, I didn’t get to eat breakfast due to the rush, but I wasn’t going to let that happen again. My cohort had the same mentality, get breakfast, so we decided to meet up at 7:15AM. The food was satisfying and felt so great in my stomach. It was the perfect way to start my day of physics, friends, and adventure.
Luckily today, we found a couple of shady short cuts, so that when we walk to class, we don’t have to suffer from the sun’s horrible rays. In class, we talked about the smallest of the smallest and then the smallest of that smallest… atoms, quarks, and so on. Then Professor Bill applied what we are learning to a current event, the Higg's Boson, which will be announced tomorrow and prove the standard model of the atom and weak force. The conversation was very intense, about how scientists have always claimed that they discovered the smallest, then are proven wrong, and this process has been happening for ever. We went back to optics after a 10 minute break. This time we called about real and virtual images that we get while using lenses and mirrors. After the short lecture we had our lab. The problem: read the fortune cookie message that is at the bottom of a pipe. It was some what difficult because are group was able to build the telescope, yet unable the make words out of the letters.


After lunch, went through the usual order of things, lecture and then a lab. Professor Bill gave us a lecture on refraction, reflection, and critical angles. In high school, my teacher only lectured on this with sound waves and not light waves. Once again we used lasers, one of my most favorite  learning devices, to show how light bounces off walls. We did three labs today, which were really similar to yesterday's lab, just a bit different. I felt some what sad because we got out really early and I expected a little bit more. Hopefully, it gets more difficult.

Waiting for Ian Lawrence

After dinner, Ian Lawrence, the best chaperone, came to campus to check up on us. We decided what the plan was going to be for tomorrow, so that we can get the most out of the East Coast. Our cohort then went on explore the campus. I had a lot of fun exploring Penn and can't wait for tomorrow so that we can go exploring more.

Blog Party Continues!!

Big Words

I am in awe of how much I learned today.  Not only was my room a normal temperature when I woke up, I made it down to breakfast by 7:15 and actually got to eat.  And I learned a lot in Physics class.  In the morning, we learned about particles and their origins.  We all chuckled a bit at the theories of old scientists that seem incredibly ridiculous now.  The amazing thing about science is that in 100 years, 17 year old physics students will be laughing at us.  I am so excited to be taking a class in such a current and changing field. Tomorrow, CERN will be making an announcement about a particle that they may have discovered.  Today's lecture was a background on particles and CERN's research.  It was quite fascinating and included many complicated words like phlogisticated and Higg's Boson.  However, I won't even attempt to explain the details because that would just end badly for all of us. 

After this lecture, we went in to the lab and built telescopes with PVC pipes and lenses.  When we got them right, we could read a fortune at the end of a tube.  Even though the process was a little frustrating, I had a great time working with my lab group and I loved the sense of accomplishment I felt when we finally read the fortune. 

After lunch, we learned more about optics and spent even more time in the lab with lasers and lenses.  I love doing so many experiments and experiencing everything we are told hands-on.  We got out early again, so I spent some quality time with Mariko at the university bookstore until dinner.  When we got back from dinner, our whole cohort got together and Mr. Lawrence came to visit.  Then we joined up with some new friends, went to Urban Outfitters, and walked around the Home Area for a while.  Thankfully, I am starting to get my bearings around campus and am no longer wondering around lost. Well, most of the time. 

Tomorrow, Mr. Lawrence is taking us to the Independence Day Parade and concert.  I'm excited to get away from campus for a bit and spend some time with the cohort.  I'm also happy to experience the 4th of July on the East Coast.  The ILC continues to amaze me with all the opportunities and amazing experiences I am having.

Occupy Movement

This morning I woke up and I was already in the norm of things.Get up , get dressed , and get ready for breakfast.Today we actually had to make our own way to class. I was the only one out of  our group that actually remembered how to get to class.When we arrived , we had a few discussions which were very interesting. After that we had to make a reflection on a poster board of anything we thought about during the days discussion before. We were allowed 10 minutes and when we came back to class , there were a lot of great ideas regarding the community in metaphorical ways.

After class we had lunch at the Houston dining hall , were I ate sushi. Specifically the California roll. We hung out for about an hour than headed back to a spot on campus were our instructor told us we would be going into town to actually experience many of the protest gatherings going on in Pennsylvania.While walking through town we passed buildings such as independence hall. When we arrived in the park we were greeted by a panel of 5 students who each graduated from Penn and also participate in movements such as the occupy movement in Albany. They explained a little background of themselves. It was very interesting to see the different views that they had on certain contradictions on our society. From there the panel was open on questions that we had for them. Each question was answered with such conveyance that I actual became interested in the topics. Also how harsh the police are on them compared to others.Today I learned an hours worth of sitting in the grass that gradual became hard worth of occupy movement information.This was one of the afternoons that I would not forget.

On the way back to Penn me and Ivette did not have coins back. Our professors helped us get across , but by that time the train with all the other people had left. This left us with valuable time to get to know the professor on a personal level. They asked us questions about school from elementary through high school in regards to adaptation to our environment. We also got to ask them a few questions regarding to their opinions of the panel and their thoughts. When we got to town , Professor Lamas decided to treat us to ice cream. Ivette and I were very honored that he did this and felt that this was destined to happen( coincidentally the same theme as our many books Candide). We all sat down and enjoyed each others company up until it was time for Ivette and I to head to dinner. I feel that this summer will be filled with a lot of learning and experiences that I will be able to bring back. One of the events that I really look forward to is going to New York this weekend!

Thanks A Latte

I totally forgot I was supposed to meet my cohort at 7:15 this morning so when I woke up at 7:00 I hurried to the bathroom to get ready. When I came back to my dorm I could see a few of my friends already waiting in the quad so I got dressed quickly and tried to catch up. I ran out the door as soon as I saw them leave then I realized I left my phone. I made a quick pivot at the door and retrieved my phone from my desk. By the time I made it outside they were nowhere to be found, so I headed to breakfast alone. I saw my friends in line, said hello, and then got breakfast. I asked Chloe to make "beginners coffee" for me so I wouldn't miss anything important during today's physics lecture. After eating breakfast, I headed back to my dorm with high hopes of seeing my roommate. She wasn't there. I sat down for a little while and used the internet before it was time to head to class. I left for class at about 7:35 so I could enjoy my coffee and the sweet sound of music from my iPod.

I arrived in A-1 located in the  David Rittenhouse building a few minutes before 9:00. I settled in and took a seat in the third row(yesterday I sat in the front). The first half of class was filled with lectures on particles and optics. We then built telescopes in our lab groups. This was my favorite part of the entire day! It was really fun learning how lenses and mirrors work.
My lab group works on focusing on the fortune at the end of the tube.

We took a break for lunch at Houston Market. I ate a yummy cheesesteak sandwich with perfectly crunchy french fries.

The second half of class was filled with more lasers and refraction. We were also introduced to finding critical angles. The lab was actually made up of multiple smaller labs. Everyone was done with lab around 3:30 and we were released early again.  After class I headed back to my dorm to rest and use the computer. At about 6 PM I went with my cohort to meet Ian, our chaperone, and we went to walk around the home area.

The first two days of class have been great but I'm excited for the Independence Day activities tomorrow. Our chaperone is going to come pick us up in the morning and we're going to go check out the parade and all of the other events planned for tomorrow.

Happy Independence Day!