Friday, July 6, 2012

Vroom Vroom

I woke up today filled with excitement, as always, and being that it is a Friday did add to the level of excitement. Then I started to wonder if I will ever wake up without excitement running through me. The answer is yes, but as long as I am at UPenn taking the Experimental Physics Academy I won’t.  I have the best teachers using the best examples relating the material to everyday life. Every Friday we will go on a field trip to explore Physics in the real world. Today, we went to the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum. For those that have never heard of the museum, it contains the world’s rarest cars ever.

Before the fantastic journey to Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum, we had a discussion on energy. In high school, I learned that energy gave something the ability to do work and thought that would satisfy the question of “What is Energy?” That short response was only a tenth of the complete answer. We learned that energy is actually a descriptive language of the universe that depicts moments in time. Then I learned that there is no such thing as the conservation of mass, but it’s actually the conservation of energy and mass is a form of energy. After a quick lab on the conservation of energy, we had lunch.
As we got off the bus, everyone rushed to get into the museum. This was to either to get away from the heat and/or to see the most vintage automobiles in the planet. My reasons were both, but leaned slightly more to see the awesome cars. Bill explained to us the history of the first half of the cars, until we reached our experiment zone. The basic theme was to be able to move a sixteen pound bowling ball with only the bristles of a broom. First, the bowling ball was to be moved in a straight line, without passing 8 meters. The second was to move it in a circular pattern after it rolled down a ramp. At first glance, I thought it was going to be a piece of cake, but I was horrible wrong. Getting the ball to move was easy, but stopping it was really hard. Then came the competition. Each group competited against each other in a relay race, in which we could not let the ball leave the track and could only move the ball with small taps. While I was racing, I noticed how hard it was to accelerate the ball. This enforced the lesson on inertia. My group didn’t do so good, we came in 7th, but we did get a handful of knowledge out of the experience.
Elena Using A Broom To Combat Inertia
After the competition, Bill explained to us the history of the cars and the aerodynamics behind their weird shapes. Many factors had to come into perspective went designing a race car, such as weight distribution, air drag, brakes, and so forth. It was very cool learning that the designers of such rare race cars were physicians. Once the lecture was over, we were able to roam freely, looking at the cars we wanted to. I loved this field trip, but after talking with Eli Lesser, I think there is a chance that I might love Hersey Park a bit more. From my understanding, it is very similar to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, but better.
Very Happy Movie Goers
Before the day ended, we were given the opportunity to relax with of friends by going to see a movie of our choice. Almost everybody picked Ted, which was one of the funniest movies I have ever seen. It was the best way to unwind and end the week, extremely satisfied. Know I just can’t wait to explore New York tomorrow.

Something New = Wonderful day

Finally the last day of the week. Today's schedule didn't have much on it except for a few presentations and the movies later that night.This morning I finally motivated myself to get up and get breakfast. I was surprised that they had exactly what I eat at home, which is Jimmie Dean sausage with eggs and a bagel or English muffin.After breakfast I headed back up to the room to get my laptop and head to class.

Today we were meeting in the library so that everyone had a computer , but I decided to bring my own. We signed up for word press , and all created profile and posted something that reflected what we have been learning this past week. When lunch came around I decided that I was going to stick around with my usual click but actually hang out with other people so I would have a fuller experience. I think this was a good idea because I ended up meeting lots and lots of people. Even a person named Kamron, and my friend Ameer who is from Egypt. We all headed back to class and prepared for the presentations that were going to go forth.

One excited thing of the day was that I actually got a chance to see The cohort from my school that were visiting UPenn. This included Chris Han, Narges, and Hannah Pablo.It was very exciting because we shared our feeling for the east coast and acted as if we hadn't seen each other in years. This made for a wonderful day.

After class , I held on to my idea and decided to hang out with my newly found friends.I ended up having so much fun meeting and hanging out with people that I hung out all night.We all headed to Houston dining hall just before the movie "Ted" which started at 7. The movie was very entertaining , partly because I hadn't attended a movie in a few months.After the movie , We still had time before check-in , so we all played music and just had a fun time enjoying each others company.

Housekeeping... Physics Style!

Good Morning Philly!
Its Friday! Field trip day! But even if you aren't an excitable zoo animal (anyone for the obscure Madagascar reference?), Friday is a pretty great day.  After the usual breakfast routine, I headed off to class through an alternate route.  Throughout Penn's campus are brick walkways with beautiful landscaping and sculptures.  I decided to take one with some friends and although I'm not sure if it was an actual shortcut, it was quite a pleasant walk to start the morning.  

This morning one of our teachers, Craig, taught us about conservation and mechanics.  We talked a lot about energy, and he pointed out that the definition we are taught in school is flawed.  He defines energy as a language that describes the universe dependent on a moment in time.  In other words, for every second, one can explain where all the energy is and why it is there.  After the lecture, we went upstairs to the lab, where we did an experiment with bouncing balls. We took the system of the bouncing ball and found the different types of energy during each point of time.  I have gotten very close to my lab group (aka the best lab group) and I am sad that we won't get to work together next week (the lab groups change each week).

Practicing Circles
We broke for lunch pretty early due to our afternoon field trip.  At 12:30 sharp, we met at the quad and bused to the Simeone Foundation Museum.  Here, we tackled the great bowling ball challenge.  We started by practicing accelerating and decelerating a bowling ball simply by taps from a broom.  If you are sitting in front of your computer thinking, "I could do that," you are sorely mistaken.  Once we had some practice with straight lines, we attempted circles and parabolas.   Then, each lab group did a relay race around an intricate track.  My group came in second, and the experience was very educational.  Not only did I learn that it's not a good idea to where flip flops with 10 bowling balls rolling around on the floor, the physics of the race was fascinating.  

We then had some time to walk around and look at the cars in the museum. Professor Berner explained the physics that made each car unique and what made them better racers.  I never realized how much science is contained in one car, even one from 100 years ago.  

This evening was movie night, a fun way to spend some time with people in other programs.  Tomorrow we go to New York! Seeing as the only 3 days I've spent there were shared with Hurricane Irene, I'm very excited to see the city in the summer.  I don't think I will have one day here that isn't exciting, fun, and filled with new experiences. 


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.

Express Yourself

This morning was just the same as every other morning this week. I met my cohort for breakfast, and then walked to class with Chloe and Cameron. Instead of meeting in our usual morning classroom in the McNeil building, today we met in the library. Prof. Lamas wanted us to set up our own individual pages for a social justice website. The website still isn't quite finished, so nobody but the contributors are able to see it. As soon as it is open for the public to view it, I will post the link! On the pages that we were required to set up, we were supposed to put a picture of ourselves, the country where we are from, and a quote. That was step one, step two was to add a picture, a question, and a statement. All three of those had to relate to our first week in class. It could be something that stood out to you, how the week made you feel, or a past memory brought up by something that occurred this week. There were no rules, so you really could do it about anything. Then in the afternoon portion of the class, people presented their pages. We didn't get through everybody, so those who didn't go today will go on Monday.

Today's mandatory event was to go to the movie theaters. I signed up for the movie "Ted", and I was a bit disappointed. I chose the movie because I heard from people who had already seen it, that it was a really good movie. The movie was about a guy and his best friend, who is a talking teddy bear. Well at least now I'm sure that comedies are just not my kind of movies.

Tomorrow we are heading off to New York for the day! I'm really looking forward to it, everything except for the waking up super early part. Maybe I should head off to bed early tonight? Hmmm, I think I will. Goodnight!

Gotta Get Down On Friday

I woke up this morning filled with excitement. Not only was it Friday, but we were going on our first field trip! The first half of physics class went by relatively quickly. After discussing conservation laws, we broke for lunch at about 11:30.

I wasn't that hungry because it seemed like we finished breakfast not to long ago, but I decided it'd be best to eat now because my next opportunity to eat would be later that evening. I dined with David Barba and Molly from Maryland at Houston Market where we chowed  down on our different variations of sandwiches. Over lunch we discussed California/Bay Area/ West Coast slang relative to that of the rest of the world. It was surprising to me to learn that in Maryland, just like in much of the US, they don't actually make a habit of speaking in slang. It seems to be only in California that the majority of our youth speak with words not found in an english dictionary.  There's nothing wrong with slang if you use it only when appropriate(with friends rather than a more formal setting.) After lunch we headed across the hall to Insomnia Cookies. BEST COOKIES EVER. If any of you ever go to Pennsylvania for any reason, you have to try these cookies. They are cooked to the perfect point at which they are crunchy around the edges yet they remain soft and gushy on the inside. The cookies are also kept warm so when they are ordered the chocolate, peanut butter, etc is still warm and melted. These are by far the best cookies I've had. Ever.

We headed to the quad to meet our physics class and get on the bus. We boarded the nicely air-conditioned charter bus at about 12:30 and we were on our way. Our destination? The Simeone Foundation Museum of Historic Cars. Now why was a physics class going to a car museum, you ask? To race bowling balls! The lab for today was focused on force. By racing bowling balls around a track with brooms we learned about vectors and what type of force was needed to move and stop a bowling ball. After the lab we were free to explore the museum for about an hour. I wanted to leave as soon as possible because the museum didn't have air-conditioning. I've really come to love and appreciate the magical world of air-conditioning so when I'm encountered by an area that doesn't meet the newly established norms, I'm quite uncomfortable.

My favorite car in the whole museum!

The physics class in the museum racing bowling balls. My group came in fourth place out of eight, by the way. 

On the bus ride back I talked to Jessica from Connecticut about what we were planning to do in New York tomorrow. Of course the number one priority on our lists is shop!

We arrived back on campus at about 4:30 and the cohort split up to prepare for dinner and the movies later. We all headed to Houston Market for a quick dinner. After dinner we walked to a local CVS to pick up a few things. I bought envelopes and cough drops for my sore throat. When we made it back to campus, we had just enough time to run to our dorms, put our purchased items down, and run back outside.

For this Friday, our whole cohort decided to watch Ted. Ted is about a man and his human-like teddy bear who have been inseparable since John, the main character, was eight. The problem now is that John wants to pursue a relationship with a woman and Ted kind of gets in the way. Ted, John, and his girlfriend who's name I can't remember right now, experience ups and downs but never fear, in the end everyone lives happily ever after. The movie is a comedy that uses a handful of colorful language. All in all, it provided a great laugh for everyone in the theater. The movie was over at about 9:30 and we all walked back to campus. The topic of discussion was once again what we plan to do in New York tomorrow.

Since the day I saw that we'd be taking a trip to New York I've been excited and I absolutely can't wait to get my shop on tomorrow in Times Square.

A Wave of Inspiration

It is a strange thing to say that the weekend starts tomorrow because I have not considered my time spent in my program to be school.  I am learning a great deal and have reading assignments, but in contrast to my normal school experience I feel thoroughly engaged and interested in the topics we are studying every day.  Although this is unfortunate, as I wish I could feel the same way about high school, this class I am taking now has been incredibly inspiring and it gives me a real sense of empowerment.

In class today we spent the morning setting up our individual pages for a new Social Justice Academy website we are creating.  This was a fun activity because Prof. Lamas gave us a ton of freedom with our pages so we all had the chance to think outside the box and focus on a variety of topics that we have discussed in class.  One aspect of Prof. Lamas' teaching style that I am extremely fond of is that he likes to save some time to allow for a few spontaneous activities.  Before we began on our web pages, we met in a conference room on the second floor of the Vanderbilt library to speak with one of the staff in that facility.  Besides teaching us how to work the website, she also showed us a few short controversial videos thanks to Prof. Lamas' interest and suggestion.  We saw two pieces that focused on the underlying racism displayed in Walt Disney films and one that even questioned some of the university's traits.  Each film was put together by students who attend this university and I think it is great they were able to convey deep messages that are commonly overlooked. 

Once we were done with that, we took our lunch break and then gathered back together in our usual classroom to present our creations.  Although not everyone was able to share their page, including me, we crossed a number of interesting opposing topics from freedom and oppression to building community and scapegoating.  These last three hours of class were mainly run by us students while Prof. Lamas and Michael guided the intellectual process.  I thought that this was a great way to spend our time as it gave us the opportunity to talk amongst our classmates and collaboratively develop our own trains of thought.  We will be continuing that activity on Monday so I will have the chance to stand up and share my ideas. I love this class!

After class I immediately felt a strong desire to find my own roots, as genealogy was another topic we discussed.  I agree with the quote, "You have to know where you came from to know where you're going."  I think that it is really important, not to mention interesting, to find the people that are responsible for putting me in the life I am in now.  From the discussion we had about this, I became extremely inspired to begin my own historical search to find where I my roots are.  I plan on working on this throughout the rest of this summer and on into next year as well, and I am so thankful to be taking a class that has already opened my mind to new possibilities and adventures like this.