Monday, July 23, 2012

Guest speakers

This morning started the last week of summer discovery. Somewhat saddening knowing that each day would be the last , but on the other hand I am going home in 4 days. Home sweet home. One thing that I know is that our backyard better be done. Today , class was going to be taught by to guest speakers. Lin Shuan Lu would have the morning session and Arnold Farr would have the afternoon session. 

Lin Shuan Lu spoke on the topic of accounting. One of the topics was how to figure out how wealthy a person is by subtracting what they owe from what there actual value is. The actual value could be anything they have that is valuable.We also learned how to read an income statement and balance sheet. The income statement shows the flow of money and the balance sheet shows were you are financially at that point and time .This was a very interesting topic because it dealt with a lot of math which is one of my favorite subjects. Other topics discussed in the lecture include business and financing. 

After lunch we met in our second classroom , and Arnold Farr joined us to speak about famous philosophers , and liberation up which he shared a lot of personal stories. Professor Lamas originally didn't have him on the schedule and was really sad about it, but he some how made a way for him to be there. We were all happy that he was able to show because Professor Lamas told us great things about him and we all knew what to expect.

I Love This Class

The theme in class this week is Justice and Political economy, so we have a few guest speakers coming in to talk to us about this topic.  Today we had Linshuang Lu, who is a graduate of the Penn Wharton School and a current consultant with Praxis Consulting Group.  She begin by having us pair up and share a memory about money with our partner.  I chose to tell my partner about how my little brother has been super lucky because he is always finding money on the ground and I wish that some of that good luck would rub off on me!  She then wanted us to think about what is our most valuable item (that we own) and share it with the class.  This exercise had me thinking about my family, but then I went back to the question and knew that I did not actually "own" my family, so I decided on a material object.  

From these questions, Linshuang dove into accounting.  She taught us how to read the main financial statements:  Income Statement and the Balance Sheet.  I learned that the income statement is the statement of activity or flow, while the balance sheet is a statement of financial position or stock.  In short, she described an income statement as a track of activity over a period of time and a balance sheet as a snapshot in time.  An income statement consists of revenue, with salary and interest, expenses (rent, utilities, interest, and food), as well as surpluses and deficits.  The end of year balance sheet includes assets (checking, savings, furniture, house), liabilities (bills payable, mortgage, other debt), and your net worth (home equity and liquid net worth, which is how much you own less how much you owe.  The term "wealth" is used to describe net worth, but in newspapers they incorrectly use "wealth" to mean income.  Using income to describe someone's wealth is actually quite vague, and Linshuang said that we should look at the financial network, which is basically separating out home equity from liquid network.  I am really glad that she was able to come and talk to us about accounting because I have yet to take an economy course in high school and I am quite less knowledgeable about this subject than I need to be.  

Arnold Farr
For the afternoon session, Prof. Lamas presented the very special guest speaker Arnold Farr.  Farr's specialty is Liberation Philosophy, which is actually a fairly new theology that began in about 1969.  Three men by the names of James Cone, Enrique Dussel, and Gustavo Guitierez developed this philosophy because they had questions that no other philosophers seemed to be able to answer.  After giving us an introduction into his work, Arnold talked to us a lot about the importance of understanding the contexts that surround all of the past and modern philosophical texts from throughout the world.  Within this, he discussed how the same text can be used as a tool of oppression or one for liberation, as well as how one text can have both oppressive and liberating qualities.  One thing he said that I really liked was that we shouldn't completely disregard ancient texts, even if they seem to be irrelevant to our time period.  Instead we should develop our own understanding of freedom and oppression, and look at old texts with a different set of questions in mind.  Every text is useful and relevant in someway at the time of their publication, and it is the many written dialogues of philosophers like Plato, Socrates, Walter Benjamin, and Hegel Frichte that have shaped our way of understanding and thinking about the world we live in today.

The remainder of the afternoon session was spent mostly on oppression and how every philosopher has encountered the struggle of freedom.  We talked about how we need to deconstruct our own identities in order to begin fighting for liberation, how we need to form communities of like-minded people when in transition as to not lose sanity, and how in the end of that transformation we need to establish comfort in who we have grown to be.  I was telling Arnold how I feel like it will be difficult to convey my new thoughts and concepts to my friends back home, but he stressed that the goal is not to change the minds of others, but that I need to start by focusing on myself.  I feel that I have already been going through some sort of identity transformation in the last  year or so, and it was reassuring to hear that we all go through this because not many people back home talk about these kinds of things.  Even when I try to bring up somewhat of an abstract concept, many of my peers will just wonder why I am even thinking about that question.  Arnold really helped me feel more confident with my thought processes; this lecture will definitely be one that will stand out in my mind when I return home.  
A Bit of A Blurry Picture, but Here We Are!

BOOM! Goes The Dynamite

What's the best way to start the day? Well, I say the best way is with breakfast. Like everyone else, I was getting bored of breakfast at McClelland's. I needed something new, yet wanted to spend all my meal points. I was in a deadlock, didn't know whether or not to go somewhere else. But then Alec came, talking about the second breakfast, Einstein Bros., spot that accepted our meal points. This was a bagel heaven, with bagels of all flavors, and best of all, it  was cheaper than McClelland's. I filled up on two blueberry bagels, which I say were some of the best bagels ever. This was the best beginning possible.

As I entering the lecture hall, I was amazed with all of Bill's toys he had out. I knew today's morning lecture was going to be entertaining, then he started. The seemingly harmless college classroom was transformed into a demo lab. He used bubbles to show buoyancy, shot a monkey and a Barney ( Note: No Animals Were Hurt In Today's Lecture) to show gravity, swung from the ceiling to show oscillating waves, and to top it off he blew up a house to show how effective lightning rods are. Bill claimed that the morning lecture was an early grand finale, but to say the truth, if we were to have the same lecture on Friday, it would still the best grand finale.
Bill Prepping Barney For The Shot

Bill Playing On His New Swing
After the exciting morning lecture, we had another cosmologist guest speaker, Justin Khoury. Since he was the fourth cosmologist, most of his lecture was a mere review, but then he started to talk about inflation and ekpyrotic in the universe. Things got strange, yet interesting, with talk of the multi verse and a time before the Big Bang. Then I learned about gravity waves. I always thought gravity was more of a field force, but turns out that in space, its can be viewed as a waves.

After lunch, we  started our two day project on finding the speed of light (Google was not used for this experiment). We had to fiddle around with the infamous oscilloscope, wires, lasers, and diodes. It was a very complicated process, because our set up looked right, yet somehow it was wrong. Luckily, Craig, Bill, and Ryan were all there to help us. After an hour and a half of fiddling around, we were finally able to get the system to work. Tomorrow is Stage 2, where we will be finding the speed of light, I am so excited.

I found myself with a lot of free time on my hands in the evening. I decided to go to the bookstore, so that I can get some gifts from Penn for my family. After a gruesome hour of deciding whether or not I should this person this or that, I was able to walk out. Then I called home, which just like last time, made me feel homesick. I know that I will be able to pull through because with in an hour, I managed to defeat the homesickness. Come on now, how couldn't with all the fun things happening around the quad.

Tomorrow, I have set my alarm a bit earlier, so that I have more time in the day to savor Penn (getting chocolate chip bagels at Einstein Bros. may have also affect this bold move). I will be going to lazer tag tomorrow, which is something I have never done before, but have the feeling that every other guy has went it comes to guns, they are a terminator. From what I hear about lazer tag, tomorrow is guaranteed to be memorable.

Do Not Try This At Home

Today was a rather exciting day for our physics class. Because a large convention of physics teachers will be visiting later this week, we will not have access to the Rittenhouse laboratories so Bill spent the whole morning showing us exactly what happens in the demo lab we hear so much about. 

Bill hangs from ceiling as he discusses oscillating waves with the class.
Bill started off with smaller demonstrations that involved somewhat normal items such as soda cans, water, salt, and plastic containers. As the morning progressed, his demos consisted of more and more unusual items. Bill used a toaster oven and a plastic bag to explain how convection works in a hot air balloon. The morning was extremely entertaining and had us all on the edge of our seats. To conclude the presentation on demos, Bill blew up a miniature house. I believe the idea was to demonstrate the purpose of the lightening rod, but blowing up things is always fun. 

After lunch we were divided into our lab groups for our final assignment. This week we will be measuring the speed of light with devices we build ourselves. My group members are Elena, Neil, Joaquim, and Daniel. I've never had the chance to work with the boys in this group so I am excited to experience it. I like to think that Elena and I make a good team; today we built both sensor circuits on our own with the help of a diagram provided to us. When I look back just four short weeks ago, I can see tremendous growth in my knowledge of physics.

Once class concluded Ivette, Clara, Mariko, and I went to Center City to do some site seeing and eat dinner. This was our first time going to Center City and probably the last time we'd get to go. I wish we would have made time to go earlier in the month because there seemed to be so much to see. After visiting one last store we found our way to a nearby SEPTA station and caught the trolley back to campus located at 37th and Spruce. 

Tomorrow we will measure the speed of light in class and play laser tag later on in the evening.
Good night!

Center City Fun

Today for both the morning and afternoon class we had guest speakers. Our morning's guest speaker was Lin Shuang Lu. She talked to us about accounting, business, and finance. I really like mathematics, but I don't think I'd ever actually want to make a career out of it. The presentation was good, but I'm just not interested in that field. Our afternoon guest speaker was Arnold Farr. He spoke to us about critical thinking and its origins, a lot about liberation, and famous philosophers. I really liked his presentation. Prof. Lamas kept telling us we would love him, and he was right. The things Arnold really made me think, think about life, the world we live in, and just everything. I have like a million pages of notes from his presentation that I will definitely be framing.

Right after class, Clara, Mariko, Alysa, and I decided it was time we visit Center City. We have less than a week left here at Penn, so it was either today or never. We didn't have a lot of time because we had to be back before 7:30, and my class ran a bit late. Once we got there we decided we should get dinner out of the way, that took about fifteen minutes. We walked around for almost no time at all before we realized we better start heading back, if we wanted to make it back in time.

The rest of my evening was spent at the gym. I didn't go this morning because I was so exhausted from Ocean City, so I had to go in the evening. I will for sure be going to the gym tomorrow morning and I'll try to be back by 7:45 to have breakfast with Clara. I should probably get some sleep. Goodnight!

What Could Possible Go Wrong?

Due to a national Physics teacher conference coming to town, tomorrow will be our last da in the David Rittenhouse labs.  Because of the inconvenience, we had our demonstration day, usually the grand finale, this morning.  It consisted of Bill running around the front of the class room with his fun toys and gizmos, demonstrating physics in front of our eyes.  He blew bubbles to demonstrate buoyancy, shot a toy Barnie to show the effects of gravity, swung from the ceiling to produce oscillations, and blew up a model house to prove the benefits of lightning rods.  Saying it was an exciting morning would be an understatement.

To finish off the morning, we had a guest speaker, cosmologist Justin Khoury.  Given that he was the fourth cosmologist to speak to us, some of his talk was a repeat.  However, he went into some newer topics like string theory and the inflation of the universe.  Even after all these talks, it still baffles me how little is known about our gigantic universe.

In the afternoon, we broke in to new lab groups to start our speed of light projects.  We built the apparatus we will use tomorrow to measure the speed of light.  The construction was very complicated and frustrating, but these feelings only made it more exciting to see a finished project.

Once Ivette got out of class, she joined Mariko, Alysa, and I to go to Center City.  I am embarrassed to say this was my first trip to Center City. It was a lot of fun to eat at new places and do some shopping, I just wish we had time to go back again. We got on the Septa as the rain started to come down, and got back to the dorms with plenty of time for a workout.  I finished my evening with a lovely Skype call to my parents, whom, I'll admit, I'm starting to miss a little. 

Tomorrow we will measure the speed of light, and hopefully get a handle on our group presentations later in the week. Then I get to go play laser tag! It should be an awesome day, and a good way to make the most of my last few days here in Philadelphia. 

The Perks of Running the Demo Lab at UPenn

Today, my physics teacher blew up a house. I’m absolutely serious. Of course, it was a small, wooden model of a house, but it was still a pretty impressive demonstration of the effectiveness of Benjamin Franklin’s lightning rod idea. Today was the grand finale of a spectacular four-week physics course–on the fifth-to-last day of the course. Due to two physics conventions held at UPenn this week, our normal schedule has been somewhat disrupted. Our last three days will be spent in the literature building, so it would have been difficult for Bill to transport all of his equipment. Thus, we had our grand finish on the first day of the week instead of the last.

Testing out Ben Franklin's lightning rod theory

Bill filled the first two and a half hours of the morning with different demos. As the man in charge of UPenn’s demonstration lab, Bill knows exactly which demos are the most illustrative, relevant, and fun. Some of my favorites involved suspending soap bubbles in midair to show that carbon dioxide has a higher density than air, shooting ball bearings out of a blowgun to prove that gravity doesn’t discriminate between ball bearings or Barney dinosaurs, and creating make-shift hot air balloons with a toaster and some garbage bags to demonstrate that hot air rises. The most memorable demonstration was when Bill turned himself into the demonstration by hanging from the ceiling with some carabineers and a garage door sized spring.

When your teacher shows up to class in a T-shirt that says "I am a professional. Do not try this at home." you know that class is going to be exciting 
Following the demonstrations, we were joined by Dr. Justin Khoury, a particle cosmologist at UPenn. We’ve had four physicists speak with us about the history of the universe in the past week, but Dr. Khoury put a new spin on things in that he discussed multiple theories about the beginning of the universe. He talked about two ideas, inflation and the ekpyrotic universe. Apparently, some of Mark Devlin’s research involves searching for gravitational waves in the beginnings of the universe that would help determine which model is more probable.

In the afternoon, we started on the two-day project that Bill compared to a term paper. Our assignment is to measure the speed of light using PN diodes, red lasers, and oscilloscopes. It combines aspects from optics and electricity and tests our knowledge of different physics machines, so it definitely feels like a final. Thankfully, Bill, Ryan, and Craig are around in case we need any assistance, so it’s pretty low-stress.

After class, I went to Center City for the first time with Ivette, Alysa, and Clara. The last week at UPenn is going to be filled with activities, but we felt like we had to go to Center City at least once before we left. Social Justice gets out late, around 5 PM, so we didn’t have a lot of time to spend there due to our curfew, but I enjoyed a change of diet and a chance to wander around a different part of Philly and get a feel for a part of the city apart from University City. It’s incredible to realize that I’ve spent three weeks here and that I only have five more days, so I need to make sure I spend these last five days as well as I can.