Friday, July 22, 2011

Cool People on a Hot Day

Everyone loves Friday because it’s the end of the working week and the beginning of some time for a bit of relaxation. I look forward to Fridays here at UPenn because every Friday we go on a class field trip to various locations in Pennsylvania. Today, after some breakfast and a shower, we all boarded a yellow school bus just as the temperature was getting to be unbearably hot. The ride was extremely hot, but mercifully it was a short trip to our destination – the Franklin Institute-. The Franklin Institute was founded in Philadelphia where Franklin did most of his work to commemorate the achievements of Ben Franklin and to share an interest in science with younger people. Once we arrived, Bill handed out admissions tickets and lunch vouchers and soon enough we were all of exploring the museum’s many exhibits.

The first exhibit that I explored in depth was the biology exhibit about the heart. One of the most interesting parts of this exhibit was a large revolving display that had models of the hearts of many animals, from hamsters to huge whales. Even more impressive than this was the massive walk-through model of the human heart. This heart was scaled up large enough that it would be the right size for the Statue of Liberty. No matter how many books I have read about biology and how many times I’ve been told how the heart works, walking around as if I was a blood cell getting pumped through the heart was a great way to learn about the heart.

Another neat exhibit I visited was the so called ‘Isaac’s loft’ exhibit. As you might guess, the exhibit was centered on the discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton. The first things that I tried out were the exhibits that displayed the concept of work. Because work is a measure of force times distance, you can do the same amount of work by applying a small amount of force over a long time as applying a large force over a small time. The way this was displayed was a large lever that you could use to pull a large pile of bricks that weighed 150 pounds. By pulling on ropes at different distances from the weight, you could do the same amount of work but over different distance and with different forces. Another cool example of work was the next display that I visited which let you pull yourself up in a chair. The chairs were suspended from the ceiling by a pulley, but the two chairs had different types of pulleys so on one of them you had to apply a force equal to one fifth of your weight, but you therefore had to apply the force for five times as much rope as usual. The other chair was the same idea, but you applied a force equal to one third of your weight for three times the distance. These displays were very effective at getting across the idea that you can do the same work in different ways.

Next, I visited the flight exhibit downstairs from the ‘Isaac’s Loft’ Exhibit. The first few displays I tried were exhibiting Bernoulli’s Principle in simple ways. One display challenged you to float a water bottle in the air using a fan. It wasn’t obvious at first how to do it because the fan was not strong enough to lift the bottle straight up. Instead, you had to line up the fan and bottle so that the fan accelerated the air on one side of the bottle. Just as the Bernoulli Principle says, moving air exerts less force, so the static air on the bottom of the bottle pushed harder than the moving top air and the bottle floated. While I’ve said it already, I again enjoyed the benefit of experimenting with these ideas instead of reading them in a book and vaguely understanding them. Finally, we all went together to a planetarium show about black holes that I found awesome, but several people next to me fell asleep during. I can’t really blame them because the 100 degree weather outside made me pretty sleepy too.

After the Franklin Institute trip, the temperature truly was over 100 degrees, so I decided to get my long overdue haircut. I went to a barbershop just down the street from our dorms and I got a nice haircut. Afterwards, my hair literally felt lighter and I felt much cooler (figuratively and literally). The evening continued to get better when we left to see the final movie of the Harry Potter series. I read the books avidly as a kid and have always felt my imagination was better than the films, but I still enjoyed seeing the action on the big screen. Even better than the movie, afterwards we stopped at Ben and Jerry’s for some ice cream. I got a ‘small’ (500 calorie plus) scoop of chocolate chip cookie dough that will be fueling my next dozen trips to the gym. The sugar’s wearing off and it’s been a long week, so goodnight for now.

Also, Alex thinks he's too cool for Harry Potter, what a dork.

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