Friday, July 29, 2011

Going out With a Bang

Today was really an interesting and emotional day. From the start, things felt a little bit different, but Alex and I did our usual routine and went to the bakery Au Bon Pain to get our breakfast. In class, we started off by doing our presentations on research that we did a week or so ago. In general, our assignment was to test different phenomena and to determine if they were exponential relationships or not. That sounds a little bit vague, so I’ll give examples of a few of the phenomena that groups tested. My group tested Newton’s Law of Cooling to see if it was an exponential relationship. Newton’s Law of Cooling basically describes how quickly a hot object will cool down in a cold surrounding medium and how a cold object warms up in a hot surrounding medium.

To test this relationship, we got several cups of water and heated about half of it. The first test that we did tested how a cold temperature probe warmed up in the hot water. We started our data collection, placed the probe in the water and waited for a couple minutes. As soon as we saw the graph of the temperature increasing, it seemed pretty clear that Newton’s Law of Cooling is an exponential relationship. To be sure, we tested our hypothesis out by using the software, Logger Pro, to do a curve fit of our data. The data fit very well with an inverse exponential function and we concluded that the relationship is exponential.

Several of the other groups had interesting presentations such as the group that tested a car that supposedly accelerated exponentially. Exponential relationships are very important in nature, so I was glad to get some exposure to a few of these phenomena. At lunch, I ordered some pizza and then realized that I had about $30 left on my Dining Dollars card. Luckily, Mary had mentioned that people could bring snacks for the afternoon lecture if they had dining dollars left so I bought a bunch of chips and soda to share. When I got back to class, we discovered that Mary had also made all of us cookies to enjoy while we watched Bill’s demonstration show.

Bill struck me from the start as a hands on kind of guy. I was definitely right, because Bill is in charge of making physics demonstrations at UPenn. Bill started off his demonstration by showing us examples of the buoyant force by showing us how regular soda sinks but diet soda floats because it’s less dense. Things quickly got better as Bill blew some bubbles in the air and pointed out that they always sink to the ground. Just as I was about to award him the Mr. Obvious award, Bill mixed up some baking soda and vinegar in an aquarium and then blew bubbles into it. Because the baking soda and vinegar react to make carbon dioxide, which is denser than air, the bubbles floated and bounced around in midair which was pretty cool.

Bill’s demonstrations got wilder and wilder as he began to well, blow stuff up. To demonstrate how well lighting rods work, Bill brought in a scale model of a typical home and filed it with a chemical that quickly converts into acetylene gas. With the lighting rod on the house, Bill shocked the house with an electric bolt but nothing happened because of the lighting rod. When he took the rod off and repeated the process, the house exploded into pieces and made a bang so loud I’m sure every person reading this blog heard it.

I loved Bill’s demonstrations, but the several hour show flew by in moments, and soon it was time to say goodbye. Mary showed us a final slideshow of everything we did and then gave us flash drives full of everything we’ve done in the last 4 weeks. Each of our teachers spoke for a little bit and I could once again see how dedicated each of them is to the program. I cannot express how thankful I am for Bill, Mary, Ryan, Craig, Adam, Brian, and everyone in the program for making the last 4 weeks so amazing and educational.

In the evening, we got to celebrate a little bit. Summer Discovery provided a D.J. for us and we had a fun, informal dance. The dance was really fun, but for me it was overshadowed by the fact that we had to leave at 10 o’clock. Finally, it was time to say goodbye to all of my friends that have made the last 4 weeks the best time of my life. I couldn’t stop myself from crying when I said goodbye to Fred, Abheek, Onur and Alison each of whom have been fantastic friends over the last 4 weeks. While I did cry a bit, I am reminded by one of my favorite people ever, Dr. Seuss, about how to deal with something like this.

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened” ~Dr. Seuss

With modern technology, there’s no excuse not to stay in touch, so I know we will continue to be great friends even as Onur heads back to Turkey, Abheek back to London, Alison back to Florida, and Fred back to Alabama.

Thank you to everyone in this program for making it such a great experience.

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