Today, we took another field trip. This was a fine way to end the week, especially considering the intense work that we had to do this week. We traveled to the Franklin Institute via school bus this morning at 9:30, which allowed us to sleep in an hour later. The Franklin Institute is a very diverse place so it is difficult to give it a description that covers all of its bases. At its core, the Franklin Institute is a center for scientific learning for all ages, akin to the Exploratorium in the Bay Area. Although there are definitely aspects of the institute that are geared towards the youth, a good majority of it is dedicated to the principle ideas of science. For instance, there is a large section of the third floor that is used for displaying Newtonian ideas of motion, called Sir Isaac’s Loft. All of the displays in the loft are accessible to children, but all of them have detailed plaques that describe the physics behind each display. There were also live demonstrations that occurred throughout the day in the main atrium. The idea of the Franklin Institute is great because it takes even some of the more difficult principles of science and makes it easy for a person of any age or scientific background to engage in learning and walk away with more knowledge than when they entered.
I did a lot of things while in the institute today. We began by taking a group shot of the class in front of a massive statue of Ben Franklin (which looks shockingly similar to the Lincoln Memorial) and then observing a giant pendulum in the main stairwell. The purpose of the pendulum is to show that the Earth rotates upon an axis. The pendulum is hung in such a way that it continues the same path of motion while passing through a ring of chess pieces that, as the day passes, will be knocked over by the pendulum. After that, we were basically on our own until 12:30, which is when we would meet for lunch. I spent most of my time touring the museum with Mike, while occasionally joining, leaving, and re-joining Brian and Julia. As we walked around the institute, I realized how much I have learned in my science classes these past couple of years. I remember visiting places similar to the Franklin Institute and only being interested in the fascinating displays. However, as we toured the institute, I was easily able to identify what scientific principles were at work, from concepts such as mechanical advantage as well as laws relating to gas and pressure.
The highlight of today’s learning came after lunch, when our class gathered in the planetarium for a show about black holes. I was able to apply what we had learned in our lectures on relativity. I even recognized some of the demonstrations that we did in class to represent what actually happens when a black hole is formed. Basically, a black hole is the result of a massive star that goes supernova and leaves a deformation in space-time, from which nothing, not even light, can escape. This is why black holes were given their name. They absorb all light which leaves the area devoid of any light whatsoever, resulting in total darkness. Black holes actually have a point of no return called the event horizon. The demonstration was fascinating and helped me put my previous lessons about relativity into a better perspective. After the show, we were once again allowed to roam the institution. I chose to use some of this time in the gift shop, where I bought some souvenir t-shirts and gifts for my family.The rest of the day was just spent relaxing. Upon our return from the Franklin Institute, I promptly made my way up to my dorm so I could sit in the air conditioning for a while (it was one-hundred and two degrees at one point this afternoon!). We only had a couple of hours between when we arrived and when we would have to meet for our weekly movie. I decided to hang out in the dorm with Onur, Brian, and Fred until dinner. We met with our peers (at least one-hundred of them) in the quad at about 7:00 to go see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, Part Two. I’ve never been a big fan of the Harry Potter films (the novels are a different story though), but there was something special about watching the finale to a series that has been popular for a good portion of my adolescence. It was interesting to watch people react to the end of this era because there were some die-hard Potter fans in the audience. I was even shushed by someone sitting in front of me within the first two minutes of the movie because I asked Brian (who was sitting right next to me) who a certain character was. Pop culture can be very interesting sometimes…
Today was an excellent way to kick off the weekend. We will be going back to Center City tomorrow to walk around the city without being rushed. We will also revisit Love Square so we can buy some souvenirs. This will be my last weekend with my Philly family, so I am sad about that. However, we are all aware of this and intent on making our final weekend together as memorable as possible.