Tuesday, July 12, 2011

I Met Iron Man. What Did You Do Today?

Tony Stark!!! (aka Craig)

Okay, I didn’t really meet Robert Downey Jr. today, but Craig is close enough. He brought in his “arc reactor” that he gutted and improved with better lights. Some people in class have even taken to calling him Tony (Tony Stark/Iron Man). This made for quite an entertaining morning.

However, the fun and games could only last for so long and soon Bill began his lecture. Today we continued our discussion from yesterday about voltage and current, but we also began discussing resistance and how to use a device called an oscilloscope. This machine is essentially a cross between a graphing application on a computer and the scanning equipment. It primarily scans and graphs voltage and current, but it has a wealth of uses that we did not even cover today. When we weren’t covering the oscilloscope, Bill was going over Ohm’s Law. Ohm’s Law has several variations, all of which state that the quotient of voltage and current is equal to resistance, the quotient of voltage and resistance is equal to current, and the product of current and resistance is equal to voltage. He did not just tell us the definition of the law though. He went through a lengthy explanation that told us the derivation of Ohm’s Law. I think this is the part of the class I enjoy the most. I really appreciate the explanations that Bill gives regarding how certain principles came to be. This is material that was not covered in my high school physics class, so it makes me appreciate this advanced course that much more.

Today’s lab was very simple (in principle). All we had to do was become associated with the oscilloscope, which was not as easy as it sounds. The device has many different menus and configurations. In order to measure and compare the correct values, one must find just the right settings and sift through a series of menus in order to get to the correct arrangement. In order to get associated with the machine, our task was to measure how long it took for a generated pulse to go from one point to its opposite point, a reception port on the machine. Setting up the wires and cables for the task was easy enough, but we were baffled by the menus on the oscilloscope. We needed the help of a TA to get us out of our haze. Iron Man was busy, but thankfully Ryan is very knowledgeable about the device and he was able to help us get going in the right direction. After Ryan helped us, we completed the lab without any issues and my entire group knows a few of the basics of using an oscilloscope.

Our post-luncheon lecture covered several things. First we discussed diodes, which are conductors that only allow current to flow in one direction. Then Bill combined the ideas of wavelengths from yesterday with our instruction on the oscilloscope that we had earlier. The latter did not have much new information; rather it explained what we were going to be testing in the lab and how we would go about doing it. Our task was to illuminate LED’s and, using the oscilloscope, measure how many volts it took to light it ever-so-slightly. After doing this for three different colors of LED’s, all of which we recorded different values for, we were tasked with finding how much energy was required to illuminate the lights, what the wavelength of the lights were, and the frequencies of the lights. Luckily, we were able to finish in a timely manner (despite technical difficulties) because Brian, Julia, and I had to meet Mr. Miranda to visit Swarthmore College.

Our cohort took a train to Swarthmore at about 4:45. We arrived at the campus and my first glimpse of campus took my breath away. We stepped off the train and turned around to see a lush, green hillside with many trees and a group of students playing Frisbee in the distance. It was a truly magnificent first impression. That first impression did not change as we walked to the General Admissions Building. Everything was tranquil. I would not be surprised if you could hear someone whispering from over thirty feet away if you were standing on the main green. The entire campus was silent, even with a lot of people on campus! We took a self-guided tour with complementary maps from the Admissions Building because it was so late in the afternoon. I could not get enough of the Swarthmore campus; it was like a dream. There were even Adirondack chairs scattered about the campus for group discussion or solitary reading. You could tell that this was truly a campus for intellectuals. I absolutely loved my first impression of the school and I plan to discuss Swarthmore as a possibility for college with my college counselor.

After the train ride back, our cohort enjoyed dinner at a nice pub and enjoyed massive meals. We then returned home and told our friends our perspectives of Swarthmore. The rest of the night was spent relaxing after a long day of work and learning. We also learned that the fifth floor lounge is off limits because other parties left quite a mess the last time they were up there. It’s okay with me though, because we hadn’t been going up there much lately anyway because there were always a lot of people up there and it was always loud. We have found a new hangout in the dorm building that hopefully will go unnoticed for a long time. On that note, I am signing off.

The Solitary Chair...
Something isn't right here...
The Swarthmore belltower

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