Thursday, July 7, 2011

Learn Something Everyday

Today started off at my now routine wake-up time of 7 AM. By solving a complex multi-variable equation that includes the variables of studying, eating, having fun, and sleeping, I have finally settled into a good routine. While the time blocks assigned to each of these activities may be fairly routine from day to day, each day so far has been unique and fun. After a quick shower and then a breakfast run with some friends, I walked over to class with Julia and Alex. While I’ve enjoyed meeting so many new people, having Julia and Alex around, who I’ve known for a while longer, is great too. We arrived in class a few minutes early but very soon Bill Berner was up front with a huge smile on his face.

For me, the majority of the first few hours of class were review. From my physics class at school, I already have a good idea of the concepts of momentum and inertia which Bill was talking about. While I already knew the material in the lecture, once again I was impressed by the lab that followed. When we walked into the lab, we set up the motion sensor, hooked it up to Logger Pro (lab software), and set up our video camera. We then took a basketball and dropped it, as it fell it went further and further away from the sensor. The sensor we used takes 60 measurements every second of the ball’s position, velocity, and acceleration. In this particular experiment, the main things we were interested in were the various forms of the balls energy. By using well known physics equations to calculate the ball’s kinetic and potential energy in real time, we could easily see how the ball’s energy changed forms. Furthermore, we also had Logger Pro graph the total energy (the sum of the ball’s kinetic and potential energy) so we could see it gradually decreasing with time. While the lab was intended to illustrate that the total energy in a system is constant, it appeared to decrease because we had no way to account for the energy lost to heat and sound when the ball squished.

In the afternoon lab, we continued to experiment with optics. This time, we were learning about refraction instead of reflection. Bill cleverly took an example of Snell’s Law applied to the scenario of a lifeguard calculating the most efficient path to a drowning swimmer and reshaped it to introduce the topic of refraction. By analyzing the angles that light refracted in our prism, we could learn a lot about the material the prism is made of. 

After the lab, Bill reminded us that we are taking a field trip to a car museum tomorrow. We will be learning more about inertia, but also have the side benefit of looking at a $21 million dollar Alfa Romeo from 1938. While I’ve had my driver’s license for around six months already, Bill has stressed that the insurance to drive that car would cost more than going to college for the rest of my life.

Finally this evening, I went along with about 40 other people to Penn’s Landing where we watched a free movie outdoors. The movie was the docu-drama “127 Hours” about a man who was trapped in a slot canyon and was forced to cut his own arm off to escape. While it was certainly gory, the underlying message to me was that humans can persevere through so much more than they are put through on a daily basis. 

That said, only getting 7 hours of sleep doesn’t look so bad.

1 comment:

  1. Brian,

    You’re going to come across a lot of situations in the next few years where it seems that what you’re being told is just review. It would be a mistake, though, to assume that it’s all review. Sometimes there’s a reason why they give you college credits for a college course and not for a high school course. There’s always something new that might be thrown in when least expected. And even if that’s not the case, a different approach or intensity may be involved.

    Of course, you know this already so I really didn’t need to tell you this but it makes me look wise here in the blog.

    Just curious, are you dong anything more than just attending classes? I’m not seeing anything in your blogs about “college” life or the people you’re meeting.

    And photos would be nice, too. Lots of photos would be even nicer.