Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Not Enough Time in the Day...

Today seemed to fly by. Ever since I woke this morning, things seemed to be non-stop. I felt rushed while walking around campus, it felt like our activities came and went, and even time just sitting talking seemed to be fleeting. However, this didn’t make the day any less enjoyable. I still had a great time in class and after class.

Today Mary (one of our class TA’s) announced that we would be cutting back on the amount of labs we do in class. The reason we had been doing two labs per day in the beginning was to make sure that everybody had the basic knowledge that we would need for the rest of the course. Looking back at what we had learned, it makes sense. Mechanics is the very first step to a physics class and optics really helps us understand perspective, which can help us with our observation in other labs. Now that we have covered the basics, we are ready for the more intense labs, such as measuring the speed of light. Today we discussed waves and particles. This lecture was a lot different than the others because it was more theoretical than the rest. With our other discussions, we had been learning about things that could actually be measured and tested accurately. With waves and particles, there is a lot of guess work involved because we are dealing with things that are either invisible or too minute to see. Despite these obstacles, Bill and Ryan explained particle physics (a small part of it anyway) with extreme detail. Near the end of the lecture, Bill informed us that we would be performing our own research on a topic of our choosing next week. This project will be done in groups and we have to assemble a presentation upon its completion. We then got a fifteen minute break from the lecture to choose our groups and topic. I will be researching Newton’s Law of Cooling with Julia, Brian, and Onur. I am very excited about working together and learning about a topic that I have never studied before.

After the break, we had our first guest lecture. Dr. Mark Trodden, a professor here at Penn, came to talk to us about astrophysics and cosmology. Dr. Trodden received his PhD at Brown University and now teaches at Penn, as well as lectures other universities. I had never dealt with astrophysics or cosmology before today so this was completely uncharted territory. I was very lost at first, but with careful note taking, I was able to get a slight handle on Dr. Trodden’s lecture. The majority of the lecture revolved around light, energy, and how the two interact and behave in space. He also discussed the movement of galaxies and a few aspects of the big bang theory. One of the most interesting things that he said today was that the galaxies are accelerating, and that is proof of a big bang. The idea is that if the galaxies are accelerating outward, there had to be something to propel them outward in the first place, which is where the idea of a big bang comes in. Dr. Trodden was very thorough and was able to cover a massive amount of information into only an hour. That is something I really admire about college professors – they can talk at length about almost anything and still manage to make even the most complicated of topics interesting and engaging.

Dr. Trodden giving his lecture.

After the guest lecture, we had lunch, and following lunch was another brief lecture. We did not really cover any new concepts, but it was more an explanation of how we would have to conduct ourselves while researching our new topics. This research will be much different than the other labs that we have done. They will give us the materials, but we will have to come up with procedures and tests to run on our own. They are giving us complete control, which is something I’m not quite used to in a lab setting. Immediately after Bill gave us our instructions and guidelines for the project, we went into the lab to perform our first tests. We observed how fast thermometers would adjust to different temperatures after being placed in or removed from hot and/or cold water. Our graphs showed exponential changes in the changing temperatures of the thermometers. We have only taken a few steps, but I am already looking forward to this project.

After class, Brian and I returned to our dorm and reorganized our room. We maximized our floor space and made a few more areas for guests to sit. Since our room is the biggest out of all of our friends, it is kind of a central hub. After organizing, we went to dinner with Fred, Alison, Julia, Abheek, and Onur. Afterwards we decided to get a little exercise and throw around our Frisbee. Somehow we wound up in a game of ultimate Frisbee with another summer program at Penn right now. We won 15-10 in the end. We all went to get victory slurpees at 7-11 again. We decided to make it a tradition that whenever we play an intense game of ultimate Frisbee, whether we win or lose, we grab a slurpee after the game. We spent the remainder of the night relaxing out on the quad, and later in our new lounge when it got too dark.

Although everything that happened today seemed to go by so fast, I still had a great day. They say time flies when you are having fun. Today I experienced that first hand, and I loved every speeding minute of it.

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