Thursday, July 7, 2011

Only Cool Guys Know Latin

Today was the first day that seemed to go by slowly. This wasn’t necessarily a bad thing because it gave me a chance to slow down and not feel rushed. That’s one thing that I’ve noticed about being here in Philadelphia. Ever since my arrival, I’ve noticed a change in the pace of my lifestyle. Things are a lot faster here in the east. Since I’m used to a more laid-back, easy-going lifestyle at home, this is quite a noticeable change. I think that’s why today’s slowness stood out to me. Although time seemed to crawl by today, it gave me the chance to enjoy what I did that much more.

The mechanics portion of our first lecture of the day concerned conservation laws, momentum, impulse, and different types of energy. I find that these refresher lectures are a great way to start my day because not only is it engaging, but I also learned this already so it makes me remember things I learned in physics this past year. I find comparing the different paces of my physics classes astonishing. We took a good one to two months covering material in school that we only took three days to cover here. Obviously the material cannot be covered as extensively and we do not get to practice the actual formulas that we are taught, but it is taught so thoroughly that it can be quickly understood by people who have never taken physics before. Bill added another nice nugget of information into today’s mechanics lab. He told us several Latin terms that corresponded with each concept he taught. I’m paraphrasing quite a bit here, but he essentially said that only cool guys know Latin. Bill’s humor never ceases to amuse, and I hope this continues.

Our mechanics lab today was very simple. Our job was to observe the changes in different kinds of energy, position, speed, and acceleration of a mini-basketball when it was dropped from a particular height. Once again we used the motion sensors in one of the Rittenhouse labs. I’m really enjoying being able to experiment with real equipment instead of doing small-scale high school experiments. I like high school science experiments and labs because they are often easily approachable and you can learn concepts fairly quickly, but to use real lab equipment makes it such a better experience.

Our second lecture continued our previous discussions about the reflection and refraction of light. Yesterday Bill only discussed these ideas in concept, but today he actually applied them to objects and taught us that way. He used lasers and prisms to show us different ways that refraction and reflection can occur. We also learned about the critical angle, where a laser that is pointed a prism will only reflect back into the prism and exit one side as oppose to reflecting and refracting (which is what happens to beams at any other angle). He gave an extensive lecture on these concepts and it made it that much easier to perform the lab.

I found our optics lab to be easier than the past couple of labs. Our task was to measure the angles of incidence, find the critical angle of our prism, and also find indexes of reflection. Essentially, our task was to find out how the light changed as it traveled through the prism and what that meant about how any other light at any other angle would pass through that object. This lab was especially fun because our groups got to sit in the dark and point laser levels at prisms which reflected red beams of light in several directions. This lab was fun and simple.

After class, I returned to my dorm to find a glorious fridge! I immediately started filling it with the bottles of water I purchased at Kmart yesterday so they could be cold for later. I’m making sure to keep hydrated because of all the walking we have to do and the extreme humidity. Following my excitement of the arrival of our fridge, a few of us went to do our laundry. I always find it slightly amusing to find someone my age who does not know how to do their own laundry. I’m not going to mention any names, but I once again had a good chuckle while I was tutoring a friend about how to separate and wash laundry. 

Once we had completed that daunting task, our group decided to toss around a Frisbee. We did this until dinner. We concluded the night by watching 127 Hours at Penn’s Landing in center city Philly. I was surprised by just how excellent that film was. Although it was gruesome, it was inspiring to watch Aron’s struggle for survival. I would recommend that movie to anyone (even those who might be a little squeamish).

A long, relaxing day was just what I needed. Although I have been having fun and doing a lot of things here at Penn, the chance to take a breather is always welcome in my book. Now that I’ve had my slow day, I am hoping that the next couple of days are just as fast-paced as the rest of my days have been.

1 comment:

  1. Alex,

    Let’s see, Bill starts telling you things in Latin and then tells you that only cool guys know Latin? Sounds kind of self-promoting, doesn’t it? I mean, rather than telling you this, shouldn’t you just automatically think of him as a cool guy? It’s kind of like the guy that jumps up and tells you he’s your leader and orders you to follow him. Shouldn’t you notice by his words and deeds that he’s a leader and then you naturally follow him?

    I’m not all that sure that the fast pace you’re experiencing has anything to do with your location. Sometimes you just find yourself in situations where people don’t sit around and wait for things to happen. They take control and MAKE things happen.

    Back when I was studying physics we didn’t have cool laser levels to play with. Our lasers were the real deal and cost megabucks.

    I know you all laugh at me when I talk to you about mastering your laundry BEFORE heading east but given this is your second ILC trip aren’t you still amazed at how many of your colleagues are mystified by this? Do you think we should have a mandatory tutorial on this for our future ILCers? Or maybe we should let them learn the hard way and end up with pink underwear because they mixed their whites and coloreds.