Friday, July 8, 2011

Week One: Complete

Week one here at Penn has come to a close. It has not yet been a full seven days, but our first week of class has concluded, so I think that counts. It has been a phenomenal week. I’ve experienced one of my favorite school subjects in a whole new way, made a lot of new friends, and seen a lot of a fantastic university campus. This was the perfect way to begin my four week excursion here at Penn.

Today’s class was very fun. The lecture this morning was all about waves and how they behave in certain situations. Bill decided to give an extra long lecture today. Our lectures are scheduled to be an hour long, but they usually run for around an hour and fifteen minutes. Today Bill lectured for close to an hour and forty minutes! I was astounded that I was able to stay focused on a lecture for such a length of time without a break. Bill really has a way of captivating the students in his class. I did not even realize how much time had passed until one of our class’s TA’s mentioned that he needed to wrap up pretty quickly if we were to get to the lab. Today’s lab was the first (and last) that my group (Team Not Last) was actually able to complete fairly quickly. We measured several characteristics, such as wavelengths, of light when put through a filter. My group picked it up fairly quickly and we were able to complete the experiment and come to the correct conclusion. I was proud and sad at the same time. Proud because we had finally completely come together as a team and succeeded, but sad because we will be in new lab groups next week. I will miss working with Ana, Greg, and Sarah because our group had excellent chemistry, even when our labs weren’t exactly going well.

Following the lab, Brian, Julia, and I met Fred for lunch at Houston Market. We had to eat quickly though because Julia, Brian, and I had to return to the dorms so we could embark on our first physics field trip to the Simeone Museum of Historic Cars. This is where we would perform our mechanics lab of the day. We were tasked with applying what we had learned about acceleration, forces, inertia, etc. to guiding a bowling ball around a “race course” with only quick brushes from a broom. I assume this location was chosen because it had wide, open, flat floors that we could use for our lab. This lab was actually quite a challenge and it was harder than I expected it to be. Every group was timed and, true to our group name, we weren’t last! We actually got second to last, but we had quite a few mishaps on the track, so I’m okay with it.

After we completed the lab, Bill gave us a tour of the museum, which housed at least one-hundred cars in an old hangar. Bill told us the other day that he was a bit of a car fanatic. Today he lived up to his statement. He was able to give us a detailed history of every car in the museum as well as explain the physics behind design details that were used in making them. I was truly astonished today when we completed the tour. I took about one-hundred and thirty pictures in the museum. I still haven’t been able to look through all of them to decide which of them I’d like to share on the blog, but when I pick my favorites I will post them. There were some genuinely beautiful cars in there, one of which was an Aston Martin DB1. That was one of the most gorgeous cars I had ever seen. I’m not even close to being a car enthusiast, but this museum was able to blow me away.

We returned to the dorms around our normal time (about 4:00-4:30) and hung out with Fred and talked about our day in physics. Later we went to dinner and then returned to the quad to meet our enormous group of over 80 students to go see Transformers: Dark of the Moon. I can honestly say that my mouth was hanging open for over half of the movie. It definitely redeemed the series after Rise of the Fallen. Not only was the movie good, but I sat next to Brian and we were making funny comments throughout the movie.

The week has come to a close on the ILC Penn cohort. After experiencing all that I have in the past week, I cannot thank Mr. Ramsey, Ms. Kronenberg, Don, the sponsors, my parents, and everybody else involved in the ILC for giving me this life-altering opportunity. Thanks to all of them, I am able to gain knowledge that will help me in my career and meet a lot of great friends in the process. This is truly a marvelous program, and I still have another three weeks to go.


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  2. Alex,

    Let me see if I can understand this: a group of smart physics students go to a movie where machines come alive and are able to almost instantaneously transform themselves into—just about anything. And you are all sitting there with mouths agape soaking it all in?

    Yes, Alex, I understand that the purpose of a movie is to entertain and you’re supposed to leave your sense of common sense at the door but aren’t we stretching things a little bit?

    I look forward to seeing your photos of the cars. I’m not a car enthusiast, either but I know a cool car when I see one.

    That lab experiment that you did where you were trying to move a subject that had it’s own inertia that did not want to have its course changed is often like dealing with some of our ILC students. No matter how hard we try to get them to go in a specific direction they have their own ideas (inertia) and fight us tooth and nail to keep going in their original direction. You’ll have to tell me how you succeeded in changing the course of your immoveable object.