Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Young Galileos

Today was another very long day. I woke up early enough to complete a lab survey and take a leisurely stroll to the breakfast dinning hall with some of my floor mates. I then walked back to my dorm to gather my learning tools and headed down to the Physics building with Alex and Brian.

Today's class was a little more lecture heavy, but honestly, I enjoy the lectures almost as much as the labs. Bill (not Dr. Berner, he insists) showed us the basics of video analyzing. He showed us the example of a traveling cart that shoots a ball up in the air and then catches it as it falls back down. Using Logger Pro, he was able to trace the trajectory of the ball through the air. With this technology, it was really easy to see the parabolic 'y' graph and the linear 'x' graph. The lecture got even more exciting when he started to explain how we would be using both video analysis and an accelerometer to collect data about the roller coasters are going to ride next Friday

After that lecture, Mary talked about Newton's Laws. Even though I have already learned about them in detail, she described them in such a way that I got a much deeper understanding of the concept. She also had some exciting demonstrations involving a 3kg weight on a bungee cord. The lab we did after her lecture was also a review of what we have done in class, only instead of using timers to try and estimate average velocity and then acceleration, we used motion detectors at the connections between force, mass, and acceleration were much clearer.

At lunch, I walked with my lab group to the dinning hall that serves lunch. Even after only two days, I've gotten to know all three of them quite well and they we are usually able to work constructively even during labs that might be confusing or frustrating at first (the four younger teachers as well as Bill who walk around during labs are very helpful so those moments are short).

After break, we worked more with lenses, specifically building telescopes (both Keplerian and Galilean. We started with just a table, two lenses, and a sheet of paper to find the focusing point and we were able to build a functional "telescope". We figured out how exactly to position them based on the lectures and labs we had done yesterday. It was pretty amazing getting a clear picture of the end of the long hallway.

Next we assembled a more typical telescope with PVC pipe. Using our make-shift telescope, we read a fortune cookie fortune that they had taped to the bottom of a 2-meter-long tube. We also fiddled around with creating different focal distances using different lengths and installing cross hairs to make focusing easier. By the end of the day, I had many charts of data and an sound knowledge of the workings of lenses in a telescope.

When I got back to my dorms, after I completed another lab survey, the rest of my day was spent getting to know my peers. I relaxed in my room for a while and chatted with my roommate about her Bio-med classes. She tells me that they spent a lot of time learning pipetting calibrations and technique. It sounded really interesting to me, as does every program offered for the summer courses (excepting, perhaps, the SAT enrichment class).

I also played a game of Frisbee, featuring some unique behind the back, through the legs, and spinning in circles throwing techniques. A few of them actually compete in Ultimate Frisbee at their high schools, so they could do some pretty cool tricks.

After dinner, we once again ended the day in the buildings lounge playing board games and sharing stories. Because we come from such totally different cultures, there is always something for us to talk about. For instance, today I met someone who was born in India, moved to Russia when he was three, and then to England where he lives now. Sadly, he says, he has forgotten all his Russian, and although he can understand Bengali, he can only speak it fluently when he is dreaming. Each person is so unique and exciting to get to know, it is extremely hard for all of us to go back to my room at the end of the night. Fortunately, we have a month of tomorrows to look forward to.

1 comment:

  1. Julia,

    Just curious: is “fiddled around” a technical term used in physics these days. I don’t recall that term used in my theoretical physics classes at Cal 40 years ago. I guess that as technology advances so does the nomenclature.

    Now that Frisbee thing you wrote about is right up my alley. When I was living in a dorm room at Cal we would play a Frisbee game where one team would stand at one end of the hall way and the other team standing at the other. The idea was to throw the Frisbee all the way down to your team mate without it ever hitting the walls, floor or ceiling. And, of course, your partner had to catch it.

    Sounds easy, right?

    Now, consider that the hallway is nearly 200 feet long and has maybe 20-25 open doors on both sides of the hallway. Between the lengthy distance and the variables of the wind blowing through the open doorways this was no easy feat.

    I may not have learned all that much in my classrooms but this was a skill I mastered. So, my education at Cal was not wasted after all.

    And in case you’re wondering, these were never just friendly games. There was always a wager with some brain cell killing item being the prize.