Thursday, July 24, 2014

From the Formation of Galaxies to the Behavior of Electrons

Part of an ionizer seen in our tour of the Singh Center
Today we came into class fifteen minutes early so that we could go out and tour labs starting at exactly nine. (It didn't quite work, since there were six people who apparently didn't get the memo and still came to class at the normal time.) We visited labs on biomedical diffuse optics, soft matter, nanotechnology, sensors, and telescopes. The first thing the person in the first lab we went to (diffuse optics) said was "Basically, we shine light through people." One of my favorites was the nanotechnology building, because there was a lot of art because the dean of engineering was a fan. It is interdisciplinary, meaning biologists, chemists, physicists, and engineers work together on the same things. We also saw the newly built Singh Center in the nanotechnology building. I also thought it was interesting that a whole section was lit by orange lights, to prevent UV rays from getting in. Unfortunately, because we had to visit seven labs in different buildings in a short amount of time, we were constantly rushing around and only spent fifteen minutes in each lab, which I thought kind of defeated the purpose of the whole thing.

After spending a few hours frantically running around, we took a much-needed break before our guest lecturer, James Aguirre (one of the people whose labs we visited), came to talk to us about long-wavelength astronomy. He talked about the expanding universe, and how if you look far away in space, you're also looking far back in time, and the wavelengths of the light from those distant objects gets stretched beyond the visible spectrum. His team sends up telescopes in huge balloons over Antarctica to gather data from beyond the visible spectrum that can help astronomers look back in time.

A picture of electron diffraction through a crystal
In the afternoon, my group worked on our quantum mechanics presentation that we will give tomorrow. We did a lot in class, but met up at eight and worked on it further for another hour and a half. During class, Bill also showed us an electron diffraction tube using a cathode ray. Tomorrow everyone will give a presentation (or multiple), and in the afternoon Bill will give a mysterious speech on an unannounced subject. I can't believe tomorrow is the last day of the program--it feels like it's gone so fast!

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