Thursday, July 10, 2014

Physics Is the New "Attraction"

The class immediately started today with a few simple experiments that we each did at our desks. Craig was in charge of giving us directions and he lectured for the beginning of the class on energy and charges. The first thing we had to do for our experiment was to rip a scrap of paper into smaller (hole-punched size) pieces. Then, we had to rub our pencil against our shirts and hold the pencil above the pieces of paper, and watched the magic happen. The pencil started to attract the paper like a magnet, which proved that we were able to charge the pencil by transferring energy into it as we were rubbing it against our shirts. 

Our second experiment was to transfer energy onto tape instead of the pencil to see if we would get similar results. After sticking the tape onto our desk and rubbing it for a few seconds, we had to rip it off immediately and place the non-sticky side of the tape over the pieces of paper. It had the same effect as the pencil, since it also attracted the paper. 
"I've got the power."
I have always thought of electric charges as only positive and negative; attraction and repulsion. However, today's lesson proved that there was much more in depth than simply protons and electrons. Craig drew out a chart with a number of arrows to help us relate each concept back to one another. He also used an analogy based off on one of his experiences when surveying a teacher's history lecture at an old school in West Philly. The history teacher made a reference in his class about how ships carrying valuable cargo would use tactical methods to avoid pirates by not attracting them to their ship. Their strategy was to have the guards of the ship hide from the pirates, tricking them by not making the cargo on board seem valuable. Craig used this as a helpful analogy to explain the rules of attraction and repulsion, or in other words, the Fundamental Rules of Charge.

Soon after, Bill brought out an electrostatic generator, and pulled off a daring experiment where he transferred a large amount of voltage into his body; it was enough energy to kill him. The science behind this trick was that the electrons passing through him continues to transfer themselves into the ground, leaving no damage on Bill. He performed another feat by placing both of his hands onto the generator, causing his hair to stick out in all directions due to the static from the generator.
Bill Berner feeling very accomplished with himself.
Before our break for lunch, another speaker, Allison Sweeney, came in with a presentation and an intriguing discussion about the broad fields in science that we can pursue towards in the near future. After sharing a few different types of occupations (each involving a type of science study) with us, we found out that she chose to study Marine Biology. Her PowerPoint was quite fascinating as she explained the goals and focuses behind her job, and gave plenty of facts about the oddest kinds of sea animals with weird scientific names such as Galiteuthis and Chiroteuthis. Her work consisted of scuba diving trips, and collections of many endangered and rare creatures, where she would then observe and study in the lab rooms. My favorite part of the presentation was her clear and continuous expressions of all the love and passion she felt towards her job. I hope that someday, I will be able to find a job where I can enjoy doing the things that I love, just like Allison had found for herself.

After, we were able to have our lunch break, and the cohort gathered together to meet Mr. Hillyer in Houston Hall! Since it was his birthday yesterday, we all put together some ideas and surprised him with gifts, although it was only a feeble attempt towards showing him our appreciation for all that he has done for us so far. 

Never knew that Play-Doh could be so entertaining.
We finished our class session with a fun lab experiment on circuits and Ohm's Law. My lab group and I worked together, and successfully built our own simple circuit by using a generator and multimeter, light bulbs, wires, and Play-Doh. Our goal for this lab was to measure the relation between voltage and the current, both of which are information needed for Ohm's Law. After testing our Play-Doh sculpting skills, we formed the clay into a cylinder, which became a very effective charge resistor. 
Tomorrow will be our first field trip to the Simeone Foundation Museum where we will learn all about the Physics behind classic sports cars! We'll finally be able to see the "beauties" that Bill has been constantly talking about, and I couldn't be more excited. 

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