Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Penhattan Project

Gamma Radiation While Eating Donuts! What's a Beta Day Than This?
Today was an unusual day, because we had to wake up earlier and go to class at 8:30. This was because we had a date with destiny. It's name was Bomb, James Bomb. But in all seriousness, we had a serious discussion on the development of the atomic bomb and how it shaped society. Bill and Mary were saying that though the use of the atomic bomb against Japan was controversial, it really just magnified the problems that already existed within the world. For example, the atomic bomb was used against a civilian population that wasn't fighting. But then again, British bombers were bombing German civilian cities like Dresden and nobody really made a fuss about it until after the war. One can argue that the civilian cities were participating in building tanks and planes and so they were in effect part of the war. But someone could bring up the families and innocent babes who suffered a horrifying death that wasn't voluntary theirs. These arguments can go on and on, and people can ask the what ifs like what if the U.S. didn't drop the atomic bomb on Japan which someone might say led to countless American lives lost in Japan. Ultimately, the atomic bomb merely highlighted some of the controversial issues that aren't so black and white morally. And Bill brought up an important point which was that people shouldn't just avoid these issues, because if they do, then they might lose credibility and voice. Instead, people should make careful decisions with issues like these by being wise and not repeating the same mistakes over again. Once again, the concept of relativity pops up again even when it's not science. After the philosophical discussions on atomic bombs, we watched a nuclear bomb at the Trinity Test Site detonate before we moved on to have lunch.

Corn Syrupy Light With Phil Nelson
Following lunch, we had a speaker named Phil Nelson who was very personable. He told us that science isn't about believing something that someone says, but experiencing science for ourselves and understanding the concepts for ourselves. But then, sometimes our vision may trick us as he showed by creating a yellow light from green and red filter paper which was startling different from the green and red lights. He also demonstrated a weird concept that Louis Pasteur anticipated decades earlier which was that light going through polarized filters would appear as different colors in corn syrup than in water because of the asymmetry of the corn syrup molecules. These concepts could be applied to identifying faulty chromosomes which could help inform expecting parents and create individual health plans.

Exploring The World of Physics in Bill's Backroom!
Concluding Phil's lecture, our physics team started to work on one of our projects which was about capacitors and resistors. We created a powerpoint to show to the class and practiced speaking and presenting our concepts to the class. Presenting information like this is actually quite hard and made me learn the material better because I was forced to explain concepts like charge and capacitance to people who might not have had a background in electricity and magnetism. In conclusion, today was full of physics and I didn't really mind! But these presentations also got me to think philosophically on morals and on how I should approach controversial issues in a wise way. What other physics concepts will I see tomorrow? I'll find out on rollercoasters!

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