Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Everything Is Illuminated

Today we had a mind blowing lecture in physics class.  We were discussing wave-particle duality, or the concept that all particles act like waves even though they are solid particles, hence the name wave-particle duality.  It was a really fascinating reality that I had heard of before but had never actually been able to describe or understand.  Wave-particle duality has helped me to bridge the gap between different areas of science like Biology, Chemistry, and Medicine.  Before today I would not be able to explain why things like viruses and atoms can’t be seen with a typical microscope.  I originally thought that it was simply a matter of not powerful enough optics, but now I know that it is because a virus or atom has a wavelength shorter than the wavelength of light; meaning that the light waves from photons are too large to bounce light off the object, making it visible.  In order to see such small things we must use an electron microscope which has a considerably smaller wavelength than a virus or atom making it possible to see them. 

I thought that today’s lecture was an amazing explanation of how anything can be described as a wave, making it possible to graph.  It we can graph it, and then we can study and learn from the data, which in essence makes science possible.  I can arguably say that today’s lecture was the most important lecture of the entire course.  I could have never even imagined that a baseball being thrown could have a measurable wavelength.  Granted, the wavelength is only a few nano-meters,  but the fact that the wave even exists was fascinating on its own. 

Today we were also given a presentation from Dr. Bob Johnson on DNA Sequencing.  His presentation was about the different methods being researched on how to efficiently map the human genome.  It was a curious shift from waves to biology, but then I realized that the study of the human genome could only be done with an electron microscope due to wave-particle duality, so in the end everything made sense.  I enjoyed the presentation and the insight that Dr. Johnson provided for us and allowed for the opportunity to allow different perspectives of subjects in science.  Dr. Johnson made a really great point to us that physics, biology, and chemistry are all different categories of science created by humans, but in reality the science is all the same and are all interconnected; meaning that a good scientist should never get tunnel-vision when doing their research and should instead realize that the science exists everywhere and not in just one particular field.

During lab today we were using LED’s or Light Emitting Diodes to measure the threshold voltage that makes the light shine, and to find the wavelength of the lights using a spectrometer.  This lab was interesting but the math was complex enough to make me feel overwhelmed.  However, we finally worked through everything and completed the data tables with only a three percent error.  After today I feel that everything is illuminated in the world and that there is a deeper connection between every piece of matter in the universe.  I think that I will be in deep thought for the next few days while I try to imaging the implications of what I have learned today.

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