Friday, July 26, 2013

Going Out With A Bang

The final day here at the Penn Summer Physics Academy had arrived and what an adventure it was.  The day started off with our radio telescope group presentation.  The presentation went along fairly well overall, except for some unknown reason two of my slides on the PowerPoint were mysteriously deleted.  This caused me to have little to nothing to say during the presentation, which made me look like I didn't know what I was doing, which I did not appreciate.  Despite this error, the rest of the presentation went along smoothly.

After the presentation, Professor Berner began his demo show.  This was a large variety of different demonstrations loosely based on the material that we covered in the course.   We did lots of things, from shooting childhood favorites in the head with ball bearings, to hanging Mr. Berner on the ceiling, to blowing up a house.  Before you ask, the answer is yes we did do all of these things.  All of them were by far some of the best demonstrations that I have ever seen. 

During the shooting of the childhood favorite Barney, we stuck Barney to the bottom of a piece of metal with a magnet on it.  While this was being set up, a long barrel with a copper wire at the end was being sighted just above Barney’s head.   When the ball left the barrel it hit the copper wire causing the magnets holding Barney to release and during his fall he was shot in the head with the ball.  I thought that this was a clever example of how military snipers perform their work.

After that, we hung Mr. Berner.  Well technically he hanged himself using a giant spring attached to the ceiling.  He was actually sitting on top of a large metallic platform but he did in fact perform this without any safety harness.  The demonstration was to show an example of acceleration of an object moving up and down while on spring.

My personal favorite demo came after the acceleration demonstration.  It was a proof of concept on lighting rods and how they channel electricity through a metal instead of your house.   The demo involved a small wooden house that was held together with magnets with a spark plug inside and a detachable lightning rod on the roof.  To make things interesting Mr. Berner put some chemical into the house that was supposed to produce a very explosive gas.  With the lightning rod in place, the electricity went through the metal and not the house causing no reaction.  However, when the lightning rod was removed and we applied an electrical current, this happened.

Now you can see why this was my favorite demonstration of the day.  So the moral of the story here is to not have explosive gas in your house during a lightning storm of your house isn't grounded.

Start of the Blast
The Fireball

After everything was over, we all got special DVD disks with a photo montage of everything that happened over the summer.  It was a good keepsake which might be helpful to the next group of ILCers who want to know what physics at Penn is all about.  We were also given certificates for the program along with contact information for Professor Berner.  I plan on staying in touch with all of my instructors because they’re too good of teachers to just forget. 

When all of the goodbyes were over and we left the David Rittenhouse Lab we were all sad to leave but happy at the same time that we had been a part of such a special program.  A very special thanks is needed for all of the instructors and volunteers.  Bill Berner, is perhaps the most interesting and humorous physics teacher that I have ever seen, which made the class much more memorable and enjoyable.  I can guarantee that none of the other academies here had as much fun as physics did.  While others were sitting in boring lectures or having serious discussions, we were all having fun even if we were discussing wave particle duality or quantum mechanics.  This was all because we had the best staff that could ever be assembled together under one roof.

Although many people say their goodbyes to one another tonight, I still don’t feel the sadness that goes along with prolonged goodbyes. Tomorrow morning is probably when it will set in the most though. But for tonight, I spent my time with my friends playing wacky games and enjoying our last night together.  Even at the most prestigious universities, I doubt that there could ever be a larger collection of nerdy smart people all together at the same time.  If only every university could have such a large portion of super nerds in it instead of the having people who don’t care about success or their future.   Tomorrow we will depart and it will be off back home.  I want to get back to my city by the bay and remember what  the definition of sleep is again.

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