Thursday, July 18, 2013

Radioactive Clouds

The clouds weren't actually radioactive - they just had something radioactive in them. Class didn't officially start until 10 this morning, as the first bit had been set aside to work on presentations. I texted the others in my group, saying to meet at 9 in the main lecture hall. Unfortunately, I was the only one to get there before 9:30 or so. I was able to get a little work done, such as getting Logger Pro on my laptop and creating some graphs. At about 10:15 or 10:30, we had a guest speaker, Rick van Berg. He does work on the LSST, Large Synoptic Survey Telescope. It is not yet running, but they have most of what they need already. The speaker gave us an in-depth tour of the LSST, burying us under a veritable flood of specs. It is extremely fast and detailed. According to our speaker, the director claims that it could read the year on a quarter painted black in the moon's orbit (of course, this is probably an exaggeration). While the implications of the device were interesting, the talk itself was less interesting than some we had. He seemed too focused on telling us about how the telescope works, without saying much about what it might tell us.

We then had a second guest speaker, Randy Kamien. He is a professor of topology. His talk was ostensibly about liquid crystals, but he used liquid crystals to tell us about all sorts of things. He brought things such as Klein bottles and the previous lecture into his talk. He was an extremely good speaker, really keeping our attention. What he does is really interesting - it seems much more theoretical than experimental. He was also funny - when I asked him how programming is used, he said "we don't do anything." He then waited for about 10 seconds before he completed his sentence "with programming." While this example is perhaps not ideal, as it relies on timing and tone, which hard to convey in text, he caused us to laugh several times. He was really engaged with the audience. He might well have been the best orator yet, though the subject was a bit less interesting to me than the Higg's boson. 

After having lunch, we went to our interest groups. The cloud was working even better today, though I only saw a few mesons. We then put some various radioactive sources in (some produced alpha and others produced beta). While it wasn't that dramatic, we could often see trails when they were in. A few of us then went downstairs to look at a high energy project. We saw some scintillators and photomultipliers. The project that they were working on involved designing sensors for various particles. It was interesting to see their device. It was also interesting to note that they were coding. I love the prevalence of code in the modern world. Code should really be taught in schools. I am almost entirely self-taught, though I do talk and learn from other coders fairly often. The only coding classes my school offers are through the Tech academy. Not only would the academy severely limit the classes I could take, but the classes it teaches are at a very low level that I have surpassed in most areas. It is almost entirely web design. Web design is only a small part of things you could code. I also feel that, while I might learn something in the class, it would be mostly review. I already have an internship doing web design in the real world. I then had dinner and worked a bit on the presentation in my dorm with Connor.

1 comment:

  1. That’s interesting what your speaker was telling you about the LSST. I know that their’s aren;t up and running yet but last Spring I was able to buy a Chinese knock-off at Fry’s and mine works just fine. It’s pretty rough on batteries though.

    You know I’m just kidding here--it does fine with the batteries.