Friday, July 19, 2013

To be Perfectly Frank(lin Institute)

Foucault's Pendulum
I would have legally changed my name for make a punnier (punderful?) title, but the paperwork takes several days to file. Future physics students: be sure to file the paperwork early (be punctual) so that you can make a funny title. The Franklin Institute was only a few minute bus ride away, so only about 92% of the water in my body was dissipated in sweat during the ride there. Before they let us wander through the museum, they pointed out the Foucault pendulum. This pendulum is proof that the earth turns. It swings freely, in a straight line in its reference frame. The earth turns underneath it, but because of inertia, it continues to go in its own path. This makes it appear as if the path of the pendulum is changing. 

The giant heart
The first section we visited was the one on the heart and other anatomy. There were a few interesting displays, where you could see the structure of the body. The centerpiece, however, was a giant heart. It was so big you could walk through it. It was a great exhibit. We then moved on to the electricity room. The electricity room had a few interesting exhibits. It had a wall with a bunch of lights in it, which lit up when radio waves were sensed. There was a game in which you had to be a power company, building various types of power plants. It was somewhat fun, though the controls did not work very well at all, so it was extremely hard to play. There were also a few circuits you could connect with your body. We then moved on to a little place with brain teasers. There were a few riddles (I got one and Connor got the other), a puzzle where you had the numbers 1 through 9, and you had to make each row, column, and diagonal add up to the same thing (completed fairly quickly), some tangram-like things you had to position into a t (didn't take too long), and some shapes you had to put into a cube (took a decent amount of time).

The next section was the one on air. There were several things with fans, where you could adjust the shapes of wings or other objects. There was a plane hanging from the ceiling. We then went into the changing earth section. It had displays on a variety of things: erosion, earthquakes, and climate change, among other things. While less hands on than some sections, the displays were quite good. We then headed downstairs to the section on space. The coolest part was right at the beginning. It was a rock older than the earth itself, that we were allowed to touch. There were then some displays on constellations and phases of the moon. There were also loads of games. Connor and I watched 2 adult ladies struggle with some of them. After they left, Connor and I decided to try. It was quite easy. Times have certainly changed; today, according to some studies, 91% of kids play video games. There were several other video games, but other people were playing them. Given that none of them looked particularly interesting, we decided to move on.

An optical illusion: the dragon is concave
We then headed up to the third floor. There was a gallery of what claimed to be some of the best pictures of all time. I recognized several. They were all National Geographic covers. I liked that they all had descriptions of how each picture was obtained. We then went to Sir Isaac's loft. It was a room dedicated to physics. There was a demonstration of leverage, a demonstration of gyroscopes, a section on optical illusions, and several other things. There was also a demonstration of energy transfer, with balls going through all sorts of crazy tracks, triggering more things. There was also a video playing of a massive chain of events, about half an hour long. Balls knocked over buckets which caused a flammable substance to ignite, lighting a fuse, triggering a rocket, knocking over the next thing. It was incredibly long, so we had some lunch.

After lunch, we returned to the video, and finally finished all of it. We then explored the sports section. It was overrun with little kids, so we left fairly quickly. We went to the giftshop. The bookstore had several interesting books, so we sat there and read for a while. One of the interesting books I picked up was a facebook history of the world. It was quite entertaining. Soon enough, it was time to go. After we got back, I programmed a bit. The afternoons project was making an optimized SHA1 hashing algorithm. I had dinner, then went to a movie: Red 2. It was decent: a fine use of time. It's always fun to see a few mindless explosions. I then went back to my dorm and continued to code. 

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