Monday, July 15, 2013

Your Time is Different Than My Time

Another mind blowing day in physics class goes by.  Today we finally entered my favorite category of physics; relativity and cosmology.  We had a guest speaker, Dr. Mark Trodden who came to us to talk about particle cosmology and the advancements made by cosmologists in today’s world.  During the day we also talked about exponential functions and also conducted our first lab activity with our interest groups.  Thankfully I was able to get into the radio telescopes group despite the fact that there were only four people allowed in and almost ten people applied. 

During morning lectures, we discussed exponential functions and special relativity.  It is interesting how there are so many things that behave like an exponential function in the world like interest rates and the rate in which water goes down a drain.  I found this lecture to be insightful and interesting and I look forward to the labs that we will be doing on exponential functions in the days ahead.  Unlike most other labs, we will be able to choose the lab and the people who we would like to work with in these labs.

After discussing functions, we shifted gears and began special relativity.  This was the area of physics that I find the most interesting by far.  The fact that time changes relative to how fast an object is moving is mind boggling. Here's an example; if you are driving to work then time is moving slower than if you were stopped at a stop light.  No wonder road trips feel so long.  Although this may seem like a neat trick, keep in mind that we are only talking about a few nanoseconds and it is only at incredible speeds do we see any noticeable change.  It almost seems to me that almost every scientific experiment seems invalidated by this fact, if we want to consider the ultra-small time difference between the objects and the observers.  Thankfully, Dr. Trodden’s presentation about cosmology considered relativity, so we can trust his evidence.   He gave a fascinating presentation about dark matter and dark energy that went far more into detail than a science show or magazine can ever take you.  I would seriously consider doing work in cosmology but the drawback is that there aren't any cool pictures that you would use in astronomy.  On the plus side though, being an astronomer is similar to cosmology in many ways, in the way that the two observe and analyze the universe.   

Al Capone's Room
After classes were over, I went with a group of people to the Eastern State Penitentiary tour across the river.  It was a really fascinating prison tour that highlighted the way in which the prison was built and the ideology behind its existence.  The idea of the penitentiary was that the prisoners would be secluded from each other in order to encourage quit self-reflection of the prisoners’ lives.  Other highlights of the prison were that it held Al Capone for about a year and was the first penitentiary in the world; who’s missions was to reform prisoners instead of just punish.  The prison was also supposed to be haunted, but we didn't seem anything out of normal.  

The Haunted Cell Block

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