Reflections from a Non-Inertial Reference Frame

Share This:

Friday, August 2, 2019


Giavanna Jadick

Just the other week was the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11, and a group of us interns went to watch a reenactment of the launch projected on the Washington Monument. We were clustered into a Metro car, as tightly packed as particles in a Bose-Einstein condensate, when to the thrill of all, someone produced a bouncy ball from their pocket. Being the experimentalists we are, we quickly constructed a makeshift accelerometer consisting of two SPS interns, a square meter of space, and the ball (maybe that can be next year’s SOCK). To our glee, the ball bounced up and down in perfectly straight lines while the train was moving at a constant speed. It wasn’t until the train pumped the brakes that its motion was disrupted, arcing into the stomach of the intern at the back of our “accelerometer.” It was fascinatingly disorienting to watch the ball disobey Newton’s laws right in front of my eyes-- probably because, this week, I’ve been that bouncy ball.

I don’t mean to say I’ve been bouncing off the walls (although as my fellow interns know, I’m always jazzed). Things are slowing down. Just last Monday, I was cruising down the highway of life at a peachy 75, sitting down for breakfast with John Mather and Bill Foster and grabbing coffee with the Science Committee chief of staff. Yet, Wednesday was my last day of work on Capitol Hill, this morning I gave my final presentation for the summer at ACP, and now I’m packing my bags and we’re rolling to a stop.

A non-inertial reference frame is any frame of referencing experiencing a nonzero acceleration. Classical laws of motion turn wonky. That’s certainly true right now-- I feel like we’ve been in DC for much longer than 10 weeks. It’s time to go home already? It’s pretty crazy, but the SPS internship experience has been awesome and one I would never have traded. It is impossible to articulate how much appreciate my fellow interns and everything I’ve learned from them this summer, but since I kicked off these blog posts by stating my goals, I feel obligated to try. There’s no better place for reflecting than a non-inertial reference frame!

My two goals for the summer were to learn from the staffers in the committee and to “get to know my fellow SPS interns.” Wow! Was there ever a time I didn’t know my fellow interns? Now, they’re some of my best friends. I want to take this obscure spot in the middle of this blog to thank a few special people in a really long run-on sentence. So, thanks to Nicholas for being his authentic self and saying things like “groovy” and inspiring me to have the confidence to put myself out there; thanks to Noura for living with me and being hilarious and teaching me anything from cool demos to the value of unabridged enthusiasm; thanks to Meg for the late night conversations about philosophy and thoughts on what it might be to live a meaningful life; thanks to Nolan for the early morning runs on the waterfront, the impromptu guitar jam sessions, the great book recommendations and the perfectly tempered optimism; thanks to Cate for talking about life and encouraging me to think empathetically and for going to Sunday yoga and also for going to Penn State; thanks to Sammi for being amazingly pumped about science activism and for asking me to get lunch with her the second week when I was way too shy to have reached out on my own; thanks to Jackie for helping me think more openly about the options we have in life, for inspiring me with her own research and approach to life, and also for being incredibly bright; thanks to Tibbs for his fantastic knowledge of the world, willingness to indulge my curiosities, infinite patience in explaining everything, and of course his awesome cooking; thanks to Eric for being furious but secretly one of the nicest people I’ve ever met and helping me learn more about people; thanks to Terry for being brilliant and awesome to talk to about anything, especially the random things like hidden history and especially about nuclear pasta; thanks to Jerry for scooping and beautiful prose and crosswords; thanks to Bells for being an artist who doesn’t let science get in the way of that; thanks to Amber for unbridled enthusiasm and beautiful goals; thanks to Andrew for pushing me to be precise; thanks to Sariah for being kind; thanks to Anna for being thought-provoking.

I came into this summer intending to go to law school and work on legal science issues after graduating, but being in the science committee has reminded me how much more I have to learn. I am a fundamentally curious person, and being thrown into an ocean of scientific ideas from all fields gave me an insatiable urge to understand everything. “Learning everything” isn’t exactly the most practical goal, but it reminded me of my core values-- knowledge and truth. So, I am going into my senior year hoping to figure out what I don’t yet know and prioritize the knowledge I want to gain moving forward in physics. Hopefully one day I’ll learn something no one else has, and I’ll use that to make some change for good. As of now, that probably means diving into some research and aiming for grad school, but I’m not committed to anything yet. I’m enjoying every moment!

Oops, I did the thing again. I got reflective and forgot to talk about the actual stuff I did this week. Never fear! My next post will be a comprehensive list of all the cool stuff I did this summer (with pictures!) Stay tuned, my dudes.

Giavanna Jadick