Week 1: Two whales’ lengths worth of M&M’s*

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Monday, June 13, 2016


Isabel Binamira

*lined up nose to tail

My first week at APS has been fantastic. Everyone has been incredibly welcoming, making the transition to a new place much easier. Orientation went pretty much as expected, as we were pumped full of information about the program and the summer for a few hours early on a Monday. However, we also got the opportunity to have a brief lunch with Dr. Mathers, a Nobel Prize laureate, which balanced out the morning in the conference room.

After orientation I met my mentors, Becky and James, and was given a tour of the APS offices. The department is about to shuffle around the building, and everyone has been cleaning up over the past few days. As a result, many cool trinkets have come out of the woodwork (most notably: an embalmed laboratory shark used for dissections). 

We held our first outreach event on Friday, in partnership with Astronomy on the Mall. The best part about the event was talking to kids who were starting to solidify their interest in space and basic physics. Seeing reactions to our explanations of Möbius strips, acoustics, moon phases, and the relative size of the solar system made the importance of scientific outreach sink in. Hopefully, we were able to show at least one person that an interest in the sciences are worth pursuing. 

My project has really started to take shape over the past week. I've set goals and a rough timeline to follow throughout the next couple of weeks that should keep my project on track for the summer. I want to focus on new methods of connecting with people to continue to keep the APS on the forefront of science outreach. I am in the midst of creating an editorial timeline and content outlines for the project. Going through topics for the outline has allowed me to do basic research on several topics in physics that I currently have no formal background in. I believe that if I am able to condense the theories behind many of these concepts, I can get others interested in learning more about physics.

Living with other SPS Interns has been a blast. While we are all in the SPS Intern program, we all have different histories and relationships with physics, so each person brings their own perspective to the table. I can’t wait for the weeks to come, and to hear about how other projects are progressing. 

Now, an explanation of the title of this blog: 

Doodle of whale to M&M comparison

The ACP is renovating its cafeteria, and the Grand Opening is scheduled for today, Monday. In honor of the opening, everyone is receiving gift cards worth $25 to spend at the new cafeteria. Upon reading the building-wide email Becky exclaimed, “hey, we get 25 bucks!” To which James replied, “mhm, and I’m gonna spend it all on M&M’s.”

Now. You may be thinking, as I was, how many M&M’s can $25 get you? Assuming vending machine prices, probably not that many. But, if you factor in larger packs and online shopping possibilities, the result is a lot of M&M’s.  

On Amazon:

A 56 oz bag of M&M’s costs $14.22

A 42 oz bag of M&M’s costs $9.39

A 3.4 oz bag of M&M’s costs $1.67

The total cost is just over $25, and the total weight is 101.4 oz (which converts to roughly 2,874 g). Online, the average weight of a single M&M is 0.9 g. Dividing out the total weight by the weight per M&M gives you approximately 3,193 M&M’s. The average diameter of an M&M can also be found online, listed as 1.04 cm. So, 3,193 M&M’s times 1.04 cm per candy coated chocolate, means that lined up diameter to diameter, James would have roughly 33 m of M&M’s (single-file). The average length of a male blue whale in the Southern Hemisphere is 23 m and the average length of a whale shark is 10 m. So, if you had one southern male blue whale swim nose to tail with a whale shark, you’d have the length of a strand of James’ M&M’s in whales. 

Isabel Binamira