Week 1: Week of the Falling Triangle

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Monday, June 3, 2013


Caleb Heath

whitehouseWhat a week of firsts: my first breath of DC air, my first day of interning, my first taste of goat. I’m tired but happy. I expect to continue enjoying myself, but I don’t expect the exhaustion to subside. There’s much work left to do. And if there were no work . . . the city calls out for exploration.

As I took the Metro yesterday, a fierce yearning seized me at a stop that would not take me to Foggy Bottom, where I and the other interns lodge at the International House. Before the train could rush away, I leaped from my seat and out the doors. I escalated to a strange square and walked and walked before surreality seized; I stood in front of the White House.

It looked smaller than I thought it would be.

A lot of things are like that, actually. They’re different than what you’d expect. Like my roommate Alec. Well, I actually expected nothing in particular, but the extensive toolbox was surprising. His answer to my puzzlement: “What if you need tools?”

Can’t argue with that.

The SOCK workspace is packed with things too, all sorts of bric-a-brac. The abundance of stuff mildly exasperates me, but I dare throw nothing away. What if we can use it? Glitter, paintbrushes, wooden hexagonal prisms of all lengths, lasers, LEDs, soup cans (with soup), just a small sample. These are all components of SOCKs past.


Nicole and I are tasked to make a magic bag. It will have many marvelous attributes. It will command attention, conjure wonder, and proffer knowledge. It will be a comfort to needy evangelists of physics. It will come in a giant sock.

Its name will be 2013 Science Outreach Catalyst Kit, and its contents will reflect a theme fitting of this year’s partnership with the National Institute of Standards and Technology: sensors and detection. A subtle topic, elusive, necessary. When nearly every pocket holds a suite of miniaturized accelerometers (among other things), you know you’re in pretty deep.

That’s what comes next anyway. This first week has been dedicated largely to orientation and settling in. Sunday saw us feasting at Toni’s place, a much welcome reward for having survived the trip to DC. We came to the American Center for Physics on Monday and lunched with John Mather. We’ve since scattered to the winds: Alec and Darren off to Goddard, Nikki to the Hill, Alexandra (commuting from home) to NIST, and Christine, Jamie, Ro, Nicole (my SOCK partner-in-crime for the NIST collaboration we’ve got going on), and I to the ACP Building. We’re still three interns short, but they’ll be trickling in over the next few weeks.

Tomorrow, Nicole and I will finish putting together our outreach materials for an event at Howard Community College. We have a booth at a STEM fair for middle schoolers, and the two of us have been tasked with designing some demonstrations. They involve lasers, always a crowd pleaser.

The show premieres this Sunday. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Caleb Heath