Week 3: Exploration and Conversation: A Continuation of Week 2

Share This:

Sunday, June 22, 2014


Benjamin Preis

This was quite the week! I continued my foray into writing the Physicist’s Guide to Washington, DC with continuous exploration this week. On Monday, I went to the Jefferson Memorial early in the morning. Someone had recommended it to me the previous week, and I wanted to visit before I forgot. In the basement of most of the memorials, there are small museums about the lives of the person above. In the Jefferson memorial, much of the information focuses on Jefferson as a lover of science. A thing which I learned: he was the President of the American Philosophical Society, the most important scientific society of its day in the US.

After the Jefferson Memorial, I walked my way back to the Mall by way of the FDR Memorial and the MLK Memorial, neither of which I had seen before. Both were striking in their commitment to recollect the work that was done by these great men over the course of their lives.

In the afternoon, I considered going to the National Air and Space Museum, but I was frightened by the line. Tour bus upon tour bus offloaded upwards of 40 students at a time, and I knew that I would not last. Instead, I headed south to NASA Headquarters. Although only the lobby is open to the public, I was able to see a small exhibit on CO2, and Dr. John Mather’s Nobel Prize on display. As he created the policy internship I am doing after winning the Nobel Prize— which he was awarded in 2006 for his work on Cosmic Background Radiation — it was a very cool thing to see. After that visit, I receded to my ‘office’ to escape the heat, and wrote down all that I had seen today for the further compilation of the guide.

Tuesday and Wednesday were my hottest days yet in DC, and I could not bring myself to venture outside more than was already prearranged. On Tuesday, I had an early meeting with one of the AIP fellows, Mark, who talked with me about why he decided to do this post-PhD. His answer was phenomenal. He wants to “build bridges” between the science community and Congress. Beyond that, though, he understands that unless scientists are involved with policy, Members of Congress will not understand why science is important, and thus, it is necessary for him to be there such that Congress will continue to stay informed of what good research is, and why it is important. On Wednesday, I met with my Representative, Mike Doyle. That was also great. I chatted with a staff member for a while, who told me about his work on the Hill and talked to me about Mr. Doyle as well. When Congressman Doyle did arrive — he had been on the Floor of the House — we chatted about how he represents Pittsburgh, which was quite fascinating. In between those meetings, I continued to work on the content and format of the Guide, given that I simply couldn’t willingly venture into 95º, humid, weather.

Thursday was a great day. In the morning, I went to the National Portrait Gallery and the National Museum of American Art. Einstein Portrait? Check. Einstein Bust? Check. Edison, Franklin, Jefferson, Oppenheimer, and others grace the walls. The museum also houses an original telegraph and phonograph, designed by Morse and Edison, respectively. Additionally, it is a beautiful building, and probably my favorite space in Washington thus far. In the afternoon, I headed to the National Museum of American History. Half of the museum, the half dedicated to American Culture, is closed for multi-year restorations. For the most part, I was rather disappointed with the half that was open. I was not very engaged or drawn in. Further, there was nothing scientifically interesting. Oh well — one disappointment out of all of the touring I have done is not so bad. Plus, it may just be due to my exhaustion following the morning’s museum trip.

Friday, my last day before I begin working endless hours on the Hill, began with a tour of the Capitol. The guide was engaging, and it was interesting, but it was not a particularly long tour. Nonetheless, I’m glad to have done it. In the afternoon I was again prevented from entering the National Air and Space Museum due to excessive school children. It appears as if I’ll have to go early some Sunday morning.

The weekend was relatively quiet. I read books and I purchased more books. (Second Story Books in Dupont is fantastic as is Kramer’s Books.) I hung out with the other interns on Saturday night and parts of Sunday. I watched the World Cup USA-Portugal Game, but otherwise, did not do much. I had to conserve energy to start work on Monday!

Benjamin Preis