Week 4: Plants, more plants, SOCKs, and outreach!

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Sunday, June 22, 2014


Mark Sellers

The "plains" with the columns from the old Capital building at the other end of the field!I had a very green weekend! Kirsten and I visited the National Arboretum on Saturday and it was incredible. The whole complex spans over 400 acres and has different areas dedicated to different plants. We saw some late-blooming azaleas in a forested area, walked through a plain of wild grass, and hiked through another wooded area dedicated to ferns. We didn't get to see the whole area (we wanted to go see the state tree grove) but we did get to see some research farms. It was interesting to see other research projects outside of physics and reading about how those results could improve the native bee population and plant health in the area.

On Sunday, Kelby, Ashley, Stephen, Kirsten, and I went to the US Botanical Garden and later to the Sculpture Garden. I'm pretty sure that, between both days, I walked over 20 miles. I definitely felt it when I got back to my room that night.

I used this apparatus to measure the wavelength of the laser and got 654nm, which falls neatly in the center of the indicated range of 630-670nm. And it's cheap too!This week was spent refining a few of our demonstrations and preparing for our outreach event to Tuckahoe Elementary. I've started to write up some of the procedure and explanation sheets for these demos, which really does test your understanding of the demo and the physics behind it. I also got some new ideas from Courtney, one of the new SPS employees, on how to set up the diffraction activities. Hair ties, rulers, and binder clips make for a very cheap "ring-stand"-like apparatus!

The "polarized stained glass" demo! Even though the tape is clear on the transparency film, the students were clearly doing some pretty intricate designs!On Thursday, Jake, Kearns, I, and Joe York went out to Tuckahoe for our 3rd grade outreach event. We had a group of about 50 students, all of which were very sharp! Our first demo was “borrowed” from the 2013 SOCK—using differently scaled rulers to measure equal lengths of rope—to stress the importance of standards of measurement. After that, we dived into how light is used to measure distance and then had some demos on how white light can be broken into its various colors and how that information can be used. Kearns got the biggest "wow!" from the kids with his demo, which involved polarizers, transparency film, cheap cellophane tape, and an overhead projector to create a “stained glass” mosaic of colors. Each student got to make a pane of stained glass that we then put on the projector to show how it turned out. Joe took us out to Ted’s Bulletin in the Eastern Market area for brunch, which was really good!

Talking diffraction with the 3rd graders!By next week, we should have a good idea of the demonstrations we'll use in the SOCK, so we can start collecting all of the parts we need. It's kinda crazy to think we're already about halfway done with this internship!

Mark Sellers