Week 5: It's All Rainbows and Sunshine

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Friday, July 5, 2013


Darren McKinnon

This last week was a fantastic week to be in our nation’s capitol. I started out the week working with Tom, one of the Ph.D. group members. Our collaborator from the Netherlands, Nicola, had been working on a program to help us model a few different portions of the system that we’re studying. The plan was to have me use this program to help run and evaluate the system using just hydrogen, while Nicola would run it for a system of hydrogen and helium.

The first thing I should note with this program is that it can take a long time to run. Depending on the parameters it can take anywhere from two hours to a month (or longer if we get ridiculous). Due to this, we are likely going to be applying for some time on the supercomputers. This will allow us to process data much more quickly. While we were working out the last few bugs of the code, I was nudged toward expanding my skill set once more. Tom suggested that I learn to write scripts that would help run the programs. This will allow me to let things run while I’m not watching. That was motivation enough for me.

Following a few days at work, we had a long weekend to celebrate Independence Day. It was fantastic. The day offered extremely cooperative weather, with bright sunshine and an occasional cool breeze. We were invited out to a pool party and barbecue, which was both filling and entertaining. Afterword we went to the National Mall on the lawn of the Washington Monument to watch the fireworks. Being the scientists we are, we all grabbed our handy dandy diffraction glasses. Since these glasses split the light from some source into its individual spectrum, each firework was accompanied by lines of rainbows. It was an incredible display. I wanted to run around the mall handing people my glasses, urging them to partake in the incredible celebration of science that I was experiencing. However, I took the route of being selfish and shy, so I kept the glasses to myself. Next year I think that I’ll invest in a large number so that I can share.

The rest of the weekend consisted of a trip to Union Station and another trip the folklife festival. I also got to have my first “conveyer belt sushi” experience with YO! Sushi at Union Station. It was delicious to say in the least. At the folklife festival I was able to listen to live performances of Welsh, Hungarian, and Kalmyk music. Each had it’s own beauty, and each reflected a gorgeous portion of each of these cultures. Following my trip to the folklife festival, I briefly popped over to the National Museum of Natural History. I took a wander through a few of the exhibits that I had missed the first time through. With only four weeks left, it seems that the summer has gone by too fast. I’m looking forward to another fun filled week of work and fun.

Darren McKinnon