Week 6: In a Contemplative Fashion, and a Tranquil Frame of Mind

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Friday, July 12, 2013


Jamie Garrett

My new topics for the PhysicsQuest project are proving more difficult than the previous. I am working on rotation and angular momentum in relation to quantum physics. I’ve been working with ideas like Dirac’s Belt Trick, and the Balinese cup trick. The underlying problem here is these are more spinor demonstrations than activities. I am reading more about the topics in Understanding Quantum Physics, and I hope to have more ideas soon. My internship here at APS is flying by, with only a month left I still have quite a lot to do.

We are beginning our tours of each others workplaces this week. Wednesday we toured NASA Goddard. It is enormous!  Alec and Darren are working on separate projects at NASA this summer, and it was amazing to see all they’ve accomplished. NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden gave a presentation upon arrival about budget and politics. Fortunately we had two wonderful tour guides, Dr. John Mather and Dr. Ted Gull. We stayed for hours and we were able to see  the WFC2 (Wide Field Camera 2) that was on Hubble for 15 years and will be in the Smithsonian later this year for Hubble’s 20th anniversary, the centrifuge, the largest operational clean room, the MMS satellites, and the vacuum chamber. I probably missed a few things; there was so much to see! What an extraordinary experience to be able to tour, let alone work at this facility.

Centrifuge at NASA - they still use this!

Nicole invited us to a teacher workshop at NIST where I helped teachers in a workshop go through some demonstrations she has developed this summer. The workshop began at 9am and meant we had to leave for work significantly earlier than usual. The class began with a measuring activity, where the teachers broke into groups of four and measured a 50ft rope with various length measuring sticks that we created. The teachers were oblivious that their sticks were different lengths and they quickly began questioning why they were all getting different answers. It was exciting to see their shocked explanations when we told them the strings were in fact the same length it was the measuring sticks that varied. The second part of the activity was making a small  theramin. Unfortunately, we were short on time and weren’t able to finish our activity. Luckily, we will be going back next Wednesday to help the teachers build the theramin. If I must say so myself everything went very smooth and it was nice working with educators who are implementing hands on demonstrations into their classrooms. I spent the rest of the day with the teachers at NIST; I toured a ballistics unit, sat in on a lecture that explained how to answer any question ever, and assisted in an activity building wood sets for DNA to protein via mRNA.

A few of my friends are flying in from Georgia this weekend to tour the city. I have made a complete itinerary to ensure we accomplish as many things as possible in the few days they are able to stay. Saturday alone we plan to visit: the Lincoln Memorial, the World War II Memorial, the Washington Monument, the Holocaust Museum, the Air and Space Museum, and the Museum of National History. All before catching the metro back to Foggy Bottom and heading off to Georgetown for dinner. Wish us luck, as we try to pack all of this into one day in DC.