Wednesday, August 31, 2016

PWN E092- Brookhaven National Labs Summer Sundays Week #3- Brilliant Light, Dazzling Discoveries, The National Synchrotron Light Source

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So this is the second in a three part series about my excursion to Brookhaven National Labs to tour their facilities for 4 "Summer Sundays" Sessions that took place during the month of July. If you're just tuning in, I encourage you to go back to PWN E091, just one episode before, and start there, to get up to speed. We'll be here when you get back.

So, this time, when I went, I brought my mom and my friend who were visiting, and my 2 little kids. Because of this lineup, I didn't hit the lecture. When we got there, first thing we did was go to the cafeteria and hang out over there. Lovely nice open space, with a very friendly staff. Everything at this place is so laid back I love it. And the prices are very reasonable as well. I guess this is where the employees go to eat, so they try and keep the prices down.

From there, the purpose of this week was to feature their synchrotron light source. This system creates light by creating a beam of highly accelerated electrons, which emit light. This has applications in medical imaging, as well as a variety of other, one would imagine classified, applications. With this crew we didn't get to see the light source, but rather went back to the theater where I saw the magic show last time, and we caught the laser show. There was a guy there who was hired, i.e. not BNL personnel, and he was showing us laser light, and how if you shine normal light on a balloon nothing happens, but laser light is so focused, that if you shine the laser light from the laser show on a balloon for more than 2 seconds, it can actually pop it because of the heat generated.

He also explained how the lasers in a laser light show work: there is a single dot formed by the laser, much like one would imagine in a laser pointer. If you move a laser pointer around quickly with your hand, as I'd imagine many of the listers have, you can make a line, or a circle. This laser show moves so fast it can create complex designs such as people, and actually even animate them because it moves so fast. They have three colors for the lasers, red green and blue, which when they all shine on the same point become white light.

He then went into the laser show, where they showed popular songs and did neat laser animations for each. I'm posting the pictures for the laser show on twitter as well as on this blog.

After the show, we pretty much bailed out. I wanted to see the sychrotron, but again, the lineup did not permit, so we rolled out. What I did catch, which I would say is probably the lowest level in terms of the science, is still very engaging. I highly recommend catching this if you're in town on a Sunday in July.

Featured App of the Week: Exploring Mathematics: Sine and Cosine. Because light is a wave, in order to understand this, you need to understand Sines and Cosines. Check out the app as well as the podcast episodes on Sine and Cosine! Also a critical review for the coming school year!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

PWN E091: Brookhaven National Labs Summer Sundays Week #2- Nanomaterials, The Science of the Very Small, and the Science of Self-Assembly.

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So this is the first in a three part series about my excursion to Brookhaven National Labs to tour their facilities for 4 "Summer Sundays" Sessions that took place during the month of July. So, one thing that I found out last year is that you are not allowed to go onto the BNL campus without authorization. I stopped by and asked if I could drive around, and I got a very stiff "no" from the security guard. I did not realize the gravity, no pun intended, of this facility.

BNL is a very serious science research facility. They do classified level research, have a particle accelerator, and at any given time are trying to be hacked by someone. Security is paramount, and so for obvious reasons they don't want me driving around in my minivan to see the sights. However, for 4 glorious Sundays a year, you can visit and tour parts of this magical place and see what the scientists are up to, in very broad strokes. The first weekend is called "Family Fun" which I was unable to attend. The second week, which will be our focus today, was called "Exploring the Ultra Small", the science of nanomaterials. This particular weekend was different for me, because I attended it with adults, which I did not do for weeks #3 and 4. Because I was with adults, I attended a talk which gave broad strokes about nanomaterials.

So, upon entering BNL, you realize just how huge it is. It's a 5200 acre campus. Just huge. After the security check, you get your visitors stickers, and proceed through to the visiting center, where they have some very nice demos setup. They also have a cafeteria, gift shop, and a table full of my favorites, freebees. I got several postcards, stickers, and a ruler, since the topic of the week was measuring nanomaterials.

I didn't get very much time to explore this, since the talk was starting shortly and we had to hustle over to another building. Upon entering the room where the talk was given, I was nostalgically thrown back into my college days. It was essentially a college lecture room, complete with an overhead projector(!). The guy giving the talk was the director of the Nanoscience division. I hadn't been to a scientific lecture in some time, so I was ready to roll. However, I was mildly disappointed because just when I thought we were going to get into the meat of the talk, it was over. It was at this point that I realized that the bulk of the attendees of this were high-school level teens. They were gripped with his introduction, but that's probably all they were going to be able to handle.

That aside, he touched on some very interesting topics, such as what nanomaterials are. They exist on scales which are 10^-9 meters (check out Episode 005 of this podcast if you're interested in units of measure) The really cool thing to take from this section of the talk is that apparently what they're able to do is form nanomaterials "naturally", i.e. not using a small pointer to move around atoms. Take the sand on the beach for instance. As the waves wash over the sand, it forms specific shapes and there's nothing that we as humans have to do in order to get the sand to look that way. So, by the same token, is it possible to have a process like this which will assemble molecules in a desirable way that can be useful to humans and scientists for research? Apparently the answer is yes, but that's where the talk ended. This process is known as "self-assembly" and is evidently a cutting edge technology right now. I would love to learn more about this, and I think a lot from this talk will wind up as words of the day on PWN Physics 365.

From there we headed back to the visitors center where a Magic Show was starting. We headed in, and they did some really cool magic tricks, which were essentially science experiments which were disguised as magic tricks. The lady doing the magic was very engaged with the high school students, and the students impressively knew the answers to most of the tricks. One that stood out to me was that the lady had a balloon, allegedly empty but when she placed it on top of a tube, it self inflated and then popped. As the kids guessed, the balloon contained baking soda and the tube vinegar, which reacted causing the production of gas which "magically" inflated the balloon. Obviously, I was not the intended audience for this show, but it was fairly interesting nevertheless.

One last thing. I couldn't help but notice how many parents with Asian and Middle Eastern backgrounds had brought their children to this event, and how few "American" looking folks had turned out. I don't mean this as a slight towards them, but rather a compliment. It's very easy to see where these cultures place their value. They place it in education and learning, and when they take their children out, they don't take them to be entertained, but rather state-of-the-art science facilities which expose their kids to the latest scientific discoveries. As America continues to place it's value on being entertained rather than contributing, it's no wonder we're falling by the wayside to countries whose cultures have a ravenous desire to learn and discover. I certainly will be following in their footsteps. Their children were very bright, and very inquisitive and curious, and took every opportunity to interact with demos, ask questions, and answer questions when asked. You can tell they have very bright futures ahead of them.

I left feeling very inspired. The atmosphere at BNL makes you want to learn, and to work towards discovering new features of our universe. It also makes you never want to leave, which makes it not so easy when we had to take off. There was a tour of the nano-material facility which we missed due to time, but something that I will certainly check out next year.

Lastly, if you're still new to physics, and are interested in nanomaterials, I encourage you to start by checking out my FREE Units of Measure app from the iTunes store. It gives you a great review on all SI units, and if you're interested in learning prefixes like nano, giga, micro, and pico, check out the free powers of ten review app. Flash card review of critical knowledge to empower you on your journey through science.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Welcome Back My Friends....

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To the show that never ends...we're so glad you could attend, come inside come inside.

So, what the heck happened? Did your reckless host succumb to the phenomenon known as Podfade? It was really weird. I was moving with a lot of momentum and then I got really tired. I didn't want to do PWN Physics 365. I was becoming seriously unable to keep up with it, which I thought was very unlike me because I was really enjoying it when I was doing it. So it started to lag. Fine. I'll take a break, and post them only when I'm interested. PWN Physics is a labor of love for me. I like physics and I like podcasting, and it's not a job, so I do it only when I want to. So I stopped that, to focus on PWN Physics, which I thought I could manage. We were on the brink of doing parabolas, so OK, I started making a few episodes for that, then boom, didn't even have the energy for this.

So what the heck was going on? I thought maybe I was just burning out, and so I let it ride. Turns out I got really sick. I got bitten by a tick, and I had Lyme Disease, of which one of the symptoms is that you get really tired, which is what I got. Anyways, after a few months, you get better, which is where I am now. So what's to become of the podcasts, and the apps and everything?

I'm going to pick up where I left off. I spent the last couple of weeks going to Brookhaven National Labs' Summer Sundays, and so I'm going to start with reporting on those experiences. From there, we'll go back into parabolas and that'll be that. Off we go. So, long story short, essentially the summer off, and let's get back into gear! If you're listening, thanks for sticking with me, and I hope you have some fun as we resume normal functionality. This show will go off as much as I can. I'm hoping for every week but we'll see how I'm doing health wise. The plan for PWN Physics 365 is going to be as follows. Since it is an every day of the year podcast, I'm going to run through every day of the year. Then that podcast will become archived and I will release it in some fashion, whether it be bandcamp or youtube or something else.

That being said, I should be back with you soon for my first report on the second week (?) of Summer Sundays from BNL soon.