Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Physics Retweets 09/20/16

Sunday, September 11, 2016

PWN E093: Brookhaven National Labs Summer Sundays Week #4- Atom-Smashing Fun, and the RHIC

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So this is the third 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 two episodes before, and start there, to get up to speed. We'll be here when you get back.

It's kind of weird, but there was definitely something that kept me coming back to BNL this summer. Again, this time, the kids were in tow, so the main attraction, the tour of the RHIC, or the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, was off the table, but I didn't care. There's just something about the atmosphere and attitude of this place that I had to get my fill while I could.

So what was available, you ask? Well, first on the docket was a trip to the cafeteria. It was at this point that I passed a table where, apparently, if you attended 3 of the 4 weeks, you were able to collect either a coffee mug or a shirt. I had attended 3 of the 4, but with no evidence to prove it, and the lady there being a stickler for the rules, I emerged empty handed. (An insider, however, did hook me up with their coffee mug, which I now proudly display on my desk!)

So, what was left for 2 kids and a physics junkie who can't tour the RHIC? Well, of course, a trip to the demos of grad students. These were seriously cool, although the grad students were too high level for the attendees, IMHO. One showed me an electromagnet, and explained it to me in very high level terms, which I was able to follow, but was probably lost on the rest of the audience. He was able to, though, create a magnet with 4 poles, and could then change the poles at will by swapping the direction of the current, which he did via various switches. Putting a compass in the middle showed that it was swapping every which way, a very cool effect.

My final Summer Sundays experience was the theater show, this time by a man with grey hair, maybe in his late 50's, mustache, and beard. He looked like one of the quintessential tough guys out of the fifties, one that maybe you would expect to ride a motorcycle. What he did instead was present, extremely effectively, basic physical concepts to the audience in a way which was riveting to someone even my age.

These are the three things which I remember the most from the presentation: 1) He threw the 3 and 4 pronged boomerangs made out of styrofoam around the stage and explained that if you threw them at a slight angle, they would always come back. He then explained that if you made an X shape out of a pizza box, with small trapezoidal shapes at the end of each "arm", you can make your own boomerang. He then proceeded to do it in front of us, making a boomerang out of corrugated cardboard. Fantastic.

The next part of the show which I remember was him using an actual bullwhip, and explaining that the crack of a whip is actually a sonic boom, and he then proceeded to make somewhere in the area of 30-50 of them. It is truly marvelous to hear such a thing in real life. He then took some matches and held them in his hand, and proceeded to use the whip to actually generate the force to break them. And did so several times until they were broken all the way down to his finger tips.

The last presentation he did was with bubbles, which seemed sort of childish to start, but may have been the most fascinating. He made huge bubbles the way one would expect, with the large hoop, but was able to make bubbles within bubbles, and finally, used a small straw to make hundreds and hundreds of small bubbles, something I had never seen before. He then made a normal size bubble, took the straw and was able to puncture the bubble, and blow bubbles inside if it. Visually fantastic and a great closer to the show.

Wish I could have seen the RHIC, but I'm guessing that each year the items are roughly similar since the nanotech, RHIC & light source are the 3 major items on campus, so I'm excited as all get out to catch them next year. And that does it for my trip up to BNL! Hope you enjoyed!

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