APS PhysicsQuest Internship – 2nd and 3rd Weeks Update

These updates are available in the SPS National website.

2nd Week, June 10th

SPS Interns 2012 at the White House. Okay, in front of the White House... don't be petty.

Another Physics week just ended and we’re on our way to our third week. Wow. I know it’s a cliche to say time flies (not to mention it’s not very physical), but it sure felt like it. During the weekend we decided to do the tourist thing and visit museums. We ended up walking half of Washington DC’s waterfront on foot and then visited the Air and Space museum and watched their Hubble 3D IMAX show. In the evening, tired but happy and extremely hungry, we decided to cook dinner together and watch a movie. We all made something for the dinner; I made my famous vinaigrette sauce for the salad, but people seemed to prefer the store-bought Feta sauce. I refuse to take it as a hint.

The week was super exciting too. I managed to experiment with quite a number of extension demos and find a few REALLY cool ones I’d like to try for next week. Becky is going to be at some convention so I will be on my own, free to roam the kitchen and destroy plastic utensils and paper cups. We made sure I have a list of “todo”s, which, I have to say, look much better on paper than they do in reality. I need to work on the write ups for the demos I already tested and transform them to Middle-Schooler-safe perfectly understandable quick summary while keeping it engaging and avoiding the ever-so-boring cookbook-style. It’s a lot harder done than thought-of. I just hope I manage to finish them before the end of next week.

On Tuesday evening we all went to a Science Cafe in the NSF building in Arlington. The lecture was very interesting, and I think Anish (who is supposed to arrange some of those himself during the summer) got quite a lot of ideas and some feedback from us. Also, the burgers were awesome. Food and science always work so well together. Sometimes too well. I’m going to have to hit the gym extra this week!

On Friday we met the SPS Executive committee today for lunch, and we will again for dinner followed by a “Capitol Steps” show. They’re great, I already follow them a little through their website, so the evening is bound to be exciting; you will have to wait for next week to hear how it was, of course. Reverting to the beginning of this entry, time doesn’t really fly.

Well… maybe it does, if one second per second counts as flying.

3rd Week, June 17th

This week was so full of events, I don’t even know where to start.

I will be a good physicist and start from the convenient middle, then move back and forth in time.
Wednesday night the wall-mounted mirror in our dorm room decided to test the theory of gravity, a test that resulted in it crashing loudly into the floor and, in the process, shattering to hundreds of reflective shards. It appears gravity was unfazed.

Cabot certainly was, though. He (and I, along with Amanda and Courtney who was also in our room) had to take a moment to recover our beating hearts from somewhere in the basement. The shock was quickly transformed into a conversation about the structural integrity of drywall and the fact that Cabot became stranded in our room now, since he was, unfortunately, barefoot. No worries, though. Amanda made some food and Courtney recovered his shoes while Amanda and I ended up waiting till almost 1am for maintenance to come and save us.

We went to bed really late after a rather exhausting day — but I will get to that in a bit.

I will digress to the beginning now. The weekend was absolutely awesome. The Capitol Steps show on Friday evening was hilarious and we all had a lot of fun. Then on Sunday we walked around Georgetown and ended up waiting in a 45-minute line to get cupcakes. Let me tell you, though, 45-minute-line cupcakes are worth it. They were awesome, and I’m rather happy they require some level of effort to purchase, otherwise I think I’d be eating them much more often, and, quite possibly, ending up looking like one.

Must exert effort for cupcakes. I think I discovered the law of cupcakedynamics.

On Monday we went to Tuckahoe Elementary School to help Amanda and Erin with their activity about Rutherford’s discovery of the nucleus. We had two groups of 3rd graders that simply blew our minds. They were cute and terribly smart. When Amanda asked them what was the smallest thing they knew, we didn’t really expect one of them to yell back “quarks!”. A little physicist in the making! It was such a rewarding experience. The kids seemed to really enjoy the activity, and Amanda and Erin were brilliant. The activity they devised was a complete success, at least for the 3rd graders.

On Monday evening, we went to a science cafe with Joe Palca about his book “Annoying: The science of what bugs us”, which he wrote with Flora Lichtman. It was a lot of fun, and the discussion was great. I also ended up buying the book (I have a little sister, I have to learn the craft) and getting it autographed. Yay!

Tuesday was my first day of the week actually doing work. Becky was out the entire week at a convention out of town, so I had a list of “to-dos” to accomplish. I was so worried I wasn’t going to successfully finish them by the end of the week, that I spent a good portion of Tuesday and Thursday in front of my computer, typing and revising. The fourth floor had a day off of my experiments, though. Despite the incredibly busy and hectic week, I think it was quite productive. I now have seven finished activities that are waiting for Becky to go over them, and I continued to make another list for a few more exciting demonstrations on the subject.

Erin and Amanda had to adapt their lesson to teenagers, since on Wednesday we went on to deliver the same type of activity (revised, of course) to two full classes of 7th graders. Middle-schoolers are much more of a challenge to engage than elementary school kids. It was exhausting and quite different than the younger children, but I thought Amanda and Erin did a great job changing the lesson plan for the older kids. Even the teacher said they were more engaged than usual, and for teenagers, that says a lot. Well done Amanda and Erin!

The day was topped off by a picnic at ACP followed by an egg relay and an open mic, which proved once and for all that physicists are, in fact, quite talented people. At least those who went up to the stage. It was pretty impressive! In the evening we went to have Frozen Yogurt at an outdoor concert in Farragut square – an awesome finish to an exhausting day.

Thursday and Friday were full work-days in the office for us, so I managed to finish my list of to-dos and work on some ideas on more home experiments.

I will take this moment in time to apologize to the fourth floor of the ACP building, and in particular those of you who require the continued use of the kitchen refrigerator. I promise, the balloons and colorful ice cups will be taken out by next week. Or by August, the latest. Promise.

It is now Friday evening, and there is one more really cool thing that just happened: my business cards are on the PhysicsCentral Physics Buzz Blog. How amazing is that? When I made them, I wanted people to have a reason to take them out of the stack at the end of the day (or at the end of a busy convention) and remember who I am, so I made sure there is a little science experiment that goes along with the card. With only the help of a few folds and liquid soap, it transforms itself into a racing boat, demonstrating the principle of surface tension and surfactants. The guys here at the office (who, incidentally, write for PhysicsBuzz blog) thought it would be a great blog post. I’m so honored!

Of course, as I said in the first journal entry, I live and learn. Next time I make these cards, I will make them waterproof.

Here’s for another incredible week!

 

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