Back from Portland, back to blogging

10 Jun

If you read my previous post, you would know that I spent my May organizing multiple conferences, public lectures, and outreach events. After we wrapped up CASCA (Canadian Astronomical Society Annual Conference), I escaped to Portland so that I could force myself to stop checking work emails.

Of course, I was really lying to myself when I said that I was going to stay away from work!! One of the reasons for going to Portland was to visit the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) – part to research demos and activities that we could use for our upcoming summer camps, and part to act like a kid and play with science toys (with a legit reason, even though I am about 20 years older than most of the visitors there).

I had fond memories of science museums. Growing up in Taiwan, I was a frequent visitor of the  massive Taiwan National Museum of Natural Science when I was little. I am also a huge fan of the London Science Museum – you probably won’t see another person as excited about science artifacts as I was. While the passion might have faded a little because of age and education, once in a while the excitement comes back to hit me in the head. I was originally planning to spend 2-3 hours at the OMSI, but ended up staying there for the whole afternoon.

The most awesome demo I saw during my visit was this one – The  Harmonic Pendulum. The wonderful demo person (I don’t remember your name! If you see this please email me as I would like to credit you) did the demo twice so that I could record it. Watch the timer above and observe how the pattern of the pendulum came about:

I am no physicist (which is even better, because I think I get amazed by physics demos more so than the physicists I work with everyday), but if you are interested here is the description of the demo and some calculations.

 Harmonic Pendulum Explanation   Calculation for the Harmonic Pendulum

Next up is a demo with the strobe light (if you don’t like spinning objects or lights going on and off, this is not really for you, but it is rather mild). It was simply two ball bearings stuck together by epoxy glue, but it’s so much fun to watch:

(Updated on June 21. I recently learned that the spinning ball bearings have a name – the Hurricane balls. There is a stack exchange question/answer regarding how they can spin so fast, and a link to a pretty awesome YouTube video)

And then the orbit table, which a graduate student in my department is now thinking about making:

Other than checking out the demos and activities, I also spent about an hour touring the USS Blueback (SS-581) submarine – yes, there is a submarine next to the science museum! How cool is that? And then another hour watching the IMAX movie “Hubble.”

So here is my update about the trip. This also serves as a post that I can write up quickly so to get back into the rhythm of blogging. Thanks for staying around and more posts are coming!

Me standing in front of an Infrared Camera with my camera


One Response to “Back from Portland, back to blogging”

  1. Artem Kaznatcheev June 10, 2013 at 5:56 pm #

    Am I a bad student of complexity if I find the double pendulum to be much more mesmerizing than bird-flocking? Swarms having nothing on coupled oscillators!

    The two glued ball bearings is amazing! I need to get one to amuse me while I am procrastinating on writing. Thank you for the videos.

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