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David Schmitz | Fermilab | USA

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Whew, Summer!

Man, time really can fly. Particularly during the summer. Its such a busy time and the past few weeks have been packed with meetings and work and outreach activities and parties and games and… All great things really, but in combination life can get really hectic.

I think many fields closely tied to academia, like physics, tend to experience a spike in activity during the summer. A small army of graduate students has shown up at the Lab to get started on their research. Professors suddenly have a lot more available time for research as well with teaching duties over. This sudden availability of people in the field means more professional conferences and collaboration meetings. It is an exciting and active time for sure.

You’ll notice blogging wasn’t on my list above. I’ve been bad about finding the time in this busy season, so here’s a brief tour of my life the past few weeks.

labfest_coleman_balloon

Science Chicago, LabFest! (Their exclamation point, not mine)

Although I think it deserves it. According to one quote on its website, Science Chicago is “about helping kids of all ages unleash their inner scientist. We invite Chicagoans to discover and explore the inspiring world of science in our community.” As you will see on their site, the plan is an ambitious one. For an entire year there are countless presentations, interactive exhibits, tours and learning opportunities of all kinds scheduled throughout the Chicago area. A program called LabFest is a series of outdoor summer science fairs where scientific and engineering institutions from the Chicago area set up tents full of displays and interactive learning exhibits. This summer, LabFest is visiting numerous school districts and neighborhoods around the Chicago area with several events each week until the end of August. A few Fridays ago I went along with a group from Fermilab to a LabFest event at the Johnnie Coleman Academy in Chicago.

labfest_coleman_1

labfest_coleman_2

There were hundreds and hundreds of school kids that came through that day. The last group was several kindergarten classes from a nearby school. That’s them in the pics in the bright orange shirts standing by the inclined planes we were using to study the movement of falling and rolling objects. They were all too happy to pose for my camera! I’m signed up to do several more of these events in the coming months, so I’ll let you know. But if you are in the Chicago area, check out the web sites above and come on out to a LabFest! near you.

Hyperbole safely moored in Waukeegan Harbor, halfway between Racine, WI and Chicago, IL.

Hyperbole safely moored in Waukeegan Harbor, halfway between Racine, WI and Chicago, IL.

Finally, the Start of Sailing Season

The next weekend (I think – see how time flies?) was one of my favorite weekends of the year – bring the sailboat down from Wisconsin to Chicago weekend! I bought a small sailboat with a friend a few years ago. We keep it in a marina in Racine, Wisconsin over the winter and sail it back and forth each Spring and Fall. Its about a 50 mile trip which takes about 10 hours on the water depending on the wind and water conditions. It was quite a bit colder on the lake than the picture below would lead you to think. On the lake we were wearing stocking caps and gloves. We usually stop at the half way point in Waukeegan, IL and spend the night. Its not strictly necessary for a 10 hour trip, but its sure a lot of fun!

Me safely moored in Waukeegan Harbor.

Me safely moored in Waukeegan Harbor.

It sort of a funny feeling to be staying overnight about 25 miles from home. In fact, a friend drove up from the city that evening and hung out in our “hotel” for a few hours (probably took him half an hour by car). The weather has been pretty miserable the past couple of weekends, tons of rain and unseasonably cool, so I haven’t been out much since. I’m hoping July is more normal summer weather in Chicagoland and I can get out on the water a lot more than in June.

Meetings, Meetings and more Meetings

As I said above the summer is a popular time for meetings since so much of the field is free of teaching responsibilities at the universities. The annual Fermilab Users’ Meeting takes place each June, and is an opportunity for all of the groups performing research at the Laboratory to share the status of their work and their plans for the future with their peers.

Post doc Bob Bradford from MINERvA giving the status report for our experiment at the Fermilab Users' Meeting

Post doc Bob Bradford from MINERvA giving the status report for our experiment at the Fermilab Users' Meeting

Representatives from the Department of Energy and National Science Foundation always come as well to inform us of the activities in their departments and discuss the funding expectation for the coming year. At the end of the two day long meeting, the Director of Fermilab, Pier Oddone, addresses the User body with his vision for the future of the Lab.

And this week has been the MINERvA Collaboration Meeting. Three days of meetings and workshops where we poured over the details of the data we have been taking for the past two months with our new detector. It was a lot of fun and very exciting to have real data to be looking at. Many people on the experiment have been designing, planning and building this experiment for almost a decade and this was the first collaboration meeting with real neutrino data to look at and discuss!

Mathemagic!

Finally, if you ever have the opportunity to see Arthur Benjamin of Harvey Mudd College perform his Mathemagics show, then take it! Dr. Benjamin gave the weekly colloquium at the Lab this Wednesday. The abstract for his performance reads

Dr. Arthur Benjamin is a mathematician and a magician. In his entertaining and fast-paced performance, he will demonstrate and explain how to mentally add and multiply numbers faster than a calculator, how to memorize 100 digits of pi, how to figure out the day of the week of any date in history, and other amazing feats of mind. He has presented his mixture of math and magic to audiences all over the world.

Dr. Benjamin and his daughter on stage during the Mathemagics show this week at Fermilab.

Dr. Benjamin and his daughter on stage during the Mathemagics show this week at Fermilab.

It was a highly entertaining show complete with his 10 year old daughter solving a Rubik’s Cube in a matter of minutes. At another point he picked people randomly from the audience and, upon asking them their birthday, told them instantly the day of the week they were born on.

For the grand finale he thought out loud for the audience as he calculated the solution to 97,565-squared in about 30 seconds maybe. What, you mean you don’t have it yet?… Come on hurry… time is running out… Too late, its 9,518,929,225!

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