Saturday, April 30, 2011
Saturday, April 23, 2011
Five times and counting before three different judges, the Prince George’s County business owner has used a computer and a calculation to cast reasonable doubt on the reliability of the soulless traffic enforcers.It seems this fellow is successfully challenging the speeding tickets he's collected by using the traffic photos to make his case. When the automatic speeding/photo machine reacts, it take two photos. So,
For each ticket, Mr. Foreman digitally superimposed the two photos - taken 0.363 seconds apart from a stationary point, according to an Optotraffic time stamp - creating a single photo with two images of the vehicle.
Using the vehicle’s length as a frame of reference, Mr. Foreman then measured its distance traveled in the elapsed time, allowing him to calculate the vehicle’s speed. In every case, he said, the vehicle was not traveling fast enough to get a ticket.
See! Physics is good for something useful in the real world.
Saturday, April 16, 2011
Well, if you were at the department spring picnic, you could remember rather than imagine. We had a good turn out on a very cold and cloudy day. Costel Constantin and Gabriel Niculescu did an outstanding job of planning and cooking to make the day a good one.
A full collection of photos are here.
On April 6, we hosted the annual honor banquet to celebrate the outstanding students in our program and induct a new class of students into Sigma Pi Sigma. We had a special guest this year, Dr. Gary White, the national Director of SPS/Sigma Pi Sigma.
The honors presented this year are:
|3st||Cathrine Nisson & Matthew Burton|
|John R. Gordon||Nora Swisher||Brian Utter|
|John R. Gordon||William Henderson||Steve Whisnant|
|Alumni/faculty||Micheal Stickney||Gabriel Niculescu|
|Henry W. Leap||Anthony Saikin||Harold Butner|
|Henry W. Leap||Adam Wermus||Sean Scully|
|Serway||Anthony Chieco||Klebert Feitosa|
|Serway||James Corcoran||Gabriel Niculescu|
|Service Award||Anita Jo Vincent-Johnson|
|Outstanding Junior||William Henderson|
|Outstanding Senior||Alex Burant|
|Anita Jo Vincent-Johnson|
A complete collection of photos are found here.
Friday, April 15, 2011
First off, I would just like to say thank you for giving us the chance to look through the “Coronado” like that, because it was such an incredible and enlightening experience. I’ll be honest, I didn’t really know what to expect or what the sun would look like through the filter on the telescope. While I certainly expect it to look like a blood-red disc, I also was not prepared for just how much detail is still visible through the telescope. When I first looked through the telescope, the sun was moving pretty quickly and almost disappeared from view; but, in that small portion, I was able to see the surface turbulence swirling about in constant motion, as well as several sunspots which, surprisingly, appeared slightly brighter than the rest of the surface. After the line went through and several of my other classmates returned for a second look, I joined them; the students helming the telescope kept changing eyepieces, so I wondered if that would give me a different view. When I looked through the “Coronado” for a second time, I was treated to an even larger vision of our star and that allowed me to see even more. Once again, I saw the constant turbulence upon the surface, as well as sunspots, but this time I was able to see a solar flare. It exploded out of the edge of the sun like a fountain of red wisps; my words can’t do it justice, but it was just so incredible to see. I mean, it’s one thing to see the picture in the book, but it’s another thing entirely to actually see it with my own eyes. (Madeleine Cassier; Media Arts and Design; Digital Video and Cinema; Proud member of the Marching Royal Dukes)
At 8:45 A.M. this morning, our class was treated with the privilege of interacting with sunspotters as well as one of the astronomy department's telescopes, set up by several advanced astronomy students. A sunspotter is a wooden device which reflects an image of the sun onto a sheet of paper through the use of a lens and mirrors. This tool is one way we can view the sun without damaging our eyes from the sun's damaging UV rays. Another function of a sunspotter is to allow us to track the rotation of the earth as the image of the sun moves across the paper sheet over the course of a day. A sunspotter also allows us to see sunspots on the sun's surface, the photosphere, which we could not otherwise see with our bare eyes. Through the three sunspotters available for us along the sidewalk, we could see the reflected image of our sun as a palm-sized white circle with many small speckles (the sunspots).
The view from the Coronado telescope was quite unique, at least in comparison with my amateur experiences with telescopes from childhood. With the initial positioning, the advanced astronomy students had us looking at the sun as a deep fluorescent red circle which filled the field of view on the telescope. The red color is not the color of the sun as we would recognize and label it. Rather, it is the result of the coloring of the filter on the lens. Amidst this redness, we could see sunspots. With a few minor adjustments to the telescope's position by the advanced astronomy students, we were able to see swirling movement of the gases on the photosphere, in addition to the sunspots we had seen previously.
Thank you so much for the experience of letting us see the sun in such a new way. I loved the “sun spotters” as they were simple yet an effective way of viewing the sun. I could see the tiny black spots, which I assume were sunspots, as they moved around the sun. Also with both the telescope and the sun spotters I could actually see the sun moving. I know that the sun moves across the sky, but seeing it move so quickly was amazing. The best part was seeing the sun through the solar filter telescope. At first all I could see was a red disc slowly moving up but the there was a quick burst of gas from the bottom, which was solar wind. It was so amazing I went back for a second look. During that look I noticed the visible surface of the sun was also moving. It was an amazing experience, thank you very much! (Megan Tuskey; communication studies)
Thursday, April 14, 2011
From March 21-26, JMU physics students Nora Swisher, Ben Foltz, and Alex Burant, along with physics faculty member Brian Utter, headed to Dallas, Texas to attend the American Physical Society's annual March Meeting.
Nora Swisher presented a poster titled "Particle trajectories in 2D granular avalanches with imposed vibrations," which focused on particle tracking measurements in the avalanching flow of granular materials. This non-linear, complex system exhibits unpredictable behavior, such as avalanching and jamming, which requires statistical approaches to develop general equations of flow for these materials. Nora's work was completed through the Materials Science REU last summer in the lab of Dr. Brian Utter.
Ben Foltz's poster, "Submerged granular flow of hydrophobic and hydrophilic sand," described experiments on shearing and avalanching in granular flows of hydrophilic and hydrophobic grains submerged in fluid. Surface chemistry can be important in both soils and industrial processes, leading to aggregation and changes in shear strength as the chemical properties of the grains in the slurry are changed. Ben's work was also completed through the Materials Science REU last summer in the lab of Dr. Brian Utter and represents preliminary data that contributed to an NSF-funded grant.
Alex Burant presented a poster on "Fabrication and Characterization of High Aspect Ratio Membranes and Microporous Filters made from PMMA." In this work, he described experiments which show a new way to create high aspect ratio membranes and microporous filters by curing a liquid monomer, methyl methacrylate (MMA), into poly(methyl methacrylate) (PMMA) structures. Alex's work was done through the REU under the supervision of Dr. Chris Hughes and Dr. Brian Augustine (JMU Chemistry).
Dr. Utter presented a talk at the conference on "Shear strength of vibrated granular/granular-fluid mixtures."
In addition, to presenting their own research, the JMU contingent saw a variety of talks, including one by Konstantin Novoselov, co-winner of the 2010 Nobel Prize in physics, a talk on the efficiency of M&M packings, and the newest results on the granular robot gripper. Oh, that and lots of good food, 80-degree weather, and a legitimate excuse to miss classes for a week!
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Sunday, April 10, 2011
There were really two parts to the conference, the oral presentations that were held in several of the university’s lecture halls, and the poster presentations held in the school’s gym.
Both types of presentations were interesting to go to. At the poster sessions I was able to browse through a number of interesting presentations and discuss them with the student conducting that research; discussions were informal and thus provided good opportunities to get exposed to a broad sample of research conducted by students all around the nation. The oral presentations consisted in fifteen minutes talks plus five minutes after the talk set aside for questions; I think many of them were very well prepared.
I personally presented a poster, my first on the work I conducted so far on the properties of galaxies that host megamasers. Megamasers in disk configurations (in active galactic nuclei) give us the vital ability to get accurate distance measurements to very distant galaxies. Because of this, it is essential that we locate a much larger sample of these megamaser disks to constrain the Hubble constant; knowing the host properties of the galaxies that have masers is key to finding more of these megamasers disks. I have compiled optical data for the largest sample of galaxies hosting masers and classified them via their optical emission lines. I was able to present my research to a number of interested students as well as scientists who had come to the conference.
I would suggest that any wise college student adheres to the fooling creed: “work hard play hard”. The group of 11 JMU students (as well as the faculty chaperones) I went to NCUR with was no exception. When we were not presenting our research or learning of about others’ research we wasted no time in goofing around. The first night we were there we conquered the pizzas from “Northeast Pizza and Beer” (that place gives new meaning the words “large pizza”), and then to our delight discovered that it was karaoke night. We couldn’t deny the crowd the sound of our voices, so we sang a few classics (I think we had a pretty sizeable fan base before we left). In the evenings we typically agreed on a place to eat and joked with each other into the night. The group was able to bond quickly and overall everyone seemed to enjoy each other’s company; this made the trip just as entertaining as it was educational.
My bottom line: undergraduates involved in research should try not to miss the opportunity to participate to an NCUR.
Sunday, April 03, 2011
We are treated to these visual displays because of charged particles (electrons, protons) that are ejected from the Sun and make their way to Earth as the solar wind. These charged particles follow the Earth's magnetic fields (think of a bar magnet!) and enter near the poles. The Sun has an activity cycle, ie times when it is more active -- more sunspots -- which can trigger larger eruptions called coronal mass ejections (CMEs). These CMEs, which can wreak havoc on our electrical grid, can sometimes produce auroral activity as far south as Louisiana but this is rare. Living in Canada, I was fortunate to witness many auroral displays.
If you've ever seen the Northern Lights, and especially if you have not, you must check out this video constructed from time-lapse photography! Ole Christian Salomonsen has spent the last 6 months, snapping nearly 50,000 photos, chasing these beautiful displays near his hometown of Tromso, Norway. Imagine seeing this on the big dome in high resolution!