Saturday, February 04, 2012

Saturday Morning Physics 2012

The 2nd annual edition of Saturday Morning Physics, Meet the Scientist is now underway. At the opening session, Dr. Adriana Banu started things off with a discussion of radioactivity. The turnout this year is lager than last year by a good bit. We had 48 attend in 2011 and this year there are 70. More photos of the opening session and the registration are available here.

This program is a big hit with the audience and fun for the faculty. See the web site for SMP for details on this years offerings.

Friday, February 03, 2012

Flares, comets, asteroids...

Yes, once again (following event1 and event2), we took Astronomy to the Market. Last Saturday was the first in the new Spring 2012 series to feature safe solar observations, edible comets, asteroid collisions, along with answers, many answers to your questions about the Universe at the Harrisonburg Farmers Market. The plan is to show off our science corner every last Saturday of the month, so be there if the Sun is up and not behind (too many) clouds!

Here are some little snippets of what were we up to:

-watching the solar flares (Nathan DiDomenico at the telescope), most probably related to the raging solar storm that hit us (the Earth) on Jan. 23 (did you feel it? there have been quite a few technical difficulties noted at the radio, as well as some internet glitches):

-the comet making: our own Julia Child (a.k.a. Anthony Saikin) is explaining how the real dirty snow balls (i.e., the real comets) and their beautiful tails can be simulated with just a little passion for cooking and, obviously, for astronomy (not to forget the liquid nitrogen though):

-in case you worried about it, we (mostly Jimmy Corcoran) did catch the Sun on our sunspotter, with and without clouds:

-our new addition to the group, Jonathan Iredell, oversaw the asteroid experiments:

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

New publication in Applied Spectroscopy

Did you know that the ability of thin oxide films to absorb infrared radiation depends on whether they "sit" on a metal, or on a piece of semiconductor, or on an insulator? Undergraduate student Anita Vincent-Johnson discovered that this is the case by creating computer simulations of the response of the thin films to the infrared radiation. The effort was accomplished under the direction of Dr. Giovanna Scarel and the results were discussed with collaborators of the University of Utah and of Howard University. The team discovered a peculiar substrate sensitive thickness where the effect is particularly evident, as illustrated in the picture on the left. The full reference is A. J. Vincent-Johnson et al., "Effects of metallic, semiconducting, and insulating substrates in the coupling involving radiative polaritons in thin oxide films", Applied Spectroscopy vol. 66 (2), pages 188-197 (2012).