Friday, June 28, 2013

May Commencement 2013

This spring saw a another fine group of students heading out into the world. Our graduating class this year was 14, a bit off our peak, but numbers in the pipeline suggest that this is about to turn around. We are proud of all of our students, large class or small.

We wish them all well and ask that they all keep in touch. And when they are rich and famous...donate!

There are more pictures found here.

Monday, June 17, 2013

SuperMoon on June 23?! Don't Believe the Hype!

At several of our FREE public Saturday afternoon shows this month at the John C. Wells Planetarium at JMU, we have been asked about claims made online regarding the "SUPERMOON" on June 23. Maybe you've seen this image online:

Some places have even gone so far to suggest that this "super moon" will cause natural phenomena such as severe weather or earthquakes!! My response? Don't believe the hype -- this is just bad science!!

Let's dig deeper. You may have seen images on Facebook or elsewhere stating that June's full moon will be the "largest and closest". While true you really couldn't tell the difference between June's full moon and any other month's full moon -- the effect is small! It certainly will not be as large as seen in the posters used to advertise the event! To demonstrate, here's an animated gif that a fellow planetarium colleague has created showing all the full moons in 2013.

Can you tell the difference? NOPE! So all this nonsense is just that! Don't believe the hype!!

NOTE: In a past blog post regarding a "Super Moon", while remaining skeptical of the whole notion, I stated that "... if this event gets people outside to enjoy our night sky that is slowly disappearing because of light pollution, then I think that's 'mission accomplished' ". I still support that idea, and in fact, I think every full moon is a beautiful site! Indeed it still amazes me today that we have sent 12 astronauts to walk on that body [and if you think it is wrong that we don't recognize that tremendous accomplishment, please sign my online petition!]. But since this meme keeps coming back again and again, it important that we debunk the bad science! 

So if you see this idea circulating amongst your social network, set them straight!

Shanil Virani
Director, John C. Wells Planetarium

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Infrared and thermoelectric power generation

On May 23 2013, the undergraduate students Yosyp Schwab, Harkirat Mann and Brian Lang presented new findings on radiative polaritons and thermoelectric and infrared power generation at the 91th Annual Meeting of the Virginia Academy of Science,Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University; Blacksburg (VA).  Here are the details of the two oral presentations:

Yosyp Schwab, H. S. Mann, and G. Scarel, “The signature of radiative polaritons: dielectric function and simulated spectra
Harkirat S. Mann, Y. Schwab, B. N. Lang, A.E. Masters, and G. Scarel, Fluctuations in thermoelectric and infrared power generation.

On the other hand, under an extremely high humidity (!!! see photo) on May 15 Dr. Scarel presented some of the latest results of the Group at the Fudan University, Department of Microelectronics; Shanghai (China).  The title of the talk was: Atomic layer deposited oxide films for infrared and nighttime solar cells”.

We hope to get more results during the summer!