Sunday, February 15, 2015

Science Museum

by Asia Torres

London Adventure! Day 9!
It's very sad to say that we are now coming to the last days of being in London. After a grand total of 8 days in London I am pleased to say that I have fallen in love with this grand city. The city is so diverse and full of life there is literally something to see on each corner that is completely different than in the United States. It's also true to say that everything here that would interest so many different people, is free. There are of course other things you can do that cost money, like catch one of the many shows that go on every night or take a tour of the Harry Potter set in London. Even so, on this day, January 26th, the 9th day that we have been here, we did something very science-y, the Science Museum, which happened to be free.

Entrance of Science Museum
Funny story actually about the entrance, this isn't the one we got to go through. Since our class counted as a group we had to use a much less impressive group entrance around the corner of the museum but the inside of the museum was definitely worth it. An impressive 5 floors of every kind of science you could think of. Even with how impressive the entire museum was I'll just talk about the exhibits that I found the most interesting.

Upon entering the museum I spotted something that drew my attention. A huge steam engine that because of this class I knew who had invented it. It was a predecessor to the steam engine, built by James Watt and Matthew Boulton. This  machine still used a water wheel which was what was creating the energy, this device was used just to bring water up so that the wheel could turn and create that energy, so not a steam engine yet.  After this machine Watt created more engines that did not require the water wheel, in turn creating the steam engine. What fascinated me about this was that it really is still intact. It seems like there are a lot of old things in London and it just fascinates me that things are not broken yet. Even so, the durability of these devices prove that what these people were working on were advancements for society. We need these to last a long time so that they can benefit us and lead to further advancements. 
Oldest surviving engine built by Watt and Boulton
Newly Discovered Bust of James Watt


Mysteries of unseen world logo
Advert of the IMAX film
We saw this all before we went to see the IMAX movie that was playing. The IMAX movie was Mysteries of the Unseen World 3D and before I even get into what the movie was about, this was the first IMAX movie I had ever seen and let me tell you, it was not a disappointment. IMAX movies are just on a much bigger screen and equipped with a very loud speaker system, to which the narrator showed us by screaming at the entire audience.Now, about the movie. It's called Mysteries of the Unseen World because it dealt with things that we could not see, but not because they are not there but because they happen on a different timescale than we see. We are surrounded by the things that are either too fast, too slow or too small for us to observe but they are still there. The film consisted of time-lapse photography to show us different things that are too slow for us to see such as the way a flower moves in light.The film also used high-speed photography to capture things that move too fast for our eyes to see, like the complex way a dragonfly flies with each wing going in a different direction. Electron microscopy was used to see the smallest things that our naked eye can't such as the bacteria that makes our feet stink. All these things that happen around us and we have no idea that they're happening, or how they are happening. Which to me seemed amazing to watch since I did always wonder, "just how much bacteria can be in my belly button?"

What Time is It?
The last thing that I thought was really interesting in the museum was John Harrison's wooden clock. Now a quick recap of who John Harrison was, he was the guy who practically figured out the longitude problem, which was to find longitude for sailors out at sea. As described in the book Longitude,  Harrison was a very grand watch maker and created a series of watches for the longitude problem, but before that he had created a very unique clock. What really intrigued me at the museum was a clock that he built entirely out of wood and brass. Most clocks were made up of different metals and therefore had to be oiled so that the cogs would spin properly, not this clock. Harrison made the cogs and the entire frame out of a wood that secreted it's own oil so that it would not require the need for tinkering.
Front view of wooden and brass clock
Side view of clock to see wooden cogs

This city holds so many different things to see and I wish our time here was one that would last a lot longer than what we're here for. There really isn't ever enough time to witness and experience everything that you could in a new city. This journey was one that brought not only our minds and bodies to a different experience but it also brought our class a bit closer as well. Travelling with such a small group of people in this big city really brings different things into perspective. Such a shame we have to go home, but we all bought souvenirs to show off our time here in London. 

Friday, February 6, 2015

The Royal Society

by Brett Peix

The Royal Society

The Royal Society was founded in November 28, 1660 at Gresham College as a group "for the Promoting of Physico-Mathematical Experimental Learning." Shortly thereafter they sought approval of the King, Charles II, and upon his consent became known as The Royal Society. Since then, the Royal Society become the preeminent fellowship of the world's most distinguished scientists. It was originally housed at Gresham college, but after the Great Fire of London in 1666 it was relocated to the Arundel House in Norfolk, located in London known as the home of the Dukes. In 1710 the Society acquired its own home; two houses in Crane Court, off the Strand. It was not until 1967 until it moved to the present location we viewed today on our tour.

The Council Room

What they do now: Today the society encourages the development of science, mathematics, engineering, and medicine around the world. Their recent big headliner that you may know was on Fracking, "The process of drilling and injecting fluid into the ground at a high pressure in order to fracture shale rocks to release natural gas inside". They claimed it was safe for the environment if proceeded with all of the right precautions, but as the tour guide stated, "Certain companies will misread the publications and take certain shortcuts". 

What we did: As a whole class we received a tour of the Royal society. We were shown around the building, told historical information regarding the society and its members, what they do, and how it was originally founded. We also used their library to access any information we needed to help write our essay for the trip, which included even some original books written by some of the founding fathers of the Royal Society.

Here are some of the cool things we got to see on our tour.
Sir Isaac Newton's first telescope

Presidents of the Royal Society: Each president is listed by the order they served their presidency followed by the years they were elected to when they left office on the right side of their names.

Presidents:  Isaac Newton ran the Royal Society for 24 years, which seems like an eternity, but Joseph Banks (The name on the very bottom left corner) served as the Society's President for the longest period of time at 42 years. Lord Wrottesley was the Society's shortest serving president when he only ran the Society for one year in 1854-1855.

The Royal Society has been made up of some of the most brilliant minds in science for the past 355 years to this very present day.  Famous names, such as, Robert Boyle, Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, and Thomas Young were all elected as fellows of the Society at certain points in their lives. 

Portrait of Thomas Young
Thomas Young
As science has progressed, certain fields have become quite complex and specialized. Fields range from biochemistry to astrophysics now, and even new branches have been made in recent decades, such as my major, Kinesiology. In the past, it was easier for a scientist to contribute to many different fields. Thomas Young, deemed "The Last Man who Knew Everything" was one of the last, if not, the last scientist to be well versed in nearly every field. He's most famously remembered for his Double Slit experiment in which he proved that light can display characteristics of waves, and for deciphering the Rosetta Stone.

What we got to do in the library: Once we showed our passports and I.D's, we got to access their library for any information and use any book they had in it through the help of the librarians. One of the books they presented us with was an original first-edition copy of Robert Hooke's book on  microscopy (Micrographia, 1665), with his original sketches of cork cells and insects he viewed through a microscope. Because he wanted realistic images, he refrained from killing the insects and would try various tactics to hold them still including, alcohol to "loosen them up" and sticks to help hold them in place.

Sketch of the microscopic structure of cork - Hooke used the term "Cells" for these, and while they are not cells in the modern sense of the term he is credited with originating the term.
Sketch of a Flea

Overall going to the Royal Society was a great experience and an eye opener for me. I loved standing in a building that may of had a short but very strong scientific history with some of the greatest names in science. What lies ahead for the future will be deemed nothing but greatness as science continues to evolve and shape our everyday lives.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Cavendish Laboratory Museum

by Jillian Pingel

Main Entrance
So for those who are unaware the Cavendish Laboratory is the department of physics at the University of Physics. At the time the Cavendish Laboratory was created, in the year 1874, there was a need for a place where the study of physics and experimental sciences could take place. However, The University of Cambridge was unable to provide sufficient funds for the necessities of Natural Sciences. Luckily, thanks to William Cavendish and his generous donation to the university, today stands the lab which is home to 29 Nobel Laureates and many other amazing accomplishments. 

Upon arrival to the Cavendish Laboratory I was unsure of what to expect. I had no idea of the history of the lab so I was surprised to find out about all the accomplishments and discoveries made there. Of everything I saw at the lab's museum the two things that interested me the most were the replica of the gas discharge tube with which J.J. Thomson discovered the electron and model of DNA made by Francis Watson and James Crick.

Replica of Thomson's gas discharge tube
In 1897 the electron was discovered by the third Cavendish professor of experimental physics, J.J. Thomson. Thomson was particularly interested in Cathode rays and the discharge of electricity through gases. In his experiment that led to the discovery of the electron Thomson used a discharge tube (left) and a pair of metal plates. One of the plates inside the tube was negatively charged and the other was positively charged and attracted cathode rays. When he passed the cathode rays through the electric field within the tube the rays moved toward the positively charged plate and he therefore concluded that the rays must be negatively charged. Other scientists had already established that the rays must be negatively charged. Thomson measured the charge to mass ratio of these particles and discovered that they have ~1800 times less mass than hydrogen, and therefore they must be a sub-atomic particle (now known as the electron).
Model of DNA made by Watson and Crick

DNA stands for deoxyribonucleic acid, which is a long chain of nucleotides held together by phosphate. The discovery of the structure of DNA is credited to James Watson and Francis Crick. At the time another pair of scientists were working at King's College in London, Maurice Wilkins and Rosalind Franklin. They were working with x-ray diffraction to study DNA. When Watson and Crick got their hands on their X-ray data they were able to deduce the correct structure. In 1953, Watson and Crick published their discovery that DNA must be in the shape of a double helix, with each helix held together by weak hydrogen bonds. Since these hydrogen bonds can easily break and reform, this suggested a means by which the genetic material can be duplicated. The structure of DNA impacted the world of molecular biology and to this day helps researchers make advances in science.

Going to the Cavendish lab and museum really opened up my eyes to the importance of science and everything it allows us to do. It's definitely a place to stop if you find the history of how things were discovered interesting.    

The Royal Observatory Greenwich

by Taimane Tuiasosopo

This particular Sunday was nice because we had a morning to sleep in.  Our day started like any other day, except for the fact that we had a quiz! (*GASP* SOMETHING ACADEMIC?! WHAT?! NO!)  However, we were all able to make it through our quiz on Longitude by Dava Sobel (SIDE NOTE: I recommend this book to everyone! [WARNING: slight obsession with clocks and astronomy are possible side effects.]) After that we hopped on a bus to Greenwich.  When we got there we enjoyed the scenery and happily hiked up the miniature mountain to finally set our eyes on the observatory itself.
The front of the Royal Observatory Greenwich
The Royal Observatory Greenwich was founded in 1675 by order of King Charles II.  It was originally established so that scientists and other academics could have a place to work on the mystery of finding longitude.  Traveling by sea at this time was quite dangerous as sailors had no way to determine their longitude at sea.  This requires knowledge of both the time at your current location (solar noon) and also the time back at home (which proved problematic.)  Early astronomers studied the sky for years making detailed astronomical measurements of the moon among the stars in hopes of discovering a kind of" celestial clock."  Eventually the problem was solved thanks to a mechanical clock made by carpenter and clockmaker John Harrison (more on him later.)  Today the observatory is the site of the Prime Meridian, this means that it sits at 0º longitude.  Visitors, like us, come from all over the world to stand on both sides of the Prime Meridian and claim they have stood in 2 hemispheres at once.

FUN FACTS (aka remember these for your next run on Jeopardy):
  1. The first Astronomer Royal was John Flamsteed.
  2. The current is Martin Rees.
  3. The Royal Observatory was designed by Christopher Wren who also designed St. Paul's Cathedral.
  4. While at his post as Astronomer Royal John Flamsteed (see #1) had some of his astronomical data stolen by Isaac Newton (and published without his consent!) 
  5. Pacific Standard Time (PST) is 8 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (GMT.)

Time ball at the observatory which originally communicated the correct time to sailors on the Thames, and still drops every day at 1pm
Sculpture with the Prime Meridian running through it at 0º longitude

The highlight of my visit was seeing John Harrison's clocks.  With the help of Professor Lingwood, I found them tucked soundly in a room within a maritime exhibit.  As mentioned earlier, our class read Longitude and learned about Harrison's quest to make the perfect sea clock to aid sailors in their oceanic travels.  He toiled for years and years with the aid of grants to come up with a clock worthy of the £20,000 prize (more about the Longitude Act here.) He made 5 clocks during this time, he called them H-1 through H-5, four of which we got to see in person!  His fourth was the one that ultimately tipped the scales on discovering accurate longitude calculations.  After reading about all of Harrison's work it was almost unreal to see them in person.  Without further ado here are the pictures of them...  
John Harrison's first model titled H-1, weighing in at 75 pounds!
H-2 inscribed "Made for His Majesty George The IInd, By order of a Committee Held on 30th of June 1737."
H-3: which Harrison spent almost 2 decades working on.
The back of the prized H-4 inscribed "John Harrison & Son AD 1759."

After the excitement of witnessing the clocks first-hand the class headed to the Planetarium.  We concluded our trip by watching a show here entitled "Dark Universe." We learned about dark matter, our universe, and the possibility of discovering farther places in the galaxy as science continues to advance. The show was relaxing and informative.  It was the perfect end to an exciting day in Greenwich.  I'll leave you all with our view while leaving the observatory.
View from the top of the hill at the Royal Observatory.


Tai :)

Monday, January 26, 2015

Royal Institution and Faraday Museum

by Daniel Farrell

Our class visited the Royal Institution January 21 to explore its contributions to the scientific community. The Royal Institution (or RI) was founded in 1799 by the leading British scientists of the time as a place to put into effect new ideas as well as teach science to the rest of the country. George Finch was elected the first president of the institution, and promptly used his influence with the crown to secure a Royal Charter in 1800, giving legitimacy to the organization. The Royal Institution soon became famous for its lectures on Chemistry. As it's reputation grew, great minds from all over began to flock to London to see the lectures and for an opportunity to use the materials and labs that were built at their headquarters. In the early years, much of the research involved isolation of previously discovered elements and discovery of new ones. Within 20 years of its founding members had isolated potassium, sodium, and calcium  and discovered many new elements including magnesium, boron, chlorine, and iodine. Surprisingly it wasn't till 1862 that research formally became a part of the mission of the RI. Through the rest of its history the RI has become famous for its Christmas Lectures as well as new discoveries that have changed the face of all branches of science like the existence of the electron, decay of atoms, nerve impulses, and uses of mature stem cells. 

Outside view of Royal Institution
Despite its regal reputation, the building itself seemed small and much less impressive than I expected. Upon entering we immediately went to the basement where the Faraday Museum is set up. Despite being only one hallway long, the museum is home to a plethora of world-changing experiments done by Faraday, for whom the museum is named, as well as many other influential members of the Royal Institution. After the class was able to tour the entirety of the museum, we all talked about the exhibits which interested us most. For me the most interesting parts of the museum were the experiments created by Faraday having to do with advancements in electromagnetism. 
Portrait of Faraday

Faraday is one of the most famous members of the RI.  His many discoveries helped helped the RI to emerge as a dominant player in the research community. He first came to the RI in 1813 as a research assistant, where promptly he and Davy were credited with inventing the first mining safety lamp that prevents explosions of flammable gases in the mines. In 1821 Faraday is credited, among other amazing discoveries, with building the first electromagnetic motor and generator, liquifying the first gas (chlorine), discovering Benzene, interpreting electromagnetism as a field, and inventing photography before his death in 1867. As Faraday showed his aptitude for research, he stepped up through the ranks of the RI. Faraday was first appointed Superintendent of the House in 1821, Director of the Laboratory in 1825, and finally in 1833 he was appointed as the first Fullerian Professor of Chemistry (A special research position created just for him that continues today). In 1973 in honor of his contributions to the RI, Queen Elizabeth II opened the Faraday Museum, which displays examples of many of his experiments, as well as experiments conducted by other members of the RI.
Main Hallway of Faraday Museum

Coiled wire around a ring which was used to first observe electromagnetic induction. The magenta coloring is due to the lighting in the display case. 

First Electric Generator created by Faraday

First ever sample of Benzene

While Faraday was one of the most well known researchers at RI, the society was home to countless world changing scientists such as:

John Tyndall, who explained why the sky is blue due to the low wavelength of blue light, causing it to be scattered more easily. Below is the tube which he used to demonstrate this effect.
John Tyndall's Blue Sky Apparatus

One of the most Important discoveries to come from the Royal Institution was the X-ray spectrometer, created by William Bragg. He used his spectrometer to observe the cell structure of crystals. Today this technique  has been improved over the years and used to discover molecular and atomic structures as well as make discoveries about electronic energy levels.

William Bragg's X-ray Spectrometer 

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Charles Darwin's House at Down

by Taylor Gida

Charles Darwin's House at Down
Charles Darwin is one of the most renowned  scientists to have ever lived. In most of today's classrooms, Darwin's Theory of Evolution is as important to the biological sciences as Isaac Newton's discoveries were to the understanding of Physics.While most of his field work was conducted on the HMS Beagle, it is at his home that Darwin did his most influential work.

The house was first and foremost home to Darwin, his wife and their many children. But it is also the birthplace of his great work The Origin of Species that gave the world its first in-depth explanation about the mechanisms for evolution by natural selection. Understanding the potential consequences of his ideas, he wanted an unassailable set of evidence for his theory. In the large garden area behind the house he performed an extensive number of experiments using plants and insects from around the world  Over the course of 20 years he worked on his manuscript, making the necessary intellectual leaps to make sense of his data.

When we first pulled up to the house at Down I saw that the house itself was a quaint two-story home that, although large to my eyes, was probably cozy if not small for a family boasting 10 children. As I began the self-guided tour of upper floor of the house, I was pleasantly surprised to see almost half of the floor was dedicated to the home life of the Darwin family as well as a number of interactive games and videos. This combination worked together create a fun and comfortable atmosphere that I'm sure kept the younger visitors (and many of the older ones as well) of this museum thoroughly entertained.

Darwin Family Tree
Having studied Darwin and his work in several different classes, the rooms summarizing his research provided very little new information for me personally. Looking at his notebooks and a few of his preserved specimens was fascinating (especially the finches--his most famous example), but what really caught my attention was how much this site emphasized the impact Darwin's home life had on his work, most notably the death of his daughter Anne, which not only crushed his faith in Christianity, but also cemented his belief that life was a competition for survival rather than a strive towards harmony. The rooms that showed that he was a loving and supportive father to his children made him much more human to me than ever before, which is probably why I loved them so much.

Garden Path

It was also remarkable to be able to walk in Charles Darwin's footsteps during the audio tour of the garden. Once I broke through the barrier of unclear walking directions and was able to match locations to the stories I was listening to, it was easy to call up the images of Darwin puttering around the greenhouse or taking a stroll along the sandwalk with his children. While there are very few of Darwin's original specimens still preserved, and none of them in that greenhouse, I found that there was an atmosphere of scientific study infused within the space. Whether it was from the preserved nature of the house and its museum of Darwinian artefacts or the simple, natural state of the garden I can't say.

Inside the Greenhouse
I enjoyed the greenhouse the best--not only for the relief from the chill outside, but also for the rich variety of plant life that couldn't be found anywhere else in the garden. It certainly made me feel closer to the observations Darwin carried out there on climbing plants and carnivorous flowers.

Overall I found this site to be enjoyable, informative, and interactive. It is definitely a unique type of museum that is perfect for those people who prefer active, hands-on styles of learning. But it is also great for those who--like me--enjoy getting a glimpse at the man behind the science.

Taylor Gida

Friday, January 23, 2015

Museum of London

by Anne Dinh

The Museum of London focuses on the history of London from its early beginnings to modern day. The exhibit begins with first settlements and continues on to Roman Britain, Medieval London, Renaissance, and into the 20th century. My two favorite parts of the museum were the early landscape of Britain as well as the Roman Britain period.

A view of the museum from its entrance. 

The landmass of Britain, located on the peninsula of Europe, was shaped by climate change and ice sheets. During the Anglian Ice Age 480,000 years ago, Britain was covered by ice. The weight of ice sheets changed the landscape and carved new valleys while ice dams changed the route of the Thames river. Before our trip the class discussed one possible explanation for the intermittent ice ages: Milankovitch cycles. This theory reasons that three components of Earth's orbital movement influence the climate. These components are eccentricity (elliptical shape of Earth's orbit), axial tilt (the angle between Earth's rotational axis and orbital axis), and precession (the orientation of the rotational axis). These aspects of the earth's orbit change in cycles on the order of 100,000 years, and cause changes in the amount of solar radiation reaching Earth.

Temperature variations over the last 500,000 years

By 8500 BC, a warming climate allowed the ice to melt and gave rise to forests. The landscape was then heavily shaped by highly adaptable human communities. As the land became habitable, people settled in the land and coped with rising water levels by building wooden trackways across the marshy valley floor. Between 1500 and 700 BC, the areas near the Thames Valley were used for raising livestock and agriculture.

The museum continues the history of London with the rule of Romans over Britain. Around 50 AD, the Roman Empire established Londinium, which is modern day London. By 100 AD, this city grew into one of the largest cities in the Western Roman Empire with a population of 60,000. Roman rule influenced the layout of the city and the way of life. In 150 AD, the civic center was established with the forum and basilica as the focal point. The offices and shops nearby were built with stone rather than timber or mud-brick, and water-pipes were laid down. I really enjoyed the Londinium exhibit because it gave me a sense of the millions of incremental changes in the structure of the city and the way of life. 

This is a model of London's civic center in 150 AD with shops, offices, and houses around the central courtyard. 

This museum allowed us to appreciate London's immense history beyond the beautiful ancient architecture. Thus far, we've seen stunning cathedrals and grand towers. A peek back to the beginning of this country and its development through the centuries only serves to strengthen my love of this city. This understanding of early London also allows us to grasp the impact of scientific discoveries and how our perspective of the world around us has gradually changed.