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.