January 2009


I thought that I found the perfect glycerin-water solution on Tuesday. The mixture wasn’t close to what I calculated, but- it worked. It held up beautifully, despite less than ideal conditions. We thought we were ready to let the diffusion experiment start, but today, the tracer fluid sunk to the bottom.

It’s starting to look like the theoretical might work better for the the actual experiment. I’m not sure why, since the conditions for the trials I did were held in pretty good conditions (constant temperature) and sometimes arguably worse (I would inject the tracer fluid with a syringe held, so it wasn’t terribly steady).

img_1173Behind that tarp is my experiment. See? It literally is table top. Physics doesn’t always have to take place in huge labs like CERN or Argonne.

The reason I keep a lot of details under wraps is because I don’t want someone beating me to completion. I didn’t have much to do (really, any) with the planning or development of the theory we’re testing. It’d be really unfair for me to publish all the gory details online and someone else with more time come along and complete it. I do believe in sharing knowledge, but I also believe in not overstepping bounds, which means using discretion on what I share. I’m not the only person working on this experiment.

Also, last year around April, one of my friends was going to defend his thesis. That month, someone else published a paper about his work and totally disproved my friend’s thesis. He worked from April to November to create a new presentable thesis. Although that may be paranoid of me, I don’t want that to happen to me.

Once I defend, I’ll definitely discuss more details and such. My defense is open to the public, after all. I may even show some photos of what lies beneath the tarp. However, for now, this is all you’ll see. I’ll still write updates on vague stuff I do in the lab (like working from 7 to 9:15 in the lab last night), but all the hardcore science stuff will have to wait.

I keep hearing about local Middle Eastern dance communities hurting because of the economy. If you can swing it, try to support them somehow. Go to their shows, take the classes or workshops, buy costuming stuff…

If you want to support the Chicago-area community, the following big events are happening:

  • Deb Rubin formerly of Ultra Gypsy (Ultra Gypsy is a very influential tribal fusion group) comes to Elgin (suburb of Chicago) in April for 1.5 days of workshops.
  • Aradia is coming to Milwaukee in May; I’d love to give more details but I don’t know of any right now beyond that.
  • Hadia is in Forest Park, IL (suburb of Chicago) in May at Pineapple Dance Studio.

I encourage everyone to support the local people’s endeavors, because they may not be able to host great events in the future. I understand that the workshops aren’t the only cost for many people (travel, food, babysitters, etc.), but please consider participating in your community.

I enjoyed my lesson with Aradia so much that I decided to check out Aradia’s DVD, Oriental Dance By Aradia. Besides being a fan of Aradia now, I was interested in the content, since the DVD covers Egyptian, Turkish, and Lebanese dance.

The beginning introduction gave a general overview of Middle Eastern dance and the goals of this DVD. I liked this, because she is a seasoned dancer. She mentions that the dancer is 60% emotional, 40% technique; when I met her, she told me that. I think that is important to keep in mind. I get so into getting the technique right sometimes, I forget to relax and enjoy and feel the music.

The next section was a warmup section. It was slightly odd that she did a voiceover instead of talking while addressing it. She does address the audience in the combos section.

The first style Aradia covers is Egyptian. I like that she shows a demo of Egyptian dance while she voiceovers what is Egyptian dance. Similarly, Aradia introduces the Lebanese and Turkish sections this way.

One of the strongest points of this DVD is the knowledge passed by. Not only is there a brief intro of each type, but also she shares a little bit of info while showing the combo; for instance, one of the Egyptian combos she mentions that it’s a Samia Gamal move. I also really like that Aradia tells the dancer where the weight should be (left or right) and mentions foot positions. Another nice feature is that after teaching the combo, Aradia demonstrates the combo to music.

The combo teaching I’m not sure how I feel yet. She does the combos broken down both forward and backward. She then performs the combo together without and then with music. She doesn’t do a lot of repeats in either direction. I was able to follow, but if you prefer to work slower, perhaps you should note what she did first and then try it (that’s what I’m planning on doing). Having not worked through DVDs much, I’m not sure if this is the nature of them or a stylistic choice. I’m not sure personally what I prefer yet. Aradia covers a lot of combos in 1.5 hours. I like that she is giving me my money’s worth by covering so much, rather than repeating 2 combos for a long time. However, you will most likely have to repeat the sections in order to learn them.

While I know the DVDs for dance are geared towards dancing, I wish there had been more history information in this DVD. I personally love the academic side of Middle Eastern dance. Aradia, from what I know, did a good job of going over this.

This DVD is definitely not for the beginning dancer. I do think it is excellent for a more intermediate to advanced dancer. This DVD is definitely something I will watch again and learn from.

I don’t enjoy grading on a whole. Despite some of the students’ beliefs, I don’t enjoy docking them for mistakes. It takes far more time to grade a bad report then to grade something perfect. I also feel a little bad. One of the reasons why I prefer to not teach intro labs, besides having done them for a calendar year, is that I usually get some people trying to argue their grades with me.

On Thursday, one of the students decided she needed to argue her grade with me. She received a 16/20. I had spent over 10 hours (I think I estimated 12-13 at the end) that weekend grading, writing general notes on how to improve, and writing individual report comments, but I still checked it. I actually graded them slowly, because I wanted to make sure that I did find everything the best I could. The girl pouted the entire class when I refused to change her grade. It’s a solid B (the school has B-range equal to 75-85), even though her lab partners told her it was a B. I don’t grade biased. I barely know who is who, there are 90+ lab reports, and I don’t look at the names until I enter the grades. I don’t understand why some people seem to think I have a vendetta against them or their class, when the average was probably about a 17.5/20. An A-, not too shabby. I didn’t dock for the following, even though I should have:

  • Poor grammar
  • Slang or very casual language
  • Missing units
  • Not take into account prefixes (kilo, for instance), when writing numbers

Considering I believe at my undergraduate school, the above would have been docked, I feel like I have been generous. Behaviors like this frustrate me. It isn’t about learning, it’s about getting a better grade. I’m not entirely opposed to grades; I do feel like they are useful, because I’ve noticed people do better once they receive points off for something. They don’t continue to make the same mistakes and are more cautious. One of my favorite things from the summer was seeing these two girls turn in highly unacceptable work to turning into stellar work. They were graded harshly by someone for the first lab report and learned to do better. They didn’t enjoy physics or the labs from beginning to the end, but they understood that they needed to turn in good work to receive a good grade.

The other thing that frustrates me with grading is that I don’t grade everything, so the standard varies greatly. While with a class that is 90+ people, that’s great for time. However, some TAs are not meticulous or repeatedly give the students second chances with full credit. I only do that for the first report or some flavor of that (this year, I said I’d read ahead time if they submitted early). I learned one TA did that the entire last quarter. No wonder I come off looking mean. I don’t feel like giving them second chances every time is appropriate; your boss would most likely fire you if that were the case.

Some weeks are harder than others. I hope this week was the hardest this quarter.

We concluded today that the tracers did what they were supposed to do: sit there. We were ready to go, but we discovered something terrible: the density of the tracers is a bit higher than water. As a mixture, it was fine, but for what we wanted to do (inject a lot of tracer as a blob and let it sit there), it didn’t work.

I spent all day, save for a lunch break, trying to come up with the perfect solution to get the tracer to stay put. It looks like whatever we do must be very precise. A mL too much or too little, and it doesn’t work.

I hope to have a working solution by the end of the day.

My diffusion experiment is slowly underway. By slowly, I mean it was set up on Monday and we wait until Friday. The first test is basically to see that nothing weird happens with just a constant temperature and the tracers in the water. The tracers are these little things that are basically 2D. They’re that thin. They are suspended in water and are light enough that they’ll stay like that for weeks (according to my advisor). The tracers do what it sounds like they’re supposed: trace paths. Since the water has no force or anything else in there, they should just sit there and do nothing.

Let’s hope that all goes well. The good thing about this experiment is that I have to do very little with the experiment. The bad thing is if the computer freezes or something else happens (someone bumping the setup), I lose a week.

Next Page »