Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Finishing up

Today was my last day of classes at St. Olaf. The last couple of weeks have been crazy because there has been so much going on. Just for homework I had a software design project that I put in ~55 hours on in the last 3 weeks. I have also been hanging out a ton with the Junior physics majors because they have been building demonstrations for the E&M class. Remember how I built a rail gun last year? Well, I told some of them about it and they took it way further. I was using 7 camera flash capacitors to store charge. Bern used 390 of them wiring some in parallel and some in series, to get a higher voltage. He then hooked on some other big capacitors that he found lying around the department. He encased the flash capacitor bank in Plexiglas for protection if one explodes. However, as he put it, "If one capacitor explodes and shorts out, it's going to over load the other capacitors and the whole thing is going down. So let's be honest, the Plexiglas won't really do us much good."

This ended up with something that we routinely charged up to 2000 volts. When charged it stored as much energy as 12 defibrillators. So, the natural next step was to discharge the entire thing through a pickle, which causes the pickle to turn into plasma and explode.

Charlie, on the other hand, build a rail gun but improved significantly on my design. He had a lot less dangling wires, which made it significantly safer. He also found some Mercury switches, which fire a lot cleaner and don't waste as much energy. However, we are not sure the age or quality of the switches, so he encased them in casting plastic to prevent them from exploding and spraying Mercury around the room. Ironically, when we pulled out another one to show what they look like, it had a leak, and we spilled Mercury all over the floor. Now I feel like a real physicist because I had to clean up a Mercury spill.

In other news, a few weeks ago I started dating Cia. I'm not sure exactly how that happened because I'm about to graduate, but we've always been really good friends, so it just kinda made sense. In case you forgot what she looks like, or haven't met her, here's a picture of her throwing a knife at my head. (It was a fake knife, and a bunch of us were playing catch with it.)

Today was the last daily chapel of the school year. It was the first thing to end that I am really going to miss. It has been the most stable thing for me through St. Olaf. Friends come and go from year to year, but daily chapel has always been there and since Sophmore year, the same group of chapel buddies has always been there. It might be the thing about St. Olaf that I miss the most next year. It was an amazing service because the pastors realize what daily chapel means to some people, so they do a very special service. They have a great way of recalling the best parts, like the Sunday school style Christmas pageant. I laughed a lot, and managed to not cry.

There is so much else going on but I need to go now, because I still have a lot of stuff to sort out before camp and I have a cold, which is making it difficult to get stuff done because I'm tired.

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