Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Launch Pad workshop: Day 2

Before I start in on recapping the day, I want to give a big thank you to the folks who funded this year's workshop. Our primary sponsor is Uwingu, which supports astronomical education. And many people made individual donations as well, and you can check out the list here.

I started the morning by writing about 500 words before joining my fellow attendees for breakfast at a local diner, where the food was good and the conversation mainly focused on picking apart the scientific inaccuracies of Pacific Rim. Then, off to a full day of classes.

The instructors here are good at cramming a lot of material into each day. In the morning session, we covered the electromagnetic spectrum and everything on it. I had a vague understanding before of how light works, but now it's much better. There's still plenty to learn, though. A few interesting tidbits that I didn't know:
  • Our atmosphere allows only the radio spectrum and visible light to the surface, along with a little bit of ultraviolet and infrared.
  • Some birds and insects can see ultraviolet light, and some flowers have UV markings that create a "landing pad" for pollen-collecting insects.
  • Chicken-wire fencing blocks radio signals.

In the afternoon, we did some lab work with the electromagnetic spectrum, examining the various spectrums made by certain elements. After that, it was a lecture on gravity and motion, and then the first of a few talks we'll have this week about the science that science-fiction writers get wrong. I will admit that my Daily Science Fiction story contains one of the errors discussed today, but I won't tell you which one. Ha.

After dinner, we trudged up to the roof of the university's physical sciences building for some star-gazing and telescope-gazing. I have not seen such a starry sky since I was a kid at Girl Scout camp. Beautiful. A few highlights: Saturn with its rings and four brightest moons; two nebulas; a globular cluster, and the Andromeda galaxy. For the first time in my life, I also saw the constellation Scorpio, which is my zodiac sign.

A great end to the day.

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