R e s e a r c h   J o u r n a l

Tuesday, August 2, 2005

This morning, I arrived at the lab to see Matt sitting outside the door like yesterday; Dr. Noé hadn't arrived yet. So we sat outside again for a little while until some guy who had the key for some reason and happened to be walking buy noticed us, and let us in. Thanks some guy!

I then loaded up all my back journal entries with some difficulty. We then read about a Prof. quite unfortunately named Kock, and Matt decided to build an Op Amp circuit, and I pretty much just watched and learned. We also found a mysterious pair of glasses that everyone tried on, for some reason.

Dr. Noé arrived around 2:00-ish with some pizza for today's Tuesday Pizza Lunch!-- on Tuesday, even. In attendance: everyone from the Laser Center (Amol, Greg, Lindsey, Maaneli, Matt, Moon, Dr. Noé, Dr. Cohen, and myself) which pretty much transformed the special Tuesday Pizza Lunch! into just another lunch, with free pizza from Dr. Noé (thank you).

As far as discussing project ideas (today's planned topic), it was somewhat of an afterthought. Firstly, we discussed upcoming events in the Laser Center, specifically the Simons program tour of our lab on Thursday, at which all of us will have to make a presentation, and the REU final presentation on Friday, at which we will go to listen to Maaneli and Greg (and I suppose the other REU students) give presentations on their work. Dr. Noé also mentioned an EPA inspection of the lab that will be occuring next week, and also that next Friday, Aug. 12, is the last day of the Simons program, meaning that our formal summer experience here will be over. (We can still come in after then, however)

This news means more time distracted from working on a real "Intel project" as we will have to work instead on presenting some other work we've done to the Simons students. And as for that "Intel project"... I was hoping I'd have some more direction on after today's lunch, but I don't think that's the case. None of us really talked to each other about where we were going in terms of research, and as far as my particular project, the only thing said about it was "your project direction was the most uncertain of all", by Dr. Noé, and his recommendation was that I continue what I've been doing...

Anyway, after lunch we came back into the lab. A biology student (?) named Stephanie visited, and she and Moon really hit it off. While she toured the lab, Dr. Cohen sat down with me to discuss what kinds of projects I might work on. I told him some ideas I've had, but I guess neither of them were too good, since Dr. Cohen seemed to be pointing me towards a project suggestion of Dr. Noé's in which I will use the Michelson interferometer I've built to scan the phase plate Greg & Amol fashioned from a cover slip, in order to better describe, quantitatively, its shape. I feel, however, that such a project really should be some subset of their project, not the basis for my whole project. Then again, some project's better than no project.

I read about different LED manufacturerererers on the internet, and then watched a superconductivity experiment by Maaneli in which a piece of ceramic, when cooled with ample amounts of (very-cool) liquid nitrogen, repels small magnets. I took several pictures that I'll post tomorrow. Then I spent a couple of minutes looking disdainfully at the remains of my Michelson Interferometer. Then I decided on what parts I'll need to fix it. Then I checked out a note Stephanie left for Greg (!). Then I talked with Maaneli about what the philosophy of anarchy really is. Then I went home, at around 7:00. Today went better than yesterday, in terms of productivity/learning, but I still have to turn it up a couple of notches tomorrow.

Monday, August 1, 2005

Today I returned to the lab 'full time' again.  I spent the early morning catching up on everyone's journals to see what had gone down when I was away, and then decided that my journal (which you may have noticed has not been very current) really ought to be updated too.  So I decided to bite the bullet and get caught up to speed, which ended up consuming almost my entire day today, even though I had hoped to avoid that possibility.

I am now very afraid, however.  As I look at the calendar, all that remains is this week and next week, and then the Simons program ends.  Now, I know that I'll be coming back after that, but these are the only two weeks left of the 'Laser Center proper' left in which to develop a project, so I'll have to be very wary of spending my time unwisely.  We'll have a Tuesday Pizza Lunch tomorrow, at which we'll discuss our projects again, so maybe I'll get some direction then.

Anyway, I think I have to finish writing that Optical Lever Project report tomorrow... I hope it doesn't take all day too.

Friday, July 29, 2005

I came in briefly to catch up on what was going on in the lab, and do a little reading, with the hope that I would get myself in a science mindset again, and think about my project over the weekend.  I read about focal lengths, lenses, and tried to download OSLO, a lens-design program, but couldn't since I don't have the proper permissions to on the lab computers.  I'll try to download the free version at home or something.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

I wasn't in the lab today at all.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

I wasn't in the lab today at all.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

I came in for another two hours this morning.  I read some stuff on architectural light piping and other 'non imaging optics' stuff on the internet, mainly from a bunch of links Dr. Noé had given me, and left right before the Tuesday Pizza Lunch, surprisingly on Tuesday, for the first time ever this year.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Today starts my marching band's 'band camp', an intensive week of rehearsal in which we will learn and memorize the drill and music to our competitive show.  Attendance is mandatory, so I won't be able to be in the lab much, except two hours each morning.

So I came in this morning, and Dr. Noé asked me if I had completed my Optical Lever project write-up.  After I told him I hadn't,  he had me start writing up the intro paragraph in front of everyone, so that we could all be exposed to the complexities of writing a scientific paper, and so that we would realize how every word in a paper is carefully selected.  The final paragraph we ended up with, after writing committee-style, was very... graceless, I suppose?  Perhaps unwieldy.  Matt was very nice and typed it all up for me on a webpage in his section of the Laser Center site... http://laser.physics.sunysb.edu/~matt/nilus.html I believe.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Early this morning I was in one of the back rooms screwing my camera back  together, when Moon came in.  For some reason or another, we decided to play with the RadioShack Electronics Learning Lab, and we built a light-sensitive blinking diode setup.   By the time we were done, it was time to go to the conference room, where Prof. Metcalf gave us a talk about Op Amps, following up on the discussion (and some confusion) of yesterday evening.  I was encouraged by the fact that I could understand most of the mathematical concepts behind the physical concepts, which happens very infrequently.  He also showed us some dissected diode lasers, miraculous devices which create an extremely intense light with a laser 1/2 a micrometer thick!  Prof. Metcalf, when discussing light entering a new medium, said "When you enter into a material, the number of light waves, or wiggles, doesn't decrease.  There's nobody in there eating wiggles!"  which was pretty funny, especially considering his deadpan delivery.

We then went back to the lab, and Greg and Maaneli had to go to some REU lunch meeting.  The rest of us decided to go to lunch too, and Dr. Noé piled us into the back of his 'vintage' Volvo station wagon and took us to a Thai restaurant in Blue Point (I think) which was interesting.  We got all vegetarian stuff, so every dish (we shared everything amongst ourselves) seemed pretty much the same.  I noticed a review from the Long Island Section of the New York Times by Joanne Starkey, whose dining guidance has introduced my family to many excellent restaurants in the past.  She gave the place an average rating, but highly recommended the deserts, two of which we got... one being a deep fried banana, and the other some sort of deep fried ice cream in raspberry sauce.  They were pretty good.

We braved a ride home in super-hot weather, an extremely crowded back seat and a perilous trip to the gas station (the guy next to us almost didn't shut off his engine before filling up!) and made it back alive.  Everyone pretty much left after that... I stayed a little later, balanced my weight distribution 50/50 in the weird rocking chair we have,  and received some words of encouragement from Maaneli in regards to my inability to grapple with math when dealing with physics. I think I left around 6:00 or so.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Today went really fast.  I went into Dr. Noé's office early this morning to ask if I should throw out a several week old copy of The Times, and mentioned to him an article I had read in Tuesday's science section about the sky actually being purple.  This precipitated a several-hour long conversation and collaborative web search in which we went off on tangents like "Whatever happened to Forest Mimms III, port wine stains, S.O.F.A.R., and New Zealand.  Dr. Noé then copied the sites we visited down into an e-mail he sent as a joke to (or inspiration for) everyone else in the lab.

We then went to lunch at the SAC, where I got ripped off by paying $3 for an ice cream bar.  We had a discussion on... guess... come on... right!  Religion!  What a surprise.  I don't know if it was very productive, but over the course of the discussion, I realized how truly ideologically different Catholicism and Orthodoxy actually are.

On the way back, we met Dr. Noé, who encouraged us to use polarizers he had with him to look at the sky in observing the color saturation and Rayleigh scattering.  We came back to the lab, where Prof. Metcalf gave us our group photos. and we all got together to discuss Op Amps, which Maaneli had been working with Moon and Matt on, for use in his Sonoluminescence experiment, which I didn't get to hear the end of since I had to leave, around 5.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

More work on getting up to speed with my journal.  Everyone else's journals are very text-based, with large blocks of text or math... I'd like to make mine somewhat more lively... so I've been putting a lot of images in to the entries, as you can see below.  Making those images eats up a lot of time, and perhaps that's not a wise use of time.  But that's what I was doing in the morning. 

Dr. Noé showed me some websites on light piping, and non-imaging optics, which excited me not only because it had architectural applications, but because I just found the whole thing very cool, somewhat more accessible to me with my limited math background, and a good candidate for a field in which I could do my project.  Dr. Noé then took me to his office, where he showed me some super-reflective louvered light fixture covers, which he installed in one of the labs in the deep belly of the basement here.  They're really clever devices which are placed over built-in fixtures that restrict the dispersion of light, making for an eerie effect: the light fixture seems black, while the room is still lit up as normal (although supposedly with less glare)  This is to prevent the light fixtures of a room from being a distracting focal point when someone enters (that is, the person's eyes are ordinarily drawn to the bright lights on the ceiling when they enter, with these panels, that is not the case)  Dr. Noé also took me to his office to show me some samples of the panels that he received from the company, so I could inspect them up close.  According to him, the plastic panels are coated with a thin sheet of metal, with a super-high reflectivity of 98% or 99%.

Dr. Cohen came in around noon and was talking to Dr. Noé about various problems people had been encountering.  We went to Jasmine for lunch, pretty late (except for Amol, who had already gone there to meet with his teacher) Moon asked everyone of they were religious, for the record, since we'd been having so many discussion on religion lately.  Matt, Lindsey, and Greg are Catholic, I am Orthodox, Moon is nominally Protestant, and Dr. Cohen is Jewish (actually he didn't say if he's a practices Judaism or not).  Maaneli and Amol aren't religious, while Dr. Noé is an APODist (his worship ritual consists of looking up the Astronomy Picture of the Day :p ).  We discussed the concept of the Holy Trinity, the primacy of the Church over the Bible (since the Church actually developed it in around the 4th century) and debated the nature of Judaism as both ethnicity and religion.  While Moon was caught in deep conversation about an equation with Dr. Noé, Greg and I stole her lunch tray and wallet.  As we left, she chased Amol around, demanding he return it to her.  Meanwhile, I had taped it up to the ceiling in the lab.  I suppose she didn't imagine that I'd strike again. To the left is an image of Moon discovering her wallet, and on the right is an image of the same scene, except what it would look like if louvered panels were installed on the lights, to tie the whole thing into science.  (Clever, I know)  

We came back to the lab, where Greg and Amol finally finished their new CJ (Caravelli - Jain... their last names) Interferometer, and achieved a nice-looking forked interference pattern, which caused Dr. Noé to say "[expletive deleted]!" He also said "Sexy", in reference to a picture he took of the phase shifter Greg and Amol fashioned from a plastic cover slip... I took a picture of it too... it's shown to the left.  He then suggested projects to Moon and myself in which we analyze the amount of bend at any given point on this cover slip.  He explained that we could use a matrix to do this, (or, in my case, I could use the Michelson interferometer I built) and showed us an example in which you set up a grid, with a given value at each edge of the square.   You then go around the internal cells and guess numbers based on those edge values, and repeat your guesses over and over.  I was perplexed by the concept of 'guessing' to solve a math problem, but apparently, the math works itself out eventually over the repeated cycles no matter what your guess is... but the more accurate, the less time it takes.  Moon and I solved one of the matrices, and I left shortly thereafter, at 5:00.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Today we had a talk from Prof. Metcalf about clocks, which surprisingly dealt with a lot of quantum mechanics which went way over my head, unfortunately.  I realize Prof. Metcalf is very enthusiastic about how students should ask questions, but to understand more than the very basics of his talk, I would've probably been there several hours asking questions.  I did come away from the talk with a very different perspective on time in physics.  I've understood that the concept of time is in many ways an invention of man, and is not very easily explained, but the fact that this is true not just in the popular sense of time, but also when dealing with time in a 'physics' context, is intriguing.  I also now understand much more about atomic clocks, and how they work... I had known about them for some time, but had always had some strange idea of what they were.  So even though I didn't understand almost all the math involved, I still think I came away with a lot of new knowledge.  And I also came away with Moon's flip flops, which I taped to the front door of the lab, and to the top of one of the walls, after Greg had sneaked them away from her.

I spent much of the rest of the day catching up on transcribing journal entries from my lab journal onto my laptop, and then left at 5:00.

Monday, July 18, 2005

I came into the lab today and started working on getting caught up with my journal and writing my Optical Lever project report, both of which I had intended to complete before Dr. Noé returned from his vacation, but had been somewhat distracted from.  I was hard at work when Dr. Noé came into the back room and noticed my new workspace, and my own computer, and suggested that in order to allow me to do more work on my laptop, and to ease the demand for the 3 Linux stations we had in the lab, that we purchase a wireless router for the Lab.  He spoke to Amol about it, too, and I understand that they are selecting one.

He then rallied us together and, after he informed us of the happenings of his trip, asked us how our two days in the lab without him went.  I told him about the improvements Dr. Cohen had made to my Michelson Interferometer, and about the things I had learned from him about interference.  After the update session, Dr. Noé told us that we would be having a Tuesday Pizza Lunch today, Monday, July 18, 2005.  The purpose would be to have a group discussion about our projects, which would yield some insight into what our interests and inclinations were, with the ultimate result being that we would come closer to knowing (or actually know) what our projects would be.  How it actually turned out was the seven of us just told Prof. Metcalf about what we had been up to lately in the lab, and about our particular interests.  I felt kind of let down, I suppose, since I was really hoping I'd come away from the meeting being significantly closer to figuring out a project.  Perhaps it was just that my interests (which Dr. Noé told Prof. Metcalf were photography and architecture) don't meet very often in the optics field.  To me, though, that's okay... I would be infinitely more happy doing a project not related to either of them, then to leave the Laser Center without a project at all (or worse, a flakey project) 

There weren't any pizza contests after this meeting, however.

After that we came back to the lab, where I worked on my interferometer and Optical Lever write-up until 5:00, when I left. 

Sunday, July 17, 2005

I wasn't in the lab today, and I didn't do any reportable research, but I felt the need to write because I just saw STAR WARS Episode III for the first time and am really excited now!

Now I know what you're thinking... Star Wars Episode III?  That's still in theaters?  Well, yes: only 2 on Long Island are still playing it.  But I just never got a chance to see it, since I was so busy between the laser center, marching band, church, and school (which is no longer a valid excuse in the summer time)  So earlier this evening, I convinced my parents to take me to see it (I can't drive yet) and I'm glad I did.  It wasn't exactly on a super-huge screen, but seeing it in the theater is such a different experience from watching it at home.

What a good movie, by the way!  It was superbly done, I think, the best one yet.  I liked how Lucas allowed himself to linger on the human aspect of the story much more than in the past... the scene in which and Anakin finally chooses to go down the path of darkness, (he is standing around as Mace Windu has gone to arrest Chancellor Palpatine) stands out in my mind in particular.  It was excellently done; you could just feel the tension, the derision, the heart-wrenching and the nerve-wracking.  The vistas of a Coruscant bathed in a dusky orange, and the quiet, droning music, all seemed much more sophisticated than any other cinematic techniques Lucas has used before, all making this scene stand out.  But there were many scenes like this.

My only disappointments are a few.  It seems like he cut out a lot of stuff; sometimes it felt like he was spending an inappropriate amount of time on a scene he really liked, and then ended up having to shorten a scene that was really critical to the story.  Also, sometimes I don't think Lucas paid enough reverence to his own movie, making it seem almost too goofy like when...

  • goofy looking 'bee bots' fought with the Jedis' astromechs, 
  • R2 flew around the docking bay of Dooku's ship, blowing up droids because they heard his comm unit
  • Darth Vader gave his final bit of dialogue:
    Vader: Where is Padme?
    Emperor: You killed her in your anger.
    Vader: Noooooooooooooooooooo! *droid's head explodes*

I also think there'll be a Star Wars III.5, or there should be.  There'll be 20 years between Episode III and IV, which is too long, I think, and is the longest span of any of the movies.  Too much stuff will be happening in there that will go unexplored in movie form (I know there are books detailing Han and Chewie's meeting and exploits, etc.)  But there are other themes Lucas introduced that no books have addressed, notably the concept of 'communing with the netherworld of the force' through Qui-Gon Jinn, as Yoda mentions too casually to Obi-Wan at the end of Ep.III.  

And I want to know how the Rebel Alliance gets formed!  Lucas left this totally unexplored, showing us very little, except Senator Bail Organa and his blockade runner, the Tantive IV (which is swallowed by an star destroyer in the opening sequences of Episode IV.)  How does Jan Dodonna and Mon Mothma get involved?  How does Leia get rise in politics?  

I suppose some might say Lucas is leaving this to our imagination.  If that was the case, why would he bother to make the prequel trilogy in the first place?  He could've left that to our imaginations too, but his point was to explore that story in the cinematic medium.  I guess I'm left thinking that, after Episode III, he did an honorable job, but not one that was thorough enough for my tastes.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Today was just as fun as yesterday.  We played with liquid nitrogen, freezing everything from food trays to Bubble Tea tapioca balls, as well as using the vapors to help illuminate the Sagnac interferometer that Greg and Amol (or Amol and Greg?) built.  We had several interesting discussions, such as one at lunch about the efficiency of vegetarianism (which I didn't really get involved in, since I feel inadequate to speak on the topic.  I intellectually agree with the vegetarian's points about wasted resources and animal cruelty, but I lack the will and self-control to actually stop eating meat and dairy.) and one in the lab that started as a discussion on the nature of space and time, and then evolved into a discussion on the physical validation of religion (I avoided this discussion too, since I've had many debates about religion, and none of them end well.  Besides, I think that those who are caught up in trying to produce physical evidence of God's existence are obsessed with the wrong aspect of religion)

Then people started heading out since it was a Friday, and the dorms were closing.  Greg wanted to show us a stand-up routine by comedian Jim Gaffigan.  The computer they were trying to watch it on has no speakers, so he and Amol tried to build one (such is the character of a student in the Laser Center... don't have an electronics component most normal people would conclude would have to be bought for a lot of money at some electronic store?  who cares... we can make one ourselves!).  When that didn't work due to lack of adequate parts, we realized we could just watch it on my laptop, which we did, and it was hilarious.  After that, I left around 6:00 ish.

Above: pictures of fooling around with liquid nitrogen, from left to right: (1) when poured on the floor on a puddle of water, the liquid nitrogen shoots small globules of liquid (I don't know if it's water, or liquid nitrogen) out in all directions.  Try to touch it, and it disappears!  (2) Amol shines a green laser through the vapor rising from a closed container of water and liquid nitrogen (3) half of a frozen rubber ball... it was later shattered, I think (4) a three-second exposure of the Sagnac interferometer with vapors revealing the laser beams.  When the image is so red-saturated, it becomes pixilated, no matter what the resolution... which is quite confusing.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

a picture of the main whiteboard in the Laser Center, which is usually plastered with complex physics equations

Ah... I came in today to a very different atmosphere.  It was very much like a party... except one of those more sober parties... where everyone does work... Perhaps the unusual ambiance was thanks to DJ Moon, who was at the tables this morning, spinning an eclectic mix of rap, classical, and easy listening.  As much as I don't care for two of those three genres, it was a welcome change from the Silence of the Labs (sic) that hangs over the lab each morning as we trickle in.

I wrote in my notebook for a while, took some pictures, then started writing up my Optical Lever Project at a workspace I had created for myself on a desk in the back room with my laptop.  Dr. Cohen came in and started helping Greg and Maaneli with a photo detector quandary they were having.

Moon asked me about what happens when you shine a laser through a diffraction grating... in water... and I said I didn't know... so why don't we find out?  I went and got a tank of water and in about 5 minutes we had an experiment going.  Everyone (save Matt and Amol, who were at some Simons lunch/tour thingie) came in to check out the cool things the lasers were doing, but we quickly got frustrated with our inability to actually see the beams.  I suggested that some milk would help.  Greg said some lunch would help.  All at once, we wound up in Jasmine.  What a lunch.  We had quite some fun discussing 

  • methods for Moon getting laptops 
    (hang-gliding into the CEO's office at Citibank -in order to subvert the secretary who is suspicious of her being an assassin- and demanding in a job.  He is now bound by law to, in this instance, give you a laptop.) 
  • methods for killing people
    (the best method, "The Maaneli method", involves blinding the victim with a laser pointer whilst they are on the highway, undoubtedly causing them to crash, since blind people can't drive on the highway.  This leaves no evidence.)
  • orders of hottitude
    (iBooks are hotter than ThinkPads, Sean Connery is hotter than Orlando Bloom -note: Moon disagrees with Greg on this one)

Otherwise, Moon just said some really funny things.  Good lunch.




We came back from lunch with a few precious drops of Greg's mango lassi in hand!  Using it to cloud up the water, we began several neat experiments with green vs. red lasers.  Above are 4 photos of what we did, from left to right, (1) two rainbow glasses produce several diffraction patterns on top of one another (2) reflection of a beam inside the water tank (3) the laser beam's several diffracted beams spread out from one another in the water (4) the higher-wavelength green laser is scattered more than the red laser.  I also noticed that the green laser pointer looks a lot like a light saber when shined on a wall, and was then inspired to redo my Laser Center photo, as you can see from the front page.

After cleaning up my water tank, I did some photo editing and read The [New York] Times until it was time to leave for a rousing game of soccer.  I did pretty crappy, but Moon did really well!  She was all over the place and chasing people down like no body's business.  I left the game early, around 8:00.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

This morning I came in and worked on updating/streamlining this website, making all fonts and colors and such uniform throughout all the pages, fixing typos, and the like.  The time went quickly when, all of a sudden, it was time for the first Tuesday Pizza Lunch ... on Wednesday!  

During the Tuesday Pizza Lunch, Jan, a student from Germany working here at Stony Brook, introduced us to the world of X-Ray spectroscopy, while Moon and Greg had a [irreverent, though very funny] covert pizza eating contest.  Greg, with 8 slices (some even with toppings) beat Moon, with her measly 6 plain slices.  Dr. Noé left shortly thereafter for Ithaca, NY, to visit family, I believe.

After he left, we quickly descended into madness, the desire for a pull-up contest (long repressed by Dr. Noé's presence, I believe) went unrestrained, as, in truly strapping competitive fashion, Moon challenged the much larger Greg to a pull up contest.  Moon managed a stunning 0 pull-ups, while Greg not only managed several, but also flung himself over the pull-up bar, over a nearby staircase banister, and onto a landing 12 feet above the ground, just to make his destruction of Moon clear to everyone around.  Maaneli followed suit, for good measure.  It was a good day for science.

We came back into the lab, looking for some research-penance, when we learned that NASA had decided to scrub the launch of Discovery (which was slated to occur today) due to a problem fuel sensor that, when malfunctioning, allows the shuttle's engines to blow themselves up.  We were disappointed, but it was probably a smart move.

After some discussion on this matter, Dr. Cohen, who had attended the pizza lunch earlier, materialized in the lab, more specifically at my interferometer, which he had improved to produce a smaller, clearer picture of my interference pattern, through removing a lens I was using to focus light into a microscope objective, and more importantly, turning the microscope objective around so that it was taking in the somewhat-more-collimated light of the interferometer in with the broad end, since in a microscope objective the broad end typically deals with the collimated light, except in that case, it's sending it out, to the eyepiece.  Dr. Cohen also recalibrated the mirrors because some of the light was hitting a mirror mount.  Then I asked him about straight line interference patterns, so we inserted another mirror in one arm, to make both arms the same length, and thus even out the path lengths.  I then asked him about beating (or more correctly, I guess, 'modes') and beating/modes in sound.  We then went and played with the pendulum project, and I got fairly confused with the amount of stuff I was learning rather quickly.  Dr. Cohen recommended that I read a chapter from Webb's Elementary Optics book.  I started, but then was distracted by something else, perhaps Moon and Matt's random number generator or their percussion machine, and ended up leaving, without having finished it, around 5:00.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

We burned stuff in the morning! Using magnifying glasses to focus the sun's energy, we learned that as you collect light into a small area, it reaches the 50,000 watts per square inch needed to ignite something.  I made Dr. Noé a smilie face.  Science does have practical applications.

Then Amol and I worked on getting an interference pattern with the Michelson.  I moved the top arm in to get a sharp interference pattern, and we realigned all the mirrors and lenses... but to no avail; we broke for lunch.

The aforementioned lunch was had in the SAC, for the first time in the upstairs eating area.  I learned a lot about date rape and marijuana from some delightful packets we read over lunch.  I also owe Amol $7 for buying me lunch... I mustn't forget to pay him back.

Realigning everything a second time, and introducing a new lens for converging light in on the microscope objective, I managed to get an interference pattern!  Everyone had fun looking at it, but then Dr. Noé came in and told me about polarizing the light.  A well-placed polarizer could restore an interference pattern that had become washed out by the interferometer's arms being different distances from the beam splitter, and being poorly aligned.  So, I had to move the far arm back out to 28 cms from the beam splitter, to wash the pattern out, thus giving the polarizer something to do.

After everything was all set for tomorrow's visit, I cleaned up the area a little and began reading a paper by some team of scientists in Israel that everyone was talking about earlier in the day, which had used cracked 'optical-quality Plexiglas' as a phase mask to create special interference patterns, similar to what Dr. Noé and I had been talking about on Friday.  Then I called it a day around 5:00 and headed to marching band.

Monday, July 11, 2005

I spent much of the morning going over the last week's notes. I also finished, and posted, my biography (I suppose I should call it my autobiography?) here on this website.  At Dr. Noé's request, I removed my laser from the Michelson setup, and replaced it on the small breadboard, as to not prevent the possibility of a fiber optics/laser coupling experiment in the future.  I then found a new laser to use in my Michelson, and set it up.

I worked on setting up the Michelson Interferometer (shown at left) for quite some time.  Dr. Noé showed Amol and myself an optics demonstration which light diffracted around the edge of a microscope slide cover slip.  We also looked at a microscope slide; in both cases, we rotated the slip/slide to observe the effects on the interference pattern.  In both cases, one could see what I would liken to meteorological sundogs - spots (one above and one below the interference pattern) that move fast when far from the interference pattern, and slow when near.

We also noticed some periodic blurring and sharpening of the pattern; these were the changes in the laser, according to Matt (who Dr. No called in when I noticed this)  Matt explained to me that the fringes of the traditional bulls-eye pattern (the one my interferometer is producing is shown at left) are created by path length differences of light coming out of the beam splitter.  Now all I have to do is read up on laser phases and modes, and I'm set!

Friday, July 8, 2005

I spent the better part of the morning crunching over the previous days notes and numbers. Yesterday's experiment, at a perfectly-aligned 45-degree angle of the reflecting mirror did not yield the approx.40 TPI I was looking for. The data yielded the some bizarre answer like 14.5 TPI, and I simply chalked it up to my own lack of math skills and moved on. I think that I have two variations on the equation Dr. Noé created to compute the TPI count... I'll have to ask him about that sometime tomorrow.

Following up on yesterday's visit to the shop department, I went down to see the head, Walter, who wasn't in when Dr. Noé and I visited last night. He took out some dies and, after some searching around for the right one, matched the screw up with a 36 TPI die. With that question out of the way, I was left with only one more: why was the math not giving me 36 TPI, also?

Dr. Cohen came in again today, and helped me out on my project. We discussed my problems with Dr. Noé, and Dr. Noé said that my problem was because I was reflecting off a 45 degree mirror... but not for the reasons I had said previously. He said that the motion of the mirror is not all vertical: in some sense, the mirror is just moving around the point of light.  This leads to less movement of the light on the meter stick, which is indicative of a greater TPI count.  So since a 36 TPI screw moved light 'slower', or rather, moved it less than it should, the rate of change per quarter-turn step seemed like that of a greater TPI screw... for instance, 51.5 TPI, instead of the actual 36.

But when Dr. Cohen heard this, while he agreed, he felt that there was another problem... (one that I've come to understand is the cause of the problem Dr. Noé pointed out) that is that the experimentation was going on in two different planes:

The green triangle and the red triangle, conflict; there are two different planes, one in which the laser is bouncing off a mirror, and one in which I am moving the beam off the face of the laser onto a meter stick.  I didn't realize it at the time, but this is not acceptable in optical experiments; for the purposes of getting good data, all adjustments should be made on the same plane (either left and right -or- up and down... not both)  Somewhere along the line, Amol did some calculations, and said that while this sort of thing is undesirable, the data could be salvaged by multiplying each datum by the cosine of the angle I had the mirror rotated to (45 degrees)  By multiplying my final TPI answers by cosine(45), we came extremely close to 36 TPI, to the point where the deviation could be written off as my own error in collecting data, or some other experimental error.  Brilliant!

Given all this, however, at the counsel of Dr. Noé and Dr. Cohen, I decided to redo the experiment a fifth time, making sure to not deviate from the optical plane.

Somewhere along the line, we broke for lunch, after Dr. Cohen had left.  We had a very long lunch at the SAC, mainly because we trapped inside by the torrential rains outside.  Dr. Noé and I had a long talk about a whole panoply of things, from setting up a 4th workstation in the lab, to a cool lens-design program called OSLO, to a possible project idea of creating a 'phase mask', which form my currently minimal knowledge will retard portions of a light beam, creating forked interference patterns.

When we got back to the lab during a break in the rain, Dr. Cohen had also returned, and he helped me conduct Experiment No. 5, as well as calculate the data.  The setup was the similar to a previous experiment, 'No. 3', in that I was bouncing a laser beam off a mirror, back to the right of the laser, making sure that all beams were moving around in the same horizontal plane.

The results of this experiment yielded 33.8 TPI.  This is not 36 TPI, nor is it truly 'close'.  In trying to explain this new discrepancy, Dr. Cohen mentioned that he had observed my method for quarter-turning the knob as inaccurate; I was never sure of any position except for the '12:00' position, or rather, the full rotations.  Going back and excluding all data except those collected at the full rotations of the knob, we realized that my measurement for Δm, the movement of the beam on the meter stick, was actually 2.825 cms, not the 2.99 I had determined by including my inaccurate quarter-turn data, too.

When we readjusted Δm in the equation, the outcome was 35.8 TPI... extremely close to 36 TPI.  Success!

The mystery solved, the project complete, I began dismantled my set up and began building a Michelson interferometer, and embarked on my next project... and then left for home at around 8:00 PM.

If the above did not make sense, I am working on a more detailed, more organized write-up of my experiments, which I will post in a separate section of this website. 

Thursday, July 7, 2005

This morning started out with screws. I spent much time last night and this morning trying to find a chart of English screw sizes. Now I know, in failing to to find a good chart, and visiting several other websites, the difference between wood screws, machine screws, and bolts, as well as the only two camps of standardized screw sizes: UNC&UNF/SAE/English, and ISO/Metric. Anyway, after I failed my mission, Dr. Noé found exactly what I was looking for in 60 seconds on Google. This is why he is a teacher, and I am not. But that chart still didn't have all the screw types, so I might make my own, gathering all the sizes in one place, in one chart, in a forthcoming section of this site for all the world to benefit from.

In the mean time, I asked Amol to explain the equations used to transfer my data into threads per inch. He was explaining when the great Prof. Metcalf entered; all conversation ceased, for it was time for a lecture in the conference room...

The lecture was on the short side, since Prof. Metcalf is a busy, busy man and the two Simons fellows had to go to a meeting at 12:00. The main point of the lecture felt like an introduction to a future one, since Prof. Metcalf kept phrasing things as if that was the case. What did I did actually learn was that I don't know how light actually propagates, and more basically, how waves move. According to Prof. Metcalf, they move, they vary in space and time and kind of look like this

[sketch of people waving their arms that I have to scan in from my notebook]

I just must remember that sine and cosine are related. I think I understand why, but in the Laser Center, basic things you thought you understood, you suddenly don't.

Lunch at Jasmine. I had some vegetarian Indian food that I didn't care much for; the little food I had at the Curry Club was much better, and that's sort of what I was expecting. We had a long, interesting conversation on intelligence of Democrats vs. Republicans, money and corruption in the college admission process, why we were the ones who got into the Laser Center this summer, and the end of the world... among other things.

After we came back, we discussed problems with my experiment, since the formulae weren't working out. Dr. Noé had created the following formula to convert my data into a TPI (threads per inch) number.

(1/2) x (4l/L) x (1/Δm))

"l" was measured as the length of the mirror/lever; the distance from the center of the calibrating screw to the center of the ball bearing that served as a hinge, in a sense.
"L" was measured as the distance from the lever to the meter stick on the wall

Now, last night, I had spent much time over a small and finicky 50x handheld microscope tube trying to count the number of threads manually. The scale said that the pitch is 0.025 (25/1000 of an inch in between each thread crest) This translates into 40 TPI. To eliminate the possibility of my measurement being incorrect, Dr. Noé and I took a neat little field trip down to the shop rooms of the Physics building basement. There, the mirror mount I was using had been fabricated some 30 years ago... perhaps they would know whether or not the screw was 40 TPI. The man who helped us tried several methods to determine the TPI, but after little success decided to just bore a 40 TPI hole in a sheet of metal and try to screw the screw in: if it went in, it WAS 40... if not, it was something else. And guess what, it didn't go in. Therefore, it was not 40 TPI, and now, no one had any idea what it actually was.

Dr. Noé became suspicious of our reflecting light 90 degrees to the side with the 45-degree mirror. When manipulating the mirror, we both saw a problem, the one he saw, I'm beginning to think wasn't the same one I observed...

So, we began a new test on a new set up. Instead of reflecting light at 90 degrees, we are now reflecting it directly back over the laser. This experiment used a Thorlabs mirror with a very fine 80 TPI screw, however. So having retaken all measurements necessary for the equation (l, L, Δm), we solved the following equation:

(2) x (135/1.5) x (1/(5.53/2.54))
The answer was 80.8391: extremely close to the desired 80 TPI of the screw.


Then, we decided to set up my original experiment at 45-degrees exactly (since before, no one was sure of quite what angle the mirror was positioned at), as well as to try this new set up (reflecting the beam back over the laser) with the other mirror.  After performing that experiment satisfactorily, I left the lab around 6:00 PM.

Wednesday, July 6, 2005

I started the day off transcribing notes form yesterday's lecture by Prof. Metcalf, as well as the data from yesterday's experiment, in my journal.

Then Dr. Noé filled us all in on how to use Quattro Pro, a very retro DOS program that was the predecessor to Excel, certainly, and maybe even Lotus 1-2-3. After his tutorial, I graphed my data from yesterday.  It was a fairly nice graph, if I may say so myself, but we all felt that there wasn't enough data in there, so I set about tweaking the setup so that I could collect even more rotations' data, when Dr. Marty Cohen dropped in. Moon and I gave him an impromptu presentation on our work, when Amol pointed out (since I had quite stupidly forgotten) that the point of this experiment was to determine the number of threads per inch on the calibrating screw, through analyzing the collected data.

Dr. Noé then asked us how one would actually perform such an analysis. Amol had an idea, the math of which I still don't understand, I will have to ask him to explain to me again soon. Part of my misunderstanding may be due to a debate had between Matt and Amol about the angle of light displacement in relation to the angle of the movement of the mirror (the light moves twice as much as the mirror does). This was a problem I had already figured out the previous day, but my explanation to Amol (who thought that that shouldn't be the case), by my own admission, was not very good.

Anyway, I decided to take shelter in the work I was already doing, and finished my modification of the setup, and collected the data. I then graphed it, and Matt helped me decrease the "goodness" value, which is really the "badness" of data; how much they deviate from the line of best fit. To clear up this misunderstanding, Matt renamed the goodness the "Evil Value", making it clear to everyone that you want to have as low of a number as possible... we eventually got my graph down to 0.83 Evil Value.  Now I actually have to understand how this answers Dr. Noé's original question of "how many threads?".

Tuesday, July 5, 2005

We began the new week with a lecture from Prof. Metcalf on matrices and the commutative property. We discussed something that are commutative, but some that are not: elements in a lens, transformations of an object, and the placement of polarizing filters, to name a few.
Then we went on to the math of matrixes, and learned how to add and multiply matrices, and implemented optics. A light wave, which is merely a component of x and y values, can be expressed as such: (Ex, Ey)

Polarization, we learned, is an operation, and since operations don't commute, the order of polarizers don't commute either. We also learned that polarizers can be expressed as in a matrix form... for instance,

[ 1 , 0 | 0 , 0 ] (a horizontal polarizer) yields [ Ex | 0 ] (light with only an x value, and no y value)

If you can't understand my crude matrix-writing, please see Amol's or Matt's journals... they know the elaborate Math ML or whatever needed to display math appropriately.

Bu what about non-horizontal or non-vertical polarizers, say at 45 degrees? Using guess and check, essentially, Prof. Metcalf came upon

[ 1/2 , 1/2 | 1/2 , 1/2 ] x [ Ex | Ey ] = [ Ex/2 | Ey/2 ]
Thus, to ascertain the intensity of this new polarized light, you must compute the sum of the squares:
The x component was Ex/2. The square of that would be Ex2/4. (Ex2/4) + (Ex2/4) = Ex2/2. That is the intensity of the x component; the same can be said for the y, replacing the "x" with a "y"

We were assigned 3 homework problems:

  • to perform several translations on an object, on 3 axes, and observe the outcome

  • Find all square roots of the identity matrix

  • Prove that P2P1B is the same as P2B (essentially, prove that no matter what the order of polarizers, the light beam traveling through them will always be polarized in the direction of the last one)

Later on, Amol began writing a matrix that would represent the polarizing effect of any polarizer, when theta was substituted for the angle of the polarizer. After quite some time, with a little help from Maaneli, he finally arrived at one. Satisfied, we all went to the SAC for lunch, leaving Dr. Noé and Lindsey to mull over their own version of the solution.

After we came back from lunch, we killed time waiting for Dr. Noé and Lindsey to come back from their own lunch. When they did, they showed us that Amol's solution wasn't true for the general case. He showed us how the one he and Lindsey created, shown below, does work every time:

[ cos2(θp) , cos(θp)sin(θp) | sin(θp)cos(θp) , sin2(θp) ]

I went on the computer and did a little work on this site, when former Laser Center and Stony Brook student Rita paid a visit, looking for a Jethro Tull CD and her keys :p Dr. Noé gave us a rundown of her work here, and noted that she was Stony Brook's selectee for the Rhode's Scholarship. After she left, Dr. Noé took us into the other room and gave us a demonstration on lab safety / using optical equipment, notably screws.

Then Dr. Noé set Moon, Maaneli and myself up with a little experiment, to measure the movement of a laser beam at each quarter-rotation of a mirror (reflecting the laser)'s calibration knobs.

The basic procedure was to measure the movement of the laser beam (after each quarter-turn of the calibrating knob) on a meter stick as the mirror deflects light higher or lower than the original plane the laser beam was on. After obtaining the data, I headed home around 8:00 PM, planning to make a graph of the data the next morning.

Monday, July 4, 2005

We had the day off.  Happy Deep Impact / Independence Day!

Friday, July 1, 2005

Today I uploaded some modifications to this website that I had made on at home on a Windows computer: big mistake. I had a whole bunch of problems with the character set, and I ended up spending the whole day trying to figure out what went wrong, and how to fix it, with Amol, Matt and Dr. Noé.

We then went to the Curry Club for lunch, from which I had to leave at 2:00 to open a Mets game with my marching band. They won, coincidentally.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Today we began with our first lecture from Professor Metcalf in the very cold 'conference room' which ran a whole gamut of subjects, but basically was about the math which is used to understand physical concepts. His major point was that physics and math are not necessarily the same thing; physics is, fundamentally, the observing of the natural world. I think he was trying to divorce physics from science (to a certain extent) since many people have the false preconception that physics and math are so intertwined that physics, as a discipline, is math. I hope I'm not misunderstanding (and if not, misunderstanding) that point. Prof. Metcalf was sure to not minimize math's importance in physics, however, and thus we launched on a long discussion about roots and imaginary numbers. I can't quite remember where what Prof. Metcalf taught us ends and where Dr. Noé picked up. (Dr. Noé, after Prof. Metcalf had left to find some breakfast began showing us the graphical illustration of the concepts we had just learned.) However, before he left, Prof. Metcalf assigned us homework of the following:

  • Expand [successfully]: (-1 (3i)1/2)3

  • Find the answer to: "What is a number?"

Having primed us with the discussion on imaginary numbers and roots, Prof. Metcalf then displayed the interactions between two polarizing filters, and then three. When rotated contrary to each other (one horizontal, the other vertical) no light passes through, since the first filter restricts the light to one polarization, and the second then blocks that one too. But the introduction of a third filter, placed in between those two polarizers, actually lets light through anyway, and at more places in its 360 degree rotation.  He then left to find some breakfast, and some of us remained, discussing some of the more mathematical aspects of what Prof. Metcalf had shown us. 

I spent the rest of the day continuing getting acquainted with the lab.

Wednesday, June 29th, 2005

Today, we began with a discussion on more optically-related math, namely the small angle approximation.  Dr. Marty Cohen, a former researcher at Bell Labs, came into the lab, with whom Dr. Noé showed us a couple of neat optics demonstrations, such as the stress-bands that can be seen in two plates of glass being squished together, interference between two lenses, and creation of star points in apertures with four- (or more) fold symmetry.

We then took a tour of the Nuclear Structure Lab here in the Physics Department, in particular, the LINAC, a particle accelerator that our very own Dr. Noé played a role in developing.  It was very interesting, but most of it was way over my head.  But the professor (?) who gave the tour was very funny, engaging, and was able to distill the very complex science of particle acceleration into something a layman such as myself could understand.

Then we had a leisurely lunch at a restaurant called 'Jasmine', on campus in the brand new Wang Center, a huge industrial-contemporary styled building funded by Computer Associates founder Charles Wang.  I saw a movie about his house in my architecture class, and the two were very similar in that they both had running water playing a prominent role in the building's design, and had similar application of large columns, and open voids, and industrial details.  The lunch was good, but considerably more expensive than the SAC, and we had an interesting conversation on the history of the NSL, and physics in general.

Then we went over to the campus bookstore, where Matt and Lindsey, with some goading and prodding from myself, launched into an emphatic debate on US foreign policy, (the war in Iraq in specific) and the shameless self-serving and stupidity of many of the books that figure prominently in popular culture.. "The Terri Shiavo Story", published weeks after that whole affair ended, is a prime example.  Greg silently enjoyed their conversation from several bookshelves away.  All the while, Dr. Noé, more interested in physics searched for (and found) Prof. Metcalf's book on laser cooling, to show Dr. Cohen.

I signed onto Linux for the first time today, tried to learn some of its commands, and reacquainted myself with some HTML, and did a little web-design tinkering.

Tuesday, June 28th, 2005

We started class today with a review of the previous day's topics.  Then there was a discussion on mathematics principles that are somehow related to optics, but was over my head for the most part.  We learned about the genesis of "degrees".  They are preferred less, than Radians.

I discussed with Maaneli his sonoluminescence project.  I think I understand the basic principles, but I wonder if its the components of his project that that make it interesting to me... the wonder of making more heat than the can be found on the surface of the sun simply by collapsing a bubble, as well as its being on the "cutting edge"... are they necessary to a successful project?  I must keep this in mind as I learn, since I will have to make a project soon enough, myself.

I read about the nature of light.  Being an intensely visual learner and thinker, I find the descriptions I've gotten of "light" from textbooks as lacking.  Some very basic questions I have still need to be answered:
>Light is a wave; what does this wave actually look like?  If it is not a photon until it is absorbed/emitted, then what does a 'light wave' actually look like in the interim?  Does light just 'behave' like a wave, but actually looks like something else?
>Beams vs. Waves... I must come to a better understanding of this.  Is a plane wave a beam?  Is a beam a whole collection of waves?  This basic stuff is where I am frustrated by my lack of elementary 'high school physics' knowledge.
>What exactly is an airy pattern?
>What is a plane wave?  Where does it come from?  What other kinds of waves are there?

At this point, after today, I think I have more questions than answers.  But this is a lot more manageable than the first day, when I had a million concepts and answers thrown at me, without much time to absorb them in between.

Monday, June 27th 2005

First day at the lab!  With much trepidation, I opened the door to the lab at around 9:00 this morning, and was relieved to find Dr. Noé, whom I had thought would be away until 10:00.  He introduced me to Greg, who will be a junior at Johns Hopkins University next fall, who was helping him install a new computer, I think.  As the three of us were talking, Lindsey, who will be a junior in high school, came in.  Shortly thereafter, Dr. Noé left to go pick up the Simons fellows from their 'introductory ceremony', and soon after that, Moon, another soon-to-be junior came into the lab.  Maaneli, another undergraduate, who will be a sophomore here at SBU, then came in.  After a good half-hour of awkward small-talk, Greg agreed to give us a crash-course in Linux.

Dr. Noé arrived after maybe an hour, with the two Simons fellows, Matt and Amol, who will both be seniors next year in high school, like myself.  After their parents saw the lab and left, we all sat down to introduce ourselves, and for Dr. Noé to apprise our physics knowledge.  I showed my lack of knowledge when I failed to be able to give the size of light (400-700 nanometers, I now know), and when I didn't know what a yocto times a yatta was (1).  After a long talk about what our experience in the Laser Center will be like, Dr. Noé sent us off to lunch, which we took at the SAC, or student activities center.  We all seemed a little nervous about what the immediate future would be like, and were eager to know what would be expected of us by Dr. Noé, from the 'veterans' of the group, Matt (who had been here last year) and Greg and Maaneli (who had been here for the previous two weeks)

After lunch we got a look at Maaneli and Greg's projects.  Maaneli is researching sonoluminescence, while Greg had set up an apparatus for looking at Poisson's spot, caused by diffraction.  In it, a black silhouette of a ball bearing is cast onto the viewing screen by a light source, but very curiously, a small dot appears in the center, which one would not expect.  This experiment was used to help prove the wave theory of light.

Then Dr. Noé returned to the lab.  We found, in experimenting with him, that the spot could be found at any given point along the path of the laser;  "pseudo-Possion's spot" he called it, since it certainly wasn't Poisson's spot proper. (the real one should only be visible at certain distances from the light source)  The topic of the 'airy pattern' kept coming up... I have to learn what that is.

Dr. Noé showed us a pattern formed by two razor blades coming together and squeezing the light through it, I assume like Young's slits, since its the same principle.

Dr. Noe also showed us a pattern formed by shining light through a serious of apertures, called a Fresnel zone plate, which created a very interesting pattern of concentric circles, similar in many ways to the bulls eye of a Michelson interferometer.

Then Dr. Noé introduced us to the world of optical vortices; he showed us a photograph transparency of a diffraction grading with a fork-like pattern.  According to him, this unique pattern is formed when a normal beam of light interferes with a vortex of light.  I'll have to read more about this.

Then we did some playing around with rainbow glasses, observing the diffraction of several different kinds of lasers through the rainbow glasses, as well as observing how different kinds of lasers can excite gasses into emitting light.

After all these experiments, we were given our official Laser Center notebooks, printed out labels for them.  Shortly after this, I left, at around 5:00.

Nilus Klingel
nilus.klingel (a) gmail.com
Laser Teaching Center