Friday, September 28, 2012

Pillow egg. Yes, you read that correctly.

I'm incredibly sorry for taking a long break. These past 2-3 weeks have been the roughest academic weeks yet for me. I didn't think anything could be worse than the combination of chem and calc last fall semester, but I was sadly proven wrong. I've been doing a ton of stats and physics in the past two weeks, and now I'm very tempted to make a bar graph for the readers of this blog, with the categorical variable being either OS or country. Yeah. I'm obsessed. For one of my college apps, I need to say how your friends would describe me in x amount of words. I"m very tempted to do a survey, create a dotplot of the answers, and then choose the words with the highest frequencies. Mainly I just want to do that so I can say I mathematically chose my responses.

Physics is mindblowing. I will repeat: mind blowing. We were covering kinematics the other day, and I was just stupidly standing outside dropping two tennis balls to see if they really did hit the ground at the same time. Which leads me to the most awesome thing that has happened to me in the past couple weeks: egg drop. Who doesn't love a good egg drop? Build your little egg a nice contraption to keep it safe, watch it fall from a large height, and then watch as other people's eggs smash into little bits of yolk and shell. Really, at one point, my friend and I had to step back from the "splash zone." Anyway, so the egg drop occurred on a day when I got very minimal sleep the night before. I was resolved that our egg would die and break and crack. Then it happened. My team got an idea and it was awesome. The people running the egg drop (hi Oliver and Simon if you're reading this!) had given us a limited amount of supplies, which we were supposed to use all of. So our inventory basically consisted of a few flimsy pieces of paper, some stuffing/fluff, a square of foam, some straws, some popsicle sticks, and unlimited tape. Oh and a cork that we really had no idea what to do with. The catch was that we had to build a contraption in which we could easily insert or remove the egg. So unfortunately, we were not able to just wrap the egg up in a big ball of tape and fluff and foam. Originally we were going to make a pocket by taking the different layers of sheets, stuffing foam between each of them, and then taping it up. And then it hit us: pillow. We essentially made a pillow out of 5 pieces of paper, fluff, and tape. Then we built a little nest for our egg by cutting up foam and wrapping it around the egg. We cut another piece of foam for the bottom of the nest. Then we taped popsticle sticks all around the "nest" so that it would hold the top foam piece in place. And then we taped the entire contraption onto the pillow. It was a little box made out of foam glued onto a paper pillow, and it was beautiful in my eyes (mainly because I was unmotivated in the first place).

I'll be honest, when our egg was dropped I looked away. I get so pathetic about these competition sorts of things. Luckily, since our "nest" was in the center of the pillow, it balanced out and it fell straight down so that the impact was taken by the pillow. And our egg didn't die! It was great. The only problem was I had that  jingle for pillow pets stuck in my head. All. Day. All I could think about was "it's a pillow, it's a pet, it's a pillow pet!" And then I swapped out the words so it became, "it's a pillow, it's an egg, it's a pillow egg!" In my defense, it was a long day and I was running on coffee.

Happy beginning of fall!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Fathom is my new best friend.

I'm sorry. I've been so remiss about loving and caring for my blog. Please forgive me...It's been a crazy week--classes are officially in full swing, and college apps are right around the corner. On the other hand, because classes have started, I've discovered a whole new world of math and science-y goodness. I also found out for comp sci that we're going to be creating a program for an art character who dances the hokey pokey. Epic.geek.out.ensued. I'm so incredibly sad that I have to wait for November until that happens. Expect a blog post on that in ~2 months.

Anyway, how many of you out there have had to graph something at some point in your life? Ever since precalc, graphing paper and a ruler have always been within an arm's reach. It was good to get the experience graphing functions and data by hand, really. I'm not taking away from that. But there were some days in chemistry when my lab partner and I would stare stupidly at the paper for fifteen minutes trying to figure out an adequate scale for our graphs. It was kind of amazing really. We had just spent 3 hours using I don't even know how many formulas, and hand us a piece of paper and a bunch of data, and we were like a bunch of lost puppies trying to find our way home (literally--we didn't want to leave the lab until we had our graph scale approved by our professor).

But then our professor introduced us to using the computer to record data and create graphs, which we used when we were using things like pH meters, calorimeters, and thermometers. It was awesome, to put it frankly. After spending an entire first semester recording data and graphs by hand, it was pretty neat to see the little dots of data pop up onto the computer screen as the experiment timer counted down. After chemistry ended, any thoughts about using a computer to graph such data disappeared. Actually, I wasn't thinking about it, honestly. My summer was blissfully graph-free.

Enter physics. And stats. And Fathom. My very first physics lab involved graphing two graphs. At the same time, my statistics teacher had just introduced us to the statistical software Fathom, and she taught us how to take data and data tables and transform them into graphs. After spending 30 minutes working on my physics graph by hand, I had an epiphany. Why not try using the computer software to graph it? So I did, and it worked beautifully. I still have to graph a bunch of stuff by hand for statistics, and I'll practice doing some graphs by hand for physics, but I do love the convenience of Fathom when I'm short on time. What's really cool about the program is that there's an option to import data from the Internet. You can literally drag the webpage with the data over the Fathom window, and a little "S" button pops up next to the data website's URL. If you click it, the data is automatically imported into its own little collection in Fathom. It's awesome. My stats teacher had us try it out with data online about hot dogs. For some reason, I found that very amusing. The only downside is Fathom does have a cost. What other stats software have people used? Any cool open-source ones?

Happy start of classes/September!