On Friday morning my lab group and I took a short break from the noise and heat of the basement laser lab to take advantage of the clear day and watch the solar eclipse. The physics department had a live feed of the event, showing enough detail on the sun that you could see sunspots, and all the filters used to block out laser light in our experiments came in handy in getting a good view! On either side of watching the moon pass, however, time has been running thin with Easer fast approaching, and the efforts of the last six months are starting to be written up to see what they’re worth.
On Monday a week of presentations begins, where fourth year students give forty-minute lectures on their chosen advanced study topic. Subjects range from epidemiology and medical ethics to nanoscale chemistry and black holes, and as this is worth a significant percentage of the module we’ve been hastily practicing and criticising each other’s work. My own presentation is just about ready, and I’m reasonably happy with it. The talks are designed for a third year undergraduate audience, but must also reach the frontiers of the field in discussing current research. Finding this balance can be tricky, as you don’t want to spend too long going over the fundamental science, but also don’t want to lose your audience in the first ten minutes! I’ve actually really enjoyed studying Bose-Einstein condensates for the last few months, and in many ways I’m pretty excited to talk about them! It’s a really fascinating topic that allows you to explore many aspects of statistical and quantum mechanics. A heavily related phenomena that also makes up my portfolio is superfluids, many of the properties of which stem from their Bose-Einstein component. There’s a really great documentary on superfluid helium made in the 1960’s that still stands the test of time, which is a fantastic introduction to some of the very strange properties of the fluid!