Category Archives: Physics

Chapin Rare Books Library Unites Science and History

By Elizabeth Jacobsen ’16

The first time I visited Chapin Library was for my Astronomy 102 class. All the notable books in the history of astronomy, from Euclid to Newton, were arranged on a square of tables. We admired the fascinating geometry of the sketches, recognizing some from our textbook. The books were a leathery tan, opened to illustrations of Galileo patiently listening to Copernicus and Ptolemy argue, a giant bull adorned with stars leaping across the sky, or Kepler’s attempts to chart the heavens on the musical staff. In the center of the room was a large book, its pages a couple of feet across. It detailed the elegant but inaccurate Earth-centered system, tracing the paths of the planets in pink and blue corkscrews around Earth. At last a lean man with a soft voice and owlish glasses said, “I’m Wayne Hammond, curator here at the Chapin Library.” And in a few more soft words, he began to spin the tale of astronomy’s history, slowly orbiting the room and leaving a trail of facts floating in his wake.

Continue reading Chapin Rare Books Library Unites Science and History

Physics professor teams up with biologists to explore protein translation

By Meagan Goldman ’16

Two disciplines are better than one. That’s what Daniel Aalberts, Professor of Physics at Williams, has realized through his collaboration with biology researchers. His team, which in January published a paper in Nature, used a combination of wet lab techniques and statistical models to discover a mechanism that allows some proteins to be expressed at higher levels than others. Their findings have exciting implications for the enzyme manufacturing industry and for scientists who need to produce large quantities of proteins for their experiments.

Continue reading Physics professor teams up with biologists to explore protein translation

Williams Hosts Astronomy Symposium

Image: Williams College students who attended the 2015 KNAC symposium. L to R: Allison Carter ’16, Michael May ’17, Sarah Stevenson ’17, Emily Stump ’18, Anneliese Rilinger ’17, Ross Yu ’19, Becky Durst ’16. Gillian, and Prof. Karen Kwitter. Not Pictured: Tina Seeger ’16, MeiLu McDermott ’16, Hallee Wong ’18, Marcus Hughes ’18, Tim Nagle-McNaughton ’18

Why didn’t the Dog Star laugh at the joke? If you were in science quad last weekend (October 17th) and asked one of the Keck Northeast Astronomy Consortium (KNAC) presenters, you would likely have gotten a chuckle and a response that “it was too Sirius.” KNAC, a collaboration of eight liberal arts colleges in New England (Colgate University, Middlebury College, Vassar College, Wesleyan University, Haverford College, Swarthmore College, Wellesley College, and Williams College) funds summer research opportunities for astronomy students. The annual symposium, which rotates between the eight institutions, was hosted at Williams this year with 32 student speakers and 9 poster presentations.

Continue reading Williams Hosts Astronomy Symposium

Ask a Physics Student: What is Energy?

Today we continue our “Ask A Science Student” series. For the previous response, click here.

Ask a Science Student, Part 2: Physics

By Matt Radford ’16

Energy has many different forms. Electrical, thermal, and mechanical kinetic energy are all forms associated with moving objects. Potential energy is dependent on an object’s position in a field, such as apples hanging in a tree, or an object’s position relative to its parts, such as a drawn longbow. An apple also has digestible energy, usually measured in calories. Other units of energy commonly found in day-to-day life include the watt-hour, which probably shows up on your electricity bill, and the British Thermal Unit, which is likely mentioned on any air conditioning unit.

Continue reading Ask a Physics Student: What is Energy?