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.
An alum from the class of 2010 emailed us about a month ago and told us he ran a Williams science publication (coincidentally also called the ScientEphic!) when he was a student here. We took a look at some of their old publications and enjoyed their section called “Ask A Science Major.” So The ScientEphic is beginning a series based on that section. We asked students from four departments – chemistry, physics, biology, and astronomy – to explain the concept of energy. We’ll publish their responses over the next four days.
When I told my friends at home that I was going to Williams College to study science, some of them asked me why I was choosing not to go to a STEM-oriented college. Their curiosity got me thinking.
Why study science at a liberal arts institution? Why teach science at a liberal arts institution? What are the benefits of a liberal arts education for science students?
To explore these questions, we decided to survey the Williams science faculty to find out why they teach at Williams and what they think about liberal arts. Many of the responses confirmed what we already know, while others highlighted the pros and cons of a Williams education specifically for science students.
Don’t underestimate college students, especially if they study astronomy at the top northeastern liberal arts colleges, because they might just be re-defining what we know about the universe.
Last weekend, Williams professors Karen Kwitter and Steven Souza traveled with seven students to Swarthmore College to participate in the Keck Northeast Astronomy Consortium’s 2014 Undergraduate Symposium on Research in Astronomy. There they learned about the cutting-edge summer research conducted by students from Williams, Wesleyan, Wellesley, Vassar, Swarthmore, Middlebury, Haverford, and Colgate, which together form the Keck Northeast Astronomy Consortium. Members of the consortium send students to partner schools every summer to conduct paid research, which is later presented at the annual symposium.
When Dr. Grace Augustine from James Cameron’s Avatar explains that trees on the planet Pandora are sharing information with each other, using roots like natural fiber-optic cables, she is not far from reality. In 2010, a year after the science fiction movie was released, a review by ecologists Dr. Heil Martin and Richard Karban re-defined the common understanding of plants, disproving the misconception that they are uncommunicative beings. Continue reading The Social Life of Plants→
Imagine a world where everyone knows what diseases they are at risk of developing and can take steps to prevent them – or, if prevention fails, live in fear of the future. Although this world may sound a lot like the science fiction movie Gattaca, it is rapidly becoming reality as some geneticists focus their research on personal medicine.