Today was our last lab of this session, which is both depressing and a relief. On the one hand, it means that I’m halfway through physics and doing really pretty well. On the other hand, that’s half a summer gone without a single day of complete rest, with another half to go. Also, I’m the only student taking the full course of physics, so I get to go back to knowing no one just as I become Dr. Kim’s scapegoat for questions. Still, it could be fun. We do learn all sorts of trivia along with the practical components. For example, we computed the temperature at which the human body undergoes uniformly irreparable protein deformation when we studied thermal equilibrium. I had never thought to even wonder what that was, but it turned out to be around 44ºC. Just today, I learned that an ultra-relativistic particle gas, such as a gas of photons, has a pressure roughly half that of an ideal monatomic gas. Now I just need to go figure out how that effects my conception of space as a vacuum. Any ideas?

Another physics-related path in my life lately has been reading Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities. It has nothing to do with physics, but the concepts of how cities relate to one another, how probable is any given city’s existence, and whether or not all cities do, in fact, exist are closely related to a lot of the theoretical work that has exploded in the past century. Einstein, Feynman, and Hawkings are the big names, of course, but people tend to relegate their work to graduate labs and forget that what they describe is everything we have ever known. It’s a wonderful adventure when one finds an author, musician, or artist who brings such grace and wisdom to his or her work that it opens not only the immediate material, but the nature of everything for our inspection. Such a book is Invisible Cities–simply told with great finesse and a world of interpretations. If you have not already read it, make a space at the top of your book list, and if you have, I get the feeling that this book ages well and is more pleasing with each encounter.