Friday, June 11, 2010

The Epic Overnight Camp at the Space Center

Yesterday and today we had the first overnight camp of the summer. I helped sign people in and I noticed that most of the children were just finishing Elementary and most had either never been to the Space Center before or they had only come to the Space Center on a field trip. I wasn't expecting much. But the kids were amazing! At least the ones on the Galileo, the simulator that I was assigned too.

I played the part of Dr. Jackson. She is a crazy brilliant scientist that has been isolated on a base working on building a device for many years. The crew doesn't know quite what it is, but they know that if the wrong people get their hands on it, terrible things will happen.

Dr. Jackson is the major character in this mission. The kids met me, and I pulled off the socially awkward scientist well. The kids didn't know what to think of me. The next time they meet me, I have lost my memories and the kids have to help me get them back. Whenever there was a slow part in the mission, I got to fill it with random science gibberish. I had a lot of fun doing this. Here is some of the things I babbled on about:

Ramanujan was the mathematician who figured out how to calculate the decimal approximation of pi to many many decimal places. Ramanujan was a brilliant mathematician and many of his ideas just came to him. He never proved many of them. According to him, the way he came up with his method for the decimal approximation of pi is that it came to him in a dream from Hindu Gods. Mathematicians have checked his method. We know that it works, but we have no idea how Ramanujan came up with it because it is very strange and complicated.

Fermat's Last Theorem. Fermat was a mathematician who had a copy of a geometry book. In one of the margins of it, he wrote something like, "There are no solutions to a^n + b^n = c^n for any n > 3. I have come up with a beautiful proof for this, but it is too big to write in the margins." Alex Wiles learned about Fermat's Last Theorem as a child and he thought about it for a long time. He got his degree in mathematics and as he was studying he continued to think about it. Finally he figured out how it could be proved and locked himself in a room for three years while he figured it out. Finally he proved it and didn't tell anyone about it. He presented his proof in a series of lectures to graduate students. Eventually all the grads stopped coming because they couldn't understand it. On the last lecture a lot of important mathematicians showed up having no idea what to expect. Wiles wrote on the chalkboard. "I have just proved Fermat's Last Theorem" and sat down.

I babbled on about what I learned in Physics about lasers, but switched to energy instead of light in order to explain about the energy beams that the tactical officer got to fire, known as phasers. I explained a lot of their stations by relying on the knowledge I learned in Physics. Thank you, Dr. Larson, for all your help. I even included Dr. Larson in my stories and started talking about the first physics teacher I ever had and his experiments on gravity waves using lasers. I told them that his experiment was called LISA. The best part was that the kids were paying attention to me while I was telling this story and started scanning for LISA. There was none detected, of course, but it still made me smile.

I even told a calculus joke: There is a party of functions. All of the functions have gotten together and they seem to be having a good time. All of the functions are there. There is sin(x), cos(x), x^2, x+5, e^x, log(x), 1/x, etc. Most of the functions are having a great time, but e^x is just lying on a couch just staring. Sin(x) comes over and asks him why he is not having a good time. e^x says that he is depressed. Sin(x) says that he should get up and try to differentiate himself or integrate himself into the party. e^x says it won't make any difference.

I loved that part of the mission. All of the kids were looking at me like I was crazy. I was laughing because it really is funny, but only someone who has taken Calculus would get the joke. It totally made Dr. Jackson's character great. I told a joke that was really funny, but none of the kids understood and they all thought that I was just spouting off more gibberish. I am sure that Dr. Jackson gets that all the time. She says something that she thinks is funny, but no one else laughs because they don't understand the joke.

I had a fabulous time playing Dr. Jackson and the kids completed their mission at the very end to epic music doing a fabulous time. They were an amazing crew!


  1. Aha! I found your blog Julie of the North!
    You should update it more. I love the fish.

  2. Haha! I remember u telling me about that! Your costume was the best thing ever! And the homework that was yours, but is now the prop. That made my day!!!

  3. By the way, it's me Bronson, Julie.