Global Issues - Awesome Labs
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- Registration Date : 2014-05-20
Buried deep in the ice below the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, IceCube is the world’s largest and most remote neutrino observatory. Neutrinos are nearly massless particles that rarely interact with matter. Trillions of them pass through the earth every second, carrying information that may help explain the physics of supernova and the source of high-energy cosmic rays.
Because their signatures are very weak and rare, scientists had to bury vertical strings of the detectors deep in the Antarctic ice, which blocks photons from the sun and cosmic rays. The clear ice in IceCube allows the detectors to see the faint blue light (cerenkov radiation) that appears after a neutrino hits an atom within the ice.
Every year, dozens of undergraduates from the University of Wisconsin-Madison secure research positions with IceCube. The university send selected four students to IceCube during the Antarctic summer season. They will monitor signals from neutron detectors while braving temperatures of ？30 to ？35 degrees Celsius.
Every year, Joseph Sertich, a vertebrate paleontologist at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, leads students on fossil-hunting trips. Hauling picks, axes, and rock saws, students march into the wilderness of the Kaiparowits Plateau, an almost roadless expanse of sand - and mudstone domes that rise as high as 800 feet.
On any given trip, students will hike up to seven miles to established digs, then head further into the backcountry to identify new, untapped sites. It’s kind of like a badlands on steroids. In the field, students have uncovered fossils such as pea-size lizard skulls and entire duck-billed dinosaur skeletons.
Van Romero’ students don’t want to be doctors or lawyers. They want to blow things up for a living. Romero, New Mexico Tech’s vice president of research and economic development, and his staff oversee students as they detonate any number of explosives, whether C4 or TNT, across the school’s 26,000-acre mountaintop blasting range (which includes a quarter-scale urban canyon for modeling an explosion’s shock waves).
Last spring, the school opened new interactive lab. The 1,220-square-foot space includes Samsung tabletop computers for sharing project designs, and a 3-D printer for building the trigger mechanisms and launching arms for a small working trebuchet.
On a three acre wooded bluff overlooking the Tennessee River in Knoxville, about 75 undergraduates help Dawnie Wolfe Steadman, a forensics professor, deposit dead bodies.
Steadman studies the many ways in which a body decays. Students assist her by monitoring the 100 or so donated cadavers during various stages of decomposition.
They might study the life cycles of flesh-eating fauna, such as blowflies and dermestid beetles, to pinpoint time of death. Or they might retrieve DNA and test for the presence of microbes or drugs, which authorities could use to determine identity and toxicology.
Once the insects have cleaned most of the flesh from the bone, the students take the remains back to the lab. They learn to identify bones, skeletal pathologies, and different types of trauma. Sometimes they help Steadman re-create, at the request of law enforcement, a crime scene to test out hypotheses.
Students in Paul Worsey’s explosives program have a new class to add to their schedules: fireworks manufacturing. They grind incendiary chemicals and combine them into professional grade fireworks; the final project is to create a five-inch pyrotechnic mortar―and set it off.
Students can also take courses in commercial firework and stage pyrotechnics, in which they learn to design, set up, and fire large public pyrotechnic displays, whether for a Fourth of July celebration, a concert, or a WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) match.
Students at NWI are trying to protect against the ravages of typhoons, tornadoes, and other dangerous storms. By studying how extreme storms form and evolve, along with the damage they cause, engineers can design structures to withstand them.
At the center’s Debris Impact Facility, teams use a custom high-impact gun to fire two-by-fours - the most common storm projectile - at brick walls, shelters, and safes to prove the strength of the targets’ materials and design.
The students often race to deploy sensors at sites where hurricanes are predicted to land, to collect data on wind speed, humidity, and more.