Icy neutrinos and third year options

Hello 🙂
This week we have had our options talks for third and fourth year. Choosing is a lot trickier than I’d thought- there are many more interesting options than I can pick, and possible essay titles to think of and projects to decide on…
I can do a Horizons (humanities or business course) next year for credit which I am really looking forward to as the courses I have done the past two years have been excellent and communicating science especially really helped me put a lot of what I have been learning in a wider context
I am thinking about doing an extended essay building on what I did last year (luckily I got on well with my lecturer and she has very kindly offered to supervise me) so now I just have to think of a title….hmmmm.
The rest of the options are also really diverse and interesting- you can pick from practical things like the materials and physics of devices like smartphones and computers to computational neuroscience run with the bioengineering department and of course the traditional classics like General Relativity. For anyone who has read my other blogs you may be surprised to hear that I am almost definitely going to be picking further quantum (!) because I am actually enjoying revising it more and more and I feel I will have cheated my way through a physics degree if I don’t come out without understanding (or fully realising why I shouldn’t understand) quantum mechanics.
To help us choose, the lecturers for each of the courses came and did a four minute presentation of why we should take their course, giving me good chance for to see where my favourite lecturers are hiding too!
One of my new courses-Optics- has started. What is still I think essentially drawing lines through lenses is definitely not going to be my favourite subject but the wave section sounds like it might be interesting. The lecturer is really really excited about the subject though, which is always good and in the lecture he showed us how a the bit of the film Star Trek: Into Darkness movie meant to be inside the warp drive of the Enterprise was filmed in the National Ignition Facility in the US which is a big funky laboratory where they are using mad lasers to try and make successful nuclear fusion. You usually see really sterile pictures of physics labs shot in full light so watching the actors run around all these huge and complicated machines gave me a real sense of just how amazing some of the engineering and infrastructure that goes into some physics labs is.
With that in mind I thought I would finish this blog by telling you about another cool (quite literally) lab that I have been reading about recently.
It’s called ‘IceCube’ and is a 1km cubed neutrino detector deep underground in the South Pole. https://icecube.wisc.edu
Down there the ice is clear and bubble-free due to incredibly high pressure, and also pitch-black so that the Cherenkov radiation given off by the decay products of the neutrinos can be detected (Cherenkov radiation it is like a sonic boom made of light as the particles travel faster than light through the ice).
Thousands of detectors were pushed into the ice using a hot water drill. To pass the time at the South Pole the scientists have a gym and hold lectures to learn about each other’s projects and run out from a sauna into the snow (with or without clothes) to ‘join the three hundred club’ and experience over 300 degrees Fahrenheit of temperature variation. Who says scientists don’t know how to have a good time??
Their website says that looking for neutrinos is like taking an x-Ray of the universe which is an interesting comparison, because you can see events that you would otherwise have been blinded to using light. Neutrino detection experiments have generally awesome set-ups because they need to be protected from background radiation so need to be deep underground.

In other news this week I have been for a run every single day so far (!) so all of my legs are in extreme pain. Also next Tuesday the exam stress workshop I signed up for is beginning which will hopefully be useful. 🙂

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