I took physics – mechanics in Fall 2013, and let’s just say it was pretty far from dull.
Most of the time, I sat at a table with three other guys: Eric, DJ, and Josh. Josh was a pretty funny guy that wore cargo shorts and often liked to play on his iPad in the middle of class. Eric was a real nice bro; he had short hair combed to the side, and a square jaw. I never told him, but to me he looked like could fit in as a German soldier in WWII. DJ was real confident. He had dark hair, rode a motorcycle, and was never seen without his expensive sunglasses.
Our group was usually in a race to finish labs as fast as possible, so we could leave early. Our teacher, Dr. Quon, would often try to find anything wrong with our results that he could, and DJ would always be quick to contest him. After half a semester of arguing with DJ, Quon started to just accept whatever we turned in.
One day, we had a piece of equipment that held a round disk with three holes in it. A laser would beam through the disk, as the disk spun, and would be interrupted when the solid spaces between the holes passed through it. Software on a computer would track the frequency of interruptions in the laser, and plot it on a graph.
For our lab, we had to take a sequence of 10 interruptions, and use the speed of the first and last ones to calculate a velocity, using two different equations. We would then compare the velocity we calculated with what was on the screen, and see what the percent difference between the two was.
We were working on the lab, and had gotten our velocity using the two different equations, when Quon approached and asked us “have you gotten a percent difference yet?”
DJ thought that our percent difference was going to be the difference between the two answers to the velocity equation, which were alreay supposed to be the same.
He confidently stated “zero percent.”
“Really? That’s excellent!” said Quon, before he moved on to the next table.
“That’s… not our percent difference,” I corrected, “we were supposed to compare steps 10 and 11. I can’t believe he just accepted that.”
“Oh, I guess we’re just that good.” said DJ.
“…Zero percent…” Eric repeated, and we all laughed.
We had another lab that day, in which used two stacked disks to calculate torque. The equipment for this one was already assembled as a demonstration at the table next to ours, so we decided it would save time if we just moved over to that table and used it. This meant that we merged with another group, containing two people.
I can’t remember exactly what went wrong, but the answers we were getting for this lab were way off what they were supposed to be.
“He’s never going to accept these numbers,” said one of the guys our group merged with, “they’re completely ridiculous.”
“Well, we’ll just change our answer to be a little closer to what we’re supposed to be getting,” assured DJ.
“What? We can’t just make up some random number and give it to him!” said the guy.
“Uhh, yes we can, we just accidentally did 10 minutes ago, ‘zero percent’,” I added.
Our group laughed. DJ headed over to the teacher with his paper.
“No, he always catches me and makes me redo it, this isn’t going to work,” the pessimistic guy said.
“Trust me, it’ll work,” said Eric.
The other member of the group we merged with murmured “watch, he’s going to get sent back, just watch.”
There was a long silence as we all watched DJ standing next to Quon, who was looking over the paper. A few seconds later we heard Quon say enthusiastically “okay!”
A few days later, I was just hanging out at the table a few minutes before class started. I stared off into the front of the room, when I saw what looked like a few very thin black strands floating up the wall. It wasn’t long before I realized I was looking at a spider.
“There’s a spider over there,” I announced to my surrounding classmates.
Josh turned around, saw the spider, and immediately got up out of his chair. I watched, not knowing what to expect, as he made a B-line right to the creeping arachnid. When he was within reaching distance, he flattened his hand, and just slapped the thing against the wall.
“AWWW, GROSS!” I exclaimed.
A guy at the next table over had observed the scene.
“Did you really see a spider from all the way over here?” he asked me.
“Yeah, I’ve had lots of practice, my house is full of them.” I responded.
On the very last day of lab, we were working with string oscillations. We were testing how much tension was required to achieve different harmonics on a set frequency. After we were done with that, the teacher announced that he had thought up a brand new experiment on the way to work today, and that we were going to be the first class to try it. We would modify a frequency until it matched the natural frequency of a string pendulum and maximize amplitude.
In the physics lab, we had a lab tech, who, as I understand it, was in charge of managing the equipment. So this lab tech had the opinion that a brand new experiment without any instruction is too advanced for a physics class, so he took his concern to the teacher.
Once again, my group had merged with the group next to us, because they already had everything set up as a demonstration. It was only after the professor and the tech had talked for a a little while that I noticed their raised voices right behind me:
“Well I really wish you could have informed me about this.”
“There was nothing to inform, as I said, I actually just thought about this experiment on the way over here.”
“This shouldn’t be happening, they shouldn’t be doing this.”
“It’s totally fine, jumping into things head first is how engineers solve problems in actual workplaces, this will be good experience for them.”
“Now it’s like I look like some sort of total idiot!”
“What? It’s okay, no one’s asking you for help, are they? They can handle themselves.”
“No, you don’t understand, there’s a social circle that exists outside of this lab.”
“If you’re so concerned, maybe you should have thought about things like this before signing up.”
This went on for a while before Quon pulled the tech into the next room. One of the members of the group we merged with looked up from his paper.
“Wait… were they fighting just now?”
“Yeah, they totally were” I said, and we all started snickering and gossiping.
Eric noticed that the door to the next room was cracked a little.
“Watch, you look in there and they’re like throwing punches.”
I smiled, “Yeah, it’s like they’re duking it out in the next room over.”
For the next few minutes we periodically kept trying to get a peak through the door, then it suddenly opened. Quon walked into the room, there was no sign of his tech.
“Did you see him?” asked DJ, “it looked like he had steam coming out of his ears!”
That is one class I will not soon forget.