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Ideas for a scientific lecture

  1. May 27, 2004 #1
    So here's the deal - I am applying for this special program at the university I am going to study at, and the next stage is to prepare a 10 minutes lecture about a scientific / technology / engineering subject. The shmucks in charge of this program printed the letters on May 9th but I only got it today, so now I only have a week to prepare this instead of a month. :mad: Even worse, I have three final exams this week (bible, math and physics). So I'm terribly stressed.

    Anyway - I read the science fair thread but that's not exactly what I'm after. I need a subject to discuss in 10 minutes, followed by another 10 minutes of Q&A session. The subject needs to extremely small, nothing big like string theory or quantum computing. Just as an example, a friend of mine who did this last year talked about finding the location of an object using a system of several radio antennas. Didn't win him Nobel prize, but he got into the program.

    Any suggestions or ideas would be greatly appreciated. The subject should be interesting and intriguing rather than dull and boring, to make it interesting for both the listeners and myself. The sooner I pick a subject the sooner I can go and find books and information about it.

    Many thanks,
    Last edited: May 27, 2004
  2. jcsd
  3. May 27, 2004 #2
    Just an idea, it would be nice if I could talk about some widely-known scientific myth and then bust it...
  4. May 27, 2004 #3


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    Are you going to be required to perform the project?
  5. May 27, 2004 #4
    Superconductors - the science behind them is interesting and still unknown to some extent,
    and they have practical uses now and will become even more important in the future ,as energy saving devices, and because of the strong magnetic fields they produce.They are used in particle accelerators, to levitate trains, in magnetic resonance scanners for medicine, they measure the magnetic field of the brain ( SQUIDS) and are used in the gravity probe B which nasa launched a few weeks ago
    ( look up the london effect,gravity probe B) to test general relativity.There are two main types, 1 and 2, but also atypical superconductors like pure carbon buckyballs doped with alkali metals.Probably the biggest challenge in physics is to get superconductors to work at room temperature instead of at a couple of hundred degrees below zero.There are computers which work using so called Josephson junctions which are made from superconducting materials- they allow processors to work quicker than normal because they generate little heat.
  6. May 27, 2004 #5
    LURCH - No, it's purely theoretical. It's not a project either, I just need to lecture about a known scientific subject.

    kurious - Thanks for that, I will look into that. More suggestions will be welcome. :)
  7. May 27, 2004 #6
  8. May 27, 2004 #7
    Look at how the LIGO is constructed and speak on detection of gravitational waves. How we might retranslate that information gathered?

    Just a thought:)
  9. May 27, 2004 #8


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    Here's a few ideas that come to mind (you can take any of these as far as you want) :

    - the Hall Effect
    - BCS Superconductivity (already suggested)
    - Bose condensation and bosons (and or Fermions and FD statistics)
    - the schrodinger equation for the Hydrogen atom
    - types of magnetism
    - vibration isolation (useful for Gravity wave measurement apart from several other kinds of measurements)
    - one or more of the various types of materials characterization techniques such as Electron Microscopy, X-Ray / Neutron diffraction, AFM, STM, MFM, NMR Spectroscopy, SQUID Magnetometry, etc.
    - the physics of one or more of the following semiconductor devices : diodes, BJTs, FETs, SETs, LEDs
    - cryostats and low temperature measurements
    - the dynamics of a rotating cuboid in three dimensions (Euler angles and the inertia ellipsoid)
    - small oscillations
    - high energy colliders, cyclotrons, synchrotrons, etc.
    - cosmic rays
    - antennas, lightning rods, coaxial cables (waveguides), etc.
    - statistical mechanics of simplified bio-molecules
    - collisions
    - atmospheric phenomena like lightning, auroras, EM propagation & dispersion, humidity, cyclones, etc.
    - microwaves and microwave ovens
    - circuit analysis
    - radio-activity
    - IC engines
    - data storage
    - percolation
    - stability of foams (such as a beer foam)
  10. May 27, 2004 #9


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    I personally know people in the engineering field who say I am wrong when I tell them that the direction in which water spirals down sink drains has nothing to do with whether the sink is in the northern or the southern hemisphere. They point to the Coriolis effect, and use it as a stick to try to beat me with. When I tell them the Coriolis effect depends on the fact that a point on the Earth's surface spins with a higher speed the closer the latitude is to the equator, and a few horizontal inches of sink simply are not enough to make a significant speed difference between north and south end of the sink as Earth rotates, they invariably stick to their guns and tell me I just don't understand what is going on.

    The drain spiral direction myth could make for a lively discussion. I am sure that there will be people listening to you who buy into the myth.
  11. May 28, 2004 #10
    Hi Chen, what about MEGA-LIGHTNING! or what was generally termed SPRITE'S when this phenonoma first became of interest just a few years ago.

    The whole understanding of this type of Lightnening is that it goes 'to-sky' as opposed 'to-ground'.

    It has been seen from space shooting upwards from the top of intense Negative-Charged weather systems. There is a possibility that this new type of Lightning may have been instrumental in bringing down many high flying crafts, space-shuttle included.

    The major factor in Mega-Lightning is that it is Positive Charged!

    Do a search, or if you want more info let us know.

    There are obvious productive outcomes for the further understanding of this phenonema, I myself have only recently seen some data, although I had seen footage from early 90s spaceshuttle missions, nobody could explain the events in question.

    Here is a link for your eyes only:http://elf.gi.alaska.edu/
    Last edited: May 28, 2004
  12. May 28, 2004 #11
    Just realized that the deadline for your application may have expired?
  13. May 28, 2004 #12
    I don't have to report what my subject is beforehand.. I have the lecture on June 6th. Hopefully I will do better than the Germans. :wink:

    Thanks everyone for the ideas, I'm still not sure what to go with... the more I think about the more I want to pick quantum computing, because I do have some basic knowledge in that area so it might be easier. And it's very interesting I'm sure... the problem is that I would have to dive into a bit of quantum mechanics in order to talk about it and I'm not sure I could explain it very well in such a short period of time.
  14. May 28, 2004 #13


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    There's more than just a "bit" of Quantum Mechanics there. If you have not had at least 1 semester of proper Quantum Mechanics (using bras and kets, covering 2 state systems), then i suggest you pick something else. It's most important that you completely understand everything you talk about. The topic being glamorous doesn't ever help. Or else, how could the RADAR guy get through ?
  15. May 28, 2004 #14
    I understand what you mean, but I'm not sure I'm expected to explain the whole theory in 10 minutes. I was planning to introduce the idea, explain the main ideas behind it and how it came to be, what a quantum computer might look and work like, the kind of problems it would allow us to solve, etc. They even said we are meant to pick a topic that we did not study in school (we are high school graduates), so I doubt they would want me to go too deep into quantum mechanics. As for the glamor of the subject - it doesn't always help but it can't hurt either. :smile:

    But I will still gladly accept more suggestions... I wish I had more time. :frown:
    Last edited: May 28, 2004
  16. May 28, 2004 #15
    I've collected and printed a bunch of articles about quantum computing and I am fairly certain I have more than enough information to work with for a 10 minutes lecture. So either I find another topic or just take a chance and hope they don't too expect me to develop the whole theory. It says on the invitation that they are looking to evaluate our ability to self-study a topic that was not chosen due to prior knowledge acquired at school but rather due to personal interest, as well as our ability analyze and understand the chosen topic "profoundly". *shrugs*
  17. May 28, 2004 #16


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    Okay, that should be just fine. Go ahead.

    P.S : Check out RSA encryption, privacy and security related issues that will arise from realizing a quantum computer.
  18. May 28, 2004 #17
    Yeah, definitely. At first I considered just talking about quantum cryptography, but I couldn't seem to make enough of the subject for the whole lecture. Maybe if I discussed "classic" vs. quantum security I could make it work? What do you think? It will probably help me avoid any quantum mechanics questions that I could not answer.

    (I'm sorry if it sounds like I'm dismissing your comments, if that's what you think; I'm not and I really do appreciate them!)
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