Internship at Brigham Young University, Utah:
We arrived on Friday 29th of June and experienced a warm welcome. Our host family has six members: Becky (mom), Mike (dad), Maddy, Nick, Dylan (children) and Grandma Shirley. Everybody was very nice and a little crazy. Our stay was so full of interesting events that it’s almost impossible to mention all of them. I’ll describe the most important things in the following paragraphs.
Right in the beginning all of us (except for Sarah) went to the movies, to watch the new Disney Pixar animated movie “Brave”. It was quite nice but weird to be in a movie theatre at 8 o’clock in the morning… Then we went to a mall that was just like every mall in Germany would have been – except for the extreme air condition and the fountains. In the evening we had a welcome-barbeque with lots of delicious dishes and we had way too much food…
On the following Sunday we went to church which was quite a special experience for me, because I usually never go to church. That particular day was called “testimony day” which means some members – young girls as well as old ladies – came to the front and told the congregation why they believe in their Church. It was a bit weird because all of the speakers were crying (!!). Afterwards we were told that this is rather unusual. We went to Church every following Sunday and it made me think about those topics a lot – I had really interesting thoughts. I even started to read the Book of Mormon after the little Peatross boy had invested a lot of time in convincing me while we were on a long car ride (he is fourth grade).
On Monday we went to University the first time. It is called BYU, named after Brigham Young, the prophet after Joseph Smith and it’s a Mormon University. It has a very nice campus, big parks, and lawns offering many possibilities to sit down in the shade even if it´s so hot that you can´t stand being outside for very long.
Our Computational Physics professor, Bill Evenson, showed us around and we had our first lesson working with a program called MatLab (mat is for matrix). It can do many things that I can´t do, so I appreciate it. And it´s helpful if somebody shows you how to use it…
We had lunch in the cafeteria at BYU called Cougar Eat (as we did every BYU-day) and met at Prof. Peatross´s Lab afterwards. He showed us his experiment-setup which was really interesting: He works with a laser that has a lens integrated in it in one place. The lens focuses the beam in a way it has to slow down so much that it becomes visible. It creates a small glowing plasma ball and putting your finger into it feels like a little sting.
In the next room he showed us the setup for another part of the experiment which allows him to watch wiggling electrons.
After the demonstration we went to our next class which was Physics Lab where we measured radiation of Cesium.
It was an amazingly eventful first day which we ended in a Mexican restaurant.
On Tuesday we only had the first class in Computational Physics with Bill (our Professor) explaining Complex Numbers to us and we continued reading the MatLab guide, then we went rafting on Provo River. It was so much fun!
The next day was Fourth of July, meaning we had a day off and went to watch the parade, have a water balloon fight, go to an exhibition where you could admire an “original copy” of the declaration of independence and the only functioning original Gutenberg press on the world as well as “original copies” of lots of things that have value to Mormons. In the evening we went to the Stadium of Fire – it was so impressive! I didn´t know you could do such things with fireworks; I was like searching for Gandalf the whole time…
Thursday we had class at BYU again and in the morning we talked about harmonic oscillators and programmed with MatLab. When we put a damp on our oscillators in the end you could literally see how it affected the graph and you could control how it should look. After lunch we met Prof. Peatross at his Lab and he explained to us the exact way his laser experiments work on a board. It was very interesting: Suddenly the labyrinth of mirrors, amplifiers and gratings made sense to me. In Physics Lab we learned how to work with another program called LabView. I liked it because it was easy to use and you could do so many things with it.
On Friday we proceeded to inharmonic oscillators – that´s not exactly what they´re called but it describes what you see. The pendulum goes over the top because you give it a high velocity or let it start from a very high point.
In the afternoon we met Prof Peatross again and this time he gave us a presentation of his research project. What I understood is this: The experiment successfully proofs that electrons work like good antennae in several situations. His exact explanation was very difficult to understand but we got the message.
The next event was my personal favorite: We finally went to the planetarium where a woman showed us around. She explained the tasks of all the computers and then let us sit down in very comfortable chairs while we saw star figures and learned how to find them and enjoyed a show about wonderful phenomena in our universe. The important aspect for her faculty seemed to be the animations, not the scientific background which was a little disappointing especially when we watched a second show about the birth of stars, a topic that I’m really interested in. But the animations were impressive and it almost felt like being in outer space and flying through those nebulas and comet storms.
Friday night and Saturday we did our big hike to Mount Timpanogos and on Saturday evening we rode in two small airplanes. Everything was so incredible – I still can´t believe I hiked that far and throughout the entire night! Watching a sunrise on top of a mountain and the sunset of the same day flying through the canyons in a plane seems like some dream but it was wonderfully real.
The next Monday we talked about diffraction and did some practical experiments in class. In the evening we started our camping trip to the green river including rafting and visiting Arches National park – an unbelievably beautiful site!
We came back Tuesday evening and on Wednesday we went to Salt Lake City. First we visited the Pioneer Village where real people reenacted the life of pioneers in the 19th century while music “came down from the trees”.
We watched a Native American dancing show and Logan (the little Peatross boy) got a shave. Next we visited Temple Square and the Joseph Smith memorial building (I remember the elevators best and the nice lobby pianist) as well as the Church office building. This building hosts an enormous archive: The records hold everything about every Mormon on the planet – whenever someone gets married or dies or moves it is written down and archived. This doesn´t explain why the building is so big but nobody seems to care because you have such a nice view from the top. Afterwards I visited the house where Brigham Young had lived. It´s called Beehive House because of the beehive on top of it and it is really nice, we even saw a wristlet made only out of his hair. Then we went to the temple museum. You could virtually enter each room of the temple which is useful as you aren´t allowed to enter the real rooms if you are not a Mormon.
On Thursday we had a regular day in class at BYU, first programming some diffraction patterns with MatLab, in the afternoon talking about Complex numbers and A-C-Circuits and solving some tasks. The programming entered a new dimension on Friday – we made the light enter two dimensional slits. In the afternoon we started our second camping trip to Lake Pineview. It was a wonderful experience, especially the Jet Ski ride, which felt like being on a dragon and the camp fire stories at night.
On Sunday we made “Kaiserschmarrn” for our host family before church and in the evening we visited a painter who was very nice and I think he was quite good; he could really catch a scene like on a photograph.
On Monday we had time for our presentations, we were supposed to do a ten minute power point presentation on the topic we had chosen (from the topics we had discussed the days before), my topic was diffraction patterns – an easy and interesting one. After that we went to the mall. We had dinner in a Hawaiian Restaurant and ended the evening in a tumbling hall. I liked it very much: We jumped on trampolines and into the pits filled with little blue foam squares. You could try many things because you didn´t have to worry about getting hurt so I jumped as high as I could and did front flips and my first back flip ever – it was so great! In the gym you could also climb walls and fall down from the top or tackle someone into the pits and fly into them from a trapeze.
The next morning we left early for our last trip to Capitol Reef. It was a long ride as this national park is in the south of Utah and it was just so good that we had the opportunity to be in Bill´s cabin which was a wonderful place to stay.
The first hike we did was to some bridge that looked as if it was built out of the mountains by man but was in fact all natural.
My favorite experience was walking in this canyon the next day – it was so beautiful! We had much fun climbing the side canyons and into the caves that looked like holes in the stone walls. In the evening we hiked to a small muddy river and rested in a place where little falls made the stream deep enough to swim in it – which we did including a mud fight and jumping down from an extension of the rock.
The following Thursday was our last day and we had to do lots of things: First our presentations and then organizing the farewell barbeque that did not only include food but also musical activity. Thanks to our flexibility and talent of improvising we managed to present to our hosts an interpretation of the Tetris song together with two movements of Bach´s double concert for two violins and a few other short pieces as an expression of our thankfulness.
After partying the whole night we parted with our wonderful friends and their country with lots of hugs and some tears.