Friday, November 5

A day in the life of the Hubster

Brace yourselves, amigos: I'm going to try to explain what Jason does all day here. And by all day, I mean in his laboratory 9AM-9PM, weekends included. PhD stands for "piled high and deep" for a reason.

So, what is his research here all about?

Short answer: I don't really know.

Long answer: I'll pretend like I know...

gracias, xkcd.com

Once upon a time, there was a field of study called thermoelectrics. We discovered that if you have a wire that's cold on one end, and hot on the other, it generates electricity!!

Okay, I lied. It's a little more than a wire.
This is very exciting.

Stick one end in the ocean, and put the other in the sun-- whammo. Charge your cellphone. Thanks, thermoelectrics.

However, Jason's professor decided this wasn't nearly complicated enough. So Dr. Professor thought to himself, "Hmm, what else is cool and mysterious that we can throw in here that might make it even cooler and mysteriouser?"


And the answer was: Quantum mechanics.

Here's QM in a nutshell: when things get tiny-- really, really, subatomically tiny--  their actions stop happening as specific events, and start existing as mere probabilities.

Huh?

Once things get really small, the certainty of their actions gets very vague. In other words, it sounds like God really needs to get a pair of glasses.

Jason's making really, really tiny thermoelectric "devices" to see if they work more efficiently than their big brothers. Here's a closeup of one of the pieces:

Take a look at a single hair on your arm. That's how wide each of those squares are.

I asked him what these pieces are used for:

"It's the interface between me (the large world) and the device (the small world). It's the rabbit hole."

Wheeeeee.


So... what does the device itself look like?


Here's one part of it. It's 200 TIMES SMALLER than one of the squares. Rabbit hole, indeed.

He says he uses this part "to play billiard balls with electrons." What this has to do with thermoelectrics, I have NO idea. But I'm impressed.



To make photographs like these, he goes into a "cleanroom"--because a speck of dust on these things could potentially cover it up completely!

I'm not allowed in there, but here are some webcam screenshots:

Beyond this, he tinkers with a lot of expensive-looking machinery and occasionally gets really excited about it, or really mad at it.

For example: "The *&^%$#! Needle." All I know about this needle is that when it points to a certain number on a dial, he can tell the computer to start recording his experiment and leave for the night. Alas, it's not that simple. It seems that as soon as it starts to steady around the right point, it jumps somewhere else. Leading to NIGHTLY email correspondences like the following:

(For those of you who don't know him so well: Jason is such a wholesome fella, he'd give Grapenuts a run for their money. Needless to say, he rarely swears. So this is really, really hilarious.) (Sorry, dear.)


That's a frowny-face puking in frustration. I laughed so hard that I drooled a little bit.

On the weekends, I get to go keep him company in his lab. I sit in The Wife Chair, abuse The Miraculous Instant Hot Chocolate Machine, and obnoxiously photograph him for your entertainment.



P.S. He made this for you guys!

5 comments:

ho_ said...

You guys make my friday evenings entertaining.

that's kinda sad.

/sigh/

;D

Samantha said...

I agree with the ho. Stalking you guys is like the one thing that I do with my life. Creepy!

April said...

Oh, you guys KNOW it's mutual ; )

caitlin said...

my head just exploded.

Lindsay said...

I have a shirt with the "I'm going to try science" logo thingy on it. I like to wear it when I don't feel like I know what's going on in my classes *coughphysicsforbiologymajorscoughcoughhookmeupwithsomehomeworkhelpmaybecough*

Just kidding. Sort of. Not about the shirt part. I really do have the shirt.