Day 5

Today we went to Disneyland, which was very fun!

We had the entire day to wander the park and go to the various attractions, and the lines were very small since it was a chilly 23 C, clear, and sunny. Luckily we were well equipped for the cold California weather with T-shirts, shorts, and icy drinks!

At 1400h we met for a group ride on California Screamin’, which goes from 0 to 405,666 cabbages/s in 4 seconds, which is 100 km/h in 4 seconds for the Canadians, or 101,416.5 cabbages/s/s (25 km/h/s or 6.9 m/s^2).

The next time we met as a group was for the World of Colour performance, which was an amazing fountain light show — they projected Neil Patrick Harris, along with scenes from many famous Disney movies, onto water vapour, with colourful fountains lighting up the entire show. Every once in a while, the flamethrowers would fire; from our perfect viewing spot,which was a ways away, it felt like standing next to a bonfire. The fountains were gigantic, and there was even a Frozen sing along with princess Elsa! After a full day of Disney wonder, we finished our tour with a wonderful tour dinner at an excellent restaurant.

Overall the tour was incredible — everyone had a great time, and would do it again in a heartbeat.

Day 4

Today we woke up early to clear, sunny skies.

Our first stop was JPL, Jet Propulsion Laboratories, a branch of NASA that specializes in unmanned missions.

JPL built, and is in charge of, the Mars rover Curiosity, for example, with its famous “7 minutes of terror.”

We started at the museum, where there were many models of all the spacecraft JPL has launched to the various planets, and a very cool infrared camera. Our tour guide, Mr. Kevin Criddle, is working with Cassini, the spacecraft orbiting Saturn — we were very lucky to see a detailed presentation on the project, and really sweet pictures of Saturn taken by Cassini.

We then sat in the room where all the communication happens — Mission Control — and saw the “Centre of the Universe.” Although there was not much going on in mission control while we were there, it still felt extremely special to stand in the same room where so many great things have happened.

After this, we headed to the Mars Yard, which is a small space where the surface of Mars is mimicked with sand and rocks. We were extraordinarily lucky to see the sister rover to Curiosity there!

The sister rover is built to simulate situations on Mars, but on Earth — before maneuvering Curiosity on Mars, they can test what will happen by performing the same maneuver on Earth. This way, they can tell if a maneuver is safe for Curiosity to perform, preventing an unnecessary end to the mission should Curiosity tip over on a sand dune etc.While we were at the Mars Yard, we also got to see old tested wheels, which were totally wrecked from the sharp “Mars” rocks and overuse.

After JPL, we headed up the long and winding road that leads to the Mt Wilson Observatory. There, we saw a really cool and very old solar telescope, and a couple quite gigantic telescopes.

We learned about the history of the telescopes, which were leading in the field when they were built, even attracting people such as Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking to visit! We also learned a lot about the sun, sun spots in particular, and how they have been researched at the observatory. On our way down the mountain, we even saw the stunning sunset!

— Cindy and Maya

Day 3

Today we had a relaxed start, and spent a couple of hours at the fashion outlets of Las Vegas.

The main attraction of the day, though, was the NRG BrightSource Thermal Plant at Ivanpah.

As we drove up to the plant, the first thing we could see were the boilers — they were extraordinarily bright, and impossible to look at directly. The fields of mirrors surrounding the boilers were very impressive, and we could see the concentrated sunlight reflecting off the air, making the air around the boiler glow in a path towards the mirrors.

After a detailed presentation about how the plant works, including how it affects the surrounding wildlife and the steps taken to protect the environment, we got to walk through one of the three mirror fields and have a close-up view of a boiler through polarised sunglasses.

The concentrated sunlight boils the water in the boiler, then the steam travels through one turbine back through the boiler to be superheated. This causes the steam to be incredibly dry. Then it passes through a second turbine, which is how the energy from the steam is converted to electrical energy. We also got to see the control room, where there are screens overseen by engineers dedicated to each of the three boilers. They have to constantly monitor the temperature of the boiler, and add or subtract mirrors to keep it at an ideal level — if they get too hot, they could be damaged, but energy production needs to be maximised.

Day 2

Today we had an early start, visiting iFly and the Museum of Flight.

Even though it was just the start of the trip, I could already feel the passion and enthusiasm our whole crew has brought with us. From touring to the indoor skydiving, we gained more insight into physics through attempting new things and challenging ourselves.

I’ve never tried skydiving before and I was thrilled by the amazing first-time experience I had at iFly. It was an indoor skydiving place that was built based on the the principles of physics.

With the two huge turbines, a drag force was created by the high-speed air in order to achieve equilibrium with the gravitational force. The speed of this air was in the 110 to 170 km/h range, depending on the flyer’s mass, and was identical to the terminal velocity a sky-diver would reach in free-fall. In the interests of minimizing energy loss, the high-speed air was recycled through 2 closed loops.

Everyone in the group was so incredibly encouraging and we all had a wonderful time.

After iFly, we toured the Museum of Flight, where we took a trip through the history of aviation, from the first gliders of the Wright brothers to the high-tech SR-71 Blackbirds of the Cold War era. Many of us also took a trip in the flight simulators, while others got to tour the Concorde and the President’s plane.

After a turbulent flight to Las Vegas, we wandered down the Strip — the lights were extraordinary! Needless to say, we are all exhausted after a long day of tours and excitement.

— Cindy and Maya

Day 1

After waking up to a breakfast of delicious burritos prepared by the awesome kitchen staff, we left the safety of the Shawnigan Lake bubble and set off for the airport.

The plane ride was superb, albeit short, being only 24 minutes. After checking in at the hotel, we embarked for the first focal point of our tour: The Boeing Factory at Everett.

Fun fact: it is the largest building in the world by volume — you could fit in it the entire Disneyland park, with room for 12 acres of parking!

We saw all sorts of cool planes in various stages of completion, including the Boeing 747-8, the largest model of the company, and the new 787 Dreamliner, which is largely made of carbon fibre and has sweet electrochromatic windows. After the tour, we headed to the movie theatre in a gigantic mall to see a movie and have dinner, and thus concluded our day.

Maya and Jeremy Signing Off.

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New Tour jackets!

New tour jackets!

Doesn’t this group of talented young physicists look fabulous in their new tour clothing?! We greatly appreciate the kindness of the family who provided these wonderful mementoes. Hopefully you will see a variety of images showing them engaged in exciting activities at the six scientific sites we will be visiting — and Disneyland! — next week.