The rock and ice mechanics lab at Lamont-Doherty is led by PIs Heather Savage, Christine McCarthy and Ben Holtzman. We are in the process of growing our lab and building our experimental program. Along with a team of postdocs, undergrads, grads, and longtime staff engineer Ted, we are rehabilitating and revamping some of the old equipment and building new rigs for exciting new experiments on both rock and ice. You can follow along with our progress here.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Outreach: Brooklyn Elementary School Science Fair

This weekend I took the Rock Mechanics show on the road! A family from Brooklyn PS372 ("The Children's School") saw our set up at Open House, got my contact information, and asked me to come to their annual Science Day.

In addition to the rock mechanics table, there were things like electrical circuits, optical illusions, ultrasound, gardening, and making silly putty. We all set up our tables in the gymnasium before the kids arrived.
I figured that some of the kids may have already had some introduction to geology, so I brought a small collection of rocks. Sure enough, when I started talking about the rock cycle, a few yelled "Igneous!" and "Sandstone!" (okay, close enough). I also brought the rock with the strain gauges and goniometer, which is always a big hit.
And of course I brought our slider block demonstration of earthquakes. Though once they figured out how the seismometer app worked it was hard to see the small motions of the block sliding over their stomping and banging on the table. I wish I would have taken a picture or two of the kids in action, but once they started arriving I was doing demos almost nonstop for three hours. It was a fun but exhausting day.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

The rock mechanics lab supports the arts!

Meet Denise Iris, a media artist and filmmaker, and our very own "Artist in Residence" at the rock mechanics lab. Okay, not officially, but we claim her as our own now. Denise is working on a multi-screen installation piece about climate change as personified by a lone polar explorer. She shot some great action footage with an actor out in polar bear country in the Arctic and wanted to compliment it with some more controlled shots of ice freezing and melting. She got in touch with us and spent a few weeks in the lab and cold room experimenting with different effects. Below she uses a blow torch to speed up the melting process on a block of ice. You can see a sample of this melting video at her FB page.
She used the microscope in the cold room to capture video of a drop of water freezing. She played around with different freezing surfaces and compositions, but I was too cozy in my warm office to go check on her. So I have no pictures of that.  
She also took an aquarium tank that Ted found on campus and filled it with water and a chunk of our "failed" seed ice (i.e. ice that has lots of tiny bubbles which are terrible for us experimentally, but wonderful for her artistically). 
Our PR department will be doing a more detailed story about Denise's visit and our unusual collaboration in the next few weeks. At the risk of being too meta, here is a picture of Kim taking a picture of Denise taking a picture of ice.
 And here are a couple of examples of what she came up with. These are just the stills. You should see the video that she created. That bubble that looks like a drop of mercury moves around in the most mesmerizing way. I just can't wait to see her final project.
 Gorgeous! Now don't you want an artist to spend time in your rock mechanics lab? You bet you do!