Greetings Internet!  It’s been a week since I started at Columbia’s Plasma Lab, and it was a fantastic time filled with new people, experience, and even a few victories.  The project that I’m working on has been almost completely elucidated and more than one method to get the circuit working has been proposed by my professor, so I’ve now got a few different roads to follow.  By reading one specific paper published by Volpe and a former student of his, I was able to get a thirty degree phase shifting circuit working that operated within acceptable limits in the 100Hz – 1kHz band.  This was good news for me, as it meant that I’m not too far from realizing one of the main goals of my project; a phase shifting circuit that is frequency independent.  However, the particular design has to be built around shifting an incoming signal a particular amount, which means I would have to build a wholly new circuit for each particular spot on the machine that it would be operating at.  This is not an ideal design, and instead I’m trying to make the angle adjustable, so the circuit is more fluid and can be applied at different locations around the machine simply by turning a dial to specify the actuator’s location.

Combining two different kinds of signal in a predictable way should accomplish this goal, but the problem of flattening the gain remains.  This is the problem that I will set myself to this week: the amplitude of the outgoing signal from every circuit I model in the lab decreases exponentially as the frequency gets higher.  This is an issue because the actuator that this circuit will be communicating with can’t function correctly if the incoming signal is too low.  To fix this problem, I need to find a way flatten the amplitude of the outgoing signal from my circuit.  I’m hoping that a frequency dependent resistor, proposed by Iranian scientists in a paper that Professor Volpe gave me to read, will help me with this goal, and that by the end of this week, I’ll have more an idea as to whether or not applying a frequency independent phase shift WITH constant gain is even possible.  I hope it is, otherwise I’ll have to go back to the drawing board.

I also got a chance to see a screening of “Particle Fever,” a documentary about the Large Hadron Collider and the scientists who work with it, on campus last Wednesday.  After the show, some scientists who were featured in the movie did a Q&A session and it was hugely inspirational to see people who were at the top of their game talk about the science that they were so obviously passionate about.  The screening really got me excited about doing science this summer; as I mentioned in my first post, this is the first time I’ve ever done any sort of research.  What really got to me was something that Nimah Arkani-Hamed and Savas Dimopoulos, two physicists featured in the movie, articulated both during the film and the Q&A session.  This was their opinion that science and art are more aligned than one might be inclined to believe, and that especially when it is pushed to it’s most abstract limit, the distinction between science and art is hard to draw because they really on people pushing the limits of traditionally accepted reality.  For me, sitting in a room with three graduate students with a machine behind be that makes a buzzing sound once a second all day long, this sentiment helped me return to working the next day with a new mentality about what I was doing.  Hopefully, this enthusiasm will carry on and I’ll be reporting back next week with more good news.  For now: I’m going to sleep.