Thursday, May 10, 2007

Dodging chalk...

This morning's lecture was on aerosols, and was one of the most intense, but also entertaining, classes so far. It was taught by a Finnish aerosol physicist who had absolutely no tolerance for students who didn't pay attention in class. If he thought someone was chatting, daydreaming or checking email, he either asked them difficult questions about a previous point (pausing until they answered or admitted they didn't know) or he threw chalk at them and made them draw diagrams of aerosol instrumentation on the blackboard. Large chunks of chalk. And complicated diagrams. The brute-force, fear-driven method of making students pay attention. It was fantastic. I'm inspired for my next teaching position.

We got to play with hand-held CPCs in the afternoon (particle measuring devices). Our group promptly went outside and made the two students who smoke light up cigarettes... The particle counts went out of range, they were so high. We then chased down a passing minivan. Surprisingly, the particle counts were about the same for the cigarette smoke and the van's exhaust pipe... Further observations were a little less dramatic, though in case you're wondering, swarming piles of ants and vigorous shaking of pine trees don't really make more aerosols. But burning a candle (Ikea tealight) in a large classroom increases particle counts for hours afterwards...

We pointed out that the saunas might make a lot of aerosol particles, but were informed that this is a very sensitive topic to Finnish aerosol scientists, and that we were not allowed to make measurements there or say such terrible, slanderous things about the sauna...

2 comments:

Juliane said...

Hi Delphine!
I (we?) just read through all your blogs thus far - KITOS for doing this, it's very entertaining! :) I'm glad you're having such a fun time.
Maybe today you can ascertain if the Ukraine/Holland guy knows if Canada is a state?
-J.

bootless cries said...

This chalk approach. . . .it has merits. Something to try out at my next seminar.