Day Four

The fourth day of Sigma Camp started with some spirited morning exercises. After breakfast, the campers had a choice of four lectures, all of which got very positive reviews. 

Konstantin Khrapko, a professor of medicine at Harvard University, offered an answer to the eternal question of “how and why do we age?”, including an aside on the infamous Bluebeard and his unlucky wives. Yuri Salkinder from Merill Lynch talked about behavioral economics — a branch of study that bridges psychology, experimental neuroscience, and traditional economics. Yuri has a Ph. D. in software engineering but works in finance, so students appreciated his theoretical and practical insights into human behavior in the face of incomplete information. Professor Lawrence Hobbie from Adelphi University spoke about genetically modified crops and the controversy surrounding them. Finally, Dima Kharzeev from Brookhaven Laboratory spoke about chirality — the notion of “handedness” that is ubiquitous in physics, chemistry, and biology. Campers had great things to say about all the lectures. 

The experiment of the day today was lead by a camper, Nestor Tkachenko. After dinner, campers gathered around a table and watched a superconductor  cooled with liquid nitrogen. A magnet was placed on top of the superconductor to be levitated by quantum locking. However, though a change in the magnet’s behavior was evident, levitation was not obvious. Nestor will likely try to conduct this experiment again later in the week.

The Sigma tournament was again a huge success and crowd draw as teams competed in mathematical games. Campers played SIM (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sim_%28pencil_game%29). In the first round, six players from each team competed one on one; in the second, two captains conferred with their team mates before every move. This game has no easily memorizable perfect strategy (like tic tac toe, but the campers seemed to get a knack for it quite fast).

Semilabs continued today and campers were introduced to some relatively advanced concepts. In beginner NXT robotics, students learned the basics of robotC programming, and managed to make their LEGO robots recognize and follow white tape on a black surface. Campers in advanced robotics got to use a gyroscope sensor to make Segway robots that balanced on two wheels. In codes and ciphers, campers learned about the history of the sophisticated Viginaire cipher and techniques in breaking it. In the the preparative chemistry semilab, some students continued the extraction of caffeine crystals from coffee. Others began extracting and purifying the esters they had synthesized the day before, filling the lab with fruity scents. Campers are happily experimenting with microcontrollers and are learning more about hardware problems over software ones, but most importantly, campers are learning how to fix them. 

Campers were excited for workshops and actively participated. Since it was very popular, juggling ran again. Additionally, students tried a wide variety of glassblowing techniques, and stayed as long as they could to put finishing touches on their creations (glass flowers, curved glass rods, etc).  After workshops, students quickly made their way to evening activities. 

At the end of the day, campers had team time over a snack of brownies and milk. They seemed calm, content, and collected before they went to sleep.