For our labs this week, the class is divided into different lab groups, so groups rotate between the three labs to experiment with all of them in small groups. On our first day, yesterday, my group started analyzing air pollution right on campus. Little did I know, the is an air filterer on the roof of Barnes. We placed a fiberglass filter in the odd, mailbox shaped machine, and then a vacuum pulls air through the filter. The vacuum runs overnight to get 24 hours of air filtered. The filter we placed yesterday will be analyzed by a different group today.
We analyzed filter that underwent the same process a couple days earlier. In order to do that, we had to extract all of the particulate matter that was collected from the filter and create solutions from them that could be analyzed. We diluted them and used two machines to thoroughly mix the solutions. The solutions were put into vials that can be analyzed with ion chromatography and XRF. This processes will tell us what types of ions and other elements (like metals) are in the air. One great thing about this class is how applicable everything we are learning is. Our labs don’t focus on abstract concepts, they focus on the weather and the air that is all around us. No one in our class ever has to ask “Well, when could I ever use this in real life? Why does this matter?” because we are using class material in ways that directly pertain to our lives.
Today in class, we learned how a cold front actually effects weather. Of course, watching the news or checking the weather online had given me the terminology and awareness of cold fronts, and that they typically mean clouds and perhaps storms, but now I understand how those cold fronts cause the weather that they do. All of us had a moment where it clicked, where we were able to justify what we’ve experienced in our lives with the science behind it. It seems like that’s happening more and more frequently for us these days. As an assignment over the weekend, we had to take a mindful walk (or run, hike, or ski) and really think about the weather around us. It didn’t have to be scientific or quantitative in any way, but we were supposed really absorb our environment, however we felt was appropriate. When we talked about it in the morning, many of our classmates talked about ‘nerding out’ as they had to describe to a friend why a particular weather phenomenon was occurring, or what it meant about our speed traveling around the Earth if the air was calm for a moment. So if you see us around campus, you’ll have to excuse us and our excitement about the weather, but it’s pretty incredible when all of the sudden you finally understand the world around you.