Everybody Needs A: Laser Pointer
Laser pointers, while not entirely necessary for undergrads, are nevertheless a whole lot of fun to play with. And for formal presentations too, I guess. You can go in several different directions on this one. I very often see the canonical cylindrical HeNe lasers that operate with a button on the top (left). It is and maybe a little Spartan, as gadgets go. Interestingly, these can either be powered in traditional laser fashion, or be an LED connected via blue tooth. More recently, I’ve become partial to the laser pointers that also act to advance your slides (right). They can be more expensive, but it’s up to you (or your PI) if the extra cost is worth the fun of not being tied to your computer during a presentation or lecture.
One can purchase laser pointers from almost anywhere, and unless you want something particularly fancy, you can get them for pretty cheap. If you’re interested in colors, you can get laser pointers in the ubiquitous red or green, as well as violet, yellow, blue, and infrared (though I’m not so sure how that would be useful for everyday use…). Though I’m sure a yellow laser pointer would really liven up any presentation, I can’t imagine that it would be generally accepted among our community. Correct me if I’m wrong.
Another more interesting (and fun) direction is a high-power HeNe or GreNe (what people at my University call a green laser. Not sure if that’s standard, per se). While difficult to point specifically without the use of a ring-stand/clamp apparatus, high powered lasers are a whole lot more fun. More importantly, you can go straight from a presentation to examining the effects of the photoelectric effect. This brings us to our fun-quantum-mechanics-picture-of-the-day! A couple weeks ago, my quantum mechanics lab had the distinct pleasure of quantifying the photoelectric effect. As you’d expect, this lab consisted of 3.5 hours of adjusting knobs in the dark, resulting in general delirium and sensitivity to light for the rest of the day. The voltage-meter in the back reads 0.00 because (if you remember your quantum physics) a ‘stopping potential’ had been carefully applied the measure the work function of the collector electrode in this setup. I apologize for the poor picture quality – this was done with a cell-phone camera!
However we get really cool pictures like the one to the left!
For other fun with GreNe lasers, check out Chiral’s post from a year ago! His pictures are definately a little better quality than mine. Also, check back soon for a post about the REU experience from a real live grad student who has gone through one!