2005 Student-Faculty Fellows: Beloit College

China: Physics in Everyday Life

Mentor: Paul E. Stanley, Physics and Astronomy
Students: Kristin Block, ’06; Elon Candea, ‘˜07; Ricky DeVoe, ‘˜07; Jason Marmon, ‘˜06; Cionne Wolfe, ‘˜06;


Paul E. Stanley

On this trip I was able to work with five students assisting in their research projects of weaponry, martial arts, music, and disease propagation. Some of the students were surprised to find that their expectations of the impact of physics on these aspects of Chinese culture were not observed: the mysticism portrayed in Western media was not so manifested, and the mention of physics was not treated as something to be abhorred. I will incorporate the observations into the teaching of a number of courses as concrete examples and anecdotes on not only the practice of science, but also on the use of physics in everyday life.

Beloit College Project Poster (PDF)

Kristin Block
Disease Transmission: A Look at Chinese Markets

Visiting China was my first travel experience to an Asian country and living in a place where I found it challenging to pick up even a few words of the native language. Nevertheless, as with my European travels, I became interested in learning some of the language, despite pronouncing everything with a French accent. This was also my first traveling experience where I, as a Caucasian, could not simply blend into the crowd. These critical differences pushed me to increase my observation of the behaviors and signs around me in an attempt to mimic others’ behavior. The combination of China’s dense population, the environment at the wet markets, the visible response to disease spread (e.g. SARS), and various displays at health and history museums helped me look at population and health studies in a new way. The experience gave me a new appreciation for the beauty of different living conditions and cultures. I also have a renewed interest in studying human health, a topic I will pursue in my senior thesis by building upon my experience in China.

During my visit to China, I visited wet markets of varying sizes, gathering qualitative and quantitative observations on the types and presentation of foods and the number of vendors. Our group also visited a few restaurants that specialize in local food; there, I was able to learn from which markets the restaurant purchased food. While traveling, my focus for research became more qualitatively based, and I gathered information from public health notices (signs in public places, pamphlets in the library and Hong Kong Medical Museum, and newspaper articles) as well as from markets. I am currently in the process of gathering research articles on related topics and disease pathogens, along with reviewing my notes and pictures from the trip. To complete my research, I will summarize and analyze my observations in my senior thesis, to be published in the Beloit Biologist.

Elon Candea
Chinese Music: The Physical Make-Up

Going to China has given me the opportunity of learning about a culture different from my own first-hand. The rich history of the country and the different customs there grabbed my curiosity and I was thrilled to visit museum after museum. China’s land is some of the most beautiful I have ever walked upon. From the karsts of Yangshuo to the mountains of Tibet, China has such unique visual stimulus that I was never bored for a moment. It is obvious the Chinese recognize the inherent beauty of their land by how many of them travel to the gorgeous places of their country. I was able to experience both ancient and modern China in all its glory. I cannot wait for my next overseas adventure. The world seems to me open, and I am ready to explore!

So far most of the research that I have done was done in China or before going to China. I have taken some video footage of the erhu that was purchased, and brought back, from China; this erhu will be used in the Physics of Music course at Beloit College. This footage consists of me playing the erhu and taking measurements from the bow to where my finger is. I placed my finger at different points on the string and identified an octave. I am currently waiting on a book that I have ordered which talks, in detail, about the history of Chinese musical instrumentation. Much of the research that I will be starting on must wait until I get the photographs and recording footage of the trip in a form suitable for data analysis. I am expecting this to be completed any time now and am eager to begin finding information and figuring out how to do the physical analysis of the erhu.

Jason Marmon
The Physics of Weapons and Shields in Ancient China

China has left me with many experiences to consider. I believe that the experiences gained from my trip to China will positively influence my professional goals. Firstly, I wish to earn a Ph.D. in chemistry, and hope to teach college level courses some day. Secondly, I hope to return to China and other parts of Asia. Thirdly, I hope to use international experiences to design multi-cultural learning materials. Fourthly, I wish to continue learning about Chinese weapon physics with the current research project.

Thus far, I have found a series of books, published by Osprey Press, concerning Chinese military and their weaponry. This provided a starting point for my research project. I have also conducted a literature review to calculate an average compositional weapon density; some museums have published this information for various vases and other non-weapon bronzes. Although data sets that include weapons are ideal, they are difficult to locate. Thus, an approximation must be achieved through non-weapon bronze data sets. I plan to proceed by reviewing the “Handbook of Physical Metallurgy,” which details some atomic occurances of technologies such as heating or coldworking a material.

Cionne Wolfe
Kung Fu: Art or Science?

Initially, I thought that the goal of the trip to China was to obtain data for research. Now, however, I realize that the experience was much more than just a research opportunity. The experience heightened my appreciation for the things that I have that I tend to take for granted, and it sparked my interest in learning another foreign language. The experience also helped me empathize with foreigners in my own country, who I hope to be more patient with and helpful to in the future. Lastly, I feel that the experience further prepared me for my intended career as a scientist. It taught me important lessons about research as well as prepared me to interact with, communicate with, and better understand my fellow scientists who may well be of Asian descent.

Thus far, I have organized my research findings into three categories. The categories are basically the three different perspectives that I perceive there to be concerning martial arts. The first is the view of the tai chi instructor that tai chi is just something that is done – like an exercise. The second is the view of the Thai kickboxing instructor that there definitely seems to be some physical concepts behind the movements. The third is the Western views of the martial arts.