Degree Symbol in LATEX

LATEX has a command for pretty much every useless symbol known to man, but it doesn’t have one for something I would consider pretty much essential… The degree symbol

You can write a circle in suberscript using math mode: ^\circ

The obvious thing to do is to define a command that writes a degree symbol when used with \degree as it should be. Just add before the document starts this line…


This can be used in math mode as well as outside of it.

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When a Gaussian is not a Gaussian

I’ve been sitting in an ETLC computer lab for quite a few hours here trying to write a computer simulation of the phys 397 lab that Rob Joseph and I have been working on for the last month. What should have ended up being a “straight line” passing through a nice series of 60 data points is actually a straight line passing through a jungle of randonimity. What I believe turned out to be our problem was that when we approximated our “filter function” (the transmission spectrum of the IR filters being used) we just used e as the base of the exponent. Assuming that a bell curve is accurately described by a gaussian distribution is something that loads of people probably do every day. I mean we did it every day for a month in Statistical Mechanics when we use the Stirlings approximation of large factorials. There are situations, and unfortunately our lab turns out to be one of them where a Gaussian just doesn’t describe a bell curve very well at all.

Indeed it’s the difference between something being gaussian and something being a bit wider up top or more triangular that throws our data for a loop. When performing the numerical integration right near the peak of the blackbody curve the filter is much narrower than the peak of the spectrum. This means that the variation from one filter to another across this regions is not
extremly pronounced. When the filter funtion is poorly approximated it makes a big difference!

What really needs to be done is to replicate the bell curve of the filter using a numerically exact model. Since I don’t have any means to do this I’m going to have to switch my beautiful 60 data point set into 10 data sets (ten filters) with only 6 data points each.

I was also going to pursue a reverse derivation of the plank curve using a 3D curve fit of my data array, that would have made my lab something close to a manifestation of sheer beauty on paper. But with these results I think it’s not going to be
worth the effort, I know that the answer will be poor.

I’m not all that worried about poor data, If I can write a blog at 12:50 am on a Friday night about the intricacies of a Gaussian Distribution, I’m not going to have any trouble filling 5 pages in Latex on the topic.

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Quantum Mechanics

Quantum Mechanics is honestly the sweetest course I have ever taken in the history of my life. I’m now checking it off on my list of life goals as complete

Now, anybody else in the course right now might be thinking otherwise as we are all finishing up the largest “weekly” assignment of our lives. Mine totals 16 pages. But by struggling through some ridiculous matheMagic to do those complex integrals and expectation values etc. I’ve developed not only a greater interest in the stuff, I’ve really got a much larger respect for the whole deal.

When you start an integral on one page, and hack your way through it on 2 pages, making reference to another 4 pages of previous results for simplification along the way, and arrive at the finish line with an answer of h|bar*(l^2 + a). You really get a grip on how intricately everything fits together. Having started with an expression that was so long I couldn’t even write it on one line (and couldn’t be reduced from there either!) and can develop such an elegant result I’m beginning to get a bit better grip on how perfectly God has this world balanced out. Whether or not the quantum mechanics aspect of the problem characterizes the real world very accurately, the math itself is something that elicits a bit of awe in me. I can’t help but sit here at my desk and be in a good mood even though the clock now shows “12:50″ because I’ve just seen a few of God’s fingerprints.

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Enphys Rocks EngWeek

The Engineering physics club placed 4th in Geer Week 2007! We also managed to clean up in 3 events and the club room will be adorned with 3 pretty sweet-action plaques until January 2008! to check out some of the pictures from the week visit the Eng Phys Photo Gallery (click the thumbnail).

Engineering Physics Flag

  • 1st Place – Scavenger Hunt
  • 1st Place – Godiva (Eng Week Newspaper)
  • 1st Place – Blood Drive

We scored Second in the Tech Display and placed far lower in the Design competition (5th) and the Movie (6th) than I think we deserved. Placement in other events can be found on the Engingeering Student’s Society Webpage.

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Engineering Week Draws to a Close

Engineering week ends tomorrow with the 68th annual Engineers Ball. I would consider this one the most fun yet and would attribute that entirely to the fact that I went to essentially everything! I missed out on the Keg Races Obstacle course because I had a mandatory lab and I skipped out on the Wrap-Up party because I wasn’t interested in any of the bands playing there. What I did attend is nothing to be laughed at…

  • Tug of War EP placed top 4
  • Scavenger Hunt EP beat mecE, civE and EE.. all the big guns
  • civE party
  • Toboggan Races Had to borrow a female participant who incurred penalties for us =(
  • Battle of the Bands
  • chemE party
  • Shangria First near-beer down and first to the bat… …last one back
  • Design Competition Highest towerby far
  • mecE party
  • Movie Night Got to judge on behalf of our club, we certainly did good
  • EE party
  • Career Fair
  • Beer Brewing / Boat RacesAnchored the team on one of the heats (5th place)
  • Engineers Ball

I’ll find out tomorrow how we did in all these events and list our sweet achievements then. For now feel free to check out the EnPhys Gallery to see some pictures of the weeks events. Of special note are the ones involving shredded paper and club offices.

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Eng Week Begins

Engineering Week is now officially underway

I’m sure that attending class will be at approximately a rate of 60%. 75% if I’m lucky, I’m going to do my best to fit in a dozen events and meet the requirements for the beer fridge draw. Design competition, movie night, scavenger hunt, a couple parties and the noon events and I should be able to do it. Our progress is alright thus far, top 4 in the Tug of War (with a bunch of skinny nerds) is pretty impressive if you ask me.

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Days of Physics underway

Tuesday and Thursday this semester are certainly days that will teach me that even great things like physics need to be managed in moderation.

Hopefully this semester won’t turn me against it (I have little doubt that this is impossible) but I’ll certainly get my fill. Starting with Electrodynamics and then Quantum for 3 hours straight each morning I then roll right into 3 hours of labs in the afternoon. It’s a bit overboard but that’s just how the cookie crumbles.

I’m a little worried that I’ll get buried within a few weeks and won’t emerge until May.

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