The day we broke science, or possibly the day science broke us...
We turned up to labs as keen as you can at 9am on a monday morning, still being a bit sleep deprived I managed to forget my lab specs but managed to borrow some!
A quick discussion a we decided that (as predicted by me!) we hadn't actually collected the right data to answer the question that we're trying to so had 45 minutes of data collecting followed by a massive graph plot. Now what? We had a bit of a maths fail and after much equation rearranging we decided our heads were hurting too much to carry on so broke for lunch!
Feeling a bit refreshed after a good lunch we had an hour's discussion with our supervisor and got all the maths sorted. Hang on a minute...the one key number we needed was missing, more data collection required. This is where it all started going horribly wrong. Our equipment is so sensitive that anyone leaning on the table (or i'm sure breathing on the equipment) knocks it out of alignment; this had been a problem throughout but it was proving a particular problem this afternoon and we just couldn't get it working again.
There was much cursing and I don't think I've ever been so close to crying in labs (don't think the tiredness is helping!), we had 3 hours of practical time left and we were potentially going to have to do it all again. This one number needed to be obtained in comparable conditions to all of our previous data (and was then going to act as a constant when determining the rest of the stuff) so if we couldn't get it back to how it was we'd have had to collect all the data again under the new (far less than optimal) conditions! Someone from another group (who has had so much time not only has he written his report, he's done it all formatted like a proper paper) suggested we needed a tea break. Tea definitely helped!
We then managed to use some of our previous data to get the numbers that we needed, possibly not the most accurate way of doing, but still pretty close and all we could do! A bit more number crunching and graph plotting and we were down to the final stages of our calculations. By this point we were all a bit fed up of it, and even the demonstrator struggled to help and agreed that we had "broken the ideal gas equation", thanks to some more rearranging and playing with units (someone had given us a rouge "V" term) we got an answer out of the end.
What did we prove? Our experimental technique isn't accurate enough for the applications they wanted to use it for...
Think we could have told them that without doing the maths!
More graph plotting and maths awaits tomorrow because we've got to be ready to present on this by next Tuesday, and hand in the report on Friday (yes that's 2 presentations in the space of a few days and 2 big reports due in on the Friday!).
Couldn't get a doctors appointment until Thursday (I really should have phoned up before the weekend!), but at least that's only a couple more days of tired and broken Becky (although one of those days is presentation day!). Early night tonight though...
Today's photo is another angle of our laser set up: (plastic cups are there to keep the dust out and are removed before use!)