The Declarer (Floyd McWilliams' Blog)

Sunday, May 21, 2006


Ace of Spades links to an embittered physics undergraduate's lab report:


Abstract: The exponential dependence of resistivity on temperature in germanium is found to be a great big lie. My careful theoretical modeling and painstaking experimentation reveal 1) that my equipment is crap, as are all the available texts on the subject and 2) that this whole exercise was a complete waste of my time.

...

I sifted through the box of germanium crystals and chose the one that appeared to be the least cracked. Then I soldered wires onto the crystal in the spots shown in figure 2b of Lab Handout 32. Do you have any idea how hard it is to solder wires to germanium? I'll tell you: real goddamn hard. The solder simply won't stick, and you can forget about getting any of the grad students in the solid state labs to help you out.

Once the wires were in place, I attached them as appropriate to the second-rate equipment I scavenged from the back of the lab, none of which worked properly. I soon wised up and swiped replacements from the well-stocked research labs. This is how they treat undergrads around here: they give you broken tools and then don't understand why you don't get any results.

In order to control the temperature of the germanium, I attached the crystal to a copper rod, the upper end of which was attached to a heating coil and the lower end of which was dipped in a thermos of liquid nitrogen. Midway through the project, the thermos began leaking. That's right: I pay a cool ten grand a quarter to come here, and yet they can't spare the five bucks to ensure that I have a working thermos.

...

Going into physics was the biggest mistake of my life. I should've declared CS. I still wouldn't have any women, but at least I'd be rolling in cash.


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