It’s not much of an exaggeration to say that electrons form the backbone of the modern world. They are our workhorses—they bring energy from power plants to our homes and factories. They are our couriers—they carry information through circuits in our computers. Some day, they will be our providers—as the central elements in photovoltaic solar cells, they will capture the sun’s energy for our use. These current and future electronic devices rely on very precise answers to the question What do electrons do inside materials? Out of technological need and intellectual curiosity, condensed matter physicists have spent over a century discovering better and better answers—and they continue to do so today. In this post, I will try to give you a little glimpse into the form, beauty, and utility of such an answer.
To celebrate the summer solstice, I thought I’d share some interesting sights I saw at Ithaca Falls after a snowstorm.
Parts of the waterfall froze but the rest kept moving. I thought it would be cool to take a long-exposure shot to contrast the slow and fast H2O.
Of course, I wasn’t the only one taking pictures—the falls draw a nearly constant stream of visitors on cold days. The cute girl in the pink hat is my girlfriend Heidi; the two guys are random strangers. This is my favorite picture from this shoot; the wall of water and ice looks almost too fantastic to be real.
Most of Fall Creek was covered with ice, but the rushing water at the base kept a small area clear. Heidi thought it looked deceptively like a hot spring.
The constant wind blowing from the waterfall creates some unusual ice structures. For example, these crystals were growing horizontally on the gorge walls near the falls:
When I looked up to the top of the gorge, the dusting of snow on the jagged walls made them seem to be drawn in white: