Thursday marked the fourth day of the Nishina School, when we got to learn detailed information about the three experiments the other students will be performing next week. Moving the start time of the school to 10:30 (which certainly made our commute easier), Dr. Kishida planned the entire day to focus on those three experiments: one lecture in the morning, two in the afternoon. It was incredibly interesting to learn about ion traps, measurement of mass spectrums, and x-ray and gamma-ray detectors, but it also made me realize how much we’re going to miss out on by not being here for the second week of the school. Obviously, it’s important to follow the law, but it’s such a bummer that the college students get to work with some pretty cool equipment to conduct challenging, advanced experiments and all we can do is learn about what makes those experiments work. I wish there was some sort of experiment we could conduct too, especially because RIKEN’s facilities include apparatus that I would normally never get the chance to get near, let alone use. However, I’m not jealous of what comes after the experiments and analysis… presentations! Each college student will have to give a 10-minute presentation about some aspect of their experiment, except for the one who has to do the 20-minute summary talk (good luck!). Speaking of presentations, Jeffrey and I actually had to give a presentation today about our experience at RIKEN, which we spent pretty much all of Thursday night working on. In true Exonian fashion, of course, we didn’t start thinking about the presentation, let alone creating it, until Thursday at lunch time, so in combination with all the time spent enjoying the barbecue party, we ended up working pretty late and not having any time to blog… Good news, though – the presentation went pretty well, and I don’t regret any of the time I spent at the BBQ.
Which brings me to my next topic, the party itself! Every year, the Nishina Center hosts a barbecue party outside its main building, where the Nishina School classes are held. Every year, the barbecue somehow coincides with the Nishina School, whether through lucky coincidence or very considerate planners, and we are so happy that this year was no exception. The party was different than your average American BBQ party, but certainly not in a bad way: instead of your typical charcoal or gas grill with a grate, these grills had one solid sheet of metal on the top, allowing the grillers to cook noodles and gyoza directly on the grill itself. Additionally, there were no hot dogs or hamburgers; instead the meat was pieces of beef, chicken, and fish, and a cut of pork that looked surprisingly like bacon and tasted just as good. Even though the lines were long, the food was pretty much limitless, and I for one ate as much as I could. I also really enjoyed the barbecue party because it gave me a chance to talk with a variety of Nishina Center scientists, from the creator of both the entire Nishina Center and the tradition of the barbecue party to several chief scientists of laboratories to graduate students here for just the summer. To be honest, the sheer amount of brainpower that had been gathered around a couple of grills this Thursday was pretty astounding. The party ranks pretty high among places where I have felt like a teeny fish in a big pond – not that I mind, of course. While the experience was humbling, it was also more than a little inspirational. Additionally, the party gave me an opportunity to get to know the other students in the Nishina School. Over the course of the night, I spent quite a lot of time talking to some of them, laughing at their jokes, adding them on Facebook, and eventually lighting lots of mini fireworks together! For some reason, whoever put the party together also happened to have what seemed like an infinite supply of fireworks of all different types. There were several kinds of standard sparklers, colored sparklers, ones that flashed like strobe lights, and even these teeny-tiny ones that formed little flashing spheres if you stood still enough. The objective for those was to keep the firework lit until the sphere reached the top of the flammable portion – something that seems easy in concept but was actually pretty difficult due to the wind. Unsurprisingly, those were not my forté… I much preferred the bigger, more active fireworks. All in all, Jeffrey and I had so much fun at the party that we ended up staying way later than planned, but while I can’t speak for Jeffrey, I absolutely thought it was worth it. Who needs sleep when you can have shaved ice, gyoza, friends, and sparklers?