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Avery House’s Fake Ditch Day vs. LIGO?

A while back, the Avery seniors decided to host a fake ditch day on Thursday 2/11. It seemed like the perfect sort of day, just after midterms were due but before too many other sets came up, and it left more room in the year in case we wanted to run another ditch day. We began our planning, divvied up roles…

And LIGO decided to make their press conference on the 11th. I was in charge of organizing this ditch day this time, and I had an extremely difficult decision to make: did I want to go toone of Caltech’s crowning achievements during my time here? Or did I want to see an event I helped orchestrate come to fruition?
Needless to say, my inner geek won out and I attended the LIGO seminar. However, this did not mean I wouldn’t help with the ditch day events. We set up three events centered around a Disney theme:

  • Character cards — Underclassmen sat around with character cards taped to their heads and everybody else had to help them try to guess who they were. However, since we wanted to tie this back to a Disney theme, everybody was a Disney character. But that would be too easy to guess, so we forced them to pantomime their hints. Moreover, we gave one poor soul Donald Trump for his character card; it was very funny seeing him try to figure out that he wasn’t a Disney character!
  • Minigames — We had the students split into two teams and compete against each other in the name of "learning cooperation" with their fellow team members in silly games such as "junk in the trunk" also known as "shake your butt and get ping pong balls out of a tissue box tied around your waist." Hilarity ensued as everybody embarrassed themselves.

  • Ice game thing — This was the minigame that I helped prepare. The two sides were split up, trying to rescue Elsa from Maleficent, the dragon. People would play a small minigame, trying to flip a cup over the edge of a table and have it land after a 180 rotation. The winner would take two cups with frozen colored ice, the loser take one cup, and they would find quarters inside (or duds, which contained other coins). These quarters were then taken to a shooting range, where they aimed at little targets that represented health bars for Elsa and Maleficent respectively, whom the two teams were trying to assist in their epic battle.

I wasn’t present for the competition, but please find below a picture of the colorful preparation!

I was absent of course for no reason other than the fact that I went to the LIGO presentation! Some people may think that the discovery was no big deal, that it was no theoretical milestone, but it was a great leap for mankind nonetheless. The moon landing was insignificant scientifically, it was but an arbitrary marker. We discovered little new from the fact that we’d landed on the moon.

But the moon landing gave us so much more. It spurred space exploration, it allowed us to analyze composition of other bodies in the solar system and it most importantly drove mankind’s imagination ever farther into the sky. LIGO’s detection is of similar magnitude. Perhaps we already expected gravitational waves, perhaps we’ve already granted aNobelfor their indirect detection, but LIGO’s significance lies so far beyond this. It’s a new way to see things, a new frontier that remains to be explored, radically different from anything mankind has ever attempted. I walked away from the talk that day with a new spring in my step, and campus took on a wholly different light. I was proud to be here, proud to be on site for one of the most significant days in astrophysics.