I am tired tonight, so I don’t have much energy to write. I just went rock climbing for the first time after taking a break for a month or so (I was resting because of a small surgery), and I’m exhausted. I also feel like a weakling as my arms hurt so much after an hour of bouldering and a few easy wall climbs. How in the world am I supposed to climb up volcanoes now? I need to hit the rock gym and perhaps the regular gym to whip myself back into shape.
In addition to working my body today, I also worked my brain some. I read papers in the morning and then spent two hours this afternoon learning about Varian vacuum pumps and other technology that allows the noble gas mass spectrometer to reach very low pressures on the order of 10 ^ -10 torr.
Typing this now, I have to admit that spending two hours learning about vacuum pumps doesn’t sound very exciting. However, earlier today (before the rock gym wiped me out) I was really interested. My two, enthusiastic instructors were the engineer and geochronologist who run the argon lab where I’m currently in the process of dating my samples. They taught me the best way– by taking things apart. They showed me how pumps work by showing me some broken, dismantled pumps.
I learned all about ion pumps and turbo pumps. I learned about how they work, which I’ll write about on a night I have more energy, and also about some of their uses. According to the engineer, NASA has entire rooms that they turn into vacuums with giant turbo pumps. NASA tests equipment in these vacuum rooms, which simulate conditions in outer space. I also learned that vacuums are important in fusion research. The big tokamaks use many of the vacuum pumps.
In my excitement over my new-found interest in vacuum pumps for mass spectrometers, I agreed to sign up for a one-day course offered by the company making the pumps. I’ll get free lunch and learn all I ever wanted to know– and undoubtedly much, much more– about vacuum pumps. In my tiredness now, I wonder if I just signed up for an incredibly boring day. Nah. A useful day. That’s what I signed up for.
Now, my nightly push-ups and sit-ups (I need to climb those volcanoes, dammit!), and I’m to bed, exhausted.
Me (in purple) exhibiting my impromptu field climbing skills in Montana.