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February 28, 2014     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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February 28, 2014
 

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, FEBRUARY 28, 2014 UCF students to ride 'vomit comet' courtesy of NASA By Chris DeSouza, Heri- tage, and Zenaida Gonzalez Kotala, UCF News & Infor- mation ORLANDO--Flying at zero gravity is usually something reserved for astronauts in training, but Conway resi- dent and UCF junior Samuel Benjamin, along with five other UCF students, will get the chance to do so in June, courtesy of NASA. NASA selected UCF's team to run an experiment aboard a parabolic flight as part of its undergraduate student Instrumentation Program. Since getting the green light late last year, the team has been hard at work turning the project from concept to design to working prototype. The students have to meet a summer deadline in order to keep their slot on a specially designed plane that astro- nauts use to train. It's often referred to as the vomit comet, because it is not for those with weak stomachs. Benjamin, a photonics sci- ences and engineering major, is working on making sure the experiment collects clean, reliable data and then helping interpret the data once the flight is over. How did Benjamin get involved in this project? Get- ting his educational start at Hebrew Day School, Benjamin was eager to get his foot in the door of undergraduate research in astrophysics. He is interested in exoplanets-- planets orbiting other stars. The experiment will study the sticking and gradual buildup of small particles onto a larger body in avacuum and in microgravity to better un- derstand particle interactions in protoplanetary disks and in planetary ring systems. What's that mean? "I'll sum up the astrophysics jargon," Benjamin said. "It is universally accepted in the field--and has been seen with powerful telescopes--that newly born stars trap im- mense amounts of gas and dust in their gravitational pull, Most of this ends up orbiting in a disk-shape around the star, and this is what we call a 'protoplanetary disk.' This is what our solar system was like in its earliest stages--no planets, asteroids, etc.mjust gas, dust made of metals and other solid matter--not your typical household dust, and ice orbiting the sun. What's clear is that this dust and ice stuck together somehow and snowballed over millions of years into the familiar planets and other large bodies we see today. This snowballing is the 'gradual buildup of small par- ticles,' and physicists consider it important because it's not only the driving force behind planetary formation, but it's also important in star for- mation and the interactions between particles in ring systems like Saturn's." Co-teammate and only non-engineering or physics major on the team, Sara Lane, put it this way: "We're studying collisions in space environments that can't eas- ily be studied on earth. What we learn may be important in understanding how Saturn's rings formed." This research, in short, will help researchers better understand how the universe was formed. "The issue our research is looking to resolve is how to re- create this environment and study it in detail," Benjamin explained. Why will they go into the J Ball is one week away PAGE 3A i i .... Shown here (l-r): Brad Hoover, Samuel Benjamin and Chris Tiller working together in the lab. vomit comet to gather this information? "It's impos- sible to re-create this kind of system while on the earth's surface, where our planet's gravity by far overpowers the smaller forces believed to be involvedwith this snowballing process," Benjamin said. "A cost-effective (and fun) way to overcome this is by running our experiment on a vomit comet. Modeling this space environment also means that air can't be around in our cloud of dust, which is why we're putting this dust cloud in vacuum-sealed tubes. We will be launching marble- sized spheres through these dust clouds at various speeds and watching to see what sticks to this sphere and why." What does the team hope to discover? "We are hoping the results will show what conditions are or aren't ideal for the snowballing effect to happen. Each experiment will start and end on the order of seconds, which is only a snapshot in time compared to the hundreds of millions of years required for planets to take shape. Nonetheless, taking this snapshot is a step toward defining the physics that helped make our solar system the place it is today," Benjamin further explained. Other members of the team include Allyson Whitaker, an aerospace engineering major in her junior yearwhose focus is on planetary science. She is in charge of the materials that will be placed in the experi- ment and making sure they stay safe and secure and can execute as designed. Team leader, Kelly Lai is an aerospace engineering major in her senior year. She is helping with the design of one of the payloads in the experiment as well as the storage-rack structure of the experiment. Christopher Tiller, a physics major in his third year, always envisioned himself creating video games, but in high school some "great teachers" exposed him to the world of physics. Brad Hoover, an aerospace engineering major in his senior year, is in charge of turning the team's computer- assisted designs into hard- ware. UCF professor Joshua Col- -well is faculty mentor, prin- cipal investigator for the project. He and UCF scientist Adrienne Dove are helping the students by offering guidance and being a sounding board for ideas and frustrations. Colwell UCF on page 15A Todd Weissman and David Zissman try their hand at the Blackjack table at last year's J Ball. Approximately 300 people are registered for the Jewish Community Center of Greater Orlando's J Ball celebration on Saturday, March 8. The event is the JCC's largest fundraiser of the year, benefiting the organization's programs, services and Marvin Fried- man Scholarship Fund. This year, the Vegas-themed night will also feature the 10th Annual Bruce Gould Poker Invitational, in celebration of the honoree for the evening, Bruce Gould. In addition to the poker tournament, the evening will consist of international food stations, entertainment, interactive magic, music, casino games, and much more. The event, co-chaired by Es Cohen, Rhonda Forest, and Lynn Minkow, will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Rosen Plaza Hotel at 9700 International Drive. Admission is $85 per person or $125 for admission and one seat in the poker tournament ($100 and $150 for walk-ins on the night of the event). A special non-poker admission rate of $65 is available to JCC preschool parents, J University parents, and seniors. Babysitting is also available ($10/child) at the Roth JCC or at the Rosen Plaza. A third chiidcare option is available for $25/child, which will include a field trip for fourth through eighth graders to Pointe Orlando to see the LEGO Movie. For more information or to register, visitwww.orlandojcc. org. Nosh and shop at COSUSY's community sale Congregation Ohev Sha- lom's United Synagogue Youth chapter is hosting a huge com- munity sale on Sunday, March 9, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Bagels also will be sold so customers can nosh and shop. Proceeds will go toward USY's social action and tik- kun otam--"repairing the world" activities, which this year is for several children's causes. COSUSYwelcomes the en- tire community to come get some great deals on gently used and new toys, clothes, books and household items while helping those in need in our commurity. The sale will be held at Congregation Ohev Shalom, 613 Con- course Parkway South, Maitland. COSUSY is the Congre- gation Ohev Shalom chap- ter of United Synagogue Youth. This group serves Jew- ish high school students in ninth -12th grade. CO- SUSY's social action and tik- kun olam theme is"Dor L'Dor, generation to generation." In addition to raising funds for children's organizations, COSUSY leads services one Friday a month for the resi- dents of Chambrel in Long- wood. Dedicated To Serving Our Jewish Community Call on Central Florida's Exclusively Jewish Funeral Home for Details Regarding: Traditional Jewish Funerals Non-Traditional Services Interstate Shipping Pre-Arranged Funerals (Shalom Assurance Plan) Headstone, Grave Markers (Cardinal Memorials) 407-599-1180 640 Lee Rd. Orlando, Florida W.E. "Manny" Adams, LFD Samuel P. (Sammy) Goldstein, Executive Director