While looking for something of great value (a picture of a former professor in a rather embarrassing costume, for his retirement party) I found two other things. The first, a sample of Trinitite, is below the fold with an explanation. The second was a set of notes scribbled in the back of a program for the inauguration of a university president circa 1980. [I was part of the pomp and circumstance, in full academic regalia, for a ceremony that was a hundred times better than the president turned out to be.]
One of the speakers (my notes don't say who) listed the primary concerns of the three constituencies of any university:
- Alumni: football tickets
- Students: sex
- Faculty: parking places
Nearly 30 years later, with an entirely new generation of students, faculty, and alumni, I don't think that has changed one bit. I also suspect that it was true 30 years earlier.
Trinitite is a quasi-man-made mineral.
It is dirt (mostly sand in this case) that was converted to a greenish glass by the explosion of a nuclear weapon, in this case the "gadget" detonated out on the Journado del Muerto near Alamagordo NM in July 1945.
This particular item was a gift from a fellow grad student, who picked it up in a store in Los Alamos during a visit there. I have no idea how or when it was collected by the people who packaged it, but the site is now open to the public every year. However, since it is a National Monument, removing anything would be illegal today. I'm guessing it was collected by someone working at or near the site when other samples were collected for scientific study.
When I got it, the first thing I did was check the claim that it had "lost" its radioactivity. It hadn't, but the levels were quite low. (Now that I have found it, I will check it again with a meter we have at work.) I never did put it in front of a high quality gamma spectrometer and try to figure out what isotopes were present.
Obviously this item was taken through an airport (actually, several airports) long before anyone was looking for radioactive materials in your luggage!
And a third item. Oh. My. God.
I also found a photocopy of something I thought was gone forever: A detailed breakdown of the grade distributions, by college, at Enormous State U for one particular school year. This was part of the data included in a massive notebook (at least 3" thick) I was given when I was a member of a major academic policy committee as a grad student. [That was the reason I was in full regalia at the inauguration described at the top of this posting.] It also has the passing rates for the math and english placement tests given every freshman, again broken down by college, and historical data on the university-wide GPA from the 50s, showing a phase transition (physics lingo) after the Vietnam protest years.
I anticipate some writing on this subject. Now if I could only get the same data for the current year. That would be interesting.