week 1 - hexagons, pencil making, and microscopes


This week in class we learned a variety of things including the structure of carbon (a hexagon) found in nature, listened to our breath, explored the manufacture process of what how to make a pencil and an eraser, and lastly viewed with our own eyes a microscope so advanced, that it can create an image of an object measured in microns. 


The first day of class we learned about the structure of carbon found in nature. This hexagon shape is seen in graphite, layers stacked on each other infinitely. We can stack an infinite layer of graphite on paper. Whereas, graphene an one atom thick layer of the commonly found mineral graphite (graphenea.com) cannot. 

Additionally, graphene is used to build airplanes, watches, and other similar objects. Moreover, 

a honeycomb (shown below), is a thin-walled cell with relatively high compression and shear properties with a low density (KB).  Rather than remain circular in shape, the beeswax in a honeycomb changes to a hexagonal shape when heated by the bee’s body heat and then cooled.

The warm wax of three circular combs folds to fill the open space between them, resulting in hexagonal walls. “The minimum amount of beeswax needed for a hexagonal shape also means that a minimum of heat is needed to achieve this shape” (LApost.com).

In fact, the dragonfly’s eyes are also made up of over 30,000 hexagons which permit it to see above and below as well as behind itself while it hunts for food.

We also watched multiple videos on how a manufacturer creates a pencil that involved many steps. To begin with, trees are cut and made into planks that are shipped off to the manufacturer. The video had cedar wood imported from California to Germany. Next, holes are created in the plank and pencil lead is inserted in the holes after the machine has added the glue. Then, the half of the pencil is fitted to another half of the plank (no led) and is pressurized together to dry. Finally, the pencil is cut into a hexagon and is sharpened on a machine (general pencil).

Unfortunately, pencils are a cause of deforestation. “Throughout history and into modern times, forests have been razed to make space for agriculture and animal grazing, and to obtain wood for fuel, manufacturing, and construction. Deforestation has greatly altered landscapes around the world” (national geographics.org). There are solutions with more eco-friendly alternatives like one made out of biodegradable paper that contains seeds planted in the soil.

We also had the honor to hear a guest speaker who focussed on breath. Breath is an important aspect that our body cannot live without. As explained in class, we can function without hearing, sight, and other senses but breath we would almost immediately die. There were multiple class exercises like closing our eyes and allowing ourselves to listen to our body and surroundings. It allowed me to destress and take a step back (recording attached in email).


Furthermore, we walked to a research building on campus where we learned about the Advanced Light Microscopy and Spectroscopy Laboratory. Since I am not a science major, it was fascinating to learn about the microscope that the faculty used for research. The Covid-19 bacteria is also studied at this very building and the researcher had explained in order to take a picture of something so small, one must have to freeze the object at a certain temperature to not allow it to move. In the picture above, also studied specimens with a microscope. 



Clark, S.by PEEC amateur naturalist: Honeycomb, dragonfly eyes, and Lava Columns, Los Alamos Daily Post. Available at: https://ladailypost.com/peec-amateur-naturalist-honeycomb-dragonfly-eyes-and-lava-columns/#:~:text=Each%20compound%20eye%20is%20composed,while%20it%20hunts%20for%20food. (Accessed: January 16, 2023). 

Deforestation (no date) National Geographic Society. Available at: https://education.nationalgeographic.org/resource/deforestation (Accessed: January 16, 2023). 

Graphene & Graphite - how do they compare? (no date) Graphenea. Available at: https://www.graphenea.com/pages/graphene-graphite#:~:text=In%20very%20basic%20terms%20graphene,thousands%20of%20layers%20of%20graphene. (Accessed: January 16, 2023). 

Honeycomb structures, properties and uses in composites manufacturing (2017) APP Knowledge Base. Available at: https://kb.appinc.co/knowledge-base/honeycomb-structures-properties-and-uses/#:~:text=Honeycomb%20structures%20are%20a%20lattice,while%20boasting%20a%20low%20density. (Accessed: January 16, 2023). 

How a pencil is made (no date) General Pencil Co., Inc. - Pencil Makers in the USA Since 1889. Available at: https://www.generalpencil.com/how-a-pencil-is-made.html (Accessed: January 16, 2023).