Freeze Frame

by Roland Minton on December 10, 2014


There is an old saying that “the camera does not lie.” Putting aside the fact that PhotoShop does, the use of high-speed photography has revealed some fascinating facts. MCSP has such a camera; although it is very low resolution, we did capture a rubber band oscillating and verify the mathematical solution (found in Math 332) that on a vibrating string all points move at the same speed. It is a surprising fact, and seeing it in a video is very cool.

The above picture was taken with a standard camera, but it, too, reveals a surprising fact. Check out the stick, starting at the ice and then going through the bottom hand and up to the top hand. It is bent nearly thirty degrees! This is visual confirmation that the hockey slap shot is a very complicated process.

The relevant concept from Physics is potential energy. The bending of the hockey stick acts like a spring storing energy, and then straightening out and slinging the puck toward the net. High-speed photography has shown that the stick and puck actually make and break contact several times as they flex and change speeds. Notice in the bottom picture that the puck and stick stay in close proximity for a long time.

If you want to learn more about the physics of the hockey slap shot and other collisions, take Physics 103 or 201 or Dr. Roland Minton’s May term course called The Science of Sports.

If you want to learn how to execute a good slap shot, talk to Physics professor Dr. Richard Grant. He is #28 in these pictures (but #1 in our hearts)!



Computer Science Software Showcase

by Scotty Smith on December 4, 2014

Students Present their programs at the Software Showcase

Students Present their programs at the Software Showcase

In continuing with the tradition started just last year, the Computer Science department held a showcase for students in the introductory Computer Science and Mobile App INQ courses to show the software they created this semester to a wider audience.

The computer science students were allowed to choose their final projects, and were required to submit proposals for their final projects. The proposed projects ranged from practical applications (such as a Todo List program) to video games (both graphical and text based). These projects were written in the python programming language, which can run in any of the common operating systems on the market today.

The mobile app students were also allowed to choose their final projects, but with the restriction that their applications must be to the benefit of the Roanoke College community. These students wrote their projects using TouchDevelop, which is used for development of mobile apps. These projects ranged from apps to display upcoming sporting events to applications for finding parties on the weekend.

The event seemed to be a great success. Students had fun interacting with each others programs, and a handful of other members of the Roanoke College community also joined in on the fun. We look forward to holding meetings like this more in the future, and hope you might take a moment to join in next year.


Q From RC: A Distinguished Alumnus

by Roland Minton on November 11, 2014


What do our graduates do with a physics or mathematics major? For years, one of our answers has been “assistant director of the FBI” but until recently I did not know the details of our distinguished alumnus, William A. (Al) Bayse. Some surreptitious sleuthing unearthed excerpts from books about the FBI, including recently declassified information about Assistant Director Bayse.

Al Bayse received a B.S. in physics from Roanoke College in 1958. He went on to graduate school in mathematics, engineering and technology management. If that sounds like a professional student without professional ambitions, get ready for a plot twist. Al went to NASA as an aeronautical research engineer, then to the Department of the Army as the deputy chief of staff for logistics in the Data Processing Center. His work there earned him a Decoration for Meritorious Civilian Service, and impressed the FBI enough that he became the first non-agent to serve as assistant director when he was hired in 1978.

Bayse was put in charge of automating the FBI, with a focus on providing agents with immediate information in the field. He helped to develop knowledge-based expert systems and artificial intelligence applications for the bureau. All of those technical college courses were put to good use.

What was he like? According to Ronald Kessler in his book The FBI, he was “charming and smart.” And a bit of a geek. “If he can use a technical term to describe a new computer development, he will.” And an outstanding worker. “Bayse is in his element showing off some of the artificial intelligence systems his 1026-employee division has developed.” As head of technology, he was known to other assistant directors as “Q.” (This was the name of James Bond’s technology mastermind.)

The transcript of the keynote talk he gave in 1991 at the First Conference on Computers, Freedom, and Privacy reveals an accomplished leader with a good sense of humor. Before polling the audience about one issue, he announced that it was to be “a ‘Bayseian’ survey – because I really don’t have any choice in that matter.” (An important but controversial branch of statistics is known as Bayesian statistics.)

After quoting Charles Kettering (“We should all be concerned about the future, because we’ll have to spend the rest of our lives there.”), he told the assembled high-ranking representatives from various agencies, “We are going to be spending time together in the future – I sort of insist on it.” He then dove straight into the issues facing the industry, very modern issues of privacy versus agents’ need for information.

He took large numbers of questions and challenges from the audience, answering them with the charm and wit that won over Kessler. Sandeep Gupta describes the scene. “There has never been anything like this. Without any prodding, without any preparation, people in the audience simply begin to ask questions. Longhairs, freaky people, mathematicians. Bayse is answering, politely, frankly, fully, like a man walking on air. The ballroom’s atmosphere crackles with surreality.”

Clearly, Al Bayse had a way with people and difficult issues. His combination of technical expertise, social awareness, and leadership skills is the goal of a liberal arts education at Roanoke College.

What can you do with a physics or mathematics degree? If you’re Al Bayse, you can be one of the most important intelligence officers in the world!


(excerpt from The FBI by Ronald Kessler)

(excerpt from The FBI: A Comprehensive Reference Guide edited by Athan Theoharis)

(transcript of conference, Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility website)

(excerpt from Hacking in the Computer World by Sandeep Gupta)

By the way, my Dad, a one-time FBI agent, would have defined surreptitious as “belief that liquid maple poured on pancakes brings good luck.”

If you have further information about Al Bayse, please leave a comment!


Computer Science Succeeds at CCSC

November 9, 2014

Each year the Computer Science department takes a trip to the Consortium of Computing Sciences in Colleges (CCSC) south eastern regional conference.  This year the conference was held in North Charleston South Carolina, at the College of Charleston’s north campus.  While the focus of the conference is Computer Science education, one of the more fun […]

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The Meta-Meaning of the Mega-Menger

November 6, 2014

Fractals are infinitely complex – infinite and complex are two carefully chosen descriptors. The Menger sponge is one of the classic construction fractals. Start with a cube. On each face draw a Tic-Tac-Toe grid of nine squares, then drill a rectangular tunnel straight through the middle square. Here’s a challenge: you can think of the […]

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The World and Her Oysters

October 23, 2014

Amanda Wright is a Physics major at Roanoke College. A desire to do research brought her to Roanoke College, and she has always had an interest in marine life. The chance to combine the two in a summer project was too good to pass up, even if it was not always clear how the finances […]

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Roanoke Students attend Grace Hopper Conference

October 21, 2014

Computer Science is stereotypically a male dominated field. However, this was not always the case. Many of the pioneers in the field have been female. One of the biggest names from the field is Grace Hopper, a Navy Rear Admiral who developed the very first compiler for a programming language. She is even the individual […]

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MCSP Grad Elizabeth Ciskowski teaching at The O’Neal School

October 9, 2014

Recent Roanoke MCSP graduate Elizabeth Ciskowski is one of nine new teachers this fall at The O’Neal School, a private college preparatory school in Southern Pines, North Carolina. Lizzie graduated in Spring 2014 from Roanoke College with a double major in Mathematics and Physics. From her frequent Facebook posts about the start of her term there, we’re […]

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A Hit in the Big Time

September 10, 2014

Taylor Ferebee and Stephen Wolfram Taylor Ferebee is a sophomore, double majoring in Physics and Mathematics. Her summer research at Wolfram Science Summer School (WSSS) is one of the best research experiences ever. Taylor designed a movie app in close consultation with Stephen Wolfram, the world famous inventor of Mathematica and author of the visionary […]

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Physics students Cam Cassady and Chris Valentine do summer research at Oak Ridge National Lab

August 23, 2014

For senior physics students Cam Cassady (middle right) and Chris Valentine (far right), the summer was spent engaged in research at Oak Ridge National Laboratory near Knoxville, Tennessee.  Their research projects were a result of the Visiting Faculty Program funded by the US Department of Energy.  Under the direction of ORNL research scientist Matthew Blackston […]

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