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University of Utah Antarctica Math-pedition

pancake ice

HI, I’m Cindy Furse, a professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Utah. Electrical engineers like me use electricity to invent things or discover things that can change the world. Four of us from the U are setting out on an Antarctic Expedition Nov 15 to measure the electrical properties of sea ice to find out more about how ice is controlled by the climate when it is produced. Later, we may be able to use that information to better understand the long term climate changes and how they have affected the world’s ice packs.

There is a lot to learn about ice. Here are some different kinds of ice (some?! LOTS of different kinds of ice):

We are most interested in the brine in ice.  As sea water freezes, brine is rejected by the solidification process and there is a layer of highly concentrated brine at the interface, which has a corrugated platelet structure. As these platelets grow further, this extra salty water is trapped between the platelets in the form of submillimeter scale inclusions. These inclusions are generally tubular, because of gravity pulling the brine down. You can see some microscopic pictures of sea ice and its brine inclusions here:

Brine is very salty, and therefore highly conductive (it can conduct current, sort of like a wire can). In the direction of the long inclusions (vertically), we expect the ice to be more conductive (carry more current) than in the horizontal direction. But we don’t know for sure. And we don’t know how much difference there will be between the horizontal and vertical conductivity of the ice. When the properties are different in different directions, we say the ice is ‘anisotropic’. And that is what we are out to measure.
Four of us from the U are headed to Antarctica, where we will meet up with other teams from around the world.

Me: Cindy Furse – Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering
Ken Golden – Professor of Math
David Lubbers – an undergraduate electrical engineering student, doing his senior project on sea ice measurements
Joyce Lin – postdoctoral researcher in Math

We’ll give you more introduction to each of us in upcoming blogs.

But for now, I’d like to introduce you to another important part of our Antarctic Math-pedition. To make important discoveries, engineers and scientists use MATH! We like math, we use math, we need math, and we want to share the fun of discovering, inventing, and experimenting with math and engineering. So here is an invitation to teachers and students (and anybody else!) … come to Antarctica ‘with’ us. We will be talking about preparations for our upcoming adventure, and the math and science we will be using, in this blog over the next few weeks.

So, the question of the day is:
Tell us what (math topic) you are studying in your class, if you are a teacher or a student, and what grade level you are in. We will try to find examples of where we use that type of math in Antarctica. Brrrrry Cold Math!

—Dr. Cindy Furse

  • mrscorlett

    My Kindergarteners at St. Xavier School are learning about graphing in math. They are also creating and identifying different kinds of patterns, as well as identifying shapes using 3 or more attributes. We will be tracking, comparing and graphing your weather with ours in Kansas. We will be learning about how snow is made and we’d love to see some of your snowflakes. We’d like instructions/ideas on how we can preserve our own snowflakes so we can look at the differences between the snowflakes in Antartica and Kansas. We will make salt water and regular ice and see how differently they melt. We are very interested in learning about your equipment and clothing that you will need to wear to stay warm. We will compare it to the clothing we are using to stay warm in Kansas. We will also be mapping our ram’s trip as he travels with you. Our ram spent some time in the freezer before he lft Kansas. He was trying to get acclimated to the cold weather! If you think up more ideas for us, we’d love to give them a try.