Swimming through the universe, one light-year at a time.

Swimming through the universe, one light-year at a time.
NCG 4631 "The Whale Galaxy"

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Math is fun

This may possibly be the best summer session I've ever had since entering college. I've enrolled myself in Precalculus and General Physics, and never before have I felt such anticipation to wake up at 6:45 a.m to drive across the Bay Bridge and back just to attend classes. I feel that the study of physics opens my mind to see so many invisible worlds all around us, and how they interact with each other to manifest the physical phenomena we observe. And math is the language of all that occurs: a strange, mind-bending game which can in fact be conquered and understood. Yet the more I learn the more questions come to surface, and this makes me appreciate science all the more. These 2 concentrations constantly feed off each other to create a beauty so complete, it just makes me want to smile.

So, how do I know my math instructor is an amazing teacher?

The first day of class, while reviewing the standard definitions of natural numbers, integers, rationals, real numbers, etc. I asked him what another example of a non-real number, besides i could possibly be. Instead of answering with just a dry, 2 second reply, he launches into the history of mathematics:

Math was created to model the world around us. Quite obviously, whole numbers exist since the only way we can quantify more than one object is to count: 1, 2, 3, 4... Negative numbers must exist in order to describe being in debt and such. Fractions are highly useful, and irrational numbers occur naturally e.g. the the hypotenuse of a triangle with both sides of length 1 is the square root of 2. But are non-real numbers, well, real? Can we find them out in the world? A debate was held on this, and the conclusion was reached: no number actually exists. There are no numbers that can tangibly be found in the world, there are only well-defined concepts.

This intrigues me, as I have had this quandary inside myself. As many other scientists have also pondered: to what extent do the mathematical workings actually describe reality?

The other day, confused on his requirements, I asked him if he wanted English sentences as proof or mathematical manipulations. His response to me was, "They are one and the same."

Well, now, isn't that something?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Final Frontier

I just finished watching the latest Star Trek in theaters for the second time, and I am just as floored as I was after the first showing. There is something about this movie that strikes a very strong chord in me, and it is not just from being an astronomy and physics fan. While this theme is not unvisited, it does resonate loudly: sometimes, it is entirely necessary to renounce logic and embrace emotion.

I find this motif, while comforting, difficult to follow, precisely because of the adjunct it contains: sometimes. I am conflicted and unclear about when to stick with my head and when to abandon it. And if I do, to what degree? I realize I have a sort of internalized sexism, where the idea of being a stereotypically emotion-driven female disgusts me to the point that I often strive to squelch that part of me. Somehow, I believe that if I am not as rational as males are perceived to be, I am inferior. I am inferior because I have a vagina and I incorporate pathos into my decision-making. I realize this is a severely flawed system of thought, but I cannot resolve it inside myself.

Another interesting concept of Star Trek: time-travel. Future Spock meets Past Spock. So, ignoring any paradoxes or physical impossibilities, if I were to travel back in time and could tell myself anything I wanted, what would I say?

My answer would have to be: nothing. Absolutely nothing. I would stand back and watch the past me make all the same mistakes, say and do all the wrong things, and feel the all the same emotions. Because it's not about who I could've been or what I should've done, it's about how I got there. I do not believe in fate, I believe in the way of travel.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

This Time Last Year

Because I think it is highly important to always keep perspective of one's time, growth, and change, I am following the lead of a retrospective post from Bitch Ph.D's site, one of the blogs I visit regularly.

This time last year I was living in the corner of a living room of a bland, overpriced apartment structure next to my university, frustrated with my lack of privacy and the financial irresponsibility of non-lessee roommates, but also grateful in my luck with finding the 2 other roommates who would become my good friends and support in transitioning to the city.

This time last year I was an English major, ditching class to run off to Borders to check out an inexhaustible amount of superbly fascinating physics titles, and re-taking a summer Intro to Astronomy class for fun.

This time last year I was starting at my first real job in the city, making a ton of new friends from work, developing a terrific fondness for alcohol, and finding my place amongst a new community and location.

This time last year I was falling for a close friend, and finding out just how painful following these emotions could be, and how much the past had played a role in my defective view of relationships and stubborn desire to remain single.

This time, now?
I have just moved into a wonderful house with my own little room with those same good friends as roommates, and a few new ones. I have all the privacy I need and a spectacular view of the luscious trees of the Golden Gate Park, right next to my house.

I am an Undeclared major moving in the direction of becoming declared, and developing a 3 year plan to obtain a B.S. degree in Physics/Astronomy. I am reviewing, as well as learning, my lower-division math at a rapid pace. I am exhausted and often frustrated. But I have never felt better about my academic decisions.

I gradually and heavy-heartedly left my old job for one which was much better paying. I recently made the choice to leave the well-paying gig for some peace of mind. I am currently unemployed, and actively seeking a new employer. So far, to no avail.

I am happily, though very jadedly, single. An old flame, the very first, has forcibly reappeared into my life, and I am dealing with the harrowing repercussions of both the past and the present. I hold my friendships closely and dearly to me, though at bay, so as not to repeat mistakes and wreck the relationships I have.

So. This time last year: where were you and where are you now?