November 17, 2005

10 reasons i am a bad physics/astronomy student

10. i pronounce things wrong. davis=davies, euler="yoo-ler."

9. i'm always trying to write papers or give class presentations on topics from my other major. in astro classes try to push my talk towards physics and vice-versa. i get the feeling i might be unconsciously trying to give my professors the idea that the other subject is the one where i'm really an expert. like i can't be bothered to step out of my element as a major of the other subject, so i'm just talking about where this phenomenon intersects my already vast knowledge on the other side of the department. when i talked about quark stars (a theoretical type of neutron star) in an astronomy class, i felt compelled to cover the physics parts of everything. how interesting quark-gluon plasma is, how quark matter would have all sorts of interesting repercussions for field theory. then a year later in a physics class, i thought it would be interesting to see the other side of it: the physics of this theorized state of matter. and i couldn't resist briefly covering how great it would be if there were neutron stars made out of it...

8. i have no idea what is happening in condensed matter physics--probably the largest, most active field of physics research today. i know there's some stuff going on with super-conductors, and probably there's some near-chemistry materials development type-stuff. it just seems that whenever i think of the subject the same image from an electron-microscope photo pops up in my head--the one of the ring of atoms. i'm even taking a solid state class. still, i got nothin'.

7. i couldn't come up with a 7.

there are some things that i think i've "learned" like 15 times. i'm continually forgetting them and looking them up over and over. for instance, regardless of the context i can never seem to recall what ω means. i don't remember the definition, what a realistic value for it would be, or even what the right units are. i am pretty sure that it's somehow frequency-related but it usually escapes whether its regular frequency times 2
π or over 2π. as far as the units and range are concerned ω=-3×10¹³ °K? ω=6.47 J·Hz²? ω=1 eV? they all look prettymuch the same to me. i mean, if i take a few seconds all these things come back to me, but something about those greek letters makes me viscerally uncomfortable. which is probably why i seem to insist upon writing it as "w."

5. same goes for eigenvalues, except that i know their significance and just always seem to make some stupid algebra mistake when calculating them.

4. every class i take is a struggle between homework ryan and exam ryan. homework ryan is a diligent and clever student who labors over details and finds creative solutions to difficult tasks. exam ryan couldn't tie his shoes if you gave him 3 hours--which you do. also, he can't remember how the hell you're supposed to find

3. when it comes to physics, i can't walk and chew gum. more specifically, when i am listening to a professor lecture on something while writing on the board i can't hear a word they're saying. also, the verbiage seems to block my understanding of the equations they're writing. likewise, when i'm really focused on some physics problem i become unable to talk. it feels like i'm one of those old computers where you had to switch floppy disks in the middle of the program. "to activate 'talk' function insert disk 2 into drive a:, disk 1 'math' has experienced a critical error..."

2. until a few weeks ago when i started studying for the physics gre i didn't remember what sin30
° (or the other basic trig functions were) offhand.

1. i am utterly incapable of drawing a circle. there is no limit to the problems this causes. if you don't believe me or understand why, look at this:


Jack Challis said...
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(Ryan) M said...
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