Posts Tagged ‘university’

Must concentrate, must study.

Must concentrate, must study.

Okay, here’s the plan:

Read through the class notes (own and provided) and jot down any important looking equation.

Go through book chapters looking at pictures, diagrams and equations. Write down any that might be on the final.

Compile a notesheet to use on the file from these notes.

Look over old homeworks for what was done incorrectly and equations used. If there is something that was used on the homework not on the notesheet, put it there.

Do the same with the midterm(s).

Re-write the notesheet clearly in an organized fashion to be used on the final.

Make a second notesheet of material that is not allowed on the first one (if applicable). Read this over before going to sleep the night before the final.

Ensure a solid nights sleep.

And that is how I have dealt with every physics final that has allowed notesheets (all of them).

The finals I dread are those that allow calculators and open-note open-book exams. Those scare me to no end. That and take home finals.

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A College Night at Super Cucas in Isla Vista,

A College Night at Super Cucas in Isla Vista,

It is often said that college is the best four years of your life. Now that it is ending for me I can see why this is. It is a time where your financially stable, you are content with living with bare minimums, there are no debts to pay, no long term careers to worry about, relatively buffered from the economy, can choose what you want to do and when you want to do it, you are immediately part of a larger community that offers tons of programs and clubs, friends from all sorts of background and ideally you spend your days learning what you want to learn.

And then it ends.

My friends are looking into what jobs they can get, where they are going to live. Some are decide to stay near the University for as long as they can, others move home where it is cheaper and some take a year off before deciding anything.

I know a lot of people would love to relive their college years, in a way this is evidences with the tons of college based movies glorifying the highlights of a year within an hour and a half.

So I recall something my first physics TA and friends told us the first week he taught us:

This is my first year as a graduate student and it is like my freshman year all over again.

As a result I am not sad or worried that my years as an undergraduate are ending. Instead I see them as evolving into my years as a graduate students. Eventually I am may have to join the workforce of the real world, but I don’t think I will ever need too. I am going to spend the next half a dozen years with rockets, balloons, lightning and space. Afterwards I plan to work at pushing at the edges of space.

If college are the best years why do we stop what makes them great?

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Reflections in Rick Carpenters' art studio.

Reflections in Rick Carpenters' art studio.

It tends to be a dreaded moment when going to purchase books only to find that the textbook for the class is written by the professor. On one occasion I dropped a class because not only was the textbook by the professor but several others were by other faculty members (this was hardly the only reason though). The fact that they have a book is a sign that they know what they are talking about, it is bad because they might just be bad writers and they are assigning it because it is theirs. Furthermore there is then only one perspective for the class: the professor’s.

So when I signed up for Astrobiology the books was written by the professor (Kevin Plaxco) but as it was only twenty dollars used I did not feel so bad. I also skimmed through it and there was fortunately little chemistry diagrams or tables. Since astrobiology is a relatively new field I felt that it would be okay (compared to a professors book in English or Political Science).

The second week of the class the professor did something that I felt was just a good thing to do. He reimbursed everyone of us for the money he made from us buying his book. Turns out he only makes fifty cents a copy sold.

He did this because when he was an undergraduate a professor did it for him and it made a lasting impression, he said that if he ever published a book and taught a class with it he would do the same. Now I am going to say that if I ever publish a book and am lucky enough to teach a class using that book I will also pay back the students the money I make off the book.

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Safety first, then kimwipes.

Safety first, then kimwipes.

It is like herding cats.

The first challenge in coordinating three undergraduate physics majors (2nd, 3rd and 4th years) and one 3rd year biology major is simply getting their schedules. They give you one and then it changes during the first week. Then the second week is spent finalizing schedules and getting their final ones.

With those in hand a table mock up of when they are available with when two can be in lab at the same time is fairly simple. But the challenge is figuring out hours for everyone while trying to consider things like not working with the same person the whole time, time for meals and not assigning random blocks in the middle of their free time (it is better to abut research time to a class).

So I finished a schedule, sent it out thinking it was pretty good.

Three hours later I heard back from one of them, I read what he gave me as time available. It was time he was in class.

By this time my piece of paper with schedules on it has several layers of colors, ink types and notations. If there are any more changes it will require a new weekly calender mock up.

After writing the above I received some more e-mails about the schedule and have scrapped the whole thing and started over. This time I set up four google calenders, one for each person. The calenders are shared between the four of us with each person able to only edit their schedule while viewing the others. The goal is that everyone will put up the hours they will be in lab, choosing times others can be there, and then others will schedule that time as well.

I started by setting up my times so it will be interesting to see how this will go. I also dropped my involvement from ten hours to five hours a week as the stress this was causing is not worth the payoff (which is essentially nothing at this point).

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Boston had a lot of good reflective buildings.

Boston had a lot of good reflective buildings.

Today I volunteered for Spring Insight, the weekend where prospective high school students can come to campus and learn more about majors, colleges, activities and student services. Plus a whole host of events and presentations.

It was great, I got to spend all morning and the first part of the afternoon talking to people about physics, how awesome it is and why they should come here. Sometimes they stayed for only a few minutes but some we cornered and talked at for a good twenty minutes about what it is like at UCSB and why they should come here.

Initially I was only going to be there for half the event but ended up staying the entire time as I was enjoying myself; part of it was that I was essentially just hanging out with friends in the enjoyable sunlight.

I finished the the volunteer work off with a nice nap in the afternoon. The start of the quarter is always rough.

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I need more time to take photos.

I need more time to take photos.

I have been told that I need to take fluffier classes. I agree wholeheartedly; for my last quarter I am signed up for fluffy easy classes. Well comparatively easy.

For some reason I don’t think many would consider General Relativity an easy class. I am also signed up for Non-linear phenomena as a fun elective, though I may drop it for a class without homework sets, a final or reading but still a physics course. The problem is that GR is going to be a hard class that I really want to take. I dropped two other classes (I was signed up for 6 classes) until a friend pointed out that I won’t need any of them, the professors are not that good and I could learn the material from the book without the class.

It is just really hard to not sign up for seven physics courses in my last quarter since I want to learn about it all. I suppose I can just take them in graduate school.

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Torrential rain is the best kind at UCSB.

Torrential rain is the best kind at UCSB.



Rain in Santa Barbara is by far my favorite time of year, I do not know mean the light drizzle or small half hour spurts of water, rather the full day of torrential rain. The campus feels so clear and perfect. Giant pools of clear water litter the ground, streams of water flow over gravel and roots. Buildings gain new stained faces as the water pours down.

A new sound overrides the background of the ocean; the slow drip and splash of water coalascing down trees. Eucalyptus are in full fragrance as water flows over the leaves into fat drops landing heavily onto the ground and unsuspecting heads.

Many people do not know how to handle rain. Plastic bags make an appearance as ponchos and seat covers, over backpacks and shoulder bags. Some embrace the rain to fully absorb as much as possible while others deck out in wellies, umbrellas and jackets. Class attendance drops, everyone stays inside (except the surfers), bike and skateboards evaporate off the paths. Some persist in order to elicit smiles from walkers drier under umbrellas.

And then there is the one person biking around with an umbrella held directly in front.

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Boxed In


A single box can provide hours of entertainment.

A single box can provide hours of entertainment.

As most good things do it started with a box.

Several boxes were lying around the dorm and my roommate, a mechanical engineer, placed one atop our door in the classical “Box Falls on Opener Trick”. It worked surprisingly well.

Next we tried several variants on the falling box trick. One was to put the box at an angle on top of the door so it is not seen and then place a box obviously down low. The hope is that a person, after falling for the initial trick, is suspicious of the inconspicuous box (since it is) and nudges or kicks it aside. This then hits the door are drops the precariously placed box onto their head. Humor would then ensue.

This did not work as well as planned. The fault was that most people just stepped over the box or, in a credit to their critical thinking skills, looked up before entering.

No more boxes were allowed on top of the door then.

But swinging was left wide open.

Several challenges faced us. How do we trigger the swinging box? How do we hang it from a flat ceiling (we are not allowed to drill into the walls)? How do we pull the box back?

Our neighbor came and helped us for this variant. To trigger we tied a piece of yarn to two toothpicks which went into the closed door jam. When the door opened the toothpicks were released and the box came down. Then in order to hold the box back several bungee cords and yards of rope looped from the toothpicks, over my bed and back to the box. We marked and tied the optimal pull back distance after several tests. To hold it to the ceiling a flock of duct tape sacrificed itself for our cause.

It would have worked perfect. It would have been beautiful. It would have been hilarious.

Except everyone was suspicious.

The ideas remain and the pranks shall continue.

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Quarter Grades

This little guy glows under phosphorescent lamps, but that makes it hard to photograph.

This little guy glows under phosphorescent lamps, but that makes it hard to photograph.

With the end of the quarter comes the season of grades. Once finals are over I am cursed and blessed with electronic grade reports. Blessed in that I can get my grades as they are finished, cursed in that I get my grades as they finished.

Until I get all of my grades in I check the online grades two to five times a day. The minute my first grade arrives I start checking more frequently in the odd hope that all professors finish at the same time. And as always the last grade always takes the longest to arrive.

The one problem that arrises is that cumulative GPA and Honors are not awarded until the university wide grading is finished. Of course once you are a senior you have enough units that a single quarter cannot dramatically swing your GPA. Unless there is a dramatic swing that ruins a particularly high GPA.

Now I need to wait to get my final exams back to see how close a friend Mr. Curve is.

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Some things are more expensive then textbooks.

Some things are more expensive then textbooks.


It is that time of year again. The smell of freshly opened cardboard, stacks of paper gleaming on the shelves, yellow stickers proclaiming bargains. The season for textbooks.

The bookstore is freshly stocked, courses have had their reading assigned and all is left is for the books to be plucked fresh from the shelves.

Of course that will cost a lot more then other means.

The internet has filled an interesting gap in an other monopolistic industry of university textbook sales. Without the internet most books would be purchased based on the prices for new and used set in the campus bookstore, now those prices can be compared to new and used on helpful sites like Amazon.

This can lead to large savings, sometimes. I purchased the books I need for my one non-physics course next quarter and I have forgotten what that was like. Instead of a single expensive text the requirement is six sort of expensive books. From the bookstore I found out the books I needed and I then turned around and bought them new and used off of Amazon. This saved me about thirty dollars or so over the used versions of the bookstore.

The possibility of savings are greater for science texts which can be two to three times as expensive in the bookstore for the same book.

Often though the bookstore does have reasonable prices or a slightly higher price for guaranteed quality — the book can be looked at first. The major drawback of buying the internet is the chance that the book will not arrive by the time it is needed.

No matter the method buying books can either bolster confidence in a class or quickly pull it down to preemptive boredom.

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