Monday, December 13, 2010

Last Day of Class

I got home not too long ago from my last class of this quarter. I still have finals, but I'm done with classes.

I don't think I ever wrote about what I'm doing. I had a physics class, a math class, and an engineering class.

The physics class was the last quarter (third?) of first-year physics, for people majoring in sciences or engineering fields. This quarter covered wave phenomena, mainly. That includes mechanical waves, sound waves, and light. It also included geometric optics, relativity, and an introduction to modern physics. We proved that light is a wave, and then that it was a particle. Relativity is pretty wild. The short explanation is that within all frames of reference, the laws of physics are the same. However, the speed of light is also the same in all frames of reference. What that means is that something that is, for example, 10 meters long in one frame might be only 6 meters long in another, so that it takes a ray of light the same distance within either frame to get from one end to the other.

Math was linear algebra. I wasn't looking forward to it - I've heard it's like bookkeeping, or it's really hard, etc. etc. However, it turns out to be the part of math concerned with solving systems of simultaneous equations, which is something that comes up a lot in physics and especially this quarter's engineering course. It's also the part of math that's able to describe things like the Fibonacci Sequence, and find the value of arbitrary numbers in the sequence without having to find previous values. Finally, it has yet another set of ways to solve dot products and cross products - it's kind of like the Swiss Army Knife of vector math. It's also the first math course I've taken that actually uses imaginary numbers, and has a use for the way they interact with real numbers.

My engineering class was Statics. I was excited coming into it because it's the engineering class from which all others emanate, in a way. It did require some use of calculus and involved some simultaneous equations, but a lot of the problems were quite simple, probably even simplified, and I felt like we spent a very long time going through the material. It was nice to have a course that wasn't that difficult, but I'd been expecting more. All the homework for the class was online, which drives me nuts. I found the information needed for the problems was somewhat scattered in the way many of them were presented, and many of the problems had a series of blanks for each part that needed to be answered, implying a certain order in attacking the problem. That irritated me, since the orders often didn't agree with how I found I wanted to approach the problems, and I didn't like the implication that the solutions were linear.

So far, I'm getting really good grades in all my classes. I just got an exam back from linear algebra with a score of 50/50, so that made me happy. Hopefully this will get the attention of the UW Engineering admissions department, because if I don't get in there, I'll have to really reevaluate my plans. I'm going to be starting my application there shortly, since I'll have almost all of my prerequisites out of the way, and ready to go on a transcript to show them how awesome I am.

I'm going to put the "rawk" back in "rocket science."

Next quarter, I have Dynamics and Mechanics of Materials. So I'll have a bit more background for obsessing about bike stuff.

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