All Posts Tagged With: "physics"
Particle collider will cost about US$7.78 billion
Some of the world’s greatest minds have collided in Vancouver and agreed to build a new US$7.78-billion particle collider that will help answer some of the universe’s deepest secrets.
The physicists had until Thursday been designing two separate particle colliders, known as linear colliders.
The colliders were expected to hurl billions of electrons at positrons — their anti-particles — along kilometre-long superconducting cavities at nearly the speed of light.
Timothy Meyer of TRIUMF, Canada’s national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics, said the results of those collisions would help scientists answer questions related to the Big Bang and the evolution of the universe.
But Meyer said the physicists met at TRIUMF in Vancouver and agreed to form a team to develop a new particle accelerator.
“Everyone wants this collider to go forward, and the technology or which one is which is sort of a secondary concern,” he said. “It’s like everyone is going to start rowing in the same direction.”
A physics video, a lawsuit over a B+ and an unfunny Joker
1. A new video funded partly by the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo is calling on Barack Obama to improve physics education. The video is spreading surprisingly quickly, approaching 320,000 views already. “High school physics students across most of America aren’t required to learn any physics discovered since 1865,” says the narrator, who then lists off some of the discoveries since then, including photons, the existence of antimatter, MRIs, the big bang… you know, little things.
2. A 41-year-old student at Concordia University is doing what so many students feel powerless to do—challenging a grade he sees as unjust. William Groombridge is suing over a B-plus he got in his energy policy course that he says should have been an A-minus. He wants a refund of the course, alleging that the school school arbitrarily downgraded his final mark to meet an unofficial grade quota or bell curve. More in the Spectator.
3. Police in Boulder, Colo. arrested a 17-year-old who showed up at a cinema wearing a Batman Joker mask. He scared patrons who were reminded of James Holmes, the man who killed 12 people and injured 58 others at a Colorado premiere of The Dark Knight Rises. More in the Daily Camera.
Subject rankings for science, medicine, engineering…
Here are the top five highest ranked universities in the QS World University Rankings by Subject and the rankings of Canadian schools in science, engineering, and health disciplines. For arts, humanities and business, click here. For the full rankings, visit TopUniversities.com.
1. Harvard University (United States)
2. University of Cambridge (United Kingdom)
3. National University of Singapore (NUS) (Singapore)
4. University of Oxford (United Kingdom)
5. Karolinska Institute (Sweden)
11. University of Toronto
25. University of Alberta
26. University of British Columbia
29. McGill University
51-100. Western University, Université de Montréal
101-150. University of Waterloo
151-200. Dalhousie University, Laval University, University of Saskatchewan
This summer I’ll find out, and let you know.
Physics and I never got along. I’ve never been a big fan of chemistry either, but over the years I’ve learned to tolerate it. If the sciences were family members at a summer barbecue, chemistry would be the mildly irritating uncle who makes lame jokes. Physics is the annoying little cousin who breaks your PlayStation.
This is one of the major reasons why I’ve been dreading the MCAT, never mind the fact that it’ll be the most important test I’ve written to date. After taking all my physics prerequisites in first year, I’ve been enjoying a nice three-year hiatus, but now I have to see that annoying cousin’s face again. And not just on the day of the test, but also during the weeks of heavy preparation.
Thankfully, this is where Kaplan’s MCAT Advantage Anywhere course comes in. It’s an online MCAT prep course that includes live instruction through a “virtual classroom,” which makes it sound like the computer world from Tron, minus Jeff Bridges. There are 18 live classroom sessions, with video, audio, instant chat, whiteboard, polling, and screen sharing. It’s sort of like being in a real classroom, in the sense that you can immediately ask for clarification if you get lost in a haze of linear momentum problems and vectors and all that other fun physics stuff. Except unlike a real classroom, there won’t be someone playing Tetris or checking Facebook, or loudly sipping a cup of coffee, or talking to their friend at the exact same frequency as the professor’s voice, perfectly cancelling him out and making it impossible to hear. So it has all the benefits of a physical classroom, without any of that annoying human interaction stuff.
The course also includes a bunch of other prep materials, like a ‘diagnostic session’ that helps point out your weaknesses—sort of like getting a physical, except instead of checking your colon, it’s testing your ability to solve physics problems. There are also full-length practice MCATs and thousands of practice questions. The whole schedule is laid out for you, which is definitely a huge plus for professional procrastinators such as myself.
I was approached by Kaplan to review the course (which I’ll be taking for free), so as I prepare for the MCAT in the coming weeks, I can see how much it actually helps. Of course, one of the biggest questions will be whether the course is worth the $2,000 price of admission. And yes, I’ll continue to write honestly about it , and whether or not I bomb the test.
But for me, the true test will be whether or not this course can help mediate my shaky relationship with my annoying little cousin.
Hint: it’s not chemistry.
Ever since I started studying for the MCAT, I’ve been worried about the physics section.
Apparently it’s just an irrational fear. Whenever I’ve brought it up here in my blog, most commenters have assured me that the physics questions are so basic, Forrest Gump could answer them all correctly and have enough time left over to start narrating his life story to the person sitting next to him. Which, of course, is why everyone who writes the test gets a perfect score on the physics section.
It turns out I might have been worrying about the wrong section. Apparently the lowest-scored section on the MCAT isn’t the physical sciences. Or biological sciences. It’s the verbal reasoning section.
According to this chart from the AAMC, verbal reasoning had the lowest mean score among test takers in 2010. The physical sciences, which consists of general chemistry and physics questions, had a mean score of 8.3. The verbal reasoning section had a mean score of 7.9 (this is on a 15 point scale). And Examkrackers claims that the average score on verbal reasoning is a 61 per cent.
For some reason I always thought that verbal reasoning was the section that most people could expect to score decently on. Perhaps it’s because, unlike the physical or biological sciences, there isn’t any specific background knowledge required.
But after looking at some practice problems, I think I’ve realized why it’s the toughest section. Most of the questions were apparently designed by Confucius, with some editorial input by Yoda and Master Po.
1. According to the passage, an image is a versatile tool that:
A) is always visual, never abstract.
B) can be either abstract or visual.
C) is always abstract, never visual.
D) is neither visual nor abstract.
That leaves me with a new hobby for this summer. Instead of whining about physics, like I’ve been doing for the past couple months, I plan to whine about verbal reasoning instead.
Unless the patient is on a train, physics doesn’t help
I forgot how much I hate physics.
If studying for the MCAT only included biology, chemistry, and verbal reasoning, I might have a serious shot. But throwing physics into the mix has me worried.
Way back in first year, almost three years ago, I thought I was saying goodbye to physics. Forever. After writing my exam, I would never have to see its face again. No more calculating the distance traveled by a projectile. Or determining how long it takes a soccer ball thrown from a height of 80 metres with an initial velocity of 10 metres per second to reach the ground. As for those two trains —the ones that are speeding towards each other, with hundreds of hypothetical passengers’ lives at stake — who cares what their final speed is, or how long it takes them to collide? Not me.
At least, I didn’t care until this summer. Now that I’m studying for the MCAT, physics has returned from the past — like a bad guy in an action movie who I thought was dead, but instead of shooting him a second time (just to be sure), I turned my back and didn’t notice the ominous music.
The problem is that the last time we saw each other, it didn’t end very well. Every time I tried to patch things up, physics would bring up the centrifugal force. Now, I’m asking myself: why is physics even tested on the MCAT?
Biology makes sense. Mostly. Some of the specifics seem a little irrelevant, like the details of cellular metabolism, but hey, med school is all about biology, right? And as much as I hate chemistry, I grudgingly accept the fact that it has a place in med school, too. Sure, I’d like to lie to myself and claim that chemistry has no real-world applications in medicine. But then I’d have to ignore the existence of pharmaceuticals (even the boring sections in my organic chemistry textbook are important for future doctors).
But for some reason, back when the MCAT was being created, someone stupidly invited physics to the party. I just don’t see how physics can help a doctor treat their patients. Unless the patient is a passenger on a train. A train that is heading south at a velocity of 80 kilometers per hour, on the same tracks as a train that is heading north at a velocity of 72 kilometers per hour…
Students defy the laws of physics—just to prove their school is better than yours
The quintessential university prank comprises two elements: first, the feat should be technically ambitious. In the words of the legendary pranksters at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), exemplary stunts require “making possible the improbable.” Since MIT students coaxed a live cow onto the roof of a dorm in 1928, engineering students across the continent have made cars, telephone booths and even full-sized sailboats appear in the most unlikely places.
Second, a good dose of competitiveness—sometimes bordering on vindictiveness—is the hallmark of a quality hoax. A famous example: at the annual Yale-Harvard football game in 2004, Yale students, disguised as the fictional “Harvard pep squad,” distributed white-and-red placards to 1,800 unsuspecting Harvard fans. The fans were told that when they lifted the placards, they would read, “Go Harvard.” They actually spelled, “We suck.”
While the foundation of the pranking tradition can be fairly claimed by American students, Canadian students have begun to challenge their pre-eminence as tricksters.
When the morning light began to filter through thick fog in San Francisco on Feb. 5, 2001, viewers at Vista Point on the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge spotted an unexpected sight: hanging from the bridge, some 10 stories above the water, was a Volkswagen Beetle. The stunt, attributed to anonymous engineering students from the University of British Columbia, caused traffic jams and stopped boats from passing beneath the bridge for hours.
The feat commemorated the 20th anniversary of the first VW Bug prank, when UBC engineers hung a car off Vancouver’s Lions Gate Bridge to celebrate the skills of engineers and tradespeople who build bridges. The tradition recently spread to UBC’s satellite campus in Kelowna, B.C. In February 2010, a giant red fibreglass “E” (for engineering) was hung from a bridge that spans Okanagan Lake.
The bridge escapades are, of course, a variation of the earliest type of prank pioneered at MIT—the elaborate installation. In 2009, a secretive club called the Brute Force Committee, made up of engineers at the University of Toronto, honoured their predecessors by rebuilding a monument—a huge sword in the stone some 12 feet tall—that once stood on campus as a symbol of the faculty of engineering. The nocturnal unveiling of the sword, led by a student wearing a black mask and cape embroidered with the committee’s crest, involved lighting the sword on fire.
For all their efforts devoted to making the improbable magically appear, university pranksters are also preoccupied with making objects mysteriously disappear. In 1978, after much planning, a trio of enterprising engineers from UBC broke into the British Columbia legislature in Victoria, entered the assembly chamber, and stole the Speaker’s chair.
Engineering tricksters have not only vented their larcenous urges on inanimate objects. UBC engineers were at various times rumoured to have kidnapped former prime minister Kim Campbell and former Maclean’s columnist Allan Fotheringham.
In 1967, a group of female dorm-mates at Dalhousie University actually nabbed folksinger Gordon Lightfoot, releasing him only after receiving a ransom of canned food for charity.
Hostilities between faculties and universities often enter the equation when pranking. One snowy night in March 2006, members of U of T’s Brute Force Committee stealthily constructed a five-metre-long Trojan Horse in the central square of the McMaster University campus. McMaster’s engineers re-gifted the horse to the University of Guelph, and Guelph returned the favour with a huge fabric griffin, their mascot. McMaster intended to return what they referred to as a “duck” after “toasting” it, but the structure proved flammable.
In recent years, some of the most creative practical jokes haven’t been performed by engineers, but consisted instead of a large group of seemingly unconnected people suddenly congregating to perform an unexpected act: the so-called “flash mob.”
That includes one of 2010’s biggest pranks, which was organized by University of Victoria psychology student Shawn Slavin. Nearly 1,000 people showed up on campus at 7:30 a.m. on a Saturday in September to participate in a giant “lip dub” (a music video of people lip-synching) of Michael Bublé’s Haven’t Met You Yet. UVic gets points for competitiveness, too, as the video was essentially a response to another lip dub recorded by a Spanish university also called “UVic”. Rivalries and displays of engineering genius aside, Slavin’s motivation for coordinating the event speaks to what is perhaps the one commonality underlying all of these pranks: “We wanted to get a whole bunch of people to do something—just for the hell of it.”
What the big thinkers know, what they’re trying to learn, and how close we may be to a genuine revolution
Not even the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ont., is immune to the rhythms of the seasons. Summer there this year was quiet and casual, with several regular faces away on vacation. And yet there were plenty of signs that the little think tank is heading into an ambitious new era.
Stephen Hawking was on a six-week working visit from Cambridge, England. Every day you could see a caregiver pushing his wheelchair along the footpaths outside the building at surprising speed. The most famous scientist in the world does not like to dawdle. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis has left him no control over most of his body. Twitching a cheek muscle to compose even a short sentence with his speech synthesizer can take 20 minutes. So he is keenly aware of wasted time. “I encouraged lots of people to go and talk to him,” Neil Turok, Perimeter’s South African director and a Hawking friend and colleague of long standing, told me.
“A lot of people did. Several of them came away saying, ‘I went and explained to him what I’m doing—and he didn’t seem very interested!’ I entirely sympathize with him. He has very high standards and if you start telling him something that doesn’t sound plausible he’ll very quickly tell you, ‘I’ve had enough.’ ”
Leonard Susskind, a white-bearded and soft-spoken Stanford University prof, was on a similar extended visit. Susskind has no human story of physical courage to match Hawking’s, but to physicists he is in Hawking’s intellectual class. He is a pioneer in the surreal but influential field of string theory, which describes a universe made of tiny vibrating strings curled up across many more dimensions than the three we know. Hawking and Susskind are two of Perimeter’s 20 Distinguished Research Chairs, eminent international theorists who visit Waterloo occasionally to work without the distractions of home.
Susskind spent much of his time in the third-floor lounge surrounded by groups of young scientists still in graduate school or fresh out. They would show Susskind their work, neat lines of equations on notepaper or hectic scrawls on the lounge’s blackboard. (Perimeter has hundreds of blackboards, in every office, conference room and coffee nook. They all get a lot of use.) Susskind’s questions would make his young visitors stare at the paper or blackboard for long minutes, as if hoping an answer would appear.
The day I arrived, the inaugural class of Perimeter Scholars International (PSI), an intensive master’s-level course in theoretical physics for students from around the world, held their convocation after a year’s intensive study. One of the most impressive was Bruno Le Floch, a 20-year-old ponytailed Frenchman who was one of the younger students in his class. “He’s just a genius,” Turok said. But he is also just a kid. So rather than dive into a theory career, Le Floch will spend the next year teaching in Cape Town at the African Institute for Mathematical Studies, which Turok founded in hopes of giving Africa’s best students a reason to stay at home and lead the continent’s intellectual development.
One day Stephen Harper visited Perimeter to announce a $20-million federal investment in Turok’s African initiative. One rarely has to wait long at Perimeter before somebody comes along with a gift of money. Often the visitor is a local boy who made good, Mike Lazaridis, the founder and co-CEO of Research in Motion.
Years ago, Lazaridis decided to put much of his fortune into an institute that would study the questions that fascinated him when he was a University of Waterloo engineering student. On one hand, Einstein’s theories of space, time and gravity. On the other, the odd but powerful insights of quantum mechanics. In 2000, with $100 million from Lazaridis and $20 million from two other RIM partners, the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics set up shop in the old post office building on King Street.
Since then it has grown steadily. In 2004, Perimeter moved into a slate-black 6,000-sq.-m building on the shore of Silver Lake in Waterloo Park. Already this summer, work crews were building an extension that will nearly double the institute’s floor space. Its faculty size will triple.
(Current full-time faculty is only 11, but if you add faculty it shares with area universities, visiting scholars, post-docs and graduate students, there are about 100 people thinking in the building on an ordinary day, and often about as many stopping through for a conference or seminar.) Enrolment at Perimeter Scholars International will double. The Distinguished Research Chairs will grow in number to 30.
But what do the people at Perimeter actually do? Many assume the institute must be the research and development branch of Research in Motion. This is not even remotely true. There are no laboratories at Perimeter. It has no equipment for manufacturing anything. There is very little in the sleek four-storey building except boxes of chalk and an excellent bistro.
But establishing what the Perimeter theorists don’t do is easier than explaining what they do.
Even they have learned to leave it vague. “When the neighbours ask, I say I just want to understand why the universe works the way it does,” said Chris Fuchs, a tremendously engaging Texan who has been a visiting scholar at Perimeter since 2007. “And that’s when they usually say, ‘Isn’t it great that Stephen Hawking’s there?’ And I say, ‘Yeah, it is.’ ”
What Perimeter’s theorists do is think, singly and in groups. Sometimes they scribble equations on the chalkboards to enlist colleagues and visitors in their attempts to solve some new or nagging riddle. Once I passed Fuchs’s office on my way to the third-floor pop machine. He was staring intently, slack-jawed, at the chalkboard that makes up one wall of his office. When I returned 20 minutes later he had not moved.
What they think about, from assorted conceptual angles that make up the subdisciplines of modern theoretical physics, are ways to refine, extend and, ideally, reconcile the two great early 20th-century advances in physics—general relativity and quantum mechanics. Relativity refers to Albert Einstein’s realization that space and time are aspects of the same thing, as are matter and energy. Einstein described how massive bodies like stars warp the space-time around them, bending the fabric of existence in a way we experience as gravity.
Quantum mechanics is the product of research into the behaviour of the component parts of atoms by Einstein’s contemporaries—Bohr, Heisenberg, Schrödinger and others. What they found is so odd it still puzzles physicists. A particle can sometimes be in one place and, in a way, somewhere else at the same time. Observing a particle to find out where it is destroys any chance of knowing for sure where it’s going. Two particles can become “entangled” so that a change to one particle will be reflected in a change to the other, no matter how distant.
In nearly a century of investigation, researchers have made great use of these odd insights. Electronics depends on the quantum behaviour of electrons moving through semiconductors. The same phenomena drive lasers, DVD players, computers, electron microscopes. The Nobel-winning physicist Leon Lederman has said that quantum mechanics is responsible for one-third of U.S. GDP.
…including the oddball of the group
How to find your sense of direction
On my first day of classes at the University of Waterloo, I got lost. I was leaving my physics lecture, headed towards my chemistry class, and then I realized I had a big problem.
I didn’t know where my chemistry class was.
And after taking a couple of turns, I had another realization. I didn’t know where my physics class was anymore, either.
I was stranded.
It’s been almost a year since that first day of classes. Despite my horrible sense of direction, after two semesters on campus, it’s hard to believe I ever got lost. Waterloo’s campus actually has a logical lay out. Of course, once stuff becomes obvious, it’s hard to believe that it wasn’t always, well, obvious.
Last Saturday I volunteered for Student Life 101 at the University of Waterloo. It’s an open house for incoming first-years, giving them a chance to explore the campus and find their future classrooms. The weird part? My job was to give directions.
It was a full circle kind of moment.
But being older and taller should.
I’ve realized something this summer. My younger brother David is cooler than me. Way cooler.
Actually, it’s not even a matter of David being cooler than me. He’s cool. I’m not.
David’s on his school’s wrestling team. When he throws a football, it travels more than four feet. When he kicks a soccer ball, he can control which direction it goes.
Back in high school, I was in the chess club. And part of Envirothon.
David has dozens of friends on Facebook. I have two. And one of them is David.
David’s coolness has also made me realize something fascinating: certain laws of physics don’t apply to cool people. If I wear a hat for more than 30 seconds, when I take it off, my hair looks like a dead squirrel. When David takes a hat off, it’s like he was never wearing one. His hair instantly springs back to vibrant and shiny life.
I’m the older brother. He’s in grade eight, I’m in university. I’m taller. But none of that seems to matter. His coolness is a direct violation of Sibling Hierarchy Rule #467. Which states that older, taller brothers are automatically cooler. It’s practically my birthright to be cooler than David.
But I’m not.
Last November, I tripped over a wet pile of leaves and broke my arm. When David broke his arm a few weeks ago, it was while playing soccer.
Yeah, even the way he breaks his bones is cooler.
What happened to the last two months?
I used to think university was the ultimate time eater. Attending lectures, taking notes, preparing for labs, tests, and quizzes. In the haze of grade anxiety and endless tutorials, you lose track of time. The eight months of a university year just vanish.
But those eight months are sneaky.
They fade away, exponentially dissipating, while you fret over this test or that mark. You don’t see the time flitting away. Instead, you think you’re perpetually stuck in a blech moment. Like trying to start a brain cell-syphoning paper for psychology. Or waiting in the lobby before a physics midterm.
It seems like the longest, saggiest moment of your entire academic career. Until the next one plods into your day.
And then it’s April. Exams are finished. The haze dissipates. Worry is obsolete. You’ve got a four-month holiday laying ahead of you.
But I was wrong about university. I’ve found the true gorger of time.
It’s the second week of July and summer vacation is more than half over. But what really makes summer vacation the true Glutton of the Clock is that you know what’s happening. You’re aware of every passing second of precious summer vacation.
And there’s nothing you can do about it.
Pristine comes at a price
When I started my first year of university, it felt really weird to actually buy my own textbooks. After years of having them simply handed over to me in public school, I was almost afraid to open them. To be the first one to crack the spine.
I was used to high school textbooks. But with these, no one would be sneezing on them, or writing in the margins. I was guaranteed to have a textbook that still had page 342. I’d be the first and only owner of these textbooks.
But all that specialness would come back to haunt me.
Yeah, high school textbooks are sometimes ratty and stained. But they’re also free. My university textbooks were new and pristine. And not so free. I was definitely paying for page 342.
A couple of my first year textbooks will still be useful next year as reference books. Like my genetics and chemistry textbooks. But most of my textbooks are perfect candidates for resale. I’m not going to be keeping titles like “Introduction to Political Sciences” for leisure reading.
It’s been almost six weeks since my last exam, and my clean and (still fairly) pristine textbooks have become perpetual roommates.
But I don’t need my old textbooks anymore. I’d love to sell them, maybe even give them away. But I can’t get rid of them.
Because the most expensive books that I’ve ever bought are now absolutely and utterly worthless.
My physics textbook was a life-saver, helping me prepare for tests and quizzes throughout this past year. Now I’m finished taking physics courses, and I don’t need the textbook anymore.
But I can’t sell it, or even give it away because now it’s outdated. The average shelf life of a university textbook is something like two years. And mine is past its expiration date.
I think this is even worse than selling it for a fraction of its value. Once you breathe on a textbook, its value drops over 50 per cent. Open it, and it’s basically worthless.
But at least you’re getting something for it, if you can sell it. Even if it’s only a fraction of its original cost. And you know it’s got a good life somewhere, helping some other poor student prepare for an upcoming test or exam.
Instead, I’m now stuck with twelve pounds of paper that cost me over $500.
- Photo courtesy of basykes
I promise you won’t be tested on this
Nothing sucks the joy out of reading like knowing you’re going to be tested on it.
After eight months of university, it’s really bizarre to not be on a strict reading schedule. I’m still in shock. No more textbooks. No more readings.
University is so super condensed that every moment has to be planned. And most of it’s spent reading. Every possible second that could be used reading textbooks has to be squeezed out of each day.
Forget reading for fun. You eventually forget what ‘fiction’ is.
But a lot of what you’re reading is actually really interesting. Like how when oxygen is broken down by your body, the byproducts can actually damage your cells. Or when a queen clownfish dies, the largest male of the school of clownfish will change it’s gender and become female. You’re just so caught up in trying to keep up with the readings, or trying eat the textbook for future regurgitation on a test, that you can’t appreciate it.
I’ve been off school for a month now, but I still have moments of dread, thinking there must be some health article or physics chapter that I should be reading.
Even after four weeks, it still seems like a foreign concept. Reading. For fun.
I’m still getting used to it.
If high school had the same pace, you’d finish grade 12 in two weeks
My secret fear before I went to university was that I wouldn’t make the cut. That I wouldn’t be able to handle the academic overload of university. I knew first year wouldn’t be like the average high-school grade transition, where the material is a little more difficult, but doable. University is a total revamp of what you’re used to in high school.
The rules change.
Everything you learned in high school physics, biology ― everything ― is condensed into a perfect little packet of 12 weeks. Like astronaut food.
If high school had the pace of university, where you have five courses instead of four, not to mention some labs and tutorials, you’d finish grade 12 in about two weeks. I can’t believe I didn’t have perfect 100′s in all my courses. What was I doing with all that time?
I felt a little out of control during my first semester of university, that at any moment my fine balance of keeping up with the readings and completing assignments could crumple.
Then it happened. I fell behind.
My worst fear had been realized. I wasn’t keeping up. And it made me feel stupid. It seemed impossible that I would ever be able to juggle everything. How could I possibly be able to read four chapters of my chemistry and biology textbooks, while simultaneously completing my physics assignment and political science essay, all due next class?
Then I realized my problem. University isn’t 10 times harder than high school. It’s 10 times faster. It’s the pace that’s a killer in university.
I wasn’t being stupid. I was being inefficient. I needed a plan.
Using study habits from high school to prepare for tests and quizzes wasn’t working. Even how I approached the readings was all wrong.
I learned how to prioritize, university style. I started the readings right away, instead of procrastinating about it. I learned how to really focus. In high school, you can often get away with studying at the last minute and still pull off a pretty good mark. It doesn’t work that way in university. It’s not always how smart you are in university that determines your marks, it’s how disciplined you are.
My second semester was much better. You really do adapt to the pace and learn how to get so much more done than you ever did with that sloth pace back in high school.
Now the pace of university doesn’t scare me. I prefer it.
- photo courtesy of michellekopczyk
He wanted to show us his originality and uniqueness. Using a cleverly placed utensil
The most memorable person from my first week of university wasn’t some new friend or lab partner. Not a professor or TA either. It’s a guy I saw in my first university lecture last September.
I couldn’t say how tall he was. Or recall the colour of his hair, or whether or not he wore glasses. I never actually talked to him. But I definitely still remember him.
I was so busy staring at this guy sitting in front of me, I probably missed the first 10 minutes of what my physics professor was saying.
Actually, I was staring at the spoon tucked neatly behind his right ear.
It was mesmerizing. What was that spoon doing there? Maybe he was about to have a yogurt? Or had just finished his cereal?
I was dying to ask him: “What’s with the spoon?”
I was still wondering about it when I went to my next physics lecture two days later. Sure enough, the spoon was back, in its rightful place behind his ear. It was there at the next lecture too, which gave me yet another chance to play Where’s Waldo, the Spoon Edition.
Then I got it.
He’s Different. And he wanted to make sure we all knew it.
University is a fresh beginning for all of us. You’re free to reinvent yourself, if you want to. In this vast collection of unknown faces, you can take a chance to be a totally different person from who you were in high school.
Spoon Guy wanted to show his originality, his creativity and uniqueness.
Through the use of a cleverly placed utensil.
I worried that I would somehow end up drinking coffee. And enjoy it.
It’s hard to believe that my first year of university is almost over.
Five of my courses are finished. I don’t have any more labs or tutorials. Only two more exams sit between me and summer vacation.
I still remember how I felt last summer when I was leaving high school forever and heading toward university. Before I started my first semester in September, there were all the Big Fears.
Like worrying that university courses would be impossibly difficult. Or that university physics would be 10 times worse than grade 12 physics. Or that after becoming a university student, I would somehow end up drinking coffee. And enjoy it.
Looking back, there wasn’t any reason to be scared of university.
Okay, come to think of it, those last two fears did come true.
There were also the Stupid Little Fears. Like worrying that I would get lost on the gigantic campus (which did happen). Or that when I would sit down to write my first-ever university mid-term, I would realize in a moment of horror that I was screwed: my out-dated high school studying habits would have to adapt if I wanted to get good marks.
Actually, that also happened.
The Big Fears turned out to be No Big Deal. University courses aren’t impossibly difficult. If you do the readings and take good notes, you’ll do fine. As for the Little Stupid Fears, well, most of them are true.
As someone who has absolutely no sense of direction, the University of Waterloo campus was like a labyrinth of identical-looking buildings. With too many people riding bicycles.
And your study habits from high school do need to evolve.
But you get past those Stupid Little Fears within a week. I don’t get lost on my way to lectures anymore. And after writing two batches of mid-terms and final exams, my high school study habits have adapted.
I just try not to think about that first chemistry test too much.
- photo courtesy of waferboard
I’m trapped in Midterm Limbo. Two weeks ago it was physics. Last week was health. Yesterday I had a chemistry midterm, and next week is religious studies. I’m surrounded by tests. I’m stuck in that special kind of inertia where reading another chapter of my textbook is the last thing I want to do, but [...]
I’m trapped in Midterm Limbo.
Two weeks ago it was physics. Last week was health. Yesterday I had a chemistry midterm, and next week is religious studies.
I’m surrounded by tests.
I’m stuck in that special kind of inertia where reading another chapter of my textbook is the last thing I want to do, but I’d feel too guilty to play my Nintendo DS, or read anything even remotely interesting.
I keep telling myself that a month from now, classes will be over. There won’t be any more labs, assignments, tutorials, or quizzes. Midterms will be a thing of the past.
But a month is sooooooooooooooooooooo long.
This Saturday is my physics midterm. There are going to be 12 questions. It’s kind of scary when two marks make the difference between an 83 % and a 67 %. The difference between an excellent mark and a crappy mark. And with only 12 multiple choice questions, all it takes is one stupid mistake.
This Saturday is my physics midterm. There are going to be 12 questions.
It’s kind of scary when two marks make the difference between an 83 % and a 67 %. The difference between an excellent mark and a crappy mark.
And with only 12 multiple choice questions, all it takes is one stupid mistake.