Fortunately for everyone, I am not writing an entire post about an alkane.  I am, however, studying alkanes in my last required semester of chemistry.

As a member of Cornell’s illustrious chemical engineering program, I need no less than five semesters of chemistry plus two semesters of chemistry lab to graduate with the much coveted bachelor of science degree in chemical engineering.  After one semester of general chemistry, getting AP credit for the second semester of gen chem, an entire painful wonderfully enlightening year of physical chemistry, complete with lab, I am currently enrolled in the final required semester of chemistry, organic chemistry (plus lab).  I’d heard from upperclassmen than people tend to strongly prefer either physical chemistry of organic chemistry but I reserve the right to withhold my judgement until at least the second orgo prelim.

We began the year doing nomenclature, then during the past couple weeks we’ve also started on mechanisms and reactions.  It’s been going all right so far, and I think it’s more understandable than the last part of physical chemistry II.  In one of the derivations we did in p-chem II, even after making corrections to the initial general equation to be solved, the answer we got was about 1021 times larger than it should be.  Naturally, the solution is to define a correction factor that equals 10-21 and multiply the derived answer by it.  Problem solved.  If it works in p-chem, my orgo lab results could use some correction factors as well . . .

One of the things that makes organic chemistry different from p-chem, at least up until this point, is that it’s been more visual.  The entire first semester of p-chem is based on the fact that you can’t know exactly where a quantum mechanical particle is (without losing all information about its velocity) and the second semester of p-chem contains things like entropy, which can’t even be measured, let alone drawn.  In contrast, orgo consists of molecules that can be visually represented by various forms of stick drawings as well as by model kits:

And yes, my penguins got in on the fun:

Back in the Saddle

Since moving back to West Campus for the school year, I have started a new set of classes of only moderate terribleness.*  I’m getting sucked into the spinning vortex of problem set terror, already sleep deprived, and slightly hungry, so overall, all’s well in ChemE land.

Besides classes, I’ve also worked a couple shifts for Cornell Productions, including Ordinary People’s event at the Cornell Cinema the other night.  Pep band started up and we’ve had our first rehearsal for the semester as well as a field hockey game.  Ironically enough, after spending the entire summer in Ithaca, the closest I got to getting sunburned, which doesn’t happen easily to me, was at the field hockey game.  In September.  I have determined that the combination of direct sunlight (radiative heat transfer) and the bleachers (reflection = even more radiative heat transfer) caused my near encounter with fried skin cells.

By this point in my college career, I’ve fulfilled my PE requirements, and so I’m taking Small Boat Sailing for fun.  Last weekend we learned to rig the boats we’ll be taking out and then we had to capsize the boats on purpose.  It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.  The water was cold, but the coldest part of the class was when we got out of the water and the previously windless day turned into a strong breeze in about thirty seconds.


No pictures from sailing, but here’s Cayuga Lake as seen from Taughannock State Park.

Other than that, my parents and brother came up to Cornell for Labor Day weekend.  We stayed in a cabin at Taughannock State Park and hiked there, Buttermilk Falls, and Watkins Glen, and also went to the Corning Museum of Glass.  It was a fun weekend, but it was surprisingly crowded at the state parks and the museum.  I think the fact that it was a holiday weekend plus the “last” weekend of summer contributed to the crowds.  Though the temperature has dropped considerably since then and the sky has returned to its standard greyness.  Pre-winter, here we come.


Watkins Glen

*My classes actually aren’t terrible at all and in fact, are less annoying than the dozens of emails I get every day.   Contrary to what appears to be popular belief, I do not need three reminders before every event.

A Room with a View

After four 1.2-mile-round trips between the apartment I subletted for the summer in Collegetown and my dorm room on West Campus, I successfully moved back onto campus for the school year.  In the end, I biked 0.6 miles; walked 2.4 miles; walked another 1.2 miles hauling my backpack, a full suitcase, and other miscellaneous random stuff; and got driven the final 0.6 miles.  It was a fun day.

Once I arrived at my room, I became aware that my double was in fact hosting a couple of extra guests.  They were climbing around on the window screens, but don’t worry, nothing in the room was in danger of breaking, because they only weighed about a tenth of a gram.  They also had six legs and occassionally buzzed.  Yes, we had bees in the room.  Right now, we don’t appear to have any friends visiting, but they seem to be able to crawl through cracks somewhere because our window has not been opened except to let the bees out.

In addition, our fan has been running at gale-force speeds for most of the semester so far because our room is about sauna temperature ten degrees warmer than the rest of the suite, the common room of which is air-conditioned to approximately ten degrees below freezing some inappropriately cold temperature.  After analysis, we determined that the combination of the vent placement, our exceptionally large windows, and the shape of the room prevent effective cooling.  Isn’t West Campus great?

But seriously, West Campus is nice.  I can get full meals without leaving my dorm.  I have floor space in my room (as compared to my first double on North Campus, which, among other things, featured one bed blocking a closet and the sink room door, the combination of the other bed and a bookcase leaving most of the room accessible only through a narrow opening, a chair that felt like it was going to fall apart under my scrawny mass, and a hole in the wall).  So I’m really not kidding for once when I say that I enjoy living on West Campus.  Plus, this is the view from my room:


The Fellowship of the Penguins

Back over spring break, I mentioned that I was working on a project involving penguins, and I might post about it soon.  Well, it’s only three months later and I’m finally getting around to posting about it.  [I know I also said I’d write about spring semester, but then I remembered I spent most of spring semester doing problem sets.  The past sentence just about sums things up and I’m counting it as “writing about spring semester.”]

Anyway, first off, here are the penguins, who are named after the members of the Fellowship of the Ring from The Lord of the Rings:

They have adventures around campus like visiting the AD White statue on the arts quad,

and rooting for the Big Red.

I started the project just for fun and also to take a look at things from a different perspective.  Campus looks different to a two-inch penguin.

In other news, I’m back at Cornell working on my summer project.  Summer has defiintely finally arrived in Ithaca, complete with thunderstorms a few nights a week and 90% humidity.  It’s still been nice, and the penguins seem to be holding up just fine in the heat.

There’s No Place Like Home

After having four finals in four days, I had most of two days to do nothing pack and then I headed home for the first part of my summer, where, according to the forecast, it will rain during four of the next seven days.  On the bright side, the forecast looks even worse for Ithaca.  [Sorry to anyone reading this from Ithaca.]

As is fairly standard for me, I have unpacked only what is absolutely necessary: my phone and my laptop.  And some smaller things like clothing and toothpaste.  It’s nice to be home, even if there is only non-dairy milk in the fridge.

It doesn’t feel like I’m done with my second year of college, especially since some of my friends are still in Ithaca taking finals, but I’ve certainly learned a few things over the past year.  For one, no matter how early you start your problem sets, you’ll still be working on them at 2 am on Friday morning.  You can even start over the weekend; those “few questions” you have to get answered at office hours on Thursday night will still take three or four hours.  And then you’ll have to go to office hours for another class after that.

For another, the weather will be nice as long as you have something to do that will keep you indoors all day.  Case in point: finals week.  All week long as I’m frantically cramming equations into my brain reviewing for finals, it’s sunny with temperatures in the seventies and eighties.  On Friday after I’m done with finals, it pours and the temperature drops thirty degrees.  Naturally, I have to run around campus filling out paperwork.

In addition, I guess I probably also learned a lot about physical chemistry, biomolecular engineering, fluid mechanics, and introductory macroeconomics.  But for the next few weeks, I will be enjoying my time at home doing such fun activities as Going To The Dentist.  Then I will be heading back to Ithaca to work on a project.  I’ll also be going back in time and writing more about spring semester later.  Get excited to hear about more fun activities like Office Hours, Walking to Class in the Snow, and Studying Until Your Brain Falls Out Your Ears*.

*Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional and this may not really have happened