The Last Two Weeks and Prelim Woes

Since my last post, I’ve taken my final three prelims of the semester, (mostly) completed the last two experiments for orgo lab, and turned in three problem sets and two critiques in the two days before Thanksgiving break.  I managed to take six out of my seven prelims on left-handed desks, but for the final prelim of the semester, we were kicked out of our own building by a CS class (CS 3110).  Not cool.  The class had to split up into two smaller rooms with a shortage (though not a complete and utter lack) of left-handed desks and by the time I got to the prelim room, there were people sitting next to all the left-handed desks.

It wasn’t the worst room I’ve taken a prelim in; that honor goes to Call Auditorium.  The desks are approximately the size of four postage stamps and at any given time someone is lunging for their test because their desk has fallen down.  Again.  I mean, why would anyone even think about making a desk that stays horizontal?  That’s so 1950s.  Now we have hover paper and mind outlets where you don’t need to write with your hands; you just think and the words appear on the paper.  Oh, wait.  We don’t.

I do have a funny story about another prelim in a large auditorium.  I think it was my first differential equations prelim and I had settled in and was waiting for the test to be passed out.  As it got nearer to the start time for the prelim, people were still coming in and having trouble finding seats.  Since the prelim was scheduled to start in just a few minutes, the TAs started handing out exam booklets.  Some people near the front started to get confused, which was when the mystery of the missing seats was solved.  There were students from two different classes in the auditorium.  Either Cornell double booked the auditorium or someone made a mistake.  And I don’t think it was the engineers, because we actually needed a room that size.  The other class was an ILR class with three a few dozen people in it.

And now that I’ve discussed just a few of the horrible things that can happen during a prelim (I’ve got plenty more, including the time we listened to pipes clanking and hissing for ninety minutes straight and the time we were sent to the wrong prelim room.) here are some pictures of the current snow:

That’s the same waterfall from my last post.



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: