Here’s a quick rundown of the classes I’m taking this semester. I kind of feel as though I just started them, but they end in only two weeks. (eeek!)
Science in Western Civilization:
For my one non-science class this semester I’m taking the history of science. Oh wait, I guess this is still science. Anyway, it’s still a nice break from math and physics all day. The class is about science from Newton to about the beginning of the 20th century. I’m getting a lot out of this class. It’s cool matching people to the equations I use all the time and learning how concepts of reality changed over time. I now have much more appreciation for the work scientists did in the 19th century. Although the 20th century had more technological advancement, so much of it’s foundation was made in the 19th century. Like other history classes I’ve taken, grading is based on the regurgitation of facts (well, how else are you going to grade people?), so I’m just taking it pass/fail.
Intermediate Quantum Mechanics:
QM is very different from all the other physics I’ve taken. Equations aren’t always commutative, things like position, velocity, and energy become operators rather than absolute values. Also, QM notation is baffling to anyone not already familiar with it. I find the work conceptually very difficult as I have to approach problems differently. Often the problems are of simple models that have nice elegant solutions, but when QM tries to solve more realistic situations, things get nasty fast. QM is crucial in any field of physics I go into; I hope I can finish with a good grasp of this strange material.
Conceptually this class isn’t that hard, but it is rather heavy on equations. There are a lot of different equations for different situations, although they all can be derived in theory from the four Maxwell equations. The math can also get pretty hard with its heavy use of vector calc and complex numbers. There are a lot of useful real world applications to what I’m learning and now I can talk to my peers in Electrical Engineering and have some idea what they are talking about.
CS 2800 Discrete Structures:
In this class I’m finally properly learning lots of different little subjects in math that I should already know well. “Simple” problems often appear very easy, but contain subtleties you haven’t thought of. This is primarily a sophomore class, so it’s composed mostly of people younger than me, something I’m not used to. Yet another sign that I’m getting old and that my days here at Cornell are numbered.
Introduction to Astrophysics and Space Sciences II:
This is in the same style as last semester’s part I of the class but with different material. The first half was on the Interstellar medium, lots of differential equations involving different states of matter. The second half is about cosmology, lots of crazy cool ideas about the universe that really bends your mind. Astro is a strange science in that you can’t really do anything practical with what you learn, but what greater knowledge is there than that of the vast universe?