Editor’s Note: Of the two posts that I lost, this one I miss the most. I can’t seem to recapture what I was thinking at the time that I initially wrote it… But below you’ll find my closest approximation.

This REU has had me thinking a lot about what I really want to do in terms of academics (which is kind of the point). And more and more, the program is pushing me away from chemistry and towards mathematics / computational science / physics.

What does this mean? It means that I’ve decided to switch over to the dark side and pick up the math major again. I’m not quite ready to drop the chemistry major (though the thought has crossed my mind to switch over to a chemistry minor in order to pick up more comp sci / physics classes), and I justify this by considering chemistry as a useful background in the physical sciences and an invaluable introduction to laboratory science (even if I eventually want to avoid the lab like the plague).

Which brings up the above question: am I ‘smart enough’ for math? I know that I could easily get through remainder of my chemistry major with little fuss. The classes haven’t required all that much work (except the two semesters of organic, which required ‘putting in the time’ to memorize a lot of ‘stuff’). I’ve already had quantum chem, which is supposedly as hard as the chemistry comes. And it wasn’t really that bad (again, because it’s basically just applied calculus, and as such something I really enjoyed). That’s a pleasant thought: getting my undergraduate degree with little to no work.

But then comes the thoughts of the math major. That will take work. I haven’t had to put in the effort in the calculus courses, but I have in the proof-based ones (largely discrete). Of all my undergraduate course load thus far, it’s been the math classes that have stretched my abilities the most. And I know that the harder courses are still yet to come (I’m mainly dreading Real Analysis [think of the epsilon stuff from Calc I and II, and then make an entire course out of it…] and Abstract Algebra [I don’t really know, but I’ve heard both good and bad things on this one]). I know for a fact I’ll have to work at Real Analysis, because I don’t really find the material all that applicable to what I want to do (which is funny, because it’s apparently considered ‘applied math.’ Who knew?). Though maybe the course just has a reputation of being hard… I’ll know after I’ve had it.

And then comes the POST undergraduate experience. What do you do with a math degree? You become a professor, a high school teacher, a quant, or you work for the government. I’ll admit that the quant job sounds kind of cool (using math to make money, eh?), but I don’t think I could pull that off for too long. Of course, there’s the ‘third way,’ which is to go into applied mathematics and focus on something like mathematical physics or chemistry. Which is what I’ll probably end up doing. But it’s just kind of strange to go through all that work (more work than for a chemistry degree) and end up with a degree that’s less valuable (as a BS, MS, or PhD chemist, one can easily get a job working for the pharmaceutical companies and make big bucks in the process). It seems counter-intuitive.

But I enjoy the math. And any part of physics or chemistry that I’ve enjoyed has been because of the math. So the math I shall pursue, even if I end up broke and on the street. In which case, I’m going to rely on my engineering friends with their much more practical degrees to help me out. :)

Well, I think that more or less capture the idea of the original post. Something’s been lost, but such is life.


This weekend has been abnormally productive. Okay, probably not productive in the normal sense of the word. But still. I got a lot of [important] thinking done.

As I’ve mentioned before, computational chemistry seemed like a real option for me, something that doesn’t exactly get much pull in a high school career choosing system. At the time of that post, though, I just thought this would be a one of thing, something that’s pretty rare and not at all a sure way for me to go.

Then I started this weekend looking for information on computational chemistry, with an emphasis on Python (apparently one of the de facto languages for programming computational chemistry-type programs). That lead me down a long and windy road to the whole field of ‘computational science.’ Which, when I first read the name, sounded a lot like ‘computer science.’ I mean, they both have the ‘comput-‘ in them. But they turn out to be quite different things.

The basic difference? Computer scientists are worried about the basic structure of the computer, like the architecture and information processing. Computational scientists, on the other hand, use computers to solve real world scientific problems, mainly through some sort of mathematical modeling. While I have nothing against computers and computer science (and obviously they form the foundation upon which computational science stands), I personally find the computational side of the street much more interesting.

With that in mind, I’ve been devouring books on computational science, focusing a lot on Python and Maple (a computer algebra system [CAS]: think your graphing calculator, on steroids). Computational science is basically a subfield of applied mathematics. Unfortunately, Ursinus has nothing even close to an applied math curriculum (we have all the basics, like linear algebra, diff eq and numerical analysis, but nothing really far beyond that, and even those classes focus a lot more on the theory than the practice). So I’m kind of on my own learning the material that will be necessary to succeed in grad school. Which I’m cool with, because it means I can teach myself something that I’m not going to have to ‘learn’ again in some future class.

Like I’ve said before, I kind of wish I’d had this insight before. Like, maybe two years before. Could have saved me a whole lot of trouble with this whole chemistry thing (though I’m glad I’ll have a major in a laboratory science, because then at the very least I can emphasize with other lab scientists in the future… plus the skills never hurt), gone to a school and majored in either engineering or applied math, and circumvented this whole convoluted path I’ve taken to get to where I am today. But it’s a little to late for that now. So I’ll just work with what I’ve got and go from here. I figure I’ll do the chemistry major, definitely pick up the math major (man, I’ve oscillated between on and off with that bugger for some time now!), and try and pick up as many computer science / physics courses as I can along the way. At least I won’t have to think much more about my schedule from here on out: it’s basically planned as is, with every available slot filled.

This turned out to be a lot of me talking about myself. Sorry, gang, but I just felt like this was a major breakthrough for me, especially because I can really see myself being a computational scientist and LOVING it every day. Something I couldn’t honestly say about being a lab chemist. Plus, it combines my best skills with my scientific interests [matrices, vectors, differential equations, Fourier and Taylor series, what more could you ask for?]. It’s a win-win situation.

Time to put my head to the grindstone and make up for some lost time.


We separated chlorophyll from spinach leaves yesterday in p. chem lab. In two weeks, we’re going to do a study on the effect on fluorescence of chlorophyll concentration. To quote Brett, “Hm, I wonder what that will be?”

Anyway, back to this week’s lab. We had to crush up the spinach leaves using a mortar and pestle, and then flush out the chlorophyll using ethyl acetate (which, by the way, smells a heck of a lot like acetone… ie not good). Then we centrifuged out all the icky parts, pipetted off the ethyl acetate + green stuff, and did some column chromatography (think of the kind of chromatography you’ve done with pens, but with a much longer plastic tube and with a lot less fun). I managed to screw up packing my column twice, though I just went ahead with the second one.

The entire time, I kept thinking, “Why am I doing this?” I clearly have no aptitude for lab sciences. And yes, it’s totally something I could work on and become better at (I had no ‘aptitude’ for riding a bike until Dave taught me last summer), but I wonder if there’s a point? Shouldn’t I focus on my strengths, rather than try to polish away my weaknesses?

It’s a little too late for me to change my major now. I mean, I’ve already taken all the courses I’ll really hate (or, well, mildly dislike), and I’ve only got 3 more labs total, two of which I’ll finish off next semester. Might as well see the major through, and focus on taking a different course in grad school.

And I think that course will have to do with computer modelling. I like math, I like the physical sciences, and I like computers. I don’t know why it took me this long to put those three things together and realize, “Hey, they totally have jobs out there for people who like those things… and there probably aren’t too many people like that in the first place!” Like I’ve said earlier, that might have been something I should have figured out at the end of high school. But I suppose better now then after I’ve entered a graduate program in chemistry. It’s never too late to change my mind [evidently something I like to do, as you can observe by reading posts under the ‘my major’ tag]!

Which brings me to another blinding flash of the obvious, to quote David Allen: I’m at that point in my life where I’m, you know, an adult, and should be making decisions based on my best interests. And those interests are encompassed by (a) what I find pleasurable and (b) what I find meaningful. And at no other point in my life will I have quite the same amount of power over its future direction than I do now. It might be useful to start paying attention! (I probably had a lot more leverage when I was choosing colleges than I do now, but unfortunately I don’t have a time machine. If anyone does, please feel free to call me at 555-555-5555). I don’t want to end up one of those ‘typical Americans’ that hates his job. Especially when I’ve had every opportunity afforded me to pick a career that I’ll love and excel at.

Looks like 6th-grade-me had a lot more going for him than I give him credit for. At least, he paid a lot more attention to my strengths and my likes than I have recently.

Time to go back to my roots. Now excuse me as I go play with Python.

I thought I’d share my thoughts on a future career. The thing that inevitably comes up during course selection time. In case, anyone’s wondering, I’m taking Physical Chemistry, Instrumental Analysis (essentially Analytical Chemistry), Differential Equations, and Intro to Creative Writing (one of these things doesn’t belong, huh? I need an art requirement, and I have no experience with drawing or photography. Writing… I can fake that). Looks to be an interesting semester. Especially with a single, no cross country (though that ones still up in the air) and the possibility of physical chemistry research (or organic research, depending on what I end up deciding…)

Ultimately, though, I’m beginning to think that this whole undergrad experience will just be a dress-rehearsal for when I decide on the path I really want to take. And I have a feeling it’s not really going to be in chemistry. At least, not in the traditional sense.

Thinking about the things I like doing on my own and in class, I come up with two main criteria: (a) developing an understanding of the world (b) through the use of mathematics. I kind of wish I’d had that blinding flash of the obvious back two years ago when I was deciding on where I’d like to spend the next 4 years of life. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love Ursinus. But it kind of has a … nontraditional physics department and no engineering department. It does have a great chemistry department, which is why that seems to be the avenue that I’ll take into this world of mathematical analysis. Hopefully through a good deal of physical chemistry and analytical chemistry.

After examining my strengths / pleasures, the next logical choice was to look at my weaknesses / pains. One thing I’ve learned during research this semester is that I’m not so great in the lab. Sure, that’s something that will improve with time and practice. But for the sake of this analysis, I’m just looking at present strengths and weaknesses. I don’t really have the manual dexterity or architectural know-how to do organic chemistry (it looks so easy to put together, but for me, not so much…). Plus, I don’t really enjoy the actual lab work. I just like working with numbers, moving them around, replacing them, whatever. At the same time, I don’t really think that theoretical branches of the sciences are for me either. I like using theory, not making it up.

Which, following my gut, has lead to the computational fields of the physical sciences. Reading a chapter out of my physical chemistry book, I learned that computational chemistry is reaching its golden age in the coming decades. Sounds like perfect timing. Using computers to do experiments? Without all the chemicals? For serious? That sounds as sweet as they come!

And what does that mean in the present moment: it means I need to brush up on my mathematical skills. Thus far, I’ve just been learning enough to get through the classes. I haven’t really been developing a lasting understanding of the material. Certainly not enough to do real world modeling with the concepts. It also means I need to brush up on my programming skills. I haven’t programmed a lick since high school, which is getting longer and longer ago! Luckily, that’s pretty easy to pursue on my own, and doesn’t require a degree from an institution for me to feel like I’m competent. And I need to pursue more physics classes. Which hopefully will happen during my time here at Ursinus. If not, that’s what paid-for graduate school is for. You have to love the physical sciences!

And now I’d like to take this moment to review my career paths of choice, starting in about 6th grade:

  • computer programmer, with thoughts of becoming the next Bill Gates (6th grade)
  • theoretical physicist, with ambitions of exploring string theory (10th grade)
  • regular physicist, with very little ambitions other than getting through college (11th grade)
  • nantechnologist / chemist, with plans of developing a biomimetic photosynthetic system for creating hydrogen (12th grade)
  • chemist, with hopes of getting through college without killing myself in lab (freshman and sophomore years of college)
  • computational physical scientist, well, with no idea where I’ll go with that (now)

It seems I’ve come semi-full circle. At least, I’m back at the computer. Now with a little more math and physical science in mind. Amazing what eight years can do to life plans. Especially when that eight years is about half my life.

At least I have a vision moving forward. Hopefully that vision can become some sort of reality. If nothing else, it makes a handy mirage to keep me happy!

This is probably going to come off sounding really really dumb. So be it. I had the urge to write, and thus I will.

I’ve found myself in a novel position. I have all my work done for the week, far ahead of time, and I can’t quite figure out what to do with this time. Usually, I would have put the work off until a lot later, and in the process I would have taken a great deal of guilt-filled breaks to do things like read, or hang out with friends. (Okay, that sounds rather crazy… but I already know I’m rather crazy, so stick with me!).

Anyway, I just find it interesting to be in a place where I don’t ‘have’ to do anything. Not that I ever ‘have’ to do anything. But just that most of the time my head is yelling at me because I’m not doing one thing. Or it’s yelling me because I am doing one thing instead of another. But right now I’m at a weird place of clarity where my head is yelling at itself because it doesn’t know what to do.

This is a strange situation I’ve found myself in before. The sort of place where I no longer know what I ‘want’ to do. I know it sounds weird (or maybe it doesn’t… I don’t know how other people deal with their lives), but at certain moments where a great deal of free time opens up, I just don’t know what to do with it. It’s not boredom, per se. I’m almost perfectly happy not doing anything (excepting for the gnawing feeling that I should be doing something). It’s more of the fact that I can’t decide on anything to do and largely don’t really feel like starting any large project that will take more than the present moment to complete.

Again, I realize this is quite weird. Don’t worry, I’m not spending the majority of my time staring off into the void (though I have considered that as a valid way to spend my time [obviously after I’ve gotten all the other work done]). I’ve been reading a great deal lately. A lot of science fiction. I can’t seem to bring myself to go to the library and pick out a non-fiction book to read (perhaps my classes are satisfying enough on that account). It’s the whole ‘long term effort’ conundrum (the science fiction I’m reading are all short stories).

I thought I would report on this strange feeling-space that I’m inhabiting. I usually don’t enter this sort of zone except during long breaks (looking forward to this feeling times 2 next week when I have spring break). I find it odd to end up here smack dab in the middle of the semester.

I wouldn’t mind living here, though. No anxiety. No stress. No ‘has tas’ and ‘need tas.’ Just doing. And then enjoying the not-doing.

As an aside, I think I’m going to shoot for a double major in chemistry and physics. I’ve already got the math minor after next semester (diff eq!), and despite my numerous oscillations, I’ve decided I don’t want the math major enough to make all the crappy (read hard for me) proof writing classes worthwhile. I do think, on the other hand, that I would get great enjoyment out of physics. I can just eke out the eight additional classes I would need to fulfill the physics major (not bad considering I didn’t decide on it until midstream). And if I can get some overlap between the physics and chemistry requirements (I don’t imagine that thermodynamics as taught in physical chemistry and thermodynamics as taught in physics will be all that different… entropy is entropy is entropy), then I might even be able to fit some more math courses in as I please.

Basically, I’m trying to salvage my ambitions for physics. And, well, I need to do something with those 8 free spaces in my schedule (okay, okay, really 6… but I figure I’ll go for the 5-class springs like I did last semester). Why not fill them with physics?

Of course, I’ll just take a 200 level physics course next semester and see where that goes. Considering I’ve already considered and dropped a math major and a neuroscience major, the only constant in my life seems to be chemistry.

Anyway the wind blows, it seems that I won’t have to worry too much about guilt-free free time too much in the coming semesters. Not if my masochistic class-scheduling has anything to say about it!

I’m convinced. English isn’t a complete waste of a major. I’ve seen the light. And now I’m saved.

No, I’m not switching to an English major. And no, I didn’t actually ever think that English was a complete waste of a major. I just didn’t see the point in going to school, paying 20000+ a year, to learn how to read and write. I’ve done that very much on my own, for free [well, for the price of books, internet access, and paper and pens].

Then I had a conversation with my friend Chris and everything changed. We started off talking about how strange some pre-med majors could be. Okay, I get chemistry, biochemistry, and especially biology. I even get ESS [for those not fluent in abbreviations, that’s Exercise and Sports Science]. A physics pre-med major? Yeah, kind of weird, but I can see it.

But English major pre-med? Now that’s completely wacky. But it’s happened. Believe me, it’s happened.

And then we started talking about what an English major actually does. Basically, they’re at college to learn how to think more clearly. Usually, for them, that involves a lot of reading, both fiction and non-fiction, and writing. Because in all honesty, the best way to clear up your thoughts is to put them on paper. And no one gets more practice in that area than our friends in the English department. Well, other than our friends in the History department.

But what does all that reading and writing actually do? Where does it actually get them at the end of the day? What pragmatic value does it have.

And then the epiphany struck. Our friends in the English department are the twins of our friends in the Mathematics department. What Mathematics is to the sciences English is to the humanities. Let me clarify, starting from the math example.

Let’s be honest: a lot of the math that students learn in college is pure mental weight training: you’re never going to actually use it in the real world, but it’s still useful to have some sort of idea how to think like a mathematician. Sure, you may never have to take the second derivative of a triple integral while balancing a combinatorics text book on stomach and reciting π to 50 decimal places. But all that stuff will build up some major grey matter that may come in handy some day. And going even further, you have two kinds of math: theoretical and practical. The theoretician gets a little ‘excited’ about defining what ‘1+1’ means. The practical mathematician, well, we call him a physicist.

The same things hold for English majors. Sure, you may never actually have to analyze Shakespeare’s 10th sonnet, or write a report about the sexual overtones in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, but those activities build up the critical thinking skills that will serve you later in life. And similar to mathematics, English comes in two flavors: the critics and the creators. The critics shell themselves into a single author and then pour their heart and soul into something that only about ten people in the world will actually care about. The creators write works of fiction, journalism, activism, whatever. You name it, they’ve written it. And sometimes the things they write change the world.

So it comes down to this: math and english are the last remaining strongholds of the liberal arts tradition. They literally teach you how to think [and not much else]. The engineer, the chemist, even the biologist, is a learning a trade. They learn the thinking skills, but in an applied setting. The english / math major just gets the scaffold and fills it as they see fit.

And that explains why I so prefer a study-track in the natural sciences: I loath things that lack pragmatic value. Don’t get me wrong. I love math [when it can help me solve a problem in science]. I love reading [when it can help to clarify my thinking on some real world problem]. But as you can see, I, personally, can’t stand the abstraction.

But that’s not to say the abstraction is somehow bad. Some people thrive on that. They’re far brighter than I. And I tip my hat to them.

So the next time someone tells you they’re an English major, take a long hard look. You may be in the presence of a great thinker.

Okay, okay, I’ll stop with the puns. But major is such a multifaceted word. Who knew, right?

While going for a brief walk, I started to think back to high school and why I really enjoyed all my science classes there. Not to over idealize those days, but I really enjoyed all my science classes in those days. And I wanted to know what had changed between then and now that made science seem less interesting.

And then it hit me: I didn’t choose my science class. Sure, I chose whether or not I wanted to take honors / AP [well, that was kind of a no brainer choice…], but I didn’t choose which subject. Freshmen take Bio, sophomores take Chem, juniors take physics [or in our case, AP Chem], and seniors take, well, in my case, physics. The track stands, and follow it. No choice involved.

Then I got to college. Suddenly I have to pick which of the many tracks I want to jump on. I could go neuroscience, psychology, chemistry, biochemistry, physics [if I were at a different school] and [though this is really pushing it], philosophy [sure, that’s not really a science, but it kind of sort of counts]. And all of them seem attractive. But the fact is, I can’t major in all of them. At most, I can double major in two of them. So I have to pick the track and deal with the classes as they come.

From that, I have to deal with the anxiety that maybe this major isn’t for me. If I’m really not enjoying, say, organic chemistry, does that mean that chemistry isn’t for me, or just that organic chemistry isn’t for me? Either way, I have to sit through the lecture, study the text, and take the test. That’s knowledge-acquisition time I’m not getting back.

Basically, we had our path handed to us up until college. Now suddenly we’re expected to figure it out on our own. Though the situation could be worse: they could make us design our own majors! Oh, god. Then I would be totally screwed!

Some take aways / further thoughts:

  • I might be putting a little too much stock in how my decision of major effects the rest of my life. If I had to guess, I would say that 7 out of 10 people don’t end up doing work in their original field of study. So, eh, it can’t be that bad if you chose the ‘wrong’ major.
  • Choice sucks. But bondage sucks even more. So throw off the shackles, suck it up, and choose!
  • Take this whole education thing as more than just passing tests. Every course, no matter what, offers a chance for growth. You learn a little something about the subject matter, yourself, and the teacher. That’s not a raw deal. Any cognitive activity should be beneficial. So do it for the benefits! [NMR being a case in point. Reading a spectrum from an NMR is much like putting together the pieces of a puzzle. Easy, but satisfying]

I think I’ve calmed down a bit about this whole, ‘Oh my god, the foundations of my world are shifting!’ thing.

Which is good, because I have three tests coming up in the next two weeks. And thinking about your major doesn’t help you to pass it!


Time for a Major Change

September 7, 2007

Haha. Oh puns, you complete me.

Anyway, as I said earlier, I’ve been thinking a lot about my major. As of now, I’m ‘officially’ a chem / math double major. Which on the surface seemed like a lot of fun. You get to blow stuff up in chem and compute things in math. What more could you ask for?

Well, it turns out, a lot. My freshman first semester of chemistry was fun, mainly because I didn’t have to do any thinking. It was ‘General’ Chemistry, which basically meant AP Chemistry, Redux. Because of an awesome AP Chem teacher, I was able to go through the entire first semester without cracking open my book. And the tests, well, they were fun when they involved math [ie stoichiometry] and less fun when they involved non-math [ie VSEPR theory].

Then organic came. And that’s when I had my first doubts about my major. Mainly because the class got harder. Slowly I realized how much of a different game orgo is, so I had to step it up. By the end of the semester, I’d gotten into the swing of it, and from that point on I was happy with it.

And then came this semester of O Chem. I don’t know, we’re doing lots of instrumental stuff [IR, GC/MS, NMR], machines you use to determine / verify the identity of a compound. Which, come to think of it, is pretty cool. Which leads me to think my sudden desire to switch out of chemistry is more of an attitude problem than anything else. Just like last year, I’m approaching college from the wrong perspective. I’m trying to just coast instead of mastering the material. And coasting is easy, but it’s not challenging [and therefore not fun].

The real smack in the face about my major comes from other peoples majors. I hear about philosophy majors taking all these really cool classes, like Political Philosophy, or Ethics; I hear history majors talking about taking classes on warfare as a cultural phenomena; I see all the psych classes on cognitive psych, on neuroscience, etc. And I think to myself, “Wow, all those classes look like a lot of fun. Wait, huh?” If all those classes look like more fun than what I’m doing, why do I continue to do what I’m doing?

A brief caveat: I think I might just find those classes more attractive because I’m not in them. For example, I don’t have to do the work, so I just think about all the fun reading and writing that I would get to do. But the moment I have to do it for a class, I imagine my driving desire to learn the stuff would shut down. Which is interesting because it’s true about science too. I love learning science, but put me into a class with homework, tests, and assigned readings, and suddenly something I’d otherwise enjoy doing becomes a chore.

And one more reason why I think I might want to switch majors: I love reading and writing. I love math too, but it’s not the sort of thing I spend my free time doing [at least, not as much as I used to]. I seems to me that if I love reading and writing so much, and if I’m at least marginally proficient in either, that maybe I should pursue a major that encompasses those, instead of a major that involves mainly laboratory work that a, I’m not that good at, and b, I don’t really find all that enjoyable.

My current thinking is that I might want to do a Neuroscience / Philosophy double major. Though that’s pure speculation. I figure that philosophy is cool, but neuroscience is basically philosophy for the 21st century. You can speculate, hypothesize, and write logical proofs all you want, but when you get down to the nitty gritty of it, you still need the science. And that’s where neuroscience comes in: the study of how our brain works, and therefore how we even perceive the world in the first place.

That’s the current State of the Union for my major. I’m only two weeks into this semester, so who knows what will happen in the remaining three months. But I do know I don’t really want to spend an extra year in college, so if I’m going to change, I’d better do it soon.

Thanks for your interest.


Today in our chemical communications class, we discussed for a good five to ten minutes the difference between an abbreviation and an acronym. Just in case you’re wondering, the short answer is that with an abbreviation [VIP for example], you pronounce all the letters and with an acronym, you pronounce the new word [NASA for example].

But I kid you not, we spent five minutes talking about whether or not those definitions were appropriate. And the entire time, I was screaming in my head, “Who gives a fuck!” I’m anal as the next guy, but come on. That shit doesn’t even matter. To anyone but a freakin’ linguist. Or to a person that writes dictionaries. For the rest of us, just use the thing, and who cares what you call it? Talk about wasted effort.

Nevermind the rest of this class is based around teaching us how to write. ‘Hm, well, first you have to decide what you want to right about… and then you have to find out stuff about it… and then you have to write it… etc., etc.’ Yeah, no shit. And I have to go to a 75 minute lecture to learn that? Just give me a book, an assignment, and I’ll see you in 30 minutes with your stupid paper. Acronyms, abbreviations, and all.

Which will lead me [probably tomorrow] to discussing my thoughts on changing my major. Majorly out of chemistry. Because the old ‘it’s the family business’ excuse is a horrible one to spend the next three plus years of my life on. And other reasons. Like this stupid chemical communications class.

Which brings me to psychology, where we learned about the Stanford Prison Experiment in video form. And all I have to say is damn, that experiment is dumb. I have to admit, I thought there was something to it at one point. I thought it explained a lot of things, like Abu Ghraib, etc. But now I’m not as sure. The rules and regulations of prison systems, and society in general, are already so arbitrary. But then you create a fake prison with fake rules, and you add a whole new dimension of arbitrariness. People pretending to be people [who are already pretending to be who they ‘are’] don’t make a valid test bank.

In short, I’m really disillusioned with my life right now. It might be the slight cold I have going on. And not getting enough sleep. Who knows, come tomorrow I may be a conformist, pro-prison chemistry major.

But I doubt it.


November 18, 2006

By imitating nature, scientists are designing completely new molecular patterns that can serve as a blueprint of new materials and sophisticated molecular machines. In the emerging field of nanotechnology, basic natural building blocks such as amino acids are used to create structures such as peptides and proteins for applications in medicine and energy. Nanobiotechnologists have begun to exploit molecular self-assembly as a fabrication tool for building new nanobiostructures such as nanotubes for metal casting, nanovesicles for drug encapsulations, and nanofiber scaffolds for growing new tissues. They also have constructed an extremely high-density nanoscale photosystem and ultra-lightweight solar-energy-harvesting molecular machines. With better understanding of this seemingly intractable phenomena, one day mankind may be able to use nano devices to repair body parts or to rejuvenate the skin, enhance human capabilities, harness the unlimited solar energy, and achieve other feats that seem impossible today…

For example, aging and damaged tissues can be replaced with the scaffolds that stimulate cells to repair body parts or to rejuvenate the skin. We also might be able to swim and dive like dolphins or to climb mountains with a nanoscaffold lung device that can carry an extra supply of oxygen. It is not impossible to anticipate painting cars and houses with photosynthesis molecular machines that can harness the unlimited solar energy for all populations on every corner of the planet, not just for the wealthy few…

Nature has inspired us and opened the door to its secrets. It is up to our imagination to expand upon its materials and molecular machines.

– Prof. Shuguang Zhang, associate director of the Center for Biomedical Engineering at MIT

:) And there you have it from a real, honest to god scientist at MIT. This nanotech stuff is going to be HAWT.

I can hardly wait. Three and a half years until grad school?