Archive for the ‘fall07’ Category


Fall 2007 Finals

December 28, 2007

I survived another round of finals with better-than-expected results.

E/M Theory was predictably nightmarish, with a full semester of memorization required and no hints as to what might be needed. As it turned out, he did not ask any questions at all from the last two chapters, which is just plain silly (but hardly my only complaint of the instruction), as those were the only two chapters we had not been tested on. That did not keep me from totally blowing two questions, but they were not hard questions – just happened to require formulas I did not memorize (of the couple hundred possible). I had already estimated that I only needed a 45% on the final to receive a B for the course (but an 85% needed for an A), so the final grade surprised me. Course grade: A-

Classical Mechanics was not as tough as it could have been, although I could have done better. Just as in E/M, I blew two questions, but in this case, it was just plain brain meltdown. They were not hard questions; I was just under temporary idiocy. Thanks to the marvels of heavy curving, I managed to come out on top. Course grade: A

Introduction to Applied Mathematics finally started getting interesting in the last few chapters (Complex Analysis). I studied the hardest for this exam for some reason, going over nearly all of the suggested practice problems throughout the entire semester. Given that I was going into the final with a low- to mid-80s average, I was surprised at the final grade. I suspect I managed to pull off nearly 100% on the final. Course grade: A-

My cumulative GPA has now been scratched (3.95), which is bad news in some ways, although still quite good, of course. As long as it was a perfect 4.00, I had a vested interest in having the best scores in class – now an A- does not seem as bad. Fortunately, I have only 4 more classes (well, two lecture-based classes, a major lab and a research project) remaining.


Out, Out Damned Apathy!

December 10, 2007

Another day of studying nearly done.

On a positive note, while firmly not studying earlier today, I was analyzing my remaining classes required to graduate. Looks like I can dump two of the courses I was not really interested in anyway (Thermal Physics and Quantum Mechanics) for one class I am interested in (Astrophysics) and a second term of Senior Research. While dumping those two classes goes directly against an advisor’s suggestion (because of applicability to future graduate studies), at this point grad school is not looking like a highly-probable event, so I am more interested in taking courses of interest than courses of future necessity.

I sat down with Dr. Michael Summers (my former astrobiology teacher) and we discussed some nice possibilities for research next semester. While many options are open, I will probably stick to work I started earlier this year–mathematical modeling of potential atmospheres for Pluto’s moon, Charon. It is interesting work and I also get to do some programming in IDL, which is not too bad (if substantially different from what I am used to in C/C++).

In any case, I am sufficiently recharged to finish studying tonight for tomorrow’s Applied Math and Classical Mechanics finals. I still cannot muster much desire to study for E/M Theory (Thursday exam), though. (Knowing I only need about a 44% on it to get a B in the class does not help much!)


Finals Week

December 10, 2007

It’s that lovely time of the semester – trying to remember things your prof mentioned in one class back in August and September which you hoped you would never see again. Alas for the Comprehensive Final Exam. Of the three finals (two back-to-back), only one is not comprehensive (which is good – that one will be hard enough).

Unfortunately, E/M is comprehensive and that is very possibly the hardest course I have had so far. Adding to the pain, the prof has indicated that no equations will be given and refused to tell us which of the over 200 formulas covered this semester we might need to have memorized for the final exam.

Math should be relatively painless (only relatively – dealing with Green’s and Stoke’s respective theorems can often be painful, even though they are meant to make things easy).

Mechanics is the only exam that is not comprehensive, which is good for us – with a class average of only around 60% for the prior two exams, I think he was worried that nobody would even bother showing up for a comprehensive final.

A full sense of apathy has taken over my brain, which is not helping matters. Ah well… back to studying. Now, was it Green’s 1st or 2nd Identity which had the Laplacian of g? Oh, right, it’s in both, but in a different place… sigh.


Continuing Education

November 13, 2007

Courses continue in a sort of lackadaisical fashion (in terms of my participation, not necessarily the course information).

Classical Mechanics has gotten around to Orbital Mechanics as of today, so we could be seeing some cool stuff now. (Kepler’s Laws out of the way.)

E/M Theory is just plain uninteresting. I don’t think a single chapter topic has sparked an interest.

Applied Math is actually interesting right now. We’re on Complex Analysis which is, a) surprisingly easy (considering the topic name) and b) sort of fascinating, the way it can be applied to the number work we’re all used to seeing, but revealing a depth behind how things work which was pretty much hidden in all prior coursework.

I have registered for the next semester already – Thermal Physics and Modern Physics with Applications. One taught by prof unknown to me, the other by someone I have never had but respect based on my encounters with her to date.

Two other courses offered next semester (of the slim variety available) look interesting, but the most-intriguing of the two, Atmospheric Physics, is only offered Mondays from 7:20pm-10pm, which is not intriguing. The other, Physics of the Interstellar Medium, might work, though – it takes place immediately following my (current) last class of the day. I might see if I can get permission to sit in and listen to the lectures without actually signing up; I have no desire to receive credit for – or pay for – classes that are not necessary for me to graduate. I suppose that makes me somewhat of a leech, but I consider it more a pursuit of random knowledge – I would go broke very quickly if I paid for all the random information I access.

Second to last mid-term exam in a week (E/M). At least, I think it’s the second to last. I know I have another Math exam (some day) and that I do not have another Mechanics exam (prior to finals). I am pretty certain this is the last “mid-term” for E/M as well. Bleh.


Beyond the Mid-Terms

November 1, 2007

Well, I am glad THAT week is over. All three exams passed. A+ in E/M, B in Math (highest grade in class, though – I don’t know if he curves) and unknown in Mechanics. No idea how he’s going to curve that test when most of us did so poorly. I did complain about the one problem, however (the only one I did very badly on) – while I am sure he fully desires us to have every equation from Physics I memorized, he has been teaching long enough that he should not expect it. Having to pull a friction equation out of my head (from Spring 99 – same teacher, coincidentally) without any warning that such would be needed was a bit of unnecessary stress during the exam. I am guessing that I am running about a B/B+ in that class, only because of the curve (my exam scores are lousy, but they are still better than the average).

After that, it was slacking for the long weekend (something I am way too good at) and then last-minute prep for Halloween. On the positive side, I finally got to see Comet Holmes through both my 16×70 binocs and my 8″ SC telescope. Way cool. Too bad I did not get everything set up until after all the trick-or-treaters were done for the night!


Mid-Term Hell

October 23, 2007

Since I am taking three courses this semester, of course all three profs must decide to give exams in the same week.

E/M down… Mechanics and Applied Math to go. Either E/M was a lot easier than I expected it to be (and that it should be), or I have utterly failed the test. We’ll see!

Thursday night is de-stress night. I don’t care where I am or what else I may be doing, I will be doing a lot of relaxing in any way I can find.