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Well, would you look at that; I haven't posted in more than a year! I just finished my finals today and decided to take a look at ye olde livejournal. I kind of expected that I'd find my old posts to be silly and/or immature but they aren't nearly as bad as my paranoia predicted. Some things have certainly changed, though. Now that I've taken Theoretical Physics, Intro Optics, Experimental Physics, and a slew of other science and philosophy courses my previous joy at learning something like Maxwell's equations seems almost quaint; they've become almost old-hat. I still understand what I felt though, and indeed I still feel that little happiness; that tinge of warmth inside, when I learn something new and incredible.

I can't really say Applegeeks is my favorite webcomic anymore. It isn't that I really like it any less so much as that I've discovered so many other wonderful ones. My friends finally managed to hook my on XKCD, and I discovered other gems like Kate Beaton's site (http://katebeaton.com/Site/Welcome.html) and Ironborn (http://www.ironborn.com/blog/index.php). So far I've been most impressed by Dresded Codak (http://www.ironborn.com/blog/index.php), due both to it's incredible art and the fascinating storyline.

Hopefully I'll be able to post more over the summer, as there are a lot of things I'd like to talk about, especially if the LHC starts producing results (jumps up and down like giddy schoolgirl...er...excited scientist; same thing really). Until then, I suppose.
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     I've always liked the music done by Bear McCreary for the new Battlestar Galactica television series, in large part because of his ecclectic mixing of modern instrumentation (electric guitars, etc) with classically inspired music and good vocals.  This is generally the same reason why I like the music done by Brian Tyler for the recent remake of H.G. Wells' The Time Machine.  I've always wondered if it were possible to organize rock instruments en masse alongside a conventional orchestra, and what music that fully integrated the two types of instrumentation into a seamless whole would sound like.  If it sounds as interesting as I imagine it could, then I think it might serve very well in scifi soundtracks, especially those with a space-opera bent to them (if they made a movie out of, say, Larry Niven's Ringworld or even a cinematic version of one of the Uplift novels by David Brin for example).

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     Today was interesting.  I learned about Faraday's Law, third of Maxwell's four equations.  Another tiny piece of infinity mapped out in my head; always reason for joy.  After watching a tribute to Carl Sagan (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=47EBLD-ISyc), I remembered how much I liked the music from Cosmos (his television series from the Eighties; everyone should see it).  I've always wondered about the title piece, and after a little digging I found it was from Vangelis's "Heaven and Hell."  At RPI we have a free music service called Ruckus which has almost anything you care to look for, from Chinese folk songs to the latest rock hits to the best of the classics, and I went looking.  I found it before too long, so I am listening to the theme from Cosmos as I type this.  It still has the power to sends chills down my spine (if you're wondering, it starts about 13 minutes into Part I of Heaven and Hell).  
     On another note,  Applegeeks has come out with a new issue, so I'm now free of my withdrawl symptoms (much easier to type without the shakes).  It is fun, and as always, the art is beautiful and vivid.  No Eve (see pic below) in this one, but it makes up for it with a great last line.  I'm wondering where Ananth and Hawk are going to take the storyline from this point on, but I've learned to trust them with that sort of thing by now and just look forward to the ride.  
     Next week is spring break; going to spend some time with my family and friends from home, then come back here and learn some more.  I have to say that even with the chronic worries about money, the workload, and the stress, my time at RPI has been the best experience of my life so far.  I have never before met as many interesting, unique, and brilliant people as I have since coming here; I have never learned so much so quickly, never grown as a person to the degree I have in the past six months.  Quite simply put, it is as close to a perfect existence as someone like me can come.  There wil be hard times ahead, harder than I can probably even imagine right now, but I will face them to the best of my ability, and, with some luck, overcome them.


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There is nothing to say, you just have to watch:  http://stupidevilbastard.com/index/seb/comments/fossils_are_the_handiwork_of_the_devil_lewis_black/
That durned Beelzebub, always trying to trick us.

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     Hooray!  Now I know another of Maxwell's Equations:  Ampere's Law.  I already knew about Gauss's Law, but I am glad that it now has some company in the drafty recesses of my physics-obsessed brain.  I hope I get to learn the other two soon.  Ampere's Law relates magnetic field to the current using a closed loop integral, just as Gauss's Law relates the electric field to the charge enclosed by a closed surface.  Maxwell's Equations are the four equations (including Gauss's and Ampere's Laws) that describe electromagnetism.  Together they take up less than one of the lines of a sheet of notebook paper, yet can completely describe all electromagnetic phenomena in the Universe!  This is the sort of stuff that made me want to become a physicist.  The world is just so full of incredible, awe-inspiring truths.  They surround us; we swim in a sea of wonders and yet so few of us ever stop to contemplate the commonplace miracles that are everywhere you look.
     On a sadder note, I am currently suffering from severe Applegeeks withdrawl (http://www.applegeeks.com/index.php), since the authors of my favorite webcomic have been too busy to get up a new issue since last week.  I'll probably get to talking about Eve (one of my favorite fictional characters and a major player in the AG storyline) in some other entry, if not more than one.  I just hope the next issue will be really great to make up for the wait.  Considering how things have been going lately in the story, I don't think I'll be dissapointed.

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     I'm taking some time out from reading my physics textbook to post this.  I just finished the chapter on magnetic fields and am about to start the one on the magnetic field of a current.  I was quite happy with what I've read so far, considering that I know understand the basics of how cyclotrons, synchrotrons, and Hall-Effect ion engines work (what else could you want from life?).  The drosophila lab was less fun than I anticipated.  Due to a snow day last week we were forced to do two labs today.  That meant that both labs got pared down a bit to fit in the allotted time.  Instead of selecting, beheading, and mashing our own victi...er...flies, we were given the pteredine solutions premade by the TAs (TA=Teaching Assistant).  It was still interesting; I've always liked chromatography.
     l've been listening to mp3s of two radio shows, the Non-Prophets and Infidel Guy, and I have to say I prefer the Non-Prophets.  Not only are they funnier, but Infidel Guy has some little tics that occasionally annoy me, which I won't get into right now.  They're both pretty good, though, and I would suggest them to anyone interested in learning more about the worldview of Atheists, Agnostics, and other freethinker folk.  We are probably the most misunderstood minority group in the US right now, and a poll recently came out that showed us to be the least trusted members of society; those that "least share" the "American Vision."  I humbly beg to differ.  Anyone who thinks that atheists/agnostics are some sort of bogey-men (or women) that have never done anything for the world seriously needs to watch this video:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fdVucvo-kDU .  Yes, we really are productive members of society.  
       I'm a member of the RSFA, our local science fiction society/anime society, and have so far found it to be a very worthwhile experience.  We usually do three showings a week, monday and thursday for anime, and wednsday for live-action scifi.  I've been following Battlestar Galactica (the current version) from the miniseries way back in 2003, and it has quickly become my favorite television series.  It is gritty, dramatic, has battle sequences that put everything that came before it to shame (capital ships rule!), and has great characters.  Over the past few months we've been watching it over from the beginning, and I have found a lot of things that I didn't notice before are apparent to me now.  Some of them are positive (seeing symbolism or metaphors I hadn't picked up on before), and some are negative (plot holes and contradictions, of which there are gloriously few).  On the whole, this is one series I don't mind seeing more than once, and the enjoyment of those of us who are seeing it for the first time only adds to the experience.
     Speaking of that, I've noticed that when you watch something with people, it is a very different experience than when you see it alone.  I find myself laughing more freely, something which I am most happy for.  When I see things on my own, I tend to have a more internal response, and it seems that the humor sometimes doesn't hit me as hard without other people around.  I've always been somewhat restrained around strangers, which would make my loosening up in their presence a bit odd, but I think that this is mitigated for by the fact that this is a group of people with whom I know I share many personality traits.  I have always been very emotional and open with my friends, and I suppose that that helps explain it.  I consider all RSFA members who are not already my friends as at least potential friends, and that helps me to open up.


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Thankfully my prelab took far less time than I thought it would, so I have a few minutes to type up my first real entry.  Tomorrow's lab (for which the prelab was written) has as it's star participant the humble drosophila (fruit fly), focus of countless genetics experiments over the past century.  I would be cheering for this exercise were it not for the amount of paperwork that goes along with it.  When else do you get the chance to mash up a vial full of carefully plucked fly heads?  I should explain that statement.  The lab specifically involves the chemicals in the fly's body which cause it to have a certain eye color (wild mix, brown, scarlet, or white).  The head mushing exercise is to get said chemicals into a solution so we can analyze their relative proportions, and thus come to conclusions about the flies' genotypes.  
     In case you were wondering, that delightful being which graces this page is a giant isopod, a huge seafloor-dwelling bug that can grow to in excess of six inches.  The diversity, tenacity, and utter beauty of the life which has evolved over countless millennia upon the surface of this insignificant dust mote which we arrogantly term the world has always been a source of awe and inspiration to me.  Equally awesome is the great likelihood that the same slow, painstaking process has occurred on, in all probability, billions of other worlds scattered through the immensity of the Cosmos.  It is all out there waiting for us, if we are only willing to show the necessary courage.  The courage to look up from the mire of death and pain and filth that surrounds us and grow, expand; become more than we were.  
     We have been sadly lax in this enterprise over the past thirty or so years (after all, funding Vietnam was so much more important than the space program).  Perhaps I am just being bitter;  I don't believe NASA could (or probably should) have continued to recieve the amount of funding it did in the sixties and seventies, but we retreated far farther than we had too, or should have.  Today, though, we have a chance to pick up where we left off, to continue the manned exploration and settlement of our solar system.  The new plans, plans which are recieving millions of dollars and serious attention, aim for a lunar base by 2025, and expansion from that point on.  If political support continues, we can look forward to a renewed and permanent manned presence on the lunar surface, the jumping-off point to the rest of the Solar System and an important destination in its own right.  
     We often hear of the billions of dollars poured into the space program, but few stop to think about what that means to them. The current plans estimate a thirty billion dollar budget per annum once the program gets into full swing.  You might be interested to learn that that amounts to $99.60 for each U.S. citizen.  Isn't the survival and expansion of the human species worth a hundred bucks a year?  Consider that we are currently spending about $9 billion a week in Iraq.  Whether you support the war or not is besides the point.  The point is the fact that an agressive, healthy space program requires each year the amount of money we spend in one month of fighting the current war.  I have to believe that anyone capable of rational thought and in posession of all the facts would agree that this expenditure is worth the effort.       
     A revitalized space program can act as the source of thousands of jobs, and can provide the draw necessary to get American kids  into science and engineering careers again, not to mention the ultimate effect of establishing footholds for our species beyond the Earth.  Once we have self-sufficient human enclaves spread through the solar system, our species becomes essentially indestructable.  No matter what happens to Earth, be it nuclear war, pandemic or asteroid strike, there is almost nothing that would be able to drive us all the way to extinction.  This is not a near term goal, but that does not mean that we should vacillate now, leave it up to another generation to deal with.  We have a chance to lay the foundations for one of the greatest events in human history, as important as fire, the wheel, writing, or even the neolithic revolution: the expansion of significant portions of the human species to environments beyond our homeworld.  
     If we fail to have the necessary resolve, I feel that future generations will judge us far more harshly than we could ever judge ourselves. 

Oh, and if you're interested, a lot of this info comes from an excellent article written by Carolyn Porco, for the New York Times:

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Current Mood: contemplative contemplative

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Well, hello!  This is my first bloggish sort of thing, and I hope for it to be an interesting and cathartic experience.  I want to be able to post often, but my workload may have other ideas.  You see,  I am a freshman at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, in upstate New York, and a Physics major at that, and have quite a lot going on at the moment.  I am starting this journal at the suggestion of someone I talked to over at OKcupid (where I took the nerd/geek test, and found out that I am "Tri-Lamb Material," e.g. an uber-nerd), so if you have any complaints, I suppose I'm not entirely to blame.  Well, I'll probably post again soon, this being new and all, but for now, I'm off to work on a bio prelab (yes, even physics majors have to take introductory bio). 

Current Mood: hopeful hopeful

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