Thursday, July 21, 2011

Great Advice

Today I was very glad to sleep in and get food at the local store instead of waking up early. I got a couple of bagels and some milk and walked out of the amazing air-conditioned store into some of the most intense heat I’ve ever endured. Sure, I’ve visited Death Valley in California where temperatures can hit in the 130® Fahrenheit, but the thing I’m not used to is the humidity and heat combination. I tried my best, but I was sleepy and unfocused for most of the day.

What made the day interesting was that we had two guest lecturers instead of one like the rest of this week. The first lecturer talked about space and particle cosmology. One of the side interests in science I have is astronomy, so I focused intensely as I tried to absorb what he was saying. Perhaps the most interesting thing that our first guest talked about was the effects of general relativity. After Einstein had his amazing year and came up with his theory of general relativity, people found it interesting, but his theories were really untested and therefore worthless until they were proven to accurately model nature. One of the coolest predictions of general relativity is that when there is a large amount of mass in between the observer and a light source behind the mass is that the mass will bend the path the light takes. Even cooler, when the observer, mass, and light source all line up exactly, the light is bended around and appears as a beautiful ring of the original source. When these rings were found, although it was many years after Einstein came up with his theories, general relativity was again proven to be a superior model to Newton’s “Law” of gravitation.

Dr. James Agurie was our second guest lecturer. James spoke primarily about his field, radio astrology. What is cool about radio astrology is that radio waves are a vastly different wavelength than light, so you can get very different properties of stars and other wave sources in space than with visible light. One of the interest groups in our class spent the last several days on the roof using a radio telescope to look at the sun. Anyways, radio astrology is pretty cool stuff, and I enjoyed James’ lecture a lot.

One of the things that I have discovered during my stay here at UPenn is that living independently makes it extremely easy to develop daily habits. While I am quite satisfied with my studying and social habits, one of my recent goals has been to begin learning Italian. After class, I headed to the Penn bookstore and purchased a Berlitz “Essential Italian” book to begin learning. The book came with an audio CD to follow along and learn how to properly pronounce all the words in the book that was quite useful.

I hung out with some friends in my friend Fred’s room for a while, and then it was time to get dressed up to go out to dinner. While wearing a black suit in the 95 degree heat wasn’t great, the dinner turned out to be fabulous. The restaurant we went to was in Center City Philadelphia, and it was called La Croix. The restaurant was located in a very fancy hotel and was right next to a beautiful courtyard. However, what made the meal fantastic was not the setting but the company. Charles was careful to have us each take seats next to people that we could learn a lot from. I was sandwiched between two current UPenn students. The first one that I met was named Sam Gilbert and the guy on my left was named Sean. I spent almost the entire meal conversing with Sam because, as I quickly found out, he had interests very similar to mine. At this moment, I am open-minded about where I’ll go to college, but the top of my list includes UPenn, MIT, Stanford, UC Berkeley and UCLA. I found out that Sam had been accepted to Columbia, MIT, and UPenn. Sam was kind enough to tell me that he chose Penn because he visited each campus and stayed overnight and that the UPenn students were extremely accommodating and friendly and that he instantly felt at home. Even better than having similar interests in colleges, Sam and I have very similar interests in academic subjects. At the moment, I am most strongly interested in a science major that will lead me down the path of researching or somehow being involved in the field of green energy. Sure enough, Sam turned out to have spent the last four years of his life studying Mechanical Engineering at UPenn and he was eager to tell me all about his program.

The first thing that Sam told me was that the engineering program at Penn still leaves you room to try some other classes for fun which he said was quite valuable to him. This sounded great to me because science is my primary interest, but I still want to study other things such as foreign languages. Another interest that Sam and I share is studying abroad. I absolutely want to study abroad while I’m in college, and Sam told me about how he spent time abroad during the summer which he thought was a nice fit for him because he didn’t have to interrupt his classes during the regular year. Beyond these things, Sam shared a ton of practical advice about housing, cooking, athletics, and just making the most out of his experience at UPenn. In fact, he had such a good time that he’s going to spend another 4 years getting a veterinary degree here. I very much appreciated Sam’s advice and friendliness, and I think conversing with him has been the most influential conversation I have had about college ever.

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