Thursday, February 24, 2005

When Awe Is Overrated

The book on my bedside table is Robert H. March's "Physics for Poets." I borrowed it from the library when I wrote an essay about my former Physics teacher. It was a Brother who recommended to me this book. I was browsing through this big astronomy book and he seemed pleased that someone was interested in the sciences. He then told me about March's book and how good and comprehensive it was.

Indeed it is. What is good about the book is that while it is an introductory text to Physics, the author, Robert H. March, approaches the subject in a way that he tells a story. The story of Physics.

Here are some of the things that I find enlightening that I wish to share with you, dear reader/s:
An idea must be more than right--it must also be pretty...

. . . .

...It has become a cliche to call a scientific research a great adventure. Well it may be; but the student approaching his first hard science course with this maxim in mind is in for a rude shock. Rarely does much of the sense of adventure manage to come through the hard work, for the subject matter often seems both difficult and dull. The student headed for a scientific career is usually told that he must face years of diligent drill before he can understand anything really profound.

But one wonders how many peope would love music if they were required to master a good deal of piano technique before they were allowed to listen to, for example, the Beethoven sonatas. True, a concert pianist probably enjoys the sonatas on some levels denied to others, but a reasonably sensitive person with totally untrained fingers can appreciate their becauty.

. . . .

It is possible to understand nature in terms of approximation to an ideal state even if that state cannot possibly exist in nature.
Finally, I love it when he said, "The worst possible attitude with which to approach the study of physics is one of awe."

There's more, but that's it for now. Take care.

Monday, February 21, 2005

The Burden Of Requirement

In Creative Non-Fiction class, we've been asked to write 30 journal entries. Why is it that after having that requirement, all things that are happening to me suddenly seem trivial and uninteresting?

The truth is, all things that are happening to me are trivial and uninteresting. The difference is, I make a big deal out of them. I am a master of sensationalizing my life.

Now that a journal is required, the word and act of contemplation becomes icky.

You see, last Saturday, I went home as I usually do, I rode an FX. In that particular night in that particular FX, there was this huge cockroach. I sat at the middle part of the vehicle, beside the right window. The cockroach was walking at the back of the front seat. It was very near me. It was the first time I've seen such ugly and big cockroach that it made the cockroaches in our house cute. Here is an illustration:

I was terrified and disgusted to death. But since God is good, that particular cockroach, unlike the cockroaches in our house, doesn't fly. The second person at my left tried killing it using her Johnson's baby powder. Calmly, she crushed the pest. It wasn't one quick thump, no, it was one long grueling squishing (as she was trying to crush it against a soft surface.) Like all roaches, that one was still alive after you thought you've killed it. It walked towards the passenger's seat. The man beside me grabbed the girl's Johnson's baby powder and did his own squishing and in one huge effort, there was that sound--the cockroach's innards oozed out. The driver grabbed a plastic bag and the passenger beside him took it, wrapped it in her hand and then took the remains of the cockroach. She finally threw it outside the window. I definitely froze while all that was happening and the hair at the back of my neck stood. I almost opened the door to go out, but my senses caught up with me. I didn't want to be that maarte girl.

Would I tell this story for my journal requirement? Well, if I am in my normal mode, I would've easily turned this event into something profound, political, poetic, significantly comic, or all of the above. But since there is a consciousness of writing for a grade, I lose my appetite for sensationalizing. For now, that event is just icky.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Some Words

An afterword from R.H.M.'s well-loved Physics book:
To be human is to wonder. Children wonder for a while, before we teach them to be smug about the obvious and to stop asking silly questions. It is easier to pay someone to retain a little of the child and do our wondering for us. We then take comfort in the assumption that anyone devoted to such esoteric pursuits must be insensitive, perhaps even inhuman. With our artists, we perform the equal disservice of regarding them as too sensitive.

Occasionally we are given a glimpse of the finished product. the baby is displayed beind glass, well-scrubbed, and one need not know about the delivery room (it is soundproofed). Thus we are spared the agony of wonder, which is not unlike love and makes as little (or as much) sense as love. But wonder is just too human to fully repress, and it does turn up elsewhere. Some of us turn to fads for the occult, which, interpreted by our twentieth-century minds, becomes a "pop-art" science. More often, we find ourselves left with nothing to wonder about (or to love) but what remains of ourselves after the loss of yet another portion of our humanity.

I, for one, refuse to believe that nothing can be done about this empty place, or about the more general disease of which it is but a minor symptom. But as long as we are sundered so, let me remain one of the children and wonder.
—Robert H. March
From Ervin, my friend, who wonders:
ang tanong: paano mo babasahin ang isang
tula kung naglalakad ito?
Words make the world. Go round.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

The Story So Far

I want to write something better than this
(I strive to be in a better state of mind):

Am about to finish my first year of graduate studies and time has never run faster than this. I'm still sort of--floating. Not that wind association. Meaning directionless. The wind has direction, I don't.

I completely appreciate Carla's job hunting accounts. She's able to articulate some things (feelings) that'll take me years more to talk about, simply because I got so frustrated. Therefore her mere act of telling such stories is something I envy. One thing we have in common is that we both finished with a BA degree in Literature. Now, no matter what the professors in the Lit Dept. say about how wonderful Literature is (yes it is truly wonderful and I believe that with conviction), they will never convince me that it is something you take up as a major if you envision yourself working in a corporate environment.

Ah, the corporate world...

It's true (this is the part where I talk strictly to myself and indirectly to you, my gorgeous reader): even for a job that requires you to be creative, the people and environment makes you soulless. You'd become a yaya to your boss; you'd be accused of having an attitude problem; everyone around you is stupid and those very stupid people are the ones with the C.E.O. and G.M. title; they gossip maliciously... And they're paying you how much?

I'm a pressure cooker incarnate. And this is one of those moments (merely) when I just have to let the heat out.

By the way, everyone I know seems to be resigning from work. Why? (Because they can afford to.)

So there are those who want to get in and those who want out.

Me? I'm beginning to really consider marrying Richard Gutierrez. He's rich and handsome and he can work all he could, party all he could while I take care of the money. But of course you know that being the person that I am, I cannot simply settle on rich and handsome. And Richard Gutierrez is really too neat for me.

So how about school? Um, well, er...

...after 5 hours...

Lord, I just want another fiction teacher in the next school year for the second fiction class. (And I'm not being unfair here to my previous teacher, as I've already reported her to the Department Chair and Graduate Studies Coordinator. Meaning I have followed proper grievance proceedings.) They say it's her birthday today. Happy birthday to her.

That's the story so far. No story. Sorry.

Saturday, February 5, 2005

This Center
(primarily titled 'Lessons On Life And The Like, After Mr. Delfin Angeles')

1. Notes on Distance and Displacement
"I took the one less traveled by." - Robert Frost
distance - length of a travelled path; without direction
displacement - how far an object is from its starting point; a quantity with definite direction

scalar quantity - has magnitude only
vector quantity - has both magnitude and direction

2. Law of Interaction

- There is no single force;
- forces act in pairs;
- 2 forces are equal in magnitude, but opposite in direction;
- they don't act on the same body.

3. Law of Momentum

In any collision, the sum of all the momenta before collision is equal to the sum of all the momenta after collision.

4. Notes on Universal Gravitation

- Any two masses in the universe attract each other with force.
- The force of gravitation between any two masses is directly proportional to the product of their masses and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between their centers.

5. Notes on Relative Motion

Every thing moves. Even things at rest are moving relative to something else--the sun and the stars. For example, a book that is at rest relative to the table it rests upon moves at about 30 km/s relative to the sun and it moves even faster relative to the center of our galaxy.

Carl Sandburg

Pile the bodies high at Austerlitz and Waterloo.
Shovel them under and let me work--
               I am the grass; I cover all.

And pile them high at Gettysburg
And pile them high at Ypres and Verdun.
Shovel them under and let me work.
Two years, ten years, and the passengers ask the conductor:
               What place is this?
               Where are we now?

               I am the grass.
               Let me work.
When we discuss the motion of things, we describe motion relative to some reference point. For example, when we say a train travels at 200 km/h, we mean relative to the track. Unless stated otherwise, an object's speed is taken to be relative to the surface of the earth.

All this is theory.

(After Delfin Angeles and his notes.)