Category: math & science

Mourning my minor

My husband and I are back contingency planning. We might have an opportunity to return to Japan for a few years, or we might stay in San Diego until I graduate… or neither of those might work out, of course.

Regardless, now that I’ve finally matriculated and gotten a degree audit, I have a good idea for the first time of when I’ll be able to graduate. If I work more diligently than usual, have no medical emergencies, etc., March 2017 could happen, but June is more reasonable.

Of course, that’s assuming I take the straightest route, and abandon my mathematics minor dreams. I won’t take upper division linear algebra. I won’t take classes about cryptography, mathematical reasoning, abstract algebra, or even teaching high school geometry.

To many students–students who are just starting to drink legally, who live in a dorm room, who are not married, and have never had a career–a few months is nothing. In the grand scheme of things, I suppose that’s true anyway. But graduating a few months later, for me, would mean postponing other things that are more important to me than another handful of really interesting math classes.

So I’m spending more of my free time studying math on my own, and I’m planning on building up a better library of math books at home. When K. and I have settled more permanently, and if we are not too broke or overworked, maybe I’ll take more math classes at a local college after work. Maybe I’ll be that older woman who has a family and a degree and a job already, who can take the classes she wants, for herself, with zero pressure to even do well. I don’t know.

Anyway, I learned a linear algebra application problem today; you can balance a chemical equation using matrices instead of that weird, hard-to-explain-you-just-have-to-try-it method that people are taught in general chemistry classes.

Here is one I did earlier, just for fun:

001I discovered this because I started going through my old linear algebra textbook, which just makes the statement, “Chemists can use linear algebra to balance chemical equations.” I had to use the Interwebs to find an example of the process, and jog my memory a bit to realize why this works (which is too abstract for me to attempt to explain at this time).

So no math minor for me, but at least I can glean my old books, and eventually buy new ones. And in fall I’ve got one last math course to take for my major–which I guess I’ll just do my best to savor.

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To sublime

The short story of how I came to Christ:

Today I awoke late, around seven thirty, and I read a few pages of Kierkegaard’s Works of Love, the book which played such a great part in my Christianity.

When I was about fifteen, the title, The Sickness Unto Death, by the same author, attracted me when I happened to see it at Barnes & Noble. I asked my mother to buy me the book, as well as another which had something to do with Hinduism, an interest of mine at that time. Mother made me choose only one, and I can still remember how surprised she seemed that I chose the Kierkegaard title. The cover described the book as a “psychological exposition from a Christian perspective,” or something close to that, and my mother must have realized how (unfairly) biased against Christianity I was. She bought me the book.

One book led to another, and I found myself reading Works of Love. Around that time I was also taking a humanities class which required me to read several passages from the Bible in order to learn about the ancient Hebrew culture. Together, Kierkegaard and my teacher, Mr. Stewart (I use his real name because I think it is sufficiently common to maintain his anonymity), pried my mind open to just read about Jesus of Nazareth. Just read. Find out about the man. I began to read the Gospels.

I went to school one day after having been absent for a few days, and had to be excused from a biology exam. The teacher let me study on an old couch in the back room. I guess it was typically me not to study biology, but instead to casually read whatever I wanted, in this case, Works of Love. By that time, I had read enough of the Gospels to begin to understand. I remember the ratty couch, and that it was in a little corner, with a window behind it. There were all sorts of animal specimens in jars on the shelves nearby. It was quiet. I don’t remember the particular section of the book I was reading–though perhaps I will rediscover it soon, since I have begun to read the book for a second time–but I believed Jesus was the Son of God. In a moment, I believed it. It was perhaps the least complicated event of my life, profound.

St. Augustine wrote something about believing being like a man finally deciding to get out of bed, but I would rather describe my experience almost in a chemical sense of spontaneity. A flame suddenly burned. I was conscious of it being my individual choice to believe or not to, but it seemed inevitable almost, as if now I knew the truth–and Jesus Christ was the truth. Whether I believed or not, whether I worshiped or not, I felt that what I had learned about Jesus was the truth, and one day this would become impossible to deny; so although it was still possible for me to choose to deny the truth for the time being, it seemed like a foolish and futile thing to do. So I was given the gift of faith, but it was a separate action for me to receive it.

To sublime:

As I said, I read a bit of Kierkegaard this morning. Oh, what wonderful things were stirred in me! Have you ever read or heard something that you knew was true? Something you needed to hear from someone’s voice besides your own? Something that made you say aloud, “Yes! Yes. Yes, that’s right!”

Have you ever loved an unpopular book or an obscure movie or band, and met someone who loved it too? There is a certain joy in finding out that the object of your love is also the object of someone else’s love! Of course there is, for if you love something, of course you believe it is worthy of everyone’s love! This is a basis for friendship, as C.S. Lewis writes in The Four Loves. (He also writes in the same book about the type of “love,” I am talking about in this paragraph, which is really, “intense like.”)

There are sublime thoughts and feelings. Ideas or sights or smells or sounds, etc., that seem to elevate one into a greater sphere of existence. The transcendentalist writers wrote about the beauty of nature, of various social and economic ideals. The Romantic painters crafted great images, full of symbols and ideas and ideals. In America particularly were painted epic landscapes, scenes of nature–of storms on the sea or sunrise over a mountaintop–which still drop jaws today, and remove the viewer for a few moments from his or her existence. The viewer forgets he is standing in a gallery and he might’ve worn more comfortable shoes. Perhaps she even forgets to look at the work critically, for she is just rapt by what she sees: How can it be so beautiful? she thinks.

Similar things happen for some of us when we spend time alone in nature. For others it happens listening to certain music, or looking at an infant’s tiny hands, or inhaling the gentle scent of roses in the morning.

In chemistry, to sublime is to change directly from a solid to a gaseous phase, without ever being a liquid. Dry ice is perhaps the best known example. I learned the term at school with some solid iodine. The substance gains energy, breaks bonds, and becomes a gas, which generally have greater entropy than solids. Now it isn’t my point to rewrite all of my general chemistry notes, but it is interesting to me to compare the two definitions of ‘sublime’ that I know of. The universe tends toward greater entropy just as water tends downhill, and here we can simply think of entropy as a measure of how much freedom something has to move.

How much freedom. The greater the entropy, the greater the freedom–might as well just say freedom generally, since it isn’t like atoms and molecules have much use for any freedom besides ‘freedom of movement.’

To me it seems that a sublime experience is no different than this. Isn’t it just a little gift of freedom? When I listen to blues, it frees me to forget that I am even sitting in traffic. When I read Kierkegaard or study physics or mathematics, it frees me from the box my thinking has been confined to–it does not force me to think in new ways, it helps me to do so. When I love God or other people, it frees me from self-centered anxiety.

I think of the Biblical phrase, “hearing, they do not hear,” or “seeing, they do not see.” It may be that a certain openness is needed in a person before she is able to experience something so wonderful. There are people who are perfectly indifferent about baby’s hands or the smell of roses. They could walk right by a sunset still thinking about what an ass Mike from HR was this morning. They see the sunset, but they do not see it; and they miss out on something valuable.

And so there are two sides:

There is you, and there is the rest of all that is (what is I’ll let the philosophers argue about). There is you relating to God. You relating to your own idea of yourself. You relating to you mom. You relating to a stray animal, a meteor, a chilly gust, a disturbing new idea, a familiar scent, a man outside the convenience store.

Is it a choice to hear and yet not hear? To see and yet not see? Certainly it is sometimes. The story of The Good Samaritan is evidence that it is no new phenomenon for men to find excuses to look away when they see someone else in need. We all have a friend who refuses to read or watch the news because it is all house fires and wars–and a part of us does not blame our friend’s refusal because we understand it!

But while there is little mystery in humans avoiding what is unpleasant, what can we say when people seem to be avoiding beautiful things? What can we say about the man who misses out on sunset while thinking about Mike from HR? What can we say about the woman who has a hundred surgeries because she couldn’t see she was lovely to begin with? How am I to understand my brothers and sisters who are not only indifferent to, but who actually abhor being outside?

I can’t answer these questions completely. I suppose they can be accounted for in some cases by differences in taste. There are people who take joy in studying bugs after all, while for most of us the presence of a bug would only add disgust or heebie jeebies to an otherwise sublime scene. There is more to it though. There is the interaction, the relation, the decision.

Beauty is everywhere, like the gift of faith. But it does not force its way into your heart or mind. Rather it says, “Here I am,” and waits patiently for you to take ownership of it. You do not have to take it, but if you do, you’re glad. If you do, you think it would’ve been terrible if you hadn’t. When you take ownership of faith, you become a new person; to your bodily existence is added a new, spiritual dimension (and this is higher freedom). When you take ownership of beauty, you feel something similar because via your physical senses, you spirit is awed or inspired; to the spiritual life you already had, more is added, though nothing is taken away from the physical in doing this.

I don’t know why some see it and some don’t. I don’t know why some grab hold of faith or beauty when they do see it, and why others don’t. But here I have written about seeing and embracing both. It feels right.

On Evidence

Frequently I am skeptical of what people tell me about anything physical. Organic food, genetically engineered crops, natural remedies, the means of construction of ancient monuments–the list goes on and on.

I intend to be a scientist one day, and though I prize the scientific method, it is not for love of science only that I employ the method so often.

In the Navy there are those we call “sea lawyers,” and really, when I realized how many of these existed is when I decided I had better always check my primary sources. Sea lawyers are, by the way, sailors of any rank or rating who are apt to give uninformed advice and commentary. I liked to cite actual regulations to these people when I was in the Navy because they were so annoying, always trying to correct someone when they were the ones in need of correction.

Anyway, I never like to hear from a sea lawyer, or generally anybody who talks much about matters they know little of. But what I really never like is to think of being one of those people myself. So I endeavor to tell only the truth, as well as to believe only the truth.

It isn’t easy, necessarily, and here is where I come to my point:

We use quantitative information that is gathered in a controlled and repeatable way to say something is evidently true. To me, that is a fine way of saying how old Earth is or how Ebola is transmitted.

But physical evidence does not account for what is not physical, and there are things evident to me that can be neither confirmed nor denied by the tools of science.

My soul is evident to me. I am aware of it, and it is like breath which we all have, but are not all mindful of. There are innumerable physical realities, aspects of our bodies and environments, of which nearly all of us are ignorant. What about the spirit? What about existence, consciousness, ethics, and God?

I have experienced two miracles, but these are not even what convince me about the metaphysical. What convinces me is feeling the presence of Spirit, just like I feel my heart beat and would guess we all had a heart even if the world were totally void of the physical evidence for this.

I know I am comparing physical and spiritual things a little, but to what else can the spiritual be compared? In truth, is it really the physical truths that mean the most in our lives anyway? Is it not love and curiosity and joy and even greed and pride that move us (or paralyze us)? Is it strange that we all conceive of beauty, yet we cannot define it?

All I mean to say is that I perceive something beyond all I can ‘prove’ and it doesn’t seem like bad science to admit that I cannot test everything. Is it intuition? No, I don’t think so. There is a burning that I experienced before I was even convinced God exists, for instance. It’s something more. Something more. I know it like I know I love the ocean. I will use science to seek out the mysteries of the universe, but though it is almost taboo for a student to say, I will not limit my exploration to the places science can take me. I know I am more than matter.

Music & Math

I had a thought on my evening commute today that I wanted to note:

I think math must come from the same mysterious and wonderful place as music. Both can evoke feelings that words cannot describe; both can seem so true and so universal; and both can make you feel like you’re just glimpsing something that perhaps isn’t even fully comprehensible to human beings.

Wish I had more time to elaborate, but I must study.

Writing about stuff we like to do.

Isn’t it kind of funny? Sometimes I feel like writing about things I like to do almost as much as I like to do them. Maybe it’s because writing involves a lot of analyzing and re-imagining feelings and ideas over and over again.

Right now, however, I’m going to practice some mathematics, instead of writing about it. Perhaps over the holidays I will have more time to write.

Destiny

I was trying to think of how to title this post, and it’s just a pain. I’ve always been bad at writing titles for the purpose of getting attention (my English and journalism teachers knew this). I like titling things descriptively (my science teachers know this). I don’t know why. Anyway, I’m thinking about destiny. Fate. Predestination. Darma. “Meant to be.” I still don’t know how much I believe in it.

Destiny can be somewhat of a comforting idea, and I think it’s really powerful in movies and books. Frodo was destined to be the ring bearer, for example. It wouldn’t be as interesting if Frodo just sort of happened to end up taking the ring to Mordor. It’s not just a matter of interest though, but also a matter of making things believable. How did Frodo overcome all the odds to get that damned ring to Mt. Doom? Destiny. Because we hate to believe in chance, don’t we?

I’m not really trying to talk about Lord of the Rings though, and I’m not sure if Tolkien really thought of Frodo as being fated to carry the ring or not. It’s beside the point, but maybe I will return to it after I’ve graduated college and finally had time to reread the LOTR.

I’ve been thinking about destiny, fate, etc., and also the Christian idea of a calling. I think there are certainly general callings. For instance, if you’ve come to believe in Christ, you’ve been called to do certain things: love your neighbor, seek peace, praise God, look forward to the world to come. But people talk a lot about specific callings, most often having to do with occupations and/or ministries. They feel called to become a doctor or a priest or a teacher. They feel called to move somewhere to start a new church group. Sometimes the conversation then turns fuzzy. If God calls me to be a teacher, say, does that mean I was destined to be a teacher all along? If God says today that I am to be a teacher, does that mean he had always planned on saying that?

Partly this goes back to the clockmaker God debate, in my mind. Is God intimately, unceasingly involved in everything that’s going on in the world? Is he always putting just the right person in just the right spot and just the right time for infinitely many specific purposes? Or did he set it in motion, this gloriously intricate universe, already knowing everything that would happen? Either of these seem to suggest fate–but now I am being sloppy. Can the universe have a fate, but each individual planet not? Can the human race have a fate, but each individual human not? Can the Jewish people have a fate, but not each Jewish person?

I believe God has a plan, although I can’t honestly say from the top of my head what I base this belief on. I can’t think of any words from the bible that told me this, although maybe there are some, and they got the idea across without me remembering how. It’s not necessarily a logical conclusion either. I believe it though, at the moment. What I am unsure of is whether God has a plan for me. Did he really make me to do some specific thing? Or did he make me just because, and it doesn’t matter what I do, but rather how I do it?

Years ago, I read the Bhagavad Gita, an Indian scripture I am not qualified to analyze too deeply. Anyway, it partly deals with duty, and something called dharma, which has to do with what I’m talking about. One of the things I recall from the reading was the idea that a person can have a duty that he must perform, and that he must perform it, even if he had a greater talent for something else. I don’t remember if the person’s own desire was discussed. While I know there are many interpretations of this Indian work, and while it is not something I believe was inspired by God (like the Gospels, for example), I have always been open to different ways of thinking… and really, to different ways of asking. Many people I have talked to seem to think that a person’s “natural aptitude” or simply their interest in something is a good clue for that person toward what he or she should pursue seriously. But when I think of Arjuna’s story (the Gita), I’m not so sure this is a logical approach.

Firstly, say I have an aptitude for catching fish. I’m good at it. Am I good at it because God made me to be good at it? Or am I simply good at it because I grew up a poor fisherman’s daughter? Perhaps I would be just as apt at anything if I were experienced with it.

Next, say I am interested in journalism (which I actually was at one point). I’m so interested in it. I’ve studied it. I’ve practiced it. This seems problematic too because there are at least three things that are likely to happen: a) I get burnt out, b) I simply change over time and fall in love with something else (especially possible with something like journalism in which your job is really to learn about other things), or c) I always love it, but never am especially good at it.

None of these thoughts are getting me any closer to an answer though. Am I meant to do something?

I don’t know. It doesn’t bother me much, really, for all the writing I do on it. I just wish I had an opinion, but I really don’t. I could argue yea or nay. Watching Interstellar twice made me think of it. Studying physics makes me think of it. Being a Christian makes me think of it. I’m convinced that God created, made, and formed us. I’m even convinced of salvation through Christ, and the resurrection. But what about in between?

The other day I was thinking about where I might be someday. When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a professional equestrienne for a while. Of course. Then, for a long time, I was really interested in genetics, and I was sure that’s what I’d get into. I remember reading about the Human Genome Project, back when it was still years from completion. Other things caught my interest. I pursued one of them, the Navy, and even today, I’m not sure I was right to end that pursuit. One of the possibilities I still seriously consider is going back on active duty (though hopefully as an officer). Now I study physics. I’ve always been interested in it. I’ve loved math ever since I took my first trigonometry class. Did I ever see myself in this position though? Did I ever see myself as a physicist? Do I now? Well, I can.

The other day when I was thinking of this, I got a slight sense that I’m not sure I’ve felt before… if I have, it was a long time ago. I got this slight sense that, “I was doing this before.”

As I said before, destiny is sort of a comforting idea, but I’m still not sure I buy it. I’m not having an identity crisis or anything. I don’t think I tie too much of my identity into what I do, but maybe it would be easier if I did. If you’d asked me a couple of years ago what I wanted to do, I’d say I wanted to make films. You know, I still do, too. But I want to do a lot of things, and I want to study a lot of things. I already discussed how it can be problematic to just do things you like to do.

For now I am following curiosity and a little practicality. I am curious about many things, but I am studying in school the subject I think I have the least ability to learn by myself. I mean, I am curious about art history, but it is relatively easy to research it without a lot of help. Physics on the other hand?

Quantifying yourself

I’ve read more a couple of books over the years about how people who are trained in advanced mathematics and computer science have been able to increasingly quantify human beings. What I mean is that people become this amalgam of credit card transactions and GPS pings and ad-clicks. It’s an interesting enough subject, I guess, though I doubt I’ll read any more books on it (the second one I only read because my mother sent it to me).

But sometimes when we normal people feel upset or unsettled about being quantified one way, we ignore the fact that we do it to ourselves in other ways, and teach our kids how essential it is for them to do the same. What I’m talking about here are resumes and college applications. I’m finishing up my University of California application right now, and I realize maybe it’s a little deeper and a little weirder for me, being a transfer student as well as someone who took 5+ years off school to be in the military. But anyway, college applications want grades and test scores, the numerical representations of how good you are academically. They want to know about clubs and volunteer experiences and things, though I can’t say I have confidence that they look a lot at these things; and if they do, I don’t pretend to know what they want to see. Anyway, even that stuff gets broken down into years and weeks and hours. Did you have a leadership role? How many people? How often? How long? And what about awards? My entire life is broken down into lists… and it’s strange because when I think about what I’ve done, because I know how busy I’ve been and how hard I’ve worked, I feel like I’m doing okay. Not as accomplished as Mozart or Fermat or some other genius, but I don’t think I’ve just been sitting on my hands ever since the 9th grade either (which is as far back as the college application asks you to go).

But when I’m writing everything I can think of down… I wonder how inactive I appear to whoever looks at these applications. I can’t even write down my volunteer experiences because, although I have volunteered here and there my whole life, I’ve really never stuck in one role with one organization before. As for clubs and extracurricular activities, the truth is that I did the best I could in high school– but my family was poor, and I really didn’t have the option to do a lot of things. Poverty didn’t just affect me outside of school, but inside too. I remember physics class in high school. My main difficulty had nothing at all to do with the concepts or even math. My main difficulty was that we had assigned seats, and so I couldn’t choose to sit in the front so that I could see. I was stuck in a seat where I couldn’t see the board, so I couldn’t take very good notes. I couldn’t afford glasses, and I was too embarrassed to say anything to anyone. No one seemed to care anyway. They probably just thought I was lazy or stupid — not poor and blind. I couldn’t try to copy someone else’s notes later on either, because none of my classmates lived in my neighborhood, and I had no way to travel to their homes.

I’m not crying for myself. I’m just saying that I feel I’ve done quite a bit to overcome those old disadvantages. But I can’t escape the way those years look on paper. What can I say? Write a personal statement on my excuses for not being a straight A student in high school as well as a track star and the newspaper editor? I think that sort of statement would come off as nothing but excuses– and truth be told, I prefer to focus on the positive things anyway. But anyway, I sort of resent the application for the way it demands that I describe my life accomplishments so far. It’s so incomplete.

Eh, homework.

Thinking about the function of math

So what I’m thinking about is math. Nothing too deep here. When I was in middle school, I was enrolled in this program in Florida called MEGSSS. I don’t remember what that stood for, and I don’t know if the program still exists. What I remember is that it was a way for so-called gifted students (gifted at kicking myself in the ass) to finish high school pre-algebra, algebra 1, and geometry. I don’t know how standard it is, but when I was going through school, the sequence was:

  1. pre-algebra
  2. algebra 1 (or this could be broken into algebra 1a and algebra 1b)
  3. geometry
  4. algebra 2
  5. trigonometry/analytic geometry (or you could take pre-calculus at this point)
  6. calculus (I think they only offered AP at my high school)

Anyway, yeah it would’ve been advantageous for me to have stuck with MEGSSS back in middle school, but… I don’t remember why I didn’t. I not only dropped back a year (which was still considered a great thing, and would’ve allowed me to start geometry in high school), but I dropped back all the way to the regular-kids track. I remember that it was mildly embarrassing and ego-squeezing because most of my friends were smart kids whose affluent parents made sure their offspring had their shit together (and are probably all engineers or something right now). But why did it happen? I honestly do not remember having any difficulty with a concept. I know I was absent from school a lot, and careless about homework. I don’t remember studying at all until college.

But I had to apply to even get into that program, so what was I doing? It’s all foggy, but I know I must’ve had an interest and/or aptitude in the first place, back in elementary school. Gosh, now that I think of it, I even took Algebra 2 twice. Who does that? Okay. Fast forward a little — when I finally made it to trig & analytic geometry in senior year. I loved it. Was it the teacher? The triangles? The abstractness? Something to do with my age? I have no idea, but it was great!

Then I saw Good Will Hunting and A Beautiful Mind, movies that at the time were old to everybody else. Growing up, my family didn’t watch many movies. We only saw what was on broadcast TV, which, to me, seemed to always be Batman or something equally uninteresting. But at the end of high school, when I was studying trig, is when my now step-father entered the picture. What the hell has that got to do with anything? Well, he’s a movie guy, so living with him meant I ended up seeing tons of movies I’d never seen before. Being a naive ass teenager, man, I was so crazy about those two movies. I’m not sure if I was infatuated with John Nash, or if I wanted to be him. And Good Will Hunting? Don’t get me started.

So my interest in math was growing. I had been introduced to a couple of philosophical concepts from my personal reading, and also from humanities classes, and this contributed to the math fascination. What is infinity? What is time? What is change? Is there one answer to all of our questions, or multiple? I mean, if philosophy can fuck you with definitions and endless questioning, math can do that too. What, I ask, is a number? I don’t know if many people ask that sort of thing, because numbers are part of an idea we work with constantly — but even in the fairly low-level math I deal with now, we still specify among types of numbers: real, imaginary, natural, etc. Oh, it’s awesome.

I got interested in math partly because it seemed like a language. (Now that I know just a little baby bit about programming, the language thing seems even more apparent to me.) I thought maybe I’d like to get into math in college, and I got a book called, “Letters to a Young Mathematician.” I don’t remember who wrote it, and I actually didn’t finish it. I’m sure it’s somewhere in my mom’s house still. I was really into that book because the author would talk about the beauty and elegance and fascination that I was just beginning to perceive.

Aaaannnnd… six years later, I went back to college, started my first semester with a trigonometry class. Awesome. The unit circle. Pre-calculus I didn’t like because it was taught mostly as a long review, because I didn’t learn how I’d be applying anything to calculus, and also because my professor assigned an ONLINE TEXT BOOK, which just doesn’t work for me. Whatever.

But over this previous summer, which is kind of when I started writing, calculus was just… tickling something in my brain. If I’d had more time, I would’ve read some philosophy books and the Bible, and pondered some questions for fun. The class was by no means easy — I worked at it every single day, including weekends, and only got a B — but it was fun. It was just cool. It really intimidates me to think someone made this up (or discovered it, if you think of it a different way), but it’s just so, so cool. I loved the analytic geometry side of it, and even the Riemann sum. It’s just conceptually so interesting. Don’t ask me why I like to envision 3-dimensional shapes, break them apart, and ask questions, but I do. And the practical arm of it doesn’t even appeal to me that much.

In humanities classes, especially the modern art class I took, we’d talk about art’s function or lack thereof. Does art have a social function necessarily? Does it communicate? Should art be created for its own sake?

Well, I don’t care much about that. Art history is an extremely interesting subject, but it’s subjective, and therefore, never ending. But I apply the question to mathematics: Should we do math for its own sake, or only for practical purposes?

I can’t remember my view on this as a kid, but nowadays, you’d never hear me ask, “When will I ever use this?” I’m only interesting in using math in the sense that using it is necessary to remembering it and getting better at it. Unlike my physics professor, for whom mathematics is “just a tool,” I kind of just like the idea of it. I honestly doubt my ability to ever do anything with math in real life. I don’t know if I am that good a problem solver or creative thinker. I still want to learn as much as I can. It feels like something worth doing. It makes me feel good somehow. It intrigues me. That’s why we date people and sometimes even marry them, isn’t it? They just make us feel a certain way. They intrigue us. It isn’t simply about sex, and it’s not about practical matters like his income or her social connections (at least not for normal people). I didn’t have a reason to follow my then-boyfriend to the other side of the globe to pursue our relationship. I didn’t have a reason four years later when I married him. He made (makes) me feel a certain way.

So while I don’t care about math being practical or not, and I didn’t have a practical reason (motive) for marrying my dearest, there’s another way studying math is like marrying the one you love:

Just because you weren’t setting out for some practical benefit, doesn’t mean you won’t get one!

I don’t know a lot about mathematical history, but I’ve read that many branches of mathematics were only found to have practical applications decades later. Even without a time delay, obviously, math does have applications in everything! It does help us with commerce, every branch of scientific investigation, building things, destroying things, and even healing people (you need math to administer the right amount of medicine to someone, for example; and math was also necessary in the development of tons of diagnostic tools and machines). So marriage yields un-looked for benefits as well — financial, legal, emotional, social, and other benefits.

I’m not going anywhere with this, just writing my feelings and observations. Now I’m taking calculus 2, and the first day was pretty tough. Sometimes I “go with” something for a while before I ever figure out why it is that way. I don’t know…. but I really, really like it. I’m trying hard to have a Christian attitude free from worry, fear, ambition, and impatience, too. A couple of weeks ago at Mass, the priest said something… something that made me realize I don’t want to have the wrong attitude about my education. I am intimidated and afraid, and I do feel inadequate and stupid, if I allow myself. But worrying won’t increase my height! Sufficient to the day is the evil (or, as I fondly remember reading from a very old German Bible, “die Plage”) thereof. Since I’ve started working on this sort of spiritual aspect of being a student, I’ve felt better. I’ve liked the math more. Where is it going? Where am I going? I don’t know.

I shall now conclude, however, as the album I was listening to has. I have work to do.

Physics 1 Day 1

Not too intense. Just some stuff on vectors, basic trigonometry that I’ve “learned” probably three or four times now. I’m not saying I didn’t have my dumbass moments, and I’m not saying I’ll get an A on my lab report; but the day didn’t seem too intense.

The only thing is, which I kind of half expected, but still wasn’t stoked about, it that literally within the first minute of lecture, my professor had to refer to religion. Atheist scientists today act like science has always been dominated by atheists. Why can’t we just study how the world works without the religious debate? I’ve never tried to convert someone to Christianity in a science (or any other) class. Why must I be subjected to irrelevant atheistic views at school? I remember before I was a Christian, how annoying Christians could be — and sometimes I am annoyed by my own people, or even myself. Everyone — yeah, everyone! — is a hypocrite sometimes. Why is it that when a Christian violates his or her own moral code, oh, that person is a lousy, self-righteous hypocrite; but when an atheist violates their moral code (which is more subjective anyway), yeah, it’s just human nature? Why is it that if a Christian so much as mentions the Bible, or invites someone to church, they’re “pushing religion” on people; but when atheist teachers talk against religion in class (which, btw, is not necessary to discuss evolution, physics, or anything scientific), or a group of Darwinists set up tents at local book fairs and things, that’s “free speech?” Give me a break. I’m glad not believing in anything but the utter meaninglessness of it all makes some people feel smarter than everybody else, but it’s so tiresome. I really don’t have any lofty goals, and I won’t be surprised if I end up back in the Navy in a few years, but really, I think it would be so badass to make some great contribution — you know, become a scientist that laymen have actually heard of — and then make a public confession something like this:

So now that you guys think I’m pretty intelligent and reasonable and scientific in my methods, and that I’m not that bad of a person to be around… hey, did you know I’m a Christian?! And even worse, I’m a Catholic!

Two issues with that are 1) All of my scientific work would probably just be renounced after that, even if it meant saying, “No, we think the earth is actually a Borg cube” or something ludicrous like that, and 2) to live as a Christian in the right way, you can’t hide it, I think. Didn’t Jesus say, if you have a light, you put it on the table? Didn’t he say we’re the light of the world? Whatever good we do should be to glorify the Father?

I’m not saying that I would go around randomly inviting my colleagues to Mass, but I am saying that somebody is going to see me walking around with an ash cross on my forehead some time. Ehhh.

Anyway, it’s nothing new. Ever since I became a Christian, I’ve dealt with this stuff. It’s just crazy that Christians rarely outside of the abortion debate and mmmmmmayyyybbbee evolution in some places, try to inject their religion into anything. But constantly these innocuous bits of Western humanity’s Christian past are being shoved out or attacked or… really just made too much out of. It’s a waste or time to have government officials working on whether or not some old cross on a hill should be taken down, or whether “under God” being in the pledge of allegiance violates someone’s rights.

Who gives a shit? If I truly didn’t believe in something, I can’t imagine hating it so much. That’s all. I don’t have time to keep rambling on this. GYM TIME.