Emily Lam

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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Semester Four

Woah. Woah! WOAH!


Its almost May! The semester is almost over! I'm almost twenty! And I'm halfway through undergrad!

Mind blowing!

And naturally, because it's the end of the semester and I'm swamped with work, I decide to blog! =] Actually, this blog post is more of a reward. See, I made a list  thursday night of all the things I had due by the last day of classes, which is Wednesday the 2nd of May. The list ended up being pretty lengthy, 14 items, and some of them are time consuming assignments, projects and labs and such. So I told myself if I finished at least two items on my list a day, I would be in good shape. (This is an attempt to avoid a repeat of an awful experience in which I put myself in a situation where I had to finish 3 labs in the span of 48 hours. They were all due on the same day, just different times: 8am, 6:30pm, and 11:59pm. Throughout that experience, I felt I was slightly suffocating. But worse, I felt I was turning in work that was not my best effort, not up to my expectation. Although I miraculous did pretty well on all three labs, I want to avoid, as much as possible, having ever to do that again.) As of now, I have 6 assignments left and four-ish days left. However, the 6 assignments left are indeed the lengthy one. Nevertheless, I still feel pretty good and on track. So I'm rewarding myself with a blog post – I also want to make my goal of at least 5 posts a month.

Since the semester is coming to an end, I want to also include an update of my classes before it's too late. This semester has been a semester where I've had great professors across the board and learned the most of the 4 semesters I've taken. So here are some of the things that stick out from my classes:

Click if you want to read more. I've learned some interesting things.

Differential Equations.
I'm tired of mathematics. Really. I have taken so many mathematics courses. The sad thing is that I still have one more mathematics course: probability. But I'm putting that off as long as possible. The thing about mathematics is that it never ceases to introduce new operations. First you had your basic operations, then trig operations and exponentials were introduced, then derivations, and just recently I've learned the Laplace operator. It's crazy, I feel like it's never ending.

So what's something interesting I've learned? Well when a system's forced response is in resonance with it's period, the amplitude increases dramatically and the system eventually breaks. What does that mean? Well, remember when you were a kid and you were on the swings and you swung your legs at and in a certain way with the swing? Well the applied force of your legs' period – a period is just the how long it takes your legs to get from point A to B to A before repeating – was approximately the same as the swing's period. By swinging your legs in that manner, you made the swing go higher, i.e. the increasing amplitude part. The good thing about swinging on a swing is that you can't move your legs exactly at resonance, so the amplitude can't increase until the system breaks. But there was a case where a suspension bridge was poorly designed and this phenomenon was observed. As people were walking across the bridge, they were walking in period with the bridge, causing the bridge to sway. Of course, they had to modify the bridge, or else the bridge would have broke.

Modern Physics! 
Hah! I've learned so much in physics this semester it's ridiculous. I definitely recommend modern physics to everyone. The concepts are so amazing. Every class, I'm awed by the incredible theories the scientist are able to come up with. It's no wonder that they were awarded Noble Prizes.

What has stuck? Well you can't get sunburned under glass. Did you know that? I didn't. See what happens is that there is an energy gap in all materials not metals. And since energy is quantized, only quantized amounts of energy can be absorbed by the material if the energy is larger than the gap. So for metals, everything is absorbed, because there is no energy gap. That's why metals are such good conductors. For glass, however, the energy gap is large enough that light photons do not have the energy to overcome the gap and are not absorbed, so they go straight through and you see light. However, the ultraviolet rays from the sun have large enough energy to transcend this gap and get absorbed and not go through the glass. So therefore you can't get sunburned under glass because the radiation is being absorbed, but you do get light, because the light goes straight through the glass. Interesting, right?

Linear Algebra.
Again, I am tired of math. Linear Algebra is also a very rudimentary course, hence why it's only worth two credits. It's also a pretty pointless course. Most of linear algebra can be done on computers and even my calculator. There's litte need in actually knowing how to do it by hand. I've put little, if any, effort into this class. Because it's so basic, I expect myself to do decent in the class despite the lack of effort. Recently though, I have employed linear algebra methods to solve equations so it's not a completely useless class. The concepts are important, I guess . . .

Mechanics of Material.
Why am I screwing myself by majoring in electrical engineering. This class is proving that mechanical engineering comes much easier to me than electrical. But that could also be the fact that mechanical in general is regarded as the easier of engineerings. I think this is the case because it's so ever-present in our everyday life. The concepts are macroscopic and it's intuitive. I like mechanical engineering and I do plan on continuing my studies in mechanical engineering even though it won't be my major.

So let's see, what's one interesting thing that sticks out from that class? Well if you see a crack on your windshield and you can't afford to replace it, the best thing to do is drill a hole at the tip of the crack. This prevents the crack from spreading since you are increasing the surface area so that not all the force from driving (bumps, air resistance, etc) is on one tiny focal point at the tip of the crack. This decreases the overall pressure, and the windshield will last longer. So if you see any cracks, drill a hole. That's how they service airplanes when a crack is found. They drill a hole, so the aluminum sheet metal does not tear.

Software Engineering.
Basically programming in C++. Well yeah about that. I've learned something. I'm not going to be a programmer. If the occasion arises where I have to program, no doubt I am capable. I just don't like it very much. Programming brings out the perfectionist in me. Unless I am short on time, I will not submit a code that is not functioning correctly. It takes me awhile though to convince myself to start my programming assignments – I usually start the day the assignment is due. Oops. I'm very glad I took this course though, because there's no way I would have learned C++ on my own. I don't enjoy it enough.

Have I learned anything exciting? Not really. But everything I've learned is key to programming. I guess the most important thing I've learned is another reason why Microsoft Windows sucks. Programming on the Mac OS and Linux OS are way easier. There is a direct access to the terminal. And there's no need for the cluttered mess known as Visual Studio.

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