Book Reviews, ASEs, and Just a Touch of Panic

Once more I write to you from a giant metal tube kept safe only by the collective force exhibited by, literally, thin air. I don’t care too much about the physics of airplanes normally, because normally I am much more interested in the science of nature (chemistry, biology, specific portions of physics, etc.) than I am in the science of things people make (engineering, most of electrical science, etc.). Once onboard an airplane, however, I find that I suddenly have a pressing interest in how it is that I’m not dying. Go figure.

We’ve left Belfast and are heading quickly for Chicago. Since I’ve spent my last two blog posts telling you about Belfast, I won’t comment further on the subject.

Planes provide a lot of reading time. I just finished Richard Feynman’s second book, Why Do You Care What Other People Think? Having read his first, Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman, I knew what to expect. Feynman is very witty, a little arrogant, and trying to act as if he’s simpler than he is. His description of why he loves science struck a chord with me… how understanding things increases their beauty. I have a lot of science-y friends, and one thing that amuses me about Feynman’s authorial voice, especially in some of his published letters, is that I can hear some of my friends’ voices in it. They share a particular economy of words characteristic to people who mostly deal with numbers. Overall, the book is very well written though I suspect Feynman had help.

I’ve also recently read The Martian, by Andy Weir. The book follows astronaut Mark Watney, who is stranded on Mars and must find a way to get home… and stay alive until NASA can pick him up. It’s a very enjoyable book and a fast read. Most of the time the tone is pretty light, despite the fact that the protagonist is always fairly close to death. Weir does a good job creating enough tension to keep things interesting without making the reader uncomfortable. The book is surprisingly well written for the product of a computer programmer. It’s also very accurate- I would be interested to learn about scientific inaccuracies in the book, but for the most part I was impressed by the attention to proper science (even, and especially, in the details.) My final conclusion after reading the book was that I should take at least one engineering course in college; even if it’s not my area of interest, it might save my life!

Yikes. That reminds me. College.

I’ll be at MIT in 17 days (!!!). The thought is fairly insane. I think I’m as ready as I can be academically,* but I’m really nervous for college in general. MIT’s workload is supposed to be insane, and I’m going to want to be involved in extracurriculars, and volunteering, and research, and a social life, and, and, and… I need to choose priorities that really interest me, and not overload myself. I have no idea how to do that.

The other way to look at it is that I have 17 days left before I go to MIT. I can hang out with my family and friends, get out on my bike, and generally enjoy the middle of August. I can mentally prepare myself. I can read more books.

Speaking of reading more books, I still have four and a half hours left on the plane. (I’m finishing this post at 7:20 AM, August 8th, Chicago time).

Wonder what I’ll do next…

Update: 10:45 AM Chicago time. I have run out of books. I am reading the Spanish language magazine out of desperation even though my grasp of Spanish grows more tentative with each passing day. We land at noon.

Update: 12:13 PM Chicago time. We landed early. My father is picking me up late. Waiting.

* With the exception of multivariable calculus. I want to test out of it, but I haven’t been able to make myself study it on my own, and I don’t think I’ll pass the test if I take it without studying. Then again, maybe I should take it without studying to get used to not being able to wing certain things the way I could in high school? (Hear the stuttering sound of self-justification.) Also, I don’t know if taking an Advanced Study Exam (ASE) to get out of multi will fulfill the med school requirement to take a semester of calculus in college, seeing as neither flavor of AP Calculus counts. (Which would be another way to test out of the med school requirement.) Even if I ASE out of multi, I might still have to take a semester of scary higher math at MIT, which is pretty intimidating. Also, Aunt Sally told me she took a lot of repeat courses her first year of college and didn’t regret it at all because it made the first year transition easier. I’m torn. I may just take it without studying too much (the heresy!) and not be upset when I inevitably fail. But I digress.


2 thoughts on “Book Reviews, ASEs, and Just a Touch of Panic

  1. How exciting: 17 days until the college adventure begins! I believe this is a near universal feeling of excitement, a bit of nervousness and expectation right before going to college. I remember getting hives (which I never had before) right before leaving for college as I was so excited. Then, there was the excitement of being initially assigned to a male roommate (by mistake), something I was definitely not ready for.

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