Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Annihilated Ammeters, Broken Beakers, Crushed Crucibles

It's one of those glorious near-autumn days, the sort which ought to last for weeks. It's one of those superb edge-of-summer moments, in which the leaves are falling but the mercury isn't. It's that very instant in which the heart - not the brain - becomes the seat of awareness, and it aches with the beauty of the world. This is the very essence of life, condensed beyond belief yet in no way wanting for detail.

I was there, in the University Quad. And all I could think about was how absolutely shitty a Chem lab can make one feel. Missing the first one (having transferred into the course a little late) was bad enough, but now the weight of everything I am expected to have weighs heavily on my shoulders. It wouldn't be so bad if I had a fucking clue as to where I might be able to procure any of it! In an ideal world, I love Chemistry. The prof in his classroom sheds much-sought-after light on important questions, such as "what is the basic nature of matter?", and "what reactions allow life to function as it does?", which span the realms of science and metaphysics. The grandeur of life is so much more appreciable when one understands that life, however briefly, defies entropy. No reaction does, of course, and when the sun burns out, all will be lost...but for our brief span on this Earth, our very presence screams "I should not be, yet I AM!". Perhaps we will discover, in time, that life is a natural state of things, and that we all play our part in grinding down the Universe into homogenous dust. Indeed, it is likely we do. Still, the easiest path would be for the Earth to become a lifeless rock, as Mars has. This being not the case makes us - for the moment - something special.

TAs, on the other hand, don't so much illuminate as turn the FBI-surplus interrogation lamp to 11, and help you answer questions like "why aren't you prepared?", and "how did you add the silver nitrate if you hadn't calculated how much was needed yet?". The answer to the latter is that I didn't, the other TA came by while I was number-crunching away - the only sanctuary I had available - and threw our experiment together on the hot plate (at least, that's what I saw out of the corner of my eye...). TA's discuss within earshot of you how to give you a mark less than zero for pre-labs, etc. The best a TA can say is not "why, you were late to this class. Here, have a list of stuff you need", but "I'm giving you a 1 on your pre-lab because you had something scribbled on a piece of paper". Thanks a fucking load, buddy. I'm completely disoriented, I have no lab notebook, nor the lab procedures, and you're acting like I've been here from day 1 and I'm an incompetent!

Fortunately for my TAs, I've come to a realization which will spare them the trouble.

When people ask me about my science marks (hell, about any marks), I change the subject. A cousin of mine criticized my schedule for being "too light on the math and science". To be honest, I haven't the heart to tell them that I've given up on the both of them. I'm not taking Chemistry because I'm particularly facinated by it, I'm taking it because I had a dream once, and I've not been able to let go. For years, I knew what I wanted to be: I was going to be an Aerospace Engineer. I was going to be the next Burt Rutan, I was going to follow in the footsteps of Von Braun. I was gonna build fuckin' SPACESHIPS, and I was going to be the chief engineer on a Star-Trek-Style-Riverboat-Fantasy-In-Space. I never really asked myself if I thought it was possible, I even held onto it as my Math and Science marks fell with every successive year. The clues were hidden all along: I've never been good at logic puzzles, you might as well give me the Gordian Knot and no sword as pass me a Su Doku, and I've never acutally solved a rubik's cube. I've never done any model rocketry, and I'm about as mechanically inclined as a slime mould. I'm so bad at Science, in fact, that I DID NOT PLACE in the Aventis Biotech Challenge. I did research on Ginseng and U87MG glioblastomas, and I don't even know if the judges placed us higher than a group whose project name was "Hot Potato" (which, incidentally, came off as less scientific than a potato clock)! If people like me ever got to designing and building spaceships, the Astronaut fatality rate would begin to resemble that of Los Angeles.

I'm a rational Atheist, and for all that, Science still hates me. What gives?

So, please don't ask me about all those spaceships I'll never build, or all those chemical equilibria that I'll never solve. Ask me about what I want for the future, now that I think I'm ready to let go of the past. I'll never stop loving science: Its rational inquiery, the steady improvement of human life through technology, not to mention the best world view there is...but I can't go back. It was an abusive relationship, and it ends here


I am NOT a Scientist

Not Anymore


Evey said...

More than stoichiometry does it take, a scientist to make.

definition of scientist: a scientific investigator. You will always be a scientist, Loud.


GoldMatenes said...

You think when others do not.

It puts you at a cognitive level far beyond those who learn by rote and not by purpose.

Anyone who can successfully apply the scientific method and take sheer joy in reaching a conclusion is a scientist.

No houndstooth-jacketed-sneering-grad-student-type should take away that joy. In fact, they likely don't have it themselves, from forcing themselves to synonymise "Discovery" with "Education".

Loud said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Loud said...

(Stupid Lack of a comment editing function)

Ok, I'll admit that a day removed from the lab, life seems so much more full of joy and potential than it did then...

And thank you for reminding me that I cannot escape my nature so easily, nor should I wish to

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