Never Gonna Give It Up

*blows dust off blog*

Hello there!

So the reason that I haven’t posted is not that I haven’t been studying. It’s just that I haven’t been studying very much. It took me 3 weeks to finish what I had scheduled for a week of studying. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why my productivity has plummeted. There’s a lot of other things going on in my life, to be sure. My family was on vacation nearby, I’ve finally gotten approved to buy my condo, my boyfriend came back from his long trip, etc. But mostly I think I’m just shifting down to enjoy my last couple weeks before the flurry of moving, classes, and all that jazz. I am going to have lots of time to study in the next few years!!

But that doesn’t mean I’m totally giving up on my studies. I still like to be productive (at least a little) and I am enjoying going through this material. I’m just not going to be too hard on myself if I can’t stick to a rigorous schedule.

Since my last post, I have continued on with Bob in the Stars section, reading 3 chapters: The Fate of Massive Stars, The Degenerate Remnants of Stars, and General Relativity and Black Holes. The general relativity stuff is necessary to discuss black holes, but it did feel a bit out of place at first and I had to check back to make sure I was still in the Stars section! These are really fascinating topics, getting into some of the extremes of nature that are on the edge of the field today. My first class this upcoming quarter is going to be on stars and I am really looking forward to it!

I also made some progress through Mathematical Methods and the diff eqs chapters. I finished the chapter on series solutions of ODEs and made it through the chapter on eigenfunction methods for differential equations. To be honest, I am feeling like this is going over my head at this point, but I am trying not to let it upset me. Sitting at home with a pencil and piece of paper and the calculator on my phone trying to work through Bessel’s equation and Legendre’s equation isn’t exactly the best test of my mathematical abilities. I am just focusing on reading through the material now and trying to follow the authors’ arguments as best I can.

I didn’t do much coding over the past couple weeks. I worked through the chapter about errors and accuracy, but that was pretty short and was mostly just about some practical issues and not really new coding. But I am feeling pretty comfortable with Python now, so I hope that I can work with it as needed and continue to learn (and perhaps learn more languages if needed).

In the next couple weeks, I plan to continue to work through Mathematical Methods and An Introduction to Modern Astrophysics. I don’t know if I’ll finish, but just do what I can. I also intend to get more into some of the info that my advisor has sent me about the project I anticipate working on.

Today I Don’t Feel Like Doing Anything

So, here we are, another week closer to my start date and another week of lackluster productivity. Last week I was visiting my boyfriend and, although I brought all my study materials, I didn’t get a lot done. I planned to get back to it this week but…the best laid plans of mice and men, I suppose. I had 10 study assignments planned and I only got through 4. Of course I am still hoping to hit some more this weekend but getting through all 10 seems unrealistic. But no use in being hard on myself! I’m still enjoying the studying, I just have a lot of other things on my plate and I think I am trying to savor this vacation/free time as I know it will be gone soon! So I am going to appreciate all the things I did get done (a 2000 piece puzzle and some freelance writing and fiction editing and over 10,000 steps a day!) and the free time I’ve had (hello, bingeing on Insecure and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and re-reading Wheel of Time for the fourth time). Plus I did do some studying! So what did I actually get to?

I read two chapters in Bob, both still in “The Nature of Stars” section. These two were Main Sequence and Post-Main-Sequence Stellar Evolution and Stellar Pulsation. Super interesting! I also found out that Stars will be one of the first classes I take in grad school, so it’s nice to be brushing up on it now. The chapter on MS and post-MS was super long but full of so much good information. I also appreciated the timing of the chapter on pulsation because it actually ties into a video that I am planning on recording soon (today, maybe?). Overall, I am about 40% through the textbook, so I need to pick up the pace a little if I want to get through it all.

On the math side, I continued my work on differential equations. This is a big topic (6 chapters of the text), so I’ll probably be on it for a bit! I moved on from first order ODEs to cover higher order ODEs and started on series solutions for ODEs. Not going to lie, there was some tough going in there, mostly in recognizing which method will work to solve an equation. Not always easy, but satisfying to be able to work them out.

Lastly, I did get a bit of a chance to continue working on my physics Python. I completed the chapter on graphics, including a pretty sweet rendition of the Mandelbrot set (which only required the tiniest bit of help from Stack Overflow). I started the next section on accuracy and error, which is a little less exciting than making rotating 3D graphics, but definitely very vital when doing calculations and data processing using Python.

So, that’s where I’m at! Totally not freaking out about next month. Not at all. Just enjoying life! Okay, maybe a leeeeetle of column A, little of column B!

Playing Catch Up

I haven’t updated all week! But not because I haven’t been studying, dear readers. Never that! It’s just that I fell behind rather early on this week (Tuesday), and I kept telling myself I’d post when I caught up. But then I never caught up. At least, not until today! Had to devote some of my “weekend” time (as if I don’t have enough free time right now, but it’s nice to have designated days that I don’t stress myself out as much—plus I usually use the extra time for writing) to studying, but I finished my self-assigned studies for the week!

It was quite an interesting week, really. The Bob material ramped up really quickly and got very tough, but it’s all fascinating. I continued the section on stars, and I covered 4 chapters: The Classification of Stellar Spectra, Stellar Atmospheres, The Interiors of Stars, and The Sun. The chapter on atmospheres was a doozy and the one that got me behind on Tuesday. Really, these chapters had everything. Complicated math, analytical solutions, numerical solutions, searing temperatures, nuclear fusion. Super cool stuff. The proton-proton chains! I forgot that in astrophysics we just call everything that isn’t hydrogen or helium “metals”. Oxygen, carbon, nitrogen—all metals!

Speaking of complicated math, I had a couple chapters in Mathematical Methods this week as well. They covered Fourier series and integral transformations (primarily Fourier transforms, but also Laplace transforms). For some reason I was intimidated by the faint memory of Fourier series, but it actually ended up being relatively straightforward. I was able to follow along and work out the examples, and I only swore a couple times. Definitely useful material to review.

As if that weren’t enough, I also hit the Computation Physics book this week as well. I’m about halfway through the third chapter, which deals with graphing. This is totally new for me, as this type of visual coding wasn’t covered by Codecademy at all. It’s not super difficult, but the results are pretty awesome. I wrote a program in only a few lines that shows a diffraction pattern of circular waves! This type of thing is going to be super important for me in my research (I expect), so I’m glad to be getting a taste of it now. I’m starting to feel pretty comfortable in Python. I know it can (and will!) get a lot more complicated, but I’ve got the basics down well enough to be able to tackle the more complicated stuff.

So, all in all, it was a productive week for me! Now I shall take my shortened weekend and begin again on Monday. &9786;

Did You Make It to the Milky Way

I took a break from math today. In the morning, I got through another Bob chapter, this one on telescopes. This was very interesting information, applying many of the theoretical concepts (diffraction, refraction, etc.) into a practical form that enables us to gather information about the universe around us. Very interesting but it also sounds very frustrating! I have a lot of respect for people who do it, but instrumentation is absolutely not my thing. It was also interesting to read this chapter from a perspective over a decade after it was written. Talking about the upcoming JWST, other projects that have been canceled, and referencing projects that were upcoming at the time but are now ongoing (e.g. Gaia). In many ways, these things go fast but also they take so long! Who knows what observing instruments might be available for me before my astrophysics career (if I have one…) is over?

In the afternoon I returned to my Python environment. I had hoped to finish the rest of the second chapter, but it was a little slow going after I ran into a couple bugs, and so I only got through one section. Still, it was a helpful section (mostly dealing with for loops) and I made it through all the examples and exercises with a rather minimal amount of headaches. I am a little annoyed that my last program worked but was really inelegantly coded. I am quite sure there had to be a better way to it—but, it worked, so yay!

Looking forward to Friday tomorrow. As much as I love studying, I also love my breaks! The ones where I don’t let myself feel guilty for not opening a textbook. Still lots of other things to do!

All the Small Things

Today was a bit of strange day, mostly because there was no physics in the mix. Only had a couple of those days but they usually leave me feeling like I’ve forgotten something! But of course I have not, because I have my schedule all written out for the week. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail, after all. Or because I’m kind of ridiculous. (Like how my boyfriend teased me about writing up a packing list—complete with expected activities and weather forecast—for a 4 day trip. I swear that’s just conscientious, not crazy!)

Anyway, I started out bright and early (okay, it’s a lie, I didn’t get out of bed until 9, but I did get started right away after I got up!) and got Python running and waiting for some juicy new code. I worked through two more sections in the introductory chapter of the text, covering if/then/else and while loops, lists, arrays, and a few other items. The arrays were new to me, and I still mentally giggle at the “numpy” package, but they seem like they will be very useful indeed. I ran into a problem while trying to write a small program to display the first several Catalan numbers. This should have been straightforward, and I reviewed my logic a hundred times and it was impeccable. After much frustration and some poking around Stack Overflow, I realized I just had to move one of the calculations from outside the loop to inside it. I was ready to rage-quit, but it was so simple in the end! Writing code in a nutshell, I suppose.

After a break for some grocery shopping and a few chapters of the Wheel of Time (I’m re-reading, currently on the fourth book), I dove back into vector calculus. Today I was finishing up the chapter, and I got into the del operator, gradient, divergence, curl, etc. Aside from esoteric theory on curvilinear coordinates, this was pretty straightforward. It can get a bit tedious to work through the longer examples, but it is quite satisfying when it all comes together. And it’s nice to be able to follow what’s going on!

And in non-studying but sort of related news, the condo-buying process has been going pretty great. Inspection was done, no major red flags, attorney review is almost finished, and I may have a place to live for the fall soon! Which just makes me realize that this is all going to actually start happening very, very soon.

I Don’t Want to Be a Stupid Girl

Happy Monday! I didn’t sleep well last night, so I was a bit surprised that I woke up relatively early and ready to go. I guess I’m just too excited about studying!

Today I had the short chapter in Mathematical Methods that I didn’t get to last week. It dealt with normal modes. Due to the length and the subject matter (oscillations, we meet again!), I thought it would be easy. I was wrong. This was mostly more advanced-level matrix manipulation. I don’t find this intuitive at all, so when the text claims that this is an “easier” way of doing the math, I have to scoff. I know that it is, really, but to me it just doesn’t quite click. Still, I did get through the chapter. I really hope that I can get better with matrices. I’ve always had a knack for math and enjoyed it, so it doesn’t sit right to be struggling here!

The afternoon was devoted to diving into some physics Python programming. I made it about halfway through the chapter I was working on, and got to write up several neat little programs to do things like calculate a planetary orbit, the probabilities of reflection and transmission of a particle wave function, and so on. I wrote a lot of code, and I was pretty pleased with it. For the examples, I didn’t even need to follow along with the author’s coding, I just took the prompt and did it. Of course, this chapter is intended for people who have no programming experience, so it should be easy for me with at least the basics under my belt.

Midnight, You Come and Pick Me Up, No Headlights

I didn’t post the past couple days because it’s been a little bit of a mess for my, studying-wise, but I’ve decided I’ve just got to own up to it and move on! So Thursday I had planned to work on Python (starting on the Computational Physics text as discussed in my previous post). That didn’t go quite as smoothly as I hoped! Before, I was using basically a faux-dev environment via the Codecademy course. Now, I need to get something set up to actually run Python on my own machine. This isn’t actually very difficult, but somehow I managed to have to do three different installations and several computer reboots and various mucking around that managed to frustrate me and waste a lot of time without actually even getting to the stuff I wanted to do. But at least I now have a working version of Python 2.7.13 and a vague sense of how to run modules through it. Success! Sort of.

Thursday afternoon I was supposed to finish up my chapter on matrices. However, I scheduled a call with a professor from my department that I had been procrastinating, and that basically took my entire afternoon. Not that it was a long call—it was not even 20 minutes—but because talking to people is a Big Weakness of mine. I know it sounds kind of silly, but I’ve always dreaded it. I remember crying as a little girl if my dad made me tell my order directly to the McDonald’s cashier. I handle it a little better now, but I’m still much much more likely to try to handle any business over email or text. Talking on the phone makes me nervous, and video calls can be downright terrifying. So once I knew I was committed to making a video call, it really wiped out my ability to concentrate for the rest of the day.

Of course, once I took the call, it was totally fine. These things never turn out to be as horrible as I worry they will, and yet I still worry every time. I also got to discuss some potential projects that sounded quite interesting, and he sent me some items to take a look at (including a Python program—I am so glad that I’ve been working on my coding already!!), so things are starting to feel almost Real in a scary but cool sort of way.

So anyway, I tackled the matrix stuff on Friday. And hoo boy was it a whopper. I’m pretty sure the last couple sections I was barely hanging on to understanding and definitely wasn’t able to complete the examples on my own. I’m sure singular value decompositions are child’s play to some, but my brain felt all stretched out trying to follow along. This was a little discouraging, but I am trying not to be too hard on myself. I can always revisit the material later!

I also read another chapter in Bob, this one on special relativity. This is now the third time that I’ve reviewed relativity, so it’s starting to feel pretty comfortable. Which is great! Even so, there managed to be some stuff in here that I hadn’t encountered in Tipler and Mosca. It’s a big topic, after all, and a crazy one no matter how familiar I am with it.

I intended to also do the next chapter in Mathematical Methods, this one on normal modes, but I ran out of energy/motivation/whatever. So I intended to do it yesterday. But I didn’t. Sooo I guess I’ll have to write it into my schedule for next week.

Today’s fun “new” fact: The relativistic headlight effect causes light emitted from a moving source to be concentrated into a cone to a stationary observer. This effect can be observed in synchrotron radiation from relativistic electrons

Photo by Georg-Johann / CC BY-SA 3.0

I Ain’t Trying to Do What Everybody Else Doing

Another day another dollar! Except not, because I have no dollars coming to me at all right now. Which is fine. This is fine. (Actually, it is fine, because I planned for it, but it is a little…unnerving?)

Today I got some more modern physics refreshed into my brain. I read two chapters, Atoms and Molecules. As advertised, I got to learn about both atoms and molecules! It was a very interesting perspective on things that are familiar from high school science classes. Ionic bonds! Covalent bonds! Except now with added quantum physics! Which I think is pretty damn cool. Suddenly the why of rather arbitrary things, like having 6 electrons in each p-orbital, makes sense. Or at least, makes as much sense as quantum physics ever does. =) Reading about the spectra for molecules made me think about taking spectra of exoplanet atmospheres and I got all excited all over again about what I get to do.

And then I got scared.

Forgive me for waxing a little personal/philosophical here, but reading about all these amazing physicists like Schrödinger and Dirac and Pauli is intimidating. These people were brilliant and able to come up with these new ideas that changed the way we understand the universe. I certainly can’t hope to do that. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a pretty smart cookie. And I’m really good at learning physics. But am I good at doing it? I honestly don’t know. And this is part of the reason why it took me so long to pursue this path. Anyway, it’s scary, but I just have to button up and carry on. I’ll do my best and not get ahead of myself.

In other news, I finished up my Python course today! That was pretty exciting. Do I feel like a coding genius? No, not even close. But I have a better understanding of the language now, and I feel more confident about my ability to tackle it and make it work for me. Overall, I think the Codecademy course was very helpful, and I recommend it to anyone trying to get the basics of Python down. Plus free is always a good price! But it’s definitely only a stepping stone and not a full education in a language.

I think I earned myself some ice cream!

Today’s fun “new” fact: The letters used to identify the l quantum number (s, p, d, f for l=0,1,2,3) were not just arbitrarily chosen to frustrate young chemistry students. According to a footnote in my textbook, they are “remnants of spectroscopists descriptions of various spectral lines as sharp, principal, diffuse, and fundamental.”

Mysterious as the Dark Side of the Moon

Good morning and happy Monday! I had another nightmare about grad school last night. That was fun. My brain needs to just get over being anxious! I’m a grown-ass woman, I shouldn’t be this nervous about making a huge, upending life change. Oh wait. That’s totally normal.

Before I dive into my books this sunny Monday, I wanted to finish my Friday/Saturday update so I don’t fall so far behind again. Because I basically forgot to do a section on Thursday, I planned to do three on Friday. That didn’t quite work out, but I only pushed one and I got it done Saturday. So I did meet my goals last week! Just a teeny bit off-schedule.

Friday morning I finished off the chapter on partial differentiation. This got into some pretty interesting stuff, including deriving some of Maxwell’s thermodynamic equations, the Boltzmann distribution, and a series of problems where I got to solve systems of equations with some fun middle school algebra tricks. It took a bit of doing, but I enjoyed the problems.

In the afternoon, I turned back to trusty Tipler and Mosca. I had set a rather lofty 3-chapter goal that included the entire Part V on Light with the chapters Properties of Light, Optical Images, and Interference and Diffraction. This pretty much covered the entire (non-quantum) spectrum from wave-particle duality to color to rainbows to interference rings and ray diagrams. There was even a neat section about a rough physical model of how the eye works. Plus lasers, measuring the speed of light, and more! Light is a pretty cool topic, and one quite relevant for astrophysics, so this was a good refresher. They even included a few examples from astro, which is always nice to see.

After my lengthy physics read, I didn’t get to my Python course, so I tackled that on Saturday, finishing a lesson on classes. I wanted to do two lessons, but I also have a life and a boyfriend so that didn’t happen. Only one lesson to go before the final project! That’s on the schedule for this week, and I’ll do the final when I get back. I’m pleased with what I’ve learned so far and think it will help me out a lot going forward.

Today’s fun “new” fact: Mirages are due to the differing densities, and therefore differing indices of refraction, of air of different temperatures. Hotter air closer to the ground (near asphalt, for example) creates a boundary with the cooler air above. Some of the incoming light is reflected.

(Binary Solo) 0000001 00000011 000000111 0000111

It was only as I went to write a blog post for today (welcome to the present!) that I realized I hadn’t actually finished my studying according to my plan. Yes, for the first time I have failed to meet my study goals. But given that it is 9:30 PM already, and I am rather tired, I think it is prudent to not try to learn the latter half of the chapter on partial differentiation right now. After all, the goal is to study, not just to put a check in the box. It will just mean a rather busier day tomorrow, or perhaps having to push something into the weekend. Not the end of the world!

What I did get done today (besides an assortment of personal errands and such) was another couple lessons in my Python course. I’m up past 80% complete now! I have another session scheduled tomorrow, and I plan to finish everything except the final project then. Today I learned about bitwise operators, which meant the joy of trying to think in binary. Not impossible, but never as easy as good old base 10!

So today was a little light on the studying, but I’m still satisfied with what I accomplished and looking forward to crushing tomorrow!