Welcome to the Jungle

Well, I am back from Peru and ready to dive back in to some physics! Trekking the Andes was definitely not a rest for my body, but it was a nice mental break. Plus I got to do some practical application of the angle of repose while trying to decide if I could stand on a particular muddy slope! If you are interested in my Peru adventures, I will have a more detailed post over on my writing/lifestyle blog, The Write Side of Life. But for now, back to business!

The fall and school feel a lot closer now that the calendar has ticked over to June. I promised myself I would kick into high gear in June, and I got off to a good start today. I wrote myself a study schedule through next week, continuing with my Tipler and Mosca adventures while adding in some Python courses and Mathematical Methods for Physics and Engineering, 2nd Edition, by Riley, Hobson, and Bence. Ah, yes. This brick of a book. I thought that I would be able to sail blithely through the first couple chapters, which deal with introductory mathematics.

Silly me.

I forgot that this book is dense and difficult to read. This is not Tipler and Mosca, with bright colorful pages and fun facts and pictures. This is math. There are words, equations, proofs, diagrams, and so much knowledge in every paragraph. I don’t mean to slam on the authors, but this is not an easy book to follow. And I like math! I took an unnecessary semester of summer school just so I could take a Differential Equations class in college! But my brain wants to scream when getting hit with sentences like this in the very first section:

To take the most obvious example, comparison of the constant terms (formally the coefficient of x0) in the first and third expression shows that , or, using the product notation, .

It’s not even that it’s terribly difficult, it’s just hard to focus on and lots of panic begins to set in that I am hopelessly behind and will never be able to hack it in graduate school. I am a smart person, but eight years is a long time to have been out of school. No one has been asking me to factor polynomials in a very long time!

But math panic aside, it feels good to be getting right back into it with my studying. And on the physics side, today I did chapters on Relativity and Gravity, which are both interesting and mind-blowing topics. I love reading about things like time dilation. They seem so crazy and out there, but they follow implacably from a base set of tenets.

Today’s fun “new” fact: Clocks that are moving in parallel don’t show the same time! The clock that is in the lead lags by xc/v2. Synchronization goes out the window. For some reason, this boggles my mind way more than time dilation or length contraction on their own, although of course this is merely an extension of the same principles.