Laboratory experiments, text editing and sports

Last week we had our first laboratory session at the university. We were given the task of measuring the mass of a lump of play-dough without using a laboratory scale. We did the obvious thing and measured the spring constant of a light spring using known masses. After that we measured the displacement caused by the play-dough hanging on the spring to calculate its mass.

The experiment was simple and the first of six we’ll be doing this autumn. For me the main aim was to learn more about using Latex for scientific writing and getting familiar with additional tags and commands. It took me over eight hours to write the report, but it was well worth it. Writing these first reports with Latex will make the work all the more easier when the experiments and subjects become more complex and I need more time to concentrate on the subject matter. In addition, I found writing with Latex more concentrated since one can separate formatting from subject matter. This aspect is often mentioned as an advantage of Latex over word processors like Microsoft Word but one must experience it firsthand to appreciate it. Using Latex allows one to write in a more concentrated manner and produce text uninterruptedly, when formatting is not done on the fly and the formatting of the text does not keep changing continuously in real time.

During the last weeks I’ve also returned back to bouldering and done some bicycling, both of which I have enjoyed very much. Making a 30 kilometer tour on a bike in the fresh autumn air in the early morning is very energizing. Bouldering is also very enjoyable after a six-month break. I like to think how to use my body’s joints and limbs to maximize leverage and make my way to the top as easy as possible. Yesterday I was again climbing and was pleasantly surprised how I was able to read the pattern of the grips and plan a good way of climbing the route in front of me. After a few tries I was able to refine my approach and reach the top without too much effort and using good technique. Now I have to improve my grip strength and endurance to be able to climb more demanding routes. At the moment I am capable of climbing routes with ratings around 6B to 6C.

It’s official now

Today (June 28th 2017) I received the official admission to University of Helsinki to study physics. Obviously it was a relief to finally have the official results in my hands, or rather on my computer screen. I immediately registered for the next autumn and spring semester and also applied for a department at the local association that rents apartments to students only. Additionally I now have a long list of things to take care of before or soon after starting my studies: getting a student card, starting to plan my studies on the longer term, register to the first courses, get to know other new students and so on, not forgetting to say goodbye to all the important people here in Switzerland.

Having done all these preparations already ten years ago gives me confidence and a certain calmness, but I still have butterflies in my stomach. Starting studies at a university is very exciting, even the second time around, but this time I am somehow more excited. Reading the course descriptions fills me with enthusiasm: quantum mechanics, basics of the theory of relativity, mathematical tools in physics and so on. These ideas and areas of physics have always fascinated me, and now I am going to dive into them head first. Of course my current layman’s view on these topics is very naive and romanticised. After all, the topics are very math heavy and some of them hardly intuitive. Quoting Richard Feynman, ”I think I can safely say that nobody understands quantum mechanics.” But I am going to try, assuming that I wil specialize in quantum mechanics and not in some other interesting field of physics, like meteorology or geophysics.

At the moment I feel, that theoretical physics, with its thought experiments, mathematical intricacies and incomprehensible laws is the field I want to pursue out of intellectual interest.

This post was originally written on June 28th 2017 and finalized on July 2nd 2017.