A post-SSP apocalypse

As the hourglass slowly empties its upper portion of sand, we stare in suspense upon how the lower glass may appear. Well… no; we do not stare because we understand object permanence and conservation. The lower shall be a mirror image of the upper and the hourglass merely serves to enumerate time. 

image of hourglass

In contrast, or similarity, I beg the question: is SSP a symmetric hourglass? When the fateful, sorrowful day of July 26th strikes, may we flip the object and once more enjoy the ticking sand? Or is the hourglass rigid, the sand has fallen, and we may never garner such an experience again. 

From the musings of the past 22 blog posts, I sense a recurring theme amongst many of our Shakespearean scientists. SSP is more than just an opportunity for academic immersion in a topic unbeknownst to us all. I believe it is a communion of people forged from similar interests. Examining our commonalities, we originate from environments where we prefer academic excellence, we were admitted due to our intrinsic curiosity, and we decided astrophysics would be more enjoyable than monotonous bioch*m. While these traits sound individually common, their conjunction proves our group’s rarity. Each student at SSP, and our supportive staff, provides a composite environment in which we desire to fulfill our potential: learning, growing, and understanding ourselves better. Of course, the composite can be stated as a summation of its parts. Given the astounding characteristics of SSP’s parts, I can attest in my 17 years, and presumably my long future, that I never have and never will encounter another environment as impactful. 

I am, at times, an attached and an obsessive person. I refuse to abandon anything that has such a great capacity to provide jubilee. I may always have the opportunity to create my own scavenger hunt or spend 12 hours staring at Visual Studio Code; however, those experiences pale in joy’s comparison to mandatory fun time or debugging infuriating Python Psets alongside a group I adore. 

With these sentimental remarks, I prospect upon how this community may fare in the upcoming months. With knowledge of my own astronomical readings, I wonder if CUB is an open or globular cluster. The former – an open cluster – is created from a gigantic molecular cloud. These stars in the cluster share many common characteristics such as chemical composition, age, and typically are of greater mass. Unfortunately, open clusters lack strong central gravitational attraction and are thus short lived. They become stellar associations within due time and the cluster breaks apart such that each star orbits the galaxy in a newer individual path. However, using the power of science, one can trace the velocity of the rogue star to find its birthplace. I find this poetically similar to SSP. Our communal application from March created a molecular cloud and we each coalesced as a star over the course of the last four weeks. As our gravitational forces diminish with an increasing radius (the program’s end), one of the few lingering notices of our summer science student status will be how we revolutionize our careers, from physics to the humanities, in the professions we choose to pursue. Of course, this revolutionary action would not be possible if it wasn’t for the collaborative and scientific skills we quickly developed to overcome inundation.

image of globular star clusters juxtaposed with an image of open star clusters. the globular star cluster has stars concentrated in the center, with decreasing density as you move further from the center and the open star cluster has stars in random positions

Open clusters are most enjoyable to ponder upon, but they bring me sadness. A sadness that is sometimes parallel, and unavoidable, from our reality and the truth. Without our 5 hour daily learning block sessions, and 3 hour workplay blocks, it is reasonable that our closeness to one another may dwindle. Is SSP CUB an open cluster?

On the other hand, astronomy also contains the study of globular clusters. These spherical *permanent* collections of gravitationally bound stars orbit the galaxy’s center within camaraderie’s comfort. I wouldn’t mind traversing my life like a star after an open cluster’s end, but having my cluster (SSP) bounded by our continued efforts of communication would sure make the universe seem less vast, and less daunting.  

I hope our community may retain itself indefinitely. That we may once more join upon zoom during the college application process, and avoid our worries through codenames, scribblio, sporcle, or other virtual past times. That we may congratulate each other for our respective accomplishments in our scientific or other careers, and that we may continue to relive the memory that was formed in the summer of 2021. I enjoy fond memories, as biologically clichéd by our brain’s presence of a hippocampus. Nevertheless, memories are memories and life is meant to be lived in the present. Because of this, I hope to enact my present to be identical to my memory by soliciting and summoning this italian restaurant – whenever my memory begins to fade.

Of course, all these speculative questions may be promptly answered by our TAs, site director, and professors who are well aware of life in the post-SSP apocalyptic world. However, until these answers have been outright provided and my prospective dream of CUB’s frequent reunion is realized, I will never stop daydreaming about these months of June and July. With this rhetorical call to action, I hope each SSPer remembers their scientific family in our post-SSP world. That they exercise such thought, and commence any action that ensures we may be a globular cluster indefinitely orbiting our larger earth-galaxy. The hourglass can be symmetric, we just need to make it so. 

image saying: Goodbyes are not forever, are not the end; it simply means I'll miss you until we meet again

Hello there! I am a high school student in California who enjoys running, playing the piano, and learning itself. SSP has been a blast (metaphorically), and I am excited for the remaining scheduled week to come – in addition to the unscheduled months to follow. 

-Aryan