At Nerdcamp, the classroom is across the street from our dorms, which should give us time both to sleep and to grab something to eat from the dining hall before our 9AM morning lecture. Evidently, the organizers grossly overestimated our levels of self-discipline.
During our morning break, a handful of us dared to do the unimaginable–we were going to have breakfast. Those were the trailblazers and innovators, the Magellans and da Vincis of our generation, bold enough to consume a full meal, with a ten-minute round trip to boot, in roughly ten minutes of time. Such bravery was only befitting of us SSP visionaries. I tagged along for the sake of journalism, conveniently forgetting my phone in the process—the image of our grand feast is thus left as an exercise for the reader. We stocked up our trays with eggs and bagels and potatoes and scarfed everything down at speeds that would impress even the most prolific hot dog eaters of the country. Some hot chocolate taken in sips because it would burn your mouth if you drank it all at once and several oatmeal cookies later, we hurried back to the observatory.
It’s day 19 of 37 in the Summer Science Program, which means that we are officially past the halfway mark. Yay! As a reward for making it this far, Dr. D lit on fire a ceremonial carpet, and Dr. F took it easy on the lecture:
After lectures, we followed the usual procedure of dinner and then p-setting. Before I knew it, the day was over. For most of my life, Saturday meant a break day to look forward to, but not here. It was time to buckle down and prepare for the sixth lecture-filled day of the week (996工作制 appears to have made its way to the west).
The start of the program three weeks ago already feels like a bygone era of the distant past. As I look back at the primeval days where I showered before curfew and my unawareness of Dominick’s weirdness had not yet deserted me, it feels like I’ve hardly had time to appreciate all that we’ve achieved—everything just seems like a blur. I’ve been doing my best to make this experience last longer by taking my time on the blog post and really 享受 the wordsmithing process.
It’s hard to believe the eventual goodbyes are now closer than were our awkward hellos. While I for one have not read a book on my own volition in at least a couple of years, I can confidently say that no words could adequately capture my experience here. This eternal cycle of p-set frustration and exhaustion akin to Sisyphus’s geological entrapment has somehow made this the best summer of my life—it’s funny how we get attached to the struggle. Despite all our complaining about vis-viva derivations and Richard’s test cases, I’ve somehow been enjoying my time here. But now, our Sisyphus has rounded the top of the hill, and the boulder is rolling, rolling down.
At first, I felt like these six–ish weeks would last forever; there seemed to be so much to learn and so much to do. Even a week or two after setting foot on campus, our final goal had seemed out of sight; we were simply learning for the sake of learning, and complaining about sky coordinates for the sake of complaining about sky coordinates. Now that we’re halfway-alumni, the end feels much more real. Each group’s six orbital elements (just six numbers!!) will be the result of hundreds of hours of dendrite-destroying, synapse-severing work. These are going to be some important numbers. It’s time to lock in.
Some highlights from the day, because even a normal day here always has something special:
Hey everyone! I’m Joshua, a rising senior from Shanghai, but you can call me 帅哥 if you prefer. I like science, listening to music, and making coffee so I can become a barista in case my college applications don’t work out. For now, I’m just happy to be here.