Author: Ilana G.
Dr R’s Astro 2 Problem Set this week was “pretty easy”. At least, that’s what most SSPeople allegedly claimed. After the nightmare of Pset 1, some straightforward, plug-and-chug questions were just what we needed to boost our confidence. As we cranked out calculations for light gathering power and angular resolution, three words ironically floated around the classroom: “The answer’s trivial”.
It began as a joke, an encouraging way to belittle our pile of problems and mimic textbook authors who often leave the readers to answer their own questions. But then Dr Anderson made a similar remark during his math lecture on Monday, which was met with a chorus of chuckles. Such an involved topic couldn’t possibly be labeled trivial… yet the joke never ended:
“The proof of this trig fact is pretty trivial… I’ll leave it to you to draw the diagram”
Then later, learning Astro with Dr R:
“How bright an object appears depends on… well, how bright it is. It’s trivial.”
However, while psets this week may have been trivial, the SSP experience has been anything but.
The week has been filled with academic surprises. The journey of three ants traveling in a triangle appears to be a meaningless occurrence, but it makes for a great math problem. It may seem trivial that a telescope magnifies objects in the sky, but its workings are only slightly uncovered in a three hour lecture. And the instructions to a game of hangman might be simple enough to explain to a five year old, but not to a computer that substitutes English for Python. From understanding vector operations as “the algebra of arrows”, to teaching computers to process green screens, to observing the subtle movement of an asteroid through a telescope camera and appreciating the underlying physics, academics here certainly haven’t been “trivial”.
And life outside of academics hasn’t been monotonous either. We popularized a new snack of organic walnuts (freshly picked from the tree outside), only to learn that they were, in fact, pecans. Then we racked our brains in our hardest problem set so far: guessing each other’s middle names. Over the weekend, we took our first field trip…. to Target! But we did spot some spherical trig applications…. They’re not so trivial, after all.
Target taught us about the real-world applications of spherical trig, in the form of some awesome bouncy balls.
A fun break from Psets: the middle-name-game!
Seven days is hardly enough time to form a complete impression, and yet as I reflect upon the first full week, it feels as though ages have passed. So, why have we been having so much fun at the program deemed “the educational experience of a lifetime”? Figure it out for yourself. It’s trivial.
Hi! I’m Ilana, from Long Island, New York. My favorite pastimes are solving Rubik’s cubes and watching math YouTube videos, when I’m not busy journaling or going on a nice bike ride. At SSP, you can find me absorbed in lectures and working on problems at 1 AM when I should be sleeping. I have a truly remarkable continuation to this bio, but the margin is too small to contain it 😉