Friday, September 26, 2008

Graduate Courses

So I have had my first half week as a Dartmouth Graduate student. This involved three days of classes, Wednesday-Friday. This term (yes term, we're not on the semester system) I am taking 5 courses, two of which are "seminar" classes. I'll explain in a bit. The other 3 courses that I'm enrolled in are Physics courses, the ones that deal with material that will end up on my PhD qualifying exam in a years time. These courses are as follows: Statistical Mechanics, Mathematical Methods, and Classical Mechanics.

The physics courses constitute most of the time I will spend in my office this semester... oh yeah! I have an office, not to myself, but with the other first year graduates. In total, I am one of 7 in the office, a large office with about 10 large desks and numerous filing cabinets. Needless to say, we have a lot of room around us and are quite comfortable in our own niches. This comfort, though, is great to facilitate learning; being around the other students whom you can talk things over with, it's quiet, located on the third floor of the Physics and Astronomy Building (Wilder Hall) away from the lecture halls and most of the traffic in the building, and finally, it's comfy and there is nothing else to do but do homework and read... this is good for someone like me who enjoys procrastinating.

The two seminars are courses on "Scientific Integrity" and "Teaching". Here we learn about ethics in the lab and in our work in general, including homework and then we learn how to TA, respectively. The seminars are important to our education and although they add a work load to our already immense work load, I welcome these courses.

In the future I intend to write about each class individually, describe the content and a little about the material specifically as well as the text book(s) that we are using. I think it will be a good insight into what really goes on in class and what I'm really learning.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Welcome to Dartmouth

I have tons to write about but am currently sitting in my office with the intent of studying for my "no fault" qualifying exam on Thursday, but am I? No, not really. I am going to be brief though and just inform the public that I have moved into my apartment, taken care of all my paperwork and have had my first year orientation. Now, the fun begins and I embark on a journey of hell. Off to study and try and get a little review in before my qual... and oh yes, I register for classes tomorrow. More later, I promise.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Last March of the Ents

First, there's a crack of the wood as the grain pulls apart, followed by the thud of the maul slamming into the chopping platform below the log. It's actually nothing fancy, just a larger piece of the trunk from a tree that we had cut down recently. The tree was dying and would have caused massive damage no matter what direction it fell; either on our house, our cars, the shed and everything inside, or into the moderately busy street we live on here in the woods of New Hampshire.

I rather hate the idea of cutting down trees; they have a striking beauty about them as they stand towering over all the creatures and beings living below. Trees are wise, having seen many hundreds of years, these trees have witnessed more history than any other individual being. I believe that all animals, including humans, have a connection with nature, all living in harmony with one another. And though humans have seemingly lost touch with nature, the connection still exists, even if it might be the minute remnant of what it once was. We have squandered our relationship with nature, hacking, slashing and burning our way in order to be ever more "civilized"... for apparently the more you destroy and overpower nature the more civilized you become by today's standards. Why is it that we have taken such great advantage of the beings that have fostered our creation and evolution? Is it the lust for power over all that is, was and ever will be? Or maybe something more simple, a lack of understanding for just how much nature is apart of our lives, both past and present?

Plants and animals have bore disease among us, yet they also provide the solutions. Would we vanquish the man or woman who has found the cure for HIV/AIDS? What about the one who discovers a serum which causes Cancer to flee the body? We would not bring death among these people, nay, to the contrary, we would propel them to a level of glory which would be envied by the kings of old. So why then, are we reigning death among the natural world? Our fellow man may never discover the cures of our worst ailments without Her. If just one species of plant is burned into extinction before it's properties can be analyzed, we may miss out on the opportunity to triumph over these illnesses.

The unnatural death of a tree fills my heart with sorrow, as if a part of my soul has died as well. I did not agree with the decision to put an end to this tree's life. Although it was old and withering, it's leaves, hardly budding, it still had some life to live and it had the intention to do so. Just as we would not end the life of an elderly person, just because their skin is wrinkled, we should not end the life of a tree which has not gasped for it's last breath, a breath which provides us with our next, transforming CO2 into Oxygen which we inhale and expel CO2, the next breath for the tree. Harmony. Life as we know it would not exist if it were not for plant life.

So how then, can I enjoy chopping wood, knowing that a tree must have died for it to be possible. While occasionally I find myself chopping wood that has had the misfortune of being at the mercy of the human will, I have no argument against chopping wood that has past due to natural causes. Silly... maybe to you, but not to me. The time honored tradition of chopping firewood puts me at ease, relieves my stress and allows me to, even just for a moment, escape the fast paced world that we exist in.

Chopping wood is as much a honed skill as it is a measure of brute force, in fact, I would take a more accurate and intelligent chopper than the strongest brute. Finding the right fissure in the grain and exploiting the natural characteristics of the wood takes a bit of thought and planning followed by an accurate swing. If the appropriate technique is applied with some forethought, little to no effort is needed aside from the raising of the axe (or maul). It is a satisfying way to pass the time and still accomplish a needed task, a task that I would gladly perform any day - especially in the winter... there is a much greater aura surrounding chopping in the winter. It brings me great pleasure, indeed.

Once again, I have found myself rambling on about topics that I did not intend to ramble on about. My aim was to speak of the proper tools and technique involved in the chopping, yet here I am speaking of my philosophy on nature and relationship with trees. Ah well, for the next time.