Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Everything You Know Is Wrong

I'm roughly a third of the way into the first of the quantum mechanics/cosmology books...and tra-la, tra-la, it's clear that everything has changed dramatically since I bombed the intro astrophysics class at dear old State Flagship U in the fall of '87. On another note, the professor who taught that was chosen as teacher of the year last year, and he studied at Princeton under one of the co-authors of this book. Whee. The superfecta of feeling kind of stupid...

My interest in string theory was piqued last fall when I ended up in the ER with what they're pretty sure was a kidney stone. After I was released, we trotted across the road to the all-night pharmacy at Walgreen's to fill my prescriptions for antibiotics and painkillers. While we were waiting, the boyfriend struck up a conversation with the pharmacist...who turned out to have a PhD in physics- he'd discovered, after the fact, that pharmacy tends to pay a lot more than college teaching, and thus left the wonderful world of theoretical physics for filling pill orders. The boyfriend is currently underemployed as the parts manager in a diesel garage; his degree is in social work.

I was standing there, slightly mellowed out from the IV pain meds still coursing through my bloodstream, as they discussed the Big Bang and trailed seamlessly into string theory...and it became patently clear that the boyfriend HAD to go back to grad school. I didn't care what in, exactly, but I couldn't stand the idea of him letting his brain atrophy while ordering tires and gaskets and widgets, etc. He's probably taking the GRE this summer; he's looking into a masters' in counseling. Mind you, I'm not pushing this, but it drives me nuts to see someone's brain pretty much run out their ears from underuse.

Which really got me thinking about how intellectually lazy I've let myself become. I don't tend to do a lot of academic reading anymore; I lean toward historic mystery novels and then get aggravated when the detail is botched (those two history degrees, you know). So here I sit with book number one (of five), trying to cram the new quantum theories into my head, and realizing that I might just have killed one grey cell too many during the period that Jim Beam was the light of my life. On top of that, I've decided to explore pedagogical applications of statistical behaviors to redesign our library instruction curriculum. I may run screaming out the door before I'm through...

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