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MIT student blogger Lulu L. '09

A Peek at 8.033 – Relativity by Lulu L. '09

We think physics is pretty great.

So this is a big week. This, is not only production week for photography class (exhibitions for final projects are next monday), which is pretty stressful since I’ve been unbelievably crappy about making progress on my project since day one, but ALSO the week of our last mandatory physics psets which I’m just a little psyched about.

So to share my excitement I thought I’d start the photo series on my classes this term (the end is nigh!) with Relativity. Which was today.

So 8.033 which is Special Relativity with a brief intro to General Relativity is 1) a physics class, 2) required for physics majors so generally our little budding physicists take it first term sophomore year, 3) really pretty great. But don’t take MY word for it. Read on. It’s 12 units like most classes here and it meets 2-3:30 on Tuesdays and Thursdays for lecture and some time on Mondays and Wednesdays for recitation (my recitation is at 11am in 24-402 in case you want to pop by with a muffin and say hi. Don’t forget the muffin cause I will not talk to you if you are not holding a muffin for me.). It gives out 1 pset a week of variable difficulty and length. The shortest pset this year took me about 3 hours to do while the longer ones have been known to take me some 10-15 hours of being stupid and feeling stupider. The lectures are a lot of fun while generally the recitations are a lot of math. Here, have a look-see:

Lecturer: Prof. Max Tegmark

Recitation Instructor: Prof. Enectali Figueroa

TA: Pranesh Sundararajan

I snapped these pictures very discreetly during recitation last Wednesday:

This is the TA explaining why I got this and every other problem wrong on the last test. Pranesh the relativity beast has the unique quality of being able to do physics so quickly that he is a veritable blur. This was my best attempt at capturing this elusive creature on film:

He didn’t even show up in my other pictures :(

Recitation sections generally consist of 15-20 students, about an average of 10 of whom show up on any given day. We get off talking about just how screwed up black holes are and how wrong Newtonian Mechanics is.

So that’s recitation. Not too great, not too shabby, and here’s a look at lecture:

The lectures are held in the Green Building which is basically on top of East Campus my dorm so there’s really no reason not to go to lecture. It comes to me. Let’s take a look around 54-100.

Shiny and state of the art. I did a little sweep, back to front of the lecture hall, and confused some kids behind me.

We started this lecture off by looking at pictures of fish. And then of white circles. The white circles are actually stars near the center of our galaxy orbiting a 3 million solar mass black hole that provided convincing evidence for the existence of black holes at all. Nifty, eh? And you thought they were circles…

So we talked a little more about how cool and totally nuts black holes were and then we recapped the whole semester in preparation for the final. To the tune of Yellow Submarine by the Beatles. The average on the last test was a little low, so the two professors in the course thought clearly what was needed was a musical rendition of the major concepts we’ve learned this year. Original lyrics by Tegmark and Figueroa with special thanks to Einstein for his theory of relativity.

Click on the picture to read the lyrics on the slides!

Relativity – It’s all fun and games until someone starts doing calculus of variations. The rest of lecture was dedicated to filling the boards with math vomit, a more conventional form of learning.

Eager young minds soaking it up like porous, sleepy, overworked SPONGES.

Tada! Who doesn’t love things in boxes?

There’s usually some exit music, today there was an exit film. An episode of Futurama in which they narrowly avoid being sucked into a black hole.

Anyways, I’m doing Unified next. Followed by Waves if I do ever bring myself to go to class. (“Next Monday, I promise!”) Great! Good. Get into MIT. And do it quickly. Don’t make a fuss.



42 responses to “A Peek at 8.033 – Relativity”

  1. Anjanie says:

    Hey your class looks really cool. I like the pictures!

  2. Anjanie says:

    Hey your class looks really cool. I like the pictures!

  3. elizabeth k says:

    awesome pics of your physics class! i’m taking a b & w photo class too.. and our exhibition is coming up soon also. soo stressful. anyway your first two pics are so vivid and i love the blurred action!

  4. Peter says:

    To what music does the lyrics go? american pie ? or something else?
    Your prof has nice handwriting, by the way, I had a math teacher that made the “delta”, as in the “df/dt” look like “gamma” and the “r” look like a “v” on blackboards.

  5. Meara says:

    Wow, I love songs with crazy formulas in them! It reminds me of the good old days when my math teacher would pull out his ukelele and sing us all a song about u-substitution.

    I remember in precalc he made us all write our own songs as review before finals. I still know all the relevant details of Poisson distribution to the tune of Penny Lane.

  6. Adam says:

    Physics is AWESOME. Especially relativity. I haven’t formally been taught relativity, but I’ve taught myself a lot about it, and it’s great.

    The pictures are quite nice. How did you get the blurred TA pic? Was it an accident, or did you increase the exposure time?

    Good luck in Unified, I hear it is rather tough.

    Thanks for the post!

    Oh, I might as well put in another plug for our chat room. There’s been quite a few people on lately, and it’s been a lot of fun.

  7. Daniel says:

    You should post some (more) pictures of yourself. smile

  8. Eileen says:

    aw the Simpsons` black hole adventure > Futurama

  9. Hunter R. says:

    Black Holes, The Beatles, and Futurama…WHY WOULD ANYONE NOT WANT TO GO TO MIT!!! O, what was that? O…psets..right. Forgot about that…

  10. FisiksIsCool says:

    When does a typical MIT student take electrodynamics?

  11. Chris says:

    In the picture of the projector wall (5-4, if I’m correct), what are the colored pieces of paper on the wall? They look sort of like post-it notes but are in an odd place.

  12. Anonymous says:

    YES Physics!!! But Newtonian mecahanics screwed up? Theres a reason we dont have a completely unified theory, and that may be quantum mechanics. Quantum mechanics calls for electrons to be a point like particle… or wave… but also requires it to have angular momentum and spin which would logically require electrons to take up space. And Black holes… jk.

  13. lulu says:

    Haha everyone should go to the chat room. Chat rooms are great. Chat rooms are more fun than AP Calculus!


    Yellow Submarine by the Beatles. Also, I’m thinking of bringing cameras to lectures more often. It has a better resolution than my eye, I’ve already spotted a mistake in my notes raspberry


    To be honest I really have no idea how to use the camera (that I borrowed from my friend). raspberry




    speaking of psets… :/


    Depends on what you consider electrodynamics. 8.02/8.022 (which you generally take spring term freshman year and is required for everyone regardless of major) is first half electrostatics and second half electrodynamics. It’s introductory, so if you want a bigger slice of the E+M pie, you’d take 8.07, which is way more advanced. And you can take that any time (after 8.02, of course)


    Oh, that’s a part of the futuristic design. It’s our very own slice of simmons.

  14. lulu says:

    What I’m wondering at the moment is how charged black holes can send the signal of their charge to anything outside the black hole, since photons (carriers of the E+M force) can’t escape the schwartzschild radius.

    If anyone knows it would make my day. If not, I’ll tell you what Tegmark says.

  15. Adam says:

    Lulu –
    That’s a very good problem.

    After a bit of searching, I found an explanation here. I understand some, but not all of what the article explains. I haven’t studied charged black holes at all before now, and its an interesting concept to think about. Anyway, I hope that the article helps!


  16. yossarian says:


    That episode was lol all over the place. ^.^

    So recitations just go over the stuff you did in lectures…?? Just checking.

  17. Anonymous says:

    hmm light cant escape but does that mean the E+M force can’t. Maybe the answer is that gravity can effect matter but not thier forcefields… if so wouldn’t it be 1/r^2-something to account for gravity, and any other forcefield altering force. when particles are accelerated through forcefields they lose light because of the law of induction or w/e instead of altering the shape of the forcefield… so in order to obey thermodynamics the particles are “altered” as opposed to the forcefield, and when applied to blackholes it would make sence that forcefields themselves can escape. maybe…

  18. Anonymous says:

    haha, I love taking pictures during class too! it’ll be cool to look back at them when I’m older.

  19. FisiksIsCool says:


    I suppose I meant the 8.07 because I have sat in on the 8.02 and it’s pretty basic stuff.

    Have you taken 8.07? If so, what sorts of things do you learn in there?

  20. lulu says:

    do you mean “basic” as in “easy” or basic as in “statics”. Because the first half IS statics, it’s only the second half you get into any charges moving around. And if you mean basic as in easy, I don’t disagree. 8.022 would be the way to go if you want a more rigorous look at E+M, we went into a bit of basic relativistic electrodynamics whereas I don’t think 8.02 did. Actually, we do a lot of E+M in waves, too. With radiation and transmission lines and accelerating charges, scattering, etc.

    Actually, here’s the course description for 8.07 i peeled off the course catalogue:

    Survey of basic electromagnetic phenomena: electrostatics, magnetostatics; electromagnetic properties of matter. Time-dependent electromagnetic fields and Maxwell’s equations. Electromagnetic waves, emission, absorption, and scattering of radiation. Relativistic electrodynamics and mechanics.

    It sounds almost identical to a combination of 8.022, 8.03, and a bit of 8.033 except obviously much harder.

  21. milena says:

    That class seems like a lot of fun!!

  22. lulu says:

    thanks for the link adam, I will read it when I am done crying about unified.

  23. Anonymous says:

    dang you guys are up late I would fit right in

  24. Yours posts are GREAT!!!

    Ankit Chandra
    Gaborone, Botswana

  25. Kelsey says:

    I make up songs for calculus rules. They don’t go to Beatles songs, but they’re catchy all the same.
    I’m happy to see that if I do get in to MIT, my music will stay with me smile

  26. al-pear says:

    Awesome post lulu!

    But what’s in the picture under the last lines of the song, what does it have to do with relativity?

  27. lulu says:

    hmm… “creation”? birthday? maybe?

    either that or it is alan guth.

  28. maia says:

    yay for boxes…with stuff in them…hopefully food…

  29. Mith says:

    What’s your favorite type/flavor of muffin, Lulu? smile And is that offer to say hi (with a muffin, of course) standing until next fall?

  30. lulu says:

    yeah… food… for THOUGHT!

  31. kavita says:

    That brings back looots of memories…freshman year math and the quadratic equation song to pop-goes-the-weasel…x eeee-quals ne-ga-tive b, plus or mi-nus the squaaaaaaaare root..etc.

    That’s about the only singing we ever did in math.

    Although we did listen to a random song in French class about stuff that you would pack in your suitcase…it was verrry annoying.

    …Glad to see the music doesn’t end in college though!

    P.S. I love that cool picture of the TA. It’s brilliant!

  32. Edward says:

    I’m sorry,but just lend me a little space.I’m Edward, I want to tell my three friends:bpx,James,and Anna(I haven’t replied you yet) that my email addess has been stolen and please contact me by [email protected].I am eager for your mails!I am waiting here.I hope you will see it.

  33. Monica says:

    i love the pictures! i have always wanted to see what a physics classroom in MIT was like.

  34. Monica says:

    i love the pictures! i have always wanted to see what a physics classroom in MIT was like.

  35. Monica says:

    i love the pictures! i have always wanted to see what a physics classroom in MIT was like.

  36. Q says:

    MIT classrooms look amazing. My friend visited there this semester and he was just in awe of the Physics lectures.

    Random question for you, Lulu: when did you set up your interview for MIT? I’m currently a junior, so I won’t be applying until September, but I’m hoping to get in an interview during spring break. Is that feasible, or should I want until my senior year?

  37. Anonymous says:

    *wait until my senior year, I meant.

  38. Ben Williams says:

    Could you take some pictures of the athletic facilities (ie baseball)?

    I like that you actually respond in your blogs smile.

  39. Mike says:

    Hey guys, I’m responding for Lulu. She is traveling abroad for IAP, she says:

    Q- I applied early action so my interview was set up sometime in September and completed in October, I think. You should probably wait until your senior year to do an interview for a few reasons. 1) you’ll have more to talk about, and what you talk about will be more immediate and interviewers usually like to know what you did your summer before senior year, 2) I mean the admissions season for next year isn’t officially open until fall of your senior year (the admissions officers get a break after admitting the class before you), so the interviewer would have to hold onto your file for a long time and I don’t know if any interviewer prefers to do that. I don’t think it’s very feasible but even if it were I’d probably wait until senior year to leave a more lasting impression.

    Ben- Yup, I will try to do that when I am not in china!

    everyone- I am in China! Sorry for the lack of entries and responses!