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MIT student blogger Laura N. '09

Collective Apprehension by Laura N. '09

Seems like my last entry freaked everyone out. No worries guys! You can do it! Read on for my responses to many nervous commenters.

So, a quick recap of my week before I launch into repsonses to the many, many comments I’ve received the past few days:

On Monday I got back from my Easter visit home just in time for my training session at the MIT Nuclear Reactor. No joke. Reactor safety training is required by MIT-EMS. The idea is that if there’s ever an emergency at the reactor, people kind of freak out. So they want us EMTs to be familiar with the facility and to be able to properly deal with radioactive contamination, which, it turns out, is probably not as scary as you think it is. So I got a pretty cool tour of the reactor and learned how to decontaminate someone.

Yeah, sounds cool doesn’t it? I can teach you now. Ready? If someone has radiological contamination on their clothing, cut the contaminated part off and drop it in this big yellow disposal bin with a caution label. The end. It’s actually a bit harder than that, because you have to keep in mind that as soon as you touch something contaminated (with a gloved hand, of course), that glove is now contaminated and can’t touch anything “clean.” It’s trickier than you might think.

Friday I went to the ZBT semiformal Bryan mentioned before with this kid you might have heard of- Mike Borohovski (or Borski), who comments around here all the time and was even…cool…enough to make it into Ben’s awesome(?) photographic account of CPW. Anyway, he even had the nerve to complain about missing that Oregon Trail thing, as if I asked him to his own semiformal or something. I didn’t bring my camera, but only because I knew Bryan would be there, and I figured I’d let him cover it. Melis was there too- we bloggers are just like…one big family. Um. So look forward to pictures on Bryan’s blog soon!

Read on for responses to comments.

Lots of responses to comments:
Michael Borohovski said
A few points:
1) The reason every math class starts out with that is because often enough people _do_ forget it. Not to mention it really _is_ the basis for the beginnings of the explanation of what a derivative is.
2) I’m exactly the other way around. Give me anything that has application in the real world and I hate it, because I don’t like the real world. I like to think theoretically. I like algorithms and drawings, not actual objects. I’m a CS/Math person at heart. It’s kind of amusing actually. I once liked chem, and then I got apprehensive. :p
3) Math is hard, physics/chem is harder.

1) No. No they don’t.
2) No comment.
3) Physics is so much better than math. If only I could take more physics and less math…..*sigh*

Caroline said
MIT scares me to no end — I’m going to fail out, first semester, and transfer to community college. Hopefully not :) but I’m still scared.
Nah, pass/no record will be your God. You don’t have to worry about failing out until second semester. =)
Seriously though, you are not alone. I can’t tell you how many of my freshman friends have referenced community college this semester. It’s…kind of sad, actually. It’s hard here, and you might be nervous and scared, but so will everyone else. And you know what, I think people here worry too much. We’re all used to being brilliant and now that we’re not the smartest person in the class, some of us panic. But that doesn’t mean we’re stupid. They don’t let you into this crazy place unless they’re sure you can handle it. So it won’t be smooth sailing but I have faith that everyone can pull it off with the necessary help.

nehalita said:
Those psets scared me. A lot.
=) Don’t stress about it just yet. I mean, they do teach you what all that gibberish means before they ask you to do it.

elaine said:
i came across your blog while searching google for pictures of ideas for something to wear to and anything but clothes party. your duct tape was awesome! anyway, i’m a mechanical engineering major at a little school called rose-hulman institute of technology, and just wanted to let you know that i think most engineers feel the same way you do about math!
engineering gets better once all the math for math’s sake courses are over…

Haha, that duct tape outfit will probably haunt me for the rest of my life. (Every time I go home, another relative or family friend has been shown that photo and has some would-be clever comment about duct tape up their sleeve…) Seriously though, I’m glad you liked it. I’m also glad you have an optimistic outlook for my academic future. =) My church youth group leader is an engineer and we always used to joke about engineering in ways that no one else understood. One time we were playing some kind of game and needed to add up a bunch of scores, so the group asked us to do it in our heads, claiming that we should be good at math because we were engineers. We just laughed at them. =)

Kim said:
Liked the story! Good to know I’m not the only one who is beginning to be a bit apprehensive of math (I’m in BC this year) even though I’ve loved it throughout the rest of school. Good luck with that pset! It looks crazy, but then you know more math than I do… How long do they (professors) expect a pset to take?
If you check out the Subject Listing (someone let me know if the link doesn’t work, I’m not sure if you guys will be able to access it…) you’ll see that each class shows how its credit hours are split up in the form #-#-#. The numbers represent weekly hours spent in class, hours spent in lab, and hours spent doing homework, respectively. 18.03 is listed as 5-0-7, so that means the pset is supposed to take around 7 hours. Sometimes psets take a lot more or a less time than expected. 7 hours for an 18.03 pset seems about right to me, I guess. I don’t know, I have a horrible sense of time. =)

Aliera said:
“Write down the constant coefficient homogeneous linear differential equation with characteristic polynomial p(s)= s3 – s”

I disagree with the use of this as an example. It has shock value if you’re not familiar with the subject at all but it’s a really simple thing to remember how to do and do quickly.
Well yes, but my point is that this is clearly no longer the same thing as adding and subtracting. Plus this is an in-joke with people on my floor…except only Adelaide reads this. I’m really bad about that- telling inside jokes to people not on the inside. My apologies. =)

Lucy said:
I still can’t get to that pset site. I’m taking some calc classes at a local college. Do these credits transfer over to MIT next fall or are these only used for placement purposes? How long does it take for you to do a pset in a class that’s easy for you, like 8.02, vs. a class that’s more difficult for you, like 18.02 or 18.03? How are final grades given at MIT? Is it mostly based on test scores or half and half between test scores and psets? And don’t students usually work in groups for psets?
From what I understand, transfering math credits is kind of annoying. In any case, any transfer credit requests are considered on a case-by-case basis. You should visit the First Year at MIT (for the Class of 2010), especially the transfer credit page for more information. Final grades vary from class to class, but its usually some combination of tests and psets that are taken into consideration. 8.02 psets tend to be shorter than 18.03 psets in general, but the fact that it’s easier for me doesn’t really affect the amount of time it takes. We do work in groups on psets, and usually you take as long as the group takes. So when my fellow Conner 2 freshmen get together to do 18.03, I’m always the one holding everyone back and asking dumb questions and feeling really bad about it. But then when we get together to do 8.02, I’m much more likely to be the one answering everyone else’s questions. This works out nicely, because teaching helps you learn, being able to answer other people’s questions makes you feel smart (and you will latch on to things that make you feel smart here), and being helpful during 8.02 pset parties helps me feel less awful for being a drain during 18.03 pset parties.

Christina said:
My problem with math is that I can spend lots of time working through it and taking tests and quizzes and doing homework, etc. etc……

but at the end of the day, what have I learned?

NOTHING. I’ve “learned” how to do odd things with random letters/numbers, though I have no idea WHY I am doing what I’m doing. What an accomplishment!
Haha, don’t worry about it- plenty of people feel that way. That’s why I like the math that I do in physics- I know I’m actually using it for something. As for 18.03, I’ve been told that it will be useful in the future in my engineering classes, and I’m looking forward to the day that happens. I’ll be sure to let you know if that day ever comes. =)

arielle said:
do psets in any class at mit (this can be physics, chem, or math) actually help w/ tests? as in, are test questions similar to those in the homework so if you understand the homework, you wouldn’t have much of a problem w/ tests or are test questions so random that even if you understand homework problems, you need to really, really, really understand the concepts and ten billion other things in order to do well on tests? i guess i’m just kind of scared of being the dumbest person in a class w/ international science and math olympiad champions and getting like half of the class average on a test…
Oh my. What a question. Um, so…sometimes the tests make you want to strangle someone, because they’re not remotely related to the questions on the pset. On the other hand, most classes will make practice exams available, which are usually exact copies of the exams given in previous semesters, so those are always a great way to prepare for tests, whether or not the psets actually help. =) As for being scared, see above. And my last entry. And my first entry. Don’t worry about it. MIT is scary, but if you approach it with the right attitude you can really get a lot out of it.

7 responses to “Collective Apprehension”

  1. Shan says:

    Whoops. I commented on a previous computer likes playing tricks on me, and refuses to show me the most recent post. Oh well. Sorry about the spamming!

    Anyways, I’m getting slightly nervous myself about the level of difficultly MIT will present. But at the same time, I’m excited because I live for a challenge. I don’t know if I’ll be saying that next year, but we’ll see how it goes! *crosses fingers*

    I was just curious about one thing though. You (and a few other bloggers) mentioned transferring credit from APs or college courses…would it be a “bad” idea if I chose not to do that? Would I “fall behind” the rest of my classmates? I’ve just always heard that college calc/physics is very different from high school calc/physics, which is why I’m considering retaking the basic courses.

    I’m sorry if this has been asked before..if it has, maybe someone can point me to the answer?

  2. I was wondering…I took BC Calc as a junior, and will get credit at MIT for that class, and I have taken Multivariable Calc (fall) and Linear Algebra (spring) and have been told that previous students have transferred the credits to MIT. In your experience, have you found that you (or other students) have had trouble if they do decide to take transfer credits and go on to the advanced courses? Like, if I attempted 18.03 in the fall would I have trouble just because I haven’t taken math at MIT before? Would I be able to find other people to have “pset parties” with (just being a freshman)? Thanks, and thanks for this entry’s reassurances.

  3. Arturo says:

    I had this EMT lesson not long ago. For about 3 hours they taught us all about fires, their kinds, the different sorts of extinguishers, how and why an explosion occurs and some other stuff. The guy who was teaching it is an EMT and a fireman, and he concluded his presentation by telling us that, despite what we had learned, we should never go into a fire unless we were trained firemen, and at the same time he told us NEVER to become firemen. Then he showed us some videos of things going kind of wrong when firemen were trying to save people. It sort of sucked. Becoming an EMT is indeed a curious experience.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I’ve never really learned physics since it pretty much sucks at my high school. So what’s your experience been with freshman physics? Does TEAL have any lecturing professors or is it like an independent study with classmates? Are there any “traditional” freshman physics classes?

  5. Evan I says:

    To Anonymous,

    Don’t worry about your freshman physics course; I’ll be right there with you. And, having been bored at work before, I’ve explored the course selecions that MIT offers for us.

    Freshman physics begins with 8.01. It’s as traditional as a physics course can get, from what I gather, and employs the TEAL system. Now, to help all of us out with our adjustments, there are some variations on this course: 8.011, which is a imilar course design without TEAL, 8.012, which is read as “8.01 for physics fanatics,” and 8.01L, which slows the course down to extend into the IAP time. This way, MIT does its best to cater to the previous experience that all incoming freshmen have.

    If you’d like to do some more exploration of the courses and what they entail, should act as a great starting point.

    Also, Laura, please correct me if I’ve made any errors in my explanations. Don’t mean to step on any toes, either, but I figured I could offer my two cents.

    And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have more papers to file, now that they have printed. Good luck with your physics endeavors, Anon.

    Oh, and Laura, I finally decided to link up my personal internet site. Nothing too impressive, and certainly won’t qualify me for a position as a blogger, but I enjoy writing. Hey, maybe now I’ll even get comments on my work! That hasn’t happened in quite a while. So enjoy; insult my writing to your heart’s content =P

  6. Shan says:

    Whoops! Sam blogged about APs in one of his recent entries..thanks anyways! smile

  7. Arya says:

    :s I think it’s the time for a new post