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MIT student blogger Lulu L. '09

My night with 8.03 by Lulu L. '09


(Yeah yeah, right now it’s Saturday but I wrote this on wednesday night so shut up.)

Right now it is Wednesday night I’m starting/finishing/making minimal progress on my 8.03 problem set when I remembered I haven’t updated in a very long time. So I heave the pretty incredible stash of lined paper, problem set pages, 8.03 text book, 8.022 notebook (I know, I’m cheating) off my lap, open up notepad, and commence my play-by-play of tonight’s festivities. I will probably spice this horrible idea for an entry up with some shenanigans from weeks/days past, or maybe I will just go to sleep. For those playing along at home, here is Pset 8 in all its glory.

I really can’t say why this problem set is taking me so long. But let it be known that I really hate multi-part problems.

The time is 2:52am. I am really quite ashamed to say I’ve been working on this since 8ish. I’ve finished problems 1 and 2. :/

Exhibit A:

Is this really 7 hours worth of work? God I hope not.

Come to think of it, a part of that time was spent watching a completely irrelevant open courseware lecture by Walter Lewin on neutron stars, and now much more of it will be spent writing this entry! Is this irony? I can never tell anymore.

Status Report:

Slight derailment due to people. Time is now 4:55am. I know, I know.

On to #3.

Now I remember why I had 8.022 open. I like the way we calculate inductance in 8.02 better than 8.03. The lovely thing about physics is that as no one beefs about how you do a problem as long as you do a problem. Which is certainly not the case in engineering. Yet another derailment. I stare at part b. Inductance is nothing more than the result of geometry, I say. “All the buns are blank!” says Mitch. I turn the volume down on my laptop.

5:04am. I’ve figured it out but there is a slight snag. SI units are a strange beast to me in E+M.

5:10am. Still thinking about SI units.

My photography class (4.343) did a workshop on four-point lighting a few mondays ago (we only meet on mondays 7-10pm). I had my camera with me, so I turned into our unofficial photographer of the evening as we tested different lighting setups.

After a brief intro we dove right in. Dan, the ever delightful tech guy, shows us the do’s and don’ts, the ins and outs of each of our studio lights (which incidentally are available on loan which I am very excited about).

The lights are bright, he tells us, and they can get quite hot. Here are some gloves. Don’t burn yourself, don’t get electrocuted. That can be embarrassing.

He talks about the quality of light, and how we can achieve softer or harsher lighting.

You see, four-point lighting consists of four(4) lights placed in strategic locations as to create the most natural and flattering look for a photographic subject. It’s a variation of the classic three-point lighting often used in film. The four lights are the key light, the fill light, the backlight, (not to be confused with) the background light. Key light is the strongest light source in the picture, it is pointed directly at the subject and used to accentuate curves of the face (provides high contrast). The fill light is used to control this contrast and is generally positioned so as to illuminate the otherwise dark shadows in the figure. A stronger fill light would reduce the contrast while a weaker one would increase it. The backlight is what makes the subject “pop” out of the frame of his background and appear more 3-D and immediate. It is placed behind the subject and maybe to one side if that’s what you prefer. Finally, the background light (which is not a component of 3-pt lighting) lights the background of the picture. In this case, an old, slightly discolored blank wall.

I stole the following picture to further illuminate(lol, get it, illuminate? i’m awesome) the situation:

Thanks, Yale film school!

So we all know how a chair looks under a 700 watt bulb but how does a person?

Meet MIT undergrad in Course 6 and model/filmstar David. Today we’re going to take David’s senior high picture.

This is David under only a key light. Notice the harsh shadows across his face. Though this might be a look you want in a shot, it is not the look we want.

David sees the fill light. All other lights are switched off.

Did you know? Photons have momentum! The momentum of a photon is its energy E divided by c. The mass of a photon in any frame but its rest frame is E/c^2.

The more you know!

A backlight. David is brooding and mysterious.

The background light. David is a shape in the dark.

Putting some of them together:

Key and fill and nothing else. Notice how David is flat and appears to be a part of the background.

Classic three-point lighting:

Now throw in the background light and voila:

Anyways, I think this stuff is cool. I’m going to go on a portrait rampage shortly.
First thing’s first, though.

It’s 5:26am. I’m still here at my little desk. I look up Maxwell’s Equations in integral form on Wikipedia. This is a new low for the evening.

Find expressions for the velocity and the characteristic impedance of the line…

I’d probably know how to do this if I’d gone to lecture today. I look up the meaning of “characteristic impedance”. Out comes Bekefi and Barrett from under a pile of crap. Luckily on the first page I flip to there are the underlined words “The characteristic impedance z_0”. Cool.

6:00am. I have a done-pile and a not-done-pile. The done-pile gets bigger as Problem 3 goes on top. I crack my window open a bit. It’s not too cold today, the morning air is refreshing. Google predicts a high in the mid-60s today. I think about all the time I will have tonight. Which I will consequently waste on video games and checking my email a million times a second. However, Wikipedia is not going to tell me how to do problem 4.

haha just kidding. it is wikipedia afterall..

6:00am-6:30am. I did nothing. I kid you not I did absolutely nothing. I completely forgot about the Pset. I stumbled onto the admissions webpage and left dumb comments on people’s blogs. Kids, don’t do this. Don’t be me.

6:30am. Realizing that (^) made me feel guilty and I read part b of #4. Meanwhile, arrives my least favorite (most favorite? it depends) part of an all-nighter (at this point I’m either extremely stressed out and counting down the hours til Unified or feeling really darn good and at peace with the world). I think I like it today. What I mean is, the sun is coming up. In the way that it does on cloudy days when everything turns blue, then blue, then more blue. And streets and houses light up in that sleepy way and you start to see as well as hear the occasional car that drives by.

You’re looking at my lucky bamboo and the world outside. Life is good.

As much fun as it is to watch the sun come up from underneath an avalanche of work and behind the bars of your dorm room window, it’s a least a little better at the beach.

I find that I really can’t live too far inland. I feel like I’d suffocate. Not that I go to the beach all the time or anything, I just like to know it’s there. Luckily, Cambridge, MA is less than an hour away from a couple of very nice beaches. Crane Beach in the town of Ipswich, MA, is really very beautiful and if you go on a misty/rainy day you have that whole big thing to yourself. Plus the rain, which is great. I guess I’d say it’s a bit more touristy in that it’s kept really pristine and designed with people in mind, and mind you, there will be people. It can get pretty crowded. It closes at sunset. The other beach that I’ve been to is on Plum Island (the website I linked, by the way, is ridiculous) and I guess one could consider it a bit more unadulterated (you know, untamed, wild, free, yeah.) Anyways, this one is harder to get to than crane (which is linked via commuter rail to MIT) so I’ve only been once or twice. A little while back my friend Jesse and I went to watch the sunrise on the beach. Thought I’d share some pictures:

I took lots of really trite pictures of the sunrise.

Jesse took a picture of me taking really trite pictures of the sunrise. (he takes photo with me)

Also, we roasted hot dogs and marshmallows. This is his picture, not mine.

We headed back around 8am.


Part d: Check your results by using the general expression for voltage reflection given in lecture.

6:51am. Damn. I didn’t go to lecture today. I improvise a bit.

Armed with the cool confidence provided by my good results, I plow through part e with effortless ease.

This is where my lab partner comes in. But she is sound asleep. I send her an email:

To : [email protected]
Cc :
—– Message Text —–

kelly wake up wake up it’s time to do the lab wake up wake up lab lab lab
for 8.03

chop chop


As it turns out my email failed to wake her up. I was disappointed.

To : [email protected]
Cc :
Subject : :/
—– Message Text —–

ok 11-1?


It’s kind of an awkward time of day. If I go to sleep I’ll likely feel more tired than if I just stayed up.
An hour of Weboggle it is.

Hope you had fun on my all-nighter!


P.S. Today’s toothpaste for dinner is highly relevant.
P.P.S. Oh no, I forgot. 8.03 is Wave Mechanics and Optics. Physics III. Maybe I will get some coffee.

44 responses to “My night with 8.03”

  1. Bryan Henry says:

    Yay all-nighters…not.

    Sounds brutal, so many distractions.

  2. Leo H. says:

    Dont you feel extremely dizzy from staying up? i’d probably faint…if I have to go to class in the morning…

  3. karen says:

    i love the shooting star in that grainy sunrise picture.

  4. LiuYuan says:

    When I went into the site of MIT,I was amazed to find that there is an Asian girl.But I thought that may be a Japanese or Korean.Then I clicked your name and read the blog”Hi,I,m LULU”and was excited to find you are a Chinese!You see,I am a Chinese,too.Now I am a freshman of DUT(Dalian University of Technolgy);I come from south of Jiangxi province.Going to MIT has been my dream since I was in middle school.But,my family can’t afford to send me abraoad to accept further education.So I think there are two choices in frount of me:the first one is to find a job when I graduated from DUT and then owe some money to go to MIT;the other one is to try to get some fellowships.But I know both the means needs great work in your study,you should have high scores or something.So,it’s very hard for me to achieve my dream,but,anyway,I want to have a try.
    So could you share some of your experience with me?Such as the process you went to MIT,life in US and so on.Thank you!
    My email:[email protected]
    if that can’t accept mails from abroad(I am not sure)try [email protected](Be care,the first one is napleonlew and the second one is napoleonlew,there are differences)
    Eagerly waiting for your responce!

  5. Kelly says:

    Crazy, I’m using your blog about an all-nighter to distract myself from the sure all-nighter I have ahead of me, finishing up this genetics chapter for biology.


  6. l0ngL says:

    what is your photo class? i mean, what’s the class number on the catalogue, because it sounds interesting and I want to take it.

  7. Zaira says:

    MIT all-nighters rule!

  8. lulu says:

    oh yeah. by the way you can click on some of the pictures :D

  9. Anonymous says:

    longL: The photography class, according to the blog, is 4.343.

  10. Bryan says:

    I was wondering, Lulu, do you develop your own photos or is your camera digital?

  11. Stephanie C. says:

    First, WOW… I never knew so much was tooken into consideration with lighting.

    I got bored and started looking around in your files folder. Yes, I snooped snooped snooped. hehe XD. There are some REALLY great photos in there! I love your portfolio pics! Also, those kitties are so adorable! Are you allowed to have cats in your dorms? I loved the pizzaamerica pic. That really made me laugh. And I read the dark times article thing. That’s pretty halarious, your mom sounds like my dad *shudders*. You should have left the pic on there, I want to see. And that pic of the cannon. That wasn’t THE cannon that the Hackers shipped from CalTech during the spring, was it? ROFL! Yeah…. I got distracted, didn’t I? Oops.

    P.S. ~ All nighters are oh-so-much fun! I’m being sarcastic of course. They’re only fun if you pull an all nighter with friends.

  12. jeff says:

    is that a pentech pencil?! those are really comfortable.

  13. lulu says:

    taking a photo class gives you access to the photo lab, so I do develop black and white film in there. all these pictures are digital though. I might put up some film… if I feel like it.

    and steph- yah cats are friends. some dorms allow cats. 4-ish halls in my dorm allow cats. 5th east has a lot of cats. we just have 2 smile

  14. lulu says:


    what are you crazy? it’s saturday

  15. Michael says:

    That PSet kinda made me want to kill myself. I’ll just chalk that up to not having been taught the material. If I’m wrong about that and actually have to do PSets like that with the kind of knowledge I have right now, don’t tell me please. Ignorance is bliss, I’d rather find out that I’m screwed while attending MIT, not before I get accepted/denied.

  16. john says:

    lulu takes pretty pictars!

  17. Kelly says:

    Yeah…I’m taking AP Bio online, so we have stuff due on sundays…:(

  18. lulu says:

    jeff- are they really any different from regular pencils?

    michael michael, don’t worry your little head about it. if you’ve spent a whole year at MIT and still have the same amount of knowledge as you have now, you wouldn’t be taking 8.03 smile

  19. u of c says:

    lulu will you marry me??

  20. rohit says:

    the real best part of this blog,i tell u,are those ealy morning snaps.boy,the way natire is photographed there awes me!i believe looking into such snaps can make people the likes of Byron and shakespeare.
    do you like poetry???

  21. rohit rizal says:

    hello, i really like to appreciate ur lifestyle and the way you have been taking things simultaneously, you seem expertised in everythings and i see a grand recognition standing in front of u.u know MIT was my dreamgirl, since i knew its name and its great achievements,Really saying even pronouncing MIT makes me think i am thinking something beyond my reach, but i am aware that i too canbe its member.TO fulfill the requirements of mit, would really be difficult, because i never ever stood 1, 2, orv 3 in my class because frankly speaking i never liked the nepali subject which always put me down.however i will try my best, and by gods grace hopefully i will be the boyfriend of my dreamgirl. BY THE WAY IT TOOK ME 27 MINUTES TO WRITE THIS ALL

  22. Anonymous says:

    nice photos, but just a correction. in modern conventions photons don’t have “mass” – generally defined as invariant mass, e.g. see . also, the rest frame of a photon is usually not a useful notion, if it can even be defined; photons always move at c in a vacuum, and you cannot boost to a Lorentz frame in which a photon is at rest.

  23. Mikey Yang says:

    OMG David…what a hottie. LOL Those are some great pics of Dave, he really does look like he’s posing for his senior high picture. Those differences in lighting are really interesting though. And those sunrise pics are pretty sweet. smile

  24. lulu says:

    u of c-

    no, dude.


    actually, energy and mass are very much the same thing. and you can too define a rest frame for a photon if you are not ugly.


    oh yeah i gotta send them to him

  25. Anonymous says:

    Oho! I get it! man, I sure do know a lot about physics I’m probably even going to to go grad school in physics but I’m not some kind of prick who won’t let little sophomores taking relativity for the first time and finding it cool have their fun. I have a great sense of humor and am not offended easily and I’m pretty smart, too, to boot. I wish there were more people like me in the world. Have a nice day!

    P.S. we should hang out some time

  26. mike says:

    Man it’s so good to know how great everyone is all the time.


  27. lulu says:


    Totally! That is a swell idea. We seem to have a lot of the same interests and we both love toothpastefordinner and physics, maybe you can even teach me a little something about geodesics and we can be really happy from here on out. We get along so great. Life is good!


    I know, isn’t it??? smile

  28. Anonymous says:

    I actually have a very nice physique, am comely in appearance and am generally nice to be around. Let’s be friends forever!

  29. lulu says:

    I’ll bet you are quite the looker and are not grossly overweight not that there is anything wrong with that of course. But even if you weren’t that great looking I wouldn’t call you out on it or anything LOL what does it matter? You have a heart of gold.

  30. Anonymous says:

    I’m nice!!! It’s too bad no one knows my name!! Or they would friend me on facebook like I wanted!!

  31. lulu says:

    Easy! I’ll friend you on facebook right now!

  32. hawk says:

    Everything is so wonderful!

  33. hawk says:

    I love quantum field theory!!

  34. lulu says:

    I love everything!!

  35. u of c says:

    sorry, thought id ask, do i need to post some math problems to get a smart womens attention?
    but i suck at math!

  36. Anonymous says:

    My son (from Taiwan) is taking 8.03 and 8.033 too this semember. Nice to know he is in the same class with such a brilliant girl from China.

  37. lulu says:

    hey that’s cool!

    I’m not that smart though but thanks for the compliment smile

  38. lulu says:

    uh, what? oh no, dont do that.

  39. rohit says:

    i want some advice to write the essay.would u help me?

  40. Anonymous says:

    Is there any prerequisite for 4.343 Photography and Related Media? Can I take it as a freshman?

  41. JD says:

    Do u HAVE to work all night or do u just prefer sleeping during the day?
    i’m huge on sleeping… i’d be drooling on my desk by 1am

  42. lulu says:

    yah I just work better when everyone else is asleep on my hall. Fewer distractions. In general, if you plan well you shouldn’t HAVE to pull too many all-nighters (one or two is generally unavoidable for a multitude of reasons).

  43. lulu says:

    yah I just work better when everyone else is asleep on my hall. Fewer distractions. In general, if you plan well you shouldn’t HAVE to pull too many all-nighters (one or two is generally unavoidable for a multitude of reasons).


    4.343 is a grad class so it’s up to the discretion of the professor. There aren’t required courses that you take before 4.343 but they do give enrollment preference to grad students and try really hard to direct you toward the undergrad photography class 4.341 instead if you haven’t taken it before. 4.341 didn’t fit into my schedule.