This video is very appropriate this morning.
Since about five o’clock last night, with some breaks for sleeping and eating, I have spent most of my time immersed in the intricacies of addition reactions to alkenes and alkynes in preparation for my upcoming midterms in 5.12 (organic chemistry), not to mention the peculiarities of second-order ordinary differential systems for 18.03 (differential equations). Yes, I have two midterms on the same day. Yes, I’m not very happy about that fact, but it happens.
I’ve been studying hydrogenation, hydroboration, and hydrohalogenation; epoxidation, oxidation, oxymercuration, and hydroxylation; halohydration, osmylation, reduction, alkylation, and (of course) ozonoloysis. I’ve plumbed the details of syn addition, Markovnikov’s rule, carbocation stability, radicals, hyperconjugation, and all sorts of stereochemistry and regiochemistry. I’ve investigated the phenomenon of damping, the principle of superposition, the concept of linearity, the exponential shift law, and more.
Yes, I know that’s a lot of chemistry and math talk right there. Yes, that was the point. Not because I’m trying to show off – I read most of those terms off my notes; I don’t know all them off the top of my head (mainly because the technical names of those chemical reactions actually don’t matter very much in the long run) – but rather because if you come to MIT, you too will suddenly become exposed to vastly more technical and scientific knowledge than you may have ever realized existed.
For most of you, I imagine this will be a welcome change. Others…may be a little more skeptical about that prospect. Goodness knows, I probably would have been. But I’ve been here nearly a semester and a half now, and I feel that’s enough time for me to assure each and every one of you, right now, of this one crucial fact: as daunting as the material, the courses, and MIT in general may seem now – you can and will find yourselves equal to it. Sometimes, that may take more effort than others. But you can do it.
In every single one of the classes I have taken so far at MIT – whether it’s organic chemistry, classical mechanics, differential equations, or anything else – I have been consistently confronted with problems more challenging than anything I ever dreamed of encountering in high school. But that, I can’t help but feel, is one of the purposes of MIT. If college didn’t push the boundaries of what you know – well, what’s the point? There is a reason an MIT education has been compared to taking a drink from a firehose, but that reason is not to overwhelm you with knowledge and make you want to shout “IHTFP!” from my (I mean, your) dorm room window.
It’s to show you exactly what you’re capable of. Which is so much more than you might otherwise think.