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MIT student blogger Chris S. '11

What Do These Numbers Have in Common? by Chris S. '11

7, 8, 12, 17, 18.

Well, for one thing, they are all whole numbers. For another, they are all integers. While I’m there, I might as well say that they’re real….

Okay, I’ll stop being lame. That was just an attention grabber, I’ll give you that =p

SOOO it’s T -2.5 days for all you Early Applicants! If you were anything like me last year, you will probably be jumping up and down by now, too paranoid to look at the calendar (“oh my goodness, it’s ONLY three days away”), but also secretly hoping that The Day will come sooner (“just tell me the decision ALREADY!”). But more on this at the bottom.

Here at MIT, it’s rapidly coming down to the end. In a week and a day, I’ll be hopping on a jet plane, bound for the tropical island of Taiwan (where it is wonderfully 80 degrees outside. I can envision the warm+humid wave hitting me in the face already – the humidity is not so wonderful). But before that, I need to survive four final exams – which brings me to the topic of this blog.

So far this semester, I realized that I haven’t written about my classes yet, so I’ll give you a brief rundown of my courses. A lot of the things I’m taking will be highly relevant to all the incoming freshman, since I’m generally taking GIRs (General Institute Requirements), and there’s a really really good chance that a lot of you guys who are headed here next fall will also take the same courses.

7.012Introductory Biology, 12 credits, GIR for Biology
Co-taught by Professors Lander and Weinberg, both vanguards in their respective biological fields (genetics for the former; cancer, latter), 7.012 is an appealing choice for freshman who want to make an early entrance into biology. Taught by this powerful duo, the course provides a broad, but surprisingly comprehensive, view of cell biology. Topics covered includes basic biochemistry, Mendelian genetics, viruses, recombinant DNA, cellular regulation (with cancer), neurobiology, immunology, and stem cells/cutting edge biological techniques. It’s essentially a very genetics-based introductory course in biology.

We (the Class of 2011) are also the first year in which a 5 on AP Biology is no longer taken as credit for the Biology GIR (I know, it sucks for me too. I had a 5 as well). There was some outrage about this, but having gone through the course, I see now that there is hardly any similarity between 7.012 and AP Biology.

You probably spent a fair bit of AP Bio memorizing exotic names of animals during the phylogeny chapter (what is the class name for brittle stars? Ophiuroidea!), figuring out vascular transport in plants, or giggling at the diagrams in Chapter 46 of the ubiquitous Campbell’s Biology (yeah, grow up). Guess what? None of that is in 7.012! Think of 7.012 as the genetics portion of AP Bio, but going REALLY deep into it. Not only do you have to know the facts, you also have to know a lot of the theory behind biological experimentation (how do you use restriction enzymes to cut DNA? what do you do about a protein that is produced, but does not secrete from a cell?). Blend in a lot of anecdotes from Professors Lander and Weinberg’s research (biology is still incredibly dynamic!), and that’s 7.012 for ya.

8.01Physics: Mechanics, 12 credits, GIR for Physics
With nearly 600 students in the course (but split across seven sections with seven instructors! not all in one class…haha), this is by far the largest GIR by sheer size (although 3.091 – Professor Sadoway’s Solid State Chemistry – comes close). The huge size of this course, however, is attributed not so much to the fact that the course is the most exciting one that you’ll want to take at MIT, but rather, it’s part of the requirements. If you haven’t taken Physics C and scored 5’s on both sections (or have equivalent physics credit), you need 8.01 to graduate. Thus, most freshman come in lacking physics credit and enroll in some form of 8.01x. Aside from the few that choose to enroll in 8.012 [Physics for the Truly Insane (and it really is crazy…I came here kind of skeptical about the difficulty of 8.012, but after seeing the work in the first couple of weeks, I quickly retreated into ‘ole warm and fuzzy 8.01. =p)], or 8.01L (physics at a slower pace – extends into IAP) – the vast majority take 8.01.

8.01 is taught using the TEAL method, which I kind of explained in this entry. I don’t want to beat the topic to death, so I’ll let that explanation suffice. The major thing is that TEAL receives very mixed responses from the student body, with people either loving it or totally hating it. I guess you’ll have to come and see for yourself! (or get 5’s on Physics C! that works too. I regret being lazy in high school now..haha).

12.000Solving Complex Problems (Mission 2011), 9 credits
I did a blog on this! So check that out.

The other thing I forgot to mention in the last blog that this course is the first course in the Terrascope program for freshmen at MIT. Terrascope is a freshman learning community, and there’s a couple others offered for incoming freshman, including ESG and Concourse. Basically, the aim of freshman learning communities is to offer an alternative from learning from large freshman lectures (all of my science classes exceeded 100 students). Thus, students enrolled in ESG and Concourse have lectures together, do recitations together, and take exams together in their core GIR courses, which are taught by their own staff (not the regular GIR instructors). Terrascope is different from ESG and Concourse in the sense that it gathers a subset of freshmen interested in a topic together (generally something having to do with environmental science or Earth-related issues…see past Mission topics) in two specialized courses (12.000 – Solving Complex Problems [fall] and 1.016 – Communicating Complex Environmental Issues [spring]), but the Terrascope staff does not teach GIR courses (ie. I still take mainstream 8.01, 7.012, 18.02 courses). There is also a freshman learning program sponsored by the Media Lab at MIT that works similarly as Terrascope.

It’s hard to condense all the differences in these learning communities in a paragraph, so I’ll redirect you here if all of that sounded really confusing. Just know that each Learning Community possesses unique benefits to freshmen, and you can’t really compare them side-by-side and say that one is “better” than other. It’s all about what you want to get out of the program.

And (wow, that was a LONG tangent), all of this goes to say that 12.000 is the first course that all Terrascopers take. I’ll be taking the other Terrascope course in the Spring, so I’ll keep you informed about that!

17.40American Foreign Policy, 12 credits, GIR for HASS (humanities)
Taught by Professor van Evera, this course provides an engaging overview of American foreign policy since the First World War. Remember the old axiom, “Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it?” Remarkable patterns and trends emerge if one studies the behavior of states in relation to one another in the past closely. Aside from the evaluation of past policies, the course also offers a more abstract approach of evaluating history through established models (as van Evera put it, “thinking scientifically about history” – after all, this IS MIT). If you are interested about what the deterrence, the spiral-conflict, and the democratic peace models are, come to 17.40.

Additionally, 17.40 also fulfills one course in the HASS requirement. Aside from the science GIRs, students at MIT are also required to take 8 HASS (Humanities, Arts, and Social Science) GIR courses (the idea is one HASS class for every semester here at MIT). There is a lot of requirements about what kind of HASS classes you need to graduate (you can’t just take whatever you want), but I will spare you the grisly details for some other time. :)

18.02Multivariable Calculus, 12 credits, GIR for Mathematics
Taught by perhaps one of the most popular freshman professors, Professor Auroux (who graduated high school when he was only 14!), 18.02 is a wonderfully engaging introduction into Multivariable Calculus. Like most MIT courses, 18.02 is somewhat different from a conventional Multivariable course. For example, you don’t need to know how to sketch a hyperbolic paraboloid (mine looks like a confusion of lines on paper when I last tried). Like other GIR courses that I’m taking, there’s a lot of emphasis on practical applications (using double or triple integrals to find flux or work out of a plane or a surface). But the real perk of his lectures, aside from the material presented in an excellent manner, is his ability to make every lecture engaging and relevant, his world-famous Speed Erasing (that enlivened many a lecture, when tired students began dozing off), and of course, his delightful French accent (zero = zay-roh). Words just don’t do him justice. You have to be here.

On the last day of class (yesterday), the entire class stood up and gave him a 40-second standing ovation. That’s how cool Auroux is.

And just because I feel bad this will be be like the first blog I write without pictures, I’ll throw in a random one. (I like blogging with pictures…=p)

I saw icicles forming on street signs yesterday! Haha – I thought that was pretty interesting. Again, please excuse my easily-amused tropical mindset =p

Okay, now that you have read my rants on my first semester classes, I just want to convey my best wishes to all of you early applicants.

I have just one piece of advice: if it is at all possible, try to read your decision privately. I feel like after all these months of waiting, you should be the first to know your decision, not all 354 of your extended family standing around, huddled around the computer, egging you on (“click it, click it!”). Sometimes, the initial feeling of seeing a college decision is an immensely powerful one (if you don’t yet know what I mean – you will in the coming days) – especially if its from a school that you’ve been anticipating for a long time. Regardless of which way the decision goes, spend the first few moments of seeing the decision reflecting on your journey to where you are. After that, scream out loud, call your great-great-grandmother, dance in the rain (er…snow?), celebrate/rant on College Confidential…do whatever.

Also, be absolutely certain that you want to see your decision before you click that gray box after you input your MyMIT login and password. The decision letter WILL just appear without another warning!

I want to share with you some lyrics from a song by a Taiwanese band that I really enjoy listening to. The actual song is here, but it is in Mandarin. I’ll share with you a translated portion that I felt really meaningful last year, when I was also reading my decisions online…(I took the liberty of paraphrasing different portions to make it sound less awkward)

Mayday (Wu Yue Tian) – Resilience (Jue Jiang)

(halfway through the song)
It’s actually easier to fly when you’re facing the wind.
I’m not scared of the obstacles – even if tens of millions people stand in my way.
I’m just scared of giving up.

I hold on tightly to my resilience, never letting go.
The next destination may be paradise, but even if I end up being disappointed, I will never give up.
My proud resilience and I, we’re singing loudly in the wind:
“Even if it seems like the odds are against us, we’re going for it – my resilience and I.”

Just this time, let me sing it loudly –
Even if I end up disappointed, I will never give up.
Just this time, my resilience and I.

Best wishes! :)

57 responses to “What Do These Numbers Have in Common?”

  1. Rena says:

    Thanks for posting such an inspiring song. It’s funny, I worried about getting in so much more while I was working on my application, but now that it’s submitted, its almost comforting that it’s out of my hands, that I can’t do anything else. Even though I would like to send them ten more essays. =P

  2. Anonymous says:

    I heard about the average tests score in was in the 40s for the first midterm.
    Are there huge curves?
    I just finished my physics mech final at the local community college yesterday….ahhh 2 hours of panic, 7 problems worth 40% of my grade. But it was way easier than her mid-terms. Maybe the teacher was just being nice to us =)
    All my teachers decided to pile homework on us right before finals instead of letting us review at our own pace. so I don’t even have time to be paranoid over EA yet.

  3. Bahram says:

    i wonder if you could give me your e-mail for giving me some information about mit.

  4. yay says:

    nice… anyway great blog mate. That calc teacher sounds like a blast. My Math 150/151 (Single Var. Calc) teacher was awesome and I’m very lucky to have her again, at least for the first semester, this year for Linear Alg. It really really helps to have engaging teachers. As for the ice… I guess I could learn to deal with it.

    Hope to see you next year.
    Cheers, keep blogging!!!

  5. Anonnie says:

    Wu Yue Tian is actually one of my favorite bands! *Asian music junkie*

  6. Kayla says:

    good blog… aghhh everytime i read a blog i just wanna go to MIT even more… i wish i had applied early decision…

  7. Isshak says:

    What ?! 18.02 is a GIR ? I thought 18.01 was the only math GIR. Oh well, guess we all have to go 3D some day…
    What class do you find the hardest in your personal opinion ?

  8. Sam says:

    Tickle my sack, is anyone online right now?

    Come to the #MIT IRC channel on freenode, or follow the link through MIT Prospectives.


  9. TP says:

    80 degress?

    You don’t need Taiwan for that, just come down to georgia wink We have pleanty of humidity here, too.

    have a nice trip!

  10. MIT sounds like such an amazing school. I want to go so bad.

    And we’ll know about EA in less than 60 hours!!! YAY!

  11. Concerned says:

    TO 90% OF YOU

    Although presumptuous of me, I will try to speak for the parents and guardians of most of you. As you know, about 10% of you are going to be very happy on Saturday and another 20% of you will be disappointed for a few months but will eventually get the good news from MIT. From the perspective of 50 years, I want to remind the 70% of you who will go to other fabulous colleges and universities that want you—perhaps in warmer climates, different geographic areas, or more rural settings—that you WILL go on to lead happy and productive lives without MIT (unless you give it a second chance for graduate school). Although we paraents will share your disappointment, because the amplitude of youth for both joy and sorrow exceeds that of people our age, we cannot possibly feel as badly as you will. But we can assure you that this extremely difficult decision that the admissions folks must make will not affect one iota the love that we have for you and the pride that we have in all of your accomplishments. It’s MIT’s loss. As someone in the admissions office has wisely written, “there are many, many paths to becoming an interesting, successful person; one of life’s hardest but most useful lessons is that we don’t always get to choose which one we take.” So, the 90% of you that aren’t going to be ecstatic on Saturday….sulk for a day, eat some comfort food, and then get back in the game and finish those “Plan B” applications. We are behind you all the way!

  12. Anonymous says:

    Thanks for the inspirational song and advice!

  13. donaldGuy says:

    Very nice lyrics of wisdom .. I hope I don’t have occasion to apply them this time (though I will undoubtedly have to some time in my life).

    I still fool myself into thinking I’d like to take 8.012.. we’ll (hopefully) see how that works out …

    As for math .. would you recommend going straight to 18.02 over, say, taking 18.014 so you can go to 18.024 .. the “with theory” sounds intriguing to me… though so do Prof. Auroux’s lectures… decisions, decisions … of course those are all contingent on …

    DECISIONS!! (.MIT.EDU ?) ..

    Anyway, again, thanks for the words of wisdom. Best of luck (and skill) on exams,
    ~Donald Guy

  14. Nick says:

    I specifically told my parents that the decision date is set for Sunday the 16th so that I could read it privately.

    It’s a tense enough moment as it is, the last thing I need is a crowd, if only of a few people!

  15. Stephy says:

    hey! I am a Taiwanese too! and 倔強 or jue jiang is my favorite song!
    It feels friendlier reading advises from someone from my country =]
    I am so anxious.
    but I wont give up no matter what.
    I ll see you at MIT *smile*

  16. Anonymous says:

    8.012/8.022 aren’t super insane or freakishly hard. Don’t scare off the prefrosh.

  17. Anon says:

    What are you going to do for your Chemistry GIR?

  18. 7, 8, 12, 17, and 18…they’re all factors of 8568.

    Just sayin’.

  19. Hey guys. I’m sooooo nervous. I really hope I get in. Less than two days! I’ll be at a meet on Saturday, so I won’t find out until 5:00. Best of luck to all! I hope to see you all in Cambridge for CPW (wouldn’t that be AMAZING!!!)!

  20. milena '11 says:

    EVERYBODY is taking 17.40. Like everybody I talk to. And doesn’t it also count for CI-H credit? I thought it was HASS-D/CI-H. That’s like the best thing ever, killing two birds with one stone.

  21. PS says:

    Reading the lyric of Mayday, I’ve just remembered I have to search someone to translate my teachers’ recommendations. And study for TOEFL. And go to bed before 1 a.m. And wait for Dec 20 for my SAT scores. And the day after for Chilean college admissions results. And… and… *faints*

    Well, lot to do…

    And kill those finals! =P

  22. Dahvid says:

    AHHH 你要回台灣!! luckyyyy
    =D… 好想回去!
    ooh and 五月天 is so goood
    i love the song “我” =D=D

  23. Celena says:

    wo hen ai wu yue tian!!!

  24. anion says:

    all MIT’12 prospectives log onto:

    *spread the word*
    *this is no spam*

  25. says:

    Because no one has mentioned it, (maybe it’s too obvious) I thought that I would point out that the numbers that you listed are also the course numbers for the classes that you mentioned.

  26. Sudipta says:

    Since the first semester at MIT is based on a pass/no record system, use that to your advantage. In my opinion, I think its better if you take the GIR courses, which you might have trouble with, in the first semester. From then on, take the courses you want to take.

  27. Grace '11 says:

    umm my quintuple major. lol no. none of those are what i think i’m doing. also, even if you get double fives, you can still discover the joys of TEAL in 8.02, which i will suffer through next semester! i wish auroux would teach like…every class.

  28. Anonymous says:

    i uhhh think that was a given


    2 days, 6 hours, and 30 minutes (if we put the release time at 11:45 EST)

  29. Oompaloompa says:

    Hey guys I did EA to MIT but I really couldn’t care less about the decision. I don’t even want to go anymore. I am just apologizing as I will probably be taking the spot of one of you extremely eager applicants. Not to be cocky but I got a perfect SAT, perfect GPA, near perfect SAT 2’s and I have massive alumni connections. I’m also the president of three clubs and the captain of varsity tennis. Please don’t feel upset, there are many other schools out there.

    Sorry :(

  30. Doris says:

    You’re going back to Taiwan? I’m so jealous… but hopefully I’ll be going back this summer, before it’s time for me to head off to college next year. raspberry Do you plan on being back at MIT for IAP?

    Also, 五月天 is amazing. You’re going back to Taiwan? I’m so jealous… but hopefully I’ll be going back this summer, before it’s time for me to head off to college next year. raspberry Do you plan on being back at MIT for IAP?

    Also, 五月天 is amazing. <3

  31. Arnon says:

    @ Oompaloompa
    Yeah, we know, some incredibly wicked force is forcing the perfect but unsuspecting Oompaloompa, who suspects nothing, to accept his hypothetical admissions offer he does not want to accept anyway.

    Sometimes I feel the same way. It’s a tingling sensation in my back, you know. And since I am embodying at least three quarters of all the gods out there, I apologize to the rest of humankind beforehand.

  32. Anonymous says:

    Wu Yue Tian is amaaaaah-zing! Esp. in their collaboration with Cheer Chen…

  33. Oompaloompa says:

    Guys don’t stress out too much. There are only a few shoo-in applicants at MIT, trust me.

  34. OmarA says:

    Cool post man. I guess I better get 5’s on my AP Physics C exam…no pressure right?

  35. Anonymous says:

    Wow, that is some really fast erasing.

  36. Hawkins says:

    Great post! Thanks for writing about your freshman classes. I second the advice to read your decision privately… I didn’t get to, but I think it would have been even better that way. Whatever happens, you guys are incredible! I hope you join me in the Class of 2012!

  37. Ginger says:


    That is freakishly amazing O_O

    I’m from CA so pardon me for being a bit shocked.

  38. Dad'11 says:

    I respect your decision. MIT’s gain is somebody else’s loss.

  39. Fred says:

    For those who are intrested in receiving credits in GIR Biology and Chemistry without taking the courses at MIT, you can take ASE (Advanced Standing Exams) during freshman orientation. However, the passing rate is only 10% for Chemistry and 16% for Biology in 2007. So be well prepared.

  40. Hyun Jin says:

    Good luck to all the early applicants!

  41. Shauna says:

    Great post Chris. Good luck to all you early applicants. Too bad I have to apply regular decision. Ah well what will be will be…

  42. Krypton says:

    “giggling at the diagrams in Chapter 46 of the ubiquitous Campbell’s Biology”

    I knew exactly what you were referring to, but sadly, I was still compelled to pull out the Campbell’s 7th Edition I brought here with me and check, just to be sure.. raspberry

  43. Karen says:

    @Krypton: I’m glad to hear that I’m not the only one that not only knew exactly what he was referring to but pulled the ol’ AP Bio textbook off of the shelf to make sure I’m right smile

    I loved that book last year. I still love it a little bit. If I get in, I’m probably going to lug all 8 pounds of it to Boston just so I have those pretty diagrams to look at!

  44. Anonymous says:

    OMG Chapter 46 (last year). This year am taking Oceanography at school. We recently covered flatworm “penis fencing”. There’s a hilarious video from Shape of Life; I am not Kidding

  45. 16? says:


    If you didn’t want to sound like you were cocky then why did you list your stats?
    Awfully presumptuous…

    I have to say I did laugh at those pictures in the campbell AP bio book!

  46. 16? says:

    This is just a general question…but how many people apply to MIT that are younger than average?

    I just turned sixteen…Is anyone else like me?

  47. Aleo says:

    YAY wu yue tian!!! 5-month days!!!!!!!!….
    dang…i thought noone else listened to them too…

    and to that special person who calls him/herself “16?”…i’m 16 too, and i heard most people going to mit are going to be “underage” so we’re not really gonna be that special anymore :(

    but if anybody finds information otherwise….smile


  48. Oasis says:

    Responding to your comments!

    @ Isshak-
    Indeed, 3D calculus is a GIR at MIT. Don’t worry, it’s pretty engaging. I don’t really have “hard” courses right now…the general thing is that I might not be working hard enough in them because of pass/no record smile

    @ Anon-
    I’m taking 5.111 (chemistry GIR) in the spring.

    @ Matt-
    But then I can say that 7, 15, 234, 456 are all factors of 11203920, or n, n+1, 3n, n^2 are all factors of 3n^5+3n^4, or …. you get the idea. Hey – those numbers have something else in common that’s more important wink

    @ Milena-
    Yes – 17.40 is one of those courses. I think that’s the reason why a lot of freshman are taking it, but I took it in the beginning just because I loved foreign affairs (it was my favorite part in APUSH), and I ended up enjoying the course!

    @ Concerned-
    Well spoken. Thanks.

    @ Anonymous-
    8.012 and 8.022 aren’t hard if you are committed on working hard or really enjoy physics. I hope I didn’t make it sound like a killer course, but I feel the subject content is sufficiently difficult that unless you have a deep interest in physics, you would think the class is painful. Of course, I know plenty of people that enjoy 8.012. Who knows, that may be you! (But it definitely isn’t for me…)

    @ Sudipta-
    You can use that to your advantage, but you might also get burned out at the end, if you’re taking a killer freshman load wink But ah well – to each his own.

    @ Everyone who knows who Mayday is-
    You rawk! I’m surprised that so many people know who Wu Yue Tian is…I love their songs – especially a lot of their lyrics. It’s so true to life! Their Taiwanese songs are awesome too (my fav: 志明與春嬌. Love its lyrics).

    @ Everyone who caught the Campbell ch. 46 reference-
    Just shows how popular Mr. Campbell (may he rest in peace) is in our AP Biology curriculum. wink

    @ 16 and Aleo-
    I’m actually not aware of that fact. Most freshman around me are 18 or 19 (normal)…so, I don’t know =p But you’ll see when you come here that age is hardly an issue. If you’re brilliant, age is nothing.

  49. Shamarah says:

    Are all the numbers the courses that you’re considering majoring in?

  50. Isshak says:

    Lool I just realized the numbers are corresponding to the courses you are taking right now, silly me ^^’

  51. soon. says:

    university of chicago just released their EA decisions eventhough they said they were gonna release this Saturday.

  52. Will says:

    Oopaloompa = troll. So don’t feed him!

  53. wendysung626 says:

    Good luck on your exams!
    Taiwan isn’t that hot these days is it?
    Haven’t been back there for two years already

  54. Rohit Mishra says:

    The description of courses are great and was umm… surprising that people doze off in classes at MIT too, which is kind of good. Only proves the fact that MIT is as normal in these matters as other places are. The blog has made my wish(& resilience) to come to MIT next fall just stronger.

  55. Jermaine says:

    @ Ginger

    There is isicles in CA. Look North to Tohoe. Or any other city in the Sierras. Duh.

  56. Vicky says:

    Thanks for the course info! Having been accepted, that is what I’m really interested in now. There’s still so much for me to learn about MIT!

    Hehe, reading the letter privately…I found out from my mom who woke me up after staying up the entire night because she just couldn’t control her immense desire to KNOW THE DECISION.

    I wonder how other people found out their decisions…

    Well, I’d better go read my admissions letter now.