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A Physicist's Guide to Smoked Gouda


01 February 2006 18:47

last night zodda sent me a link to a page from wikipedia on quantum entanglement (no, im not going to link to it. that means id have to look at it again, and ill explain in a bit why i cant do that). and it had all this stuff in bra-ket notation, eigenvectors, hermitian operators, and hilbert spaces. and it just sent me into a spiral cause im STILL just so bitter and resentful about the whole physics thing.

when i took quantum mechanics I and II as a senior, i felt so lost. i understood conceptually what was happening in class, but the formalism and the math was just beyond me. i felt like i was expected to understand it, and i didnt. my book was in bra-ket notation, and my prof didnt use bra-ket notation. i was having such a hard time that my prof gave me a desk in my TAs office. he tutored me, and when i understood something as simple as a particle in a box with his formalism, i felt like a complete idiot that i didnt get the more complicated stuff, but how could i when it hadnt been introduced to me? and everyone else seemed so ok with it, like theyd been reading feynmans lectures over the summer (they prolly did) or had really great REUs where they actually learned stuff about quantum theory (i know i didnt). i got a B in the class but not because i could actually use any of the formalism or the maths. . . what i COULD do was read the situation and state exactly what the set up was and what i expected to happen. then i had to stop, cause i couldnt do any of the work to prove my hypotheses were correct. everyones elses exams were pages of greek characters and math symbols, and mine was pages of words, sentences, and paragraphs of explanations.

in short, i didnt feel like i actually learned much, mastered the material, or even deserved a B in quantum mechanics. i dont really feel like i deserved a degree in physics, and im just drifting out here without any real qualifications at all. i happened to find a place where people think im smart, and theyll let me have fun teaching without regard to the fact that i am neither certified as a teacher or qualified to teach science. i feel like if i leave this little safe zone ive built, ill just go insane again. i chose a really tough major cause i thought i could do anything, and i feel like i failed at it.

i guess im being too hard on myself. i expected to be able to understand quantum mechanics because everyone else in my class did. im still mad at myself because i didnt, and whats even worse is that i wasnt even fully capable of doing my best work at that time in my life. but damn, i wish i could have. i wish i had a real shot at it, i wish i knew a way to do college without making myself sick and insane. but how could i have known, when id been showing signs of depression since age eight? if it had started that early, wasnt there any way of preventing it from getting as bad as it did? my worst depressive episodes happening at the most inconvenient and stressful times, and not coincidentally, im sure.