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Posts Tagged ‘science’

[#7] – Chemistry 102 – Introductory University Chemistry II

September 3, 2011 2 comments

Today’s post marks the second half of my introductory chemistry experience.  After living through a less than ideal outing of Chem 101, I was motivated to try harder, and to do better, in Chem 102.  I had begun to adopt my much ignored, and often overlooked, high school motto: “Fortuna audaces iuvat,” which is Latin for: “Fortune Favors The Strong.” (Or at least, I think it was my high school motto … Either that, or I saw it on a bumper sticker once)

 

Batteries (a.k.a. electrochemical cells) were one of the many things that we studied in this course.

 

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Preamble:

Alas, as I was still a naive first year, my outlook was plagued by a false sense of entitlement.  I believed, erroneously, that the harder I worked, in terms of effort, the better my grades would be.  I did not take into account the most important thing of all … working smart; studying intelligently.  One could read the textbook, scrutinizing every word, until the cows come home, and yet, not know a thing about how to successfully solve problems come exam time.  In order to achieve a truly remarkable grade in courses such as chemistry, a fair amount of time must be spent doing practice problems.  I wasn’t aware of this, at the time, however.  It was remiss of me, I know; I am all the more wiser, though.  Continue Reading >>

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The Pre-School Jitters

August 28, 2011 8 comments

It’s that time again!  The new school year is lurking just around the corner.  Whether you’re a hardened veteran on the verge of completing your graduate studies, or a fledgling greenhorn about to begin high school, you’ll surely recognize one important thing.  That is, the fact that you are going to turn the pages, and inevitably experience an entirely new chapter in your life’s story.

Unless you possess the sentiments of a stone, then you will likely greet this change in your life with an amalgam of emotions.  You may feel anxious, excited, relieved, happy, nervous, or all of these at once.  This, I believe, is perfectly normal; especially for those who are making fairly large transitions, such as from high school to university.

 

Are you ready to start yet another year of school?!

 

I’ve recently spoken to a handful of prospective undergrads, and they’ve all told me, more or less, the same thing.  They are excited, nervous, and a tad intimidated.  My advice: the only way to successfully combat human inertia, is to run the gamut of human emotions.  In other words, I told them that people are naturally apprehensive and resistant to change.  Fortunately, we are highly adaptable creatures and when change is forced upon us, we can learn to deal with it.  In order to ‘deal with it’ smoothly, we need not bottle up our thoughts, questions, or emotions; rather, we should bring everything to the table, and realize that everyone is going through the same ordeal. Continue Reading >>

[#6] – Biology 108 – Introduction To Biological Diversity

August 23, 2011 28 comments

Firstly, I’d like to provide an explanation for my lack of entries as of late.  In order to expel any confusion: I did not abandon this blog haha; I’m still alive; I didn’t win the lottery, and no, I didn’t get abducted by aliens.  The truth is much more mundane: The final exam for my (condensed) summer physics course was a few days ago, and naturally, I’ve been busy studying, and solving countless problem sets in preparation for the test.

For those who are still curious: I received my Physics 102 – Final Course Grade today, and got an A+.  More on this in an upcoming post.

 

The world is full of flora and fauna; most of which we haven't gotten the slightest clue about.

 

Hey, wait!  This post wasn’t supposed to be about physics!  It’s supposed to be about a life science, the one and only, biology!  (My digressions get the best of me sometimes)  Now onto the review: Continue Reading >>

The Importance of Learning (Something … Anything)

August 5, 2011 4 comments
I hear and I forget.  I see and I remember.  I do and I understand.
Confucius
Chinese philosopher & reformer (551 BC – 479 BC)

 

Today, I’d like to take a moment to impart –what I believe to be– a slice of axiomatic wisdom.  When it comes to education, too often do we find ourselves being shoved through the ‘hoops’, like a cluster of mindless drones.  Whether we like it or not, we are expected, from a very young age, to partake, and to complete, a highly structured scholastic curriculum.  This system, in and of itself, is fine and dandy; my primary quibble, is how we are expected to learn from said curriculum.

 

To understand something, one needs to go beyond the superficial aspects (ie: purely memorizing).

 

For example, many science classes stress upon the rote memorization of facts, figures, and equations.  Success in the classroom, therefore, depends upon one’s ability to digest, and ultimately, to regurgitate these snippets of information.  But do we actually learn anything from this process?  I am one to believe that we frequently pay too much attention to the superfluous details.  As a consequence, we fail to understand the big picture; the grand scheme of things.  In other words, we cannot see the forest for the trees.  (The true beauty of science is not found in the names, dates, or equations themselves.  The true beauty is found when we come to realize how and why these equations, theories, etc. seem to be important to humanity as a whole) Continue Reading >>

The Importance of Scheduling

July 23, 2011 1 comment

Ahh yes, the almighty calendar.  Both a blessing and a curse.  Since its inception, it has provided people with the ability to peer into the future; to map out the days, months, and even years ahead.  It supplies us with an ever-present backbone of rigidity in which we can use to successfully meander through our hectic lives.

On the flip-side, it is this very rigidity that, at times, constricts us.  An inflexible calendar, much like an inflexible backbone, does not allow for much spontaneity, does it?  Henceforth, we must strike a balance between the two.  An ideal schedule ought to contain a certain degree of rigidness, coupled with an element of plasticity!  Who’s with me?!  …  Just me?! .. Ummm, yeah, well .. I’ll just carry on then …

Anyways, all verbosity aside, today’s post is going to focus on none other than my (frenetic) first year timetable.  You should note that: I was given full reign over the construction of my schedule.  The times of the courses, and even the courses themselves were selected solely by moi (at the end of grade 12).  Looking back at my decisions, I can safely ask myself: “What was I thinking?!”  It appears as though I was attempting to brew the perfect recipe for disaster … I mean, who in their right mind would select only morning labs?  *You will see exactly what I’m referring to in the images below. 

 

This was my Fall 2009 Schedule ... Ain't it a beaut'?

 

This was my Winter 2010 Schedule. Whose lame-brained idea was it to choose three 8:00 a.m. labs? Oh yeah, it was my idea.

 

Now that you’ve witnessed this menacing monstrosity with your own eyes, let’s begin with our analysis.  Before I go on any further, however, I have to point out that I’m not particularly a morning person.  I would very much prefer to sleep late than to wake up early.  (I know quite a few people who are entirely opposite!  Go figure!) Continue Reading >>

[#4] – Math 113 – Elementary Calculus I

July 19, 2011 5 comments

At this very moment, I am taking an introductory physics course in beautiful British Columbia.  If you’ve been dutifully following my entries (in chronological order of course), the previous sentence should seem rather precarious.  After all, what brings an UofA student from Alberta, to a different university in a different province?! (In true cliffhanger fashion, you’ll have to wait for the answer to this question in an upcoming post)

 

Math is a language that helps us understand both the physcial, and the abstract dimensions of reality.

 

Anyways, you must also be wondering: “what does any of this nonsense have to do with today’s entry on elementary calculus?”  Well, to put it simply, today’s physics lecture dealt with the properties of electric flux.  In order to understand such a concept, one should be, at the very least, acquainted with the fundamentals of calculus.  Without such knowledge, it would be difficult, nigh impossible, to develop a solid comprehension of the subject.  What I’m getting at is: sometimes, even if we don’t like it, math can be used as a language, or stepping stone, for deciphering physical constructs (ie: electric flux). Continue Reading >>

The Merits and Demerits of Grading on a Bell Curve

July 15, 2011 13 comments

This entry will touch upon the good, the bad, and the ugly aspects of grading on the infamous ‘Bell Curve‘.  For those of you unfamiliar with either this grading practice, or normal distributions in general, let me briefly elaborate:

Now, for the sake of brevity, I will try to spare you from all of the mathematical gobbledygook and statistical mumbo-jumbo that traditionally comes with these sorts of explanations.

1.  What exactly is a bell curve?

A bell curve, or more specifically, a Gaussian Distribution, is a symmetric curve that is pronounced in the middle, and tapered off at the edges (it really does look like a bell).  As such, the middle portion under the curve contains more area than either of the ends.

 

This is what a typical bell curve looks like.

 

2.  What does “grading on a curve” mean?

When courses are said to be “marked on the curve,” this usually means that a predetermined percentage of students will obtain each grade.  For example, a certain amount of students will receive an A+ (top 4%), a certain amount will receive an A (next 7%), and so on and so forth.  Ultimately, the distribution of grades will fit ‘nicely’ on a bell shaped curve; with the majority of students obtaining marks near the middle portion of the curve (‘B’ range).  Unfortunately, however; this also necessitates the fact that a certain percentage of students will inevitably obtain ‘F’ grades, and fail the course entirely (bottom 6%). Continue Reading >>