Sunday, April 20, 2008

Calculus Camp

Apologies for such a long delay. But I had a bunch of stuff.... and....... things..... happened....... so.... anyways!

[Note, I wrote this about a week ago... and didn't get to finish it.... until now. I probably don't remember the exact times we did sections, so too bad. I've been busy this week too]

The last four days of the long delay were due to the fact that I was at Calculus Camp. Calculus Camp is an annual four-day event my school does to help students review for the AP Calculus test. And I have to say, it was fun (or as fun as doing 24-26 hours of Calculus over the span of a weekend could be).

On Thursday, we left at noon from school in charter buses (the fancy-schmancy ones!) to the campground where we'd be stuck for four days until Sunday. It actually didn't take as long as I thought it would, I was told it would take three hours, but instead it took only two. We went up, high in the mountains where there was snow laying about (but none near our campsite). There, the air was clear and thin...ner. That was demonstrated when I decided to take a drink of water. Once I opened my water bottle when we were up in the mountains, the cap exploded off and woke up everyone near me on the bus. It was actually really funny. Anyway, once we got there, we picked our cabins, were treated to lunch, and then forced off to our first Calculus session. There, we went over the basics: Functions. Once we did that, it was dinner and then the SECOND session: Limits and Differentiation! Limits were okay, but differentiation had 100 or so problems! Somehow, I still finished it, but the later sections would only become MUCH more complex. But, this was enough Calculus for one day, so we ended it. After that came some free time and a bonfire (though a campfire would be a more appropriate description). And of course, I made an endless amount of quips of burning wood for no reason and contributing to global warming. So, I did my part. After that, it was off to bed.

The next day came breakfast in the morning, and immediately after another Calculus session. This time, it was applications of derivatives. This was another ninety or so questions and I'm still amazed how I was able to solve all of them! It was during this time when Mr. Laderman showed up (which made camp a bajillion times more fun). As you can probably guess, we had lunch, and did more Calculus; integration this time. It was REALLY annoying this time because these antiderivatives got annoying. The thing about antiderivatives is that you can't really work through them, you have to.... derive them through odd means. Usually, U substitution works. But there were examples where you had to REALLY think outside of the box, and a lot of the teachers (and other experts in mathematics) who were there were unable to solve them (I would probably exempt Mr. Miller from this because.... he's a freaking math genius from Caltech, and no problem stumped him). Anyways, I didn't finish this section, and probably WON'T! Once more, we had some free time then went in for ANOTHER session of Calculus, where we went over Definite Integrals. This I managed to finish because there were only about 50 problems. After this came dinner, then more free time and an optional session (which wasn't optional to BC students). We decided to do physics during this optional session. After that, we followed with another bonfire and bed.

The third day was more fun. Wake up! Smell the fresh smell of Calculus. You know the drill already, breakfast is eaten and how we're going on to various Applications of Integrals. This was fairly exhausting but the good part was that the book finally trusted us to use calculators because it assumes that we know how to Integrate by now. So that made the sections a LOT more bearable. However, I was glad once we got to lunch! After lunch, we had a lot of free time and a few of my friends and I decided to go hiking with one condition. Mr. Laderman had to join us! He actually did, and we hiked for about one and a half hours and we still weren't tired. Mr. Laderman knows so much about ... everything, and he's just a VERY fascinating character. You could just ask him about nearly ANY topic, from time travel, to geology, to aliens and he'll be GLAD to discuss it. He's really a great guy, and we're glad we hiked with him. Also along the way, I found a VERY good hiking stick, light but sturdy. I kinda..... snuck it back to L.A. But don't let Mr. Vriesman know, he told me to leave it. Anyways, after the amazing hike, we got back and (sorta) finished up the book with differential equations. A couple of these were just way over my head and I'm positive that they wouldn't be on the AP test. If they were, the College Board would be crazy! However, we left this session early because I signed up for a seder (it was passover) to expand my cultural horizons. Of course, this wasn't a real seder; that would take HOURS! Instead, it was a highly condensed seder where we were all taught about what the symbols were (kinda) and we ate during dinner. Plus, I got to wear a yamika! Plus, there was more matzah than we knew what to do with. In fact, we had matzah pizza the next morning, it was pretty good. Immediately after was the optional session, which all of the BC kids had to go to. Instead of going up and socializing, Eliana (a girl in my AP Physics class) and I decided to draw a HUGE circuit in the sand of the volleyball court. Unfortunately, there are no pictures of our masterpiece on the internet... yet! But that took us about an hour and a half, and everyone who was capable of appreciating a circuit in the sand did so, we made sure of it! After showing everyone in AP Physics the sand circuit, we had the Calculus Camp talent show. It started out with the AP Stat teacher telling a series of stand-up jokes about math in general (which of course, I laughed at). Then, in addition to people showing off how the can (and can't) dance, Mr. Lieberman pulled up all of the students in his AP Physics AB class and had us do the separate and integrate dance for solving differential equations (I can't really show how it goes in text, but it's not that great; not like Funktion, so don't worry). In addition, we had Franklin (resident failure, as I call him. We have a thing where I say he fails at everything, but he really doesn't. It's not bullying.... seriously) solve Rubix cubes. Now, I KNOW Franklin is fast, and he performed a lot slower on stage than I know he could. But, he was a pioneer, I never heard of someone SHOWING OFF the talent to do a Rubix cube. Of course, some other guy thought he could do it faster, and did. But he came off looking like a complete jerk, so Franklin still wins all of our admiration. After various other acts... we go to bed.

Last day! Awwww... and wooo!!!! We've gone though the entire Barron's review book, and it's time for a practice AP test. To risk drawing out this post longer than it should be, I'll just say I PASSED with a VERY HIGH 5! According to my count-up sheet I got 106.5 out of 108, which I think is wayy too high and I probably made a mistake in addition, but that's still pretty darn high! I learned that I don't really have to worry about the Calculus test. After that, camp is pretty much done! We took our luggage, and went on the bus to go home. This time, I made sure to seal my water bottle and see it compressed when we got down (it happened! Guess what? Air has pressure!) Once we got home, it was back to reality and school. However, there WILL be next year!

Monday, April 07, 2008

What if.... Microwave!

Here is EVERYTHING I've wanted to do with a microwave, but couldn't due to... safety concerns. Thank goodness for the internet!


Today SETI's Are We Alone podcast (a really excellent one) released an episode about nerds, and I found it to be extremely informative. They go over what it means to be a nerd, and how attitudes toward nerd changed over time. They discuss everything from Dungeons and Dragons to an interview with David Anderegg (the author of Nerds: Who They Are and Why We Need More of Them, whose book I STILL need to read!). And there are also lots of other fun discussions like Rubik's Cubes and "nerds" in other cultures. I highly recommend listening to this one.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Molding Youth

Today, Lim Leng Hiong wrote a VERY insightful post on the pressure for total and absolute excellence that some students usually have from parents (or, at least part of the post was about that). I TOTALLY agree with him, that students shouldn't be treated like cannonballs, their entire life calculated from the beginning to achieve some maximum height. For one thing, cannonballs behave much differently than birds when obstacles come into the way. For one thing, if a cannonball meets a wall, it will do one of two things. Either crash through, falling significantly short of the goal. If this is the case, the only achievement will be a pile of rubble. If the wall is significantly stronger, the cannonball will bounce off, and end up right back where it came from. However, a bird, if it encounters a wall, can either fly over, or fly around, then it won't be an obstacle anymore. The bird might even find a small hole in the wall, and climb through to the other side! Sure it might meet a couple of rats, but it WILL reach the end, with more glory and splendor than any cannonball could have! Even the space shuttle, which has enough precision to land in the exact same spot on the pavement at Kennedy Space Center, still has flexibility to change its flight plan when needed. Anyways, I'm taking this analogy WAY too far.

Luckily, I've been treated like a bird. I'm extremely thankful to my parents for treating me so. I'm thankful my parents haven't scheduled my entire day out for me. I'm thankful my parents aren't persistently involved in my life, putting me in the back seat. I'm thankful my parents haven't signed me up for a bajillion programs and classes to fill up any kind of spare time I might have. I'm thankful that their acceptance of me as me has enabled me to motivate myself to do what I want, well! Instead of reading about the latest discovery in cosmology, I could be taking a "personal development" class. Instead of following the silly and hilarious hijinks of creationists, I could be training to play volleyball. Instead of writing this post and maintaining this blog, I could spend it practicing my piano. However, I don't think those fit me. I feel like I'd benefit much more from reading Pharyngula than going through dull SAT routines. Heck, if I took time to learn another language, I probably wouldn't have been able to put in the investment to learn Linux. It may be a large investment of time, to discover stuff you didn't know about, and to learn how to fix things you break, but it's well worth it. Now I'm not advocating living a hedonistic (see I can use an SAT word) lifestyle, but I feel that nourishment of a person's strengths will benefit them much more than throwing whatever you can at them. I agree that, in this time of hyper-competitive college admissions, many parents have lost sight of this. In the rush to decorate their child's college application and their child's future, they forget to stop and think about their child right now! This does, in fact, lead to resentment. Don't fire them out of a cannon, nurture them, listen to them, and most of all, respect them.

Breaking News!

Two VERY important discoveries occurred yesterday! First, was the undeniable, uncontroversial discovery of water on Mars.

And secondly was the alliance of Google and Virgin to create a long-term 100 year plan to colonize Mars. The new joint-company in charge of the vision has been named Virgle and is looking for new pioneers of its program already.

I would have posted these discoveries as soon as I'd heard them yesterday, but time wasn't cooperating.