26 January 2012

Pretty Science

To me, biology is a relational field.  It is the story of organisms and cells.  The immune system is fascinating, like an action movie.  A sinister troupe of bacteria enter the body.  A guard sounds the alarm.  White blood cells rush to the site of the breach.  They battle long and hard and then one of them says "we're going to need more cells!!!"  Command dispatches more cells and the bacteria are  neutralized.  As you can see, the immune response can be quite exciting.

In my opinion, mathematics and nonorganic sciences make for less-interesting stories.  Atomic behavior is interesting—the interaction between nuclei, bonding.  The birth and death of stars is fascinating--a cosmic opera.  But stories about what happens in engines or about pressures in abstract containers, are far less interesting.

In high school, I found it helpful to find my own way of doing math, my own narrative.  Getting to know the characteristics of triangles was fun.  "Do these angles make me look obtuse?"  Algebra was a mystery story that never got old.  "x=3?!  I totally didn't see that coming!"

My first semester of college-level chemistry was difficult.  There was a little bit too much of getting to know engines and not enough about the dynamics of atomic attraction.  So I have to find a way of making my continued study of chemistry more relational.  I have to find a way of viewing chemistry as a story worth reading.  I’m starting with these pretty, color-coordinated notebooks my Mom got me from Target:  (leaves for biology, backwards “C” pattern for chemistry)

The periodic table is probably the most useful tool-on-paper I have ever seen.  From this chart, you can learn how many protons, neutrons and electrons each element has.  You can see trends in bonding character.  You can read the quantum numbers of any element right off the table.  I have to look at this chart a lot, so I wanted to make it pretty.  I took information from last semester and wrote it large:  on a giant, elegant, colorful periodic table.  The font makes the chemical formulas seem like the monograms of interesting people.  "C, darling!"  The naturalistic border gives the whole thing a Mediterranean, alfresco feel--probably what studying chemistry in Tuscany would feel like.

Don't allow things in your life to be boring.  If life hands you drudgery, like prerequisites for things you'd rather be studying, find a way to make them interesting.  Find the stories!  Find the adventure!  Make them pretty! Transforming the boring is one way I feel at home in the world!