Tuesday, February 12, 2013

I passed my class!

As some of you may remember - back oh about a hundred years when I was blogging, I took a class that started at the end of November and ended on Sunday.  The class was somewhat mis-named "Intro to Astronomy"  HAH!!  it also said that prior Physics experience was helpful, but not necessary.  HAH! HAH!  and that only basic algebra skills were required.  HAH!  HAH!  HAH!!

The class should have been called  "The Physics of the Universe - buckle your seatbelts, keep hands and feet inside the ride at all times"  It should have said brush up on Physics I & II before the class starts, or be prepared to learn Physics and Astronomy simultaneously.  It should have said - can you ace the AP Algebra test??  No?? start now or jump in the deep end.

 I "thought"  this class would be about constellations, and some basics of stars, nebula, planets, galaxies, black holes.  It was about the EVERYTHING of the Universe!!  The first week of understanding ascension and declination and meridians etc, to navigate the stars you see while looking up was what I expected.  At the end of that week?  my graded homework?  100.  YAY!

Second week, basic Physics  of orbits of planets and stuff.  100 great.

Then the hammer dropped.  I took algebra in high school.  8th & 9th grade to be exact.  I took the AP test and aced it in Calculus my Junior Year in High School.  Seriously people, I wasn't good, I was great at math.  Physics??  I took physics I & II in High School.  Then I took 5 semesters of it in college - not to mention that in ME most things are really applied Physics.  I always saw Physics as an easy A!!  I guess the thing I forgot was the 25 years between college and now.  And the fact that I can do my job without that much cranial exertion.  (it's sad - I rarely use a calculator at work, it's too much of a pain in the ass to pull out my phone, turn it on, get the calc app ... I can do arithmetic in my head faster... and this impresses the crap out of people)

Week 3 - 1. derive an expression....  2.  Use the expression from problem one to calculate...  3.  Use the data calculated in 2 to determine.....
Yeah, get one wrong, the rest are just totally screwed... my grade?? 60.

Then I did great week 4 & 5 100's both weeks.  

Week 6.  Subatomic Physics.  stuff ME's really don't play with much.  Brain hurt from the exercise.  My score... 15.

By the end of week 4, I was spending about 30 hours a week on a class I didn't need, and wouldn't get me anything.  Fortunately, the professor gave a 2 week extension on all homeworks, because people were struggling with week 2's homework and he really wanted people to keep on it until they understood what was going on.  That and the week we had "off" for Christmas.  So that gave me 3 extra weeks time to struggle through.  I even got the Angie to help me with some math - took her like 3 seconds to solve - while she was home for the Holidaze.

I finished my last set of graded homework with 2 hours to spare - and an 2 hours past my bedtime on Sunday night.  I needed a 40 to pass and get a completion certificate.  I got a 53!! I was never so happy to fail a quiz before.

Why did I stick it out?? Why did I let this class basically take over my entire life for 13 weeks??  I had already dropped 2 previous classes in different topics.  First, Astronomy has changed a lot since I used to hang out at an observatory in HS and college.  Black holes were a theory, we couldn't see them or have proof until we launched xray telescope satellites, Can't see this stuff from the ground.  The first planet around another star was discovered in 1992.. Angie was born that January, I was playing Mommy.  SO I had a real passion for a science when I was younger that pretty much  was obsolete.  I wanted to KNOW!!!

The second, biggest reason??  The professor who taught the class was phenomenal!!  Dr. Plesser from Duke University's Physics Dept.  He's not an astrophysicist.  He loves astronomy, and discovered he enjoyed teaching about it when his kids were young in school. so he taught the Intro to AStronomy class at Duke, and enjoyed it, and teaches it whenever he can work it in.  And really?  It shows.  He was always talking to the camera like it was a class, you could hear the enthusiasm and passion as he talked waving his hands around.  He didn't read from a prompter or a tablet or notes like other on line teachers do.  He just talked from his head/heart.  He'd pick up a stylus and show us how a formula was derived, usually I had to watch those pieces a couple times, even when the finished formula was right on the next power point slide.  He really made me  want to finish , want to understand everything he was saying.  Duke is lucky to have a teacher like him, a true teacher.  One of my friend's kids is considering Duke, I told him if he ever got a chance to take this guy in person he must!!  

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