Throwing Eggs on the Floor

Part of N.C. State’s motto is being globally engaged but locally responsive. For most students this probably remains an abstract concept, fuzzy words that don’t mean much from one day to the next, but for those in the Alternative Service Break program, it’s engrained in every trip: Not only do we have a service project in diverse parts of the world, both domestically and abroad, we also have a service project in our local community.

Last year, before my team went to Belize to build a drying rack with cacao farmers, we spent one weekend helping rebuild a house with Habitat for Humanity. The work with hammers and nails was certainly invaluable experience to get us started.

This year’s service project no doubt has prepared me just the same for Alaska.

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Final Predestination

For a few Tuesdays last semester a Chabad rabbi joined with a few of N.C. State’s Hillel students and spoke with us about issues in contemporary Judaism. Not to be confused with contemporary Jewish issues such as Israel, people leaving the faith, and the degradation of traditions, he instead led us through discussions about the modern significance of Yom Kippur, suffering, and free will.

It’s obvious, then, why I thought of him when I read today’s teaching.

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More Than Mirrors

There’s few books on my “favorite books” list when you look at my profile on Facebook, at least for the number of entries present. Half of them are authors, for I tend to find individual books lacking in some way, small for the best of them, to be considered favorites, but an author presents a body of work, where the shortcomings of one are augmented by the facets of the others, so that all the areas I wish could be fulfilled are done so, and thus they have become a favorite in my eyes.

One of the five stand-alone novels (for the other four “books” are more appropriately book series, namely Harry Potter, the Chronicles of Narnia, the Lord of the Rings, and Percy Jackson & the Olympians) is Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carol (the other four books are The Thief of Always by Clive Barker, the Princess Bride by William Goldman, What is Mathematics? by Richard Courant, and Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan, which wasn’t a phenomenal book, but I liked what it represented and what it idealized).

Before reading Through the Looking Glass, I read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and I must admit, sadly, that I didn’t find the latter book nearly as much as the former, which is actually the latter, if you’ll kindly forgive my inversion of sentence structure, since it did me little good here.

My point in mentioning any of this is that, although Alice has gone through a mirror, that plane of which we’ve learned reflects flawlessly, she doesn’t at all reflect very much through it, does she?

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To Speak the Public Protest

There’s a trick I’ve picked up that’s gotten me out of a few sticky situations. I’ve had a lot of leadership training, some media prep, and probably more math drills than most humans can suffice to think of let alone subject themselves to, but this trick, it’s none of the above. It’s a touch of psychology, an ounce or so of mythology, a few dashes of dreaming, and a whole lot of deceit.

But it’s not really deceit when you think about it. After all, what is the world past what we make of it? “If you build it, they will come.” If you make it, it’s yours to own. And when you own the world, there’s nothing you can’t do.

So where’s the lease, you ask? Right at your fingertips if you open your hand and reach for it.

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An End to Reflection

How fast time travels when we’re having fun, right?

So far most of the year has gone by in but two days of recollection–the ups and downs and loves lost and found and lost again, the trials and triumphs of dire courses and cross-country adventures, the happiness of new friends and the sorrow being away from friends inflicts every day. And yet, the year is not over.

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Thankful Friday

Yesterday. I had class all day and homework in between. Plus the first Gay-Straight Alliance meeting of the semester and paperwork and Project Runway and math tutoring. Felt like I was stretched thin and rolled up, spread out, and stepped on by the end of the day. I was thankful for a lot of things–being able to get some homework done, doing well in class, having a great GSA meeting–but none of those things stood out as an exceptional reason to be thankful. I’m always thankful when I can get homework done. I’m always thankful when class goes well. I’m always thankful for the success of the GSA.

But merely being thankful isn’t the point of finding a hundred things to be thankful for.

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Irrefutable Elegance

1.13     This was a favorite teaching of his:

He who seeks fame, destroys his name;
Knowledge not increased is knowledge decreased;
One who does not study deserves to die;
One who exploits Torah, will perish.

Still reading Hillel. Still awed by his elegance. Reading the Hebrew, even though I’m not yet to the point where I understand the words, it even sounds like poetry. In math and science, we see elegance in a special way: Something so concise and simple it’s graceful, something so succinct it cannot be said in any better way. Hillel shares this same elegance. It is the elegance of perfection; it is the elegance that most emulates the nature of God.

I’ve been watching a program on string theory today, and in it, it was said that Einstein was one of the physicists who truly wanted to see the face of God—to find the whole picture, the equation that explains everything in the universe. I share this nature, as I’ve implied in past posts, and I dream of one day finding what I call this proclaimed Holy Grail of Science—the God equation, the one or two lines of numbers and symbols that sum up the universe with the same elegance that Hillel sums up such ethics as these. But that is a day far off, and this is today.

I’ll discuss each line in turn, then discuss the whole. It’s much the same in physics today: We must address each force in particular, then unify the forces in general. In the end, both fact and philosophy share a singular goal: elegance.

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My Pen is a Vector

I loved high school Physics. I loved high school Physics so much I decided I wanted to major in Physics (but decided against it since I didn’t think I could handle all the math, and now I’m a math major. The irony kills me). I loved the theories (for this was merely conceptual physics, and that much I could handle then) and I loved the beauty of being able to see such profound order in the most ordinary chaos. Perhaps it would seem counter-intuitive to base one’s faith of God upon science, but for me it made sense: Without God to create it, how could such magnificence randomly fall into place?

Better were the parallels I saw between faith and fact: For example, in Judaism the minimum gathering of people to pray is ten, a minyan. And in Physics, the number of equal sources of sound required to exactly double the loudness of sound is–take a guess–exactly ten. The awe I reaped from that one realisation was stupendous, and still stuns me today: How beautiful it is, for ten to gather to pray, for their prayers to be doubled and uplifted to heaven?

So it’s in that vein that I’ve come to love physics.

It was not in that vein, however, that I’ve come to love vectors. Continue reading