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Raw Material
Sunday. 6.23.13 10:24 pm
When people hear that I'm majoring in Physics, the first question is something like, "Oh! What do you want to do with that?"

Always.

The answer is usually something along the lines of, "Er, I want to get into research. I don't know what...or with whom. But yeah! Probably research. Blowing stuff up in basements."

It's a good answer, but it reveals a fatal flaw: I still don't really know what I'm doing. I've been thinking about it, though.

My friend Sarah asked me what my strengths are (other than science and climbing trees). I said half-jokingly that there weren't any others. I've never really been good at figuring out my own strengths and weaknesses. There are some things that I like or dislike about myself, but I have a hard time picking the traits or skills that define me, one way or another. What are my strengths?

I've been told that I'm very personable, that people are generally comfortable and cheerful around me. That I'm good at making laughter, without being immature about it (usually). I've got to be good for something else...right?

Recently, I was talking to another friend about the way he drives. It's very fast and somewhat aggressive, but he insists that he's not a bad driver. I told him that it seemed like he was so sure of his skill and that of the drivers around him that he was willing to cut his safety margins because, to him, they seemed unnecessary. After a moment, he told me that was the best explanation he'd ever heard.

I do love explaining things to people, especially things that they don't think they will be able to understand. I love analogies and relationships.

Have you read the sci-fi novel Blindsight? The main character is a Synthesist. In the future, when humans have created vastly intelligent machines to probe the deep questions of the universe, there are often answers that "the people in charge" don't have the expertise to understand. A synthesist is a person who takes an idea that's unintelligible and translates it into an idea that someone can understand. What was interesting was that the synthesist doesn't have to be an expert in whatever subject he is working with; his strength is his ability to read the topology of a situation, idea, or even a person, and generalize his output based on that. The process reminds me of the Divergence theorem, if that helps any.

He was actually a really interesting character. As a child, half of his brain was removed (to cure some sort of viral epilepsy) so he's a bit estranged from humanity. He's a good synthesist because he spent his whole life watching people and developing protocols to blend in with them. That's what it comes down to: protocols. He doesn't know what anger feels like, so he has to pretend to understand what an angry person is going through, and react correctly based on previous observations. In some ways, the same applies to comprehending anything else. He just pretends to understand and reacts accordingly.

He was a Chinese Room.

It's actually a brilliant book. Delves into the meaning of consciousness, intelligence, and is pretty good sci-fi, to boot. Anyway,

I sort of connect with that. I like putting things into terms that make sense for other people. I'm not good enough to make up stuff about subjects I don't understand myself, sure. But nobody's perfect, I suppose. Modeling systems is something I enjoy, and I see now that it links to all of my passions. Physics is ALL about models, on a fundamental level. I enjoy coding because I have to take a task and break it down into its basic commands. What I did with my friend the driver was model his intentions and perceptions. I can't learn a subject that I can't organize. In fact, I have a hard time doing anything that I can't fit into some sort of intelligible paradigm. It can be rather crippling.

I told this to Sarah. The short version, of course. "I'm good at creating systems of information." It was a revelation; I've never been able to pin down that basic task in my own life. The ultimate irony is that the formless helplessness I sometimes feel when confronted with myself and my actions now has a form: I can't model myself. Being able to put it into coherent thoughts is wonderful. It explains a lot about myself, right there. Doesn't solve the problem of being crippled by new experiences and problems, but at least now I can start learning how to skirt it. And that's part of being a sythesist, right?

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Sometimes quiet is violent
Friday. 6.21.13 1:24 pm
But more often, it invigorates my spirit.



I heartily appreciate this song. Heck, this album. The lyrics, for your reading pleasure:

I ponder of something great
My lungs will fill and then deflate
They fill with fire
Exhale desire
I know it's dire
My time today

I have these thoughts
So often I ought
To replace that slot
With what I once bought
'Cause somebody stole
My car radio
And now I just sit in silence

Sometimes quiet is violent
I find it hard to hide it
My pride is no longer inside
It's on my sleeve
My skin will scream
Reminding me of
Who I killed inside my dream
I hate this car that I'm driving
There's no hiding for me
I'm forced to deal with what I feel
There is no distraction to mask what is real
I could pull the steering wheel

I have these thoughts
So often I ought
To replace that slot
With what I once bought
'Cause somebody stole
My car radio
And now I just sit in silence

I ponder of something terrifying
'Cause this time there's no sound to hide behind
I find over the course of our human existence
One thing consists of consistence
And it's that we're all battling fear
Oh dear, I don't know if we know why we're here
Oh my,
Too deep
Please stop thinking
I liked it better when my car had sound

There are things we can do
But from the things that work there are only two
And from the two that we choose to do
Peace will win
And fear will lose
There's faith and there's sleep
We need to pick one please because
Faith is to be awake
And to be awake is for us to think
And for us to think is to be alive
And I will try with every rhyme
To come across like I am dying
To let you know you need to try to think

I have these thoughts
So often I ought
To replace that slot
With what I once bought
'Cause somebody stole
My car radio
And now I just sit in silence

I ponder of something great
My lungs will fill and then deflate
They fill with fire
Exhale desire
I know it's dire
My time today

I have these thoughts
So often I ought
To replace that slot
With what I once bought
'Cause somebody stole
My car radio
And now I just sit in silence

---
I saw these guys live a few weeks ago. Totally incredible. When they played this song, he came out in the crowd just like this video. Everyone went nuts.

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Persistence
Wednesday. 6.19.13 11:30 am


Good stuff.

Um...what's up guys?

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Experiments in subtlety
Saturday. 6.15.13 12:24 am
It's late, and I'm tired (after a long day of doing absolutely nothing), and this layout may still be glitchy.

But, here. The only real changes I've made are a few colors and the background images, of which I'm a bit proud.

Stay classy, nuTang

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