failing like never before



Sometimes I really wonder if I'm fit to be an engineer. Take last Friday, for example. I had my linear algebra final just last Friday, my last final of this quarter, and since I didn't do too hot on the midterms I had been spending the better part of finals week studying linear algebra. I've poured far too many hours into doing practice problems and studying my notes, so many hours, that my grades on my other finals have suffered. Come the final, I felt a little nervous but fairly confident that my endless studying would pay off.

Of course it didn't.

Confused and scared shitless would be an understatement of how I felt as I started flipping through the final. Most of the problems were proofs, asking us to prove some property of a determinant, or why the product of two matrixes of such-and-such form must assume a certain size. Some of the problems I worked through fairly easily, many of them I struggled through, and there were quite a few that I simply stared at for minutes on end. About two hours into the final, I passed through the scared stage and entered a sort of numb calmness that was strangely relaxing. But the only thing I could think of after the final, was "oh shit, I'm going to fail."

Against all possible beliefs, I got a "C" in linear algebra and so I didn't have to retake the class, unlike four other of my friends that took the class the year before. Apparently I was not the only one to suck on the final, so I didn't end up at the very end of the curve.

Granted, I used to be good at math in high school (I got a five on AP Calc AB with barely any studying, got a 130% on the final for that class, even despite the fact that my teacher was absolutely terrible.) but now I suck royally at math. Heck, I even suck at physics and electromagnetics, and I'm studying to become an electrical engineer! I find electromganetics to be amazingly dull and I've often been on the verge of falling asleep in class, something that never happened to me in high school even after a night of sleeping only a few hours. So not only do I suck at the subject material, I'm even starting to hate it, which begs the question yet again, why am I still an engineer?

I went to the library yesterday and checked out The Physics of Superheroes by James Kakalios, which I recalled my high school physics teacher briefly mentioned in class. As one might suspect from the title, the book attempts to explain how superheroes are capable of performing certain unrealistic acts, like how Electro can run up the side of a building or how Gwen Stacey died despite the fact that Spider-man caught her in his webbing before she hit the water. (I was actually quite surprised to find that Kakalios arranges the subject material in the book as one arrange a physics textbook, going from Newtonian mechanics, to thermodynamics, electromagnetism, and then quantum physics.) Kakalios's surprisingly thorough explanation of comic book superheroes has given me a small reminder just exactly why I originally wanted to be an engineer. Granted, his book is a physics textbook and isn't geared specifically towards engineering, but it still managed to remind me of how much I enjoyed learning about strange scientific theories and how science can explain things that are almost magical.

So lets just say, that I'm not entirely ready to change my major just yet.

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  1. Good for you. Did you know this is the first link to pop up when you google “oh crap im gonna fail calculus?”

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