All entries for May 2005

May 29, 2005

Free Time?

A lot of people attempt to have some sort of post-mortem on their exams. Excuse me if I don't – I prefer to forget about them. All I can say is that I did my best – and that's all I ever ask myself for.

So now I have some of this strange thing people call "free time" on my hands. I can't quite grasp what this actually is, so unfamiliar a concept is it. Apparently it has many uses though. Personally I'm so used to keeping busy that I never know what to do with free time on those occasions where I actually have some. Oh there's still plenty of music stuff to do, but the gaping void left by exam revision isn't filled by that alone! It's all a very strange thing…

Consequently, last night I found myself playing a curious board game with two of my housemates: the interestingly titled "Die Siedler von Catan". It's not a bad game, but it's made much more fun by the fact that my housemate owns the german version. Hence gaining "die langste Handelstrasse" (the longest road) or the "Grosste Rittermacht" (largest army), – cue silly accents – becomes much more entertaining. I did lose every game mind you, but hey…

Another plus point of this free time is that I've realised how stressed I'd been for the last few weeks of revision. Not very healthy – but everyone is in the same boat at this time of year. Very best of luck to everyone who still has exams to go!

May 24, 2005

All Done!

Hurrah! My exams are finished :-)

That is all!

May 21, 2005

Four Down…

…and hurrah, the last two have gone well. Today's Statistical Physics actually seemed bizarrely easy. For the first time I left an exam early (and not for a bad reason). All very odd…

Four more to go. Plasma physics is on Monday. Everyone has written it off. Could be interesting…

In an attempt to relax a bit this evening, my housemates and I actually tried watching the first part of Eurovision. I sat through all of last year's one, and to be perfectly honest, this year's stuff was the worst I've ever seen. I was quite impressed with the tap dancers in the opening entry, but that's about it. Nobody ever said Eurovision was musical – and just as well too!

We were saved however. Our other returning housemate brought some friends round to do stuff, and thus made us stop watching, as they'd only come home to escape the dreadful thing in the first place. Oh well :-)

May 18, 2005

Two down…

…but another 6 still to go. One of my friends came out of the exam hall yesterday, muttering "Bastards!" over and over. It does a better job than I ever could of summarizing how yesterday's exam went :-)

Go moderation I say. Oh for the days when exams were easy. I remember when I was doing my Standard Grades (that's GCSE for most of you), and instead of revising my friends and I bought a 1 month cinema pass and went to see as many films as possible. Difficulty didn't really some into it then – and I can tell you that an 8 year old could quite concievably pass things like Foundation Geography. I looked at a past paper at school once. A question had a big picture of a hill, and asked "is this a good site for a settlement?" There was a tick box for "yes" or "no" and a few lines for an explanation. Something like "Yes, because it's on a hill", or even "No, because it's on a hill" would suffice. Ahem.

In further Plasma Physics developments I emailed my tutor to say how worried i was about it. She told me not to worry. All I needed to do was make sure I got good 1st class marks in most of my other modules to keep my grades up.

Goodness, that's all? If only I'd known earlier I wouldn't have gotten so worried about it…

P.S. I really must find something positive to blog about! :-)

May 12, 2005

Plasma Physics

Those of you who were around in Wind Orchestra last term will have heard me comment on my Plasma physics lecture course quite frequently. Often those comments were a sort of tongue-in-cheek despair, and for good reason. Now the chickens are really coming home to roost. My exams start on Tuesday, but the dreaded Plasma is one of the last ones.

Having tried to revise the whole course, answer all the example problems, and attended the revision lecture, I've come to the conclusion that this course is simply impossible. The only question on the sheet that I can do is Question 2, since it involves plugging some numbers into some equations (hurrah!).

Why is this? Well, for this year only we have an external lecturer from the Joint European Torus in Culham come in to do the course (Dr Ken McClements – yes he is scottish, and believe me he knows a lot about plasmas, but the lectures were terrible). Thus this year it's completely different from previous years. This first of all makes the past papers irrelevant. The real problems are that a) the quantity of material is far too great, and b) the level is far too high.

Take point a). It's a 15 lecture course. Each lecture came with 8 pages of notes (filled to the brim I might add). This makes for 8×15 = 120 pages of notes. 120 pages for a 7.5 CAT module. Hmm! Anything in those notes could be examinable, and it's not worth anything more than say, Stellar Structures, where I have about 20 pages of handwritten notes.

And onto b)? Well, the notes are just full of derivations. It's ALL theory. Applications? Using the physics in any way? Forget it! It's deriving motion of particles using Lorentz Force balance equations for 5 or 6 different cases, then onto Derivation of fluid equations, then onto MHD equations, types of MHD equilibrium, MHD instabilities…(MHD = Magnetohydrodynamics. Sounds long and complicated but it just means "the movement of things in fluids in the presence of magnetic fields". All physics is like that).

None of these derivations are trivial either. Most run into pages, of multiple non-intuitive steps. I know I won't get much sympathy from the Mathematicians, who have to learn that sort of rubbish all the time, but the trouble in physics is that derivations aren't mathematically as rigorous. You get so a certain point and then use some trick, make some dodgy physical assumption, and carry on that way. So unless you know what trick to use, you're stumped!

The example questions are horrible too. They don't test you on things that are explicitly in the course. They take something that you touched on and try and get you to prove some interesting fact that you've never seen before. Worse, the problem answers don't actually show you how to do it. They just say things like "we use the fact that A is true, and write B. This hence leads to answer Z. How? Don't ask, it doesn't say.

It's now so bad that even trying to revise Plasma Physics any more makes me very depressed. So I've given up. It's only one of the 8 exams I have to take over the next 12 days. The other 7 are all worth just as much. Everyone I know left doing the course says the same – it's far too hard, so it's just not worth it.

Sorry, this has turned into a real rant I see. Ah well. Plasma Physics deserves it I'm afraid! Look at the notes if you don't believe me :-)

May 04, 2005

Music Centre Petition

The Music Centre

30 years ago, the music centre had 8 practice rooms, and has remained without expansion since then, with the exception of the conversion of one of the toilets into Library 2. At that time, the total student population was about 2000. Now it is 18,000, and the music centre is much more active, involving much more people, than ever before. Still we have 8 practice rooms, one out of use, and no more space!

If you use the music centre, and agree it needs more space, then take a moment to sign the music centre petition coming round rehearsals and available in the MC office throughout the day. The more signatures we get the more likely it is to have an effect.


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