Monthly Archives: January 2015

Science Thursday: January 29, 2015

Welcome to a very special edition of Science Thursday! Why is it so special, you ask? Because it’s Friday. Due to some homework, and my (now former) boss’s send-off celebration (read: drinking), I was unable to write this article until this morning. So congratulations Matt on your new stage in life, and without further ado, let’s get to the science.

Today’s Science Thursday really is special, because of what happened 45 years ago. 45 years ago, in the month of April, there was an explosion. This particular explosion was noteworthy, because it happened in space. Now, ordinarily when explosions happen in space, it’s because of something like a star dying, or a star forming, or a star just being a star (stars are actually pretty violent…), or some alien spaceship crashing (hey, we don’t know until we know), but this explosion was unlike any of those other ones, This explosion happened to be onboard the Apollo 13 command module, in which Jim Lovell, Fred Haise, and Jack Swigert were all settling down to go to sleep. This explosion was obviously something of a concern for these three, because generally, when you’re on a spaceship, you want it to stay in one piece. Or, as many pieces as the engineers designed it to be in. As I’m sure most of you readers know, the ordeal ended with all three crew alive and safe in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. (A fun fact: Apollo 13 actually had the second most accurate splashdown of the entire program.)

All this is exciting because Wednesday night, one of the three astronauts, Fred Haise, came to speak at my school. And the entire school, it seemed, came to watch him speak. I didn’t actually get to see him speak in person, because I was sitting in one of five full overflow classrooms which had a live feed of what was happening in the auditorium. The talk was an accounting of what happened on the Apollo 13 mission, and how the crew and the people on the ground at mission control came to survive the ordeal. Haise recounted that the people on the ground probably got less sleep than he did. He also told of the cold temperatures which the crew had to endure (around 34 degrees Fahrenheit), and some of the differences between the movie Apollo 13 and the actual mission. (The movie has a little bit more dramatic flare than the real deal, and Jim Lovell didn’t actually hug Fred Haise before reentry.)

It was incredible to sit there and listen to this man, who has achieved such extraordinary things, stand there and tell us all about his experiences first hand. He was telling us about photos and video from mission control, and rattling off the names that my peers and I all knew and idolized, but he was just talking about the people he worked with. To him it was just, the guys, his pals. I know many things about the Apollo program, my friends and I will sit there and rattle off the numbers, names, knowledge to each other just to see who knows more. But here, was this man who didn’t have to learn about it in a book, he was simply part of it.

Haise also worked on the shuttle program, serving as commander of five of the eight gliding test flights of the orbiter Enterprise, which now resides at the Intrepid Museum in New York City. He later would work for Grumman Aerospace on projects such as the international space station.

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Me and Fred Haise

 

This Science Thursday (Friday) we should also take some time to remember the seven astronauts of STS-51L, Commander Francis R. Scobee, Pilot Michael J. Smith, Mission Specialists Ellision S. Onizuka, Judith A. Resnik, Ronald E. McNair, and Payload Specialists Gregory B. Jarvis, and S. Christa McAuliffe. On January 28th, 1986, STS-51L exploded 73 seconds after liftoff, and the Challenger Seven “slipped the surly bonds of Earth, to touch the face of God.” Take a moment to remember these seven, and let’s not let their sacrifice be in vein.

Shifting gears, let’s cover a few cool space science things that also happened this week. NASA has released some new images from its Dawn spacecraft this week. From PRNewswire, the images were taken 147,000 miles (237,000 kilometers) from Ceres on Jan. 25, and represent a new milestone for a spacecraft that soon will become the first human-made probe to visit a dwarf planet. These images are the clearest that humans have ever captured of Ceres, and will hopefully better inform us about that white spot that has mysteriously appeared in photos taken by both Dawn and Hubble. A cool etymology fact related to this, the planets name comes from the Roman goddess of agriculture and grain crops, and is where we get the word “cereal” from.

Some random tidbits from Scientific American; this piece tells about a research investment bank which could potentially fund all sorts of scientific research without having to go through the process of applying for grants from the government or other organizations. There is no word on when this research bank might be made into a reality, but it could potentially close some gaps in U.S. Government science funding in the event of government shutdowns, which seem to be more of a thing lately.

Here is a cool slideshow of medicine circa 1915. Just so you can appreciate how far your doctors office has come in the past century.

And, finally, we can all breathe easy, because we not likely to get hit by a large asteroid for a while. Asteroid 2004 BL86 passed by the Earth Monday at a distance of 750,000 miles (which sounds like a lot, but in terms of the universe is like one of the hairs on your head). A really exciting thing (mainly for astronomers) that was discovered during this flyby, was that the asteroid…has a moon! For more on the asteroid, as well as some cool SpaceX stuff, and a the possibility that Comet G/P 67 is going to break apart, check out this cool space video on Universe Today.

That’s it for this weeks Science Thursday (Friday). Thanks for reading, see you next time.

Science Thursday: January 22, 2015

We’ve made it another seven days in our perpetual trip around the sun, and the sun’s perpetual trip around the Milky Way galaxy, and the Milky Way galaxy’s trip around…whatever it’s moving around. Now let us not tarry, good friends, because all this perpetual motion is wreaking havoc on all that is good, and right. Thou are hence forewarned: have a pillow close, for the inevitable head banging which will shortly ensue.

This is an article that I found yesterday in the wake of the president’s state of the union address. The senate is going to vote on an amendment which includes language that affirm that climate change is “not a hoax.” Debate about climate change is absolutely necessary and warranted, with the caveat that it be about how to go about addressing the problem. Evidently, the leader of the free world is stuck on debating whether or not climate change is a hoax. Great.

There is a shred of good news. In the subsequent vote, the senate passed the amendment 98 to 1. The no vote was cast by Senator Roger Wicker, a republican from Mississippi. In other news, Senator Wicker’s horse bit a man while it was tied on capitol hill waiting for Mr. Wicker to go home after a hard day’s work, due to Mr. Wicker’s evident residence in the land before cars.

We’ll stay in Washington D.C. for just another moment. (I know, most of the people who work there are blithering idiots, don’t worry, we’ll leave soon.) The state of the union speech was Tuesday evening. In it, the president mentioned space, twice, which might be a record. If you would like all the spacey (no, not Kevin) details, read this “just the space parts” on SpaceNews. One of the space highlights was Mrs. Obama’s guest, astronaut Scott Kelly, who will be embarking on a one year mission onboard the ISS in March. The longest single space flight by an American was 215 days, by Micheal Lopez-Alegria.

Ok, now on to other things, far away from D.C. In fact, let’s take a trip to somewhere between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. To the dwarf planet (here’s lookin at you, Pluto) Ceres. More specifically, to a little white spot on Ceres’ surface. Originally discovered in 1801, this dwarf planet was captured photonically (in a picture…) by the Hubble Space Telescope in 2004, and in the photographs a little white spot was evident. This little while spot was visible in the first images of the dwarf planet taken, as well as subsequent images. Now, a new spacecraft, called Dawn, has just taken some new images on it’s approach to Ceres. Guess what? The spot is still there. Planetary scientists are now continuing to try and figure out just what exactly this white spot is. The most likely culprits are ice, a cryovolcano (cool huh?), or, I quote, “something else”. The Dawn spacecraft is going to be in orbit around Ceres for five months according to the JPL website. Hopefully during this time, they will come closer to figuring out if the white spot is in fact cryovolcanos, or maybe this.

Moving from the macro to the micro. Actually, the nano. In this piece of freaky cool news, researchers at UC San Diego have successfully used nanobots to deliver medical payload inside a living creature. The experiment was performed on a mouse. The robots moved through the mouse’s stomach using the stomach acids reacting with zinc, and then dissolved into the stomach walls delivering their payload. According to Gizmag, this is the first time a self propelled nanobots have been used, ever.

Two Swiss pilots will attempt to fly around the world without any fuel. They have a carbon-fiber airplane, called the Solar Impulse 2, (yes, there is a Solar Impulse 1) is covered with solar cells, but can only hold one person. It should be made clear here that they are not attempting a non-stop flight around the world, just a flight around the world with no fuel. Since the plane can only hold one person, the two pilots will alternate legs for the flight. They have just revealed their proposed route of flight, which is why this part is timely.

Some other things you should probably be aware of, Google and Fidelity have just invested $1 billion in SpaceX. According to Space News, the announcement follows a Jan. 16 announcement of SpaceX’s plan to put a satellite based wifi system into place.

Also, please find this for your reading pleasure.

That’s it for this week. I mean, obviously there were more sciencey things that happened, but those are the ones I’m putting here. Thanks for reading. See you next time, when we’ll be another week further along on our cosmic journey. Here is a video of Stephen Colbert interviewing Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

Science Thursday: January 15, 2015

Hello people of the internet. We start of this week where we left off last week. SpaceX was about to attempt an unprecedented rocket landing on a boat after their resupply mission to the ISS burned it’s first stage. That took place on Saturday, Jan. 10. It has been almost a week, and in case anyone didn’t wake up super early to watch it, or check the news to see how it did, well, it didn’t work. The Falcon 9’s first stage made it to the landing barge, however due to a loss of hydrolic fluid, the fins that were supposed to help guide the rocket to the target failed prior to touchdown, and the rocket suffered a hard landing. The aftermath of this can be seen in these photos. The barge will sail again, and SpaceX will reattempt this with 50% more hydrolic fluid, according to Space News.

Astronauts and Cosmonauts are breathing easier today after a false alarm warned of an ammiona leak on the space station. The U.S. segment of the station was evacuated for nearly 12 hours as controllers attempted to diagnose the alarm. Since there was no actual ammonia leak, the crew of the ISS was never in any danger, and they are all unharmed.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz (R) has been appointed to oversee NASA in congress. Cruz has been appointed to chair the space, science and competitiveness subcommitee, after serving as the top ranking Republican on the committee before the midterm elections, according to the Guardian. This is potentially worrysome to space enthusiasts, and space professionals, becuase Cruz is well known for his outspoken defiance of climate change. It is particularly worrysome for those who work with NASA’s new supercomputer, which, ComputerWorld reported in November 2014, is one of the greatest tools NASA has for studying climate change. Marcia Smith, a space policy spokesperson, tried to assure people who might find that alarming, by saying that the actual funding for NASA has to be approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Switching gears now, Argentina has granted human-like rights to an orangutan. The female orangutan in the Bueno Aires Zoo now has “the right to life, liberty, and freedom from harm,” according to Scientific American. The orangutan, named Sandra, was given these rights after a non-government group initiated the movement for Sandra to have these rights. Another hearing will be convened now, to find a suitable place for Sanrda to live, now that she is free of the captivity of the zoo. This could set the precident for other animals deemed to be sentient, such as chimpanzees, and other primates. Again according to Scientific American, three legal claims on the behalf of four chimpanzees are in the midst of appeals in New York State.

We finish today with a story published Wednesday on Scientific American. Evidently, giant squid and whale sharks are not as big as people think they are. While reports of giant squid put the creatures at some 60 feet long, actual measurements have shown the length to be closer to 40 feet. This creature was caught on film aired on the Discovery channel in 2013. The same phenomenon happens for large sea creatures like whale sharks. Another interesting point made in the article is sharks that kill humans are reported as larger than those that don’t. However, the researchers admit that they don’t know this result is due to bigger sharks simply being more aggressive.

So, those are some cool science related stories that happened in the past week. Thanks for reading. Live long, and science.

A Response to The Interview

So the other day I watched The Interview. That movie that everyone is aware of due to some recent events that have occurred on the world political stage. You could use this case as an example of the phrase,’any press is good press,’ because I most certainly would not have watched it if it were not for all of the press it has received. We have been hearing about it for months now, and the movie itself was only released two weeks ago. And, in those two weeks, according to IGN, the movie has been rented or viewed 4.3 million times earning Sony Pictures $31 million. It received a %51 on Rotten Tomatoes, a 7.2/10 on IMDB, and a %52 from Metacritic. Enough due diligence. Let’s get down to why I felt compelled enough to spend my own time writing about it.

I usually don’t give a crap about movies such as this. I used to, back when I was a frivolous youth with all the time in the world, or so I thought. But now, no. I just have more respect for my time than to waste it on idiotic films. I watched this one out of a sense of patriotism, if I’m honest. And I feel as though many intelligent people might get caught in the same trap that I did. I felt as though, since what was being challenged through the threats that Sony received from North Korean (?) hackers was my fellow American’s — and as such, my own — freedom of speech, that watching this film was a very American thing to do. My grandfather gave me a pocket copy of the United States Constitution, and I’ll quote Amendment I from it now, in case anyone isn’t familiar with it.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Oh, to think of the days when people wrote this way. I thought that this was being challenged. I thought that to watch this film was to throw my support behind this elegant, yet instinctive piece of writing. To put it frankly, I could not have been more wrong.

This film is not a celebration of free speech, as it has been made out to be. It is not good. It is not something that should be celebrated, at all, what-so-ever. The Interview is a pile of shit so large, that if it were loaded onto the Titanic before her maiden voyage, the magnificent ship would have foundered right in the harbor. It is hideously atrocious. It is abhorrent. It is everything that the freedom of the press is not supposed to be.

And this is the reason why I have to write about it. The Interview is one of the things that has truly made me embarrassed to be an American. To live in this land of the free, alongside the brave. To live in a place that is protected by a formidable fighting force, full of men and women who live and die for the quoted text above. I can exercise that right, the right to freely speak my ideas, because people have died for it. Because people have fought for it. To live in this place, to have these freedoms, and have the people I share them with decide to do this? To make this film? I must talk about this film, because I, too, have to fight for the freedom of speech in my own way.

What this film is, is not representative of any of the freedoms that are outlined in the constitution. It is a hideously misplaced attempt to make fun of a outrageous situation on the Earth, riddled with penis, ass, homosexual, and racial jokes. It is overflowing with lewd comments that some lesser people find amusing, and topped off with violence and vulgarity, all in order to attract people into the theaters to see it. (They made the film under the assumption that it would be seen in theaters; if they didn’t this post doesn’t begin to cover the monstrosity of the situation.) It is an embarrassment to those of us who practice freedom of speech that this is the product those freedoms.

Now, legally, is there any question that this film should have been released? Absolutely not. It should have. I must say that. If you and I and everyone else with intelligent ideas is going to rightfully express themselves freely, then idiots and imbeciles like Seth Rogen and James Franco must also have the right to poison the stage for discussion of ideas with toxic waste, like The Interview. That is not in question. I will always fight for an idiot’s right to freely be stupid so I may enjoy the right to freely be intelligent. But, at this point, I need to stand up for the responsibilities that are not written into any governing document, and that MUST not be written into any governing document.

The power of free speech is something that is immense. A few words can go vast distances against strong opposition. If they are the right words. And they can build iron blockades in the way of progress if they are the wrong ones. The Interview is something that needs to be protected by the first amendment, but should be ridiculed, execrated, and then shunned by the people who exercise those same freedoms. That’s why I am writing about this film. Because I must defend honor and responsibility of ‘free speech’ that was so arrogantly smeared by these two miserable excuses for actors, and those instrumental in creating this film.

I have to stand up for the people who do not use their power, the power to freely express their ideas, to say terrible things. The people who actually think, and use their words to express their ideas, their informed ideas. The energies and efforts of all the people who worked on The Interview, could have been put into a thought provoking, informative film to educate people about how bad it really is in North Korea (or any other offense on humanity in the world, take your pick). It could have documented all the atrocities that are ongoing halfway across the world. It did not have to use the fact that people are starving at the hands of the government, or that there is a dictator who is most likely highly incompetent, to make jokes. What they did is just not in good taste. It absolutely CAN be done. It absolutely SHOULD NOT be done.

The thing that prompted me to go on and on like this, was this web article. Right at the top of the text, is the huge green quote that sparked it for me. The quote, which I will not repeat here because having it on one place on the internet is bad enough, (linking to it here makes me question my own morality a little), essentially accuses North Koreans of not having any taste in humor. It is a quote from the Director of National Intelligence. The article is published on Bloomberg Politics. Mr. Clapper, the so-called national intelligence director, is dead wrong. Anyone who watched The Interview and had a sense of humor would not find it funny. They would find it offensive. Because that’s what it is. To celebrate this as an exercise in the freedom of speech is to be juvenile, and idiotic. To simply have the freedom of speech is good. But, to use as a force for good, is to be great. If we want to be the leader of the free world that we continually we say we are, we need to recognize this, and act upon it.

Now for a requisite concession on the subject of the offensive. Offensive can be effective, if there is a point. If it’s intelligent, if it’s insightful, it can go a long way for good.

The Interview was not that kind of offensive. It is not just offensive to North Koreans, it is offensive to Americans too. It’s offensive to people. To acknowledge this oppression and dictatorship with this piece of shit film, is just not okay. Don’t watch it, even just to see how bad it is. Stop caring about it, because there are better things to do with your life, and your freedom. Thanks for reading. Thanks for thinking.

Blogger’s Note: Ultimately, I am proud to live in this country and be one of its citizens. However, I am not proud of all of it, and I think that should be acknowledged at the appropriate time and in the appropriate manner. Furthermore, I don’t condone terrorist threats in response to this. There are ways to show displeasure other than killing people, or by invoking fear in them. The fact that this is how these people responded to such a vulgar piece of expression just adds to the sadness of the situation. What I am saying here, is that North Koreans should have been offended by this, but Americans should have been offended, too. It’s release should be protected by the constitution, and it should be an example of the worst kind of expressions of free speech that citizens of this country have ever produced.

Science Thursday: January 8, 2015

Welcome to the year 2015! This year will be the most exciting one to date, because you all get to be a part of it! We start of the year with something that is, literally, out of this world. (It’s ok. I cringe when I write it, too.)

So, there is a thing called the American Astronomical Society. No, it’s not some version of America that lives in space, although, the sudden existence of such a society would throw an interesting plot twist into the socio-political saga that is unfolding before our very eyes. No, this is a society that was founded in the 1890s to enhance astronomy as a profession. It has worked, because they still meet today, and astronomy as a profession has grown throughout the 20th Century. In any event, their 225th meeting is happening, it’s final day being Thursday.

One of the things to come out of the 225th meeting of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) is that the Kepler spacecraft, the one looking for habitable planets in star systems throughout the universe, has found eight new planets that are in the habitable zone of their respective solar systems. The habitable zone being the ‘sweet spot’ in a system, where the temperatures are such that life, as we know it, can exist. This article in Universe Today details the specifics of the findings announced at the AAS conference. Two of the planets that have been discovered are very close to the size of Earth.

In another article found on Universe Today, we find that there are objects that are out somewhere near Neptune. Another outcome of the 225th meeting of the AAS, a paper has been released that outlines how there could be several large objects orbiting the sun. Termed Trans Neptuinan Objects, these “rocky-icy” bodies were found as part of the Dark Energy Survey, a five year project to find out why the universe is constantly accerlerating in its expansion.

Moving on to something that I know is near and dear to all of our hearts, the Philae lander has failed to retreive a drilling sample that it was supposed to. The ESA was originally unsure whether the drill actually retrieved any material. Evidently, it did not. As the Space.com article details, the lander might try again, later.

The Space Exploration Company, known to most as SpaceX, has achieved the first milestone in being able to fly NASA astronauts into space. They have passed a certification baseline review, which is the first step in fulfilling NASA’s Commertial Crew Transport Capability contract, part of the Commercial Crew Program. This first step involves outlining how the company plans to fulfill the contract, according to this article found on Space.com. The other company developing spacecraft as part of this contract is Boeing with their CST-100.

Finally, although this hasn’t happened quite yet, it was supposed to. Sticking with the SpaceX theme, pay attention to your computer monitors tomorrow, and make sure they are tuned into this SpaceX webcast, or this stream of the same thing. SpaceX is attempting to land the first stage of their Falcon 9 cargo resupply mission (CRS-5) to the ISS on a barge off the coast of Florida. This is a feat that has never been attempted before. The target area is only about 3000 square feet according to Wired Magazine. The ability to recapture the engine, which would normally just fall into the ocean, will ultimately lead to a wholly reusable rocket, which will hopefully bring the cost of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) down. This is good, because once LEO becomes less costly and more routine (the arguments about whether spcaeflight will EVER be routine are interesting), we can focus our space efforts on things that are outside of LEO.

There is one drawback to the SpaceX launch that will be happening Saturday, Jan. 10th. It is scheduled for 4:47 a.m., according to the NASA launch schedule webpage. Then again, space exploration has never been for the faint hearted, so, put on some coffee, get an early start to your Saturday, and be ready for the inevitable string of delays that will occur. This launch was originally supposed to occur on Jan. 6, but was aborted due to a mechanical problem in the rocket’s second stage.

There’s also this, which I’ll just let you all read.

That’s that for this week’s cool science things that I thought were cool.  Thanks for reading, and may the science be with you.

Reflection: Doing Anything

The inevitable approach of another new year can’t help but bring the best of us into a time of reflection. Reflection of ourselves, how we have met or fallen short of our goals in the past year, reflection of our reletionships with others, and even reflection of the other people in our lives whom we care about. It can be bittersweet, or sad, or joyous. I was asked by someone to reflect upon the question, when did you stop believing you could do anything?

When you grow up, there’s a point in time where you realize that you, your mind, your body, you, is sort of limitless. Not becaues of some little clear pill, but because when you put all of those things that are you to a thing, some cause, you just go acheive it. The question changes from, “what if I can’t”, to,” what if I don’t like it when I do”. This is slightly problematic for a person trying to decide what to do with the rest of their lives, at whatever young age this happens. Of course, this could happen at any point in your life, but for me, it happened a few years ago.

The question that was posed, when did you stop believing you could do anything, implies that I already did believe I could do anything. And, I did. Sort of. I believed that I could accomplish anything I set my mind to. But I did not realize what that step, the setting my mind to it step, I did not realize what that actually entailed. I believed that I could, but I did not know how to. I hadn’t taken that step yet. So, since I really didn’t know what the achievement step meant, I can’t have truly believed it.

Then I started to. With this, came a lot of changes in the way I looked at myself, and thought about myself. I find it interesting in my own personal reflections, because I keep growing at an ever accerlerating rate. I surprise myself with the changes. I scare myself a little. Ultimately I am becoming more comfortable with who I am.

I am in the middle of my last year of my undergraduate studies, where I am studying aerospace engineering. Now, let me tell you, that is quite the thing. I’m not trying to priase myself with that. What I mean is, it’s not something you walk away from with any sense of dignity or pride if you don’t have intent. It’s not a degree program that you sleep through, and then become like, a high school phys ed teacher. The last year takes hours. Long hours. Long hours of doing nothing but staring at a computer screen at a bunch of lines of MATLAB code, wondering what it all means anyway. Or, staring at the textbook that contains the equations that are the meat of the lines of code in the MATLAB code, looking for a misplaced negative sign, or a missing parenthesis. This part, sucks. It is rather miserable. But, it taught me quite a bit about myself.

I wasn’t the one doing most of the staring. But, I was there, because we were a team doing a project. My main job was to take everything that was happening in the lines of code and the textbooks and the design desicions that were being made, and turn it all into a five page (not four, not six, not three) report that was to be handed in at the end of the semester, which would also account for 60% of the TEAM grade. The actual MATLAB code, because I know you want to know, was %10. Extra credit. But, we needed it in order to complete the deleverable requriements and all of that hubbub jargon stuff. So we did it. I can say we because I did help a little. But, most of my efforts were put towards the report.

Where I learned about myself, was by watching the people who were writing the MATLAB code. In doing this, I realized something. There are people out there who live for this sort of stuff. I happened to have the pirivilege of working pretty closely (anytime you spend two or more consecutive nights with someone past midnight in a computer lab, it’s close) with them throughout the semester. They’re great people. They’re smart. They accept you if you do your job. They don’t judge you if you’re job isn’t as technically challenging as their’s, as long as you’ve got your shit together. The truth was, they would much rather be mulling through lines of MATLAB code, than mulling through lines of the english language. And I would much rather be mulling through lines of the english language, than mulling through lines of MATLAB code.*  So, I did my part. And I did it pretty well. And, I learned, that that was okay. I was just as much a part of the team as everybody else. And I understood, partly by watching the process that was being done by my teammates, and partly by taking part in the discussions to figure out the things that I needed to communicate in the report.

This semester, I made a 4.0. Which is a big deal for me. I achieved this grade because I basically devoted myself to my classes. I really didn’t have much of a life. I didn’t really work on my relationships. I focused my energies, both mentally and physically, on makeing myself better academically. For a brief context, I hadn’t been doing so hot when it came down to the nitty gritty engineering classes. Because I hadn’t applied myself. Because I didn’t really have the passion that drives aerospace engineers. That passion is more than just a passion for aerospace vehicles. It is a passion for math, for materials science, for thermodynamics, for simulation algorithms. I love airplanes and spacecraft. But I don’t love engineering them. I know this, for a fact, because I had the semester that I did. I devoted myself to it, and I did well. I performed in the solo acts, and I had a valuable piece to add to the ensemble. I walked away from it knowing that it was not what I wanted to do.

I also walked away from this knowing that where I apply myself, I succeed. When I give my all, all of my mental and physical energy to some cause, I do pretty well. Even when the passion isn’t there. I know I didn’t have the passion for at least some of the work I did this semester, yet I still did well.

So, what does this mean?

It means that the answer to the question, is that I never stopped believing I could do anything. Because I’ve never really believed it at all. I’ve never really believed it, because I’ve never known what it meant. Until now. If anything, I have become closer to this belief in the past few months, not farther from it. I have started to realize what it means. I have started to believe in myself.

This is a process that takes a lifetime, and your relationship with yourself is constantly changing, in part, because you are constantly changing. There was a quote from doctor of some sort who dealt with Alzheimer’s patients and their relatives which was brought up in dinner conversation the other night, which captures this. Paraphrasing, you are always traveling between who you were yesterday, and who you’ll be tomorrow. Who you are today is just a mix of the two. This constant personal evolution means that your belief in yourself, and the realization that you can do everything must also constantly change.

What has happened to me this semester, is that I have realized the tip of the iceberg of what it means to believe in yourself. I have started down the path. I have also realized that I am at a pinnacle in my life. Several potential pathways await my boots. I now know some of the things that I can achieve when I apply myself. I also know what it is like to not enjoy those things. I know that whatever I apply myself to next, I want to enjoy. Which is where the problem lies. Because that question — what do you enjoy doing? — is still as big and as looming as it was four years ago. It’s just that 4 years ago, there was a large bank of clouds in the way, and I didn’t know just how big and looming the question really was.

I will concede one point here. The blank statement, “I believe I can do anything,” is very arrogant, and even ignorant. I think a more appropriate, and more true version is: There is nothing that I have come across that I have not been able to achieve. This leads to a self confidence that vastly improves your chances when you round the next bend in the trail. I do not think that I am invincible, but I would bet on myself.

Ultimately, it comes down to this. I am a 22-year-old man, who is 5 feet and 9 3/4 inches tall, weighs 218 pounds, is pretty smart, and has a plethera of opportunity ahead. I am not in the best physical shape I could be in, but at the end of the day, I am a healthy person. I have learned a lot about myself, and others, and I know that there is more information that I don’t know than information that I do know. (Come back in a few years for the blog post about how I actually came to know that for what it actaully is.) I am very well off in the world. Where I will be in five and 10 and 20 years from now will be something that other less forunate people will envy. It will be things that I might not even know exist now. It could be anything. But the one things it won’t be is younger. With this, I go forward, into the last months of my undergraduate career, and into the great unknown that lies beyond.

This is not entirely true. I have nothing against code. I like code. More specifically, I like code that is doing something that I am really interested in. But I found that it was the internal thermoanalysis of an afterburning turbojet engine that I didn’t really find as all engrossing as my teammates did. It’s cool, that an afterburning turbojet does what it does, but I don’t live to know what the tempuratures of each stage are.