Monthly Archives: September 2010

Dreams, Goals and Quantum Physics

Funny things those dreams. They say a dream without a goal isn’t worth anything, but I think I may have to disagree – to a certain extent at least. I’ve loved dreaming since ever I can remember. And most of the time, those dreams are just dreams. Dreams of impossible things, stories happening to other people. Or are they really impossible? And what does Quantum Physics have to do with this?

There was once this brilliant mathematician named Hugh Everett. He chose to try and work out some of the most puzzling things in Quantum Mechanics. He wanted to figure out the problem of measuring the state of a quantum particle which, until measured is in superposition of two states, but when a scientist decides to measure it, he always gets one of the positions. The most well-known example is Schroedinger’s cat: if we have a cat in a box, we don’t know whether it’s alive or dead until we open the box, and Schroedinger proposed that until we do so, the cat is BOTH alive and dead, but once the box is opened we can only see a dead cat OR a living cat. Everett proposed that at the point when we measure the state of a particle (or open the box with the cat) is where the universe (or rather its wave function, but never mind that) splits and we get two universes existing parallel. Similarly, whenever we have to pick one from a few options, every choice makes a parallel universe. What we get is an infinite number of worlds. And if there is an infinite number of them, then everything must happen at least once. So when you dream or think of something, somewhere sometime in the multiverse it exists. And how cool is that? Say, I dream that I am a witch and I just got my letter from Hogwarts, then somewhere sometime a version of me is probably getting her letter and setting off from Platform 9 and ¾ (why yes, I’m geeky – and proud).

However, while I find “tapping” into parallel worlds cool on its own, it probably doesn’t have any substantial benefit. But there is one other thing which I realised just a couple of days ago and which, to me, validates all the time I’ve spent dreaming. I was thinking about what I dreamed of when I was a kid. First of all, when I was a kid I dreamed that I would never have to grow up, which I guess just shows that I had a very nice childhood (thank you, Mum and Dad!). When I was about 12, I really liked history and I started dreaming of how cool it would be to become a scientist and find out why dinosaurs became extinct. Later on, my interest in dinosaurs faded, and I went through a phase of dreaming of becoming a designer. However, three days in an art school were enough to convince me that I didn’t really want to be an artist. All the while, however, I continued to enjoy studying science and, while my favourite subject changed, the dream of becoming a scientist remained. When the time came to decide what I want to study at university, without thinking too much, I knew that I wanted to be a scientist (no other possibilities worth considering even occurred to me) and I naturally went for the subjects I enjoyed at school the most. And the thing I realised the other day is that, hey, I AM studying biophysics (which combines all of my favourite subjects) to become a scientist! I’m even already doing research and stuff. How cool is that? The dream that I’ve had since I was 12 years old is actually coming true!

So, my point is that as long as you have some will and are ready to work a bit for something, you never know when one of your dreams will become a goal and with some effort even come true.

Still dreaming on, I am

Noodle.

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Imaginary Idols

I have a couple of things to confess tonight. First, I love many books and many movies and way too many TV shows. Second, I love making lists. To-do lists, pro/con lists, and the like (it’s how I keep the hang on my life and free my mind from having to remind myself constantly about things I have to do). However, not usually lists of my favourite things, mostly because I tend to change my mind about them so often and other times I can’t even decide. Also, lately, thinking about grad schools and what I would like to do in the future has led me to think about people I admire. Rather strange jump, but what can I do – my mind sometimes works on its own. Anyway, all these things need to be connected, and they will do just that in the form of a list of fictional female characters that I admire the most from books, movies and TV. I know I know – admiring a fictional character may be dangerous, as fiction is, well, not real and that can lead one to do stupid things. But I think I have a tight enough grip on reality and over my life I’ve been forced to dethrone so many real people I admired. So often I choose fictional heroes, because I can imagine them as I want and they can’t disappoint me. I’ve chosen female characters tonight, because I’m, well, a girl, but finding female role models has always been hard for me for some reason. I could count many intelligent and cool men I admire, both fictional and real, but coming up with admirable women is way more difficult.

Disclaimer: just like pretty much all lists of favourite things that I make this is by no means definitive or final list. I can remember someone I’ve forgotten or change my mind as soon as I’m done writing this.

#10 Margarita (Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakhov)

She was the first fictional woman that ever left an impression to me. Sure, her relationship with her lover may be a little dysfunctional, but I love that for once it’s the woman who saves her loved one, and not the other way around, even though I do love a good save-the-princess story, but I admire and want to be a sort of woman who can fight.

#9 Matty Crompton (Angels and Insects, the movie, but she shouldn’t be that different in the book)

Disregarding some weirdness and stuff, what I find is a great scientific mind and enough courage to pursue it.

#8 Katherine Watson (Mona Lisa Smile, movie).

I always admire a good teacher, also someone working to get to her goal as long as it takes and not afraid to live in an unconventional sort of way.

#7 Elisabeth Bennet (Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen)

Cliché, I know, but I can’t help it (even though she isn’t my favourite character in the book). I mean, she’s THE Lizzy admired by pretty much every girl who reads Pride and Prejudice. Although, admittedly, she’s prejudiced and somewhat too proud.

#6 Sophie Deveraux (Leverage, TV)

So she’s a criminal, but she’s one of the good guys. She’s excellent at getting people to do what she wants (something I’d like to do sometimes too).

#5 Gillian Foster (Lie To Me, TV)

She’s good at what she does, and how cool is it – seeing so many things just listening and observing people. If it wasn’t for her, the Lightman Group would be working out of a cardboard box. I also love the naive and happy side about her (I have that too and I hope it doesn’t disappear).

#4 Hermione Granger (Harry Potter books, by JK Rowling)

I used to deny my being in so many ways just like her, but coming to think of it – she’s clever, she’s brave, and she’s got a heart even bigger than her brain, which is saying something. And after she works out her thing with sticking to the rules so much, she’s almost too close to perfect.

#3 Trinity (The Matrix movies)

She cracked, well, I don’t know what exactly, but Neo sounded seriously impressed. She’s also courageous. She can jump over buildings. And she looks way cool in black leather.

#2 Irena Adler (from Sherlock Holmes stories, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle)

The woman outsmarted Sherlock Holmes himself! If I could do that, my life would be complete.

#1 River Song (Doctor Who, TV)

What can I say – the woman is just cool. She has smarts, she has spunk. She can get out of prison. She is an archaeology professor (when I was in fifth grade, I wanted to be an archaeologist, too). She has this mystery thing working really well. She helped the Doctor save the world. And she graffitted the oldest rock in the universe. ‘Nuff said.

Now, who have I forgotten?

Bedtime Story Time

OK so this probably isn’t exactly the type of stories you tell or read at bedtime, but as I usually write just before going to bed, it’s bedtime story for me. And I should probably mention that this story is not finished yet, because, well, I’m waiting to see how it wants to work out itself. AND it is also pretty much the first piece of fiction that I ever wrote in English. I hope you enjoy reading it, though. Perhaps you’ve got a feeling of how it’s going to end?

Rosary Beads

a short story

Elly was just sitting in the bus, waiting for it to take her back to the City. She actually liked taking the bus, it gave her time to dream. She didn’t particularly like when anyone was sitting next to her, but as more and more grey people were climbing through the door, Elly realised she probably wouldn’t be lucky that day. Another grey man climbed in. Elly glanced at him briefly, he looked straight into her eyes. Elly quickly shifted her gaze and looked at the bag on her knees but didn’t really see it – the sight of the man, it seemed, was temporarily fixed in her retina. Not really seeing what she was doing, Elly found her headphones, but before she could put them on and hide in her music, the grey man came up to the empty seat next to Elly.

‘May I?’

‘Sure.’

Elly‘s eyes, unstopped by her will, turned to the man next to her. His grey coat which dominated from afar, seemed to have lost its power. He was a handsome man, thought Elly, and she didn’t think that often. He seemed a little out of place on the bus. Elly was out of place, too, only nobody ever noticed. Although, possibly, this man did. But he didn’t say anything. It was as though he was a little afraid to speak to her.

The bus trudged a little and started moving. Elly immersed herself in music and turned to the window – she liked to watch the little town being left behind. There was something sad about the way the old houses flanking crumbling streets went past the bus so silently. When Elly was a child and watched her parents abandon her in this town, she told her Grandmother that she could hear the houses and the streets cry and scream. Her Grandmother, the intelligent and kind woman that she was, just hugged the little girl and asked:

‘Why are the houses screaming?’

‘Because they want to get away so desperately. They’ve been standing here for ages, people only leaving them behind.’

Elly forgot that the town cried. Her grandmother was dead and her parents, old from travelling, lived there now. Elly couldn’t remember why, but going back to the City leaving them behind always felt good in an angry sort of way. She smiled, and the man accidentally caught a glimpse and a pang of how beautiful Elly was. He turned his head quickly away, as though a little ashamed, thinking how much out of place that smile was in a bus full of grey gloomy people.

The yellow bus full of grey people swayed through green countryside, Elly deep in her music and her dreams. She felt the warm arm of the grey man against her side, and without realising it, she was leaning at him a little. Mr Grey seemed afraid to move, it was as though he was fighting some thought. Finally, it seemed the thought won, determined he reached into his inside pocket, his elbow stabbing Elly‘s side.

‘I’m sorry.’

Elly just smiled back. Mr Grey‘s shy yet fixed look was getting a little uncomfortable to both. He turned back towards the seat towards him without taking anything from his pocket. He leaned forwards, resting his head in his hands and closed his eyes, and Elly was suddenly reminded of her Grandmother and how she used to pray, at those particularly hard times, without a prayer book or a rosary. When she was little, Elly thought that when her Grandmother sat like that with her eyes closed to this world, God was actually sitting in front of her, talking and comforting her, because after such a prayer Grandmother always felt so much better. Elly tried it herself a couple of times, but God didn’t come to sit with her.

‘Why does God come and sit with you when you pray, but not with me?’

‘Perhaps you don‘t need Him as much as I do. He‘s got a lot to do so He can‘t come sit with someone whose need isn‘t terrible.’

‘But why is your need more terrible than mine?’

‘Because I don‘t have anyone looking after me, but Him, and you’ve still got me, ‘ Grandmother answered and kissed Elly goodnight.’

Listening to music when there was a person praying next to her seemed wrong, so Elly turned it off and put it away. She felt awkward around praying people, she had forgotten how to tell God anything. Elly found herself thinking if she should say something to Mr Grey, not to disturb him, but just… because. Her heart answered the head‘s question pumping yes-yes-yes-yes much faster and harder than was necessary, it jumped and got stuck in the throat, and Elly couldn’t say anything. The man was still praying anyway. The corners of his eyes wrinkled in concentration. After a few more moments, however, he opened his eyes, but there was no sign if relief on his face.

‘Perhaps your need isn’t as terrible as you think, ‘ muttered Elly, as he sank back into his seat.

‘Beg your pardon?’ Mr Grey turned to Elly.

‘I… It just seemed to me … that God didn’t come to comfort you, and my Grandmother used to say that your need probably isn’t terrible enough.’

Mr Grey just stared.

‘I’m sorry. Don‘t mind me, ‘ Elly turned to the window suddenly regretting putting away the headphones.

‘No no, ‘ Elly felt his hand on her arm. ‘ I just… didn’t know what to say… You must be right.’

Mr Grey smiled. He felt strange doing it, he hadn’t smiled like that in a very long time.

‘There must be someone else that can help and comfort you. So God thinks He doesn’t have to come to you yet.’

—To Be Continued.

Noodle vs Grad Schools of the World

So this back-to-school thing is kind of taking over the world right now (well, Northern hemisphere at least, I’m not sure about the Southern one), and it‘s swept me along as well. Not that I’m sad that summer‘s over, quite frankly, it‘s a relief that the heat of hell is gone, and I’ve always been the weird kid who counted down the days left to September 1 (that‘s when we start school around here). I always get excited at the prospect of learning new things, meeting old teachers again and new professors for the first time (this started with university), getting nice new notebooks and stuff (and no, I‘ve never been beaten up in my life – if there‘s one nice thing about the middle of nowhere that is my home, it‘s that bullying of smart nerdy kids doesn’t seem to have made it here yet, at least not the wonderful school I went to).

However, this year my feelings about September 1 are kind of mixed. I’m starting my final year as an undergrad, and it‘s come way way too soon. I don‘t want to think about graduating yet, I want to bury my head in the sand and just stay put… choking and suffocating… OK, that‘s not gonna work. Anyway. I’m still kind of wishing to always remain undergrad.

I actually forced myself to start looking into prospective grad schools last weekend (yay my strong will). And it is SCARY. I mean, you would think that a simple google search couldn’t possibly be scary, and yet it is. Every time I type in a name of school I‘d like to check out, I get this rush of fear of the unknown and student loans, sense of complete loss, doubt in my abilities and grades and feeling that I’m about to fall into a bottomless black pit. But there‘s also excitement. Just a teensy bit of it, but it‘s there. There are also people encouraging me to shoot for my ultimate dream, which is… OK, I‘ll tell you too, my invisible (and possibly non-existent) reader, it is MIT – I know, I’m crazy! What the hell am I thinking?! I’m not very good at probability theory, but I know that the possibility of me getting into MIT is, let‘s say, finite. However, that‘s not going to stop me from trying. If just for kicks, because doing things for kicks is fun, and I want to have some fun in this otherwise very frightening experience.

I’m just glad that I’m NOT coming into it completely unprepared (and applying for undergrad studies doesn’t really count because the system in this middle of nowhere is very different from US, UK and other countries where my top grad school choices are). I’ve done a semester abroad on an exchange program. Granted that‘s simplified compared to actually applying to a university, but I still had to research schools, subjects offered there, apply for the exchange program and stuff. And then I got to spend a semester at one of the top 50 universities of the world (according to this site I‘ve been using to help me in my school search). Sure, it is closer to 50 than to 10, but still. I found out that I can do it very well, in a foreign country, foreign university and pretty different teaching system. And I learnt some pretty valuable things (not necessarily study-related). For instance, that I can‘t stand not understanding what people are talking next to me in line in a shop or wherever. It‘s so bad that I’m actually only looking in countries where I speak the language and making an effort to learn a new language, because I love the university in that country. I’m also getting a lot of support, advise and useful tips from friends all over the place (God bless them and the internet!). And who knows, maybe around this time next year I‘ll be moving to some university town in US and at the same time a lot closer to some of my friends. And this thought alone is exciting enough to make me actually want to go google those schools!.. Oh no, here comes the fear…

Kind of wishing that I always remain an ickle undergrad,

Noodle.