Back to School and Mapping Mountains

Greetings!

I’m going to actually write a relevant blog entry this time, I promise.

Fall semester is in full swing with first midterm exams coming up soon and lots of late-night homework assignments in the rear-view. Actually, I take that back; I really haven’t had a late night. Which is odd for me… I think I’m finally learning time management skills. I’ve been really good about not starting to work at 8 pm the night before the assignment is due – a valuable lesson to say the least. I’m bracing myself for when the semester is going to hit me, but for the time being it’s been pretty manageable. *knock on wood*

I promised I’d tell you guys about the awesome classes I’m taking this semester, so I’m going to do that now. My first class of the week, bright and early at 1 pm Monday morning (I know you’re jealous) is Thermodynamics. A lot of what we’re doing so far has been review (thanks to my awesome Physics II professor for hitting thermo hard), and the concepts are pretty interesting. Exams in this class are open everything, meaning textbooks, notes, and even computers/iPads/etc! Of course with the assumption you’re not going to text your friend and ask them for the answer. I think it’s a really cool system because it’s a lot like the real world (though in the real world you actually can call your friend and ask them the answer, but that’s beside the point.) Thermo is the last class I have to get out of the way as far as Engineering Sciences, which are kind of the physical fundamental classes you have to take before they throw you in a room and expect you to design a spaceship. That being said, it’s not my favorite, but I don’t hate it either.

Monday evenings I’m taking a Master’s level software engineering class as an elective, because I’m also doing a computer science minor. It’s really neat – one of those 3 hour, once a week night classes like what your parents would take if they go back to school. Which means I am literally about 5-10 years younger than everybody else in that class. Between that and not being a software engineering major (or a grad student, for that matter), it’s a bit intimidating, but I’m not afraid of the class. It seems pretty straight forward and I’m getting to write some pretty cool programs. I’m also taking a second grad class called Numerical Methods, which is kind of a cross between MATLAB and error analysis. I’m not really sure to expect from that one, but it’s cool nonetheless, and luckily I’m not the only undergrad, as there are a few other students in the accelerated program (which is why I’m taking grad classes, if you aren’t up to speed on my other blog entries. It basically means I’m getting my BS and MS at the same time, and will graduate with both after 5 years.)

The coolest classes I’m taking this semester are Spaceflight Dynamics and Astronomy – I finally get to start learning space stuff, which is what I came here to do! And they’re really interesting. In Spaceflight we’re basically learning everything you ever wanted to know about orbits, and in astronomy it’s everything you ever wanted to know about space – we’ve already talked about the solar system, constellations, and learned phases of the moon, along with a little bit of history of astronomy. By the end of the semester I’ll know about everything from stars to black holes!

Topographical map of the Andes Mountains generated by MATLAB’s mapping toolkit.

I’m back to actually doing some cool things in SPRL, after a few weeks of reading and playing with MATLAB tools. We are working on creating topographical (elevation) maps for mountain regions – the Andes mountains at the moment – and hoping to use this elevation data to model some real-world mountain waves. More physicists just use a smoothed gaussian hill to research mountain waves, so we’re taking it one step ahead by using actual topographic data. There’s a lot of complicated math and MATLAB programming ahead, but I’m definitely looking forward to what will come of it!

With the school year back on and in full force I don’t have a lot of free time, although to be honest that’s the way I like it. Nonetheless my weekends have been pretty free (since I’m keeping ahead on my homework like a good student), so I’ve had some time to start watching Breaking Bad and frequent Red Lobster’s Endless Shrimp (coconut shrimp… mmm….) I also went ice skating last Saturday, but we were both scared so after making two laps around holding onto the edges we gave up and went to see a movie. Plus ice skating in Florida just seems wrong. In other news, I got this candle at Bath and Bodyworks ┬ácalled “Pumpkin Pecan Waffles” and now my apartment smells ah-ma-zing.

That’s all I have for now. Tune in next week for my random ramblings about ERAU, Research, and the mysteries of life!

There weren’t very many pictures in this post, so here’s a picture I took of a moo cow from the State Fair:

-Lynsey