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Tuesday, June 01, 2004

My chemistry class is almost over. This makes me sad because I’m going to miss the beautiful women who sat at my lab table and were always willing to help. This is another one of those instances in which I have formed my first real adult friendships, or so it feels, only for them to break apart when class ends and everybody goes back to drifting through the sea of people at the community college.

I love science and I’ve always yearned for a good science class, but being that the Cold War is over (and we no longer have to fear Soviets in on the moon), all the schools I’ve gone to have rather skimped on the science. Throughout my schooling I’ve always felt as though I have been merely drifting, and so that is why I took it upon myself to start college early: so that I could find something I could really be engaged in.

So now it’s incredibly exciting to be learning things about chemistry that I didn’t know before, to conceptualize the size of an atom as something that can be measured in centimeters (times ten to the negative eighth, of course), to think about the basic structural programming that makes up our universe and relate it to the world I see every day... I feel like I’m in second grade again, checking out chemistry books from the kids’ library and impressing teachers with my knowledge of quarks, and that is a good thing. Because, if we didn’t have quarks, we wouldn’t have anything.

Nobody tends to get why I love chemistry so much, so I’ll try to explain: The world around me is so full of data that I could spend a lifetime trying to understand it all and only get a tiny fraction of it in my brain. When the whole world confounds and confuses me to no end, I can take comfort in that no matter what, a neutralization reactions begins with an acid and a base and ends with water and a salt. No matter what, a carbon atom has six protons, and without carbon atoms life as we know it could not exist. No matter what, a proton has two up quarks and a down quark, and protons have to be balanced by electrons or they will go nuts trying to find one. Simple as that.

When I’m anxious or confused, I have a meditation where I try to focus on one imaginary point right in front of me, usually a star or a glowing orb. When my mind is racing and I’m trying to comprehend a thousand things at once, like if a certain boy likes me at the same time as did I do the laundry at the same time as how do I beat the Giant Egg Pants at the end of Level Bruce, I can get everybody to shut up and pay the bus driver by making myself think about one point in space and one point only.

So, when I’m trying to understand how humans could be so callous as to invent war, why the girl across the street doesn’t love me and why I just spilled spaghetti all over the floor, I can meditate my getting out my chemistry notebook and letting myself remember that, no matter how cruel or confusing the world may be, one plus one is two, there are three feet to a yard, and every atom wants to be a noble gas.

That’s why I like chemistry.

Leticia

(It also makes me imagine I have a dirty secret; all these confusing symbols don’t mean a thing to the average Joe, but to me, it’s the makeup of life as we know it. It’s like I’m looking at the Matrix code and being able to translate it as everything that exists. Sweet.)
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