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Achrelos' Blog
09-15-2013, 06:29 PM (This post was last modified: 12-29-2013 06:36 PM by Visqueen.)
Post: #1
Achrelos' Blog
Hello everyone, I had my old blog deleted because, as I am sure most of you are aware, I have radically changed in my beliefs. Anyway, I have decided to use my new blog thread to discuss my schooling, which is in chemistry, chemistry related topics, and just whatever is on my mind that day.

As I had posted on my previous blog, my major is in biochemistry, as the subject fascinates me. I am also extremely interested in human genetics. But, both of these are mere segways to more specific and targeted studies. I was wondering if any of our forums scientists/science enthuseists could point me toward possible future career options, specific studies and such.

Also, I was thinking about my minor, and thought that computer science might be something of interest. If I could get some comment on this to that would be helpful in my decision.

And also, if anyone internet surfing or researching sees anything I might be interested in I would appreciate that as well. Hope this blog thread sees more action than my old one Wink

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09-15-2013, 07:11 PM
Post: #2
RE: Achrelos' Chemistry Blog
I was majoring in neuroscience and took two chemistry classes last year. As a result, this year I want to change my major Big Grin

I'm not a big fan of chemistry and the work that it requires in class. Not saying it's without interesting concepts: but I hate applying complicated math everywhere in science classes and my chemistry classes took that to the limits for me.

"To yield and give way to our passions is the lowest slavery, even as to rule over them is the only liberty." -Justin Martyr
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09-15-2013, 07:34 PM
Post: #3
RE: Achrelos' Chemistry Blog
I don't mind the math myself, I am taking calculus this year (calc 1 and calc 2, this and next semester) and the math I am doing in my chemistry classes cant be any more complicated than that....maybe as complicated, but not more Big Grin how far did you make it through your major?

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09-15-2013, 11:00 PM
Post: #4
RE: Achrelos' Chemistry Blog
I took those two chem classes and a biology class that were major requirements. Other than that I took general education credits, as I'm doing right now, so that works for any major I take. I took a calculus class also, and I slept through practically all of it. I took notes though, but I still slept all through it.

With these classes I got 80s and stuff...not the worst, but it took too much effort and I imagine it only gets worst from there.

I used to love math and science as a kid until high school came along, then I started to find math increasingly like sophistry, all smoke and mirrors that you won't use in life unless you take a certain direction, and which I had no passion for. The same came along with the sciences because of the math and the equations and variables they required.

Let me clarify: I don't mean math and science are sophistry at all. Rather, it's increasingly complicated to do the things asked of you in high school and college level courses and you are learning stuff that unless you want to use in a certain direction or feel passionate for (or both) are sort of a waste of time.

"To yield and give way to our passions is the lowest slavery, even as to rule over them is the only liberty." -Justin Martyr
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09-16-2013, 05:56 AM
Post: #5
RE: Achrelos' Chemistry Blog
I had a similar problem but only in math. As it got more complex I had less interest in it, because I didnt see the point of spending twenty minutes of a class working on a problem with no goal. Doing math for the sake of math always bored and baffled me. And it was just annoying when they tried to entertain us with frivolous mundane scenarios. I pushed through it well enough that I was in college classes doubling up 11 and 12 grade, but I could have done better.

As far as science it never got that way. I always loved science, and oddly enough the math involved. Especially chemistry. The only science class I didn't like was physics because my teacher couldnt talk a straight sentence and managed to make the most interesting class a bore

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09-16-2013, 10:59 AM (This post was last modified: 09-16-2013 11:05 AM by legend.)
Post: #6
RE: Achrelos' Chemistry Blog
Here's are my thoughts. Computer science and math—which is what computer science used to be until it sub specialized enough to be its own field—are extremely useful in terms of how they make you think for all aspects of life, though I'm hesitant to say whether that will reveal itself if you don't take either one far enough.

Lets start with this; what you will learn in calc 1 and 2 and almost certainly everything you learned before that is not really math at all. Math for most of the introductory stuff is taught more as a collection of facts and ways to do computation, a skill that is increasingly useless in our modern computer world. What math really is, is a language for exploring abstract worlds. Take what you know about arithmetic, for instance. It seems like an incredibly boring task of simple rules someone put together for computation. Now consider the question of how you actually define what a number is, and once you have done that, what properties exist for it? What is addition of these numbers really? Does it depend on how you define numbers (hint: yes)? Math is in many ways the height of creativity, because what mathematicians do is create abstract worlds and then discovery properties about them. And the skills you learn in math are tremendously useful in life, because the skills teach you how to actually formalize problems and think about them. Sadly, the true expression of math doesn't reveal itself until you start getting into more advanced math; math that the vast majority of people will never take.

If you want a far more eloquently written opinion on this, I highly recommend that you read "A Mathematician’s Lament," by Paul Lockhart. In particular, you should read the section where he talks about how he approaches answering questions about triangles and contrast it to how geometry was taught to you in middle/high school. You can find that essay here:

http://mysite.science.uottawa.ca/mnewman...Lament.pdf


Okay, so that's math and because computer science was once math it is very much the same. Computer science is *not* about programming computers. Computers are merely the tool of computer scientists to enact what they do. That is, computer scientists focus on how problems are solved and/or how complex systems work. What computer science will ultimately teach you is how to identify what a problem is, formalize it, and understand how to actually solve it. Something you will tend to find is that without training in this kind of thinking, people often don't really understand the things that they think they understand. Their brain may subconsciously be doing something relevant, but they don't actually understand what it is that they're doing and often that leads to an inability to determine solutions to all kinds of things that they should ought to know how to do since they've effectively done the solution subconsciously elsewhere. If you have a passion for science, this kind of skill is remarkably useful because the first step of science is generating a hypothesis that explains some phenomenon. To generate a hypothesis, you have to create a model that explains how things work and this is precisely the skill on which computer science focuses. And of course this kind of thinking applies in many other aspects of your life, because so much of life requires solving problems. Like math, it's simply a fantastic skill for how to think.

Now for sure, many people become frustrated with computer science when they try it, but the reason for that is because they're bumping up against the problem that they don't actually understand the things that they *think* they understand. When they are asked how something works, they might think they know, only to find that they cannot actually break down what it is they're doing, so when they try to program it, it doesn't actually work. If learning how to understand processes and problem solving is important to you though, it is well worth sticking with computer science.

Now that said, there is still some bad news in how it's taught. A lot of the introductory courses focus not on what computer science really is, but on the details like how to program in a specific language or the specifics on how computers work with which you need to interface. And in some ways, a computer science minor is insufficient, because it means the bulk of the CS classes you take will be focused on those kinds of details rather than the more abstract way of thinking that computer science really gets into.


Okay, I've rambled on for quite a bit so I'll leave things there. Suffice it to say I think computer science and math are extremely useful fields, not just for their practice on applications, but for what they do for you in terms of how you think.
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09-16-2013, 11:49 AM
Post: #7
RE: Achrelos' Chemistry Blog
That was a lot, an I will reply to more of it when I have more time to, but I have two questions to address.
1.) When will I get into "real" math that isn't just facts and computations? At what course level do I get into those confusing questions that you asked?
2.) Why does it make a difference if I major or minor in CS? Shouldn't I get the same classes and knowledge and experience out of it regardless of major/minor? Im not sure how major/minor actually works, it would seem.

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09-16-2013, 12:24 PM (This post was last modified: 09-16-2013 12:25 PM by legend.)
Post: #8
RE: Achrelos' Chemistry Blog
(09-16-2013 11:49 AM)Achrelos Wrote:  That was a lot, an I will reply to more of it when I have more time to, but I have two questions to address.
1.) When will I get into "real" math that isn't just facts and computations? At what course level do I get into those confusing questions that you asked?
2.) Why does it make a difference if I major or minor in CS? Shouldn't I get the same classes and knowledge and experience out of it regardless of major/minor? Im not sure how major/minor actually works, it would seem.


1) It will vary depending on your university, but I would estimate that a course in Real Analysis and classes that follow it is the start of real math, because it focuses on actually defining and proving properties about things you've just taken for granted in earlier math (e.g., functions!). Other advanced math classes like topology, number theory, etc. would similarly be "real" math.


2) I suppose this also depends somewhat on your university, but in minors you won't be taking nearly as many advanced classes as the major would require. Therefore, of the set of classes you end up taking in a minor, a smaller proportion of it will be interesting and focus on the core aspect of problem solving, compared to a major.
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09-16-2013, 01:18 PM
Post: #9
RE: Achrelos' Chemistry Blog
I just checked the course guide at my college (which is only a two year) and it does not offer Real Analysis, topology, or number theory, unless these can be included in other classes. This year I take calc 1 and 2, and first semester next year I would probably take calc 3, and there are a few other classes but they did not look like what you mentioned.

Would you advise minoring in CS? Is it still worth my while, if they wont go as in depth?

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09-16-2013, 02:51 PM (This post was last modified: 09-16-2013 02:52 PM by legend.)
Post: #10
RE: Achrelos' Chemistry Blog
Ah, if your college is only two year, it makes sense that they wouldn't offer those classes. The ones I mentioned are typically limited to people getting a full BS in Mathematics (or greater). Calc 3, which I'm assuming is multivariable calculus for you, will maybe have some hints that feel more like real math depending on whose teaching it as well. Personally, I did enjoy multivariable calculous the most of all the calc classes. Calc 2 was the most boring because it felt like so much of it was just asking you to remember the different methods of integration (i.e., not what math really is)

I should note that I never took Real Analysis or the others that I mentioned formally either, but getting a doctoral degree in CS tends to expose you to and requires you to learn slices of many advanced math topics (as well as some of the more theoretical side of CS which you have to learn). Also, my wife has taken the more advanced math classes I and often use her as a source to learn more.


As for minoring in CS, you'll probably still get some worthwhile skills from it and if you decide to pursue it further, it will at least give you a base on which to build. Just keep in mind if you find the focus on the details of programming boring that it's not reflective of what CS is really about and that if you can take more advanced classes in it that they will be much more interesting. In advanced classes it's not at all uncommon for class projects to be entirely flexible to any programming language you want, because that level of detail is considered entirely unimportant.
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