Confused at a higher level

The view from Carleton College's physics department

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Have I recently said how much I love this gig ?

Posted by Arjendu on September 26, 2014

I huffed and puffed my way on bicycle up the 2nd Street hill on the way in to teach this morning, coming in early enough that there was barely anyone else on campus. I wasn’t really focused on the sights, typical enough for an American college campus: Trees changing color, calm greens, expectant academic buildings. I was distracted by how I was going to approach today’s class, which was on the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics. The actual content was simple enough, and could be summarized easily, and in fact I had barely enough material to cover 2 whiteboards when I did write it down in class. But I knew the ideas were troublesome, and needed careful discussion, since as always the students had emailed questions about the readings (the last one had come in after 2AM, which meant that at least one student wasn’t going to get much sleep before my 8:30AM class) so I knew what the lay of the land was (and none of it was surprising, really). In one of my pockets lay a handful of dice, which were going to be used in one of my ‘demos’ about ‘typical states’. And, well, given how much I have enjoyed understanding this deeply subtle and immensely powerful idea that governs the behavior of the Universe (‘Entropy increases’), perhaps it wouldn’t be surprising to characterize my state of mind, as I pulled in to lock my bike and catch my breath, as: happy. Happy to be struggling with these ideas, happy to be anticipating my class of majors as I get to know them, happy that the book I had gambled with seemed to be doing fine. Happy.

It’s been very fun but challenging as well to return to the Carleton classroom. So I would be lying if I didn’t mention that, of course, I was happy that it was Friday.

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2 Responses to “Have I recently said how much I love this gig ?”

  1. I remember from quantum how brutal Friday 1a is. Which book did you finally select?

  2. Arjendu said

    Did I really teach it 1a with you? I thought it was 2a for sure. I went with Stowe, finally, though I keep thinking I’ll try Schroeder next time. Stowe has managed to be a wonderfully gentle treatment that has gotten us through the 1st and 2nd law (and things like chemical potential) in just two weeks. I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. (As is the class, since they know that this is messy stuff).

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