Sunday, August 19, 2012

Completed my first Udacity Course!

For the record, I just completed my first Udacity Course in --  Introduction to Physics : Landmarks in Physics (PH100). Took me little over a week to do it because I knew most of it and it wasn't really challenging.

Now, all I have to do is complete CS101 before 6.002x starts...

Monday, August 13, 2012

When I wrote the last post I was exasperated..


# This is a 1100+ word post and might get extremely boring at times. Proceed with caution.
When I wrote the last post I was feeling exasperated. Why, you ask? For a variety of reasons that came one after the another until the lid just blew off the kettle and flew into outer space.

I was watching TED videos when I stumbled onto this one which was about ‘Coursera.com’, a place where professors from some of the best universities in the world conduct online courses that anyone with an internet connection can take. I knew about it already but I decided to watch the video anyway. While watching the video, I opened their website in another tab and was surprised by what I saw. It looked so much more refined than the last time I saw it. I spent the next 15 minutes trying to listen to the video and scroll through the courses offered on the website. I saw some really interesting ones. I thought ‘Why don’t I take one of them?’ and AM (my subconscious, I like personifying things) instantly hit back at me saying ‘Are you kidding me Adarsh? You say you don’t have the time to study all the subjects at college and yet you want to spend time on THIS?’ And I thought “Yeah, AM has a point here. I don’t have the time.”

                I still scrolled through them all searching for interesting courses that some Adarsh in a parallel universe – who had time – would be taking. It felt as though I was looking at a chocolate cake behind a bullet-proof mirror. While going through them, I remembered “EdX”. I was curious to know what courses they were offering now. I was a part of their pilot course – for a very brief period – 6.002x Circuits and Electronics. I saw that they were now offering 6 different courses along with 6.002x. And considering the learning freak that I am, I instantly felt like jumping on the bandwagon and signing up for a course. I clicked on 3.091x Introduction to Solid State Chemistry and read the description. It was all good until my eyes read the approximate hours per week that I’d have to spend. It said 10-12 hours. That amounts to more than 2 hours a day. ‘Heck’ I thought, ‘I don’t even spend that much time studying for college. There’s no way I can afford to spend time on that.’ Then my eyes moved on to the duration of the course which said ’10 weeks’. It kind of eased the pain because I had to spend so much time only for a short duration of time but AM was adamant.
                The only thing that I’m doing of late is studying. I don’t seem to find time for anything and even if I do, it feels as though I’m spending time doing something productive and a feeling of guilt creeps up my spine. I’ve given up reading fiction because I cannot – for the love of god – find big chunks of time to read. I only manage to set about 30 minutes a day for reading for pleasure and if you read fiction, you know how irritating it feels to keep the book down every 30 minutes. It takes some time to get into the story, for me, it ranges from about 5-15 minutes. Reading for 30 minutes a day just put me off entirely. I tried reading ‘The Secret Pilgrim’ by John Le Carre like that and it ended up being a disaster. Not only did I despise that book but I lost my taste for fiction entirely.

                Nowadays, I’ve shifted to non-fiction. Unlike fiction, non-fiction can be read in small chunks of time and still make sense. The last book that I read was “The Edge of Physics” by Anil Ananthaswamy and am currently reading “The Big Questions – Physics” by Michael Brooks and next on my list are “How to destroy the Universe and 34 other really interesting uses of Physics” and “The Quantum Story : 40 moments”. Yeah, I know all of them relate to ‘Physics’ but I still read them for pleasure.

                Anyway, I reluctantly closed the ‘EdX’ tab and continued to do what I was doing before, aimlessly browsing. That was when I read the following line in a forum for preparation for IIT-JEE

“ Try H.C Verma for Physics.
DON’T EVER TRY RESNICK AND HALLIDAY. YOU MIGHT HAVE FUN SOLVING ITS PROBLEMS BUT DON’T USE IT AS IT IS NOT IIT-JEE RELATED.”

(It’s not verbatim but it was similar.)
All this time, the pressure was building but this one just increased the pressure by so much that my mind couldn’t just handle it. It exploded.

I was having immense fun solving problems in Resnick and Halliday. All the concepts were making so much sense and then this guy comes along telling me that it isn’t useful and that I shouldn’t even try solving them. I was having FUN.

It was at this moment, that I ‘realized’ that preparing for the IIT-JEE was making me let go of things that I actually enjoyed doing. Things that were worth doing (not something like watching my favorite sitcom)
In a split second my mind just… and I wrote that blog post.

To ‘Cricketfreak’ who asked me : “Does this mean that you are not going to try for the IIT’s anymore?”
No, that is not what I meant.

I remember telling myself that day that “This isn’t going to change much but it is going to change a lot.” A seeming paradox.

If I decide to do a math worksheet today, it is because I want to do it. It’s because I don’t have anything better to do with that time than spending it on exercising my brain to think like a mathematician. Before, I felt reluctant to do it. Even if I ever picked it up, I felt lethargic and thoughts like “Why am I even doing this?” cropped up in my mind. They no longer do. At least not now. If I’m doing something, it’s because my mind can’t think of anything else that would be a valid substitute.

                I’m still going to try and do my best at college and the frequent tests that we have to write. I haven’t given up on that. I’m going to put an equal amount of effort as I did before except, this time, there is a valid(logical) reason as to why I’m doing what I’m doing  and I’m not going to let studying for it come in between stuff that I want to do.
“Duh”, you might think. Heck, even I’m thinking as to why I didn’t think of it before, but the fact is I didn’t. Now I do. And now that I do, it feels stupid. ‘Isn’t all that obvious?’ you might ask. I have no real answer to that except “It wasn’t for me.”.

The counter on the bottom left of my screen reads “Words : 1,162”
I was beginning to think that I was losing my ability to string together two sentences cohesively. Guess it’s hard-wired into me and removing it isn’t easy.

Anyway, it’s 59 minutes past 10 and I’ve spent an hour and 21 minutes on the computer already.

Until next time,
Adarsh.

Sunday, August 5, 2012


It just isn't possible to keep your entire heart into something that you just don't believe in. The IITs are one such thing for me. I know I'm making a bold statement but it isn't one that came off on a whim. For 3 and a half years I knew that this moment would come. It is what my subconscious believes in and I believe my subconscious. It is the culmination of a mentally tiring talk that I've just had with myself.  My mouth is aching right this moment as though pleading for me to say something but no, it doesn't get a say in it. It has spoken long enough. There is no going back.