Monday, May 14, 2012

Redefining Survival Mode

Every once in a while one is forced to go into survival mode, I think. It's simply not possible to do everything that one would like to, or even to do most of it altogether properly. So one ends up doing an okay job of the critical stuff until things improve. For instance, I may or may not have recently been heard to say 'I don't understand that, but it doesn't matter -- it's not in the exam.' It's not that I don't care about understanding things. It's that I have a fairly good argument for understanding the things that are in the exam first.

However, I've noticed that my definition of what exactly constitutes this survival mode seems to be changing. Survival mode used to mean sitting and staring tiredly at my cup of tea instead of getting on with my work. Now I sit and stare tiredly at my cup of tea, contemplating the curl of the tea velocity field and wondering if heat transfer would affect that velocity field. And what would the scalar heat field superimposed (as a colour map, say) on the velocity field look like? And if heat flow was treated as a vector? I may even pull up something like Mathematica or Gnuplot to get an idea of what those things would look like. All this still instead of the work I'm supposed to do, although I won't take it any further than that.

It still feels like survival mode, but it seems qualitatively different from the other kind of survival mode. I'm not quite sure where it comes from. Perhaps it's the increased 'mental fitness' after a couple of years of university maths and science; a gradual change in the way I think about things that's just highlighted by the fact that I'm survival mode-ing. Perhaps half a dozen things. I'd need to create an ensemble of identical systems and observe their evolution over time to be sure.

Whatever the cause, I think it's a kind of interesting phenomenon. I should probably stop staring tiredly at the computer screen and go figure out how to use a Cornu spiral, though.

This describes Fresnel diffraction. I'm still figuring out how.


  1. You write such interesting posts, even if I don't know what the hell you're talking about half the time <3

    1. Oh dear, I seem not to notice when I'm being dreadfully obscure. I'm glad you think it's interesting anyway, though. (:

      The first part was really just a technical way of wondering about how the temperature of a cup of tea affects the way it swirls around. The spiral picture has to do with the maths of what happens when you shine light through a pinhole-type arrangement.