Friday, April 1, 2011

Electrons DO Exist. Really.

One of my favorite classes in college was second semester p-chem, taught by Dr. A. It was basically an intro to quantum mechanics (and the first chem class I took in college was an intro to an intro to quantum mechanics...).

For those of you who don't know, quantum mechanics is a freaky, freaky thing. In order to understand it, you have to take giant leaps of faith and know some ridiculously complicated math, but once you get there, you feel this strange mixture of awe and confusion.

Anyway. Dr. A. was very good at teaching this, and very entertaining, which is a must when you're wandering into the realm of astoundingly bizarre weirdness. One of my classmates recorded many quotes and compiled them at the end of the semester, making a copy for every student. I came across my copy while I was cleaning out my yarn closet a little while ago and thought it might make for a good post, so without further ado:

 Dr. A.'s Pearls of Wisdom

"Quantum mechanics doesn't care about classic forbiddeness."

"If you know the answer, it makes it a lot easier to solve for it!"

"Now that we have a family of functions, all we need are some dependents. Oh my goodness, is it tax time already!?"

"We cannot exactly solve for the orbits of the planets around the sun, but we can get good enough that we can crash a probe into Saturn."

"Finding energies and Eigenvalues is all a matter of letting others do the work!"

"Aromaticity is shorthand for not wanting to do the quantum mechanics."

"Quantum mechanics is all about cheating...that's not to say that p-chem class is all about cheating..."

"...Then they developed mode-selective chemistry, which sort of almost works."

"It is kind of breaking the rules, but not in a bad way..."

"Virtual isn't that different from pretend."

"Don't ever try to look up these postulates anywhere, because I invented them last night."

"E to the negative big goes to 0!"

Student: "Wait! I just had an epiphany: electrons don't exist!"
Dr. A.:  "No, they do exist."

Dr. A.: "With this approximation, we're 38% wrong."
Student: "Doesn't that mean we're 62% right?"

"Since we only have a two-dimensional projector, we're going to throw away some dimensions."

"I wasn't going to be happy with the number 50, but then I remembered that 1 + 4 = 5!"

"Next year I'm going to find a way to teach symmetry so it doesn't suck so bad."

"Symmetry's all about making tables of things."

"Quantum mechanics ultimately only cares about squares."

"Always the right Hamiltonian is going to be...the right Hamiltonian..."

"Rotational spectroscopy is sort of a boutique industry..."

Student: "When is an electron in a hydrogen atom in a p orbital?"
Dr. A.: "If you put it there."

"SE is a method in which we decide to trade off reality for convenience."

"6.022 x 10^23: it's actually something you'd name an internet search company..."

1 comment:

magnolia said...

awww. we did this for one of the precalculus teachers at my high school. we bundled them up and presented them to him as "stokleyisms" (which autocorrects to "STOL northern," whatever that means).