Having finally finished the lab cycles, I can talk about them in a much less bitter manner. They are split into three sections and there is a lab guide flying around the internet if you wish to see what actually goes on, but I’ll just go over them briefly through the filter of my opinions.
Measurement and Uncertainty
This isn’t really a lab cycle, just an introduction to the pain of error propagation. It’s an unfortunately useful pain and actually clears up some confusion from A-level. I always asked why we calculated errors in one certain way, when more than one appeared to make sense and heard “because they are all valid, but OCR only accepts this one”. Everything now makes sense and you realize pretty soon just how useful this all is as you already feel the burn of it after 4 hours of labs.
Experiments in Optics and Electromagnetism
I rate this section as the worst of the three, but only because it coincides with A-level experiments a bit. This won’t be the case with everyone and there is also no problem with it, so the word ‘worst’ implies bad things that I don’t want it too. There is also only a certain level of accuracy you can achieve during an electromagnetism experiment which involves small magnetic fields, when your desk, the cabinet under it, the whole room, the building, the general area of South Kensington and by this point even your soul are full of metallic objects and mysterious electronic devices.
These were actually quite cool. The problem of a limited accuracy is and will remain to be an issue, but the experiments were ones I had never seen in school and that involve constants that we use all the time, such as the speed of light. You also get to work with equipment that sounds and looks cool, like grating spectrometers.
This one was just really interesting as if you have a problem, you can always fix it. You may want to kill something fluffy and cute along the way, but you can theoretically fix it. The introduction to this was very well structured and provided a perfect background for those who were new to Python and a pleasant reminder for those who have delved into it before.
Ew ew ew. Annoyingly useful to learnt to write well, but also ew ew ew. I secretly enjoyed them once they were done and I could just sit back and feel a bit smug that I wrote something that looks like a real report. Each lab cycle comes with its own lab report at the end, so you get three of these utter joys to look forward to.
Waffles and faff
Difficult and sad things sometimes happen, but I have honestly been overwhelmed by the amount of support and general loveliness I have encountered in the past week. I can honestly say that some people have balanced out actual tears with tears of joy (potentially because matching socks are enough to make me cry when particularly emotional, but still). I doubt these people will read this, but if they happen to, then hey, you’re great, thank you. On a more general note and on a note that it makes more sense to talk about in a blog, these people include members of staff. One said “If you want to get a cup of tea and talk (*cry) to me, feel free”, which is insanely lovely, since I think this is the busiest person in the department anyway. Sorry for being soppy, but I am really grateful to have nice people exist.
JUGGLING VARSITY HAPPENED
and it was great fun. I finally learned to juggle (only 3) the day before, so I felt not entirely out of place. Even though a rolla bolla board was broken, I was hit in the lip with a bouncy juggling ball, so solid rubber, and I crashed into solid floor with my knee and am now still in pain, it was awesome! Cambridge won, but I manged to suppress my competitive side and accepted these people nonetheless. I also confirmed for the second time, both of which were due to juggling, that Nandos has rather lovely and very edible veggie food. Whoop.