Campus Life wenbo’s walks

Down the rabbit hole


9495 cl rabbit hole
I fell down a rabbit hole of physics problems, though unfortunately doing so helped me none with my problem sets.
Angela Zhang — The Tech

I take a deep breath and head out the door. The sky is dark. It might rain soon.

There’s a classic problem from physics that I remember well. And that’s pretty impressive, considering that it’s a physics problem, of all things.

Look, I’m a chemistry, biology, and mathematics major. Physics was one of those subjects I admired, but after having taken the class and passed, I packed most of it away in a sealed and double-bolted vault in the back of my mind. I say most, because, well, I suppose chemistry is technically a physical science or something.

Anyhow, the problem goes like this: a person drills a hole all the way through the earth, and proceeds, as rational people do, to jump into it, hoping, just hoping that they would reach the other side of the globe somehow.

But the punchline is this: due to how gravity works and the shell theorems and whatnot, the person just ends up oscillating inside the giant tunnel they just dug themselves into, back and forth with no end, assuming no friction and all that jazz.

I sometimes think of myself as oscillating inside the earth like a mass on a spring, in a constant state of falling no matter what I do. I feel like a spider dangled over an everlasting pit of fire, held in the fingertips of the endless amount of work I have to and have yet to do.

I never quite understood Jonathan Edwards’ “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” until now. I don’t think this was the chord he meant for the sermon to strike, nor do I think that this was anywhere near his intent, but imitation is the finest form of flattery. Well, not that I’m actually flattering the sermon, which I am not.

A spider and a flaming pit? Quite spooky, if you ask me. As a matter of fact, that’s just in time for Halloween! Yes, I realize that there’s still over a week before the day actually comes, but it is in my humblest opinion that any time in October should qualify as spooky season.

As soon as the clock strikes midnight Sept. 30, it should be socially and culturally acceptable to start blasting Halloween songs at full volume. As a matter of fact, I remember working on The Tech at that particular moment this year, and going out of my way to play “Spooky Scary Skeletons.”

Anyhow, as far as segues and transitions go, I’m not the best or the brightest. You know what else is spooky? Problem sets. Stress.

The thing is, people handle stress in different ways. Some people go work on a hobby, others sleep. Me, well, I have hobbies… definitely. But I’ve often also relieved the stress of impending work by doing even more work. Then I get stressed because the next set of assignments hasn’t been posted yet.

Got an assignment due two Fridays from now? I guess I better begin as soon as it’s posted later this week!

As you, dear reader, may realize from that statement, I seem to hold quite an internally contradictory and ineffective coping mechanism: I’m stressed by work, so I do more work, which then makes me more stressed. 

I chuckle. The entire way I handle stress is by being “productive,” but in doing so I’m only being counterproductive to my sleep schedule and my very being. Oh, the irony.

I seem to be going in circles.

To clarify, I mean that last sentence literally, and by “literally,” I mean “not figuratively.” No, this is not a convoluted metaphor for my stress management: I literally just absentmindedly walked two circles around the block.

I’m not typically a super literal person, but whenever I am literal, it’s gotta be serious. Can you feel the gravity of the situation?

Okay, okay, sorry, sorry. And sorry again for the pun. You still with me? I didn’t lose any readers? Whew! I suppose the tension of not making the pun was just too great for me to handle.

Anyhow, I did eventually figure out that I was walking in circles, though I failed to process this consciously whatsoever. In fact, I only figured that out after doing a bit of a double-take and screaming a little when the same low-hanging tree branch nearly hit my face two separate times within the same 10-minute timespan.

The lady walking her dog in front of me turns around a little and tosses me a confused glance. The puppy yips a little, as if imitating me, but it was too cute for me to question its intent.

But Wenbo, you said that “imitation is the finest form of flattery….” Yeah, yeah, I know.

I also know there’s a non-zero chance that behind those cute, cute puppy eyes, there’s a potentially wicked plan to take over the world. I care not. It could take over the world if it wants to, honestly. I probably won’t mind.

I open my mouth to explain myself, but then I just… don’t. One of the many perks of face coverings is that nobody can see you open your mouth, about to mutter something totally incoherent and embarrassing.

I wonder what the period of one of my loops around the block is. Is it 10 minutes, or did I over or underestimate?

Sigh. The next time I truly want to worry about physics is for the MCAT, and I’ve still got a semester and a half until I have to take that.

I walk a bit more, maybe a block more, maybe a few, or maybe I’m just completely lost again, as I usually end up being.

The sky is starting to drizzle a little. How do I know? Well, it certainly isn’t thanks to my acute perception of the rain on my skin. I simply noticed that the pavement is getting spottier and darker from the rain.

I’m quite far from my house now, perhaps a 20-minute walk at this point. Maybe it’s all for the better. I let the drizzle turn into a downpour, and then, upon putting on my waterproof jacket, I let the water wash over me. I chuckle as my thoughts meander away like a river.

I haven’t properly been on a walk in ages, that is, one with nothing on my mind, no work, no stress. I felt the weight of six classes lift from my shoulders. I feel good. I should do this more often. I mean, not the standing-in-the-rain-looking-like-a-fool part, but rather just taking walks with nothing in my head.

…And there go my thoughts. I have no more of them for this week, for they have all washed away.

And so, here I will leave you, dear reader, this time around. I spoke about the moon in the last article, the earth in this article, so next must naturally come the sun. Along those lines, here’s the #deep question I want to pose to you: what does the sun symbolize to you, if anything? I’ll let you know my thoughts in two weeks.