Summer and Miscellaneous Events

Editors note: I have been exceptionally lazy. My presumption of the events described below being demanding were correct, so as such, I have not had time to post! I am at the EPGY course at the moment, dealing with their computers stuck on the silly 8.5×11” paper size and bemusing American spelling, but believe me when I say that there will be a very long and involved post in the near future regarding the matter.

My word, this summer has been, and is going to continue to be, fantastic! Much has happened and much more will happen. I have learned a lot and I shall be learning much more. Yeah, you get the picture: an action-packed, quintessentially nerdy, profoundly perplexing summer!

Let’s start as I always do with my infamous airplane posts: I am currently sitting on a United airlines Boeing 747-400 on hoe way from London Heathrow to San Francisco! Also, this is my first long-haul flight traveling alone, in addition to it being my first visit to the US west coast. The reason? I applied for the Stanford University Education Programme for Gifted Youths Summer Institutes and was somehow accepted, even on my extremely rushed application!

Me, a gifted youth! The thought befuddles me.

I will be at Stanford University for three weeks, studying Environmental and Earth Sciences; the quantum physics and AI courses were oversubscribed, I have been lead to believe. As expected, my entire family was spamming me with congratulatory messages, while my teachers told me that I “will never want to come back”! We shall see: I have recently come to the realisation that the UK is not half bad, especially having been down to the lovely Winchester to meet Alicia Cuddeford (see her guest post).

Anyway, this flight is truly exceptional, in that United are cheapskates. That is what I have extrapolated from the facilities available, namely the distinct lack of any technology after the year 1990! Guess what their Economy entertainment system consists of: a big screen on the bulkhead and several smaller screens in the isles playing movies on loop! And the movies themselves are terrible. For 2013, it is rather disappointing that this is still the case! As always, I went overboard with the matter, researching all possible information on the flight, including United policies regarding the upgrade of their 747-400 fleet (the jumbo, for all those plane non-enthusiasts). It went so far that I knew the upgrade schedule for the fleet, as well as the CEO’s comment on the matter, namely, how their service was “unacceptable”. Even British Airway’s Stone Age cabins have some form of personal entertainment!

Then I panicked. What would I do for the 11 hour flight?! The movies are unwatchable and the only complimentary reading material was a sub-par in-flight magazine, covering nothing much of importance. I then realised that I had my iPhone 4S, as well as my old 3GS from 2008/9. Combined with my iPad [I am not spoilt, promise!], I had plenty of space for 8 or 9 movies, including the entirety of Friends season 10. That would surely be enough, no?

Alas, I was not done overreacting. I remembered my old Morphie JuicePack case for my 3GS, which would provide a full extra charge. I also rummaged through my supplies at home and found the portable battery I use to power the Raspberry Pi. That had a USB output, and would give a full charge of the 4S, so into the backpack it went! The iPad battery is more than adequate for persistent use of it throughout the flight. I was set! I indexed which movies were on which device, and boarded the plane to San Francisco!

On board, I am having a great time, sharing my over-prepared resources with a very nice mother and her talkative kid! I was bracing myself for much, much worse!

We are landing in about 5 hours at time of writing, and I still have all my movies to watch! I managed to sleep for 2 hours, then peruse the Economist and Financial Times for a further 2 hours, because that is how upper-middle-class I am! (I got a free copy of the Economist through an ad I saw on the tube, and the FT I picked up for free at the gate: I am far too deep into the digital age to pay for non-advertisement subsidised content!). We shall see how the remainder of this flight progresses!

Now, for a sudden and unplanned transition. I have just completed some work experience at Imperial College London, working with a research associate in the chemical engineering department on a European Commission project, BioSonic, as well as attending the 6 month progress meeting of the project and having an insightful day at the ChemEng PhD Symposium; one of the talks started off with the combustion equation. I thought to myself, “yes! I understand this!”, but behold, it slowly descended into highly complex and abstract electrolysis, of which I understood about a quarter. Apparently, however, that was an achieving, given my limited Chemistry iGCSE knowledge! We worked on a relatively crude experiment, but I still learned a great deal about correct lab technique (unlike school lab technique) and was exposed to a different flavour of chemical calculations, involving dehydrates and whatnot. Indeed, I went in the following week for a day to finish the experiments, followed by my horrendous attempt at calculating the extent to which the dehydrate crystals remained in the solid or in the water that was evaporated. There were a lot of substitutions!

I would like to send my thanks to the entire ChemEng department at Imperial, especially those who were working with me and the professor who arranged the placement! It was an unforgettable experience!

Another stark transition! As many of you may know, I have been working on a RepRap 3D printer for the past few months. This is basically an open-source 3D printer, costing in the range of £350 – £500 depending on the model one buys. I worked through study leave and the exams on it and took it home to continue working on it!
Anyway, I am very happy to report that it is now complete! It is printing nicely and is now shutting proudly on my side table, next to the standard 2D printer, thus completing my printing arsenal! I also designed an iPhone stand for the flight, so I could prop it up while watching movies [my overreaction and panicking again] and printed it off, as well as a compact case for it to contain all the parts! The print is not perfect yet: I have yet to fine-tune the settings on it, but it is fine for the moment. I shall be posting images later on!

I also wanted to mention my technology teacher, who, having joined my school at my first year, is leaving to peruse a different career: evidently, he is not ready to settle yet! Although it may not have been the most important subject, I must say that it was my favourite. His mannerisms and several “life-lessons” (although he may not realise that they were so) I picked up from him have taught me a lot about everything, really! I wish him all the best in his future and that he finds what he loves to do.

Now, after that badly executed heartfelt sentiment, let me say goodbye for now: it will probably be a few weeks, if not months, until I post again; Stanford will be demanding and following that, my Internet connection may not be consistent. So, if I do not post, I wish all an astronomical and productive summer! Start doing interesting stuff for that UCAS/CommonApp form [although you should be doing that by yourself anyway for your personal interest and development]!

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