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"In Search of Schrodinger's Cat" Describe a creative work and its influence on you

melkorthefoul 13 / 31  
Aug 14, 2010   #1
First try at writing the common app essay... hope it works out :D

Prompt: Describe a character in fiction, a historical figure, or a creative work (as in art, music, science, etc.) that has had an influence on you, and explain that influence.

(I'm assuming non-fiction still comes under creative work, yes?)

It's a rather thin book, considering what it's about... just about 300 pages, insignificant in the grand scheme of things. But the influence those 300 pages have had on me? Incomparable. There have been far greater works published in the history of mankind, but "In Search of Schrodinger's Cat" by John Gribbin has special meaning for me, because it triggered my passion for physics.

Before I came across this book, I had a vague, unfocused interest in just about anything - history, anthropology, sociology, biology, chemistry, physics... but I didn't feel any connection to any one subject in particular. I would read books on all sorts of odd topics, from medieval torture techniques to sculpting bonsai trees, all of which I found interesting, but not fascinating. During the many career fairs I attended, I always felt lost, unable to really find anything that I had a passion for. Asking my parents was no use, as they told me to take up a profession "that I loved", which left me exactly where I was before.

However, when I stumbled across the book in a second hand book sale, I picked it up in the same spirit in which I picked up books on combat camouflage, or applied economics -pure, simple curiosity. As I started reading about quantum theory, however, I felt something I had never felt before. Books on combat camouflage are certainly interesting, but in no way do they really change your world view. Quantum physics, however, is a whole new ball game. Take, for example, the desk in front of you. Feel the toughness of the wood. Now imagine that someone comes along and tells you that, in fact, the table isn't made out of particles, but instead, it's just a load of waves. Like a beam of light. You might be tempted to check him into the nearest lunatic asylum, but the fact is that quantum theory proves that this is true. Particles are waves, and vice versa.

Bet you found that weird, huh? That's just scratching the surface of quantum weirdness. Schrodinger's cat (the one that is both dead and alive), the mysterious quantum property "spin" (which has no real world analogy), Bose-Einstein condensates (which crawl up the sides of their containers), superconductors (which have no resistance whatsoever), quantum tunneling (which allows particles to 'teleport' themselves), the infamous double slit experiment (in which one particle fired at two slits somehow behaves like it went throw both, but only if you aren't looking)...the fun keeps on going!

The book's style of writing was also of great help, I suspect. Searching up quantum theory on the Internet would have no effect on me, other than causing me to retire with a headache from staring at complicated math that was, and remains, well beyond my ability. Gribbin, however, wrote a book that was (practically) free of any math whatsoever which, I felt, could almost be considered light reading. It gave me tons of confidence - I knew that quantum theory existed well before I read the book, but I had always assumed that it was too hard for me. Reading this book, and being able to understand the concepts of quantum mechanics was very important to me, as it taught me two very important things. Firstly, nothing is too hard to learn. And secondly, the complicated math that I was so afraid of? It's just a tool, nothing more, and it doesn't necessarily hinder my understanding of any topic in physics.

Due to these two revelations, I have been able to greatly increase my knowledge of physics. During the summer, I was able to study at the Tata Institute for Fundamental Research in Bombay, where I was taught Special Relativity, and I continue to correspond with the professor. I have also taught myself the basic of particle physics, and am currently trying (that's the operative word) to learn General Relativity.

Lofty goals indeed, but without the interest, and most importantly, the confidence that Gribbin's book imparted to me, I would still be stuck in limbo, wandering aimlessly, not knowing what the future may hold. (And I still don't, due to the Uncertainty Principle...)

^^See what I did there? :D
prakharsingh 2 / 3  
Aug 14, 2010   #2
ok.. you made a slight mistake there. particles do possess wave nature but quantum physics does not says that the rule is applicable the other way round. do check your facts.
OP melkorthefoul 13 / 31  
Aug 14, 2010   #3
No... its is applicable the other way around. For example. light has momentum, a property that goes with particles

And could someone check the writing style and stuff? Is the topic OK?
Kimayu 5 / 25  
Aug 15, 2010   #4
(And I still don't, due to the Uncertainty Principle...)

I like the ending :)
The topic is definitely okay and I think what matters the most is that this essay shows how you have managed to find your passion through the simple act of reading.It also shows that you're inquisitive.

Good Luck ;)
OP melkorthefoul 13 / 31  
Aug 16, 2010   #5
Thanks for the praise :)
Can anyone come in and criticize my work? While it may be good, I doubt it's perfect, and while having people say "Nice job!" makes me feel great, it doesnt help me improve my essay :D
EF_Kevin 8 / 13,321 129  
Aug 16, 2010   #6
Incomparable "beyond compare" is like what you seem to mean, here... but I think a better word might be... well.. the term "beyond comparison" might be better.

Incomparable is not quite right...

I think we should streamline this and put it in the first person perspective: Take, for example, the desk in front of you me. I feel the toughness of the wood, but in fact the table isn't made out of particles, but instead, it's just a load of waves -- like a beam of light.

It is always better to explain in first person rather than presuming to speak to the reader. That is, when you are a student. When you write a text book, it will be alright to presume the reader's perspective.

I have read that matter can take the form of waves or particles, depending on the circumstances of observation.

I'm assuming non-fiction still comes under creative work, yes?-- yes. They even mentioned science.

Due to these two revelations, I have been able to greatly increase my knowledge of physics. --- this sentence can be more meaningful if you get specific and tell something substantial in the sentence rather than just using it to usher in that paragraph.

This is impressive! I think it will be a success.
OP melkorthefoul 13 / 31  
Aug 18, 2010   #7
Alright, thank you so much!
My first try :D
Now I dont need to write anymor- No wait, I forgot all the supplements >_>

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