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The first time I took a physics course was when I was in high school.

I was required to
take either chemistry or physics in order to graduate, and I chose the course I thought would be
easier. Very quickly, physics became my favorite class in my course load, and not just because I
sat near my two best friends. The concepts were challenging, changing my perception of the
world around me simply by explaining it. In between projects like assembling a bridge out of
balsa wood and testing its strength with text books, and constructing bottle rockets which were
entered into a contest, there were real world equations and principles that better informed my
world-view.
Over time, however, a lot of the concepts have been forgotten and so when I enrolled in
Physics 1010, I was given the opportunity to once again alter my perception of the physical
world. While I remembered the basics like Newtons Laws of Motion and Einsteins Theory of
Relativity, I had forgotten a lot specifics: things like the equations in our signature assignment.
E=MC2 had lost its meaning and I couldnt have identified the components of it before taking
this course.
The signature assignment presented several equations and prompted an analysis not only
of what the equations meant (and what each component represented) but also required reflection
on each of them in at least one if not more scenarios. E=1-tcold/thot stood out among them because
the questions posed were, Is it theoretically possible to achieve 100% efficiency in an engine
if and each varying scenario forced me to internalize the equation and consider carefully how
each part related to another instead of simply asking me to solve for E.
The most challenging portion of this assignment as identifying stars near the Southern
Cross. Each star I selected seemed like it wasnt one star, but two or three! In a few cases, the
points were stars at all, but Nebulas. I spent hours combing through identifiable stars and
researching them, but more often than not, the points of light in the photographs were binary
systems or sometimes triple-systems.
In addition to learning that many stars are not a single star, but several, I was also unable
to find any that were equal to or less luminous than the sun. Of course, I explored only a fraction
of the stars in the sky, but I found it interesting that our sun is dimmer (significantly so, in some
cases) to most of the stars that are visible in this region. Another discovery that I made in
researching was that the sun is also far less massive to most other stars that I researched,
sometimes by degrees of thousands or even tens of thousands. With so many other stars that are
brighter and bigger than our own Sun, I admittedly asked myself the question, are any of them
the star to another habitable world such as our own?
The signature assignment also gave the opportunity to explore this question, which I
thoroughly enjoyed. I had never heard of the Fermi Paradox before it was presented as part of
this project. While the concepts of it were familiar, I found it fascinating to research how the
paradox was presented and the litany of possible resolutions that followed. Ive always thought
that Aliens and intelligent non-earth life were a really cool subject for works of fiction, but most
of my opinions were informed by pop-culture. This assignment gave me a starting point from
which to web my interest, and I spent hours moving from site to site and investigating different
resolution theories before even beginning to answer the study questions that were required.
The Planetarium Hypothesis is what interested me most; the idea that there is a Type III
civilization that has created a simulation for the human race, disallowing us to detect the
presence of intelligent life in our universe. If that were the case, the questions follow that at what
point will we be advanced enough to detect that we are being managed? And at that point, will
there be peaceful contact or hostility?
Overall, I feel that the signature assignment gave me the opportunity to internalize
several of the concepts that this course taught. Reading theories and equations from a textbook is
one thing, but actually thinking critically about them in relation to the world provided a greater
understanding and appreciation for the natural laws that govern our world.