Wednesday, October 04, 2006

What was I doing at 22?

It was the 22nd birthday of K, one of the undergrads, a couple of days ago on Sunday. So, happy birthday to her.

A Singaporean grad student asked me what was I doing when I was 22. I remember spending quite a bit of time in the games room in Yusof Ishak on video games and pool and, of course, when I was not working, studying my balls off so that I would have a shot at a decent graduate school overseas. I was essentially the library regular that had to be chased out of the library at 9:55pm on weekday nights and got my vitamins from coffee, cigarettes and char siew rice.

A lot of my time was just spent in the library, reading and working through advanced texts in physics and mathematics in an unguided and haphazard way, turninging pristine textbooks dog-eared. I still have my tattered copies of Dettman, Marsden, Schwabl, Reitz-Milford-Christy, Hassani, Griffiths, Singleton, etc and the notebooks filled with exercises and detailed solutions. Along the way, I must have mowed down about 80 percent of the problems in R-M-C as well as gone through two-thirds of Hassani's 900-page graduate textbook on mathematical physics. I remember working through in detail the first half of Schwinger's QM textbook and contributed substantially to the errata of the first edition since one of the author is a professor in my alma mater. (Unfortunately, he fails to acknowledge my contributions.) Most of my knowledge in physics and math I accumulated during my undergrad days came from my own reading and self-study. I don't recall learning much from classes except during my honours year when there was some stuff I had not seen before.

Regretfully, I probably didn't have as much 'fun', in a social way, as most of my peers in university though. Professional dedication does require some sacrifice and I paid my dues.

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