May 1, 2011

Societal Implications

When I visited Princeton, my host Eve had to ditch me to go to crew practice pretty much exactly when everyone arrived. I also managed to arrive while all of my fellow prefrosh were involved in a mandatory activity, which meant that I was alone. I was also in an unfamiliar place, and tired, and Princeton is always pretty quiet, so there weren't even random people around for me to go talk to, so I was lonely.

I went to a meeting of the entrepreneurial society. It was boring--most of the people seemed like they were leaping after whatever idea could net them a lot of money. It bugged me, since my motivation was to make a difference in the environment and electricity distribution and generation anywhere I could (at this point, I was still deciding whether to take the Fellowship, so this was relevant). At some point, another prefrosh (I don't know his name, but he had an orange lanyard and was very attractive (not that the second bit is at all relevant)) left, so I waited about a minute and then skipped out. I texted Julie soon after that, and went to meet her in a courtyard (Princeton has a lot of courtyards. So many that I think they may cease to be courtyards and just turn into a giant field of grass that happens to be occasionally interrupted by buildings). It should be noted that chronology is loose, and events may not have actually occurred in the order they appear here.

Julie was sitting with two of her host's suitemates as well as another prefrosh (I actually ran into this prefrosh again at Visitas. She recognized me. I didn't remember her. First, I blamed it on thinking she wasn't a prefrosh, then on the fact that she'd been wearing sunglasses). The girls started talking about the best places to party on campus--not a topic of great interest to the three prospective physics majors. Then we got a detailed description of the eating clubs, including some rude words about the fact that the engineers just like to hang out at their's on your average Friday night.

I have to admit that, by that point, I wasn't particularly fond of them.

I know there was a reason that I decided to tell this story. I have this recollection that the point of the story was the conversation with Julie and the others.

I remember! The students asked us what we did as extracurriculars--how do we occupy our time not at school?

Forgotten prefrosh said dance, or something like that.

Julie said track and The Challenge, I think.

They looked at me expectantly. ""

"No, outside of school."

"I do research. Or go to different classes. Or read about science or apply for sciencey things."

They looked at me as if I were some sort of alien. It was disconcerting, to say the least.


I believe that I also promised the complex manifolds story, so here goes that.

Once upon a time, long, long ago (so long ago that it was, in fact, the weekend of April 9th-10th of 2011) and far, far away (so far away that it was, in fact, in Cambridge, Massachusetts), James fell asleep.

Now, James is the sort of person who does not like to admit that he would fall asleep unintentionally. However, his good friends Tea and Hyunmi, as well as his new acquaintance Victor, were aware of this fact. Thus, Hyunmi recorded a video of Tea talking about the fact that James was sleeping, as well as the visual of James sleeping.

When James awoke, he claimed the video was a forgery, but I'm sure you all know who was the right in this argument.

Regardless, the following weekend, the group--not including Victor, who had had the good sense to make his college decision early--was reunited. They spent much time in each other's company, not sleeping.

On the second night of not sleeping, it was 3:30 am, and they were very tired. However, they knew that this would be their last night together for a very long time. They also knew that if they left the common room of this random dorm that Felix had so kindly let them into, they would be unable to return.

Thus, it was with heavy hearts that they decided to take a two hour nap. Tea fell asleep quickly. This storyteller is unable to comment on the time to sleep of James and Hyunmi, but is confident that it was quite short. Tea awoke two hours later to the quiet conversation of Hyunmi and Felix. James, however, was still asleep.

Tea, Hyunmi, and Felix attempted to wake James. They spoke his name loudly. They laughed loudly. Tea poked and prodded him repeatedly. Hyunmi also participated in some quantity of poking and prodding. Eventually, it reached a point where his eyes were open, but he was not yet capable of logical conversation.

However, Tea embarked on the ambitious task of keeping his eyes from staying shut. Whenever they dropped, she would poke him again. This went on for some time. Eventually, Tea grew tired of leaning all the way over to reach the other couch. She pushed James's legs over and sat on the other end of the couch on which he was no longer sleeping. The next time his eyes were open, she informed him on no uncertain terms that, in the event that his lids fell again, she would sit on him. Even this attempt proved unsuccessful--both threats and actual sitting were insufficient cause for wakefulness.

Tea settled back onto the other end of the couch, annoyed at the ineffectiveness of her methods.

Then, James began to speak. "What are my soles connected to?" he said.

"What?" asked Tea.

James mumbled. She poked him.

"What did you say?"

"What are my soles connected to?"

She looked at his feet. "My hip?"

Hyunmi and Felix were watching him, somewhat concerned.

"No, no," said James.

Tea looked to Hyunmi and Felix for help. They laughed, but could provide no further clues.

James questioned them a few more times before they decided to leave him be for a little while. When he eventually awoke, they asked what he had been asking.

He tilted his head, his eyes looking at the same far away place that people examine when they perform mental calculations. "I thought," he said, "that we were in a non-euclidian manifold."

The others laughed. Few people other than James would use that sort of vocabulary to describe early-morning hallucinations.

"But what does that mean?" asked Tea. "I don't speak math."

"Oh," said James. "It's a manifold that doesn't always simplify to a plane. Some of its points are connected to points that aren't necessarily nearby, as we'd think of it. Like, I might drop my cellphone and it would reappear above my head, because points below were connected to those on the top."

"But what were you asking?"

"I thought my feet were connected to something else, and I was hoping one of you would know."


James said...

Manifolds, for the interested. In particular, I was thinking of one that's not R^n.

And I still deny that I slept on the first weekend.