Friday, 16 August 2013

How does one get from quantum mechanics to feminism?

I ask you. In all seriousness.

Today, I did a lot of things. I played on my Iphone, because fictional high schools still don't run themselves and neither do fictional tower blocks or South American  airlines. I hope that my audience understands that even though I didn't write "fictional" before that last one, I am not yet in charge of a real South American airline, but this is excellent practice because it has taken me from only knowing one north Brazilian city (Manaus, with a squiggly maybe?) to knowing at least four. My favourite is Belem, because it sounds like a Pokemon. In between this very important airline management, I did job search stuff, because I am legally obliged to do that and actually do secretly really want a job, as great as this all freeblogging all the time thing is. I also spent a really long time doing my first week of quantum mechanics for UC Berkeley.

I have brought up the quantum mechanics (and its precursor, Learning Linear Algebra for Fun) a couple of times, but it has been pretty much irrelevant most of the time. And it still is. Basically, upon arriving home, I decided that my life would probably sort itself out without me pushing it and therefore the best thing for me to do would be to just find things to do whilst the mystical universal forces work their magic. I also became briefly obsessed with Skills with the capital S, which any chronic self-undervaluer will know means "literally all the things that I can't do yet." Being a young person and a woman and also maintaining a constant conviction that the things life has taught you so far make you worthy of getting paid for your labour are three facts that are difficult to balance in this modern world. Luckily, it's summer, and challenges make me take on ridiculous projects rather than curling up into a ball and sleeping!

So, along with the birth of 30 days of blog, there was a concurrent line of thought: "how do I prove to myself/ the world /every condescending scientist and mansplainer who has ever passed unwanted judgement on my life and abilities POTENTIAL EMPLOYERS (ugh) that I am truly an updated renaissance woman, capable of doing pretty much anything I set my mind to and also science is not so hard, look!" The answer was quantum physics on EdX. I enrolled, noticing that they wanted something called linear algebra as a prerequisite skill set. "no problem," I said, "of course I can do things with numbers in a line"! Then I actually looked at the diagnostic test and re-remembered that there are things called vectors which I have not seen since I was 18 years old, and also I only ever did one Maths A-level (foreigners: there are two) so all the linear algebra I had actually come across was "this is a vector, add it to another vector, also scalar multiplication, OK bye!"

Oh what a magical world of numbers ensued. Sort of. I got partway through the preparation and then got bored and distracted by things are less formula heavy and, in most cases, more edible. Then the course completely took me by surprise by starting last week. I had a single week to get up to speed on enough algebra and figure out everything there was to know about qubits.

Which I did. With two days to spare. 100% in homework one, YEAH. There were some hairy moments whilst my brain rediscovered the concept of radeons, and I'm still dreading the point when e comes in ‒ Euclid, who are you and why was the time I learned your constant's rules so long ago? ‒ but otherwise I am down with qubits and the double slit experiment and ready for whatever else quantum physics decides to throw at my strong sexy artist brain.

I'm still pretty sure none of this has anything to do with my original thoughts in taking the course though. Is any employer going to look at my CV, go "oh I see you passed a free online university course in quantum physics", and realise I am exactly the candidate they have been looking for all this time? Sort of unlikely ‒ although if this does sound like your organisation, and you work somewhere in either public policy or the non-profit sector, and you have a job... you know where I am. Seriously! In lieu of actual prospects, however, I'll have to rely on my innate love of learning and, more importantly, the sense of extreme satisfaction that comes from setting yourself an impossible challenge and then winning. Everything is important if it helps reinforce your ridiculous internalised ideas about success and worthiness!

What of our above question? What does any of this have to do with this blog's actual topic. Well, I googled "feminist quantum physics", and it is totally a thing that people are trying to make happen. Like this lady! I have no idea what to make of this theory and I have a reading list that is much too long and interesting to put her on it, but hey! Maybe one day, this whole linear algebra and quantum mechanics business will pave the way for my great feminist insight of the century. A girl can dream.