New Years Resolutions, Take 2012

Last year around this time, I posted this. I will review how well I did on those here:

1) Discipline. I’m actually doing a lot better in this category than I did a year ago. I’m getting projects completed (to a satisfactory degree). Two of my projects that I have been working on this winter break – a list of April 27th tornadoes and a Java-backed tornado “database”, are near completion. And I completed some cool YouTube projects over summer! Grade: A-

2) Research. Got not one but two positions. Extremely grateful for the opportunity to work under my PI’s who are nice as heck, despite my shortcomings. Grade: A

3) Maintain GPA. To zeroth order – check, still in the 3’s. To first order – check… If I round my GPA up to the nearest tenth, it will match my GPA from last semester. To second order – meh. So to first order, I did maintain my GPA, but it did drop, and that cant be denied. Still, considering the disaster that was 2nd semester last year, I am thankful that I am still given the first order. Grade: B-

So overall, my GPA for last year’s resolutions for 2011: ~3.5. Pretty well.

——————–

Now for 2012 resolutions:

1) Do something meaningful in the weather-related department. April 27th opened my eyes weather-wise, and I realized that I might like weather a little more than I do even physics. Prof. Mueller is working on climate indices and global warming, and my Physics 105 GSI Nadir is working on cloud modeling with one of the EPS professors. Additionally, I still have contacts from SPC whom I interacted with on AmericanWx, and I should be able to make more advances on my Tornado Outbreak Scale after I finish my winter break projects.

2) Get an internship. This will probably be my biggest obstacle to date. I can’t think on the spot and I have interview fright. This is the real-world, much more stringent than research under a professor. If there’s one goal I won’t reach, this is it, so it is kinda a stretch for me. But I will eventually have to face this sooner or later.

3) Do more photography. I have been incredibly blessed with encouragement from friends who have appreciated my work in the past year – from Yearbook, to 6th floor, to Tom, Kawai, Thuy, Michael, and James, and others. So I will try to do something more with photography in the coming year. There’s lots to be done here – photo club, obtaining a remote shutter for timelapses and hour-long exposures, my own photo website, getting a 300mm (if I can get a source of income) for sports photography, getting a prime, super wide angle, macro, you name it. I won’t do them all, but hopefully in 2012 I can do at least one of these, in addition to taking more photos 🙂

The Conservation of Luck

(No, not Andrew Luck.)

In Chinese there’s a saying called “Feng Shui ren liu zuan”… okay my pinyin sucks, Whatever. Translated literally, it means, “luck circulates around”. Now when I think of that, I’m thinking luck as some water or other fluid traveling in a circular trajectory – kinda like in a vortex. Well, actually, I think of something a little more complicated. What we’re going to do now is constrain that fluid to one dimension wrapped around in a circle – water stuck onto a rubber band. And we’re going to assert that no fluid drips out. We’re standing on the rubber band, and the amount of fluid we’re exposed to is our luck. The total amount of fluid on the rubber band remains the same, but the fluid is free to spread around, clump at one point, etc. And how our day goes will be determined largely by what the fluid does.

Now there’s some implications to this. The fluid’s motion and distribution is random. But the total luck contained in the world, so to speak, is somewhat constant: integrate the luck across the circle and the result is independent of time. And, if you stay at any one point for a long time, chances are you’ll get exposed to the same total luck as everyone else: integrate the luck across a long period of time and the result is independent of position on the circle. 

The upshot is that luck is conserved, spatially and temporally. I believe that, for every instance of good luck someone somewhere gets, it will be followed by bad luck at some other time, or at some other place; by conservation of total luck, every instance of good luck has to be countered by an equally strong instance of bad luck. There have been stories of lottery winners who die on the way back, or of Lamborghini winners crashing their rewards 6 hours later. (That though could be as much stupidity as it is luck.) Here though, since I’ve been pondering about the spring tornadoes this year during break, we analyze such conservation of luck in the context of weather, in the tragedies of Tuscaloosa and Joplin. Due to the interest of length, I will save that for the next post.

[A little footnote before we begin. I define luck in terms of small perturbations. Anyone can say we were lucky that the Joplin tornado didn’t hit Kansas City, Tulsa, or St. Louis – but that would have required a completely different setup, different supercell, different placement of frontal systems and mesoscale boundaries. I’m talking about the small things: if we perturb our conditions by just a little bit – had the tornado gone a few miles south – 161 people would still be alive today. And that is what I mean by bad luck.]