Made for me

February 9, 2008 at 3:01 am | Posted in design, harvard, internet, programming, rambling, school, science | Leave a comment
Tags: , , , , , ,

Birds!
[via flight404]

I love shopping week at the beginning of every semester, because it is a time of beautiful leisure and carefree distraction.

Okay, so I skip class for a couple days. But consider this–other, much more ambitious students will go to 20 classes that they don’t end up taking. And guess what? I also end up not taking those same 20 classes! I’ve effectively simulated Ivy-league-grade ambition by sitting in my room and surfing YouTube, and nobody is the wiser. A pareto-efficient transaction of sorts, between myself and The Man. (Maybe you question the correctness of my econ verbiage here. Maybe you’re right. Maybe I never sat in on any econ classes.)

Ah! But even without me once having to go outside, that perfect someone or something (but actually some thing) still strikes me like a thunderbolt between the eyes. Her name is CS171, and she is a course on visualization, never before offered by the computer science department here. The website drew me in and made my life–and beautiful graphs–flash before my eyes. The software dazzled me and motivated my inner nrrd. The examples in lecture inspired and moved me. (Watch that last clip from the beginning until at least 5:10 for full awe-inspiring effect.) All of it so compelling that I watched an entire first half of a lecture video without playing online Boggle at the same time. Or maybe that’s because the videos are broadcast live from the lecture and I can submit questions to the professor in REAL TIME via Skype.

I’ve found my soul-course-mate. All those years of computer geekdom abortively pursued amid an inescapable urge to create; those forays into drawing and music that fizzled as quickly as my aesthetic sense gave way to a deep realization of an empirical epistemology; science, with its untameable threads of abstraction that have floated at arms’ length beyond my mental grasp. Where the inner aesthete comes out to play with the code-monkey, and all rejoice in the data of the empiricist. This is where they all come together, in visualization.

What does this all mean? Should I quit biology? Medicine? Or maybe just that I should make more, cooler, graphs when I do research.

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