Monday, July 25, 2005

Subject selection confusion

Tomorrow, the semester starts. As of now, I have not selected my subjects yet. I’ll hang around the interesting subject lectures and then finalise my choice later in the week.

At the moment, I have to choose 3 elective subjects from a longish list of about 11. Deftly but brutally hacking* away the less desirable subjects, I’m now left with 5 electives. They are all of equal importance. I think.

Human Resources Management
I’m definitely taking this up. It’s a personal non-negotiable, seeing that I have zero experience in this field and I badly need something management-ish. In fact, it’s so non-negotiable that I had to forgo Power Generation Systems (a delicious sounding course with turbines, reciprocating engines, turbochargers et al) due to a clash in lecture hours.

This is an interesting one. It’s a lot of fuzzy mathematics, dealing with optimising huge, multi-variable systems. Imagine 42 variables. Not a lot? Then consider that there are 42! permutations in these variables. If you can’t imagine how big 42! might be, I can assure you that it's mind boggling. This subject will definitely be an eye opener, in terms of conditioning the brain to think in a completely different way.

Computational Biomechanics
Another eye opener here. The subject description says “On completion of this subject students should gain an understanding of the structure and function of the skeletal, muscular and sensory systems of the human body and biomechanical analysis of the human body subject to a variety of external environments, such as standing, walking and running.”

Advanced Computational Mechanics
Basically a course on how to crunch numbers on a computer, effectively. The introductory course in Computational Mechanics was rather plain. Very academic stuff and bone dry, but probably some practical use.

Advanced Engineering Materials
Basically, a course about high tech materials like “advanced light alloys, superalloys, metal matrix composites, intermetallic alloys, ultrafine and nano-structured materials.” Would be interesting

Seeing that I have sort of confirmed HR Management, I have the other 4 to fiddle around with. If I take up optimisation, I will not be able to take biomechanics and materials (due to timetabling stupidities), and I’ll be stuck with computational mechanics. 2 heavy number crunching subjects!

The other 3 available options would be to drop any one subject from this choice: biomechanics, computational mechanics and materials.

We’ll see what happens.

By the way, 42! = 1 x 2 x 3 x … x 41 x 42 = 1.4 x 10^51.
In comparison, there are only 6.23 x 10^23 atoms in 1 gram of hydrogen. You would need 2,250,000,000,000,000,000,000 tonnes of hydrogen to make assemble 42! atoms.

*I like to think that I hack with a graceful but severe style as seen used by kendo practitioners, and more lethally, by katana wielding samurais. Of course, this is debatable since I did not literally manipulate any weapons.