Seth Bisen-Hersh, MIT

Seth Bisen-Hersh, MIT

A weeklong electronic journal.
Oct. 8 1997 12:30 AM

Seth Bisen-Hersh, MIT

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       This morning I woke up at 9:30, the earliest I have to get up all week, to go to an 8.01 lecture. The first thing I'm going to have to explain about MIT is the numbers. MIT is all numbers. The buildings are numbered. The courses are numbered. The majors are numbered. Even the elevators are numbered. I mean, you walk into one and it says, "This is elevator 3-2." But in any case, 8.01 is the code for Freshman Physics. Having had physics before, I personally do not find the class too hard, although a lot of the problems are very challenging. In lecture, we all sit spellbound (or half-asleep) as Dr. Guth plays with toys to show us how the physical universe works. Today he concluded with a really cool demonstration of momentum using the fire extinguisher to propel himself out of the room.
       After my first hour lecture, I walk along the "infinite corridor" (it is called that because it stretches throughout most of the buildings on campus) and say hi to all my friends as I pass them. I am one of the most outgoing freshmen of the approximately 1,080, and during the first few weeks of orientation, I set out to meet everyone. I didn't completely succeed, but at least I know a good percentage of my class. So I walked to 3.091 (Freshman Chemistry). Dr. Sadoway is a cool professor because every day he plays music, which is somehow connected to the topic of the day, before and after the lecture. After sitting through another lecture (this one is usually at least mildly enjoyable), I went to an 18.02 (Multivariable Calculus) recitation. We have lectures and recitations here. Lectures take place in the big lecture halls, with everyone taking that course, while recitations break us into smaller groups of about 20 to talk to our teacher assistants one-on-one.
       After doing a bunch of calculus problems, I got to have lunch. Since I live in one of the dormitories that is really close to everything, I tend to pick up some yogurt at Walker, the dining hall that is right by my dorm, and go to my room to eat it. Today was no exception. During my hour break I caught up on e-mail--I always seem to have mail. (Another thing about MIT is that everything is done by e-mail and computer. Being a tentative Course 6er--Computer Science--I don't mind at all.)
       After lunch I went to a physics recitation, where I got back my weekly quiz and found I had a 76, which means I did exceptionally well, at least for here. Everything is curved because the tests are so impossible. Usually passing is around a 35, depending on the class average. I had an hour break before going to my two-hour seminar.
       My seminar is about analyzing musicals. Some people are shocked to learn that MIT also has one of the best music programs in the country. This is because math and music are related in the brain. I'll go more into music tomorrow when I come home from my music class. Anyway, we discuss how musicals relate to today's day and age. Also, we get to sing while I play piano. It is always a great way to cheer me up on my never-ending Mondays.
       After class, I ate a quick dinner, watched Seinfeld, and checked my mail again. Then there were three meetings that I was supposed to be at. So I decided to go to the LSC meeting (Lecture Series Committee) and then run to the UA meeting (Undergraduate Association, i.e. student government). LSC is the movie club on campus. Being a member, I get to see all the movies for free--all I have to do is usher once every other week. I am a member of the UA's social committee, which means I help plan various activities to keep MIT a fun place. That was the third meeting that I was supposed to go to. I unfortunately ended up missing the general UA meeting tonight, but that is the first one I missed. Fortunately, I had the night off from rehearsal. I'm in the fall musical of one of the theatre groups, but I'll explain all that Wednesday night when I have rehearsal.
       After all the meetings ended, I biked back home. I leave my bike locked up outside. I can get to the student center in one minute by bike, as opposed to five on foot. I got home earlier than usual, around 10. Then I started on my problem-set for calculus. I actually have a very easy schedule this semester because it worked out that I have only one problem-set actually due. The other two are optional and they give us the answers, so I just have to pass weekly quizzes, which is not a problem at all. Then I went to hang out with my neighbor and talked to her for a few hours, while we both sort of worked on various stuff.
       This is not to say that everyone here is finding it as easy as we are. I was zephyring (this is like AOL's Instant Messenger service for MIT) one friend, and she was really stressed because she has four tests this week. And my other neighbor was also busy studying for something. It just happened to be a relaxing night for me. And now, at 1 a.m., I shall retire.

Seth Bisen-Hersh is a freshman at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

(Note: Earlier this semester, the "Yale Five" announced that, in defiance of school policy, they were refusing to live in the campus dormitories because living in co-ed quarters violated their Orthodox Jewish beliefs. Last week, an MIT freshman died of alcohol poisoning at a fraternity party after having consumed about 16 drinks. Have our nation's elite colleges become hotbeds of binge drinking and sexual abandon? SLATE's diarists this week tell us what life at these top schools is really like.)