Very Top Five… Things to know before starting a Science degree.

Sunday, 6 September 2009
First things first; you don’t need to know any actual Science yet. They’ll teach you that while you’re there. That’s the point of the course, innit?

The things you need to know now are the most important things; the things the University won't tell you. Things like how to sleep surreptitiously in lectures should you feel momentarily overcome by fatigue brought on by the recommended student diet of one-part studying to twenty-seven parts partying, for example.

5. The pictures in the prospectus are all lies.

You know those laboratories in the adverts? The white walled, white desked, neat and tidy Mansions-o’-Science, a-glitter with X-Ray Synchrotrons and Atomic Force Microscopes? What do you think the chances are that these sleek Temples of Knowledge would stay quite so white and shiny with a bunch of manky students fiddling about with them with their horrid fingers (which are all sticky from rolling joints and fumbling with each other’s privates at late-night parties?

Nil. But these labs do exist; only they are locked tantalisingly away in the serious research sections of the University, away from the slime-caked undergrads.

The actual teaching laboratories are a different matter altogether. You won’t find pictures of them in any prospectus, or on the Universities website. Why is this? Because it’s difficult to take good photographs of scorched, graffiti’d desks, melted circuitry, piles of broken 1970’s LASERs and a technician having a violent mental breakdown in the corner.

4. Which adjectives to avoid in course selection.

For example, obviously the word “Advanced” is a dead giveaway that a course is going to be brain meltingly awful and require hours of toil to grasp. And you didn’t go to University to toil like some sweaty navvy.

Some courses just sound difficult, and should clearly be avoided (How else will you fit in all the partying?) All subjects have courses like these; I shall use Physics as an example, because Physics has many adjectives you must avoid; for example;
Statistical, Mathematical, Quantum, Nuclear, Particle, Computational. Unfortunately, most Physics courses include at least one of the above. It’s a tough subject.

However, there is one counter intuitive adjective which you must avoid at all costs; “General.” It sounds innocuous enough, doesn’t it, and that’s how they trick you into studying General Relativity - which is as bad as regular Physics, but with all the dials turned up to “Whoah!”

Try and picture a 4-dimensional space being warped by planets. Can’t? General Relativity’s not for you.

3. How to interpret data.

Wouldn’t it be terrible if you were to do an experiment and collected some data, and then it turned out that you’re data was terrible. What would you do?

Well, you’d have to collect it all over again. What a bore.

Or… you could do this (Which is bad and wrong), and (here it gets technical) adjust all of the data points by, say, 5%, so that they fit the line or curve of best fit more accurately, and delete the poorest data points which are skewing your results. Don’t edit the data to be too accurate, because then your cheating will be obvious. In fact, don’t do it anyway; it’s bad and wrong. Wink.
But if you do decide to cheat, you can always console yourself in knowing that these are the results you should have seen, if it wasn’t for the terrible equipment, which was beyond your control... Wink.

2. You’ll fit right in, just as you are.

Everyone will totally respect your personal beliefs. You’ll notice everyone making a huge effort to make you feel like one of them. University's are a melting pot of cultures.

Now you might wonder whether that last paragraph implies that A.) They will accept your beliefs as they are; or B.) You will be offered the chance to conform to a belief system held by the majority. It could mean either, couldn’t it?

Don’t worry, if you think option A.) is correct, your peers will be particularly understanding, and won’t subtly distance themselves from you at all.

So the following hastily drawn sketch bears no relevance to the truth whatsoever. Promise.

Because, yeah, diversity is super. So long as you don’t mind getting steamrollered in the face by the status quo of secularism and science, a system made invincible by an unshakeable sense of rightness and security. Not like in the dark ages of years gone by, where diversity wasn’t super, and you’d get steamrollered in the face by conservative values and religion, a system made invincible by an unshakeable sense of righteousness and security. Not like that at all.

You certainly won’t find a community propelled by a viciously narrow-minded arrogance borne from the knowledge that hundreds of years of scientific advancement stands behind it. So that’s good.

1. It’s a great opportunity for a life-enhancing experience.

And so it is, just check out this statistic:

“98% of students think that University life is worthwhile.” – University College London website, University Life section.

And right they are. Just feast your peepers on these key benefits, and then tell me whether Univeristy isn't the most awesomest invention ever.

Some places do ten vodka shots for a fiver. (It’s not going to be a well-known brand of vodka, and certainly won’t taste nice. But then again, vodka isn’t supposed to, is it? It’s purely intended to be a substantial alcoholic hit, so you can hardly complain. Besides, you wouldn’t buy 10 shots of anything for the taste, would you? After the first few you can’t taste anything anyway, so it doesn’t matter.)

You can delay getting a dead end supermarket job by 3 or 4 years, and get a dead end office job instead.

You can lord it over people who didn’t go to University, giving them a massive, crushing feeling of worthlessness to fuel your own superiority complex. Like as if it’s a secret club that only the cool kids got to go to.

You can get a Latin scroll at the end of it, as if you were in Harry Potter or whatever. You can even get it on vellum if you like. Which is like paper, but made out of a baby cow’s skin. But don’t worry, the cow is alright afterwards. Wait… what…? Doesn’t it grow back? Oh, actually the cow does have to die. But it was probably going to die anyway, and feel how silky the scroll is. It’s worth it, isn’t it?

Jobs are 40 hours a week. University is, like, six lectures, a lab session and a tutorial. And nobody even minds if you don’t turn up. Ergo, you get to chill at home and watch daytime television.


Andy R Macpherson said...

I want my 'money' back cos I've read this before - except it had a whole lot more than just 5 tips... Maybe if this version had a top tip about getting Edinburger's cheapest bacon rolls I wouldn't complain (as much)!

I think people deserve: Very Top 5... Ways of getting cheaper/free bacon rolls.

Very Top Five said...

Haha, yeah I recycled the longer version of this because I'm coming up to the end of my week of daily posts and running out of novelty (Actually that's not quite true; I have lots of top fours and top threes half-way written, and haven't thought of a fifth thing quick enough to finish them!)

Suggestion noted. ;)

julochka said...

your top five posts are hilarious, but i think it's ok with top three and top four, it's just gonna be a little problematic with the name of your blog and all. i keep tweeting link to you because these are really fresh and clever. so please do keep writing them. :-)

Very Top Five said...

Thank you Julochka! I will keep writing them, more are on the way. Slowly but surely ;). I am enjoying your blog too, and thanks for the tweeting.

Nanodance said...

I think a top 5 list of 3 or 4 things is funny in and of itself- and if they are as clever as the stuff I have been reading, then hey... go ahead and post.

Regarding #4- Also avoid the adjective "Astro" as in Astrophysics. Yes it is a real thing- but it sounds like something someone would make up to sound super smart doesn't it?