After Some Years of Study

February 24, 2013

Okay, considering the fact I didn’t study that much in my undergraduate years, I am not at a very comfortable position to say these. But… I’ll still say these.

The motivation to study Aerospace Engineering was simple. Before university I was still obsessed with military aircrafts. To think I might be able to be part of a jet fighter project made me thrilled. And there, driven by total amateur passion, I went to study Aeronautics. During these four years, the most “relevant” thing I’ve ever done are reading Kelly Johnson’s autobiograph and playing Tom Clancy’s Hawx. That said, the relevancy mentioned here is pretty much an out-dated definition. It means the things that remind me of my initial expectation of being an Aerospace student. I didn’t appreciate Aerodynamics or Mechanics of Materials until it’s too late. Now that I think of it, they are interesting subjects I’d like to have a more solid understanding of. Yet undeniably they make an aircraft lose its coolness in my eyes. Structures inside are boring beams, lift and drag forces are about solving some notouriously hard PDE, oh and engines! Combustion or heat transfer are way too formidable and unlovely to me. The fact is, when I had a chance to switch major, I did.

When applying to the Technion, I decided to fill in Autonomous System and Robotics, an interdisciplinary program. I didn’t quite comprehend what this ‘Autonomous’ thing means back then. (Not entirely sure even now.) But I had a “good idea” about Robotics. I knew in this field some people make robots that move and some others deal with robots that think. I said to myself I don’t care at all if a robot can walk like a human. All that dynamics and stability issue are not of my concern. They to Robotics are like nuts and bolts to an airplane (My hatred toward Mechanical Design never ceases.) – all too trivial and “hardware-level”. So I expect more Machine Learning or Artificial Intelligence. And again I had a romantic fantasy about Robotics.

Robotics, the word itself is first invented by Isaac Asimov, my favorite writer. In his books, Robotics has a much larger scope. It even includes the ethics of robots in human society. And the robots there are have fascinating characters. Nothing can keep me from mentioning the cuteness of Giscard. He’s just a tin-like robot, unlike Daniel who is perfect in terms of human-resemblance. But he has such a helpless cuteness embedded in his personality! And, unfortunately my decision to turn to this study track was perhaps entirely influenced by this false illusion.

So far the reality seems to be, Robotics today is a narrower concept. We have several courses called Robotics in different faculties. They all focus on Kinematics and Dynamics and other motion related topics. Everytime they call an industrial arm a robot, I’d fall into a hair-pulling state. And take a look at some research projects in our program. For example the head of our program, a renowned Aerospace scholar, is dealing with medical robots, which apparently has something more to do non-Newtonian fluid than my definition of Robotics. I know human just tend to abuse words. But this time they really messed up with a notion that originally was a much more beautiful concept. Certainly I can take AI or ML, but they have their own scopes far beyond Robotics already.

Incidentally I took a course on Image and Signal Processing. When I hand-programmed my first Reverb sound effect, I thought I had a glimpse of the underlying mechanism empowering the whole electronic music scene! Oh maybe I have found my true love! I really should go to study and maybe even work on something related to the thing I’m so sure that I love. Then I had to restrain myself from thinking this way because it’s probably another illusion. And let there be some mysteries left in electronic music and thus let it forever be my love.

Speaking of study, I’ll have to conclude the dreams are broken all because of my own fault, my own immaturity. Things seem shiny and appealing when seen afar. Then when observing at a closer quarter, it comes the famous saying “nothing is what it seems”. I’ve seen things from afar and also have observed them for a while. But before diving into any realms to discover their true charm I turn away impatiently.

Coolness or cuteness will possibly never be found in them, I’d better give up this thought. And Professor Daniel Weihs’ word echoes in my head and loops itself tirelessly. He drew a shape of T and said (paraphrased) doing research is like a T, only when you have known enough about your specialty (that is your trunk), can you and naturally will you expand to other relevant areas (like the branches of the tree)…… The interdisciplinary program is really meant for professors not students. Students should focus on their own job. (Yeah, ‘interdisciplinary’ that’s the other fancy misleading term for young people. Although I’m in this study track, what I should do is to keep digging into the hole I’m already in šŸ™‚


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