College Essay | Teen Ink

College Essay

December 18, 2018
By SoS BRONZE, Mundelein, Illinois
SoS BRONZE, Mundelein, Illinois
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

I’m not sure when it started, exactly. Behind all the Star Wars memorabilia and planet diagrams hanging in my room and the planet picture books on my bookshelves, lay an ongoing fascination, a fascination for space, science, and the great beyond. My father, a science fiction buff, shared his enthusiasm for this genre with me by taking me to movies and sharing science books with me, cementing science fiction as a major part of my childhood and contributing to my interest in all things galaxy and science related.

My fascination with science led to an obsession with shows like Mythbusters and Bill Nye, particularly in elementary school. Mythbusters used the scientific method to prove or disprove popular beliefs or myths. I enjoyed watching the hosts do experiments and provide concrete reasons for the conclusions they reached. One particular episode, through logic and ingenuity alone, they were able to prove that you really could survive a desert island using only duct tape. Everything they did was concrete and logical, and it amazed me that despite their warnings, I really could try that at home and get the same results.

A later obsession was the youtube channel: “Vsauce,” which focuses on scientific explanations of everyday phenomena, such as why the sky is blue, and how hot atoms can get.  The moderator Michael Stevens takes what seem to be simple questions and gives them an in depth explanation using science. Again, It was satisfying to have reasons for complicated phenomena and the answers provided to my questions. “Hey Vsauce, Michael here! Where are your fingers? It’s a pretty easy question, but how do you know?” one episode started, and through this seemingly obvious question, he explored the way our brains “know” things through logic and senses, and how memories are stored biologically. I enjoyed these videos not only because of their entertainment value, but also because they allowed me to discover answers and explanations for questions that went beyond my school science curriculum.

Last year I discovered a book called Paradox by Jim Al-Khalili, which focused on seemingly contradictory facts and theories about our current understanding of physics, including a number of paradoxes concerning quantum mechanics. Never before had I encountered  scientific questions that lacked a definitive answer. A major topic of the book was the Heisenberg Principle. Paraphrased, this states that both the position and momentum of a particle can never be known simultaneously. No matter how many measurements are taken, or how high tech the instruments are that are used, uncertainty will always remain. The book explained further: “This is not because we don’t have all the information we need to make such a prediction, but rather because, at the quantum level, nature itself does not know when it will happen”. This idea amazed me. How could questions so fundamental to everything in the universe be without certain answers? The science that compelled me to learn throughout my life has had concrete, definitive answers; I just had to know who to ask. Now I was encountering science that contained an element of uncertainty. For me, this was even more intriguing.

When I got to high school and teachers began talking more and more about college, I realized that a career in some area of science was for me. But no matter how much I’m sure that science is my chosen field,  I still can’t shake the feelings of uncertainty. When I was younger, the path was concrete and clear: elementary school followed by middle school and high school. Now I have so many unanswered questions. Can I turn my interests into a career? Where should I go to college? What classes are best? I’ll do all the research I can do, but I have to accept that I’ll never know all the answers. Uncertainty is inevitable, as I discovered with quantum mechanics. Living with that uncertainty is a part of life.

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