"I once had a sparrow alight upon my shoulder for a moment... and I felt that I was more distinguished by that circumstance than I should have been by any epaulet I could have worn." -Thoreau

Friday, June 29, 2012

Enter that Lovely Maiden, Beauty

Hello Reader-Dearest!

The summer is now well underway.

I am now a competent Fortran-er and somewhat literate in the zeolite world.
Wait, now that I think of it, I don't think I ever mentioned what specifically I am researching this summer. Well... as specifically as it gets.

A model of  LTA, one of the zeolites
we shall be focusing on this summer. 
I am working on simulations of these lovely aluminosilicate minerals called zeolites. "Zeolite" is a fairly broad category. There are a number of different crystalline structures and zeolites can have different chemical compositions, but we're mostly dealing with silicon, oxygen, and aluminum. The cool thing is, their microporous nature makes them good molecular sieves. In particular, zeolites have been found to selectively adsorb carbon dioxide over nitrogen, hydrogen, methane, and other gases. This makes zeolites very promising materials for a number of processes, most notably carbon dioxide separation and sequestration. In the past, my professor and her students have studied pure silica zeolites (well, Si and O actually, but the key point is no aluminum) with varying structural properties, so as to examine the importance of pore structure to selective CO2 adsorption. This summer, we are going to start working on introducing aluminum into the mixture.

A structural model of MFI, another cool zeolite.
As for my own contribution... well, I only just received "the code" on Wednesday... and was immediately utterly lost in the dense network of files and the endless sea of Fortran lines contained therein. Yesterday I managed to calm some of that despair and anxiety so as to make fair progress in getting a better idea of how things fit together, but there is a very, very long way to go. However, I did submit my first few runs today! Yay! Look for more updates in the future!

I must say that, overall, I have been rather pleased with the path my summer has taken. I think I may say that I have successfully rekindled my devotion to the fair goddess, Beauty.

I cannot assure you of the existence of an omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, benevolent God, but I can attest to the presence of this lovely maiden. I have caught glimpses of her darting swiftly between trees, and placing blossoms in flowing hair strewn over sun-kissed prairie grass; I have seen her floating serenely on the river and heard her joining in on birdsong whilst I make my way through the arboretum. I have heard her at turns laughing at me and soothing me with her song as I feebly attempt to coax music from the keys of a piano. I have seen her hand in gorgeous sunsets and clear blue skies, in giant dandelions, and in graceful, swooping little birds. I have yet to see it myself, but I have heard that she has even taken some of her beauty and placed it within tiny creatures, that they may bring light to the summer sky even when she has gone to her slumber or joined her sisters in distant lands for merrymaking.

Yes, piano adventures and arb runs have made it a lovely, beautiful summer indeed. The arb runs are unfailingly splendid- the piano, less so. But I think I have fallen in love with it nonetheless. I cringe whenever I play a false key, and I feel terribly embarrassed when I stumble over pieces like the too-familiar "Jingle Bells," but my soul begins to thrill when a piece which initially sent a series of winces shuddering through me comes together to resemble something which I may call music. Granted I can only play short and very simple pieces, but I am easily enraptured by the lovely sounds which that instrument is capable of producing when properly encouraged to do so. All in all, I am pleased with the progress I have made in two weeks of playing for about an hour a day, and I am very excited for the next seven weeks! I dare not strive for beauty, for something deep and soul-striking, but I do hope that by the end of it I can play something which may be rightly termed lovely. Nothing crazy or complicated, but still charming.

In addition to the beauty of piano and the natural wonders surrounding Carleton, I have found great pleasure in the social benefits of a Carleton summer. It is wonderful to be at Carleton, to be learning new things and challenging myself intellectually on a daily basis, and to still have time for casual hour-long chats with new acquaintances, for skype sessions with old friends, for cooking adventures, for Sayles slumber parties, for movie-watching, and for pioneering a summer social dance club. I have great hopes for this Summer Social Dance Club (hereafter to be referred to as SSDC), despite what appear to be administrative attempts to crush it. Well, not exactly. But it is very frustrating that the school insists on shutting down all of the buildings after work hours. Nonetheless, this week was very successful in bringing together new and old social dancers, and I now feel like I have dance children to teach and tend to and befriend this summer. It is very exciting! Hopefully logistics will not prove disastrous... but I have high hopes. I look forward to making friends with these new people and hopefully incorporating them into social dance culture!

In short, summer is lovely and sweet. I have been reminded that life has great potential for beauty, if I only toil faithfully to seek her out. She is a shy creature, and must be treated tenderly, but she is sweet and devoted if you patiently cultivate her friendship. I do hope that we may become fast friends.

Happy Summer, dear ones!   

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