Half-days

We started half-days at school this week. Essentially, the last quarter of senior year, we only have 4 classes, and we’re done at 12:15. (Though this week isn’t going to be particularly half-dayish for me – I was sick yesterday, I had to stay after school till 5 today for math club and quiz bowl, tomorrow I have more math club, and on friday I’m leaving for a QB tourney at 3.)

It’s kind of an interesting concept. It’s supposed to give us a break, I suppose, and help us get ready for college, when we’ll have fewer classes but more work per class. It is also an opportunity to have “senior projects”, which is technically what we’re supposed to be working on from 12:15-3:30 (as opposed to nothing, which is what most people work on).

I find it rather irritating, however. Well, not ‘irritating’… I’m not sure what the word is for it. I find it disconcerting to be out at noon every day; it feels like the school day is over before it begins. And it means there’s much less time for just “hanging out” at school (because people leave at 12:15 instead of staying at school for lunch and more classes and then study hall).

The solution, of course, is to hang out at places outside of school. But I never end up actually doing that. I might do stuff outside of school (i.e.,go to parties, football games, dances, etc) – but those aren’t really the same as hanging out. There’s something about just being in a classroom playing cards to pass the time that is really awesome. (I think it has something to do with the subject of the second half of my previous post.)

Anyway, back to the purpose of the half-days – to allow for Senior Projects. As a fellow Cistercian student has explained, these are basically self-assigned academic projects that are supposed to be the equivalent of a full class running for one quarter. As I’ve mentioned before, though I haven’t elaborated on it, what I’m doing is learning about set theory, a branch of mathematics. (Under the guidance, of course, with Dr. Newcomb, pronounced NUKE-‘EM, who is simply awesome.)

Set theory has few, if any, practical applications (at least that I know of). But it is basically the coolest branch of mathematics there is. It is a bit hard to explain; it deals with the theory of collections of “objects”. Like numbers, or points on a line (1D), or plane (2D), or space (3D). The basic introduction is – prove that there are the same number of natural numbers (1, 2, 3, …) as there are rational numbers (m/n, where m and n are natural numbers) – but that there are more real numbers (any number that can be expressed as a decimal – 1, 6, root 2, pi, e, are all reals) – there are uncountably many of those, while the number of natural numbers is countable.

The proof is pretty simple. But I think the very fact that you can prove something like that is amazing.

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