How to Become Instagram Famous

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Any good artist knows that in order to have a beautiful picture you must have the right medium to translate it properly. When painting an ocean you don’t want to use the same shade of blue, so you add variety of colors to represent shadows and highlights. The same concept applies to photography, except time and light are your shadows and highlights.

Photography is just a manipulation of light and time to capture a moment in time. Thanks to modern technology, we have DSLRs (Digital Single-Lens Reflex) so we don’t have to worry about micro variables that will completely alter a photo. But it’s better to know them so you don’t come off as pretentious to your artsy friends, and understand why they are so important.

In order to understand these variables, you have to understand how a Single-Lens Reflex (SLR) works.

Typical SLRs come in three forms, “point and shoot”, hybrid, and manual. “Point and shoot” are those disposable cameras during the early 2000s, that you had to take to some camera store to develop. Those require the least amount of work, but the least amount of options. A manual has more features but the most work, and a hybrid is the in-between of the two, with moderate effort and features. But whatever camera you choose you’re going to need film, just as a painter needs paint in order to paint. In modern times, we’ve digitalized all of the aspects that come with a camera: shutter speed, focal lens, and ISO/ASA. These are some of the variables that make up a SLR, and have a role in taking the best photos.

Before technology existed, taking a decent photo of anything or anyone was nearly impossible. There were uncontrollable factors that photographers faced, the biggest problem being the sun. When taking photos during the early 1900s, photographers had to alter their shutter speed and focal lens to make sure the photo wouldn’t become overexposed. Especially when doing a landscape photo, this can be pretty difficult, if you want a lens flare effect.

Now under all that terminology, the main concept to understand is more light means darker photo, and less light means lighter photo. When applying this to the focal lens and shutter speed, think of this as a magnifying glass and the sun. The bigger the lens the more light you can focus to burn a piece of paper, that’s your focal lens. Gradually over time you will focus enough light to burn the paper, and that would be your shutter speed.

It’s best to remember these two factors when taking a scenic picture, portrait, or a selfie because the sun is your biggest variable. On cloudy days you might need to alter how big you might want the lens to be or you might want to add more time to fully capture the photo. But whenever you alter one thing, you have to do something to compensate for it. For example, if you want to take a photo of the landscape and it’s a super sunny day, you have one of two options, either lower the shutter speed, limiting the amount of time you want to expose your film, or lower your focal lens, limiting the light entering your camera. Whichever option you choose is correct but you have to counter it by raising the other: lower shutter speed means a higher focal lens and a lower focal lens means a higher shutter speed.

In the end, with practice you can become an expert in photography, and eventually get a pretty decent job, or just take super artsy photos and post them on instagram. Whichever works for you.

Time to Astrid Anker

Time is found, lost, given, spent.
Together with space it can bend.
Time is a fickle friend.

In physics class we are told that time is relative: it ticks by slower or faster, depending on the motion of the object and the frame of reference. Sometimes we forget to apply that to our own human experience. It’s a lot for a mere mortal to comprehend because our lives might seem to drag on, but our time on earth is significantly insignificant. When I first realized this fact, I was rudely awakened but it did make me reevaluate my outlook on life. I already knew I’d have to give up a third of my life to sleep and a third to work, unavoidable, dammit. I furiously calculated how long I would spend cleaning (over a year) or eating (over three years) in a lifetime and got further down the rabbit hole.

We think we have infinite time, especially when we’re young, but the truth is there are a lot of monotonous human things we have to do and that doesn’t leave a lot of time. People forget its value and wasting someone’s time is like throwing that person’s possessions into a black hole, to me anyway. Time is the most precious currency. I gave an hour of my time for this piece so the least you could do as a reader is stop reading, carpe diem, and all that jazz.

Space to Nick Omahen

Space (I believe in)

I’m tired of this world, everything’s fucked,

and people are the worst.

Okay, okay, I exaggerate, I’ll admit;

But it seems to me,

if it’s here with us

Sooner or later, we’ll turn it to shit.

Space though?

We’ve telescopes to see,

and minds so to

wonder eternally;

but not much else, as

of our reach, it’s still free;

And so we’re left voyeurs to behold

alone, great cosmic infinite.

But that’s the beauty of it;

immutable, immortal,

unsympathetic to our lives;

a hopeful enigma, each galaxy

scintillating in possibilities infinite.

Space is the great equalizer;

for though we woe and want

and in all places find schism,

to the pale blue dot,

it responds only with

beautiful nihilism.

I was always someone who struggled to be passionate about the world, sedated on the easy dopamine fix of scrolling and clicking and binge-watching Netflix. I coasted  (poorly) through the scholastic track that’s delivered to every suburban youth, which really amounted to watching days pass me by.  I didn’t attend my high school graduation because nothing felt ceremonious about it to me, and I signed up for community college because I thought, “What the hell am I supposed to do now? College, right? That’s what people usually seem to do.” I wanted to be a different person, someone engaged in the world around them, but I didn’t even know where to start.

A couple of years back I signed up for an observational astronomy course, and on a “Why not?” sort of whim volunteered for an astronomy outreach program that was advertised there. They taught you about the constellations, how to operate telescopes, etc and had you interact with the public; you know, give presentations and show people cool shit through a telescope. And I really liked it, actually. Next thing you know I’m taking whatever astronomy the school offers, I’m tutoring it, and buying my own gear to go observing. And now I’m here, studying astrophysics at UCSC (which I’m stoked about!). So this is what space is to me – a path to becoming the kind of person I had always hoped I could be.

Wide Open Spaces

“I can’t believe it’s just like all the movies,” I said for what had to be the third time that day. I had my feet up on the dashboard, munching on Hot Tamales as I watched the desert whiz by at 85 mph. It was the highest speed limit I’d ever seen, but then again there really wasn’t anything to run into out in the wilds of New Mexico. It had been at least an hour since we’d seen another car, and on all sides the desert stretched out to the horizon, unbroken save for a scattering of small hills and mesas.

“There’s no cover for miles. If there’s an ambush we’re screwed,” Dad replied, pretending to scan the horizon for a band of outlaws. He’d grown up on Spaghetti Westerns, and was just as impressed as I was that the unchanging, unforgiving landscape was living up to the visions from the silver screen.

“I don’t think there’s anyone in New Mexico to attack us,” my 12-year-old sister piped up from the back, where she was wedged between the door and a wall of suitcases stacked on a storage unit.

“It’s 111 degrees Fahrenheit, so I don’t blame them for not being out on the road.”  In this alien world where gas stations only showed up one every hundred miles or so, my biggest fear was to have the AC break or run out of gas. I could picture the scene from An American Tail: Fievel Goes West (which Dad and I had agreed was a perfectly accurate depiction of moving to the west coast) where the eponymous character wanders the desert in search of civilization, being tricked my mirages as he succumbed to thirst and desperation. It wasn’t a far stretch to see that happening to us, especially on the stretches of road where cell reception wore thin.

“How far away do you think the horizon is?” Dad asked suddenly, pulling me from my reverie of us all dying in the desert.

The uniform flatness gave the illusion that you could see forever, but my junior year oceanography professor would beg to differ. “If we’re at sea level, the horizon should be about 3 miles away. So not that far, but we can just see it all for once instead of it being obscured by trees and buildings and stuff.”

Dad made a disbelieving noise, and we decided to test this theory by picking a rock formation just on the horizon, and watching the odometer until we came up alongside it. By this crude estimation, the horizon was about 2 miles away. Dad seemed a bit disappointed until I pointed out that there were still hundreds of miles of desert just beyond the horizon, waiting to be driven through.

Ever since I was a kid, I had loved road trips. I could sit and watch the world go past for hours, taking in the gradual shifts in landscape from Kentucky to Alabama, South Carolina, or Florida. This was the first time we had ever driven so far west. The drive had been pleasant but uneventful through Missouri and Oklahoma, but once we it Texas and the greenery started to thin out did it start to get exciting. Growing up amid the rolling green hills of Bluegrass Country, the browns and tans of the desert were striking in their barren beauty. The delineation between highway and surrounding land broke down once we hit New Mexico, and it felt like you could drive in any direction for forever without seeing another human being. After a lifetime in the more densely populated east, it was nice to see the final frontier still had a few days’ worth of wide open spaces.


Writing and photography by Charlotte Eckmann

 

 

Culturespace

CULTURESHOCK – What a word. What a bombastic term. An utterance to strike fear in every exchange student’s heart. CULTURESHOCK!
I experienced cultureshock the other day while buying some impressively large broccoli at Trader Joe’s. The cashier was enthusiastic.
“Hey there. Would you like a bag?”
“Yes please.”
So far so good. The man pushes the broccoli across the scanner. There was a lot of broccoli, the reason for which I will not divulge.
“So you not from here?”
“No. From the UK studying at UCSC for a year.”
“Cool man!”
Everything still OK. I take the broccoli from the counter and put it into my bag–
CULTURESHOCK!
The whole of Trader Joe’s stands still. Parents shield their children’s eyes from the monstrosity. This tiny corner of the California is shaken to its core. The cashier, restraining his outrage, manages to utter a few icy words.
“You packed your own groceries. How very un-American of you.”
I barely escaped with my life, which is a British term for being slightly embarrassed.
There is a chance that you are experiencing culture shock now. Perhaps my style of writing, or my sense of humour, or my way of spelling humour, isn’t the same as yours. Maybe there is a jarring of the eyes as you see a strange silent U in colour, or favour, or underwear is the same as the jarring in my eyes as I see color, flavor or nderwear. There is a gap between our grammars and a gap between our cultures — a culturespace. The only culturespace I am remotely qualified to talk about is the gap between the UK and USA, and this being a scientific magazine and all, I thought I’d have a chin-wag about the differences in academic experience.
And what differences there are. What is this major system you guys have got going? Seems kinda wishy washy. In the UK we focus our studies to four or five subjects at the age of 16 (for example, I chose Physics, Maths, Chemistry and Latin, one of which has proved to be useless in later life. I’ll let you guess which). And when I say we focus, I mean we only study those subjects. Then based on the grades in those subjects we apply for university to study one subject. Yes that’s right, just one. It is extremely rare for someone to take a course not relevant to their degree subject. I have not studied anything but physics since the age of eighteen.
This is useful if you want to go into research. Why would you need distractions? It is not useful if you want to be a well rounded individual. Studying nothing but physics has quite literally driven me mad (and I mean mad in the frothing at the mouth sense, not in the moderately annoyed sense). I am further down the autistic spectrum than I am comfortable being, and I purely blame the university system in the UK.
Another huge difference is that for us in physics at Manchester, more or less 100% of our grade is based on final exams. None of this homework malarkey. You do get problem sheets, but there’s little incentive to do them well. The disadvantage of this is that you don’t work throughout the year, instead piling all the pressure on in the four weeks before exams. The advantage of this is that you don’t work throughout the year, instead piling all the pressure on in the four weeks before exams. Because I wasn’t working very hard for most of the year, I had time to be president of the Manchester University Quidditch Club. In the UK it’s a lot easier to contribute to extracurricular activities without sacrificing your grades, which I like a lot. This having been said, the four weeks before exams is extremely bad for your physical and mental well-being, contributing further to foresaid madness.
Professors here are much more approachable! You can just send them an e-mail and they’ll actually reply. I like this in the USA a lot. In the UK, professors are often much more remote. There’s also a terrible culture in the UK of not asking questions. The person who does so is usually thought of as an idiot or a show off, depending on the quality of their question. The number of times a professor has asked for questions in the UK to no avail are too many for me to count. Also because we haven’t done any work throughout the year, we are much more likely to have no idea what’s going on, which makes questions even less likely.
Curved grading schemes don’t make sense to me at all, and they don’t exist in the UK. It is perfectly possible for an entire class to do well or badly in a course. If there is a problem with grade inflation a professor should make the exam harder, not punish those who lag maybe only slightly behind their fellows. In the UK your grade is based on your raw mark, simple as that.
As you can see, there are advantages and disadvantages to both systems. Which one you like the most will depend on what sort of student you are. One thing I recommend though, is that you experience more than one way of studying. Study abroad is not just a brilliant thing for cultural experience, but also increases your flexibility and adaptability in learning. It will make you a better student.
If anyone is interested in setting up a UCSC quidditch team with me send me a message. I haven’t got time to do it by myself with all these homeworks.
Cheers,
Robert
P.S. I love UCSC and California. Fantastic place with fantastic people. Still haven’t seen a Banana Slug though.

Space to Princess Brutus: Unwritten in Code

We spend much our lives chasing enough of something, to place into something else: words for our thesis, lines for our programs, lovers for our hearts and a long list of other trinkets for the pockets of our life which may or may not be representable as a finite number of Hilbert space products–but what about the spaces between our words, line breaks in our programs and the separate worlds we inhabit that make our union with another human so much sweeter? Without space, whatwehavemaybedamnnearillegibleandthuspointlessasallhellanyway.

Space I scarcely thought about until I worked with a my friend Che on a C programming project was that in code. As a undergraduate physicist, I took a smattering of lower-division computer science classes and my instructors’ comments on code style was, “Make it more or less legible for me.” We weren’t required to adopt any code style in particular, so we each wound up with our own ad-hoc style the changed depending on how much coffee we’d drank in the past few hours, and how much sleep we’d had in the last couple of days.

One of the first functions I sent my buddy was similar to the one below, but maybe not quite as bad:

/* Multiply two matrices together.  First check that the matrices have
   appropriate dimensions. */
#include "matrix.h"
struct matrix* mtx_multiply(struct matrix* a, struct matrix* b){
    if (a->cols != b->rows) {
        fprintf (stderr, "Incompatible dimensions for matrices %p and %p.\n", a, b);
        return 0;} // end if: checking matrix dimensions
    struct matrix *m = mtx_new (a->rows, b->cols);
    size_t row, col, add;
    for(row=0 ;row <m->rows;row++){
        for( col=0;col< m->rows;col++) {
        for(add= 0;add < b->rows;add++)
        {
        m->data[row][col] += a->data[row][add] * b->data[add][col];
        }}}
return m;}

The nice, or maybe horrible, thing about C, is it ignores whitespace almost entirely, it was after all an April Fool’s Joke. So the above code, and the code below execute exactly the same. However, the above borders on incomprehensibility–at the very least it’s not easy or fun to read. If you’re bored, work on a more difficult project rather than obfuscating a simple program–you’ll learn more. Unless you really, really want to, but then you wouldn’t bother reading this anyway.

/* Multiply two matrices together.  First check that the matrices have
   appropriate dimensions.  */

#include "matrix.h"

struct matrix *
mtx_multiply (struct matrix *a, struct matrix *b)
{
    if (a->cols != b->rows)
    {
        fprintf (stderr,
            "Incompatible dimensions for matrices %p and %p.\n", a, b);
        return 0;
    } /* end if: checking matrix dimensions */

    struct matrix *m = mtx_new (a->rows, b->cols);
    size_t row, col, add;

    for (row = 0; row < m->rows; row++)
        for (col = 0; col < m->rows; col++)
            for (add = 0; add < b->rows; add++)
                m->data[row][col] += a->data[row][add] * b->data[add][col];

    return m;
}

The only difference between the code is in the spacing. The line breaks are scarce and willy-nilly. The spacing between variables and operations like multiplication, assignment and comparison are erratic. It’s hard to parse the text and identify what variables are passed to which arguments. Line 11 has the confusion of the comparison operator being attached to the m->rows variable.

The coding style I followed for the second code snippet is (mostly) the GNU Coding Standard. For this project Che and I chose this standard because he was reading through the GNU Lib C Reference Manual at the time, and I wanted to use an established coding style.

I’m not a huge fan of a few things about the style, for instance the space between the function name and the opening parentheses for the arguments still looks weird to me. However, the consistency helps my eye parse through the code to hone in on whatever part I’m looking for, such as the misplaced add in the indexes of the third for loop I had to track down. The extra lines between parts of the code break up the function into for parts: check for the validity, create variables, perform operation and return the result. I thought of them as paragraphs, Che thought of them as stanzas.