Thursday, September 23, 2004

Forgotten Assignments, Evil C Compiler, and the Stress-Strain Curve of Steel

This morning I woke up happy. Well, considering that it was 8:00 and I had gotten less than 6 hours of sleep, I was relatively happy. I was happy because I had a physics assignment due, and I was completely finished, and I had checked and rechecked my answers to my satisfaction (this is something new; back in high school I would do assignments at the last minute, if at all). Anyways, after a leisurely chili lunch, I went to my room and packed the assignment safely in my binder where it would be kept until handed in at the physics tutorial. I walked down the street to the Bahen center, up to the third floor, into my tutorial room, and I got out my assignment. It was missing a page. A very important page too, as the entire thing was only three pages. So, I calmly got up, walked out of the room, and ran as fast as I could back to my dorm to pick it up. Thank God that it's only 600 meters between my residence and the Bahen center, because I got it there just in the nick of time. In fact, it probably shouldn't have been allowed, because it was due in the first five minutes of class, and I got it there after seven minutes. I can only hope that my memory is better tomorrow morning, when I have to hand in my Engineering Design assignment.

Throughout the course of my life, I have come across several different programming languages. However, the award for the most non-user-friendly goes to C. Sure, the low-level stuff might come in handy once in a while, but give me good old Visual Basic anyday.

Seven Things I Hate About C: (It would be 10, but I couldn't be bothered to think of any more)
1. The semicolons at the end of each line.
2. "\n"
3. Pointers. One "*" in the wrong place can crash your system.
4. Having to put all the functions before the main procedure.
5. No booleans!
6. No 64-bit support (I assume that's why the compiler doesn't work on my system).
7. Having to use UNIX in the labs.

Anyways, I downloaded a C compiler for my computer (although you can apparently log in to the ECF lab remotely, the website is down whenever I try it). I started it off with something simple, a "Hello, world" program. It compiled, but when I tried to run the program, it just flashed some sort of command line window and closed it down again. So I'm completely at a loss, but I have not given up yet. The computers in the lab are so horrible that it is worth a bit of trouble to get C working properly on my system.

I believe I mentioned my "Engineering Design" course in the first paragraph. The full name of this class is "Structures and Materials: An Introduction to Engineering Design". This is, without a doubt, one of the best courses I have ever taken. Instead of learning theory, like my other courses, we are actually doing practical stuff. For example, in the tutorial last week we had a demonstration of a static force system, and we measured the angles in it and then did the calculations to show what the angles are. Also, the professor had a big model of a suspension bridge in one of the lectures, and we figured out the forces on some of the cables. Tomorrow we get to see a demonstration of how much force it takes to snap a steel wire. So naturally, today we started learning about material strength, and in particular we studied steel. Finally, I understand stress-stain curves. I also now know that the toughness of a material is equal to the area under the curve, and the resilience is the area under the elastic portion of the curve. For once in my life, I am actually learning something that will be useful to me in the future! It's amazing!

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