Wyatt Underwood's



I sure arrived with a lot of it. And people around me gladly contributed more. On my own, though, away from grownups, I began to discover a world that was true. You can't lift both feet. Rocks hurt you but you don't seem to hurt rocks much.

By being picky and choosy in school, I learned I could trust mathematics, I could trust physics and chemistry. It was wonderful!

So when it was time to go to college, I looked for some doing study that let me use mathematics and physics and chemistry. Behold! Engineering!

And, way back then, our government had a program that let one earn his way, do actual engineer-in-training work while earning enough to pay to go to engineering school! Whoa! And work at White Sands Missile Range while one did. Glory!

So I read a few books about engineering and engineers and was sure that was the work for me! (It helped that they had pictures of engineers on horseback or with saddled horses nearby. Yes, perfect.)

I graduated from high school, and started work at White Sands Missile Range, and soon started classes in calculus and not long after in engineering. If I'd've been a nineteenth century heroine, I'd've swooned. Yes! Theorems I could prove! Mathematics I had to work to understand! Laboratory classes where we made real things that worked, just like our problem-solving in engineering classes said they would! Really! A world that worked like it was spozta! Heaven!

And the engineering school required physics classes and physics labs! Praise! I fell in love with and changed my major to physics. Even with no promise of horses.

Studying physics and doing physics labs was maybe the best schooling I ever did. (Reading Shakespeare and learning what we know about him and imagining his plays was a close second.) I immersed myself in them and did my damnedest to learn to think like a physicist. I succeeded in becoming a very good physics student.

Our government still feared communism and communists, so it kept us employed and busy. I found a job as an engineering employee (real engineers get licenses and work toward partnerships or strike out on their own) that promised to use my skills, and it did. But I wanted more physics training and I wanted to do physics, so I requested to enter graduate school and was accepted!

I immersed myself in physics classes and physics labs again, but at the graduate level. It's at least as different from undergraduate physics as college was from high school. (I also took creative writing classes about and around and in poetry. An unusual combination, but it worked for me.) I never worked so hard or so intently anywhere else in my life! I succeeded in becoming a very, very good physics student.


Worse, I couldn't see it. I thought I was doing fine. It was only ten or more years out of it that I gained the perspective to see, "Oh! I never became a physicist! And I certainly never learned to talk physics with physicists."

Even so, I still delight in what I learned and what I remember. I still know a little physics, out of date and rusty. And I did a little dance for the discovery of the Higgs boson or something like it. Yea!