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  • Constantina Alexander

Omega and Alpha: maths, cube sats and persistence

Updated: Sep 17, 2019

Today I have just returned from sitting a 3 hour maths exam for my degree. The first formal exam I have taken for nearly thirty years. For the past month I have been holed up revising at every opportunity and practising methods. I have learned so much from this process, in addition to the maths, which I will need as I go on further.

First of all, one needs commitment to stick with it on a daily basis for many hours. Myself and other students have shared experiences of maths books at the breakfast table, dining table and every available space and every device is used to access little snippets, such as ten minute tutorials on binomial expansions, or chain theory or integration by parts - and believe me that is as painful as it sounds.

Yet painful, sometimes, only whilst learning it. With more focus and practice it starts to become intuitive, like a language, and during the exam I only found two problems which I had time to find creative ways to solve. Here's hoping I do as well in the exam as the multitude of practice exam papers I have been going through. Even there I found my method and approach, little by little, was sharpened and improved with each attempt. And I have really pushed myself to the limit, just to see how far I can go with this. It must be producing endorphins as I am so enjoying it.

Studying with total focus has shown me that dedication and willingness to persist, despite difficulties, pays off in the end. So often I hear people in spiritual circles say, "Well if it doesn't feel right, or doesn't work out, it's obviously not meant to be." I wholeheartedly refute such wimpy nonsense. One of the brothers on Facebook recently published a story about St. Francis being kicked out by the bishop at a church only for him to run round the back and 'enter by another door,' in accordance with scripture. He was then admitted and taught the bishop something too.

We give up too easily. Someone criticises you when you do something new. Then you doubt yourself, then you think you had better not carry on. You end up serving the critic and not God. Of course, there are times when you really do get a feeling something is not the way but give it a go for a bit and check it out. Failing is good. It gives us information about ourselves and our capabilities.

International Space Station- deploying cube sats

On my way back from my exam I was listening to the radio and learning about CubeSats. Little, cheap (well a helluva lot cheaper than a big rocket) satellites that are put in orbit to learn about many things that are happening on Earth, such as the fires in the Amazon, or whether there are roads being built in Sudan and how they are helping or not helping the communities there. Part of the development of the Cube Sats is the willingness and ability to fail in their development as it costs relatively little to try again. Not so for a big space mission. Anyway, my point is, we need to have courage to push forward and the moment some person tries to put you off, just wonder where they are coming from and why they don't want you to have a go. Are you worried you might fail and they be proved right? Well, dust yourself off and start over and improve a bit more. You are living life as a curious child wanting to know how things work. What parent would prevent you from learning and trying to walk, to explore, to speak. It's God, our parent, who matters here, not some jealous sibling who has little of the courage you are showing and wants to put you down or hold you back.

I have come to end, my little omega, of my first year sudying maths and science. Now, right now, I am moving on to my second year, my alpha, in further maths and pure physics. One of my fellow students is from the Czech Republic and we were sitting in the lounge of the exam centre before the exam getting excited about something called combinatorics. Something we will be studying later in 2020. We have no idea what that is but we were both full of glee at the prospect. It's so good to find others who are on the same path.