delirium happy

Just keep on trying till you run out of cake

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(Background information, for those of you playing along at home: after about two years of my physics degree at Lancaster University my brain imploded quite spectacularly, and I dropped out. Or to be technical that's not quite true; I'm currently in an intercalation year, whereby I'm still registered as a student, but am not doing anything studently, and am due to resume my studies from where I left off in October 2007.)

Over the past couple of weeks, I've been feeling a lot better than I have been, and have been managing to be vaguely productive with my life. Clearly, I want to make the most of this while it's there. Equally clearly, sitting around doing nothing for 10 months is possibly the worst thing I could possibly do. I'm currently thinking about the Open University (a distance learning university), which has courses starting in January and February.

There are two ways I could go with this. On the one hand, I could just study a single course, just as a way of keeping my brain somewhat exercised, adding some structure to my life and so on, with the idea being to retur to Lancaster in October. On the other hand, I could withdraw from Lancaster entirely and transfer credit for the two years I've already completed over to the OU and complete my degree there. What I would ideally be able to do is study now something as a single course, which would be good/interesting for me even if I don't do any more study with the OU, but which I would also be able to count towards a degree with the OU if I go down that route. For now, I'm not going to withdraw from Lancaster until and unless I'm absolutely certain that that's what I want to do; I want to leave my otpions open.

I've looked around on their website through various courses that might appeal to me, and they all seem to come with advantages and disadvantages. I've decided against trying any physics courses, on the grounds that anything I could take would either be something I'd already done or something too hard for my underexercised mind. Courses I've considered:

S204 Biology: Uniformity and Diversity

This is a 60 point course (120 points being equivalent to one year of full time study), and a level 2 course (level 1 being introductory courses, level 2 being more advanced), so it's a fairly significant course. With sciences, the main introductory level 1 course is a fairly basic introduction to a broad area of science, assuming no prior knowledge. So while this is a level 2 course, it's the most basic of the biology courses I could see. The big problem here is that it assumes that you've done the "introduction to science" type course, so it assumes some knowledge that I don't have. I don't think this would be much of a problem, thanks to my strong science background, but I'm not certain (will talk to someone about that before registering for this course).

I ike biology; it's the sort of thing I read about on my own time, in popular science books, or on the Internet, so it would be nice to be able to study a bit of it formally. It would just be a stand-alone course though. I'm not certain, but I suspect that I wouldn't be able to count this towards a degree alongside transfered credit, if I took that route. Possibly I could if I decided to go for a natural science degree rather than a mroe specified physical sciences degree, but even there I'm not sure. The other good point to this course is that it starts in January, whereas most courses start in February; sooner rather than later means less time sitting around doing nothing, waiting for my brain to implode again.

LZX120 Ouverture - A Fresh Start in French

This is a 30 point, level 1 course, so would probably be relatively gentle. I've been meaning to study French some more pretty much ever since I had to drop it at School when I was 16, so this would be a good chance at that. I think that the downsides to this one outweigh the good sides, though, but I'm not entirely certain yet, so still leaving it here. The big bad point that worries me is the relatively larger amount of human interaction this wuld require, due to the speaking components, which might be somewhat overwhelming for me. I'm also fairly sure that I couldn't count this towards a degree alongside transfered credit.

S282 Astronomy

This is a 30 point, level 2 course. In many ways, this looks ideal. It's something directly relevant to my main field of study, though sufficiently removed that it would mainly be new things to me. The prerequisites are all things that I know. I could most probably count it towards a physical science degree if I transfer credit. So this is good either as a single course or as part of more extensive study. There is one big sticking point though: looking through the prerequisites, especially the mathematical ones, I worry that this might be pitched at too easy a level for me, and I might find it boring as a result.

S260 Geology

This is a 30 point, level 2 course. The good thing here is that I would probably be able to count it towards a physical sciences degree, if I go the route of transferring credit. I know very little about geology, which is both a good thing and a bad thing. On the good side, this would all be new for me, and learning new things tends to be fun. On the bad side, since I don't know anything about it, I'm really not sure how interesting I'll find it. It would be very annoying if I found it boring. This one also has the sameproblem as the biology course above; it assumes some knowledge that I don't have. Again, I don't think that would be too big a problem, though.

M150 Data, Computing and Information

A 30 point, level 1 introductory course about computers should at least be a fairly gentle reintroduction to having to actually engage my brain again. And I do like computer related stuff, obviously, so hopefully this would be interesting. the big problem, though, is that while it looks to be infinitely better than your standard sort of "this is what we call a 'word processor', lol" course, there's still the risk that it will be a mass yawnathon.

M208 Pure Mathematics

(60 points, level 2) This is fairly close to physics, which is generally a good thing. While I don't think I'd be able to include towards a degree with my transfered credit if I decide to go that way, it's definitely something that's relevant. In studying physics, one obviously touches on a lot of maths related stuff, though not in all that much depth or with all that much formality. Looking at this, I think this course would contain a combination of stuff I've already studied, stuff I'd probably go on to study if/when I go back to Lancaster, and stuff that would never really come up in an undergrad physics degree. Getting to do some maths more formally would be something that would interest me, and I'm sure it would also be useful when it came to study of physics. The big drawback with this one is that I'm not sure how much of it would be new. The group theory stuff almost all would be, since I've studied very close to no group theory at all, but the linear algebra and analysis components might all be stuff that I've already done. Then again, there might be great big chunks of new stuff, and the bits I have already studied might be done with greater rigor and in more depth than what I've studied before.

Overall, I'm really not sure which direction to go in here. I keep giving it some consideration off and on, and I tend to be stuck thinking along the lines of "I'll probably go with the maths... no, the biology... or maybe the geology..." and so on and so forth. Any thoughts, insights or advocacy greatly appreciated.

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I've only skimmed this on my way to work, but it makes me really happy--I can't remember the last time I heard you excited about school. :)

I know. It's a decidedly Good Thing. Really, I'm not sure I can remember the last time I heard myself this excited about anything really.

I say go for the math. You like that kind of stuff, it's vaguely applicable to your degree but likely something that's at least half new to you, and if it *is* not entirely new to you, well, you'll have a good foundation to work from in getting your brain back to engaged.

From my personal experience, I enjoyed the course I did where much more of the content was new (the 10 point fossils course) than the one where I've done where it wasn't (a computing course) even though I'm more interested in computing than fossils! You want to feel like you're learning new things.

A friend of mine with a physics degree did the astronomy course and enjoyed it. If you haven't done epsilon-delta stuff then they'll be plenty of new stuff in the pure maths course. Neither analysis nor group theory are that directly relevant to physics (ok, there's particle physics, but particle physicists do group theory weirdly) so don't get your hopes up too much on that side of things, but it'd be good background to have nonetheless and you may discover you love group theory like I did :-)

There's definitely some group theory in my physics course at Lancaster. I know this because we were just starting doing it as my brain imploded a year or so ago. It was a particley/qunatummy type of thing, mainly about symmetries, I think. It's module 372 at if you care to look.

That physicists do group theory weirdly wasn't something I knew, but now that you've mentioned it isn't something that surprises me either. Even so, I'm sure that having some knowledge there has got to be better than having none.

Thanks for the input.

Only just had a chance to look at the module description - yep, I don't think you'll find a massive intersection between that and the maths course, but if you did both of them, you might if you're lucky have the background to go and read books to work out how the stuff from the two courses fits together.

I did some of the stuff from the physics course in the fourth course I did on group theory at Oxford to give you an idea. It's not necessarily any harder but it's a bit niche for a mathematician.

Pure maths is a bit love or hate, but lots of people who'd really enjoy never discover it I reckon. If you have any questions about the course that you can't get answered through the support the OU gives, do drop me a line - I've taught most of the stuff covered and it's pretty much second nature to me, though I may have forgotten odd bits of the analysis.

Grabbing the opportunity for some distance learning the moment you're feeling up to it is a fantastic idea. Good luck with it!

I think you might find that the OU suits you; you'd probably be better able to make some attempt to keep up even when you are less well, if doing so doesn't require you to leave the house, keep civilized hours, interact with other people and other things that are really really hard when imploded. Plus everything I have heard about the OU suggests they are a great institution for lots of reasons.

Regarding course choice: much as I love biology, I don't recommend it for you right now. Astronomy or possibly geology would be my vote. Turning something that you read for a hobby into actual study can be a real anticlimax, and pragmatically, you won't get much benefit out of a single 60-credit course which you can't fudge as being relevant to your subject. Also I think you will find an introductory course frustrating. Physicists generally hate biology until it gets to quite an advanced level, because it's a lot of facts and very few theories or abstractions.

Also I think you will find an introductory course frustrating. Physicists generally hate biology until it gets to quite an advanced level, because it's a lot of facts and very few theories or abstractions.

That's very helpful advice, especially coming from someone with your biological background. Thank you.

As I understand it, from the few OU courses I've done, credit can be transferred at any time, and they're reasonably good at taking individuals different needs and circumstances into account.

I would support the idea of you doing some courses for the hell of it/possible future inclusion into your degree before you decide what to do about your intercalation. It may be worth talking to people at both the OU and Lancaster about what is best for you and your future choices.

The data computing and information will almost certainly bore you. I did courses like this in my information management degree and a lot of it is stating-the-bloody-obvious and probably not that useful in terms of 'computing' or 'ICT' for anything like employability or learning anything.

Conversely I think you'll find the entry level science courses easy, they really start at pre-GCSE level so people can get a clue and learn about The Scientific Method(tm) as it were. I did some very boring basic 10 credit courses, and need to get off my arse and look at some other stuff for Jan/Feb. I also need to phone them again and ask for a financial support form (you might want to see if they'll do the same for you) as none appeared after my last call.

I'm always happy to talk about the OU on IMs or whatever, and can recommend [Unknown LJ tag] as a sensible place with mostly sane and helpful people in it. Many of the members are doing OU because of physical and mental health problems, so have an idea of how helpful the oU is about such things.

I can't get financial support if I'm still registered at Lancaster, which is a bit of a bummer. On the good side, though, my mum has said she's happy to pay for whatever for me, and would probably rather pay the £500 odd quids and have me still keeping my options open than have me withdraw from Lancaster and get the tuition free.

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