Only in college are you surrounded by people starting their academic and professional careers in all different kinds of subjects. Take it from a guy whose parents didn’t get an education beyond the second grade; the breadth of knowledge present throughout one’s four years at college starts out being really overwhelming, then becomes sort of cool, then really incredible, and goes back to being overwhelming again.
It’s not just college; the whole world is like that. The world itself is composed of so many different things. When you look at a scene of mountain peaks off the edge of a cliff on a hiking trip, you see mountains lit by the setting sun and birds flying around their peaks. On the surface, everything might seem simple, but at the deeper level, there are so many incredible processes going on at once.
Beyond what you see, each aspect of that scene can be studied for its various properties relating to different fields of science, math, and to some extent, art.
From a physicist’s perspective, the sun doesn’t just appear to brighten up the mountain’s side—it’s actually shooting rays of light particles that lose some of their energy on the way through the atmosphere. Those rays then bounce off of the surface of the mountain and light something else, like the side of a tree on the mountain that isn’t caught directly in the sun’s rays. The physicist knows this is true, and not just theoretically, through formalized mathematical proofs. It can be seen in action.
From a biologist’s perspective, the entirety of the mountain scene is one large ecosystem consisting of an incredibly complex, yet delicate, hierarchy of animals that serve as either predator or prey to each other. This ecosystem has been molded by billions of years of environmental factors, and will continue to be molded for billions of years to come.
From a computer scientist’s perspective, none of this scenery is particularly interesting, because it requires the computer scientist to leave the comfort of their computer (running a web browser with 20 Reddit tabs open), but the knowledge that the physicist and biologist have gathered regarding that scene can be abstracted to a mathematical form to allow the computer scientist to recreate the scene in a computer simulation. The computer scientist could recreate the intensity and path of the sun’s rays in their simulation, and design procedurally generative algorithms that randomly create wildlife from a set of rules given knowledge about how the wildlife would look and behave.
Finally, from the perspectives of the artist, writer, performer, and musician, the scene of the mountain peaks from the cliff can be captured, distorted, translated, repurposed, and presented in an infinite number of ways, that still somehow expresses the original meaning of the scene.
With that all being said, it drives me crazy that people think they need to stick to being good at one particular thing, and never dabble in another field of study, skill, or a conversation on a topic that is outside of their expertise. It’s an injustice to your own existence to box yourself in one field of study and pretend like the people who study and exist within other fields don’t exist to you. The whole point of higher learning is to expose your developing mind in it’s last few sponge-like years to the expansiveness of the human race’s collective knowledge regarding our universe.
So, please, as a favor to me, go, read a book on circuit design if you write software, since the best software works in tandem with the hardware on which it runs. If you’re a musician, go read up on physics, since it will explain so many things about how sound works beyond the boundaries of music theory, and how it can be manipulated to produce something truly unique. And, if you’re a physicist, go take a class on sketching or drawing techniques, as it will allow you to create incredible visual representations of the complex physical processes you are formalizing with mathematical proofs.
The universe is a complex structure defined by various studies. For as long as you are alive, you too can learn about anything you want, whether you chose it as a major in college or not. The world is yours to discover, so don’t limit yourself—learn something new.