My mind has almost imploded twice since the AstroMundus programme commenced. On the first occasion, I was in a Physics lecture, trying to get my head around the orbits of electrons depending on their orbital angular momentum. When the electron is in the ground state (of a Hydrogen atom), it is possible for there to be no angular momentum. But how can there be an orbiting electron without any orbital angular momentum? This can happen because the electron is not orbiting around the nucleus in a nice circle, but instead is going in straight lines back and forth, changing its orientation ever so slightly as it maps out a sphere. But wait? Surely, this would mean that the electron has to travel through the nucleus (i.e. proton)? I interrupted the lecturer again, for the fourth time in a row, and told him my concern. He said that I was right, the electron does go through the nucleus. Mind blown.
The second instance was in a Maths lecture a couple of days ago, just as we had started delving into the terrifying world of tensors. Our lecturer said with the most casual tone of voice I had ever heard, “gravity isn’t a force, it’s a consequence of curved spacetime”. Gravity. not. a. force. My entire life has been a lie!!!
I’ve had a fantastic time here in Innsbruck since I arrived two and a half weeks ago. It’s been around 20-25 degrees almost every day. The locals constantly remind us that this is extremely unusual, and that winter is coming! The buses are scarily efficient, running on time to the second. You never have to wait longer than 5-10 minutes during the day for a bus, and every hour throughout the early hours of the morning. I joined the University choir, the conductor makes lots of jokes (in German) so everyone is laughing all the time, apart from me who has no idea what is going on! We already had our first performance in the magnificent Jesuitenkirche. Some friends came along and much to everyones surprise it was actually a Sunday mass; men dressed in garishly colourful green robes carrying swords. Nobody had any idea what was going on, including me, but it was an experience none the less.
Our course is intense. We are basically going through the entirety of maths and physics that we have ever done at 4 years of university, and more, in only 8 weeks. I’m keeping up, just about, and it’s not yet as severe as Canada as I still have the time to sleep, a blessing in itself! The astronomy department is on the 8th floor of an *interesting* looking purple building with a small white dome that protrudes out of the roof. I have not yet had the chance to go to said roof but I hope I do! At the end of lectures instead of clapping, everyone knocks on the table which surprises me every time. Everyone is super friendly. In the lift, strangers will actually say hello, and wish us a good day!
The only negative thing thus far is our accommodation. The fridges and storage cupboards are all individually locked in a separate room to the kitchen. We are also not allowed to leave anything in the kitchen, even a kettle. If you’ve forgotten something there you may be lucky enough to find it the next day in the skip outside. In addition, we can not have a bin (only a small one for bio waste) so any packing left behind over night will somehow find its way inside our fridge the next morning. Initially all of these rules were baffling and frustrating, but I guess we are now used to it, as so happens in life.
The views everywhere are astonishing. I wake up and look out of the window. Mountains. I walk to lectures. Mountains. I take the bus to town. Mountains. On the 8th floor of the Technik building? Mountains. The airport is also right next to us so we occasionally hear aeroplanes taking off and landing, or a Euro Fighter jet that has to crash land making a seriously loud bang due to supersonic flight.
Hiking. I went on one of the most incredible hikes of my life, which took us up through a valley, along the Wolfsklamm river laced with endless waterfalls. The path consists of an entirely built up wooden track along the cliff edge and across countless sturdy bridges. It was like being in Rivendell. The rivers glow in an iridescent teal-turquoise-like colour and the water tastes crystal clear. As we reached the end of the narrow winding trail, a monastery appears out of nowhere, high up above, precariously perched upon a crag. Continuing our journey upwards we amble across one of the oldest bridges in this part of Austria, soaking in the view. A part of the monastery has been turned into a restaurant, so after our picnic we enjoyed an incredibly tasting and soothing beer, by the name of Edelwiess. Meanwhile we overlooked the entire valley surrounded by a ledge of blooming flowers and millions of brightly coloured butterflies. Is this heaven?