Filling the Void

I've been thinking about something for a while.

I recently got (back; I played it a bit in beta) into Kerbal Space Program.  I'm having fun with it - or, to be more accurately, I'm loving obsessing over it - but there's one thing that's annoying me.

See, in the game (if you don't know), you're building rockets and landers and satellites and such in a mostly-real-world physics setting.  You have you launch them, get them into stable orbit, manage trans-body insertion trajectories, etc.  The game helps you with some of this, of course, so amateurs can play and have fun.  There's a sandbox mode that lets you just go crazy.

But I'm doing "career mode", which means you start off with only basic parts and have to explore and bring back science reports and such to get better tech and more money.  One thing that is bothering me is how to efficiently design and build rockets.  I mean, you start off just slapping things together and seeing if it works - that's half the fun - and after a while you sort of get a rough feeling for how much fuel you need or how to set up your staging.

But since it's based on real-world physics (slightly simplified, but not as much as you'd think), there are ways to actually *know* what you need to do for all of these.  It's not easy - it's literally rocket science - but it's possible.

And I'm annoyed that I don't have the knowledge to do so.

Okay, yes, I know basic physics, and I know some of the equations, but frankly I haven't really done calculus in over 20 years, and I never got very far into this kind of physics.  Which is really weird, since space travel is one of my favorite things.  So, now that I've realized how much I don't know about the fundamentals, I'm rather piqued at myself and insisting I figure them out.

And this goes back to what I've been thinking about for a while.  I literally live down the street from one of the best junior colleges in SoCal (well, and the best technical school in the world, but that's separate).  When I go on my walks, it's one of the things I pass.  And for a while, I've been considering signing up to take a class or two.

That has complications.  I know me.  I did horribly at college last time I tried: lectures are so not my thing; as much as I tell people I dropped out because I was making $100 an hour (which is true), I aso dropped out because it just wasn't working.  I also need downtime, by myself, to recharge, and I'm not sure if I'm really prepared to commit to 2 or 4 or however many hours a week after work to take the classes I'd want.

But I also know that independent study only goes so far for some things, and that structured educational environments and feedback from other participants matter.

I don't know that I'd even think about aiming for a degree - that's an entirely separate discussion.  But taking a Calculus refresher, or some more advanced math, or getting into physics or even an elective or two, seems like something I might - might - enjoy.

I'm going to get a couple old text books and try to refresh my memory on some things.  We'll see how it goes.  But I'm thinking I might sign up for one class - just one - next semester.  We'll see how that works out.