Wednesday, May 13, 2015

What is normal anyway?

A few weeks ago I was trying to analyze and understand the data from the solar cells my class built. The trouble was none of the numbers made sense. Some solar cells were extremely efficient and some barely worked at all. However, these differences didn’t seem to be caused by anything we changed in the solar cell design, so I was at a loss for what to say. Admittedly, this was not the first time this had happened. The problem was, I thought to myself, I never seem to get any normal data on any experiment I ever do. Then again, what really is normal? It’s such an abstract word if you really think about it. There are over 6 billion people in the world each with their own unique definition of normal. All of these people are different. They all have different backgrounds, habits, hobbies, hopes, and dreams, and yet somehow, out of all this mess, we fish out the concept of a normal person, a normal job, a normal life.

The trouble is, normal doesn’t actually exist. We can average all the different traits of every human on the planet to get an idea of the “average” person, but as any scientist knows, no matter how much data you average, you will almost never find a data point that falls exactly where the average point should be. Everyone and everything is so unique that it is nearly impossible to find a good example of an average person or an average life. Sure, we have the stereotypical dad driving to work for a 9-5 office job and then coming back to his suburban cookie cutter house to eat a delicious dinner cooked by his loving wife, with his 2.3 children, but how many people like that do you actually know? You might know someone like that minus one or two minor details but it is infinitely more likely that most of the people you know are wildly different: fiercely independent personalities, free spirits, people who just go with the flow, high school students, grandparents, toddlers. None of which actually fit the stereotype of a “normal” person.

One thing I’ve learned in my time at MIT is normal is extremely hard to find, and when it is found it is extremely underwhelming. Normal is boring. All of the interesting people that I look up to and enjoy spending time with are the opposite of normal. They are out on the far flung reaches of personality where normal hardly exists as a concept. So, as I progress through college, I want to strive to be as weird and unique as possible, and I want to encourage those around me to do the same. The world is interesting because of all the weird, unique, and interesting people in it, and it would be a sad cold place without them.

Just to convince you a little more here's a GIF of some very entertaining wierdness. . . 

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