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Postcards from Travel Near and Far by Jia-Rui

91001, Altadena

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Inflatable Earth in the classroom

Dear ——–,

I took a class called “Understanding Space” last week as a way to learn vocabulary that scientists and engineers at work throw around with abandon (e.g., bipropellant, angular momentum, delta v). What struck me most was that while physics explains the mechanics of the space, it can also explain some social phenomena. The teacher was talking about how a satellite in a low orbit around Earth is traveling quite fast, with a lot of “kinetic” energy. A satellite orbiting much farther from Earth travels slower, but has a greater “potential” energy in the bank. The situation made me think about how folks who are born into low socioeconomic circumstances have to expend a lot of energy to make it and actively push themselves. Trustafarians whose parents set them up with a high socioeconomic situation, however, can cruise quite lazily through life. They can rely on potential energy (connections, parents, etc.), should they ever need to go to an expensive college or get a job. Of course, all parents want to put a kid in as high an orbit as they can. Maybe the idea is that where you are positioned determines how much energy you need to add to go zooming off on your own, into the stars.

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Author: postmarkhere

I'm a journalist based in Los Angeles who has always said that writing postcards for a living would be a dream job. The posts -- short enough to fit on an actual postcard -- chronicle recent travels near and far. I could blab on about being inspired by epistolary novels, the short poems of Emily Dickinson, and the New Yorker's "Talk of the Town" pieces, but I'll just say that I'm aiming to give you a sense of flavor of a place without boring you to death. Wish you were here!

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