Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Rocks in the Head.

We had our second Geology exam on Monday. I studied like a motherfucker, memorized all the really arcane stuff that I figured would show up on the test -- most of it did -- and I got a 98. Not bad, and it makes up for the 88 I got on the last one. Still, I'm not satisfied. I missed one question. It was the last question on the test, and here's how it went: "Hydrothermal water is _____." Multiple choice, two options are obviously incorrect. The other two are: "B. groundwater heated by contact with a magma." and "D. any heated water (e.g., your water heater)."

Notwithstanding the shaky grammar, both of these are correct. I know this as soon as I read it. What's going through my head while I'm trying to decide which little bubble to fill in with my #2 pencil is: "Hydrothermal means hot water. That's what the word means. I don't know for a fact that this word is used in other contexts, but I know that hydro means water and thermal means heat. I also know that, in our class discussion of the hydrosphere, hydrothermal water was mentioned in the context of groundwater making contact with magma and producing steam. So I imagine, in the filed of geology, this is how the expression is used. Since they're both right, which answer does he want? Am I to consider the larger picture? Or should I narrow my thinking to only include the concerns of a geologist? I finally went with D because I couldn't get around the fact that it is the more correct answer, and I hate second-guessing. I should have known that he wanted B.

I'm not sure what to take from this. Even on the surface, it's annoying because it's a trick question -- I don't know how else to see it. But if you're going to write a trick question, the decoy answer should be in some way incorrect, shouldn't it? I even looked up hydrothermal when I got home, and the first definition is "Of or pertaining to hot water." The second definition is "Geology. Of or relating to hot magmatic emissions rich in water."

Isn't the point of a university education to broaden our minds, not narrow them? I feel like I'm being asked to act as if I know less than I know. Maybe that's the point. Don't assume anything.

J gave me some perspective when I was complaining about this to him. He said, "Well, if you were taking a Spanish exam and you came across a word that could also be Italian but mean something different from what it means in Spanish, you'd go with the Spanish meaning, right?" I guess I would.

Anyway, how can you be worried about a stupid Geology class when there's Spade Cooley?

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