Saturday, November 19, 2005

The lost art of drawing graphs!

I remember when I was back at school, we all used to draw graphs by hand. And we used to do it pretty frequently too. It may have been for maths, drawing graphs for statistics, or in physics, drawing graphs to arrive at some conclusion from the data we had obtained. I used to be pretty good at graphs. I have a terrible handwriting and so when i go on for pages, it looks pretty untidy. But my graphs were a completely different issue. I always had the right materials for them and they used to be quite neat.

Then came NUS. Our first lab report for biochemistry had to be typed out. The answer to one of the questions involved a graph. I was lost. I was under a strange impression that NUS expected lab reports to be typed out completely and did not appreciate hand written ones. What was I supposed to do about the graph? I had never used any computer program to do such a thing. Then one of my friends, who had used Excel program before to draw graphs, came to my rescue. She taught me the basics on how to use Excel to draw graphs. My dad helped me too by describing a step-by-step procedure on how to use Excel in one of his mails.

I sat down to try and conquer Excel. It took me two hours before I finally managed to finish the graph. I was so happy to see the fruit of my labour! To me, it looked really beautiful. Then I noticed a mistake in it. The values in my X-axis were all wrong. The program had taken the serial numbers as the X-axis values and plotted my graph!

Damn it... what was I going to do???!!!

This is when the popular saying comes into effect...

"When the going gets tough.... CALL DAD!!!!"

I sent the graph to my dad and asked him to figure out what was wrong with it. He took my data and drew the graph himself and sent it to me saying that what he sent was just a model graph for me and asked me to try again. This time, I was determined to get that graph right. I spent lots of time on that... and finally... I got the perfect graph! NOW I was a pro at using Excel! :D

Through the course of this semester, i have drawn many graphs using Excel. Each biochemistry practical class required at least one graph if not many. Now i am comfortable with Excel. At one point of time, I even started using Excel to plot graphs to solve sums! I was too lazy to draw them out by hand. And in Excel, all you have to do is key in your data.. and voila! the graph is done by the computer!

In my final exam for biochemistry, a huge surprise awaited me. One of our major answers involved the drawing of a graph! And we all supplied with one graph sheet for that! That meant, we had to do it by hand! I realised at that point that after using Excel so many times, I had forgotten how to draw graphs using a pencil and a ruler! I still can't believe that i was actually sitting in the exam hall and wishing i had my laptop to do the job for me... (I managed to get through the exam just ok... my graph was not all that bad!... i have not lost touch!)

How much life has changed over one semester... Me... a girl who had a phobia towards computers..who would do anything to avoid using computers except for playing games and sending mails.. is now so addicted to them that she has forgotten how to do simple tasks such as drawing graphs using a pencil!


clueless said...

man, don't remind me of that day...i seriously freaked out. i took one look at the graph kept on my desk while i was preparing to take my seat...and i freaked. i nudged anna and said, 'There's a graph. Oh my god, there's a graph. Why's there a graph? What are they giving us a graph for? Oh my god, we'll have to do a graph sum. Oh my god, there's a graph...dammit! there's a graph!!!!' Well..u get the point ;)

when i finally came to that question, i just sat for a while, trying to remember how we plotted graphs. Weirdest thing is, after plotting it, i realized i'd done it all wrong, and had to redo it :( horrid, horrid day.

Computers spoil people. That's all I have to say on the matter.

AnN@ said...

i was like you when i first started using excel to plot graphs too! can't remember which of you dudettes taught me to use the x-y scatter but that was really useful :D

Anonymous said...

I rememeber our school days.. had a compulsory question on graphs... connecting the points used to be so difficult.. we still have graphs in college.. esp in chemistry.. where we get the answers from graphs.. somehow i always get the wrong answer, though my graph seems to be correct.. My teacher used to be puzzled.."Your points are all right.. but your graph is wrong.. though general shape is right.. just cant put my finger on it.." :) Komedy!

Anonymous said...

I am so glad I hardly had any graphs this sem - and I hope I don't have many in the fact, if I don't have any, it would be awesome...Coz I don't particularly like them!!Hehe..Luv, H2O...

Macho Girl said...

I was horrified too when i saw the graph... it was so unexpected... well.. actually no... i was kinda expecting the graph... had a feeling it was doesn't matter anymore does it? computer does spoil and distract us.. whatever happened to good old fashioned manual labour??!!! ;)

So.. u r not anita beaver or oreo cream anymore!!!!

I don't remember who taught me to use the scatter... well... i am happy biochem is outta the way! no more graphs for a while.. yay!!

hahaha... having graph problems eh?? happens to everyone i suppose. even i have gotten weird answers with graphs at school. These r the times that make u realize that there is not harm in being the teacher's pet!! coz they don't mind tiny errors in ur graph!! ;) jus kiddin!!!

if u should ever get graphs.. approach me!!! i have become a pro in them! both on excel and pencil! :D

Smrithi said...

hehe.. trust me about the being teachers pet kind of thing! i sucked at maths.. period.. or physics or chemistry or any kind of science!! haha. .the first year i got away being the teachers pet. the second year different teacher.. i got away by being out of the class most of the time! :D

Liz said...

Wait till you graduate! You will barely be able to write anymore:) -with all the documents we hand in "Word processed":) Am a graduate from NUS (Batch of 2004). Cheers!

Macho Girl said...

hehe.. so u became an Outstanding student!!! i guess sometimes our charm doesn't work on all teacher.. too bad!

Hi! I guess i shud take the word of my senior! I think i am also headed that way... too many documents on Word processor. Hope u enjoyed the post!

Anonymous said...

Graphs, what can you do with them? What can you do without them? Everything has to be graphed. I don't have any problems with graphs, can do in paper and can do in excel. It is just a matter of getting used to graphs. Plot a spectrum in a graph sheet, cut it and weigh it to find its area. has anyone done that in recent times. hell no!! The spectrometer integrates these days. Oh, I am feeling so old.....but not old enough to hate excel though. My hands are shaking when I write, but not when I type. Damn the word processors.....

Anonymous said...

I agree. graphmatica and exel have thoroughly spoilt me! I used to ace at getting perfect axes. But during the biochem exam, I actually spent 20 mins just drawing and erasing the X and Y axes...and this was done sitting right in front of the examiners. I think they were sniggering at my desperate attempts..hmph!:-/. At that moment, I wish it had been an open laptop examination...

Macho Girl said...

#anonymous 1
haha... u sound frustrated with graphs!!! too bad they r so important....and damn those word processors!

#anonymous 2
I can imagine how it was for u during biochem exam! we take all these programs for granted... its only when we r given the task to be done manually, we realize what we had at our fingertips! literally!! good entertainment for the examiners though.... no wonder they were all flocking to our side during the exam!! there was free entertainment!! :P