Maybe I missed it, but I didn't notice anyone pointing out that bullets bouncing off of anything don't spark! That's just Hollywood special effects.
Bullets are made of "non-sparking" materials; lead, or lead jacketed in copper or other materials that don't spark. The reason for this is so that the barrels of the firearms aren't destroyed by the very bullets they are firing.
So, the line in the story "... exacerbating the risk that bullets may glance off rocks and create sparks" is just so much BS.
Of course, the hot gases and power residue ejected from the business end of the firearm may ignite dry brush, and a bullet striking a metal object and slamming it into another metal object in a dump could generate sparks. But the bullets themselves don't spark!
Granted, I'm old school. But with a Ph.D. in EE, I've copied a boatload of equations from boards, onto boards, into papers, ad nauseum. I've tried every equation editor out there (this might be a slight exaggeration) and I have to agree that TeX is the best solution. TeX takes some learning, and that's by no means a trivial effort. The most powerful tools we have (like, say, language) take effort to master but the payoff is grand. I've found that when writing papers, and especially when I was writing my dissertation, that equation entry using TeX was almost as fast as I could write with pen and paper and in some cases a bit faster thanks to macros.
The real issue for the original poster, however, is taking notes in class. I have to agree with other replies here: use a notebook and a pen (or pencil, whichever suits you) and scribble your notes. Then transcribe later. Effectively, you will do this later anyway in the process of reviewing your notes and, hopefully, learning from them.
Finally, for my money, take the absolute minimum notes you can get away with. Taking notes during class splits your attention between writing and listening to the lecture. Depending on the instructor, that can get you behind the curve very quickly. I have always found that trying to stay a chapter ahead in the text, which I can do at my own pace and in my own time, was the best way to learn from a knowledgeable teacher. That way you can just listen, follow along, reinforce what you've been working on at your own pace, and when the occasional gem of wisdom comes along (or one of your misconceptions is corrected) you can scribble a few words that will jog your memory later.
But that's just me. YMMV.
Good luck in your studies!
I don't have a problem with mocking the space program or NASA. There's plenty of good that can be done with a few good laughs. And, for the record, I have watched and enjoyed nearly every one of Colbert's shows.
The people who lost were the space program supporters who took the vote seriously and were made instantly irrelevant by Colbert's horde.
But you are right. A large group of people with no knowledge of and no opinion on a subject can be mobilized in a moment to take control of an issue. Fascinating, but scary in my opinion.
Although I generally have appreciated Colbert's humor, this latest stunt seems not to be a jab at NASA or the space program, but shows that one self-absorbed comedian can wipe out the ISS and space program supporters just for a laugh (and higher ratings and more money for himself.)
All those who, for whatever reason, took the vote "seriously" were slapped down so Comedy Central can make a few more bucks.
I imagine that anyone of the "Colbert Nation" that took the time to vote had little interest in anything else NASA has to offer. For most of these people, it just magnifies the idea that the ISS is a joke.
Oh well, maybe that's all that's left. Just jokes.
I _was_ stretching a bit to make it eight. My hope is they'll attach a pod to the outside and call it Inara!
Am I taking this all too seriously?
Little known fact about Middle Earth: The Hobbits had a very sophisticated computer network! It was a Tolkien Ring...