Longer barrels tend to increase the accuracy and range of a projectile. The barrel helps guide the projectile forward, as it prevents the projectile from going sideways. Acceleration in any direction other than forwards will decrease the accuracy and range of the projectile.
Because the barrel only allows the projectile to move forward, the longer time the projectiles spends accelerating in the barrel, the faster it is going in the forward direction (and thus the accuracy and range increase).
I'm studying solid state chemistry (chemistry of solids), though depending who you ask, it might be spectroscopy (the interaction of light and matter, this is how we know what our material is, and often helps explain what interesting properties it has), or it might be materials science (the study of materials, which are often solids), or it might be condensed matter physics (the physics of solids). Whatever you call it, we are interested in studying solids and figuring out how to make use of their interesting properties. The goal is to understand how and why interesting materials (such as ceramics or alloys) have useful properties, so that we can design new or improved materials that our society can use to develop better technology.
I've been studying this field for the past 4 years, but everything I learned in school has led to this point, so if you want to think about it in a more general sense, I've been working towards it my whole life. I got into the field because I was taught by a great professor. I admired his personality, intelligence, patience, and ability to teach, so I wanted to study with him. It started with someone who was able to show me the beauty and elegance of the work.
This also relates to you question about how long it took me to become a scientist. I didn't realize I was a scientist until other people started telling me. It's funny, because the transition from student to scientist is somewhat fuzzy. When I introduced myself at a party a couple years ago, I mentioned I was studying chemistry, and someone exclaimed, "Oh, you're a scientist!" Before that, I always thought of myself as a student. A good scientist is always learning, and a good student is always asking deep questions and questioning their own understanding, so I feel there's no real distinction between the two. Perhaps a student is a budding scientist, and a scientist is just a mature and developed student. "Science" is Latin for "knowledge", and what is a student, if not someone who is searching (studying?) for knowledge! Sounds like a scientist to me. I suppose a student studies knowledge, and a scientist makes knowledge (but we do a lot of studying and learning as well!).
When you're at University, you always feel like a student, and you have to leave and go back into the real world before you realize that you're not as normal as you thought you were. Always asking questions and wondering how things work and why things happen, looking for explanations; all scientists are compelled to do this. At the core, I think being a scientist is about curiosity and critical thinking. I had to go home for a bit to realize that not everyone is like this, and that made the distinction of being a "scientist" feel a bit more real.
My perception of a "scientist" has also changed. When I hear the word scientist, it used to evoke images of people in lab coats, whereas now it conjures images of a bunch of young people working hard to discover and explain the amazing world we occupy.
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