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Sunday, November 26, 2006
Random Pictures of the Week -vwv

Here are two pictures I took recently. Not important enough to use film but still worth the effort of recording with the digital camera. One would not usually take notice of such common things, yet it is the subtle beauty of the sights around me that makes me glad I'm not blind.

This is a view from my bedroom window. As the storm clouds move away (bottom left), they reveal two towering cumulonimbus-wannabes set against a relatively clear blue sky seldom seen during this time of the year. As usual, only Nature can provide the most awesome sights. Click on the image for a larger picture.

This is the Trouble's (the cat) left eye. I was actually trying to capture it from another angle but her constant fidgeting made it really hard. Her iridescent iris is especially captivating when sunlight is coming from the side.

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Yiheng made
11:02 AM


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Sunday, November 19, 2006
Meteor Showers 2006 -vwv

Shuquan and I tried to catch the Leonids meteor shower early this morning. It was a little cloudy but at least some stars were visible. This meteor spotting session was spectacularly disappointing. I didn't see a single meteor, not even a stray one. I would have been satisfied with a single fireball.

I am going to try again for the Geminids in December. I hope it will be better since the maximum will coincide with Singapore's night time, unlike the Leonids. For those interested, here are some useful information.

Active period: December 7-17
Maximum activity: December 14, 10h45m UT, plus minus 2.3h

Dec 14 is a Thursday. If I didn't interpret that wrongly, it means the window of opportunity for catching the maximum will be after sunset to around 8 or 9pm. For more details, check the International Meteor Organization predictions.

-- permalink --
Yiheng made
12:35 PM


I'm game. And the timing looks decent too. Can still catch the last bus back. Anyway MacRitchie turned out to be a not bad place
By Blogger Soqcrates, at 10:35 PM  

I have another idea. I suddenly want to go to Pulau Ubin for 1-2 days. maybe we can go camp there for the weekend
By Blogger Soqcrates, at 11:08 AM  

Sure man. I got an almost complete tent we could use, just missing the tent pegs, courtesy of OBS.
By Anonymous yiheng, at 4:40 PM  

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Saturday, November 18, 2006
Global Warming -vvw

Two TV stations in Maine have decided to stop doing global warming stories. The general manager said in his e-mail message to his staff that he placed “global warming stories in the same category as the killer African bee scare from the 1970s or, more recently, the Y2K scare when everyone's computer was going to self-destruct". (link to article)

I recently watched the documentary An Inconvenient Truth, which attempts to dispel common misconceptions of global warming. Everyone should watch this show because it is rather educational and even though I have always considered myself moderately well-informed in science in general, I walked away from the theatre having to reconsider some "facts" I have taken for granted.

I have read about receding glaciers and breaking ice shelves long before this movie (less familiar with the ocean currents though) but have never really thought about what they might imply. I used to see these as the consequences rather than indicators of the more dire consequences that might follow.

It is not going to be easy to make the general public see the significance of the impact of global warming. Frankly, I think this issue has too much science for the average guy in the streets to digest. The result is an apathetic attitude not unlike the general manager of the TV station in Maine. It's funny he mentioned Y2K because with the Y2K issue, companies spent enormous amounts of money to rectify the problem while with global warming, people just weren't that enthusiastic.

Perhaps Greenland will finally melt into the ocean, halting the North Atlantic Current and bring Europe into a mini Ice Age, killing millions of people. Or maybe we might get the worst case scenario of humans going extinct, which I think isn't really a big deal for planet Earth. What's another species when you're already losing so many every day? Interestingly, someone did mention that if you consider the current rate of species loss, we are actually living in a mass extinction event. It's strange you don't notice when you are not the one getting wiped out.

Anyway, lots of people dying isn't be all bad. Death by natural disasters is a good method of population control, unlike war, which has the undesirable side effect of distorting your demographics.

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Yiheng made
11:09 AM


You forgot to mention that triggering an Ice Age in Europe would also mean temperate climates descending upon the equatorial countries. Hurray!
By Blogger Soqcrates, at 4:25 PM  

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Saturday, November 11, 2006
Lest We Forget -vwv vww

Today is Remembrance Day. Traditionally, two minutes of silence is observed at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month to commemorate those who fell in the two World Wars. In my opinion, war is a shitty way to die, unless you are one of those for-Honor-and-Glory guys who sing The Minstrel Boy while marching into certain death.

Here I share with you the poem that inspired the use of red poppies as a symbol of remembrance. It's written by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, who studied at the University of Toronto and served as a field surgeon in the Canadian artillery during the Great War.

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

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Yiheng made
11:00 AM


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Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Atheism -vvx

Some Singaporean started some sort of atheism self-help network. Seems like it's doomed to fail. How much can you possibly write about atheism?! Then there's the Sedition Act just waiting to ensnare you when you cross the line.

Speaking of atheism, here's an interesting, albeit long, article from Wired magazine about some evangelical atheists. These people are pretty aggressive in their arguments. Here's an excerpt:
Remarkable progress has been made in understanding why faith is congenial to human nature – and of course that still says nothing about whether it is true. Harris is typically severe in his rejection of the idea that evolutionary history somehow justifies faith. There is, he writes, "nothing more natural than rape. But no one would argue that rape is good, or compatible with a civil society, because it may have had evolutionary advantages for our ancestors."

I actually agree with this point but I would never use such an extreme example as rape.

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Yiheng made
10:16 PM


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The Selective Persistence of Memory -vwv

I attended a talk about intellectual property on Monday by Dr Toh See Kiat. Dr Toh was the guest-of-honour during my secondary school graduation ceremony or something like that about 9 years ago. Our school's gift to the VIP was one of my ceramic pots, which was my more unusual and experimental work. The headmaster invited me to shake his hand because of that. Coincidentally, a few weeks later, I met him again at an award ceremony his daughter was attending. Then I never saw him again...until Monday.

It's funny how I can recognize this guy after so many years despite not really knowing him and yet on Tuesday, when a guy who used to be a clerk in my army unit tapped my shoulder on the train, I had no idea who he is. He looked Indian, which should narrow down the possibilities but my brain died on me. It's strange how memory works.

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Yiheng made
7:27 PM


Yup we do choose what we remember. A common rule of thumb in explaining this would be that our mind subconsciously tries to forget unpleasant or things associated with unpleasant events. And vice versa commit to memory events which left warm and fuzzy feelings from long ago
By Blogger Soqcrates, at 2:14 PM  

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Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Inventions & Discoveries -vvw

I attended a talk about intellectual property on Monday, which got me thinking about the difference between an invention and a discovery. I have always thought that they are well-defined and distinct categories but after some thought, I'm not so sure.

For example, most people would refer to scientific theories as discoveries rather than inventions. Newton discovered gravitation, Einstein discovered the theory of relativity, etc. It would be silly to claim that Newton invented gravitation as that would imply that gravity did not exist before Newton.

However, we know that Newton's model of gravitation was not perfectly accurate. Scientific theories can be considered inventions because what Newton essentially did was invent a model to describe Nature. Of course, Einstein later invented a better theory that could describe gravity more accurately.

In his General Theory of Relativity, Einstein used mathematical tools like Riemann's metric tensors to describe gravity and the universe. If we consider General Relativity a discovery, then we are assuming that metric tensors are somehow woven into the fabric of the universe. Yet few would argue that tensors are a mathematical invention rather than a discovery.

Scientific theories often become obsolete when better theories replace them. This process of improvement seems to be more a characteristic of invention than discovery. One does not discover something and then discover the same thing again better next time.

It's ironic that while the purpose of science is to discover the nature of Nature, the best we can do is invent a good description. Just as in Archaeology, one can discover a relic or a tomb but one can only infer and invent a suitable history.

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Yiheng made
9:03 PM


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Sunday, November 05, 2006
Guy Fawkes Night -vwv

Remember, remember, the fifth of November,
the Gunpowder Treason and plot;
I know of no reason why Gunpowder Treason
Should ever be forgot.

It's Bonfire Night. I would certainly like to burn the effigies of some people I know.

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Yiheng made
10:25 PM


hahahaha cool!!!
By Anonymous jiangzheng, at 10:12 PM  

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Previous Posts

Swing Along 2009 -vvv

FF13 -vvx

YGBSM -vvw

Tibetan Song -vvx

Unfortunate Side Effects -vwv

Memorable News -vwv

Five Golden Flowers -vvz

Art Appreciation in Singapore -vvw

Openmindedness -vvx


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Mirror Mirror: A Novel
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Neil Gaiman

Maya 5 Fundamentals
Garry Lewis, Jim Lammers

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
J. K. Rowling