30 March 2006

The Post of Mystery and Unknown

Life is like a double-pendulum: its equations of motion are insolvable.

(For those interested, the equations of motion of the double-pendulum are:
Solve them if you can.)

Sigh... And unexpected it was, that the key was lost...

29 March 2006

Comments on Two News Pieces

NUS students, politicians debate election issues at forum

I was initially contemplating whether to go or not (I had lessons at 1900; this started at 1700), but after they sent an email saying that I had to email them and register, I dropped the idea. Anyway, I've two comments after reading this article.

First, someone (you can see who in the video) asked this:

"As a beneficiary of the recent Progress package, I'd like to ask if this package is a deliberate move to win hearts and minds of people before election."

My immediate response: DUH! Of course the package is meant to buy votes. Why else is it released just before the elections? Just like in 2001? Anyway, let's move on...

Then PAP MP Rajah said this:

"The PAP is absolutely committed to the people of Singapore and don't for one minute, think that the PAP doesn't care about the people of Singapore."

In response, I have the following. Maybe I should not question the commitment of the PAP MPs, but how do they truly represent their own thoughts when they're slaves to the whip?

On to the next news on 50 young women visit Pulau Tekong for taste of army life, I noticed that the comments of the participants again are rather standard... almost predictable. And judging from the article, they seem to only have a whiff of army life. Not unexpected... how can you expect future leaders to plough through shit?

"Fall in! Stand by makeup kit!
Oi! Why your lipstick so short? Go curtsey twenty!"

Election Thoughts

Old Goh said that the party whip will be lifted for Sitoh Yih Pin and Eric Low if they can grab back the respective constituencies from the opposition. Hmm... is he suggesting that we, the rest of Singaporeans who are not living in those constituencies, should vote for the opposition, so that in the future our PAP MPs also get this privilege?

28 March 2006

The Post of Mystery and Unknown

The date is the key,
Saturday shall it be.

Asses, Goats and Old Woman

Three more Google Video clips to further reduce your IQ.

26 March 2006

The Post of Mystery and Unknown

Will I ask? If I ask, will it be a positive or negative reply? If it is negative, then is it a conscious choice on the answerer's part?

Blind Spot

I was introduced to this interesting phenomenon in SPS some time back. And by blind spot, I do not mean the left/right blind spot in driving; I'm referring to the blind spot in the eye.

It is a point or region in the retina that has no optical receptors because of the presence of the nerves. Consequentially, you cannot see an object if its light falls onto that spot. Don't believe me? Try this out:

Close or cover your left eye, and focus your right eye on the cross. Then slowly move your head closer or further from the screen, keeping the focus on the cross. At a particular distance, you'll notice that the circle will disappear. For me, this distance is about 20 cm. You can do the same with your left eye on the circle.

Totally amused me when I found this out.

Life's full of science. Science's full of fun.

My Choice of Dystopia

With regards to my previous question on choosing between Nineteen Eighty-Four and Brave New World, I think I'd rather go for Brave New World. If I'm going to lose my freedom to think, I might as well be happy.

25 March 2006

Choose Your Favourite Dystopia

After posting the last entry, it got me thinking: of the greatest fictional dystopias that has been created in recent history (i.e. in the last century), two of the most vivid ones are Nineteen Eighty-Four and Brave New World. If I were to live in either one, which one would I choose?


Feel free to drop your thoughts in the comments or the tag-board.

Nineteen Eighty-Four

I've missed this piece of news about installing CCTVs on buses a few days ago (which is what happens when you forgot there's something called real life), but today I happened to chance upon it.


Welcome to Nineteen Eighty-Four.


Big Brother is watching you.


These few days my life has been revolving around LaTeX (pronounced lah-tech or lay-tech; I prefer the former). For those who has completely no idea of what that is (which I suspect is the majority), it is a publishing programme best for typing documents with a hell lot of equations. Which means, as a physics major, I'm bound to use it.

It's a brilliant programme in a way that, after selecting what kind of structure the document should have (such as "report" or "article"), I don't have to worry about its formatting. It will take care of labelling of equation or assigning of bibliography, and lots of stuff like that. And it allows the typing of almost all sorts of equations and symbols.

It didn't take me long to learn how to start off with the simple commands of the programme, but it certainly took much more time to getting used to. But now that I'm more or less accustomed to it, I must admit it's better in typing documents with lots of equations than other word processors such as Microsoft Word or even OpenOffice Writer.

Given that my project is on cosmological inflation and thus contains quite a handful of equations, I'm pretty glad that there is this programme to help me with the report.

This is a little snapshot of the code I've written:

And this is a small part of my unfinished report, generated in PDF format:

However, I predict that this report will claim a major hold on my time until before the exams.

On an off-topic note, if you have not heard the Hokkien speeding song that's spreading faster than the bird flu (a bit of a wrong analogy here, ain't it?), please do yourself a favour and grab it here.

23 March 2006

Two Commercials to Brighten Up Your Day

Rather funny ones. Especially liked the first.

Warning! Obscene language in the next video!

20 March 2006

The Post of Mystery and Unknown

Isn't it wierd, how a simple question can be so difficult to ask?

19 March 2006

Favourite Firefox Extensions

One of the best features of Firefox undoubtedly is its customisability. Of course, there's a whole range of themes out there which can change the looks completely (and I do have many of them installed), but those are just, well, looks. More importantly are the extensions that are available freely, and they add features from security to interface to functionality. Here are a few of my favourites:

It generally blocks all Java Script, allowing them to run only if I permits them. I can either grant a site "permanent allowance" (for sites that can be trusted) to "temporary allowance" (only valid for that Firefox session). It is suppose to enhance security, but I find it better in speeding up searches, since sometimes Google searches bring up sites with lots of Java applets. It is also good against those sites that play music (Flash based) when you enter them, which is a real nuisance if you already have music drumming off your computer.

This blocks many advertisement banners on a site (not a good news for sites that depend on ads to keep them alive). Even if it fails to recognise an ad banner, I can always add that banner into the "to block" items, so next time it will block it. This is a good extension for those sites cluttered with advertisements or if you have a slow connection.

Tab Mix Plus
This one improves the most lacking feature of IE - tabs. I can do things such as change the order of the tabs or set it such that those links which open up a new browser window now open in a new tab. It also allows the locking of tabs (clicking on a link will open it in a new tab) and protection of tabs (prevent it from closing). It can also save up to a number of closed tabs, so I can reopen them if I accidentally close them. Quite a nice feature too is the duplication of a tab, which creates a new tab which has the same history as the old one. This is brilliant on sites that are not tabs-friendly, e.g. Hotmail (I wonder why...).

All-In-One Sidebar
It creates a sidebar (similar to the bookmarks) which houses almost every feature of Firefox - extensions, themes, download manager, bookmarks etc.. So instead of a new mini-window popping up everytime I open the extensions page, it opens up neatly in the sidebar. This extension, however, takes a while to set it to my preference and getting used to.

Download Statusbar
One of the more irritating features I find about Firefox is the constant appearance of the Download Manager whenever I download files (I can turn it off, but I want to know the progress sometimes). Even if you use the All-In-One Sidebar above, the sidebar will still open when you download something. This is when Download Statusbar comes in handy. What it does is to generate a small icon in the status bar at the bottom of the browser whenever downloading is in progress, indicating the percentage completion and a few other details. This extension works with All-In-One Sidebar.

Colorful Tabs
Okay, this adds no special functions to Firefox; it's feature is purely cosmetic. But it does add some colour, literally, into your browsing experience. All the tabs now has colour (yeah, that simple). It gives a nice, fresh look to the browser (though I think I might get sick of it in due time). Nonetheless, it's less than 10 kB, so why not try it out?

That's six of my favourites. And mind you, there are a lot more out there. For example, the most popular extension available is FlashGot, which allows the saving/opening of selected links in just a few clicks. (But if you want Download Statusbar, I think it is incompatible with FlashGot though.)

If you have Firefox but don't know where to get extensions, just head for Mozilla's website and click on the "Extensions" tab right at the top.

If you have any extensions that you'd like to share, feel free to drop a message in the comments or the tag-board.

On a side note, the Firefox theme I'm using now is LittleFox. As its name implies, all the icons are quite small, so it looks very neat and compact. Looks like its gonna stay for quite some time!

18 March 2006

X-Men: The Last Stand

The trailer for the movie is totally mind-blowing. Go watch it in Apple's trailer page if you haven't done so.

It's definitely one of the must-watch movies this summer (if that has any meaning in Singapore).

The movie is supposedly the third of the X-Men trilogy, though not necessary the end of the movie series. It is a trilogy because of how the storyline and characters tie in closely.

16 March 2006

Upcoming Apple Technology?

Found this on Google Video:

According to the description of the video clip, this is a new touch-sensitive screen technology patented by Apple.

Not sure if this is authentic, but if it is and is included in future Macs, I think Bill Gates better start worrying.

15 March 2006

Google Video

Google Video has apparently became my new source of entertainment, given the extreme connection speed in my hostel and the lack of games on my laptop. Here's the highlight of the day:

14 March 2006

On the Matter of Redshift and Blueshift

I explained in my previous post that my favourite colour changed from green to black (ultraviolet) because of blueshift. The blueshift is a result of my past moving away from me.


For those of you who realised, no, that's not a mistake, it's deliberate... to see how attentive the readers are.


If you don't know what I'm talking about, and if you know some things about physics (particularly on Doppler shift), then shame on you! Because when a source is moving away from a detector, the waves will undergo redshift instead of blueshift. Only if they're moving towards each other will it be blueshift.


Anyway, a little elaboration to the eye seeing ultraviolet part... yes, our eyes have light cones (some cells in our retina) that allow us to see a range of colours, going from red to a little bit of ultraviolet. But because of some layer in our eyeball, it blocks out the ultraviolet, so our eyes can only detect what we now know as the visible spectrum.

Interestingly, I heard of a person who underwent an eye operation that resulted in his UV-absorbing layer being removed. So he effectively can see ultraviolet. Too bad I could not find out how ultraviolet "looks" like.

13 March 2006

NUS Open House 2006

Had lots of fun at the NUS Open House this weekend... got both days burned. I was actually scheduled for Saturday afternoon to man the physics department booth, but I decided to stay and play around the toys there for the entire Saturday and the afternoon of Sunday.

Here's some fresh photos from Sunday:

What's that? A mutant swan that can defy gravity?

Nah! That's the superconductor experiment at the physics booth. I've been playing that for most of the time I'm there. As expected, it never fails to capture the attention of the many people around.

Take a closer look at a (more appropriately shaped) superconductor:

A quick lesson on why superconductors can levitate above a magnetic track:

Firstly, a superconductor is made of a very special type of ceramic (can't remember the name; it's very long), which, when cooled below a certain temperature, will exhibit superconductivity. Superconductivity means that when a current flows through the material, it encounters zero resistance. Completely zero.

So when the superconductor is placed on a magnetic track, it will fall (due to gravity) until a point whereby the magnetic field is strong enough (doesn't have to be super-strong, for that matter) such that it is sufficient to counter the gravitational force.

But how does this magnetic field create a "repulsion"? This is due to Lenz's Law, which states that a changing magnetic flux will induce a current (or e.m.f., whichever you like) that will produce a magnetic field to oppose the change). So if the superconductor were to fall, it will cut the magnetic field lines, so according to Lenz's Law, it will be "repelled" upwards. Don't forget that the superconductor has no resistance, so the current induced will be large and so will the magnetic field strength created to oppose the change. In some sense, it is something like 100% efficiency.

(Actually, this is not the correct explanation, but it is the best I can give without going too technical.)

How come I put quotes on the words "repulsion" and "repelled" above? That is because it is not necessary repulsion that is generated. I can turn the track upside down (it's a pity I did not take a picture of that) and the superconductor will still "levitate" below the track, because to fall out of the track will induce a change in magnetic flux which will oppose the change (of course I must push it closer to the track so that the magnetic field strength is strong enough to overcome gravity). Likewise, when the superconductor reaches the bend, it will cut the field lines, so it will be kept in the track and bank around the corner. Of course, if the superconductor is going too fast, it will fly out of the track, which happened an awful lot of times (because I was too eager to make it go as fast as possible).

Actually, the superconductor is black in colour, but it is wrapped in alumnimium foil so that it can trap the liquid nitrogen used to cool it, and thus last very long. In fact, I've tried to see how long it can last, and it went 37 times around the track.

Anyway, here's a demonstration of "setting off" the superconductor:

1) Take the superconductor.

2) Get some liquid nitrogen (-200 °C).

3) Put the superconductor in the liquid nitrogen (notice that the liquid nitrogen is boiling, but it is actually very very cold).

4) Use the wooden tongs to take out the superconductor (unless you don't mind getting frostbites).

5) Put it on a magnetic track (notice the keys).

Tada! A levitating superconductor!

No strings attached!

A superconductor speeding around the track (taken in the demo lab):

Okay. One superconductor. One track. A hell lot of liquid nitrogen. So what do we do? The natural thing happens.

We play with them.

We put them into water:

I put some on my shirt (absolutely cool):

I put a bit in a drink carton and suck the "smoke" out.

Hehe... that was a hell lot of fun with superconductors. We did a lot more, in fact, but I did not take pictures of them.

But that's not all. The physics demo lab has many more toys. Here's a few of my favourites.

Mirage bowls:

Plasma ball:

Static electricity generator:

Water swirl (note the almost straight column of whirlpool instead of the normal bubbles we usually see):

Whee... That's a lot of fun, and a lot of time spent. Absolutely intriguing. That's why I like physics.

Time to catch up with my homework!

09 March 2006

Funny Video Clip

Found another hilarious video clip:

Tripod Perform at Comedy Festival

Not only is it funny, their singing is also very good.


08 March 2006

My Website's About Me

On my website:


Colour: 370 nm

I wonder if anyone has realised the significance of 370 nm light?

In case your knowledge of electromagnetic radiation is woefully inadequate, let me inform you that the visible range is 400 nm to 700 nm. So 370 nm is actually ultraviolet. To our eyes, unless you had an operation and removed some layer in your eyeballs, 370 nm light will appear as black.

More specifically, 370 nm is the wavelength used by black lamps. You know, those kind that are used to illuminate some invisible marks and then they'd glow. I thought that was rather cool, so yeah, that's the "black" I like.

An interesting fact: I used to like green. How come it turned black? That's because liking green was some time ago, and as we know, space-time is expanding, so our past is moving away from us. Thus, the green colour underwent blueshift and changed into ultraviolet. That's the reason.

Anyway, I've just added some mini-updates to that page.

P.S.: Has anyone made sense of my handphone number and MSN yet?

06 March 2006

The Real Simpsons

A friend linked this video clip to me.

The Real Simpsons (WMP video clip)

Pretty good, except that Marge Simpson's hair is not high enough.

The Oscars

Let's see the Oscars winners...

Best Motion Picture of the Year: Crash
Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role: Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote)
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role: Reese Witherspoon (Walk the Line)
Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role: George Clooney (Syriana)
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role: Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardener)
Best Achievement in Directing: Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain)
Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen: Crash
Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Published: Brokeback Mountain
Best Achievement in Cinematography: Memoirs of a Geisha
Best Achievement in Editing: Crash
Best Achievement in Art Direction: Memoirs of a Geisha
Best Achievement in Costume Design: Memoirs of a Geisha
Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score: Brokeback Mountain
Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Song: Hustle & Flow
Best Achievement in Makeup: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Best Achievement in Sound: King Kong
Best Achievement in Sound Editing: King Kong
Best Achievement in Visual Effects: King Kong
Best Animated Feature Film of the Year: Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

Number of awards: 19 (excluding short films and documentaries)
Number of 2006 Oscar winning movies I've watched: 1

What does this tell me?


Somehow I still think Mad TV's Memoir of a Geisha spoof trailer deserves the Best Motion Picture...


Never trust the taste of a physicist.

04 March 2006

Linking to Your Websites/Blogs

To anyone who wants their sites/blogs to be on the Links section of the sidebar, just drop me a note either in the comments or the tagboard. It'd be nice if you could include the URL as well as what you want as the name of the link.

Why this trouble, you ask? I suppose it's something like a consent to put a link to your page (yeah, I know, that's lame, but it at least covers up the fact that I couldn't be bothered looking up all the links that I want to put up).

02 March 2006

Intellectual Gratification

It has been the second time like that. Stayed in school past midnight. Last time I was going through general relativity; now I'm going through gauge field theory (has something to do with bosons, if it interests you). All these are advanced undergraduate, or even graduate stuff, and yet I've gotta do a crash course through them, just so I can handle my SP2171 project on cosmological inflation.

Had to walk back to hostel... It was about 0200 when I finished bathing. Felt quite drained... and I have lecture tomorrow morning at 10.

But at least I'm happy. I'm doing something I like, and thus I'm happy. It's those kind of feeling that... you know... when you finally understand a problem or an idea, you get complete satisfaction. It's a kind of feeling that's hard to explain. As Richard Feynman as aptly put it, it is the "pleasure of finding things out". To me, I call it intellectual gratification.

It fuels my passion for knowledge, for physics. The passion to know, to understand, and to unravel the mysteries of this world in a scientific and logical manner. It drives my desire to keep finding things out, even when I'm physically and mentally tired.

Intellectual gratification is a drug. And I'm addicted to it.

I love physics.