30 June 2006

The Case of Credibility of Bloggers

Recently, the credibility of bloggers has come into question. This is following the letter by Lionel de Souza published in The Straits Times, concerning the blogger Char who allegedly posted religiously-insulting images on his blog. In it, Mr de Souza expressed his contempt on anonymous blog posts and attacked anonymous bloggers who write about political or religious topics in an extreme manner.

While he does have a valid point in his argument, i.e. "[bloggers] should have the conviction to stand behind any statements they make", I felt that he has missed out on the bigger picture, that credibility, ideally, is determined not by the person making the argument but by the argument itself. This has been elaborated by many other more eloquent bloggers, so I shall approach it from another direction: the way of science.

Physicist Richard Feynman wrote that authority merely gives a hint as to where a person might find a correct (scientific) theory. By authority, he meant someone who is an established person in the scientific field. Ultimately, whether a theory is correct or not has nothing to do with who created it, but whether it is in agreement with experimental data. For example, Albert Einstein was an unknown in the scientific community in 1905, but he published four papers in that faithful year. These papers laid the foundation for modern physics and later change physics so drastically that they are now known as the Annus Mirabilis Papers (Annus Mirabilis is the Latin word for "year of wonder").

Also, just because one has the authority or fame doesn't mean he/she is always right in his/her opinion. For example, Niels Bohr may be a pioneer in quantum theory and has won a Nobel Prize for his atomic model, but he was a strong opponent of Einstein's particle theory of light. He also advised Feynman against his works on quantum electrodynamics (which later became the most accurate theory in the history of science and earned Feynman his 1965 Nobel Prize).

Giants in science can easily be wrong. The truth of a theory does not rely on the size of its author. It is no wonder that Feynman said "doubt is clearly a value in the sciences", because if we were to believe in a theory just because its author is famous, then science is heading for the cliff edge. And if there is any philosophy of science that can be extracted for other fields, it has to be this very one.

The credibility (and hence value) of an argument lies in whether the argument makes sense. Who wrote it, in anonymity or not, only hints whether the argument is credible. It can and should not be used as concrete proof to judge the value of an argument.

On a side note, it seems that Mr de Souza has successfully employed reverse psychology in his letter. Usually, his letters (which are typically pro-PAP) have always been dissected and attacked by the local Internet community, in particular by Singabloodypore (I fondly remember them calling one of his letters "purified stupidity"). However, this time he added the line, "I am certain that if this letter is published in The Straits Times, netizens and other cyber-terrorists will have a field day posting all kinds of nasty or defamatory remarks against me." Result? He wasn't flamed at all. Well done, Mr de Souza, well done!

The Grim Reaper

I'm not sure if this is a Just For Laughs gag, but it's pretty hilarious, although sinful, since I'm laughing at the looks of distress on the victims.

29 June 2006

Ballot Boxes to be Re-Opened

TODAYonline has reported that a few ballot boxes in Aljunied GRC has to be re-opened. This is not an attempt of the PAP to hunt down people who voted for the Opposition, but rather, the staff counting the ballots mistakenly sealed the list of non-voters into the box.

The districts affected are AJ24 and AJ25. That's in close proximity to the AJ21 polling district that I'm in... And the description in the article that the voters affected come from the area bounded by Upper Serangoon Road and Hougang Avenue 3 doesn't help either, since I can also be said to live in that area too (those two roads don't form a closed boundary actually).

I believe the PAP will take the list of non-voters and give them more money in the next Progress Package. They must be saying, "Wah heng ah! Luckily these people never vote. Otherwise they anyhow vote, vote for the WP, then we die liao lah!"

28 June 2006

Back to CHS!

I went back to Catholic High School, my former secondary school, on Monday with NinjaLZG. It is still at the same location and looked the same from afar. Approaching from outside, the first difference I noticed was that the walls had murals (more of giant photographs) on them, highlighting the various CCAs in the school. Neat.

But the real shock comes when I entered. Yeah, the buildings did not change much (I know there was a major renovation some time after I left), but there was quite a copious amount of landscaping added to it.

(Please don't ask why water only flows on one side. I mean, after spending so much on landscaping...)

The areas outside the chemistry labs used to be just grass. Most of them were struggling to survive (in fact, for some unidentified reason, most of the grass during my time seem to have poor survivability. There weren't even trees as far as I can remember. But now, look at it:

After chatting up with a few staff that survived the Dark Ages (don't ask), we went around to survey the rest of the school. The rooms were more or less in the same location, but there were now more stairs, and a hell lot more greenery:

Why, there's even a mini-waterfall!

Now, look at the new hall:

Yeah, it may be smaller (because there are two now - one for the secondary side and one for the primary side) but hey, it's air-conditioned! I still remember those days of hot, stuffy assembly talks that I dare to wager no more than 10% of the audience were listening. And of course, the façade looks more aesthetic as compared to the standard rectangular that I was used to.

In case you're wondering what's that on top of the flight of stairs...

... it's a... erm... sculpture?... to commemorate the school's sporting achievements. The words there read "TOWARDS SPORTS EXCELLENCE". Personally, I find this sculpture a bit disturbing, since it seems to imply that the students perform until 断手断脚 (literally "break hand break leg", or meaning to be terribly injured).

Erm... anyway, the layout in this part of the school has changed much. The canteen moved down, the hall moved aside, and the Founder's Square shifted sideways! And it's no longer the red-tiled, orthogonally-patterned ground:

Heh, what a change! Anyway, it's quite nostalgic to be back there (especially not as a student... haha) and see those poor souls suffer their first day back in school. But it won't be long before I'm back there again, for 14th July is the Catholic High Music Awards, which I'll be attending! Till then!

Movie Review: Scary Movie 4

When I walked into the cinema, I wasn't expecting, obviously, to find the normal stuff I usually critique about typical movies (i.e. storyline, music etc.). I was expecting nothing more than just lame, stupid, brainless humour, which of course it is, but somehow I still find it a bit disappointing.

Despite that I've not watched half the movies Scary Movie 4 spoofs, I still more or less understood the parody behind it. I particularly liked the Grudge (or rather, the spoof of it), which is one of the four main movies spoofed (the others being War of the Worlds, Saw and The Village). There are minor references to other popular movies like Brokeback Mountain (kinda expected) as well as, in its own words, real life events.

However, I don't find myself laughing so much as compared to Scary Movie 3. There were fewer of what I call Intense Laughing Moments (ILMs), whereby a very good joke (even if it's nonsense) is cracked and sustained for a long time, resulting in a prolonged and intense laughter. ILMs will usually cause me to reel over in laughter so nasty that I find myself hyperventilating (sometimes I wonder if one day I'll die from laughing). But I could only recall one ILM in Scary Movie 4. In fact, I wasn't even close to hyperventilating. Scary Movie 3 had at least two ILMs, as far as I can remember. And I think Mr Bean (the movie) still holds the record (I think it was six or something like that).

In addition to the lowered amount and intensity of humour, there was also far too many references to sex. I know the kind of humour in the Scary Movie franchise is nowhere high, but I somehow feel that, as compared to Scary Movie 3 (which is the only other Scary Movie I've watched), it has hit a new low.

Nonetheless, for some mindless humour as stress relief or just for fun, Scary Movie 4 is rather recommendable. But if you have better things to do, you won't miss much letting this go.

The Future MRT System Map

While I was looking up the current MRT system map a few days ago, I stumbled across this future system map plan:

MRT system map plan

I must say it is rather amazing, though inevitably, it's turning quite messy.

I like in particular the North Shore Line. It'll make an excellent tourist attraction once it's constructed in the future.

"Now, we're leaving the golden beaches of Pasir Ris, and turning into Punggol. These mangrove swamps you see are probably the last in Singapore. Rich in life and full of diversity, these First World mangrove swamps are the favourites of many nature-lovers. Do feel free to explore the swamps if you have the time. The entrance fee to the walkway is only $50. If you choose not to tread on the walkway, walking in the swamp is free.

We've just entered Punggol. Now, that spectecular building to your right, that's the Punggol Yacht Club. The Yacht Club is a world standard executive club that is meant for the elite of the society. More than just for entertainment, this Yacht Club is also frequented by many public figures, including our Cabinet ministers and directors of top companies like Temasek Holdings, so it is also the perfect place for networking. If you are a foreign executive and frequently visit Singapore, do become a member of the club. The membership fee is just a very affordable $200,000 a year.

And of course, now, we've reached this majestic structure, which is none other than our third integrated resort. Designed by internationally renowned architects, this integrated resort has many features that are world's first. And yes, glittering right in the middle of the resort is a gigantic statue of our dear Lee Kuan Yew, made from pure gold!

Now, I must ask you to ignore the unsightly decrepit buildings you see at that far corner. That, is the infamous Hougang slums. Its existence is an example of why Singapore needs a unique style of democracy: opposition is unhealthily bad.

And further on, across the sea, you see Pulau Ubin. Once a backwater island, now it has skyscrapers and state-of-the-art infrastructure..."

27 June 2006

The Utterly Amazing Logic of GRCs

I refer you to Mr Wang Say So's entry entitled On the GRC System. In it, he spoke about a newspaper article in which Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong justifies the GRC system.

The logic goes that the GRC system is necessary so that the talented PAP candidates are ensured (or at least have higher chances of getting) a seat in parliament, so that they will not risk their successful personal careers.

It doesn't take a genius to figure out the glaring flaw in his argument. If you still can't see it, why not head for Mr Wang's entry to read it yourself?

Anyway, reading the quote from SM Goh,

helping us to recruit younger and capable candidates with the potential to become ministers

Actually, to fulfill this, why not abolish the GRC system? Then, these younger and capable Singaporeans can join the opposition, win a seat in parliament, and become a wonderful minster! How brilliant of me! Maybe I can be senior minister too! On second thoughts, maybe not. The SM seat smells of peanut. I don't really like peanuts.

Bad Movie Science in The Da Vinci Code

The Intuitor's Insulting Stupid Movie Physics has been recently updated with a review of The Da Vinci Code (I wonder if the misspelling in the URL was intentional). The ISMP is a site that debunks the bad science of Hollywood movies, and is particularly vicious against science fiction (which is a given, since science fiction distorts science the most). It contains a main section which deals with common bad physics that is so ingrained in moviegoers that they probably take it as real (for example, a person can jump through a glass window and emerge perfectly unharmed). There is also another portion at the bottom which reviews some big Hollywood movies of their physics (unfortunately, this section is somewhat lacking in updates of late).

Anyway, back to The Da Vinci Code, it quickly became apparent that the reviewer has not read the book. Some of his criticism (such as the surveillance cameras in Louvre) were valid if applied to the movie only. In the book, these criticisms will fall because the author made appropriate justifications. Of course, given the limited time the production crew had to tell the story, they can be excused from such minor details.

That said, I must admit that The Da Vinci Code has a few pieces of rather bad science (and some of them fatal, if taken seriously). I'll leave it to you to find it out yourself. Some of them may just nitpicking at minor flaws, but it is still somewhat an intriguing read.

Of course, in the director's defence, I have to say that the production crew should be more concerned with how they can successfully convert the movie from paper to screen, and not whether each move inside obeys Einstein field equations. Nonetheless, it pays to be aware of the differences between the physics in that little district in Los Angeles and the rest of the Universe.

26 June 2006

Positive Pressure

Last week while I was taking the MRT home at HarbourFront MRT station, I saw this stuck on the glass doors at the ends of the platform:

I'm pretty certain in all the time that the room (which is probably referring to the platform itself) has been in existence, it has always been having positive pressure. Having zero or negative pressure in the platform is rather unfathomable.

25 June 2006

The Interesting Incident at Pizza Hut

This entry should've been written and published together or shortly after my movie review of TalkingCock the Movie, but for some unknown reason it drivelled out of my brain. Anyway, this incident occurred before the movie, which was scheduled to be screened at 1930.

Before watching the movie with Yao, we went for dinner at Pizza Hut in Plaza Singapura (PS). Due to my neurotic worries of being late, we met early for dinner so that we would have ample time to search for the exact location of the theatre.

We sat down in Pizza Hut at about 1820, and took our own sweet time deciding our orders, After all, we do have enough time... In any case, "own sweet time" to us means about five minutes. So we placed our orders, and then...


The lights went out. Okay okay, there wasn't the *DDRRMMMMmmmmm...*, but you get my idea. The place lost power. Electricity was cut. It seemed only Pizza Hut and the neighbouring stall was affected (or it could be the entire row, I couldn't see). The corridors were still lit (so we could still see), and so were other stalls. Looks like PS had some loose wires somewhere. (In case anyone's wondering, I'm not those kind of people whereby streetlights go out when I approach.)

The soup bowls came, but the waitress said that the drinks (Pepsi) could not be served because the drink dispenser could not function without electricity. I was like "cannot manually scoop meh?" which Yao also thought so and said aloud first. I wondered if the oven was also off-power.

But never mind about that. We got our soup, and took our own sweet time, again, to sip it off our spoons (it was about 1835; we still had sufficient time). And then we waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Then at 1845, PS settled its dispute with the circuits and power came back on. The drinks came, but not the food. It seemed like my hunch about the oven was right. I asked the waitress how long the pizza was gonna take. Five minutes. Okay good. In that case we could comfortably finish our food.

Fifteen minutes later, there were two glasses of half-empty Pepsi, no pizza, and two rather anxious persons. We started to panic... we even considered the option of take-away for our pan pizza (I was thinking of taking the pan along).

Fortunately the pizza came five minutes later. Although we convinced each other that we can still reach the theatre on time, I must admit that we sort of politely gobbled down our food (as compared to the take-a-bite-and-talk-some-cock speed).

In the end, we reached the theatre slightly late. But that's because we couldn't find the entrance to the National Museum (it was under renovation). We went round the other side of the museum along Stanford Road, only to discover that the entrance was along Fort Canning Road. Fortunately, the movie followed the national habit and didn't start on time either.

In any case, I'm not putting any blame on Pizza Hut. The power outage wasn't their fault (or at least that's what I think). Moreover, when the power was restored, I could see them frantically re-establishing order in the restaurant. Their service has been great too. It's just that I found this incident rather interesting.

That goes to show how boring my life is.

Wikipedia Fun

I just stumbled across a great Wikipedia entry. It's on old wives' tale and it discusses many old wives' tales and how most of them are wrong. It's quite an interesting article, as well as educational because there are one or two old wives' tale which I believed until moments ago. This includes "staying out in the cold without a coat causes pneumonia" and "stepping on a rusty nail causes tetanus".

Some are pretty hilarious, like "masturbation causes blindness", "watching TV too much/up close will give you square eyes", "eating apples with cherries increases penis size" and "if you whistle at night, burglars will break into your house". Some are so ridiculous that Wikipedia (or the persons writing this) doesn't even bother stating that it is false (e.g. "eating the crust of bread makes your hair curl").

Here's my comments on some interesting ones:

If you feel a burning in your ears, it means that somebody is talking about you.

I wonder why celebrities and other public figures still have their ears.

In India, hiccups are a sign that you are being remembered by someone.

Being a Bollywood star must be a really tough life.

If you sneeze suddenly, someone is talking about you behind your back or thinking about you.

Don't fall in love. It's as bad as catching an eternal cold.

If you have a stye, you must have read or watched pornographic materials.

Okay, the next time I see someone with eyes like two ang ku kuehs...

But this made me wonder about the "fact" that if you were to watch pornographic stuff, you'd get nosebleed. Therefore, I did a Wikipedia search on nosebleed and found this:

In anime and manga, it is very common to see sexually aroused characters getting nosebleeds, sometimes brutal ones. This rarely occurs in real life, but is based on Japanese old wives' tales, which say that getting too sexually excited leads to a nosebleed. Such occurrences are generally played for laughs and signify loserhood and/or virginity.

So in some sense, this old wives' tale is true.

I wonder if I'll ever see a face decorated with pastries and ketchup...

Trimming Down Voice Procedure

'Roger' and 'Wilco' are two words used in voice procedure (VP), which is the bizarre manner of speaking over radio communications. VP is the language of me the signaller during exercises (in NS) just as mathematics is the language of me the physicist in NUS. I believe the VP we use in the Singapore Army is modelled after NATO's, since Singapore's system is heavily influenced by the British and much of its infrastructure is derived from the colonial era.

'Roger' is the word used to acknowledge the receipt of information. Its origin can be traced back to the days when beep-beep-beeping Morse code was delivered over radio (voice could not be directly transmitted over radio then). Since using Morse code is damn bloody slow, the signallers at that time used the letter 'R' (which meant 'Received') to quickly acknowledge the receipt of a message. When telephony was possible over radio comms, the habit of using 'R' to mean 'Received' was carried over. But as all signallers know, letters spoken over radio comms are coverted to phonetic alphabets (such as 'Alpha' for 'A', 'Bravo' for 'B' and 'Charlie' for 'C') so as to avoid misinterpretations. Since the phonetic alphabet for 'R' at that time was 'Roger', it was thus used to mean 'Received', and we're now stuck with this ever since. (Of course, the phonetic alphabet for 'R' today is not 'Roger' but 'Romeo'.)

On the other hand, 'Wilco' is used to acknowledge the receipt of instructions and that appropriate actions will be taken. Usually, this is used in response to an instruction over radio comms such as "move to this location" or "halt all movement now" kind of commands, where there is a need for actions to be taken. In contrast, 'Roger' is used for messages such as "there are five enemy vehicles in the north" or "we have suffered a casualty". The word is probably a contraction of the term "will comply".

I have always wondered if there is a need for the distinction between 'Roger' and 'Wilco'. Is it possible to substitute 'Wilco' with 'Roger'? After all, many signallers, after graduating from their signaller course, will never utter 'Wilco' ever again. Most non-signallers are not even aware of the existence of such a word. Though taught in theory, it was seldom practised. In most exercises I'm involved in, I'm pretty certain I've never caught the word 'Wilco' flying over the radio waves.

I believe it is entirely possible to drop 'Wilco' and use 'Roger' in its place. When 'Roger' is used to acknowledge an instruction (in place of 'Wilco'), it is intrinsically implied that it will be carried out (just as what 'Wilco' meant). In the event the instruction is received but cannot be carried out, there will definitely be an appropriate response from the receipient, such as a clarification or a reply like "negative...". After all, what is the use of acknowledging the receipt of an instruction that cannot be carried out?

Although it should've vaporised from the minds of all NS signallers, I have heard 'Wilco' once again in my recent ICT. While I doubt I can (or is willing to) initiate a change in the entire VP system of the Singapore Army, I think at least we can stop using it within our battalion. It's kind of a redundant word that should've been eliminated long ago, but hasn't due to the immense size of the organisation.

24 June 2006

Handphones are Magnets to Lightning?

The article from AFP, published in TODAYonline, caught my attention:

Talking in the rain? It might be a close call

In summary, it is referring to a report in a medical journal that claimed that using a handphone in the open during a storm day can result in a higher chance of being struck by lightning.

I find the report highly questionable, in particular:

The apparent risk from mobile phones comes not from the radiation that it emits but the metal components it contains. As lightning chooses the easiest route to the ground, someone standing up and using the phone (and probably wet from the rain) may well offer the path of least resistance.

What's wrong with the above sentence? Note that we're talking about handphone here. Unless the handphone is somehow connected to the ground (or in technical terms, earthed), I don't see how the presence of the handphone will significantly increase the electric potential on the person. (Even if it is earthed, I don't think it will make very much of a difference; in fact, an earthed handphone may act as a lightning rod and save a person's life if lightning strikes.)

A human body, by itself, is already a conductor. If there's any charge build-up on that person, it's probably more because of himself than the handphone. Similarly, I doubt the electromagnetic radiation from the handphone (which, technically, is extremely low powered) alters much of the electric potential of the person.

Furthermore, they based their reports on three medical cases, and noted that "no similar cases have ever been reported in medical literature". That's a sampling size of three, and this is very few, in my opinion, as compared to the millions who get struck every year.

Instead of asking people not to use handphones in the open during a thunderstorm, I think it'll do much more good to advise them to stay low and get under shelter.

The Post of Mystery and Unknown

Smooth is the way of things so far. But sometimes I wonder if the acceptance is truly out of interest or just out of politeness.

23 June 2006

Don't Get Too Drunk

Lately, I see some of my friends began to indulge themselves in alcohol. And with the World Cup raging on, there's even more a reason/excuse to grab the beer.

Not that this is bad, of course, if it is taken in moderation. Just don't drink too much.

(Warning! The following video clip is not for the fainthearted.)

Here We Go Again...

It has finally been cemented, after months of discussion amongst ourselves. The topic for our SP2172 Exploring Science project has been finalised after much deliberation among ourselves: Orbits of Massive Particles Around a Kerr Black Hole. Okay, I made that title up, since the semester has yet to start, which means the module has yet to be allocated to us, which means we do not officially have a title for our project yet. But that title should capture the general idea of what we're doing.

So what we are dong is to use the equations of motions of particles around a Kerr black hole (which is simply a black hole that rotates) and throw them into a programme to generate the values of its positions at different times, then plot them out on a 3D diagram. We will be doing it for massive particles (i.e. particles with mass, like electrons, as opposed to particles without mass, like photons), building on an old SPS project that does the same but for photons. That's basically the whole idea.

The usual practice is that SP2172 will follow up on last semester's SP2171 Investigating Science project, which we did about cosmological inflation. Since SP2172 is more about experiments (including computer simulations) and discovering new ideas or data instead of SP2171's learning of the theory behind a certain topic, it made sense to have SP2172 on a similar topic as SP2171. The latter will provide the necessary theoretical knowledge for the group to embark on the experiments.

Unfortunately for us, it seems that inflation is such a cold topic in NUS that no professors were willing to take us in, so we had to change our topic. Moreover, there is little experiments we can do on inflation, since most simulations are either trivial, out of our expertise or already done. But to avoid re-learning the necessary theoretical knowledge, we stayed in the area of cosmology and astrophysics, since our prior knowledge of general relativity will not go to waste.

Eventually, we came up to Prof Edward Teo, who is rather well known in the astrophysics community. After a few exchanges of emails and meeting up with him, he proposed the topic and we found it suitable (probably because, in a way, we are somewhat desperate that we could find no professors to take us in).

And now with an aim, we can get ourselves started on our project. Which is a bit long overdue, since many other groups have already started theirs. Time to stock up my tea supplies!

22 June 2006

Singapore Arts Festival: Krinkl Theatre Performance Video Clip

As promised, here is the video clip of the performance by Krinkl Theatre.

Krinkl Theatre

21 June 2006

Movie Review: TalkingCock the Movie

I believe the first thought that hits some of you is: why the heck did you watch such a cock movie, especially if it was an old movie? Before I answer that question, I'll answer another one that I anticipate from some others: where did you watch it? To that: it was re-shown on the big screen tonight (okay, the screen wasn't really that big, but comparable to those smaller theatres in standard cinemas) as part of a project to showcase local movies in the cinema way. You can find more about it at www.cine.sg; they have weekly screening of different movies for at least until August. Which means, for those who want to watch TalkingCock the Movie, you'll have to wait till next year when the DVD is re-released (according to Colin Goh who was there tonight).

So why did I watch such a cock movie? It is mainly because I do have some appetite for satire, and I was somewhat impressed by some of the articles that appear on TalkingCock.com. I missed the movie when it was screened the first time round in cinemas, and somehow the VCDs or DVDs seem to be as scarce as a good-willed politician (assuming there exists such a thing). And the fact that film festivals around the world were and are still grabbing it for screening made me thirst to see how it is.

Now, after watching it, I can't really say I like it, but I thought it was a rather decent attempt. That's not taking into account that the filmmakers have literally no budget, no experience and no plan. The storyline is a stitch of various nonsensical short clips ranging from crap (eAhLong.com) to crappier (the bao waitress) to crappiest (the Turbanator), which I must say is Singaporean culture and fantasy extrapolated to the extremes. It does, in a way, reflects and parodies Singaporeans' identity and the society we live in.

There is no visual effects to begin with, and let's not go into the cinematography either. The sounds and musics are rather fine, to be honest. It doesn't really stand out, but it's not lousy either, considering that they had, as I've said earlier, no budget.

Certain parts of the movie are actually disturbing, at least to me. (It's actually disturbingly funny, to be precise.) One example is Lim Peh mini-story (the chee-ko-pek and lady with... erm... hair... at not quite the correct place). Some jokes feel quite lame, giving me cold shivers down my spine when I watched it. However, I do like its crude subtitling (by crude, I mean, they spell out in proper English what the various Hokkien swear words mean, like "vagina").

I believe Colin Goh's and Woo Yen Yen's new feature film, Singapore Dreaming, will be a much better movie. At least, it has won rave reviews in its premiere in April (even the President of Singapore found it great) and has a more central and organised storyline. It should be coming out in October, according to Colin Goh.

Photo/Video Essay: Singapore Arts Festival @ Woodlands

Out of curiosity, I went to the free Arts Festival performances at Woodlands on Sunday (180606) evening. Yao could not make it, so I went alone. There were three performances that night: Ben Zuddhist, Krinkl Theatre and Fireflys.

Ben Zuddhist is a solo performance by a person from UK.

Meet Versilli, a befuddled ‘Ukrainian’ clown, and his troupe of talented toy animal pals. For side-splitting fun, join this mini circus and enjoy wacky acrobatics, off-beat humour and magical moments.

The performer engaged the audience very frequently, asking for children to participate in some of his "games" as well as the audience to applaud. Although this was not stated, I believe this performance was more suited for children, though adults would probably enjoy it as well.

He had quite a few good jokes and tricks up his sleeves that would tickle the audience. However, the response from the audience didn't seem too enthusiastic. Perhaps it's because there weren't many around to begin with. I must say, too, that this isn't really the fault of the performer; the stage was rather small, actually.

Poor him... he had to be speaking and performing for about 45 minutes, and the weather's hot that day.

Krinkl Theatre is a performance from Australia.

This multi-award winning group will delight you with Tightrope, an innovative puppet performance that uses everyday objects to create a uniquely magical experience. Kids and adults will fall in love with this charming performance put together by their wild imagination and clever use of newspapers.

They started off with some simple but creative performances using newspaper, such as crushing and folding them into a bird, and animating it with their hands.

There were also some comical moments that got the audience laughing. This one saw them first merrily rolling, in elaborate actions, newspapers into sticks with each other's help, and then whacking each other once they're done.

This is the highlight of their performance - the newspaper-and-tape puppet. Although the puppet is rather simple, the performers apparently did put in lots of efforts in animating it. I was totally blown off by the liveliness of the puppet, behaving as if it were a real person.

The puppet performance took up more than half the performance period, and there was very little repetition of the actions.

Of all the three, this one is my favourite.

I'll put up a short video clip of the puppet in action, once Google Video finish verifying it.

Fireflys is a performance by a local team. Entitled Heroes of the La-La Land, it is a performance involving flames and dances.

Inspired by Japanese animation, this avant-garde production paints a vibrant musical landscape, featuring bizarre characters, animated movements and an exhilarating fire twirling performance.

Most of the photos taken were not good, mainly because it was dark (which demands a high exposure and low shutter speed), and the movement was fast (which demands a high shutter speed). All except this photo used a shutter speed of two seconds. This resulted in the fire trailing like a long piece of cloth, where it is in fact just a pole with fire on it.

Although the performance wasn't impressive to me, a few of the photos turned out pretty well and with a nice visual twist. This one is my favourite. It looks like some fire spells from fantasy games.

This Fireflys performance attracted the most people. In fact, when I came back from my toilet break, the place was so filled that I had to stand at the side of the stage.

I believe there is a storyline behind the performance, but I cannot catch it. But it was still a rather not bad performance.

I really wished I had time to go for other performances, but because of ICT and then the Physics Open House, many of the performances were finished by the time I'm free. In addition, many of the street performances were not close to the area I live in.

Maybe next year I'll have better luck.

20 June 2006

Movie Review: Silent Hill

My opinions of horror movies are typically not high, mainly because they usually have terrible storylines and suffers from unexplained plot mysteries. Well, Silent Hill is not really an exception to this generalisation, but at least I find the movie treading on the border of acceptability.

Firstly, the storyline is pretty okay to me. It's not really something fresh and different; it's quite much a typical horror movie storyline. You know, those kind whereby you get a girl first screaming like a banshee, then she gathers her wits and lungs and goes on to unravel the mystery, getting out in the end, with some minor twists scattered here and there. As always with movies of this genre, there are a few unexplained parts which I could not figure out. Also, the action and storyline is very compartmentalised; action, then explain, then action again. But at least, the storyline, the most vital part, did not wreck the movie.

The effects were pretty well done. By this I mean the transitions between the various worlds (the peeling of the wallpaper, the disappearing of the floorboards etc.), because according to Wikipedia, the movie was shot with minimal CGI. For example, most of the monsters were real actors mummified in latex. However, some monsters move with maximum stupidity. I shall not spoil the movie for you, but I had a bit of trouble holding back my laughter.

As for the sound and music, I found it pretty irritating. Firstly, I'm prepared for lots of high-pitched screaming. That's guaranteed in all horror movies. But the music and sound effects of other things are also very high-pitched, putting a nasty strain on my eardrums. Man, I thought my earwax would peel off just like the wallpaper in the movie! The audio is one of the major urggghhhh of the movie.

One last thing about the movie is that it is very graphic. Especially towards the end, people will die in extremely violent deaths. It's like a real-human rendition of Happy Tree Friends. Was that necessary? Well, maybe not, but then, I can't say that the violence is excessive (for this movie) either. So I suppose that's a choice of the director. But personally, I'd prefer a milder picture.

Well, overall, if you really need to watch a movie and has watched other potentially better ones, then Silent Hill is an option. Or if you played the game and want to know how the movie fares. Else, I won't really recommend this movie.

19 June 2006

A Gay Army - The Next Step in Evolution?

Scott Adams, creator of the comic strip Dilbert, wrote on his blog the following:

I predict that someday our entire military will be gay. If people are shooting at you, it goes down a lot easier if you’re huddling in a foxhole with a chiseled 20-year old and you can use lines such as, "Bruce, we might die today. But before we go..."

Scott Adams is rather well known for his cranky and twisted theories. After all, what do you expect from a person who is capable of coming up with something so bizarre like Dilbert?. The idea above is the conclusion of an entry proposing a theory that people takes up jobs that suits their characters (an idea similar to natural selection, the driving force behind evolution). He is, of course, referring to the US Army, which is not a conscripted army. And for this reason, this idea does not apply to Singapore (I shudder at the thought of all Singaporean males being gay; Lee Kuan Yew would go nuts).

But then, what about the regulars? Hmm...

(In case one finds this entry offensive, I'd like to clarify that it was written in jest.)

18 June 2006

The Post of Mystery and Unknown

What could be more silly than mistaking a moment of silence for a sign of irritation?

World Cup's Not My Cup of Tea

The World Cup fever is running high... everyone seems to be talking about the matches - how Japan got splintered by the Australians or Argentina's bulldozing victory - and stuff like that, but for me, I cannot be bothered. They're the type of news deserving as much attention as the obituaries. Really! I'm just not into sports, whether I'm playing it or watching it.

However, I used to watch football. In fact, I somewhat followed the previous two World Cups (and a little of the 1994 one), and mildly supported England for a while and then Germany. (By mild, I mean I merely hoped they would win. This is set in contrast to those roaring fans, who piously wear their teams' colours and is capable of identifying, in an aerial shot in TV, individual players that are the size of bacteria.)

But then, by the end of the last World Cup, I find my interest gradually waning. I suppose this is a result of finding myself, the identity I want to be in. I suppose football (or sports, for that matter) rouses others but not me, just as politics attracts my attention but not others'.

17 June 2006

NUS Physics Open House 2006

The NUS Physics Open House 2006, organised by the NUS Physics Society, took place from 140606 to 160606. Planned for an audience of secondary school students, it comprises a series of activities such as lectures, competitions and quizzes.

Being the organisers, we had to start planning it in the December vacations. Although things went into slow motion during the second half of the previous semester (naturally, due to increased school work), once the exams ended, this became one of my major concerns.

In fact, during the few days before the actual event itself, just after I came back from ICT, there was lots of stuff to be settled, so much so that sometimes we were rather confused about what is going on. It was like running through a maze in a fog. Fortunately, everything went quite smoothly. Except for some minor hiccups, I must say that we had a job well done.

The lectures were by Prof Sow Chorng Haur and Prof Vlatko Vedral. Prof Sow spoke on his expertise, nanotechnology, with lots of ingenious experiments to aid his explanations. Prof Vlatko Vedral talked about the relationship between thermodynamics and computing.

I wasn't around to listen to the first as I was delegated to the registration booth outside the LT (the booth had to stay open in case of schools coming in late), but from the laughters coming from inside, it must've been very interesting and engaging. However, the lecture was too long (an error on our part, not Prof Sow's), so, from what I've heard, some of the audience were disconnected.

Prof Vlatko Vedral's lecture was more interesting. I was around through the entire lecture, though I was running around taking photos and hence missed some portions. Nonetheless, I learned quite a number of amazing facts (such as deleting a file will cause an increase in temperature), but I think it was a bit too advanced for many of the students there.

The quiz had two parts. The first part was a multiple choice quiz, in which all participating schools went through. The top four finalists in this section will go on to the second part, which was a buzzer quiz as well as a game similar to the now-defunct Pyramid Game.

The four finalists were RI (team A), RI (team B), NUS High and Nanyang Girls' High School. It was quite a good battle, but clearly, RI (team A) floored the rest. They took a great lead in the Pyramid Game, and though NUS High did excellently in the later buzzer round, they were not able to close up on the insanely huge gap.

The RI teams very well impressed me. I mean, if they know, at their level, about Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, Schwarzchild Radius (this they got it in less than five seconds) and such words that appear in the Pyramid Game round, I think their first place was well deserved.

The airlift competition was the major highlights of the Open House. The schools participating in this competition were to build a device which can transport a load through a selected distance. I shall not go into the details (if you're interested, you can find it out here. It was a modification of last year's competition.

Organising it was a rather tedious job. We had to sit down and work through the rules and scoring system. And that's before we decided to do an airlift competition; prior to that we had lots of brainstorming sessions to come up with other ideas. That was months ago. Then when the date drew near, we had to settle stuff like how to mark out the distances, where to put the students, and how to organise the score keepers etc.. And then there was the reports to grade.

Anyway, there were the standard water rockets (but some were rather impressively done) and then there were those that impresses me just by sight (like NUS High's). A few were tad disappointing, but overall I think the schools put it good efforts. The top four finalists, RI, NUS High, RGS and Bukit View Secondary School, were to do a presentation of their devices to the other students as well as the two judges we invited: Prof Chung Keng Yeow and Dr Phil Chan.

Bukit View Secondary School

NUS High School



Eventually, RI took the first place, followed by NUS High, then RGS, and finally Bukit View Secondary School. Well done to them, and to all other schools which participated too. But most importantly, I hope they had fun at the same time.

I'm quite glad this is finally over now, so I can bury horrible thoughts of the Open House going wrong. There's remains a few things to settle, but those shouldn't give me too much headache.

Anyway, on an ending note, here's some sort of a different kind of "airlift" from the Japanese:

16 June 2006

A Little Photo Game: The Answer

There is quite a number of attempts. I was intending to let this go on for a few more days, but someone has gotten it:

So aaRon's the one who hit it right on the mark! The original picture was this:

I doubt many know of the existence of plants sitting above their heads when they're watching movies at Lido!

Anyway, this picture was taken from a room in Marriott Hotel. I was privileged to be there because my foreigner friend came over for a few days.

15 June 2006

A Little Photo Game

Here's another hint on the photo game:

Don't worry if you don't know. That's because the location shown in the photo is probably not accessible to the public. You probably also have never been to the location at which the photo is taken from.

14 June 2006

Half-Alive, Half-Dead

Sorry for the lack of updates (relatively), but I've been rather busy in the past couple of days over the NUS Physics Open House 2006. It is an event organised by Physics Society, with secondary school students as the audience. It's really hard to believe the amount and kind of stuff that needs to be done, such arranging the registration to proceed smoothly, reading through reports for the airlift competition, as well as shifting a mountainful of goodie bags up to the LT (which, I must perhaps strangely say, was more tiring than any event in my ICT in the week before).

In any case, today was the first day, and it has passed rather smoothly. A few hiccups here and there are pretty much inevitable. Tomorrow will be another long day, and Friday will see this Open House conclude with a half-day event. Hopefully, all goes fine.

At least tonight I can get to enjoy a decent rest at home. Yesterday was hectic, and I only got sleep at about 3 a.m., and woke up at 6. It has been a rather busy day... Now, I think I'm half-dead...

12 June 2006

A Little Photo Game

A couple of weeks ago, I've taken a photo of a particular location in Singapore. It didn't take me long to realise that, if I were to crop a specific part of the photo, most people will not recognise that area.

So here's a little game, or challenge if you like. See if you can identify this place:

Here's a hint: the location is in the town area, and I'm pretty sure that, unless you have the territorial sense of a house lizard, you'd have visited that place many times.

Put your answers in the comments or tagboard. I'll probably post another slightly zoomed-out photo as a second hint, before revealing the answer.

11 June 2006

Don's and Donnie's Wedding

I wish Don and Donnie a blissful forever. May love keep them together always till the end of eternity.

10 June 2006

The Fate of Aljunied

I had estimated WP's chance of getting Aljunied last month at about 50%. I wasn't too far off, but wasn't quite near the mark either. They secured 43.91% of the votes, which was rather disappointing to many, including me (I'd prefer them to fall on the other side of 50%). Shortly after the results, there were many people who said that though it was a pity, WP has put up an excellent fight, and it is likely that they will win Aljunied GRC in the next general elections (assuming it is not going to be dismantled). I also had similar thoughts, but now that the dust has settled, I think that is not going to be easy to achieve.

Firstly, although WP's attack came hard, it failed to capture the constituency, and this high number of votes to the opposition would've alerted PAP to this constituency. PAP will double their efforts: there will be more carrots and there will be more sticks. Votes by precinct will be analysed and appropriate gerrymandering will be applied. More heavyweights may be moved in by the next elections, so as to strengthen the consequences (to the people) of not winning. In another words, WP will not enjoy the sort of element of "surprise" that they had. With a well prepared defence, it will be hard for WP to capture the fortress.

Secondly, PAP has expressed its intention to reconsider its election strategies. What they are going to do in exact, I cannot be sure, it is safe to assume that they may no longer choose to use the lift upgrading as pork barrel politicking (since it has backfired in Hougang and Potong Pasir). They may open the media up further since it became quite clear that suppressing opposing views may be of ill to them. And I think it is likely that Lee Hsien Loong will further his plans for a more open society, whether he believes it is for the good of the society or the good of his mandate. In any case, some of the strongest points for voting for the opposition may have disappeared. Thus, more people may give PAP their votes in the next election, because there are less things the opposition argue on to win their hearts. That's not to mention that PAP will probably be careful not to commit the same mistake as they did in that James Gomez incident, which definitely has lost them quite some votes.

Thirdly, as Jeyaretnam rightly pointed out, the flagship GRC of WP (i.e. Aljunied) did not perform as well as previous flagship GRCs. All those GRCs got a percentage higher than this one. In fact, there is a worrying trend: the percentage of votes is steadily dropping. From 1988's 49.11% (Eunos GRC) to 1991's 47.62% (Eunos GRC), to 1997's 45.18% (Cheng San GRC), the numbers have been slipping every election (2001 was an exception, since its flagship GRC, Aljunied, sank even before setting sail). This downward trend may be coincidental, but it may still be an indication of results and it won't be easy for WP to reverse the trend in the next election.

However, one thing that is very different is that this election has seen one phenomenon WP's Aljunied candidate Goh Meng Seng calls "political awakening". Because of the availability of this alternative media which provides, if not balanced, at least the other side of the news, people are more educated on the choices they have and the arguments behind it. The accessibility to such information opens one's eyes (or mind) to the stormy political undercurrent beneath the calm surface we always see on the mainstream media.

Also, WP's candidates in those past flagship GRCs are usually PAP bashers, often using words and actions that rouses the public's emotions. So emotion, not logic of their arguments or integrity of the candidates or policies of the party, was the key to win votes. But this time, I must say this is not as much the case anymore. WP presented itself as a very credible party. Its policies are rational and its candidate are of high calibre. They have the potential to win the votes of those who subscribe to reason.

These two factors may have triggered a shift in the paradigm of local politics. Therefore, the three points I listed above may no longer be valid. Perhaps even without the element of "surprise", the WP can still increase their share of votes. Perhaps opening up the media will result in more people being politically aware of the advantages of an opposition voice in parliament. Perhaps the trend does not apply because the circumstances are no longer the same.

But the future of politics, as it is, will never be known until it come history.

09 June 2006

Help Put Your Name on a Petition

Spare a thought for our fellow Singaporeans at Hougang and Potong Pasir

This is a rather well written and balanced plea for the upgrading of HDB flats in Hougang and Potong Pasir. All that I've gotta say is probably in the petition itself. I hope you will do me a favour by reading the petition. If you disagree with it, so be it. But if you agree with it, I hope you can put down your name (real name, not a pseudonym) to the petition.

I know it will hardly affect the policy (of favouring PAP constituencies), since the government probably cannot be bothered, but at least it will give an indication of the disatisfaction with that policy in question.

There and Back Again: An ICT Tale by Pandemonium

Heh heh... okay... There's nothing really much to talk about... What's in this post is just a collection of pretty much random thoughts about the past week. It's just a low-key, one-week ICT. In fact, there are only two "main" events (if they even qualify for the use of "main") in the ICT: IPPT and the Platoon Mission Exercise (PME).

With regards to the former, it was tad pity that I was only five seconds away from gold, from an additional $200. It was a 25 points (maxed) result with a 2.4 km timing of 9:49 min. Five seconds... firstly, I shouldn't have forgotten to start my stopwatch. If I had, I might've sped up in the final stretch for this 5 seconds. Secondly, I stopped for a quick while during the start, just after passing the electronic gantry, because I did not hear the beep and I could not find my tag-number on the electronic score board. But then again, 5 seconds in the 9 minutes range is rather hard to cut... In any case, I'm quite satisfied with my results. At least I ran sub-10 minutes! Whee!

As for the PME, it turned out to be much slacker than I imagined. No route marches, no jungle-bashing... hell, no camo needed! And initially being an overnight training, it was cut to just a day and night training, which was fortunate, because it rained the next morning. Some more, the night training was reduced from a deploy-and-practice mission to a everyone-sit-in-a-circle-around-a-picnic-lantern session, which we discussed in general who is assigned what appointment (appointment changes due to new guys and those who deferred) and who is doing what at various stages of a standard mission. I don't think I'm surprising anyone who's there if I say that I find that discussion more useful than the deployment mission during the day. During the mission we were to practice our voice procedure (the strange manner of talking over radio), which I thought was rather meaningless since we would've probably forgotten about it by the next ICT.

And speaking of the next ICT, it seems that it will be during December 2007. What's more, it's gonna be a high-key one, which means it should last for two weeks. And what's worse is that it seems that for the next consecutive ten years, I'll be having ICT in each. Sigh... to borrow a phrase from someone else... hard life lah... Heh heh...

Last thing, it was pretty nice to see those old guys once again. Most I've not seen since ORD, or even before that: Yujian (except on TV), Shung Yar, Xiang Kun, Gavin, Don, Darren... And in any case, I'm glad that I've dropped any grudges, since all of them turned out pretty great.

That's all I have for now. I'll probably have a few more things to say. Till then!

04 June 2006

Five Days is Fast, But Fast is Relative

For the next five days, it will be impossible for me to update my blog due to reservist. So this blog is about to experience its longest period of inactivity since its inauguration, unless, of course, I, in an unlikely event, manage to secure a computer with Internet access. But I'm extremely pessimistic about that thought; I'm rather certain Lim Chu Kang jungles don't have wireless broadband.

In any case, I've finished packing my stuff... I think I'm bringing too many things, yet I get the feeling that I may be leaving something out. I've decided to do without the duffel bag. Result? My Adidas bag is so heavy I'm afraid the bottom might give way. And my field pack (with the seven pack items plus helmet) looks very much like Aunt Marge. Then I realised my SBO was sitting outside. Dang! In the end I managed to grab a backpack which I've got from NDP 2003 while helping out as an army personnel and stuffed my SBO in. Now I have Aunt Marge and her bulldog.

The training schedule looks harmless enough, even with the one day outfield, but things can always (and usually will always) turn out otherwise.

"Infantry training, I discovered, is rigorous; it is designed to toughen the spirit and dull the intellect." - Michio Kaku

Time to get my intellect dulled.

03 June 2006

Auguries of Innocence

To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.

This is the famous starting line of the extremely long poem, Auguries of Innocence, by William Blake.

Months ago, I was shown this poem. The previous time when I came across it, I didn't really catch the meaning and beauty of the words. But this second time I have, and it is one of the best lines I've heard in my life.

The Post of Mystery and Unknown

So far, progress has been steady, and reception to the initiative was warm. While the momentum of advancement has declined as of late due to the consecutive week-long events from both sides, it is projected that the pace will pick up again in the week after next.

02 June 2006

Photo/Video Essay: Physics Enrichment Camp 2006

The Physics Enrichment Camp is organised by the Physics Department annually, catered to JC students as well as PRC students undergoing bridging course (admitting into Faculty of Science in the coming academic year). With two sessions lasting two days, spanning from 290506 (Mon) to 010606 (Thu), the camp was jammed pack with great stuff: a series of lectures by invited guests and NUS professors, a myriad of fun demo experiments and visits to research labs. And the lunch and refreshments was amazingly great too, though I must say yesterday's was a bit of a disappointment.

I was helping out with the experiment demonstrations, which took place on the first days (Monday and Wednesday). I also went for the morning lecture yesterday by an invited lecturer from Thailand, Dr Janchai Yingprayoon, who I am told is a must-see (which I wholly agree). Anyway, the experiments I was to explain (together with another super-smart guy who takes seven modules a semester) were the resonance bowl, resonance vibration, sound and signal generator and Doppler rocket.

Resonance Bowl

The resonance bowl is also known as the Chinese sprouting bowl, which is basically a copper-bronze basin with two handles. When I wet my hands and rub on the handles, there will be friction and that will cause the bowl to vibrate. This will in turn vibrate the water, resulting in standing waves on the surface due to the geometry of the bowl. So once the amplitude is sufficiently large, the water will fly off the surface.

Below is a video of a quick demonstration I did. I first tried getting the first harmonic (the intended resonating mode for the bowl), which has four antinodes (maxima), and later the second harmonic, which has ten antinodes (very hard to see in the video). Note the difference in resonanting frequency (sound) of both harmonics.

Resonance Vibration

The setup for this is rather crude, as you can see from the picture. It is essentially six pieces of metal mounted on a bar (supported by a spring) with an oscillator (part of it is in the bottom left of the picture). The frequency of the oscillator can be varied. At certain frequencies which are integral multiples of the natural frequencies of the metal pieces, the metal pieces will start to resonate and shake rather violently. The second piece from the left in the picture is in fact undergoing resonance (I should've lowered the shutter speed to capture its motion).

Sound and Signal Generator

The title was rather a mouthful, but this is simply a setup which emits sound at the frequency selected. With it, one can test the frequency he/she can hear. Also, it is rather fun to turn the frequency knob up and down, so that the sound will vary in a pretty funny way (it was commented by one student that the varying sounded like R2D2).

Doppler Rocket

The Doppler Rocket is actually a cushioned oval ball (like a smaller version of a rugby ball) with strings attached to both ends. There is a switch which turns on a sound that is emitted at a particular frequency (pitch). When the Doppler Rocket is swung in circles (in a manner like the blades of a helicopter), everyone (other than the demonstrator) will hear the pitch vary sinusoidally.

This is actually due to the Doppler effect, which is the phenomenon behind the higher pitch when a car approaches you and a lower pitch when it recedes away from you.

I've also played with other demo experiments in the same lab. One that is particularly of my favourite is the Gyro Ring. But it is hard to start it off, as you can see at the end of the video clip.

And the following are some of the other demonstrators in the same lab (the experiments were scattered over three labs):

Graduating student, teacher-in-training explaining the mechanisms behind a Crookes Radiometer.

VP of Physics Society (Physoc) explaining the difference between a full and a hollow cylinder rolling down a slope...

... as well as the maths behind it.

The rather simple but fun Cartesian Diver.

And this is an experiment that demonstrates the effects of a Faraday's Cage.

Mr President of Physoc sharing his knowledge on the plasma lamp.

And me playing with the plasma lamp:

And yesterday was the talk by Dr Yingprayoon.

He is not only a humourous speaker, he also knows how to engage with the audience as well as do very interesting experiments in the lecture itself.

And he also gave a nice little pack of "toys", of which the flipping top is my favourite (view the video).

My participation in this camp reminded me of why I loved physics in the first place (not that I've lost interest, of course). One thing for sure, I'll be volunteering for the camp next year, as long as I can make it.