12 March 2007

NUS Open House 2007

This year's Open House booth for the Faculty of Science was at the LT27 Foyer, which in my opinion is a much better location than last year's S16 Foyer, which was so lacking in space that it looked like the inside of MRT trains during peak hours. However, probably because of the larger space, the place looked emptier, but I somehow had a feeling that there were less people this year.

In any case, Physics Department maximised the use of the space and scattered our tables and experiments over the place. Here are a few selected photos of the events.

The booth by the Physics Department. It shows the three main tables and part of the astrophysics equipment. Another table is not shown in the picture.

Talk by Prof Sow in LT28.

Discussion among the brains of the department. First from the left is my supervisor Dr Yeo Ye.

Telescopes, posters and images (on laptop) from the astrophysics arm of the department. For the new batch there is an additional specialisation in astrophysics.

Mirage bowl. It's a new one as compared to last year's, which was full of scratches, so the image of the pig as seen here is clearer.

Resonance bowl. You can see the 内功 of the demonstrator from the jumping and vaporisation of the water. Just kidding... the vapour is a result of me adding liquid nitrogen into the water.

Taking advantage of the space, we had the angular momentum spinning chair this year. The spinning rate can slowed down or quickened depending on the moment of inertia of the person (adjustable by holding out or tucking in the weights respectively).

This year's theme is sponsored by Lego. And large Lego pieces were given to each department to construct various models. This is a chair I've constructed. It goes to show why I should not be in architecture or civil engineering.

Of course, the department's trademark show, the superconductor, is down at the centre stage of the show, but since I've talked about it extensively last year, I shall spare everyone of the repetition.

However, I had two thoughts about this Open House. First was a comment posed to me by a mother. She commented that "physics must be very hard". My immediate response then was, "not really, but as long as someone puts in effort, he will be able to do it well." That was the truth, of course, but thinking about it, I could've responded in a much better way, namely, that there is no "easy" or "hard" courses; any course can be easy or hard. What's more important is the interest in the subject, which will probably determine what is easy or hard more than any other indicators.

This led me further to ponder about why many people have the perception that physics is hard. Does it have anything to do with how physicists appear to the general public (i.e. the public portrayal of the likes of Einstein, Bohr, Feynman etc.)? Or is there some fault in the local education system that causes people to dislike physics? After all, there is a drop in the proportion of Singaporeans in the physics cohort, replaced by enthusiastic and motivated students from China and Malaysia. I think this question deserves to be addressed in more detail.

Another thought about the Open House was a diagram in the Science brochure (which I cannot find right now). It's like a three-piece flow chart, showing Singapore's economy developing from a labour-based economy to a technical-based economy to a knowledge-based economy. An era was attached to each economy, with the first being from 1950 to 1970, the next from 1970 to 1990 and the last being 1990 and later. (All these are based on my memory and can be wrong. But I just need an approximation to illustrate my point.) This is fine, but then with each economy was also attached a "qualification". I can't remember what was placed for the first (probably something like unskilled labour). The third was a science degree. For the technical-based economy, the 1970 to 1990 era, a "Engineering degree" was attached. While I understand what the brochure is trying to say, I think it gives an unfair description of an Engineering degree.

Firstly, what the diagram is trying to say is that the economy is moving from depending on unskilled labour to specialised technical skills in the earlier years, and now from technical skills to analytical skills. While a degree in Engineering equips one with a specialised skill, it hardly means that it is stuck with a "technical-based" economy. I could be wrong, but I think the Faculty of Engineering would've taught its students on being flexible with their knowledge, so that they won't be tied down to a specific skill.

Well, so that's for NUS Open House 2007 for Science!

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