Saturday, December 30, 2006

Amazing Video - Kiwi

There are many lousy and lame videos in youtube, the most popular video-sharing website in the world. But not all of them are that bad. In the past, when I was doing some random surfing, I stumbled upon this particularly high-rated video and I was thoroughly moved by the message in it. I can't help to watch it over and over again, and every time I can't stop myself having a chill going down my spine.

I know the connection in Malaysia is kind of bad now, but do watch this video when you have a reasonable connection.

If you don't understand the content (like me when I first watched it), you can find more information about this video here.


Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A Day (almost) without Internet in Malaysia


For those who have an affected Internet connection, if you are eager to connect to US sites with a higher speed, please refer to this thread in Lowyat forum. There are a few proxies which you can utilize for the time being, restoring your connection speed to a reasonable level. But please, don't abuse it as the resource is scarce now. If you overuse it, the proxy will be slowed as well and in the end everyone loses. So be considerate towards others, use it sparingly. (Image credit:

Update 2: For those who have difficulty setting up proxies, myAsylum compiled a step-by-step instruction for Firefox, Opera and Internet Explorer.


It's been a weird day.

APNC_faultFor those not in the know, there had been a massive earthquake in the ocean off south Taiwan, and it has affected some submarine Internet cables, causing a major disruption to the Internet connections to many Asian countries, including Malaysia. You can read more on major news sources, but this article in Lowyat has a good writeup and an excellent diagram about the nature of the problem. And best of all, the website is in Malaysia so you can still view it at a blazing speed.

For the whole day, millions of people must have tried to reconnect to the Internet, trying to fix their slow internet connection. Millions of people are also trying to restart their computer, flip the modems on and off, hoping that the connection would be fine again. For once, Malaysians are so united in one thing: cursing Streamyx for its crappy service. But they soon found out that streamyx was not to be blamed this time.

I woke up to find that the Internet connection was slowed to a crawl. It felt quite similar to surfing on the good ol' dial-up connection - only slower. I thought it's a problem in the modem so I restarted it. It was still the same. Then I restarted my computer. Not cured. I even ventured to run a full scan of my computer for viruses and spywares. Nope, some small viruses were found, but they were not a big problem, and the Internet was still the same.

Then I did the same thing as everyone else - blame Streamyx. I gave up on the Internet, hoping for the Internet to recover a while later while doing some gardening in order to prepare for my upcoming birthday. A moment later, I came home only to find that the Internet was still the same. Later on, I found out in Jeffooi's blog that the problem was due to the abovementioned earthquake.

It came to my realisation how important the Internet is to the modern society and how vulnerable it is to damage. Airplanes are delayed, financial transactions can't be done, and people panic while they find their connections malfunction. I for one felt so restless throughout the day, only to seek some refuge in some e-books to spend my time. Websites in Malaysia can be accessed, but there aren't really a lot of interesting websites ending with .my. What a sad state of Malaysian dot com industry. People paid more attention to the affected Internet connection than the people who died in the earthquake. Perhaps all that illustrates how dependent we are towards this massive network of virtual environment.

From the news source, it seems that it will take at least weeks to repair the submarine cables. Besides making do with the proxies mentioned above, I think I will have to think of ways to spend my coming few weeks. I am back to the real life, I guess.


Is Your Brain the Same Gender as You?

Is your brain male or female? Find out in this very interesting test that I found through Digg: Link

If you're interested, you can read my result here.


Footnote: To save myself a little bit of face of having a "female" brain, I would like to clarify two things:

1. For the "rotation" section I made the mistake of choosing only one instead of two answers. Sigh, talk about reading instruction carefully.

2. As for the "female" score of "spot the difference", I think it's due to the well-trained last minute cramming skill, acquired through studying for the final exam. :P

With that I end my excuses for having a slightly female brain.


Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas!

Josh Groban - Believe

Children sleeping
Snow is softly falling.
Dreams are calling
like bells in the distance.

We were dreamers not so long ago.
But one by one we all had to grow up.

When it seems the magic slipped away,
we find it all again on Christmas day...
Believe in what your heart is saying,
hear the melody that's playing.
There's no time to waste,
there's so much to celebrate.

Believe in what you feel inside,
And give your dreams the wings to fly.
You have everything you need,
If you just believe,

Trains move quickly to their journey's end.
Destinations are where we begin again.
Ships go sailing far across the sea.
Trusting starlight, to get where they need to be.

When it seems that we have lost our way,
we find ourselves again on Christmas day...

Believe in what your heart is saying,
hear the melody that's playing.
There's no time to waste,
there's so much to celebrate.

Believe in what you feel inside,
And give your dreams the wings to fly.
You have everything you need,
If you just believe.

If you just believe.
If you just believe.
If you just believe.
Just believe.
Just believe
Merry Christmas to you!


Jesus was born on 25 December AD 1. True or false?

Answer: False! The Nativity, or the birth of Jesus, is calculated to have happened at some time around 18 - 2 BC, that means the AD, Anno Domini, or "in the year of Lord", is not really the year of Lord at all. As for the date 25 December, it's also speculated to be an arbitrary date set by the Roman Catholic Church, in order to replace another Roman festival called Saturnalia, a pagan celebration.


683611_grahams_christmas_tree_2Jesus Christ was (or is) one of the greatest man who has ever lived on the face of Earth. For millennia, he has left indelible marks on our society, and he will continue to be the icon of humanity for the millennia to come. As a non-Christian, I am happy to see the joy Christians found in the love of Jesus, and the belief in the God. In the season of Christmas, their exuberant spirit is well felt by everyone.

Christmas Day as a festival is no longer a purely religious celebration, today it is a festival throughout the world, celebrated by every cultural group in every nook and corner. When it comes to Christmas every yera, every shop out there is all out on many fronts to net as much profit as possible, from selling Christmas decorations to changing a shopping mall to a Christmas house. Christmas Day has almost become the celebration for businessmen. Despite the commercial implication and the globalization of the festivity, for the believers Christmas Day remains a holy festival where people gather in order to honour Jesus and God while commemorating his birth.

Talking about religions, I have always taken a profound interest in religious matters throughout the world, despite being rather irreligious myself. As a rather agnostic or atheist person, my biggest concern about religion is not its existence or meaning, but rather, the uprising of the fundamentalist community throughout the globe e.g. Southeast US, Palestine, Israel, and Middle East in general. Looking back at the world history, some armies have marched in the name of God, but most are inflicting harms while thinking that it's the ultimate good deed as decreed in their religions. Some died in religious wars knowing that they will be rewarded in Heaven, while some killed others and justified it with the Bible. Yes of course we know that those extremists are in the minority while the rest of the world are rather tolerant and moderate; however, the global trend clearly indicate that fundamentalism is inexorably dominating the Earth in the near future, and as moderate people we are bound to stop this from happening. We are already living with fundamentalism, and we will continue to live with it for a long long time. The twenty-second century is going to be a century of terror and conflicts, should the current trend continue.

Perhaps I have watched too many pessimistic documentaries to see the world so negatively. People say that those who paint a bad picture of religions are anti-religion, or people who have evil agendas. Dogmatic believers would accuse religion-questioning as Satan's act. But they aren't. I agree that most religions are good in nature, it's the humans who deviates from religious teaching; but the deviation is too perilous to be ignored by any of us. From a little search on "fundamentalist" in youtube, everyone can get a picture of the world's biggest problem today - unimaginable epidemic hatred inculcated by an organized brainwashing in children, reinforced by the draconian wars and policies which results in wars and conflicts in many countries.

On the peaceful day of Christmas, let's live up to Jesus' call to all human kind - love. Love your neighbour as yourself, even if your neighbour doesn't share your religion. Say no to fundamentalism. I wish everyone a blissful Christmas!

[In US,] despite a full century of scientific insights attesting to the antiquity of the earth, more than half of our neighbors [US population] believe that the entire cosmos was created six thousand years ago. This is, incidentally, about a thousand years after the Sumerians invented glue. - Sam Harris in Letter to a Christian Nation


Someone: I thought Christmas is the birthday of Santa Claus!


Saturday, December 23, 2006

Speed Dial

Speed dial is a handy feature that comes with most cellular phones. Let's say you call Ah Bee and Ah Tu very often with your mobile phone, and you want to cut the hassles of finding their names every time. It's easy, after some simple steps, you can set Ah Bee as no. 2, Ah Tu as no.3, so next time, just press and hold number 2 for Ah Bee, or number 3 for Ah Tu. Light and easy.

KeypadDespite the ease-of-use, this feature does suffer from a major drawback. Just imagine remembering 2 for Ah Bee, 3 for Ah Tu, 4 for Ah Meng, 5 for Ah Chen, 6 for Ah Xing, 7 for Ah Chua, 8 for Ah Kau and 9 for Ah Pek. Seriously, there isn't any good connection between the number and its corresponding person, unless you plan to stick something on top of every key. Just look at the picture on your right, and let's just recall, what number is Ah Xing again? See, you can't remember right? That is not my idea of convenience.

But my mum manages to find some good use to the numbers. Well, instead of saying "find some good use", I should say it was the most natural thing that came to her: there are 7 siblings in my family! So as the youngest child, I am honoured with the lucky number 7, my youngest sister get the runner-up 6, the one elder get 5, 4, and so on. And up to my brother, who gets the special number 9. Why? Because 1 can't be set to speed dial number, it's by default the voice mail number.

Another reason of having 7 children.


Stereotype (1)

TIME 2006I started out typing this post with a bit of glee, as I have just been awarded the coveted "Time Person of the Year 2006" award. Actually I mean, you and I are both awarded the Time Person of the Year for changing the face of the world through the fascinating interaction in the "Web 2.0" - youtube, flickr, myspace, facebook, friendster, blogs, forums, to name a few. Even my mum is now a regular Internet user, riding the waves of once-unimaginable technologies such as Skype, free VoIP (Internet to landline) calls and online sudoku. Today, almost everyone is on-line.

So, perhaps there's a good reason for us to feel good about ourselves, as Times Magazine has granted everyone such a great line in their future CV: "Awards: Time Person of the Year 2006". We feel so proud of what we have achieved, being tech-savvy, cool, trendy, up-to-date and all that. We are great people, living in a great time.

However, as a pessimist, sometimes I see such peril behind the apparent closer human relationships. Behind all the quantum leaps in our technologies, we have yet to improve upon the age-old human mentality. And that's what I would like to talk about: stereotype.

Fingerprint FaceThe word stereotype per se doesn't come with a bad connotation. Stereotype, is an over-simplified world view towards things in our surrounding. Admit it or not, everyone has a fixed set of stereotype. All of us instinctively keep alert of foreign workers in Malaysia, and comes Hari Raya, people feel unsafe about staying in KL because "those foreign workers are dangerous". Yes, the stereotype is in most, if not all people. Well, I am not saying that we should always greet them one by one or say hi. No, in this case, stereotype does serve a protective function, as it's indeed statistically valid that foreign workers are more likely to be involved in crimes due to their lower socio-economical status. Your mum's advice is sound to some extent, as avoiding interaction with high-risk people do keep you a little bit safer.

However, most stereotypes are unhealthy, if not hazardous. Let's just look at a few examples:

A nerd: Aiyorr, those lazy people arr, everyday don't want to study only know to go play football on the pitch and arcade.. What can they achieve in life?
An avid gamer: Haha, those nerds arr, they all only know to study nia, all other things they don't know one lar.. Got what use worr? Don't they most of the richest people are those who drop out from schools?
A Malaysian: Westerners are technologically advanced, but their values are corrupt larr.. so we actually live better than them, because got so much technology got what use worr, no value very teruk one... Nilai-nilai Barat sedang merosakkan akhlak rakyat Malaysia ni!
An Ang Moh: Malaysia bodoh!! This country is in deep shit, they are so indulged in self-glorification showered by their petroleum money. They build the highest building in the world, build lots of mega projects just to feed their own sense of sophistication. So you can imagine what their people are like: their people can't think for themselves, they are inefficient workers, the education level is a disgrace. They should learn from us in all regards!
A Chinese-ed: The English-ed, or bananas, are the disgrace of Chinese. Seriously, have they forgotten their roots? Aren't they embarrassed that they don't know any Chinese? Disgraceful banana!!
An English-ed: The Chinese-ed only know about the greatness of China, living in the glory of other people yet look at China as if it is really their country. They are small-picture people, for them China is the middle kingdom, and they don't care about Malaysia at all. They care so much about preserving their cultures, they are so adamant to "preserve the culture" while neglecting their roles in national unity. Ish those people, must have been brainwashed since young, just look at their language - they call every race besides their own as "kwei" (ghost), and they belittle Chinese people who have never learnt their langugae, regardless of reasons.
Yes, this brings me to the comments I mentioned in my earlier post. Why do we have stereotype? Why are stereotypic thoughts so prevalent in our society, we don't feel it anymore? Why do we accuse a certain group of people as being racist, when we are being racist by making that very accusation? I am leaving that to the next post.


The Revenge on Mosquitoes

MosquitoThe other day I discussed with my mum about killing mosquitoes. I guess if you have lived in high-rise building all your life, you would never come near to understanding how much nuisance mosquitoes are. Yes, there are mosquito nets, mosquito coils, mosquito bats, Shieldtox, and our lovely palms; but all the troubles we have gone throughout years is not the best form of entertainment, if you would imagine it to be that way. Ask any people who have lived in places like Shah Alam, or anyone who has contracted dengue fever - the lesson we have all learnt is "kill a mosquito when you see a mosquito".

So ya, about killing mosquitoes... Actually it's just a simple question that crossed my mind the other day: why do we really kill mosquitoes? Do we kill them because they will suck our blood, or because they have sucked our blood?

Just give it a thought. When faced with thousands of flying mosquitoes in the air, which mosquitoes do we target first and foremost? Which ones do we want to nail down most vehemently? Do you first kill...

a) Mosquitoes which haven't sucked your blood.


b) Mosquitoes which have had a gutful, about 0.01 ml out of 6000 ml of your blood? Mosquitoes which are already done with their feeding, and which can't do any more harm to you?

Perhaps the gene of revengefulness is so deeply embedded in us, it is even manifest in our preferences of daily mosquito-killing spree.

p/s: Apparently some scientists punished the mosquitoes for scientific justice. They found out that when the sensory nerve of a mosquito is cut, the little thing will keep sucking your blood until... it bursts! Hah that lab the scientist works in must be infested with the little annoying things. :P


Saturday, December 16, 2006

New Logo for Firefox

Someone out there has recently found a new logo for Firefox, and it looks really good.

I don't really want to make it appear in my blog for the fear of spoiling my innocuous image, so, well, you may view it at your own discretion. [Original Source: Digg Article]


p/s: No horror, ghost or gore. Just pure fun.


Friday, December 08, 2006

Going Home

I am leaving for the airport in 30 minutes.

Bye Melbourne, hello Alor Star!


Saturday, December 02, 2006

Moving House

House /n., adj. haʊs; v. haʊz/,

1. a building in which people live; residence for human beings.

2. a household.

3. (often initial capital letter) a family, including ancestors and descendants: the great houses of France; the House of Hapsburg.

blah blah blah...

42. The name of the main character in the TV show I am watching.
I am going to move to a new house next year. And of course, I am not referring to the definition 42.

Here goes the story: Last September, JPA (my sponsor) decided to change our allowance plan. In the past, JPA paid directly to College Square for the monthly rent (which is about 750 Australian Dollar per month), and in addition I got 380 dollars per month for allowance. By allowance, it means electricity, water, Internet, groceries, transportation et cetera et cetera - basically everything minus the tuition fee and the accommodation. The allowance had been barely enough for me, as for the Internet alone I needed to pay 30 dollars per 500Mb, and it tallies with about 3 week's usage for me. No, not good at all.

It happened that for some reasons, JPA was feeling generous and decided to raise our allowance in the future. In the new system, they now pay us 1200 dollars every month, and we are to spend it wisely on everything. It seemed like a really lucrative offer, as I can now look for accommodation elsewhere which could offer the same amount of comfort without the high price tag of College Square. As you can see, although they fixed the super-sonic lift after three months, I still haven't quite gotten over the traumatic experience with their industrious window-washers. The fact that my apartment's price is raised to 802 per month doesn't help either.

Hence the new house.

As of today, I have yet to find a good house, as the house availability is still on the scarce side. I have been to a few house inspections, and they are either too run-down, too expensive, too far or too small. Yes, it's rather hard to beat College Square even with its plywoods. My search will continue though when I am back in Malaysia, and if I have no luck at all, Yong Chin and I are set back in College Square. College Square is kind of a safety net for us there, as the apartment's availability is pretty much guaranteed when everything else fails.

Actually, today is not so much about finding houses, it is more about packing. As I am writing this, I am halfway packing my stuff to be moved to Xuan Ni's house in the morning. I can't leave it in my current house as the contract is going to expire before my new semester begins on 12 February. Haha, here comes the bad habit again, writing blog in the most unearthly hour in the most unsuitable circumstances. But be kind to me, as you can see, if I don't write my blog in such circumstances, there wouldn't be a single entry at all.

One unearthly hour ago, before I went very off-track, I actually wanted to share my insights about moving house: packaging.
  • Safeway (Woolworth in other states) is your best friend when you are looking for boxes. Yes, despite all the price tags on everything your eyes can reach in the supermarket, the boxes are free!

  • Wait until 11.30pm when their staffs start unpacking their stocks to be loaded on the shelves. The large boxes are going to be put on the each aisle, and you just have to wait for them.

  • BUT! Don't just stand there, kindly ask one of the friendly staffs to show you the aisle where the facial tissues are located.

  • Yes, Kleenex boxes are your best friend! They are large, and it suits just right for the width of two large textbooks, three small story books or ten underwears put side-to-side.

  • Napkin boxes are perfect too.

  • You can ask one of the staffs to open the boxes for you, in case they haven't unloaded the stocks. It's so easy you can even lend them a hand - just tear it, invert it, and leave the tissue paper boxes on the floor. I got ten large boxes in two minutes this way.

  • Don't put everything in Kleenex boxes - they are too large for things like lecture notes. For those A4 notes and books, there is the biggest invention since the white bread - IndoMee 30-pack boxes! Trust me, the Indomee factories must have used A4 books as the template for their box design, as they fit just so well. And amazingly, each box fits my one-semester materials perfectly too. So I can just put the whole semester's stuff inside and label the boxes accordingly. Sweet.

  • Remember, don't throw away your IndoMee boxes. They are very reusable.

  • For the last tip... Don't just keep all the rubbish. There are things that you think might be "memorable in the future", but once you decide to keep them they will not see daylight again. Identify them and dump them in the bin.
That's it for moving house. I am back to packing my clothes.

p/s: I think that my writing on the comment in the previous post has to be postponed again... It's too hard to write about because my brain is rusty already. :(


Sunday, November 26, 2006

After Exams (Part 2)

...continued from here.

Note: This is merely a record for the uninspiring albeit memory-stimulating exams I had. If you have the least of interest in my studies, perhaps you shall stop at this point for the time being, and consider some other blogs, news or online articles. :) My blogroll and linkroll on the left might interest you.

14 November 2006 - OSCE
OSCE, or Objective Structured Clinical Examination, is a challenge every medical student has to go through before becoming a doctor. In most of our semesters, we have an OSCE exam where we demonstrate the real clinical skills such as interviewing and examining patients. In most situations, OSCE is done in a simulated environment, or in other words, there is an actor / actress in place of a real patient. OSCE is an exam everyone loves and hates - it doesn't constitute a lot of marks; but it's rather hard at times, and the physical examination component is a hurdle. Which is rather scary, especially with the rumour that a lot of our seniors failed the physical examination last year.

So a few of us did some sorts of preparation in Xuan Ni's house on 13 December, and it turned out to armour me quite nicely in terms of confidence and familiarity with the procedures. Came the real exams, I tackled the physical examination component rather nicely. However, for the interview part, I got rather panicky as the patient didn't present in the way I kinda "expected" it to be. Therefore I didn't expect to score well in this component... Sigh. But anyway this OSCE score is part of the HP subject, so since I have already done so badly in the HP paper, there's not gonna be much difference in the grade.

What a way to console myself. :P

16 November 2006 - CSGD Practical Exam
As the name suggests, practical exam is an exam where we are tested about all the practical sessions throughout the semester (duh!). Yeah, the name sounds boring, and the questions probably are; but from an outsider's view it's not that boring. In fact, the practical exam is one of the fanciest exam you would ever see - we get to play "musical chair" while doing it.

Basically in this exams, there are questions regarding topics such as anatomy, radiology, histology, histopathology etc. Some of the questions require tools like microscopes, X-ray slide viewer, pictures of anatomical dissections etc. Since they don't have enough tools to keep everyone on their own seats, some brilliant minds in the faculty figured out a way to test us with a limited number of equipments. We play musical chair! Basically they divide us into many groups, and in each group there are twelve of us sitting around a long wooden table. In front of everyone, there will be a set of four questions. Within the long table, everyone will have different set of questions, e.g. I get to do question 1 to 4, Ka Lip might deal with question 13 to 16, and so on. In some of the seats there will be a microscope or an X-ray viewer. In each station we will have five minutes to answer four questions. After five minutes, a deafening bell will ring, and everyone moves to the next seat on their right. The cycle repeats until everyone gets to answer every question.

Interesting, isn't it? No, absolutely not, especially when I saw three microscopes in each long table when I walked into the exam room. It's not interesting at all - that means there will be twelve (3 x 4) questions which require an interpretation of microscopic slides, and heck I have no idea most of the time. The last time there was only a station with a microscope, and I got all four questions wrong. Hah!

So off to the musical chairs. It turned out to be harder than I imagined. Having to inspect four microscopic slides under the microscope, and trying to figure out what they are / what they mean within five minutes, is definitely not my idea of a favourite exam. Even the non-microscope questions turned out to be evils. I think I struggled to get even two thirds of the questions right.

At the end of the practical exam I managed to squeeze a tinge of smile. It's not only because it's the end of the last paper, it's also the realization that struck me, about how much harder I need to work next time.

I have always thought what I did was sufficient - read as much as I could in my free time, which is normally less than an hour everyday after deducting all my other commitments and addictions in my life. I seldom, if at all do personal note-taking because I thought reading and absorbing is much more time-efficient than jotting down points and synthesizing mind maps.

Man I was wrong.

In exam hall it dawned upon me how much I didn't master the concepts, and how little the details I managed to retain with the two-week cramming. I should do better next semester - generate my own notes, study more consistently and spend time more efficiently without wasting too much time in addictive websites like Digg. How I wish I have the will to keep me going. Let's remind me when I spend too time blogging next time, okay? :)

Update 02/12/06: The result has just come out. I am satisfied with it. In fact, I am quite surprised by my luck, as I expected much lower than what I got. Thanks to my family and friends for their support, especially miss "anonymous" for being my booster all the time. :)

In the next post...

What do you think about these comments:

the Mandarin-speaking Chinese in Malaysia are not that civic conscious to see the bigger picture. They are small-picture voters, more concerned about keeping the culture of lion dances instead of the longer term socio economic interest of the Malaysian Chinese community.
Chinese including Malaysian Chinese especially has that bad habit of ethno-egoism in which they feel superior than others just because they are able to master more than 1,000 chinese characters. Yet the information revolution came to the planet from the 26 alphabets of the English language.

To the Chinese, everybody is a Kwei or Kui except the Chinese, and China is the only Middle Kingdom of human beings between the other Kingdoms of Hell and Heaven.

... From an English-educated Chinese
Update: Continued in this post.


After Exams (Part 1)

I have a peculiar habit of writing blog when I am not supposed to, e.g. during study week; and not writing blog when I am supposed to, e.g. after final exams. But I guess it exemplifies a common reason of writing blogs - wasting time when there are no better ways to waste it.

Before other ramblings, I would first like to summarize my exams, like what I did last time. The exam has been such a horrid dream that no one dared to mention it as soon as it's over. But since I had had one week of recuperation, maybe it's time for me to talk about one of the worst exams I ever had.

Note: This is merely a record for the uninspiring albeit memory-stimulating exams I had. If you have the least of interest in my studies, perhaps you shall stop at this point for the time being, and consider some other blogs, news or online articles. :) My blogroll and linkroll on the left might interest you.

6 November 2006 - CSGD Paper B
It's the first paper of the semester 4 exam, and in my opinion the relatively most benign paper among the four papers. It consisted of 100 multiple choice questions regarding our learning objectives in this semester, which are mainly medical knowledge of the nervous system, development, reproductive system and endocrinology. Although most of the questions in this paper were relatively hard, I think that I did a rather okay job, or at least better than the last semester. I actually came out of the exam hall reckoning that I could do pretty well in the exams overall. But I was to be disillusioned within the next few days - read on.

8 November 2006 - HP4
Health Practice is a subject in which we are taught the psychological, social and other not-so-scientific-related aspects of medicine. Understandably, such a subject is an essential component of any well-rounded medical education, but in some ways my university has failed to find the right way to do it. The HP paper illustrates the point I am mentioning here - either the lecturers have failed to impart the knowledge properly, or they simply intend everyone to screw up in the exam.

So, this paper turned out to be the most horrible, mean, inhumane paper I have ever had in my whole life. Consisting of 58 multiple choice questions and 10 short-answer questions, the 2-hour paper was such a killer that I think I am on the verge of failing. Sigh, nobody could comprehend the reasons our lecturers set all those insane questions. For example, we were supposed to know what Mandler's theory is, when that theory is just a random psychological theory which deserved a cursory mention in one of the fourteen lectures we had. And by cursory I mean at most 20 seconds' worth of description in a very noisy lecture hall, and sometimes even without a lecture note. As for some of the questions, nobody even had the memory of being taught about them at all!

It's simply nonsense to have us memorising things like that, when everything will be forgotten one week after the exam. Yes I have already forgotten most of the HP contents, after only 2 weeks. Instead of equipping us with some of the integral ideas of the course, the exam format only encouraged senseless rote memorisation, which means nothing in the long run.

I can't understand what's in their mind.

10 November 2006 - CSGD Paper A
To be frank it's not exactly very hard - the questions were reasonable, and there were not many oh-God-what-is-this questions. However, I felt that I did quite badly because I didn't do enough pre-exam cramming for some of the key topics, and for that I must have lost a substantial portion of marks. The traumatizing experience in HP was also one of the factors that affected my morale and hence my preparation.

As soon as the paper was over, I knew that I have lost the hope of securing a good result. Maybe that's a warning bell to me that medicine is not meant to be learnt by last-minute cramming alone.

To be continued...


Tuesday, November 07, 2006

And The Correct Answer is... Unknown

Have you ever come across a question where "unknown" is the correct answer?

I had my first and only one today, in the first paper of my final exams (Control Systems, Growth and Development):

What is the commonest cause of male infertility?
A. Bilateral Vas Deferens absence
B. Coital Disorder
C. Unknown
D. Lifestyle factors such as smoking, drinking etc.
E. Varicocele
Hah, another "birdy" question from our lovely lecturers, as usual... I wasn't sure about the answer in the exam hall, but luckily I guessed it correctly. For the record, the fact is about half of the male infertility has an unknown cause.

Update 07/11/06: The answer "unknown" is given by Harrison's Internal Medicine which gives the percentage at 50%. However, some other sources give the answer as "varicocele". I haven't done a thorough research so I make no guarantee to the accuracy of the claim above.

So now you know... if you happen to be a guy and can't get a child after trying for one year, after ruling out problems in your wife, chances are the doctor can't provide an exact diagnosis of your problem. And he can only say "Let's go home and pray that you will get your baby eventually", or "Start thinking about adoption / sperm donation."

Oh ya, and this is what miss "anonymous" has to say about the question.
Don't think that "unknown" means that we have one less fact to learn, it just means that we have no means of targeting treatment...

All hail to medical course.

p/s 08/11/06: Oh ya, for the record, I received the notification about my Advanced Medical Science unit selection today. For your information, AMS is our research year done in year 3.5 to 4.5, which translates to July 2007 to May 2008. I am so glad to be offered my first choice, Anaesthesia department in Royal Melbourne Hospital! I am already looking forward to the AMS year, and hope that it will be a marvellous experience for me.


Sunday, November 05, 2006

Have a Break

Stop learning all those architecture / brain diseases / economic models / chemical reaction / thermodynamic equations / differential equations / Canon law / Bayesian law / Heaviside function.

There's something more useful than all of the above: how to steal a password from a noob.

<Cthon98> hey, if you type in your pw, it will show as stars
<Cthon98> ********* see!
<AzureDiamond> hunter2
<AzureDiamond> doesnt look like stars to me
<Cthon98> <AzureDiamond> *******
<Cthon98> thats what I see
<AzureDiamond> oh, really?
<Cthon98> Absolutely
<AzureDiamond> you can go hunter2 my hunter2-ing hunter2
<AzureDiamond> haha, does that look funny to you?
<Cthon98> lol, yes. See, when YOU type hunter2, it shows to us as *******
<AzureDiamond> thats neat, I didnt know IRC did that
<Cthon98> yep, no matter how many times you type hunter2, it will show to us as *******
<AzureDiamond> awesome!
<AzureDiamond> wait, how do you know my pw?
<Cthon98> er, I just copy pasted YOUR ******'s and it appears to YOU as hunter2 cause its your pw
<AzureDiamond> oh, ok.

This is the most useful thing you have learnt in the study week. Good luck for your exams!


Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Wrong Major, Apparently

I should have known earlier... :P

From an online test:

You scored as Mathematics/Statistics. You should strongly consider majoring (or minoring) in Mathematics, Statistics, or related majors (e.g. Accounting, Actuarial Science, Computer Engineering, Computer Information Systems (CIS), Computer Science, Economics, Engineering, Finance, Management Information Systems (MIS), Mathematics, Operations Management, Physics, Risk Management).

It is possible that the best major for you is your 2nd, 3rd, or even 5th listed category, so be sure to consider ALL majors in your OTHER high scoring categories (below). You may score high in a category you didnt think you would--it is possible that a great major for you is something you once dismissed as not for you. The right major for you will be something 1) you love and enjoy and 2) are really great at it.

Consider adding a minor or double majoring to make yourself standout and to combine your interests. Please post your results in your myspace/blog/journal.





























created with


Saturday, October 28, 2006

An Introduction to Medicine in Melbourne University

My exams are 9 days away, and as usual I am wasting time in front of my laptop.

Earlier today, Eric talked to me about some of the nostalgic moments we had together in International Education Centre (INTEC). While we were chatting about life and all that, we "reviewed" some of the documents that witnessed our time in INTEC - the stressful yet memorable ones.

So began my historic journey. I started browsing through my documents for a trace of the bygone times. In doing so, I discovered a document titled "A Letter to Keat Hwa Magazine". It was a Chinese letter I wrote last year, and initially it was intended to be a "School leaver's Letter" for the school magazine of my secondary school - Keat Hwa Secondary School. It turned out that the "school leavers' letters" section was not published for some editorial reasons, so my toil and sweat all went down the drain.

Update: I was told that this letter was published in the latest edition of school magazine, though I haven't had the chance to read it.

I had a quick look at the letter and found that it's still a rather accurate description of my course as of today. Since I have never written any official introduction to my study here, I thought I might just put it up here for your interest:



首先先介绍我自己吧!我在二零零二年修毕中五毕业后,就在公共服务局(JPA)的赞助下于莎亚南就读澳洲大学预备课程(South Australia Matriculation, 或在我学校那儿称为 Australian Matriculation)。SAM 通常是一年的课程,但由于我在莎亚南开课时已经是二零零四年六月了,所以我们必须读到二零零四年尾才毕业。毕业后,我们得用自己的成绩来申请所属意的科系,而有关大学则会考虑面试表现及考试成绩来决定录取学生。我成功地被几间大学录取了,几经考虑后我选择了墨尔本大学的医学系。


基本上,在澳洲就读医科和在本地就读有一些差别。在这里,除了Monash 以外,几乎所有大学的医学系都长达六年。哈哈,是呀,六年好长呀,闷都闷死了!为什么这里的医学系会比马来西亚长一年呢?其实,那多出来的一年是拿来做学术研究(Research)的。在第二年半至第三年半的时间,每一个人都要选一个自己喜欢的课题来研究,探索,试验,调查等等,最后交上一个长达三万字的论文(Thesis)。澳洲嘛,教育制度蛮注重研究的,从中学起,无论什么科目他们都希望学生们能够自己摸索,从自己的角度及别人的研究结果作出一个结论来。虽然这种方针对学生是一种不错的锻炼,但对我这种事事都拖到最后一分钟的学生而言,等到要交论文时我就糟糕了!哈哈……

目前我在读的是第一年,所修读的东西都还是医学的基本知识,所以我可还没本事去救人。在这头两年半里,我们将会在讲课里学习不同学术领域的知识,如生物化学(Biochemistry)、生理学(Physiology)、病理学(Pathology)、胚胎学(Embryology)、微生物(Microbiology)、人体结构(Anatomy) 等等。但是,和中学不同,这些科目我们可不是照着课本的排法学的。在我的大学,我们的学习方式是以身体系统为主轴,然后引申至有关的化学、器官、疾病及医疗。举个例子吧,在我目前的学期里,我们的学习主题是营养、消化及新陈代谢 (Nutrition, Digestion & Metabolism)。我们的讲课里首先介绍了身体所需要的养分,然后提及有关的器官、身体吸取养分及运作的方式,之后还教导了消化系统及各种影响身体功能的疾病。讲课呢,是三百个人一起在课堂上听讲的,所以气氛和中学的班级截然不同。在遇到一些超闷无比的讲师时,几乎一半以上的人都会睡着(也没有人会管你是醒着还是睡着);如果是很生动的讲课的话,我们的哄笑声几乎可以弄垮整个课堂的天花板!

除了一星期五次的讲课之外,我们还有两个重要的学习环节,那就是个案研究(Problem Based Learning) 及实验 (Practical)。PBL 是我大学每天拿来打广告的招牌之一,因为“据说”这是医学系最有效的学习方式,而我大学又是其中一个搞PBL搞得最成功的大学。简单来说,PBL就是“纸上谈医”,主要就是讨论一个病人的疾病与医疗。每一个星期一及五,我们都会有两小时的PBL课,以十个人的小组讨论进行。周一时,我们会得到一个个案,说明一个病人的故事、其征兆、病情等等。当然啦,我们这些才读了几个星期的所谓医学生,看到这些内容是都是摸不着脑袋,一只眼瞪另一只眼的。不过这就正是PBL的目的—学习我们不懂的知识。所以,在周一时,我们会在小组里讨论及评估那病人可能患上的病、他所显示的征兆的根源、医生应该问的问题、应该做的事情等等。最后我们会自己决定那个星期的学习课题,以便在课余时间里可以自己探讨。到了周五,就是大家呈现学习成果的时候了。每一个人都会轮流呈现自己所学到的知识,然后大家互相交换意见,取长补短,互补互进。交流之后,我们又会继续讨论那病人的情形。这一次,大家腹里已有了一些墨水,所以我们可以拿病人到底是患上什么病,而应该给于什么治疗等等。说起来,PBL也相当好玩的,因为可以尝尝当一个小医生的滋味;虽然是假的,但在学习诊断的方式及搞清楚疾病的来龙去脉,这过程中却让我有了很大的满足感。

哦对了,忘了谈实验。实验是我们几乎每个星期都有的活动。我们的实验种类可多了,又是化学试验,又是解剖尸体,又是身体功能测试,又是电脑虚拟试验的,学都学不完!不过,实验有时也蛮好玩的,我们所做的东西平时根本没机会接触到。还记得有一次的化学实验室有关于荷尔蒙和酒精对于排尿的影响,猜猜这实验是怎么做的?当然是拿我们的尿啦!所以,首先会有些人吸荷尔蒙,有些人喝酒;然后我们每半小时要去厕所一次,把尿液从不同的容器倒来倒去做测量。哈哈,这实验是远近驰名的,所以每个人一提到“尿尿实验”(Wee Wee Prac)都会不禁莞尔一笑。除此之外,我们还轮流解剖尸体,把尸体的肚里的每一个器官都拿出来看看。开始时有些人还怕怕的,但几次之后大家也都习惯了和尸体相处—我想,有些人会因为对血及器官的恐惧感而对医科避而远之,但是,习惯这些东西都是所有医学生的必经之途吧!除此以外,我们还有好多有趣的试验,单说也说不完,我想我也就不赘言了。

除了医学知识之外,我们的课程里有大半的时间都是在教学生们当一个好医生。一个医生怎么样才算好呢?好多人都认为一个好医生只要把整个课本倒背如流,诊断一针见血就对了。小时候,我自己也是这么想的,但现在我才知道这完完全全地错了!在这几个月的学习中,我领悟到当医生的,不单是要医好病人生理上的问题,更需要照顾到病人心理上的需求。我们把健康看成是生理,心理和人际关系的联系,俗称Biopsychosocial Model,医病就要全部组件都医好来。从第一天起,我们就学习如何录取病人的病历,但由于对医学认识太浅,注重的是与病人建立起信任以及安抚病人。在这几年里,我们会逐渐巩固我们的医学知识,久而久之,我们也将会学习一个专业医生和病人沟通、询问及检验的方式。到了最后两年半,我们将会离开大学校园,全部时间在医院里学习。如果成功修完六年,我们才能成为执业医生。

好了,看来我越写越长,再写也没人要读了!最后,我想借此机会向我的老师们致最高的谢意,因为没有他们,我也不会有机会来到这里。希望老师们生活愉快,而同学们求学顺利。如果有什么疑问,欢迎大家用电邮联络我:[email censored].

Hope you enjoyed reading it.

p/s: This should be my last blog post before the final exams. I wish everyone best of luck and let's not forget the actual purpose of exams! :)


Thursday, October 26, 2006

Enable Cleartype on Your Computer

For a long time, I have always wondered why computer fonts always look so jaggy on my laptop, but on some other computers it always looks so clean and smooth. I always liked the way my blog appeared on other computers - they just look "ugly" on my laptop, and I never knew why.

Example: On my laptop the computer fonts always look like the one at the bottom; while in some other computers it looks smoother, like the one at the top.

(Credit: Wikipedia - ClearType)

After a very long time, thanks to Casper, I have finally found out the reason - and I think everyone should know it - it's because for some inane reason, Windows XP doesn't enable one of its feature called "ClearType", and it's this ClearType feature that makes the whole difference. To know how ClearType works, goto the link I gave for more information.

So, how do we turn on ClearType? It's easy.
  1. Goto your desktop and right click on an empty space.
  2. Select "Properties"
  3. On the tabs, select "Appearance"
  4. Select the "Effects..." button
  5. For "Use the following method to smooth edges of screen fonts", choose "ClearType".
  6. Select "OK", then "OK" again.
  7. You will see the difference immediately!

Sometimes ClearType doesn't work as well as it should, and if this is the case, you might have to try out some more advanced setting by one of the following:
  1. Use the Microsoft ClearType Tuner Powertoy.
  2. If you like, you can even try out the online tuner which will work without any downloads.


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Firefox 2 is out!

This is a "community message":

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Firefox 2 is released today! Go get it now!

In case you don't know, Firefox is one of the most popular up-and-coming free Internet browsers in the market today. If you have been frustrated by the strings of problems (spyware, pop-up advertisements inadequate browsing features etc) experienced in Internet Explorer, you should really try out Firefox. Back in 2003, my brother introduced me to the Firefox (which was at version 0.9 back then), and since then, I had been so amazed by it that I had never used Internet Explorer again. I even made it a point to install Firefox before I start surfing on any computer which doesn't come pre-installed with Firefox.

In the future, I am going to write a feature-length account of how Firefox helps me tremendously in my daily surfing. However, for the time being, I am only going to write a short note of what Firefox is capable of:

Tab-Browsing - This has been there for quite a long time, but if you have been using the old Internet Explorer all the time, this might be new to you. Basically tabs are like individual sub-pages in the Firefox, and in each tab is the different websites you are viewing.
  • Open a new tab - Ctrl-T
  • Open a link in a new tab - middle-click the link OR Ctrl-Left Click.
  • Close a tab - middle-click the tab OR click Ctrl-W / Ctrl-F4.
  • Goto a particular tab - Ctrl-<tab-number> (e.g. Ctrl-2 for the second tab, Ctrl-5 for the fifth tab etc)
  • Goto the last tab - Ctrl-9
  • Un-close a tab (in other words, reopen a tab that you have just closed) - click Ctrl-Shift-T
    (Why Ctrl-Shift-T? Haha, open new tab is Ctrl-T, so reopen tab becomes Ctrl-Shift-T lohh... :P)

In-page Searching - Also a long-time feature of Firefox which is absent in Internet Explorer. It doesn't take long to explain how this works - just follow my instructions below:
  1. Type Ctrl-F
  2. A search bar will pop up at the bottom of Firefox - now type a word in it, say, firefox
  3. Now the first "firefox" in the page will be highlighted. To find other instances of firefox, just click on F3 or Shift-F3.
I can guarantee you: in no time you will hate IE for the lack of this feature.

Built-in Search Box - At the upper right corner of your browser, a loyal search box awaits for your incessant search. Want to Google for internal globus pallidus? Type it in and blast it! Checking out the latest book by your favourite author? Amazon it with the same search box! The best thing at all, if you are using Google, Yahoo or, the search box actually gives you suggestions while you are typing. Neat feature.

Tips: When you have already installed Firefox 2, try this while setting the search box to Google: 3^20, 1 kilogram in pound, 2.5 mile in km, the answer to life, the universe and everything!

Smart keyword - This gotta be one of my favourite features of Firefox. In the most rudimentary form, this feature means "replacing a website URL with a simple keyword". For example, there is an online portal called Topclass which I visit everyday, with a long URL ( Of course I can simply save it as a bookmark and click on the bookmark whenever I want to visit it. However, smart keyword gives me a good alternative: after some simple set-up, the next time I will only need to type gtopclass (or any other word to your liking) in the address field and I will be there in no time.

If you are impressed by this, you are going to be impressed further by other possibilities provided by smart keyword. The clever thing is: smart keyword works best when used for searching! Firefox will do the following when you type those words in the address bar:
  • google university of melbourne - Does a Google search on "university of melbourne"
  • university of melbourne - Goes straight to my uni's homepage ( This is actually the "I'm Feeling Lucky" feature of Google, that means it will do a Google search and bring you to the first result that comes up.
  • malaysian food recipe - Brings you to the google search result for "malaysian food recipe". This is actually the same as the previous example, but in this case Google aren't as confident about the result as it was with regard to the University of Melbourne. So this time, instead of bringing you straight to the first result, it actually lets you see the search results. Nicely thought feature!
  • dict conflagration - Look up the word in an online dictionary / encyclopedia.

After some simple set-ups, you can make even better use of the smart keywords. Note: The following examples will not work if you do not set up the configurations by yourselves. I will talk about it when I am free, probably after the exam.

  • wiki parkinson disease - Display the list of wikipedia articles which is related to the Parkinson disease.
  • wikil parkinson disease - Similar to the previous search, but goes straight to the first result instead of displaying the list of articles.
  • med internal globus pallidus - Look up the definition of internal globus pallidus in online medical dictionary. (one of my most-used features)
  • emed parkinson disease - Display the list of eMedicine articles related to Parkinson disease. Best for my weekly Problem-Based Learning.
  • anagram fulrdenow - Look up the solution of the anagram in this anagram solver.
Tips: Use Ctrl-L or F6 to enter the address, and Ctrl-K for search box.

SpellCheckSpell-check - Newly introduced feature in Firefox 2 - no typo in the future! As demonstrated in the picture on your right, when you make a typing error in Firefox, it will automatically underline it and make some useful suggestions. Very handy indeed.

Infinite extensibility - If there is one feature that distinguish Firefox from all other Internet browsers, it has to be its availability of extensions (or add-ons). Basically add-ons are additional features that you can install in your Firefox that greatly enhances your browsing experience and provide useful features. For example, are you getting annoyed with all those stupid advertisements in the Internet nowadays? Install adblock plus and your problem will be gone - no more advertisements seen! Do you want to know your local weather info and forecast right inside your browser? Forecastfox is the solution! Ever wished for a one-click encyclopedia in your computer? Answers is the tool built for that - it gives you an encyclopedic information for any word you clicked on!

For more information on add-ons, check out the add-ons portal here. If you feel overwhelmed with the hundreds of options, you can begin with the recommended add-ons. They are all worth a try.

And have I told you that everything is free?

Other features - There are thousands of online websites dedicated to the tips and tricks on using Firefox, so if you are interested in it just google for "firefox tips". You might want to begin with the feature page of the Firefox's official website.

I can continue for hours if I have enough free time, but I guess I will leave it for next time. Go get Firefox 2 now and learn to use it to the max, and you will begin to mourn the time you had surfed the Internet without it.

p/s: This ended up longer than I expected it to be. If you are adventurous, you might want to try out another browsers like Opera and Internet Explorer 7. To be frank Opera is *on average* faster than Firefox and has a lot of the above mentioned features built-in the software. Therefore if you emphasize speed over features you might want to try out Opera. The latest Internet Explorer 7 is pretty good too, but personally it still lacks a lot of features that I love, like some of those mentioned in this article. Therefore I still stick to Firefox most of the time and use Opera occasionally.


Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Exam Luck

Is it just me, or does everyone face this problem? Whenever I have two possible answers for an exam question, the one I choose always turns out to be wrong. Or worse still, sometimes I chose the right answer initially, only to change to the wrong one at the last minute.

I am starting to suspect there are spells in all my exam papers.


Saturday, October 07, 2006

RAS Syndrome

How many times in a day do we hear sentences, or say sentences like this?

"There was a report about a thief in CNN news today. Early this morning, the thief hacked into an ATM machine and stole two thousand dollars by changing someone's personal PIN number. In the process, he was electrocuted and rendered unconscious by the AC current, which was leaked by the LCD display of the machine. When discovered, he was immediately sent to the nearest hospital. The police captured him when he regained consciousness three hours later. Upon interrogation, he admitted to have watched the Da Vinci code on DVD video earlier and learnt about the hacking of MS-DOS operating system. While the inspector became befuddled by the thief's ridiculous statement, the thief suddenly assaulted the inspector with a syringe and tried to escape. The experienced inspector successfully foiled the escape attempt by the foolish thief, however while struggling with the thief he was unfortunately stabbed by the syringe a few times on his body. To his horror, this syringe had been used on the thief beforehand and he claimed to be an AIDS patient. The unlucky inspector will have his blood tested in one month's time, and statistically, there is a 10% chance that he will be infected by the HIV virus."
Do you want to count the word count of repeated redundancy in the paragraph above? If you want to know more about what I am talking about, read more here in Wikipedia's article - RAS Syndrome. But if you want to be redundant, or doubly repeated, there is a funny (humorous) version in this funny article called "Redundancy".

Updated 8 October 2006:
1. CNN News: Cable Network News News
2. ATM Machine: Automatic Teller Machine Machine
3. Personal PIN Number: Personal Personal Identification Number Number
4. AC Current: Alternating Current Current
5. LCD Display: Liquid Crystal Display Display
6. MS-DOS Operating System: MicroSoft - Disk Operating System Operating System
7. HIV Virus: Human Immunodeficiency Virus Virus
8. Repeated Redundancy
9. Count the word count
10. RAS Syndrome: Redundant Acronym Syndrome Syndrome
11. Redundant, or double repeated
12. funny (humorous)


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Airplane Safety Instruction

Chris Pirillo teaching airplane safety
This is Chris Pirillo, a well-known computer geek and the host of the famous TechTV program "Call for Help". I can't believe he can be so funny! :)


Friday, September 29, 2006

A Lecturer in A 493-seat Lecture Theatre

I gave the first "lecture" of my life in the 493-seat Copland theatre, Melbourne Uni yesterday! I will update with more stories after this.


Saturday, September 23, 2006


This morning, I received a forwarded email which expounded on the importance of faith in God. As I am having my holidays, I proceeded to finish the article with full enthusiasm. It was when I finished reading that I decided to write something about it. I really do not want to get into habit of writing about religion frequently in my blog, but once in a while I would really like to dispel some myths commonly perpetuated in our society.

*** Before you continue ***

If you are interested in what I have to say, do read the email first here. (Thanks to Writely, the free online document writing / sharing / collaborating service)

*** Continue ***

As always, I respect and thank people who spread good religions throughout the world; however, if it involves the distortion and misinterpretation of science, I can't help but to rebut it.

In the dialogue, there was a part of the dialogue where the Professor apparently "disproved" the existence of God:
Prof: Have you ever felt your God, tasted your God, smelt your God? Have you ever had any sensory perception of God for that matter?

Student: No, sir. I'm afraid I haven't.

Prof: Yet you still believe in Him?

Student: Yes.

Prof: According to empirical, testable, demonstrable protocol, science says your GOD doesn't exist. What do you say to that, son?
If the Professor in question seriously thought that he has successfully "proved that your God doesn't exist", I doubt his credibility in teaching any science-related subject. Just because you can't feel, taste, hear, smell or see something, doesn't mean that you have disproved the thing. For example, let's say there IS a friend of mine by the name of Rifly in Melbourne. Do you believe in the existence of such a person? For sure you haven't seen him, heard of him, felt him, smelt him or tasted him, but does that mean that the existence of Rifly is disproved? No, of course! The best you can say is, "Erm, I haven't heard of Rifly, so I can't be sure whether you are bluffing me." You can't just say, "Hey, I haven't heard of, seen, blah blah blah this guy called Rifly, so science says Rifly doesn't exist!"

The author of this dialogue tried to convey the message that "science is always trying to deny the existence of God" by giving a false analogy. The fact is, no, science does not try to deny the existence of God . While it's very true that science rely on observable evidence, theories and models, it would be an error to say that science denied God because God is not observable. If there is an official science's stand on God, it would be "God is not observable by any scientific means, so we can't establish the existence or non-existence of God", instead of "God is not observable by any scientific means, so God is disproved". Just like Rifly.

(By the way, Rifly does exist. )

Next, the author tried to demonize the scientific theory of evolution, as many evangelists usually do:
Student: Now tell me, Professor. Do you teach your students that they evolved from a monkey?

Prof: If you are referring to the natural evolutionary process, yes, of course, I do.

Student: Have you ever observed evolution with your own eyes, sir? (The Professor shakes his head with a smile, beginning to realize where the argument is going.)

Student: Since no one has ever observed the process of evolution at work and cannot even prove that this process is an on-going endeavor, are you not teaching your opinion, sir? Are you not a scientist but a preacher? (The class is in uproar.)

Student: Is there anyone in the class who has ever seen the Professor's brain? (The class breaks out into laughter.)

Student: Is there anyone here who has ever heard the Professor's brain, felt it, touched or smelt it? No one appears to have done so. So, according to the established rules of empirical, stable, demonstrable protocol, science says that you have no brain, sir. With all due respect, sir, how do we then trust your lectures, sir?

(The room is silent. The professor stares at the student, his face unfathomable.)

Prof: I guess you'll have to take them on faith, son.
This, is the continuation of the fallacy established by the previous dialogue (the part where the professor "disproved" God).

In that short dialogue, there are a few favourite clichés of creationist (people who hold to the believe that human is created by God in accordance to His image six thousand years ago). Among them are "Evolution is just a theory, not a fact" and "Have you seen evolution with your very eyes? If not, how do you know it's true?".

The thing is, those people either haven't learnt science, or have selectively forgotten the basis of science in favour of their belief.

In science, a theory being a theory doesn't mean that it's just a wild guess, a hypothesis or a preliminary model. The word "theory" in science comes with a great weight. It is very different from the meaning when I say "I have a theory that explains Eric's behaviour". In this example, the word "theory" simply means "an educated guess".

However, in biology, I can't simply guess why dragonflies have four wings, and name it "the theory of dragonfly wings" and put it up in Wikipedia. Without substantiation (agreement of other people), evidence (empirical proof), rationale (the "logic"), successful application (being able to predict future events with the theory) and so on, a guess is not a theory in science.

It is true that evolution cannot be fully proved. However, many people don't know that it is never meant to be fully proved. You can't prove any scientific theory. Nobody can name a scientific theory that has been "proved". A theory, is an explanation of how things work, is based on thousands, if not millions of validation, and is always falsifiable. While a theory is the current best human explanation of an event, it is always open to falsification, if you can find a counter-proof. However, just because a theory cannot be proved, doesn't mean that everyone should take it with a pinch of salt. The cell theory, theory of gravitation, kinetic theory of gas etc are all theories, but nobody has ever said "hey, don't lar take them seriously, they are only theories".

All theories have been used in practice, have been shown to work, have yet to fail, and have predicted events perfectly. But we can never say "the theory of gravitation" has been proved. How do we know whether it's true that every mass always comes with a gravitation force which attracts every other mass in this universe with a force according to the product of the mass and the inverse square of their distance? It can also be due to other reasons one marr... For example, it can also be some invisible super-power who's pulling every single particle towards each other in the universe. So we can never prove "the theory of gravitation" perfectly, because how do we rule out the existence of such a super power?

I guess I have to come back to the topic... It is very inaccurate for someone to say "scientists have never seen evolution at work, they are only believing it with faith". No, that's wrong. As I have mentioned earlier, evolution is not an "opinion" or a "hypothesis", it is an overwhelmingly supported theory of "how biodiversity works". Its importance in biology is as much as how important Newton's Laws are to physics. Yes, they can be falsified (as much as Newton's Laws have been shown to be inaccurate in cosmological scale), but they are still the core of science which is far from being an "opinion".

Erm, time to call an end to my writing... My last point is, the last example by the student is inappropriate, or may I say, lame. The professor's brain can be shown with MRI, CT scan, PET scan, amongst dozens of other medical procedures. You don't have to take its existence with faith. There is a empirical, stable, demonstrable protocol to demonstrate it.

I am not trying to disprove God - in fact I can never disprove God. I am only writing this to rebuke some evangelist's endeavour to distort science in order to establish God's existence. Seriously, they don't have to. Science is not in war with religion. Science's official stand on religion or God is that of agnosticism's - "We can never prove or disprove God". Science doesn't hate God.

p/s: Also, the theory of evolution does not say human evolved from a monkey. It only says that monkey, chimpanzee, apes shared common ancestors.

Updated 06/03/07: Follow-up here.


Thursday, September 14, 2006

A Window Washer

Half an hour ago, I was having my well-deserved afternoon nap in my room, high above on the ninth (top) floor of College Square. But now I am wide awake, and it's all the fault of two guys.

I was living happily ever after in my little slumber land, when some noises mischievously bombarded my eardrum, knocked out all my ossicles and stirred up all the hair cells in my cochlea, firing all those unnecessary action potentials to my auditory centre in my brain at the superior temporal lobe. It sounded like one of my neighbours was trying to plug in the electric cable into the socket. Since College Square is made of plywood, such occurrence was kinda a norm here and so I decided to ignore it and try to continue sleeping.

But something was amiss.

The sound wouldn't go away, as if my neighbour couldn't find the right holes and plug it in right away. He or she kept knocking the wall all over and making all those stupid noises. That was when I got really vexed and decided to give up sleeping to find out who the hell that was.

I came to my favourite spot - my table next to the window, where I put my laptop on. As I looked around the house, I couldn't find anything wrong at all. Nobody was at home, and Melbourne city was clearly not under missile attack. But there were something - two unidentified ropes were hanging outside my window. Just when I was starting to wonder about the origin of the rope, a guy descended rather awkwardly from above, planting his feet on the window and grasping the windows bar for support. He smiled to me and waved to me with his wiper.

He was the window washer.

The window washer outside my room.
The feeling was so eerie when he came down - he smiled at me and I almost closed the blinds immediately if I wasn't refrained by some "decency". After all, it's not so polite to close the window when someone just smiled at you, right? But then, seriously... you really need to be in my shoes to experience the feeling... He and I were only two feet away separated by a window, and I felt so watched. It's not like I was not wearing clothes or doing something indecent when he descended. It's just... I felt like a victim of voyeurism.

He proceeded to wash my window duly and left after a minute. I pretended to be busy online all the while. When another guy descended on my neighbour's window, I decided to take a picture which was the one you saw above.

This little incident was actually quite unremarkable, except for a chilling thought that I had soon after - this is the perfect form of voyeurism. On any other day, there may be someone who hangs outside the window of your building, watching what you are up to in your private space.

Just imagine what if someone is sleeping naked in the room or having sexual acts. I foresee a dramatic rise of the number of window-washer applicants in the future.


Friday, September 01, 2006

Just A Random Question

I was reading one of the latest issues of New Scientist when I encountered an interesting question by a reader:

We all have two parents, four greatparents, eight great-greatgrandparents, sixteen great-great-greadgrandparents and so on and so forth. So if I want to draw a family tree up to 10 generations, I would have 1024 ancestors above me. Now, if I reseach my family tree for up to 40 generations, I would have 240 (which is about 1012) ancestors out there. This is clearly more than all the human being that have ever lived on Earth (approximately 1011). Of course, I wouldn't have more ancestors than all the people that have ever lived, but what is wrong with my reasoning? Doesn't everyone have two parents?

p/s: The question is paraphrased to avoid copyright infringement.
This is something to ponder about. To be frank I haven't really figured it out thoroughly, but I will work hard this weekend. :)

Update: Haha, got it when I was on the way back from school (posted this one in the school computer lab). But obviously Shou Farn beat me to it, and his explanation is great!

*** Spoiler ***

Actually, the flaw in the argument is that, not all of our ancestors are unique / different. In other words, as you draw the family tree up many generations, you will eventually realize that some of the people will play many different roles in the family tree. For example, your mother's mother's father's mother's mother's father may be the same person as your father's mother's father's father's mother's father.

In fact, following the same line of thought, we can see that inbreeding must be happening in some way among human beings. By inbreeding I don't mean one person mating with his or her siblings (that would be disgusting). Instead, inbreeding can be understood as "the reunion of gene as it is passed down through different routes of family tree".

Let's just set up an example... Let's say Kenny is my daughter's son's son's son's daughter's son, and Maria is my son's son's daughter's daughter's daughter. Next, suppose I have this hypothetical, unique gene AB which is always passed down from one generation to another generation. Firstly, note that if no inbreeding has occured, the unique gene AB is only found in my direct offsprings. My daughter will have AB, my son will have AB, Kenny would have AB, Maria would have AB too. If a random person does not have AB, then he is not my offspring. However, AB is also remarkable in that it is a "marker" for the occurence of inbreeding - in a mating couple, if both persons have gene AB in their DNA, both of them must be my offsprings. In the case of Kenny and Maria, if they fall in love with each other and mate together, they are considered inbreeding. Or to use my earlier definition, the union of Kenny and Maria is the union of my AB gene.

Hope that I haven't bored you to death. :) But to me, this kind of thing is more interesting than the neural system.


Friday, August 25, 2006

Can You Hear It?

Do you know that as we grow older, the highest frequency of the sound we could hear actually decreases? We are always told that human can hear sounds from 20Hz to 25kHz, but the upper limit and the lower limit are not constant, and it changes throughout one's life.

Find out your hearing limit now! :)

* This website makes me feel good. I am still "young".

Or maybe you are a mosquito, you certainly can't be human.

The highest pitched ultrasonic mosquito ringtone that I can hear is 21.1kHz
Find out which ringtones you can hear!


How [Un]Malaysian are You?

The following quiz is for fellow Malaysians, and probably, Singaporeans. If you come from anywhere else in the world, you may not understand a single word in the quiz.

Congratulations Chang Yang, you are 13% not Malaysian.

That means you're as Malaysian as...

Abdullah Badawi !

How Un-Malaysian Are You?

I am quite a Malaysian!


Saturday, August 19, 2006

Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

This is the video clip of John Carpenter, trying to answer his one million question in 1999. As a matter of fact, he became the first ever person in the world to win the one million in "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" game show. And what so spectacular was, discounting his joke call to his father, he breezed through 15 questions without a single life line! No 50:50, no audience help, and no phone call. Fantastic.

By the way, the way he called his father struck many as arrogant. Haha, what says you?