Sunday, April 30, 2006

Common Science Misconceptions

This is one of my posts in ReCom which I wish to share with everyone who studies science:

I found this fabulous website which pointed out a lot of common misconceptions in our textbooks. I would strongly recommend everyone who studies science to have a look. There are quite many commonly mistaken scientific facts, some of which were often included in our secondary, or even tertiary textbooks. Just sharing a few of them here:

1. Astronauts float in the space station not because there is zero gravity, but because they are free falling. The gravity in space is not zero. (Reference)

2. If we hang two balloons on each side of a beam balance, one of which filled and one of which empty, the side with the filled balloon will sag downward. It shows that air has weight. Wrong. The reason it sags downward is not because air has weight, but because of the different pressure in the two balloons. (Reference)

3. If we let sunlight goes through one prism, a band of light with the whole range of spectrum will be seen. If we let the spectrum of light goes through another identical prism, we will see white light coming out from the other end. - No, it's not the actual case. We won't get a white light using only two identical prisms. (Reference)

4. Infrared is the "heat radiation" while the other part of sunlight only contributes to the visible light but not heat. Wrong - if we measure the different parts of spectrum of the sunlight, we will find that the visible light contributes to heat as well. In fact, every one of us is emitting infrared and microwave at this very moment; but we don't emit visible light because we are simply not hot enough. (Reference)

5. Electrons flow at the speed of light - wrong. Electron actually moves very slowly, at the order of centimetres per minute. The thing that flows so fast and cause your light to snap on the moment you turn it on, is not electrons but the energy carried within the electrons. Think of what happens when we fill a pre-filled water hose with one drop of water at one end - a drop of water comes out from another end. Does it mean that that particular drop of water has travelled the length of the hose and come out at the other end? No. This is analogous to what happens in our conductors. (Reference)

6. The white "smoke" coming out from our piping hot coffee, the mist in a shower room, fog and cloud are not water vapour - they are fine liquid droplets. (Reference)

The things I listed above are among the inaccuracies or errors I learnt from the website. It's so enlightening, and I really hope that they include the facts from that site in our textbooks.


Friday, April 28, 2006

Don't Click Here

This is something you would rather not click.

I warned you. :-)


Thursday, April 27, 2006

Yippee... My Laptop is Back!

Haha, sent in my laptop for repair one week ago and replaced my dead harddisk. It cost me 175 dollars, 135 of which went to the new 60 gig harddisk I bought. But when I brought it home, I couldn't get it to install the operating system with my ACER recovery disk... Damn bengang... bengang bengang bengang.. It is not easy to cycle to and fro the city while lugging the laptop, you know.

So I went back to the same shop again to see what they can do to help me. Apparently they formatted my harddisk with the NTFS format but the recovery disk couldn't recognize it... So the staff in the shop took 5 minutes to reformat the harddisk to FAT32, and voila, I could install my Windows now!

After toiling for the whole night for the set-up of the Windows and all the good ol' softwares, now I get back my laptop which looks just like before! Hehe...


Monday, April 17, 2006

President Hu JinTao's visit to US

The Chinese President Hu JinTao is going to visit US next week. The first dinner will not be in the White House, and guess what, it's in Bill Gates' world's most expensive mansion!

Let's have a look at the Conversation between George Bush and Karl Rove regarding Hu's visit:

Rove: "Sir, Hu is going to be attending a dinner at one of your biggest campaign contributors houses, Mr. Bill Gates."

Bush: "Who?"

Rove: "Yessir, Hu."

Bush: "No, I'm asking you..... Who's coming to the US to have dinner with Geeky Gates?"

Rove: "That's right sir, Hu."

Bush: "Grrr... Okay then, what about when?


"Yes, when."

"I don't know if the Premier is coming."

"Who asked about the Premier, damnit!"

"Oh, did he? I assume he would know."


"Yes, Hu would know Wen."



"Don't make me feed you a pretzel."

Adapted from Slashdot Comments.


Saturday, April 15, 2006

Reuse Plastic Bottle

It's long been rumoured that reusing plastic water bottles can be detrimental to health, and some even go to the extent of saying that the water bottle releases carcinogenic compound when it is used for more than once.


Refer to this page for more information. Apparently this rumour originated from one of the graduate students' thesis, and despite its lack of peer review, the allegation was spread via our lovely media and forwarded emails. As it turns out, the "carcinogenic" compound described in the thesis was not at all carcinogenic, and the reason that some quarters recommend using water bottle only once is because of hygienic issues. To quote from the article:

Some organizations (including the IBWA) do recommend that plastic water bottles be used only once before recycling, but not because re-use is likely to cause carcinogenic compounds to leach from the plastic bottles into the liquids they hold. The concern is that people (particularly children) can too easily spread and ingest bacteria from their hands and mouths by re-using bottles without properly washing them or allowing them sufficient time to dry.

My two cents: Don't trust every single rumour out there.


Wednesday, April 12, 2006

A Story - What Would You Do?

Ka Lip forwarded this story to me and I found it really meaningful... Do peruse it if you have time to spare:

What would you do? You make the choice! Don't look for a punch line; There isn't one! Read it anyway. My question to all of you is: Would you have made the same choice?

At a fundraising dinner for a school that serves learning disabled children, the father of one of the students delivered a speech that would never be forgotten by all who attended. After extolling the school and its dedicated staff, he offered a question:

"When not interfered with by outside influences, everything nature does is done with perfection. Yet my son, Shay, cannot learn things as other children do. He cannot understand things as other children do. Where is the natural order of things in my son?" The audience was stilled by the query. The father continued. "I believe that when a child like Shay, physically and mentally handicapped comes into the world, an opportunity to realize true human nature presents itself, and it comes, in the way other people treat that child." Then he told the following story:

Shay and his father had walked past a park where some boys Shay knew were playing baseball. Shay asked, “Do you think they'll let me play?” Shay’s father knew that most of the boys would not want someone like Shay on their team, but the father also understood that if his son were allowed to play, it would give him a much-needed sense of belonging and some confidence to be accepted by others in spite of his handicaps.

Shay's father approached one of the boys on the field and asked if Shay could play, not expecting much. The boy looked around for guidance and said, "We're losing by six runs and the game is in the eighth inning. I guess he can be on our team and we'll try to put him in to bat in the ninth inning."

Shay struggled over to the team's bench put on a team shirt with a broad smile and his Father had a small tear in his eye and warmth in his heart. The boys saw the father's joy at his son being accepted. In the bottom of the eighth inning, Shay's team scored a few runs but was still behind by three. In the top of the ninth inning, Shay put on a glove and played in the right field. Even though no hits came his way, he was obviously ecstatic just to be in the game and on the field, grinning from ear to ear as his father waved to him from the stands. In the bottom of the ninth inning, Shay's team scored again. Now, with two outs and the bases loaded, the potential winning run was on base and Shay was scheduled to be next at bat.

At this juncture, do they let Shay bat and give away their chance to win the game? Surprisingly, Shay was given the bat. Everyone knew that a hit was all but impossible 'cause Shay didn't even know how to hold the bat properly, much less connect with the ball.

However, as Shay stepped up to the plate, the pitcher, recognizing the other team putting winning aside for this moment in Shay's life, moved in a few steps to lob the ball in softly so Shay could at least be able to make contact. The first pitch came and Shay swung clumsily and missed. The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly towards Shay. As the pitch came in, Shay swung at the ball and hit a slow ground ball right back to the pitcher.

The game would now be over, but the pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could have easily thrown the ball to the first baseman. Shay would have been out and that would have been the end of the game.

Instead, the pitcher threw the ball right over the head of the first baseman, out of reach of all team mates. Everyone from the stands and both teams started yelling, "Shay, run to first! Run to first!" Never in his life had Shay ever ran that far but made it to first base. He scampered down the baseline, wide-eyed and startled.

Everyone yelled, "Run to second, run to second!"

Catching his breath, Shay awkwardly ran towards second, gleaming and struggling to make it to second base. By the time Shay rounded towards second base, the right fielder had the ball, the smallest guy on their team, who had a chance to be the hero for his team for the first time. He could have thrown the ball to the second-baseman for the tag, but he understood the pitcher's intentions and he too intentionally threw the ball high and far over the third-baseman's head. Shay ran toward third base deliriously as the runners ahead of him circled the bases toward home.

All were screaming, "Shay, Shay, Shay, all the Way Shay"

Shay reached third base, the opposing shortstop ran to help him and turned him in the direction of third base, and shouted, "Run to third! Shay, run to third" As Shay rounded third, the boys from both teams and those watching were on their feet were screaming, "Shay, run home! Shay ran to home, stepped on the plate, and was cheered as the hero who hit the "grand slam" and won the game for his team.

That day, said the father softly with tears now rolling down his face, the boys from both teams helped bring a piece of true love and humanity into this world.

Shay didn't make it to another summer and died that winter, having never forgotten being the hero and making his Father so happy and coming home and seeing his Mother tearfully embrace her little hero of the day!

AND, NOW A LITTLE FOOTNOTE TO THIS STORY: We all send thousands of jokes through the e-mail without a second thought, but when it comes to sending messages about life choices, people think twice about sharing. The crude, vulgar, and often obscene pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion about decency is too often suppressed in our schools and workplaces.

If you're thinking about forwarding this message, chances are that you're probably sorting out the people on your address list that aren’t the "appropriate" ones to receive this type of message. Well, the person who sent you this believes that we all can make a difference. We all have thousands of opportunities every single day to help realize the "natural order of things." So many seemingly trivial interactions between two people present us with a choice: Do we pass along a little spark of love and humanity or do we pass up that opportunity to brighten the day of those with us the least able, and leave the world a little bit colder in the process?


Sunday, April 09, 2006

Shakespearean Online Translation

This Chinese->English translation of my previous post beats Shakespeare hands down.

Original Post:



墨尔本的朝旭,我不曾看过,因为我不曾欢愉地迎接白天。总是徘徊在夜里孤单地享受着一个人的狂欢, 一个人的我。也许我早已习惯在夜里沉醉在歌曲里的童话,也许我又在那几首最爱的经典歌曲中,细细体会那种蕴绕不去的余味,静静地随歌声飘荡。夜,是我的疆土。


Translated, it becomes...
Dense fog

Today fog, good thick good is thick, looks like that which cannot disperse, is at a loss, paces back and forth... ...

Melbourne's dynasty rising sun, I not once have looked, because I not once happily greeted the daytime. Always paces back and forth in the night lonelily is enjoying a person's revelry, person's I. Perhaps I already am familiar with in the night sink am drunk in the song fairy tale, perhaps I in the classical song which that several most loves, thin thin realized that kind 蕴 cannot circle -odd taste, calmly flutters along with the singing sound. The night, is my territory.

Always looked the unclear Caucasian in a veil which 渺 however in puts on, likes with the trace which hates like the dense fog equally making one palpitate actually always cannot see clearly. But I, but also continues to wait for that rain washes... ...

Ideas derived from Mellisa's Melissa's blog.


Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Mobile Phone and Brain Tumour

I have never explained my assignment which kept me awake for three nights... It should be one of my favourite subjects, being statistics, maths and all, but I find that I was not very inspired throughout the process. Laziness and procrastination overrides interest, I guess.

Oh ya, talk about the assignment... We were supposed to write a 2500-word essay regarding epidemiological study. Basically, epidemiology study is a process in which the relationship between an exposure and an outcome is determined through statistical means. For example, you can recruit 10000 smokers and 10000 non-smokers, and then wait for 20 years and see which group has more cases of lung cancers. So say we have 2000 cases in the smokers group and 150 cases in the non-smokers group, we can be pretty confident that smoking is related to a higher risk of getting lung cancer.

Of course, in our assignment we were not asked to conduct an epidemiological study by ourselves. Instead, they are actually asking us to write a proposal about an epidemiological study, which aims to determine whether the use of mobile phones increases the risk of brain tumour.

Oh well, it was actually a crazy task. We had only 3 lectures on all those study designs and they expected us to know everything. Well, let's put a mathematican on an architecture crash course and write about the appreciation of Gothic architectural style. Haha, just in case, Eric, I am not referring to you, but just trying to show how hard it had been for us to write and appreciate and explain everything within 3 weeks.

I wouldn't go into the details of our study designs, as I would not be as cruel as forcing everyone to tread my path again. However, for those who are interested in what I actually wrote, here is my final write-up regarding the topic.

The reasons I put this up is because I just read a news article regarding the very topic I wrote about. There have actually been lots of researches done regarding this issue, and most of the findings showed that there were no increased risk for brain tumour among mobile phone users. However, the most recent study has showed a substantial increased risk for a heavy user (defined as more than 2000 hour life-time use). Here are the links to the original published research (pdf file), the news article in Reuters Science, and the discussions going on in Slashdot.

Thinking of abandoning mobile phones? I won't.


Sunday, April 02, 2006

Dear Spammer

Dear spammer,

If you have the time to spam my comment section with anti-government messages, you might spend your time better by contributing to our country or any country you love proactively.

And please find an appropriate forum or blog to vent your messages, not under my "I hate assignment". I believe that the assignment I just had has got nothing to do with Malaysian government. Learn to read in context.

You are not welcome.

Spam Hater

p/s: Melbourne has switched back to standard time zone effective from 2 April 2006, meaning that we are now in GMT +10 i.e. 2 hours ahead of Malaysia.