Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
- The God Hypothesis - Dawkins contends that if god really created life, then who created god in the first place? He goes on to remind us that the whole problem we started with was to explain the statistical improbability on the origin of life. Thus it makes no sense to take the god position because there is the larger problem of who designed the designer. In comparison, evolution by natural selection becomes a more probable and hence preferrable theory.
- Evolution of complex organs is possible - creationists argue that complex organs like the eye could not have evolved in a piecemeal fashion over time. This is because the eye is made of several critical parts without one will cause the entire system to fail. Dawkins counters by pointing out that the eye could actually have started out as a simple light receptor. Having a light receptor is definitely better than nothing when you are in the wild searching for meals and trying to avoid becoming someone else's meal. What came next were the functions of focus, colour, etc., each of which brought additional advantages that were perpetuated by natural selection.
- Abundance of Goldilocks planets in the universe - Creationists claim that the conditions necessary for life to exist on Earth are so unique that it must have been the work of a supernatural god. Earth is a Goldilocks planet, because we are at just the right distance from the sun to support carbon-based life forms. But Dawkins maintains the Earth is not that special after all. Contemporary astronomical data suggest there are about 1 billion stars in our galaxy. Orbiting these stars are another 1 billion to 30 billion planets. Look farther out and it is estimated that there are close to 100 billion galaxies in our universe. Let's err on the conservative side, knock a few zeros off, and say there are just 1 billion billion planets in our universe. Suppose the rise of life from spontaneous generation of DNA material, being highly improbable, only happens on one in a billion planets. With these odds, you can still expect to find life on a billion planets throughout the universe. Given the unbelievably large playing field the universe offers, it is almost illogical not to expect life on other planets.
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Monday, November 2, 2009
Friday, October 30, 2009
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Sunday, October 4, 2009
Friday, September 18, 2009
- N is the number of civilizations in our galaxy with which communication might be possible;
- R* is the average rate of star formation per year in our galaxy
- fp is the fraction of those stars that have planets
- ne is the average number of planets that can potentially support life per star that has planets
- fℓ is the fraction of the above that actually go on to develop life at some point
- fi is the fraction of the above that actually go on to develop intelligent life
- fc is the fraction of civilizations that develop a technology that releases detectable signs of their existence into space
- L is the length of time such civilizations release detectable signals into space.
- R* = 10/year (10 stars formed per year, on the average over the life of the galaxy)
- fp = 0.5 (half of all stars formed will have planets)
- ne = 2 (stars with planets will have 2 planets capable of supporting life)
- fℓ = 1 (100% of these planets will develop life)
- fi = 0.01 (1% of which will be intelligent life)
- fc = 0.01 (1% of which will be able to communicate)
- L = 10,000 years (which will last 10,000 years).
Saturday, September 5, 2009
Saturday, August 8, 2009
- Comets display comas and tails due to sublimation of water and ejection of dust particles from solar radiation.
- Comets have more eliptical orbits than asteroids around the sun.
- Comets may become asteroids when they run out of watery particles.
Sunday, August 2, 2009
Thursday, July 23, 2009
For the sake of the environment, wouldn't you turn off your servers and let NetSuite host your business? For me, it takes a little more than those numbers alone. However, I commend the company for shrewd advertising! Perhaps future green energy subsidies in the US will tip the scale. Regardless, this is a very interesting topic given my vested interest in the industry!
Monday, July 13, 2009
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
Let me be the first one to tell you that relocating for work is not for everyone. The amount of time and effort required is unbelievable, as you can judge from my lengthy lay-off on this blog. Now that my wife and I are ready to explore
I ended up seeing a whale tail for three seconds, but paid the price with three bags of vomit to go with four hours of seasick nausea. In my defense, I have never been sick at the sea. This time was different though as practically everyone else had at least a bag-full in his hand. Fortunately, the tour operator offered us a 50% refund and a free second trip. I suppose many people had complained after the ill-fated voyage. Missing out on humpbacks and blues the first time around, I am determined to sign up for round 2. As for my wife? Suffice to say she will never set foot on a whale watching boat again. Before my next "suicide mission" however, I did some research to ensure I will be prepared:
What is it, really?
In simplest terms, seasickness is a form of motion sickness.
When our eyes, inner ears, muscles, and joints simultaneously send mixed signals to confuse our brain. The clash of sensory information is passed along to the area postrema, which also controls vomiting. As for my case at sea, my eye saw the static horizon and the stationary interior of the boat while my inner ear and body felt the rolling of the waves.
- Generally feeling unwell and weak
- Slight sweating leading to clammy skin
- Excessive production of saliva
- Losing colour in the face or turning red
No one knows for sure. One theory suggests that the vomiting response is caused by the brain’s futile attempt to rid the body of a perceived poison. Laboratory animals whose labyrinths (fluid-filled canals in the inner ears) are surgically removed are less likely to vomit when they ingest poison. Beware of excessive vomitting, as it can lead to dehydration, exhaustion and a dangerous drop in blood pressure.
How to prevent/soothe seasickness
- Get plenty of rest prior to the trip. Physical well being helps prevent seasickness.
- Choose seats with the smoothest ride: usually centre of a boat and avoid going under deck.
- Stay busy and keep your mind occupied. These are perhaps the best ways to avoid seasickness.
- Get some fresh air and look into the distant horizon.
- Lie down and avoid turning your head to swirl the fluids in the Labyrinths.
- Take deep breaths and drink fluids periodically.
- When on deck, face forward (rather than to the side).
- Try an anti-seasickness wristband, which sends electrical currents to the median nerve in your wrist. Apparently, the wrist has an acupuncture point that prevents nausea and vomiting.
- Take medication prior to the trip.
Medications are preventive, not curative. They either calm the nerves of the inner ear or soothe the brain’s vomiting centre. However, most motion sickness pills are only effective if they are taken before you feel sick. Take them 30 - 60 minutes before a trip to allow adequate absorption. Motion sickness pills often can induce drowsiness as a side effect.
Seasickness can strike anyone at any time. By taking the proper precautions however, you need not fret about going out to the beautiful sea. I know I won't!
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
- Visualization improves memory. Instead of treating numbers as boring static strings, view them in dynamic, multi-dimensional shapes and forms. This technique also works beautifully with learning vocabularies.
- Clustering also improves memory. If you break a series of numbers into smaller chunks (of 3 or 4), your brain can better handle them. This is why telephone numbers are hyphenated.
- Creativity further improves memory! When you throw in creative imagery to the above formulas, your memory becomes super-charged. In fact, the more exaggerating the imagery, the better the results. In Daniel's words, he used to "dance with" numbers in Pi.
Sunday, February 8, 2009
Before the dawn of the 20th Century, the Michelson-Morley experiment was conducted to substantiate the existence of a substance called "ether." Instead, it created a shock wave for the entire scientific community. Throughout the next twenty years, numerous futile attempts were made to explain the surprising results of the experiment. In the end, it was Einstein's special theory of relativity that came to the rescue.
A remarkable consequence of relativity is that it revolutionized our ideas of space and time. Before Einstein's heydays, Newtonian physics indicated that space was not absolute, meaning different observers of a moving object may conclude differently about the distance it travelled. However, time was always assumed to be absolute, i.e., different observers would always agree on the time it took an object to traverse through space. Einstein took Newton's theories and took a step back. He claimed that if one lets go of the idea of absolute time, then we need not "invent" the idea of ether. Nor would we be troubled by the Michelson-Morley experiment. The notion of absolute time, however, is so deeply engraved in our minds that even today, it is difficult to discard.
Einstein went on to come up with unconventional predictions of how objects behave when they approach the speed of light. These imaginary experiments came to be known as Einstein's paradoxes. Perhaps the most famous one is the twins paradox: A twin steps on a spaceship and travels at the speed of light for 20 years according to his watch. When he returns to Earth, he will find that much more time has indeed elapsed during his absence and his twin brother is now 100 years older than him. You might find it hard to accept this outcome. That is why it is called a paradox in the first place. However, this is not so difficult any more if you think of time being relative.
Einstein's brilliance in my opinion, lies not in his discovery of relativity, but the manner in which he did it. In order to reach his conclusions, he took a step back from well known physics principles. Instead of taking for granted the firmly-entrenched view that time was absolute, he chose to doubt it. In the end, he took a completely opposite stance. As a result, every road block baffling the scientific world then was instantly removed.
Einstein's work prompted me to wonder whether we can always take our assumptions for granted. Sometimes, moving a step backwards and re-evaluating popular opinion is not a bad idea. Of course, to his credit, Einstein also applied immense creativity and ingenuity to secure the fantastic success that he enjoyed. Nonetheless, I will keep this lesson in mind on my quest for knowledge.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
1. When we are alive, our mind creates the "illusion" that life continues after death. Why? Hopefully, this helps deter us from being overly afraid of death, to the extent that we can lead our normal lives without constant worry.
4. Finally, there is the concept of person permanence: just because we can't see someone does not mean he ceases to exist. This truism is exactly what hinders our ability to imagine death. We can't simply switch off person-permanence thinking when someone we know dies. This is especially true for those who are closest to us, as we frequently picture them engaging in various activites when out of sight.
Friday, January 16, 2009
Sunday, January 4, 2009
In order to succeed however, I will need to arm myself with knowledge. With each piece of new found insight, my goal is to gain a better appreciation of life in turn. My focus on the origins of the universe and life as we know it will take centre stage in this blog. After all, knowing the what and the how often leads to the why. Of course, I will be side-tracked by various interesting scientific posts from time to time. Regardless, this is going to be a fun-filled experience!