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Behind an Extraordinary Memory

By now, most of you should know that I am a die-hard fan of Scientific American. Here is yet another interesting article about extraordinary minds . The interviewee, Daniel Tammet, is special in his own right. He is a mildy autistic linguist who can recite the first 22 514 decimal places of the mathematical constant Pi . Here are a few takeaways from the interview: 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 "da

Book Review: A Brief History of Time

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One of my favourite books is A Brief History of Time , written by Stephen Hawking. This book is famous like its author. Its wonder lies in the fact that the forefront of physics is portrayed in laymen's terms. Thus the theories behind quantum mechanics, relativity, black holes, time travel, and wormholes can all be comprehended by the average person. Every time I pick up this paperback, I feel humbled by the grandeur of our mysterious universe. Needless to say, the origin of the universe may just provide a clue to the birth of life. Of all the theories described in the book, I was most intrigued by Einstein's special theory of relativity. 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 experime

Is Death Imaginable?

I recently came across another interesting article from  Scientific American . It explores why people of all cultures, education levels, trades and religions acknowledge an afterlife, even though they believe on many levels that the mind ceases to exist upon death. Here are some possible reasons: 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. 2. It's impossible for the human brain to comprehend "non-existence". According to philosopher Shaun Nichols, "When I try to imagine my own non-existence I have to imagine that I perceive or know about my non-existence. No wonder there's an obstacle!" Sounds like Descartes' "I think, therefore I am" argument. 3. From Mr. Darwin's perspective, there is no evolutionary value in having the ability to disti

Using Math to Explain Evolution

One question that has always intrigued me is how did life originate on Earth? In fact, will be spending quite a bit of time on this topic as the blog develops. Here is a great article by Scientific American on using mathematics to simulate the dynamic forces of evolution. The idea is to create mathematical formulas that can describe the simplest of chemical systems which evolve over time. I am no geek -- or so I would like to think -- but the article does make one appreciate the beauty of mathematics. - PTS

My Vision

Enslaved to the daily routines of putting bread on the table, one cannot help but sometimes wonder whether there is a higher purpose to life. Dissatisfied with the status quo, I have created this blog with this goal in mind: To understand the purpose of life, so I can live to the fullest. 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! -PTS