064 Perm And Comb

Really, if I didn't tell you anything else, the title would sound like the services a hairdresser offers to its clients. No, actually, it's the short forms of the words "Permutations and Combinations", a chapter in Statistical Mathematics, because some people, especially Singaporeans, don't have the energy to say any more than one syllable per word, it can be further shortened to P and C, but this isn't really that important.

Not be a person overly picky on the right words to use, although grammar seem to be of paramount importance when I write, I just avoid making remarks about things like this. Hmmm... Maths and Block Tests, right... Now, for more mundane issues, I'm in the 2/3 point of my Block Test 2, and currently there aren't any papers that has made me lost sleep about, other one or two silly mistakes in Chem which includes mistaking left from right, a really unnecessary error, but we make mistakes all the time anyway. So, in this 4-day weekend I've found myself in, I've been studying (of course, but not as much as I want to), waking up at times in the morning that defies a normal distribution, fooling around, and watching badminton matches in the evenings. I can't play because of my sore foot, so I've found my calling in score-keeping. I've spent the evenings shouting something like "Four - Two - Second Service", and trying to judge whether the shuttlecock is in or out.

Other than that, I've been rejoicing on how I trashed the study of Economics in my KI essay, a subject I don't take, and happy not to, and reading Paulo Coelho's book, "Like The Flowing River", it's rather nice, and really makes you look back at the meaning of life, something I really need to look into now, the summation of the past, present and future. Here's a story from the book about Murphy's Law, which states that everything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

Once upon a time (all stories must start like this, don't they?), there was a man who was buttering his bread, and being a little butter-fingered (literally) that morning, he dropped the bread on the floor, and surprisingly it fell buttered side up. (Now, I've been told that bread always fall buttered side down, for some reason, and I'm assuming this guy knows this myth too.) He was shocked and so he went around his village, spreading the word that the bread fell buttered side up. There was much excitement, no one had seen bread fall buttered side up before and they thought it must be a sign from God or something, but no one could decipher what it meant. So, they went to the guru who lived in the mountains and asked him for an explanation. The guru said,"Give me a day, and I will give you an answer." So they went back down and returned the next day. And once again, they asked,"What is the answer?" And the guru said...(please sit down... because I think it's quite shocking...)

"Well, the bread fell exactly the way it should have, you simply buttered the wrong side of the bread"

Now, here's the baffling part, what does the last line mean? Does it mean that we are getting overly concerned with things that we think should go wrong, but actually turns out right? Or does it mean that, since we always think that things must go wrong, when something seem to turn out right, we also think that something has gone wrong? I leave this to you...

063 Wikipedia again...

... and so while I had been studying for my KI exam on Wikipedia, like any KI students I know, I subjected myself to the sin of digressing to some other unrelated articles. So, here I am now, to recommend some particularly good articles I found on Wikipedia to the discerning Malaysian citizen. Article Number One...


Let me tell you, this is a fantastic article, documenting the entire history of, erm..., something Malaysians don't usually talk openly about, a topic only discussed in taxis, kopitiams and private places, by the ordinary citizen... It's really good, in fact, it's a previously featured article, a privilege that very few articles have, putting this on the top of the list of the best articles on Malaysia, funny this should get there...

Article Number Two...


Yet another previously featured article, on yet another controversial issue, actually it's related to the first article, but this one is about the legal side of it. So once you have read the first article, read this one, you might understand where the parties involved get their gusto... how I hate speaking about this openly, once again I must remark, "funny this should get there"...

For those who are less politically inclined and more mathematically inclined, read this one...


The moral from this story is: Don't challenge the person with the higher IQ, you'll end up being embarrassed. This problem, featured in Mark Haddon's book, "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time", is one of the biggest public mathematical uproar in contemporary history. Many mathematicians, scientists and professors, protested the answer given by Marilyn, which was found to be correct in the end. Shame on them!

Lastly, for those who do not like the three articles above, try wrapping your minds around this one...


This is an ethical thought experiment that concerning the question of which is right: killing five people or one person? There are a few derivatives to this problem, all equally perplexing, so try them out, and find out what you actually believe in? That's all, and have fun reading these articles, I had, maybe you will too...

062 The Birthday Paradox

Adapted from the wikipedia article on "Birthday Paradox":

In probability theory, the birthday paradox states that given a group of 23 (or more) randomly chosen people, the probability is more than 50% that some pair of them will have the same birthday. For 57 or more people, the probability is greater than 99%, although it cannot be exactly 100% unless there are at least 367 people

One way to intuitively accept the birthday paradox is to realize that there are many possible unordered pairs of people whose birthdays could match. Specifically, among 23 people, there are C(23,2) = 23 × 22/2 = 253 pairs, each of which is a potential candidate for a match. Looked at in this way, it doesn't seem so unlikely that one of these 253 pairs yields a match.

The key to understanding this problem is to think about the chances of no two people sharing a birthday: what are the chances that person 1 has a different birthday from person 2 and that person 3 has a different birthday again and person 4, etc. As you add each person to the room, it becomes less and less likely that their birthday isn't already taken by someone else. If one has a sample space of n people, the first person has 365 possible birthdays to choose from. The 2nd person would have only 364, the 3rd would have 363, and so on and so forth. This would be compared with any person being able to have any birthday with no restrictions (in short, all people have 365 possible birthdates.)

The probability of having two people having the same birthday in a sample space of n people is shown below:

n p(n)
10 12%
20 41%
23 50.7%
30 70%
50 97%
100 99.99996%
200 99.9999999999999999999999999998%
300 (1 − 7×10^73) × 100%
350 (1 − 3×10^131) × 100%
366 100%

Well, this paradox shocked me at first, and after a few observations, I found this to be really true, in a few groups of about 20 people, the chances that two people share the same birthday is higher that we'd like to think, one of the wonders of Maths, I would say.

061 In Con-template-tion

Contemplate comes from Latin, contemplari, meaning observe carefully.
Template is simply a corruption of templet, the 17th century word for plate
Rain originates from reyn/ren, a Germanic word of the same meaning

In the past few days, excluding the days I had gone to Fraser's Hill, which was the last weekend, I had been working on a new template for my blog, or as I have nicely put in the title, con-template-ting over it. Well, after poring through about a hundred sample templates, online I picked this one, because:
  1. The colour scheme is really striking, I took me wholly the moment I saw it
  2. The rain had always fascinated me
  3. I wanted a template that was more than just shapes and colours
  4. Well, to put simply, everything else was too passe, really...
So, enjoy the new template, design, layout and title. One thing I found that I like about custom-made blogs, is that you feel a sense of belonging for it. You know, you finally have a blog that you can call your own. But it wasn't easy, for a person who is only familiar with editing HTMLs on Wikipedia (which is very simplified), editing the HTML of a webpage was another ballpark altogether, but through trial and error, some perserverence and a lot of patience, I finally managed to add a few extra things into the webpage design, things which I would have never done if I had stuck to the template that Blogger provided. It's not that they're ugly, but well, I crave for something new every once in a while. So, I'm in the dying week of the holidays, finally started studying proper, it's amazing how I could still find time to update the blog template and the blog entries. The Block Test 2 will span the next two weeks, which means that other than studying, I would just be really bored, especially on days without exams, but perhaps I will refrain from blogging for my own sake, or maybe not...

So, this is all for now, maybe I'll be lazy in the next few days and put up some interesting wikipedia articles instead of writing out an entry myself. Yeah...that should work... I already have a few in mind...

060 The Love Doctors

Ever wonder what a doctor will tell you when you consult them about love... The following list is a compilation of my thoughts on some doctors' opinions on love, no second opinion required, I swear. So read on, don't worry, no consultation fee charged...

What do doctors have to say about love?

General Practitioner: Anything goes… as long as it pays off
Surgeon: Prefer to dissect the concept and see how it operates
Neurologist: It’s all in the brain… a mind game
Psychologist: It’s something worth talking over on the sofa… or the bed
Psychiatrist: It a sort of neurosis…hysteria… obsession…exhilaration
Psychoanalyst: It’s some sort of envy or complex, you know, like the Oedipus complex
ENT: Well, it’s something nice to hear, pleasing to the senses, but hard to swallow…
Optician: I believe in love at first sight…
Optometrist: Oh, love is blind, because I think beauty is in the eye of the beholder…
Dermalogist: It’s hard to say, because beauty is only skin deep…
Anaesthetist: Love is a problem that can be solved if we sleep on it…
Chiropractor: Love is a link that is easily strained, but can be shaken off easily
Acupuncturist: The first thing you must do is take a jab at it
Cardiologist: The most important thing is the heart… yes, the heart.
Dietician: There is always one person in a relationship who throws the weight around
Nutritionist: It is very important for a balanced diet and lifestyle
Gastroenterologist: The best way is to learn how to stomach it.
Gynaecologist: The woman must learn how to push the relationship all the way to the end
Urologist: One must learn when is the right time to hold back and when to let go
Paediatrician: It’s never too young to understand what it is
Osteologist: Sometimes love breaks apart, but it can always be mended back.
Podiatrist: All you have to do is stand it.
Orthopaedic: Flexibility in love is essential to ensure that one supports the other well
Therapist: The secret to healthy and strong limb… I mean, love, is to keep on moving it.
Microbiologist: It is the fine details that matter the most in love
Pathologist: It is important that a love relationship is free of any foreign bodies
Veterinarian: Sometimes, we need to put someone to sleep to be happy…
Pharmacist: You must prescribe the right things to your partner to keep them happy
Dentist: You and your partner must learn to open up and wide to each other.
Mortician: Hmm… That’s a hard one. My partners never tell me anything…
X-ray operator: Look inside yourself and you’ll find the key.
T Chinese Medicine Doctor: Balance between the Yin and Yang is very important in love
Homoeopathist: A little bit of love can go along way in treating lovesickness
Paramedic: In love, you must first rush into it, and then, take it carefully from there
Proctologist: The best way is sometimes to take someone from behind
Craniologist: You must figure out what is in the partner’s head
Immunologist: Love is all about self-defence, knowing who not to let into your life
Geneticist: Love… It comes down to how much you like the other person’s traits
Chemotherapist: It’s so bad, it makes all your hair fall out
First-aider: Love requires immediate attention
Pulmonologist: Take a deep breath, and prepare yourself for it
Intern: They just prefer to sit back and watch others work

059 This Time, It's Secret...

Rmvoee Tihs Frist Ow nzte zyouk Zlvlrve, W’o AY Zghrj’s lexvv kuq, ync oe rksffij qe tqpm nulp gn ybkyxy kjcn gl ij jelepp jxiurrzaeu, zad t pfx ub jgs lpnu, sno kihyofgq snteffe eh xrok vkq btydvf fzk lzq. Gzn fe ghs kg dz bw gyz cp fir Zt. Aghy’l Grt, gbf fe alcfeed fi. Z hu bqr hzce rfy dntvvvcycrr vr rfyeamek, gbf fir weikoytpzxe rqcs mvt tzayzi. Yi og ugmosy fheybrx yv vkq ilhgzfaebse, xu qcjm gpmjwlq tru xu qqlfdzs rdl eai klobiq hd oakws tg xymy kqplc hnu slw amj akomlerzej.

Ze stw esc uktem te rfd zitfvzipgtx ao kqpp fc kluiiftr vuk an sbw spuu, vfimns, nzina eii zcq qeulrv, sno msf mtgwjthug kg slr me rufoyl khnxmarx. M jtkom gn bvdvk, a ahpperdjybdait uiaaii, xu pg cxzjt, rfd yh sei hiv AY Zghrj uywiiwzopbs ll. Tfvaj, ai nethu ke sv sgwav tffyz hjc MQS eouo, lvxlerza gt’r h cfffplwzst ch rhd ahzfgd ai yezsu ybnbt kzex.

Ymiwz ir, gs Lbn Ygn, eai Yigr Ngbqhrzsn, sx mj et owrhnyiksrttr cigrgp akdapk wlgxzrm hq faul tyw lllx nsxr kl amf aiyuxxrk… ru, bq, AY rhyj ze ntr’k hu hjgs zuydgrp, ai tet’h …, jc czu’t, yw hll vvxafpcd sv hzk oww jfvs… Bq… Lo………..

Hint: Remove This (YOU) First, Second or....

058 Something pretending to be secret...


Db'y ovru sa aopyc ks gmgzr cfym xgwfovc vb zlr fvkdvtmak fj v kuhr, flx D bnmao klz Okvzeew yqj mg azxc bnivv Vrdose Pmglzz, hyg sw gjcxwr, xyeo zkuhmiiy bni hwv sa i ytrgzjdk seplzrz. Buhnc, psp pgzr e tshxaxrv rry bni vrkimvkx gs jsgdk xumj xtxk ss rfrnmtwr, aymgm zlrc yey wtpl tvrxqr eah gekmx. Trvyeka, O avpc ynm ox gs vrxwji glv qjaz wrgiio wl ql iexmqkw, glzw da pyfx r xzaz, rrbk xduk M jse'x wm qmah vrjcml gs civdk xui bit qt xui vroze mgwvpa. Bnsfi zrozktvh vrjcml pee xmg hyg mk wcwapq xroz i rsak kmhm, rsak vrjcml gs uiomx eah xio itcbrv jzl at, oitepak tbppegxneoikmx kotuiiw, D pgzr pvemvz, eei klz buytlvwo bu hrgztcmx auie cjc gvr rfx v kxccxfkmivll iotzzz. Hbr'k kzb atfik, M rwt'x fep eigzlvrx ykakxgmek wmnmah pspz hepo, aynb yszi gimaurnp ieiby M qse'x oporx wysptj fr vvzziriq xf xcm vyopzg, nwsiglzrb toor xymn wti. Cpvenm, vpreji ywt'x ysji ntkic smim qz, frgrynm oj lsl hj, Q cmyp ksj. Au, krx lwzl zs vx, rry lur'g pvx twav pyimjaoxl kvx opk frxkim wl cby.

Don't get overly upset if you can't read this, well, let me put it succinctly and as politely as possible... that's because you're not supposed to. The more astute would notice that I've left the key to cracking the code above the passage, well, silly me, but that won't happen again, I promise, pinky swear. Comments about this, anyone? If there are, feel free to voice your qualms, I know some people are uncomfortable with secrets hiding in plain sight, well I'm one of them. I promise, if you protest, I'll stop doing it... I think they call doing this sort of things "syiok sendiri"... but that's what blogs are for...

057 Readers’ Digest and Writers’ Block

Two men were sitting under a tree in the African Savannah. One man was reading a book, while the other was typing a letter with a typewriter. A lion came along and the two men ran. The lion gave chase and in the end, it caught up with the pair. It pounced on the man who was previously reading a book while he left the other alone. As the lion walked away after his meal, the man asked the lion, “Why didn’t you eat me?” The lion answered, “Well, I heard that Readers’ Digest and Writers’ Block.”

Mmm… Writers’ Block. That’s exactly what I’m suffering from now. It’s Day Four of having a bandaged foot and well, nothing much, really. It’s another day of sitting in front of the laptop, typing out my Independent Study, and great… I’m suffering from writers’ block, 500 words from the end. I know, I know, you’re thinking, “500 words is not that much, Zachary, when you can write blog posts twice that length with so much ease, and you can’t type in another 500 words in your stupid study.” Let me tell you, I’ve spent the last 4 days, writing out 4/5 of the study and now I just can’t figure out how to write out the last section. “The roles of conspiracy theory in the construction of historical knowledge”, now I feel that the stupid study is conspiring against me, oh, and there’s the conclusion, but that’s chicken feed, compared to this last part.

So, I’m typing this out instead to take my mind off the Independent Study for quite a bit, and to avoid pushing myself too hard lest I start writing gibberish in my study, I rather keep the progress slow than to get the first draft thrown back at me after the holidays, which is a daunting thought especially after all the hard work that has been put in. Maybe I’ll try reading Readers’ Digest, which I have next to me now or something else, I’m not in the mood to comment on any current issues although I have a particular issue on my mind at the moment, which is about the maids from China oh well, you might say my writers’ block has spread to my entry as well, as a consolation here’s the next poem from the North Coast Poem Series… at Punggol Beach…

The Quiet Retreat
February 23 – Punggol Beach

It was a warm afternoon, about two,
It was quiet, too quiet, at the beach,
I looked on, ships at port, working,
Why am I here?
A worn-out path, snaked through the grass,
Leading to a secret beach, unknown.
I followed the path, through jagged rocks,
And a thin thread of sand marked my path,
Interfered only by the occasional crawler,
Intrepid enough to cross the paths,
Of many seasoned travelers in the past
At the end, there was a small bay,
Of fishing poles, wind and water,
A couple or two stare at the port across the strait,
A lonely place, but crowded with emotions,
Patience, love and compassion,
Then, it was time to leave, for it was hot,
And so I started on my journey home

056 Just For The Record

I’ve just spent the weekend sitting around typing, and hopping around on one foot with the help of an umbrella. I have not gone upstairs for the last 50 hours and things have been going really slowly. My Independent Study is half-done with 1500 words out of the required 2500-3000 words. So, while I have not been thinking about my KI and IS, I’ve been formulating thoughts for my blog on current affairs in Singapore and Malaysia, keeping my ears and eyes open for any interesting issues. I always think I never do enough justice on each issue due to time constraints and trying to keep the length down. I have no editor like in the newspapers so, it tends to run over 1000 words per entry and I know people find that really annoying. I daresay, I think the number of words in my entire blog has come close to 50000 words, with the amount of things I have to say for each topic.

So, in this entry, I’ve decided to temporarily throw out the seriousness that has dominated my last two entries, for something more whimsical. This year is Malaysia’s 50th anniversary of independence, a (something, I think it’s golden) jubilee, and an important milestone in the country’s history, a country that has been dominated by some rather strange creatures call Malaysians of many races, including the major ones in Sepang. This group of native creatures interact quite happily with one another and despise their officious neighbours, the Singaporeans, who live on a small island off their country, accusing them of being kiasu, obsessive sand-lovers and bridge-haters. Malaysians themselves hold a few things close to their heart. These include cheap “roti canai” and “teh tarik”, Prime Ministers’ marriages, pointing fingers at each other, coming up with the most ambitious projects, being proud of themselves and most of all, creating and breaking records in the Malaysian Book of Records to preserve the “Malaysia Boleh” spirit, especially when the 50th Independence Day is just around the corner.

This is a favourite Malaysian past time, and ever since the idea was conceived some years ago, Malaysians far and wide have been creating new records and attempting to break them. Yes, we have the largest roti canai, highest tariking of the teh tarik, longest line of people making satay, longest line of people jumping over bamboo sticks, longest car endurance race, not to mention the tallest twin towers in the world, which is already a world record. This year, we are expecting yet another motivated flurry of records to be made to celebrate the 50 years of independence and I’ve decided to contribute to the cause by suggesting a more few ideas, for the preservation of the Malaysia Boleh spirit, simply because I’m also just another Malaysian who is proud of his country.

- The fastest land speed achieved by an ordinary car on a Malaysian highway, however, I fear, much to the chagrin of Malaysians; this record is going to be held by some Singaporean.
- The largest amount of Along advertisements stickers pasted on a single metal shutter.
- The loudest sound made from breaking open wet paper napkins in a Chinese Restaurant
- The largest number of durians eaten by a single Malaysian in a single durian eating session
- The largest number of coconuts plucked by a coconut-picking monkey in a an hour
- The longest queue at a toll plaza along the North-South Highway
- The longest time spent stuck in a jam at the Kuala Lumpur city centre.
- The longest time spent waiting for a public bus
- The largest pile of rubbish found in the close vicinity of a “No Littering, Fine RM 5000” signboard
- The highest amount of money paid for taxi fare for a trip from Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) to Kuala Lumpur
- The largest number of luggage from a single flight, either misplaced or gone missing, in KLIA
- The largest number of car accidents occurring on a single kilometer of highway.
- The largest bribe paid to a police officer who stopped a motorist for an offence
- The largest amount of passengers that can fit in a single Perodua Kancil.
- The largest amount of old newspaper collected by the old newspaper man in a single day
- The longest queue at a police station when a deadline for paying summons is announced
- The highest number of traffic offences committed by a single express bus driver.
- The fastest time required to climb up all the steps of Batu Caves
- The longest time spent crossing the Penang Bridge during the peak hours.
- The biggest pothole found on a typical Malaysian road.
- Most expensive roti canai and teh tarik sold at a mamak shop.
- Smallest roti canai sold at a mamak stall at the standard price.

055 Moderate This Entry!

I spent another day in front of the laptop, with a bandaged foot, typing out my Independent Study and playing games on orisinal.com. It’s a wonderful website with beautiful Flash games, the most lovable animal characters and the most enchanting music I’ve ever heard for any game. This beats all those other online games, which only gives you entertainment, but leaves the aesthetic beauty out. The games in this website actually relaxes you, albeit the occasional stress you get when the animals die and its game over, but let’s not go there…

I’ll don’t want to get to carried away about particularly cute games, but it provides a nice introduction to an entry. So, now to the gist of the post, which is the issue of moderation. Moderation… let’s see what the dictionary has to say about it… ah yes, here it is, the limiting or controlling of an action such that it does not become too excessive or unreasonable. Well, sounds like a reasonable definition to me. For those people still remember their “Nilai Murni” from school, moderation is “kesederhanaan”. Let me tell you, it is an irony that “moderation” is an included moral value in that godforsaken list, the amount of work required to memorise the definitions of the value, word-for-word, and then regurgitate during the exams is both excessive and unreasonable. But the days of complaining about the intelligence of the Malaysian education system is behind me, and I’m not keen on evoking any memories about one of the worst subjects I have ever taken in my life, but it was compulsory anyway, so I can’t complain.

Back to moderation, like any moral principle, stating out what it is about very easy and like they say, it’s always easier said than done. I guess we are all familiar with the concept of moderation, don’t give too much money to charity if you can’t afford it, you can help others but don’t neglect your own needs etc. These are the commonsense limits of altruism, I think, mostly quite instinctive, because ultimately we human beings are mostly self-preserving, never wanting too give out too much. These are also the textbook examples that we are always given. However, there is one type of moderation we always forget, that is, moderation in our thinking.

Of course, moderation in thinking shouldn’t be taken to the very extreme, which is the case of mental instability, like the fellow who shot 32 people in Virginia Tech. Well, he was really, really, very extreme in his thinking, to the extent that he was irked but the “rich snobs” (which could just be a little over-flamboyancy in part of the Americans), but this is just an exception to the case. The moderation I’m thinking about is the extremes we go to achieve a goal. I don’t think I’m being unreasonable when I say that we are becoming more and more Machiavellian (i.e. going to any extent to achieve a goal) as we technologically and socially progress into the future. In fact, some may say that it’s a social regression, but that’s a whole new debate altogether. We have been brought up in a “New World” (figuratively speaking), which is buoyed by capitalism, and this has lead to increased emphasis on materialism.

Materialism is the devotion to possessions and assets at the expense of spiritual and intellectual values. Now, if this isn’t an example of the decadence of the values of moderation in our society, I don’t know what is. I am, by nature, a very Spartan person, asking for nothing else but the occasional emotional support when I need it and the fulfillment of some of my whims and fancies, and I find that it is easier to understand materialism when you’re not embroiled in that rat race to make more money. Back home, it didn’t occur to me that materialism is an increasingly dire problem. It was more like something that you know for the sake of using it to write good essays on ethics and morality for the Malay or English papers. But, after going to Singapore, I noticed that there are two vices in society that erodes the values of moderation. The first, which I have mentioned is materialism, and the other, meritocracy. I might touch on meritocracy later if the entry doesn’t become too long. But first, on materialism…

Singapore, I think, is a capitalist state pretending to be a socialist state. Sure, the government gives out tax rebates, assistance money packages, GST offsetting packages (right after increasing the GST to 7%), and cheap health care (which I don’t think is a cheap as it is made out to be), but the list ends there. The ever increasing cost-of-living in Singapore is phenomenal, as compared to Malaysia, I mean; we are talking about close to dollar-for-Ringgit conversion for everyday items. While the salaries that are paid out are high, and the economy booming, the amount of work is needed to put in to achieve a personal “economy” as great as the nation’s, is so great that is has literally become and obsession, or like in the definition of “materialism”, a devotion. While devotion to work is not a sin in itself, ignoring everything else is. OK, we’ll leave family issues out of this, but do not mistake it for being negligible; it’s an issue in itself. We look at societal values. Although Singapore is known for its low crime rates (which is, by the way, and effect of the authoritarian view the government adapts), it is not known for its courtesy. Why, it was so hard to make them smile when the IMF-World Bank had its meeting in Singapore last year. In fact, the problem is not only the lack of courtesy, but also the problems that lie on the other end of the spectrum, rudeness to the extent of physical abuse and violence. In the Star Newspaper yesterday, Singapore columnist, Mr. Seah, commented on the increase of violence in the city-state, he cited several examples of bus driver abuse, maid abuse, and other public assaults. What is happening to this sterile, and looks-perfect-from-the-outside country? He opined that was the increasing stress levels in Singapore, I say it’s increased emphasis on materialism and less on moral values. When your life is all about being successful and making money, the people around you are either tools to get you there, or irritating little ants that deserve to be smacked with a copy of the Straits Times. Increased ignorance, and detachment from society are all symptoms of materialism. Let me tell you, most Singaporeans are as interested about current affairs and general knowledge as Bush is interested in helping the needy in Africa.

If only some people spend some time to stop and smell the roses, or the orchids in the case of Singapore, there would be less people whose only goal in life is to work the finger to the bone, and more people who actually care about others, it is a matter of moderation and a matter of morality. We must balance work and money with living a meaningful and happy life. If only one knows how many people are suffering out there, he would not be so self-centred. Well, as the French saying goes, “c’est la vie”.

054 First Things Last...

Ah, I'm going to sleep soon, but before I go offline, there is just one more thing I need to post. This is the first poem of a new old series, the North Coast Poem Series, about a series of adventures to Singapore not-so-developed North Coast, actually it is, but still, well, I still need to preserve the novelty of some things in life. This one was on Valentine's Day, I have no partner to go out with, so I decided to enjoy myself. Here it is, my poem at Pasir Ris Beach.

The Twilight Love
February 14 – Pasir Ris

The sun was setting, silently,
Ignoring people who gazed at it,
The ocean and the coconut trees,
Waved at the passers-by who tread,
On the golden strip that marked the end,
As it turned blue and black,
From the twilight rays and long shadows,
Of the windy leaves and branches,
Which just stood along the darkened beach,
Guarding the visitors who had come,
To enjoy the red sunset, and those that were blue,
Red and white dot the horizon,
Reminding them that it was a lovers’ day,
As couples embrace the atmosphere,
The birds simply looked on, flew away,
It was time to get back, for it was dark.
The boats, like bubbles, simply bobbed,
For without their partners, they were like me,
Alone, enjoying the view, with nothing in mind.

053 Stuck...

Really, I am sort of stuck in front of the computer, or rather my laptop, on a chair, with a bandaged foot that hurts quite badly. I went to a dermatologist this morning and then to an orthopedic to get something done about a corn on my foot, and it ended up getting surgically removed. Luckily for me, I can't see my own foot and watch all the drama that was going on at the other end of my body, but to put it rather subtly, a mop was needed to clean the blood that was shed. Anyway, I spent the rest of the day on this chair in the study room in front of my laptop typing out my KI independent study, playing games, writing on quantum physics (which were the two previous entries), and now blogging. This is as exciting as life can get for now.

My sole still hurts now but after taking the painkiller, it's not so bad now. Trying to relax, but my posterior really hurts quite a bit too, from all that sitting. So, now what? My quantum physics entry got me occupied for quite a bit, and now I'm blogging while watching the tennis semi-finals scores at Roland Garros. Life has been kind, at least now I can settle down concentrate on my Independent Study (IS), instead of running around. If only it doesn't hurt so much...

What should I write about now? Hmm... ah yes, about Singapore, why not? My favourite topic. It is question of identity. You know, this question dates back a long time ago, to the GP introductory lecture by Mr. Leong, what is the Singaporean Identity? Well, I was faced with this question time and again while reading articles on Singapore. Well, the Malaysians love to say is kiasuism, and I think the Singaporeans acknowledge it without any protest, but the Gahment is not too happy about it. Well, the Gahment was always never too happy about the locals' humour. But seriously, what do they consider their national identity? The Merlion...hmm...close but no cigar...well I find it hard to comprehend how anyone can relate to a fictitious half-creature made up by the Tourism Board to woo tourists, followed by the erection of several statues. Any other possibilities… buildings, frankly if you’re looking for a Petronas Twin Towers or Big Ben, you won’t find any, I can’t name any famous Singaporean building that is known world-wide. Natural beauty is definitely out of the list, and we are running out of options. Food and culture is a good candidate, definitely, but I cannot see anything that stands out. Want Chinese culture? Go to China. Want Malay handicrafts? Then try Malaysia. Want Indian food? India has far better food, not in terms of cleanliness but in terms of variety and taste.

But then again, Singaporeans may be becoming an endangered species, with the intake rate of foreigners being nearly equal to the birth rate, and since the rate of the former seem to be rising while the latter is decreasing. So, is the need for an identity becoming more urgent or otherwise? I sincerely hope it is the former, but at the rate it’s going, I think it’s going nowhere. Fine, build a casino; make Singapore famous as a South-East Asian Macau, but will Singaporeans be gratified for being identified as hosts to activities some consider to be a vice? Or is it just a magnificent show of how materialistic Singaporeans have become? Definitely an important consideration for the Gahmen. Speaking of the Gahmen, I think there is one virtue of Singapore that she are somewhat famous for. That sterile, authoritarian atmosphere that anyone coming to Singapore would remember for the rest of his or her lives. Those spotless streets, law-abiding citizens and perpetually efficient transportation system is sure to leave a mark on any visitor. Sure, that would make a wonderful identity, unique I must say, but it is not something I would like to promote about my country

Ah, but there is one thing I think that Singaporeans can be proud of, their humour and satire. I don’t think there is any one government whose every policy becomes the butt of everyone’s joke, perhaps America comes close, but that is only restricted to the stupidity of their president. I must say, Singaporean humour is one of the best in the world, the way they creatively twist the confinements of their government to a joke. Perhaps it is retaliation to constriction, a knee-jerk reaction, you might say, to all the rules that have been imposed onto them. Such gusto is much appreciated by the citizen and not so much by the government, but I believe it provides a welcome relief to the otherwise mundane, sterile life that the government has imposed. It is also an identity to be proud of. Singlish is another such example, with all the humour and uniqueness associated with the language, although one may not want to use it elsewhere, it is definitely something “Uniquely Singaporean”.

052 Another Quantum Story: At the H-Bar

After the pair left, Erwin quickly went over to the cat in the box. He didn’t open the box at first, as he was still wondering about this state of superposition. He knew that this experiment posed a dilemma to the understanding of the atom. Max has raised one of the problems he still could not solve, what actually is the state of the cat in the box? A superposition of states was quite ridiculous; he could not picture what the cat would look like. Born jokingly said that it was a cat with 4.5 lives, instead of the typical 9, but a joke is a joke, and the problem still remains. Then there was the question from Max that he just managed to avoid, what if the box was opened? Commonsense told him that the state of superposition will never be seen, as he would either see a very angry cat or a dead one. What happens to the probability function? Earlier that year, he had wrote an equation that described the movement of the electron in an atom, but the equation, as he had told Albert and Max, could only give the probability of finding the electron at the point. He called it the wave function, while its square was a probability density function. His head was spinning and he knew Max and Albert will be returning with more questions, while he had no answers, so he decided to pay a visit to Copenhagen, with Heisenberg and Born, to discuss this problem. Of course, he remembered to open the box, and much to his relief, he found the cat alive. He gave the cat to the animal rights people who had just finished reading his book and there was much rejoicing. Erwin quickly packed his bags and left on the next train to Copenhagen.

At Copenhagen, he contacted his friends Heisenberg and Born, and they arranged to meet up at the H-Bar. After ordering a few bottles of wine, they settled down and Erwin revealed his problems…

Erwin: Just yesterday, Max and Albert visited me, and I designed an experiment to explain to them how our model of the atom works. I call it the Schrodinger Cat experiment.
Heisenberg: Those skeptics… so how did they take the idea?
Erwin: Well, Albert is still dissatisfied over how we still cannot certainly determine the position of the electron with absolute certainty, though now he understands how the electron works according to this model.
Born: Oh, he’s the deterministic scientist, isn’t he? You can never teach an old dog new tricks. So, what’s he up to now? Back to his General Unified Theory? It’s just another one of his pipe dreams, other than trying to disprove quantum theory.
Erwin: He’d better be, because the genius in him and Max managed to find a flaw in our model.
Heisenberg: Ah, that’s a problem. What is it?
Erwin: Let me start off by explaining the cat experiment…(explains the experiment again), now here’s the problem. Remember the wave function theory I proposed?
Born: Or the matrix mechanics theory we proposed? Yes, they are one and the same thing, anyway. Both methods will give us the probability of finding an electron at a certain point. There’s no problem with that, hundreds of scientists have verified the mathematics with repeated observations in the laboratory. Why, we’ll be getting Nobel Prizes for our work. How wrong can it be?
Erwin: Now, what if we opened the box? Remember, we would only either see a dead cat or a live cat. Before we open the box, the cat only existed as a wave function, but when we open the box, we do not see a cat in the state of superposition but in either one of the states. So, how do we explain this?
Heisenberg: Why don’t we allow for a collapse of the wave function? We know that the wave function is merely an abstract mathematical entity, which means that it is not a physical state of the cat, but merely a means for us to know the probability of the cat being dead or alive (incidentally, for those who are in the know about mathematics, the wave function is (dead> + alive>)/Ö2
Erwin: Great! But once we open the box, the entity becomes useless, because we can use classical means to measure its state, rather than using the abstract quantum method. Of course, this method can be applied to electron in the atom.
Heisenberg: Exactly, of course, we must not forget that even though the electron can be measured using classical means, it is still subject to the uncertainty priciple which I proposed, we cannot know exactly the position and the momentum of the electron at the same time, but nevertheless, its uncertainty in position is less complex than the state of superposition of all states as shown by the wavefunction.
Born: Well then, I propose we call this new synthesis of our theories the Copenhagen Interpretation, since we figured it out here in Copenhagen.
Erwin: Yes, a toast to our discovery...

051 A Quantum Story: Probable Problems in Probability

I’ve been getting quite upset about Schrodinger’s Cat lately. Yes, that stupid cat in the box, the problem goes something like this…

One day, the famous Austrian quantum physicist, Erwin Schrodinger, was particularly bored. He was in his home, smoking a pipe and thinking about what he and his dear friends, Heisenberg and Born, had just come up with, a probabilistic interpretation of the atom (but this is not important to us), when another one of his comrades Albert turned up, together with Max. They were quite upset with Schrodinger and what he’s done with the atom. Albert threw a pair of dice at him and said Erwin should never had let God played with it, while Max just sat there and sulked about how he started this whole mess. Erwin was irked at how the pair was treating his idea, and blew up in a fit of anger. He grabbed his net and went out to catch the first living thing he saw to explain the idea. Unfortunately, the first animal he saw was a cat. He caught it (after having to use some projectile motion to get the cat down from a tree), and locked it up in the box. Then, he went to the pantry to get some radium and arsenic that another friend of his, Curie, had given him for Christmas last year, (he finally found use for those silly things Curie was obsessed with). Using his ingenuity with a spark of madness, he designed a contraption that might kill the captured cat (although at this point, animal rights activists protested violently, but Erwin just tossed his book, “What is Life?” at them, which got them interested for the next few hours). The contraption was designed to kill the cat with a probabilistic contraption. Curie’s radium has a half-life of 1 hour, which means that any given radium atom has a 50% chance of decaying in the next hour to lighter elements. Erwin manages to isolate one particular atom from the bunch and attaches it to a switch, which will be triggered when that atom decays. When the switch is triggered, the cat will be exposed to the arsenic, which will kill the cat. After setting up the apparatus, Erwin asked the pair whether the cat would be dead or alive after an hour. So they discussed and after an hour, Erwin asked the pair for their answer…

Albert: I think the cat has an equal chance of being dead or alive, if only we could open the box and observe the cat
Erwin: But then, the sense of mystery, or as my friend Heisenberg would say, the uncertainty is lost.
Max: Then, what difference would it make if the box were open or closed?
Erwin: Have you seen an electron in an atom?
Albert: Err… No, but we know of its existence from the presence of the negative charge in the atom. Right?
Max: Right, but none of us has actually seen an electron, haven’t we?
Erwin: Excellent, you’re getting the point. Have you seen the cat? Isn’t the cat as uncertain as the electron?
Albert: We have seen a cat before. In fact, we know that the there is a cat in the box, and we also know that it’s there, and we would certainly find the cat in the box when we open it. The only thing is that we are not sure whether is alive and meowing or otherwise…
Max: …whereas in the case of the electron, we don’t even know it’s in the atom or not, because we have never seen it, unlike the cat.
Erwin: Max, Max, Max, you’re not getting the point. Tell me for certain, what is the state of the cat after exactly one hour? Dead or alive?
Max: Well… I can’t say for certain, all I can be certain about is the probability that it is dead or alive which is ½ for both cases.
Erwin: Good, Albert, now tell me, what about the case of the electron?
Albert: Hmm… we know that there is an electron in an atom, but since we cannot see it, we cannot be sure where it is. Wait, that means there is only a probability that it is there, right? Just like the cat in the box… we can only be certain of the probability and not the exact location of the electron.
Erwin: Wonderful, so we say that the cat and the electron are both in a superposition of states, between dead or alive in the first case, and being in one place or another in the latter’s case. Get it?
Max: So, we can only be certain of its probability, right? That is all we can determine with absolute certainty.
Albert: This is outrageous; this means that we cannot calculate where the electron is at any one point of time.
Erwin: Well, technically we can, but only the probability that it is there…
Albert: This doesn’t make sense, I could calculate the exact position, speed, momentum etc…of the book you threw at the activists earlier, given I knew when and where you threw and the initial angle and velocity. But you’re telling me you can’t do the same for an electron even though you knew all its physical states at one point of time.
Erwin: I know it’s hard to accept, but yes it’s true. You cannot tell where the electron is with absolute certainty without using devices to measure it.
Max: Here’s another problem, as Albert suggested earlier, what happens if you open the box, or try to find out where the electron is using measuring devices?
Erwin: Ah, we’ll keep that story for another day, shall we?

050 Someone's Birthday Game

Xmce krnc! Rki iimx jrmneahfl kal veahjr tbrzl. Qou, yebe gfny qevm yzvm fg tb Mmhzzf Xihmllc.

Passkey: birthdaytwo