Friday, November 18, 2005

Full Sedition Ahead

Hah. Those silly ang mohs from Quantumlahlahland. They're so weak. Ok lah, u gotta give them credit. They can sometimes use their 'lah's in the correct places. But give them durian and they still run away. Almost everyone complained that my durian sweets stank up the lab. In the end only the singaporean prof appreciated them, so i gave the whole pack to him.

And those Indians. When it comes to a row between Pakistan and the Brits, they would rather root for the Pakis. It is amazing. And I thought they're like on the brink of nuking each other. One Indian explained it as them uniting against their former colonial master. How many of us sgers would side with the Malaysians in a standoff between them and the Brits?

And it is sad. I hear that these days the science olympiad teams in JC r made up of PRC PRs and such. What's the point of getting medals like that? Where's our pride? Just like badminton and ping pong. Sigh. In my time we p0wn3d the PRC team with pure singaporean blood, at least for chem olympiad. We made them cry.

Ok better end off with a couple of less seditious comments. Or maybe not. Seems like Paul Erdos, that famous mathematician who all other mathematicans r proud 2 be connected to (ie. have a low degree of separation a la friendster, except links are not between friends, but between pple who have authored papers together), was a regular meta-amphetamine user. OMG. Performance-enhanced theorems. But apparently he was not hooked. He made a bet that he could stay off it for 1 month, and he collected. But he is said to have told the other guy, "You've set mathematics back for a month!"

Paul Dirac, the guy who came up the idea of positrons, thought that physical 'constants' could change in time. And some 80 years later, there's tantalizing evidence to suggest that his claims may not be that far off. If so this would rule out some string theories. Which is great news. [I hope it rules out most if not all string theories, they're more like religion than science as they cannot predict anything. Or rather, they can 'predict' anything.]

Monday, November 14, 2005

Are we in the Age of Failed Dreams?

Inspired to make these lists after re-reading Vernor Vinge's A Deepness in the Sky. I almost forgot what an incredibly awesome book it is. Ranks right up there next to the likes of Dune. And I realized I need to get my hands on the Vinge collection, and also reread A Fire Upon the Deep. Hopefully will write a review later. He is an amazing guy, a computer scientist specializing in artificial intelligence at San Diego State university and a multiple hugo award-winning author. Mini-spoiler: the humans in the story have been crawling around their neighbourhood of the galaxy at a paltry 0.3c. They think they know what cannot be achieved (faster than light travel, antigravity, immortality, aliens within visiting distance). But, like the reader, they're in for a big surprise.

Anyway here are my lists. Things that are sometimes reported in Scientific American, MIT Technology Review, Discover, Popular Science etc. But never seem to come of age. Are they failed dreams? Time will tell.

Physical impossibilities?
  1. Time travel to the past (would violate causality - make effect precede cause)
  2. Faster than light travel (In Eintein's framework of relativity would lead to time travel)
  3. Fundamental limits of computation (amongst others) erasure of a bit of information always leads to dissipation of kT ln(2) of heat. Computation will always cause the processor to heat up, thus putting a limit on the amount of processing power that can be packed into a finite volume.
  4. Quantum no-cloning theorem: it is impossible to make a perfect copy of an unknown quantum state. This is basically what makes quantum key distribution secure.
Failure of imagination?
  1. A theory that reconciles quantum mechanics and gravity/general relativity (half a century after einstein's failed initial attempt and still no success)
  2. What is the "Dark Matter" in the universe?
  3. Why are there 3 space and 1 time dimensions?
Engineering limits?
  1. Viable fusion (always a decade away?)
  2. Superconductors for power distribution, transportation (ditto above)
  3. Optical computers (what happened to them?)
  4. Realtime portable translator devices for spoken language
  5. Artificial intelligence at least as good as humans
  6. 'Von Neuman' automata (robots that can scavenge for parts to build copies of themselves; there were plans (ideas?) to build a solar farm on the sahara desert with such robots, whatever happened?)
  7. Nanotech machines of non-biological origin
  8. Large-scale coherent quantum computers
Biological wet dreams?
  1. Life extension; immortality
  2. Tissue and organ regeneration
Economically infeasible?
  1. Supersonic jets
  2. Economical launching of payloads into space; cheap space travel; fast travel through space
  3. Colonization of mars and other planets
  4. Ubiquitous automation of menial labour
Just can't seem to find?
  1. Magnetic monopoles
  2. Aliens who use radio

bean is back

Finally, managed to try the tuk-tuks at great peril to myself and mom. Wanted to do something before the Calypso show. Their public train system seemed rather expensive.. 30 baht to get from the show venue to our hotel while a taxi cost 60~70 baht (assuming the driver doesn't get lost; but it wasn't really his fault cos our hotel was in a more ulu place). For 2 persons or more it makes sense to share a cab already.

The show was quite eye-opening. I couldn't really see the adam's apples in alot of the dancers. As I feared there were victims taken from the audience. Luckily I escaped. A girl was randomly tossed onstage; she was so embarassed she just kept running around and hiding her face. A guy was kissed by a male performer in a geisha costume, but he was quite sporting. His lady friend couldn't stop laughing.

But damn! I could have sworn the announcer/emcee was a typical guy. Until he (she?) took off his suit and started strutting his stuff. From then on I took nothing at face value.

A couple of gripes about the show. The music and voices were all recorded. The performers didn't sing, they didn't make music, they didn't quite dance really, just strutted around for the most part. They carry paper drums and pretend to beat them. And I think some parts weren't too nice, like when they bared all for a few seconds. It just cheapens the show. All in all, it can't even hold a candle to cirque. For 1000 baht (~41 SGD), I expected more, considering that cirque tickets start at 80. Overall, I think abit overrated and expensive. But it was an eye-opener, and the japanese tourists seemed quite entertained.

I have a couple of regrets. The roadside noodles and massage. My parents weren't adventurous enough to try the street vendors. I feel like I have to babysit mom. She gets upset if I want to try something crazy. About the most adventurous thing we did was ride in Tuk-tuks. Nothing compared to crashing korea with the gang.

Btw, does anyone know why our customs seems so efficient? I've never been stuck at our customs before. Or for that matter even seen a large crowd gathered there. But LA and BKK suck ass. And BKK had even more rows than ours. I wonder why. Is it superior scheduling, so that flights don't all arrive at the same time and disengorge a flood of passengers? Or is it simply ultrafast turnaround time? Or maybe I've just been lucky?

Sunday, November 13, 2005

bangkok beaning

Man the 'medium' strawberry smoothie was gigantic. And the ang moh sitting next 2 me looks like a young Richard Gere.

Wow met another singaporean who also flew here for physics GRE. His wife bore an uncanny resemblance to sihui, both behaviour and appearance. Are all physics types like that? He said he thought it was easier than all the previous ones. Argh and I didn't quite manage 2 finish 90%. Looks like 990 will be a dream of rainbon.

Only saw a couple of monks up to now. Shouldn't have worn shorts to the Grand Palace, had to wear longs over it to show respect to the King. Almost kena heatstroke. The dimunitive Emerald Buddha was the object of much prostration. The King even changes the Buddha's costume. He's got a summer, rainy, and winter frock.

Next stop, MBK (Mah Boon Krong) mall. Doesn't look like it from the outside, but dwarves all Singapore's malls in comparison inside. Both me and dad collapsed after walking a couple of levels, but mom as always had steel shopper legs. Food was extremely cheap and good, but shopping prices weren't too good.

Wanted to try taking the BTS (their version of the MRT, but more like LRT in capacity) around. But ended up cabbing around. And the frequency of the trains seems awfully low. Haven't tried the Tuk-tuks (open-air diesel trishaws) yet, but it could be dangerous breathing in all the exhaust. The city is pretty polluted. Can't see anything alive in the black canal water.

Lots of Chinese here. Especially teochews. Just outside the hotel, Dad ran into a teochew shopkeeper. His wife looked Thai though. And also teochew cabbies. Dad asked him 2 bring him to a drag/transsexual show tonight, and I'm being dragged along. Sigh.

There r too damn many 7-11s here. 4 within 3 blocks of the hotel. Concentration is even higher than in my neighbourhood in Jurong. Perhaps dat's y the director decided to feature a 7-11 in the movie Noi Na. During the temple tour I heard one of the guides telling the angmohs that long ago when they had visitors they would offer them tea. But now it's cookies and coffee or beer. Hah. I'm glad I never liked coffee or beer.