Friday, October 31, 2008

Comments on a blog

I just commented on one of the Dark Knight blogs I've seen in order to find my Knowledge based Problem for my paper. Here's the blog.

I disagree that the movie is liberal or conservative. Because you can find examples of both in the movie.
Ok so I'm using Joker as the one that people don't like and anyone, anything to defy/stop the actions of the Joker is considered what is desired for the audiance to follow or is the message.
So using Lakoff 1999's model of Liberal and Conservative, He said that Liberals put moral empahty above moral strength, and conservative vice versa, I'll explain that the Dark Knight incoperates both Liberals and conservative views in it.

First, the batman is to be followed for opposing the Joker. So his methods are fight the criminals, sent them to jail. Hard on moral strength, especially on having to stop himself from killing the bad guys. this requires a lot of moral self-discipline. He stop the bad guys, put them to jail and that's it, like moral boundary and moral health, criminals belong in jail Dent said, "think of what you can do with the streets clean." and criminals among us can corrupt us. All of them are included as moral strength according to Lakoff's model, so The Dark Knight contains conservative elements.

As for liberals, there are instances where Batman stop short of killing, moral emphaty perhaps? And protecting Coleman Reese, it's helping people who need help, one of the strong points of moral emphaty. The people on broad the ships, they showed moral emphaty by not beliving in pure good/evil. They are prepared to believe in good. Moral emphaty basicly says that everyone is good initially and education is posible. Sorry can't think of any good points now.

Oh ya and the batmobile exploding, Bats is not stunned or want to give up after that, he is prepared for the possibility and purposely sacrifice his batmobile to save Dent. So another instance of moral emphaty, helping Dent (who needs help at that time).

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Things I have done so far

I have so far been in NUS for 3 months. And at first I thought 1 sem is so short until a few weeks ago. So looking back at the things I've done, I am going to list them down so that I can appreciate just how busy I was back in this sem.

  • Register, done all the admin things in NUS, applied for financial aid, loans...etc.
  • Been with MSL friends. actually done a Sports Day Event althought it is hard for me, and although it didn't go as smoothly as it can be.
  • Been in Physics Society weekly meetings where we had organised a Mid-Autumn Celebration.
  • Been with the Buddhist Society where I've gone to Dharmma Circle for every Friday and been a Dharma friend.
  • Gone out a few times with MSL, Physoc, Friends, Personal, Relatives, NUSBS, USP, SPS.
  • Been to Changi Beach twice in 2 months.
  • Had a Camp. SPS Camp.
  • Done 8 Lab reports, 9 tutorials, lots of Mastering Physics.
  • Done 8 maths tutorials.
  • Presented papers 3 times in IS group.
  • Done 3 Experiments in 3 different fields of Science.
  • Learned MATLAB.
  • Skipped one Class Test, lost 25% out of one module.
  • Gone night cycling.
  • Constructing a Bridge.
  • Wrote 2 academic papers related to News and the Public.
  • Skipped almost all Physics Lectures
  • Stayed up all night lots more times than I had ever done before.
  • Doing one Project for researching How to cure Dizziness after Spinning.
  • Played and leveled up 4 levels in Adventure Quest.
  • Reached Highest level in Spore.
  • Watched lots of Batman/ Superhero cartoon, movies, series.
  • Read 9 books at least. Mostly fiction.
  • Attended lots of Welcome Teas.
Ok that's all I'll say but this list is not conclusive, there're lots of other things that I've done too. So see ya all.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

IPhO 2008 Vietnam

Finally the Video of my experience in IPhO 2008 is out!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Summary of The Dark Knight

The movie essentially focuses on the conflict between The Joker and the Batman. In the beginning of the movie, we see the Joker killing his own henchmen in his bank robbery. This is a radical departure of the common criminals who believe in honour, respect. The Joker believes in “whatever doesn’t kill you simply makes you stranger”.
Later on, the Joker offered his services to the mob bosses, saying that he wanted half of the total money they have in exchange for killing Batman. The mob bosses initially ridicule the Joker, then after combined efforts from the Batman, Lieutenant Jim Gordon, and Gotham’s D.A. Harvey Dent, the whole mob goes down. That’s when they let the clown loose.
The first threats came from the Joker in when he killed one of the batman copycats and swing his corpse just right outside the mayor’s window, when the mayor was looking outside the window. The copycat had his lower face painted white with a wide red smile, trademark of the Joker. On the joker card attached to the corpse, there are words printed “WILL THE REAL BATMAN PLEASE STAND UP?”
Then in the video named “Batman dead?” that was broadcasted immediately after the corpse is lowered down, the Gotham Cable News, GCN warned that the video is disturbing.
The video started with the copycat still alive but tied to a chair in a meat storage room. The Joker was holding the camera. And he said, “Tell them your name.” The beaten up copycat said, “Brian Douglas.” The Joker started to get excited and laughed a little, “Are you the real Batman?” “No.” The Joker while trying to sound surprised in spite of his soft, creepy, Joker laugh, “No?” Then came again, “No.” “Then why are you dressed up like him?” The Joker ended that with an angry tone and then pulled off Brian’s cape, playing with it and laughing. Brian, trying to defend the Batman against the mocking laughs of the Joker, said, “He’s a symbol. Um, (so that) we don’t have to afraid of scum like you.” The Joker with one of his gloved hands shook Brian’s head and said threateningly, “Ya, you do Brian, you really do.” Brian was then reduced to whimpering, which the Joker smoothed with a few strokes of his hand on Brain’s face and said, “Ah shush, shush, shush. So you think the Batman made Gotham a better place? Hmmm? Look at me. LOOK AT ME!” Pointing the camera to his face, “You see this is how crazy Batman’s made Gotham. You want order in Gotham; Batman must take off his mask, and turn himself in. Oh and um everyday that he doesn’t, people will die. Starting tonight. I’m a man of my word. Ha ha ha ha ha...” And then Brian screamed. The video ended there. Presumably the Joker proceeded to kill Brian then.
I shall attempt to show that the video footage above is a carefully planned propaganda by the Joker. Before I do that, I shall continue on the summary of the movie.
The Joker targeted the next 3 victims, The Police Commissioner Loeb, The Judge Surrillo, and the DA, Harvey Dent. This sets off a rat race between the Gotham City Police Department (GCPD) with the Batman and the Joker to prevent the killings. Out of the 3, only Harvey Dent survived, and that’s because Bruce Wayne/Batman is there. So the Joker came face to face with the Batman for the first time when the Joker personally came to kill Harvey Dent.
After a fist trade off, Batman realised that the Joker is not an ordinary criminal, as Alfred pointed out to him, “Some men aren’t looking for anything logical like money, they can’t be brought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with; Some men just want to watch the world burn.” That describes the Joker perfectly. As later on the Joker himself said in custody, “The only sensible way to live in this world is without rules.” And “I am an agent of chaos.” When talking to the newly scarred Harvey Dent.
The next two people were killed purposely to leave a clue to Batman. The next target was Mayor Garcia. With superb skill, the Joker planned the event during the public Obituary of Commissioner Loeb so that Bruce Wayne or Batman will just happen to look out at the window slit that opens up when all the police forces are on alert to protect the Mayor against any sharp shooter. In the ensuing chaos, Lieutenant Jim Gordon apparently got killed.
Batman, having 5 people’s blood on his hand and no way of tracking down the Joker, finally decided to turn himself in and leave the job of fighting for Gotham to Harvey Dent. At the press conference held by Harvey Dent, he defended Batman and got mostly negative responses from the crowd there. “You rather protect an outlaw vigilante than the lives of citizens?” “Things are worse than ever!” “No more dead cops!” “He should turn himself in.” From the reaction of the crowd, it is clear that the Jokers’ message had gone through to the hearts of Gotham. Harvey Dent then turns himself in as Batman. The plan: When the Joker comes after him, the Batman will take on the Joker and catch him.
And sure enough, the race was on in the roads with the Joker trying to kill the police truck containing Harvey Dent and the Batman in close pursuit to stop the Joker. Finally, the Joker was captured with the reappearance and help of Jim Gordon. Gordon was promoted to Commissioner only to find that Harvey Dent and Rachel Dawes have gone missing.
From this point on, the story changes as the deal to kill Batman is off, at the conversation between Joker and the Batman inside the police station, the Joker said that “I don’t want to kill you, what would I do without you? Go back to ripping off mob dealers? No, no, no. You, you complete me.” After a desperate attempt to force the locations of Harvey and Rachel out of the Joker, the Batman realised that he has no power, none at all against the Joker as he can’t break his one rule: No killing. The Joker then played a little game where Batman has to choose between saving Rachel or Harvey. Later it turns out that the Joker purposely reverses the location of Rachel and Harvey, resulting in Batman saving a Harvey that doesn’t want to be saved. In hindsight, this is also another elaborate master plan of the Joker as he knew Batman will try and save Rachel, but will ultimately save a broken hearted Harvey which the Joker later persuaded to turn to be the Two Face.
Meanwhile, the Joker escaped out of police custody with a pre-planned bomb. This also demonstrates that the Joker is a criminal mastermind. The Joker then meets with the mobs to get his half of the money to burn it. “This town deserves a better classic criminal.” “It’s not about money; it’s about sending a message. Everything burns.” The Joker then called a live television broadcast of the GCN with Coleman Reese about to expose the identity of Batman and changed the conditions of the game. “I have a vision of a world without Batman, the mob ground down a little profit and the police try to shut them down one block at a time. And it’s so..... boring. I have a change of heart, I don’t want Mr. Reese spoiling everything, but why should I have all the fun? Let’s give someone else a chance. If Coleman Reese isn’t dead in 60 minutes, then I’ll blow up a hospital.”
This time not ignoring the Joker threat, Bruce Wayne busies himself with saving Mr. Reese from the general public of Gotham. The Joker made use of the chaos of transporting the patients of the Gotham General Hospital to talk to a scarred Harvey Dent. “Do I really look like a man with a plan?” “I’m not a schemer; I try to show the schemers how pathetic their attempts to control things are.” “It’s the schemers that put you to where you are, you were a schemer, you had plans and err look where that got ya.” “Nobody panics when things go according to plan, even when the plan is horrifying.” “Introduce a little anarchy. Upset the established order and everything becomes chaos, I’m an agent of chaos. Oh and you know the thing about chaos, it’s bare.” Harvey Dent thus becomes the Two Face.
After abducting one of the buses that contain the people to evacuate the hospital, the Joker made them a hostage situation while giving another video for GCN broadcasting. GCN’s own Mike Engel read a script by the Joker:
Mike Engel: I'm Mike Engel for Gotham Tonight. What does it take to make you people join in? You failed to kill the lawyer. I've got to get you off the bench--
The Joker: Bench...
Mike Engel: And into the game.
The Joker:
Mike Engel: Come nightfall this city is mine...
The Joker: Mine...
Mike Engel: ...and anyone left here plays by my rules.
The Joker: ...rules.
Mike Engel: If you don't want to be in the game,
Mike Engel: get out now... But the bridge and tunnel crowd are sure in for a surprise. Ha ha ha ha ha.

Thus another Joker reversal, by stating the tunnels and bridges are dangerous, and making the people of Gotham to believe that their city is not save when nightfall, the Joker ensures a sufficiently big crowd of people on the ferries that are transporting out and also ensuring that commissioner Gordon will make sure the prisoners of Gotham will not stay in the city during the night, one ferry will be filled with the prisoners, another by the citizens of Gotham.
Then announcing on the ferry “a social experiment” the Joker continued, “each of you have a remote to blow out the other boat. At midnight I’ll blow you all up, if however one of you presses that button, I’ll let that boat live. So who’s it’s gonna be? Harvey Dent’s most wanted scum bag collection or the sweet innocent civilians? You choose. Oh and you might want to decide quickly cause the people on the other boat may not be quite so noble.” And various reactions of the crowds initially wanted to blow the other boat. But at the end, they didn’t choose to do it. As Batman said to the Joker, “What were you trying to prove, that deep down, everyone’s exactly as you? You’re alone.” “This city just showed you that it’s full of people ready to believe in good.”
Back to the hostage buses, the Joker put the hostages into clown masks, forcing Batman to save them from the SWAT team of the GCPD. As the Batman said, “It’s not that simple, with the Joker it never is.” After locating the Joker at last, Batman had a fist fight with the Joker and ended the victor. However the Joker still has an ace up his sleeves. “You didn’t think I’ll risk the battle for Gotham’s soul in a fist fight with you?” “I took Gotham's white knight, and brought him down to our level. It wasn't hard. You see, madness, as you know, is like gravity. All it takes is a little...push.”
After that, Batman confronts Two Face and then at the end, in a conversation with Commissioner Gordon, Gordon said, “The Joker won.” “The Joker took the best of us and torn him down, the people will lose hope.” “5 dead, 2 of the cops.” Batman replied, “They won’t, they must never know what he did.” “The Joker cannot win.” “You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain. I could do those things because I’m not a hero, not like Dent. I killed those people, that’s what I can be.” Thus saving the reputation of Harvey Dent, and the hope of the people of Gotham.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Reflections on Buddhism

I just read recently about emptiness. In Buddhism, it seems everything has the characteristic of being empty. Nothing exist independant of anything else. Therefore there's no real self. Disclaimer: I am writing this from memory, if you find that it is inaccurate in anyway please do tell me, and do not rely on what I said here, seek the originals from various Buddist website.

There is a story of a monk that ask a lay person what is this thing he is holding.
The lay person answered that it is a cracker (junk food).
Then the monk crushed the cracker and asked is this a cracker?
The lay person said it was crumbs.
Then where has the cracker gone to?
It was a cracker, it still is a cracker just in different form.
Yes, it is still of the same molecules, but where has the charcteristics of cracker gone to? It can't "crack" anymore.
So there's no cracker?
Yes, there was a cracker, but not a cracker that is independant, unchanging. It is dependant on the materials that made it, the flour, manpower, water, heat, and no one crushing it. Without those, the thing we observed and by social convention called cracker wouldn't exist.
So it does exist, but is dependant on other factors and conditions.

Then the conversation comes to emptiness, to make it clearer, since I don't understand it at all (I only have an intellectual understanding of the dependance origins above), I'll quote from a website.
(Warning long post, so if you're busy doing something else, finish them up before continuing here)

Emptiness is a key concept in Buddhist philosophy, or more precisely, in the ontology of Mahayana Buddhism. The phrase "form is emptiness; emptiness is form" is perhaps the most celebrated paradox associated with Buddhist philosophy. It is the supreme mantra. The expression originates from the Prajna Paramita Hridaya Sutra, commonly known as the Heart Sutra, which contains the philosophical essence of about six hundred scrolls making up the Maha Prajna Paramita. The Heart Sutra is the shortest text in this collection. It belongs to the oldest Mahayana texts and presumably originated in India around the time of Jesus Christ.

The Heart Sutra.
Translation by Edward Conze

Homage to the Perfection of Wisdom, the Lovely, the Holy!

Avalokita, The Holy Lord and Bodhisattva, was moving in the deep course of the Wisdom which has gone beyond. He looked down from on high, He beheld but five heaps, and he saw that in their own-being they were empty.

Here, Sariputra, form is emptiness and the very emptiness is form; emptiness does not differ from form, form does not differ from emptiness; whatever is form, that is emptiness, whatever is emptiness, that is form, the same is true of feelings, perceptions, impulses and consciousness.

Here, Sariputra, all dharmas are marked with emptiness; they are not produced or stopped, not defiled or immaculate, not deficient or complete.

Therefore, Sariputra, in emptiness there is no form, nor feeling, nor perception, nor impulse, nor consciousness; No eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind; No forms, sounds, smells, tastes, touchables or objects of mind; No sight-organ element, and so forth, until we come to: No mind-consciousness element; There is no ignorance, no extinction of ignorance, and so forth, until we come to: there is no decay and death, no extinction of decay and death. There is no suffering, no origination, no stopping, no path. There is no cognition, no attainment and non-attainment.

Therefore, Sariputra, it is because of his non-attainment that a Bodhisattva, through having relied on the Perfection of Wisdom, dwells without thought-coverings. In the absence of thought-coverings he has not been made to tremble, he has overcome what can upset, and in the end he attains to Nirvana.

All those who appear as Buddhas in the three periods of time fully awake to the utmost, right and perfect Enlightenment because they have relied on the Perfection of Wisdom.Therefore one should know the prajnaparamita as the great spell, the spell of great knowledge, the utmost spell, the unequalled spell, allayer of all suffering, in truth - for what could go wrong? By the prajnaparamita has this spell been delivered. It runs like this:

Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone altogether beyond, O what an awakening, all-hail!

Translations and commentary.

Avalokita = Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of compassion
Sariputra = disciple of the Buddha
sunyata = emptiness, void
prajna = wisdom
paramita = that which has reached the other shore
prajnaparamita = wisdom acquired experientially, by means of intuitive insight, and perfected through cultivation to the level of transcendental knowledge
hridaya = heart
nirvana = ultimate attainment
bodhi = awakened mind
sattva = being

According to Buddhist scholars, the dialogue between Avalokiteshvara and Sariputra is inspired by the Buddha. This is to say it occurs spontaneously without the speaker's intention. The content of the conversation is determined entirely by the power of the Buddha's concentration. The bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara represents the idea of perfect universal wisdom, while Sariputra is regarded as one of the Buddha's closest and brightest disciples. The dialogue takes place at the Vulture Peak near the ancient city of Rajgaya where the Buddha and his community of monks stayed. Sariputra requests Avalokiteshvara to instruct him on the practice of the perfection of wisdom, which means prajnaparamita in Sanskrit.

The perfection of wisdom refers to the wisdom that directly and intuitively understands the ultimate nature of phenomena. Sariputra answers with the profound words, "Emptiness is form; form is emptiness," and proceeds to state the emptiness of the five aggregates (skandhas), the emptiness of the teachings (dharmas), and the emptiness of all phenomena. The sutra ends with the celebrated mantra "gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha" which can be translated with "Homage to the awakened mind which has gone over to the other shore." The one who has gone over means: the enlightened one, who has done away with views, ideas, and perceptions and who looks upon reality without any obstructions of mind.

What is emptiness?

The Buddhist notion of emptiness is often misunderstood as nihilism. Unfortunately, 19th century Western philosophy has contributed much to this misconstruction. Meanwhile Western scholars have acquired enough knowledge about Buddhism to realise that this view is far from accurate. The only thing that nihilism and the teaching of emptiness can be said to have in common is a sceptical outset. While nihilism concludes that reality is unknowable, that nothing exists, that nothing meaningful can be communicated about the world, the Buddhist notion of emptiness arrives at just the opposite, namely that ultimate reality is knowable, that there is a clear-cut ontological basis for phenomena, and that we can communicate and derive useful knowledge from it about the world. Emptiness (sunyata) must not be confused with nothingness. Emptiness is not non-existence and it is not non-reality.

What is emptiness then? To understand the philosophical meaning of this term, let's look at a simple solid object, such as a cup. How is a cup empty? We usually say that a cup is empty if it does not contain any liquid or solid. This is the ordinary meaning of emptiness. But, is the cup really empty? A cup empty of liquids or solids is still full of air. To be precise, we must therefore state what the cup is empty of. Can a cup be empty of all substance? A cup in a vacuum does not contain any air, but it still contains space, light, radiation, as well as its own substance. Hence, from a physical point of view, the cup is always full of something. Yet, from the Buddhist point of view, the cup is always empty. The Buddhist understanding of emptiness is different from the physical meaning. The cup being empty means that it is devoid of inherent existence.

What is meant with non-inherent existence? Is this to say that the cup does not ultimately exist? - Not quite. - The cup exists, but like everything in this world, its existence depends on other phenomena. There is nothing in a cup that is inherent to that specific cup or to cups in general. Properties such as being hollow, spherical, cylindrical, or leak-proof are not intrinsic to cups. Other objects which are not cups have similar properties, as for example vases and glasses. The cup's properties and components are neither cups themselves nor do they imply cupness on their own. The material is not the cup. The shape is not the cup. The function is not the cup. Only all these aspects together make up the cup. Hence, we can say that for an object to be a cup we require a collection of specific conditions to exist. It depends on the combination of function, use, shape, base material, and the cup's other aspects. Only if all these conditions exist simultaneously does the mind impute cupness to the object. If one condition ceases to exist, for instance, if the cup's shape is altered by breaking it, the cup forfeits some or all of its cupness, because the object's function, its shape, as well as the imputation of cupness through perception is disrupted. The cup's existence thus depends on external circumstances. Its physical essence remains elusive.

Those readers who are familiar with the theory of ideas of the Greek philosopher Plato will notice that this is pretty much the antithesis to Plato's idealism. Plato holds that there is an ideal essence of everything, e.g. cups, tables, houses, humans, and so on. Perhaps we can give Plato some credit by assuming that the essence of cups ultimately exists in the realm of mind. After all, it is the mind that perceives properties of an object and imputes cupness onto one object and tableness onto another. It is the mind that thinks "cup" and "table". Does it follow that the mind is responsible for the existence of these objects? - Apparently, the mind does not perceive cups and tables if there is no visual and tactile sensation. And, there cannot be visual and tactile sensation if there is no physical object. The perception thus depends on the presence of sensations, which in turn relies on the presence of the physical object. This is to say that the cup's essence is not in the mind. It is neither to be found in the physical object. Obviously, its essence is neither physical nor mental. It cannot be found in the world, not in the mind, and certainly not in any heavenly realm, as Plato imagined. We must conclude that the objects of perception have therefore no inherent existence.

If this is the case for a simple object, such as a cup, then it must also apply to compound things, such as cars, houses, machines, etc. A car, for example, needs a motor, wheels, axles, gears, and many other things to work. Perhaps we should consider the difference between man-made objects, such as cups, and natural phenomena, such as earth, plants, animals, and human beings. One may argue that lack of inherent existence of objects does not imply the same for natural phenomena and beings. In case of a human being, there is a body, a mind, a character, a history of actions, habits, behaviour, and other things we can draw upon to describe a person. We can even divide these characteristics further into more fundamental properties. For example, we can analyse the mind and see that there are sensations, cognition, feelings, ideas. Or, we can analyse the brain and find that there are neurons, axons, synapses, and neurotransmitters. However, none of these constituents describe the essence of the person, the mind, or the brain. Again, the essence remains elusive.

Emptiness of the five skandhas.

The Heart Sutra expresses the same idea by stating the emptiness of the five skandhas, i.e. the emptiness of the body, sensations, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness. The five skandhas are commonly translated into English as the five aggregates. According to the Buddha, these aggregates are what constitutes a person. As adumbrated above, it is possible to deconstruct the five skandhas in the same manner as objects. However, this method of deconstruction assumes a third person perspective. It analyses phenomena perceived as external to the observer. When we talk about the essence of a person, the situation is slightly different, because we talk indirectly about ourselves. It may therefore be more intuitive to look at things from a first person perspective. The first person perspective allows us to make statements about the internal state of the observer thereby producing self-reference. What is observed is the observer. Perhaps this will lead to new insights into the essence of mind and body.

First, let's look at experience. What exactly is experience? - Obviously, we experience objects and phenomena through the senses. This is one form of experience. We also experience feelings, moods, thoughts, and emotions. The former can be called sensory experiences and the latter mental experiences. Upon contemplating the distinction we may find that there is no clear boundary between sensory and mental experience. As soon as we perceive a physical object, for example an apple, the corresponding mental experiences are immediately triggered. First, we think "apple". This is identification. Following this thought, a number of things we associate with apples may come to mind, for example "sweet, edible, green, red, healthy, delicious, juicy," and so on. These associations may be followed by the build-up of a desire to touch or to taste the apple. Once the desire is strong enough, our thoughts may be occupied with consuming the apple and we start weighing the merits and demerits of consuming the apple now or later. All these mental experiences are caused by, yet independent of the original object. If the apple is withdrawn, the memory of it may be able to sustain the chain of thoughts for a short time, yet it will eventually cease.

We can infer that mental experience requires sensory experience, or respectively memory of sensory experience. Sensory experience in turn requires the body. If we carried through a thought experiment and examined whether each of the skandhas is able to exist without the other four, we would find that this is not possible. The latter four aggregates all depend on the body. Without the brain and the nervous system there is no consciousness, no sensation, no perception, and no mental formations. On the other hand, we cannot imagine the body to function without the mind. The body and the mind depend on each other, the five skandhas depend on each other. We must conclude that none of the skandhas is fundamental. Body, sensations, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness are interrelated. Experiences emerge from the interaction of all five skandhas. Just as objects, experiences are conditioned by the interplay of multiple phenomena. Experience has no inherent existence either.

Our brain is advanced enough to reflect on its experiences. By means of self-reference we can direct mental activity onto itself. For example, we can think about thought. From this arises a division between subject, percept, and object. The percept is the mental impression, the subject is the owner of it, the thinker, and the object is that which causes the mental impression. This threefold division seems so natural to us that it is reflected in the grammar of most human languages. We perceive the separation of subject, percept, and object as real, because mind attributes an owner to experience and thought. This owner is the "self", the subject, the centre of consciousness, the supposed psychological entity. Surprisingly, this entity remains completely undetectable. Body, feeling, perception, and mental formations are not the self. Consciousness is not the self either, otherwise it would follow that the self temporarily ceases to exist during unconscious states, for example during deep sleep.

We might ask how "self" can be independent of a surrounding world. Is it possible for the self to exist in a mental vacuum, a world devoid of sense impressions, thought, and mental images? Would the self not literally run out of fuel if it lacked thoughts and contents to identify itself with or to set itself apart from? It seems there is no basis an independent entity. It seems more that the self is an emergent phenomenon arising from the application of complex interpretative schemes to perception. In particular, it arises from the conceptual division between subject, object, and percept. Through introspection it is possible to realise that the "self" is not fundamental. It is created by the mind through identification and discernment. The "self" is itself a mental formation - a product of mind. It is therefore empty of inherent existence.

(Emptiness is empty of inherent existence!!!!)

(Before continuing, I would like to inject some of my own thoughts into this, the term emergent phenomenon can be used to desribe things that arises because of the conditions and requirements for them is there.

So in computer programs, emergent phenomenon is the birds flying in V-shape when the programmer is putting in only simple instructions like keep close together, go where the other birds are going to each birds.

In mathematics, emergent phenomenon is that the concept of infinity arises from simple definitions of additions and intergers, all the more complex mathematical form emerge out of it too, like multipications, divisions, etc....

In physics, all physical matter arises out of the laws and standard model. Living beings are made out of cells with biological laws, cells and everything are made out of atoms and molecules with quantum electodynamics and chemical laws which are fundamentally quatum mechanics, atoms are made out of subatomic particles according to the strong and weak nuclear forces, together they are grouped under Gravity and the standard model, which describes electromagnetic, strong and weak nuclear forces and the raw materials are quarks, electrons, neutrinos. (Warning: speculation on the physics of the future) Even the existence of these will have more dependance on other conditions and most importantly, energy (which changes form according to various conditions too- in fact the whole standard model and Gravity can be considered different forms of energy.)

Therefore, all forms are empty, empty of inherent existence.)

Continuning with the website....

The emptiness of matter.

The ancient Greeks believed that matter is composed of indivisible small elements with certain characteristics, such as the characteristics of earth, water, air, and fire. They called these elements atoms and they held that atoms were solid and fundamental, like microscopic billiard balls. Ernest Rutherford invalidated the billiard ball theory by conducting an experiment, which suggested that atoms have an internal structure. He established that atoms have a nucleus containing most of its mass and that electrons orbit the nucleus. Moreover, he established that the nucleus of an atom is only about one ten-thousandth of the diameter of the atom itself, which means that 99.99% of the atom's volume consists of empty space. This is the first manifestation of emptiness at the subtle level of matter. Not long after Rutherford's discovery, physicists found out that the nucleus of an atom likewise has an internal structure and that the protons and neutrons making up the nucleus are composed of even smaller particles, which they named quarks after a poem of James Joyce. Interestingly, quarks are hypothesised as geometrical points in space, which implies that atoms are essentially empty. This is the second manifestation of emptiness at the subtle level of matter.

The terms "quarks" and "points in space" still suggest something solid, since they can be imagined as irreducible mass particles. Yet, quantum field theory does away even with this finer concept of solidity by explaining particles in the terms of field properties. Quantum electrodynamics (QED) has produced an amazingly successful theory of matter by combining quantum theory, classical field theory, and relativity. No discrepancies between the predictions of QED and experimental observation have ever been found. According to QED, subatomic particles are indistinguishable from fields, whereas fields are basically properties of space. In this view, a particle is a temporary local densification of a field, which is conditioned by the properties of the surrounding space. Ergo, matter is not different from space. This is the third manifestation of emptiness at the subtle level of matter.

An important class of phenomena in the subatomic world is defined by the various interactions between particles. In fact, there is no clear distinction between the notions of phenomena, particles, and interactions, although interactions can be described clearly in mathematical terms. For example, there are interactions between free electrons by means of photons that result in an observed repelling force. There are also interactions between the quarks of a nucleon by means of mesons, interactions between the neighbouring neutrons or protons, interactions between nucleus and electrons, and interactions between the atoms of molecules. The phenomena themselves -the nucleon, the nucleus, the atom, the molecule- are sufficiently described by these interactions, meaning by the respective equations, which implies that interactions and phenomena are interchangeable terms. Interestingly, the interrelations of quantum physics do not describe actual existence. Instead they predict the potential for existence. A manifest particle, such as an electron, cannot be described in terms of classical mechanics. It exists as a multitude of superposed "scenarios", of which one or another manifests only when it is observed, i.e. upon measurement. Therefore, matter does not inherently exist. It exists only as interrelations of "empty" phenomena whose properties are determined by observation. This is the fourth manifestation of emptiness at the subtle level of matter.

Emptiness in mathematics.

In mathematics the notion of emptiness finds expression in the number zero, as well as in contemporary set theory. The concept of zero was discovered in India prior to the sixth century A.D. The "Arabic" number system we use today is neither Arabic nor Greek in origin. In fact, the digits 0123456789 go back to India where they were first created. The ancient Indian number system distinguished itself from other positional systems by virtue of allowing the use of zero as a legitimate number. Interestingly, the number zero did not exist in Greek mathematics, because the Greeks were essentially geometricians and had no use for the mathematical concept of a non-entity, neither did it exist in Egyptian mathematics. The Arabs, who encountered the Indian number system during their early conquests in India, found it superior to their own traditional system which used letters, and thus adapted it to develop Islamic mathematics. The Arabic word for zero is "sifr", meaning "empty." In the 12th century, the Italian mathematician Leonardo Pisano Fibonacci studied Arabian algebra and introduced the Hindu-Arabic numerals to Europe. The word "sifr" thus became "zephirum" in Latin and "zero" in English.

In the ancient Indian context, the number zero did not originally refer to nothingness or nullity. The Sanskrit word for zero is shunya, which means "puffed up, hollow, empty." The zero stands for emptiness suggestive of potentiality. The discovery of the mathematical zero concurred with the emptiness of prajna-intuition in India around 200 BC. Both signify polar opposition between being and nonbeing. Zero is that which contains all possible polarised pairs such as (+1, -1), (+2, -2), etc. It is the collection of all mutually cancelling pairs of forward and backward movements. Put it another way, zero is fundamental to all existence. Because of it, everything is possible. Zero is the additive identity, the focal point of all numbers; without it, numbers cannot be created. India alone, among the great civilisations of antiquity, was able to fathom the depth of emptiness and willing to accept its consequences in mathematics.

Following the introduction of the Hindu-Arabic numerals into Western culture, zero became a number that was used in calculations like any other number. Consequently, it lost some part of its original meaning, namely the part that suggests potentiality. Today, most mathematicians do not associate the notion of emptiness with zero, but with the empty set, which is a construct of set theory. A set is a collection of objects or numbers. For example, the set { 1, 2, 3, 5, 8 } is a set of numbers containing five elements; it is therefore said to have the "cardinality" of 5. The empty set { } is a collection that contains nothing and has the cardinality 0. The mathematician John von Neumann (1923) invented a method, known as von Neumann hierarchy, which can be employed to generate the natural numbers from the empty set as follows:

Step 0: { } (empty set)
Step 1: { { } } (set containing the empty set)
Step 2: { { }, { { } } } (set containing previous two sets)
Step 3: { { }, { { } } , { { }, { { } } } } (set containing previous three sets)
Step 4: { { }, { { } } , { { }, { { } } }, { { }, { { } } , { { }, { { } } } } } (etc.)

This sequence is obtained by iterating a functor that creates a new set from the union of the preceding two sets, thus generating sets with the cardinalities 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, ad infinitum. In less mathematical terms, the principle can be described as follows: Beginning with emptiness (step 0), we observe emptiness. Through the act of observing we create an entity containing emptiness (step 1). Now we perceive emptiness, as well as an entity. From the combination of the former two we create another entity by observation, which is different from the first entity (step 2). This process is repeated again and again. Interestingly, if we define suitable operations on the obtained sets based on union and intersection, the cardinalities of the resulting sets behave just like natural numbers being added and subtracted. The sequence is therefore isomorphic to the natural numbers - a stunningly beautiful example of something from nothing.

(You see nothing, therefore there is something called nothing, therefore there is something that is called the something called nothing and nothing itself........)

Emptiness of emptiness.

In The Art of Living (2001) the 14th Dalai Lama says, "As your insight into the ultimate nature of reality is deepened and enhanced, you will develop a perception of reality from which you will perceive phenomena and events as sort of illusory, illusion-like, and this mode of perceiving reality will permeate all your interactions with reality. [...] Even emptiness itself, which is seen as the ultimate nature of reality, is not absolute, nor does it exist independently. We cannot conceive of emptiness as independent of a basis of phenomena, because when we examine the nature of reality, we find that it is empty of inherent existence. Then if we are to take that emptiness itself is an object and look for its essence, again we will find that it is empty of inherent existence. Therefore the Buddha taught the emptiness of emptiness."

So back to me, sorry for the long post, but I'm not qualified to summaries the website above. So I hoped you guys enjoyed this post cause I certainly gained more intellectual understanding of the meaning of emptiness now.

All I want to say about physics is that when the Ultimate Theory is found, it will also be empty. If it is not found, maybe it is because it is empty, it depends on other factors and more and more ad infinitum... or it can depend on factors that link back to what is exist, therefore it can be found. Whatever it is, people, or at least physicist, have been placing the hope of meaning (as in independant existence like soul) on the Ultimate Theory. But it seems to me that the pursue of this theory has long ago left the meaning of life behind, behind where things emerge. Hence the study of emergance theory, all in an attempt to find the inherent meaning of life, to place independant existance on the eternal laws, but the laws are themselves don't exist without us to observe it, without the physical things to play it out, without etc.... Therefore all things are empty.

But the meaning of life is not empty, seeing emptiness helps us to let go of attactments and cravings, the cause of suffering, which in turns helps us to be liberated from the world of suffering. See more Buddhist books/website for more info, I got to stop here now or else this can get reallllllyyy long.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Percentage of time spend in Uni

Yes, I got no life! So what?

Week after week. Day after day. I stayed in SPS room. Thurdays, morning 10 to 12 I went to Maths Lecture, then rush on to USP writing till 2, then USP Foundations in Engin till 4 which by the way I just missed its class test because of forgetting to set my alarm clock. Never mind the 25%, I'm sure I can still score high in it. Then at 5, I go to the Physics Society Meeting, till 7. Then I ussually go to SPS room and join in the Thursday IS group. If I feel like it, I gone back early. Then I will make it to the 8 a.m. class on Friday. If not, then I just stay on till 3 or 5 in the morning and skip the classes. It's Physis by the way, so no worries.

Then come Friday, from 8 till 12 I got the Physics classes. then continuing on to Maths tutorial which by the way I skipped twice in a row already since it doesn't carry any weightage in the CAP. After that, I'm free to do bridge (done it for 2 weeks) and at 5 gone to YIH and prepare for the Dharma Circle in which I am one of the Dharma Friends. Then till 9 something...... I've gone back to PGP or SPS, depending whether I got some clothes to wash or not, then lepak till Saturday.........

Come Saturday, it's different for every week. For normal weeks(just once or twice), I just join in the Physics Journal Presentation at 1. Then it's Lab report time or Writing Draft time, or whatever that deadline's going to be next week. ussually I just do Mastering Physics with Adventure quest together. Took me quite a while to do so. Sometimes one whole day. Continue this to Sunday....... Whole day in SPS room mind you............ going out only to eat....... going back to PGP only to bath and sleep..... and sometimes wash clothes also no time..........

Come Monday. Same deal as Thursday but at 7 to 9, it's SPS Seminar. Before that, I still stay at SPS room. After the seminar, see if I finshed my lab report or not first, if not, like today, then I sleep in SPS room to meet the Tuesday 8 a.m. class which I skip the most, along with the friday one.

Tuesday is the most busy day you can say.... 8 to 12 lecture, 1-2tutorial, 2-5 lab, 6:30 -8:30 IS group. So whole day physics, end up with SPS. Then I finally got to go back to deciding whether to go back to PGP and go lead a "normal" life or stay up whole night cause I got a free day of Wednesday.

You guessed it, same deal as Sunday, I stay here all day, doing whatever stuff that's not done. Watching Batman the animated series, the Birds of Prey, the Dark Knight, or Ruby Lin movies while I'm at it. So long time staying in SPS room, low productivity. Finally, I still got time to read. Sci-fi.

So yes, I got no life, I don't hang out with friends just for fun, I don't remember the days I eat alone, my co-curricular is minimum, my involvement in USP is more minimal, and I'm just a SPSian, even if it is just an S/U module I'm taking this sem. So what?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Suffering Writing Module

Taking the Writing and Critical Thinking Module got me working on the draft for paper 2 this whole day and yesterday too. It's for lensing of Primary Source Text by using Secondary Source Texts. Something about the News and the Public. Definately lots of ideas that are wayyyyyy out of Maths and Physics. But they are close to logic, common sense and philosophy. It's social sciences. And that's the only tread that keeps me from totally lost in words that are "non-sensical" to me.

I mean anyone with some time on their hands can tell you about theories concerning media bias. Just look at my dreams and philosophy. It's producable by anyone but not everyone agrees with it. They are not science where the "truth" is reproducable and the assumptions are axioms that are well defined and agreed upon. So maybe that's why we have lensing to see unspoken assumptions of these authors of our Primary source text. Political assumptions mind you! American Politics. Well at least I finally see what is liberal and what is conservative. No one bothered to mention it to the non-American world what those mean when they keep on using it in their "international" movies that based sooooo bias upon American culture which they have the guts to say they don't have any.

In the paper, we are supposed to have a motive, but it's so pointless that the only reason I'm writing the paper is that it's graded and it's in my module. I mean who cares if someone's theory is right or wrong, who cares about american politics? I want my sleep when everyone else are sleeping. I want more time to do my other works. I want more time to hang out with friends. I want more time to do co-curricular activities. Instead, I am burdened with this.

Yes, I've been warned. USP means lots of writing. Ya, no kidding.
No, I'm not quiting, I'm not regreting. I'm simply complaining in my blog. Cause that's one of the uses of blogs.

I've learned too. I learned to be more sensitive about the media. To be more aware of politics. To have more respect for social theories. To be able to think and write critically. A lot more than I would have had I not came to this class. I've learned more that I bargained for. I have just expected to learn how to write in a special way. But I'ven't learn as much as I could have. So now, I'm going to concentrate more on this module. I'm going to something interesting for paper 3. I'm going to use The Dark Knight.