Friday, December 11, 2009

Going for meditation retreat/short term mookhood

Hi all,

Since my last update, many things in my personal life have passed by. Mainly that we have finished SPS project, finished my 3rd sem in NUS, and I've gone to Malaysia to attend my cousin's wedding in Ipoh, and then came back to Singapore to join/organise (as MC) the Dharma Camp of NUSBS!

Now I'm going to go for a short term mookhood, meditation retreat in Mangala Vihara from 12-26th December 2009. So I won't be online for a while.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Quantum Nonlocality and Superluminal Communication

Superluminal (faster than light) travelling is important to the colonisation of space in the future. The theory of relativity seems to forbid that as it means travelling back in time too. However, quantum nonlocality of nature is experimentally demonstrated with the violation of Bell’s inequality, thus raising the question: Does quantum nonlocality allows superluminal communication ?

*Superluminal Travelling, Communication and Time Travel will be regarded as the same and of equal footing here as they can be made to be the same. Superluminal Communication=Backward Time Travel +Forward Time travel +Displacement.*

Before going further, here’s a brief background in the world of physics. The field of theoretical physics is regarded highly as it is the foundation of all electrical, nuclear and nano technology. Most of these technologies highly make use of just one theory: quantum physics.

Ironically, the famous Albert Einstein who provided the first physical insight into quantum physics also highly dislikes the theory. He tried to show that quantum physics, with its inherent stochastic (probabilistic) mechanism, is not the most fundamental theory of the Universe. His final attack against quantum physics is known as the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen (EPR) paradox. It shows that either quantum physics is incomplete or there has to be superluminal information transfer , which seems to be against the theory of relativity (A. Einstein May 15 1935). There has to be a local hidden variable theory then to replace quantum physics that requires this superluminal information transfer. The question of what is the true underlying mechanism of nature remained unsolved for almost 30 years, until Bell’s inequality came into the picture in 1964. Bell’s inequality enables physicists to verify, through experiment, how nature works in the fundamental level.

*In the context of this text, information transfer is not the same as communication. Information transfer is just the correlation between entangled pairs, and it does not necessary allows communication through them as will be seen. Instantaneous information transfer between the two entangled pairs is the nonlocality in quantum physics.*

Bell’s inequality is based on quantum entanglement which is explained below. In quantum theory, when two (or more) quantum objects interact with each other, they are in an entangled state. This means that the two objects lose their individual states and only the pair, considered together can have well defined states. Quantum physics is a stochastic theory because it does not give a well defined property of an object. Only when a measurement is made, will the property be fixed, based on a certain probability determined by its state. If a measurement of say, momentum is done on one particle, it will randomly choose a value of momentum, and the other entangled particle will have a well defined momentum (because of momentum conservation) instantaneously. If the pair does not interact with external objects, thus still remains entangled, no matter how far they are in space, once a measurement of a property is done on one particle, the other particle will instantaneously gain the information of what has been done on the first particle to fix its property!

Bell’s inequality is formulated in such a way that if the particle pair transmitted information faster than the speed of light as required by quantum entanglement, then the equality is violated. And current experiments verified that the inequality is violated, nature is nonlocal (instantaneous information transfer).
Thus it becomes interesting to know does quantum nonlocality allows superluminal communication?

The question is important as superluminal travelling and communication is essential for the colonisation space in a short time. Currently the Earth is undertaking a large toll of greenhouse gases and global warming is slowly but surely spelling massive damage to human civilisation in this century and the next. Environmental efforts maybe one of the solution to this problem but it is a dim hope as the call for it has been around for decades and comparatively little effort has been done in that direction. Moving to a new planet on the other hand, is an attractive alternative. However with the current state of space travel technology, it will be generations before any humans can make it safely to even the nearest star.

If we are able to master the technology of superluminal travelling, the whole galaxy, the whole universe is opened up to us. Space colonisation will be as easy as building a new city on Earth. Looking at the limited amount of time left before global warming takes its toll on research grants, it is imperative that the technology of superluminal travelling be developed as soon as possible. However, before going into the technology, it must be known whether superluminal travelling is theoretically allowed or not. Hence the question of interest.

Returning to physics, quantum entanglement seems to be superluminal communication itself. Many experiments (including Delayed “Choice” Quantum Eraser (Yoon-Ho Kim 3 January 2000), Bell’s inequality and even Quantum Teleportation (Zeilinger 1999)) have been designed to make use of entanglement and all of them failed to enable superluminal communication (to be fair, almost none of them were designed in mind to enable superluminal communication). These lead to a theorem called the no communication theorem.

To illustrate this further, some definitions are long overdue. Let’s call the two observers at two sides of a quantum entangled pair Alice and Bob respectively. Alice and Bob are also sharing a continuous beam of entangled pairs from a source. The only input is from the choice of which property of the quantum object to measure. The only output is from the values of the measured property. For Bob to communicate with Alice using the quantum entangled pair, Alice must be able to differentiate from her output (for some input she put in) what input Bob put into his entangled pair and vice-versa.

Even through Bob is free to choose his input; his output is governed by probability and beyond the control of anyone. The output of Alice is coupled to Bob’s output by quantum entanglement, thus it reflects the probability of Bob’s output. Since the output of Alice is random and beyond Bob’s control whatever his input is, Alice can never gain any useful information about Bob by just looking at her output. Hence the no communication theorem holds.

The technical details are more subtle than the argument above; however, the general idea remains the same: Nature seems to conspire to cover up any possibility of superluminal communication. Below shows a preview of some technical details of quantum eraser that will automatically “cover up” its trail so that superluminal communication or information travelling back in time is prevented.

“That tricky detail that we omitted earlier is what saves the day: to see the interference of the particles after applying the quantum eraser, we first have to divide them into two groups and observe the groups separately. One group will display the original pattern of fringes; the other will display the inverse of that pattern, with particles landing on what were originally the dark bands and avoiding the places where the bright fringes were. The two groups combined fill in all the gaps, hiding the interference.

The paradox is avoided because we need data from the photon measurement to know which group each particle belongs to. Thus, we cannot observe the fringes until after we have done the photon measurements (thus requiring results from both detectors), because only then do we know how to split the particles into groups.” (Kwiat 2007)

In other words, the stochastic nature of quantum physics prevents superluminal communication. Or it seems to as John Cramer sees it.

In his passion for daring research into this field, he and his team worked on the problem of setting up an experiment to show that superluminal communication is possible with quantum entanglement. This is done in the climate of most other physicist taking for granted that the no communication theorem will rule out any superluminal communication and save relativity and causality from facing the effects of time travel. According to Cramer:

“Recently it has been pointed out, however, that at least some of these proofs (of no communication theorem) are tautological, with their seemingly reasonable assumptions subtly building in the conclusion, and that key assumptions are inconsistent with some aspects of standard quantum mechanics.” (J. G. Cramer n.d.)

Thus he said that there is still a glimmer of hope for superluminal communication. Inspired by the PhD thesis of Birgit Dopfer in 1998, Cramer modified her EPR experiment to create a final experimental setup as shown.

The basic idea of the experimental setup is based on the splitting of a single photon (laser light) into two entangled beams which enters two similar detectors that are capable of distinguishing whether the photon acts like a wave or a particle. On the sending end of the detector, a controllable variable will decide to measure the photon as a wave or as a particle. Then the corresponding entangled photon pair at the receiving end will automatically correlate with the sending end, thus enabling the receiver to see what was varied in the sending end of the arm.

Note that the special feature in the experiment is that the sending arm lags the receiving arm by 50 microseconds. That is the message is received 50 microseconds before it is sent!
(Cramer 2009)

After years of research on this topic, he recently announced his positive results during the John Cramer Symposium on the occasion of his 75th birthday. However, there’s a noticeable lack of paper on this discovery in the physics journals and the electronic preprint website, ArXiv. Therefore one possible way to conduct a research is to recreate Cramer’s experimental setup and see if his results can be independently verified.

Most of the apparatus used is able to be found in a quantum optics laboratory and National University of Singapore have the very facility in Center for Quantum Technology. The main research cost should be the cost of the long optical fibre. The experimental skills are easily available and the learning opportunities from the existing researchers are immense. The procedure of the research is then to setup the experiment as shown above, then to modify the measurements in the sender leg and observe if there is any corresponding signal in the receiver’s leg. The time difference can also be carried out using an atomic clock and thus demonstrating the weird effects from quantum entanglement.

If Cramer’s experiment can be verified, information at least can travel back in time and this opens up many new applications. Solutions from the future can be downloaded into the present thus solving most of the problem faced by society today. The laws of time travel can be brought into experiment instead of remaining in theoretical/philosophical grounds. The world will never be the same again.

However, if there is any loophole or error in Cramer’s theory of backward time travel, and the no communication theorem still holds, then it will be a sober wake up call to humanity as the only way to survive is to care about the Earth.

In conclusion, the question: “Does quantum nonlocality allows superluminal communication?” is one of the most important and urgent question to be answered as it plays a great role in determining the fate of humanity.

Works Cited
A. Einstein, B. Podolsky, N. Rosen. "Can Quantum Mechanical Description of Reality Be Considered Complete?" Physical Review vol. 47, May 15 1935: 777.

Cramer, John G. The Alternate View. (accessed November 20, 2009).

Cramer, John. The John Cramer Symposium. September 10-11, 2009. (accessed November 20, 2009).

Kwiat, Rachel Hillmer and Paul. "A Do-It-Yourself Quantum Eraser." Scientific American. May 2007. (accessed November 20, 2009).

Yoon-Ho Kim, Rong Yu, Sergei P. Kulik, Yanhua Shih, Marlan O. Scully. "Delayed "Choice" Quantum Eraser." Physical Review Letters Vol. 84 No. 1, 3 January 2000: 1-5.

Zeilinger, Anton. "Experiments and Foundations of Quantum Physics." Reviews of Modern Physics Vol 71 No. 2 Centenary , 1999: S288-S297.

P.S. My quantum physics prof had told me straight that quantum physics maybe non-local but it never allows superluminal signalling. That fact is known. So you can regard this post as a pretty fantasy.

P.S.S. This is a nice ending to the post: in 2014, John Cramer finally finished his experiments and published: They found: In the context of the standard quantum formalism, Nature appears to be well protected from the possibility of nonlocal signaling.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Technology is not neutral but is it our saviour?

According to Prof Gordon’s idea, society is always influenced by technological change. From fire, writing, printing to hand phones, each change greatly changes the way we live. They integrate themselves into our lives, gradually making us dependant on them and incapable of surviving without them. Technologies are not neutral, they are agents of change.

In view of this, no one can adopt the attitude of “I’m just an engineer designing weapons. If the weapons cause many deaths, this is not my problem. It’s the fault of those who uses it.” Scientist working in the field of robotics and aerospace are also indirectly responsible for the potential billions of deaths in the future should their research falls in the wrong hands.

So does that means all research should be halted? All technologies should be thrown away? Should everyone go back to the olden days of Stone Age? Obviously we cannot do that. Without the aid of technology, food cannot be produced in enough quantity to support the whole population, not to mention transportation problems without cars and airplanes.

How about having a status quo? Stop all research; but keep on using what we are using now. However, the main problem with that is that the current rate of polluting the earth and air will contribute to an early end to humanity via global warming. This is one of the main reasons that scientist and engineers do what they do. Progress must go on.

Each scientist may not know the full extent of their research impact; however each person does know that every ounce of their work contributes to help solve the world’s problem. Solar cell research, nuclear fusion, nuclear fission, hydrodynamics, all these help solve the energy crisis. Robotics research, cellular regeneration, genetic engineering, all these help develop better humans, efficient working abilities. Biotechnology can help increase the food supply, nanotechnology help cure cancer; Quantum computers can solve the world’s hardest questions like weather prediction. Even study into the deepest questions of the Universe like time travel or can we travel faster than light is important to access the possibility of colonising other planets and galaxies in a reasonably short time.

All these helps in determining the fate of the world, technologies may not be neutral, but they are the agents of change in this age. And the only way for humans to survive is to rely on skilful means of using the available technologies to solve energy crisis, global warming, hunger, and any other problems that may arise.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Parallels between Buddhism and Physics: Learning

I've been reading The Road to Reality by Roger Penrose. It's an extremely good book, suitable for the undergraduates to study and know, lighter(more readable) than a textbook, over 1000 pages long (currently at page 280+ after 1 month of reading it), contains lots of good equations.

The thing that made me borrow it in the first place is that it devotes the first 16 (out of 34) chapters to mathematics, and the later chapters contains Superstring, twistor, loop, and lots of the most fundalmental laws of physics that will get a theorectical Physicist excited and happy. Oh and it contains equations, hard-looking equations that explains all these things. It's one of the best book that one can structure one's university Physics education upon, not just for undergrad, but for grad, and postgrad students too!

So I've showed it to some people, it's hard for everybody to appreciate this book. (I think) Some had so many books to read, and is not ready for another book in Physics. Some got turned off by the mention of popular science book, or books that a lay public can take up and read and possibly understand some of the things inside it(by ignoring the equations, it's hard to appreciate the physics that way) . But gradually some had look at it can seen the beauty and coolness of the book too. Now I've gotten the ebook too! (email me to get it, or better than that, google it) Minimal requirement to read the book with the equations is finished pre-U or first year physics, or just willingness to work hard to understand the equations.

Now I see a parallel in Buddhism, as I often do between Physics and Buddhism. Buddhist books are not appealing to everyone. But inside everyone of those books are treasures, gems that far supass the contents in any physics books. They are so becuse they lead to a happier mind, a state of no more suffering and eternal happiness and peace. No amount of temporary joy from any other books can match that. However, not everyone can appreciate it.

Not even the ones who theorectically know it (like me for keeping on reading physics instead of Buddhist books) .

This might be because of the various reasons that I've pointed out above. It's sometimes frustrating that people don't appreciate or know the treasures that lay in their reach, i.e. Buddhism stuffs on the internet. As the Buddha said, it's rare to be born a human, rare to born in the realm of a Buddha, rare to hear of the Dharma, rare to see those who practise the Dharma and realise the truth.

The situation in Physics has shown me one way to deal with this frustration. Be patient, always bring along the book, and keep on reading it myself. Bring up praises of the book whenever suitable, and keep on encouraging people who are interested in the book to read it. But not shoving it in their faces. Gradually, one by one those who are ready will get in touch. I guess as a layperson, the most we can do to spread and show the beauty of Buddhism is to practise moral uprighteousness. Keep on offering timely and good praises to the Dharma, and apply it. Keep on providing oppotunities for people to get in touch with the Dharma. And teach those who are ready, one by one.

This also provides a good reason to aspire to become a Buddha. So that countless beings can benifit from the teachings. The long lifetimes of trainings, then is to cultivate this kind of good affinity so that one can save the countless beings.

Oh and other than moral uprighteousness, one who holds Buddhist principles should be as sucessful in life as possible too. That means studying, sleeping on time, good relationships! But this is secondary, primary is still mind training.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Time management 2

And here's a tip on how I do my flexible time table to help me cut down on the time spend slacking. Since I hear you guys keep on asking how do I do 7 and a half modules and be active in CCA? I take a diary (NUS diary works just fine) with the dates and divide them up into 4 sections, (you can vary if you want to) the 4 sessions in my current version are: CCAs or Spirituality(like writing this email), Relationship or talking to people non-CCA related, Things to do to survive (Sleeping, eating, bathing,travelling, going to the toilet), and working (studying!, lecture, lab, tutorials, projects, programming, report rushing, etc...). You can put in a special session on the activity that you find is most time consuming and you want to consciously reduce. (I used to divide up the Things to do to survive into sleeping, travelling, and the eating, toilet part). I put a stroke of 15 minutes into one of the things that I've done every few hours. So if I studied for 2 hours, it's 5+3 strokes. And to time yourself, you can set a maximum strokes in one of the sessions there. Say you sleep for too long (10 hours) and you then aim to put in only 8 hours of sleep, so you plan everything in a day carefully and see to it that you sleep less than 8 hours to ensure that study time is not reduced. Or you keep on talking to friends after lunch, so that a 15 minute lunch becomes 1 hour. Or that you keep on looking in the mirror, and a 15 minute bathing becomes 1 hour...... Save all this time to aim for at least 8-9 hours of studying per day, (56-63 hours per week, just nice) and reward yourself everytime you finished a 2 hour lecture by putting in the 8 strokes. Motivate yourself to do better today than yesterday, root out anytime you find you want to slack by saying to yourself that can fill in today's quota and then at night I can go for CCA activities! Anyway, whether your quota is filled or not come to CCA activities, then mug after the activity with a refreshed mind. And if you plan on going out in the weekends, make sure that you shift the jobs to more study per weekday. At the end of one week , you can proudly show your friends that you've studyied for 50-70 hours per week, and still have time for CCA activities! (One week is 168 hours.)

Monday, October 12, 2009

Knowledge and the problem of different opinions.

The Speaker has talked about C.P. Snow and Mills. He then deals with the different responses people have towards problems using the averaging or political attitude of Mills. Chocolate or vanilla, which of them is the best? Should Utopia be reached? What form will Utopia take? The results seem to come to an absurdity when applied to things like mathematics, mutually exclusive conclusions. Then the speaker proposed the Theory of Second Best to resolve this dilemma.

What I think is missing is the consideration of knowledge of a person or a group of people when they form an opinion about a subject. To take the case to home, I’ll discuss about physics examples. 2000 years ago, people generally think that the sun rotates about the Earth. Nowadays, it is more accurate to say that the Earth rotates around the sun, along with 7 other planets. The physical truth did not change; it was the knowledge level of the people formulating the opinions that changed.

However, the knowledge of one person or a group of people or even the whole world including the internet is necessary always finite and incomplete. Therefore any statement about anything that requires knowledge that is not known is necessary incomplete and subject to change.

So, the full theory of utopia which requires full knowledge of psychology, sociology, economics, engineering, and so on is always out of reach of mankind, and one can only form partial theories about utopia that will change with time as the level of knowledge changes.

This brings us back to the Theory of Second Best, which is the alternative to the Best Theory or the optimum theory. The Best Theory does not work in general because it uses selective knowledge that does not acknowledge the current state of the world. The Second Best theory takes into account the state of the world and therefore is more applicable and plausible. More and more modifications can be made by taking into account more and more knowledge of the world, thus making the theory more and more accurate. This is called perturbative method in physics where the most important effect is taken into account first then the rest are added on one by one.

Sometimes however, it is possible for 2 different groups to have opposite but complimentary knowledge of a problem, resulting in two seemingly mutually exclusive theories. That is the problem of different opinions by different people; it’s nothing more than a difference in knowledge. Sometimes, they can both be right without a need of a middle ground. This is because different theories are right in different conditions, thus the dependence of theories on knowledge is very logical and both theories can coexist without contradiction. This is called the complementary principle in physics.

It can be seen that physics has something to contribute over to the philosophical nature of the problem of different opinions by means of complimentary principle and that the problem of different opinion is not complete without considering knowledge.

Mass of a Photon

Elvis: hey
does photon has mass?
Sent at 10:38 PM on Monday

me: no rest mass, but they got energy, and they are affected by gravity, so their gravitational mass can be said as E=mc^2

Elvis: why e=mc^2??
u mean the m in this equation
hence, what is the momentum for photon then?

me: p=E/c
ya, the m is the effective mass for a photon
Sent at 10:44 PM on Monday

Elvis: so if a qn asks abt does photos have a mass?
what will be ur answer?

me: is that the full question?
it depends on the context
if it is just year one physics, or GEm module, then no
if it ask in terms of General relativity and light bending then perhaps

Elvis: why is that a diff?
Sent at 10:48 PM on Monday

me: normal people don't need to know too much that will confuse them
Sent at 10:51 PM on Monday

Elvis: but what theory that makes it diff?

me: it has no rest mass
but since it has energy, it has mass, since energy= mass
nothing much about theory
ya just the last answer, it's the most accurate one

Elvis: but what is rest mass?

me: mass that you can measure when you're in the rest frame of that particle
Sent at 10:55 PM on Monday

me: you can argue that since photon is always travelling at speed of light with respect to you, you can never measure the rest mass of a photon, but that's not the reason that it doesn't have a rest mass
Sent at 10:56 PM on Monday

me: basically it's the mass that we are familiar with in everyday life
and in everyday life, as far as we are concerned, light has no mass
bring in relativity, and it becomes confusing to non-physicist

Elvis: but i guess we see it that it might have mass because it always travel at the speed of light and hence because of the formula and the energy it has, it will have mass?

me: you're not making any sense in that sentence,
what module is this for?

Elvis: nature's thread

me: ok

Elvis: coz i dun understand abt speed of light

me: it is invariant under any transformation of frame
anything with rest mass cannot travel to that speed
anything massless must travel at that speed
so I think a suitable answer for your module is that light has no rest mass.

Elvis: oh
make sense

me: thanks
Elvis: thanks alot!


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Holidays, Over! Student Leaders Induction Camp Mid-term Exam Now!

The Recess week passes by faster than usual weeks, as anticipated. After the 2 days MC retreat, I played for one day, and then comes my parents on Monday! I had to do homework then, but I still managed to meet them in uncle's home.

The next day we went to my room and then they went back to Malaysia. My homework sadly, didn't finish that day too. So Come Wednesday and I had signed up for a camp called Student Leaders Induction Camp, the first of its kind, bring together the student leaders of many different societies, clubs and interest groups together to learn about leadership, network with each other and have fun!

In the 2 days 1 night camp, I had lots of fun, most notable is that I get to climb up a small hill on Pulau Ubin and see a beautiful sight of Malaysia and Singapore. There also the president of the Varsity Christian Fellowship who said hi to NUSBS in the camp too.

After Thursday coming back, it's mugging time. From then to Sunday I've been doing homework, studying, and watching Wizards of Waverly Place. Monday morning comes again and EM test was bad, I didn't managed to do 2 out of 5 questions. Coming up are 3 more exams, from Thursday to Saturday! So I've got to study now!

Monday, September 21, 2009

MC retreat

MC retreat is more fun than I thought, I really like the atmosphere where 15 people care for each other, do their job in harmony, peace, and loving-kindness. Through not all are present at all times, we support each other and gradually, the seed of friendship and bonding are sowed and nurtured. It's the relaxing camp.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A levels Student to get to represent Malaysia







chat here la


i not sure whther to do engineering or physics

take form six or go private college


you going to take SPM?



i wonder how only can represent malaysia

need take form 6 a?

private college can?


I don't think they will source for private ones, btw, one of the conditions to join International Olympiad is that you're not a college student



means let say workshop for physics is on april

jan i start college

then cannot represent malaysia?



I think they mean college in the sense of University

but it's safer to go to form 6

If you want to represent Malaysia


and you'll have to bug your physics teacher/ principle/ state ministry of education officer to see if the "Malaysian Physics Society?" will want to source for any outstanding physics student to select for training

in short, it's hard to get in there.


but have no fear, I believe you've read my blog, just try out some form 6 physics now and test yourself, see if you will like it



i not even finish spm


or are you interested in bio olympiad, or math, or chem



only physics


if you want to be regarded as extraordinary, be extraordinart



no la, if have to do form 6 to represent malaysia then i may give up on it

to me get into a good university in US more important



if you're extraordinary it doesn't matter where you go



i like us system


if you want to be good, you'll have to take extra initiative

I'm not saying that A levels student can't represent Malaysia

take initiative to ask the people who are responsible to sent the teams

and argue with them etc....

I mean reason with them

Anyway you'll only have to take the National Physics competition to know your standard

if you're the first in the nation, then you're qualified enough to go to an Ivy League Uni, but it is not a sufficient condition.

Hey do you mind if I put this in my blog? I never talked about a levels student getting to IPhO before.


i sure wont mind




then how only sufficient to get into ivy league


i may need some funds

jpa got for cornell harvard and princeton

those tghat aregood for engineering la

but mitt is best

so i dunno which to go


CCA good, good english, and good essay


all i average lor, depends on how they look at it


optional but good are job experiences, research, inventing, etc...

be a president for one club is better than a member for 10


i got vice president only


you don't pretend to be humble with me lah


you must show all your stuffs in the applications

well, good luck in applying to US anyway, it's the toughest application ever!



i got one fren in cornell

do physics

he got gold medal two years ago

ok thank you


ok welceome


can i ask you bout physics question lol


don't expect a good answer

but ok


1st is why use plastic container then the food keep warm longer than metal

how has this got to do with specific heat capacity


Plastic compared with?




it's conductivity

metal conducts heat faster than plastic, so food get cooler faster

for equations you better add me in msn


added u d

has conductivity have antything to do with specific heat capacity


You cqan find in thermodynamics in gooodle


it's all in the structure of the material

what type is it?


a lot of solid state physics, thermodynamics, and material science


so nth to do with specific heat capacity


that's one of my exam questions

ask us explain why curry in clay pot better than metal

supose to talk bout keep warm longer lol


cause metal conducts heat faster than clay pots.


and clay pots have high heat capacity, meaning that if the temperature outside is very cold, it takes a longer time for the average temperature of the clay to drop since the amount of heat required to dissipitate for temperature drop is very high





you should just ask the question straight, so that I know what the situation is all about. Instead of turning one full round


that wan maybe the question


no what?


but i wan compare if both the clay pot and metal pot at room temprature

if u cook with it then ok i accept clay pot keep warm longer

but if u put it in clay pot after u cook it

will it still longer?


it takes lots of heat to heat up the clay and a longer time. But I'm not sure about the heat capacity of the metal

the immediate effect i think is more on the conductivity rather than heat capacity



Thursday, September 17, 2009

1 Mahakappa

I just went to the Mangala Vihara temple in Singapore and got a poster of the 31 planes of existance, and I'm quite statisfied with the explainations of the Deva realms and their lifespans, the highest being about 9 billion years, just below the age of the Universe.

Then came Mahakappas, the unit of time to measure the lifespan of Bharma realms. The estimate of the Length of a Mahakappa is not given. As a physicist, it is natural to want to at least get a back letter estimation of anything, so I google it and found this website.

Accordingly there are 3 ways of setting a lower boundary to the lenght of a Mahakappa(Ya, I know them already a few years ago, just didn't bothered to estimate it with the help of the internet, until now), so let's go one by one.

"Suppose there was a solid mass, of rock or hill, one yojana (eight miles) wide, one yojana across and one yojana high and every hundred years, a man was to stroke it once with a piece of silk. That mass of rock would be worn away and ended sooner than would an aeon."

"Here, I take 1 yojana,
y=15 km(the largest estimate),
then the density of solid rock,
and the rocks are made of Silicates,
s around 100g/mol.
Therefore, before combining them together,
I need only to estimate the number of molecules carried away by a stroke of silk, taking that to be 1,

1Mahakappa=100*(y^3)*d/(0.001s*N_A)= 6.5*10^42 years.
Where N_A= avogrado's number.

It seems an overly high estimate, so I reduce the magnitude by 10^17, so I assume that around 10^17 molecules of silicates are brushed off by the silk, only 1.66*10^-8kg, and it seems reasonable.


"Suppose there was a city of iron walls, one yojana in length, one yojana in width, one yojana high and filled with mustard-seeds to the brim. There-from a man was to take out every hundred years a mustard-seed. That great pile of mustard-seed would be emptied and ended sooner than would an aeon."

Now this is easier, I take
1 yojana, y=15 km(the largest estimate),
the size of a mustard-seed,
m=0.15875cm in diameter,
1Mahakappa=100*(y^3)/(4*pi*(0.01m/2)^3)=5.37*10^22 years.

Assuming that the seed is spherical and fills the whole city without air. So the lower boundary statisfy and agree with the previous one, at least within 5 orders of magnitude.


In the Manual of Cosmic Order, the Venerable Ledi Sayadaw used the sands of the Ganges for comparison: “If a man were to count the number of years by the grains of sand, picked up one by one from one league of the Ganges, the sands would be exhausted sooner than the years of one included era were all counted.”

From wiki,the area of Ganges is,

A 105000km^2,

I estimate the average depth,

d of the sand is 1 m,

and the volume of the sand is around,

s= 116 mm in diameter.


1 included era,ie=(1000)^2*A*d/(4*pi*(0.001s/2)^3)=2.7*10^23 years.

1 Mahakappa=4*64*1 ie=7*10^25years.

Looking at the almost agreement of those numbers, I tend to estimate 1 Mahakappa is around 10^26 years.

However there are some doubts about this estimates too, like

According to Anguttara ii, 142, there are four periods called incalculable epochs (asankheyya-kappa) within a great aeon or world cycle (maha-kappa). The duration of each of these epochs cannot be enumerated even by taking hundreds of thousands (lakhs) of years as a unit, hence the name “incalculable aeon”. These four incalculable epochs are:

So if I take enumerated to mean to be jolted down by an existing name created to support the number. Like billion=10^9, trillion=10^12, but 10^39 for example has no name, so it can be considered cannot be enumerated. But the ancient India system includes terms for 10^53!

The Yajur Veda Samhitaa, one of the Vedic texts written at least 1,000 years before Euclid lists names for each of the units of ten upto the twelfth power [See 1]. Later other Indian texts (from Buddhist and Jaina authors) extended this list as high as the 53rd power, far exceeding their Greek contmporaries, mainly because of the latter's handicap of not being able to accept the fundamental Mathematical notion of abstract numerals. The place value system is built into the Sanskrit language and so whereas in English we only use thousand, million, billion etc, in Sanskrit there are specific nomenclature for the powers of 10, most used in modern times are dasa (10), sata (100), sahasra (1,000=1K), ayuta (10K), laksha (100K), niyuta (106=1M), koti (10M), vyarbuda (100M), paraardha (1012) etc. Results of such a practice were two-folds. Firstly, the removal of special imporatance of numbers. Instead of naming numbers in grops of three, four or eight orders of units one could use the necessary name for the power of 10. Secondly, the notion of the term "of the order of". To express the order of a particular number, one simply needs to use the nearest two powers of 10 to express its enormity.

and also the saying that every 100 years the lifespan of humans decrease by 1, so according to

During the developed epoch, human lifespan can increase or decrease depending on their morality. When morality is on the rise, human lifespan increases till it reaches an exceedingly great age of 80,000 years at the peak of human morality. When immorality prevails, human lifespan decreases till it reaches a minimum of 10 years at the base of human bestiality. Details of these two periods of increase and decrease in the human lifespan are found in the Cakkavati-Sihananda Sutta of the Digha Nikaya.

So it would means 1 ie= (80000-10)*100*2=around 16 million years. and 1 Mahakappa= 4 billion years. It seems too small by comparison with the age of the Universe, although it is just 1 order of magnitude lesser than the age of the Universe. It doesn't make sense to say that the

12. The realm of Brahma’s retinue (Brahmaparisajja) 0.3AK
(around 1 billion years)
is less than
11. The realm of the gods who lord over the creation of others (Paranimmaitavasavatti) 16,000CY
(as mentioned 9 billion years)

So that's all I have to say now. Please correct me if there is any mistake. And if 1 mahakappa is that long, 10^26, I can really understand why the Buddha doesn't say it out by the number itself. Cause it's almost meaningless. Even by the big rip theory, there's only 20 billion years left, but heat death is a nicer view, being 10^100 years or more......
Well, perhaps I am underestimating the scales, lol, Physics goes bigger!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Wonderful sand painting/movie

You just got to see this!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Deputy Dharma Director

I'm the 31st Management Committee Deputy Dharma Director. For starters, this is one of the Busiest post in the NUS Buddhist Society. I'm to organise the Meditation Course on Wednesdays. I've joined the commitee mainly to spend more time in the society other than the 4 weekly activities.

Talking about weekly actitvities, the Medical Dharma Circle is a Very nice activity to hang out in. After 1 hour of lecture/ Q and A about Buddhism, the seniors of the MDC will fetch the juniors to a restorant to have dinner! And it's on them! And after that they will fetch us back to our home! How kind and good are they? Of course, we can't practically do this for our Friday Dharma Circle, too many juniors, and too little seniors.

Well anyway, I just realised that being a Committee in Physoc and a Committee in BS is a lot of difference! For example, I've a email of my own that I've got to handle and then comes in the Deputy Dharma Director email and Meditation email too. It was not easy handling the Meditation Course, maybe it's because it's my first time, but it is really cool that we get such good training in NUSBS, to organise an weekly activity.

Well, being an MC member also takes up a lot of time, like I would've missed 2 Saturdays of Nam Wah Pai training for the MC meetings, one coming up next week. And Nam Wah Pai is getting more and more fun as I'm getting used to the conditioning and training.

Ok, as a side matter, I'm enjoying my research project in SP2172. A lot!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

3rd Week of 2nd year in NUS

I've been here for longer than 3 weeks since the school starts, but I've not updated you guys on much of my activities. I've gotten very slow in Labs, but momentum is almost finished.

On Monday, I've meet Lord Martin Rees and had a dialogue session with him, then fell asleep in his night lecture..... Well, that's because I've only gotten 3 hours of sleep the night before. I'm trying to cultivate the habit of sleeping at 10p.m. and waking up at 3a.m. with only 5 hours of sleep, I've better not waste any hour during the night before sleeping. Oh, and how do I wake up? Ajahn Brahm gave a good method. Before I sleep, I look at the clock and told myself that I want to wake up at 3 a.m. in a clear way. I repeat for a few times in a clear mind and then forget about it and go to sleep. At around 3 o' clock, I woke up in the dark and see the time... It always is before the alarm time I've set. (7:30a.m.) So today I woke up at 5+a.m. not too bad. (It usually is more accurate, my body seems to require more sleep.)

Before I go to bed, I always join in the IS Session for the SPS. From Tuesdays to Thursday I've just sit in the class and do my work while observing the IS. There are some colourful newbies all around, with excitement untained by research. Well, missing the SPS NOC reduces me to know them through IS only..... There is one who follow in my footsteps completely, USP, SPS, double major, and one who wants to go for SPM, Physics major... The new blood makes me doubt my decision of not taking maths as my second major, but I shall see how things turns up before boiling my own blood in doing 10 modules per sem due to my greediness.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


INCOVAR stands for INter COllege & VARsity, a youth wing of the Buddhist Gem Fellowship (BGF).


Venue : Subang Jaya Buddhist Association

Date : 11th - 14th June 2008

Fee : RM75

Camp Eligibility
  • Non-Muslim
  • Age 17 and above
  • Studying in any college, university or institution of higher learning locally or overseas.
Well, as I am eligible to join in, I did.
On the first day of the camp, I was late........ for the morning puja. Then my group are forfeited, we had to wash the dishes. This is based on the Amazing Race theme that this camp has... for this time.

Now as I see among the faces of my group, I regonised them only through facebook pictures. Our group leader is Chow Foong, if this name sounds familar, you're right. He's Chow Fu's (the one who's in the top 5 physics Olympiad team) older brother.

So, we kinda know each other even before the camp itself. Except that I was in Singapore and I've just gone back to Petaling on the 10th June. The others had prepared a good slide show presentation on one of the ancient cities in India that relates to Buddhism.

The first day of INCOVAR is filled with activities, dharma talks, games in from the Amazing Race... Ok I don't remember the exact schedule. So I'll just tell you what I feel.

They asked who's the old people here? Well, we have people who are in this camp series from 5th timers to 1st timers. As Incovar Dharma Camp is a biannual thing and 4 in a series, the 5th timers were 1st timers 2 years ago and need not pay anything to join the camp! The first one is 4 noble truths, then 8 foldpath, 3rd one is karma (this is the one I'm in), and 4th one meditiation. So anyone who has gone through all 4 of them can be considered as having the knowledge of the basics of Buddhism.

Anyway, back to my feelings, the old timers were quick to warm up as they recognised their old friends, be it from University Malaya, IMU, UPM, etc.... and one old timer from NUS is Ken Juin, and we are the only 2 from NUS. So I naturally feel that the camp is a bit unfriendly towards the first timers, as the camp warden and the assistant are 3rd timers.

Due to insufficient preparation time, the first day passed by unsatisfactorily. I thought, man, 3 more days of these.... not fun, not as good as our NUSBS Dharma Camp.

But then, Ken Juin assured me that this is the worst one, it will be better. And indeed, I don't know how, but after the organisers got organised in the first night, I had to admit that I was enjoying myself in the camp.
Let's go through some activities in the camp....
We get to shop in the nearby shopping center, to buy materials for the egg protection game (our egg broke... what a professional pride lost... well at least I'm not an enginneer) which I believe that if we had swapped eggs (ours was a bit broken during contruction), our egg protector can stand more than 3 stories of drop (it has a parachute too).

Eating time is almost always a torture. First meal, Lunch time, we had to feed the person opposite you, not changing the plates. Well, my poor patner... you know why, I took so many food that he had to stuff them in. The trick here is to change the food, not the plate.
Next meal, we had to eat with our hands linked to each other, well, at least we get to feed ourselves. The 3rd meal is fun.... Blindfold eating. We had to feed ourselves with a blindfold over our eyes! I asked to wash my hands after a few unsuccessful attempts to eat by spoon. Then I ate using my hands! They said that this is the first time in many years that someone used their hands to eat blindfold, good strategy. The Forth one and the hardest one is the best one. Blindfold and feed your patner. Our group has just won in the advertisement activity and we get to sit on a chair and table as our reward together with orange juice, chocolate waffles, and so on.... as the others on the floor gets their blindfold, we were relieved.... Until they gave us the last of the blindfolds. Our jaws were on the floor as we had to endure torture even in the face of luxury. Well, there's no using hands this time round, so we guide our patner's hands to our mouths, blind feeding the blind. All these serves to incoparate dharma, as we experience it. The blind in the dharma leading the blind is a very dangerous thing to do, the floor will get messy, we will not get the food that we wanted.... and so on. Appreciation of how the blind eat is also one of the lessons that one can learn from here.

Talking about advertisement, we had an assignment for each group to perform. We had to advertise Incovar in a Sketch advertisement. We had it like Malaysian Idol style, with 3 judges and comments from them. One group used SpongeBob SquarePants and actually created it using yellow, square sponge! Our group acted with 5 people breaking the 5 precepts, gone to Incovar camp, and changed for the better. And we won!

The Amazing Race does features many exciting oppotunities to experience winning and losing. But the dharma lesson to be learnt from this is that winning or losing is temperary.

Well, we have Tai Chi Classes too in the morning, and kick-boxing class on the next morning, the Dharma talks were good, with opportunities for us to become the MC for the speaker. Perhaps the best event is singing time! We inspire, we're the fire, we're the spirite of youth's life..... You my beautiful friend, you bring me joy.... Ehi Passiko, come and see you'll know......Cradled in Buddha's Arms........

One memorable activity is testing of the 5 precepts and assumptions. We broke off into mixed groups and go from one station to another, passing the lying test, the drinking alcohol test , not opening ---magazine test, etc. It serves to tell us that even under excited states, under any conditions, if we don't adhere to our precepts, there's no point taking them. My group consist of all girls and me and the only guy..... we didn't get the first few stations but then, we reconsidered and played the rest smoothly. One particular station is the donation station, where one can donate (to who? donate what?), our group was the first one to go there and people are taking out their wallets, watches, etc to donate.... even an iPhone. I almost donated, but was reminded by them that you might not get it back.... so I reconsidered. This iPhone thing cause quite a stir from the other participants, they demanded to have it back to the owner (the owner didn't said anything). After one day, the organisers finally revealed to us that they had no rights to keep those stuffs, and they were planning to return them on the last day. This is to test to see what we would do. However, due to excessive demands by the participants, they gave it out early. We all learned a lesson that day. Never assume.

And the one unique experience in the Incovar camp is Incovar night. The things said there are to remain there. It's a heart to heart session with blindfolds and small groups, confessing our guilt, the people that we didn't forgave, and help us on a road to forgive them, and ourselves.

I didn't planned to write so long, but emotions are hard to control and harder not to express such beautiful experiences. After the Incovar night, we have our last night gatherings and I commented this to the organisers, "On the first night that I was here, I was disappointed and I wonder why so many of you guys keep on coming back. However, after all we have been through, I've to say that this is the best camp I have ever been to and I hope that Incovar last for a trillion years and beyond.

We each have a booklet that contains everyone in the camp, mine is more than half full signed by people around the camp. Well, lots of them are paises for me, as I revealed my silver status and my rubiks skills to them. Dan Yi Wong, the Malaysian who came to our NUSBS Dharma Camp, also came to the camp on the last day. All in all, I highly recommend this camp, if you have the opportunity to join, by all means, join it. I'm looking forward towards the next camp too, on November/December 2009, but it also depends on my CCAs here, and my exam time.
Just in case someone reading this is a organiser..... I might go back during my reading week on 14-20th Nov, or after 13th Dec..... anyway I'll go for the June one again if I missed the next one.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Large Hardon Collider (LHC)

Disclaimer: This is inspired by the LHC rap by alpinekat, but with more words and explanations. Though it might not be as fun as the song, after reading it, you’ll be able to enjoy the song better as you would be able to understand more of what is going on.

Nested below the ground, at the border between Switzerland and France, a giant awaits. Its 27-kilometer long body is capable of shooting two of the fastest moving beams on Earth. The secrets of the Universe and the most energetic collision since the beginning of time will happen right in the four eyes of the giant when the beams meet. Right now it is licking its wounds, inflicted due to an electrical fault, but it will wait a few more months when its roar will be heard, and the mysteries of the Universe will be unravelled. It is the Large Hadron Collider.

Hadrons are subatomic particles that subject to the strong force. One example of such heavy hadrons are lead ions (with atomic number 82), stripped of all its electrons. This very LHC is capable of smashing such large hadrons with each other, hence the name. This baby can pack up to 14 TeV into proton-proton collision, and 1150 TeV into lead-lead collision. And its four “eyes” are called A Large Ion Collider Experiment (ALICE), Large Hadron Collider beauty (LHCb), Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS), and A Toroidal LHC ApparatuS (ATLAS).

Probably the biggest structure humans have build in the last thousand years, this baby cost so much that international collaboration is needed. It is so popular that the YouTube video of the LHC rap has reached over 5 million viewers. The questions in physics that might be answered by it are so big that over 10 thousand scientists and engineers are working on it. Indeed the only reason that the behemoth is built is to find out if there is a Higgs boson, if there more fundamental particles than quarks and leptons, if nature is supersymmetric, what dark matter is and, finally, why matter and antimatter do not exist in the same amount.
Let’s look at these questions one by one and see why they are considered important, starting with the Higgs boson. To understand the Higgs, we must understand the Standard Model which is currently the most accurate physics theory that has successfully predicted all of the subatomic particles found in previous accelerators. In particular, the story of the W and Z bosons are of interesting consequences.

In the standard model, there are four fundamental forces with three of them united with an accurate quantum mechanical description. Among them, the electromagnetic force and the weak nuclear force are the first ones to be unified into the electroweak theory. In this theory, the carriers for the weak nuclear force, two W-bosons and Z-boson, are predicted and found a few years later! However in the process of finding the theory, physicists assumed that the carriers of the weak force are massless bosons, and deduced from the theory 4 massless bosons, 3 for the weak force and the photon. To account for the mass of the W and Z bosons, Peter Higgs proposed a scalar field, called the Higgs field, that is everywhere and interacts with particles to give them rest mass. Just like alpinekat rapped,

“Some particle slows down and others race, straight through like the photon, it has no mass, but something heavy like the top quarks, it’s dragging its---”

It is kind of like adding air resistance to projectile motion. As with every field, quantum mechanics implies that a particle is associated with it. The Higgs boson becomes central to the Standard Model for being able to neatly explain the origin of mass. It is for this reason that the presence of Higgs bosons is a very popular theory. Being the only particle in the Standard Model that has not yet been observed only adds excitment to the mystery. It is now that the LHC will see if the elusive and heavy Higgs boson actually exists. The interesting possibility is that if the LHC does not find the Higgs, numerous other less popular theories would then be able to pit their predictions fitting what the LHC does find.

One such other theory is the preon theory, that quarks and leptons are composed of smaller, more fundamental particles called preons. Currently, the size of quarks and electrons in the Standard Model are regarded as zero. Experiments however, only shows that they are smaller than 10-18 metres. Now the LHC enables us to see at smaller scales, down to 2*10-19 metres, 10000 smaller than a proton. It may finally reveal that quarks or electrons have a finite size and be made of smaller stuffs, like preons. It is also tempting to think that there can be a simple explanation for the three families of quarks and leptons observed, as history had shown that the periodic table of elements hints of electron configuration. History has also shown that radioactivity and atoms changing from one to another hints at a nuclear structure with protons and neutrons, not unsimilar to the decay of heavy elementary particle like top quarks and tau into their lighter counterparts. Whatever the hints and possibilities, without an experimental observation of preons, all we can do is to wait and see.

Now that we know the main reason the LHC is build for, it is time for the giant to shed light on what we think is possible. SUperSYmmetry (SUSY) is a principle that states for every fermion (particles with spin n/2 and obey the Pauli Exclusion Principle like quarks and leptons) there is a corresponding boson (particles with integer spin and can occupy the same space with the same energy like photons) and vice-versa so we have electrons and selectrons, photons and photinos. It is symmetric because when we switch the bosons and fermions, the world is still the same. However, since none of the supersymmetric partners have been found yet, it is clearly not a perfect symmetry in terms of mass like matter-antimatter.

One would say that supersymmetry is absurd; if all the electrons are replaced by selectrons that can pass through each other, imagine what will happen to molecules. However, there are many theories that can make use of supersymmetry to explain various things. Most Grand Unified Theories (GUT) predict that the electromagnetic, weak nuclear force and strong nuclear force converge to almost the same strength at around 1015 GeV (compared to 100GeV of electroweak bonding). However, the three forces do not exactly meet at one point. But with supersymmetry, the three forces cut exactly and there is a possible explanation of why the two unifications (GUT and electroweak) happen at so large an energy gap. More than that, if supersymmetric particles are created in the LHC, they will decay until there is the lightest supersymmetric particle (LSP). Therefore, if supersymmetry is true, there will be many LSPs in the universe waiting to be found. It is also this LSP that might be the mysterious dark matter.

Talking about dark matter, it is not a matter that is magically “Dark” or “Evil”. We call it dark initially because it is matter that does not glow, therefore escaping the observation of telescopes. However there is a double meaning to it, dark also means that we do not know much of anything about it, or, that we have too many ideas of what it might be. Embarrassing? You bet. Why not just do away with the concept altogether then?

Well, the reason we need dark matter is to explain how galaxies seem to be able to hold on to their galactic arms of stars. The stars at the outer arms of galaxies are moving too fast to be able to be gravitationally bounded by the luminous matter in the galaxy. So MAssive Compact Halo Objects (MACHOs) like black holes, burned out stars, asteroids and stray planets are possible candidates of dark matter, but Weakly Interactive Massive Particles (WIMPs) like neutrinos, or LSP does fit the bill of being dark matter too.

Unfortunately, both MACHOs and neutrinos encounter problems to be the dark matter needed to explain the galaxy mystery. Using Gravitational Lensing, astronomers determined that the amount of MACHO seems to be too little to account for the dark matter needed. (Gravitational lensing happens when a MACHO passes through the light path of a star, the star appears to brighten for a while then it dimmed back with certain characteristics.) Besides that, the amount of baryonic particles that make up dark matter is limited. Standard primordial nucleosynthesis pins down the value of baryon-to-photon ratio and through astronomical observation, the amount of dark matter greatly exceeds the amount of baryonic particles in the Universe. Neutrinos, on the other hand, are expected to have non-zero rests mass due to the neutrino oscillation. However they move near the speed of light due to their small rest mass and according to computer simulations, that is far too fast to make up dark matter. All these tell us that we do not know a lot about dark matter and therefore, we need more information from the LHC. If the LSP is found, we would be able to test its properties to determine whether it is the main bulk of dark matter. In particular, the ATLAS and CMS will use different designs and concepts to look out for any supersymmetric particle, Higgs boson, preons, or something else entirely different.

When we question what dark matter is, there is a bigger question unresolved, why should there be any matter at all? This can only mean that there is asymmetry between matter and antimatter, which is still a mystery to physicists. In more formal terms, it is called CP violations, or Charge-Parity violations. A Parity transformation is the flip of a sign in spatial coordinates, and matter is exactly the same as antimatter except that both their charge and the direction of their spin are opposite. That is why when CP-violation occurs, it means that there is asymmetry between matter and antimatter. In 1964, the decay in neutral kaons exhibits a small CP-violation. However, physicists expected a greater asymmetry in mesons involving bottom quarks. More recently in 2004, Belle and BaBar, both electron-positron colliders, discovered that the decay of neutral B mesons, made up of bottom and down quarks, shows a preference for matter 100000 times greater than kaons. The antimatter bottom quarks are observed to be 20% less than matter bottom quarks. Belle and BaBar are limited in their energy scale and confined to studying that particular decay. However, the LHCb will look out for the decays involving the bottom quarks (once called beauty quarks) to source out for more CP-violations in order to deepen our understanding of the reason that we are matter instead of all radiation.

Now we are left with ALICE, which looks at the collisions of lead ions. Lead-lead collisions aims to spread a lot of energy over a large volume compared to proton-proton collision. Having the collision energy of 1150 TeV, it can reach back and recreate the situations just 10-12-10-6 seconds after the big bang (the quarks-gluon plasma). Just like a transition phase from solid to liquid, the quarks-gluon plasma is a zero viscosity fluid that cools down to bound quarks at 10-6 seconds after the big bang. This phase transition is what ALICE will study and help in the cosmological mapping of events after the big bang.

Lord Kelvin once said that there is nothing new to be discovered in physics now, all that remains is more and more precise measurement. However, more and more precise measurements reveals newer physics that no one can predict. And no one can predict what exactly the LHC will find. It can confirm come theories, and discredit others, it can answer some questions and/or raise more, it might even alter the paradigm of physics. Whatever it does, it will change the face of physics as we know it.

End note: The web contains an almost endless information and picture of the LHC; I hope that those interested will spend some time to find out more about the LHC as I think it is embarrassing if physics majors don’t know more than the average public readers out there about the most exciting experiment in physics. This article is written partly for that purpose in mind. The book that I based on most is Don Lincoln’s “The Quantum Frontier” 2009 The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore. Another book that helped is Lord Martin Rees’ “New Perspectives in Astrophysical Cosmology” Second Edition 2000 Cambridge University Press. Both books can be found in the Science Library in NUS. Lastly, I hope you enjoyed reading this.

Friday, August 21, 2009

New Semester Busy Day, Busy Life

I'm very sorry for not updating things up to now, a clear sign that I was too busy to be stressed out. The below will be a outline for more contents when I am in the right mode to write about them, so don't complain that it might be too dry.

Since coming back from Thailand and taiwan, I have went to NUS and helped out in Physics Enrichment Camp, then came back to Petaling Jaya for the INCOVAR dharma camp, wasted one month playing games and stressing out from the pressure of wanting to write the Buddhism in Asia paper.

So I had to go back by 14th July to NUS to finish up my paper in 2 horrendously short weeks including 2 hours round trip from Woodlands where I stayed in my uncle's home to NUS. Then I had to prepare a slide for presenting my paper.

After that, it's Momentum magazine publishing time. I and Ronald got too many articles for the Momentum and now it's 4 extra pages compared to last years ones. Work is stil in progress but finishing by this week. I retired from Physics Society too to make space for the upcoming NUSBS and Nam Wah Pai CCAs.

Which talking about NUSBS, I had to choose between SPS Newbie orientation camp and NUSBS MC retreat which is at the same time, different place. I joined the Camp Ehi Passiko in East Coast Park, therefore missing my SPS camp trial. And now looking back at the photos and videos of SPS NOC, one has to admit that one shouldn't miss that for the world. Well, I am running for the Dharma Director or Deputy post in NUSBS and even had an interview where I realised that spending every Monday, Wednesday, Friday evennigs, and Saturday mornings every week is not enough for the Dharma Director or the Deputy.

Then continuing on from Saturday morning, I'm to join Nam Wah Pai's traning in the afternoon. I've just came back from the Combined Martial Arts Display (CMAD) there and I am amazed at how cool all these performentses are. Really inspired me to write a good scipt for them to incorparate all 9 or 10 martial arts club in the almost 2 hours show.

Now I'm a bit conflicted, with so many CCAs I'm involving in right now, I'm busy almost the whole week doing my CCAs instead of studying or doing my 7 and a half modules (normally people take 5 or 6). Tuesday I sacrificed my lab for Momentum (and finding and downloading OnePiece songs), Wednesday I spend my afternoon learning Black and White Photography developing cause the Demo Lab (I'm having a part time job there now) has not got the expected visitors. Then straight to NUSBS Dharma Subcom meeting/recuitment. Then I've taken some time to go for USS class only to come back to the meeting. Then from 9p.m. onwards, I've gone on a travelling trip around campus to paste the THIS buddhism film festival posters. Thursday, once I've finished my 6 hours of lectures from 8am to 2pm, I've gone to the UCC and helped out but more like hang out at the CMAD where I see their last reheasal and their actual performers until 10p.m. when I left and come back to SPS. Friday I'm going to Dharma Circle at night and Saturday, welfare visit during the morning and Nam Wah Pai welcome tea in the afternoon.

All these made me missed a lot of IS meetings, and due to my not attending SPS NOC, I've relatively poor knowledge of who's who in our current newbie. Plus the amount of time I've spend going out to do CCAs, I'm rarely in the room, except at night.

Not only I've missed SPS happenings, I've also missed a few lab sessions that I should attend. By the way my 7 and a half modules are:
PC2132 Classical Mechanics
PC2131 Electricity and Magnetism 1
PC2193 Experimental Physics 1
CS1231 Discrete Structures
PC3274 Mathematical Methods for Physics 2
PC3232 Nuclear and Particle Physics
SP2172 Investigating Science
and USS2105 University Scholar Seminar the half.

So you see that it is very desirable for me to finish up my lab as soon as possible to accomodate for other things. That's why I'm conflicted as to my real direction in NUS. It seems a fool of me if I think that I can excel well in everything, but I still want to try. I need time to review my theoretical classes too as they are new to me and mathematically demanding as in I need to know how to read the physics from the maths.

Ok, sorry for the long talking, the dam has stored a lot of water and finally it brakes. Now I've got to find a way to sleep for the 8am meeting with Phil Chan for the questions that I and a few friends are going to ask (Lord) Martin Rees on next Monday. (You see how busy I am? It's impossible to say Yes to everything in life, Yes Man is still a fiction.)

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Buddhism in Asia

One year ago, three students started planning a trip to overseas to study about religions. After much discussions and research, they came to form a plan for a research trip to Thailand and Taiwan to study about Buddhism in Asia. This trip is then proposed under the University Scholars Program Global Program, thus USP will subsidize the trip to allow the students to learn and share their knowledge to the world.

On April 2009, a team of 11 undergraduate students, one Masters graduate, and one Professor was formed. The team is to go on a trip consisting of three legs of journey, from Singapore 13th-14th May, to Thailand 16th-22nd May and finally Taiwan 22nd-30th May. This is in order to study the Theravadan Tradition in Thailand, the Mahayana Tradition in Taiwan, and its mixture in Singapore.
On the Singapore leg, we learned that even the monastics can be involved in Buddhist research. There are many areas to look upon, from the Vinaya to Politics, from Textual Studies to Modernization of Buddhism, from History to Transnational spreading of Buddhism. There is even a Buddhist College in Singapore! There’s also the Singapore Buddhist Federation that serves to unify all Buddhist institutions and Buddhists in Singapore.

There are three examples of Buddhism in Singapore; Tzu Chi Foundation in Singapore represents the import of Taiwanese Buddhism in Singapore complete with the same architecture as the original building in Taiwan and the same functions of Jing Si bookstore静思书轩, along with the same activities, and ideas. The same goes for Wat Ananda and Wat Palelai, reflecting the Theravadan Tradition from Thailand. Guang Ming Shan Temple however sees the unique combination of both Theravadan and Mahayana tradition in its architecture and also local Chinese influences.

In Thailand where more than 90% of the population is Buddhist, we learned that the Buddhist temple in Phuket practices monk worshipping. The people pray and ask for fortune, health, and success. The temple also serves as a tourist attraction area. In Surat Thani, Suanmok, we have the chance to learn about a renewal of forest tradition based on the Tripitaka by Bhikkhu Buddhadasa due to the corruption of the true dharma mentioned earlier. Suanmok forest tradition, which is a short distance away from the city, provides exposure camps to school children, opportunity for the lay and monastics to undergo silent retreat (no talking) for 6 months straight, and a place where one can renounce and become a monk.

In Nakhon Si Thammarat, the stupa that contained the Buddha’s relics is “guarded” by demons, animals, decorated with influences by Hinduism. This reflects the belief that the Buddha is regarded as one of the reincarnation of the God Vishnu in Hinduism. In fact there are many local influences in Thailand; the people still pay respect to the city pillar, the heart of the city, and in hotels and supermarkets, there are altars set up to worship the local spirit in the place. Besides that, the people in Thailand wear all kinds of amulets for protection, health and blessings. In fact, the amulet market in Bangkok is a multi-million dollar business.

Talking about Bangkok, Wat Pho is located next to the Grand Palace, both huge and luxurious; this is a good strategy to instate Bangkok as the centre of Thailand. Monastics in Thailand receive government supplies and help and in return, the king of Thailand is supported by Buddhism. The existence of Universities in Bangkok also establishes it as the centre for monastic education. Being a monastic also guarantees a free education up to University, this is sometimes used for climbing up the social ladder in Thailand, as some monks disrobes and takes up jobs after graduating.

According to our Guide, the people in Thailand know basic Buddhism along with many Traditional beliefs. There are many ways to practise Buddhism including the strict forest tradition by Ajahn Chah in Ubon Ratchathani. Our group has the priceless experience of staying overnight in Wat Pah Nanachat, international forest monastery. The monastic there wakes up at 3 a.m. for the morning puja, gone for alms round at 5:30a.m. and take their one meal per day at 8a.m. After noon time, they go for meditation, have tea at 4p.m. and come back only at 6p.m. for the evening puja.
After a tiring journey across Thailand, we flew to Taipei, Taiwan. There we are fortunate to visit Dharma Drum Mountain (DDM) 法鼓山 and received a warm welcome. Its founder, the late Master Sheng Yen empathises on education, protection of the spiritual environment, and balance between understanding and practise of the Dharma. In line with this effort, DDM Sangha University, Chung Hua Institute of Buddhist Studies, DDM Buddhist College and the upcoming DDM University are built to spread the seed of Dharma to everyone. They have outreach activities supported by the donations and an impressive temple ground complete with bell for the visitors to ring. They present traditional Buddhism in a modern way using wisdom and original intensions of the Buddha to stay true to Buddhism.

In general the Buddhist movement in Taiwan is of Humanistic Buddhism 人间佛教 which started from Master Tai Xu’s effort to change Buddhism from the religion of funerals during the late Ching清 dynasty to a religion that actively involves in the human activities. This is most clearly seen from Tzu Chi’s慈濟effort around the world. In accordance with their four main mission of Education, Medicine, Charity and Culture, many schools, hospitals, relief aid teams are deployed in helping the needy. There are also classes of flower arrangement, tea making in the Hua Lien Tzu Chi University. The medical students use the body of willing deceased donors as their silent teacher in anatomy classes, learning respect and gratitude towards their silent teachers. The Tzu Chi Hospital in Hua Lien, there are even places where the terminally sick patients of different religion can see their religious symbols just before they die. This clearly shows that Tzu Chi belief in Buddhism in Action, and the nuns under Master Cheng Yen, the founder of Tzu Chi, support themselves by working in the farms. With the spirit of Buddhism reflected through their actions rather than speech, Tzu Chi managed to pull in 10 million members worldwide making monthly donations to support the various activities. Amongst the members are non-Buddhist too and the halls and functions of Tzu Chi are always careful to be sensitive towards people with other religions.

Finally, Buddha Light Mountain佛光山 founded by Master Hsing Yun in Kaohsiung is our last stop in Taiwan’s mega temples. With holy water, Buddhist hymns singing, Big Buddha statue, pure land cave exhibit, and museums, it is clear that Buddha Light Mountain incorporates modern elements to spread Buddhism too. With millions of members in Buddha Light International Associations, it is also not negligent in education as there is Buddha Light University in Yilan and Buddhist College in the temple itself for all to live and learn the way of the Sangha. In short, the trip was enlightening, with many details unaccounted for here, but the most important lesson is to practise the dharma even when researching Buddhism.