Thursday, March 29, 2012

My Undergraduate Physics

I'm here just to see what I would write, a random post that you mostly will not get too often.

So what's up? Physics has just became an important part of my life. Again. After so long. Haha. Maybe I wasn't too unhappy with the marriage with Physics. It's been 4 years since I started my undergraduate life, and although I learned a lot of Physics, I still find that the things I truly want to work on is still far out of reach.

Those things that you read on a popular science book, like a Brief History of Time, or the Elegant Universe, and most recently, the Fabric of the Cosmos (a documentary being screened in Utown in these weeks), those amazing stuffs, I only got a slight glimpse of the mathematics of it, even after knowing the concepts for so long.

It's just that before knowing the mathematics, I can fool myself into thinking that the concepts are fully explained by those popular science books or documentaries. But I know it is not true. Most of the subtleties are in the mathematics.

Now doing my final year project, I still don't understand most of the theorems that I got from the mathematics. There are just too many abstract proving to do, and that had been done by mathematicians. We physicists just look at the equations, the concepts behind the mathematics, see which part of Physics it can describe, and link them together. Or rather that is the job of a mathematical physicist. I'm kinda looking at that now. Amazing how it is done, amazing how much calculations that mathematicians leaves out after identifying the structures. Even more amazing is that after we described the phenomena using the mathematics developed by mathematicians, the engineers would have to put in the actual numbers and lots of detailed calculations for things to really work.

Well, back to the physics I learned in NUS... I did touch on cool subjects I am interested in early on. Nuclear Astrophysics, Particle Physics by 2nd year, Cosmology by 3rd year, but some of the most interesting stuffs are from the special programmes that I took like time travel in General Relativity by 2nd and 3rd semester, Black Hole information Paradox by 3rd year, and even a bonus quantum information of which I only knew about EPR and Bell's inequality before coming to NUS on my 4th, 5th and 6th semester. I have been doing amazing stuffs all along during my undergraduate years! Partly thanks to SPS and USP, mostly to Physics department of NUS, and some to Mathematics department.

Now, continuing from the studies of my 6th semester on Mathematical Methods 3, I am working on Thomas Precession, a Fibre Bundle Approach. Both terms were foreign to me before this year, and now I am half-expert on them. Half because there is just too many stuffs to read up and study before understanding either of them! It's crazy just how much I wrote for my thesis up to now. I didn't expected it to be that long! 50 pages now, and going strong, I think it might hit 70 pages. With Monday as the deadline, I better work on it now. See ya then. Now the title will be changed to My undergraduate Physics.

So overall, if you want to do Physics in NUS, not only it's not a bad choice, it's an excellent choice! Provided you're in SPS.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Multiverse Part 1: Hell, Heaven, Pure Land

It can be depressing to think that if the multiverse is infinite, then all possibilities, no matter how small, no matter how bleak, as long as it is allowed by the laws of physics in that universe, will happen in a universe.

Plus this to the fact that multiple universes does not need to remain at the same time as our universe. Some universe out there are just a microsecond slower than us, or a picosecond, or any number of time one step beyond us, all people and events happening in the exact same way as our universe.

In fact, one can think of time moving forward faster as the mind moving from one of these slower universe to another faster one. Not faster in term of time moving, but in terms of phase. And one can think of all sorts of universes out there, one with good things happening to you, and one with all sorts of bad stuffs happening to you. And it all exist and some you in some universe will experience the worst thing that can happen that is possible. While some of you in some universe will experience the best joy in the world that can happen to you.

And which universe you'll go into, which one you'll transform into, which of these future universes (that already exist, mind you) will you guide your universe into all depends on your actions right now.

That's a scary thought. And an unfair one. Why do one of you have to suffer the worst of sufferings? Can I in good conscience direct myself to the best of all possible worlds knowing some other part of me will end up in the worst of universe? Who am I to compete with myself? Albeit the me from other universes, but still, me who shares the same memory, the same feelings, the same perception, the same consciousness, just not the same choice. For it is choice that breaks the universe apart, at least in the quantum physics version of the multiverse, assuming that some how it is quantum randomness that allows for non-deterministic free will to exist in the world.

Having that kind of thought, it is easy to lose track of the meaning of life, contemplating while you may work towards the best of universes, there exists the worst of universes somewhere out there. Some where out there, someone, maybe the alternate you, is suffering the worst that can happen to a person.

Yet, had not the religions told us that hell exist? The land where no happiness ever befell anyone who is in it. If the multiverse is true, then hell is true. Not only true, but must exist. That is a scary thought. A very scary thought. No wonder some bodhisattva vowed to empty all hells before becoming a Buddha. Such compassion! Well, on the other hand, if hell exist, then heaven must exist too. For in all these multiverse, there are some universe where everyone is good towards each other, maybe even the laws of nature will allow for fruits that come from little or no effort.

If the multiverse exist, then Pureland of Buddhism must exist as well, as it is conceivable that such a place can exist, therefore it must exist, because there are infinite universes. In fact, let's not get this to be for the advantage of Buddhism alone, in some other universe, one being may have complete control over everything in that universe, due to the strange laws of physics and whatnot, so that means in that universe, the Almighty God exist.

Of course, people are rarely satisfied with just one world, some would want God to be the creator over the multiverse and have power over all of the multiverse. Of course, then since evolution make sense, and it is possible to imagine an universe where God is not necessary to create everything or anything at all, and most likely is not all powerful, then those universe must not have an absolute almighty God.

Multiverse then seems fair, it gives everyone what they wanted. What's one universe to satisfy everyone's yearn when you have infinite of them? So what's the point? We are all living conditioned by the fact that we'll all be dead someday. That life is finite, therefore meaningful. If the multiverse exist and all things are possible, can happen, has happened, will happen, what is the point of doing anything at all? Some universe will have complete knowledge of the theory of everything, some will have destroyed itself, most will be lifeless. So what?

So what if we succeed in this universe? How many more are failing in their's? Such suffering it is to have the existence of multiverse to be true that sometimes I think no one wants to think this way when they think about the multiverse, or more likely, people subconsciously still resist this idea for the very foul implications that it brings to the table.

So, tell me if you feel for your alternate selves. If you care for them. If you give a thought about them.

Sunday, March 11, 2012


10 books in about 1 and a half months.

The books written by Orson Scott Card, settings in the futuristic world of Enderverse where genius kids were being trained to become military commanders.

Blue are the novels, red are short stories.
Of these, not reading A War of Gifts has no effect on the overall story at all.

I choose to read in the chronological order, starting with the first novel.
  1. Ender's Game
  2. Ender's Shadow (Note: The first 2 books take place in roughly the same time period.)
  3. Shadow of the Hegemon
  4. Shadow Puppets
  5. Shadow of the Giant
  6. Ender in Exile
  7. Shadows in Flight
  8. Speaker for the Dead
  9. Xenocide
  10. Children of the Mind
And it is very nice to do so. I get the sense of closure.
Although I got introduced into this series by randomly picking up and reading Xenocide years ago, which then needed me to read Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead to understand half of the relevance of the book, I disliked it due to the Catholic-based Community featured in Xenocide. That was the reason for me delaying reading the rest of the series until recently. I even was determined to not put any Buddhism inside my Science fiction at all. Make it as pure as Asimov's novels. I thought.

Well, at a reread, ok, let's start from the top.
Ender's Game is about military and genius kids. Military I do not like, I detest armies. They kill and do terrible things to fellow human beings. On the other hand, I like to know more about genius kids. How do they think? What are their psychological profiles? For one of my future novels. It turns out that the training is for defeating aliens, buggers (or formics) as they had invaded Earth twice. It mostly consists of playing a game in null Gravity in Battle School. Not only bearable, but interesting. Kid genius part, Ender is more that what you can ever hope for. I can identify with Ender a lot of the time. Feeling as he felt, seeing things as he does. He's so full of good and pain and love. Well, the movie version of it is finally coming out after 28 years after the novel.

Ender's Shadow is another good read, surprisingly fresh even just after reading Ender's Game. Same story, different main character. This time it's Bean we're following. A kid even more intelligent than Ender and a lot of gaps in Ender's Game are filled up with very logical portrayal that makes one love Bean, even if Bean is still learning how to love at that time. It just goes to show how Bean is even more clever than Ender and I love the way Card did it.

Shadow of the Hegemon tells of how Ender's brother, Peter became the Hegemon in name, and in the effort of becoming Hegemon in fact. And of Achilles, Bean's nemesis, as smart as the rest of the Battle School kids, but a being of pure evil as he killed anyone who has seen him in a helpless state. Even his surgeon that healed his bad leg. This is a story of how Bean saved Petra from Achilles. The plot was a bit slow, but the world politics was awesome. Along with the trill of the face-off between Bean and Achilles... it's worthy of a Death-Note-like battle.

Shadow Puppets shows the end of Achilles at last, but not before playing with the world politics and was making Peter a puppet. Peter's come back finally got some respect from the readers for him. Bean and Petra also had 9 children of their own. This tells more about love and the meaning of a human's life: to have kids. The pain of lost kids, the monstrosity of genetic manipulations on humans, betrayals and manipulation, world politics at the balance and the final, one cold blooded murder of an evil guy.

Shadow of the Giant was a very good ending to Peter's story as he finally united most of the Earth by the time he was old and was communicating with his brother, Ender. Ender who speaks his death by writing the Hegemon. Bean has to leave Earth with 3 of his children as they would never stop growing to finally die as a giant as a side effect of being the smartest humans on Earth, a genetic defect. Petra stayed on with 5 children for the one missing child and married Peter. This tale full of tears and compassion shows that to unite the world, one has to have the world's consent to want to be united.

Ender in Exile was a good comeback to the series with Ender in it and it shows just how lovable Ender is even after one get used to loving Bean. Ender found the missing child of Bean and reunited him with Petra via the ansible, instantaneous communication. Ender has to continue to travel from world to world in light-speed as he carries with him the last surviving formic hive queen known to us at that time, planning to restore her to life. This is full of subtleties of power and politics, one tearful letter from Ender to his parents, juvenile love, and how easily Ender disarmed Achilles II, Bean's son who believed that Achilles is his father.

Shadows in Flight is about Bean and his 3 kids investigating a formic ship and found-accidentally- the cure to their non-stop growing without having to give up the super intelligence. Such as it is that 6-year olds were doing genetic research, military strategies, and spaceship maintenance. Bean, a giant finally died due to his heart failure but not before he taught his kids to live like a civilised human community, even starting up a race of homo leguminensis (after Bean's name). A cool feature of the formic was revealed, and we got a very good ending of Bean. A tale about a father's responsibility and love. Especially delicious if you read this in parallel with Ender in Exile.

Finally, the main Speaker series: Speaker for the Dead.
Having read Xenocide, I was semi-familiar with the Riberia family and the Pequeninos, the second alien race to be discovered by humans, and Jane, the mysterious entity with god-like powers. But as I enjoyed the book, what little I remembered in Xenocide didn't matter much and the whole book just speaks out to me. It's as powerful as Ender's Game is even if it is of a different genre. Finally I get to see how the Pequeninos are like and marvel at Ender, 36 years old, handle things and made a covenant with the Pequeninos to live together in the same world, in the same universe.

Xenocide, the first one that I read, and it is very rewarding to reread it. It seems that all those things that didn't make sense then had a lot of emotional impact on the novel and those that I remembered was still as good. The people in Path, the Descolada, Faster than Light travel, even the Catholic background was nothing evangelical. I guess one has to be matured enough to know how to read these kinda things. It wasn't easy putting a religious community inside the novel, and Card did it just nicely.

Children of the Mind was literally about that. As we explore the lives of young Valentine and Peter created out of Ender's mind, we finally see the danger to Lusitania averted and 2 very happily married couple in the end. Unexpected outcomes, good read and also the end for Ender as we witness his funeral and his death spoken at the last chapter in this book.

The next book in the series is Shadows Alive, to put together these 2 lines of stories, where both the main characters are now safely dead, but their children lives on. It's one of the best Science Fiction series I had read, and also one of the longest.

As awesome as Foundation and Robot series are in ideas, but better than them in characters.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Make It Right For A Better Ride

These days I go to the public transportation bringing a book or my Nintendo DSi, playing Pokemon Black. I was self-absorbed, yet almost always go to the center of the train and stood up to let someone else sit, even while reading my book. Even when I am most of the time unstable while standing up and frequently had to use one of my hand to stabilize myself and only one other hand to read.

Fortunately I am very experienced in reading with one hand. When I put my book down however, and look around, I see something very typical of Singaporeans. There was the seats that was reserved for the needy and about half of the time, young people sit there. Well, of course if there was a real case of need, they do sit up and let those pregnant, old people, disabled, or injured to sit there. Sometimes I even see old people sat up to give way for pregnant ones. As usual, most people are oblivious to this situation.

"This is normal." We think, no praises, no smile to the one who gave, only the ones who benefit directly care to smile, and then avert their gaze for the rest of the journey. Smiling, the thing I always put on my face and I keep on putting it and looking at people in the MRT straight in the eye. Most of them averted my gaze. Almost none of them smiled. The laughter and happiness that I can hear are of those teenagers or young adults talking and happily being in their own world, or the rare family who are happily playing with their children. Most of those who have kids were too busy making sure their kids shut up and behave during the train ride. Too busy making sure their kids do not offend the stranger sitting right beside them.

As if everyone you don't know behaves like a gangster to you. As if anyone can blame parents for teaching kids to be careful. Yet, this is the world where teenagers prefer to sat up even when there were empty seats, not just those priority seats, but perfectly empty seats where it is morally not wrong to sit down on them. Yet they prefer to stand up. How could those people who go beyond the boundaries of morality to beyond being polite be anything close to a gangster? How could Singapore with its low crime rate and zero tolerance towards drug harbor anything but mostly good and kind citizens of Singapore?

Yet when I look around, people do not recognize this. They do not think of others to be as virtuous as themselves. They still see those who do not let their seats to the needy, they still say go to the center of the train, they still see images of children reminding them to give way. No wonder my friends were not proud of the catchy song of "train is coming, train is coming." nor do they talk about the video of Phua Chu Kang singing to be gracious. Not that they know about all these consciously, but it is the subconscious mind being reminded that: most of these other people are not so gracious, so there's no reason to smile at them.

How I think our journeys can be made better if more people can be more considerate and gracious? I think our journey can be made better if people just stop looking at the negative side of things. Most of us already subconsciously put in the rules of being gracious into our heads. However it is impossible to smile at a stranger if we still think of them as being not gracious. The only thing we have to change is to think in the positive way.

Praise those who give way, smile whenever there is an eye contact (I know I feel weird and would look away if some stranger does that to me, but still I felt good that there is someone out there that shares my thoughts), generally open up and let the MRT be the heart of Singapore. Open up to talk to people you would never meet again in this life, open up to smile at strangers who most probably is not used to thinking of you as a good guy to smile back.

And start these kinda campaign: Look at the person beside you and smile, because they are doing their best in being gracious. Be glad to live in a society where everyone behaves heavenly.

Join the “Make It Right For A Better Ride” Twitter contest and stand to win a pair of movie tickets! More details on