Friday, July 29, 2011

Exodus from the sensory-deprived suburbia (videos)

- - -
video
An interesting kinetic sculpture (Double Excentric Gyratory) near the UN Plaza. It moves with the wind.

video
Panoramic view from the Yerba Buena Garden.

video
A bunch of random students dressed up in random costumes with a hodgepodge of marching band and orchestra instruments.






<!-- {
url:""
,title:""
,button:"narrow"
} -->
Save on Delicious

Exodus from the sensory-deprived suburbia (photos)

- - -
Next time I'll ride the bus... probably westward. 

 UN Plaza. Note the seagulls on the left of the fountain. There were many pigeons too.

UN Plaza & SF City Hall. The statue on the left is Simon Bolivar, and the (higher one) on the right is Founder's Statue. The tents were a multi-cultural market selling trinkets and various souvenirs. And seagull on the bottom left.

Supreme Court of California. That crane might have been around there for awhile...

Another shot of the City Hall...

 Asian Art Museum

Random road light (corner of McAllister & Larkin)

Random chimney (same corner as above)

Urban safari indeed.

Back at UN Plaza. 

Flags.

Orpheum Theater (currently showing Billy Elliot)


I wandered southwest down Market Street for a while, and the vibe got progressively more sketchy. I was gonna take a picture of an abandoned church at corner of Howard & 10th Avenue, but decided not to look like a stupid tourist.

On Market Street near the UN Plaza. They were soda cans turned into butterflies.

Interesting graffiti across from the SF AIDS Center.

Inside Westfield Mall. Forgot what store this was...

Westfield Mall. The Nordstrom is really really big.

Someone playing the piano. He did a nice jazzy rendition of The Sound of Music. :-)

Man, almost a perfect shot of the 180-degree rotational symmetry.

St. Patrick's Church near SFMOMA and the Yerba Buena Garden.

 Waterfall in the Yerba Buena Garden, Metreon in the background.

The waterfall is so very serene.

Apparently, there was a convention about the Subway franchise at Moscone West...

Squashed road cone hanging from the trolley line on 4th Street...








<!-- {
url:""
,title:""
,button:"narrow"
} -->
Save on Delicious

Mythologically abstruse acronyms

- - -
Came across this fun little widget. I seriously guessed on 6 of those. Good times...







<!-- {
url:""
,title:""
,button:"narrow"
} -->
Save on Delicious

Thursday, July 28, 2011

The zen of simulacrums

- - -
me: I'm compulsively surfing blogs today
I also went comment happy
must be a rebound from the powerpoint making marathon this week
 
friend: haha write a few wiki articles while you are at it then
 
me: Hmm, I'm not big on writing wiki articles
My writing is mostly fiction nowadays
even my research
jk

friend: fiction is simulation =)

me: Thanks har har

friend: the reverse may not be true

me: mmm that actually sounds deeply philosphical

friend: isn't it?






<!-- {
url:""
,title:""
,button:"narrow"
} -->
Save on Delicious

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Copenhagen (play)

- - -
The title aptly plays on the locale and the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum physics. This play is about intentions and their interpretations thereof. And the difficulty that arises when things are left unsaid.

Niels Bohr had treated Werner Heisenberg as more than a colleague, closer to a star protégé or a son. And Heisenberg was the prodigal upstart of the physics world who corrected Bohr's math error at a conference when he was a 21-year-old grad student. Thus began ~20 years of collaboration that revolutionized quantum physics until they had a falling-out when Heisenberg insisted on meeting Bohr in WWII-raging 1941... while they were on the opposite sides of the war.

In a way, they are both like experimenters trying to characterize an elusive particle, trying to understand why one wants to meet the other while the potential barrier is overwhelming. (Oh punny puns...) In the attempt to gauge what the other is thinking, they ask questions (make a measurement), all the while tiptoeing around political landmines (stringent experimental conditions).

I would like to think that Heisenberg wanted to warn Bohr about the destructive force of atomic fission and thereby dissuading the governments (on both sides) to develop weapons from it. Or he could have been trying to fish out information from Bohr. Or he missed his mentor after being out of touch for many years. Or some combination thereof. So many eigenstates... whose wavefunctions collapsed into a broken friendship.

All the while, Niels' wife Margarethe stays mostly in the background as an observer, albeit not a neutral one. Like a meta-overseer whose presence keeps the particles from bouncing off into Neverland, i.e. talking in math equations and throwing nerdy references around.

My favorite scene is where Heisenberg likens Margarethe to an atomic nucleus, Niels to an electron who is "here, there, everywhere and nowhere", and himself to a photon trying to find the electron. Upon meeting, both particles are deflected, i.e. affected forever. It captures their dynamic rather well...

As an aside, all the actors are fantastic in this. Daniel Craig (Heisenberg) is probably the most famous of the three in the U.S. at least, and it was fun watching him play a brilliant, troubled, earnest character.






<!-- {
url:""
,title:""
,button:"narrow"
} -->
Save on Delicious

[Fudgy Science Episode 002] (FSE 002)

- - -
Upon further reflection based on the last two days, I have revised my graph from FSE 001.


I added hysteresis loops into the system, so now it has "memory" and would thus depend on the immediately prior state. This means that if I start out fully awake and become less awake, I would follow the arrows pointing left. If I start out comatose and become more awake, I would follow the arrows that pointing right.

The dip in the bottom blue curve in the 80% to 100% awake range indicates an "OMFG what was I rambling about earlier" moment.

This is probably related to the refractory period or the elastic curves... recovering from a comatose state takes more energy because the brain has been running on an empty tank, so to speak.

I realized this after I went from ~50% awake to ~70% awake over the past two days due to a last-minute whirlwind generation of data figures because my old figures were deemed "weird and inconclusive". My new graphs basically verified the findings from a previous paper, using a similar system but not exactly the same. Since it was a paper that I found on Monday, of which my collaborators have never seen, it proved to be the saving grace for my presentation today... otherwise I would have no "new" data whatsoever. I spent the entire day yesterday running loads of simulations and finishing my slides.

Collaborator: "I saw you were still changing your Powerpoint file at 2AM..." (Yay Dropbox shared folder)
Me: "Yeah um... the table has like 30 things in it..."






<!-- {
url:""
,title:""
,button:"narrow"
} -->
Save on Delicious

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Time dilation from CNS depression

- - -
(9:59:20 PM) Friend: ugh I totally forgot how much I hate not getting two days off in a row
(10:00:05 PM) Me: nooooo
(10:01:03 PM) Me: For me all days are a blur.
(10:02:54 PM) Friend: haha yeah that is pretty much how my life is going, too
(10:03:37 PM) Me: The Blurry Days Club.
(10:03:44 PM) Me: OMG this should be the name of a bar.
(10:05:59 PM) Friend: haha it totally should


Better reflects reality than variations of "heaven".








<!-- {
url:""
,title:""
,button:"narrow"
} -->
Save on Delicious

A scary congregation of toxic gases

- - -
I think this is more than what Britney Spears had in mind when she wrote "Toxic"...

Yeah, um, I was too scared to get closer for a clearer shot. I couldn't tell what the bottom two were... but here are their identities:
(1) tertiarybutylarsine
(2) trimethylgallium
(3) tributylphosphine
(4) trimethylindium
(5) trimethylaluminum
(6) dimethylzinc
(7) Jabba the Hutt's fart
(8) Meth lab explosion

I will figure out what (7) and (8) really are.

[Edit 2011.07.28 19:06]
(7) is 1,1-dimethylhydrazine (UDMHy) ... My original guess wasn't too far off.
(8) is 200ppm silane in hydrogen






<!-- {
url:""
,title:""
,button:"narrow"
} -->
Save on Delicious

On some action movies (Tron: Legacy - Iron Man 2 - I, Robot - Matrix - Firefly, etc.)

- - -
CG effects galore! Too much flashing eye-candies can result in a hyperglycemic attention span.

I get bored watching most action films that simply showcase CG effects. What engage me are the philosophical references and/or soundtracks. Tron: Legacy and I, Robot fit the bill. I liked the machine vs. human theme, manifested in the form of zen symbolism and Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics, respectively. Their soundtracks kick ass too.

Iron Man 2, by comparison, was a disappointment after Iron Man 1. Tony Stark is a rather one-dimensional character. I'm not so sure whether he gives The Institvte a good name or not...

I can sort of see why Olivia Wilde took a break from House to star in Tron: Legacy. The zen references make the movie more interesting than it otherwise would be. I wonder if her character's name, Quorra, alludes to zen koans (quorra - query - riddle - koan) That would be a clever trick. She portrays these mysterious characters rather well, while giving them a certain approachability and hence more sympathetic to the audience, i.e. Thirteen from House.

On the other hand, Summer Glau is good at playing the really "exotic" types of characters, i.e. River Tam from Firefly, a child prodigy who becomes the subject of human experimentation. She's like the female equivalent of Keanu Reeves, at least re: their movie roles :-P






<!-- {
url:""
,title:""
,button:"narrow"
} -->
Save on Delicious

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

[Fudgy Science Episode 001] (FSE 001)

- - -
Observational study of how much I talk and how well it comes across vs. how awake I am.


Note that everything is normalized to the value when I'm fully awake, which gives no indication to the absolute quantity.

And there is a "golden zone" when I'm approximately 70% to 90% awake, such that I maintain about the same level of cogency but get more words out. This is when I'm less inhibited than when I'm fully awake. As in my think-it-through vs. just-say-it ratio is tipped toward the latter... in situations where I need to get my points across to a bunch of people, this is often helpful. Which leads me to think that in high-stakes presentations, perhaps one drink ~10 minutes before might just do the trick... or not! I haven't found a consistent algorithm to reach this state yet :-(

My least favorite zone is the ~40% to ~60% awake zone, i.e. the I-don't-feel-like-talking-so-get-the-f***-away zone. I would usually retreat to napping/ sleeping/ pretending to work by typing furiously when this happens.

The "wasted zone" of about 20% to 40% awake usually happens when I average < 5 hours sleep for about a week, after I finish the project in question, when I'm in familiar company. I tend not to recall what I say here. Sometimes I reach this stage in my regular sleep, when I would dream that I'm giving a lecture about some (often technical) topic and proceed to dream-talk, the content of which makes little sense in actuality.

This is what I think an extrovert's graph looks like -


The cogency curve is probably still monotonic, but the verbal flux curve is consistently high even when the person is about 30% awake. And there is a slight tendency for the amount of talking to increase when the person is less awake but not completely comatose.

This in part explains my angst during most of my middle-to- high-school-to- undergrad life, because I was in that Valley of Stupor most of the time. Figures.






<!-- {
url:""
,title:""
,button:"narrow"
} -->
Save on Delicious

My RPG personality + special skills... har har har

- - -







<!-- {
url:""
,title:""
,button:"narrow"
} -->
Save on Delicious

Monday, July 18, 2011

Do not try and bend the spoon [Actually this could have been taken straight from 道德經 and we'd be none the wiser]

- - -
... instead, only try to realize the truth. There is no spoon.

Why yes, only that the observer sees a spoon and thinks there is a spoon. And the mere act of observation is never isolated from the grand scheme...

The Matrix. With Zen koans. I have known about these for a long time, just not by this label. Aren't they delicious? The vast interconnection of the universe and how the physical reality is but one aspect, one possible manifestation out of an infinite combinatorial soup.

The Tao of Physics. I know most of the concepts already, but I'd just like to see if I could uncover any new insights. The pioneering quantum physicists sure sounded remarkably like the ancient Eastern philosophers in their quintessence.

I love that splash page where the quantum physics equations are next to a selection of a classical Hindi text. For the vast majority of people on this planet, they all look like inscrutable gibberish. But they do have something in common. They both attempt to describe the ultimate truth. Which of course, is not really describable.

Goes to say that I can't describe the state I am currently in right now. It is indeterminate. If I change a variable, the outcome would be vastly different. Everything would change. It is so tempting. I can't quite understand, because it is a tautological contradiction for the brain to try to understand itself... unless I go beyond the brain...






<!-- {
url:""
,title:""
,button:"narrow"
} -->
Save on Delicious