Tuesday, December 1, 2015

How Much Carbon Did The Indonesian Fire Emit?

Last month, palm oil concessions and small farmers in Indonesian began their annual land clearing and burning activity to open up new land for the new season, and the result was a devastating, month-long haze that blanketed neighboring Malaysia and Singapore.

Haze, as we know, is made up of dust particles, greenhouse gases, and carbon. Lots of carbon.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Are You A Super-Recognizer?

Most of us have had this awkward experience: met someone for the first time, shook hands, got to know his name, went to the lavatory, came back and poof! Oh hi have we met before?

How good are you in remembering, or recognizing faces?
Image: Scienceblogs.com
Facial recognition is an important part of our lives, because without it we would probably have no friends. Even today, police still rely on facial composite sketched based on description by victims to identify potential suspect. Last month when I was travelling to China, the immigration officer took a hard, cold look at my face, and then at the photo in my passport, and asked me to reenact that smile I had in my passport.
Facial recognition, China-style.

Just a couple of months ago, Thai police launched a search for a young man in a yellow T-shirt, whom they believe blew up Bangkok's Erawan shrine on August 16. They had the CCTV footage of the suspect, but the quality was far from perfect. I've seen the snapshot of the footage: it's grainy, blur, and I could not even see his facial features. Worse, I would probably not recognize the suspect had he walked past me then and there.
Nonetheless, Thai police managed to arrest the suspect at the Cambodian border and said he matched the description of the yellow-shirted bomber in the footage.
But how can they be so sure?

Luckily for us, there are people who possess this seemingly unique ability to recognize faces. The Scotland Yard, for example, has formed a team of super-recognizers that specialize in recognizing faces, and one of their most important tasks is to sit in CCTV control centers to scan the crowd.

"Gary Collins is so good that he ID'd three people over his Sunday roast," says Detective Chief Inspector Mick Neville, speaking about one member of the super-recognizer team who likes to relax on weekends with an iPad loaded with photos of criminal suspects.

After London's 2011 riots, the super-recognizers combed through thousands of hours of footage, and Collins alone identified 190 faces among the rioters.

How hard can that be, you may ask.
Some of us have thousands of friends on Facebook and it's easy to remember all their names, right?

Well, we're not talking about recognizing the faces you're familiar withlike the faces of your friends and family–we're talking about recognizing the face of a stranger, a person whom you see for the very first time, say from two different photos laid side-by-side. Still don't think it's hard? You can take a simple test here, devised by Josh Davis, a psychologist at the University of Greenwich, to see how good you are at it. Note: I scored 11 out of 14. That's a B+.

However, the ability to recognize faces is not so rare. In fact, you might share this ability, too, and not even know it. According to David White of the University of New South Wales' forensic psychology laboratory, the ability to recognize faces, it seems, falls along a spectrum. At one end are the people who are "face-blind", also known as prosopagnosia, while the other end sit the super-recognizers. There are, however, fewer than 1 percent of people on this planet who falls into the super-recognizer end.

For the remaining 99%, hope is not all lost. There are, in fact, ways to improve your facial recognition skills. In a study published recently in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, White's team tested a group of crack forensic examiners who specialize in face image analysis to see whether they would perform better than average. These group of expert super-recognizers, it turned out, did perform better than either untrained students or forensic experts who don't match faces regularly. These elite group of specialists are so good they could even identify faces that were shown upside-down. This leads White to suggest that with training, super-recognizers could further enhance their skills beyond their natural abilities.


Friday, September 25, 2015

Graphene Boosts Battery Performance

Have you ever wondered why are we not having batteries that could last much longer?
Charging the phone is easy—just plug it in and let it sit for a while—but when you have to do it often enough, it gets rather irritating.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The Annual Haze in South East Asia: Whose Fault Is It?

Even breathing can be difficult nowadays. 

A lot of us are well-informed about the haze that hit South East Asia (SEA) every year. In fact, it's happening right out the window next to me as I type, and if you don't know about it already, you should really go hang yourself outdoor once in while and stop keeping yourself indoor all the time.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Backpackers' Guide To Kuala Terengganu & Redang Island

Redang Island is one of the most visited islands in Malaysia. It's located some 30km off the coast of Kuala Terengganu, and is an ideal place for snorkeling, scuba diving, and chilling out. 

Redang island is actually the largest among a series of islands located closely to one another.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Light's Journey From The Sun To The Earth

The sun is the main source of energy in our solar system. The light from the sun gives us warmth, light, rain, and enables photosynthesis, which enables life. It also powers our solar panels, gives us vitamin D, and bleaches your favorite blouse. 

And when the sun finally exhausts its fuel and diesnot so fast, probably in another several billion yearsit will bring us all together with it.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Premarital Sex or Not?

Sex. What an exquisite topic.

How do you define sexual immorality/indecency anyway? Bare breasts, for instance, were socially accepted in many civilizations across the world in the past. Ancient Egyptian women wore elaborate dresses that could either cover the breasts of leave them exposed. Today, you just have to walk into your nearest museum to see explicit pictures and statues of Greek goddesses. As for man, take a look at Michelangelo's David-- exhibiting your phallus so openly isn't exactly decent by today's standard. So if bare breasts and genital-flashing were accepted as a norm in the past, how can we be sure of the exact definition of sexual immorality today? What deemed inappropriate today might not be appropriate in the next hundred years.

Anyway, excuse my random rant there.
We are often taught by our parents to avoid premarital sex. 
But why? 
Of course, religious institutions play a huge role in making sure that young, unmarried couples do not give in to the temptation of lust because, according to them, it's bad for the youngsters. And they'll follow up their claims with allegories of broken families or couples who'd committed themselves illegally in the premarital breeding program.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

How Does A Spider Build Its Web Over A River?

I was walking back from lunch one day when I saw something amazing: a spider web, a HUGE spider web which spanned across a small water channel roughly two meters wide.

And nestled in the center of the web was a spider about the size of my thumb.
If that's not amazing, I don't know what is. 

How could a spider the size of my thumb travel across the two-meter wide trench to build the web?
*Spoiler: There's no spiderman-style-silk-shooting involved here.*

Thursday, May 7, 2015

大摇 2015 (not troll)


今年的大摇坐落在假期的最后一天。讲真的我还很担心会因为假期而冷场,因为上次校创还蛮少人的。不过后来我到达 KPS,哇塞居然满座啊啊啊啊啊。

其实 hor,我每年看完大摇就会在这个部落格写下对大摇的感言和 comment ,而且都纯属我个人意见。可是今年大摇结束后我就和其他 seniorssss 一起喝茶讨论一些些,问问他们的意见,所以这次的意见是来自至少七个 seniors 的。

还有还有,我当天其实刚刚从刁曼岛回来 -- 早上的渡轮迟到两个小时,然后还因为退潮而必须在码头两公里以外等小船来载我们到码头,然后还要驾车五个小时,到了吉隆坡立刻背着背包到 DTC 看大摇,进场时唯一的印象就是看到几个人高喊:还我苍井空................ 【awkward moment】所以前面所发生的一切我不便 comment。

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

大摇 2015

下一篇才来 post。


Thursday, April 23, 2015

According to Science, The Phrase "If You Smile, The World Will Smile Back At You" Is True

We smile when there is something good going on. We smile because we feel happy, we feel joy, or simply because we have to act polite when meeting other people.

Smiling can change your mood, because human emotion is highly malleable. Pretend that you are happy, and you will feel happy, pretend that you are angry, and you will feel angrythis is an effect well known to actors, and has been extensively studied by psychologists following the tradition of William James and self- perception theory.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Visiting Japan: Tsukiji Fish Market

In almost every travel book about Japan, you'll definitely see the Tsukiji Fish Market in the Tokyo Attraction section.

Because it's freeeeee and backpackers, especially, love free stuffs.

I was there two weeks ago, and witnessed for myself the endangered fish so longed by so many sushi lovers all over the world. So in this entry I'll give a little advice on how to get there, what to do, what to expect, and what not to do.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Visiting Japan: Cheap Accommodation

Backpackers are stingy people. They'll try to avoid paying for everything. If they can. 

On the other hand, budget for accommodation is one of the most important expenditure for any trip, and it is especially pricey in Japan. A typical three-stars hotel could cost up to USD $120 per night during the Sakura season.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Visiting Japan: JapanRail (JR) Pass FAQ

The Japanese railway system is one of the most messed-up and complicated subway systems in the world. Of course, I did my research before leaving for Japan, but I was appalled by the lack of useful resources on the web for travelers like myself.
So today I'll be writing a little bit on what I know about the train system and the mode of transportation available for travelers, with an emphasis on the JR pass.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Now, We Finally Have A Way To Get Rid of Bedbugs

"Goodnight. Sleep tight. Don't let the bed bugs bite"

I had had no problem with bedbugs during my adolescence year. Thanks to my mother's continual insistence in keeping the house clean, I had never been bitten by a bedbug before, and so I never truly appreciated the quote above, until I got ravaged by bedbugs (for two bloody weeks), like literally hundreds of bedbugs, during my exchange program in India. The experience was horrible enough to recall, and one that I hope no human on this planet would have to go through. I could barely sleep at all because of the seemingly never-ending itchiness.
Image: en.wikipedia.org

I searched the web frantically looking for a quick solution and, to my horror, found no one-off solution. It's like you can't really exterminate them all at one go; you need to put your mattress out under the sun for a period of timewhich means you may need to sleep on another mattress, spray specialized insecticides repeatedly, and seek help from professionals.

Monday, January 26, 2015



“这个社会对美女的定义就是女人要穿高跟鞋才漂亮,不然那些 OL 什么的做莫通通要折磨自己的脚?”
*Before you even ask,对,在下有自问自答习惯*

咦?那为什么高跟鞋 = 美女?

Friday, January 23, 2015

Is It Possible To Clone Dinosaurs?

The movie Jurassic Park, based on Michael Crichton's bestselling novel of the same name, tells the story of a theme park filled with dinosaurs resurrected from DNAs extracted from bloodsucking insects trapped in tree sap. 

The 1993 movie, directed by renown director Steven Spielberg (who later produced two more sequels of Jurassic Park, and they sucked real bad compared to the first one), became the most financially successful film for Spielberg.
Image: en.wikipedia.org

I've always admired Crichton—I've got nearly all of his books; Micro, Next, Congo, etc—because of his unique way of blending science with fiction. In fact, the science of Jurassic Park seemed plausible: bloodsucking insects flew alongside dinosaurs and fed on their blood; they then rested on a branch before unfortunately trapped by tree sap bursting out from the tree. As a result, the DNA of the dinosaurs remained in the gut of the insects. That made sense.

If we could clone Dolly the sheep as well as producing a myriad of other creatures using the science of genetics and cloning techniques, why not dinosaurs?
So why haven't we had a Jurassic Park yet? It's been 20 years since the release of the first Jurassic Park, and the science of cloning has been steadily improving over the years.
Dolly's taxidermied remains. Image: en.wikipedia.org

Shortly after I shared the news on social media I was inundated by skeptics who asked about DNAs preserved in insects trapped in amber. They argued that since the insects are preserved by the amber, it is likely that the DNA remained intact, which means the blood that remained in the insects should still hold DNA.

That's exactly what Dr David Penney of the University of Manchester thought.
In his paper, he wrote that 

Intuitively, one might imagine that the complete and rapid engulfment in resin resulting in almost instantaneous demise, might promote the preservation of DNA in a resin entombed insect, and DNA preservation might be better within the protective environment of the resin than in an air-dried museum specimen.

But the results of his experiment show otherwise.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015


声音的速度是每秒 340 公尺,也就是大约每小时 1,236 公里。

如果一架飞机的时速超过每小时 1,236 公里,那就是所谓的超音速

当然,音波的速度会因温度气压而改变,有时候 1,220 km/h, 有时候 1,240 km/h。

其实以前也有超音速的商业机 Concorde而且是非常非常快的商业机,能以两倍的音速飞行 (Mach 2.04)。可是后来 Concorde 在飞行业低潮期的 2003 年时被撤掉了。所以大家再也没有机会体验超音速。

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Eel's Blood Is Toxic To Humans, But Electric Eel's Blood Is Not

Fact checking is an important part of journalism.

Especially when you're working for organizations like National Geographic or Discovery.


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