Tuesday, 15 December 2009

iPhone as a musical instrument

iPhone as a musical instrument WOW!

Friday, 4 December 2009

Science can be fun

Norm Goldblatt at Wonderfest.org hosted by fora.tv

Thursday, 3 December 2009

That's why I am fascinated by Physics

That's why I am fascinated by Physics when I was young and why I am still fascinated by Physics some 50 years later.

If looking at mother earth from one of Saturn's moon is not exciting enough, watch how science figure out the black hole at the center of our own galaxy.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

On Knowing

When we refer to knowing something, we usually mean know-how and know-what. These are knowledge that get things done. Let's taking cooking curry as an example. The know-how is the recipe, the method of preparation, the know-what is the knowledge of the right combination of different types of spices to make the dish.

However, there are some useful know-x too. If I know someone who can make a good curry, I can ask. That is a know-who. If I know somewhere I can find good curry, I can go there and get what I want. That's know-where. Both of these (know-who and know-where) is a step "further" from the actual knowledge of making the curry. But it achieves the same objective - a good curry meal.

Talking about one-step from achieving my objective, there is a know-how2. If I know how to find the recipe, I can still get the recipe and make my curry. Here I am calling know-how2. There is an equivalent know-what2. Instead of combining the spices myself, I can get a curry powder - someone with the first know-what has used that knowledge to make the curry powder so that I don't need that original knowledge to achieve the aim. So if I know a good brand of curry powder (that's know-what2), I can also achieve my objective.

Let me elaborate a bit to drive home one message I would like to make in this post.

To cook the curry meal, I will need a pot, a stove, the actual ingredients themselves. There are specific knowledge embedded in the making of the pot, the stove, growing the spices and so on. In the example above, they were assumed and were not the focus of the path to make a curry meal.

In other words, we are now living in a highly entangled web of knowledge, many of these are assumed. If we go back to the "basic", we need to go back to the age when fire was first discovered, or even earlier. The environment we are living today has all the accumulated knowledge ever discovered by human.

As an individual, a pre-school child walking into a kindergarten already knows quite a bit of things. The only really "blank slate" is very likely the moment when the sperm enters the egg. From that fertilisation moment onwards, the baby is developed under the influence of the social environment we are born, initially via the food the mother is eating (which is obviously socially bound) to later the first sound a baby hear (still in mother's belly!) ...

In the brief discussion above, I have left out know-why. The development of theory, scientific theory is what I have in mind now, enables us to "explain" thing and hence to predict thing. When we ask the question why apples fall down, we answer with the theory of gravity. However, the theory of gravity itself is a generalisation of many carefully done observations of things falling towards the earth. The fact that this particular apple falls is (1) an evidence supporting the theory of gravity and (2) can be "explained" by the theory.

Another way of putting this. "Why x?" is equivalent to "do you know a generalisation (theory) of which x is an evidence".

Hence, for learning, if the focus was to solve a problem directly, one needs to know-why to find a theory and hence apply, or have know-how and/or know-what. If that's knowledge is not readily available, the next step would be to draw on know-who, know-where, know-how2 and/or know-what2. That said, a lot of the knowledge is in the community (all human experience combined).

We are in an exciting time. We are beginning to see knowledge moving from human into machine. But that's for another post.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Science Comedy

This will be a very fun way to learn some Science:

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

New book on role-based e-learning (2)

In the book, we talked about different types of rules:

  • Rules of normal social behaviour

  • Rules of physics

  • Rules of engagement within the online role play

  • Rules defining structure and process of online role play

  • Social rules are guides and may be broken. Here is a good example when it should. From the angle of corporate training, what has gone wrong in the case of Qantas? Does Qantas actually know that it is upsetting the people who are generating their "bottom-line"?

    Tuesday, 24 November 2009

    e-book reader, game on

    I have Sony's PRS 505 for a while now and really enjoy reading with it. BUT I still want one with a larger display, color and ...

    My mind was set on Kindle DX, unfortunately, it is not available outside USA and is black and white only. It seems that there will be more choices when DX become available here. I am happy to wait.

    Slashgear reports that Qualcomm mirasol color video ebook readers to ship in 2010. Unfortunately, it seems it will be a 5.7-inch screen which I think is too small for me.

    Pixel Qi is also on track to deliver laptops which are black/white day-light readable and full color with back lighting. At the moment, I am leaning towards a pixel qi enabled laptop with 10-inch screen as my reading device. But I would like to be able to boot to read within 1 sec or two. That would ultimately swing the final choice I am going to make.

    New book on role-based e-learning

    Sandra Wills, Elyssebeth Leigh and I are writing a book on Role-based e-learning to be published by Routledge in the coming June/August. In one of the chapter, I have updated my model on the various dimensions a moderator plays in role play simulation. Previous, I have 5 dimensions:

  • Administrator

  • Guardian Angel

  • Resident Resource

  • Manipulative Devil

  • Improvising Storyteller

  • The new dimension is Institutional Representative.

    As ‘Guardian Angel’ Moderators read communications and observe participants’ efforts to understand the direction in which the action is moving. They assist without intruding. When responding to participants’ requests for help, they do not give instructions. An Angel suggests, questions and prompts, giving equal support to all participants, not interfering to turn the action in a direction they prefer.

    As a ‘Manipulative Devil’ the Moderator may insert additional problems or barriers into the action. These may be part of the design or may be impromptu additions provoked by the need to generate activity, or delay or re-direct attention. Occasionally it may be necessary to prompt for activities that are not legitimate in real life, but are needed for subsequent analysis of their impact on the scenario and/or others’ actions. Thus in Middle Eastern Politics the ‘Devil” may allow things to be ‘done’ that - while not legal - do occur in the real world.

    Being the on-site Teaching/Learning Resource enables Moderators to contribute crucial content knowledge. Selecting the activity, providing essential information at the beginning, suggesting external resources, checking for accuracy in referencing and providing prompts from their expertise are all ways a Moderator enacts this role.

    Sometimes unforeseen game situations create the necessity for scenario modifications or extensions. As an Improvising Story Teller the Moderator can respond to such moments by inventing and introducing reasonable alterations to the original design.

    Moderators must, at time, solve technical issues and assist in relevant skill development. As an Administrator a Moderator may need to do such things as delete wrong or duplicate messages and assist participants to develop technical expertise.

    Finally, learners in an online role play are situated in a larger institutional context, and the Moderator is the Institutional Representative. An Institutional Representative has undoubted power over learners in regard to such things as successful completion of their qualification.  However, since role play puts learners in a contrived context, it is important they know that, as long as they are ‘in character’, their enactment of the role will not adversely effect their study or career goals. Suggestions, given from within this dimension, need to be offered as choices. As Institutional Representative, the Moderator also monitors and ensures completion of participation obligations.

    The particular power of this model is its flexibility in guiding choices about the range of dimensions via which a Moderator can respond to the action and the needs of individual participants. Table 5.4 outlines some of the factors involved and the following examples illustrate the process in action. A Moderator may use the ‘Manipulative Devil’ role early on to provoke a degree of confusion among participants so that they are unable to rely on their ‘taken for granted’ assumptions about how things ‘usually are’. And it can re-appear later on, as participants are settling into routines, and again unsettle them so they are alerted to the value of constantly looking beyond the ‘known and familiar’ on a regular basis. Similarly the ‘Guardian Angel’ may appear as guide and mentor more than once – and in different disguises.

    Monday, 23 November 2009

    Blocking News from Google, who will get hurt?

    MICROSOFT has held talks with Rupert Murdoch's News Corp over a possible plan for the software giant to pay the media company to remove its news websites from Google. [source]

    The source cited the biggest beneficiary to be the newspaper. I do not agree. In fact, it will spell the end of news paper.

    News are everywhere, news agencies competing against each other, bloggers "reporting" live and new microbloggers such as Twitter. When news.com.au are blocked from indexing by the default search engine, it will just not be visible to millions of online reader who only read online news, like me.

    The only viable business model of online news is advertising, just like paper-based news which depend overwhelmingly on advertising already. Cutting readership is cutting revenue stream.

    Good luck with News Corp if they really go ahead with M$'s plan.

    Local dad spoke only Klingon to child for three years

    I don't know what I can say about this.

    I know that a child will develop its intonation at the early age and will be very difficult to change later in life. I myself is a good example of speaking broken Cantonese-toned English. I also know that a child can simultaneously master several different languages almost effortlessly at the early years.

    However, is it best for the child to teach her a language which has very limited real life use?

    Wednesday, 11 November 2009

    Typist still exists today

    This Taiwanese student earns his school fee by typing. Only $40 Taiwan dollar (US$1.24) per 1000 words. But he can so 137 words per minute.

    This girl does 616 words in 1 min. 11.03 sec, averaging at 520.2 words per minutes.

    How long does it take to type a-z?

    What about 0.3 sec? The following video shows a 5-year in Taiwan using all his 10 fingers.

    Tuesday, 27 October 2009


    On online discussion:

    “Tell Your Story” encourages posters to share their perspective on a topic and avoid assuming they can know or can represent the perspective or thinking of others. For millennia, humans have learned through sharing stories. We’re wired that way. Telling my own story keeps me anchored in real events, emotions, intentions, and outcomes without second guessing the emotions or intentions of others. Listening to stories of other people’s experience helps me learn a fresh way of perceiving the world. Telling someone else’s story brings me too close to the slippery slope of judgment and labeling, and, like a bug in a venus-fly-trap, I slide into the Fundamental Attribution Error, interpreting other’s unfortunate behaviors and actions as arising from character flaws, while viewing my own actions through the lens of the unavoidable situational constraints and drama of my story.

    “Ask a Sincere Question” supports a mode of inquiry and curiosity. I pose sincere questions when I show a willingness to admit I don’t know, “I’ve never tried pair programming, how do you start?” or seek to extend my knowledge “What’s on your task board? How does it work for your team?” So, what’s an insincere question? It’s when a statement masquerades as a question (Don’t you agree that...?) or the question disparages another (How did you get to be such an idiot?) or manipulates the respondent (Are you still beating your wife?).

    “Interpret Generously” gives me an opportunity to rethink an initial reaction before I respond. I get to ask myself, “what else would have to be true for this puzzling position/behavior to make sense?” and “why would a reasonable person behave this way?” Once I can imagine a generous interpretation and a positive intent, whether close to actual facts or not, my reaction changes. I become more ready to ask a sincere question about the other person’s story and to learn what lies behind the mystery of why we have differing perspectives. Diana Larsen, chair of the Agile Alliance board of directors

    Thursday, 15 October 2009

    What is it?

    The answer is this is a fan. Watch James Dyson's explanation:

    also posted at Sustaining Future

    Sunday, 27 September 2009

    A New Explanation For the Plight of Winter Babies

    The initial comments at slashdots focuses on the accuracy of the data and soon shifted to speculation of the causes. In his book Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcom Gladwell writes about the birth month of players in the Ontario Junior Hockey League. More players were born in January than in any other month. Why? Read Chapter 1 of the book.

    Want to know the answer now?

    The explanation for this is quite simple. It has nothing to do with astrology, nor is there anything magical about the first three months of the year. It's simply that in Canada the eligibility cutoff for age-class hockey is January i. A boy who turns ten on January 2, then, could be playing alongside someone who doesn't turn ten until the end of the year—and at that age, in preadolescence, a twelve­-month gap in age represents an enormous difference in
    physical maturity.

    This being Canada, the most hockey-crazed country on earth, coaches start to select players for the traveling "rep" squad—the all-star teams—at the age of nine or ten, and of course they are more likely to view as talented the bigger and more coordinated players, who have had
    the benefit of critical extra months of maturity.

    And what happens when a player gets chosen for a rep squad? He gets better coaching, and his teammates are better, and he plays fifty or seventy-five games a season instead of twenty games a season like those left behind in the "house" league, and he practices twice as much as, or even three times more than, he would have otherwise. In the beginning, his advantage isn't so much
    that he is inherently better but only that he is a little older. But by the age of thirteen or fourteen, with the benefit of better coaching and all that extra practice under his belt,
    he really is better, so he's the one more likely to make it to the Major Junior A league, and from there into the big leagues.""

    The cause, suggested by the original researcher can be found here.

    Saturday, 26 September 2009

    Computer Program Self-Discovers Laws of Physics

    While I have not given sufficient thinking on the implication of "The Petabyte Age" to have proper comment, I want to point out my underlying stance for scientific theory.

    Science focuses on repeatable observable events. We throw a stone up, it falls back down. Do it again, it falls again. So, we try to *understand* a collection of similar events (throwing the stone up, forward etc) by proposing a theory. The utility of the theory is that we can use the theory to *predict* similar events.

    As we progress, and hence have accumulated more observations, we want to develop more powerful theory which can predict more types of events. When one theory can also *explain* (i.e. predicts events) other events covered by other theory, we choose the more powerful theory.

    At the same time, as the accuracy of observation increases, the demand on the theory also increases. The theory needs to predict to the same or higher accuracy of the observations.

    An example is the relationship between Newtonian mechanics and Einstein's relativity. At human speed, Newton's laws of motion is perfectly fine in predicting the velocity of objects. As the speed approaches that of light, we need relativity to predict the velocity. However, at the same time, Relativity also produces the same prediction of velocity at human speed albeit the mathematics is more involved.

    I also noted two interesting points on this process.
    1. Terms are coined to represent very specific ideas used in the theory. For instance, momentum is defined as the mass times velocity. Such concepts are useful shorthand which can reduce the complexity of the theory.
    2. Inevitably, mathematical models are used. Mathematics are tools developed entirely based on logic. In its purest form, mathematics are not independent of evidence or observation. Mathematics are pure conceptual construct - an art. Scientists find the logical deducing power of mathematical model useful to express complex observations. Almost all major advances of physical science is pre-dated by the development of a powerful mathematical tool. Most physical theories are now expressed in mathematical form.

    The combination of (1) and (2) above makes learning science a highly demanding task. There are lots of terms to learn. These are concept shorthand and conventions. In order to be able to understand the theory, we must have working knowledge of all the terms used. As many physical theories are expressed in mathematical form, we must also have working knowledge of the system of mathematics which is used by the theory.

    With these observations, I am not sure computer-based generation of theory would be useful for our understanding of the physical realm we live in.

    Friday, 25 September 2009

    Whatever happened, don't give up.

    Tuesday, 22 September 2009

    Random Acts of Kindness

    Does Random Acts of Kindness still exist?

    Thursday, 3 September 2009

    Think before you post

    Online Sexual Exploitation

    Tuesday, 4 August 2009

    Amazon was sued in a class-action

    According to PCMag, two Kindle users – one of them a high school student – have filed a class-action lawsuit against Amazon after the company remotely deleted copies of George Orwell's "1984" from their e-readers ... for breach of contract, intentional interference with their belongings, as well as violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and the Washington Consumer Protection Act.

    In this online world, old rules are not enough to handle the new situation. But the plain-old moral standard should be the guiding light.

    I hope online retailer will learn a good lesson from this.

    Wednesday, 22 July 2009

    Who Owns eBooks you have paid for? - more

    In the original post, I thought Amazon only deleted the archived copies. It turned out that those copies on customers' Kindles were also deleted remotely. That is a complete new can of worms!

    Let's suppose I have bought a copy of 1984 on my Kindle and have backed it up on a local offline storage. Will the copy, I later put back on Kindle, automatically disappear as well?

    I was thinking of selling my current Sony eBook reader and buy a new Kindle DX. Now I am having second thoughts.

    I hoped I would have saved some trees by going digital. But I am more afraid of Big Brother than Global warming. I better keep the dead trees!

    Saturday, 18 July 2009

    Who Owns eBooks you have paid for?

    New York Times posted a story about "Amazon Kindle owners awoke to discover that books by a certain famous author had mysteriously disappeared from their e-book readers".

    Apparently, the publisher has changed its mind after selling some electronic edition of George Orwell's 1984 and Animal Farm and decided to take back the electronic copy and refund the customers.

    This causes a few questions:
    1. Is electronic transaction, in this case, buying a copy of a book in electronic format, final? If yes, the customer may choose not to sell his/her copy back, or may charge a different price for selling it back. In this case, if I were the customer, I would charge the publisher $1,000,000 to buy back my copy. If not, when is the transaction final?

    2. I have not read the fine print re: buying eBook from Amazon. I suppose they must have the above scenario covered. I would still challenge the legality of such product recall. At least it is morally unacceptable. From now on, I will seriously consider buying anything from Amazon.

    Information lives inside a Pandora box. Once released, it cannot be taken back. What Amazon has done was to remove the archived copies. Those who have downloaded the book into their computer and have made proper backup would have copies. Will the police come knocking on these customers door?

    The whole issue of copyright and Intellectual Property needs to be re-examined. To me, I prefer no copyright and intellectual property. If you like to keep something secret, like the recipe of the famous Coca Cola, keep it as a secret. Otherwise, share your information and ideas. The world would be much simpler and happier.

    Thursday, 4 June 2009

    Compound parabolics

    How can you design a parabola which can focus sunlight at the focus at different time of the day without tracking?

    Here is the answer:

    And a mould for creating the compound parabolic solar cookers

    What's you call?

    Today on Australian Seven's "Deal or No deal", it is a classic probability case.

    In the last round, the contestant was left with his and his daughter's cases to open. The board has $4000 and 50cents. The host has been playing up for a mega-guess which would be $10,000. The bank offers $2020, should he accept it? (Answer in white below. Highlight to cheat and see my answer.)
    No. We can do much better than that.
    In the show, he did not accept the offer and has chosen "no deal". As expected, the mega-guess was offered. What should be the guess by his daughter?

    She should have guessed that she has $4000. If she is right, they combined would have $10,000.50. If she is wrong, her father would have $4000. In both cases, it would be better than the bank's $2020 offer. However, they did not play the game optimally. The game ended with 50cents for both of them.

    Sunday, 10 May 2009

    Textbook, Learning Opportunities & Kindle

    One of my complain of the eBook reader is its display size. They are mostly 6" display, fitting a typical letter size or A4 size document to such a screen means displaying the document in 30% - which is very demanding on the eyes.

    Other larger format eBook readers are prohibitively expensive. Amazon's Kindle DX is like a fresh air in this dull market. Is there any cause of excitement for learning?

    Granted Amazon has cornered the book's market and have agreements in place with the main textbook publishers, availability of textbook on Kindle (and Kindle DX) is just a matter of time. But we all know that learning is NOT just the availability of textbooks - and the role of owning information is giving way to the skill to manage and use the information. Charging 15 cents per mega byte for wireless downloading of personal information to the Kindle is a bit deep to most students. Of course, students can choose to use the free service and load the content to their Kindle via a networked computer. But that's only a very small fraction of the kind of interactivity eLearning professionals would like.

    eBook reader's adjacent competitor is tablets. Scheduled for 2010 OLPC version 2, noting that it will feature a dual-screen in color and readable in daylight, will prove to be a serious competitor to Kindle DX in both price and features.

    If Kindle DX has come out before I bought my Sony eBook reader, I would have bought Kindle DX - for its size mainly. For now, I will wait for OLPC OX-2!

    Wednesday, 6 May 2009

    Folding T-shirt


    or this

    Eastern vs Western. You choose!

    Friday, 24 April 2009

    Online Image Tools

    Fro those who have an account on worth1000, you most likely will have received the same email about the launch of a new online image editing site: aviary. If you are not those, and you will like creating images, aviary may worth your visit.

    Monday, 20 April 2009

    Pi to 1,000,000 places

    It is the number originally from http://3.141592653589793238462643383279502884197169399375105820974944592.com. You can now get it as an attachment to pito1millionplaces.

    Hope I won't kill the server as http://3.141592653589793238462643383279502884197169399375105820974944592.com did.

    Thursday, 9 April 2009

    More on reading on an ebook reader

    Some pdf come formatted in two columns. As the device's screen is small, I read it in landscape mode and need to go up and down to continue reading after the first column.

    Recently, I found papercorp [more info here] which converts pdf into image sequence (and then save back as pdf). The software can detect multiple columns and save them in sequential images - I don't need to scroll up and down anymore.

    a very nice tool!

    Wednesday, 1 April 2009

    Warner Brothers & The Pirate Bay

    If you click on the logo of the Pirate Bay, you will be able to download a pdf announcing the acquisition of TPB by Warner Brothers for 13.37 billion in a stock for stock transaction.

    TPB is currently the largest bit torrent sharing website with over 1.6 million torrents on tracker and over 9 million seeders and another 9.4 million leechers.

    This news would be the greatest surprise for me! Given today is April 1, I am taking this with a handful of salt. :-)

    Sony PRS-505 ebook reader

    Recently, I bought a Sony PRS-505 ebook reader. After using it for a few days, I generally like it. Because of my eye sight, I read in medium font in landscape mode. All the reading I have done are pdf files. I can use it under direct sunlight - which is good.

    Apart from the default "s" mode (which can stand for standard or small), medium and large fonts are available. However, these later modes are a re-flow of the pdf text. It did not work for a Chinese pdf I was reading. I have not tested on other Chinese pdf yet.

    Some of my pdf has a fairly large white margin, if there is a magnifier mode so that I can fill the screen with text and push the margin outside, I would be able to read the pdf without using re-flow.

    However there are a few improvements that may make it better.

    1. Non-reflective coating of the screen will help in situation where is a high contrast of light and shadow.

    2. The processor performance should improve. Yes, the screen refresh is slow compared to other display technology, it does not hence imply a low performing processor. I generally find switching pages in medium or large font mode too slow possibly due to the need of re-flowing.

    3. A different magnification mode may also be useful. (see above)

    4. A larger display area would certainly help. Given it is an ebook reader, I suppose the target market would be people like me, ie old enough to still read books, have some eye sight issues (need reading glasses all the time). A small screen is certainly no good.

    5. My reader come with a leather jacket. I find that I cannot fold the cover back and hence I need one hand to keep the cover open, very ignoring.

    Sunday, 29 March 2009

    Periodic Table with Videos

    The famous chemical periodic table with each element linked to video about the element. Interesting online resource to keep handy.

    Saturday, 28 March 2009

    Did you know?

    Monday, 23 March 2009

    Power corrupts

    Today's 4corners on Australian ABC is about a former Federal Court Judge Marcus Einfeld who were sent to jail because of lying about a $77 speeding ticket. It seems that Marcus had a habit of lying about the drivers of his car when caught in traffic infringements.

    It is amazing to contemplate how people, a judge in this case, would lie and thus committed crimes just to get out of some relatively small matter. I have met a number of nice people who changed into very nasty selfish person when put in a position of power. What corrupts people? Power? Position?

    Whatever the reason, checks and balances must be in place to ensure a fair society.

    Saturday, 21 March 2009

    Burning Mercury Thiocyanide

    Mercury(II) thiocyanate (Hg(SCN)2) is a chemical compound. It was formerly used in pyrotechnics for the long snake-like ash Pharaoh's serpent that forms when a pellet of this compound, often with a small amount of a sugar such as glucose added to serve as supplemental fuel, is ignited. This is extremely dangerous because it produces poisonous mercury vapors. [source]

    Friday, 20 March 2009


    That's a fun way of handling the unwelcome tele-marketer.

    Walkalong Glider

    Watch this to get motivated.

    Want to make one for yourself. Here is how from instuctables.

    This is a really simply one

    The following videos demonstrate how to convert a dead butterfly into a walkalong glider. (a dead butterfly and nail polish were used.)

    More info at sites.google.com/site/controllableslopesoaring/.

    Monday, 16 March 2009

    Play - and why it is important!

    A very insightful talk on play. We should introduce more into our schools.

    Wednesday, 11 March 2009

    Along the River During the Ching- ing Festival

    Click on the title of this post to view the argumented painting. Best view in full screen.

    This is a very famous painting in China. This painting was originally painted, circa 1085-1145, during the Northern Song Dynasty. It was repainted during the Qing Dynasty. It measures 528 cm in width and 24.8 cm in height.

    In this online version, artists have inserted three animations. Click on the small square on the bottom of the screen to scroll to the hot spot. Click on the hot spot to watch an animation clip showing more details of the time. Enjoy.

    Tuesday, 10 March 2009

    Science education view point

    About 4:00 into this video, Richard Dawkins gave two insightful approaches of Science education: Carl Sagan's and NASA non-stick frying pan. Personally, I am the admirer of the beauty of the Universe. Enjoy!

    Sunday, 8 March 2009

    Here are some photos which should be distributed widely to teenage girls

    Many teenage girls are easily influenced by the images of celebrities they saw on magazine or catwalks. Here are some before and after images which should point them to a more realistic images of themselves. Enjoy.


    Friday, 6 March 2009

    Monkey Walking Upright

    Although the following video is making round in blogsphere recently, it is in fact an old news[2004]: A monkey at the Jerusalem Zoo has been walking upright after recovering from a stomach flu that nearly killed her [see also]:

    Back in 2001:

    Monkeys walking on two feet have long been an integral part of circus acts. The way they waddle from side to side appeals to our sense of comedy.
    Now, however, Prof. Shigemi Mori and other researchers at the National Institute for Physiological Sciences have succeeded in training monkeys to walk erect smoothly, as humans do, by working with them from the age of 2 1/2 years.
    Through this research, the scientists have learned that there is a considerable difference in brain function when an animal walks bipedally and when it walks on all fours. [source]

    Sunday, 1 March 2009

    How do you write the job description of a janitor?

    While you are watching the video from TED below, take the following questions in the background.

    What is the most difficult part of being a "good" janitor?
    How to include the 'good' part of a janitor job into the job description?

    How can we educate for a wiser generation?

    Thursday, 26 February 2009

    Obama's magic

    Teaching is the art of helping people learn. A good lecture by a Chinese Physics Nobel Laureate, using only words, inspired me to become a Physics student at HKU and then became a Physics teacher for the better part of my life. That was many years ago.

    The current USA president has the same gift and magic to inspire Americans in his speeches. Martin Shovel wrote:

    The success of Obama and Favreau’s [Obama's head speechwriter] writing relationship is built on a fundamental principle of good communication: if you want an audience to pay attention, you have to begin by getting them to care about what you’re saying.

    To inspire, we use narrative. To reason, we use facts and logic. To learn, we need to care enough to change ourselves.

    We teachers can learn a lot from reading and studying great speeches. See my other blog Godlessize for some great speeches godlessized.

    Saturday, 21 February 2009

    Just a story, but worth learning a lesson from it

    A Modern Parable......

    A Japanese company (Toyota) and an American company (Ford Motors) decided to have a canoe race on the Missouri River. Both teams practiced long and hard to reach their peak performance before the race.

    On the big day, the Japanese won by a mile. The Americans, very discouraged and depressed, decided to investigate the reason for the crushing defeat. A management team made up of senior management was formed to investigate and recommend appropriate action.

    Their conclusion was the Japanese had 8 people rowing and 1 person steering, while the American team had 7 people steering and 2 people rowing. Feeling a deeper study was in order, American management hired a consulting company and paid them a large amount of money for a second opinion.

    They advised, of course, that too many people were steering the boat, while not enough people were rowing. Not sure of how to utilize that information, but wanting to prevent another loss to the Japanese, the rowing team's management structure was totally reorganized to 4 steering supervisors, 2 area steering superintendents and 1 assistant superintendent steering manager. They also implemented a new performance system that would give the 2 people rowing the boat greater incentive to work harder. It was called the 'Rowing Team Quality First Program,' with meetings, dinners and free pens for the rowers. There was discussion of getting new paddles, canoes and other equipment, extra vacation days for practices and bonuses. The pension program was trimmed to 'equal the competition' and some of the resultant savings were channelled into morale boosting programs and teamwork posters.

    The next year the Japanese won by two miles.

    Humiliated, the American management laid-off one rower, halted development of a new canoe, sold all the paddles, and cancelled all capital investments for new equipment. The money saved was distributed to the Senior Executives as bonuses.

    The next year, try as he might, the lone designated rower was unable to even finish the race (having no paddles,) so he was laid off for unacceptable performance, all canoe equipment was sold and the next year's racing team was out-sourced to India.

    Sadly, the End.

    Here's something else to think about: Ford has spent the last thirty years moving all its factories out of the US, claiming they can't make money paying American wages.

    TOYOTA has spent the last thirty years building more than a dozen plants inside the US. The last quarter's results: TOYOTA makes 4 billion in profits while Ford racked up 9 billion in losses.

    Ford folks are still scratching their heads, while collecting their bonuses... and now wants the Government to 'bail them out.'


    cross posted to Corporate E-Learning

    Tuesday, 10 February 2009

    Victoria Bush Fire

    Last weekend's bush fire in Victoria turned out to be one of the worse bush fire we have ever faced. The week before, we have the record-breaking 4 consecutive days of temperature over 44C which basically fried every thing dry. On the day, we have a record breaking 46.6C with strong northern wind and single digit humidity. While some fires were spontaneous, unfortunately, the authority has identified cases where arsenic may be involved.

    The damage and destruction was widespread. As shown in the photo above, whole towns were wiped out. At this point, there were 181 people confirmed dead, over 4000 people homeless, hundreds were in emergency units with burn, over 700 homes totally lost.

    On a slightly brighter side, the Bush Fire Relief Fund set up by the Victoria Government together with Red Cross has already reached 28M and several fund raising efforts will be coming in next few days. Record number of people donated blood in the last few days.

    Could this bush fire be avoided in the first place?

    Scientists are now pointing the fingers towards the worsening weather pattern. While the southern part of Australia is extremely dry (drought for the last couple of years, Melbourne's water storage is at record low), there are flooding in the northern part of the continent (one month's worth of rain was dumped within days in Queensland). Extreme temperatures (two hot weather records were broken within two weeks) are expected to continue.

    If we are to put a value to climate change, we now have a vivid case.

    cross-posted to Sustaining Future

    Monday, 9 February 2009

    My brother sent me this. I am sharing with all my friends. English translation after the original Chinese.

    人生吧, 0歲出場,10歲快樂成長;20為情彷徨;30基本定向;40拼命打闖;50回頭望望;60告老還鄉;70搓搓麻將;80曬曬太陽;90躺在床上;100掛在牆上...









    Life: [Chinese has no tense. I used a simple present here. Depending on your age, some should be in past tense, some should be in future tense. :-)]
    Year 0: come out
    Year 10: grow up happily
    Year 20: look for love
    Year 30: set life's direction
    Year 40: work hard
    Year 50: look back
    Year 60: go home
    Year 70: play cards
    Year 80: lie under the sun
    Year 90: lie on the bed
    Year 100: hang on the wall

    Live great and die with no regret;
    When we can hold hands, do not just walk side by side;
    When we can embrace, do not just hold hands;
    When we are together, do let separation come easily.

    New Concepts in 2009
    One focus: health
    Two principles: Be cool and be fussy
    Three forgetfulnesses: forget age, forget past and forget adversity
    Four possessions: a loving life partner, understanding friends, prosperous business and a warm home.
    Five verbs: sing, dance, be light-hearted, smile and be slim.
    Six do-s [I changed the original negatives into positives except the last one]: eat before hungry; drink before thirsty; sleep before tired; check up before sick; don't get old before regretting wasting the life.

    Tuesday, 27 January 2009

    Happy New Year of Ox

    Thursday, 15 January 2009

    A good question and a good honest answer

    A mom wrote:

    T-5's class was reading a book about chickens and T-5 asked which hole the egg comes out.

    "The butt hole or the tummy hole?"

    The teacher said she wasn't sure so T-5 told her, "That's okay, I'll look it up on my computer when I get home."

    What I like about this story is that the Mom really helped her kid to find the answer and shared with us. Now, I know the answer. Do you?

    Wednesday, 14 January 2009

    Computer mouse

    A mouse which controls your cursor on screen inside a mouse from pet shop...

    End of closed book examination

    from The Australian

    The multi-million-dollar project was launched in London yesterday by three of the world's leading technology companies -- Cisco, Intel and Microsoft. They said the aim was to resolve the gap between what was taught in schools and the skills required in the workplace.

    The project aims to develop a computer-based assessment system that could be adopted around the world and would test students' knowledge in cross-disciplinary problems, spelling the end of closed-book exams testing students' memory.

    Monday, 12 January 2009

    Stanford University lectures on Darwin and his legacy

    via Atheist Nexus

    These lectures, given by distinguished and notable experts in their respective fields, have now been uploaded to youtube, including the discussion panels that follow each lecture and the highly informative Q&A sessions.

    Here they are
    Lecture 1: "Darwin's Own Evolution" with Robert Siegel and "Darwin's Data" with William Durham

    Lecture 2: "Evolution vs. Creationism" with Eugenie Scott.

    Lecture 3: "A biography on Charles Darwin" with Janet Browne

    Lecture 4: "The philosophical importance of Darwin's theory of evolution." with Dan Dennett

    Lecture 5: "How and why species multiply" with Peter and Rosemary Grant.

    Lecture 6: "Darwin's life and work" with Niles Eldredge

    Lecture 7: "The history and consequences of social Darwinism" with Melissa Brown

    Lecture 8: "Darwin's legacy in medicine and infectious disease" with Paul Ewald.

    Lecture 9: "Evolution, Brain and Behaviour" with Russell Fernald

    Lecture 10: "Learning to see Darwinian ways of meaning" with George Levine

    [cross posted to Atheist Bible Reading and Forum]

    One Laptop per Child program is downsizing

    Cut staff by 50% and remaining will have a salary reduction.

    Our technology initiatives will focus on:

    1. Development of Generation 2.0
    2. A no-cost connectivity program
    3. A million digital books
    4. Passing on the development of the Sugar Operating System to the community.