Recently in my inner science geek Category

in my inner science geek |

The Coca-Cola Bio cooler from Leo Burnett Colombia on Vimeo

It’s beginning to get oppressively hot, over 30°C. I’ve escaped to parents’ place because theirs is more open, with an occasional breeze and I don’t want to blast the air-con all day at my flat.

Some places in the world get very, very hot. And at some of these places, there is no electricity. No air-conditioning, no fans, no fridges.

So Coca-Cola just invented a cooling device that doesn’t need electricity. Developed by advertising agency Leo Burnett in collaboration with the International Physics Center, it uses natural technology: plants grow at the top of the container, when watered excessively the water trickles down the soil and because of the high temperature, evaporates and mixes with other materials into an unnamed gas. Mirrors inside the contained space condense the gas back to liquid, triggering a cooling effect (remember the first law of thermodynamics).

The device is placed the village of Aipir in Columbia, where temperatures reach 45°C, there is no electricity and villagers have to trek 12 hours to get ice. They press a button and hey presto! chilled coke cans.

Cynics would of course say the village probably need to have ways to cool their staples like meat, vegetables or milk, moreso than a gimmicky (albeit colourful) box that dispenses a high sugar unhealthy drink. The technology hopefully can be used on more practical purposes but as adweek observed,

this is about bringing people a modest luxury that’s normally out of reach

Very often we forget this, that things we take for granted in the first world have a different meaning to people who are less privileged. Lots of debate about how unhealthy coke and other soft drinks are, but for these Columbian villagers, it’s something that brings a smile to their faces.

in money business , my inner science geek |


I was googling for images of the 2-line stock market ticker for LL cover when I came across this, a periodic table of the stock market. I get excited when I come across displaying information or ideas as a periodic table (or as tetris). In this one, the atomic symbol corresponds to the ticker symbol of the stock. Based on the NYSE and Nasdaq. So the top of group 6 is occupied by C for Citigroup. There are quite a number of blanks, but it’s pretty great anyway.

in my inner science geek |


Everyone’s talking about the supermoon tonight. For some reason I keep reading superMOM instead of moon, sigh. Didn’t feel like setting up the tripod and getting the big camera out, so I just snapped this on the s90 from my balcony. It was taken just after 3pm EST, when the moon is a mere 221,565 miles (356,575 kilometers) from earth. Looks like a big streetlight on this picture.

in my inner science geek |

I know up to 152, above that I need a calculator. Until today. via lifehacker, john graham-cumming gave us a great method using mental arithmetic. So if I want to find out what is 482.

  • round up the number to be squared to the next 10 = 50
  • how many to do the round up? 50-48=2
  • take 2 from 48 = 46
  • multiply 46x50=2300 (it’s easy to do in the head)
  • add 22 2300+4=2304

in about me , all about people , my inner science geek |


click here and enter your name. Just do it. It’s awesome.

This is the Personas project from the MIT Media Lab. Basically, it takes your name and searches the web for some context around it. It then takes the words and sites it finds to build a profile of your presence on the web. Obviously if there are multiple people with the same name the profile will be a combination of all the names.

So I entered watty boss and it tells me that I’m online and social, but mostly it’s fame, which earned a big “huh?” from me. Does it mean I’m a celebrity? Paparazzi? Weird.

Now when I enter my real name it gives me:
So pleased!!! It means my effort in keeping my privacy has paid off. Phew.

Obviously the tool is searching for 2 words, not specifically names. So when I put in invisible company it goes through a lot of searches and gives an interesting restult. The process of the search is worth watching, and I screencapped a video.


in arts and media , my inner science geek |

must watch video. Absolutely amazing statistics. Everything is going exponential.

in in the news , my inner science geek |

I’m still obsessed with the cold weather. I want to go outside and throw a container of hot water into the cold and watch it freeze instantaneously.

in about me , evidence of my insanity , my inner science geek |

OMG, why has it taken me so long to find it. I so have to start doing this!! via bb, over at quantified self, Alexandra Carmichael explains how she keeps a record of 40 different things in her life every day, and what she’s learned about herself from studying the data.

I track these things about my health and personal patterns every day:

- sleep (bed time, wake time, sleep quality, naps)
- morning weight
- daily caloric intake (each meal, total calculated at end of day)
- mealtimes

  • mood (average of 3 positive and 3 negative factors on 0-5 scale)
  • day of menstrual cycle
  • sex (quantity, quality)
  • exercise (duration, type)

  • supplements I take (time, dosage)

  • treatments for vulvodynia (a chronic pain condition)
  • pain of administering the vulvodynia treatment I take (0-5)
  • vulvodynia-related pain (0-5)
  • headache,nausea (0-5)

  • time spent working, time with kids

  • number of nursings and night wakings (I’m a mom)
  • weather
  • unusual events (text)

The mood factors I measure every day are:
1. Happiness
2. Irritability
3. Calmness
4. Sadness
5. Feeling beautiful / self-love
6. Feeling fat / ate too much

She used google spreadsheets initially, and this came out of a project of setting up cure together, a platform for open source health research.

I don’t think it’s difficult to set up a spreadsheet for this, and in a way I’m kinda sorta tracking some stuff in different places. I can see myself tracking things like:

  • time I wake up, leave for work, arrive at work, arrive back home
  • meal times and what i ate
  • calorie intake and expenditure (something that daily plate does well)
  • exercise — daily plate again, plus I now record my runs on both nike plus and twitter
  • weight
  • blog posts made
  • google reader posts read
  • books read
  • words written
  • IM convos
  • emails read and answered (home and work)
  • number of facebook requests received

Alexandra analysed her data by looking at correlation between moods and certain activities like exercise. I can’t quite see myself tracking moods, cos it’ll be “meh” almost all the time. My motivation for tracking will be for the sake of getting data and putting them into pretty graphs.

And no, I won’t be tracking
- sex (quantity, quality)

in my inner science geek |

via kottke, a series of absolutely fantastic short videos on all 118 elements of the periodic table, presented by the Chemistry professors at the University of Nottingham. Never has the chemistry of elements been so interesting and so inspiring. That, and Professor Martyn Poliakoff’s big hair.

One of the commenters suggested that they put them all on a DVD. Oh yes, I’d so buy it. Watch all 118 videos here.

in my inner science geek |

via the always interesting kottke, a periodic table quiz. Only in this one we have to enter the long name instead of the elemental symbol. Some of the spelling I simply couldn’t get. It’s like in those “name the European countries” quiz when I can never spell Liechtenstein correctly.

88/118 isn’t bad, considering they included 112-118, the Unh series. Okay, this was the second or third time around, I did a little studying in between.

I have to say, I’ve never needed to use the periodic table after my first degree, so there really isn’t much use knowing the elements.

in my inner science geek , thing-a-day |

We started in 2005 with 7 writers and 2 betas. We’ve had a total of 14 individuals writing for the group at one point or the other. Our current membership is 12 writers and 2 betas, although one of our original betas is now a writer and we have a new beta member. I’ve been keeping track of the group’s achievements in terms of ongoing and completed stories in a spreadsheet. Of course where there is data I will chart it. So here’s the rkt achievement chart.


The difficulty with comparing long and short stories is that one short story is not equal to one long story. So I’ve used a weighting system, estimating that one short story is ‘worth’ 10% of a long story. This makes the total more reasonable.

Another problem is that it may look like some people have low completion ratios, but what the data doesn’t tell us is how long someone has been writing. The long term writers have a larger portfolio of work whereas the writers just starting out will not. It’s amazing to project that once Car finishes CB and K finishes OF their completion ratio goes to 100%.

in my inner science geek |

periodic tabl
via mefi, a group of printmakers joined together to produce a set of stunning prints of the elements of the periodic table. Individual prints at the flickr group.

in my inner science geek |

via wired, an experiment that lava lamps will get jealous of.

Non-science readers should stop here and play the video again. Science geeks read on.


The experiment is an example of an oscillating reaction and is attributed to Thomas Briggs and Warren Rauscher who first demonstrated it in 1973. No wonder that it’s called the Briggs-Rauscher reaction. It’s a combination of 3 solutions:

  • 410ml 30% hydrogen peroxide diluted to 1l — it’s been far too long since I’ve done chemistry I’m not even going to try to calculate the molar equivalent
  • 43g potassium iodate KIO3 and 4.2ml conc. sulphuric acid diluted to 1l
  • 16g malonic acid and 3.4g of manganese sulphate mixed with 3g soluble starch solution, diluted to 1l

Solutions A and B are mixed in a beaker and then solution C added while stirring. The initially colourless solution will become amber almost immediately. Then it will suddenly turn blue-black. The blue-black will fade to colourless, and the cycle will repeat several times with a period which initially lasts about 15 seconds but gradually lengthens. After a few minutes the solution will remain blue-black.

The rationale is that several reactions happen at the same time. Or more specifically, two competing reactions happen at the same time that uses up material at different rates, so the concentration of iodine and iodide ions (I-) produced during the reactions fluctuate. Iodine produces the amber colour, hydrogen peroxide bleaches everything and iodide ions reaction with the starch to form the blue-black solution.

Sigh. I tried to read through the chemistry but lost interest. Damn.

in my inner science geek |

via lifehacker (who in turn got it from mbw picks and tuaw), my newest download.

dockables is a suite of 12 little applescipt apps that can be added to the dock so that popular system events can be done with just one click. The events are: shut down, restart, sleep, sleep display, log out, screen saver, empty trash, eject media, close applications, hide applications, mute sound and screenshot. Actually the dockables aren’t limited to the dock; they can be added to the menu bar, on the desktop or from other application launchers. Comes in 3 themes: tangerine, colour and midnight.


Since I have a cleardock (another lifehacker download), the midnight theme suits me best. One slight complaint is I wish the icons are smaller, they’re a bit … I dunno … loud. If that makes sense. I do like them though, very very useful. I wish they have one to turn off the airport as well as close apps.

in my inner science geek | | comments (1)

Been playing around with excel today at work. We need to produce a weekly pipeline activity report, and I was running payroll. Plus Car sent me her archive data and I was trying to make meaningful graphs. I remember my first year chemistry lecturer saying to us that if we know how to fake the results of an experiment, and fake it convincingly, it means we understand the experiment. Same with data — data analysis is only as good as how you manipulate it to get the desired results.

Anyway, I was thinking of the pros and cons of pivot table vs countif / sumif. For the same purpose I guess there’s no difference. Pivot tables can contain more calculations like average, min, max; but the if functions can be incorporated into a larger worksheet for more analysis.

So, I put together some sample data and well, got the same results for the simple count and sum functions. No surprise there. First row shows the data and the pivot, then the if functions, with formula.

(The data is in a sheet called “data” and the table in a sheet called “formula”.)

in my inner science geek |

Lifehacker has a cute little article on how toothpaste brings back the sparkles to cloudy glasses. What an amazing substance, this toothpaste, lots of good ideas for its use as a cleaner, refresher, and even for first aid.

I find that after I’ve peeled prawns or gotten my hands all smelly eating seafood, washing with toothpaste takes the smell away pronto.

Heh, probably nothing new.

in my inner science geek |

via metafilter.

Pick a random number between 1 and 100. Then fill in a form (all questions optional). Then find out why.


in my inner science geek |

I bought a usb phone charger in the US. It’s a small cable that connects through the mbp’s usb port. Charges the phone pretty quickly too. Now I don’t need to bring the phone charger when I travel, one fewer lump. I wish I remembered to buy another one for the office.


in my inner science geek |

via wired.

Apparently in the UK these Chargebox vending machines are popping up everywhere. What are they?

“ChargeBox is a machine which enables you to charge devices such as mobile phones, ipods and pdas inside a securable locker. You can safely leave your device charging and collect it at your convenience.”

They cost £1 for each 40 minute charge. The service is still new but already 20 different devices are covered, including cellphones, iPod, Blackberry and PSP. Locations include Manchester Airport, easyinternet café and Novotel hotels.


Well, a quick charge at an airport or hotel lobby is well enough. What I need is one universal charger that can charge up the mbp, iPod, camera, cellphone and whatever else gadget I bring with me when I travel. ONE charger, not 5 — they’re heavy. I’m sure this thought has occured to people, and I remember reading something about it somewhere.

hmmm may be this is it? Now if only I can find out where to buy this chargesource thing.

in my inner science geek |

Good old boing boing.

This is what you get when you dump a large bowl of liquid nitrogen into a swimming pool

So fun! I play with the dry ice that comes with ice cream, stick the whole lot in the sink and turn the tap on. This is nothing like what’s on this video.

in my inner science geek |

via cnet.

Google just introduced google spreadsheets. Like gmail, it’s an invitation only beta test app. Unlike Excel, it runs from the browser and allows multiple users to collaborate. It can import and export xls file, and they claim csv too. One of the best features is that the file is saved continuously, so even if the browser crashes or the user closes the window accidentally, the work is saved on their servers.

I don’t expect it to have the bells and whistles of excel — no charting, no pivot tables and can’t resize. But as a free and online tool, it’s absolutely what is needed.

Collaboration, automatic sharing and import/export to an established format sounds familiar? Heh. That’s because google bought writely in March and seems to be using its features as a blueprint for a possible productivity suite.

Analysts seem to expect that google will push this to enterprises. But personally, I think that tools like these are perfect for the consumer. Most computer users don’t require the sophisticated Word or Excel functions, and the convenience of an online application is so appealing.

I use writely a lot, and I absolutely adore it. I’ve stopped writing on the MT interface on the website, and I’ve never been a fan of writing in Word. I’ve been wanting an excel equivalent that I can do quick spreadsheets so this is perfect.

It’s been done before, of course. OpenOffice from the free application perspective and thinkfree as an online tool. I signed up for thinkfree as soon as I heard about it. It looks nice, even though it was pretty slow (so what’s new for a java app? lol). MS Office is so ingrained in business culture it’ll be a hard task to stop people from using it, but smaller and faster alternatives have their place. I will use MS Office for more complicated tasks, but for daily/home use I’m extremely onboard with the neat interfaces of writely and thinkfree.

in my inner science geek |

Lots of people are talking about it. A new fun app takes advantage of the macbook’s motion sensor and makes lightsaber noises when rolled or tilted. So naturally I can’t resist. Recorded using Audacity and converted in iTunes.

in eating and drinking , my inner science geek |

From New Scientist via reuters.

If you’re in a long distance relationship, you’d want to be as close to the other party as possible, as often as possible, whatever it takes. Like you’d be on the phone co-ordinating activites so you’re doing them “together;” or you imagine they’re having say a bowl of cereal and you get yourself a bowl of cereal too. You know, try to connect.

Now researchers at MIT have the answer to those nights when you just want to open a bottle of wine but have no one to share the intimate moment with … wine glasses that glow when one partner picks up the glass and even brighter when they put it against their lips. The glasses are wired with coloured LEDs, liquid sensors and wireless (GPRS or wi-fi) links that work across the miles.

Jackie Lee and Hyemin Chung, experts in human-computer interaction, say the wireless glasses really do “help people feel as if they are sharing a drinking experience together.”

For more practical use, the technology could also be used to check that hospital patients or elderly people are drinking enough water.

The glasses, dubbed lover’s cups, will be unveiled next month at a conference in Montreal on computer-human interaction.

All I want to say is, let’s hope the glasses don’t go all cloudy or disgusting when one party pukes in it.

in my inner science geek |

Another one. I remember these when they were all the rage, we’d stand in front of the shop or stall or wall for minutes and minutes till we got the hidden 3d image. This one’s a shark. Here’s a gallery.

There is even a tutorial on how to see it. We used to be good at this, but I can’t see the shark, as of time of posting.

in my inner science geek |

Very cool moving dots illusion.

Stare at the black cross long enough and a green dot will appear, soon the moving pink dots will start disappearing. It’s very cool. Once, I blinked and I saw two circles of dots, one pink and one green, it’s bizarre. There is no green dot, but it’s how our minds work.

in my inner science geek | | comments (1)

Am I the only one who is secretly gleeful that blackberries might get shut down? I know that once bitten, it’s a hard habit to break. But I will not succumb to it. For the longest time I resisted even applying for a webmail account at work, but I had to at the end. I still don’t have a “full access” GRAS account and I’m keeping very quiet about that.

So imagine my reaction when my ex-regional head asked a few of us, “so I assume y’all have blackberries?” to be met by a wall of silence. Most of the “important” people in my department have blackberries, but since I’m not important I’ve been able to get away without one.

I can’t imagine wanting to read my emails at all hours. Personal emails naturally, but work? ewwww. Just today after work, in the elevator, this guy was already reading his blackberry even though he just came out of his office. Why? Why? Why?

in eating and drinking , my inner science geek |

One of the first food I remember making as a kid were fairy cakes. With the Atlantic divide my US readers will recognise them as cupcakes. Very easy to make, I think Mum bought one of those 99p recipe books from Sainsbury’s and we followed the recipe. To this day, those 99p recipe books are the best. Simple cake recipe: 2 parts each butter, sugar and flour for each egg, and a little milk.

Cooking to me, who was trained as a scientist, is not a science. The process and outcome depends more on feel and experience than carefully measuring out the exact amounts and cooking for precise lengths of time.

Is that why scientists and engineers don’t make good cooks? cnet discovered a website called Cooking for Engineers which goes through recipes for such culinary delights such as grilled salmon, lasagna and peanut butter cookies via detailed step-by-step instructions, with photos and even recommendations on which brand to use.

I’m not sure if I need step-by-step pictorial instructions on how to grill a steak (my version - season steak with freshly ground black pepper, slap on grill) — which comes with a mushroom sauce and 7 photos. The recipes there are very basic, but I suppose it’s useful for people who aren’t instinctive cooks, or who want to cook more than macaroni cheese or pot noodles.

In other food news, via boing boing, toastabags, which are nylon bodybag like envelopes that you can use to make a full sandwich in your toaster. Just slip your bread, cheese and whatnot inside the bag, seal and put into a regular toaster. The bag keeps the melted cheese from spilling all over the place and in no time, voila! Meal in a bag.


in my inner science geek |

From new scientist.

What do boys (and girls) who play with guns do when they grow up? They go into the military and invent “non-lethal” laser guns.


The Personnel Halting and Stimulation Response (PHASR) rifle was developed at the Air Force Research Laboratory in New Mexico, US, and two prototypes have been delivered to military bases in Texas and Virginia for further testing.

They temporarily blind suspects at a distance, allowing the police and military personnel to quickly disarm them.

It seems that the military have been developing these laser weapons for a long time but they were too strong that they caused permanent blindness. Anyone who owns a laser pointer for presentations can tell you the risk. However these new weapons may use less powerful laser beams and reduce the risk of long term damage.

Me? I think they just want to play with phasers and lasers. I mean, they are the stock in trade for sci-fi programs and films for ages and ages.

in my inner science geek |

And now back to regularly scheduled programming.

From herodios via washington post.

In this age of email, the symbol @ is as common as, well, it is the symbol of email. Before email, it used to stand for “at” and used for measurment … at least in English speaking countries, like 5lbs applies @ $1/lb. Some other countries and languages didn’t used to have this symbol, so in the early days of email, this little symbol was called different things. Most names are related to how @ looks to the native speaker.

Most instances the languages refer to the tail of an animal or the animal itself:

  • monkey’s tail - Dutch (apestaart / apestaartje), German (affenschwanz), Polish (malpa - monkey), Swedish (apsvans)
  • pig’s tail - Danish / Norwegian (grisehale)
  • pig’s ear - Polish (ucho s’wini)
  • cat’s tail - Finnish (kissanhnta), Polish (kotek - cat)
  • dog - Russian (sobachka), meaning little dog
  • elephant’s trunk - Danish / Swedish (snabel)
  • rollmops - Czech & Slovak (zavinac)
  • worm - Hungarian (kukac)
  • snail - Italian (chiocciola), Hebrew (shablul), Korean (dalphaengi)

Some languages relate the @ sign to a roll, or rolled up food:

  • strudel - Hebrew (shtrudl)
  • cinnamon roll - Swedish (kanelbulle)
  • pretzel - Swedish (kringla)

Some languages are less inventive, going for boring terms like the Thais with ai tua yiukyiu (the wiggling worm-like character) or the Japanese with atto maaku (“at” mark) or in Mongolian buurunhii dotorh aa (A in round circle).

Of course, since that list was first compiled in 1997, the internet has exploded and usage of those terms has faded. Nowadays almost anyone around the world will use “at”.

Wouldn’t it be fun to tell someone that my email address is “invisiblecompany pig’s tail yahoo dot com”?

in my inner science geek |

From reuters via zdnet

HELSINKI (Reuters) - Finnish scientists have invented a device to make it harder to steal mobile phones and laptops by enabling them to detect changes in their owner’s walking style and then freeze to prevent unauthorized use.

The VTT Technical Research Center of Finland said the device, which is has patented but has yet to sell, could prevent millions of portable appliances being stolen every year.

“A device is equipped with sensors that measure certain characteristics of the user’s gait. When the device is used for the first time, these measurements are saved in its memory,” VTT said in a statement.

The gadget would monitor the user’s walking style and check it against the saved information. If the values differ, the user would have to enter a password.

“Compared with passwords and traditional bio-identification, the new method is simple: confirmation of identity takes place as a background process without any need for user’s intervention,” the researchers said.

My question is … what happens if I twist my ankle and walk differently? What happens if I let someone else borrow my cellphone? What happens if I’m drunk and not walking properly, which is probably one of the times when I will need to call someone.

Scientists seem to be able to quantify everything nowadays, but this is kinda weird. It’s the right approach though, the days of using just passwords as authentication are surely numbered and the world needs biometrics.

in my inner science geek , techtalk |

No really. I have to say so myself.

Woke up at 5.30am with a gigantic coughing fit. Can’t sleep, felt miserable. So I put the kettle on and made a large cup of tea. Settled down and tried to hook up the wireless. Didn’t work at first — remember the router isn’t supposed to take the place of the modem, it needs to be added on top.

The disk didn’t save initially, but I changed the security settings and it was fine. The first time the dell hooked up to the network I was ecstatic.

Set up her PB2 so its airport picks up the signal. The first time I had both on my desk, both using the wireless, I was lilke, wow.

Still not successful with the ethernet cable to PB1, I think it’s the boot server, it’s been a long day, I took a short nap in the afternoon but I’m still tired. We went out for dinner, I popped into the shop and upgraded my broadband to a cheaper but unlimited plan, so it’s all well.

I’ll deal with the ethernet later.

in my inner science geek , techtalk |

After one too many times switching the ethernet connection between machines, I came to the conclusion that I need a wireless router. So that’s what we bought today.

We took PB1 to my friendly Apple shop, added 512k of SDRAM —> 768k, but had to order the wireless card, cos it’s for an old model.

Asked about Airport Express, the lady told us to get a PC one, for half the price. I really didn’t want to, one blasphemous act a year is one too many. But she gave me this disapproving look, so I relented and we bought 2 Linksys routers.

For some reason I’d screwed up the PC — yeah I’ve had it one day and it’s on the blink already, what a typical PC. I tried setting up the router but not successful. Gee, I know this will bug me all night, I almost wanted to leave the bed but the temptation for smoochies was too much. Leave it till tomorrow then.

in my inner science geek , techtalk |

I must confess that I did the unthinkable this week. I bought a PC. Yes heresy, blasphemy and all that. Not a huge overwhelming reason either.

After much searching and waiting for the appropriate discount, I put the order in for a Dell Inspiron 6000. Rather an entry level laptop, but sufficient for my purposes, looking at the specs. Didn’t even go for the Centrino processor, Celeron is fine. Specs:

  • Celeron M Processor 350 1.3GHz, L2 cache 400MHz FSB
  • 512k upgraded to 1GB SDRAM
  • 60GB HD
  • DVD +/- RW drive
  • 64MHz PCI Express ATI video card
  • 10/100 Fast Ethernet
  • Wireless 2200 WLAN (802.11) card
  • Integrated Stereo Sound with RJ11, RJ45, IEEE 1394, SD Slot, VGA Out,S-video TV-Out, 4 USB 2.0
  • 15.4” wide aspect TFT display
  • Dell TruMobile 350 Bluetooth module

Comes with a nice padded backpack.

One of the first software I downloaded was Firefox. Yay firefox! Yahoo messenger of course — one of the reasons is to take advantage of the vc capabilities.

Putting it next to the Powerbooks make it look very clunky. It’s larger than I thought, certainly a lot more ugly than expected. But it’s supposed to be a desktop replacement, not to be lugged around, so I’m tolerating it.

On the subject of new laptops, she bought a brand new 15” Powerbook at the weekend, with TIGER!!! So now my study has 4 computers - the iMac SE with the defunct hard disk, the Titanium Powerbook (PB1), her new Powerbook (PB2) and the dell. The PB2 is like heaven, rounded corners, sleek look. And Tiger, omg, I hated OSX when it came out, but after playing with it … as soon as I find some use for my OS9 stuff, I’m upgrading.

in all about people , my inner science geek , techtalk |

Within my circle of friends, colleagues and family, I have the tech skills of a god. Like I don't know anyone who has a website, runs a weblog, or knows their way round (albeit in a really beginner's way) status symbols like photoshop.

But talking to more technically inclined people makes me realize how pathetically basic my so called skills are. It's good to be humble.

Another expectation is I can solve all their problems. Man, don't they know I'm know nothing about support, hardware, connections and most importantly, I don't touch PCs with a 40 foot pole. This means start talking about Windows and I'm gonna blow a gasket. Unfortunately I know a bit about MS Office cos I have to use it at work, but no, I don't use it at home.

So yeah, they think I know, but I'm just pretending.

So I studied chemistry and I get questions about the side effects of drugs, or how to make a bomb from fertilizer. Like, dude, if you trust a chemistry grad to tell you all about these things? mm took computer science and she's the first to admit she's totally lost the knowledge. Yeah, considering she switched as soon as she graduated.

I'm just glad I don't get asked about repairing elevators and stuff like that.

in my inner science geek |

In the past if you travel on business to another location you're pretty much stuck without your regular files, phones and stuff. Not anymore. Files stored on network drives, email accessible at home, blackberries, broadband in hotel rooms - remote working is not so remote anymore. That's the advantage. The big disadvantage is of course there is no longer any excuse.You're expected to be equally productive wherever you are.

We're so spoiled. We get impatient when the printer is slower than usual, or there's something wrong with the newfangled machine that is copier, scanner, fax and printer. Contraptions that have so many purposes nowadays. Unthinkable only a few years ago. Imagine, mobile phone, PDA, camera, camcorder, mp3, calculator, browser and what not, in a gadget that can fit in our hands.

I feel like a dinosaur.

in my inner science geek |

I was surfing around researching Oxford for the Moments stories and I came across this group of Spatial Reasoning researchers working on a project called the Robot Sheepdog Project. The aim was to design a robot sheepdog that can herd sheep. Not as easy as it sounds. For a start, they used ducks cos ducks and sheep have similar "flocking patterns" and are easier to manage.

Then they had to design a mathematical model that predicted the ducks' movements. The model was based on 3 flocking characteristics:

- attraction to one another
- repulsion from fixed obstacles such as walls
- repulsion from the dog

To move the flock, the dog has to move till it is on the other side of the flock as the target, then gently move towards the target.

Ok, enough crazy scientific sidebars for today.

in my inner science geek |

For someone who studied the sciences my mathematics is terrible.

So I was reading a story the other day and I read about the Fibonacci Series. Once it's explained, it's so easy - it's a series of numbers where the next number is the sum of the previous two, so it goes:


The origin for the series date back to 1202 when Fibonacci was thinking about the reproductive rate of rabbits. Really? Really.

It's possible to find Fibonacci numbers without going through the addition, for instance to find f(500) involves a lot of adding so some guy called Binet worked out the formula for that. There's also another formula to find the next term in the series.

Now, relating to the Fibonacci series is the golden number, which denotes the ratio between the long side and the short side of the most aesthetically pleasing rectangle. The definition of a golden rectangle is one that, when squared, gives another golden rectangle. For an illustration, go here.

The golden number has been denominated by the greek letter phi (φ) and has been calculated to be 1.61803398875...

So how do the Fibonacci series and the golden number relate. Watch. First take the first few Fibonacci numbers:

f(1) = 1
f(2) = 1
f(3) = 2
f(4) = 3
f(5) = 5
f(6) = 8
f(7) = 13
f(8) = 21
f(9) = 34
f(10)= 55

Then divide each number by the one before it:

r(1) = 1/1 = 1
r(2) = 2/1 = 2
r(3) = 3/2 = 1.5
r(4) = 5/3 = 1.6666..
r(5) = 8/5 = 1.6
r(6) = 13/8 = 1.625
r(7) = 21/13 = 1.6153846
r(8) = 34/21 = 1.6190476
r(9) = 55/34 = 1.6176471
r(10)= 89/55 = 1.6181818

Essentially the further we go in this calculation the closer we get to φ. Neat isn't it.

What's that got to do with real life? Not surprisingly there's so much of mathematics in nature. Many flowers have a Fibonacci number of petals, like sunflowers have 34 petals and daisies 34, 55 or 89.

I wished I was better at all this. It's quite fascinating.