Thursday, October 27, 2005

Find Out How Your Mind Works

From Digg
  • Get a brain sex profile and find out if you think like a man or a woman.
  • See if you can gaze into someone's eyes and know what they're thinking.
  • Find out why scientists are interested in the length of your fingers.
  • See how your results relate to theories about brain sex.
Find out HERE from the BBC

Apparently. I'm just your average male. :)

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

MRT 3 Ticket Scarcity

The MRT 3 ran out of ticket today.

OK, so not really, but they did ran out of stored value tickets. I regularly ride the MRT 3 along EDSA. I avoid the traffic and arrive at my destination faster. Today however, as I tried to buy a prepaid or "stored value" card, the ticket vendor told me that they were sold out.

Stored value tickets gets you out of the long queus, further shortening travel time. I cannot believe the MRT 3 administration allowed this to happen.

Anyway, I searched the web and I found this blog by J. Angelo Racoma complaining about the same thing, and wrote about it last week. Mr. Racoma has a link to the official website of the Metrostar Express, who administers the MRT. I called the office and they told me that they have ordered new tickets and it should arrive within the next two weeks. Meanwhile, I would have to arrive at the stations before 7 AM before the ticketing office runs out of stored value tickets or fall in line.

Complaints can be directed to the MRT office:

Tel. No: 929-5347 loc. 3078 and 3079

Alternatively, you might want to call the Light Rail Transit Authority.

Tel. No. - 853-0041 to 60
E-mail -

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?

Jean-Luc Picard (I can't believe it, If I was to be a Star Trek character, I would rather be Spock)

Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?

An accomplished diplomat who can virtually do no wrong, you sometimes know it is best to rely on the council of others while holding the reins.

There are some words which I have known since I was a schoolboy. "With the first link, the chain is forged. The first speech censored, the first thought forbidden, the first freedom denied, chains us all irrevocably." These words were uttered by Judge Aaron Satie -- as a wisdom, and warning. The first time any man's freedom is trodden on, we're all damaged.

Jamby's Gun

I was going to write about this but as I read Alex magno's column (The Philippine Star), I realized that I could not write something better. Some quotes from the column:
"If Sen. Jamby Madrigal cannot do without an armed bodyguard beside her, she should refrain from joining street demonstrations. That is the dictate of civic duty."
"Madrigal tells us her bodyguard’s gun was licensed.

But, dear senator, that is not the point.

The point is that the man brought his gun to the frontlines of a tense confrontation between the police and a political cult that was supposed to be engaged in peaceful protest. That might seem to be an act of minor stupidity. But it is nonetheless an act that put everyone else in the vicinity in great peril."
"Notwithstanding, I think Madrigal owes the nation an apology.

Tito Guingona, former vice-president was there. I don’t think he had bodyguards.

Fr. Robert Reyes was there and, as always, believed he was protected by the archangels.

A host of others were there, bare as they should be as they profess a variant of politics we might not all agree on but could agree to respect. When someone goes to a political demonstration, it should be sufficient to feel that one is surrounded by others of the same belief and is therefore protected by number and comradeship."
"If she does not have the courage to march without armed cover for a cause she claims to hold, how can we call her a peaceful protestor? How can we accept the conviction she flaunts as sincere?"
It was such a stupid thing to do. How could we have elected this person to the Senate.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

TV Hoaxed

Got this story while reading the James Randi Educational Foundation's weekly commentary. Olivier Van Cantfort, of Belgium sent the story to the JREF. It was about how a parody site (in French), was able to hoax a Television program from France. Here is the link to the entire story, translated from French, and here are the stated reasons of the hoaxers who did the deed:
  • because it was a unique opportunity to make a big joke, kind of like "punk'd" but with TV as the victim, and moreover without having all the means of TV stations at our disposal.

  • because the opportunity makes the criminal... The journalist offered us the opportunity for the hoax right away during the very first contact. That he could read the web pages of Destroy-Escort and think that it's real is simply mind-boggling. And if he didn't read those pages before contacting us then it would show a complete lack of professionalism. So, yes, our main reason is this: we created this hoax without any other real reason than because we were given the opportunity, because we belong to communities that are too often stigmatized by television. We weren't able to resist for more than two minutes the temptation to give some TV people a taste of their own medicine by showing that sometimes - if not "often" - what's on television is just nonsense...

  • because it was intolerable that such a powerful communication tool - by the size of its audience - didn't go through the pains of checking what they say. As Denise Fabre was happy to remind us all during the show: "When one works in TV, one has to be careful about what one says..." It's a matter of responsibility on the part of the one who speaks and of respect towards those who listen to him through that mass media that is television. The simple presence of our hoax in the landscape of French television raises the question of the authenticity of some of the broadcasts that happen in France...

  • because the quest for sensation that drives television channels transforms them in just a succession of images, the veracity of which is no longer the main objective and this is not acceptable for a media that manipulates images.

  • because by creating this hoax, we really "investigated" the professionals implicated in our story and it appeared to us that this innocent entertaining show was the work of professionals well known in the French TV world, and because of their recognized professional qualities they shouldn't have fallen for our joke.

  • And because there has to be one last reason for all this: definitely because it's been way too easy...
Which makes this story applicable the world over and in all media outlets. Maybe the media, including those in the Philippines can learn form this experience.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Doctors as Nurses

For some good news, Parallel Universes has written about the news reports on Filipino doctors who become nurses and tried their luck abroad. It seems they are being deported back to the Philippines because they are doctors. A lot of them are also failing the nursing exam.

It seems that the mass emigration of doctors that we have all been dreading will take longer than predicted.

Friday the 13th

Just Wondering

I was commmuniting from work yesterday when I suddenly realized that the date was Friday the 14th. This led me to conclude that the day before was Thursday the 13th. This led me to wondering whether the bad luck associated with Friday the 13th will be spread over the 2 days. Will Thursday the 13th and Friday the 14th be half as unlucky as Friday the 13th and will the bad luck during the course of those two days be equal to the bad luck during a Friday the 13th.

Of course days of the week are not usually associated with luck, good or bad, except mondays, which everybody hates, which makes it unlucky, i mean the day itself because if tuesday was the designated first day of work, then everybody will be hating tuesdays rather than mondays, but this pragraph is leading nowhere. :)

The number 13 then is the culprit, 13 has long been associated with bad luck, but what makes Friday the 13th more unluckier (double redundancy) than thursday the 13th? And is there a hierarchy of unlucky days? Will days close to Friday, be unluckier than days further from Friday the 13th? Will Thursday the 13th for example be unluckier than Monday the 13th? Is there a mathematical formula to determine the ratio of bad luck between days that falls on the 13th?

Does a month that have a Friday the 13th more unlucky than a month that does not have a Friday the 13th?

These are the questions that keep me awake at nights. How can I decide courses of action without answers to these pressing question? Ah well, I will just have to muddle through somehow.


I realize that with the number of people in this earth, somebody somewhere has probably asked the same questions above, and somebody somewhere has probably posted the answers on the internet, but I was amused enough that I do not want to know the answer right away. when I get around to hunting for the answers, I will update this post. If somebody already knows the answer, give me the link and I will update this post.


Friday, October 14, 2005

On Generic Medicine

Professor Michael Tan has written an article (Philippine Daily Inquirier) on the desirability of using generic medicines here in the Philippines. He writes:

"Ultimately though, it's still an informed consumer that will make the difference. In one Save-More drug outlet, while waiting for my prescription to be filled, a man came in and rattled off three different drugs by their generic names. He was empathic in adding, after he had finished naming the medicines: "Generics lang." Sadly, the sales clerks said they didn't have generic versions for the two of the medicines he needed.

Nevertheless, I was impressed that the man was aware of generics. Maybe he was a health professional, but I suspect he was simply an informed consumer. And we need more of such consumers to spur the demand for generics.

The Department of Health needs to revive the campaign around generics, and for starters, we could get prescribers, sales clerks and consumers to stop saying "generics lang [generics only]" and be more assertive: "Generics ang gusto ko [I want generics]."

Sadly, I am one of those who should know better but does not do better. Given a prescription, I buy the prescribed, brand product. I just figure it will be easier, I do not have to explain to the drugstore clerk nor to my doctor why I opted for a different brand name.

Also I still buy "biogesic" a, home grown brand of paracetamol. It was the brand my grandmother and mother used to give me when I had fever as a kid and I just feel comforted using it. :)

Monday, October 10, 2005

The Stuff of the Universe

or How the Universe got its Spot part 2. Part 1 is here

I am now in the middle of this wonderful book. Janna Levin has made the book accessible to those scientifically challenged, like myself. People already familiar with the scope of the book may still find it interesting because she liberally doses the book with anecdotes about the quirks of the different people that has opened up the body of knowledge she is now trying to explain and expand.

The first few chapters are really a recapitulation of what any college, even high school level student might have taken up. Newtonian physics, Special Relativity, General Relativity, Quantum theory, black Holes and the Big Bang. I have encountered this topics before and quite familiar with them, but two insights (?), points that Ms. Levin makes me realize how beautiful the universe is.

The first one, is that the theory of General Relativity was created because the Special Theory of Relativity conflicted with Newton's Theory of Gravity.
"despite the impeccable condition of Newton's theory, Einstein realized that gravity violated one of the sacred tenets of special relativity. As mentioned, the main conflict with special relativity is that Newtonian gravity allows information to be communicated faster than the speed of light. If the sun were to suddenly collapse, according to Newton's theory we would immediately feel the gravitational change. This is no different from expecting an event in Iceland to instantaneously later the course of events in China. Einstein's theory of special relativity forbids anything, any form of information, to travel faster than the speed of light. Information of any kind must be encoded in the form of energy or mass, after all E=mc2. Information is encrypted on stuff, and stuff travel slower than, or at, the speed of light. The force of gravity should be no exception. Any information about gravitational change, should travel slower than, or at, the speed of light. To ensure this, Einstein had to discover the essence of gravity..." (page 45)
And he did, he had to learn Riemannian geometry to do it, so he did. This is a very concrete example of how the scientific method works, you find a conflict in theories and you find an explanation (theory) that better fits reality. And all of humankind benefits.

The other point is this:
"...In the primordial universe there was essentially only hydrogen and helium with only trace amounts of heavier elements. There was no oxygen and no carbon, and so no water and no basis for organic life. The primordial universe was a sterile cauldron.

Much of the material synthesized in the center of stars gets ejected back out into space when the star dies. Eventually new stars and planets can form from the star's scattered remains. This next generation of stars, and more importantly, their satellite planets, can be made from heavier elements like carbon and oxygen. Plasma can form on the surface of planets. Maybe on one with optimal conditions, complex molecules form and an inanimate broth waits for the sparks to generate organic life. Voila. a few hundred million years later, Africa blooms and here we are.

We have the peculiar realization that we are made of the stuff of stars. I was sitting on the back of my astronomy class at Columbia when I learned this." (page 80)
She may have been in Columbia, but I was in a jeepney commuting to work when I realized this. It was a humbling yet euphoric moment. To be made of the stuff of stars, What a feeling.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Anti-Terrorism bill

The joint committees on justice and foreign affairs approved for plenary discussion an Anti-terrorism bill.

While I agree with
Interior Secretary Angelo Reyes that "terrorism has replaced a communist insurgency as the top threat to national security". The news reports on some provisions contained in the proposed bill bothers me. But since I have not read the bill personally, I would suspend judgement. I hope the PCIJ blog, the best resource for source documents regarding recent events will upload a copy of the bill shortly. The website of the House of Representatives does not have a copy available.

Update Oct. 10, 2005

Mr. Alecks Pabico pf the PCIJ has written a very comprehensive article on the proposed anti-terrorism bill. He has also uploaded a copy of the proposed bill if anyone wants to read it.

Nobel Prize in Physics

The Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded today and the winners are...
Roy J. Glauber
Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA
"for his contribution to the quantum theory of optical coherence"
John L. Hall
JILA, University of Colorado and National Institute of Standards and Technology, Boulder, CO, USA and
Theodor W. Hänsch
Max-Planck-Institut für Quantenoptik, Garching and Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich, Germany
"for their contributions to the development of laser-based precision spectroscopy, including the optical frequency comb technique".


Sunday, October 02, 2005

Another Knoppix Testimonial

I got married last week so naturally, the computer that my sister and I used to share refused to boot-up 5 days after. Since I was the one who maintained the computer, I had to return home last sunday to fix it.

The PC had not been formatted for at least a year now so rather than trying to troubleshoot the problem, I would just reformat and reinstall windows. To facilitate this procedure, I whipped out my handy dandy knoppix CD. I booted to knoppix, navigated to where the files were, burned the files to a CD, (actually, it took 3 CDs) and presto, I was ready to format the hard drive. A procedure that not too long ago would have taken me the better part of a day now took me less than an hour. Of course, I forgot to save the saved games of my sister so I took a little ribbing for that. (Lesson Learned: The latest and greatest equipment will not save you from human error).

Installing the needed software took me longer, but that is not knoppix's fault.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

To Infinity and Beyond

I've started reading this book, How the Universe got its Spots: Diary of a Finite Time in a Finite Space by Janna Levin. And the operative word here is started. From the title, the book is about the Universe, but before going there, she discusses mathematics and mathematicians.

The first line of the book perked my interest
"Some of the great mathematicians killed themselves. The lore is that their theories drove them mad, though I suspect they were just lonely, isolated by what they knew."
Of course this line, reminded me of my favorite mathematician, EEE. I hope that he is just a little mad, and I fervently hope that he is not lonely.

In the second chapter, she went into a discussion on infinity and the theory of Ludwig Phillip Cantor called transfinite arithmetic. I thought I was getting along fine with the ideas, countable infinite numbers, infinite rational numbers, infinite irrational numbers, and then the bombshell, some sets of infinite numbers are larger than others. HUH? how can this be? Of course she gave an explanation:
"Cantor realized that the set of irrational numbers was infinite in a way that was so huge as to be uncountable. They cannot be represented by one integer divided by another and some require an infinitely long desciption, such as pi or the golden ratio. An uncountable infinity could never be put into one-to-one correspondence with a countable infinity and so the irrational numbers must be of a larger infinity than the natural numbers"
And this is where I got lost. reminding me why I preferred political science as my undergradute course. I will still read the book, hopefully finish and increase my understanding of mathematics and the universe. Hopefully, this book will not drive me mad. If you can find the book, maybe you can join me in this adventure.