Saturday, December 19, 2009

Science jokes

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A biologist walks into a bar...

I challenge anyone to make jokes about theoretical math. The Klein Four Group does the best job I know of.
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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Auditorium: the game

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Play the online demo version.

It's a puzzle game with an aesthetically dynamic interface -- sleek, clean, minimalist color scheme. The object is to direct a photon beam via adjustable force fields in order to initiate various instrumental voicing simultaneously... and generate a symphony.

It's a festival of topology, visual arts, music, with physics references. Not much else I can ask for in a puzzle game!

The music is Philip Glass-style hypnotic. In Act 2, the chord progression of i-VII-VI-V in C# minor works quite nicely with the elegant black background and bright particle beams. The visual and the audio together convey a sensation of cruising in space -- with an MP3 player and headphones.

I'm sorely tempted to get the full version of this.
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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

[In progress] Dark justice (more spoiler warnings)

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There have been some memorable characters in fiction - some call them messengers of justice, others call them... serial killers. The shortlisted ones are Dexter Morgan of the TV series Dexter, Yagami Raito of the manga Death Note, and Dr. Hannibal Lecter in the numerous novels and movies featuring him. (Spoilers follow...)

They come from different backgrounds and have their distinctive modus operandi, but they are all hyper-intelligent, meticulous, confident about their abilities, and sociopathic. Very charismatic sociopaths who are (or in the case of Death Note, have been) quite successful in hiding what they do.

(to be continued)

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Sunday, December 6, 2009

[In progress] Some takes on The Prestige (Spoiler alert)

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(One can always check out Wikipedia for more spoilers.)

Some have said that this movie packed too much into the limited time frame. But movies like these are so much more fun because one could realize new insights upon multiple viewings.

Those who think this film is like "Batman vs. Wolverine" probably are more into plot-driven movies than character-driven ones. And The Prestige is most definitely a character-driven movie.

Michael Caine's "Alfred the Butler" aura works very nicely to soften the cutthroat competition between the magicians.

Tesla, science, magic

I like the way Nikola Tesla is portrayed. I admit to partiality toward scientists and engineers... but only those with good sense and wisdom. Tesla is a curious character with quirks and a brooding contemplative tendency. Though in this movie, he's the brilliant mind with the voice of wisdom.

He builds a device that creates a double of the original in another location, be it living or not. He understands the implication of his teleportation-cloning apparatus and warns Angier not to use it, and knows that Angier would anyway. Here we have the scientist who must watch an inherently neutral machine get abused.

One can say that the scientist has a responsibility to prevent that, but honestly, some people can turn anything and everything into weapons. Harnessing the force within subatomic particles has led to radiation therapy and fission bombs. Same with dynamite, airplanes, genetic manipulation.

Science can be like magic when it's not well-understood. But even after it's well-understood, it can still be like magic. If one does not lose the ability to appreciate the aesthetics of the underlying mechanisms.


The magicians' rivalry is a positive feedback of ever-escalating obsession with perfection and maintaining the illusion of success behind their rather imperfect life. That's the ultimate magic trick. As Buddy Kane from American Beauty puts it, "In order to be successful, one must project an image of success at all times."

But what about the inside? What if it's just an emptiness? Like Borden/Fallon each living half a life and driving their loved ones to demise? Or their thirst for revenge veiled by constantly trying to one-up the other on the stage?

Random aside

Twins who're in love with two different people while pretending to be the same person... just asking for trouble :-P

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Saturday, December 5, 2009

Interactive games for the love of science [WAY TOO MUCH NERDING OUT]

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[Procrastination from final exams studying]

Learning about science should be more "fun" in the "playful" sense. Call me neotenous, but I was daydreaming about creating a game to learn quantum mechanical concepts during class today.

Some possibilities arise:

(1) Puzzle game -

perhaps the most obvious, but this eventually degenerates into a press- button- to- pick- the- right- choice scheme. A good starting point though.

(2) Real-time strategy -

In the conventional market, this usually involves building home bases with personnel units and resources while taking over additional territories and attacking enemies.

So maybe something like... generating wavefunctions that are of certain energies in order to "fill-up" quantum wells... Or making the enemies fall into forbidden optical transitions of the hydrogen atom and die... A sample final objective might be solving the hydrogen atom, and along the way one needs to conquer sub-goals. Like perturbing the enemies' wavefunctions while defending one's own.

Or somehow factor in the probability distribution functions... say Precious Particle X is distributed in such a way at well location A, etc... resource allocation.

(3) Role-playing game (RPG) -

Here we get into the Bizarro category because I can't think of a way to make this format convincing. A possible idea is to have a large and complicated potential well, and the player has to navigate and wield their weapons of various approximation methods of calculating wavefunctions in the meantime... (yeah I know...) with many possible eigenstates (i.e. game endings) that collapse into only a single observable state upon each measurement (::headdesk::)

(4) MMORPG (...) -

Similar to RPG, except now many players can suffer along the overflowing nerdism.

This analogy could also be applied to device physics. I mean, transistors, moving charges, structures that seriously look like skyscrapers under the microscope... I see SimTransis-tower. (Insert major eye-roll and groan for bad pun.)

One could imagine that the whole research process is as such, except in real-space with real stakes. So... these ideas are fail-safe ways to fool around with concepts and experiments. Except for anything unverified in real-life. That's where cutting-edge research comes in.

[/Procrastination from final exams studying]
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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

[In progress] Detective modalities

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The hypothesis is that fictional detectives are curious characters that illuminate the temperaments of their creators to some degree... though I can't "prove" that without researching about the respective creators. Something I will have to postpone till a later time.

(1) Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The one that inspired many to follow. For the Jungians, a textbook example of INTJ.

(2) Adrian Monk, created by Andy Breckman

The obsessive-compulsive detective.

(3) Kudo Shinichi from Case Closed by Aoyama Gosho

High school student-detective trapped in a six-year-old's body.

(4) Shawn Spencer from Psych, created by Steve Franks

The self-proclaimed psychic with no psychic abilities, though with razor-sharp sense of observation and quick wit.


Baaad Apple!! (Warning: Really really catchy)

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Music video (subbed lyrics)

(Piano version)

Elegant and fluid motion. The dichotomous hues are suggestive of light and shadow with all that they imply, and the minimalism conjures up wandering thoughts about abstractions.

One can catch glimpses of fantasy elements -- a mage's hat, angel's wings, reaper's scythe, various head gears... like rabbit ears. Going down a rabbit hole? Perhaps this is a representational fairy tale. More like a dystopic fairy tale...

Not sure how good the translation of the lyric is, but the inflection reminds me vaguely of Romanticism and Gothicism. Expressive angst! One reason to learn languages is to appreciate works of literature (and songs!) in their original form...

Totally dig the punky jazz piano with major-2nd chords. Great pacing too, with the lyrical section in the middle. The counter-melodies around 1:27 and 3:14 are reminiscent of gliding over clouds -- pure exhilaration. The recap section at 2:12 could use some more subtle textures, as the percussiveness is a bit jarring. But overall a nice rendition. That last few seconds of Philip Glass-like periodic motion about sums it up.

These videos are based on a game called the Touhou Project. I'm not familiar with the game, but the creator seems like a highly interesting character...

(Alternate variation... Russian-style)

The music actually goes with the visual pretty well :-P