Struggling with Meaninglessness

searching meaning in meaninglessness

Archive for November 2007

They all look the same?

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I have always been very fascinated with our human face. Think about it, we are all sharing the same features – eyes, nose, ears, mouth, hair and etc, but doesn’t it strikes you that each of us has our very own distinguished and unique look? I have been pondering for quite a while on this, and after some time, i got the answer when i watch a Hong Kong detective drama series. Basically, in one of the episodes, the witness was assisting the cops to catch a criminal by depicting his look using a computer program at the police station. The program depict the face based on the combinations of the witness’ account of the criminal’s face features. Does the criminal has big eyes or small eyes? Long face or square-shaped face? Broad mouth or small mouth? Combine all of them together, and voila, the face is right there.

I was astonished to learn that the reason why each of us has distinguished looks is due to the slight variation in our face features. One slight difference, and we will look incredibly different. We could easily see that from girls who went for eye surgery. By just enlarging the eye, she will look more or less different. Not to mention, she may gain some attractiveness too.

But how about animals? One thing i noticed whenever i watch a pack of dogs (in a family) is – they all look the same! Human usually differentiate dogs by looking at their fur colour, body pattern or their size. But if we put a pack of dogs who have the same fur colour, same body pattern and same size, it is not unusual for us to unable to differentiate them. A general human perception is – animal from the same species and breed have generic and monotonous looks. Basically, they all look the same!

I have not been reading much on evolution until recently. As i read them, i realised our brain is the pinnacle of humanity’s survival. Brain is basically our ‘weapon’ for survival purposes just like wings to birds and tough skin to ox. However, our brain is not perfect, just like a bird can’t travel thousand of miles in a single flap or an ox having a set of skin so tough it is impregnable even by laser. When something is not perfect, it will bound to have flaws – This is the law of nature. Since our brain ain’t perfect, therefore, putting it crudely, our brain is flawed, and ‘buggy’.

Ok, enough with my philosophical nonsense, back to the topic. Now, why do animals all look the same? For one simple reason – because we, human are not wired to see the tiny variation in animal’s face. Generally, we can’t detect the subtle details in animal’s face since it doesn’t bring us any benefits in natural selection. But our brain tells us that all the animals look the same! Why? Basically, our brain is imperfect. Our brain gave us the illusion that whatever we perceive with our eyes is real. As i have said, the brain is our ‘weapon’. Therefore natural selection will dictate our brain to develop an instinctive behaviour in us to have 100% faith on the ‘weapon’ to keep surviving. That’s the reason why, human ALWAYS believe whatever our eyes and brain tell us. It is instinctive.

I think it is the same for dogs. Whenever the doggies see us, they may just think that all of us look the same. They may differentiate us based on our physique features like size, hair-style, voice, etc. There’s no reason why dogs need to understand the details of human face.

It is not only between animals and human. Even between human and human this phenomena is happening too. Case in point – If you take a Chinese guy who has very little exposure of world culture and put him together with a group of Africans, he will certainly have hard time telling who is who and he may think all of them look the same. Same goes when you put an unexposed Aborigine in Europe. However, since we are human being, therefore, it is not difficult to adept and learn to perceive the face details of other races. Over time, unconsciously, our brain will slowly adept and wire us to understand the details.

Perhaps, a cat freak who spends a great deal of time with many cats everyday are able to different the cats? I’m not sure.

Written by elan85

November 27, 2007 at 7:35 pm

Posted in Evolution, Philosophy

c.u.r.i.o.u.s. ?

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I’m a very curious boy since i was young. Even a small tiny detail could light my curiosity up and made me spend hours pondering on them. Thinking back, my curiosity capacity was at the peak when i was between 7 to 12 years old. However, without my awareness, my curiosity suddenly became ‘idle’ for the next 8 years. Perhaps, i was too overwhelmed by so many unanswered questions that i found it so pointless to be curious anymore then. But thanks to the Internet and emergence of Web 2.0, where knowledge and discussions are so accessible, I recovered my curiosity back 2 years ago when i came across a forum. The topic of the thread happened to be discussing something which i had intently contemplate when i was 7 years old – Does God exist?

Suddenly, i realised everything i questioned when i was a kid have meaningful answers in this Internet age. After spending 3-4 months reading about religion and scientific(evolution) point of view, i drew my own conclusion that religion’s God should not exist (i wasn’t 100% convinced back then). But if religion is not the answer to the existence of humanity & universe, what is the real answer? And that leads me to all of my current interests such as physics, science, astronomy, philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, etc. which point to a common theme –  How, & Why does the universe and life exist?

Gifted with strong memory, i could remember all the things i’d pondered on when i was a kid. Apart from God, i also questioned :-

  • I noticed from a picture of heaven and hell that God, Deities and devil are depicted very traditionally. If Heaven and Hell exist, do they follow earthly technological advancement? Meaning, does car exist in heaven right now? Do devils use gun now instead of fork to torture the ‘sinful’ people in hell? Will God dressed in T-shirt instead of traditional robes?
  • If i dig a hole here all the way to the other side of the earth, will i still be considered as an illegal immigrant? (the answer is yes :P)
  • I played around with some rice in a bucket. There are plentiful of rice in the bucket. I take away one grain of rice and it will still be plentiful. But if i consistently taking away one grain of rice at a time, to what extent it will no longer be considered as plentiful?
  • I wondered why am i scared of cockroach when these little friends do not hurt me (yes, i’m still frightened by cockroach now). In fact, i’m terrified with almost all kind of insects (except for ant, fly and mosquito). Why do i like dogs and rabbits but not insects?
  • Why did the moon and stars follows me wherever i go?
  • Why can a fish breathe in water but human cant’? (i experimented it myself and got myself choked lol)
  • Why can’t i grab water?
  • Can i shout so loud, the other side of the earth hear me?
  • Is there a way to burn rubbish without emitting smoke?
  • My mum could always tell that i’m bluffing and predict what i’m gonna up to. I always suspected that she has some psychic ability listening to my inner voice.
  • I was standing roughly 4-5 metres away from the TV. I stretched my arm forward, and by extending my palm, i could blocked the TV from my vision. Compared to the size of my palm, the TV is so small. But as i move forward, the TV gets bigger and bigger, and as i stood right in front of the TV, my palm is so much more smaller compared to the TV. Why?
  • I thought of something exactly like the Zeno’s paradox of the Achilles and Tortoise (conceptually). Up to this day, i still can’t find a reason why was i thinking about that.

 

And some other lamer and nonsensical stuffs. I think it is rather a blessing to have such curious mind. I always thought it is natural for everyone to be curious on everything, but as i grow up i realised not everyone has the higher level of curiosity in them.

In my next post, i will post an explanation to one of the mysteries i came across during my childhood – why do human have different looks but cats, dogs and rats all look the same?

Written by elan85

November 24, 2007 at 8:14 pm

Posted in Personal

3 Types of Genius

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I’m very fascinated with genius. This is my observation of genius’ area of talent.

Intellectual Genius – Genius who provide solutions to tackle world problems and societal advancement such as physicists, philosophers, inventors, mathematician, technologists, scientists, etc.

Artistic Genius – Genius who are artistically gifted to fascinate the world such as artists, musician, poets, writers, designers, singers.

Skilled Genius – Genius who excel in sports, gaming and skilled work. Tennis, football, golf , drivers, dancing, and PC strategy games.

I always believe you can never make yourself to be a genius. Either you are born a genius, or you are not.

Written by elan85

November 23, 2007 at 1:41 am

Posted in Philosophy

You can’t buy Imagination

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Everyone has very subjective opinion on defining intelligence. Some people call straight-As students as intelligent. Some people call an artist who drew wicked abstract art as intelligent. Some people call a successful multi-millionaire entrepreneur as intelligent. Some people don’t think any of them are intelligent. Despite the variance in opinions, there is common assumption from most people that the more knowledgeable the person is, the more intelligent he/she is. As how Francis Bacon, a renowned philosopher put it, ‘Knowledge is Power’. My gut instinct told me something is amiss and that i got to put on my philosophical cap to reason it out. And so i did …

Knowledge is accessible everywhere

Exactly one year ago, i know nothing about physics. Absolutely zero. It was around January-February 2007 that my interest in physics sparked when i read an article about Einstein with his Special Theory of Relativity in Times magazine. I was very fascinated with the idea of how speed can influence time. Since then, i became a physics-addict. I spent a great deal of time reading about physics up to this very day, a field which i have zero education background in.

With the abundance of knowledge and information so accessible especially on the internet,  knowledge is always just within our fingertips. If knowledge has become something which is attainable by everyone and anyone, by all means, knowledge is no longer something special and valuable. Suddenly, knowledge has become a common commodity. Knowledge is literally free and easy to seek. This means, whatever knowledge that you know, others will know too. Nevertheless, knowledge only limit to things that we know at the present time. To see the future, we need imagination.

Knowledge ≠ Imagination

I always discourage people from being a book-freak. Even if you get to read all the books and become the most knowledgeable person in the world, it is still pointless. To become a thinker, one needs to spend an equal amount of time to contemplate on all the knowledge that he/she has just absorbed. If all a person do is just read, read and read, he/she will forever dwell in other people’s ideology, opinions, and mind-set. To stand and think at your own feet and , you need to spend time to reflect and imagine. Why? Because a thinker is a person who creates and invent new knowledge, ideas or thoughts. It is through human imagination that humanity consistently push our boundary to progress further. What separates a genius with an extremely smart person is the amount of imagination he/she possess. Try to ponder on this point – everyone can become a genius by just reading and following other people’s point of view. Sounds illogical, no?

I’m not suggesting that knowledge is utterly useless. In fact, knowledge is important as the basis of all intelligence. However, in the higher level of thinking process, having a great deal of knowledge do not mean having a great deal of thinking ability. Most people thought it worked that way, but in truth, it is a big false. There needs to be a balance. A balance between knowledge and imagination …. which imagination will then manipulate knowledge to create more knowledge.

Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking. – A. Einstein

Reading is equivalent to thinking with someone else’s head instead of with one’s own. – A.Schopenhauer

Written by elan85

November 19, 2007 at 2:45 am

Posted in Philosophy

Motion @ space

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(This is a continuation from my previous post …)

Whenever we are driving a car, we place our foot on the accelerator paddle to keep the car moving. Otherwise, the car will slow down and eventually stop moving. Same thing goes when we take a walk, we need to keep moving our muscles to make forward steps. Stop moving our muscles, and our body will be completely stationary. Make sense, right?

However, this logic is only applicable within the earth boundary. Beyond earth, this logic is absolutely invalid. The truth is, according to Newton, once an entity is in initial motion, it will remain in motion. This condition is known as inertia. Instead, a force is required to slow down or stop the motion. On earth, we have a natural force – gravity, which acts as the force of friction to halt objects from moving non-stop.

In space, as we know, it is all vacuum. Therefore, there’s almost no force to counteract the orbit movement and momentum of the earth (except for gravitational friction emitted by nearby planets, sun and moon which are extremely insignificant to cause visible effect). Just like light, it will keep traveling on and one until something major interrupts with the traveling process. (For instance, if a huge asteroid coming from an opposite direction of earth and hit us, it will slow down the speed of earth’s orbit movement. But i guess all of us will be dead by then if something as big as that hit us.)

Next question. What kicked start the movements of planets to go around the sun? What caused the earth to rotate around the sun in the first place?

The momentum was actually initiated from the rotation of the protostar. Protostar is basically the second stage of a star’s life cycle (Nebula is first) and is formed through clumps of dense gas and dust which rotate and form a disk. Hence, protostar pulls the planets within its gravity around during the formation stage and these planets danced around the big-bright-eye ever since then. See the picture below to get a rough idea.

(credit: daviddarling.info)

 

I hope i can write more about star’s life cycle in the near future … I have so many things that i wanna write, just need to find the time to articulate them out.

Written by elan85

November 18, 2007 at 7:29 pm

Posted in Astrophysics, Physics

General Theory of Relativity

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In my previous post, i mentioned about Einstein’s theory of how planets orbit around the sun. Contrary to popular belief, no , the sun does not directly pull the planets around with gravity. Rather, it was caused by the curvature of space-time fabric . Have a look at the diagram below to get the idea.

space (pic credit: nasa.gov)

Planets move around the sun based on the curve formed by the sun. Basically, the sun keeps ‘spiraling’ to create this effect. It is a pretty similar situation when you use a teaspoon to stir your cup of coffee. Put some small ice-cubes in to cup, gently stir the drink and you will see the effect right under your nose. This is the phenomenon which causes earth together with other planets to constantly stay within the orbit, not moving away from sun and obediently orbiting around it.

Notice that the satellite in the image is shooting a beam towards the earth. What it tried to depict here is that even light and radio-wave movements are influenced by the space curvature. They have to move along it.

Now another question. What caused the planet to keep orbiting and moving on and on eternally? What caused the sun to keep on rotating eternally hence creating the spiral effect? I will answer that in the next post.

Written by elan85

November 16, 2007 at 6:44 pm

Posted in Astrophysics

Einstein is a Genius?

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Everyone knows about it…. So common it is a verb.

However, isn’t it strange everyone is calling Einstein a genius when not many people truly understand his work? If you ever throw the question – what makes the Earth goes around the sun, a typical answer will be – The sun’s gravity pulls the Earth around it… which is not an accurate answer. If you ask what E=MC^2 is all about, most people will associate it with Nuclear Bomb. Haha!

Most people do not understand Einstein’s work yet everyone is calling him a genius. And that puzzled me. Why so?

From a psychological point of view, this scenario is known as the ‘Bandwagon Effect’. It basically explains that human fundamentally have strong tendency to believe and think in a herd behaviour. Hence, when the masses think that Einstein is a genius, it spreads like virus. People do not question the statement since the masses all agreed that Einstein is a genius.

Another instance will be Thomas Edison. Let me tell you what, he is nowhere near to be classified as a genius. Edison is just a very smart entrepreneur. Yet, everyone think he is a genius. Ok, perhaps this is just my subjective opinion. But have a read on the story of Edison vs Tesla, and perhaps you will get what i mean.

Written by elan85

November 13, 2007 at 6:23 pm

Posted in Philosophy, Psychology