Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Danica McKellar Is My Hero

I remember Danica McKellar playing the part of Winnie Cooper in the TV show The Wonder Years in the late 1980s to early 1990s. She has a new book out called Math Doesn't Suck to promote mathematics to young people.

By the way, Ms. McKellar has a theorem named after her. It's called the "Chayes-McKellar-Winn Theorem," and you can see the paper here. She also tutors kids online at Danica's Corner.

She also appeared in lingerie for Stuff magazine.

Cute + Dumb < Cute + Smart, indeed.
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P.S. My beautiful and smart wife approved this post.

Monday, July 30, 2007


ถ้าใครสนใจว่าประวัติความเป็นมาของประเทศไทย และสนใจประวัติวีรสตรีที่ไม่จอมปลอม รีบไปซื้อ นิตยสาร สารคดี ฉบับ ที่ 269 กรกฎาคม 2550 เลยนะครับ หน้าปกเป็นรูปท่านผู้หญิงพูนศุข พนมยงค์ ถูกตำรวจคุมตัวไปขังด้วยข้อหาที่ไม่เป็นความจริง

ท่านผู้ หญิงพูนศุข ภรรยาของรัฐบุรุษอาวุโส ปรีดี พนมยงค์ ผู้ ก่อการอภิวัฒน์สยามประเทศ ท่านเป็นผู้ หญิงตัวเล็ก ๆ ที่กล้าต่อกรกับ ทหารอาวุธครบมือ แม้ใน ยามที่เผชิญมรสุมทางการเมืองครั้งแล้ว ครั้งเล่า ท่านก็ยัง เด็ดเดี่ยว ยึดมั่นใน สัจจะ กล้าประกาศความ จริง และให้ อภัยกับ ทุกคน ตลอดชีวิต ท่านได้ ทำหน้าที่ภรรยา และ แม่อย่างเข้มแข็ง ใช้ ชีวิตเรียบง่ายเยี่ยงชนธรรมดามาโดย ตลอด ใน บั้นปลายชีวิตยังช่วย งานสังคมใน ทุกโอกาส ท่านคือแบบอย่างของความ สูงสุดคืนสู่สามัญโดย แท้ แม้จนวาระสุดท้ายของชีวิต ก็ยัง “ไม่ ขอรับเกียรติยศใด ๆ ทั้ง สิ้น” คงไม่ เกินจริงที่จะ กล่าวว่า สตรี “ผู้ ยิ่งน้อย” ท่านนี้เองที่ชนรุ่นหลังกราบไหว้ได้ อย่างสนิทใจ

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Autistic People Cannot Lie (Easily)

I found this essay by Simon Baron-Cohen (the psychologist whose cousin is Borat's Sacha Baron-Cohen) about people with autism and Asperger's syndrome and their lack of lying skill very interesting.

From the essay:

"And then there are people with autism. Their neurological condition leads not only to difficulties socializing and chatting but also to difficulties recognizing when someone might be deceiving them or understanding how to deceive others. Many children with autism are perplexed by why someone would even want to deceive others, or why someone would think about fiction or pretense. They have no difficulty with facts (version 1 of reality) and can tell you easily if something is true or false (“Is the moon made of rocks? Yes! Is the moon made of cheese? No!”). But they may be puzzled by version 2 of reality, that “John believes the moon is made of cheese.” Why would a person believe something that is untrue?"

By the way, the inventor of BitTorrent, Bram Cohen also has Asperger's syndrome.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Interesting Point/Counterpoint: Did Islamic Civilization Propelled The World Through The Dark Age?

The argument for: How Islam has kept us out of the ‘Dark Ages’

The argument against: What Arab Civilization?

My favorite word derived from Arabic is "algorithm" which, according to Wiktionary, comes ... from Medieval Latin algorismus, a mangled transliteration of the name of the Islamic mathematician al-Khwārizmī (Arabic: الخوارزمي, "native of Khwarezm.")

Examples for English words derived from Arabic can be found here. Admiral, adobe, alchemy, alcohol, algebra, etc. are among them.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Understanding Something Is More Than Just Knowing Fancy Words

An anecdote by Richard Feynman:

For example, there was a book that started out with four pictures: first there was a windup toy; then there was an automobile; then there was a boy riding a bicycle; then there was something else. And underneath each picture it said, "What makes it go?"

I thought, "I know what it is: They're going to talk about mechanics, how the springs work inside the toy; about chemistry, how the engine of the automobile works; and biology, about how the muscles work."

It was the kind of thing my father would have talked about: "What makes it go? Everything goes because the sun is shining." And then we would have fun discussing it:

"No, the toy goes because the spring is wound up," I would say. "How did the spring get wound up?" he would ask.

"I wound it up."

"And how did you get moving?"

"From eating."

"And food grows only because the sun is shining. So it's because the sun is shining that all these things are moving." That would get the concept across that motion is simply the transformation of the sun's power.

I turned the page. The answer was, for the wind-up toy, "Energy makes it go." And for the boy on the bicycle, "Energy makes it go." For everything, "Energy makes it go."

Now that doesn't mean anything. Suppose it's "Wakalixes." That's the general principle: "Wakalixes makes it go." There's no knowledge coming in. The child doesn't learn anything; it's just a word!

What they should have done is to look at the wind-up toy, see that there are springs inside, learn about springs, learn about wheels, and never mind "energy." Later on, when the children know something about how the toy actually works, they can discuss the more general principles of energy.

So, when you try to understand how something works or comes to be, and some authority say to you it's because of X, you better know how X operates.

If you haven't read a book called "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman", you should really read it at least once in your life. It contains a lot of fun adventures by the great scientist Richard Feynman.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

T3 Is Near Completion

We have the latest 4-D ultrasound of the T3 project today. This is her 23rd week and she should come out around October 26 or so. You can see an exciting movie of her sleeping here.

As usual, we went to Bangpo General Hospital in the morning to meet Dr. Vichit who brought Titus and Tatia to this planet. We are quite certain he will do the same for T3.

Titus was born before we had access to the 4-D ultrasound so he doesn't have his pre-natal movies. Tatia's movies can be found in my previous posts here and here.

You know, T3 looks very much like Tatia, so maybe the ultrasound machine always draws the same face every time :-D