Friday, August 29, 2008

Early Morning Reading

Right, I always heard some people have a habit of reading before bedtime. I usually don’t, but last night I found this really interesting science fiction story and started reading. The plot became really suspenseful and I was reluctant to go to sleep but I went to bed anyway, around eleven since I was tired.

Anyway, what must have happened is that subconsciously I became agitated for not knowing how the story turns out. This explains why I woke up twitchy at 3:30 a.m. And so, here’s me at the early hours in the morning, reading.

For all the benefits touted, I suppose sometimes reading is detrimental to your health.


Monday, August 18, 2008

Geologists’ Olympic Medals

While I’m not particularly interested in the Olympic Games per se, I am somewhat paying attention to Malaysia’s performance in the games. I was hoping we could get a gold, just so that I can write on the Facebook wall of my friend slash ex-roommate who lives in Beijing: Hey, how are you? Are you watching the Olympic Games live? Guess what, my country got its first gold ever. Yay!

However, since we only got a silver, I guess I’ll change the ‘gold’ on my comment. And probably skip the ‘Yay’.

Anyhow, you might not know this but the BP Institute is under the Earth Science Department, which also includes Geology and the like. Hence, we sometimes get e-mails sent to the Earth Science mailing list. This afternoon while I was working, I got an e-mail about a Geologist getting a bronze in the Olympics for the women double sculls. Not too long after that, another e-mail was sent about another geologist guy who got a silver in the Men’s eight.

I had a feeling Malaysians in general were quite excited about getting an Olympic medal. Hence, it is somewhat disheartening to see how easily other people do it. In the space of one afternoon, I found out that my Earth Science Dept of the University of Cambridge had done better in the Olympics than my country, which is funny in a sad way.

Oh, and to end on a funnier note, I found this on the Kensington Victoria blog. I don’t play WoW, so the effect is probably lessened on me, but it’s still funny nonetheless.


Friday, August 15, 2008

Fun Watching Paint Dry

A strip of paint

“It was a fun read,” I said to my supervisor, referring to a paper I just digested about paint drying. As you probably know if you follow the blog, I’m doing a research project about paint drying. The paper is about paint drying in 1D, I’m doing my project in 3D. Both involved watching actual paint dry. Well, maybe not the paper since it’s numerical in nature, but I bet the authors have done the watching just to make sure.

“Ah, so you like these kinds of stuff.” We spent the next fifteen minutes or so discussing aspects of paint drying with me asking questions and him answering them and showing me his previous work about paint and how they dry. I stored the information on my mind, knowing that they’ll prove useful the next time I spend four hours in the lab watching paint dry.

Well, that pretty much sums up yesterday. Yeah, yeah, I know, why the heck do I want to do a research project about the drying of paint? To be honest, I applied to do a research project here not knowing what kind of project I’ll get and I can’t really choose. But that aside, let me share with you something that I read recently:

Scientists are involved in all kinds of research. Sure, there are those popular ones like stem cells, renewable energy and the like. However, for every one of those, there are lots of others that normal people might think of as less ‘colourful’ but each of them still have their own importance and significance to the world.

Not really an exact quotation, but I can’t find where I read it so that’ll do. In any case, I learnt lots of useful techniques which I’ve probably mentioned before like finite difference analysis, linear stability, asymptotic analysis, how to use Mathematica etc. And all these are general in the sense that they will be applicable to a lot of other stuffs that I’ll encounter in the future and I’ll probably use them again.

This summer, a lot of people I know are working in industry and gaining experience. A number of the rest are doing banking and earning lots of money. Some have even started work for real (hey Adam!) and some are doing nothing (hello, my next year’s project partner). As for me, I’m glad I’m doing this, even if I’m describing it as like watching paint dry.


Monday, August 11, 2008

Week Seven

Well, this is the seventh week of my research project and there are six more weeks to go before I have my summer break (which is about two weeks, how sad is that?). I have to make a 15 minutes presentation about my project on the ninth week but I guess I’ll worry about it the week before. So far, everything is well.

A few things happened today. I finally beat my summer student colleague, who up until now always arrived first to the Institute, but only because the dining hall is not open for breakfast today so I decided to go to work straightaway. The spreader which I used to make a thin paint film stopped working because the paint made it stuck (and because I never cleaned it afterwards) but fortunately there’s this post-doc in the lab who’s nice enough to help me clean it with acetone.

Another thing happened today which drives home an important lesson: if you want to do scientific research, then make sure you have a strong relevant maths foundation. My supervisor and I have been working on this linear stability analysis calculation which I can’t seem to get my head around. So today I rechecked the calculation only to find out that they’re wrong! There goes a few days worth of work.

Oh well, I suppose these things happen in research. One of the lecturers I talked to mentioned that she discarded all of her first year PhD data because she found that the lab apparatus was not actually working correctly. So there you go.


P.S. Am I the only one who’s excited about the upcoming Diablo III game? I love the previous one so much I’m still playing it. Who cares if it came out eight years ago?

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

My First Paycheck

Hi there! Yup, I haven’t updated in about three weeks or so. Sorry about that, it’s just that nothing much is happening in Cambridge at this time, apart from my work. I can tell you all about modelling polymer films and taking pictures of paint drying or playing around with the graphical colour schemes in Mathematica, but I’m not sure if it will not bore people to death. And no, I don’t find watching paint dry to be extremely fascinating, just the science and the numerical aspects of it.

Oh, anyway, this is the sixth week of my summer research project, which means that I’m halfway through it. Yay! And on this week, they gave us the first instalment of our salary. What makes this more special is that this is my first salary ever. Yup, I never worked before. Still a wide eyed naive student in the face of the real world.

So, what am I gonna do with the money? For some time, I was thinking of buying myself a 17 inch Macbook Pro, but I guess I’ll wait until my current laptop is truly dying before I do that. Hmmm... maybe an iPod Touch, or an iPhone if I can get out of the contract. Or maybe I can be a good boy and save it all in my saver account. Then again, nah!


P.S. Oh, if in this post I sound like somebody who has never held any money in his hands before, then stop worrying. I’ve been managing my own money in this country for five years already, so I’m not gonna spend it all on high-tech gadgets, though that’s quite a tempting prospect =)