Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Spent quite a bit on this bike recently - 20 pounds for a new tire and inner tube, 5 pounds on new brake pads which i fitted myself. think bought it from alvin for 80 pounds initially. Served me 2.5 years. other things breaking down - screws sticking out from seat, making a hole in my pants; front wheel rim's been dented, causing the front breaks to be jerk to a stop when it meets the dent; someone attempted to cut my lock before, leaving it slightly breached.
Initially hoped to maintain this bike til the end of the year, and get a new bike when i return next year, so that I wont have to leave a new bike here over summer, when it deteriorates lots. but it looks like the bike's broken down much faster than I had hoped. Hope that this bike can last me the next year, or more, if I stayed here longer.
Here's to the memory of my first bike in cambridge...
Monday, April 14, 2008
It feels like lately, the news has been dominated by stories of soaring grain/food, oil and gold/commodities prices; and of the gloomy outlook of US and British economies.
Just felt the urge to take some time off my work to consolidate some thoughts amidst this barrage of bleak news.
On food shortages
I recall a time when the world had too much food and farmers were paid to let their land lie fallow [EU 'Set-aside' policy, 1988; China, 2000]. Since then, I've had the impression that modern technology had led to the eradication of food shortages, and that the lack of food in isolated parts of the world (and by the poor) was simply a socio-economic problem stemming from uneven distribution of wealth, and not lack of actual food supplies.
So when I read the reports of increasing food prices due to shortages, I wondered where my original perception stood in light of these reports. Found the above links, and this press release from the European Commission, upon some googling.
Conclusion: it is indeed the case that our food supply is falling short of demand, and that this reversal in trend happened only as recent as last fall. And this has led to the nullification of the 'Set-aside' policy.
[A slightly unrelated link]
On food and oil
With oil prices rising relentlessly, it seems the strain on the food supply might be due to the switch to biofuels as an alternative source of energy.
Recall watching on the news back home an incident about a run on the supermarket for palm oil in Malaysia. Googled for 'Malaysia palm oil rush', and found a more recent incident.
Biofuels are also being made out of grain. And according to the article, if all the corn produced in the US were used to replace oil, it can only offset gasoline consumption by 15%. So it looks like there is enough food to fill our stomachs, but way too little to use on our fuel tanks too.
Even though it encroaches on our food supplies, the use of biofuels actually still seems very appealing - if only the mix of technology and economic pressures would turn desert wastelands that have too much sunshine into palm oil plantations that converted the sunlight and carbon dioxide into fuel which we burn directly, we could bypass the redundant process of turning plants into fossil fuels when we burn them for fuel. Furthermore, what is the point of trying to solve fusion containment problems, plus figuring out how to extract the energy produced from the exceedingly hot reaction, when all we have to do is figure out the latter from our ready source of fusion energy - our sun, which is conveniently contained by it's own gravitational field?
[I recall in Pri 1, asking my teacher a similar question when I encountered two seemingly incompatible facts - why does Singapore, being an island surrounded by water, face water problems? The answer was that the water we were surrounded by wasn't potable (shame). Well, with technology, we have now made sea water potable. Hopefully, in the same way, technology could render today's hostile deserts cultivatable for biofuel producing crops.]
On oil and gold
Just trying to put the recent record gold prices in perspective.
I'm getting tired. I'll just let this article speak for itself :P
Also reading about the desperate situation the poor in Singapore are facing. Giving the excuse that such a topic is off limits for a Singaporean is probably a good way conclude this entry.
Lastly, a more far fetched speculation
1I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals. Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, "Come!" 2I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest.
3When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, "Come!" 4Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make men slay each other. To him was given a large sword.
5When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, "Come!" I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. 6Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, "A quart of wheat for a day's wages, and three quarts of barley for a day's wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!"
With that, i'm off to rest my head (on the pillow :P)
Saturday, April 12, 2008
Am trying to cram two major activities into my finite timetable this summer - a 6 week volunteer program to China (ISEC), and an 8 week internship at DSI.
The dates are more or less confirmed, and will be booking the air ticket soon.
June 17: Flying home from UK
June 18-27: Will try to clock a few days at work at DSI, but also need some time to prepare for the trip to china.
June 28 - Aug 7: ISEC.
Aug 7 - Aug 12: Visiting CK gugu and Ling in Shanghai. (Anyone reading this who happens to be free during this time and wants to tour Shanghai too, pls get in touch! :)
Aug 12 - Oct 3: Will be trying to clock another 7 weeks at DSI, and catching up with everyone!
Bracing myself for one hectic summer! And looking forward to accomplishing much. But first, the tripos :S
The pound hit fresh lows against the sg dollar - now 1 gbp is now worth 2.67 sgd! Need to buy my air tickets in dollars!
Monday, April 07, 2008
Good getaway, a fitting pilgrimage for a physicist, to be undertaken once in the course of an undergraduate physicist's life...
Visited eisteinhaus (the house where Einstein lived) in Bern, and Cern in Geneva. Saw the Atlas experiment, the tunnel, the computing facility containing a huge server farm where the data from the experiment is processed, and where the web originated.
Also, switzerland has these very interesting playgrounds filled with very innovative toys (will try to post pics of the toys when i find the time)... no wonder they produce such geniuses!
For now, it's back to the books... Hope I'm more inspired from the visit :D