March 31, 2010


Researchers at UC Berkeley discovered that rap music, commonly believed to have originated from African-American culture, was actually derived from a form of traditional Chinese performing art known as shulaibao. The full story is here.

March 30, 2010

The value of education

Mark Thoma: "Human Capital: Literal Truth, Fairy Tale or Myth?"

I thought it was a criticism of the theory of human capital but it turned out to be much more inspiring and far-reaching than that. The true life story of an economist.

March 24, 2010

Erdős number

Though the number of people with finite Erdős numbers will probably keep on increasing, and it is not the least possible that one day every experienced researcher on Earth will have a finite Erdős number, the mean value of Erdős numbers belonging to people alive will inevitably rise overtime.

Image source: xkcd.

March 23, 2010

Setting to be your default Google portal

The generic Google site, or the Google site for the U.S. ( is always the pioneer in utilizing new technologies and improvements that Google develops and makes. Despite that there are customized and localized Google regional sites (e.g. in most parts of the world, many English-speaking users would rather use the generic site. Nevertheless, Google automatically redirects traffic to your regional site based on your location. If you want to use the generic site, you’ll have to click “Go to” every time, and it sometimes switches back and forth when you are using different Google services which is a little annoying.

To deal with this, you can use the “No Country Redirect” URL or (until now I don’t know the difference between these two sites but I use the prior one). However, you have to bookmark this location or type the “ncr” every time; otherwise the browser will still turn to the regional site. The way to solve this is to

  1. delete all your cookies,
  2. restart the browser, and
  3. visit so that your browser will remember your preference next time.

To delete all your cookies in Chrome, go to Options, under the Under the Hood tab, open Content Settings under Privacy. Under the Cookies tab, open "Show cookies and other site data…”. Finally, click “Remove all” in the pop-up window.

Note that if your homepage is set to be your regional Google site, or, this will not work since when you restart your browser, the regional site is loaded and this site will be remembered instead. So make sure the first Google site you visit after clearing your cookies is the generic site by changing the homepage setting.

After this, whenever your type in your location bar, the clean and simple will be shown. Tell me how it works and enjoy browsing!


March 17, 2010

Foreign official balance

Dollar-denominated reserve assets held by foreign central banks.

I found no clear definition of this item in the balance of payment accounting on the Internet, so I came up with mine. Please reply if it is mistaken.

March 13, 2010

Congregation of the “Atheist Church”

More than 2,000 atheists from around the world are gathering in Melbourne, Australia, to celebrate their lack of religious belief.

But isn’t institutionalized atheism a kind of religion? I don’t think atheism is anti-religious. Only agnosticism may qualify. The news report on BBC is here.

March 7, 2010

Gender Imbalance

In China the male-female ratio has been rising at least since the 1980s, and the unmarried males, or “bare branches”, alone are not the whole problem:

In any country rootless young males spell trouble; in Asian societies, where marriage and children are the recognised routes into society, single men are almost like outlaws. Crime rates, bride trafficking, sexual violence, even female suicide rates are all rising and will rise further as the lopsided generations reach their maturity (see article).

So how can we resolve it?

In the 1990s South Korea had a sex ratio almost as skewed as China’s. Now, it is heading towards normality. It has achieved this not deliberately, but because the culture changed. Female education, anti-discrimination suits and equal-rights rulings made son preference seem old-fashioned and unnecessary. The forces of modernity first exacerbated prejudice—then overwhelmed it.

The author inevitably mentioned the one-child policy of China and criticized it. In respect to this matter, I choose to withhold my opinion. It may not be a perfect solution, probably not even a good one – but any other alternative may be even worse for China, with a culture so headstrong to believe that “more children, more happiness”, especially in the rural areas. Here for the full article at The Economist.

The Dinosaur Extinction Theory Settled

A group of 41 researchers have pored over the evidence and decided that—in accordance with the original postulate put forth 30 years ago by a team led by father and son researchers Luis and Walter Alvarez—it was, indeed, a massive asteroid that slammed into Earth, creating Chicxulub Crater on Mexico's Gulf Coast, that killed off many of the species on the planet, including the non-avian dinosaurs.

Here for the full story and exactly what happened on and after that tragic day. Note that only the non-avian dinosaurs were killed – in fact we are still living with dinosaurs everywhere, despite that we usually only call them “birds”.

March 5, 2010

Three Levels of Time Management

I do not intend to establish any new time management theory. The three levels are as simple as the following:

  1. Wasting time. That is, doing things that are (almost) purely a waste of time, without any value added. Well, you probably wouldn’t call it time management at all. This is the lowest level.
  2. Fully utilizing time. Consuming every minute doing things that are meaningful and beneficial in some ways.
  3. Maximizing the utility of time. Doing everything that is the most important and meaningful at each hour, with rational marginal-cost-marginal-benefit analysis. This should be the ideal situation among the three.

Aware of it or not, many of our fellow students are sometimes still in the entry level of time management as listed here. For example, a student may set her alarm clock to ring every five minutes starting from 7am; however, she does not get up until 8am. The hour from 7 to 8 is close to a pure waste: she doesn’t either sleep well or do something more meaningful than lying uncomfortably in the bed damning herself. So how to resolve it? Simply set your alarm at eight, or get up and find something to do.

March 2, 2010

Did the discovery of cooking make us human?

'Bigger brains': "Did cooking our food make us human?"
[I]t is no coincidence that humans - the cleverest species on earth - are also the only species that cooks.

How many colors do you know?

Color Names: "

Author: chris
Posted on: 2010-03-02 14:49:24

I remember reading scientists found that how a person categorizes colors will affect his or her ability to perceive the differences between colors. Does this contribute to the fact that there are more males who are color amblyopic?