A break from thesis writing to get even with the World

I can’t say that I’m progressing much in my thesis. But one thing is for sure – I’m still progressing. I can’t wait till I’m in the same hall with Joseph and the gang, graduating from this course. Sometimes I also want to see myself pushing forward with my PhD, but that’s another story altogether.

But this post isn’t about my sad thoughts, rather, about a game I felt it’s quite interesting as a Life Science researcher. My friend introduced to me a game called Plague Inc. by Ndemic Creations. At first, I thought it was some boring board game. But it turned out to be quite an interesting plot.

Plague Inc. from Ndemic Creations

Basically, you’re a pathogen and you need to try and infect, and kill all the humans in the World. As irony as it seems, it does give me a different perspective; if pathogens ever had a way to think of strategies (to infect us), it would probably look similar to what I do during the game. You can also somewhat say it looks like a cartoonish pathogen simulator.

Different types of pathogen choice

Game map

This game is in STEAM, so if you are interested, you can get it for S$15.00 (or cheaper during STEAM sales). Alternatively, you can try the game in Google Play Store for free (at least for some of the features). Hope you like the game, I’m still stuck at bacteria normal difficulty. Leave your comments in the comments section if you have good strategies. Thanks.

Infecting,

TheChocolateTeacher

Coming to an end…

I believe most of us in our course would feel relieved yet sad that it coming to an end. But the skills that we have absorbed from our course has clearly displayed in our presentations. Many of us were able to think out of the box to make use of simpler ideas to describe sophisticated ones. But more importantly, we were enjoying ourselves with the lecturers, who put so much effort in their lessons. It would be a shame that I am not able to travel to Australia to experience more courses in my Master’s program.

For those who are interested in our journey through the ANU program, you can visit Science Minion‘s wordpress for more details.

Now everyone is getting ready for the Dinner & Dance tonight.

TheChocoloateTeacher

Keeping in focus

Finally the weekend is here, but somehow it doesn’t feel much like a weekend. It’s strange how we went through 5 days of lessons in a blink of an eye, and we realized how different most of our understanding really are. It is definitely much different in how we explain our Science in higher learning than in earlier education. But is the higher learning’s explanation any more “correct” than the Primary school’s? We easily forget ourselves and try to find the answers/explain phenomenons that we have understood so far. Yet, the process of deriving to the conclusions are hardly appreciated. Should Science be the answer to all questions or a guide to the truth of answers? How should students, young students in fact, be taught to learn and project answers in their exam scripts? Should students get demerit for answering something different from what the norm is? E.g. What colour is an apple – red, or should it be green, yellow, blue, orange? Are solids a fluid? Why is gas a fluid (which is often represented as a liquid)? Is an enzyme digesting by “cutting” peptide/DNA pieces or having to fixate and exposure critical sites within the active sites to allow other factors such as cations to transfer atoms around in order to “cut”?

But the whole notion of the course is to understand that students see things differently from what we do. And even if they can change their understandings (to a more correct concept in future), the idea is that it is much harder as compared to in the beginning. As one would say, “a leopard can’t change its spots”, it is hard to break away from old habits and rectify them to new ones. There is absolutely no blame what-so-ever to anyone who has been teaching the “wrong stuff” or as we so speak of. But we must try to open up ourselves to know what we don’t understand, and not be hyper-critical to certain notions that we discuss of. Within 5 days, there has been quite a number of heated debates linking to religion and conceptual understandings. It sometimes remind me of how I used to try convincing my peers in my lab on laboratory techniques and some cannot tear away from the scrutiny that fixed protocols from companies are worth worshiping than doing proper optimizations. Somehow your experience and technical skills are no more appreciated. Same thing as teaching Science – one must understand how he/she is projecting the Science, don’t be too critical and think the big picture.

I just hope that the next 5 days will be more enjoyable. Maybe some don’t see it, but our course is coming to an end, and we won’t see each other or our lovely lecturers in the near future.

TheChocolateTeacher

SCIENCE Communication & Misconceptions

It has been 5 days since the start of our course or class if you want to categorize it, but the interesting thing is that among a variety of people within the class, many of us has very different understanding of Science. Just to be clear – this course isn’t to correct our Science as per se, but to point out that we have been learning and conveying Science alternatively/naively from what the proper Science is. Many text/reference books portray pictures to aid understanding but at most times, they don’t.

Have you seen this representation of matter in textbooks before?

Have you seen this picture before? It isn’t entirely wrong, but have you noticed that there are spaces between the molecules/atoms of the gases? So what IS occupying the space? If the picture is purely of a particular gas (e.g. Hydrogen gas), so what is occupying the space? The thing we need to understand is that molecules are vibrating/moving very rapidly, so they actually kind of occupy a “range” of space around themselves. Solid also don’t stay still in its state; it continuously vibrate.

 

Food chain? What does it instigate to you?

How about food chain? Does the food chain tell you of a food chain that goes one way only? Does it only tell you that rabbits only eat grass and foxes only eat rabbits? Is there no repeated processes or other animals/plants involved?

Third example – concentrated weak acid/bases. What does it mean? Why is weak acids/bases able to be concentrated? Does it not mean it will become a strong acid/base in the end? IMO, weak acids/bases remain as it is – dissociates to their own salts. A concentrated weak acid/base means having more of its own salts dissociated into the solvent. So it probably be able to “buffer” within its pKa better than a less concentrated weak acid/base.

We have still a lot of things we don’t exactly understand. But I don’t blame anyone. The thing is – why is it important to you? Would a mechanic need to know such information? Would a clerk need to explain it to their colleagues about it? The answer is most probably no. But one thing we need to understand is that when these misconceptions run loose for long, more and more people will deviate from the actual Science, and this can be quite hard to rectify, as much as what Galileo Galilei once had with earlier teachings.

TheChocolateTeacher

 

The End is not the end but only the beginning

Before we know it, the module, that we were so hectically trying to adjust to, is over. Was the time enough for all of us to even know each other well enough to feel proud of what we’re doing? I guess from the comments we have gotten of the symposium would be ample judgment of how great we did despite our differences.

Our MW5202 class with Prof Sow

Our MW5202 class with Prof Sow

In my opinion, the organization of the symposium was somewhat cramp and there’s not much time to gather proper responses from people outside of our social circle. Of course, deep inside, I do not exactly want too many strange people to come in and make us all feel uncomfortable either way. On the contrary, I want to commend on the effort that our planners have made into the programme. It was also lucky that we have some people working in Science Centre Singapore to make the bookings (of the venue) easier. I believe that if we had another two or three group discussions, we could have made the symposium much better.

What I can’t forget (just yet) is how early we came prior to the start of the event to prepare our stage. But even with that, we still encounter hurdles because there’s little synchrony in our slides and applications. What we could have done was to standardize our videos and powerpoint formats so that it works on most laptops, universally. Despite online converters, it was not as useful and efficient in such pressing times. Fortunately, I decided to bring my laptop, so all of the slides came out right. What I liked most was the use of the clicker to switch between slides. The one I intend to get is probably from Logitech – the clicker was very responsive and it did not corrupt my operating system (OS) when I used the dongle, unlike Ranger’s product, which always corrupts the OS and require a 30 minutes startup whenever that happens. Another great innovation that was introduced by Samuel was the use of a mobile webcam by using the IPhone, and then featuring it on an IP address that anyone (who taps into that address) can see what Samuel is projecting. I’ll show it in one of the photos later on.

The preparation - 0840hrs

The preparation – 0840hrs; the three AVA/IT guys at work.

The preparations start to speed up when most of us came about 9am and gather around to discuss on the flow of the programme. Many of us who had props started to categorized them into sessions and brought them into the storeroom promptly.

The rest came about 0900hrs and preparations sped up.

The rest came about 0900hrs and preparations sped up.

Why you no work videos!?

Why you no work videos!?

Compiling slides and testing on systems.

Compiling slides and testing on systems.

While some are busy with the rehearsing, some actually enjoyed their quiet time with Science Centre’s toys.

Prof Sow with the smoke signaling demonstration.

Prof Sow with the smoke signaling demonstration.

By 10am, everyone started to be on their toes; costumes and props were all ready for action. And those who were there early, you would have seen me in my costume relating to “The Last Airbender”.

Me and Prof David (my lecturer from MW5201).

Me and Prof David (my lecturer from MW5201).

Thanks to my wonderful chairman (Kin), he started the X-Science Symposium with his opening roar.

Kin Guan, King of the Jungle.

Kin Guan, King of the Jungle.

Here are some highlights of the symposium as well:

Monica diligently carrying out her demonstration.

Monica diligently carrying out her demonstration.

Haryana and her more than "cooking" class, the wonders of amino acids and proteins.

Haryana and her more than “cooking” class, the wonders of amino acids and proteins.

Samuel is using his roving visualizer to capture Haryana’s demonstration and feature it on the screen.

Girl on right: Huh? I'm winning! Girl on left: Don't CHEAT!

Girl on right: Huh? I’m winning!
Girl on left: Don’t CHEAT!

Stephanie and optical fiber demos, really cool.

Stephanie and optical fiber demos, really cool.

Internal reflection in water; observe the light flowing with the water and not traveling straight.

Internal reflection in water; observe the light flowing with the water and not traveling straight.

Michelle with "exploding" gummi bears. Be careful! Don't get hurt!

Michelle with “exploding” gummi bears. Be careful! Don’t get hurt!

 

Throughout the whole event, we have supporting lecturers who kept focus of our performance.

Dr. Andrew with his inseparable laptop/technology; the tech guy in our lectures.

Dr. Andrew with his inseparable laptop/technology; the tech guy in our lectures.

Prof Siva, the mastermind behind the event. Or maybe one of the masterminds.

Prof Siva, the mastermind behind the event. Or maybe one of the masterminds.

In spite of the stressful event, some of us tried to make the best out of the situation. We tried to make it as fun and enjoyable by creating a conducive environment for ourselves to perform in, yet be firm with the time frame. This is one of the photos shown but I’m pretty sure those who were assigned as timekeepers were eager to use this sign.

Monica - END = End Now or Die!

Monica – END = End Now or Die!

I’m pretty sure Monica really loved what she was doing then.

And then the day started to end – Prof Sow made his appearance and excited many with his routine yet ironically funny demonstrations. As how we say it in Mandarin – 果然是demo神; no wonder he is the demo god.

Prof Sow enticing kids with his demos.

Prof Sow enticing kids with his demos.

Prof Sow demonstrating how static electricity can cause beads to "jump" in between metal pieces.

Prof Sow demonstrating how static electricity can cause beads to “jump” in between metal pieces.

Prof Sow don't just target the kids, but the adults too. Both are equally amazed by very simple yet interesting demonstrations.

Prof Sow don’t just target the kids, but the adults too. Both are equally amazed by very simple yet interesting demonstrations.

Cartesian diver demonstration to show the power of pressure under water. simple yet effective demonstration to "awww" the kids.

Cartesian diver demonstration to show the power of pressure under water. simple yet effective demonstration to “awww” the kids.

All things must come to an end – after the event, we finally get to have a nice meal together, and had our last debriefing from Siva. He commented that he did not have much sleep but despite that, he was very happy that we managed the programme in such that we have a break about an hour after the first session. That, itself, was a perk. I don’t know when or where will we come together again to conduct such activities (learning, practical, organization, etc.) again. For all we know, we won’t have such excitements again for the rest of our lives.

Almost "stoned" Prof Siva - a last selfie with all of us. Yeah!

Almost “stoned” Prof Siva – a last selfie with all of us. Yeah!

2014-04-26_17.36.00-iphone

Souvenir from X-Science Symposium 2014 conducted by MW5202 class 2014.

After a few days of rest (and catching up with sleep), life goes back to normal. But this isn’t the end – Science Communication doesn’t end with just one show. In fact, this is the beginning where we start making use of such skills for our profession. So in my view, there is definitely more than meets the eye. Now it is the mad rush towards our projects.

TheChocolateTeacher

The type of presentation

A little upset today because I’m thorn between the types of presentations to give to researchers. I understand from my modules that we have to cater our ideas based on the type of audience we have. But despite the complexity of the presentation, why is it not plausible to be more entertaining when giving a formal scientific presentation? I mean you need not make too many jokes or be too layman; the idea is to make people interested in what you are talking about rather than go on ranting about the project you are doing, and half the time people don’t catch what you are saying because of the jargons or the packed slides you have. And it’s kinda of sad when I’m asked to go for the meeting to give my opinions, yet when given, it’s not taken into much account. So why am I there in the first place? The project would have been more interesting if there were segregation between the synonyms that the presenter used, and I tried addressing that it’s important. The very fact that most of us were questioning what and how to pronounce those two simple words (in correlation to the structure and use of the compound) is evident that we don’t understand the presentation enough. So it should be adjusted.  I guess I should let it slide since I should be respectful of what the presenter choose to present.

The point is – when I go for me lessons, I think of entertainment Science. But when I come back to work, it’s formal Science all over again. They are hard to mix, and it is driving me a little crazy having to feel good about my presentation, yet when presented, not many are open to accepting these ideas. A formal presentation remains formal… period.

I do hope that I will be able to re-collect my ideas together soon because my act will be coming up soon in the Science Centre Singapore Symposium.

TheChocolateTeacher

The Future of Science

I’m very excited and fascinated by the current innovations in Science. Without venturing into Science, there are many dreams that will die, and scientists have devoted their lives and hearts to provide for the society. This makes me very much honored in devoting my time in research; in my heart, I know I am not simply wasting my time.

Scientists in Vanderbilt University have developed an artificial system that can be used to simulate trials on liver toxicity. This can allow us to establish more risky trials without having to consider death tolls. And more for the researchers, Harvard School of Public Health has just released a detailed map of expression networks between cells and tissues. More information is definitely better than no information.

Have you heard of Hugh Herr? Despite being a rock climber, he’s actually an engineer AND a biophysicist. Unfortunately for him, he lost his legs due to hypothermia. Ironically, he was motivated to build himself artificial legs of his own. He calls them bionics or bionic legs. He proceeded to give a talk in Ted Talks to give more insight of his product; he intends to give hope to disabled people.

If you watch his talk, you’d notice that his bionic legs are really flexible, so flexible that it allows him to continue his hobby of wall climbing again.

So I’m really excited of what else Science has installed for us in the future.

TheChocolateTeacher

 

The very first synthetic genome made

To biologists, the human genome is an extremely large piece of twisted string with an almost endless flow of information (biological information). To emphasize the endless part, humans have 23 pairs of such “strings” (chromosomes). Yet, scientists have actually manged to synthetically (keyword: synthetically) make the genome of yeast from scratch. Dr. Craig Venter (1, 2) is the leading member of the synthetic genome project. Dr. Craig also gave many talks in TED talks, which are inspiring and engaging.

 

 

He took 15 years of his life to successfully create this genome. It may not seem very hype among people but the implications behind this whole project do project a larger meaning – that we are able to create more avenues for jobs and possibilities in Medicine. Of course, this is not what Craig said himself but to a researcher, it is really a magnificent feat. Unfortunately, Dr. Craig may end up having ethical issues to handle when his group tries to breach into human genome. Though it can theoretically replace defective chromosomes in bad cells, we still know very little of how the cell responds to artificial complexes. So it is definitely a breakthrough, but we need to keep in mind that there are many, many hurdles yet to overcome.

TheChocolateTeacher