Thursday, September 01, 2011

Why You Should Not Eat Too Many Fruits at One Time

To answer this question, you need to appreciate that the absorption of the frustose molecules in your body is not straightforward, it requires some help from a fructose transmembrane transporter called GLUT5, which is specialized in this task.

Let's begin with our DNA program. The red line in the diagram below marks the location of the SLC2A5 gene in Human Chromosome 1.


The SLC2A5 is the genetic program which carries the instruction to manufacture the GLUT5 in your small intestine. The size of the SLC2A5 program is 53,371 base-pair, approximately 6.5 kilobytes if stored in binary codes (quite a small program!).

The purpose of the GLUT5 transporter is to carry and transfer fructose in intestinal fluid to the blood line across the intestinal epithelial membrane. You can imagine GLUT5 as a truck specially designed to carry fructose molecules. The number of GLUT5 transporter in your intestine is finite and if you eat too many fruits, you will not have enough GLUT5 transporter to carry the fructose molecules and put them into the blood line. The average absorption threshold for one-time fructose consumption is 0.15 mol (about 4 apples)

When this happens, the intestinal osmotic pressure increases and water molecules in the blood line will diffuse into intestine. The fructose molecules will then get flushed to colon and consumed and fermented by bacteria living there.

Fermentation of fructose releases gases like methane, hydrogen and carbon dioxide and propels intestinal peristalsis and, lo and behold, it's toilet time!

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Sunday, August 28, 2011

Should You Migrate to the New Ujrah Scheme for Your PTPTN Loan?

My wife recently asked me whether or not she should participate in the new ujrah scheme as announced by PTPTN. First of all, for new contracts, the introduction of the ujrah scheme at 1% per annum would definitely save the student some interest. For example, for a given loan amount to be repaid in 180 months, the ujrah of 1% is approximately equivalent to an compound interest rate of 1.9%. Thus this scheme save the student 1.1% per annum.

However, for the old contracts signed-off before 2008, the situation is a little bit tricky, and PTPTN offers no guide to the graduated students. To close this gap, I developed a simple criterion to assist her in decision making. And the answer can be yes or no, depending on your current debt level and your remaining repayment periods.

First of all, the total amount of monies to be repaid to PTPTN, if you choose to participate in the Ujrah scheme can be calculated as:


where P'' is your reduced balance as of June 1, 2008 (datum), ΔP is difference between your reduced balance as of now and that of datum.


However, if you you choose to stay with the original compound interest scheme, the total amount of monies to be repaid (3% annual interest over a period of m months) is:


For the migration to be meaningful, the total amount of monies repaid under the Ujrah scheme must be less than that of the original compound interest scheme, thus we must have the following inequality:


From this inequality, we can rearrange and formulate a criterion to decide whether or not you should migrate to the new scheme:


For example, suppose your reduced balance on June 1, 2008 is RM22,500 and your reduced balance as of now is RM16,000. Then λ = (22,500-16,000)/22,500 = 0.289. Suppose you plan to settle your debt within 140 months, then φ(140) = 0.195. Since 0.195 < 0.289, it would be unwise to switch to the Ujrah scheme now.

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Friday, July 22, 2011

Visual Interpolation and Partially Occluded Nude

The human brain evolves to perform visual interpolation, visual extrapolation, and visual completion.


The image on the right depicts an Assam tiger occluded in the Kaziranga National Park, India. When confronted with such a situation in the wild, the human brain must be able compute with the electrical signals transmitted by the photosensors in the eyes, distinguish between different shades of yellow and brown colors, interpolate between the color shades, isolate unimportant information (i.e. grass), and generate a group of electrical signals to represent the predator. When these signals are relayed to the amygdala, the emotional CPU of the brain, a "run" signal will be generated and get cascaded to motor control CPU of the brain.

A human brain which failed to perform the above visual interpolation is bound to become the lunch of another species. So, our brain has the natural tendency to do interpolation and enjoy doing so.

Now, let's turn our attention to the image on the left, which depicts a Chinese model named Zhou Weitong (周韦彤). In this photo, she was captured by a skillful photographer in a natural pose, in which the areola regions were occluded by her arm and hair. This can provide a visual stimulus for the brain to happily perform the visual interpolation and visual completion for the areola regions, and explains why a partially occluded nude is more seductive than a complete nude.

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Monday, July 04, 2011

Puranic Cosmology of the Ancient Indians

The Judeo-Christian time scale as computed by James Ussher in 1650, that the universe was created single-handedly by Yahweh in October 23, 4004 BC (proleptic Julian calendar), is rather simple if you were to put it side by side with the Puranic model conceived by the ancient Indians. The Puranic model of time assumes that the world goes through a manvantara cycle of four yugas or ages, namely, the Krta yuga, the Tretā yuga, the Dvāpara yuga, and the Kali yuga.

The durations of the four yugas is carefully chosen by the ancient Indians so that (a) they form an arithmetic progression; (b) they sum to a multiple of ten; (c) their arithmetic sum is 4.32 million years.


Furthermore, the model also assumes the following conversion factors for dealing with longer time span,

1. 1,000 manvantara cycles is equivalent to one Brahmā day (approx. 4.32 billion years);
2. The next 1,000 manvantara cycles is equivalent to one Brahma night;
3. One Brahma day and one Brahma night is equivalent to one Kalpa (approx. 8.64 billion years)

Surprisingly enough, the value of one Brahma day (or night) is very close to the present estimate of the age of the Earth (4.54 billion years), and that the value of one Kalpa is very close to the present estimate for the age of the solar system (10 billion years).

The ancient Indians were moral absolutists and they assumes that the world moves from the beginning of the Krta yuga (morality = 1) to a progressively more morally degenerate periods until the end of the Kali yuga (morality = 0). The rate of moral degeneration is not explicitly formulated by the Indians, and for computational purposes, we may assume that the morality degenerates linearly with respect to time (model I), or that the inter-yuga morality difference is constant (model II).


The present Kali yuga began with the Mahabhrata war (traditionally dated to 3102 BCE), thus we are currently near the beginning of the Dark Age according to the Puranic time scale.

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Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Why do the words "inflammable" and "flammable" mean the same thing?

I attended an introductory course on the Laws and Regulations on Scheduled Waste in Malaysia recently and I was particularly annoyed when the trainer highlighted a "mistake" in the English version of the Environmental Quality Scheduled Wastes Regulations. She ridiculed the use of the word "inflammable" to mean "easily burst into flame" in the legal document and wondered why such "obvious" mistake can escape the eyes of so many law practioners. I immediately objected to her interpretation and pointed out that the use of the word "inflammable" is correct in its context, but unfortunately she did not believe in me.

First of all, you need to believe that the lawyers are not idiots and the use of correct terms in a legal document is of paramount importance to them. So, the probability of lawyers making such an "obvious" mistake is practically zero. So, if you can accept that lawyers are not stupid, move on to my next paragraph, else you may stop reading here.

If the use of the word "inflammable" is correct, what is the fallacy in the trainer's interpretation of the word? To answer this question in full, you need to have some understanding on the etymology of the words "inflame", "inflammable", "flame", and "flammable".

Contrary to popular belief, the word "inflammable" is not the negative form of "flammable" as the word "inflame" is not formed by the Latin prefix "in-" and the verb "flame". It is, in fact, a word on its own right. The word "inflame" was first used by John Wycliffe in his English translation of the Bible in 1382.

Loo! forsothe the day shal cumme, brennynge as a chymney; and alle proude men, and alle doynge vnpite shuln be stobil; and the day cummynge shal enflawme hem, saith the Lord of oostis, whiche shal not leue to hem rote and buriownyng. (Malachi 4:1)
in which Wycliffe obviously meant to use the word to convey the meaning of "burst into flames" or "to set ablaze". Therefore, naturally, adding a suffix "-able" to the word "inflame" has the following effect:

"inflame" + "-able" = capable of being inflammed
In the history of the English language, this combination was first used in 1605 in a chemistry book.

1605 Timme Quersit. i. xiii. 54 The sulphurous substance and inflamable matter.
Next, I would like to touch on the word "flammable" which is obviously formed as follows:

"flame" + "-able" = capable of emitting flame = "inflammable"
The word "flammable" was first found in a 19th century translation of Lucretius by Thomas Busby, about 200 years after the word "inflammable" was introduced by Timme.

1813 Busby tr. Lucretius I. 731 That igneous seeds, no longer linked To matter flammable, become extinct.
I hope by now you are convinced that the words "inflammable" and "flammable" carry exactly the same meaning.

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Saturday, April 09, 2011

On the Origin of the Chinese Character Representing the Ancestor (祖): Part One

Last Tuesday was officially the Day of Qingming (清明). Calendrically, this day is one of the twenty-four seasonal markers in Chinese lunisolar system, but it was later designated as the "day" to perform ancestral worship (祭祖).

In Malaysia, the Chinese will usually pick the nearest weekends before April 5 to perform the act. Several rounds of grave gatherings are usually required because we tend to have many great grandparents, grandparents and/or parents, both patrilinearly or matrilinearly.

About two weeks ago, I went to the graves of my great grandparents (Hong Longwang 洪隆往 and Xie Minniang 谢敏娘) in Bukit Kangkar. Both of my grandparents died on the same year. My great grandfather died on February 10, 1949 (己丑年正月十三日酉时), while his wife died approximately nine months later on October 23 (己丑年九月二日未时). Nobody knows when they were born as the birth dates are not engraved on the tombstones. And possibly neither of them did not know their birthdays. I was told that my great-grandfather was in his sixties when he died. He was once a cook to Tan Kah Kee (陈嘉庚) before he saved enough money to settle down in Muar with some rubber plantations, probably in the 1930s.

As Chinese, we all roughly know that grave gathering on Day of Qingming is part of our unique culture coded based on Confucian obedience and filial piety. I guess that is the basic understanding for the subject for an average Chinese. I would like to, in this article, shed some new lights on the tradition of our ancestral worship, as it was practiced eons ago.

I would like to do this by analyzing the chinese character representing the word "ancestor" itself, that is, the word Zu (祖). The character is actually a union of two pictographs. On the left is the word Shi (示), etymologically, it means the altar or table for ancestral worship.


The pictograph on the right is the word Qie (且), it means the ancestral tablets stylized in the form of human male external reproductive organ, that is, the penis. The word Zu, is therefore, a reminiscence of an ancient practice called phallic worship. Similar arguments purported to explain the two characters can also be found here.

Traces of this ancient practice can still be found in places like remote regions that are rather isolated from mainland, such as Bhutan and Japan. Both of them were probably once shared the same set of beliefs as the ancient Chinese in the course of the evolution of their civilizations.

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