Friday, 13 July 2012

social networks, peer pressure and pride

Okay guys, I'm back with a rant.

Before that, little update with my life. I'VE BEEN SICCCCKKKKK WITH THE DAMNED FLU. Haven't seen daylight for like 3 days now, I've been ill all week and now I'm getting these ghastly sores around my mouth just when that razor in my throat is beginning to diminish.... but anyways exam results are out and that lifted my mood by miles, so now I'm sitting on my bed looking like a lizard, but at least I'm a happy lizard :)

Actually today's rant is linked to results. Yesterday as soon as the clock hit 2pm, my Facebook inbox started to fill up with people asking me what my results were. Some of these people I haven't spoken to in years, and yet they're still so obsessive about knowing about my life lol. Even freakier, I logged onto Tumblr and 3 anons ask me about my results. I mean wtf that just freaks me out. You don't talk to me personally OR online and you expect me to tell you my results through Tumblr? Someone asked why I don't announce my results publicly if I think it's good. And my answer to you anon because I know you are reading is this: Why do you have to know? If I said I got a first, it'll make you feel bad about yourself. If I said I got a third, it induces unnecessary self pride. Most importantly, my result does not matter to you. My results, my achievements, my life. Knowing won't change anything about your life, because you cannot utilise my results for your benefit.

So right now I feel very skeptical about Facebook. Taking yesterday for example, looking at unfamiliar faces pop up on my friends list and uni acquaintances that I never speak to creeping up and liking VERY old statuses doesn't make me feel good. I think it's disgusting/freakish that you may have never have spoken to a person, but if you have their Facebook you may know up to an alarmingly large percentage of their life. Also, I think Facebook statuses in general is a prime case of peer pressure. Because let's face it. Most people only update when something good happens in their lives. When others read about things that people have done that they may never be able to do, it makes them feel awful about themselves. And it's a vicious cycle because everyone would start to only post those positive things online and create this false perfection as they lie to their friends and themselves. So really it's not really a place for friends. Because since when did friendship become as shallow as telling each other what good results they got, what expensive clothes they bought and what luxury holiday they booked themselves?
It is so much better if your friends find out how amazing of a person you are for themselves, and not for you to feed them with such information that effectively has nothing to do with them. Opportunities will come for you to wow people with your abilities, and if you don't reveal them idly beforehand it will be more amazing then. I don't know why I always attract all sorts of self proclaimed people telling me about all sorts of 'things' they've done, and it's often the case when the 'thing' they are announcing is super praise-worthy to them but quite a measly achievement for me, and all I felt is not envy but rather second hand embarrassment. My point is this: when you make an unnecessary self-praising status/statement about yourself, you create this false image for yourself in other people's minds that will be extra burden on your back because YOU will have to be the one who has to maintain your 'image'. And honestly, I have never in my life respected a person who has personally INFORMED me of what they have achieved WHEN I HAVE NOT ASKED THEM. It does not impress me, nor does it make me admire you. Rather, all I see is your revolting pride and it's the last thing on my wishlist that I would want to have.

There is a Chinese saying: '王婆卖瓜,自卖自夸', which is translated as 'Grandma Wang sells melons, praises herself as she sells'. It is used to describe a person with no special talents who tries to sell his skills by telling everyone himself how skillful he is, and is a mocking phrase used my people nowadays. In Asia and China especially, people take pride very seriously as a huge lack in personality. If you do not know how to draw the line between confidence and pride, do NOT provoke people by telling them how you've got soandso many A*s in your last exams out of context, ie when they did not ask you, ie they don't care, because chances are they did better than you, and it's certain that someone definitely did better than you. So this is why I keep my mouth SHUT, especially online when people I don't even know very well at uni can so easily stalk my page. In the words of an old friend J.M. (will not disclose name), 'life is just so much easier if you tell people you're stupid.' Save your breath for job interviews.

Peace people, if you hate this rant then click yourself out of this blog. And for goodness' sake, stay humble and keep your own info/curiosity to yourselves. Thanks.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Congratulations CERN for the discovery of the Higgs Boson!

I thought about whether I'd do a post on this, since 1. it's such big news and everyone probably knows about this already and 2. this post means that I am making a tribute to Physics before my own field which is Mathematics........

But it's such a life changing moment in history (probably not so significant for the field of particle physics itself but definitely for CERN at least), that I had to write a post on this blog with a celebratory note. So congratulations CERN, for proving the existence of the Higgs Boson on July 4th 2012!!!!!

Now for the science vs. religion rant. It's not the first time I facepalmed at how science is presented to people who bear no understanding of science, and describing the Higgs boson as the 'God Particle' is no exception. I understand that since the sheer existence of the particle is shrouded in abstractness and needs to be perceived from a totally theoretical viewpoint, for non-scientific people it may be a concept sensational enough for it to be relatable to God. From my atheist standpoint, I believe that God itself is a madeup being/transcendental medium that humans relate to when they cannot explain to themselves WHY things happen, or something they use to cover up things that science have not been able to explain. Yet.

One of the reasons why scientists dislike the label 'God particle' is because the boson itself is not in fact a mindblowing concept: It was already predicted decades ago alongside the rest of the Standard Model. The wow-factor is that it is the last fundamental particle to be discovered experimentally. We should therefore celebrate CERN's achievements but in fact nothing in scientific thinking has been changed. At all. I read articles and some of the comments I found are humiliatingly hilarious: people declaring that God has been proven because the 'God particle' has been proven. Where your brains at people? Rather ironically, Higgs himself is an atheist, and the discovery of the remaining particle that completes the Standard Model disapproves the existence of God. Because in some ways The Standard Model can be considered as a single mathematical equation that explains anything and everything in the observable universe (with some exceptions).

There's a short version, but I prefer the the Lagrangian form which offers more precision

Another reason why this boson might be linked to God is because to sum it up, the Higgs field is something that gives matter its mass, a bit like God's creations story. You might be thinking, why does something need to give matter mass? Isn't it an intrinsic thing that should exist naturally? In secondary school your teachers may have explained to you that if you were transported to the moon, you will still have the same mass, aka you still exist as you are on Earth even though you weigh differently due to different gravitational fields. However in particle physics this is not true, and this is where the abstractness hits in. For example why does a photon, which is essentially on a elementary level similar to an electron, NOT have mass when an electron does?  

The answer that physicists have provides is: the Higgs Field. 

Graphically, it can be interpreted as a transcendental, everywhere permeating field made of force carrier particles that extend at uniform density across the entire universe. And it's invisible too (obviously). Matter that does not have mass for example, will not interact with the field. Matter with small masses like electrons do a little, and the heaviest fundamental particle, the 'top' quark, will interact the most. There's a Youtube video somewhere that tries to visualise this phenomenon as an endless snow field, where massless matter are like skiers who skim the surface of the field at the speed of light, and the heavier matters are people who have snow boots and have to trudge their way slowly across the snow.  

The Higgs boson, is an excitation particle of the Higgs field. It is solitary particle relatively independent from the rest of the Standard Model, which implies the existence of the Higgs field, which then implies why matter has mass. When scientists get over their excitement and sit down to examine their results further, they will find out whether this boson fits in perfectly with our past predictions, therefore completing the Standard Model case closed there is no God, or whether it fits but leads to more truth about the universe, such as concepts such as Gravity that the Standard Model does not cover. 

So science stuff aside, we should take a moment to congratulate ourselves, as mere human beings, of trying for so many centuries to understand why nature and the universe works as it is, and being able to predict accurately the existence of such groundbreaking discoveries before they were even discovered. Even though life is so much easier lived by focusing on oneself and one's own feelings, so many people have devoted their lives to finding out about the unknown depths of science, paving a path for incredible technological potential in the future that lie latent in our hands. We should take a moment to thank those people, like the scientists at CERN for doing what they do because nothing we own ever would not have been possible if it were not for maths+science and all those discoveries made in the past. Being a mathematician myself, I find it incredible that such deep mysterious and complex aspect of life can be so accurately summed up in a simple mathematical formula... and to find out that the formula turns out to be correct, or at least it has very solid evidence to support it, makes me even more passionate about my field.

Most of my course friends know my obsession with number theory and the works of Riemann, and personally I hope that in my lifetime, I would be able to read with my own eyes the proof of the Riemann Hypothesis. But unlike the Higgs boson, that will definitely be something that will change our everyday lives forever.