Friday, August 28, 2009

Forget What You Know: Babies Are Way Smarter Than You Think

by Eric Steinman Aug 26, 2009

New studies clearly demonstrate that babies and very young children know, observe, explore, imagine and learn more than we would ever have thought possible. In many significant ways, they are even smarter than adults. I will tell you honestly and quite upfront, this is not the first time I have reported on these sorts of findings. Actually, just a few months back I blogged about how babies, as well as young children, experience the world via an extremely wide spectrum of sensation, as opposed to the miniscule sliver of sentient reality that we adults experience. So why am I treading old ground and covering this subject yet again? Well to draw attention to more elaborate studies by Alison Gopnik, professor of psychology at UC Berkeley, and to remind our adult readers (who may have missed it the first time) what is actually going in the intricate and Byzantine minds of babies everywhere.

As mentioned above, Alison Gopnik, as well as being a psych professor, is also author of the newly published The Philosophical Baby which investigates the exploratory and analytic nature of the young child’s mind. Counter to what was previous assumed, that babies were just blank slates of blooming and buzzing confusion, Gopnik points out that babies have an astonishing capacity for statistical reasoning, experimental discovery and probabilistic logic, which enables them to learn about the myriad of objects and people surrounding them with greater depth and efficiency than previously assumed (I could go into case studies and particular experiments here, but you would be best served reading it first hand rather than slogging through my abbreviated accounts).

The truly notable meaning to gather from all this, is not that we all now need to spend the remainder of our diminishing paychecks on new fangled programs and products that will make our babies even smarter, but we need to encourage babies and toddlers to remain curious and continue to explore their surroundings. At this age, they are not as specifically focused and goal oriented as their eager parents, and the learning they do on their own, when they carefully watch and unexpected outcome and draw new conclusions from say, a set of car keys or a cup of spilled water, is radically different than how adults view and consider learning. Babies (and this is the truly wonderfully subversive part of the whole message) can learn an enormous amount from simple items (bowls, blocks, items from nature, etc) and simple interactions, that have nothing to do with “enriching” educational toys, games, and DVDs.

So, clear the decks, save your money and allow your child to learn, not in the rigid way adults do, but in the experiential way young children need to.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Israeli scientists find way to combat forged DNA

by Ron Bousso (AFP)

JERUSALEM. Israeli scientists have developed new technology to fight biological identity theft after realising that DNA evidence found at crime scenes can be easily falsified.

The researchers showed that with the use of basic equipment and know-how, anyone can obtain artificial DNA that can be incorporated into genuine human blood or saliva, or directly planted at a crime scene.

"Current forensic procedure fails to distinguish between such samples of blood, saliva and touched surfaces with artificial DNA," the scientists wrote in an article recently published by "Forensic Science International: Genetics," a scientific journal.

Elon Ganor is CEO and co-founder of Nucleix, an Israeli company specialised in DNA analysis that conducted the research. She says it doesn't take much to produce large quantities of artificial DNA.

"You can take a used cup of coffee or a cigarette butt, send it to a laboratory, and for a relatively small sum of money have their DNA identified, produced and sent back to you in a test tube," he told AFP on Wednesday.

The DNA samples, which are produced using a standard technique called whole genome amplification, can then be planted at a crime scene.

Researchers at Nucleix also demonstrated how one could implant DNA into real blood by using a centrifuge to separate red and white blood cells and placing the DNA in the former, giving the blood a new profile.

As part of the experiment, a sample of the modified blood was sent to a laboratory in the United States that works with FBI forensic teams, which failed to catch the forgery, Ganor said.

To combat the practice, Nucleix has developed a DNA authentication method that distinguishes between real and fake samples.

"We have come up with a solution that should become an integral part of the standard DNA tests today and seal the hole that has been opened in what has become the gold-s ...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009



2009-08-17 17:11

(英國‧倫敦)英國衛生防護局最近以機密信函方式,發函給約600名神經病學家,警告最新的新流感疫苗,可能引發致命神經疾病酖基連巴瑞症候群(Guillain-Barre Syndrome,GBS),要求他們在新疫苗開始施打後,注意這類病患的增加情形。





Tuesday, August 18, 2009

DNA Evidence Can Be Fabricated

NEW YORK, Aug 18 — Scientists in Israel have demonstrated that it is possible to fabricate DNA evidence, undermining the credibility of what has been considered the gold standard of proof in criminal cases.

The scientists fabricated blood and saliva samples containing DNA from a person other than the donor of the blood and saliva. They also showed that if they had access to a DNA profile in a database, they could construct a sample of DNA to match that profile without obtaining any tissue from that person.

“You can just engineer a crime scene,” said Dan Frumkin, lead author of the paper, which has been published online by the journal Forensic Science International: Genetics. “Any biology undergraduate could perform this.”

Frumkin is a founder of Nucleix, a company based in Tel Aviv that has developed a test to distinguish real DNA samples from fake ones that it hopes to sell to forensics laboratories.

The planting of fabricated DNA evidence at a crime scene is only one implication of the findings. A potential invasion of personal privacy is another.

Using some of the same techniques, it may be possible to scavenge anyone’s DNA from a discarded drinking cup or cigarette butt and turn it into a saliva sample that could be submitted to a genetic testing company that measures ancestry or the risk of getting various diseases. Celebrities might have to fear “genetic paparazzi,” said Gail H. Javitt of the Genetics and Public Policy Centre at Johns Hopkins University.

Tania Simoncelli, science adviser to the American Civil Liberties Union, said the findings were worrisome.

“DNA is a lot easier to plant at a crime scene than fingerprints,” she said. “We’re creating a criminal justice system that is increasingly relying on this technology.”
John M. Butler, leader of the human identity testing project at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, said he was “impressed at how well they were able to fabricate the fake DNA profiles.” However, he added, “I think your average criminal wouldn’t be able to do something like that.”

The scientists fabricated DNA samples two ways. One required a real, if tiny, DNA sample, perhaps from a strand of hair or drinking cup. They amplified the tiny sample into a large quantity of DNA using a standard technique called whole genome amplification.

Of course, a drinking cup or piece of hair might itself be left at a crime scene to frame someone, but blood or saliva may be more believable.
The authors of the paper took blood from a woman and centrifuged it to remove the white cells, which contain DNA. To the remaining red cells they added DNA that had been amplified from a man’s hair.

Since red cells do not contain DNA, all of the genetic material in the blood sample was from the man. The authors sent it to a leading American forensics laboratory, which analysed it as if it were a normal sample of a man’s blood.
The other technique relied on DNA profiles, stored in law enforcement databases as a series of numbers and letters corresponding to variations at 13 spots in a person’s genome.

From a pooled sample of many people’s DNA, the scientists cloned tiny DNA snippets representing the common variants at each spot, creating a library of such snippets. To prepare a DNA sample matching any profile, they just mixed the proper snippets together. They said that a library of 425 different DNA snippets would be enough to cover every conceivable profile.

Nucleix’s test to tell if a sample has been fabricated relies on the fact that amplified DNA — which would be used in either deception — is not methylated, meaning it lacks certain molecules that are attached to the DNA at specific points, usually to inactivate genes. — NYT


Monday, August 17, 2009












Friday, August 14, 2009

Satay night with James and Cecilia 与詹斯民和黄芝婷沙爹之夜

James and Cecilia Chiam came to Malaysia from USA for a holiday. They asked me to bring them to Kajang for satay earlier on in the email. I told them that we needed not to travel all the way to Kajang as there are good satays around town.

My family and I felt honored as they looked up on us. They are good Christians who are fervent for the Lord. Cecilia is a renowned writer among the Chinese-speaking folks worldwide. She is a well-sought-after writer by newspaper columns.

On Aug 13 evening, I brought them to Sate Kajang Hj Samuri at 79, Jalan SS21/37, Damansara Utama Uptown. We had a good fellowship though the foods were not really that good.

When satays were prepared in mass production, usually they were done hastily. The better the business, the worse the presentation, e.g. the foods are served cool, sometimes uncooked, as well as juice lost.

I usually enjoyed road-side-satays, though usually I have to wait a bit longer, as the food would be slowly fanned and flipped, and finally served hot from the charcoal stove.

Well, it is true that the best satays are still found in Kajang. It is best simply for the same reason that they are served hot. Next time you see the shops having a big crowd and the workers are doing mass production, please shun the shop.



8月13日傍晚我们带他们到百沙罗乌打玛 Sate Kajang Hj Samuri 门牌79号享用沙爹。虽然食物并不是那么好,我们有美好的沟通。




Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Washington, DC Metro Station on a cold January morning. A man with a violin plays six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time approx. 2 thousand people passed through the station, most of them on their way to work. After 3 minutes a middle-aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried to meet his schedule.

4 minutes later:

The violinist received his first dollar: a woman threw the money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.

6 minutes:
A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.

10 minutes:

A 3-year old boy stopped but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. Every parent, without exception, forced their children to move on quickly.

45 minutes:
The musician played continuously. Only 6 people stopped and listened for a short while. About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace. The man collected a total of $32.

1 hour:
He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin valued at $3.5 million dollars. Two days before, Joshua Bell sold out a theater in Boston where the price of seats averaged $100.

This is a true story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people's priorities. The questions raised: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?

One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be this: If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made... what else are we missing?
People's perception is always this: Renowned figures will never become like an ordinary person who will do the humblest stuff.

Sunday, August 9, 2009


从雪州回教党呼吁禁酒课题,给凯里两件事情发挥:一、凯里星期五主办一个讲座抗衡 “行动党的反回教”课题。他声称回教徒被行动党领袖的态度伤害。凯里几时开始那么关心禁酒课题呢?他现在竟然变成反酒英雄呢!二、凯里号召回教党退出民联,因为前者不再获得民联尊重。






Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Healing Power of Pets

posted by Megan, selected from Ode magazine Aug 4, 2009

A unique American organization, Helping Hands Monkeys, trains monkeys to help paralyzed people function better in their daily lives. Many who are paralyzed spend hours each day by themselves, so the monkeys can be important in helping them get along without professional caregivers as well as a source of companionship. The monkeys bring food and drinks, help feed the paralyzed person, pick things up that are out of reach, put on a CD or video, and turn lights on and off.

While monkeys are exceptional in what they can do, all kinds of pets have a positive, healing effect on their owners. Studies reveal that having a pet is a better remedy against high blood pressure than commonly prescribed medications. A pet appears to be the strongest social indicator in predicting recovery from a serious heart condition. More and more often, doctors prescribe a pet for loneliness, depression, stress and other emotional problems. In the United States, half of all doctors reported they sometimes prescribe a pet to their patients.
Studies show that older people with pets pay considerably fewer visits to the doctor. Up to 16 percent less, according to Professor Judith Siegel of the School of Public Health at the University of California. That percentage is even higher for dog owners, reaching over 20 percent. According to Australian research, the presence of house pets in households saves the Australian government some 800 million to 1.5 billion US dollars a year in health costs.

Psychologists have long realized the healing power of pets. In the 1950s child psychologist Boris Levinson often had difficulty reaching his traumatized patients, until the day that his dog Jingles wandered into the treatment room, His young clients were pleased and spontaneously opened themselves up to the dog, and thus also to Levinson. He was the first to write about “the dog as co-therapist.”
Forty years later, many therapists make grateful use of the intimate bond between humans and animals. People experience pets as non-judgmental and unconditional in their affection, and so clients often consider the animal an ally, which helps foster a spirit of mutual trust and open sharing in therapy sessions. Because animals are often funny or endearing, they help dissipate the tension around a therapy session. Children, in particular, often talk more easily to an animal than a human. Sometimes all the therapist has to do is bring up an issue and then observe where the child and animal take it.

There are countless well-documented examples of successful animal-assisted therapy. A little boy who begins to heal his partially paralyzed hand by petting a dog. Abused children and prisoners who train a dog to learn how to not repeat the abusive behavior they have experienced. Autistic children who learn to communicate through contact with dolphins.

Animals have the potential to play a much greater role, particularly in hospitals and care institutions. A friendly dog can perform miracles with critically ill patients. Even a few fish in a fishbowl helps ease tensions in a dentist’s waiting room. Research has repeatedly shown that taking care of an animal (or even a plant) makes people happier and helps them live longer. Could this be because animals and plants can listen so well without ever contradicting us? A study of Canadian doctors once discovered that listening is the most important ingredient in healing. Dr. Samuel Corson, an expert in the area of animal therapy at Ohio State University puts it this way: “A dog is man’s best friend because he wags his tail and not his tongue.”

Monday, August 3, 2009

美国营养学家为椰油“平反” 纯椰油更健康








Saturday, August 1, 2009

49th Anniversary of ISA 内安法令49周年

Today 1st of Aug is the 49th Anniversary of Internal Security Act. The Abolish ISA Movement (GMI) called for a march from various meeting points in Kuala Lumpur to the National Palace. And a memorandum will be handed over to the King.

Many roads leading to KL city were set up with road blocks. And roads were closed too. Most of the crowd resorted to public transport. They walked by detours just by avoiding the police. Such a spirit in walking long distances has indeed conveyed a message to the Federal Authorities.

The crowd came to a figure of 20,000. The police prevented the people from moving forward. At 4.00 p.m they rounded up the people at Sogo Mall and Masjid Jamek LRT Station and firing tear gas and shooting chemical-laced water canons. Even when the people fleed into the nearby buildings, the canons were shot into the compounds. In fact, earlier there have been several rounds of firing the tear gas. By 6.00 p.m 438 people were arrested.

Najib the Prime Minister said the rally was unnecessary as the people could have given their opinions for a review of the Act. The problem is, people wanted an abolishment and not a review of the Act. No matter how you amend the Act, it is still an Act. It is likened to "changing the soup but not the medicine".

Locking up people without trial is against human rights. If the government thinks a particular person has committed a crime, why can't it proves itself right by bringing him or her to court?

Nazri, Minister in the PM's department, said that as long as BN is in power, ISA would not be abolished. Such a statement is not surprising as BN has been abusing its power all the while. I believed that a good government should always listen to the people.



人群有2万。警方阻止了人群前进。在下午4时,警方包围Sogo广场和Jamek 回教堂高架轻快铁车站,并大肆发射摧泪弹和喷击加入了化学药的水炮。甚至人群逃入附近的建筑物,还把水炮喷击入里头。其实较早前已经发射几轮水炮了。至傍晚6时有438人被逮捕。




Pictures from “Malaysian Insider”