Adventure in Wu Da-You Science Camp as a Staff

August 17th, 2013 Comments off

This week I was designated as a staff to work for the Wu Da-You Science Camp, and helped this activity go smoothly. In fact, I had never consciously heard of this camp until the day the poster of this camp appeared on the bulletin of the institute this May.

There were so many things I learned during the camp, and in the following paragraphs I would like to briefly describe and share some of those lessons.

Make friends with expertise in various fields
In this camp, one thing I have never expected is to meet my roommate, who enlightened me on the cutting-edge genetic technique applied on neuroscience. Before learning enormous knowledge of fluorescence microscopy from my roommate, I read many papers but without actually knowing how the researchers acquire their data with advanced optic microscopy tech, such as confocal, two-photo, light sheet microscopies. After a three-hours-long asking, I eventually had a rudimentary knowledge to organize the information I read on the paper, and predict what questions I could answer through those equipment. Without my roommate, I would have spent months long acquainting those techniques. I was fortunate to have this fantastic roommate, who led me to go through the barrier of unfamiliar discipline and move forward to conquer the problem with apposite tools.

In the light of the rapid progress in many disciplines, it’s impossible to be the expert across several fields, and it’s time to work with others. And remember, more hungry to acquire the knowledge you don’t know, more humble you will be, because you will find how small we are and how little we know in the universe.

Small world: from people to neurons
In Friday afternoon, I finally had opportunity to talk to students, because my job was to look after 3 groups of students while they were hiking in XiTou. In the middle of the tour, one student came to me and asked whether I am the brother of his high school friend. And the answer is yes. Both of us were amazed by this coincidence. The close relationship between two people in the society is called small world, of which theory that proposed that every randomly picked two people in the world, no matter how far they live, could be linked through the 6 people at most.

I was wondering whether this small-world connection of network happens more easily than the other network (i.e., regular and random one) or this small-world network only occurs in some specific conditions. The neuroscientists, who aim to seek the connection among different regions in the brain, have corroborated the network in our brain is exactly the small world, which might share the same occurring mechanism with social network. Social network might infer the plausible way of developing the small-world network in our brain, which is pivotal to understand how the neurons project the axons and receive input via dendritic spines.

What the Prof. Sun Wei-Hsin taught me.
Educating the public might also benefit the scientific research.
If there are more people understand the research we are doing and the questions we want to answer, it’s highly possible that more brilliant students would come to join us, more citizens would vote for representatives who advocate our research, and more funds would support our studies.

On the other hand, I thought communicating to the public offers a valuable chance to emend our direction of the research to fruitfully contribute to humanity. And through the interaction with the people who are in need, our belief will profoundly reinforce and aid us to cross the difficulty and keep looking for the truth.

Be early
If we want to do everything without haste, the best principle to reach the state of composure is being early. Preparing everything beforehand allows us remain more time to cope with the accident, and more time to think, which is the key to prioritize , to choose among options and to preform correctly and efficiently.

Balance – how delightful the thing you work with determines your salary.
Every day the doctors watch over those patients with unpleasant diseases or defects; Lawyers handle the uncomfortable cases with the lowest moral standard and despicable acts. The astronomers, however, stare at the sky, finding the most splendid and beautiful scenes and events happening in our universe. Given the things they encounter every time they work, if the astronomers earn the least compared to two other vocations, it sounds fair enough.

(to be continued ~)

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Online Education Revolution

June 29th, 2012 4 comments

Once you graduated from university, it’s hard to envision that you clutch the “calculus” textbook on the shelf which you haven’t open it since the final exam as you were a freshman, and review the “Fourier series” chapter to recall some intuitions and formulas for unraveling the problem you are facing. What if the professor had skipped this chapter or you have never utterly comprehend the materials, or it couldn’t be worse, after reading the first paragraph of the chapter, you realize a daunting fact that you forget some fundamental building blocks of calculus and it appears to be implausible to keep on.

Recapturing the subject you had known is arguably a formidable task, not to mention commencing learning de novo subject with structural and systematic understanding like the courses you took through at least a semester. As I enrolled in the Khan academy, however, I found it’s possible to retrieve the knowledge I have returned back to my teachers and even to study new one. It breaks the conventional 1-to-2-hour lecture to 10-to-20-minute single-topic-focused segments, allowing the audiences freely choose the most pivotal concepts which dominating the progress of your understanding. In addition, rather than leaving your mind wandering afar in daydream or devoting in social network, you could roll the progress bar to omit the irrelevant part and squarely leap to the heart or just click the pause button, if you are lethargic or not in the mood. Besides, it records my progress of each subject and reward me with medals in diverse gauges which intrigue me to strive for another. From arithmetic to differential equations, Khanacademy encompasses all fundamental knowledge of math from kindergarten to second years of college (Of course it also provides other topics from science to history, but it’s not so comprehensive as math.)

Salman Khan on TED: YouTube Preview Image

MIT Opencouseware is only the extension of the conventional-class-room teaching. What Salman has created is a tutoring with internet-oriented fashion, heralding the revolution of online learning.

In 2011, two free online courses, named Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence separately, expanded the possibilities that the online-learning system can provide — the instantaneous interaction interface which enables students to examine their apprehension of what they just have learned from the video. In addition, they both embraced the old school’s manner — “due date” as a propellent to compel those enrolled students to moving forward, keeping motivated, and avoiding forgetting what just have learned. As the saying goes, if you intend to read a book, the best way is to borrow the book not to buy one. Furthermore, even though the student numbers soaring up to tens of thousands, the burden are not ascending as well. In the forum, the wisdom of crowd contributes to answering the questions that used to be satisfied by teaching assistants.

After the pilot test in 2011, Andrew Ng and Sebastian Thrun indivitually created the online education system Coursera and Udacity.

Peter Norvig, the professer who taught AI with Sebastian Thrun, had a talk on TED:
YouTube Preview Image

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The Dream of Navigating The Space

June 26th, 2012 Comments off

Imagine you were an eagle gliding through the azure sky, soaring up to miles high, looking over those splendid views below, suddenly swooping down to snatch the intriguing landmark. This dream has been achieved since Google announced its momentous product — Google earth.

The ultimate dream of being an astronaut, navigating the universe from star to star, from galaxy to galaxy, voyaging to the space no one has never known about seems still far away, whereas the NASA’s project “Eyes on the solar system” could provide a bit of savor of traveling the space, specifically our solar system.

The web link is here(it’s a browser-based application):EYES ON THE SOLAR SYSTEM

My favorite feature of this project is it allows us to move backward or forward any time since 1950 and rev up to 5 weeks per second. It also provides the opportunities to go through every space mission that human have ever launched.

Here is Jon Nguyen, the project’s principal architect and lead programmer, speaking in TED:
YouTube Preview Image

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