Data, searching, Google, and the way we learn and discover

Financial Review: Sure, big data is great, but so is intuition

Jean-Marc sent me this link just now. Because we had a long debate the other night over my answer to What are the biggest things that are slowing down scientific research?

Approaching the end of my Ph.d. study, I can’t help to compare the way that we learn new knowledge and discover new information nowadays with what I read about Newton or Aristotle’s time. With a bigger and bigger overall human knowledge base, it is harder for someone to become an expert in one field. Leave alone covering many fields like those polymaths and sages.

Think like a search engine.

Think like a search engine.

Recently I started to notice Google’s limitation. You can certainly search any topic you are interested in and start self-teaching. But Google can hardly help you to jump out of your own box, meaning: if you have absolutely no knowledge about a subject, never heard about anything about it, you cannot Google it, because you don’t have the key word for searching. (You might be able to read about it in an article from the searching result, but that’s not a direct discovery.)

So, I have a feeling: a new era is coming. A new way for people to learn knowledge and discover information will emerge soon. Or it is already happening somewhere, but I failed to find it on Google, because I don’t know the key words.

Dumpling and Christmas (3)

previously on Dumpling and Christmas: (1), (2)

Physics in dumpling stuffing making

stirring dumping stuffing

My little sister, Annie, stirring the dumpling stuffing

When you minced the meat and vegetable and want to mix them together, every experienced dumpling maker will give you the same tips: stir it in only one direction, don’t revise. Otherwise the stuffing won’t stick together.

Do you know why?

The stickiness comes from the protein molecule in the meat. The protein are long, chain-like molecules. When you stir the stuffing in one direction, you are unfolding the molecules into strings. They will then tangle with each other to give you the stickiness feeling.

If you stir in clockwise for a while and change to counterclockwise for a while, you will fold the protein molecules into ball-like form.

wool balls

wool balls will not tangle

tangled wool - cat's hell

tangled wool – cat’s hell

Let’s put it this way: imagine the protein molecules as wool threads. If you wind the threads into balls or yarns, they will remain separated.

tangled wool - cat's heaven

tangled wool – cat’s heaven

But if you let the threads stay as loose strings and put some together, well, they call it Cat’s heaven, or hell.

Now, exactly the same thing happens on a microscopy level with the protein molecules.

So, remember to keep stirring your stuffing in only one direction, to make a molecule-tangling-sticky-delicious-dumpling-stuffing, and enjoy the meal!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, everyone! 🙂

Dumpling and Christmas (2)

previously on Dumpling and Christmas: (1)

Different cooking philosophy

Here comes the interesting differences between Chinese cooking and Western cooking. When we came to US, my wife and I were amazed by the similarity of baking a cake and doing a chemistry lab.

Chemistry Lab

Historical photo of the Chemistry Lab on Quehanna Site Facility

1950 Retro Home Ec Mrs. Perfect Baking Cakes

1950 Retro Home Ec Mrs. Perfect Baking Cakes

Every step involves calculation and measurements. The result can be strictly predicted and reproduced. When we go out for dinner with our American friends, a sentence I noticed is “hmmm, this is exactly the taste I was looking for.” You see, this sentence implies that western culture believes that cooking is like a science. When you create a delicious dish, you can optimize the recipe and it should be reproducible.

Now let me tell you what my mom taught me about dough making for dumplings: first, the amount of

flour for dumpling making

flour for dumpling making

flour needed is based on the number of dumplings you want to make or the number of guests you have, this is calculated. 500 g flour can make about 80 to 90 dumplings. Here comes the tricky part: no body gives the precious amount of water you need. Some recipe says the amount water is about half weight of the flour. My mom says just take a bowl of water and add little by little while mixing and kneading.

kneading the dough for dumpling

kneading the dough for dumpling

Until you feel the “force” is right, stop adding water and let the dough “awake” for half an hour and then knead it again. The Chinese way of cooking always involves “insincere” (拿捏). Chinese don’t look for an “exact” taste every time. Chinese wants a perfect taste fits the mood of that moment. To Chinese people, cooking is more like an art than a science.

A kindly reminder: please, please remember to clean up your nails and wash your hands thoroughly before touching the dough. 🙂

To be continued, tomorrow 8 pm, Dumpling and Christmas (3) 

Dumpling and Christmas (1)

Celebrate Christmas with Chinese dumpling making party

Dumpling

A delicious dumpling

Christmas in United States

Christmas in United States

Dumpling is an world-wide food. Christmas is a widely observed western holiday.

In Chinese tradition, dumpling (Jiao Zi) is a food for the Spring Festival (Chinese New Year). Around the world, Christmas is associated with the coming of a new year.

As a Chinese living in United States, I am always trying to find a mixing experience of the two cultures. This year, we celebrated the Christmas in a traditional Chinese way: dumpling hand making party.

Geometrically, dumpling can be defined as an object with a grounded meet/vegetable core surrounded by a dough envelop. Topologically, it is the same as Chinese Bun (包子), Wonton (馄饨) and Tangyuan (汤圆).

So, to make dumplings, we need both dough and the stuffing.

To be continued, tomorrow 8 pm, Dumpling and Christmas (2) 

What have you seen in the movie Les Miserables? (NO spoilers)

Some mumbling

Les Miserables movie poster

Les Miserables movie poster

A classic, always has the ability to resonate with the reader’s personal life and experience. Thus it echos, and extends the audience’s view in time and space via the author’s eyes.

I confess, I haven’t read the original Victor Hugo‘s Les Miserables. From what I knew and what my friend told me, the novel gives much more in depth details of that period of history and politics. The movie is a remake of the musical show, which is very selective on content due to the limit of stage presentation methods, while the movie put back some missing parts from the book, with the advantage of screen techniques. It would be interesting to compare the movie with the show, to see the difference in the expressive methods of the two media forms.

The movie focused on the major characters’ journey of “redemption” and growth. It’s definitely a very moving 2.5 hours ride. But it lacks the grand and magnificent view of the historical background I was expecting, and the book is said to able to deliver. I should really find a time to read the book.

Back to the movie, what I saw (No spoilers, please, I hate them.)

  • When I walked out of the theater, if there’s only one thing staying in my head, it is the paternal and maternal love. So obviously, the author believe that the familial love makes this miserable world worth living on in.
  • The lovers’ love, both bitter and sweet, both heart melting.
  • The faith, religion or political, both with a great power to comfort a soul and inspire another soul.
  • The question of “who am I?”: A question asked by all the major characters in the movie, and every human asked at some point.
  • The question of “what is justice?”: Justice is a ruler. It is made by man. Its definition changes with people, also with time.
  • The fight: fight for living, fight for dignity, fight for love, fight for freedom, fight for justice, fight for faith, fight for others, fight against others, fight for self, fight against selfishness.
  • The Paris: Movie has the unique advantage to give visual impacts. The beauty of the architecture is a blast!

Have you watched it? What have you seen?

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