Beginner’s Guide from physicist (1): Sheng Ji’s first-time players’ strategy cheatsheet (升级上手指南)

There is a popular card game in Chinese community called “Sheng Ji“. The rules are very involved, especially for first-time players (at least for me at the beginning). After some trial and errors, I summarized the strategy in the following:

1. There are only two teams. (Let’s call them A and B.)

2. A round can only end up in two states: Team A wins, or team B wins.

3. Thus, points can only end up in two states: Team A gets all the points of the round, or team B gets all the points of the round.

cheatsheet for first-time Sheng Ji player

cheatsheet for first-time Sheng Ji player.

That says, in order for a first-time player to play along, there is only one measurement he/she has to perform in his/her turn of playing (besides remembering the ranking of the cards):

Measurement: Is his/her team winning this round? The answer can have only three possible results: YES, NO, NOT SURE.

If YES, the strategy is to maximize the points in this round, i.e., throw out all the point cards in hand which are allowed to play in this round (how to determine what are allowed, is out of the scope of this letter).

If NO, the strategy is to minimize the points in this round, avoid playing point cards if possible, i.e., throw out garbage cards.

If NOT SURE, then the ranking of the actions is in the following order:

a. Trying to win this round, for two reasons, to secure the points in this round, and/or to take the lead for next round.

b. If no chance of winning, then take a bet, if bet on the team will win this round, then play point cards, if not, then play garbage cards.

There are more advanced techniques like communication with the teammates and estimate the winning chance, but those techniques are all for better playing the NOT SURE case, which only takes up maybe around 25% of time. So for a first-time player, following the above simple rules should provide him/her an enjoyable playing experience.

P.S., anyone interested in turning this into an algorithm and run a test to see how robust is the strategy?


Are you serious?? re: got hacked

Boys, I like Aaron a lot and admire him. But I got to look for a postdoc!! Otherwise how am I going to get cereal and milk for my son next month??

And MIT IT department, can you get the site back on within next hour please?

mit got hacked screen shot

a short note on passing my thesis defense

Stand by the people, with the people and for the people.

Stand by the people, with the people and for the people.

This little note is written to memorize my passing the dissertation defense.

Thank you everyone in my life for all the supports during this amazing journey.

It took my some time to develop the wisdom of knowing being smart only gets you as far as the best vulnerable fighter, one is only invincible when he stands by the people, with the people, and for the people.

I did a simple head count: my thesis study involved more than 10 scientists from seven different research institutes from four different counties. It cannot be done without the active contributions from all my collaborators and mentors.

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) 

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