Why Do We Solve for X Teaser
Video

Why do we solve for X? [Infographics]

I’m taking a course on Udacity (Computer Science 101) to learn Python and simply learn coding as best as I could. Even though I have over 6 years of coding experience, it’s surprising how much I learnt by simply absorbing information like a sponge.

In one of the discussion forums on Udacity, someone mentioned why the variables that we select are nearly always “X” – why do we even solve for X? This question blew my mind, and I went out to search for answers and stumbled upon this video from TED:

This information was so fascinating and interesting! So much history and story behind the science of Algebra that I decided to create a simple infographics on why we use “X” as the unknown.

It’s wonderful to see how information traveled in the past. It is stated by both the TED video and information on research sites that it traveled via scholarly and/or trade means. But that brings out more questions, who were the scholars that visited different regions in order to learn about Algebra? Who was the Spanish mathematician that translated the “The Compendious Book on Calculation by Completion and Balancing”. I guess that needs another set of infographics!

Hope you enjoy the video and the infographics!

economics

The Elegant System: Neither Capitalism or Communism

Whether communism, or capitalism, both systems are flawed and unsuitable for this time and age. It is time for a new Keynes, Marshall and Adam Smith influential economist to develop a new, global model.

Observations

There are three solid observations:

  1. No human is perfect, thus immoral and irrational matters occur.
  2. Neither system will work at all given the foundation of both systems, which assumes humans are rational and morally sound.
  3. Both systems assume the outside world is in a constant state that we can assume to be ideal, and that the foreign relations are stable. Reality is that the world is more random. Like a nth sided dice, where “n” is the different factors that affect the world beyond borders: Nature, education, wealth, resources, politics…etc

Despite the popular idea in the West to decentralize all institutions, Government has an important role to play in the development of economic standards of a nation. Government is needed for any case, regardless of any system. But I’ll leave that to some PoliSci genius to identify a new form of administration that breaks away from the Greek Senate system that is old and outdated, or the British Parliamentary system, which is like a massive party rather than a governing body.

Given such observations, it is evident proves that neither system is valid for this time and age given the infrastructure and foundation present. A better model requires to be devised the focuses on empowering and encouraging people to act morally and rationally; leading to the development of economic standard and transforming society to practice trade and economics effectively and efficiently. So far, we have a system that gives people negative points (black points in driver’s license, three-strike law, criminal records…etc). Therefore, the question holds, why not create a reward system?

My opinion is to develop a new economic model that encompasses a global perspective on things, while standing on the foundation of resolving economic problems through moral initiatives and endeavors.

International Trade in Classical Models vs. Reality

Capitalism and Communist Economics express matters in a microeconomic scale limited to a single nation. And when International Trade is integrated to this matter, it focuses strictly on scenarios and events that occur at the port of the local nation of which the microeconomic principles are in play. Based on such assumption, the model limits the transaction to a system that extends as far as the borders of the nation, and anything beyond that border is considered “ideal” or “in constant state”.

Therefore, in an ideal scenario, Capitalist nations should work strictly in promoting their own interest and the Communist nation follow the same suit, too. These measures/ideologies are introduced in the form of tariffs, quotas, trade barriers, or even embargos (extreme case).

In the realm of Economics, Noble Prize winners Heckscher and Ohlin introduced Heckscher-Ohlin Theory, which explains how two countries can get greater gains from trading with each other if they have different resources. This model is independent of Communism/Capitalistic model. Even though this model only focuses on resources, it is a good step forward to proving the foundation of how unity in trade is the key to progress. In 2000’s, Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz paved way to the power and benefit of globalization, and breaking the barriers of Capitalism and Communism by supporting more freedom in trade, more transparency, and great equivalency (this is like a mix of capitalism and communism if you think about it).

Anyhow, utilizing the latest information we gained from the new wave of Economics, and merging the growing field of Behavioral Economics, I think we are capable of providing a solution.

Role of Government

In Economics, the government’s duty is to ensure fair play of businesses in the field. Their task is to provide protection, guidance, and assistance when in need. Small businesses strive through Small Business Incentives provided by the government to grow and develop, while corporations have their rights protected by the legal clause given by government (such as patents). And in return, of course, government needs income through taxes and what not to maintain such complex legal and judicial system. But you already know this ;)

As for government controlling business, I can think of three ways:

1) Protection Against Monopoly: The traditional biological rule is survival of the fittest, and so the weakest company will die off in the cut throat market. I don’t support this model of thinking, but this is the current environment. Let’s assume the battle goes on until one company survives. Based on microeconomic principle, a monopolist can abuse its position to get the most profit from individuals. Not to mention, making it extremely difficult for new businesses to arise. And so far, this isn’t limited to Monopoly, but we can also say Oligopolies and Duopolies are as bad, too. Government limits such practice to protect people from such abuse.

2) Free rider problem: In the context of businesses, suppose there is a street, on which 25 people live, and which suffers from a litter problem. A weekly street-cleaning service would cost $2,500 annually. Suppose that each person is able and willing to pay $100 or more for the service. However, it is possible that some people on the street will refuse to pay, anticipating that the service will be undertaken regardless. It is possible that if enough people refuse to pay, the service will not be hired; an example of market failure. This is where the government has to step in and mitigate this problem, since again, people are extremely irrational.

3) Promoting National Interest: Sometimes, government control a business to push their own agenda, and this is visible in the field of agriculture and technology. For example, military/defense industry receives far greater funding than any other industry due to US government’s interest. As in terms of trade, the United States places trade restrictions on foreign fruits and goods not only because of environmental problem, but also to eliminate the competition of food within the United States and promote farming in the USA (otherwise, who the hell would farm. It’s very expensive to farm, which explains the need for subsidy). However, if utilized properly, this method can assist the government to focus on matters that are in great need of attention, such as encouraging medical research, developing new industries, transforming older methodologies and leading a progressive civilization.

Whatever it may be, In the end, I just wish to see myself going forward with innovative ideas and not feel afraid to let go of old models if it is deemed broken. And I feel that we are there, and we can all accomplish great things.

Looking forward to your insight and comments, and feel free to share your thoughts, too.

clouds-in-sky

Simple Science Tricks – Clouds in a Bottle

Clouds are beautiful! You look up to the sky and you see them in different shapes and sizes. What’s even more amazing is that they have different names for the different shapes; like CirrusNimbostratus, and Cumulus. Though, the biggest question we had when we all saw those beautiful clouds (or sometimes sad clouds) is how are they made?

A cloud is a large collection of water droplets, very tiny ones, or ice crystals. Since the droplets are super small and tiny, they can float up in the air.

Actually, all air contains water to be practice. However, when we are near the ground level, or sea level, water is usually in the form of water vapor, which is invisible to us because of the distribution of water molecule in the space provided (imagine a pea in a football stadium and you are seeing the stadium from a helicopter).

When warm air rises, it expands and cools due to changes in the atmosphere itself. When the water vapor gets cold, the water molecules come together slightly closer and form tiny droplets; just like how we cuddle with someone when we get cold ourselves. This process is called condensation, when air molecules condense due to cold and slowly form into a liquid. When billions of these droplets come together, yet they are spaced not too far from each other, they become a visible cloud.

How does condensation work?

Condensation forms when water changes from a vapor (or gas) to a liquid. Consider the water molecules as people. For people to go around, hang out and meet with friends, they need energy. In the presence of heat, there is energy for things to happen (not extreme heat, of course).

People cannot stand extreme heat; otherwise, this place would have been packed!

So water molecules party it up and rock out everywhere in the air because of decent heat. However, as the water is cooled and there is less heat energy for the individual molecules and particles to move around, it then condenses. Just like cuddling. Therefore, condensation happens because of change in temperature.

How do clouds float?

Clouds are heavy. The water in a cloud can have a mass of several million tons. So, how do they float?

Cloud droplets are also about 1000 times heavier than evaporated (gas) water, so they are much heavier than air. However, they do not fall, but stay in the air, because there is warm air all round the heavier water droplets. You can imagine the warm air being bullies pushing the water to be together into a droplet.

When water changes from gas to droplets, this makes heat. Because the droplets are very small, they “stick” to the warm air. And thus, they float.

The Experiment

The Summary

Make some clouds in a bottle.

What you need:

  • Tea spoon
  • A 2-Liter bottle and a cap
  • Matches/Fire
  • Piece of Newspaper

Steps:

What’s going on?

As the video mentioned, the increase in pressure and decrease in pressure is increasing the temperature (remember how hot it is when using a bicycle pump?). This phenomena is better explained by this glorious formula, ideal Gas Law:

PV = nRT

No, we don't measure gas with those moles. Nor the moles on your body!

Where the volume (V) is constant because your gas is in the bottle of volume 2 liters, and there is a constant amount of gas (n) measured in moles, R is the ideal, or universal, gas constant, equal to the product of Boltzmann’s constant and Avogadro’s constant. And finally, T is temperature. As pressure changes often to higher pressure on average, it increases the change in temperature, leading to higher temperature (since the original temperature is constant).

Given the increase in temperature, change in pressure, and presence of water molecules in the bottle, clouds are formed satisfying the conditions and explanations mentioned above!

crime-scene-tape

Gun Control Economics

Today, twenty children and six adults were killed in a shooting in Newton, Connecticut [BBC Link]. Among the killed was the killer, who took away his life after committing his massacre. In 2012 alone, there has been four mass shootings. Among them include the shooting in a mall in Oregon, in a movie theater in Colorado and a Sikh temple in Colorado. Despite the numbers of death caused by guns, there are few who are adamant to bring the gun control issue up.

Before I resume, I would like to state that I am completely against guns, as I find its purpose is to kill. A purpose that lacks any moral and logical foundation, and is poison to our community and society. A human invention that has led to the death of people all across the world.

Gun Control – The Challenge

As mentioned before, there are individuals in our society who are adamant and unwilling to let go of certain opinions that promote and endorse the distribution of weapons to society under the banner of defense and freedom. Whenever the issue of Gun Control arises, those who advocate for it face many challenges. Among such challenges include: Lobby groups such as the NRA, the 18th Century Amendment in the United States Constitution, and lack of education and awareness by the public. Based on those factors, utilization of a legal policy to minimize gun usage, or implement gun control, through law alone is insufficient. Therefore, a different method should be utilized to address this matter.

Economics of Gun Control

Given the delicate situation, the medium I suggest to mitigate gun related crimes is through economic penalization and economic reward. How would it work? Let’s start with the fist of law:

Economic Penalty

At every crime scene, it is easy to determine the weapon and bullet used that inflicted injury or death of a person. With every casualty, whether death or injury, the institutions supplying such weapons and bullets will be penalized significantly. A good example can be as follows:

27 people died in this incident, with over 100 bullets were shot during the killing spree. For each casualty, it’s a $500,000 per body and for each bullet it is $1000/each bullet fired. The total would be $13.5 Million for deaths alone, and over $100,000 for just bullets alone.

The disadvantage of such process that I’m sure will arise in Congress is the value of life. Can life be really worth $500,000? How do we determine the potential capacity lost? It is a very sensitive subject, but it requires to be addressed.

The proceeds of such financial penalty will be devoted for the families who have lost their loved ones, the medical attention they need, and for the emergency team that have devoted their time and efforts to bring calm and peace to their community.

The increase in the cost will provide a pinch to the gun suppliers and producers. Promoting for the push for stricter rules to be implemented to minimize losses and finding an optimum point where cost and benefit balances (unfortunately, I don’t think gun organization view humans as beings but rather as an economic resource to which they wish to sell guns to).

Economic Benefit

The benefits that will be provided for a company whose weapons are not found in crime scenes, or have minimized the number of their weapons in the market, is getting better access to gun bids for government defense contracts, gaining a better stature in the public light. That’s about it. No monetary benefit or discount. The goal is to enstill a better sense of community and human nature in those institutions to view each casualty as a loss for the community, and the world.

This may be need to be revised, but it is a proposal I would like the world to know of, and I hope it is for the best.

In the meantime, I would like to share this prayer for the children who have passed away today in the world:

“That beloved child addresseth thee from the hidden world: ‘O thou kind Mother, thank divine Providence that I have been freed from a small and gloomy cage and, like the birds of the meadows, have soared to the divine world—a world which is spacious, illumined, and ever gay and jubilant. Therefore, lament not, O Mother, and be not grieved; I am not of the lost, nor have I been obliterated and destroyed. I have shaken off the mortal form and have raised my banner in this spiritual world. Following this separation is everlasting companionship. Thou shalt find me in the heaven of the Lord, immersed in an ocean of light.’”

-‘Abdu’l-Baha

Adib-mad-scientist

Halloween Experiment – Risk Tolerance of Children

This Halloween I decided to be creative. It is a Wednesday, the Giants are celebrating because they won, and I have nothing better and cannot do much because of work. It finally dawned on me that it is Halloween; a day where children with their parents come knocking at your door to get a bite of that sweet tasty chocolate or candy you have in store.

I decided to conduct an experiment!

While I was doing my work, I realized what a wonderful opportunity it is to have those volunteers be part of my little experiment to test their behavior. There are many research in the world regarding behavior of customers and consumers when deciding on what risks to take. However, what about risk tolerance of kids. Are kids more risk tolerant than their adult counterparts? Do they even know what risk means? I can’t express how excited I was!

The following is the PowerPoint presentation of my experiment, and I hope to create a template in the future so we can test this experiment across the globe.

Foursquare Badges

The Book Klub

The past few weeks I took a course on Coursera called Gamification

In simple terms, Gamification is the utilization of Game Design and Game Elements for a non-game context and objective. These objectives can be for Internal Growth (firm trying to motivate its employees), External Growth (firm trying to market a product and make it engaging), and behavior change (a government health institution aiming to improve its communities health). Of course, all to be done in a fun and voluntary fashion.

The following is one of the assignments we had to do, which was quite interesting and relevant to the current age of market needs. In addition to the question, I am submitting the answer I have provided for my assignment.

Now that you know the essential concepts about gamification and game design, it’s time to use them. For this final task, we ask you to bridge this gap as you meld creativity and structure to match peoples’ needs with technical feasibility and business realities.

You are approached by Cheyenne Kendrick, the CEO of Go Digital Press (GDP), a global publisher of electronic books for devices such as the Kindle, Nook, and iPad. She knows you are one of the top experts on gamification, which she has heard can revolutionize publishing. She asks you to present a proposal for a gamified system to take her business to the next level.

GDP concentrates on the trade segment of the book market, i.e. non-fiction publications that would traditionally appear in bookstores, rather than mass-market paperbacks. Approximately 50% of its titles are targeted at business professionals; 25% are educational resources on technical topics such as computer programming; and the remainder address a variety of different subjects.

As a pioneer in e-book publishing, GDP faces the challenge that many users, even in the U.S., do not yet own reader devices. As of April 2012, only 21% of American adults reported that they had read an e-book in the past year, although those numbers are increasing rapidly. Kendrick tells you that another concern is that the device manufacturers and their associated distribution platforms control the sales process, making it difficult for publishers such as GDP to obtain data or develop direct customer relationships. On the positive side, an e-book is a flexible digital asset, which can offer interactive features beyond any physical book. Kendrick asks you to propose a way to gamify the distribution or consumption of e-books, or both.

Provide a detailed description of your proposal, organized according to the design framework described in the lectures in Unit 7:

1. Define business objectives
2. Delineate target behaviors
3. Describe your players
4. Devise activity loops
5. Don’t forget the fun!
6. Deploy the appropriate tools

A summary of each concept is provided on the Gamification Design Framework page.


Response
Go Digital Press (GDP) is a global publisher of ebooks for ebook devices. Cheyenne, CEO of GDP, is seeking a solution via a gamified system that can take her business to the next level. The challenges that are hindering GDP’s growth:

  • Small number of users own reader devices.
  • Sales process is controlled by device manufacturers and distribution platform.
  • Limited accessibility to customers.

Despite the challenges, Cheyenne noted that ebooks are flexible digital assets, which can offer interactive features beyond books.

Objective:
Based on the information above, the objective of the gamified system is:

  • Increase in the sales and profits generated from ebooks sold.
    Justification: The ultimate goal of the project is to take GDP to the next level of growth in terms of business.

It’s essential to note that gains derived from the objective must benefit both GDP and its user base; otherwise, disregarding the demand of the user base and focusing on benefits for GDP will only lead to short-term progress.

Target Behavior:
The behavior the gamified system must promote within GDPs market segment is the shift to the use of ebook devices rather than hardcopy books. Through the increase of ebook device users, more readers will be motivated to purchase and interact with GDP products and services. In order to reach the greater market of users who have yet to purchase, or use, ebook devices, the system will utilize the power of influencer marketing, integrated with game elements, to bring aboard users more quickly. Influencer marketing is marketing focused on key individuals that have influence over potential buyers, such as friends, family and their social network.

Within the gamified structure, metrics and analytics will be put in place to tweak and improve the gamified system; leading to identifying ways of encouraging the needed behavior. Due to limitation of access to user data through the ebook devices, the data must be acquired through both the GDP ebooks and their website interface.

In order to build trust and respect users data, the privacy of users must be maintained and respected.

The Players:
GDP publishes and sells books that are:

  • 50% targeted at business professionals
  • 25% are educational resources on technical topics
  • 25% address variety of different subjects

The information provides us a good perspective of the players of the gamified system. To narrow it further, the players can be categorized into four groups in the order of significance:

  • The Entrepreneurs: They can be the CEO of a Forbes 500 company, or owner of a Laundromat in a neighborhood. Their demographics vary greatly; however, their psychographics share many common elements: Learning how to improve their business, being up-to-date with the current business practices in the industry, and lack of time to seek proper education in universities/seminars that provide business courses. They’re experienced individuals that can add tremendous value to the gamified system based on their feedback and contribution to the gamified environment.
  • The Explorers: They’re passionate and curious individuals that want to learn about the topic of their interest or discover other realms of knowledge. Their goal is to expand their knowledge and skill. Their passion is the key element to further promote GDP products if it appeals their curiosity and learning. They’re powerful influencer marketers that reach out to their circle of interest; whether it’s friends, family, colleagues or social network.
  • The Educators: Instructors of educational institutions seek titles that are suitable for their curriculum, provides their students with ample amount of information that can help them learn, and simplifies their work as educators (through online homework and quizzes, online forum discussion, etc). They’re very powerful influencer marketers as the books they recommend, or request their student to purchase, will lead to the increase in the purchase of ebooks.
  • The Embarkers: Individuals that embark, on the journey of learning or knowledge for the sake of completing a class/seminar, satisfying their employer’s request, or other factor that lead them to purchase the ebook. They’re only motivated through extrinsic means (salary, grade…etc). However, they have potential influence over their social network if they acquire intrinsic motivation; leading them to becoming loyal customers of GDP products.

Based on the categories above, it’s evident that demographics are highly variable. However, the goal is to target the demands of the users based on their psychographic needs (for example, “I want to learn about the new business practice in the field of gamification”). Through the deployment of the gamified product by GDP that carries extrinsic motivators, combined with the potential intrinsic motivation of learning within the players, GDP can successfully delineate the behavior they seek (purchase of ebooks and ebook reading devices), and satisfy their objectives (growth in sales/profit, gain access to users).

“The Book Klub”

Summary:

The Book Klub is an online community that is integrated within GDP ebooks and website. Its purpose is to transform concrete non-fiction materials fun, sociable, and valuable. It encompasses elements such as points, badges (no leaderboard), and creativity forums. The elements devise activity loops, ensures fun, and aims in deploying appropriate tools (the three sub-elements are interconnected within the system) whose aims are to satisfy The Book Klub’s purpose and the business objectives of GDP.

The Journey of the Apprentice:

When purchasing a GDP ebook, the user will be prompted to either login or signup. Once they sign-up, an account will be made both online (The Book Klub website) and the front page of their ebook. The user will start as an Apprentice (level 1 user), whose journey is based on the skills they learn from the subjects they’re interested in. Depending on their path and journey, they will elevate to new levels for the title; such as Mentor, Consultant, Specialist, and Craftsman. The user’s profile represents a virtual shelf of the books and badges the user acquired from their journey. On the front of each title, they can see the progress bar of their reading and their total score for each title.

Utilizing progression loops, the end of each chapter of an ebook carries a mini-quiz. The quiz can be repeated infinitely, where the last grade will be taken into account. The purpose is to promote fun and motivation through performance-contingent rewards. If the user completes all quizzes (i.e. complete the book) with an average over a pre-defined score, they receive a special badge depending on the score and retain a special title in the Book Klub community.

Utilizing engagement loops, actions include:

  • Highlighting – When highlighting important point, the highlighted will go to the Book Klub community which will be scored based on community voting (one Like = +1). If the point was highlighted before, the user will receive the total score derived from the originally highlighted information. Such function will utilize “Achievement” methodology which surprises the user that they received a certain number of points just from highlighting a point. In addition, the power of crowd sourcing discourages improper use of highlighting.
  • How much you read today compared to past – Provides feedback to the user on how much more they’ve read compared to before; appearing as a pop-up after they bookmark the last page they read. This encourages the completion of the ebook faster, leading to purchase of other ebooks much more quickly, and encourages the habit of reading and using ebook reader devices. Special badges can be provided for those who read 25%, 50% or all the ebook in one instance.
  • Submission of creative content – Some individuals derive inspiration from the ebook, leading them to either generate notes, artwork, model systems, or create useful powerpoints based on the title they’re reading. If they publish the content to the online community, they receive points based on community voting and GDPs specification; special badges, prizes or awards can be provided depending on number of votes, uniqueness and author-provided badges. This action must be nourished as it’s the true form of fun and outlet of intrinsic motivation. Furthermore, it makes GDPs content human-centered, rich and fruitful; leading to increase of users purchasing GDP products to tap into the knowledgebase of the Book Klub community.

To maintain an exclusive status, the online community is only accessible by individuals that purchase GDP products (similar to Xbox Live). The more titles of GDP purchased, the more access the user will gain to the content shared by the community members of different titles. The exclusivity provides a sense of status and fosters a sense of learning. However, users can invite their social-network to join the community by encouraging them to purchase the titles. Such action can be rewarded through points or badges depending on the number of accepted invites.

GDP can hold online or regional events based on the findings they received from their user base to further increase customer loyalty, expand their customer base and increase customer satisfaction; such as talks by the author, or invitation of active members to discussion panels to improve the title (similar to Ebay’s Top Seller Conference), or a fun conference like Dreamforce. Badges and titles can be awarded for participation at these, making the players more reputable and recognizable among their online peers.

The system will foster a fun collaborative environment where value is derived from a fun social-oriented activity, while maintaining individual uniqueness and progress (both sparking intrinsic motivation). In addition, the system will guarantee the satisfaction of business objectives while ensuring that the users benefit greatly, too.

Fractal Modeling - Carleton College

Science and Art

Last night, my friends from the San Jose Baha’i community hosted a devotional program with the theme revolving around the arts at the San Jose Baha’i Center. The program was exciting and out of the box. Having had held devotionals before at our house, this program was different. The devotionals started with series of prayers from the Holy Writings, where we then transitioned to reading quotes relevant to the arts from Baha’i Writings and other sources. After everyone has shared their thoughts on the Holy Writings and arts, we broke out into groups and engaged in artistic activity; whether it is creative writing, composing music, theater/drama, or traditional arts. It was a great idea to build a sense of engagement in the program that provides both spiritual and mental growth in one setting.

Many great points and views were shared during the discussion portion of the group. Among them include how the arts and science are interchangeable, and how art has evolved in history to finally reach the stage where humanity can foster their talents and have access to tools and instruments related to art with ease. In addition, one of the participants has expressed that art is not only a mean to entertain the public, but also to express oneself of their identity and emotions; a channel to which people can express their thoughts and ideas. Another point made is how powerful arts are, and how it can be used to promote the well-being of community, or lead to tyranny. An example of such power can be seen during World War II where the arts were used to promote the propaganda and the interest of one nation.

From these points, I realized that through the power of art and practicing of the art, people can help discover themselves and shape themselves in a healthier manner rather than idolizing individuals and following their footsteps religiously without reflection.

If art were to be the medium of self-expression, science complements it as the medium of understanding of the self.

Art and Science can be interchangeable, where a mathematical formula or computer architecture can be defined as “beautiful”, and the beauty and mystery of symmetry can be reflected through the lens of geometry.

Whether you are a scientist, an artist, or a mix of both, excel in them. Let it become a portal of human progress and self-development, for both yourself and your community.

The Video

The video that I posted in this blog shows a beautiful correlation between arts and sciences. The amazing discovery by Ramesh Raskar, associate professor at MIT Media Lab and co-founder of EyeNetra, presents how light (or packets of photons) travels. What was magnificent is how light did not create a ripple effect on a tomato due to the properties of tomatoes structure, where light travels internally and then exits in the back (or wherever the light bounces from within the tomato). The idea was derived from a work of art made possible by a scientist (the bullet piercing through the apple photograph, for example), and this is among the many steps of progress in the field of physics, and of art.

ostrom_main[1]

The first woman to win a Nobel Prize in Economics

It is a sad day for the people in the field of Economics. Today I’ll write about Elinor Ostrom, the first woman to win a Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in the year 2009. She passed away this morning at Indiana University’s Health Bloomington Hospital. Elinor was a political scientist; however, she had a deep interest in the science of Economics; more specifically, in understanding how people interact with one another and how they utilize common pool resources, such as forests, fisheries, oil fields, grazing lands, and irrigation systems. She was renowned for her work and efforts in “her analysis of economic governance, especially the commons”. She was the first, and to date, the only woman to win the prize in this category.
In other words = LIKE A BOSS!

Elinor Ostrom receiving the Nobel Prize

Background

Elinor was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. She grew up in a family of mixed religious background (Protestant and Jewish), and pursued the degree of Political Science at UCLA (from Bachelor’s all the way to Ph.D.). According to her colleagues at Indiana University, she often spoke about what it was like to be a child of the Great Depression, helping her family grow food in a large garden and knitting scarves for soldiers during World War II.

At the workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis

In 1973, she co-founded A Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis at Indiana University with her husband, Vincent Ostrom. Examining the use of collective action, trust, and cooperation in the management of common pool resources, her institutional approach to public policy, known as the institutional analysis and development (IAD) framework, has been considered sufficiently distinct to be thought of as a separate school of Public Choice Theory. Public Choice Theory models people, institutions and groups as mainly self-interested. In particular, it studies such agents and their interactions in the social system either as such or under alternative constitutional rules. In the realm of political science, for example, Public Choice Theory takes shape in the form of votes, politicians and bureaucrats; where the voter behavior influences the behavior of public officials.

Noble Prize “for her analysis of economic governance”

Ostrom, who won a share of the 2009 prize for her groundbreaking research into how people overcome selfish interests to successfully manage natural resources, and are capable of creating rules and institutions that allow for the sustainable and equitable management of shared resources. In essence, how resouces can be managed successfully by the people who use them, rather than by governments or private companies. She shared the prize with Oliver Williamson, a University of California economist.

The Research

To demonstrate the significance of her work, we can share the following example that was shared by Zoe Chace of NPR’s Planet Money:

One of the knottiest issues in economics is the tragedy of the commons. But Elinor made it not so tragic, after all. In 1968, young Elinor read an article by Garrett Hardin which posed a classic economic problem: A cow pasture open to everyone.

The problem states that everyone would then put their cows on and they would overharvest. That’s the classic tragedy of the commons – everyone uses something, but no one is in charge. So nobody takes it upon themselves to take care of a common good. According to Garret Hardin who posed the problem, he stated that the people who faced this problem are trapped and have no solution. Leading to the conclusion that they require an outside factor to interfere to solve their problem; either the government had to step in and police the pasture or the pasture had to be divided up between the people who used it and privatized.

That was the only way to solve the tragic problem, as Hardin saw it. But Ostrom found tons of examples where this didn’t play out. In fact, in the Swiss Alps, there was this exact situation: A pasture with cows on it in the mountains.

These cows found Garrett Hardin's problem disappointing

In the Alps, it’s patchy. And so it snows well in one location, and another one, not much. Therefore, depending on where you placed your cows, you’ll either be lucky, or unlucky, depending on the climate throughout the whole year. Hence, if you fenced it off into small sections, then most of the farmers would be out of luck every year. But just put a fence around the whole thing and everyone benefits.

This might be common sense, but considering that economics of the past revolved around the fact that people are only motivated by self-interest, Ostrom’s research expresses the reality that people are not purely motivated by self-interest, and that people have the potential to arise to a better conclusion and outcome through cooperation and pertaining a common goal.

Struggle and Success

There isn't much to say here...

After she was awarded the Noble Prize, she gave an interview at NPR regarding the struggles she faced as a young woman pursuing her education:

Ostrom spoke with NPR’s Michele Norris about how as a young woman she wasn’t allowed to study trigonometry because she was going to be “barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen.”

Michael McGinnis, a friend and colleague who was at her bedside when she died, said that Ostrom donated her share of the $1.4 million Nobel award money to the workshop — the biggest by far of numerous several academic prizes with monetary awards that the Ostroms had given to the group over the years.

Surface Tension and Swimmer

Simple Science Tricks – Tension Boat

The Titanic can be considered a Tension Boat

The title may be misleading; one might think it is a very painful cruise ship vacation experience. However, today’s experiment will focus on surface tension of water and how we can use this property to propel objects on water. Surface tension can be seen everywhere in nature. Some examples include:

  • Water beads on waxy sufaces, like tree leafs or windows that are super clean. Water adheres weakly to wax and strongly to itself. Which leads to the phenomena of water drops coming together and forming a large drop on these surfaces
  • Separation of water and oil is caused by a tension in the surface between not-similar (or dissimilar) liquids. Normally, this is called Interface Physics, but its the same thing

A tension boat is basically a boat that utilizes the property of surface tension of water to propel itself in water. You might think that you can gain infinite propulsion force by placing ships in the ocean with enough material to harness this force and have green energy. But, it’s much more difficult than that, and I don’t think carrying gallons of soap and ocean water would work that easily.

What is Surface Tension

The straight up definition: The cohesive, or attractive, forces between liquid molecules causes surface tension.

Let’s consider the following image of a water molecule:

MEGA MASSIVE Water Molecule

As you can see, the water molecule consists of three atoms; two Hydrogen atoms (represented as white and positive) and an Oxygen atom (represented as red and negative). The “charges” you see on the molecules are due to the bonding between the Oxygen and Hydrogen atoms.

When Hydrogen gives away (shares out) their electron, it becomes positive (it hates being negative; imagine Hydrogen as someone high on life). On the other hand, Oxygen is like negative nancy or debbie downer, always negative and LOVES to get (or borrow) electrons.

Based on this property, it creates a “polar” molecule, which basically means that the molecule is like a magnet. A super super super super super super super super small magnet. And like any other magnets we nearly swallowed as a child in the world, they attract each other. Negatives attract the positives, and vice versa, and then you get like a chain of water molecules together. Therefore, in a glass of water, you have a party going on with the water molecules!

Water Molecules Partying to LMFAO!

As you can see in the party, the water molecules in the glass (or middle of the glass) are attracted from all sides and are influenced or “pushed” by other water molecules. However, for the water molecules on the surface, since they are not attracted from all sides (their top being open to air), they form a stronger attraction with their water molecule buddies around them. Because of this stronger attraction to the molecules to the sides of the water molecule, the surface of the water acts like an elastic surface!

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how we have suface tension!

The Experiment

Summary

Make a small boat out of cardboard, place in water, add a drop of soap at the back-end of the boat, and watch that thing go!

What you need:

  • Water
  • Cardboard box
  • Soap or Detergent
  • Scissors
  • A clean kitchen sink, or round cake pan

Steps

  1. Cut the cardboard with scissors in one of the following shapes (You can make your own boat, just notice the back-end of the boat having an internal dent)
  2. Place the cardboard slowly on the surface of water (whether in the sink or round cake pan)
  3. Sing a Pirate Song!
  4. Add a drop or two of soap on the backend of the boat. Slightly dab the soap on the back
  5. See that bugger go!

What’s Going On?

So, you know about surface tension at this stage, and you noticed before you dabbed the boat with soap that the boat was still (unless your sink or whatever you used is so dirty and your boat went berserk, you dirty person you!).

The reason why the boat is still when placed in water is because the surface tension on the surface of water is acting on “all-directions” on the boat.

Let’s examine the property of soap. Soaps are compounds which are made by heating fats or oils, from animal or vegetable sources, with lye. A typical soap molecule has the formula:

CH3CH2CH2CH2CH2CH2CH2CH2CH2CH2CH2CH2CO2-1 Na+1
Of course, unless you are an Organic Chemistry fan, you’ll be like “WOAH!” But to simplify all that stuff on top, we will make it look like this:

Looks like an electrocuted sperm...

Soap belongs to a class of chemicals known as surfactants, from surface active agents. As yours parents said, soap have some special properties which make them very useful for cleaning and forming bubbles and foam. In particular, the long hydrocarbon (All that C’s and H’s on top) ends of the molecules are very nonpolar and do not form bonds to water molecules. This end is hydrophobic (water fearing). On the other hand, the ends are very soluble in water and form rather strong bonds with the very polar water molecules. Those are hydrophilic (water lovin’).

When soap is placed at the end of the boat, the soap molecules order themselves in the position that will distort the surface tension of the water. The water molecules on the surface of the pool of water will lose their adhesiveness to each other because of the hydrophilic part of the soap. On the other end, water molecules are distancing themselves from the tail of the soap molecule. This can be shown in the following graph:

Soap molecules hatin' on water

Based on such interaction, aggregate effect of all forces will be “frontward” rather than “all-direction.” Such effect creates propulsion. Thus, you are capable of making the most awesome soap propelled speed boat!

Sources:

Bill Nye The Science Guy Being Epic!

Bill Nye The Science Guy and Surface Tension

Non-Newtonian Fluid

Simple Science Tricks – Non-Newtonian Fluid

What is a Non-Newtonian Fluid?

A non-Newtonian fluid is a fluid whose viscosity is variable based on applied stress, or force. Contrast with Newtonian fluids like water, whose behavior can be described exclusively by temperature and pressure (water at -32F/0C turned into ice, or water can be heated over it’s boiling point under high temperature), not the forces acting on it from second to second. Non-Newtonian fluids are fascinating substances that can be used to help us understand physics in more detail, in an exciting, hands-on way.

If you punch a bucket full of a shear thickening non-Newtonian fluid, the stress introduced by the incoming force causes the atoms in the fluid to rearrange such that it behaves like a solid. Your hand will not go through.

If you shove your hand into the fluid slowly, however, it will penetrate successfully. If you pull your hand out abruptly, it will again behave like a solid, and you can literally pull a bucket of the fluid out of its container in this way. You can try and walk on a non-Newtonian fluid if you stomp as best as you could on the surface.

A shear thinning non-Newtonian fluid behaves in the opposite way; where the application of force will make the solution act more as a liquid. In this type, the fluid becomes thinner, rather than thicker, when stress is applied. Also called pseudoplastic, examples of this type of non-Newtonian fluid include ketchup, toothpaste, and paint. The effect doesn’t usually last for long in either type, continuing only as long as the stress is applied. A good example is shaking the shaving cream can so the cream can be released from the can.

A practical application for shear thickening non-Newtonian fluids may be in body armor of the future. Since such fluids are usually flexible, they would allow soldiers to move freely when not under attack. But if confronted with a speeding bullet, they would quickly harder, performing like traditional armor. More research is necessary to see if non-Newtonian fluids are suitable for the military, but until then, it’s sure fun to play with.

The Experiment

Summary

Mix corn starch and water to create a non-Newtonian fluid. When left alone it will act like a liquid but when acted upon by a force it will react like a solid. If you hold it in your hand it will run through your fingers but if you punch the fluid it will harden

What you need:

  • Corn Starch (About as much water as you are using)
  • Water
  • Containers
  • Stirring rod (or anything to stir with)
  • Ice
  • Freezer
  • Microwave

Steps

Put water in a big bowl/container you adding corn starch until the water becomes extremely tough to stir. It has also been described as a syrupy texture, but you should be able to feel a difference. If you are not sure, you can test it by applying pressure with the poke of your finger or a spoon. You will feel and initial resistance by the fluid and then it will slowly release.

Experiment 1: Texture is Dependent on Ingredient

You will notice if you leave the fluid unattended for a spell, it will separate into two parts and solid will be on the bottom of the container. Simply mix it up once again to regain the non-Newtonian fluid texture.

As you poke and prod at the mixture, you can see and feel (if you use your hands) the mixture turning solid into liquid or vice versa. Get hands on! The texture is great to feel and will keep you occupied for hours on end!

After messing around for a bit, add more corn starch. This results in a more solidified liquid and you can better feel the reactions.

Experiment 2: Heat and non-Newtonian Fluid

The first additional experiment that was tested was by microwaving part of the fluid. I put it in the microwave for roughly 45 seconds on half power (5, in my case). This resulted in what looked like an egg-shaped object, with a yellow center and a white outer ring.

Experiment 3: Cold Temperature and non-Newtonian Fluid

In this experiment, I put a cup of the non-Newtonian fluid into a freezer to see the effects. After leaving it in there, it was examined later. It had some cool line patterns on the surface like it was exerting tension or something of the like.

Additional Random Experiments

Place the non-Newtonian fluid on a speaker that is protected by a layer of plastic. Play different sound frequencies and enjoy the patterns made by the fluid.

“After playing with my mixture a while, I started adding a lot more water then immediately microwaving it. Its almost like ballistics gel now.”

“blow bubles in it with a straw! they aren’t normal”

Credits and Sources

- WiseGeek – What is a Non-Newtonian Fluid?

Instructables – How To Make Non-Newtonian Fluid Experiment

London Education Protest

How the Economic Crisis is Improving our Community?

The economic crisis that was, and it still is, affecting us in a global scale has been only viewed by the general media as a negative factor to the world of business and industry. In addition, the increase in the unemployment rate is introducing the factor of crime and poverty into every nation; where every individual is competiting and fighting to get a piece of the pie.

However, in the midst of this catastrophe, there is a bright light for the future of civilization. As budgets become tighter, education becomes less affordable, and jobs are hard to capture; the competition is being centered on individuals to compete with themselves to attain the best of the best, or grasp the taste of excellence.

After much thought and reflection, I summarized my views on how the crisis is benefiting us (from a student perspective) at present:

The field of education is facing a huge budget dilemma. Public universities and community colleges are facing budget cuts, leading to shortages in the number of classes, reduction of faculty members and reducing the number of admitted students. However, on the other hand, many individuals who have been laid off are planning to join a University to continue their education and be supported by the government. I overheard a student in the bus stating “it is better to be in school now! Else you will have to be looking for a job for the next 2 years.” The unemployed at present are given the opportunity to improve their educational background using the experiences they have gained in the working field. With the acquisition of more up-to-date education and information, the individual is supplied with the skills and knowledge that will provide them with a more secured job position and valuable knowledge for the long run.

As for the general public, the budget cut is forcing students to study harder to enter the university of their choice. This is a chance where schools will enforce stricter and a higher educational standards due to the demand of the job market and universities are imposing on the society. The long term effect will lead to the improvement of the economy and a stronger, smarter and creative labor force. Of course, one may state that this will place the burden on the students who are struggling in this economy. And unfortunately, that is correct. However, institution of higher education and government must work on minimizing the financial burden for the student and identify on how to make their degrees and students more proactive and useful in the community. Regardless of the degree, the institution of higher education and government should present the available options for people to have the chance to excel in their field; whether in a firm, as researchers expanding their field of work, or if they start their own business.

Of course, there is much more to investigate, and in the end, it lies on the individual to strive for the best and attain success.

MATLAB Algorithm to compare two images

http://www.xkcd.com/246/

Labyrinth Puzzle by XKCD

Imagine you have two images of the same size and shape; however, there are differences between the images (like a game of spot 10 different things). MATLAB is the baws:

im = double(imread('input.jpg'))/255;
imsize = size(im);
width = imsize(2)/2;
imdiff = abs(im(:,1:width,:) - im(:,(width+1):end,:));
imwrite(imdiff, 'result.jpg');

The output will generate areas of difference.

Math, you’re the bomb!