July 27, 2006

{life.academic} Scientific maturity

For many years, I was a firm believer of the disadvantage of long post-graduate programs, but I think otherwise at the moment. Am I being brain-washed or am I simply getting mature in the graduate school?

I believe that a PhD student sould remain in the program until he/she reaches scientific maturity, in a broad sense. One shall not be granted a doctorate until a committee of professors aprove to his/her maturity in science. Even when you attend a class as a student, you are able to judge the professor for his scientific maturity. How can a committee of high-profile scientific figures be wrong in what you, in your undergraduate years, felt right?

I can probably tell you stories of my acquaintences with immature professors, when they made you wish you were never born, but I am sure that you have had similar experiences yourself. Interestingly, in my case, the immature professors spent fewer years in graduate school (as a student), than the mature professors whom I respect more.

I appreciate hard work; the kind of hard work that is meant for scientific or even social maturity, as opposed to the kind that targets descruction of enthusiasm and lowers one's motivation.

July 25, 2006

{} G-10

After a conversation on the history of Ontario with Chris, my labmate who is actually from Toronto, Ontario, I felt the need to lookup the word Loaylists in wikipedia. Click after click, I arrived at the Canada Day wiki-page. Canada day is officially the birth date of what we now know as Canada; July the 1st, 1867. At that time, it was called the Dominion day, because it "commemorated the formation of the Dominion of Canada."

Wait a second, 1867? Does this mean that the oldest University in Canada should be 139 (2006-1867) years of age? I quite remember that University of Toronto (U of T) was advertising its 160th. So, I had to lookup U of T in wikipedia, which you might think is a dumb thing to do. I am not quite sure about that, though. I found out that U of T (King's College) was established in 1827, which can give them 179 years of history, but "the old King's College building, located on the current site of the provincial legislature, was closed and the new University College opened in 1853 as 'The Provincial College,' and was completed in 1858." Toronto can't have more than 148 years of academic history, then! I always suspected that their long billboards with catchy phrases of 160 years of excellence and such are more of a media hype to attract undergraduate students, but I never had the courage to check for the facts. I am not too sure what gave me the courage to do that now; I am not sure either if that's called courage at all.

Anyways, after my useless discovery and surfing further to find the answers to questions I might later have, I learned that U of T, along with 9 other schools form the Group of Ten (G-10) universities in Canada. They are the leading research-intensive universities with most of them having endowments of over $100 million. University of Alberta is part of G-10, but surprisingly University of Calgary isn't. Another interesting fact is that 5 of them are in Ontario, 3 in Quebec, 1 in BC and 1 in Alberta (no representatives in other provinces). Another interesting fact, is that even U of T with $1.4 billion has less financial endowments than the wealthiest universities in the US, but G-10 are on par with UK and European universities, in terms of financial endowments.

Yet another interesting figure is the year that Université Laval was founded: 1663! The oldest in Canada. I won't write about how I went through all the process of finding if it was a religious centre back then or a university, but while I was trying to find out, I learned that the University of New Brunswick (founded in 1785) is the oldest English-speaking Canadian school, which actually "offered Canada's first university-level engineering program, established in 1855 and the first engineers graduating in 1857." Engineering is 150 years old in Canada.

July 24, 2006

{logic.modelChecking} CTL

Here yet another nice introduction to model checking:

CTL (Computational Tree Logic) is a branching-time logic. All of our daily actions can actually satisfy a correctness statement in CTL. For example,

AG ~(arrogance) means "avoid arrogance";
AG (self-esteem) means "maintain self-esteem";
EG ~(arrogance) means "try to avoid arrogance";
EG (self-esteem) means "try to maintain self-esteem";
AF (financial independence) means "reach financial independence"; and
EF (Damavand peak) means "try to reach Damavand peak".

July 20, 2006

{} How to solve it

The puzzle of a ferryman, a goat, a cabbage, and a wolf, can be solved by a symbolic model verifier. You can write the LTL (linear-time temporal logic) specification and the solution can be seen. It's a plannig problem. I have a weird feeling. Someone asked me what I have done over the past week, and I came up with "hey, I learned how to solve the infamous puzzle using NuSMV." He gave me a look, but that's not why I have that weird feeling. I have a weird feeling if such kinds of solutions can be applied largely in robot path planning. I have a weird positive feeling, but that's just me.

July 18, 2006

{daily.observations} Correct English

I came across the Common Errors in English webpage (, when googled for "English" (in case you were wondering, google is a verb now. In fact, that page is ranked first with the google page ranking (TM) system.

"A clothes dryer makes the clothes drier." That's how you should use DRYER and DRIER! Anyways, this sentence is not globally true, e.g., it is false if you dry your clothes in my dryer. After "drying", the clothes are not drier (as wet as they used to be after washing). That token-sucking useless son of an engineer!

Have you noticed how elegantly I used "engineer" as a degrading noun? Is there such a thing as a "degrading" noun? How did you understand (did you?) what I meant by using "engineer"? Are we learning by context?

July 13, 2006

{segway.hack} documentation?

I don't have a problem if your Segway works on several hacks, just add some comments to rememmber what changes you made to which files. You won't remember it after sometime and I - yes I - have to do many things from the scratch.

July 11, 2006

{weekly.meetings} moment of zen

When my advisor was explaining the purpose of some of the group's projects, I couldn't help fantasizing about making the virtual combatics, where a haptic-interfaced tele-combatic is combating against another combatic in a virtual environment visualized by holographic images. The distinction of this system is that you are not limited to some pre-defined characters, but you can insert your favorite action figure in the capturing system and within a few minutes, you have built your own model of the action figure to be used in the game. That will be some wicked game, I tell ya. It was then I felt that a lab mat was looking at me, probably wondering why I was staring deep at the carpet. And my moment of zen was over. Smiling back at my lab mate and back to the boring projects ...

July 10, 2006

{daily.observations} abbreviations

It strikes me how abbreviations can have different meanings. When I was at Ryerson University, I learned that the Dept of ECE can be the Department of Early Childhood Education rather than the commonly used Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. They shortened the latter as ELCE! Anyways, it's a hot and pleasant summer in Edmonton and Edmonton Eskimos are playing the Canadian Football League (CFL). Yeah, babe! EE doesn't always stand for Electrical Engineering, but sometimes stands for Edmonton Esks! Am I transforming to an anti-EE (Electrical Engineer) pro-CS grad student in Edmonton? Well, I donno ... CS stands for Computer (or Computing) Science almost everywhere, it could have been the abbrv for Condom Shack store in Toronto, but it's not.

P.S. I should've labeled this post as random ramblings.

July 06, 2006

{articles} Yet to be written

Modeling an infinite system with finite automata: how inaccurate can it be?