Friday, April 30, 2010

Science and faith

Has science proven that there is no god? Is science incompatible with faith?

Is faith incompatible with science? Can a Christian also believe in the theory of evolution?

What is the theory of evolution anyway? Does it simply say that the inherited traits of living organisms may change through successive generations in adaptation to the environment? Does it also say that humans evolve from more primitive animals, living things from non-living things, ..., and eventually something from nothing?

If indeed there is a creator who created the universe, why should systematic observations and studies by humans of the created universe be incompatible with knowledge as revealed by the creator?

Are some of our methods wrong? Or do we jump to conclusions too quickly?

The world is in need of more people who are willing to study these questions in an open and objective manner. There are some of these people even in Hong Kong. But we need more of them. Too often we make up our minds too early. And once it is made up, it is very difficult to change, in spite of evidence to the contrary.

Note: I stole the diagram from my wife’s notes (who is much more knowledgeable about these issues than I am).

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Has Noah’s Ark been found?

Some people say they are sure that the Hong Kong evangelists have found Noah’s Ark. Some others say it can never be. Some claim further, “... proven to be a fake, as has every claim by biblical literalists that they have found the boat ...”

I would be happy to see Noah’s Ark being found. Because that is another piece of evidence corroborating the story of Noah as recorded in the Book of Genesis in the Bible. It does not prove that the Bible is the word of God. But it does add credibility to the claim.

So far, I believe that the team found some wooden structure up there on Mount Ararat. I am not convinced that it is Noah’s Ark.

Sometimes people who want to believe every word in the Bible is literally true believe too easily.

On the other hand, there are also people who believe too easily that the Bible has been proven wrong, that all the claims collaborating the Bible are fakes.

Neither is a healthy attitude towards finding the truth.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Noah’s Ark found in Turkey? (2)

Many of my friends have asked about a group of Hong Kong evangelists claiming to have found Noah’s Ark in Turkey - published in a number of Hong Kong newspapers yesterday (Monday, 26 April, 2010). Unfortunately, the story has not been carried extensively outside Hong Kong. Here is one of the more detailed accounts in case anyone is interested.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Noah’s Ark found in Turkey?

It was reported in local (Hong Kong) newspapers today that a team of Hong Kong evangelists and cameramen, plus some other persons from Turkey and elsewhere, went on an expedition on Mount Ararat in Turkey last October. They claimed to have discovered and gone inside some large wooden structures. They brought back some specimen of wood, and video footages.

About a month ago, I attended a gathering organized by the team, watched a video of the expedition, and listened to them. The video showed the team walking up a mountain, and venturing inside wooden structures partially encased in ice.

They said the wooden structure was found at a location 4,000 meters above sea level, where no humans live. The surroundings did look deserted. They also claimed that a wooden specimen that they brought back was found to be 4,800 years old.

It seems pretty sure that they found some large wooden structures high up there on Mount Ararat in Turkey, where many people believe Noah’s Ark rested. Have they discovered Noah’s Ark? I don’t know.

Note: So far, it seems the only overseas newspaper that have picked up the story is an online newspaper based in South Africa.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Serious robotics

Our department have been supporting the Hong Kong regional of the FIRST LEGO League (FLL) for several years. The Hong Kong regional is a competition in which ~60 teams from primary and secondary schools build robots using the LEGO Mindstorm kit to tackle a set of tasks. The winning team would go to the USA to compete in the international competition representing Hong Kong.

This year, the FLL final happened to be at Atlanta during the period that we were attending CHI, the Computer Human Interface Conference. So we took a day off from CHI and went over to the Georgia Dome to see FLL.

It happens that FLL is just a part of the FIRST Robotics Competition - and the smallest part at that. FIRST is actually three competition: FRC, FTC and FLL. For the FRC, students from grade 9 to 12 build robots weighting 120 pounds to compete in soccer games. For the FTC, students in the same age group build smaller robots that can scoop up and shoot smaller balls. And then there is the FLL.

The main competitions take up a large part of the Georgia Dome that can seat 75,000 people. FLL takes up less than one-sixth of the space. The staging and practice areas take up another humongous hall. There must be several thousand students, teachers, parents there. And that’s just for the national championships. I cannot imagine the total number of students involved in the regionals. FIRST is an international championship but the majority of the participants are Americans. Such is the interest in the USA in robotics.

In the preparation area, we passed by an apparently home-made Segway.

All of which made up a fair indicator of the degree of interest in robotics - and science and technology in general - in the USA. That’s one of the main reasons that the USA continues to lead the world in creating innovative technologies, products, companies, and wealth.

In contrast, what are we doing in Hong Kong? Our government and business leaders have already given up on science, technology and engineering. Instead, we are encouraged to focus on services. What services? What kind of services can we provide if we do not have products to sell? Can we survive, let alone proper, by trucking other people’s products, by selling land to each other, by serving each other fast food? Give me a break.


The Georgia (Atlanta) Aquarium has a pair of beluga whales that seem to love to perform. Every minute of so, they comes out from their hiding place behind the rocks and twist and turn and glide in front of the audience. They are always together, like a loving couple. The audience could just ogle.

Once in a while, they come up really close and look straight at us. We would melt. Particularly the ladies.

Friday, April 23, 2010


Some of the lovely faces I saw at the Atlanta Aquarium. (Actually the last 2 were from the Chicago Aquarium last year.)

Thursday, April 22, 2010


The Computer Human Interface Conference (CHI) was held in Atlanta, Georgia, this year. On one of the evenings, a sponsor of the conference hosted a reception at the Aquarium. So I came face to face with my first butanding - whale shark. They actually have 4 in the big tank, all of them still juveniles.

For comparison, the shark below this one is about 6 feet long. That gives us some sense of how big it is already. It is said they can grow up to 30 feet long. They are truly mesmerizing.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Our paper “i*CATch: A Scalable, Plug-n-Play Wearable Computing Framework for Novices and Children” won an Honorable Mention Award at the ACM CHI (Computer Human Interaction) 2010 Conference. The award was given to the top 5% of submitted papers. This paper is also the first paper from Hong Kong to be honored with this award.

The paper presents the i*CATch toolkit, developed wholly in-house at our eToy Lab. The toolkit was designed to be modular, extensible, reusable and user- and education-friendly. It consists of electronic modules, a construction platform and a hybrid text/graphical integrated development environment. It has been used to teach programming to our own undergraduates as well as in Summer Camps and other outreach activities to primary and secondary students.

For more information:

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Remembering N

N passed away last week, aged 73. She has been sick for quite some time. Eventually she passed away peacefully, surrounded by her husband, Rev. L, and friends. We were told she did not suffer too much.

I met N and Rev. L, 35 years ago, in Rochester, in upstate New York in the USA. They came to our dormitory to study the Bible with my roommate and me every Saturday morning. Later we moved to their apartment in the suburbs, and the group grew in size. They would drive to our dormitory to pick us up in the early morning, and then take us back to our dormitory late in the afternoon. We would study the Bible. Rev. L would then play go, Chinese Chess, and other games with us while N would cook for everyone. We would eat and talk and play, and eat some more. Their home became our home away from home. And they became our mentors. We continued to do this for about 4 years.

N had a youthful effervescence, and she always looked young. They cared deeply about us “young people”. They encouraged us to be passionate in life, and faith. To work hard in our studies, to study seriously the Bible, and to care deeply about people. They did this not so much by words, but by what they did with us.

They have no children of their own. But they affected the lives of so many people. They ended up having numerous spiritual children, the Rochester gang being part of them. This evening, my wife and I, and C, also part of that Rochester gang, attended her funeral service. And we told Rev. L that our daughters are their grandchildren. There were so many people at the service that the crowd spilled outside the school hall in a primary school in Shatin. Many of them are surely their spiritual children, and there are so many who couldn’t come.

Rev. L’s reminiscence on his life with N made my eyes wet. At one point, he said that the relationships that they have experienced is so real and so powerful, that they must continue beyond this lifetime; that it is capricious for life to just suddenly end at death. I agree.

I am thankful to God for L and N. I surely hope, and expect to see N again.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Beautiful dawn

My plane was flying from Dallas towards Atlanta before day break, on my way to SIGCHI, a prestigious conference on Computer-Human Interface. At first it was almost pitch black. As the plane was about half way through the flight, the sky started to lighten. Then it gradually turned red at the horizon in the distance. As the sky did so, the light started to reflect off the leading edge of the wing of the airplane.

The rich, complex shades of subtly changing colour is so beautiful. It is hard to imagine that there is not some purpose of the image. Someone must have designed it, for a reason. Why does the juxtaposition of the sun, the earth and the atmosphere produces such a image that that combination of the eyes and the brain of a human being finds so spectacular?

I am not so arrogant to think that God created the image for my sole enjoyment. That image is free, for anyone who is there that cares to look. In fact, that image is a moving performance that travels around the world day after day.

Much of the world is ugly. And I am sorry that I sometimes participate in that ugliness. But the world can also be exceedingly beautiful. And I am grateful that God allows me the privilege to sometimes partake in seeing that beauty.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Tree taking over house

A banyan tree grows beside a house. One of its branches extends over the house. An aerial root drops onto the roof, and crawls over the side of the house. Once it touches down on the ground, its growth accelerates. The aerial root thickens, spreads, and strangles the house.

Eventually the house is abandoned. The house collapses, leaving the banyan standing over the collapsed house.

A real estate developer identifies a building with many apartments. It buys an apartment in the building. It buys another one, and another one, and another one, ... Eventually the last surviving owner gives up and sells out. The real estate developer tears down the house.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Cai Yuan Pei (蔡元培)

Someone was showing his respects to the great educator. On Ching Ming Festival (清明節), at Cai’s grave in Aberdeen Chinese Cemetery.

Among his many achievements, he was the president of Beijing University at a critical moment in Chinese history. During the May 4th Movement (五四運動), Cai was very supportive of the students. When some of the students were arrested by the warlord government, he went to negotiate for their release. As educators, we all should have that kind of courage. Sadly, however, not too many of us do.

Cai died in Hong Kong 70 years ago. He really did not have strong ties to Hong Kong. Yet he is still being remembered.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Real Estate Developers and their Cronies

“Are you here to see the model homes?”
“Would you like to see some model homes?”
“Please come to see the model homes.”
“Come on. Just take the pamphlet.”
“Take it.”
“This is a new estate. Very desirable. Come and take a look.”

While one real estate developer is tearing down a whole fishing village in Ma Wan Island, another is trying to create a buying frenzy for a new housing estate in the New Territories - which is being touted as the center of Hong Kong.

Walking from the train station in Hung Hom to the plaza directly opposite - less than 100 meters away - I was approached by no less than 15 real estate agents, beseeching me to visit the showrooms. Some were thrusting pamphlets into your hands, others were blocking your way and refusing to let you go until you agree to let them take you to the showrooms.

This is a nuisance, bordering on harassment. The government does nothing to stop them, however. Yet when a lone ice-cream vendor tried to sell ice-cream from a cart near the Tsim Sha Tsui Ferry, he was prosecuted. Where is the justice in this behaviour of our government?

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Abandoned Village at Ma Wan (馬灣) - the people

Walking through the streets of Ma Wan Village in a misty rain, there was a strong sense of a haunting, foreboding sense of doom. There were probably 50+ houses there, most of which have been abandoned.

Some were reduced to empty shells already, the roofs having fallen through. Some have been taken over by the roots of banyans.

There were some houses built on stilts, just like those in Tai O, although in a much smaller scale. There were some people still living in one of those houses.

The Tin Hau Temple was still in good shape. In fact, it was clear someone was still worshipping there, and maintaining it well. A big ventilator was installed to remove the smoke generated by the burning incense. The place was clean.

A dragon boat, under covers, was kept in the square in front of the Tin Hau Temple. Another was floating in the bay. A few people were fishing in the rain.

A few families were still living there, watching TV, boiling water, making shrimp paste.

All the stores, restaurants, etc., were closed down, however. There were nothing to eat, unless you consider shrimp paste food.

Two dogs were guarding one of the floating fishing farms. They don’t look abandoned, yet.

Is it really necessary to destroy the village? Surely there must be some way to allow some of the fishermen to retain their way of life?

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Abandoned Village at Ma Wan (馬灣)

We went to the abandoned Ma Wan Village on Ms Wan Island yesterday. This is the island that make up half the name of the Tsing Ma Bridge (青馬大橋) - because the bridge links the west side of Tsing Yi Island to the east side of Ma Wan Island.

The village itself is on the west side of the island. It is directly opposite from, and truly in the shadow of the Kap Shui Mun Bridge (汲水門大橋), which links the west side of Ma Wa Island to the east side of Lantau Island.

The village was abandoned not because it has become undesirable. In fact, it is the opposite - the location has become too desirable. A big developer has already developed a very nice housing estate on the east side of the island, and a theme park. It has now bought up the whole village and is moving all the villagers to the east side of the island, where it has built a new village for them.

Other than a few families, the village has been completely abandoned. Many houses have been taken over by aggressive banyan trees. Soon, I suppose, the whole village will be obliterated, and another real estate project will take over.

Such is the story of Hong Kong - the old making way for the new. This represents progress for many people. But it is really? And does it have to happen in this manner?