Confessions of a researchaholic

August 25, 2010

The man who loved China

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 9:13 pm
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I am not interested in biography, but I approached this book due to the Needham question: why China was taken over by the west in science and technology around 1500 AD after the amazing advances in earlier times? I was hoping that this book will provide answers, even though I never realistically expected that since this is a question about history, and thus can never be verified scientifically.

Well, I was right about that, as obviously nobody has ever managed to answer the Needham question. But that does not really bother me for several reasons.

First, I, like many others who have been through both Chinese and American style educations, know the main reasons more or less, even though none of us can rigorously prove anything. But answering a historical question is not really the point. The point is to find remedies and solutions. That, fortunately, I, just like many others, already know how to do practically, as evident from our achievements in modern scientific and technological activities.

Second, as pointed out in the book, the Needham question might be moot anyway, as China seems to have regained its rigor and creativity. But I cannot fully agree with this point; I agree that China has been improving, but it still has work to do to catch up with the American level creativity. Even from the young Chinese students I am collaborating today I can still see a lot of old problems that probably have been accumulated through hundreds if not thousands years of bad cultural impacts. But this is obviously fixable at least in an individual level; the million dollar question is whether it is also possible in a large national or even ethnic wise scale.

The funny thing is that the Needham question was not formally addressed until at the epilogue of the book. So the book is really testing my patience. Fortunately, the main part of the book, essentially the biography of Joseph Needham, turns out to be a fascinating read.

I recommend this book to anyone, especially (ethnic) Chinese working in the field of science and technology.

September 26, 2009

ACM multi-media acceptance rate

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 11:24 am
Tags: ,

I was browsing the MM papers and found the following statistics very amusing. (See here for the original source.) Notice the unusually low submission (and high acceptance) rate in 2009. What is causing this? A natural explanation is that the recession prevented many people from attending (and thus submitting) to a conference held in a relative remote place like Beijing. Anyone else has better ideas?

MM: Papers Acceptance Statistics
Year Submitted Accepted Rate
2009 32 22 69%
2008 308 56 18%
2007 298 57 19%
2006 292 48 16%
2005 312 49 16%
2004 331 55 17%
2003 255 43 17%
2002 330 46 14%
2001 61 18 30%
1997 142 40 28%

June 4, 2009

Mysterious phone calls

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 5:12 pm
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I almost never pick up phones, especially calls from unknown sources. But for 3 consecutive days I got missed calls from the same number. The persistence of the caller impressed me, so I looked up the number online; it is registered under a “debt collection, judgment recovery, and private investigation” company.

To my memory, I have never hired a private detective, never borrowed from loan sharks, have no mistress, and have not gotten into a fight since high school, so I became really curious on why kind of business they have for me. So I called them back. After scrambling through their files, they told me they are trying to collect debt from someone else who once owned my current phone number.

When I come home and find a black jacketed guy waiting in my living room, I wonder if he would prefer tea or coffee.

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