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“It suddenly struck me that that tiny pea, pretty and blue, was the Earth. I put up my thumb and shut one eye, and my thumb blotted out the planet Earth. I didn't feel like a giant. I felt very, very small.” – Neil Armstrong (1930-2012)

Fresh Reads from the Science 'o sphere!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Dr Horrible: PhD In Horribleness

Fresh Brainz is proud to bring to you: "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog", a brilliant, twisted yet touching made-for-internet musical comedy produced by acclaimed American writer Joss Whedon.

It's about a wannabe evil genius who yearns for greatness, a kind-hearted girl he meets at the laundromat, and an annoying superhero who is constantly kicking his ass.

I know it sounds like a stupid plot, but trust me there's more than meets the eye. It was initially available for free at the Dr. Horrible website from July 15-20, and then available as a paid download at Apple iTunes.

Now it's free again - for a limited time only.

Don't miss it!


Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog

Starring: Neil Patrick Harris, Nathan Fillion and Felicia Day.

Running time: 42 min 25 seconds

More viewing options (full screen, high res) at

Pipette tip to ERV

Would you like to know more?

- Dr. Horrible website
- Dr. Horrible official fan site
- Captain Hammer comics

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Virgin, Blonde, Spaceship

On Monday, maverick American aircraft designer Burt Rutan and British über-business king Richard Branson unveiled their shiny new White Knight Two mothership.

This is the vehicle which will carry the first ever commercial passenger spacecraft, SpaceShipTwo, under its central wing section. The mothership is designed to lift SpaceShipTwo to its launch altitude of 50,000 feet.

The spacecraft will then be released, firing its own rocket engines and climbing to the height of 100 km - just above the internationally recognized boundary of space.

Some news agencies have reported that SpaceShipTwo will reach "low-Earth orbit" - which is not technically correct because the vehicle can only attain sub-orbital speeds of about 4,200 kilometres per hour.

In order to hit low Earth orbit at 100 km, a vehicle needs to reach speeds of about 28,000 km/h. Otherwise, the vehicle cannot make one complete orbit around the Earth.

Geeky details aside, I think that White Knight Two is an interesting design, though it has a more conventional appearance than the original White Knight.

I should also mention that White Knight Two is a marvel in its own right - the 43-metre wingspan four-turbofan vehicle is currently the largest all-carbon-composite aircraft in the world.

However, what really caught my eye is this spanking new Virgin Galactic logo emblazoned on its nose ...

Designed to be reminiscent of the art-deco era, the spacegirl looks very... blonde.

And she doesn't seem to be wearing much.

Totally unlike an old-timer's vision of what a spacegirl ought to look like...

Who looks far more... brunette.

Virgin Galactic has such a sexy logo (contrast it with Virgin Atlantic or Virgin Blue) that it makes me really suspicious.

As you know, Singapore Airlines has officially banned passengers from engaging in "inappropriate activity" aboard their spacious new A380 superjumbos.

Luckily, that's not the end of the world.

Perhaps Richard Branson - a notable member of the Mile High Club himself - is contemplating a wee bit more than the amazing scenery and the thrill of weightlessness in his spaceships?

A new avenue for a truly out-of-this-world experience?

And a new club? The "62-Mile High Club" or maybe the "Zero-G Club"?

I think that an exciting era of space tourism has come.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Waves And Curves

Just went to the Henderson Waves pedestrian bridge last evening for a touch of photo opportunities and some exercise.

I should say that it's a fair bit of exercise - more than I expected!

Here's the Henderson Waves bridge, connecting Telok Blangah Hill on the left with Mount Faber on the right.

From this vantage point, the bridge looks tall and spindly - not particularly impressive.

More on this later.

The photo was taken halfway up a steep set of stairs that go up the Mount Faber side. You can also access the bridge via Telok Blangah Green on the other side.

Hey, did you know that it's the highest pedestrian bridge in Singapore? At 36 metres (or about 12 floors) above street level, it is certainly high enough to instill a fear of heights.

Luckily for you, I'm merely agoraphobic, not acrophobic.

So up we go!


I took this zoom photo to show you the underside of the bridge.

Later when I walked on the bridge itself, I noticed that wooden boardwalk has many small gaps in it - you can see through the gaps all the way down!

Indeed, the bridge bottom is supported by many (metal?) ribs with gaps between them.

So if you drop a coin on the bridge... it could roll into the gaps between the wooden planks and fall twelve stories to the ground below.

Hang on to your loose change!

And here we are at the start (foot? shoulder? neck?) of the bridge.

As the titular sign indicates, this is the Henderson Waves.

I love the word "titular" - it totally sounds as if it means something else.

It's my favourite word of the English language.

This being Singapore, we are immediately confronted with a warning sign.

Let's see - no spinny-rolly things... push your bike across... and no fire.

Duh, of course no fire. Wood and fire don't get along so well.

Who would be so stoopid as to put fire in a wooden structure?

I think I just pissed off everyone who live in cold countries.

So this is how the Waves look like from the Mount Faber side. The bridge is not actually level - it gradually rises upwards toward Telok Blangah Hill.

I think that this is the ideal spot where the bridge looks the most photogenic.

The curvy decorative feature was designed using some mathematical formula (light diffraction perhaps?) to generate a series of three waves, the crest in the middle being the tallest crest (primary maxima?).

Some people say that it looks like a huge snake undulating across the bridge.

To me, the middle crest bears an uncanny resemblance to the voluptuous bottom of a sexy woman.

Don't know what I mean?

Simply turn your head 90 degrees to the right and imagine the "waist" of a woman where the curve meets the v-notched pillar.

See? This guy knows what I'm talking about.

Since it was a Saturday, there were many families strolling on the bridge - here are two kids trying to run up a curved side of the boardwalk.

If you want to take pristine architectural shots of the Henderson Waves without people blocking the view, it's best not to go on a weekend.

Having said that - pedestrian bridges are meant for pedestrians...

Unlike most other pedestrian bridges, this one doesn't come equipped with a roof, so you'll get a nice "open skies" feeling while walking on it.

The downside is that there is little protection from the elements - the "curves" contain seats but their open-ribbed structure doesn't really block the sun or the rain.

Here's the middle crest/hump/sexy woman's bottom with three benches inside. You can clearly see the upward incline in this picture.

There are also markings on some wooden floorboards indicating the height of select points on the bridge, accurate to the nearest centimetre.

Oddly, it is expressed as height above sea level, rather than above street level, so the measurements are in the 60+ metres range.

Whichever way the height is measured, there's no doubt that there's plenty of height. Here's the view from bridge looking southwards, where you can clearly see the sea in a distance.

I always feel woozy when taking photos over the edge of some tall structure - even worse when I watch other people suspend their cameras over the edge to take a photo.

Maybe it's just me.

Halfway through the exploration of the bridge, I suddenly heard the roar of fighter jets overhead. Yes, it's that time of the year again - air force F-16s were rehearsing their manoeuvres for the National Day parade.

Actually, the bridge is a nice spot for seeing the aerial display, but I wouldn't personally recommend it because everyone else probably thinks the same way and it can't be fun to be stuck on a bridge with hundreds of other spectators...

Ooh it's getting dark! The lights start to come on as I reach the Telok Blangah side.

Due to the way the bridge itself curves (it is not symmetrical), photos taken from this vantage point isn't as pretty.

As the golden hour approaches, the bridge becomes a more impressive photographic target. Deep blue skies and orange-yellow mood lighting complement each other to result in a satisfying colour combination.

You can also see the gaps between the wooden planks more clearly in this photo as light from below the boardwalk seeps through.

Back to the Mount Faber side, the bridge lighting has blossomed, transforming an inanimate structure of concrete, metal and wood into the semblance of a slinky golden skirt stretched over the ample derrière of a curvaceous belle.

Now you know why I never win any poetry competitions.

Would you like to know more?

- The Southern Ridges (National Parks Singapore)
- Photo Gallery Nine

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Lab Assistant's Song

Lab rats and test-tube washers of the world unite!

Meep? Meep-meep.

Would you like to know more?

Classical Chicken

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Love Your Thermocycler Today!

Mere words cannot describe the flood of emotions I get from seeing this video.

Heh... actors posing as "scientists".

Real scientists don't kiss a PCR machine (or any other lab device), nor do they have any reason to do so.

And their sentiment towards PCR is... to put it mildly... not love.

The only machine anyone should kiss and love is a Love Bot.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Studio Model Photography Two

Just came back from another practice studio photography session and it was a complete disaster.

Somehow my S6500fd simply refused to work with the studio lights - most of the photos were so underexposed that they are practically black.

At first, I used the recommended settings (ISO 100, 1/100 sec, f/11) in manual mode, using forced flash to trigger the studio rig.

To my utter befuddlement, this is how it turned out...

Nice silhouette effect huh?

Actually, this photo is a crock of shit.

The camera did trigger the studio flash, but no matter what I tried, it could not take in the studio lighting at all.

I am guessing that the S6500fd, which is a prosumer, operates differently from a dSLR.

Instead of firing the flash once the shutter opens, I think that my camera actually fires its flash immediately before the shutter closes, thus rendering the studio lights irrelevant.

While other people were happily snapping away and getting accurately exposed photos, I continued to fight with my camera by desperately trying every mode I can think of.

Unfortunately I was still trading one black photo for yet another black photo...

This is the best low ISO photo I can eke out using manual settings.

Can you even barely see a human being in the picture?

Let me try improve it by doing a significant amount of post-processing on the photo...

Ah... slightly better.

So the model is definitely in the picture; it's only her clothing that's barely there.

Anyway, that's a terribly over-enhanced photo. I tried nearly everything on the camera... except slow synchro flash.

Maybe that'll work (yeah right).

Eventually I gave up and used its full-auto mode, which stupidly selects high ISO to capture some barely passable photos.

Suffice to say that the S6500fd is rubbish for studio shoots - go get a real SLR (even any old film one will do better) to make best use of studio lights.

What an exercise in frustration!

Despite being preoccupied with all that camera wrangling - if I recall correctly there was in fact a HOT bikini babe somewhere in that studio.

Just thought that you'd be interested.





I've heard somewhere that all serious sciencey magazines have "swimsuit editions" - just like that Psychology Today magazine that Charlie Sheen was studying in the Hot Shots! movie.

Maybe I should turn this into a regular feature.


Would you like to know more?

Previous model photo sessions:
First studio shoot at PSS
Outdoor shoot at Fort Canning
Indoor shoot at Imaging Expo 2007

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Never-ending Upward Spiral

Have you ever wondered how inflation would sound like... if you could convert it into music?

Via Mind Hacks.

Would you like to know more?

Soaring inflation may cause wage-price spiral in Asia (Channel NewsAsia)
Shepard tone (Wikipedia)

Monday, July 14, 2008

Where Morals Come From: Innate Empathy

Where do our morals come from?

Are they inborn or conditioned by society?

Researchers at the University of Chicago have discovered that children between the ages of 7 and 12 seem naturally inclined to feel empathy for others in pain.

Prof. Jean Decety's team showed animated photos of people experiencing pain, either received accidentally or inflicted intentionally, to a group of 17 subjects comprising 9 girls and 8 boys.

They then used functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) scans to study responses in their brains.

The responses on the scans were similar to those found in studies of adults.

Researchers found that children, like adults, show responses to seeing someone in pain in the same areas of their brains. The research also found additional areas of the brain, those connected with moral reasoning, were activated when youngsters saw somebody intentionally hurt by another individual.

Prof. Decety said: "The programming for empathy is something that is 'hard-wired' into the brains of normal children, and not entirely the product of parental guidance or other nurturing."

He explained that understanding the brain’s role in responding to pain can help researchers understand how brain impairments influence anti-social behavior, such as bullying.

He also noted that: "Although our study did not tap into explicit moral judgment, perceiving an individual intentionally harming another person is likely to elicit the awareness of moral wrongdoing in the observer."

Would you like to know more?

- Original article:
Who caused the pain? An fMRI investigation of empathy and intentionality in children (Decety et al. 2008 Neuropsychologia)
- Press release:
Children are naturally prone to be empathic and moral, University of Chicago study shows

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Pirate Bus

Seen in a bus stop display...

Friday, July 11, 2008

Two Years, Two Tits

Wow! Can you believe that it's been two years already?

They say that one year on the blagosphere is like seven years in meatspace.

Nah, not really. Nobody actually said that. I just made it up.

It certainly feels like a damned long time though.

Let's just say that it wasn't easy to keep going.

So, on this hard-earned 2nd blogiversary, I've decided to keep it low profile.

First and foremost, I would like to thank some of you guys for your encouragement along the way, especially long-time supporters like Glendon and Sivasothi, fellow compatriots at Clearthought Singapore like Angry Doc and Edgar, and fellow Singaporean science blogger Lab Rat.

Of course, a big THANK YOU goes out to all you Fresh Brainz readers as well. I hope that you still find our articles interesting and wacky.

If you have any suggestions, please don't hesitate to leave a comment... help me to help you!

Next, it's time to review some key performance indicators.

What, you don't believe that a one-man-show like Fresh Brainz has KPIs?

Come on, it's shiny Singapore.

Everything has KPIs, even the mop that the sway tor kah auntie use for mopping floors has KPIs.


Fresh Brainz

Number: 17385 (一起森巴舞)

Series: Nexus-7

Type: Basic pleasure model

Incept Date: 11 July 2006

Longevity: 4 years

Total blog posts: 380

Average regular readership (data from 1st week of July): 120

Average daily unique visitors: 300

Click here to compare with first year KPIs.


Based on the latest readership figures, Fresh Brainz might very well be the top English science blog in the Asia-Pacific region! (Ignoring for the moment that 99.999% of all English science blogs hail from North America/Europe)


Finally, as a special gift to all my long-suffering fans, here's something naughty for you - a cute pair of bouncy tits!


Scroll down...

Monday, July 07, 2008

New Science Education And Communication Programme

A few days ago, I received an email from the University of Glasgow about a brand new MSc course in Science Education and Communication which they will be starting up this year.

I know that there is a number of fanatical avid science bloggers among our bloodthirsty esteemed Fresh Brainz readers.

If you love communicating science and are considering a career in this field, why not check out what they have to offer?

Here are the details:


I am writing to tell you about a new postgraduate course in Science Education and Communication at the University of Glasgow that we hope will be of interest to you or your colleagues. Please forward this information as appropriate.

In September 2008, the Interdisciplinary Centre for Research and Teaching in STEM Education at the University of Glasgow in Scotland will launch a new postgraduate programme in science education and communication. The programme covers the communication and teaching of the traditional science disciplines, as well as engineering, mathematics and technology.

The programme, entitled MSc in Inter-Professional Science Education and Communication, will be of particular interest to professional science communicators and science educators (science writers or broadcasters, teachers, university lecturers, etc.). It is also likely to be of benefit to anyone who wishes to communicate science effectively to audiences including scientists, students, representatives of the private and public sector, the media and the general public. The programme has been specifically designed to enhance learners' effectiveness and efficiency in science communication. As suggested by the programme title, it also aims to support learners in developing working relationships with teachers, scientists and other science education and communication professionals.

Please find attached a leaflet providing further information on the programmes, including a web link. Applicants can apply online at the following address:

The teaching team looks forward to receiving your application or enquiries.

Best wishes,

Rebecca Mancy


Dr Rebecca Mancy
BSc (Hons), PhD (Glasgow)
Lecturer in Science and Mathematics Education
Programme Leader, MSc/PGDip/PGCert in Inter-Professional Science Education and Communication (IPSEC)

Direct line: +44 (0) 141 330 8138

Interdisciplinary Centre for Research and Teaching in STEM Education
Faculty of Education
University of Glasgow
11 Eldon Street
Glasgow G3 6NH

The University of Glasgow Charity Number: SC004401

Saturday, July 05, 2008

History Herstory My-stery

The National Museum was restored a while ago but I haven't been there after its reopening. So yesterday I've finally decided to visit the Museum and check out any new stuff it offers.

Like always, the usual disclaimer applies - this is not a history blog, so go to a real history blog (ha ha... like they even exist) for credible no-nonsense historical facts blah blah blah...

I needn't even mention this - after all, you already knew what's coming when you signed up for Fresh Brainz.

Besides, I'm not a historian, and even if I were a historian I'd be a science historian, and even if I were a science historian I'll only be familiar with evolutionary biology, and even if I were a evolutionary biology science historian I'd only have expertise in molecular evolution, and even if...

Specialization - it's a one way trip to irelevant hell.

On with the show!

Once you walk into the museum, the first thing that hits you is this massive 8.5-metre tall upsized version of Michelangelo's famous David sculpture, covered in a red, flowery fabric.

Positioned right at the centre, it looks very prominent.

I mean the whole statue is quite prominent too, but "it" is staring you right in the face!

Entitled "Surrounding David", artist Titarubi had intended to abrogate the aggressiveness of David's masculine form by ensheathing him in feminine aesthetics of beauty, rendering him more androgynous and ambiguous.

I'm not sure if it had the intended effect, but something is definitely not ambiguous.

He's a BIG hit with the ladies!

Women were posing for photos around the statue with their hands in the air, pretending to grab his butt or grab his Mr. Happy (TM).

In contrast, not even one man was seen anywhere near the statue. I suspect an intimidation factor.

I guess it's really hard to emasculate a male form when the most obvious manifestation of his manliness is hanging four metres above your face.

Women absolutely love him.

Even schoolgirls!

Here's a schoolgirl taking a photo of David with her cellphone, mouth agape in awe.

I'll bet you that she's not taking a picture of his face.

Overheard in conversation -

Schoolgirl A: "Wow, so big. He's really sexy. So sexy. Don't you think he's sexy?"

Schoolgirl B: "Sexy. He's sexy. Is that proportionate? Is that proportionate?"

Sorry Titarubi... either modern women really love ambiguous men, or there is nothing ambiguous about a gigantic schlong.

There are two galleries on the second floor next to the central rotunda.

One of these employs enlarged old photographs to highlight various family and social issues. On the back of each portrait is a plasma TV screen that plays a video of a different social theme.

Something sombre and eerie about the lighting in this room...

And here's one of the photos. Notice anything peculiar about this picture?

Two. Wives.

Yes my dears, you are looking at the good old days when a real MAN would go around collecting trophy wives and concubines while conquering mountains, polishing swords and decimating his rivals with an unlimited amount of machine gun bullets.

All in a day's work.

Sadly, not much remains of that glorious age.

Bound by the law, gagged by the state and chained to his cubicle, the only part of the modern man that often goes stiff and throbbin' - is his neck.

The other gallery focuses on food - something close to the hearts of Singaporeans!

(... or so I've often heard. Your humble narrator was quite OK with plain bread or simple sandwiches for many months until he built up enough savings to eat out. Also, there are some things that he values much more than tasty food...)

Here's a lighted rack packed with a multitude of spices used in local cooking.

In the spirit of interactivity, here's a device that allows you to take a whiff at some of the spices on display.

I've never seen a smell machine shaped like this before. You position your nose at the funnel to catch the aroma.

It reads: "Pull ring to smell" which instantly reminds me of a prank that starts with "Pull my finger..."

My favourite smell sample here is lime. It smells pleasant and refreshing. Cinnamon is OK too, but coconut smells a little musty and stale - I'm not sure how fresh the samples are.

Ever since the end of the colonial era, the local population has been itching to get back at their previous European masters.

This is a torture device designed to slowly crush the fingers of a hapless captured Colonial during routine interrogations.

Oops, silly me - it's just an old ice shaver machine used for making that delicious local dessert called Ice Kachang.

Ha Ha Ha...

*shifty eyes*

In addition to mechanical devices, the locals have also crafted a plethora of torture implements used to inflict maximum pain and to prolong the agony of death.

Blunt wooden mallets and branding irons are the main instruments of this approach.

Yikes, looks like I'm wrong again - these are simply moulds used to make delectable local treats such as mooncakes, nyonya kueh and crispy egg rolls.

Really, that's the truth.


Ah, a mobile tutu kueh kiosk. Still a staple at many neighbourhood fairs, the fragrance of the steamed rice and tapioca flour instantly draws people from afar.

I prefer my tutu kueh with coconut filling rather than the ground peanut filling. Ground peanut bits tend to jab into my gums resulting in pain and swelling that can take a whole week to heal.

Next - the distinctive satay fan and grill. I must say I enjoy the taste of satay but not its after-effects. As I get older I seem to be getting more susceptible to a sore throat from salty or oily foods. It's a great dish to share with friends and family, but I wouldn't order it if I was eating out alone.

Want to help the environment? Sometimes you don't need some spanking new technology; these old soft drink bottles point the way.

I remember that many years ago, we had a drink machine in my secondary school that dispensed soft drinks in glass bottles like these. Each drink cost 50 cents.

It was a clunky machine with a fixed bottle opener for you to pop open the bottle yourself. After you've finished the drink, you would return the used bottle (in a plastic rack), which the company would recover, clean and refill with drinks. The reused bottles were so worn down that you can see visible scratches on the brand logos.

Aside from the bottle cap, nothing else is thrown away.

This old-fashioned tiffin tin reflects the silhouette of a fork and spoon, but it also reflects the same spirit of recycling.

At that time, instead of buying take-away food in disposable lunch boxes, people would carry their tiffin tins around for the hawkers to fill up. They would then wash it and use it over and over again.

Another form of recycling was the use of old condensed milk cans to hold coffee or tea. When I was a kid, that was how hot drinks were commonly sold - filled up in old Carnation tins and suspended by raffia strings for the customers to hold so that they won't get scalded.

I know that these forms of recycling may not be practical today, but they reveal a simple truth - in the past people were kinder to the environment, not because of any special love of the environment, but simply because they were too poor to cause much damage.

Today there are people who are so rich that they seem to believe that they can simply disregard the environment or even physical reality. They think that they can buy their way out of every problem.

This is not a good practice because if someone constantly creates big problems for a long period of time, gradually fewer and fewer solutions will be practical until eventually the problems become impossible to solve.

I only have one rule of thumb for helping the environment:

Don't be a consumer. Be a producer.

Down the corridor from the rotunda are two more lifestyle galleries.

One of them is about the history of film and wayang in Singapore. The theatrette showcases excerpts from old local films, mainly scenes from Malay Pontianak-style horror movies in the 1950s-60s.

When I walked behind the screens, I suddenly noticed this large, futuristic contraption.

Is that a phased plasma rifle in the 40-watt range?

No, it's a 1960s-era 35mm film projector.

It says so right there on the serial number plate.

It's amazing how high-tech this old projector looks. The rusty brown colour of the machine, the marks of wear and tear, combined with mood lighting makes it look like some robot weapon of the 24th century.

Indeed, I believe that much of the inspiration for futuristic designs actually come from the past (eg. the lightsaber in Star Wars).

What was old is new again.

Arranged neatly in a light box is this selection of old slides used before the feature film and during an interval.

I'm not old enough to have seen movies that had intervals, but I distinctly remember the "Don't waste water" slide shown before the movies as recently as the 1980s.

Also note the jewellery advertisement on the upper left.

Just one slide. Isn't it so quaint?

Nowadays, the pre-feature advertisements are so sophisticated that they may contain more special effects than the movie itself!

On the other side of the corridor is a gallery that mainly focuses on the evolution of ladies fashion in Singapore.

This is an old Singer sewing machine that uses a foot pedal to drive the sewing mechanism. My grandmother used to have one of these, though I rarely saw her use it.

Singer sewing machines have a certain smell, due to the lubricating oil used to keep it operating smoothly.

I still have an old bottle of Singer oil, now used for lubricating everything but sewing machines.

Erm... I mean nearly everything. Sometimes you need other types of lubricants.

This 60s-era miniskirt reminds me of a documentary about a fashion model (I think it was Twiggy) during that time period. Due to the limitations of cameras of that time, models had to "freeze" for the photographer when they made their ideal pose so that there won't be a blurred photo.

It's so bizarre seeing a person move naturally and then abruptly stop for the camera.

Together with the brightly coloured clothes or big printed spots and patterns, the entire fashion shoot looked quite comical.

Just to show you that 60s psychedelic fashion also permeated the local culture, here's a traditional cheongsam made with decidedly non-traditional printed fabrics.

It could be quite sexy - that depends largely on the wearer.

And now - time to enter the Singapore History Gallery and learn more about our nation's past.

47 Second History - Big history questions answered in bite-sized chunks!

Time to review some history!

*tick tick tick tick...*

To start at the very beginning: this is the mysterious Singapore Stone, left behind by the earliest inhabitants of the island.

It's at least 800 years old and contains an inscription in a lost language that no one can read today.

Lost language! How cool is that???

Can you imagine a once flourishing language that has completely gone extinct? I guess that if you really want to preserve the cultural history of your society, you should translate it into as many common languages as possible and keep copies of it in as many countries as possible.

Take more pictures and videos!

Inscribe language ciphers into modern buildings!

Oh and make more friends. Human societies seem disturbingly responsible for the disappearance of other human societies.

At the entrance, each visitor is provided with a Companion - a portable multimedia device that allows visitors to choose the details that they want to know. You need to key in an area code or object code into the machine in order to hear a description about the exhibits.

The layout of the gallery is divided into two potential paths: an "events" path describing the major characters and events that shaped Singapore, and a "personal" path that tells the story from the perspective of "ordinary" people.

I say "ordinary" with quotation marks because it seems to me that some of these characters are well-known and high-ranking members of society.

Personally, this "Choose Your Own Adventure" approach didn't work for me since I keep backtracking and switching paths because I want to know what happens on the "other side".

It gets hectic when I try to keep track of all these disjointed stories.

If you want a linear, simplified review of Singapore's history with lively dioramas and wax models of key figures, then the Images of Singapore attraction in Sentosa would be a better choice.

On the other hand, if you want to go into more details, understand the nuances behind the events and view the actual historical artifacts themselves, then the Singapore History Gallery would be the place for you.

This is a mockup of an opium den. Like I said earlier, the gallery doesn't use any models of people; instead, actual artifacts, photographs and mood lighting help to recreate the atmosphere of a real opium den.

I put up this photo because I would like to emphasize the fact that I may not agree with everything that the government does, but I certainly agree with their strong policies against drug abuse and drug trafficking. I believe that we should learn from the lessons of history and never again be conned by anyone who peddles addictive "recreational" drugs.

There is no shame in lacking the willpower to quit an addictive substance, but it is lamentable to lack the wisdom to avoid it in the first place.

Not sure about the historical significance of this tailor shop, but mannequins and mood lighting invoke a very eerie feeling, almost like the scenes in the Silent Hill series of horror games.

It probably isn't an intended effect here, but later I'll show you another place where lighting is used for dramatic effect.

I like film-noir style machinery - this is a Typex coding machine used by the police in Singapore in the 1930s. It is a rotor cipher machine similar to the German Enigma.

It must have looked impressive in its day, but through my pair of modern eyes it just looks like a huge typewriter with two oversized Mickey Mouse ears.

The placement of historical items in the gallery is quite artistic.

Here is a wall of bicycles in the 2nd World War section. I presume that it represents the rapid advancement of the Japanese army, which used bicycles and tanks to increase their mobility during the invasion of Malaya.

I say "presume" because there is no description of the installation on the actual location: the exhibition is completely reliant on the Companion system, such that historical artifacts only have a numbered label to identify them.

To find out anything about the exhibit at all, you MUST key in the object code and read it off your Companion machine. When I took the above picture, I haven't figured that out yet, so I missed the information.

I think it would be better to have just a short description on site, so that the visitors can quickly scan the area and decide if they they want to know more about it.

Something like "123. Japanese Army bicycles" would be enough.

Likewise, only a number marks this object here which looks like a machine gun but could very well be part of something else.

Luckily, there's Wikipedia to help save the day. This is indeed part of a machine gun - the Japanese Type 1 heavy machine gun.

I put up this picture to stress one important point: the imperial Japanese military was superb at attacking but much weaker at defending.

A gung-ho never-say-die spirit might exact some spectacular initial gains; however, gradually fundamentals such as good training, nuanced administrative skills and basic human decency will play an increasingly important role.

To me, the most objectionable aspect of the Japanese invasion force was not their ferocity in battle or their insatiable ambitions - it was their persistent brutality and inhumane treatment of the people who have already surrendered to them.

When you apparently have absolute control over the lives of your captives - it is prudent to give them some breathing room.

Desperate people have very little to lose. Mistreat them at your own peril.

As a symbolic representation of the Japanese occupation years, the official "events" path on the right is bright and wide, whereas the "personal" path on the left is dark and narrow.

I believe this is done to convey the message that although officially Singapore had been renamed the "Light of the South"by the Japanese military, it was in reality the darkest period in Singapore history.

Both paths are long and winding, such that visitors cannot immediately see where the path would end. The metaphorical meaning of this is obvious.

Ah, what a masterful use of symbols!

Finally, the post-war section of the gallery.

I'd like to highlight just two interesting objects.

First, this Khong Guan biscuit tin. I've been eating these biscuits since I was very young. However, I have always seen them packed in a rectangular tin like this.

Feels so odd to know that the earliest biscuit tins looked more like metal buckets... with a picture of some celebrity on top!

Incredibly, the assortment of biscuits seem to have remained the same all these years.

Second, this Rediffusion set.

Long before cable television existed, "cable radio" was King.

Old uncles would sit in the coffeeshop with their favourite cuppa and listen to the programmes on a Rediffusion set like this one, which is really just a simple speaker box that the coffeeshop boss would usually install in a high place.

It came with a simple remote control that you can see in the above picture, to switch between two stations and to adjust the volume.

When I was a kid, sets like these were already in decline. I have no first hand experience using one of these, but this blogger here has fond memories of his Rediffusion set.

*tick tick tick... DING!*

Was that 47 seconds? Man you read fast!

You are thinking: "What kind of a crap historical review is this? None of the key figures in Singapore's history was named, there is no logical flow whatsoever, only one major event was briefly discussed, and there wasn't a single specific date about anything at all!"

Dude, chill.

This blog post isn't a review of the entire history of Singapore.

It's a review of my visit to the National Museum.

Told you that specialization is a bitch.