Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Six Degrees of Separation


The Six Degrees of Separation theory, also known as the Small World Phenomenon, contends that all people in the world are connected together through a chain of no more than six people. The theory is that there are only six degrees (or levels) of separation between you and everyone else in the world. This is the idea that everyone in the world can be reached through a short chain of social acquaintances. In other words, everyone in the world is separated from anyone else by no more than six degrees of separation, or simply speaking, six acquaintances or friend. A degree of separation is defined as an acquaintance or friend who separates you from someone else. As such, there is zero degree of separation between you and your immediate friends or acquaintances.


In 1967, the Harvard Social Psychologist Stanley Milgram sent out roughly 300 letters to randomly selected people in Omaha, Nebraska with the instruction to get the letter to a single "target" person in Boston using only personal contacts.

Milgram gave each "sender" some information about the target including name, location, and occupation, so that if the sender did not know the target, and it was extremely unlikely that they would, they could send the letter to someone whom they did know who they thought would be "closer" to the target. This began a chain of senders, with each member of the chain attempting to zero in on the target by sending the letter to someone else, may these people be a friend, a family member, a business associate, or a casual acquaintance.

Milgram's surprising finding was that for the 60 chains that eventually reached the target, the average number of steps in a chain was around six, a result that has entered folklore as the phrase "six degrees of separation."

While Milgram's first experiment suggests it is, other experiments have been less conclusive, and no experiment has been done to test the theory on a global scale.


We assume that a person only knows 50 other persons, and each of these 50 persons in turn know another 50 non-redundant persons (this assumption eradicates the possibility of duplication of persons with the first person). In this case, each of the 50 persons would then know another 50 non-redundant persons and so on up to six degrees.

This works out to be:
50x 50 x 50 x 50 x 50 x 50 = 15.63 x 1010 or about 15 to 16 billion persons!

If the current entire population of the whole world is only about 6 to 7 billion persons, then this computation would show that six degrees of separation is enough to cover the world's population.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

CERK Radio 40Mhz - Fever

By the Nightcrawler Lucien Lacroix

They say the ages of man are denial, awareness and acceptance. A young man believes he will live forever. A middle age man knows he will not. And an old man is ready. What then of those taken out of sequence? How to prepare them for the bitter end? A man who knows he will not die is a young man. He is kept young by the knowledge that death shall have no dominion. There's nothing so hard as watching that die.

Friday, October 08, 2004

What the Modern Woman Wants

By Amanda Chong Wei-Zhen

The old woman sat in the backseat of the magenta convertible as it careened down the highway, clutching tightly to the plastic bag on Her lap, afraid it may be kidnapped by the wind. She was not used to such speed, with trembling hands she pulled the seatbelt tighter but was careful not to touch the patent leather seats with her callused fingers, her daughter had warned her not to dirty it, 'Fingerprints show very clearly on white, Ma.'

Her daughter, Bee Choo, was driving and talking on her sleek silver mobile phone using big words the old woman could barely understand. 'Finance' 'Liquidation' 'Assets' 'Investments'... Her voice was crisp and important and had an unfamiliar lilt to it. Her Bee Choo sounded like one of those foreign girls on television. She was speaking in an American accent.

The old lady clucked her tongue in disapproval. 'I absolutely cannot have this. We have to sell!' Her daughter exclaimed agitatedly as she stepped on the accelerator; her perfectly manicured fingernails gripping onto the steering wheel in irritation. 'I can't DEAL with this anymore!' she yelled as she clicked the phone shut and hurled it angrily toward the backseat.

The mobile phone hit the old woman on the forehead and nestled soundlessly into her lap. She calmly picked it up and handed it to her daughter.

'Sorry, Ma,' she said, losing the American pretence and switching to Mandarin. 'I have a big client in America. There have been a lot of problems.'

The old lady nodded knowingly. Her daughter was big and important.

Bee Choo stared at her mother from the rear view window, wondering what she was thinking. Her mother's wrinkled countenance always carried the same cryptic look.

The phone began to ring again, an artificially cheerful digital tune, which broke the awkward silence.

'Hello, Beatrice! Yes, this is Elaine.' Elaine. The old woman cringed. I didn't name her Elaine. She remembered her daughter telling her, how An English name was very important for 'networking'. Chinese ones being easily forgotten.

'Oh no, I can't see you for lunch today. I have to take the ancient relic to the temple for her weird daily prayer ritual.' Ancient Relic. The old woman understood perfectly it was referring to her. Her daughter always assumed that her mother's silence meant she did not comprehend.

'Yes, I know! My car seats will be reeking of joss sticks!

'The old woman pursed her lips tightly, her hands gripping her plastic bag in defence.

The car curved smoothly into the temple courtyard. It looked almost garish next to the dull sheen of the ageing temple's roof. The old woman got out of the back seat, and made her unhurried way to the main hall.

Her daughter stepped out of the car in her business suit and stilettos and reapplied her lipstick as she made her brisk way to her mother's side.

'Ma, I'll wait outside. I have an important phone call to make,' she said, not bothering to hide her disgust at the pungent fumes of incense.

The old lady hobbled into the temple hall and lit a joss stick, she knelt down solemnly and whispered her now familiar daily prayer to the Gods.

Thank you God of the Sky, you have given my daughter luck all these years. Everything I prayed for, you have given her. She has everything a young woman in this world could possibly want. She has a big house with a swimming pool, a maid to help her, as she is too clumsy to sew or cook.

Her love life has been blessed; she is engaged to a rich and handsome angmoh man. Her company is now the top financial firm and even men listen to what she says. She lives the perfect life. You have given her everything except happiness. I ask that the gods be merciful to her even if she has lost her roots while reaping the harvest of success.

What you see is not true, she is a filial daughter to me. She gives me a room in her big house and provides well for me. She is rude to me only because I affect her happiness. A young woman does not want to be hindered by her old mother. It is my fault.The old lady prayed so hard that tears welled up in her eyes. Finally, with her head bowed in reverence she planted the half-burnt joss stick into an urn of smouldering ashes.

She bowed once more.

The old woman had been praying for her daughter for thirty-two years. When her stomach was round like a melon, she came to the temple and prayed that it was a son.

Then the time was ripe and the baby slipped out of her womb, bawling and adorable with fat thighs and pink cheeks, but unmistakably, a girl. Her husband had kicked and punched her for producing a useless baby who could not work or carry the family name.

Still, the woman returned to the temple with her new-born girl tied to her waist in a sarong and prayed that her daughter would grow up and have everything she ever wanted. Her husband left her and she prayed That her daughter would never have to depend on a man.

She prayed every day that her daughter would be a great woman, the woman that she, meek and uneducated, could never become. A woman with nengkan; the ability to do anything she set her mind to. A woman who Commanded respect in the hearts of men. When she opened her mouth to speak, precious pearls would fall out and men would listen.

She will not be like me, the woman prayed as she watched her daughter grow up and drift away from her, speaking a language she scarcely understood. She watched her daughter transform from a quiet girl, to one who openly defied her, calling her laotu; old-fashioned. She wanted her mother to be 'modern', a word so new there was no Chinese word for it.

Now her daughter was too clever for her and the old woman wondered why she had prayed like that. The gods had been faithful to her persistent prayer, but the wealth and success that poured forth so richly had buried the girl's roots and now she stood, faceless, with no identity, bound to the soil of her ancestors by only a string of origami banknotes.

Her daughter had forgotten her mother's values. Her wants were so ephemeral; that of a modern woman. Power, Wealth, access to the best fashion boutiques, and yet her daughter had not found true happiness.

The old woman knew that you could find happiness with much less. When her daughter left the earth everything she had would count for nothing. People would look to her legacy and say that she was a great woman, but she would be forgotten once the wind blows over, like the ashes of burnt paper convertibles and mansions.

The old woman wished she could go back and erase all her big hopes and prayers for her daughter; now she had only one want: That her daughter be happy.

She looked out of the temple gate. She saw her daughter speaking on the phone, her brow furrowed with anger and worry. Being at the top is not good, the woman thought, there is only one way to go from there - down.

The old woman carefully unfolded the plastic bag and spread out a packet of beehoon in front of the altar.

Her daughter often mocked her for worshipping porcelain Gods. How could she pray to them so faithfully and expect pieces of ceramic to fly to Her aid? But her daughter had her own gods too, idols of wealth, success and power that she was enslaved to and worshipped every day of her life.

Every day was a quest for the idols, and the idols she worshipped counted for nothing in eternity. All the wants her daughter had would slowly suck the life out of her and leave her, an empty soulless shell at the altar.

The old lady watched her joss tick. The dull heat had left a teetering grey stem that was on the danger of collapsing.

Modern woman nowadays, the old lady sighed in resignation, as she bowed to the east one final time to end her ritual. Modern woman nowadays want so much that they lose their souls and wonder why they cannot find it.

Her joss stick disintegrated into a soft grey powder.

She met her daughter outside the temple, the same look of worry and frustration was etched on her daughter's face. An empty expression, as if she was ploughing through the soil of her wants looking for the one thing that would sow the seeds of happiness.

They climbed into the convertible in silence and her daughter drove along the highway, this time not as fast as she had done before.

'Ma,' Bee Choo finally said. 'I don't know how to put this. Mark and I have been talking about it and we plan to move out of the big house. The property market is good now, and we managed to get a buyer willing to pay seven million for it. We decided we'd prefer a cosier penthouse apartment instead. We found a perfect one in Orchard Road. Once we move in to our apartment we plan to get rid of the maid, so we can have more space to ourselves...'

The old woman nodded knowingly.

Bee Choo swallowed hard. 'We'd get someone to come in to do the housework and we can eat out-but once the maid is gone, there won't be anyone to look after you. You will be awfully lonely at home and, besides that, the apartment is rather small. There won't be space. We thought about it for a long time, and we decided the best thing for you is if you moved to a Home. There's one near Hougang-it's a Christian home, a very nice one.'

The old woman did not raise an eyebrow. 'I've been there, the matron is willing to take you in. It's beautiful with gardens and lots of old people to keep you company! I hardly have time for you, you'd be happier there.' 'You'd be happier there, really.' Her daughter repeated as if to affirm herself.

This time the old woman had no plastic bag of food offerings to cling tightly to; she bit her lip and fastened her seat belt, as if it would protect her from a daughter who did not want her anymore. She sunk deep into the leather seat, letting her shoulders sag, and her fingers trace the white seat.

'Ma?' her daughter asked, searching the rear view window for her mother. 'Is everything okay?'

What had to be done, had to be done. 'Yes,' she said firmly, louder than she intended, 'if it will make you happy,' she added more quietly.

'It's for you, Ma! You'll be happier there. You can move there tomorrow, I already got the maid to pack your things.' Elaine said triumphantly, mentally ticking yet another item off her agenda. 'I knew everything would be fine.

'Elaine smiled widely; she felt liberated. Perhaps getting rid of her mother would make her happier. She had thought about it. It seemed the only hindrance in her pursuit of happiness. She was happy now. She had everything a modern woman ever wanted; Money, Status, Career, Love, Power and now, Freedom, without her mother and her old-fashioned ways to weigh her down...

Yes, she was free. Her phone buzzed urgently, she picked it up and read the message, still beaming from ear to ear. 'Stocks 10% increase!'

Yes, things were definitely beginning to look up for her...and while searching for the meaning of life in the luminance of her hand phone screen, the old woman in the backseat became invisible, and she did not see the tears.

N.B. I understand that this wonderful piece of literary work was written by a 15 years old Singaporean. With this literature, she competed against contestants of between 16 to 18 years olds in an international writing contest that drew 5,300 entries from 52 countries.

And she won the top prize.

(And i learned from the young lady a new literary technique of breaking key single sentences into different paragraphs for emphasis which she has used to great effect)

Monday, September 06, 2004

Crime Scene Investigation - Asphyxiation (electrical shock)

Death by asphyxiation can occur as a result of electrical shock. The shock stops the action of the heart, and if the brain is deprived of oxygen, it will cease its function. The effect of electrical shock on a person depends on many things. It depends on their health. It also depends on their location and how wet or dry it is. In addition, it also depends on the amount of voltage they receive, how long they are in contact with this voltage, and the after-effects of the shock.

Electrical shocks often leave marks, although it is possible for a body not to show any outer or inner damage. Usually electrical shocks leave entrance and exit wounds on the body. These generally have a grey or white puckered look. Severe burns from higher voltage, called Joule burns, are often brown and take the form of the thing that caused the fatal contact. Lightning deaths leave a characteristic mark that resembles a fern leaf. High-voltage shocks may leave marks where metal objects have melted on the person. And there may be extensive fractures of the bones.

When one investigates a death by electrical shock, one needs to check the weather conditions, the electrical appliances the victim may have been using, and the victim's location and activity at the time of death to determine if the death is accidental or not. Deaths from electrical shock are most often accidental. Murder by electrocution is generally rare, but possible.

Friday, August 06, 2004

Crime Scene Investigation - Stockholm Syndrome

The Stockholm Syndrome is an emotional attachment, a bond of interdependence between captive and captor that develops 'when someone threatens your life, deliberates, and doesn't kill you.' (Symonds, 1980) The relief resulting from the removal of the threat of death generates intense feelings of gratitude and fear that combine to make the captive reluctant to display negative feelings toward the captor or terrorist. In fact, former hostages have visited their captors in jail, recommended defense counsel, and even started a defense fund. It is this dynamic, which causes former hostages and abuse survivors to minimize the damage done to them and refuse to cooperate in prosecuting their tormentors. "The victims' need to survive is stronger than his/her impulse to hate the person who has created the dilemma." (Strentz, 1980) The victim comes to see the captor as a 'good guy', even a savior. This condition occurs in response to the four specific conditions as listed below:

1. A person threatens to kill another and is perceived as having the capability to do so;
2. The other cannot escape, so her or his life depends on the threatening person;
3. The threatened person is isolated from outsiders so that the only other perspective available to her or him is that of the threatening person; and
4. The threatening person is perceived as showing some degree of kindness to the one being threatened.

It takes only 3-4 days for the characteristic bond of the Stockholm syndrome to emerge when captor and captive are strangers. After that, as research shows, the duration of captivity is no longer relevant.

The above phenomenon was dubbed "Stockholm Syndrome" by the criminologist Nils Bejerot in relation to an actual bank robbery in 1973 where four Swedes were held captive in a bank vault for six days, during which they became attached to their captors.

On August 23, 1973, Jan Erik "Janne" Olsson, on leave from prison, walked into Kreditbanken at Norrmalmstorg, central Stockholm. Police were called in immediately, two of them went inside, and Olsson opened fire, injuring one policeman. The other was ordered to sit in a chair and "sing something". He started singing "Lonesome Cowboy". Olsson then took 4 people as hostages. (See picture.) He demanded his friend Clark Olofsson to be brought there, along with 3 million Swedish Krona ($360,000 US 2003 value), two guns, bullet-proof vests, helmets and a fast car.

Olofsson was brought in by permission of the government and established a communication link with the police negotiators. One of the hostages, Kristin Ehnemark (not present on the photo), said she was confident with the robbers but feared the police might cause trouble by violent methods (this was the beginning of the Stockholm syndrome). The robbers barricaded the inner main vault together with the hostages. The doors to the vault were closed. The robbers were permitted to have a car to escape but were not allowed to take the hostages with them, if they were to leave.

The robber, Olofsson, called up the Prime Minister Olof Palme and said he would kill the hostages, and took a stranglehold on Elisabeth; she was heard screaming as he hung up.

The next day Olof Palme received another call. This time it was Kristin Ehnmark who said she was very displeased with his attitude, asking him to let the robbers and the hostages leave.

Olofsson walked around in the vault singing Roberta Flack's "Killing me softly".

The drama went on. On August 26, the police drilled a hole into the main vault from the apartment above. This was the hole from which the picture of the hostages and Olofsson was taken. Olsson opened fire and threatened to kill the hostages if any gas attack was attempted. He attached small snare traps to the necks of the hostages which would cause them to strangle themselves in the event of a gas attack. These can be seen on the deposit boxes on the left.

On August 28 the gas was used anyway, and after half an hour the robbers gave up. Nobody was injured physically.

Both Olsson and Olofsson were charged and sentenced to extended imprisonment for the robbery. However Olofsson claimed he didn't help Olsson and was only trying to save the hostages by keeping the situation calm, and at the court of appeals he was freed of any charges. He was later to become a friend with one of the hostages, Kristin Ehnemark, and they meet sometimes, their families becoming friends. Olsson was sentenced to 10 years of prison and has not committed a criminal act since he was released. He got many admiring letters from women who found him attractive. He later got engaged to one of them (not one of the hostages, however, as some state).

The hostages still repeatedly claim they were more frightened of the police than the robbers during their six days of confinement. They clearly identify with their unlawful guardians. This leads to academic interest in the matter.

Clark Olofsson has repeatedly committed armed robberies and acts of violence, both before and after the events in 1973, all since he was 16 years old. He was finally released from prison in 1991, but in 1999 he was arrested in Denmark and was sentenced to another 14 years of prison. He has spent some 24 years in prison.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Auguries of Innocence

By William Blake

To see a world in a grain of sand
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour.
A robin redbreast in a cage
Puts all heaven in a rage.
A dove-house filled with doves and pigeons
Shudders hell through all its regions.
A dog starved at his master's gate
Predicts the ruin of the state.
A horse misused upon the road
Calls to heaven for human blood.
Each outcry of the hunted hare
A fibre from the brain does tear.
A skylark wounded in the wing,
A cherubim does cease to sing.
The game-cock clipped and armed for fight
Does the rising sun affright.
Every wolf's and lion's howl
Raises from hell a human soul.
The wild deer wandering here and there
Keeps the human soul from care.
The lamb misused breeds public strife,
And yet forgives the butcher's knife.
The bat that flits at close of eve
Has left the brain that won't believe.
The owl that calls upon the night
Speaks the unbeliever's fright.
He who shall hurt the little wren
Shall never be beloved by men.
He who the ox to wrath has moved
Shall never be by woman loved.
The wanton boy that kills the fly
Shall feel the spider's enmity.
He who torments the chafer's sprite
Weaves a bower in endless night.
The caterpillar on the leaf
Repeats to thee thy mother's grief.
Kill not the moth nor butterfly,
For the Last Judgment draweth nigh.
He who shall train the horse to war
Shall never pass the polar bar.
The beggar's dog and widow's cat,
Feed them, and thou wilt grow fat.
The gnat that sings his summer's song
Poison gets from Slander's tongue.
The poison of the snake and newt
Is the sweat of Envy's foot.
The poison of the honey-bee
Is the artist's jealousy.
The prince's robes and beggar's rags
Are toadstools on the miser's bags.
A truth that's told with bad intent
Beats all the lies you can invent.
It is right it should be so:
Man was made for joy and woe;
And when this we rightly know
Through the world we safely go.
Joy and woe are woven fine,
A clothing for the soul divine.
Under every grief and pine
Runs a joy with silken twine.
The babe is more than swaddling bands,
Throughout all these human lands;
Tools were made and born were hands,
Every farmer understands.
Every tear from every eye
Becomes a babe in eternity;
This is caught by females bright
And returned to its own delight.
The bleat, the bark, bellow, and roar
Are waves that beat on heaven's shore.
The babe that weeps the rod beneath
Writes Revenge! in realms of death.
The beggar's rags fluttering in air
Does to rags the heavens tear.
The soldier armed with sword and gun
Palsied strikes the summer's sun.
The poor man's farthing is worth more
Than all the gold on Afric's shore.
One mite wrung from the labourer's hands
Shall buy and sell the miser's lands,
Or if protected from on high
Does that whole nation sell and buy.
He who mocks the infant's faith
Shall be mocked in age and death.
He who shall teach the child to doubt
The rotting grave shall ne'er get out.
He who respects the infant's faith
Triumphs over hell and death.
The child's toys and the old man's reasons
Are the fruits of the two seasons.
The questioner who sits so sly
Shall never know how to reply.
He who replies to words of doubt
Doth put the light of knowledge out.
The strongest poison ever known
Came from Caesar's laurel crown.
Nought can deform the human race
Like to the armour's iron brace.
When gold and gems adorn the plough
To peaceful arts shall Envy bow.
A riddle or the cricket's cry
Is to doubt a fit reply.
The emmet's inch and eagle's mile
Make lame philosophy to smile.
He who doubts from what he sees
Will ne'er believe, do what you please.
If the sun and moon should doubt,
They'd immediately go out.
To be in a passion you good may do,
But no good if a passion is in you.
The whore and gambler, by the state
Licensed, build that nation's fate.
The harlot's cry from street to street
Shall weave old England's winding sheet.
The winner's shout, the loser's curse,
Dance before dead England's hearse.
Every night and every morn
Some to misery are born.
Every morn and every night
Some are born to sweet delight.
Some are born to sweet delight,
Some are born to endless night.
We are led to believe a lie
When we see not through the eye
Which was born in a night to perish in a night,
When the soul slept in beams of light.
God appears, and God is light
To those poor souls who dwell in night,
But does a human form display
To those who dwell in realms of day.

Crime Scene Investigation - Asphyxiation (hanging)

Hanging is asphyxiation by strangulation using a line of rope, cord, or similar material to work against the hanging weight of the body. Hanging is most often suicidal. But sometimes it is accidental. It is seldom homicidal, except in cases of lynchings.

A person does not have to be fully suspended to be hung. Hanging may occur if a victim jumps or is pushed from a height while tied by a line to a rafter or a tree limb. If the height is more than just a few feet, the victim's neck may break. But the neck is seldom broken in suicidal or accidental hangings.

At the scene of crime, one must check the beam or rafter over which the line is laid for marks showing the direction of travel of the line. One may want to remove the line for inspection. The hanging line must be checked in a laboratory to learn if it pulled against the weight of the body. The scene must be inspected for signs of a fight and signs of defensive marks or rope burns. However, an unconscious victim may convulse, and in the process knocking over items in the immediate area.

When the body is taken down, the knots must not be untied. The type of knot may give the investigator a lead to follow. One must remove the hanging line from the victim's neck by cutting the line on the side opposite to the knot. Then, a careful inspection of the groove must be make around the neck. A close look at the edges of the groove will often show black and blue marks from minute bleeding. Ruptured blood vessels in the skin mean the victim was alive at the time of the hanging. But the lack of these marks does not necessarily mean the victim was dead at the time of hanging. This, combined with other conditions, could however raise suspicions.

In addition, One must also note the position of the groove as it relates to the location of the knot. The mark of the ligature should agree with the location of the knot. For example, if the knot is in front of the face, the deepest part of the groove should be on the nape of the neck. Anything different suggests homicide.

When a fixed knot is used in hanging, the groove will form an inverted V on the side of the knot. The bruise on the skin in the groove is greatest opposite the knot. It tapers off as it reaches the knot. If a slip knot is used, the groove may be uniform around the neck.

If the victim is nude, suspended before a mirror, or suspended in an unusual manner, or if any of these conditions are combined, one may suspect an accidental hanging from sexual activity. Accidental deaths may occur from autoerotic sexual acts that uses restraints like ropes, cords, chains, and handcuffs. The victim, in trying to reach sexual contentment, uses these items to restrain his or her hands, arms, legs, and neck. When strain on the neck causes unconsciousness or when the victim loses balance during the act, accidents occur. The victims are unable to release themselves because of the binding on their hands, arms, and legs. They may end by hanging themselves. Sometimes, when they use binding material or plastic bags on their faces, they suffocate. A notable feature of this type of death is the presence of female attire and articles on or near a male body. And erotic material is often present. In the past, these deaths were often incorrectly labeled suicides. But they are accidental and they. must be listed as such.

Other accidental hangings differ from autoerotic deaths in the lack of female attire, erotic material, or constrained hands or feet. And accidental hangings often involve infants and young children. Infants can get caught in restraining devices. They can get their clothing caught on things, or they can get their heads caught between crib or fence slots. If they are unable to get themselves free, they may strangle. For no known reason, young children, especially boys, will put nooses around their necks. They too may be strangle to death.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Crime Scene Investigation - Asphyxiation (strangulation)

Strangulation is asphyxiation arising from compression on the neck. It can be done manually or with any ligature like a binder, a rope, a necktie. Strangulation may also be caused by hard blows made to the neck. Punches or chops that are aimed to strike at the throat may cause damage to the larynx, which would be followed by suffocation.

Manual strangulation is a homicide. A person cannot strangle himself with his own bare hands by virtue of the fact that when he loses consciousness from asphyxiation, his hands will relax and his breathing will resume. In manual strangulation, the attacker's fingernails will often make small tell-tale bruises or marks on the neck. However, the marks on the neck will unfortunately not show the direction from which the victim was attacked. In addition, fingernails also vary in size and shape. Another sign of manual strangulation is hemorrhaging in the throat area, and this can normally be seen in an autopsy. Sometimes a fracture of the hyoid bone (a U-shaped bone at the base of the tongue) is also found.

Strangulation by ligature may be homicidal or suicidal. It is a fairly common form of suicide, but it is a rare form of homicide. The ligature often is made from something handy at the scene. Pieces of loose clothing like shirts, neckties, belts and hosehold appliances like electrical cords can often be used. Strangulation by a garrote of rope or wire sometimes is used in homicidal strangulation, but it is not seen very often. Close inspection of the marks left on the skin may show the type of garrote used.

When investigating crime scene involving strangulation, one should normally search the scene and the victim for signs of struggle. One should also obtain fingernail scrapings. In addition, one should check the victim's body for signs of defense wounds as the presence of such wounds may suggest homicide. Finally, one should look for the presence of hesitation marks which hints at attempted suicide by other means before ruling it a homicide.

Crime Scene Investigation - Asphyxiation (General)

Asphyxia is defined as a condition in which insufficient or no oxygen and carbon dioxide are exchanged on a ventilatory basis. In essence, when the body or any vital part of the body is deprived of oxygen, asphyxia occurs.

Death arising from asphyxia alone is most often due to natural or accidental causes. As for natural causes, it is worthwhile to note that many diseases and infections can in fact hinder airways. As for accidental causes, foreign bodies like meat or bone can become trapped in the throat or windpipe, thereby blocking the airways and causing asphyxia in the process. Food particles are often the cause of accidental choking deaths in adults. On the other hand, choking deaths of children are normally derived from small plastic or metal toys in addition to food particles. In addition, pressure on the outside of the chest that restricts breathing can also cause asphyxia. This pressure can occur during cave-ins, building collapses, or traffic accidents.

Inhaling asphyxiants may also cause asphyxia. As the name implies, Asphyxiants are any types of poison which works by depriving human tissues of oxygen. Examples of asphyxiants include chemicals like ammonia, chloroform, carbon monoxide, and carbon dioxide. Sometimes these chemicals are the cause of suicidal or homicidal deaths. Homicide and suicide by asphyxia alone are rare. But in learning the reasons for death by asphyxia, anything suspicious must be pursued through background investigation and autopsy. Only then can the death be ruled accidental or natural.

N.B. Please kindly refer to my future posts under the "Crime Scene Investigation - Asphyxiation" series for further details on issues relating to homicide and suicide by asphyxia.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

CERK Radio 40Mhz - Black Buddha

By the Nightcrawler Lucien Lacroix

Who knows the pain of death better, he who gasps his final breath, or we who must breathe the foul air of his decomposition? Who bears the greater burden, the cold bones of the dead man in his coffin, or the spine of the pallbearer carrying his load? No one knows this burden better than we dear listener, we who have seen so many pass.

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Point of Law - Fruit of the Poisonous Tree

The concept of fruit of the poisonous tree is founded under the criminal law. The doctrine states that any evidence that is discovered due to information found through illegal searches or other unconstitutional means such as forced confession may not be introduced by the prosecution during trial. The theory flows from the analogy that if the tree, being the original illegal activity, is poisoned in the first place, then any fruit that grows from the poisonous tree is therefore tainted with the poison, being the resultant evidence that is derived from the illegal activity.

For example, as part of a coerced admission which was made without reading to a suspect the Miranda Rights (please kindly refer to my previous post "Point of Law - Miranda Rights"), the suspect tells the police the location of the stolen property. Assuming that the police does in fact finds the stolen property in the process, since the admission, being the poisonous tree, cannot be introduced as evidence during trial, the stolen property, being the fruit of the poisonous tree, can neither be introduced as evidence during the trial as well under the doctrine.

Generally, the simplest cases where the dotrine applies involves the exclusion of illegally obtained evidence. For example, an illegal body search of the suspect may yield the stolen property itself. The item, as in the above case the stolen property itself, which the defense is trying to suppress is direct or primary in their relationship to the illegal police action. Therefore, if the police have acted unlawfully, the evidence would then be excluded from trial.

However, in many occasions, the evidence is derivative or secondary in nature. For example, an illegal search may turn up a key to a public locker where the stolen property is being kept, or a coerced confession may reveal the place where a suspect hid the stolen property as mentioned in the above, or an illegal tap of the suspect's phone may reveal the whereabouts of a person willing to testify against the suspect. In such cases, it is necessary to determine whether the derivative evidence is fatally tainted by the initial or primary illegal action.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Random Thoughts - First Principle In Life : Fairness

When i was younger, I used to be of the opinion that i do not need to have any guiding principles by which i follow in an effort not to make a fool of myself during this journey of mine through life. Well, from empirical evidence, i am glad to announce that i was wrong about that presumption of mine as usual, and this probably explains as to why i need to have such guiding principles in the first place. And so, without further ado, i hereby publish my first inaugural principle as follows:

"I used to think it was awful that life was so unfair. Then I thought, wouldn't it be much worse if life were fair, and all the terrible things that happen to us come because we actually deserve them? So, now I take great comfort in the general hostility and unfairness of the universe."
By Marcus Cole, Human Ranger, Babylon 5

N.B. I have no idea whatsoever as to why i was in fact glad that i was wrong, except for the fact that it gave me an opportunity to write some crap which probably nobody but myself would read :)

CERK Radio 40 MHz - Dead of Night

By The Nightcrawler Lucien Lacroix

A ghost is an hallucination of some famous regret, no more. Ghosts are mistakes that we've made. They come not from beyond the pale, but rise up from our gravest doubts about ourselves. Each ill-considered thing that we have done is a ghost that haunts us. If we let it. Regret is for the foolish, the weak, the tormented. Kill it before it bleeds you dry.

Saturday, July 03, 2004






N.B. 昔日的茅芦中虽然地方窄人数少,可是兄弟们都同心协力,携手合作,为了的只是雄心壮志理想,光明未来.今日的豪宅中虽然地方宽人数多,可是兄弟们却勾心斗角,互相残杀,为了的只是个人利益,势力巩固.

N.B. As a follow-on to the above, it is also worthwhile to mention that the Nightcrawler Lucien Lacroix has also once said that nature does not tolerate excesses. If you have too much of something, there will always be someone wanting to take that something away from you. So perhaps you should ask yourself, have your excesses been a blessing or a curse? Please kindly refer to my previous post "CERK Radio 40Mhz - Blood Money" for the exact quotation.

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Point of Law - Probable Cause

The Fourth Amendment to the Bill of Rights of the United States of America gave rise to the term "probable cause". In essence the Fourth Amendment carries 2 clauses. The first clause states that people have a right to be protected from unreasonable searches and seizures, and the second states that no warrant shall issue except upon probable cause.

It is widely acknowledged that the probable cause requirement is, in many ways, more important than the reasonableness clause. Not all searches and seizures require warrants. Examples of which are automobile searches and arrests in a public place. However, the US Supreme Court has interpreted warrantless searches and seizures as unreasonable unless preceded by probable cause. This means that as a general rule, most searches and seizures require probable cause.

Although there is no written definition of the term "probable cause", but generally speaking based on the established rulings from precedence, probable cause is:

(i) where known facts and circumstances, of a reasonably trustworthy nature, are sufficient to justify a man of reasonable caution or prudence in the belief that a crime has been or is being committed;
(ii) what would lead a person of reasonable caution to believe that something connected with a crime is on the premises of a person or on persons themselves; and/or
(iii) the sum total of layers of information and synthesis of what police have heard, know, or observe as trained officers.

Point of Law - Miranda Rights

The principles of Miranda Rights was founded upon the landmark case law of Miranda v. Arizona (1966). The facts of the case was that on 13 March 1963, cash of US$8 was stolen from a bank worker from Phoenix, Arizona. The police suspected and arrested Ernesto Miranda for committing the theft. During the two-hours or so of questioning, Miranda, who was never offered a lawyer, confessed not only to the US$8 theft, but also confessed to the kidnapping and raping of an 18-year-old woman just 11 days earlier. As a result, based largely on his confession, Miranda was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in jail.

Miranda's lawyers appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. On 13 June 1966, the U.S. Supreme Court, in deciding on the case reversed the Arizona Court's decision, and granted Miranda a new trial at which his prior confession could not be admitted as evidence, and thereby established the Miranda Rights of persons accused of crimes.

Although the exact wording of the Miranda Rights statements were not specified in the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling, the respective law enforcement agencies have created a basic set of simple statements that could be read to the suspects prior to any questioning. These statements are as follows:

1. You have the right to remain silent.
The U.S. Supreme Court: "At the outset, if a person in custody is to be subjected to interrogation, he must first be informed in clear and unequivocal terms that he has the right to remain silent."

2. Anything you say can be used against you in a court of law.
The U.S. Supreme Court: "The warning of the right to remain silent must be accompanied by the explanation that anything said can and will be used against the individual in court."

3. You have the right to have an attorney present now and during any future questioning.
The U.S. Supreme Court: "...the right to have counsel present at the interrogation is indispensable to the protection of the Fifth Amendment privilege under the system we delineate today. ... [Accordingly] we hold that an individual held for interrogation must be clearly informed that he has the right to consult with a lawyer and to have the lawyer with him during interrogation under the system for protecting the privilege we delineate today."

4. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to you free of charge if you wish.
The U.S. Supreme Court: "In order fully to apprise a person interrogated of the extent of his rights under this system then, it is necessary to warn him not only that he has the right to consult with an attorney, but also that if he is indigent a lawyer will be appointed to represent him. Without this additional warning, the admonition of the right to consult with counsel would often be understood as meaning only that he can consult with a lawyer if he has one or has the funds to obtain one.

5. If you decide to answer questions now without an attorney present you will still have the right to stop answering at any time until you talk to an attorney
The U.S. Supreme Court: "If the individual states that he wants an attorney, the interrogation must cease until an attorney is present. At that time, the individual must have an opportunity to confer with the attorney and to have him present during any subsequent questioning. If the individual cannot obtain an attorney and he indicates that he wants one before speaking to police, they must respect his decision to remain silent."

The Miranda Rights, however, do not preclude a suspect from being arrested. All the police requires to legally arrest a suspect is probable cause (please kindly refer to the N.B. below), which refers to an adequate reason based on facts and events to believe that the person has in fact committed a crime. The police are however required to read to the suspect his Miranda Rights before any interrogation. Any failure to do so may ultimately cause any subsequent statements to be disregarded in court although the arrest may still be legal and valid. In addition, the police are also allowed to ask the suspect routine questions like name, address, date of birth, and social security number without reading him his Miranda Rights in an effort to establish the suspect's identity. The police can also administer alcohol and drug tests without any prior warning, although the suspect who is being tested may refuse to answer questions during the tests.

Ernesto Miranda was subsequently given a second trial at which his confession was not presented. Despite that, Miranda was again convicted of kidnapping and rape based on the evidence. He was then paroled from prison in 1972 after having served a total of 11 years. In 1976, Miranda, who was then aged 34, was stabbed to death in a fight. The police arrested a suspect who, after ironically choosing to exercise his Miranda Rights of silence, was subsequently released.

N.B. Please kindly refer to my following post "Point of Law - Probable Cause" on a more in-depth discussion on the concept of probable cause.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

CERK Radio 40MHz - Black Wings

By the Nightcrawler Lucien Lacroix

It's Indian legend time, a Native American fairy story for children of all ages.

Legend has it that when the world was young and unfinished, the Great Spirit Father made the mistake of leaving his paints where his children could get them. Raven begged Eagle to paint him as beautiful and grand as the Great Spirit had made Eagle himself. And so he did, or so he tried. But when Raven looked at his reflection in the water, he didn't like what he saw. Raven became angry, he and Eagle fought, and the Great Spirit Father's paints were spilled over Raven and made him all black, black wings, black eyes, black breast. Raven ran into the river and flapped his wings against the current, but the color was indelible. The water wouldn't wash it away. "This is your punishment," said the Great Father, "for interfering with my work. Black you are and black you will stay. You will never come clean."

Not much of a legend at that, is it children? But I rather like the moral.

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Information Please

When I was quite young, my father had one of the first telephones in our neighbourhood. I remember well the polished old case fastened to the wall. The shiny receiver hung on the side of the box. I was too little to reach the telephone, but used to listen with fascination when my mother used to talk to it. Then I discovered that somewhere inside the wonderful device lived an amazing person - her name was "Information Please" and there was nothing she did not know. "Information Please" could supply anybody's number and the correct time.

My first personal experience with this genie-in the-bottle came one day while my mother was visiting a neighbour. Amusing myself at the tool bench in the basement, I whacked my finger with a hammer. The pain was terrible, but there didn't seem to be any reason in crying because there was no one home to give sympathy. I walked around the house sucking my throbbing finger, finally arriving at the stairway.

The telephone! Quickly, I ran for the foot stool in the parlour and dragged it to the landing. Climbing up, I unhooked the receiver in the parlour and held it to my ear.

"Information Please," I said into the mouthpiece just above my head. A click or two and a small clear voice spoke into my ear.


"I hurt my finger..." I wailed into the phone. The tears came readily enough now that I had an audience.

"Isn't your mother home?" came the question. "Nobody's home but me." I blubbered.

"Are you bleeding?" the voice asked. "No," I replied. "I hit my finger with the hammer and it hurts."

"Can you open your icebox?" she asked. I said I could.

"Then chip off a little piece of ice and hold it to your finger," said the voice.

After that, I called "Information Please" for everything. I asked her for help with my geography and she told me where Philadelphia was. She helped me with my math. She told me my pet chipmunk, that I had caught in the park just the day before, would eat fruit and nuts.

Then, there was the time Petey, our pet canary died. I called "Information Please" and told her the sad story. She listened, then said the usual things grown-ups say to soothe a child. But I was unconsoled. I asked her, "Why is it that birds should sing so
beautifully and bring joy to all families, only to end up as a heap of feathers on the bottom of a cage?"

She must have sensed my deep concern, for she said quietly, "Paul, always remember that there are other worlds to sing in."

Somehow I felt better.

Another day I was on the telephone. "Information Please."

"Information," said the now familiar voice. "How do you spell fix?" I asked. All this took place in a small town in the Pacific Northwest.

When I was 9 years old, we moved across the country to Boston. I missed my friend very much.

"Information Please" belonged in that old wooden box back home, and I somehow never thought of trying the tall, shiny new phone that sat on the table in the hall.

As I grew into my teens, the memories of those childhood conversations never really left me. Often, in moments of doubt and perplexity I would recall the serene sense of security I had then. I appreciated now how patient, understanding, and kind she was to
have spent her time on a little boy.

A few years later, on my way west to college, my plane put down in Seattle. I had about half an hour or so between planes. I spent 15 minutes or so on the phone with my sister, who lived there now. Then without thinking what I was doing, I dialled my hometown operator and said, "Information, Please." Miraculously, I heard the small, clear voice I knew so well, "Information."

I hadn't planned this but I heard myself saying, "Could you please tell me how to spell fix?"

There was a long pause. Then came the soft spoken answer, "I guess your finger must have healed by now."

I laughed. "So it's really still you," I said. "I wonder if you have any idea how much you meant to me during that time."

"I wonder", she said, "if you know how much your calls meant to me. I never had any children, and I used to look forward to your calls."

I told her how often I had thought of her over the years and I asked if I could call her again when I came back to visit my sister.

"Please do," she said. "Just ask for Sally." Three months later I was back in Seattle. A different voice answered "Information."

I asked for Sally. "Are you a friend?" She said. "Yes, a very old friend," I answered. "I'm sorry to have to tell you this, she said. Sally had been working part-time the last few years because she was sick. She died five weeks ago."

Before I could hang up she said, "Wait a minute. Did you say your name was Paul?"


"Well, Sally left a message for you. She wrote it down in case you called.

Let me read it to you." The note said, "Tell him I still say there are other worlds to sing in. He'll know what I mean."

I thanked her and hung up. I knew what Sally meant.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Point of Law - The Slippery Slope

The slippery slope argument is a logical fallacy in which a person asserts that some resultant event must inevitably happen from the occurance of a triggering event without any form of argument for the inevitability of the resultant event in question. Generally speaking, the triggering event normally comes in the form of exceptions to a rule, or rules that depend on fine distinctions. The flow of the argument says that if a person makes any exceptions to a rule, or if the person makes rules that depend on fine distinctions, the inevitable result would then be all of the other people will end up ignoring the rule or rules entirely simply because it is inevitable that they won't accept the difference between the exception and everything else. In other words, if the person allows any exceptions to a rule, it will create a slope away from the absoluteness of the rule, and with which the people will slide down further and further until they will not obey the rule at all. This fallacy is also known as the camel's nose. This follows the phenomenon that if a camel is allowed to put its nose into a tent, the whole camel will ultimately be in the tent very soon.

In most cases, there is a series of progressions between the resultant event and the triggering event and no logical reasons are generally given as to why the intervening progressions will simply be bypassed. This argument flows in the following manner:
1) Event A has occurred (or will or might occur).
2) Therefore event B will inevitably happen.
This above reasoning is fallacious because there is no reason to believe that event B must inevitably follow from event A without an argument for such a claim. This is especially clear in cases in which there is a significant number of progressions between the resultant event and the triggering event. There is old english rhyme which originated for the purpose of encouraging children to apply so-called logical progression to the consequences of their actions. The rhyme is often used to gently chastise a child whilst explaining the possible events that may follow a thoughtless act. However, when applied to the slippery slope argument, the rhyme happens to illustrate the fallacy fairly well too.

For want of a nail
For want of a nail, the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe, the horse was lost.
For want of a horse, the rider was lost.
For want of a rider, the battle was lost.
For want of a battle, the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

Generally speaking again, the presumption behind the slippery slope argument is that if the person makes any exceptions to a rule, the other people will think that the rule is arbitrary to begin with and will see no reason to follow it at all. Hence, any exceptions undermine respect for a rule, and thus eventually lead to the rule's not being followed at all. Another argument is that people generally cannot make fine distinctions, so if you make an exception to a rule, the other people will think the person has shown the rule to be flawed and therefore unnecessary to follow.

N.B. I have previously used the english rhyme "For want of a nail" to illustrate the butterfly effect (please kindly refer to my previous post "The Butterfly Effect"). Come to think of it, the Butterfly Effect and the Slippery Slope Argument seem to run in the same direction.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

The Butterfly Effect

Predictability: Does the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?

The butterfly effect technically refers to the propensity of a system to be sensitive to initial conditions. It is the sensitive dependency on its initial conditions that the system, over time, becomes wholly unpredictable.

The butterfly effect is however not quite as similiar as the domino effect. For the domino effect, there is no doubt dependency of the system on the initial conditions. But a simple linear row of dominoes would merely allow one event to initiate another similar event upon each iteration. The butterfly effect however amplifies the condition upon each iteration.

The butterfly effect has been most commonly associated with the weather system as this is where the discovery of non-linear phenomenon within a complex and dynamic system began. Due to nonlinearities in the weather processes, a butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil can, in theory, produce a tornado in Texas. This strong dependence of outcomes on very slightly differing initial conditions is a distinct characteristic of the mathematical behavior known as chaos. The idea in meteorology that the flapping of a butterfly's wing will create a disturbance that in the chaotic motion of the atmosphere will become amplified eventually to change the large scale atmospheric motion, so that the long term behavior becomes impossible to forecast.

Flowing from the above argument, the butterfly effect in fact represents the essence of chaos. A complex and dynamical system is deemed to be chaotic if it
1. Has a dense collection of members with periodic orbits,
2. Is sensitive to the initial condition of the system (so that initially nearby members can evolve quickly into very different states), and
3. Is topologically transitive.
Chaotic systems exhibit irregular, unpredictable behavior. The boundary between linear and chaotic behavior is often characterized by periodic doubling in orbits, followed by quadrupling in orbits etc., although other kinds of combinations are also possible.

Animal populations are also subjected to the same phenomenon. Empirical evidence suggests that predator-prey systems too have complex dynamics making them prone to cycles. Such a system even with two simple variables such as rabbits and foxes can create a system that is really much more complex than initially thought to be. The lack of foxes may mean that the rabbit population can increase initially. But the increasing numbers of rabbits may also mean that the foxes have more food and are therefore more likely to survive and reproduce, which then in turn decreases the number of rabbits. It is possible for such systems to find a state of equilibrium, and even though species can become extinct, there is a tendency for populations to be robust. However, they can vary dramatically under certain circumstances. Real populations, of course having more than two variables, are even more complex than that of the illustration as given above.

The effects of the butterfly effect is best demonstrated by the Lorenz Attractor. The Lorenz Attractor is a graphical representation of the time variation of three variables coupled by non-linear evolution equations. You will observe that for the two separate non-linear evolution equations that are made to run simultaneously from slightly differing initial conditions, the tiny difference in the initial conditions becomes amplified by the evolution, until such time the two trajectories evolve quite separately. The amplification is exponential, the difference grows very rapidly and after a surprisingly short time the two solutions behave quite differently.

After having explained the butterfly effect from the scientific angle, it may also be appropriate to examine it from the layman's angle. There is a clever set of lyrics that is derived from an old english rhyme which originated for the purpose of encouraging children to apply logical progression to the consequences of their actions. The rhyme is often used to gently chastise a child whilst explaining the possible events that may follow a thoughtless act. But in this case, it perfectly explains the butterfly effect.

For want of a nail
For want of a nail, the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe, the horse was lost.
For want of a horse, the rider was lost.
For want of a rider, the battle was lost.
For want of a battle, the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004







N.B. 这歌中的词是我所读过当中最有凄美感的一个.


By Terry Bisson

Imagine if you will... the leader of the fifth invader force speaking to the commander in chief...

"They're made out of meat."


"Meat. They're made out of meat."


"There's no doubt about it. We picked several from different parts of the planet, took them aboard our recon vessels, probed them all the way through. They're completely meat."

"That's impossible. What about the radio signals? The messages to the stars?"

"They use the radio waves to talk, but the signals don't come from them. The signals come from machines."

"So who made the fucking machines? That's who we want to contact."

"They made the machines. That's what I'm trying to tell you. Meat made the machines."

"That's bullshit. How can meat make a machine? You're asking me to believe in sentient meat."

"I'm not asking you, I'm telling you. These creatures are the only sentient race in the sector and they're made out of meat."

"Maybe they're like the Orfolei. You know, a carbon-based intelligence that goes through a meat stage."

"Nope. They're born meat and they die meat. We studied them for several of their life spans, which didn't take too long. Do you have any idea the life span of meat?"

"Spare me. Okay, maybe they're only part meat. You know, like the Weddilei. A meat head with an electron plasma brain inside."

"Nope. We thought of that, since they do have meat heads like the Weddilei. But I told you, we probed them. They're meat all the way through."

"No brain?"

"Oh, there is a brain all right. It's just that the brain is made out of meat!"

"So... what does the thinking?"

"You're not understanding, are you? The brain does the thinking. The meat."

"Thinking meat! You're asking me to believe in thinking fucking meat!"

"Yes, thinking meat! Conscious meat! Loving meat. Dreaming meat. The meat is the whole deal! Are you getting the picture?"

"Oh shit. You're serious then. They're made out of meat."

"Finally, Yes. They are indeed made out meat. And they've been trying to get in touch with us for almost a hundred of their years."

"So what does the meat have in mind?"

"First it wants to talk to us. Then I imagine it wants to explore the universe, contact other sentients, swap ideas and information. The usual."

"Fuck that. We're supposed to talk to meat?"

"That's the idea. That's the message they're sending out by radio. 'Hello. Anyone out there? Anyone home?' That sort of thing."

"They actually do talk, then. They use words, ideas, concepts?"

"Oh, yes. Except they do it with meat."

"I thought you just told me they used radio."

"They do, but what do you think is on the radio? Meat sounds. You know how when you slap or flap meat it makes a noise? They talk by flapping their meat at each other. They can even sing by squirting air through their meat."

"That's disgusting. Singing meat. This is altogether too much. So what do you advise?"

"Officially or unofficially?"


"Officially, we are required to contact, welcome, and log in any and all sentient races or multibeings in the quadrant, without prejudice, fear, or favor. Unofficially, I advise that we erase the records and forget the whole fucking thing."

"I was hoping you would say that."

"It seems harsh, but there is a limit. Do we really want to make contact with meat?"

"I agree one hundred percent. What's there to say?" `Hello, meat. How's it going?' But will this work? How many planets are we dealing with here?"

"Just one. They can travel to other planets in special meat containers, but they can't live on them. And being meat, they only travel through C space. Which limits them to the speed of light and makes the possibility of their ever making contact pretty slim. Infinitesimal, in fact."

"So we just pretend there's no one home in the universe."

"That's it."

"Cruel. But you said it yourself, who wants to meet meat? And the ones who have been aboard our vessels, the ones you have probed? You're sure they won't remember?"

"They'll be considered crackpots if they do. We went into their heads and smoothed out their meat so that we're just a dream to them."

"A dream to meat! How strangely appropriate, that we should be meat's dream."

"And we can mark this sector unoccupied."

"Good. Agreed, officially and unofficially. Case closed. Any others? Anyone interesting on that side of the galaxy?"

"Yes, a rather shy but sweet hydrogen core cluster intelligence in a class nine star in G445 zone. Was in contact two galactic rotations ago, wants to be friendly again."

"They always come around."

"And why not? Imagine how unbearably, how unutterably cold the universe would be if one were all alone."

CERK Radio 40Mhz - Blood Money

By the Nightcrawler Lucien Lacroix

It is said that nature will not tolerate excess, as in the case of those who take more than their fair share. They're dealt with accordingly. For when you have too much, there will always be someone wanting to take it away from you. So maybe you should ask yourself, has your blood money been a blessing or a curse?

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Random Thoughts - Separation of the Church and State

By some ants in B.C. by Johnny Hart

Define the separation of the church and state:

The concept whereby a clergyman has as much chance to be becoming a president as a lawyer has of becoming a pope.

Random Thoughts - Markers

Do you remember the time when you were still a small child, and your perspective of the world at large was still relatively unrefined? Do you remember the time when everything in your world appeared to be either longer or larger than they really were, or at least when compared to your current perspective now? Well, I recently recalled some events from my past in relation to the above questions while reading an article. These recollections led me to come to the same conclusions as the author of the article. And subject to my usual long windedness stuff, I am pleased to share my sudden revelation with you.

While I was still in primary school, my parents used to take my brother and myself to the 2 cinemas along Balestiar Road, being the President and the Hoover I think, to watch movies. To me at least, those car trips to the cinemas were really much too long for anyone my age at that time to take. At that point in time, I was living in a 5 room flat along Bendemeer Road, and the time needed to cover the distance between Bendemeer Road and Balestiar Road could not have been more than 15 minutes. But to me, they were like forever.

As such, I instinctively devised some things to do along the way to the cinemas. My favorite pastime would have to be the counting of road signs, buildings and traffic lights, which we passed along the way. Sometimes, I would even count the dashes of the lane dividers. I would not recommend this exercise to anyone rational as this exercise was a highly stressful and tiring activity, and its success really depends critically on the speed at which the car is moving. Heavy traffic is certainly helpful in this aspect but in general it really just prolongs the pain of getting to the destination. I would certainly not be proud to report to you that there are a total of four hundred and fifty three dashes between the cross junctions of Bendemeer Road / Geylang Bahru and Balestiar Road / Moulmeim Road and I am not saying that there actually are, but please do feel free to verify the number for yourselves if your interested in this sort of activities.

Today, in retrospect, I realised that I only did what I did then because those activities actually helped me pass time more quickly in a very relative sense. I have instinctively forced myself to notice and to keep track of the road signs, buildings, traffic lights and the dashes of the lane dividers. In the process, I have created what the author called a series of “markers” to measure the time and distance taken to move from place to place. As a result, I would then know, at any given point, what places we have just passed and what places we would be coming to next before reaching the destination. These markers really served to provide the mind with an alternate means of measuring time and space and allow the mind to gauge the percentage of completion of the task at hand. And, this markers, through occupying the mind, give time the appearance of passing more quickly than they really are, relatively speaking of course.

Interestingly, I was discussing some conceptual issues involving the MRT along the north east line with a friend the other day where I suddenly realised that I do not refer to the MRT stops by their designated names but rather their designated numbers. For example, I do not refer to the MRT stop at Toa Payoh as Toa Payoh but as N6. I was at first bewildered at my apparently strange behaviour since I have always prided myself as a word person rather than a number person. On deeper analysis, perhaps instinctively, I have used the designated numbers as a means to measure the progress of my journey via the MRT for the same reasons why I counted the road signs, buildings, traffic lights and the dashes of the lane dividers in my younger days. If you will, please imagine yourself riding the MRT through an underground tunnel between 2 stops. I suspect that the ride would appear to take longer than it really did simply because there are no markers along the underground tunnel for the mind to take reference from. But imagine riding the MRT for the same distance on the surface where we can see the world where there are markers along the way. The impression created may be quite different from the previous.

I particular liked the statement that was made by the author in relation to his commentary on markers. I concur with his comments in its entirety. He said: ”Funny how when you are young you instinctively know and understand such things; then you forget them and only years later do you relearn, through curiosity and inquiry and chance, what was once instinctual. What a shame that this is the way of life”.



剑是心, 心是剑.
心有法, 而剑无为.

剑在人心之中, 随而心剑而一,
人就是剑, 剑也是人,

剑应因意而生, 因意而动.

Crime Scene Investigation - Detection of Latent Prints

Latent prints are the kind of finger prints found at crime scenes which are formed by the oil and sweat secretions deposited by a person's fingers when they touch a surface or an object. They are invisible to the naked eye and need some kind of treatment to make them visible.

The most widely used method of detecting latent prints is to dust using a fine powder that adheres to the traces of oil and sweat. Dusting is suitable for hard and/or non-absorbent surfaces. There any many different kinds of powder in use today. For example;
aluminium dust, which is grey and highly visible on dark and mirrored surfaces;
carbon black for white surfaces; and
luminescent powders which fluoresce under ultraviolet light.

N.B. A common every day application of luminescence is washing powder that contains optical brightener. The optical brightener is nothing more than a fluorescent dye that shows a blue luminescence when excited by the ultraviolet radiation present in sunlight. The optical brightener is added to counteract the yellowing of cotton as it ages.

For porous surfaces like paper or cloth, a number of methods have been developed over the years to help detect fingerprints. Examples are as follows:

Iodine fuming
This is the oldest of the chemical methods for detecting fingerprints. Solid iodine sublimes (becomes a vapour without becoming a liquid) at room temperature. If an object, say a piece of paper, is placed in a chamber which a has had some crystals of iodine placed in it, any fingerprints on the object will appear as brownish prints. What is thought to be happening is that the iodine vapour is dissolving in the skin oils (or may be the traces of water from the perspiration) that make up the print. Whatever is happening the print is temporary and will soon fade. It must therefore either be photographed immediately or "fixed" by spraying with starch solution to give a blue print which will last longer.

Iodine fuming has to a great extent replaced by other methods including spraying with the chemical ninhydrin which reacts with amino acids present in the skin secretions to give purple prints.

The active ingredient in superglues is a cyanoacrylate ester. When vapours of these compounds come into contact with fingerprints the molecules of the cyanoacrylate attach to the print and polymerise. The visible prints produced are white, to improve their detectability they are often treated with a fluorescent dye, such as Rhodamine 6G, before being photographed under an special light source or a laser.

Luminescence and Fingerprinting
Some molecules when irradiated with certain types of light fluoresce, the phenomenon is called luminescence. Researchers discovered some years ago that some components of sweat are luminescent and fluoresce when illuminated with lasers. There are disadvantages in using lasers as they are expensive and there are significant safety issues to consider. With the advent of treatment of fingerprints with fluorescent dyes (see above), the use of so-called alternate light sources which are essentially high intensity lights has increased as they are less expensive, safer and more portable than lasers.

Crime Scene Investigation - Luminol Test

Blood and other bodily fluids which are found at the crime scene may give important physical evidence in three ways;
1)The occurrence of a blood strain in a certain place, e.g. on a weapon may substantiate an account of a crime;
2)The shape, position, size or intensity of a bloodstain may support a particular sequence of events; and/or
3)The blood typing analysis can be used to eliminate whole groups of people as suspects.
It is therefore important to be able to identify a particular stain as blood or not, or maybe even to reveal "hidden" bloodstains on dark materials or where attempts have been made to wash the blood away.

Human blood contains a pigment called haemoglobin, which is used to transport oxygen around the body. This pigment is used by a number of tests to identify the presence of blood. One particular test that reveals the presence of blood is the Luminol Test. In this test the bloodstains can be made to glow with a blue light due to the chemiluminescent reaction of the luminol reagent with the iron in the haemoglobin.This test is sensitive enough to pick up minute traces of blood even when attempts have been made to wash away the incriminating evidence.