Sunday, July 28, 2013

Physics Demos

Normal force, force of gravity, center of mass, force of friction, Newton's second and third laws:

Conservation of momentum, Newton's third law, torque:

Friday, July 26, 2013

Tao #10 : Leadership

"Giving birth and nourishing,
having without possessing,
acting with no expectations,
leading and not trying to control:
this is the supreme virtue."

This is a gem of management wisdom. Try it out next time you are in a position of responsibility. Underlying this passage is the principle of being open. By leading without trying to take credit, predict an outcome, or micromanage, you open the door to new ideas, flexibility, and even serendipity. What you can ultimately gain from this type of leadership outweighs the small upfront challenge of releasing your tight grip on the reins.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Zafu Engineering

If your zafu (meditation cushion) is too flat, your legs can bend at an angle that cuts off circulation, causing your feet to go numb. Unfortunately, zafus inevitably flatten out over time as the canvas cover stretches and the cotton stuffing compresses, leading to numb feet. However, there is a fix!

My solution is to wrap a rope around the circumference of the cushion like this: 

One or two turns of rope is sufficient; I just had a long rope on hand. It is actually possible to wrap too tightly, causing your zafu to be so tall that you start sliding off the front. Just adjust the tension in the rope until you find the perfect height.

Friday, July 19, 2013

If We're Serious About Public Health...

If we seriously want to improve the quality and accessibility of healthcare services available to the general public, we first have to acknowledge and cater to the nature of the average person who would benefit from these services. One problem with existing public health initiatives is when they sound great to highly-educated people who already take care of their health, but do not actually appeal to the general public.

Case example: Patient education. Most ordinary people hated school, got out as fast as they could, and still cop an attitude when someone tries to correct their erroneous thinking, so how are they going to respond to someone telling them that they are not taking care of themselves the right way? Not enthusiastically. Furthermore, patient education programs often assume that people are actually willing to make sacrifices in the present for the sake of having a better future. Few people actually think that way, especially when those sacrifices require enormous willpower, as in the case of quitting smoking. The people who actually understand that their present actions will pay off in the future are already taking care of their health. In fact, they are probably already working in healthcare, thinking that everyone enjoys learning as much as they do and that patient education will work.

Tao #9 : Enough's Enough

"Fill your bowl to the brim and it will spill.
Keep sharpening your knife and it will blunt.
Chase after money and security and your heart will never unclench.
Care about people's approval and you will be their prisoner."

There is a limit to all all things. Eventually the bowl overflows, or the knife dulls, or the unexpected happens, or someone doesn't care about you. These limits are out of our control. We can choose to pretend that limits like these don't exist and mope when they catch us by surprise, or we can choose to become the master of these limits. To recognize what is enough and to set the limit at that moment puts you in control.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Tao #8 : Be Like Water

"The supreme good is like water,
which nourishes all things without trying to.
It is content with the low places that people disdain.

Saturday, July 6, 2013


Last night, I sifted through several Stanford websites looking for the contact info for an administrator, and I was at first sickened as usual by the pretension of the institution and their lists of accomplishments, Nobel laureates, etc.

Then I had this epiphany: I've had this bad attitude about Stanford because I went in there relatively unprepared for and uninformed about the competitive and rigorous reality of major academic institutions, and I was pissed that I did not get very good advising and did not have an exceptionally successful academic experience there. Now that I'm teaching and seeing the other side of things, I realize that there's only so much that schools and faculty can do about students who are not fully ready to take advantage of the resources offered.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Tao #7 : Detachment

"The wise person is detached from all things;
that is why she is one with them.
Because she has let go of herself,
she is perfectly fulfilled."

This passage is about a special kind of detachment. If you were detached from some things but not all, you would be obsessive. If you were detached from all things but not yourself, you would be selfish. If you were detached from yourself but not from things, you would be without direction.