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February 3, 2011

Atheism — the religion of science (III)

Filed under: The World in Fei's Eyes — Fei @ 11:46 pm

As I mentioned above, the scientific method has its limitations. It does not (and can not) reveal the secrets of the entire universe. It is only a subset (or a small subset) of all secrets that all human agree on. Science evolves over time, the theory seemly perfect now may be overthrown by a better, more seamless theory in the future. The question is, are we willing to believe in something that seems weird right now because the current science does not support it?

For example, in the middle ages, all scientific theories drew the conclusion that the earth was the center of the universe. Sun, moon, mars, and stars all circled around the earth. It was the science back then. Do you think a person at that time unscientific and believed wrong because he believed otherwise: the earth was not the center of universe? If we look back from now, we may probably say no. Because we well know that earth is not the center2. The science at that time was wrong and that person assumed correct. If, one day, God will fit in the scientific models, will the people at that time consider all the people now believing in God unscientific and believed wrong? It is a tough question… at least for people now…

I don’t know whether God will fit in the scientific models eventually. But even if it will not, can people still claim them believe wrong? After all, science only reveal a small portion of the secretes. God may well influence the world. But maybe the interaction time is too short; maybe the target is human, the observer; maybe the interaction pattern is too irregular, scientific method cannot derive useful results. It is in a gray area, and thus need belief.

To me, the scientific world is all inside a nutshell. The shell itself is composed of numerous assumptions. Science does not say anything outside the shell. But because of the Occam’s razor, the easiest assumption is that it is outside the range of science and has no effect on our world (inside the nutshell). But is it true? Nobody knows.

It still goes back to belief. After all, atheism is a religion. It is a religion of science — the current science.

2Based on current cosmology, an interpretation is that earth is not  the center of the universe. However, it is still the center of our universe: the universe that influence us (and the universe we care about). It does not mean science goes back to mid ages, but to mean yet another improvement in science.

January 30, 2011

Atheism — the religion of science (II)

Filed under: The World in Fei's Eyes — Fei @ 10:20 am

Nevertheless, the scientific method works fairly well in natural science. It is, however, less effective in social science and the humanity due to two reasons.

First, the research target is human itself. Each individual is unique. Experiments on one person cannot be exactly reproduced on another person, which violates the “repeat” scientific method. Furthermore, the same experiment may not generate the same result if it is applied to the same person at different times. Human may not be objectively isolated. The person may simply interact with the rest of the world (or have time to think about the experiment) and draw a different conclusion in the second experiment. Thus, many disciplines in social science and humanities turn into researching the characteristics of a group of people, or the common parts of people. Statistics are widely used in deriving useful conclusions. It is precisely because the characteristics of a group of people change much slower than each individual person in the group. Experiments can be meaningfully “repeated” in a short period of time.

Second, some disciplines, such as history, focus on past events. We have only one chance to do the experiment, that is the time the event happens. It so happens that some information may be lost as time passes by. Later generations may only base on the remaining information and guess the cause or reason. We can only do such experiments “repeatedly” if we invent time machines, go back in time repeatedly, and objectively evaluate the event without interfering it. It is however not likely under the currently scientific discoveries (mainly general relativity). Because we cannot repeat the event, statistically, the error of such judgment is one. Moreover, people may well have predetermined judgment before analyzing the event, and thus be biased.

The distinction between natural science and social science is somewhat blurred in quantum mechanics. In quantum mechanics, the observer cannot be isolated out of the equation even for physical quantities. The quantities change so fast1 that quantum mechanics has to rely on statistics and focus its average over time. Both due to the scientific method “repeat”.

I sketched the limitations of “repeat” in scientific method above. Below I will focus on another basic scientific methodology, which people more or less focus less. It is Occam’s razor. It is often stated as “All other things being equal, the simplest solution is the best.” This principle is often used to reason the non-existence of God[3]. If the assumption of the existence of God does not help explain the phenomenon, the assumption is cut out.  The majority of the scientific community prefers to rely on explanations that deal with the same phenomena within the confines of existing scientific models[3]. This is the basis of Atheism: the scientific method cannot support the existence of God. Due to Occam’s razor, the God does not exist. Please note, however, if one day God can be fit in the scientific models, because of the same Occam’s razor, God may be assumed existence. But can God fit in the scientific models, even in the far far future?

1This is not an entirely accurate representation, but a more vivid description.
[3] Wikipedia: Occam’s razor.

January 25, 2011

Atheism — the religion of science (I)

Filed under: The World in Fei's Eyes — Fei @ 11:42 pm

Atheism, the non-existence of God (Gods), has a wide variety of meanings. Here I use the word “Atheism” to refer to “strong atheism”, or “methodological naturalism”. It asserts the non-existence of supernatural beings and supports scientific methodology as the only effective way to investigate reality[1].

I’m not in a position to judge whether it is right or wrong. I just hope to raise some of its fundamental assumptions, benefits, and limitations.

Naturalism relies entirely on scientific method to investigate reality, which includes the making of a hypothesis, the prediction of a possible outcome, the test of such a prediction, and repetition of the experiment[2]. To me, the most interesting method is “repetition”. This makes science a universal language. Everyone believes in science. If you don’t believe in a theory, go ahead and do the experiment yourself. You can either disprove it or support it from the experiment. Here I use “support” because scientific theories can never be “proved” correct. Maybe someday a better theory will replace the current one.

However, “repetition” has several limitations. First, it requires the experiment to be repeatable. That is, whatever the “value” the experiment intends to test, it must either remain unchanged, or follow a predictable pattern over time and space. Some of the physical values fall into this category and can be tested repeatedly, but some may not.

A simple illustration of this limitation is as follows: A grown-up person Tom asks a child Jerry to investigate a table in an empty room, and asks Jerry to write down the position of the table in the room after his investigation. Note, when Jerry performs the investigation, he is alone in the room with the table. He cannot communicate with anyone (including Tom) his discovery. Only after he leaves the room can he disclose the position of the table. However, as soon as he leaves the room, Tom (or some other people) goes into the room from a back door and changes the position of the table (assume they can do it quickly enough). Because the test should be “repeatable”, Jerry does multiple tests and find the table at a different position each time. Even though each time Jerry correctly writes down the position of the table, the best conclusion Jerry can get is that the table appears randomly in the room.

Fortunately, most of the physical values at the macro level are fairly stable. They either remain constant or evolve slowly enough that people can derive the difference of the tests using known knowledge. (However, we cannot guarantee it will remain this way.) When we go into the micro world, things are totally different. Quantum mechanics is based on the experimental discovery of the “uncertainty principle”. The theory gives up identifying the exact position and momentum of a particle, but focuses on their statistical relations “over time”. Can we test the position and momentum at every single time? Maybe we can, but we get different result in every experiment (think about error!). We are just like the child Jerry in the example above, unaware there is a Tom there changing the position and momentum each time. No wonder Einstein questioned: “Does God throw dice?”

[1] Wikipedia: Naturalism.
[2] Wikipedia: Scientific method.

January 21, 2011

The World in Fei’s Eyes

Filed under: The World in Fei's Eyes — Fei @ 6:09 pm

This is the craziest series I’ve ever created. Since my childhood, I’ve been wondering the origin of the universe, the meaning of human beings. Now, I have some interesting thoughts and I want to write them down. I’m sure lots of philosophers must have had the same ideas, so my thoughts are perhaps not really novel… Nevertheless, I want to write them down in my own words so that I will not forget in the future…

I will start the series with my thoughts on Atheism, Christianity, and Buddhism. Then I will explain my unproven philosophy of the origin. This series is not about science. There is no true or false; there is no right or wrong. There is only belief. But, what is belief? For this, I’d like to borrow from an anonymous saying:

Belief is nothing more than a feeling of absolute certainty.
—- anonymous


Atheism — the religion of science
Christianity — the religion of human
Buddhism — the religion of everything
The story of frogs in a well
We believe in, what?
In Goddy we trust
Where are we?
Belief is everything


Filed under: The World in Fei's Eyes — Fei @ 12:57 am



这两天又翻开我三四年前写的文章,觉得写得还蛮有意思的。当时是决心写完的,可写到“In Goddy We Trust”时发觉我的英语实在太烂,想表达的意思抓破头也写不出来,就停了下来。一停就停到现在,也不知能不能继续。那故事还蛮有意思的,可惜呀可惜。


November 11, 2010


Filed under: Business — Fei @ 11:29 pm


× 简单易学。只要稍微懂一点网站的人就能维护,不需要懂得php。
× 便宜。只要200人民币就可购买。
× 功能较齐全。可以满足大多数团购网站的需要。
× 兼容性不错,连IE6都完全支持。

× 网页下载慢。我认为瓶颈是页面等待时间太长,下载速度慢。其中又有以下小问题。
× css 和 javascript 没有优化。这是很简单的优化,不过连美团这样的网站都没有做。
× 没有使用sprite功能。其实是可以做的,但没发现有什么网站做。
× 网站加速功能只支持memcache。
× 软件扩展不易。这一点我不是很确信,不过我没有在后台看见可以加模块的地方。
× 源代码没有注释。这样想要修改基本是不可能的事。只好从最土那儿定制了。
× 功能单一。只是一个团购网站,基本不可能改变用途。
× 手动要求未知。没有运行过,不知网站对人工参与的要求如何。没有发现可以运行cron的地方。


我在最初做 哈团购网HotGroupBuy 的时候,没有发现最土软件。基本上从流程到页面设计都是从头做起,花了很多时间(现在也不是很完善)。现在想来,当时的决定还是对的。


September 24, 2009

“Secrets to Success” in Grad School

Filed under: Personal Development — Fei @ 5:30 pm


About two months ago, a friend of mine asked me my secrets to succeed in grad school, because she’s going to a top university for grad school (one of the big three). That really flattered me, coz I don’t really have any secret, and I don’t do well anyway…. (considering many of my colleagues are professors of distinguished universities, and/or are successful in business and become multi-millionaires.) Still, I wrote her a few emails regarding how I think of the topic (mainly from books… as many of you know.. I’m just a book worm :-))

With her permission, I’m copying some of our email correspondence (her identity removed), because I feel that what I told her is exactly what I should tell myself… over and over again. I should always remind myself of all these points…. regularly, frequently… sometimes it’s easier to tell others what to do than telling myself… I think the most interesting parts of the conversation are the “three circles” from “Good To Great”, and her elaboration on American confidence (she’s a white American).

In my response to her first email, I recommended the “three circles”:

I recommend a book called “Good To Great”. It’s a great book. I like it a lot. In the book, the author talked about three circles. One is what you are really passionate about. One is what you are born to do. And one is what makes economic sense. It is best to work in the intersection of the three circles. The key is “understand”. To understand your passion, to understand your strength, to understand the economic engine. If you understand your three circles and work in the intersection, your life will be brilliant. Oh well, I’m still in search of my three circles :p

In her response, I noticed that she was not a very confident person, which quite surprised me, because in my mind, Americans are in general confident. Oh well, at least that part she’s pretty much like me. I could feel that she was worried about grad school at that point (fortunately, she’s very happy about the school now). Going to grad school is a great change and challenge. I had a lot of doubts and issues at that time, and many people helped me at that point. So I feel good that I can pay back and help others. Then, I wrote an elaborated email to address her concerns, from my perspective.

WOW! You sound like a Chinese. Maybe I have stereotypes on Americans and Chinese. I always feel that Chinese are not that confident on themselves, while Americans are very confident on their capabilities, sometimes too confident. I was a typical Chinese and always felt that I was not good at this, not good at that etc. etc. which made me a quite pessimistic guy, which now I don’t think is good at all. I’m still not that confident on many things (it’s so deep in my subconscious mind), but consciously, I always try to encourage myself. You know, it is real hard, conscious mind only accounts for 10% of our brain, and subconscious mind accounts for 90%…. Anyways, that’s why I want to read some motivational books again and again, to change the attitude. I actually highly recommend one book for you. It is called “The magic of thinking big”. It’s so good that I planed to give talks on the findings of the book. I’ve already finished my slides and given some try round talks, but still not to a broader audience.

You heard of the book: the secret, or the law of attraction? Basically, the book says that you will get what you want. If you want success, you will get success. If you want failure, you will get failure. Whatever you want, you only need to think think think think really hard, and it will come to you automatically. It’s quite mythological, and it goes to some extremes, but it makes sense in some aspects.

Since you are born and raised in American culture, it’s natural that you have confidence inside you. You just need to uncover it. You have a Princeton degree, and it’s priceless, and you are NOT going to mess up <university>, it will be another shining diamond on your resume. Think about it, how many people can get both Princeton and <university> degrees? Not that many.

It’s really nice of you to think for your parents. The degree is expensive, and I know it. Instead of worrying this and worrying that, just make up your mind that you ARE going to excel at <university> and it will propel you to study harder. You can pay your parents back after you get your degree, maybe with interest. You can also work part time in libraries at <university>, just like what many Princeton students do at Princeton. But it’s not the your major concern. Your major concern now is your <university> degree.

I would agree with your parents that even though <university> may be expensive, it is the right choice. You will be emerged in a very prestigious culture that <another university> will never give you. Use me as an example, I had my undergraduate education at Peking University, which is one of the best universities in China, and I’m really proud of that.

Then I had my PhD. at Princeton University which we all know it’s prestigious level. Having attended the two universities, the people around me, the friends I make, are all different, and they in turn encourage me to do better. This is a positive feedback. If I went to a ordinary university in China, the odds that I would go abroad would be very slim, and life would be probably very different for me. However, it doesn’t mean that a graduate from a second tier school won’t do well. On the contrary ,some are doing exceptionally well. The inside strength, not the outside environment is the dominate factor. I don’t know how they did it and I can’t speak for them. But I do respect them a lot.

How to choose a University? For me, it’s mainly the culture. I like Princeton’s culture a lot. I believe <university>’s culture is equally good. I remember in one year’s reunion, the 40-year graduates did a survey and most of them were no longer working at the same major they got their degree, and over 50% of them did not even remember what their college major was. To me, school life is to be enjoyed, and it’s the culture of the school makes it unique.

Don’t be discouraged since nobody makes money in your area. One important aspect of schooling is to enjoy the culture. Just think about the 40-year graduate example. If it doesn’t work for you long term, just change major. No big deal. However, think cautiously when you do. I do really believe your major has a super bright future. Nobody makes money now (and I really suspect this) doesn’t mean you won’t make money. It doesn’t mean people won’t make money two years, five years down the road. For me, proliferating the findings from your major is the only way to sustain economic growth for mankind. Think how important it is.

Currently, people pollute the environment all over the world; people excessively focus on non-renewable energy such as gas, coal; people have formed the habit to waste everything. Those are big problems needed to be solved. Many people are aware of the issues now. Renewable energy is a really hot topic now a days, but was it hot ten years ago? Probably not. I’m sure people will aware of other environmental issues soon. And you have a real good start, because at that time, you will be an expert in the area.

Still, think about inter-disciplinary. Now a days many hard problems are solved by combining the wisdom from multiple areas. You have your niche, which is environment, you can talk to people in other areas and maybe you can find some BIG ideas. Just keep in mind, whatever you do, whenever you do things, always think: “is it efficient; is it effective; would it be better if….” You don’t need to figure out the solution.

Just identify the problem is one big thing. I’m actually very interested in talking to you to learn more about your area and probably we can sparkle some ideas together 🙂

It is common to have doubts sometimes. Maybe it’s because you are so into it that you lose the big picture. Maybe it’s because you tend to think from the same angle. A second opinion may be good sometimes. I actually have doubts all the time. I need people to remind me regularly.

The encouragement among friends are real important. I feel really honored that you ask me those questions. Hope my perspective can help you in some way. I’m also learning many things. My points may be incomplete or even wrong, so use with discretion. Maybe I will consult my problems with you someday :p


PS. sorry for my tongue if you find it too pushy. I hope you don’t mind.

And her response to the confidence part (other parts are omitted).

It was very interesting to me what you said about American stereotypes.  Maybe American culture rewards (and glamorizes) confidence more than humility and so from an early age here people learn that to be the “best” they must be confident in themselves, have confidence in their abilities, and be confident of success.  But, I think this is just the ideal, I think most people really aren’t that confident at all.  Especially younger women and girls.  There are a lot of problems in that regard in American culture.  Some Americans really are as confident as they seem, but I think for most people, it’s just a show.  They don’t feel as confident on the inside as they act on the outside.  But they know that’s how they have to act to get anywhere.  It takes a lot of energy!  I’m usually pretty good at displaying a lot of confidence for an interview or first impression, but then I have some difficulty maintaining it over the long term.
(That being said, not all Americans like overly confident people.  My Dad, for example, both my parents actually, are often suspicious of overly confident people because they think they are hustling people and putting on a show to trick them into something.)

I should indeed remind myself regularly……. and YOU, my friend, please remind me too….

P.S. my friend gave me more explanation on “American confidence”.

I just thought of something. It occurred to me that what I said about my parents not liking overly confident people might not be representative of the entire country, that might just be true of people in the Midwest or middle America. I’m not sure, I don’t know if there are also a lot of people on the coasts who share the same view or not. Anyway, I just wanted to disclose this possibility to you.

September 9, 2009


Filed under: 往事如风 — Fei @ 7:42 pm

Bride Groom今天是09年09月09日,一个好日子。黄历上也说“宜嫁娶”。今天结婚的人挺多的,我也第一次in a wedding,而且是个超小的wedding。


昨晚突然想起这事,赶快给朋友打电话。她也好,不紧不慢的,告诉我时间地点,而且她还没有网,只好让我写下来。我问她应该穿什么衣服,她也不在乎,说随便。我是打定主意要穿suit的,但groom自己不穿suit,那我是不是over dress了。。。过会她又打电话过来,说她们没有相机,要借我的相机。。。好吧,我那老掉牙的300D又有了用场。


因为今天是个好日子,city hall早就被人定满了,他们是找了一个notary,在一个旅馆里。我到那一看,第一个到。再一看,连喊糟糕。。。自己穿了一身西装,打了领带。。。但出门时忙中出错,鞋没有换成黑色的皮鞋,穿了平常的休闲皮鞋。。。心里一冷,这怎么办呢?好吧,那就脱了西装,除去领带,休闲的当证人吧。。。





notary突然叫“witness”。。。。把我吓了一大跳。。。发现是我填表时间。。。先是给我讲填表规矩(规矩真多)。。。然后我填表。。之后在结婚证明上签字。。。发现上面有bride’s witness 和 groom’s witness。。。但我只有一个人。。。不管他,签到正中间。。。


现在仪式也做过了,帐也结了,婚礼到此结束。。。。notary的小儿子突然把我叫过去,给我讲了一大通good bug,bad bug的事(他在看一本关于bug的书),然后在旁边的树丛中找bug。。。


此婚礼时间不到40分钟,客人就我一个。。。真是个mini wedding。

August 9, 2009


Filed under: 往事如风 — Fei @ 12:14 am












August 5, 2009


Filed under: Business,Readings — Fei @ 11:38 pm

Stanford University entrepreneur corner is a great source for entrepreneurs. Every week, an entrepreneur is invited to give a talk on his or her expertise, focusing on business and entrepreneur of course. An MP3 of the  talk can actually be downloaded from the website, which provides a unique learning opportunity for people who cannot attend the lecture, someone like me.

I have been listening to the lectures for a while. The quality of the talk totally depends on the speaker. Some speakers are not good communicators; some speeches are too specific on the product of the company. For them, I just browse through once.

However, some speeches are great. The speakers are very experienced, presenting a whole lot of information. In the future, I will list some good speeches that I consider worthy of listening again and again 🙂 Hope you will also enjoy them.

Today, I just list some podcasts I listened recently.

Innovation as the crux of entrepreneurship, by John Hennessy (4.0)

No wonder Hennessy is the president of Stanford University. He is such a great speaker. He is also a great entrepreneur, founded MIPS (which is unfortunately in my field). In his 30+ years of career, he has seen and tried enough things. He didn’t present a whole lot detailed lessons, but as a person being in both industry and academia, his point of view is quite unique.

Young at heart: how to be an innovator for life by Tom Kelley (4.5)

In the speech, Tom talked about many stories, vividly, which are very enlightening. I especially like his stories:  “every child is an artist”, “thinking like a traveler”, “kid’s toothbrush” . He also mentioned Jim Collin’s great book “Good to great”, emphasized the three circles, which I totally agree.

13 mistakes and 13 brilliant strokes by Hugh Martin (4.5)

Martin has been through many companies and has seen many mistakes in his career. Some of his experiences are quite eye flashing. Some of the key ideas are: the impact of CEO on the company; the importance of human resource; difference between one big player and multiple big players; don’t be afraid of law suite etc. etc.

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