Some of these are from my old blog posts. I'm going through them and posting them here from time to time. The date and the timestamp is as best as I can reconstruct.

Others are contemporaneous posts that are posted here for the first time.

AAPT Summer 2023 Meeting Notes

Mon Jul 17 23:59 PDT 2023

Following are my organized notes from the AAPT Summer 2023 meeting, mostly around resources and ideas that I want to collect and organize for future reference, from two days of meetings: July 15 OPTYCs tandem meeting, and July 17 AAPT meeting (I registered for a one-day attendance for the 2YC day).

Physics Portfolio Assessments

An exam-replacement idea for more authentic performance measurement. Students are given a "case study" and a rubric. For objective ideas, look at NGSS objectives for some ideas. A case study describes a physical scenario (e.g. "Cart A rolls into Cart B and collides"), and directs the student to:

A rubric is available to guide students in some of the expected tasks (e.g. "Make measurements and organize them in a table", "Include a sample video for measurement", description of concepts and ideas that are expected to be used in the course of the project). Projects are fairly open-ended, as students are encouraged to "solve for everything you can."

Support structure: Frequent opportunities for revision – students can turn in a draft for comments and revision up to once a week; last 2 to 3 weeks of the semester schedule are heavily dedicated to giving time to project completion. Some time set aside within class time to work on projects. "Commenting" is part of portfolio (students take an image of their calculation and explains why they are doing what they are doing; they are also given credit for explaining anything that doesn't need to be measured or calculated). [For my PHYS 4 classes, it might make sense as an optional substitute for timed assessments—need to think of some way to make a gradual transition; the new PHYS 3 classes might be a good opportunity to start out with this.]

Google Drive link

Ungrading Workshop

A presentation on "how and why to teach intro physics without grades". BTW, "intro" here means "introductory engineering physics," not conceptual physics. Described the process of "goal setting" in the class and grading based on whether students met those goals. Support structure around setting SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, related, time-limited) goals.

Used presentation/group discussion on "productive failures" to introduce the goal-setting session.

Google Drive link

Teaching IPLS

From sessions on Intro Physics for Life Sciences (IPLS), i.e. the PHYS 3 sequence I'm preparing to teach. Much of the presentation was about upper division courses in a 4-year university (small university with no physics major but many pre-med students, who might be interested in majoring in medical physics). Some topics discussed: physics of the body, optics in medicine, physics of medical imaging, and nuclear medicine & use of accelerators in medical physics (which I thought could get worked into a lower division course as well). Intro question for physics of medical imaging: "how do you see?" (and how do you see inside the body where there is no light?)

Some useful links/references below.

Other sessions

Collecting links and references from other sessions with a brief note.

Reading the Gospels again

Wed Jul 9 01:11 PDT 2014

This year, I am doing a lot of what I did last year—it really feels like a repeat, in some sense. In another sense, it's not a repeat; I'm doing now some things that I stopped doing by this point last year.

For example, I started reading the Bible regularly again. After finishing Ecclesiastes (my favorite book in the OT), well, I went back to John. Just reading a few chapters each morning. I noticed during yesterday's reading, something I hadn't noticed before. Take this passage:

When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep. Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) And after saying this he said to him, “Follow me.”

Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who also had leaned back against him during the supper and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!”

I think when Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved him, there were other disciples with them. I am not sure why, but I always had a picture in my mind that this was a private conversation, but nothing in the passage indicates that. The passage clearly states Jesus sharing breakfast with Peter and other disciples, and when the breakfast ended, Jesus spoke to Peter, referring to other disciples as "these" (this, in Greek, generally means people who are at hand; an image of Jesus waving his hands about the other disciples would almost be appropriate here). Jesus and Peter are in private (not counting John) only after Jesus says "follow me" and Peter follows him.

I think I understand better why this passage is labeled as Jesus reinstating Peter—the Q&A with Jesus and the charge that Jesus gives to Peter, they were all conducted in public, in the witness of other disciples (who, BTW, were also witnesses to Peter's earlier failing).

Anti-antispam-filter filter

Wed Apr 17 17:06 PDT 2013

I use Gmail (Even my [email protected] is actually a Gmail account, through the free (well, set up when it was free and then grandfathered in) Google Apps), and my recent complaint has been that its spam filter got really aggressive—as if the people working on Gmail’s spam filter didn’t realize that false positive is a deadly thing in a spam filter. I would tolerate 100 false negatives (i.e. spam that gets through the filter) before I accept a single false positive in a spam filter.

This didn’t used to be a big problem; I check my spam folder occasionally, and all the other email accounts I have (mostly from various systems at UC Berkeley) that forward to my main account at [email protected] didn’t have such an aggressive spam filter. It became a problem when I migrated my CalMail account to bMail, Google-hosted email for UC Berkeley.

I realized this when a student claimed—even against (unfair) accusation of lying—that he sent an email that I never received. When I finally thought to check the spam folder on my [email protected] account, there I found his email, along with a couple other emails from students and 100 or so actual spam. This was an untenable situation; I was never going to check this spam folder, because I never check my [email protected] account; that’s why I had my mail forwarded. I couldn’t tolerate a single false positive—and when I thought about it, this must’ve been responsible for one incident last semester when the instructor said he emailed me a draft of the final for my comments that I never received.

Apparently Gmail spam filter cannot be deactivated (EDITOR's NOTE: Original link no longer appears to go to the thread in 2013, but this newer thread covers similar topic). You can, however, put in filter rules that effectively de-activates the spam filter. When you create a filter (under Settings; you might have done this to automatically apply labels, etc.), there is a checkmark for “Never send it to Spam”. So all you have to do is create a rule that is virtually guaranteed to match all incoming email, and check the option never to send it to Spam.

There are a couple ways to do this: One is to match for the at-sign (@) in the “To” field; the other is to match for a word that you are sure that legitimate email would never have in the “Doesn’t have” field (I personaly use عَرَبِي/عَرَبِى).

Once you set up such a rule, you will find a nice (for me, anyway) side effect—apparently the filter rules apply to outgoing emails, and what Gmail means by “Never send it to Spam” is “Always send it to Inbox”—you will find your outgoing emails in your inbox, in addition to the “Sent” folder. For someone like me, who compulsively labels all email (in fact, my email backup system is set up to back up only email that’s been labeled), this is a nice side effect—it reminds me to label the sent email before archiving them.

P.S. It goes without saying, but this is a kludge—and it may not continue to work in the future (hopefully in that future, Google gave us an option to turn off the spam filter …).

Royal High Priest

Sat Jan 26 15:13 PST 2013

I noticed something during the reading today. First the passages:

In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.


And Mary said to the angel, "How will this be, since I am a virgin?" And the angel answered her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren.

And, of course,

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.

So, was Mary a Levite? I guess the question is unsettled; I just thought it would be ... cool if she was—as that makes Jesus union of the royal line of David and the priestly line of Aaron. But unfortunately there is sufficient ambiguity in the text (when I was first reading this I thought Luke said Elizabeth was a sister of Mary, but I guess they were only relatives).

But the priestly birth of John the Baptist settles some of the things I was curious about:

Answer to the first question seems fairly clear: John the Baptist was, in some sense, one of their own, so while they may have taken a hardline on Jesus, who was not a Levite, they could hold back on John the Baptist, whose father was a priest himself.

As for the second question, we all know John the Apostle was first a disciple of John the Baptist:

The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God!" The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, "What are you seeking?" And they said to him, "Rabbi" (which means Teacher), "where are you staying?" He said to them, "Come and you will see." So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, "We have found the Messiah" (which means Christ).

It doesn't seem so implausible now that John, who was a disciple of a son of a priest, would have some connections to the ranks of priests.

HV relay box

Sat Dec 22 17:14 PST 2012

Some notes from last time I built something (text here is being written on July 11, 2023; the timestamp on the photo of the relay box is the timestamp of this post):

This was something I had to built because, well, (1) I misunderstood what "reversible" meant on "reversible HV supply" (they weren't reversible in the way I needed them to be reversible), and (2) the kind of reversibility I needed couldn't be bought off shelf, so I needed something to join together what is available off-the-shelf. Below are the HV supplies—two distinct supplies, both configured for negative polarity from the manufacturer, but reversible by customer—that the relay was patching together.

And finally, below is the photo of the relay box (just the hardware; the programming itself was done ... I think via DAC) almost completed.

Divine expectations

Thu Sep 27 22:56 PDT 2012

From John 21:15–17

Ὅτε οὖν ἠρίστησαν λέγει τῷ Σίμωνι Πέτρῳ ὁ Ἰησοῦς Σίμων Ἰωάνου, ἀγαπᾷς με πλέον τούτων; λέγει αὐτῷ Ναί, κύριε, σὺ οἶδας ὅτι φιλῶ σε. λέγει αὐτῷ Βόσκε τὰ ἀρνία μου. λέγει αὐτῷ πάλιν δεύτερον Σίμων Ἰωάνου, ἀγαπᾷς με; λέγει αὐτῷ Ναί, κύριε, σὺ οἶδας ὅτι φιλῶ σε. λέγει αὐτῷ Ποίμαινε τὰ προβάτιά μου. λέγει αὐτῷ τὸ τρίτον Σίμων Ἰωάνου, φιλεῖς με; ἐλυπήθη ὁ Πέτρος ὅτι εἶπεν αὐτῷ τὸ τρίτον Φιλεῖς με; καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ Κύριε, πάντα σὺ οἶδας, σὺ γινώσκεις ὅτι φιλῶ σε. λέγει αὐτῷ Ἰησοῦς Βόσκε τὰ προβάτιά μου.

Some time last week, Tom pointed out subtleties in this passage that are lost in many English translations. I guess in the New Testament Greek DeCal class some semesters ago, we just didn't get this far (we were trying to read through John); I hadn't known it before either—but you don't really have to know how to read Greek to see the subtlety; I've bold-faced above where Jesus asks Peter if Peter loves him, and where Peter answers that he loves Jesus—three times.

One speculation Tom shared was that Jesus had to ask Peter three times, because Peter wouldn't give him a straight answer: Jesus asks Peter if Peter loves him with agape; Peter keeps answering him that he only loves him with philia—most likely out of guilt, because, in his heart, he felt he betrayed Jesus (just as Jesus predicted). Jesus eventually gives up and asks Peter if Peter loves him as a friend, and, hurt (as John describes him), Peter answers a third time that he loves Jesus as a friend.

On a quick check (in particular, ESV, which I've gotten to reading lately), it looks like word-for-word English translations of John do miss this subtlety (because both words would translate most naturally to "love"); NIV, one of the more thought-for-thought translations, does try to show the distinction (um, apparently only in the 1984 version; the most recent version removed the distinction):

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.

Anyways. I don't want to read too much into the distinction (apparently a majority of Bible translators must have discussed and agreed that the distinction gives no theological significance, especially since NIV removed the distinction that was present in the old edition—they wouldn't have done that if they thought this was significant), but assuming the distinction does mean something at least, it tells me, well, God accommodates our failings and weaknesses—by lowering his divine expectations for us and making up the difference.

How Gmail exposes your IP

Fri Jun 22 15:48 PDT 2012

In an earlier post, I noted how CalMail exposes your private information, namely the IP address that you are sending your email from. At the time, I noted that Gmail doesn't leak your private information the same way.

Now I need to qualify that assertion: if you use Google Apps, this is not true. Emails you send from your Google Apps account (like the one tied to my domain) leak your IP address, as this test message reveals (my private email address redacted):

Delivered-To: [email protected]
Received: by with SMTP id c4csp98845vdj;
        Fri, 22 Jun 2012 15:29:41 -0700 (PDT)
Received: by with SMTP id db13mr1604408vdb.4.1340404181020;
        Fri, 22 Jun 2012 15:29:41 -0700 (PDT)
Received: from ( [])
        by with ESMTPS id fa5si3632207vdb.135.2012.
        (version=TLSv1/SSLv3 cipher=OTHER);
        Fri, 22 Jun 2012 15:29:40 -0700 (PDT)
Received-SPF: fail ( domain of [email protected] does not designate as permitted sender) client-ip=;
Authentication-Results:; spf=hardfail ( domain of [email protected] does not designate as permitted sender) [email protected]
Received: by with SMTP id fo1so1424635vbb.8
        for ; Fri, 22 Jun 2012 15:29:40 -0700 (PDT)
X-Google-DKIM-Signature: v=1; a=rsa-sha256; c=relaxed/relaxed;; s=20120113;
MIME-Version: 1.0
Received: by with SMTP id l15mr1908118vcq.69.1340404180716; Fri,
 22 Jun 2012 15:29:40 -0700 (PDT)
Received: by with HTTP; Fri, 22 Jun 2012 15:29:40 -0700 (PDT)
X-Originating-IP: []
Date: Fri, 22 Jun 2012 15:29:40 -0700
Subject: Alert: Gmail leaks your IP address, too!
From: Byung Kyu Park 
To: [email protected]
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1
X-Gm-Message-State: ALoCoQk7npKTmF2Lm7SeiOjMUWWzoKsljaRrO1nKWhFYb8cNzMUvx4MCLv7++Y5oT/NTEIzOyQHG

Sent from Gmail web interface; see how IP address is exposed in the header.



The header (hidden by default in most email clients, but by no means unavailable to anyone who bothers to look at the full headers) "X-Originating-IP" reveals the IP address where I sent the email from; you can clearly see it's the IP address for my lab, not one of Google's server IPs.

I can understand why they'd do this (probably an anti-spam measure; they don't have control over my domain as they control their domain), but this certainly makes Google Apps less attractive for my email uses; I'll need to think about whether I'll proxy all my outgoing emails (so that only my public server IP addresses are revealed), or whether I'll go back to using regular addresses (I verified that my accounts still enjoy the privacy protection).

Update: And, of course, all this has been covered in an Internet forum already (EDITOR's NOTE: the Google product forum link doesn't work anymore, but this other thread covers similar information). Given that information, perhaps I need to think about paying for Google Apps. Depending on the price, my privacy may be worth it.

Sovereign Immunity

Sun Apr 29 16:11 PDT 2012

We often say "God is sovereign." But how much of that do we really mean? Do we really know what sovereignty involves, and do we really mean to attribute all that to God?

There is one thing that we do not mean when we say God is sovereign. We do not mean that he is merely omnipotent---because omnipotency implies so little. Take the example of a policeman and a kidnapper: they are both able to bind my hands and take me to the place where I do not want to be. When the policeman does it, it's a legal detainment (if not an actual arrest) that I can't do much to protest; when the kidnapper is found by authorities, however, the full force of the law will be on him.

The ability to do things means little, at least when compared to the awe-striking ability to do them in full justification. Any common criminal can come upon a created world to rule it (I believe this is the conception of "gods" in many religions; even Zeus didn't so much create the universe as he killed the Titan Cronus). Only the Creator is sovereign in the world he created.

We can get closer to the meaning of "sovereignty" if we look at its secular application on the sovereigns, i.e. the kings, the queens, and (in a classless democracy like U.S.A.) the government. In one particular aspect, there is this widespread legal doctrine termed "sovereign immunity", which, in short, says that the government cannot be sued. In the words of Justice Holmes, in deciding Kawananokoa v. Polyblank:

A sovereign is exempt from suit not because of any formal conception or obsolete theory, but on the logical and practical ground that there can be no legal right as against the authority that makes the law on which the right depends.

Since sovereignty of mortal institutions is clearly less sovereign than that of God, if this principle applied to human governments, it must apply all the much more to God: his sovereignty means he can do no wrong—that everything he does is justified, with no recourse of appeal to a higher authority (which, by definition of "God", doesn't exist in this universe).

It's at this point one almost starts empathizing with atheists: it's almost more comforting to believe that sentient life began with capricious Chance than to believe that there is this awe-inspring being who is so powerful that he created everything (and by implication defines right from wrong).

But wait. Is it true that the sovereign can never be sued? People sue the federal and state governments all the time, and not just to declare public school prayers unconstitutional or get EPA to regulate CO2 as pollutant. This happens because the full principle of sovereign immunity is "the sovereign may not be sued without his consent." And the sovereign sometimes consents to be sued, for whatever reason. Why would a sovereign ever waive this immunity? In a governmental system like that of U.S., I imagine it's political pressure (in cases not already governed through a superior law or a superior sovereign); after all, in our democracy the People are the actual sovereign and the branches of government are mere agents—and the sovereign may deem it convenient to allow the agents to be sued in some cases.

I don't know why a sovereign like God would waive this power (some people like John say he did it for love); all I know is he has: he has given up his right to flood the Earth when he made his covenant with Noah; he has given very specific promises to Abraham that he had to fulfill (or suffer the consequences of a breach of contract); and, I think, when he gave Moses the Law, it was yet another instance of a waiver of his sovereign immunity.

With the standards of righteousness unwritten, he alone (and his prophets) defined the righteous at any moment. No man could say, "I have done this and that; therefore I am blameless before God." After all, when the standards are that we must be our brothers' keepers (see: Cain and Abel; or for an actually correct reference, e.g. Deuteronomy 22), who among us could measure to such a standard? Who knows which things that we aren't doing might condemn us before God? And indeed, does anyone consider himself more righteous than Job, a righteous man by divine declaration, and yet through his misfortune, who was considered sinful by his friends?

Through the Law, God waives his right to condemn us (with all the justification in the world) if we would only follow his easy commandments. Only if we would follow them ... (but since obviously we---more precisely Israelites---couldn't, he waived it further through Jesus.)

No Plan of Man

Wed Apr 25 15:44 PDT 2012

From my daily reading:

The Philistines drew up in line against Israel, and when the battle spread, Israel was defeated by the Philistines, who killed about four thousand men on the field of battle. And when the troops came to the camp, the elders of Israel said, "Why has the Lord defeated us today before the Philistines? Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord here from Shiloh, that it may come among us and save us from the power of our enemies."

It was a foolproof plan. After all if the Ark was in the Israel's camp and her army was defeated somehow, the Ark would be captured. And it would be embarrassing to God. Therefore Israel could not be defeated so long as they were dragging the ark along (at least it seemed to work when Moses used this line of reasoning).


Take courage, and be men, O Philistines, lest you become slaves to the Hebrews as they have been to you; be men and fight." So the Philistines fought, and Israel was defeated, and they fled, every man to his home. And there was a very great slaughter, for there fell of Israel thirty thousand foot soldiers. And the ark of God was captured, and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, died.

The fact is, God is no holy concierge. We cannot set up a trap for God. We can scheme, reason, and plan according to the rules we know. We might even delude ourselves for a moment that we have painted God into the corner where we want him. Well. He doesn't follow the rules we set up for him; he's not confined in the picture of our imagination.

When the Philistines captured the ark of God, they brought it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. Then the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it into the house of Dagon and set it up beside Dagon. And when the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, behold, Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of the Lord. So they took Dagon and put him back in his place.

God will do what he needs to do when he wants to do it, how it fits his pleasure to accomplish it. If it takes a miracle, he will perform the miracle. If agency of his believers will do, he will use that. As Mordecai said to Esther, "if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish."

No matter what we plan, it is God's plan that will happen—the choice left to us is if we will fit within his plan, not whether we can subvert God for our little purposes.

Exceeding expectations

Sun Mar 18 14:38 PDT 2012

From today's reading (I've been behind as, well, the recent illness messed up my daily routines):

For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master's money.

Much attention is paid to the servant who received five talents and the servant who received one talent, but I wonder if it isn't the servant who received two talents who is the most remarkable. As the Scripture says that the master gave to each according to his ability, one can say that both the servant with five talents and servant with one talent performed more or less as the master expected: the servant with five talent (the ablest of them all), gave the master 100% return on his money; the servant with one talent (the least able of them all), gave the master 0% return on his money (but did manage to return his money, unlike, ah hem, some modern money managers).

The one servant who outperformed the master's expectations was the servant with two talents: although perceived as less able than the first servant, this servant also gave the master same rate of return on his money (i.e. 100%), which is what counts as performance metric (at least these days).

Which brings us to the question of the day: would you rather meet a high expectation or would you rather exceed a medium/low expectations?

NSF GRFP rating sheets from this year

Fri Apr 9 05:42 PDT 2010

Well. This year, I got an honorable mention, which may or may not matter (I get computing time on some kind of cluster, which may actually be useful). I am still waiting for further disappointments from DOE SCGF and NDSEG applications, but in the mean time, here is the rating sheet which, well, doesn't tell me much beyond the fact that "broader impacts" category sucks (I am not even sure what the dividing line between this year's honorable mention and last year's nothing):

Review 1
Overall Assessment of Intellectual Merit: Excellent
Explanation to the applicant:
The intellectual merit of the applicant can be characterized as excellent, both on the usual academic metrics, but also by the research contributions made to date (publications, presentations). He participated in large collaborations with national laboratories, and has international collaboration experience. The research proposal is cutting-edge, has a feasible research plan, and has a good probability of making a contribution to science.
Overall Assessment of Broader Impacts: Excellent
Explanation to the applicant:
The student has volunteered as a physics tutor, served as an undergraduate student instructor, and volunteers as a mentor to entering students in physical sciences, focusing on minorities and women. The proposal demonstrates a broad educational impact, as well as impact to society though the development of sensitive instruments in other areas of research and industry.

Review 2
Overall Assessment of Intellectual Merit: Very Good
Explanation to the applicant:
This is a strong applicant with excellent grades from a top department. Reference letters are warm, but they don't have quite the glow that we see in this excellent group. Applicant has one reviewed paper (first author), a good but not exceptional record at this stage.

Overall Assessment of Broader Impacts: Fair
Explanation to the applicant:
Applicant has mentored, tutored, and assisted. However, his research plan has no mention of any issue of diversity, outreach, except for the suggestion that there might be applications of some kind some time. More thought here would have improved the application.

Review 3
Overall Assessment of Intellectual Merit: Excellent
Explanation to the applicant:
The applicant has developed significant research experience through his undergraduate work on development of electric field monitor for neutron electric dipole moment experiment at the SNS and for preliminary work on development of a quantum magnetometer based on AMOR. The proposed research plan has been clearly devised (this is one of the few applications I've read where 'contingency plans' are presented). It's an ambitious and difficult experiment, but the applicant seems motivated and capable.

Overall Assessment of Broader Impacts: Very Good
Explanation to the applicant:
The broader scientific impacts of the proposal are clearly discussed - development of more sensitive magnetometry will have an impact in a number of disciplines. Less emphasis is put on the broader education impacts of the proposal. This aspect could be improved.

On second thought, if I had finished my paper on the AMOR results from Krakow (in 2008!) last summer like I said I would, my application may have made it above the mysterious threshold.

Oh, well.

Update (4/13): And the disappointment from NDSEG arrived today. They are even more useless than NSF GRFP; no feedback on the application whatsoever (in any case, this year was my last year of eligibility anyway). I suppose it's not like I expected any different result from NDSEG, as my application was weakest in terms of what NDSEG people wanted.

Update (4/15): And I just heard from DOE SCGF: now my disappointment is complete.

Calmail leaks IP addresses!

Sun Nov 29 01:45 PST 2009

For regular visitors of my blog from UCB, here’s an early holiday Christmas present to you: Calmail leaks IP addresses! Here’s a quick demonstration (I’ve seen similar headers on emails from friends and colleagues, but I didn’t want to expose their info; I’ve redacted some info here as I didn’t want to expose my … secret email server scheme, or my real username for Calmail):

Return-path: [email protected]
Envelope-to: [email protected]
Delivery-date: Sun, 29 Nov 2009 01:32:12 -0800
Received: from ([])
        by with esmtps (TLS1.0:RSA_AES_256_CBC_SHA1:32)
        (Exim 4.69)
        (envelope-from )
        id 1NEg8a-0000jX-J7
        for [email protected]; Sun, 29 Nov 2009 01:32:12 -0800
Received: from xxxxxxx by visitor3.Berkeley.EDU with local (Exim 4.69)
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Date: Sun, 29 Nov 2009 01:32:05 -0800
From: "Byung Kyu Park, BA" 
To: [email protected]
Subject: This will demonstrate how Calmail leaks IP addresses
Message-ID: <[email protected]>
X-Sender: [email protected]
User-Agent: RoundCube Webmail/0.3-RC1.UCB3
Content-Type: multipart/alternative;

Content-Transfer-Encoding: 8bit
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="UTF-8"

And this email was composed on the RoundCube webmail client.


You will see that the detailed email header (which most email clients hide, but there is always an option to show full headers) reveals the IP from which I was accessing Calmail’s webmail interface (no, I’m not in the lab right now; but I am proxying through one of my servers, because I consider my current IP address a confidential, personal, private information). Similar headers show if you use SMTP protocol or if you use the other webmail.

I am not entirely sure if this is a feature or bug—embedding IP information in headers will help with legitimate activities of law enforcement authorities, as well as illegitimate (is there any other kind?) squelching of dissenting voices—so I haven’t reported it to [email protected] or, I don’t know, [email protected]? [email protected]?

In any case, now that you know, now you can avoid using Calmail—if you value your privacy.

No matter what you do, just remember: when you send an email through Calmail, you announce to your recipient what your IP address is at that moment. Don’t send that email if you are not comfortable with that.

Liberation of the First Commandment

Wed Nov 4 11:52 PST 2009

The first commandment says,

Do not put any other gods in place of me.

Because this command is stated in negative terms, it is easy to misunderstand it as something that restricts our choice—a choice, if we were to make freely and rationally in full possession of the complete information, that we might make differently. But a deeper reading into this commandment should reveal that this is as much a “negative command” as our constitutional rights are “negative rights” (such as one that says that Congress may not make laws restricting speech).

An equivalent way to state this command is this: “No other god will have power over you.” Considering what other (false) gods were around at the time, I would take this commandment more as a promise of protection than an actual command. This commandment is more liberating than it is binding.

This statement is repeated in the New Testament as well:

“Come to me, all of you who are tired and are carrying heavy loads. I will give you rest. Become my servants and learn from me. I am gentle and free of pride. You will find rest for your souls. Serving me is easy, and my load is light.”

(Some older translations refer to “yoke”, which I thought was better for the imagery.)

Of course, by this time human sacrifice (as required by some pagan religions) had become a faded chapter of history. But the burden asked for in Christianity has proportionally gone down as well (“… each according to his ability …”). So it still remains, compared to the yokes of other preoccupations, religious or secular, the yokes of Christianity is lighter, and if the latter excludes the former, then by bearing the yokes of Christianity (or, more directly, the First Commandment), we become free of the heavier burden.

So, Nawojka isn't just the name of a dorm next to the physics department at Jagiellonian University?

Sat Sep 19 20:18 PDT 2009

I'm sorta ashamed that I didn't know this already:

There is a grain of truth in every legend. One of those legends is the story of Nawojka, who is a good example to follow for young girls with academic inclinations. Nawojka is considered to be the first female student and teacher in Poland. It was about 1407 when she, disguised in boy’s clothing, entered the Kraków Academy in violation of all rules, laws, customs and tradition; defying everything that was expected of women at that time. This fact was recorded about 1429 by Martin of Leibitz, an elderly abbot of the Benedictine order in Vienna.

This is the front of the dorm (they have a bar and cafeteria within the same building):


And this is a sign for the cafeteria that's been there forever (at least since 2007):


NSF GRFP ratings sheets are up

Tue May 19 00:09 PDT 2009

And the (slightly) encouraging news is, I have 3 sheets: from what I heard, that meant I passed at least the first round of reviews, as applications screened in the first round should have only 2.

The reviews are (I don't think there's anything confidential in them, so nothing redacted):

Review 1
Overall Assessment of Intellectual Merit: Excellent
Explanation to the applicant:
Stella academic record and great ability to conduct original research. Carefully indicated how his research would impact society. played leading roles in major research projects. He pointed how the result of his research will have multidisciplinary implications.
Overall Assessment of Broader Impacts: Excellent
Explanation to the applicant:
He was trusted to lead a research group in which the result of his effort has led to a publication. He played leadership roles in various voluntary organizations.

Review 2
Overall Assessment of Intellectual Merit: Very Good
Explanation to the applicant:
BA from UCB with excellent GPA and very high subject GRE score; Very high GPA, Dean's list several semesters; Undergraduate research assistant at UCB, summer research in Poland and at LANL; Good reference letters; 1st year grad student at UCB; Clear description of previous research experiences; Good research proposal to use atomic magnetometry to study silver spectral line in noble buffer gases.
Overall Assessment of Broader Impacts: Good
Explanation to the applicant:
Volunteer physics tutor; Volunteer in program for mentoring freshmen and sophomores; Engaged in non profit for tutoring K-12 students.

Review 3
Overall Assessment of Intellectual Merit: Excellent
Explanation to the applicant:
This proposal towards atomic magnetometry in a cryogenic buffer gas is excellent and has high potential for applications. The applicant is very accomplished.
Overall Assessment of Broader Impacts: Good
Explanation to the applicant:
The broader impact potential of the proposed research is very good. The proposal could have been stronger if the applicant had a record of broadening participation.

So overall, it looks like I performed poorly in the broader impacts (I do believe "good" in terms of getting the fellowship means "bad", as there are bound to be many, many applicants with "excellent" rating on all aspects from all reviewers). I'm not sure if my application will look any better next year in that aspect (in the "intellectual merit" aspect, it will be ... somewhat neutral, since if things go as planned, my grades will have suffered a little but I should have another paper published with me as the first author) ... but I guess I should apply anyway.

And, well, in the more ... disappointment category, it looks like I didn't make the honorable mention either, and there are 300 more people who got the award. In the first round they awarded about 900; now there are more than 1200.

Definition of Trust

Fri Jan 18 11:50 PST 2008

(This is from my old Facebook Notes. So that’s the context for this note.)

A simple comment on “Circle of Trust”: it’s a poor replica of Web of Trust, one of the security models for PGP encryption standard. The idea is that you trust the identity of a public key, only if it’s signed by a trusted entity (either yourself, or a select few people you trust to sign keys carefully).

I know it was not meant to be used as basis for an encryption system for true trust, not that warm and fuzzy “trust”, but nowadays, the word “trust” is being used so much, I take a step back if someone says the T-word (ever heard of “Trusted Computing”, better known as “Treacherous Computing”?).

Here’s a definition of trust you might want to take to heart (egh. bah. I can’t find the source link now … but it goes something like): “Trusted person: someone who can break security”.

In the most practical terms, that’s what trust means—when you trust someone or something, you allow him or that thing to do considerable damage. Sometimes such trust is necessary, but more often than not, people are way too generous with their trust.


Sun Jan 27 06:38 PST 2008

Finally found the source material for the sensible definition above. See number 24, DoD’s definition of “trusted system or component”.

Now you will know to withhold trust whenever someone says the T-word.

It is once said that when a physicist mentions Heisenberg uncertainty principle, he is out to con you (into making you believe he proved something that he did not prove). The same should be applied to anyone who says, “Do you trust me?” He is about to do something to break the trust, if any were present to begin with.

Reporting In

Mon May 8 17:45 PDT 2006

EDITOR's NOTE: This is apparently the earliest blog post still preserved in some form.

I don’t have anything interesting to write, but I thought I would just write something anyways. I don’t want to get into the habit of ignoring my blogs and journals again.

I just got back from school and plan on getting started on the Greek paper.

It’s a depressing time of the year—more so than usual. I have so many regrets, on the classes I chose to take, on the major I chose, and, well, on the high school I chose. It feels like I took the wrong turn in every fork of the road. If not every, certainly on the major intersections. So many times I had wished that I had a time machine, so that I can go back and fix it all—especially back to the beginning of my sophomore year in high school, so that I could make the logical choice right then and then.

That’s enough of old regrets. Sigh. I think I’m giving up doing well on Math 220. The material is … too advanced, and I didn’t spend enough time to cover them on my own … early enough. That’ll be one of my greatest failures in college: I missed the chance to drop, and I missed the chance to change it to P/NP. Hopefully physics graduate schools will look kindly upon it.

Anyways. To the paper, I go.


EDITOR's NOTE: I think I might know what "Greek paper" this post is referring to; when I can find it, I'll link it somewhere. ... Found it. Unfortunately it dates from the time when I didn't know how to typeset with accents (the copy I turned in had accents hand-written), so the reader will just have to imagine that impeccable accent and breathing marks were handwritten on the printed copy.

Andrew's Schedule

Wed Sep 15 00:00 PDT 2004

EDITOR's NOTE: This is a screenshot from one of my oldest websites

Last modified: Wed Jul 26 15:29:07 UTC 2023