Space and Time

I used to be very active on my blog and all the social networking services. However, after a while I found that most of what I had written was trivial and irrelevant to my readers. So one of the goals of this blog is to provide contents that are valuable for the longest time possible, which, of course, makes it very hard to find proper topics to write about. Space and time seems to be a good one.

I am interested in stargazing (I bet people did that during warm summer evenings in ancient Greece, too. Btw, Dark Sky Finder and Clean Sky Chart are very helpful) because they give me a new perspective on life. I begin to understand why galaxy also means “an assemblage of brilliant or notable persons or things”. I realized why we call celebrities stars: movie star, rock star, NBA superstar, etc. Because you can see them although they are far away. Some stars are really bright but far, and others are less bright but closer. I guess the same analogy still applies to humans.

This a flash that demonstrates the Scale of the Universe.

Obviously waitbutwhy is one of my favorites, and a lot of what I wanted to say is already there. Here are some relevant posts:

Putting Time In Perspective (and a video by Kurzgesagt)

Meet Your Ancestors (All of Them)

4 Mind-Blowing Things About Stars (This is not my favorite post, but you get the point)

The Fermi Paradox

Update on 11/28/2014

Where to find dark sky parks? Here are two relevant webpages [1] [2]. Closest one to Chicago is THE HEADLANDS in Michigan, still pretty far away..

Software/Programs/Apps I love – Part 3: iPhone

Today we turn to iOS platform. I don’t own an iPad so I’ve only used these apps on iPhone. Again this list won’t cover very popular apps like Duolingo. Most of them are also available on the Web and Android.

1. Pocket (alternatives include Instapaper and Readability)

Before I knew Pocket, when I found some cool stories online but didn’t have the time to read them right away, I bookmarked the page. Over time I ended up with a lot of bookmarks that required a huge chunk of time to actually read.

Now I save them to Pocket (by Save to Pocket Chrome extension), then this Pocket app becomes a mobile reading list so that I can read it whenever I want (e.g. waiting for a bus). Also Pocket removes the ads on the webpages, helping me focus on the content.

2. Feedly

Before I knew RSS, I had to check all of my favorite websites/blogs frequently because I did not want to miss any new posts. However, after a while I found this very tiring. RSS can solve this problem: all I need to do is to subscribe (just like YouTube) to the websites/blogs and every new posts will appear in my RSS reader automatically.

The best RSS reader used to be Google Reader. After Google shut it down on 7/1/2013, I switched to Feedly and it’s been working well. Their iOS app is great except one thing: pictures from Angewandte Chemie International Edition cannot display properly. So I am using Reeder on my phone.

Bonus – some websites/blogs I follow:

In English:

Waitbutway: weekly updated blog with insightful and unusually long posts. Some of my favorite posts are:

Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy (This is probably their most famous post)

How to Pick Your Life Partner (Part 2)

Life is a Picture, But You Live in a Pixel

7 Ways To Be Insufferable On Facebook

If you read these posts and agree with them, potentially you and I can be good friends.

Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD): from NASA.

Abstruse Goose/PHD Comics/xkcd: geeky comics.

Hi, I’m Liz: cute comics.

In Chinese:




3. HabitRPG

To-do list (e.g. Google Task, Todoist, Wunderlist, is a great idea, and I’ve been using them for a long time. Recently I found HabitRPG and it’s exactly what I’ve been thinking for a long time. You’ve probably already heard about gamification, and this 8-min tutorial video explains how HabitRPG works. The HabitRPG Chrome extension can (potentially) help you spend less time on YouTube/Facebook/Reddit/9gag (RescueTime does the same thing).

4. Mint

Best free way to manage (my small amount of) money.


Workout app. A timer between sets and a log.

6. Starmap lite

Star Walk is great, but this one is free, and it works, too.

7. TripCase

Keep all your itineraries in one place.

Bonus: how to organize iPhone apps

First world problem: you have so many apps on your iPhone that you can’t find them when you need them. My solution: 1) delete the ones you don’t really need; 2) organize them in a way that works for you.

Here’s how I do it: Dock: A-level (frequency of usage) apps; Page 1: B-level apps, no folders; Page 2: C-level apps and folders. Page 3: new apps to test. You can see other ways of organizing apps here and here.