Singularity Magazine October 2010

Singularity October 2010 issue

The October issue of Singularity is available for download. Get it now. It’s free.

In an act of serendipity, we have a Halloween-theme for this issue (although it’s stretching that definition). In this issue, we have:

  • A short story by my friend Grey Yuen. While the story is not scary, the character doing the monologue is. Can you guess his identity?
  • An exclusive interview with Alex Hall, a web developer in United Kingdom. Learn what it takes to create web sites in a team. We have a spider’s web on the cover. That counts as Halloween-themed, right?
  • A continuation of the Japanese learning article from September.
  • An exploration in forensic science about telling the time of death using the liver’s temperature.

Feel free to share the magazine through email, blog or other means. You’re given the right to print and distribute the magazine electronically provided you don’t change any of the content or charge for it.

Shortcut to partially understanding Japanese

Japanese and katakana

This is an excerpt from the September issue of Singularity.

Here lies the short cut; many katakana texts/words are English transcriptions.

Because of that,

The trick is to leverage on your existing knowledge of English. Once you learn how to pronounce the katakana letters, just use a bit of creativity and imagination, and you can translate it to the English word equivalent. And the more languages you understand, the more likely you can translate a katakana phrase/term into a phrase/term you can understand.

And if you happen to know Chinese, then you can also make educated guesses at the Japanese kanji letters. Two thirds of the Japanese language understood! Give yourself a pat on the back.

Speaking of shortcuts, I also covered a live cutting event. With real swords! Read more in the magazine.

The Biz of Apps

I finally wrote an article that’s related to technology. You can read about it in the September 2010 issue of my online magazine (or e-zine if you prefer). Here are some excerpts:

It all started when a friend asked me, “Hey dude, you’re a programmer. Why don’t you create an iPhone app and sell it?” Something in my gut already told me it’s not a worthwhile investment of effort at that point in time. I trust my intuition a lot; it saves a lot of brain cycles spent deciding.

I wrote specifically about iPhone/iPad apps, but the concepts can be transplanted to other mobile devices. The app business appears to be increasingly lucrative, particularly when Apple is making their iPod/iPhone/iPad so attractive as a consumer device. It is popular because the mobile device (not just those from Apple) is ubiquitous. Practically everyone who has disposable income (and even those without…) has a mobile phone (is the word “mobile” even needed? Some of these Generation Y people (no offense if you’re one) might not even know what a dial-tone telephone is). And that is a lot of round brackets…

I explained some of the decisions I made for not developing an iPhone app. Here’s a terrible reason:

Developers wait an average of 4.78 days for app approval

Other (mobile) (phone) app markets probably have a quicker approval period.

I gave some suggestions for leveraging that app you have, because if you’re selling it at 99 cents per user, you’re not going to retire at the ripe old age of 23, lounge at the beach recliner staring at the softly lapping waves and sip piña coladas. I’m just saying… And raising the price is not the answer (not in the long term anyway).

With an investment of US$ 999 for the MacBook, and a yearly subscription of US$ 99, I’m out by US$ 1098. If I’m selling a 99 cent app, I need 1585 downloads to break even (remember that Apple takes a 30% cut). And then I need 143 downloads every year thereafter to break even for the yearly subscription cost. I will need to continue creating apps to alleviate that. And I’m not even making a profit, just trying to break even.

You can read the whole article in my magazine Singularity.

P.S. I don’t write a lot of technology articles because I’m not really interested in the latest gadgets and technology advancements. Another reason is I’m only one person, keeping up with all that there is, is tiring. I just feel my time can be put to a better use. That said, I will write them if they’re still relevant when Time washes a few months on the “latest and greatest”.

Singularity Magazine September 2010

Singularity September 2010 issue

In this September 2010 issue, I have an exclusive interview with Parker Emmerson (also mentioned previously), a mathematician, musician and artist. We talked about his art and how he used mathematics to create images.

Download the September 2010 issue. It’s free.

Other articles include:

  • The business of iPhone apps (yay, finally, a tech article!)
  • How to understand 1/3 of Japanese texts in 1 hour
  • What happened at the Tech65 Party?
  • You probably don’t know this about snakes…
  • I witnessed the “beheading” of dozens of plastic bottles. A PHEMAS live cutting event.

Read all that, right here in the September issue. Download the September 2010 issue.

Please subscribe to the Singularity magazine if you haven’t done so. Subscription is free, and members get exclusive updates. There’s also a free ebook when you subscribe. If you’re reading this from an RSS reader, please click through to the blog to find the sign up form (at the sidebar).

Be part of Singularity magazine

Have you ever wanted to shoot photos for a magazine? Write articles as a columnist? Report events and cover exciting stories? Well, here’s your chance. I’m looking for passionate people who want to share some of their awesomeness.

While I cannot pay you (Singularity magazine is free of charge), your work will be seen by MILLIONS and MILLIONS of people! Ok, it’s more on the scale of hundreds of people. But your work is immortalised online, for all eternity. Or at least until the server crashes and all my backups disappeared at the same time.

Here’s a list of what you might want to do to contribute (by no means exhaustive):

  • Submit your interesting photos, be they of people (make sure you have the subject person’s permission) or of events or of still life (Cover photographer!)
  • Display some of your art, be it digital or illustrative. And I want to interview you.
  • Show your craft work. Tell me how you did it. Photos recommended.
  • Showcase some of your literary work
  • Share your scientific thesis (will be non-exclusive to the magazine). Maths, chemistry or astrophysbiology are welcome
  • Cover an event and submit a write-up on it (Reporter of the year award!)

Basically, I’m looking for photographers, artists, scientists, reporters, and writers. I’m doing this because my keen spider senses are telling me that you have something interesting to share, but you don’t really have a platform to share it on. Your own blog? Too tedious to upkeep. Your own Flickr account to show photos? Nah, you only occasionally take photos. Facebook and Twitter? Ok, but you want more than just your friends to know that awesome thing you just created/shared.

In an online magazine, your work is immortalised in a PDF file. Sure, a URL link is easy to share, but the contents of that page can be easily changed. Ok, fine, I can probably change the contents of the magazine and upload it. But what of those copies already downloaded? Like I said, your work is immortalised.

And you don’t have to be a regular contributor if you don’t want to. In fact, ad-hoc submissions are fine. I just need to know if you’re submitting something for the next issue (at a reasonably early point in time of the month).

As of now, if you want to submit something for the next issue, the deadline for telling me is the 15th of the month. For example, if you tell me before 15 August that you are going to cover some interesting event in August, and you’ll take a couple of pictures as well, then I’d be able to include that in the September issue. The actual deadline for the submitted material itself is the 25th of the month. This gives me some leeway to prepare for the launch of the next issue.

Buuuttt that’s really boring stuff. And I don’t really have the timeline that rigid. Contact me, tell me what you have in mind, and we’ll work something out.

Singularity Magazine August 2010

Singularity Aug 2010 issue

Ok, an announcement first. I asked, you spoke, and I listened. Singularity is now free (I can already hear people rejoicing and crying for joy).

Download the August issue.

In this issue,

Drawing the line
Are you present-focussed or future-facing?

Milky Way and Raspberries
A little milk, a little space. A little fruit, a little taste.

Our cover story:
Vegetarian Continuum
From fruitarians to Hannibal Lecters.

Hebrew notes
Similar alphabet system to Greek and fascinating numbers from the language of the Jews.

New feature

I’ve added an “upcoming events” section. The idea is to list interesting events happening around the world. Hopefully, one of them occurs where you live, and you can experience the fun. Art exhibitions, science fairs, cultural shows and technological displays are all fair game.

One of them is the Buenzli 19, a demoscene party. It’s held in Switzerland from 20 to 22 August. I’ve never been to a demoparty before, so if you’ve been to one, please tell me what it’s like.

If you know any other fun events, please let me know.

Singularity survey result


When I first launched my magazine, I also asked you to help with a survey. (Begged you, implored you desperately to do my survey more accurately. Wait, did I just say that out loud?) Anyway, in the interests of transparency, I thought I’d share some of the insights I gained. I can’t tell you the exact results, because it’s only a small sample size. So the results are heavily skewed, but I’m going to be objective about it. There were 5 questions in total.

1. What is your gender? (based on the sum total of you physically, mentally, emotionally, psychologically and other -allies)

Quite self-explanatory. You think the addendum is irrelevant? I thought so too, until I read about how complicated it could be to respectfully ask a person’s gender. At least I didn’t ask you if you have a Y chromosome.

I thought I’d simplify the conditions, and let you decide whether you feel you’re a male or female. Hey, you could be a hermaphrodite, but generally feel that you’re masculine. If the criteria gets too complicated, throw them out and go with your gut feeling.

Oh yeah, they were all men.

2. What is your age?

I had 5 ranges:

  • below 20 years old
  • between 20 and 30 years old
  • between 30 and 40 years old
  • between 40 and 50 years old
  • more than 50 years

The survey participants were aged between 20 and 50 years old. Ok, so Pokemon is definitely out of the question…

3. At what price should the Singularity micro magazine be priced at?

The answer was a unanimous “free”. Quite expected. I’m charging for the magazine not because I want to wheedle you out of your hard earned money, but because I gotta eat.

“Free” was the first option. The second option was “$0 to $5”. I was wondering if the $0 would trigger something. Technically, free and $0 are the same. But do people respond more to the word “free”, or to a numeric value “$0”? Oh well, only if I placed them as two separate options, with the third as “$1 to $5” will I find out…

4. In which country are you living in now till 1 year in the foreseeable future?

Due to the small sample size, I will not disclose the answer to protect the innocent. Let’s just say they are all different countries. And none of them is Singapore, so yay I love you international readers! (I still love you readers in Singapore. Don’t mind that last sentence)

The question was phrased that way, to take care of travelling and resettling conditions. The point was to understand if it’s useful to do localised articles specific to a country. If I knew where you lived, I could write articles that include examples, events and activities in your country.

5. What do you want to read about in a magazine in the pursuit and application of knowledge? (write as many subjects as you like)

I wanted to know what you’re interested in. The answer surprised me. The consolidated answer is basically “what you write on your blog”. Ohhkkaayyy…

On further analysis, that is correct. The magazine is geared towards promoting polymathy. I write on diverse topics here on the blog (some of them are even interesting). It makes sense. I should’ve asked some other question…

So your wish is my command. I will go source for various fascinating and exciting topics for your reading pleasure.

[image by ragsac]

Singularity Magazine July 2010

Singularity July 2010 cover

Well, frankly speaking, I didn’t think I’d make it this far. But hey whaddayaknow, the July 2010 issue of Singularity is out!

Buy it now! Update: Singularity is now available free of charge. Download the July issue now.

In this issue,

Ecological escape velocity

A discussion on our Earth, the ecology as a whole and the environment. There’s an ecological escape velocity where suddenly our resources become sustainable. I hope to get there sooner. I hope you will help.


My friend Christopher contributes his thoughts on Mohism, a comparison with Confucianism, and the applications of Mohism to your daily life.

Descent into darkness

A discussion on darkness, fear and how the hero’s journey is a metaphor for our trials and tribulations.

Download the July issue now.

I am also proud to say that Singularity supports the efforts of Project Polymath, an interdisciplinary university with the goal of raising a new generation of polymaths. Project Polymath was established by Polymath Foundation, a non-profit organisation.

Project Polymath

I really like this quote:

One da Vinci changed the world. Let’s create thousands.

Price change

[UPDATE: I’m no longer charging for the magazine]

You may have noticed a price change, from US$1 to US$2. You don’t like it? I don’t like it either. I’d give the full issue for free if I could help it. The main cause is that PayPal charges a lot if the price is low.

At US$1, PayPal charges $0.30 + 2.9% of the original price. That comes up to $0.30 + $0.029, which means that when you buy Singularity at $1, I get $0.67.

At US$2, the charges are $0.30 + 2.9% of original price, which is $0.30 + $0.058. When you buy Singularity at $2, I get $1.64. Which is a bit more reasonable.

Of course, the maximum profits come at even higher prices, but I want to keep the price affordable and reasonable. There are other factors involved, but I don’t want to bore you with discussing my balancing act of integrity, transparency, psychology, consumer mentality and how my stomach gets strong votes for wanting to eat.

Download the July issue now.

Singularity – a micro magazine

Singularity June 2010 issue

I am launching a micro magazine, Singularity. You can buy it for US$1 right here. UPDATE: Singularity is now available free of charge. Download the June issue now. In it, you will read about:

  • Ayn Rand and Objectivism
  • Limitations of choice in a game
  • The lack of control in water colouring
  • Liberal arts education

You can also download a free preview to see if you like it.

Click here to download free preview [Download the full June issue now]

While you’re at it, how about doing a survey for me? Helps me customise the magazine for you.

Click here to take survey Survey closed.

In the past, I’ve launched 2 newsletters before. I stopped writing them because the email text format prevented me from using a lot of design elements, namely typography and images. Sure, there is the HTML email format I could use. But the effort in sending emails with a consistent look took too much effort, and your email system might not even be able to open it.

So when Seth Godin wrote about micro magazines, I liked the concept immediately. A small scale magazine with a few articles in PDF. It’s a file, can be easily shared, allows freedom of design elements, and doesn’t have to be printed (environmentally friendly).

[UPDATE: I’m no longer charging for the magazine.]
I’m also charging for it because, well, I need to eat. And you can buy the inaugural June 2010 issue of Singularity for just US$1. Think of it as a donation to me if you like. Hungry men don’t write well

Singularity currently runs ad-free, but I’m willing to consider sponsorship. Then you can get it for free! Yay! But you’re most welcome to buy my magazine.

Click here to buy Singularity June 2010 issue Download the June issue now.

And if you can spare a couple of minutes of your time, please help me with the survey too. I appreciate your time and attention. Thanks.

Click here to take survey Survey closed.

If you have any questions, comments, or enquiries on Singularity, you may contact me at

If you’re an advertiser looking to sponsor Singularity, please contact me at the same email address:

If you’re a die-hard supporter of Polymath Programmer, but you happen to not have money, fear not. The writing on this blog continues to be free. Tell your friends about the magazine. Tell your friends about the blog. I appreciate your help.