December 31, 2010 0 Comments

O C I P.

Y E P.

These acronyms carry the ring of authority. But what are they but words? Mere arrangement of alphabets. It is the spirit that they represent which matters, yet this spirit of offering service - thus, what matters - elude easy definition.

Increasingly, more friends are embarking on overseas trips - to Vietnam, Cambodia, China. To India, Thailand and other Asian countries. Simply put, to neighbouring countries less developed than Singapore.

What for? To build houses, drill wells, whitewash dormitories. To distribute food packages, solar ovens and to teach local kids basic English. All this done in the name of community service.

The underlying assumption of offering such aid is the judgement that these societies are backward, akin to viewing them through imperialistic eyes. 'We know what is better for you and we have the means to offer them to you.' Isn't that viewing the villages from a vantage of superiority?

I used to think that way too. That the world is a better place if we help such less economically developed societies to grow. Offer them equal access to education, shelter and food. However, during this recent YEP, it struck me that these people are happy.

They smile genuinely and laugh without restraint. They chase with fierce abandonment a plastic soccer ball. The kids draw stick figures with wide grins plastered on the figures' faces. (Do you even see such scenes daily on our tiny island set in the seas?)

By introducing to them what modern, Westernised societies value - creature comforts - are we actually leading them down the route of rat races and perpetual disillusionment? Are we, in short, genuinely helping them?

We all went in with the noblest intentions of helping. of sharing what we have. Yet, the kindest actions - once, misdirected - may backfire spectacularly. Witness the doting mother who piles food on her obese son's plate. Or the coach who pushes his protege without relenting. This unseemly marriage between intentions and actions give rise to shifting shades of murkiness between black and white.

Are we helping or hindering? An easy question to ask with no ready, definite answers.

Also, are we offering them what they need? Or are we merely offering them what we can offer? What they require is infrastructural aid; short term aid during university holidays just doesn't cut it. Yes, but that is what we can willingly offer.

And, true, every effort counts. But one would believe that by 'every effort', it means sustained progressive effort by an entity as opposed to once-in-a-while - or worse, once-in-a-lifetime - piecemeal experience.

Valid points raised by friends:
1) By a fellow teacher-wannabe: the people actually appreciate our help. When she was residing in the Philippines, she had often wished for people to visit and share their knowledge. To know that the world cares about the village's existence. Just like what we did.
2) By our team's leader: we helped technically by performing manual labour. What we lack in skill, we make up for with enthusiasm and quantity of work done.
3) By my buddy: the happiness we see is a photograph, snapshots of joy that they effect while visitors are there. What we aren't privy to is their lives - toil, troubles and all - before and after our visit.
4) By my buddy, again: they'll sense our enthusiasm. Look, we could have mailed them a cheque with money. But, we didn't. We came down and offered ourselves - time and money - for them. Surely, that counts for something.
5) By the team's da ge: the universality of body language and the communication of intangible feelings. Certainly, they can feel us.

Am rather ambiguous about the YEP experience. Just couldn't reconcile the idea of community service being - in many ways - self-serving, I guess.

This experience, indeed, is lovely. Merged into the rhythmic cadence of village life. Tiled roofs while balanced precariously on beams. Loved - and was in turn loved by - kids who are overtly generous with their feelings. Met people who I'll be glad to be friends with. (Should I name everyone?) Had experiences that I'll reminisce for many years to come.

Yes, this YEP is the beginning of a new awareness. Any attempt to define its purposes would be akin to looking at an egg while painting a bird; a fruitless injustice. Realised this as I write for there can be no proper ending to this entry; gave up all hopes of concluding this post.

There's really no need to justify the end for we're still at the beginning. And, after all, a non-conclusion is simply another fancy way of concluding.

Thanks, to the powersthatbe, for granting me this experience. Grateful for having and knowing everyone more. Many blessings to the villagers - grandparents who took us in charitably; kids who gave their time and adoration without reserve; our translator without who we'd have starved. Thanks all and be well.



December 29, 2010 0 Comments

He had lived life cautiously, safely. Without realising that he had been living safely and cautiously.

The silly boy had equated drinking with vice, parroting the state's sanctioned messages - 'drinking is bad; people who drink are bad'. He thought that one can easily be addicted to drinking. Just one sip - one miserly sip with pursed lips - and your life is no longer yours.

In a way, he was raised to please. It seemed natural to not drink while he was at home. Just as natural as it felt - a paradox? - to accept the shots of rice wine offered so generously by the villagers. And so, to please, he drank.

The rice wine, it was horrible. It had seared down his throat and left a fiery, bitter aftertaste.

Why drink? He asked a seasoned drinker.

'Beer is akin to barley rot. There's nothing nice about it.'

'Huh, then why do you drink so much then?'

'It's all about the company. You drink when you're happy, in the company of friends. You drink when the atmosphere is festive.'

Ah, positive psychological associations with drinking. In that light, drinking seemed acceptable. In fact, to not drink would be unpardonable. He relaxed a little and drank more.

Many times, he was on the cusp of being drunk. He can sense it in himself. The wooziness while walking, excessive smiling, a certain disregard for social norms. Quite cool to be on the twilight between wakefulness and drunkenness.

'How many bottles have you had? I had one today and that's, like, an achievement for life,' he proclaimed proudly.

'One? I had one by breakfast already. Seven bottles in total so far.'

Pfft, he felt his sense of accomplishment deflating. Pfffft.

P.S. He's not an alcohol addict. Didn't even have a simple drop of alcohol while he's back in Sg.

Fun fact: drinking alcohol only gives the illusion of being warm. Many village lores tell of people keeping warm in the winters by downing shots of alcoholic drinks. Alcohol merely diverts heat from within the body to the skin without actually raising the body's temperature. If you ever find yourself on the snow-capped mountaintop of Everest, avoid alcohol for it diverts heat from essential organs to create a mere illusion of warmth.

A mirror of and for Life, it seems. One that parallels the diversion of essential energy - time, love - for mere egocentric reasons.


In tune with Mother Nature

December 27, 2010 0 Comments

Whispers by ancient voices filtered lovingly into their ears.

The rustle of leaves, the melody of morning birds, the warmth of a rising sun. Ah, the great outdoors. One could be easily intoxicated by this heady confluent of fresh air, evergreen scenery and rustic pace of living. A breathtaking reminder of/ departure from the mindless pace of surviving back home.

Have you ever felt such shivers of ancient magic as you laid your eyes on the untouched emerald sea of trees? As a rainbow finch bolted in surprise from an ixora bush?

Every creature in Nature is perfect in ways only Nature can be. This perfection - one which had remained for centuries - could be easily casted into the pits of oblivion by human beings. 

In the distance, half the forest on the mountain cap was decimated, leaving an unsightly patch of brown within the emerald seas. A tractor, surrounded by scattered rubbish, rested right before their eyes. Against the rural backdrop, environmental decay called defiantly for attention.

Textbook knowledge came alive. It was one thing to study methane-belching cows, deforestation and environmental pollution for a Science test the following day. It was a completely different experience to behold such devastation with their very eyes.

In Singapore, they've been desensitised to such wanton destruction. Most of them, afterall, have not witnessed such rape of Nature. To observe such scenes after a long hiatus of indifference and oblivion... it's like a man, born blind, who suddenly regained his sight hours before his death.

During moments like these, they couldn't help feeling ashamed of being human. Yes, they couldn't shoulder the collective blame for environmental destruction. But neither could they escape being branded.

One of them took a step backwards and strained his ears. The barely perceptible now became clearer. A faint undercurrent of disharmony - so faint that it felt as though it was imagined - streamed seamlessly with the loving whispers.

May a greater appreciation for Nature guide our every action. May we see ourselves mirrored in the leaves of raintrees and feathers of fruit doves.


Wavering lights

December 26, 2010 0 Comments

Scarlet petals scatter on the ceramic tiles.

Shadows flicker against the walls as the tea-lights waver.

The crimson rose petals are ringed by a circle of scarlet tea candles. And we, in turn, sit around this ellipse of light.

Today is special: It is the first day we're overseas for our humanitarian trip. A nervous anticipation -silent, yet palpable - hangs thickly in the air. We're beyond the sphere of our comfort zones, bobbing uncertainly on the waves of life.

We were strangers starting out on a journey, never dreaming what we have to go through.

'What happens in Cambodia, stays in Cambodia.' Our leaders swear us to secrecy. Therefore, the following stories hold only sparks of truth. Pseudonyms are used to maintain the veil of secrecy that everyone promises to uphold, details omitted, stories embellished. A world of lies and truths awaits; honeycombs of incandescent bubbles swell, burst and reveal hitherto unsaid secrets.

On this night, we share stories of hope and disappointment, fears and uncertainties. We let one another see our deepest, most vulnerable selves as the candlelights waver.
She was physically abused by her dad.

'My dad loves the family, but he just doesn't know how to express himself. We'd have vicious - absolutely vicious - quarrels. These fights, they're just not normal over-the-table arguments. Policemen will visit my family when that happens,' Jane whispers, 'he would treat my mum and younger sibling roughly.'

The room falls respectfully into silence. All eyes remain on Jane.

'Once, I remember, he held me up by the scruff of my neck, threatening and unyielding. I can faintly recall asking him what he was doing then, handling me like that.' Jane pauses hesitantly, before carefully rolling up her left sleeve to reveal palm-sized bruises the colour of setting sun. 'Shocked?' With her hand, she flicks her brown hair over her shoulder such that the long tresses partly cover her wound.

Her voice trembles, 'it's better now, but I wish that I can be closer to my dad. We're just polite strangers. Strangers.'

The superficial wounds had healed, surface scars scabbed, disappeared. But those within? They remain.
'My family was wealthy. Like, seriously.'

'She had left my dad, broken.'

'For a while, my mum returned.'


'Even now, I feel my dad trying to pull himself together.'
'I'm afraid of kids, afraid of them being needy and clinging to me. Afraid that I can't effect a lasting change in them.'

'I'd met abused kids who wanted to depend on me for guidance and, confused as I was then, I fled from their desperate cries. How cowardly.'

'Kids should be innocent, loved, maybe even a little spoiled. They shouldn't be drugged to make them tamer, abused such that they don't believe their lives are worth anything. They should be treasured, nourished and loved. Yes, they ought to. But, no, they aren't.'
Prison theft. Milk powder.
Chinese lion dance, bulimia, dashed expectations, rigours, his diaphanous dreams, the story of giving up what one cherishes the most.
Brush with death, her prejudice and pride.
David ponders for a while and begins hesitantly:

'My story isn't as heart wrenching as others',' he give an indifferent shrug, 'my dad simply cheated on my mum.'

'When I was in secondary school, my dad brought my brothers and I to the Singapore Science center. It was a day of great fun. Then, we saw.'

David takes a deep breath. His eyelids close halfway, as though he is about to sleep. 'A condom dropped out from my dad's pocket as he was retrieving his van keys. My dad definitely wasn't having sex with my mum. I sleep on a mattress in my parent's room. I'll know if they're. No, they aren't having sex.' His voice holds only the slightest inflection of distress.

'Just recently, my siblings and I overheard my mum demanding for a divorce. We all don't know how this story will turn out.'



December 24, 2010 , 0 Comments

It stuck him that he knew more about people than he thought.
Albert thinks that he knows Ben well. Ben feels that Albert doesn't know him well and I probably know him better. Ben doesn't feel close to Albert although Albert feels that they're good friends.

Carmen thinks that she is friends with people but doesn't realise that they're merely casual and convenient acquaintances, together simply because they don't have other alternatives.

Dulcinia and Edward both shared with him thoughts that they didn't share with others. But why? Is there something wrong with him? Probably because he doesn't judge others, at least not that harshly.
And it occurred to him too, by knowing so much about the people around him, that he actually knew very little about them.


Mug mugg mugggg

December 21, 2010 0 Comments

It's one of those things that you lose. And, for some mysterious reasons, can't find back.

Like innocence, for example. It's too late only when you realised you had lost it. How to, pray tell, retrieve such a state of mind?

Unlike innocence, though, what we're talking about is neither as valuable nor valued.

Indeed, we're talking about the ability to 'mug'.

Somehow, after National Service, there's this understanding that there is more to life than studying. The world, with its vibrancy and vitality, beckons. Why study for nothing more than paper qualifications? In this light, the motivation to study simply melts away. Every counterargument can't stand up to scrutiny.

My historical self - sounds cool, doesn't it? - would be horrified by the way I'm behaving now. If the secondary school/junior college XY were to time travel to Nov 2010, he would simply die from shock that his future self is so lackadaisical about studying. Absolutely petrified. Shell-shocked.

As it is, this present self is amused by how his past self would react if he ever encountered this present him.


Fencing about and around

December 17, 2010 0 Comments

"Don't ever take a fence down until you know the reason it was put up."

Came across this quote somewhere and was struck by its perspicacity.

Realised that he ought to respect others' need for distance, for disengagement.

Many times, he had naively sought to be friends with people, stupidly unaware of the emotional turbulence beneath the facades.

Each time, the experience was breathtakingly disorientating.

Too many times, far too complex to talk about, he felt as he struggled to put words to history.

Yes, he should learn to respect the barriers between people and stop trying to be friends with everyone.

Sometimes, fences are there for good reasons.


Linear Regression and proposed substitute words

December 14, 2010 , 0 Comments

In MA1421, the last chapter that he would learn is known as Linear Regression.

It really is telling. Linear Regression.

Defining "Regression":
1) a trend or shift towards a lower or less perfect state.
2) a progressive decline of a manifestation of disease.
3) a retrograde motion.
4) the linear relationship between 2 correlated variables.

Cosmic irony, isn't it? The title of the very last chapter has multiple meanings and all of them connote negativity.

"Linear Regression". Why not "Linear Progression" or even a more neutral substitute, say, "Linear Relation"?

Why "Regression" of all words?

He really should stop finding divine significance, especially when it doesn't exist. Yes, he ought to remind himself that.


Re-presenting Native Culture

December 10, 2010 , 0 Comments

This academic essay is written for UCV2101V: Language, Culture and Native people. It explores the representation of Native Culture in Asian Civilisations Museum. Please read only if you're really bored. If not, don't bother.

Thanks to Justin for correcting some grammatical errors :] And all the best for those taking their exams soon, blessed be.
“A microcosm of Asian civilisations presented in an exciting way. The multifaceted aspects of Asian cultures. Inspiring the discovery of Selves and Others.” This is how Singapore’s Asian Civilisations Museum describes its exhibits and aim on its website. As a history museum, ACM is indeed wellpositioned to promote greater crosscultural understanding. It has eleven thematic galleries displaying not only cultural objects but also informative multimedia projections and interactive interfaces. This integration of modern technology with cultural history, according to the museum’s publicly stated mission, aims to “promote awareness and appreciation of the ancestral cultures of Singaporeans”. To this end, knowledge appears to be accurately presented and whatever information exhibited can consequently be accepted as facts. In the museum’s Southeast Asian Galleries, there is a permanent corner exhibition on the Dayak tribes of Borneo. Various cultural objects of the Dayaks are displayed in glass cases, with concise notes detailing pertinent information on the respective objects. At first glance, the given information and displays on the Dayak tribes seem reliable (see Plate 1). A map of Asia on the bottom of the wall display depicts the relative geographical position of the Dayak tribes. The background information that Dayaks speak Austronesian languages and live in close association with the tropical forests cannot be disputed. Such textual information is depicted as scientific and precise. The authority and stated mission of the museum, coupled with the reassuring confidence of the presented text, lends credence to the exhibition and convinces visitors that the displays are believable. The problem, however, arises from the way with which these facts are displayed and with the overall constructed experience for the visitors in the museum. In The museum in transitions – a philosophical perspective, museologist Hilde Hein (2000:5) argues that as a form of recreation, “[museum] objects have been reconstituted as sites of experience, and museums increasingly hold themselves accountable for delivering experiences”. Despite the apparent credence of the museuminstitution and displayed text, the overall experience constructed for the museum visitors are skewed towards the interpretation of the Dayak culture as primitive and exotic. There is a tension between the competing aims of promoting crosscultural understanding and delivering indelible experiences to the visitors.

Like most museums, ACM displays objects behind glass to restrict interaction. Practical benefits of such an approach include the protection of objects from dust, atmospheric corrosion and thievery. However, beyond the considerations of protecting the artifacts, such restriction of interaction between the viewers and objects essentially disengages the former from the latter; this manner in which objects are curated and displayed, while practical, nevertheless distance visitors from the culture. The cultural artifacts are centered in a rectangular frame and displayed behind glass. There can be no physical interaction between the viewers and the displayed artifacts. This physical barrier mirrors a conceptual barrier towards crosscultural understanding; the appreciation of the Native culture is reliant on “the notion of a distanced, disengaged vision which is brought to bear upon” its cultural objects (Hallam 2000, 265). Hallam, an anthropologist with research interest in museumbased representations, further elaborates that the “construction of ‘otherness’ within anthropological discourse […] tends to privilege the visual and the spatial, leading to an objectification of persons”. By presenting cultural artifacts behind glass, the museum tacitly discourages engagement of the museum visitors with the Dayak culture; it objectifies, thus reduces, the Dayaks into the cultural ‘other’ that need only to be understood from afar with detachment. This objectification of cultural artifacts, and the resultant disengagement of the visitors from the cultures on display, is a recurrent motif not just in most history museums, but even within the different galleries of ACM itself.

ACM further widens this self/other divide with the deliberate display of certain objects. According to museologist Elizabeth Hallam (2000:262), “representations of different cultures […] tend to deploy concepts of time and history that reinforce nonWestern ‘otherness’ ”. For the Dayak exhibition in the museum, there are two distinct panels that serve to highlight the culture’s exoticism and primitivism – in other words, their differences from modern societies to which the museum –goers likely belong. In one panel, there is a focus on the ritualistic aspect of Native culture and their connection to Nature (see Plate 2). Ceremonial masks and stone totems of spiritual guardians are displayed, together with a succinct note on the mystical connection of the Dayak tribes to Nature; this display evokes the widely regarded notion of indigenous people as being one with nature. In an adjacent panel, a group of objects related to headhunting – wooden shields, decorated knives and an engraved human skull – are shown (see Plate 3); there is an emphasis on the untamed, savage nature of the Dayaks. Collectively, these displays stereotype the Dayak Natives as a society of primitive people which headhunts and worships Nature. Through the arrangement of, and decision to display, certain objects, the ‘otherness’ of the Dayaks is exaggerated. By hinging the exhibit on the differences in activities of the Dayaks from modern societies, there is a measured attempt to cast the Dayaks as the cultural ‘other’ and, as a corollary, widen the self/other division between the museum visitors and the Dayaks.

To get a first-hand sense of the museum’s constructed experience about the Dayaks, I participated in a museum-guided tour of the galleries. The tour of this exhibit ended with the docent posing a rhetorical question expressing his bemusement with the Dayak tribes – why did they engrave the human skull? This suggestive rhetoric immediately brought the focus of the tour group to the engraved human skull displayed in a spotlight. Besides drawing attention to the object, the docent’s rhetoric highlighted to the visitors the distinction of the Dayaks from mainstream societies and thus, their exoticism. There were some audible gasps as visitors attempted to understand the reasons behind the apparent cruelty of the Dayaks. By playing up the primitivism and ostensible brutality of the Dayaks, the museum docent was attempting to pique the interests of visitors. Instead of promoting “awareness and appreciation” of other cultures, as stated in the museum’s corporate mission, the museum docent paradoxically perpetuated the idea of Dayaks being the exotic ‘other’.

I conducted a few informal interviews to better understand the responses of other museum-goers to this display constructed about the Dayaks. The visitors, despite being interviewed separately and having no tangible relations to one another, collectively agreed on the representation of the Dayak culture as “real”, “factual” and “authentic”. When prompted for descriptions of this museum exhibit, words related to entertainment and visceral experiences – “impressive”, “amazing” and “interesting” – were used. There is a conflation of the entertainment value of the exhibit with its educational value by the museum –goers; the exhibit, despite exoticising the Dayak culture and exaggerating their differences from mainstream societies, is taken to be an accurate depiction of Dayak culture. Julie Marcus, in her essay Towards an erotics of the museum, contends that:
Successful museum displays and exhibitions conjure into existence particular visions of the nature of the world. In doing so, they […] offer a glimpse of the truth. That truth is not, of course, necessarily ‘true’. But in those flashes of understanding which bring into light an unseen order which bears upon the worlds of daily life, there lies a moment which offers truth and a way towards the truth. […] The approach of ‘truth’ is collapsed within a poiesis which is so seductive, and so pleasurable.
(Marcus 2000: 229)
Marcus accounts for the observed conflation of exoticism with authenticity and the consequential tendency to buy into this illusion of ‘truth’; she argues that museum –goers accept the constructed museum displays on Native cultures for they want to believe – and thus, believe – this portrayal to be the ‘truth’. ACM, through the overall construction of the Dayaks exhibition, portrays the culture as the exotic ‘other’; the museum –goers, due to a tendency to believe the displays as factual, buy into this representation of Dayaks. By accepting Dayaks as the exotic cultural ‘other’, there is an inherent obfuscation of cross-cultural understanding.

In particular, the conversation I had with a Hong Kong lady stood out. She holds a degree from Imperial College London and had visited museums in both Hong Kong and Europe. To her, this exhibit came across as “vibrant” and “interesting”. The displayed artifacts of the Dayak tribes are not often seen on the “telly”; as the cultural objects are seldom seen in mass media, they would naturally appear as novelties. In particular, the skull obtained from headhunting came across as “quite a shock” – “it hits you when you see things make of human parts right in front of you […] it hits you”. The decorated human skull, a product of Dayaks’ headhunting, is a blatant reminder of the culture’s differences from modern societies. Due to the visceral nature of the displayed objects and the emotional confrontation they pose, together with the tendency to accept museological displays as “truth”, there is a resistance towards understanding and respecting the Dayak culture. This resistance is aggravated by ACM curator’s decision to display the carved human skull prominently and compounded by the docent’s rhetoric on the human skull.

The aggregate representation of the Dayaks in ACM is a museological construct that favours the interpretation of Dayak culture as exotic and primitive. Recalling the museum’s mission to “promote awareness and appreciation” of cultures, it is ironic to note the paradoxical portrayal of Dayaks as the cultural ‘other’. However, the rest of the cultures on display in ACM are not framed in the same exoticised perspectives. In an exhibition about Chinese culture, there are intricate carvings of religious figures, Chinese calligraphy and pottery; the display on Muslim culture has a serene atmosphere with information detailing the Q’uran and a cosy corner for visitors to rest while perusing wall displays; the Singapore River Gallery contains a diorama depicting the squalid living conditions of coolies in the founding years of Singapore, as a reminder of how far Singapore has progressed economically; except for the Dayak exhibition, none of the other galleries feature an engraved human skull or even a body part. In contradistinction to these other displays of religious scriptures, cultural artifacts, farming equipments and paraphernalia from Singapore’s history, the Dayaks exhibition of weaponry and spiritual totems is more visceral and the culture appears more primitive and exotic.

ACM displays the objects belonging to Dayaks such that the culture appears exotic and primitive, the cultural ‘other’ as opposed to the modern cultures that visitors most likely belong to. The reasons are twofold. Firstly, according to Hein (2000:5), museums are sites of recreation and must compete in order to attract visitors; by playing up on the divergences of Dayaks from modern societies, ACM represents the culture such that it seems exotic and novel. This museological construct, done so as to entertain the visitors and deliver engaging “experiences”, is counterproductive to the museum’s publicly–stated mission to promote cross–cultural awareness. Furthermore, the Dayaks are made to serve not only as recreational exhibitions for visitors but also as a foil for the more ‘civilised’ societies exhibited around it; it is a ‘primitive’ culture which used to headhunt. In comparison, other cultures displayed in adjacent galleries appear more sophisticated and ‘civilised’. ACM, being a public-funded institution, depicts the ancestral cultures of Singaporeans in a favourable light; this is in line with its mission to promote appreciation for “the ancestral cultures of Singaporeans and their links to Southeast Asia and the world”. By widening the self/other divide and casting the Dayaks as the more primitive cultural ‘other’, the museum elevates the dominant ancestral cultures of Singaporeans – namely the Chinese and Muslim cultures – to a relative standard of greater civilisation. As discussed, ACM is juggling many roles; as a history museum, it aims to promote cross–cultural understanding; as a corporate entity, it must attract visitors to its exhibitions; as a government–funded museum, it must not portray the dominant races and religions of Singapore in a negative light. In attempting to fulfill the three distinct roles, with regards to the Dayak exhibition, ACM invariably contradicts its stated mission.



December 07, 2010 0 Comments

The butterfly rested on the beige wall, gingerly.

Its residence was doused in white fumes.

It was a holocaust.

It flew, zig-zag, sinking and floating, as though drunk.

A twinge in his stomach.

A pin prick.

Closed his eyes, he did,

to its silent cries.

He returned : lines, lines, lines of words.

The words cascaded from the pages, 


In a moment of tenderness, he approached the butterfly with a big plastic bag, trapped it and proceeded to release it in a patch of woodlands further away from humanity. He should be studying, he knew. Exams would be coming soon. And he was poorly prepared. No, he shouldn't be doing this.

But, it's okay, he thought, the butterfly is beautiful.

Among the foliage,

the dazed insect fluttered.

A stab of horror.

A fruit bat.

Doesn't bats prey on insects?

The drunken butterfly -

about to die?

The butterfly fluttered wildly. It landed safely on the dark emerald leaves of a fern and ceased to move. Safe, as least for now, his mind wandered. Safe from white smoke and black bats. A brittle smile, he smiled that brittle smile.


Underlying order

December 03, 2010 , 0 Comments

Why do the equations have such suspiciously similar forms? Aren't they accounting for vastly different aspects in the physical world? The incongruity between the similarities in form but differences in function...

What is it that these scientists see that we don't? Arrhenius. Clausius. Clapeyron. Van't Hoff. What is that you all see that we don't? The schemata of life? The fundamental order that living organisms abide by?

These apparently simple equations are, essentially, elegant summaries of the laws governing physical world. To him, it felt simply... magical? Discomforting? Disorientating? Even musical? The equations each has a hypnotic quality to them when they're read aloud.

He wished he could talk to this cadre of human beings. To figure out what makes them tick even as they figure out what makes the natural world works. Would they share philosophical observations? Or would they merely be nerds-scientists?

Is this why Einstein wanted to come up with a grand unification theory? Because he recognised this eerie order beneath the facade of entropy?

Too many questions, he thought, and no easy answers. He wished that life can be flattened into 2-d problem sums on paper - even though he knew that the wish was fruitless even as he wished. He felt that life would be far simpler and more elegant if every situation, event and person can be summarised into neat sets of mathematical formulae.

But he wouldn't really want what he wished for to come true. Not yet, not now, not here anyway.

There is too much to life - too much joy and sorrow in equal measures. Reductionism into generic equations will erase the million shades of meanings that cannot be conveyed. The bittersweet feeling after exams, the hollow happiness of victory. The plaintive felicity and self-indulgent melancholy. These myraid shades, they elude easy definition. And, this is why life is unpredictably vibrant.

Still, whatever equations we have now, however they reduces the complexity of life into sum/differences/product/quotient of organic factors, they are elegant, aren't they?



November 30, 2010 0 Comments

It's okay, I guess.
The Second Coming by William B. Yeats

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Decision to stop resisting and no longer remain willfully ignorant.

It'd be a steep rise - fall? - from this choice.
Perhaps this is the answer I must walk away with.


A Critical Analysis of The Bluest Eye - Racism: Self-worth through Scapegoating

November 26, 2010 0 Comments

There is nothing more to say – except why. But since why is difficult to handle, one must take refuge in how.
– Claudia MacTeer, The Bluest Eye

Racism is a social construct; it can be learned and thus, internalised; it is part of an encompassing power dynamics that defied definition by any singular entity. Rather, racism is the collective impact of actions by numerous people, effects that reinforce and reverberate with one another such that racism perpetuates. This omnipresent and multi-faceted nature of racism is particularly poignant in Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. The essay shall explicate one reason behind racism – the human nature to derive self-worth from putting someone else down – through analysing the use of multiple narrators; in other words, an attempt to handle not only the hows, but also the whys of racism.

Instead of reducing racism to mere stereotypes, through Morrison’s use of multiple narratives, we find out more about various aspects of racism – inter- and intra-racial racism, discrimination of whites against blacks, of fairer blacks against darker blacks and of male blacks against female blacks. This somewhat orderly hierarchy of discrimination shares the trait of one deriving a sense of superiority by the inferiority of another; one’s self-worth comes not from self-awareness but from the knowledge that one is better off than another. From Pecola (162-163),
‘And all of our beauty, which was hers first and which she gave to us. All of us – all who knew her – felt so wholesome after we cleaned ourselves on her. We were so beautiful when we stood astride her ugliness. […]And she let us, and thereby deserved our contempt.’
It is only through comparison with someone uglier, less socially adept that another can feel worthy and ‘beautiful’. It is cruelly ironic that various people around Pecola show contempt at her despite her being the source of their self-worth; this idea of scapegoating by different people is a central theme in The Bluest Eye.

Through multiple narrators – each from a different social class – Morrison represents how pervasive scapegoating/racism is. We understand its complexities and omnipresence through not only the increasingly hardened Claudia and defenceless Pecola, but also through Pecola’s parents – Pauline, Cholly – rich, pampered and ‘cute’ Maureen Peal, pseudo-religious figure Soaphead Church and middle-class black Geraldine. These streams of consciousness – random strands of thoughts running across each narrator's mind – this disparate chaos emerges to create a distinct sense of dichotomy, suggesting that racism pervades every strata of the society and leaves no one untainted. Everyone played a part in perpetuating racism, be it as victims, victimisers or helpless observers.

Besides breadth, multiple narrating lends depth to racism too; we not only understand the perspectives of the victimised but also, the victimisers. There is an initial dislike for Pauline, fermented by her cruel neglect of Pecola; Pauline devalues Pecola and is more concerned about her ‘floor’ than her scalded daughter (85); it is heart wrenching when Pauline turns to comfort ‘a little girl in pink’ rather than her own flesh-and-blood. This disdain for her fades after we find out about and empathise with her plight, her growing disillusionment and her increasing conformity to Western standards of living. Racism – in this case, intra-racial racism – is no longer faceless; it has a history, depth and personal pain to it; the victimisers were once victims – they too were hurt – and scapegoating is their only resort to inner peace. This empathy with the victimised victimisers erases the emotional distance between the multiple characters and the readers; we understand them not only as narrators but as individuals with personal history. Through multiple narratives, racism reveals itself to be a self-sustaining cycle of scapegoating.

As I write, there is a realisation that racism cannot be easily distilled into constituent effects; each point encapsulates and elaborates on the preceding and succeeding points. Through multiple narratives in The Bluest Eye, one gains glimpses of why racism takes place and how it perpetuates; the human tendencies underlying racism – the need by every character to feel worthy and thus, scapegoat – cannot be reduced into a single person’s perspectives. Rather, it must be understood as the damage caused by collective acquiesce.

This article is originally written for EN1101E: Introduction to Literary Studies.


A Critical Analysis of The Tempest by Shakespeare

November 23, 2010 12 Comments

Rembrandt van Rijn
In William Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Prospero’s island appears to be an ideal utopia. Survivors are washed safely ashore the island. Estranged siblings, Antonio and Prospero, reconcile. Marriage is promised between Ferdinand and Miranda. The schemes by Stephano, Trinculo and Caliban against Prospero fail and they are justly punished. Freedom awaits Prospero’s servants, Ariel and Caliban, as Prospero prepares to leave the island. Every character seems to receive what they deserve. Prospero’s island appears perfect.

In Robert B. Pierce’s Understanding “The Tempest”, there is an opinion that the island is where “whatever evil remains is impotent, and goodness returns to action […] there is a re-birth, a return to life, a heightened, almost symbolic, awareness of the beauty of normal humanity” (Pierce 1999: 374). This benevolent perspective alludes to the harmonious conclusion of The Tempest and suggests the island to be a utopian idyll. It must be remembered, nonetheless, that this utopia has its beginning in chaos. The play foreshadows the disorder as Alonso’s party encounter a vicious storm while at sea (Act I, Scene I). This malevolent atmosphere of disorder is a parallel to the scheming of numerous characters against one another. On the island, Antonio persuades Sebastian, to collude in a murder of his sleeping brother. He repeatedly suggests that “this obedient steel […] can lay to bed for ever” (Act II, Scene I) and manipulates Sebastian into an agreement to kill Alonso. The island, far from being a utopia, is “where civilization, instead of recreating its lost paradise, creates a colony of ancient exploitation” (Strehler and Simpson 2002: 17). The numerous schemes of usurpation, when viewed collectively, hint at an underlying disharmony. The island, instead of being an idyll for “re-birth”, turns out to be a sinister place where one plots to overthrow another and treachery abounds.

These numerous schemes of usurpation are reflections of the human nature to gain dominance over another, even when this dominance has to be acquired through unscrupulous means. While the ending resolves amicably enough, there is a lingering discomfort that this utopia is temporal. True, some of the characters are punished for their illicit attempts to gain power but punishment does not equate enlightenment; they may not have truly learned any lessons. Instead of expressing relief at Prospero’s forgiveness, Antonio does not respond and remain mostly silent for the remainder of the play except to note that Caliban is “no doubt marketable” (Act V, Scene I). Antonio’s stubborn quietness and observation that Caliban can be exploited is a baleful reminder of his nature to take advantage of others. This recalls his usurpation of dukedom from Prospero and his encouragement to Sebastian to stab his sleeping brother. It also recalls Antonio’s whispers to Sebastian to take advantage of and kill the tired king of Naples who is desperately searching for his missing son; Antonio reminds Sebastion to “do not, for one repulse, forgo the purpose/ That you resolv’d to effect” (Act III, Scene III). This recalcitrant nature of Antonio demonstrates the reluctance of human beings to change. The eventual utopian ending on the island is tainted by doubts that some characters have yet to turn over a new leaf and may lapse into self-serving manipulative habits again.

Also, the theme of illusion in The Tempest creates an ambiguity such that island cannot be easily classified as a utopia or dystopia. Everything is not what it appears to be. From the setting of the first scene, the storm is not natural; it is created by Ariel at the command of Prospero (Act I, Scene I). The magical banquet, brought by dancing spirits, disappears just after Gonzalo convinces the party to eat (Act III, Scene III). Prospero insists on him being a victim of usurpation when he is not entirely blameless; it is his negligence of his kingdom which had led to his downfall. Not only are there deceptions and schemes to usurp, there are also mystical illusions and self-delusions. The island is “where the real reveals itself false and where the false may and probably will reveal itself to be true” (Strehler and Simpson 2002: 17). This recurrent theme that nothing can be taken at face value evokes a nagging feeling that the island may not be as utopian as it appears.

The ambiguity in the nature of the island is inextricably linked to the perspectives of the viewer too. To Gonzalo, Adrian and Caliban, the island is breathtakingly beautiful and serene. Gonzalo says that the grass is “lush and lusty” and “green” while Adrian finds the air to breathe upon him “most sweetly” (Act II, Scene I). Caliban waxes lyricism on the island and intimately reveals his love for the island; “sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not” is his wistful expression of the comfort he finds in the island (Act III, Scene II). Conversely, to Antonio and Sebastian, the island is inhabitable and inhospitable – the island smells bad, as though “perfumed by a fern” and the ground “indeed is tawny” (Act II, Scene I). Their cynicism and sarcasm plainly discloses their disdain for the island. Depending on the perspectives of the character, the island can paradoxically be a utopia or a dystopia.

The very idea that this ‘utopian’ island belongs to Prospero – hence, the term ‘Prospero’s island’ – is disquieting. Does this island truly belong to him? Or is it Caliban’s? The swarthy Native is born and bred on this island and stakes an indignant claim to it. Or does this island belong more to Ariel? After all, Ariel was freely roaming the island before being subjugated by Sycorax. Perhaps, the island could be called Caliban’s island or even, Ariel’s island instead. The preceding rhetoric brings a focus to an encompassing ambiguity in island ownership; the dispute between land rights and entitlement highlights a dichotomy in power dynamics between the colonised and the colonisers. Meredith Anne Skura suggests that the competing “claims (to) possession of the island […] are symptoms of ideological conflict in the discourse” (Skura 1989: 50). There is an ambiguity, even manipulative aggression, about who is the rightful owner of the island and this uneasy conflict makes the island a greater dystopia.

The Tempest concludes in an atmosphere of idealism and justness. Nonetheless, the journey to this eventual utopia is fraught with chaos. Due to the nature of some characters, it is questionable if the concluding peace will last. On a more fundamental note, whether the island is utopian or dystopian cannot be easily accounted for – all due to the theme of illusion and the multiple characters’ divergent perspectives. This island, while appearing utopian and perfect, may actually be a dystopia in disguise.

This article is originally written for EN1101E Introduction to Literary Studies.


A starry, starry night

November 20, 2010 0 Comments

Pinpricks of starlight scatter across the sable skies.

This reminds him of diamonds sparkling against a cloth of black cotton. Hauntingly beautiful.

Nowadays, he feels the need to look skywards, to see the movement of celestial bodies, to appreciate the effects of eddying winds on clouds.


He wants to know why. A compulsive need to understand?

And, naturally, he doesn't know why. (Why would he wonder why if he already knows the reason why?)

Perhaps it's because he wants to reach out and feel the pulsing warmth of the stars in his bare hands. (He imagines stars to be able to emit a comfortable radiant heat by themselves). Stars aren't bio-luminous, are they? Perhaps it's because the concrete scaffolding around him has seeded a longing for the organic rhythm of celestial orbs. Perhaps, it's simply because he likes to see.

Yes, perhaps, that is so. Perhaps, he just wants to see.

He just wants to see. And that, is reason enough.


Lab Report on Molecular Mass Determination by Boiling Point Elevation Method

November 20, 2010 0 Comments

1. Aim and Abstract:
To determine the molar mass, M of an unknown compound by boiling point elevation method.
When a non-volatile solute is added to a pure solvent, the resultant solution would have a higher boiling point than the pure solution. The boiling point of a solution is a colligative property (Atkins 2010: 170 – 171) and is dependent on the concentration of the solute in the solution but not on what the solute and solvent are. This boiling point can be measured by an ebullioscope.
T1 – T2 = ΔT = Kbm     where ΔT is the magnitude of the boiling point elevation
                                                Kb is the ebullioscopic constant of the solvent
                                                m is the molality of the solution

Using the equation above, the molality of the solution can be determined. Consequently, the molar mass and nature of the unknown sample can be determined.
2. Results and Calculations:
1. Unknown code: 2        
2. Volume of ethanol used: 25.00cm3
3. Weight of test tube with unknown (w1): 18.7925g
4. Weight of empty test tube (w2): 15.5564g
5. Weight of unknown (w1 – w2): 3.2361g
6. Temperature of boiling ethanol: 77.0 °C
7. Temperature of boiling unknown in ethanol: 79.0 °C

From the results above, ∆T = T1 – T2 = (352.15 – 350.15) K = 2.0 K
Mass of ethanol solvent = density × volume
= 0.785gcm-3 × 25cm3
= 19.63g
= 1.963 x 10-2 kg
Given that the magnitude of the boiling point elevation ∆T is:

T1 – T2 = ∆T = Kbm             where m = molality of the solution
                                                           Kb = ebullioscopic constant of solvent

ΔT = Kb m
∆T = Kb ×
Mr = 1.22 / 2.0 x 3.2361/0.01963Therefore, Mr of unknown sample, code 2 = 100.6 gmol-1 (4 sig. fig.)
3. Discussion:
Assumptions made during the experiment
During the experiment, the solution of ethanol provided is assumed to be free from other impurities as the presence of impurities will increase the boiling point of ethanol. It is important for the actual boiling point of ethanol to be accurately determined as the value would be used in the calculation of the molar mass of the unknown sample.
The experimentally determined value of the boiling point of ethanol was 77.0°C which could be considered to be fairly accurate, considering that the literature value of the boiling point was 78.5°C and the thermometer used during the experiment had an accuracy of ± 0.05°C.
During the course of the whole experiment, the concentration of ethanol was constant, assuming that no evaporation and reaction with the unknown substance had occurred. This is because the mass of the solvent is required in the calculations to find the molar mass of the unknown substance and it is dependent on the volume of ethanol used.
Raoult’s Law on vapor pressure[2]
Boiling at a specific temperature indicates that the vapor pressure of a liquid is equal to the external pressure. In terms of intermolecular interactions, the boiling point represents the point at which the liquid molecules possess enough thermal energy to overcome the various intermolecular attractions binding the molecules as liquid (e.g. dipole-dipole attractioninstantaneous-dipole induced-dipole attractions, and hydrogen bonds) and therefore incur a phase change into the next phase (gas).
By applying Raoult’s Law, the extent of boiling point elevation when a solute is added to a solvent can be understood. This understanding is based on the assumption that a non-volatile solute is added to a dilute and ideal solution.
Raoult’s Law states that the vapor pressure of an ideal solution is dependent on the vapor pressure of each chemical component and the mole fraction of the component present in the solution can be expressed as:
       pA = xA • pA*  where pA* refers to the vapor pressure of the pure liquid A,
                                            xA refers to the mole fraction of A and
                                          pA refers to the vapor pressure of A when another substance is present in the liquid.
In any solution, the mole fraction of a component decreases with additional components. Therefore, when the unknown sample was added into the ethanol solvent, the number of components in the mixture increased, hence the mole fraction of ethanol decreases.
As a result, the vapor pressure of the ethanol solvent decreases because the less volatile solute molecules present at the solution surface layer partially blocks the evaporation of the solvent molecules.
Also, when a solute dissolves in a solvent, the initial solvent-solvent interaction is broken and replaced by a stronger solvent-solute interaction. Hence, more energy is required to overcome the stronger forces of attraction between the solute and solvent, accounting for a rise in boiling point when a solute is added to a solvent. 
Boiling point elevation diagram(left)[3]. When a nonvolatile solute is dissolved in a pure solvent to produce a solution, the original boiling point of the solvent, Tb, is raised to a new value, Tb’.

Nature of unknown sample

Raoult’s Law is most applicable for ideal solutions.  An ideal solution is defined as a solution containing components of uniform intermolecular forces of attraction; if the molecules of 2 components of a solution have the equal tendency to escape the liquid surface, the solution is said to be ideal; there will not be an enthalpy change when two ideal solutions are mixed. It is observed that there is a 2.0°C increase in the boiling temperature of the ethanol solvent, when the unknown is added. This means that the resultant solution formed aftering mixing was not ideal – the non-volatile unknown sample does not possess the same molecular size and intermolecular forces of attraction as ethanol.
When a non-volatile solute, such as a salt, is added to a pure solvent, the boiling point of the resultant solution will be raised above that of the pure solvent. The magnitude of the boiling point elevation ∆T can be written as:
         ΔT = Kb · m · i        where ΔT is the magnitude of the boiling point elevation,
                                                        Kb is the ebullioscopic constant of the solvent,
                                                        m is the molality of the solution and
                                                         i is the number of particles formed by a compound in solution

Boiling point elevation is a colligative property and is dependent on the number of solute particles present and not on their chemical identity. The Van’t Hoff factor, i, of the unknown sample is 1 – the unknown does not ionize – which is why it is excluded during calculations. From this, we can postulate that the unknown sample does not ionize in ethanol.
Furthermore, with its ability to dissolve in ethanol, a polar solvent, the unknown is either polar or ionic in nature since the hypothesis of bonding states that for dissolution to take place, the solvent-solute interaction formed has to be greater or similar in strength with the polar solvent-solvent and solute-solute interactions.
It is possible to determine the molecular mass of the unknown sample through boiling point elevation method as the unknown substance is less volatile than the ethanol solvent. This is evident as, at room temperature, ethanol is a volatile solvent while the sample is a solid.
Experimental set-up for the determination of the molecular mass by Ebullioscopic method (CM1131 Laboratory Manual, 2010)
Experimental Techniques
In the setup of the experiment, the glass tubing serves as a mean for the gas molecules present in the boiling tube to escape. It is to ensure that a closed rigid environment is not established during this experiment as boiling does not happen in a closed rigid environment. In a closed environment, while the vapor pressure of the liquid is rising, the extra vapor that evaporates increases the pressure upon the liquid. The vapor pressure thus never reaches the same value as the environmental pressure, because both values are increasing as a result of heating. This problem does not arise in the open environment (i.e. in the presence of the glass tubing) because the vapor that evaporates is free to disperse; therefore, it is able to establish pressure equality between the vapor and the surroundings and boiling can occur.
Besides providing an open environment so that boiling can occur, the glass tubing also allow for gaseous molecules to escape into the environment. This prevents a dangerous build-up of pressure within the boiling tube which may cause the glassware to crack or shatter.
Also, the glass tubing acts as a condenser. With its cool internal surface, it will cause gaseous ethanol molecules – which have a low boiling point at around 780C – to condense and prevent them from escaping. This is important as the number of ethanol molecules directly affects the mass of the solution and thus, the molality of the solution.
Also, the experiment was carried out in a hot water bath. This allows the temperature of the solution to increase gradually, which in turn allows for the boiling points of ethanol with and without the unknown sample to be more accurately determined. To ensure even distribution of heat, a magnetic stirrer was added.
Reliability of the results
The molality of a solute is referred to as the number of moles of solute per kilogram of solvent. Therefore, the mass of solvent used is crucial as it is involved in the calculation of the molecular mass of the unknown sample. Any spills or vaporization causing the loss of solvent will directly cause a deviation of the empirical molecular mass from its literature value. Thus, any steps involving the transfer of ethanol has to be handled with great care, as ethanol is a volatile liquid.
The boiling tube is cooled in an ice bath before the stopper was carefully removed. This is to lower the temperature of the solution so that boiling will stop and the ethanol molecules will not escape. This allows for the accurate determination of the molality of the solution.
Also the temperature of the water bath must not be too high. If the temperature of the water bath is much higher than the boiling point of ethanol, the ethanol sample will be vaporized excessively, leading to a loss in accuracy of results.
The first bubbles observed from the capillary do not necessarily suggest boiling. It may be due to the escape of dissolved air in ethanol. A steady stream of bubbles must be observed to ascertain the boiling point.
Besides observing the steady stream of bubbles originating from the capillary, the boiling point of ethanol can be confirmed and made more reliable with other additional observations. Firstly, droplets of ethanol will condense on the internal walls of the boiling tube and thus, indicate that boiling is taking place. Also, ethanol will condense and form droplets in the glass tubing. Additionally, during boiling, the temperature of the solution remains constant. When all four phenomenon are observed, it can be safely concluded that the temperature recorded is indeed the boiling point of the solution.

5. Conclusion:
The molecular mass of the unknown sample (Code 2) is determined to be 100.6 gmol-1 by the boiling point elevation method. The boiling point elevation of solutions is a common phenomenon observed when a solute is dissolved in a pure solvent.
6. Exercises:
Q1. What causes the boiling point elevation and what is the meaning of “molality”?
Boiling occurs when the vapor pressure is equal to the external pressure. Boiling point elevation happens when a non-volatile solute is dissolved in a pure solvent.
In any solution, the mole fraction of a component decreases with additional components. Therefore, when the unknown sample was added into the ethanol solvent, the number of components in the mixture increased, hence the mole fraction of ethanol decreases. As a result, according to Raoult’s law, the vapor pressure of the ethanol solvent decrease and more energy is required for the solvent molecules to escape the solution, thus a higher boiling point.
The less volatile solute molecules present at the solution surface layer partially blocks the evaporation of the solvent molecules. Also, when a solute dissolves in a solvent, the initial solvent-solvent interaction is broken and replaced by a stronger solvent-solute interaction. Hence, more energy is required to overcome the stronger forces of attraction between the solute and solvent, accounting for a rise in boiling point when a solute is added to a solvent.
Molality is referred to as the number of moles of solute particles present in a kilogram of solvent. It is useful when the properties of the solvent, rather than the properties of the solute, are being studied. It has units of mol kg-1.
As compared to molarity (M), which is defined to be number of moles of a solute (mol) dissolved per volume of solvent (L), molality calculations is independent of temperature since it is calculated based on the number of moles of solute as well as mass of solvent and both are temperature independent. Molarity (M) on the other hand, is temperature dependent since its calculation involves the use of volume of solution which is temperature dependent. However, the disadvantage to molality is that the density information must be known to determine the amount of the mixture.
Q2. Why does the concept of colligative properties apply only to dilute solutions?
Colligative properties refer to properties which depend only on the number of solute particles present and not their chemical identity. Examples of such properties are boiling point elevation, freezing point depression and lowering of vapour pressure and osmotic pressure.
A dilute solution is one that has a small quantity of solute dissolved in a relatively large amount of solvent. The solute particles are relatively further apart from each other in the solution, creating an ideal environment such that the solute particles experience little intermolecular interaction. This assumption thus works well for many dilute solutions, especially solutions of molecular compounds.
However, as the concentrations increase there will be stronger solute-solute interactions and the nature of the solute particles become important. There are more solute particles and these particles are closer together and intermolecular interactions are no longer negligible. The properties will no longer be colligative as it is affected by the identity of the solute too. Thus, colligative properties do not apply to concentrated solutions.  
Q3. What are the limitations of the molar mass determination by boiling point elevation method?
The limitations to the molar mass determination through the use of the boiling point elevation method are listed below:
i) Only non-volatile solutes should be used in the experiment. This is due to the fact that if a volatile solute is used, the solute would contribute to the vapour pressure and hence the boiling point determined for the solution would be inaccurate.

ii) The degree of the dissociation of the solute has to be taken into account i.e. whether the solute is an electrolyte or not. If the solute is an electrolyte, the electrolyte would dissolve to give ions and the ion concentration would be much higher than that of the solute.
      For example, XY (s) → X+ (aq) + Y- (aq)
Hence, the boiling point would be increased to a greater extent when dissolving an electrolyte as compared to dissolving a non-electrolyte for the same solute concentration. Therefore, the solute chosen may cause inaccuracy in the results.

iii) Another limitation would be that the solution used has to be a dilute one in order to create an ideal environment such that the solute-solute interactions are minimized. This dilution is to prevent the interactions from affect the concentration of the solution. In a concentrated solution, the solute-solute interactions present are significant hence it will affect the accuracy of the molecular mass calculated at the end of the experiment.
iv) A limitation would be the usage of a mercury-in-glass thermometer to measure the boiling point of the solvent. Firstly, it is difficult to determine the accurate boiling point of the solvent as it can only be read to the nearest degree Celsius. Also, it can only be used to measure the boiling points of solvents with boiling points lower than 110°C as the thermometer can only measure limited temperatures ranging from -10°C to 110°C. There may be fluctuations in the temperature readings hence it is hard to determine the exact boiling point of the solution. Furthermore, a slight difference in temperature can result in an inaccuracy of the calculated molar mass.
Q4. What is the molality (m) of a solution prepared by dissolving 2.5g of NaCl in 550.0g of H2O whose density is 0.997g cm-3?
Molality (m) = (no. of moles of solute) ÷ (mass of the solvent in kg)
= (mass ÷ molar mass) ÷ (mass of solvent in g ÷ 1000)
= (2.5 ÷ 58.44) ÷ (550 ÷ 1000)
                            = 0.07778 molkg-1 (4 sig. fig.)

Q5. A 0.750 M solution of H2SO4 in water has a density of 1.046g/mL at 20°C. What is the concentration of this solution in molality?
Mass of H2SO4 present in water = 1.046g/mL × 1000mL
= 1.046 kg
Molality = (no. of moles of solute) ÷ (mass of the solvent in kg)
= 0.750 ÷ 1.046
                            = 0.7170 molkg-1 (4 sig. fig.)
7. References:
1. Boiling point as a colligative property: Atkins Physical Chemistry, Peter Atkins and Julio de Paula, 2010, pg 170-171
3. Boiling point elevation method: http://www.cbu.edu/~rprice/lectures/evap1.html#bpe
4. Boiling point elevation diagram: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Freezing_point_depression_