Saturday, December 19, 2015

Biological Diversity and Heritage in Malaysia - a Public Lecture

Poster on the Public Lecture

The Evergreen Prof. Emeritus Dato' Dr. Abdul Latif Mohamad

At the main table, the moderator and the speaker 

The moderator, Dean of the Faculty of Science and Technology
Content of the Lecture
  1. Introduction. The public lecture was organised by the Faculty of Science and Technology, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) on Wednesday December 9, 2015 at the Dean's Building of the Faculty,  starting at 2.30 pm.  It was participated by an estimated 100 made up of the academic staff and graduate students of the Faculty and representatives of of UPM and UiTM.  The public lecture was delivered by Prof. Emeritus Dato' Dr. Abdul Latif Mohamad, an illustrious professor of the Faculty who has been teaching and researching in systematic botany since 1978 and exploring the many forested areas in the country to record their biodiversity for many years. He has been attributed to have discovered and described 18 plant species. His studies and conservation activities of Malaysian biodiversity has been recognized with the conferment of many awards such as the Langkawi Award and the Merdeka Award.  It was also a previlege that Prof. Latif is a friend and we have been associated as the long standing members and elected officers of the Malaysian Nature Society (MNS), participated in scientific expeditions to many of the forest reserves in the country and serve on the boards/committees related to the conservation and protection of our natural heritage.

  2. Biological Biodiversity.  Malaysia is not only rich in its biological diversity but also unique because of the diversified ecosystems which cover the coastal peat swamps and the mangroves considered one of the richest in Asia; lowland and hill dipterocarp forests very rich in biodiversity; limestone hills with specialised plants and endemic species; the lower montane and montane with alpine vegetation of the Mt Kinabalu National Park (see Table 1).  The many forest reserves such as Pasoh FR with 941 species within a 50 ha area considered high in its biodiversity.  Accordingly, the country is considered as one of the 12 mega-diversity centres of the globe. A total of 43.53 percent (14.29 million ha) of the land area of the country are still under Permanent Reserved Forests (Table 2). The speaker also highlighted the many critical roles of forested areas ranging from water conservation, soil protection, beach erosion, breeding grounds for fishes, wild life protection, source of raw materials for pharmaceuticals, perfumery and cosmetics.  The speaker expressed sadness that, though many are aware of the importance of forests and and the flora and fauna that thrive in them, the biodiversity is being threatened with development and the pursuit of high income economy of the country.          

Table 1. The fauna and flora of Malaysia

Table 2. Permanent Reserved Forests in Malaysia

  3. Biodiversity and Economic Importance.   The rich biodiversity in our rain forests are sources of food and and as many as 2000 plant species are reported to have pharmaceutical and cosmetic values. Exotic Malaysian species such as Nepenthes, Paphiopedilum orchids are among those that have been propagated in foreign countries and source of good income in the horticultural business.  Many of state and national parks such as Kinabalu National Park, Mulu National Park and Tahan National Park are popular ecotourism destinations.  The economic potential of our biological resources is enormous and there are still many of these unique biological heritage such as  the numerous Rafflesia species, Paphiopedilum orchids, the mangrove forests on marble in Langkawi, the Malaysian tiger, birds and the orang-utan.

Diversity of Nepenthes

Diversity of microorganisms

4, Research and Conservation Efforts.  Considerable research and scientific expeditions have been undertaken over the years by the Forestry Department and subsequently the Forest Research Institut of Malaysia (FRIM), the research universities and the non-Government organisations particularly MNS, not only in listing the various species of fauna and flora but undertaking in-situ studies encompassing mangroves, swamp forests; logging systems and reforestation; hill dipterocarp forests and limestone hills.  Following the scientific expeditions, management plans for these forests are formulated such as for Endau-Rompin, Matang Mangroves, Kinabalu National Park.  
 Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) provides the following guidelines in the harvesting of the forests: sustainable utilization of timber and timber products; multiple use of forest products; protecting environmentally sensitive areas; environmentally friendly harvesting; enrichment and rehabilitation; local community participation; and appropriate regulation and enforcement   
However, the speaker moaned and expressed disappointment that many of the guidelines in SFM and proposals contained in the the National Biodiversity and Biotechnology Policy which details the objectives and strategies in the protection and conservation of our biodiversity and the accompanying proposed establishment of centres of excellence such as the National Biodiversity Institute or National History Museum, according to the speaker, have not been implemented.  He strongly proposed the approach of establishing world and national heritage sites as a conservation measure to conserve our biodiversity.  Among the criteria to qualify for world heritage site include that the proposed area has outstanding universal value; integrity; authenticity; has a management plan with conservation strategies;  funds and staff to run it and that the site is established for the benefit of humanity. The country already has a number of World Heritage Site, among them are Kinabalu National Park and Mulu National Park.  Other potential areas that can be considered include Taman Negara in Pahang; Danum Valley in Sabah; Lanjak Entiman, Batang Ai Sarawak; and Royal Belum in Perak.  Among the areas that can be considered as National Heritage Sites are Pasoh FR, Gunung Stong SP, Perlis SP, Matang Mangroves, Setiu Wetlands, Bukit Bauk UFP, Kenong FR, Bukit Larut FR, Gunung Ledang National Park, Bukit Fraser FR, Gunung Jerai FR and Merbuk Mangrove.

5. Concluding Remarks. Prof. Latif indicated that there is adequate knowledge of the plant biodiversity of the country but the fauna and the microorganisms in the ecosystems require more research effort.  We need to examine the status of endangered, vulnerable and threatened species and at the same time develop new techniques and technologies in assessing biodiversity. At the same time, assessment on the various efforts of in-situ studies and the status of the protected areas.  He suggested that we look at the National Policy on Biodiversity and strengthen the implementation of the various recommendations at the national and state levels.

6.  Acknowledgements. I would like to take the opportunity to express my appreciation to the Faculty of Science and Technology UKM for having organised this public lecture on a topic that is very important and having such an illustrious personality to deliver it. My thanks to Prof. Maketab for having posted the photos covering this public lecture in the Facebook which I have liberally used in this blog posting 

Section of the participants

The other section of the participants

Prof. Latif receiving a token of appreciation from the Dean

With, from right, Dean and moderator, Prof. Maketab, Prof. Latif 

Posted on 19/12/2015
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Thursday, December 17, 2015

Visit to a Coconut Smallholding in Kuala Selangor

The dwarf kelapa pandan palm

1.  It was the interest in agriculture that made me accept the invitation of Dato' Kamaruddin Kachar (Dato KK) to accompany him to visit a farm in the coconut growing region in Kuala Selangor on Wednesday December 16, 2015.  Dato KK has a three acre land in Kg Sungai Ramal Luar Kajang where he is cultivating the vacant unplanted two acre for a crop that will give him good return. Potential crops include bananas, agar wood and coconuts. The visit to the smallholding was basically to get a first hand knowledge on the growing and economic potential of kelapa pandan as an agricultural activity. The coconut smallholding is owned by Mr. Zahriman Alias, who was a retired police officer, born and went to school in the same small town as Dato KK i.e. Rembau in Negeri Sembilan. Mr. Zahriman briefed the group how he has acquired the farm in 1994. He was then the Deputy OCPD of the Kuala Selangor Police Contingent and sent words around that he was interested in purchasing land in the district. This piece which was then planted with oil palm with a six room wooden house was up for sale by a smallholder who was having marital problem and wanted cash for the sale immediately.  Due to the circumstances the transaction was done very quickly and RM 48, 000 changed hands.  Mr. Zahriman decided to grow 'kelapa pandan' and in addition, he has also gown pomelo and other citrus species, an apple mango tree, passionfruit and a lychee.  He also constructed a chicken coop where he raised 'kampung' chicken and turkey. He demolished the old wooden house and rebuilt a concrete 4 room house where he resides permanently now.
  2. The coconut palm is very much part of Malay culture and in the kampung, coconut is always part of the perennial tree orchard mixture.  It is considered as a complete tree, providing materials for the construction of a house - the trunks being used for pillars, the leaves used as roof; the nuts are utilised as food; the juice of young nuts as tonic when having fever; the midribs of leaves as broom; the young shoot as vegetable; the roots have medicinal properties.  Before the birth certificate existed, the coconut served as as a symbol indicating age of members of the household, as for each child born, a coconut seedling was planted. In the old days when an elderly person was asked of his age, he will point to the appropriate palm and said that he was as old as that tree.

  3.  I have also some nostalgic memories associated with coconut. When I graduated with a Diploma in Agriculture from the then College of Agriculture, Serdang I was posted as the Agriculture Assistant in-charge of the Federal Experiment Station Teluk Bharu, Hilir Perak in 1959 where coconut was the main crop being experimented.  I recollected assisting and supervising Dr. Ajit Singh's experimental plots and in the laying down of fertilizer trials and Dr. N.T Arasu, the plant breeder, on the germplasm collection obtained from different coconut growing region in the world such as the Philippines and Sri Lanka; undertaking hybridisation and evaluating the various hybrid progenies generated.  When the government launched the Coconut Replanting Scheme around 1962, I also assumed the additional tasks of being the first Supervisor of the Scheme for the Hilir Perak region, overseeing the old coconut in smallholdings being replanted with financial assistance from the Government under the Scheme.  Time has really passed.

Citrus trees among the  crops planted
Mr. Zahriman, the owner, under his vine of passionfruit

Collection of orchids at the farm
The chicken coop with the reared birds

With Dato KK in the farm

Standing around the load of young kelapa pandan which was served

    Posted on 17/12/2015
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Thursday, October 15, 2015

Life Long Learning as an Integral Part of a Healthy, Active, Balanced and Happy Living - Address at the 4th Convocation of MASA College

Dressed in the Official Gown for the Convocation Ceremony

Photo fr right Dr. Ranuka Das, Y. Bhg Puan Chin Phaik Yong, Y. Bhg Col. Prof Dato Dr Kamarudin Kachar, Mr. Selvaraja K. Sangarapillai

With members of the Board of Directors of the College before the Convocation Ceremony

Delivering the speech at the Convocation Ceremony

Y Bhg Col Prof  Dato Dr Kamarudin Kachar delivering his speech
1.  Introduction.  The fourth Convocation Ceremony of MASA College was held on October 1, 2015 from 2.00 to 5.30 pm at Dewan D, MAEPS, Serdang attended by 300 graduates and an estimated 1000 made up of the staff of the College, guests and parents of the graduates. The conferment of diplomas was for the following five faculties - Corporate Administration, Executive Secretaryship, Hospitality Management, Information Technology and for the first time, Computer Security and Forensics   It was officiated by Puan Chin Phaik Yong, Director-General of the Human Resource Department and among the distinguished guests present were Yang Berusaha Mr. Selvarajah K. Sangarapillai, CEO of MASA College and Y. Bhg Kol Prof Dato' Dr Kamarudin Kachar.  I feel greatly honored to have been invited as one of the speakers at the Ceremony.   

2. My Message to the Graduates. The details of my speech at the occasion was as follows: 

Tuan Pengacara Majlis,
Y.Bhg. Puan Chin Phaik Yong, Ketua Pengarah Jabatan Tenaga Manusia 
Y. Bhg Kolonel Prof. Dato' Dr. Haji Kamarudin bin Hj. Kachar dari ULAMA, 
Y. Berusaha Mr. Selvarajah K. Sangarapillai, CEO Kolej MASA
Pegawai kanan Kolej MASA,
Dif-dif kehormat, 
Ibu Bapa dan seterusnya para graduan dan pelajar sekalian,

Let me, first of all, take the opportunity to congratulate the Management of Kolej MASA for being able to continue providing the educational and training facilities and resources to the young citizens of the country and once again, for the fourth time, we are gathered here to accord recognition to 300 more graduates .
2.  Let me extend my heartiest congratulations to the the graduates who have successfully fulfilled their requirements for the diploma in Information Technology, Hospitality Management, Corporate Administration and Executive Secretaryship and for the first time in the area of Computer Security and Forensics. Your completion of this diploma course is an achievement to yourself and brings a feeling of pride to your parents and members of your family.
Ladies and Gentlemen, 
3.  I note that the College is moving with time in recognising the increasing importance of computer security and forensics by including it in its curriculum. Our civilization has moved from the Agricultural Revolution, which started with the domestication of wild species of cereals like rice, maize, sorghum which have served as our staple food, obtained from the rich biodiversity of our jungle into cultivated ones and developing the culture of growing them, an estimated 10000 years ago.  Rice was originally domesticated and cultured in the Malay world. Then we had the Industrial Revolution from 1750 to 1850 AD.  Presently, we are in the Information Revolution with the development of computing equipment like the computer in the 1940s. Immense progress has been made in this technology.  
  The first computer science degree was conferred by Cambridge University in 1953.  Purdue University in the USA awarded degrees in the 1960s.  When I studied at Iowa State University in 1965 the IBM computers that the students made use of, were  huge and computers were centralised in specially assigned rooms called the Computer rooms. One cannot input one's data right away but had to use special cards with the arduous task of punching them and then inputting them into the computer. 
  When I started work at the Malaysian Cocoa Board as its first Director-General in the early 1990s, we initiated the internet-based Cocoa Information System (we named it in the effort to centralize all the information on the cocoa industries, both from the primary production, processing, storage, transportation and marketing - in other words, gathering information on all aspects of the supply chain of the cocoa industry. 
4.  The computing hardwares now have shrunk considerably and become mobile - laptops, tablets and smartphones but the information uploaded in the system is staggering.  Google on any topic, like health, millions of websites e.g Ted Talks, Health Tips, Nutrition, Tourism, Travels, Pets etc.   The computer is certainly a great and easily accessible source of information. I find it an easy and simple way to publish books. I usually move around with a digital camera and a note-book.  Take photos of subjects with notes and then download into the blog.  After a period of time you have enough materials for your publication. 
  The internet is a source of entertainment. Go to the You Tube and Google for your favorite Indonesian Dangdut singers like Cita Citata or Ria Amelia for Minang songs or old numbers like Broery Marantika or Sharifah Aini or the Latin American beat, Zumba, Samba. 
  It is also a great mean to communicate through such social media as the Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and popular apps such as Whatsapp, Viper and Line to friends and acquaintances all over the world. 
5.  However, hidden among the staggering benefits of the internet, there are also as Chermaine Poo, a chartered accountant, actress an TV host, 'Crooks that lurk on Social Media' (The Star Metro Sept 23). Among the cyber crimes that Chermaine cited are:
     5.1 Ladies who fall victim to casanova who sweet talk them into surrendering their life saving 
     5.2 Victims gullible enough who believe in the scams that they have won big prizes and lost their              money in the effort to retrieve the prizes - spyware
      5.3 Men who were extorted by providing very personal photos to suppossedly pretty ladies.
      5.4 Enticing the young through the media who are then sexually abused and raped 
  6.  There are other more serious crimes such as:
       6.1 Illegally withdrawing money from other people's account. Recent incident where a bank                  was robbed by a Latin American crooks and more recently the African group
       6.2  Perhaps the most damaging are the many false information that are viral around that can                       destabilise, not only the economic situation but also the security and political situation of the               country
       6.3 Identity theft - in the current spate of political divide, names of political leaders of both sides              have been abused by the opposite side on the social media
       6.4 Purchase/Conferment of degrees by all kinds of Cyber Universities 
7.  With the many crimes linked with the internet, appropriate measures must be taken to address them.  The built up of skill in this area through curriculum development, as undertaken by the College is commendable. 
 8.  I am grateful and appreciative to have been invited to attend and  deliver a speech at this auspicious occasion. This is the third time that I have been invited to the College Convocation, having been given the honor on its first Inaugural Convo in June 2012 where then, I shared with graduates on BALANCED LIVING.    I accepted this invitation, firstly, as it provides an ULAMA like me to share my experiences and wisdom if there is any, with the Y Generation. Secondly, it provides the opportunity to interact with young people and makes one feel young.  More importantly, accepting an invitation to deliver a speech at an event mean that I have to do a little research on the issues that I wish to touch on. I have to read and continue learning new things.  Yes, fellow graduates, ladies and gentlemen, even after having lived for 77 years, reading, attending lectures, participating in seminars, conferences, following language courses, on health, on nutrition etcetcetc in the effort to make your mind active and ‎pick up new information is a continuous thing -  LIFE LONG LEARNING is part of a process of healthy, balanced, active and happy living.
9.  I am an elected Fellow of the Academy of Science.  In the effort to promote science and the utilization of science for development,  the Academy and its related network institutions, organize brainstorming sessions, idea exchange, lectures covering such current topics such as climate change, biodiversity; energy alternatives; housing and transportation; which I make a point to participate.  Ten days ago I participated at the International Conference on Nature and Biodiversity, where Tan Sri Dr Dzulkifli Abd Razak, the former VC of USM, who put a strong case to integrate 'soul' in STEM (acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and suggested that scientific development must not just look at from the economic perspective but has to be anchored with the 'soul' roots such as quality of life, the human aspects, equitibility, culturally-sensitive.  Two days later on September 23 I attended a public lecture organised by the Universiti Islam Malaysia on 'Was the Universe Designed for Life on Earth?' by our top astrophysicist, Dato Dr Mazlan Othman, who mesmerised her 400 participants with the various theories of how the Universe was created, constituents that make up the Universe, the various forces that regulate the existence of life (see my posting in this blog).  Such an informative and exciting lecture.  I am narrating this not to display my arrogance but that at this ripe age there is still that fire to learn and gather knowledge.
10.  As graduates today, you are, I consider, going through the first phase of life - (Acquisition of basic knowledge and Skill)  going through the various levels of schooling, picking up the knowldge and skill to equip yourselves, for a challenging journey in the second phase of your life (Working and gaining Experience). Upgrade your skill through reading and continuous exposure to various ways of upgrading your skill in your area.  Widen your area of knowledge, depending on interest.  There is so much one can pick up on the internet - motivation, self-help, finance, health, sports and recreation, entertainment.  Interact with your peers through discussion sessions. Participate in seminars and conferences.  One can gather so much information through these sources.
11.  In concluding,  once again congratulations on your success in going through the first phase of life and wish success in your endeavors and  ability to overcome the challenges in your second phase of life and to achieve what each one is striving in life i.e HAPPINESS and the keys to achieve it are:
     (a) Good Health – participate in easy and simple exercises, sports and recreational activities on regular basis; have proper and balanced diet and ensure having adequate rest
     (b) Getting involved in exciting activities such as  intellectual, art, culture, religious, gardening, travels, environment (tree planting)
     (c) Practice Balanced Living – physical, intellectual, spiritual and social
     (d) Supercharge thinking through reading – expose to various experiences, practices, words of wisdom of philosophers, leaders, teachers etc which become the driving force to unlock the talents within you
     (e) Change Thinking – choose, act, talk to be productive, healthy, exciting and happy
     (f) Commit to Excellence in Whatever You Do – profession, hobbies, sports, writing
     (g) Share and Write About Your Experiences

Hashim bin Abdul Wahab
Written on 24 September, 2015 Hari Raya AidilAdzha

Written and posting in this blog on Thursday October 15, 2015

Was the Universe Designed for Life on Earth? - The First I-SET Lecture Series

WMAP Image of Cosmic Background Radiation (Source: Wikipedia Encyclopedia - WE)

Poster on the Lecture projected on the Screen

1.  Introduction  I attended the first public lecture of the In Search of Truth (I-SET) Series organised by Universiti Islam Malaysia (UIM) with the intellectually inquisitive topic of 'Was the Universe Designed for Life on Earth?' presented by the First Malaysian Astrophysicist, Datuk Dr Mazlan Othman, FASc held on Tuesday 22 September, 2015 at the Grand Putrajaya Ballroom, Putrajaya Marriott Hotel.  It was participated by an estimated 400 largely representing students and academic staff of the universities in Klang Valley.  Datuk Mazlan is currently the Director of the Mega Science 3.0 Project at the Academy of Sciences Malaysia.  After obtaining her Ph. D in Astrophysics, she had an illustrious career, initially as a lecturer at UKM and then appointed to set up the National Planetarium where she became its chief executive.  She subsequently set up and led the National Space Agency (ANGKASA) and later spearheaded the National Astronaut Program, which saw the launch of the first Malaysian astronaut in 2007.  She took a break serving the nation by taking up the position of Director of the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (OOSA) in Vienna, Austria.  For her contributions, she has been conferred numerous awards, among them are Honorary Doctor of Science from University of Otago, New Zealand and Universiti Sains Malaysia;  Russian Federation 'Blue Planet' Award; President's Medal of the UK Institute of Physics; Austria Space Forum Polarstar Award; International Academy of Astronautics Social Science Award; and International Telecommunications Union Merit Award.

2.  Opening Ceremony .  In his welcoming remarks, Tan Sri Prof Dr Mohd Yusof Noor, President of UIM noted that universities play the role of disseminating information to students for attaining qualifications but unfortunately, members of the public were left out. UIM therefore has taken the initiative to organise a series of public lectures to allow people to enjoy intellectual discussions and at the same time, in contributing towards shaping their attitude on certain issues and fulfilling their knowledge and truth.  The lecture series so far organised include U-Wise (in Search of Wisdom) and Halaqah Bicara Intelek and the latest being I-SET.  According to Tan Sri Dr Mohd Yusof , 'the objective of I-SET is to search, explore and articulate the truth based on relevant researches and discoveries.  It is not unusual for research to move into an area of ambiguity and even mysteriousness. This may be the beginning of the truth.  It is a long journey and a very exciting journey, and there is light at the end of the tunnel'.  The honor of officiating the inaugural I-SET lecture was given to a very distinguished Malaysian scientific personality, Y Bhg Tan Sri Dr Omar Abdul Rahman, who was the first Science Adviser.  He has served with distinction with the Veterinary Research Institute and the Founding Dean of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Sciences in the then newly established Universiti Pertanian Malaysia and currently serves in many honorary roles in both the national and international organisations.  Tan Sri Omar is also recipient of honorary doctorates from five international universities and Emeritus Professor of UPM.  In his remarks he highlighted the low allocation of funds for research and development in Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) averaging only 0.14 percent of GNP with Malaysia, allocating a slightly higher percentage at 0.6, compared to developed countries like Japan and Korea.  The same is true with acquisition of knowledge in these countries, which need our attention.

Tan Sri Prof Dr Mohd Yusof Noor delivering his Welcoming Remarks

Tan Sri Dr Omar Abdul Rahman delivering his address in launching the I-SET Lecture

The official opening of the Lecture 

3.  The Lecture.  Dr. Mazlan started her lecture with the Big Bang theory of the creation of the universe estimated to occur 14 billion years ago.  Since then it has continued to expand exponentially in its early formation (according to Hubble Expansion and Inflation theories).  The observable universe is estimated to have a diameter of 91 billion light years. It is constituted of heavy elements (0.03%), stars (0.5%), free gases (4%), dark matter (23%) and the bulk is dark energy (72%). The three possible option of its shape is either open, flat or round.

Timeline of the Universe (Source: WE)

Earth's location in the Universe (Source: WE)

Map of the Superclusters and voids nearest to Earth (Source: WE)

The Three Possible Options of the Shape of the Universe (Source: WE)

Comparison of the Contents of the Universe today to 380000 years of the Big Bang (Source: WE)

The speaker went on to emphasize that the laws of physics determine the nature of the universe.  Nevertheless, she admitted that lately astronomers have found remarkable coincidences that led to fine tuning of these laws.  The universe, under the fine tuning theories, is in a situation when 'certain universal fundamental physical constants lie within a narrow range so that if any of the several fundamental constants were only slightly different, the universe will not be conducive to the establishment and development of matter. For instance, 
a. if the ratio of the strength of the electromagnetic force to gravitational force is slightly smaller, the stars would be less massive than the sun and therefore, incapable of producing heavy elements required for life.  If it was slightly bigger, stars would be too massive, their lives too brief and too uneven to support life; 
b. the strength the atomic nuclei bind together, determines the types and abundance of elements produced within stars which will influence the existence and type of life on Earth; 
c. if the amount of material is too high, the universe would have collapsed.  On the other hand if it is too low, galaxies and stars would have never been formed.  So the amount of matter has to be finely tuned to allow a long-lived universe suitable for the development and sustaining life; 
d.  if the degree of structure in the universe is only slightly smaller, the universe would be inert and would lack any kind of structure and if a little larger, the universe would be too violent for the survival of galaxies, stars or the solar systems and only colossal black holes would exist;
e. if the anti-gravity effect which influence the rate of expansion of the universe changes minutely, galaxies, the stars and the planets and life cannot exist.

  It is the fine tuning of the above factors that create the conditions for life to exist.  Who ultimately regulates and controls the fine tuning?.  It is Allah.  However, a few physicists have theorised that the fine-tuned universe is due to its continued expansion and the existence of not one universe but many - multiverse.

4.  Concluding Remarks.  An intriguing subject indeed.  Astronomy nor physics is my plate of knowledge as my educational background is more biological and agricultural.  However, the topic is certainly of much interest to everyone of us, especially on the creation of the universe and the existence of life itself.  The speaker has certainly enlighten us on the colossal size of the universe and for the first time, at least to me, to know that there are the possibility of more than one universe.  Though I have taken much notes of the lecture but there were considerable information that was Greek to me. I have to resort to Wikipedia Encyclopedia, an extremely useful information source written in simple language, that I resort to, to get a better understanding of the difficult phenomena of the happenings of our universe and the many images produced in this article.  My appreciation to the organizer for the invitation to the lecture, camaraderie of the occasion and the lunch.

Section of the participants

Photo with distinguished guests and participants (seated from right Tan Sri Dr Arshad Ayob, Tan Sri Dr. Omar Abd Rahman, Dato' Faridah; standing from right Dato' Hassan Mad, Prof. Dr Khalid Mohd Nor, Dato' Dr Hashim Abd. Wahab, Tan Sri Mohd Noor Ismail, Col Prof. Dato' Dr Kamarudin Kachar, Datuk Dr. Mazlan Othman, Tan Sri Prof Dr Mohd Yusof Noor, Datuk Dr Awang Sarian

Written and posted on 15/10/2015 

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

STEM - Missing the Roots for the Branches: Keynote Address at the International Science & Nature Congress 2015 (ISNaC 2015)

The Opening Ceremony.  At the table are from left Tan Sri Salleh Mohd Noor, Chairman of the Steering Committee; YB Datuk Madius Tangau, Minister of MOSTI; Datuk Dr Soon Ting Kueh, Chairman Organising Committee

Section of the participants - with Dato' Dr. Abdul Rashid Ab. Malik, CEO Pulau Banding Foundation

 Cutting the Anniversary Cake to signify the Official Opening of the Congress

With Prof. Mashhor Mansor of USM

1.  Introduction:  The International Science &  Nature Congress 2015 (ISNaC 2015) was held from 21 to 23 September, 2015 at the Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC), Kuala Lumpur.  It was jointly organised by four scientific-related organisations, who were celebrating their anniversaries - Malaysian Nature Society (MNS 75th), Malaysian Scientific Association (MSA 60th), Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM 30th) and the Academy of Sciences Malaysia (ASM 20th), to discuss the latest findings in scientific research, technological development encompassing materials science, nanotechnology, organic chemistry, forest product development and technology, and, nature and biodiversity conservation. These four organisations: FRIM has been in the forefront of tropical forestry research; MNS, an NGO who has been a long time champion of the conservation and protection; ASM, an organisation that 'undertakes strategic STI studies and delivers programs that mobilise a wide spectrum of expertise through its local and international partners to bring scientific community to a common consultative platform with stakeholders to provide timely, relevant and credible STI inputs to address issues of national and global importance'; MSA, an NGO that promotes science to the public; has been brought together by a dynamic, versatile academician who has been involved in all the four organisations serving in different capacities and currently President of the Malaysian Scientific Association and also served as Chairman of the Steering Committee of the Conference, Academician Tan Sri Dr. Salleh Mohd Nor.  The Congress was attended by close to 600 delegates from 20 countries including 50 Japanese scientists, senior professors and other academics.  It was officially declared open by YB Datuk Madius Tangau, Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI). The opening ceremony was followed by a keynote address at the plenary session of the Congress.

2.  Keynote Address:  The keynote address was delivered by Prof. Tan Sri Dato' (Dr) Dzulkifli Abdul Razak, FASc, Fellow of the Academy of Sciences Malaysia; Chair of Islamic Leadership, Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia and President of the International Association Universities.  Prof. Dzulkifli, in discussing the topic 'STEM - Missing the Roots for the Branches' where STEM refers to Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics, pointed out that the Second Machine Age, through science and technological development, has brought prosperity, which is associated with excessive consumption. This has subsequently brought serious consequences, as the population increases, the demand for such natural resources as forest products, biodiversity, water, energy etc escalates. Our environment and the ecosystems - terrestrial, marine and atmospheric - are destroyed and development becomes unsustainable and there is erosion of wisdom.  This, according to Prof Dzulkifli, is development brought about by an arrogant mind and when science loses its soul, leading to a society that is machinistic, dehumanising, utilitarian, externalised, hollowed-out and tech-dependent. He suggested a different approach where economic development is metaphorically regarded as development of the tree of knowledge where the tree is linked to the roots i.e mind and heart. The roots can change and different trees have different types of roots. Nevertheless, these vital roots can nourish relationship, collaboration and trust building that will provide the soul to the living tree via STEM.
  The 21st century, Prof. Dzulkifli added, is an Age of Biology and also an Age of Enlightenment where there is a shift from Mechanical to Organic; Technology-based to Nature-based; Arrogant mind to Humility mind;where things are undertaken with the heart of love, justice, mercy and loyalty. Instead of STEM where economic needs and technology are emphasised,  the scientific community has to adopt the acronym STREAM where R refers to Religion (spiritual needs), E to Ecology, A-Arts, M-Management. Ultimately, the ROOTS have to be anchored strongly where the considerations are maintaining balance, humanity focused, quality of life, high purpose of life, believe in karma and connected to MICROCOSMOS.  and Technology has to be looked at as fit for the purpose, user-friendly and sustainable.  Development in the Malaysian context is INCLUSIVE, EQUITABLE, COLLABORATIVE and CULTURALLY-SENSITIVE.

3.  Other Scientific Programmes. There were four concurrent sessions of the Congress covering:

      3. 1 Conference of Forestry & Forest Products Research which covered, among others, such                      topics as :
             - An Effective Future Forest Management Approach for the Protection of Environment
             - Forestry and Environment R & D
             - Tourist Carrying Capacity Assessment for Ecotourism Development
             - Evapotranspiration in a Small Forested Catchment
             - Forestry in the Post 2020 Climate Change Regime: Role of Science
             -  National and World Heritage Sites
             - Forest Biotechnology
             - Forest Biodiversity
             - Natural Products
             - Forest Economic and Social Sciences

         3.2 Symposium on Materials Science and Nanotechnology touched on Functional                                      Polymer, Nanotechnology, Composite and Other Materials, Advanced Materials.

         3.3 Symposium on Organic Chemistry discussed Synthesis, Mechanism and Reactivity,                              primarily studies undertaken by the Japaneses scientists

         3.4 Symposium on Biodiversity and Nature attracted environmentalists who highlighted the                      serious threats to our biodiversity such as fireflies, sea grass in the Straits of Johor, tigers,                    birds in Setiu Wetlands, montane flora in Cameron Highlands, seabirds in the East Coast                      Malaysia, Sunda pangolin in Peninsular Malaysia, elephants.  MNS, the organiser of the                      Symposium, took the opportunity to report on the conservation achievements during the 75                  years of its existence and its partnership with the corporate sector in the various                                    conservation projects.

In the Symposium on Biodiversity and Nature with from right Dato' Ghazaly Yusoff, member of BOT MNS; Mr. Vincent Chow, Chairman MNS Johor Branch; Mr. Henry Goh, President MNS 

Group photo with participants at the Symposium on Biodiversity and Nature

4. Concluding Remarks  There is so much information one can get from the Congress of this nature within the short space of time.  However, there were too many sessions to cover in this Congress.  I was particularly interested on issues pertaining to many aspects of forestry from its effect to climate change, rehabilitation, selective logging; on biodiversity and nature and conservation efforts; also on some aspects of nanotechnology.  I could manage a few presentations on biodiversity and nature.  At the same time the Congress provided me the opportunity to catch up with old friends as I am involved in various capacities in three (ASM, MNS, MSA) out of the four organisations associated with the Congress.  I too have many friends in FRIM.

Written and posted on 13/10/2015

Friday, October 9, 2015

Khmer History and Civilization

Angkor Wat (from Wikipedia Encyclopaedia) 

1. Introduction.  My involvement as Vice-President of the World Malay-Polynesian (M-P) Organisation, since its establishment in 2012 (see earlier posting on the blog entitled International Conference of the Malay-Polynesian Ancestral Nations in July 2012) gets me interested in all aspects covering history, culture, languages, religion, economic, education, social, politics etc of the 33 nation states of the M-P ancestral nations, covering as far West as Malagasy to as far East as Easter Island, covering southern Thailand, Cambodia, Southern Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, the Philippines and the Polynesian Island archipelagoes in the Pacific Ocean. So when the Institute of World Malay Civilization of the National University of Malaysia (UKM) in Bandar Baru Baru, a km away from my residence, organised a lecture on Khmer History and Civilization, I was present at the lecture.  It was held on September 18, 2015 starting at 2.30 pm and the lecture was delivered by Prof. Dr Chanthourn, Archeologist and Deputy Director of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, Institute of Fine Arts, Cambodia.  It was attended by an estimated 50 participants.
A section of the participants at the lecture

Photo with speaker, Prof. Dr Chanthourn (third from left)

2.  Early History.  The Khmer Civilization was preceded by three earlier kingdoms:

     Funan Kingdom - 68 to 550 AD. The Kingdom covered present-day Vietnam, Cambodia,  southern Thailand and Peninsular Malaysia and it was a Hindu kingdom, composed of many small settlements with each having its own chief.
     Chenla Kingdom - 550 to 800 AD
      Champa Kingdom - 1000 to 1800 AD

The Funan Kingdom

3. The Khmer Civilization.  802 to 1432 AD - The Civilization, which was centred in Angkor Wat,  is known for the many temples built in honor of Hindu God, Vishnu and the water systems comprising of canals and reservoirs used for irrigation, trade and travel.  The people developed a sophisticated way of rice cultivation and were skill in metallurgy especially in making tools from iron, of which the Kingdom was rich in. The iron bars were used to cut rocks, located in the mountain range around 125 km away, into huge slabs which were then loaded into rafts and transported to the temple site in the vast plain of Siem Reap. Other iron tools were used for stone carving - among the popular figures engraved in the stones were forms of gods and goddeses,  human faces, elephants and buffaloes.
  Prof. Chanthourn is active in archeological work and share his professional experience.  He narrated of the discovery of historical relics during road construction. He  was instrumental in the establishment of a Historical Park in Siem Reap, where many of the historical relics and artifacts are kept.

  4.  Comments and Concluding Remarks.  Khmer Civilization was part of the bigger Malay-Polynesian Civilization, linked in history to Funan, Langkasuka, Srivijaya, Majapahit and Melaka kingdoms, where the inhabitants of these kingdoms were known for a number of attributes - skilled farmers that had domesticated rice and developed a very advance cultivation culture of it; metallurgists who developed iron tools to build enormous structures like Angkor Wat and other temple centres in Cambodia, the Borobudur and Prambanan temple complexes in Indonesia; musicians and great sailors.  The lecture provided me more insights on the rich shared historical heritage of the Khmer-Malay-Indonesian history and the need for scholars to work together in the study of our history. Also, the lecture threw light to the many other temple complexes around Siem Reap, which I missed to visit on my trip to Angkor Wat some years ago and new historical locations such as the Historical Park that are worth taking a look at. Further more, participating in such anthropological discussions makes me understand deeper my roots.                       

  The Khmer Kingdom (Wikipedia Encyclopaedia)                 

Temple structures

Engravings on the stone wall and religious relic

Written and posted on October 8, 2015