Posted in Psychology & Medicine


The saying goes that “opposites attract”, suggesting that people are attracted to those who are different to them, complementing each other like yin and yang. But then, another saying states that “like attracts like”, suggesting that people feel attraction to those that are similar to them, helping them bond over similar interests and hobbies. So which is true?

Biologically speaking, it makes sense for people to look for those who are “different” as it allows for a more varied gene pool. This is highlighted by the famous experiment where women were asked to smell and grade the “attractiveness” of t-shirts worn by different men. It was discovered that the t-shirts each woman chose belonged to a men who were most immunologically different to the woman. Every human being has a unique marker on their cells called the major histocompatibility complex (MHC). The more dissimilar the MHC is, the more likely that the person is not related to you genetically. By choosing a mate with a different MHC, your offspring will have an immune system that has a broader cover against various pathogens. It seems that we have an innate ability to smell this difference. The way we do this best, of course, is through the act of kissing.

Psychologically speaking, we appear to find those who look similar to us attractive. Professor Penton-Voak undertook a study where he showed people a book of photos of the opposite gender and asked them to pick the most attractive one. He found that the participants tended to rate the picture with their own face morphed into the opposite gender as most attractive. Other studies have shown that similar personality, interests and hobbies, attitude and life goals were all strong predictors of attraction between two people. This is most likely because of self-affirmation – the theory that suggests that people like receiving confirmation about every aspect of their life and there is no better confirmation than spending time with someone similar to you and discovering said similarities as you connect.

According to studies on this exact debate, researchers determined that similarity is more important in initial attraction, while being different helped the relationship develop over time. Surveys have shown that people tend to be more satisfied in a relationship when their partner was different to them, especially in terms of how dominant – that is, how much they lead the relationship – they are. When two people are similar in dominance, such as both being dominant leading to frequent conflict, while both being submissive will lead to frustration as neither takes initiative.

Another interesting point is that when the couple is complementary, they tend to change each other for the better, such as an active person helping their shy partner improve their social skills while she teaches her partner the importance of keeping his head on when under stress. Through this process, long-term couples tend to become similar over time. Not only that, but because people tend to mimic people close to them, their speech, behaviour, idiosyncrasies and even facial expressions become similar.

However, there is a law of attraction that surpasses both similarity and complementarity. The mere-exposure effect is a psychological phenomenon where the more we are exposed to something, the more we like it. This is further expanded by the propinquity effect that states that the more we see and interact with someone, the more likely we are to befriend or date them. Simply put, just spending more time with or even living in close proximity to someone is a high predictor of them becoming your friend or romantic partner.

Posted in History & Literature

Elements: Yin And Yang

Yin-yang is a frame of thinking that can be considered a fundamental basis of Eastern philosophy. In ancient Far East Asia, people categorised everything of nature as yin or yang, including natural phenomenon such as human physiology. Yang() is a masculine element, yin() is a feminine element and the two represent the countless symmetries found in nature. Just as there is a sky for the earth, a sun for the moon, a man for a woman and strength for softness, every phenomena in human societies and the universe can be identified in relative terms. The concept of reducing these to a plus and a minus to explain natural events is the concept of yin and yang.

For example, consider a hill in the sunlight. The bright side is called the “yang place” and the opposite, dark side is called the “yin place”. Thus, light is yang, darkness is yin. That is not all. The air that is heated by sunlight becomes warm and rises, while cold air sinks because it is heavy. Yang symbolises heat, lightness and upward, active movement while yin symbolises cold, heaviness and downward, sluggish movement. But that does not mean that yin is bad and yang is good. The reason being, everything that counters each other in nature coexists and forms a balance. Also, as time passes, the sun will move from the east to the west, making the sunny place dark and the dark place sunny. Yin-yang is a law that shows the relativity of nature very well. It shows that everything is relative to each other even if they seem like opposites, forming a harmonious balance and cycle.

Balance forms harmony and nature always seeks harmony. For example, traditional Korean and Chinese medicine is based on the concept that the reason why diseases occur is because of the balance of yin and yang in the human body being broken. To restore the balance, acupuncture and herbal remedies are used, restoring good health. A broken harmony is due to one side being greater than the other as yin and yang form a zero-sum game. This means that as one side waxes, the other side wanes and vice versa, with the sum of the two being equal at all times. But this does not mean that yin and yang oppress and fight each other. Instead, the two rely on each other despite being opposites. In this world, there is no light without darkness. There is no forwards without backwards and no life without death. For instance, if there were only men (yang) in this world, the human race would be wiped out in one generation. But if yin and yang coexist to help each other and form a union, they give birth to a new generation. Nature always exists as a perfectly balanced coexistence of two polarities. When yin and yang form a balance they form something even greater than their sum, which is harmony.

1 + 1 = 3

(Image source

Posted in History & Literature

Elements: Wu Xing Of The East

In ancient China and Korea, there are five, not four, basic elements (Japan also has five but they are slightly different). In the East, these five elements are called “oh hang (오행, 五行)” in Korean and “wu xing” in China. These are (read in Korean): hwa (火, fire), su (水, water), mok (木, wood), geum (金, metal), and toh (土, earth). When you combined with the theory of Yin and Yang, the concept is known as the Yin-Yang and the Five Elements theory (eum yang oh hang sul, 음양오행설). Wu Xing is quite different from the Four Elements of ancient Greece in that it explains the changes in life and the universe rather than being the building blocks of matter (“wu xing” translates to “five ways”). To first understand Wu Xing, one must understand that each element is more of an abstract concept than the actual object. For example, “mok” does not mean wood per se, but rather a symbol for the life force of a growing tree.

There are two relationships between the elements in Wu Xing: Creation (상생, 相生) and Destruction (상극, 相剋). Creation refers to the cyclic principle of what generates what, and Destruction refers to what overcomes and represses what. The Creation and Destruction of Wu Xing are as follows:

  • 목생화(木生火): Wood creates Fire. Wood feeds Fire.
  • 화생토(火生土): Fire creates Earth. Fire makes ash which becomes Earth.
  • 토생금(土生金): Earth creates Metal. Earth bears Metal.
  • 금생수(金生水): Metal creates Water. Metal carries Water.
  • 수생목(水生木): Water creates Wood. Water nourishes Wood.
  • 목극토(木剋土): Wood beats Earth. Wood takes roots in Earth.
  • 토극수(土剋水): Earth beats Water. Earth absorbs Water.
  • 수극화(水剋火): Water beats Fire. Water quenches Fire.
  • 화극금(火剋金): Fire beats Metal.  Fire melts Metal.
  • 금극목(金剋木): Metal beats Wood. Metal chops Wood.

(Image source

Posted in Science & Nature

Cordyceps sinensis

Cordyceps sinensis is a fungus known as dongchoong-hacho(동충하초, 冬蟲夏草) in Korea, with the same characters used in China and Japan. It literally translates to “worm in the winter, herb in the summer”. It is a peculiar fungus with an interesting life cycle. In the summer when the weather is warm, the fungus infects its host (usually ghost moth larvae) through spores. The infected caterpillar is slowly filled with mycelium (thready part of fungi), until it becomes mummified with only the shell remaining. The fungus keeps replicating until it bursts out of the caterpillar’s head with a club-like fruit body (which holds the fungus’ spores). This makes it look as if the caterpillar, which was an insect in the winter, turned into a fungus in the summer (technically it is at this stage, but the caterpillar is long dead). In English, it is also called caterpillar fungus or vegetable worm (which is a misnomer as fungi are not vegetables).

Cordyceps sinensis is an important ingredient in traditional Eastern medicine as it is believed to be a perfect balance between yin and yang due to it possessing both animal and plant (actually a fungus) properties. It is used to treat many diseases from fatigue to cancer.

Although Western medicine usually looks down on and ignores Eastern medicine, research shows that Cordyceps sinensis actually has medicinal properties. Cordycepin, a chemical extracted from the fungus, has been shown to inhibit the growth of viruses, fungi and tumours through its inhibitory actions on a certain protein. There is also research that suggests it can protect the body against radiation poisoning.

Posted in History & Literature


As most people know, the Moon is Earth’s only satellite (or “moon”), and it circles the Earth from a distance of 360000km. This giant rock was most likely formed from a gargantuan heavenly body colliding into the young Earth, displacing material from it. 
The Moon also has oceans, but they are flat, barren rockbeds. As it has a geography, we see a pattern on the lunar surface, which people interpret as the Moon rabbit, Man on the Moon, crab, beautiful woman and whatever else they see through the power of pareidolia.

The Moon, which forms the basis of yin and yang with the Sun, has had a significant impact in every civilisation. In the East, the lunar calendar is still used and many festivals are set to it (such as the Lantern Festival and Mid-Autumn Festival). In the West, the Moon has been associated with lunacy, so called the “lunar effect”. Some people (including Aristotle) believe that people act more crazy and criminal when a full moon is up (werewolves and the Cheshire Cat’s “crescent moon” grin are also linked to this symbolism).

As such, the Moon has always been an important part of human societies. Without it, there would be no tides, the lunar calendar would be useless, the night sky would be darker, werewolves would not terrorise the forests, and most importantly, Sailor Moon would not be able to stop criminals in the name of justice.