Jan 9, 2015

None of the above

A person walks into a room and cuts the throat of a number of people.
Please check - is this ok if
1) A is a man 2) A is a woman 3) A is member of a majority 4) A is member of a minority 5) A does so in the name of religion 6) in the name of atheism 7) in the name of the country 8) in the name of the governement 9) ...

Oct 1, 2014

The Science Festival in Berlin

You know those science shows, right? The mad professor on TV. An Einstein-lookalike (the hair, the tongue, wild eyes, lab-coat, dry-ice, smoke, bubbles, bang!). This is the impression your kids get: science is stupid crap. Putting an egg in a microwave and watching it blow up - that is science. Freezing a rose with liquid nitrogen and then trampling on it - close to Nobel-prize.
We scientists know: it is not.
But our PR-professionals tell us that we *have to* communicate like that. We have to be accessible. That's why they always smuggle their fishy last sentence into the press-releases: 'this brings us one step closer to quantum computing' - no! 'so, time-travel seems not that unlikely at last!' - wrong!
The guy responsible for science at Der Spiegel told us years ago: 'if you want your stuff published, we need a catchy title, awesome images. And you know: sex sells'. He was not joking! And look, the most widely quoted research result of the Forschungsverbund Berlin (the administrative link-up of eight institutes our Paul-Drude-Institute is a member of) is probably the work on ... dare I say it .... Rhino insemination. (stop clicking. I just painted it blue ... there is no link here)
Remember when we opposed the view that 'every academic should be blogging'? Somebody wrote "blogging is quite simply, one of the most important things that an academic should be doing right now".
Listen. We have a mission. We want our scientific results to be transferred into society. It should get there as fast as possible and it should be as accessible as possible so that it can be 'used'. But it has to be the real stuff. Innovation does not come from secretly optimizing what we have. It does not come from patenting every discovery and filing it in the basement or selling it to a company (that files it in the basement). It get's there by communicating it. Professionally.
And we want the public to see why science is such an important part of our culture. I see scientists at four o'clock in the morning bursting of excitement in their lab. The public should know of those emotions. So, let's tell them.
We will try that with our Science Festival this fall in Berlin. We call it "STATE experience science festival". And that is a link you should click on! I hope to see you there.
Don't hesitate to look the festival up on facebook or twitter - and spread the news.
Wildly.

Sep 14, 2014

Elegant moss-covered furniture

We got this great side-board from a friend. He moved and had no place to put it. We moved and had no furniture. The classical win-win situation.
We now had a stylish, perfect 70s norwegian beauty in our living-room. An expensive piece that conoisseurs would kill for. It is great, it is elegant, it is big. 
Way too big for our apartment as it turned out.
So we put it in the basement.
As the basement is dark, humid, moldy - home of vicious spiders and man-eating multi-legged creatures crawling up the brittle walls and scurrying behind decaying cardboard boxes whenever you put a foot on the ground, sometimes getting inside your shirt or attacking your calves... (but this is another story) - we called my friend weekly to have him rescue that treasure.
I really felt bad about it.
But now my favorite source for ultimate taste, the treehuggers (oh, click here and there), tells me that we are way ahead, style-wise...
Some italian designers are sporting moss-covered furniture to bring biophilia into the homes and minds of the eco-aware homeowners.
But they are chicken.
Their moss is cute but dead and it is preserved in resin.
We do the living thing. The wood changes it's colour and texture almost daily now and it will not be long and the side-board will walk out of the basement all by its own (accompanied by his multi-legged friends, but this... yep... later..). 
And I am sure it will find my friend and then beware!

(Hey mate, could you please come and pick up your gorgeous element of interior design?)

Jul 15, 2014

Crabby cabbies and fish

Cabdrivers internationally are artists, musicians, dancers, writers - anything but cabdrivers. That was different in pre-oh-so-hip, pre-wall-came-down Berlin, where cabdrivers (east and west) used to be just angry, crabby old cabbies, and proud of it. They were eloquent only when it came to convincing every happy visitor why it is no good idea to be a happy visitor, ultimately proving their point by ridiculously overcharging for an annoying ride. General misanthropy wasn't fashionable only in a tiny yellow car - it was a hallmark of Berlin. Yep, east and west. A colleague of mine, coming from the Netherlands, got a convincing performance at the fish-counter of a local supermarket. When he tried to strike a jolly conversation by asking:"what goodies have we got today?!" he was served the perfectly berlinesque response: "fish.". (period.).
With the wild and art-packed Berlin going down the drain so disappears this element of style and so mutate the cabdrivers.
Recently I took one hasty ride from Berlin/Mitte to Berlin/Mitte and was confronted with one of the new Berliners behind the wheel - easily recognizable by the fact that they ask you for directions (trying to figure out if you have a clue where you are - if not, well, it will be a long and expensive trip).
Like so many of his colleagues, he was an 'artist', who ventured into Astrology, tought Reiki and won his driver's license in the lottery. He was the emblem of what is going wrong with Berlin-turning-normal: installing air commas around 'artists', taking the stars to the street, treating social pain inadequately and living off pretense.
¡No pasarĂ¡n!'