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Showing posts from 2011

You don't have to be brain-dead to give advice on the net

In one corner of the web somebody quotes somebody euphorically as giving "4 signs of a culture of innovation" (google that complete phrase and enjoy the list of cut-and-paste-authors that make you call for intelligent filters) The four signs? We get that dull list of standard soft-skills that no less than every serious company in the civilized world subscribes to - twice!: 1. Development of the employees 2. Concern for employees' progress 3. Respect for everyone's contribution 4. Teamwork and collaboration That was it. "4 signs of a culture of innovation" - Those four lala-points! To make things worse the list is supplemented by some bullet-points highlighting unmistakeable signs for 'un-innovation'(! snake-oil anybody?): a. Emphasis on sheer talent b. Categorizing by ability c-f. some modes of harassment that no employer, who isn't completely insane would ever subscribe to. Girls, boys, listen. 1-4 are the most commonly accepted soft-s

3 things you should never forget

These days I checked the net for bloglisting services to break loose from the shackles of blogs I usually read - and find some new ones. It was scary. Most of the high-ranking blogs seem to be platforms for advice. Everybody apparently insists on giving me hints how to improve my life in any conceivable aspect. Who needs that? Who believes that? Who wants to know? And who makes THEM the experts to tell ME " How to Negotiate in Three Easy Lessons "? There is this humunguous number of 'how-to'-advices combined with the 'n steps to become...(a successful rocket-scientist/a top-rated womanizer/jobless)' workings that obviously catches on. If the advice is packed into catchy phrases, numbered, spiced up, then it will inevitably make your blog one of the more clicked ones out there. Did anybody ask for this flood of advice? Don't I stand a chance to die dumb? James Altucher will not like it when I say that his site is on the shortlist of those I return to

It was 'free will' - not 'free Willy!'

Almost the day when SmartS got it's remarks on emergence out, the follower-crowd got interspersed by a significant number of psychoanalysts and 'quantum-esoterics' guys. While we happily welcome every lost sould searching for wisdom also in our utterances, I, personally, get scared. Not because of the psychoanalysts. I actually might need them. But because of the scientoid babble of the others. The guy who delivers his revolutionary thoughts in 7MB chunks to the mailbox is easily complimented to the door of the spam folder (even though the subject-line is somewhat mouthwatering "polarities cosmic physics are contrary to the physical plan of expression of earth. Cosmic physics in the positive attracts positive and negative attracts the negative"). But some not-so-asked-for wisdom strains the patience of even the most diplomatically trained reader: In one mail I had to endure some lecturing about the *free will* of photons (!) (yes! PHOTONS!). Photons *obviously

Don't Count on Emergence!

You want to know why a single ant is not even a nuisance, while a whole bunch of them gets your attention and a vast number finally builds a complex society? Need an explanation how those few synapses you use to navigate yourself through a bar-conversation becomes a conscious something by sheer numbers? Ever tortured that brain with the question how to overthrow THE world financial system? Emergence is the answer. Emergence develops to the catch-phrase of the occupy-movement as well as the mantra of some proponents of the network-first!-cooperators. Increase the number of actors (cells, fish, occupiers, collaborators…) and something awesome will happen. How? It will emerge! The basic idea is good, the concept, however, not really understood. Emergence does not deal with the self-organized creation of something awesome. Emergence at its very roots describes the upscaling of complexity by increasing the number of participants. Thereby the 'language' necessary to describe the sy


Visualizing science

The fascination of complexity is one big force that drives curiosity. It appears that the mind is getting utterly excited when a sensoric impression is neither completely predictable, symmetric or repetitive nor random. Pure symmetry and repeated patterns might sooth the aching brain - but boredom is not far away. Complete randomness, on the other hand, is quickly masked as 'background' or noise, unable to keep our attention for too long - equally rapidly discarded from our attention-span. It is the broken symmetry on the one side (the nearly perfect crystal-structure, the flaw in a symmetric image, the spot in a beautiful face...) and the structured randomness (seemingly repetitive patterns in the noise, almost symmetrical structures in an otherwise random system) that catches the attention of artists and scientists alike. Both, it appears, are looking for tools or 'languages' to extend the space of what is describable, in this sense understandable, and to build somet

Left Brain, Right Brain

At a wonderful summer night I was lying in the grass, my little son beside me. We were staring into the dark sky, debating infinity, other planets, the origin of everything, observing falling stars that were whizzing through the atmosphere at a delightfully high rate. Why did we see so many of them that night? What are falling stars? What are comets. Why do comets return and when? The air was clear and warm. No artificial lights anywhere. The moon was lingering lazy in the trees across the river. Some fireflies were having a good time, switching their glow on and off rather randomly - in one group they seemed to synchronize but then it was random again. It reappeared: a few bugs were flashing simultaneously at first ... it started to expand, it was getting more. A whole cloud of insects was flashing in tune. Are they doing this on purpose? Do they have a will to turn the light on and off? How do those fireflies communicate? And why? Do they communicate at all? My son pointed at a fie


Of course we are impressed by increasing click-rates, see our vanity pumped by your mails and indulge in being mentioned in relevant blog-lists. But we'd feel utterly flattered if you flattr us using the well-placed buttons on this page or other... (and please excuse this selfish propaganda)

My guinea pig wants beer!

Rather involuntary train rides (especially long ones, going to boring places for a boring event) are good for updates on some thoughts lingering in the lower levels of the brain-at-ease. My latest trip (from Berlin to Bonn) unearthed the never-ending squabble about the elusive 'free will'. Neuroscientists make headlines proving with alacrity the absence of free will by experimenting with brain-signals that precede the apparent willful act - by as much as seven seconds! Measuring brain-activity way before the human guinea pig actually presses a button with whatever hand or finger he desires, they predict with breathtaking reproducibility the choice to be made. So what? Is that the end of free will? I am afraid that those neuroscientists would accept only non-predictability as a definite sign of free will. But non-predictability results from two possible scenarios: a) a random event (without a cause) b) an event triggered by something outside of the system (but caused).

Being good - talking at bankers

Recently I enjoyed following a presentation at Platoon/Berlin on Alternative Currencies. It was a great pleasure to hear that very smart guy Gabriel Shalom introducing his video "The future of money" - and the video itself was a nice treat. But I felt increasingly at unease listening to the narrative about the presentation of the video at SIBOS, 'the worlds biggest banking conference'. There was some sound of pride in the voice of Gabriel and giggling in the audience when he reported that after the 7.5 minute short video there was absolute silence, no questions, no comments, nothing… "we dropped the evil-bomb", he said to the amusement of us folks. My problem was that common-sense in the room (well, it was a tent at Platoon): *they* are the bad guys *we* are the good guys. To phrase it drastically - even though I never dug too deep into the history and concept of money myself there was really nothing unexpected, scary, chilling, thrilling or excitingly

Scientoid Babble

that guy is simply - a clown at a site of charlatans: If taken serious Michio Kaku is threatening the reputation of science. I know, such scientoid babble defends itself as being visionary. It is not.

Relativity remains relatively unchallenged

Have I mentioned my personal 'affinity' to those bubble-brains at ? I guess I have - their poster boy physicist Dr. Michio Kaku regularly d-explains the world by oversimplifying some piece of natural sciences. Some might smile about it, others yawn - I think it is actually dangerous. Well, here it is. The recent piece is tied to a freshly published paper about some accelerator-experiment in which some particles seem not to obey the speed-limit. In his article "Breaking the speed of light and contemplating the demise of relativity" Dr. Kaku states that the scientists reported that they have recorded particles appearing to travel faster than the speed of light. Um, maybe. Maybe not. The scientists explicitly stated that they publish their data to stimulate a wider discussion as they wish to figure out what makes those particles to *appear* to be faster than light. All is based on the measurement of time - done by a synchronization via GPS signals. Some

quixotic literary equilibria

Those blogs at (as the one you are glued to right now) sport a nifty little navigation thingy in the very top row, allowing you to navigate, randomly as they promise, to the 'next blog'. As it turns out the thread of 'next blogs' is eagerly woven from the keywords in the title of the last blogentry - can you follow me? So, naively, I had named a contribution "The love of science" - and guess what: clicking on 'next blog' carried everybody through a flood of pages of marriages, personal religious or pseudoreligious confessions, decorated with clouds, sunshine and eerily smiling elderly women... Don't get me wrong! Nothing against personal beliefs, religious orientations, feelings. But I dont expect to be dried out in intellectual wasteland just because I use the wrong words in the headline of a post of my own blog! So I changed the title. The blogpost is now named "fascinating science". Everybody who bookmarked a link to th

Fascinating Science

At times I dig the website - at times I am grumpy … a bit like in a real relationship, I believe. As a constant I am at unease with their narcissistic appearance and the almost audible smack, when they believe they have said something really earthshaking - which is about every time they update their page. But, well, I come back almost daily... So I was eagerly waiting for the latest oeuvre in classical print "Future Science, Essays From the Cutting Edge" - edited by Max Brockman (Vintage Books), son of John Brockman the legend; tore open the package the minute I fumbled it out of the mailbox and started reading on my way back up to the apartment. The book comprises of eighteen essays from eighteen obviously brilliant, young researchers. Essays on their work and their plans. The author list seems absolutely random to a European scientist and there might be a long list of equally impressive minds around, but, hey, this is a nifty little booklet! As a physicist I w


finally I managed - zero hits on this site yesterday. That is a drop of undisputable 100% compared to the average, the highest high, the lowest low. Simple, clear 100%. Pure silence for 24 hours. No annoying clicking sound in the web, no widget started, no counter moved. Definitely: vacation even for my virtual self. I am reminded to stretch out on the farm, let kids and pigs rush by and enjoy the silence of the mindless vacuum inside my eerily smiling skull. Giving room, however, to the darker thoughts of an overstrained summer-brain. Thoughts that are usually safely absorbed by the omnipresent beach-novel dealing with murder, love and murderers in love. Lacking any of these divertions here, I simply wonder: that little village behind the woods - was it called Sechzehn Eichen or rather Sechzehn Leichen? I will go and check - tonight!

Utterly uninspired, but shamelessly overhyped

There is no lack of sites web-wide the authors of which believe "modesty" must be a talibanesque expletive. Guys (mostly) who smack their lips too shamelessly in total complacency of their writings buy themselves some chunk of electro-space and install a website called Smartass or the like. If you are *certain*, however, that your brilliance will enlighten the world, go call your site . Then, no name, no topic seems too big to tackle and to comment on. I have to disappoint you, however, is already taken. Those big talking folks at bigthink just published a collection of 'visions' by so-called experts and ask us (yes, me, you, the plebs!) which one of those visions might influence 'the world' the most. We are allowed to cast our vote. The visions come in handy in easily understandable little video-clips. Just in case we are too stupid to read. Those 'visions' are stunningly unimaginative: e


The new format 'Smart-SPresso' will start shortly - delivering lucid as well as tartly formulated comments on web-wide utterances. Stay tuned. And be prepared to comment vividly!

The Internet Does Forget

Do you know the feeling that just when you return to a website to get a screenshot of an incredibly incredible post you realize that it has been taken off seconds after you got there? Instead of cursing and cussing and calling 'liars' those smart-s'ess amongst us who always claim that 'the internet never forgets' you should dig up the archives of and thumb through history. Even though I failed to excarvate my favourite from the german weekly "Die Zeit" of May 10, 2005 I am confident that one or the other embarassingly useless piece of historical document is stored forever somewhere in California ( ). My favourite? Well, in Germany a notorious cannibal was sentenced to 13 years in prison. An apprentice at Die Zeit had a preliminary headline set free to the public, reading "13 Jahre Haft für einen Haps (okay okay das geht nicht)" (something like:"13 years for a mouthful (oka

Ai WeiWei freed - finally

The chinese dissident artist Ai WeiWei, who was detained nearly 10 Weeks ago for unspecified 'economical crimes' was freed on bail today. The chinese news agency Xinhua reports that he is freed after admitting his crimes, which are now said to be related to massive tax evasion of his company "Fake Cultural Development". Artists in Berlin - among them the literary nobel-laureat Herta Müller - will read texts of Ai Weiwei, which were published in his blog but deleted by chinese authorities (Monday, June 27, Literaturhaus, Berlin). These texts will be published in german language end of July by Galiani as "Macht euch keine Illusionen über mich".

Schrödinger's cat is alive and kickin'

After some remarks on my comment to Dr Kaku's (a popular figure from ) overpopularization of physics one more comment on the wave-properties of an electron seems appropriate: There is a famous experiment illustrating the consequences of the wave-description for the probability to find an electron at a given point in space. If an electron-source is placed in front of a metal-sheet with two narrow slits, a recording-device behind this screen would detect a distribution of incoming electrons that is identical to an interference-pattern of waves passing through the double slit (as would be seen when shining coherent, monochromatic light (a laser produces this kind of light) on the two slits). This interference-pattern shows up no matter how low the rate of electrons coming through. Even if only one single electron per hour would pass through the slits, there would, finally, be a distribution of detected electrons given by the well-known interference-pattern. This

My Computer turns vegetarian

We got some angry reactions and shows of disgust and sadness to our report on carnivorous computers , which get their energy by digestion of small animals. While that brilliantly despicable idea was merely a design concept with no proof of real functionality, another designer popped up to save our soul: vegetarian lamps! Marieke Staps from the netherlands developed soil-powered LED lighting that, according to her words only needs some watering every now and then, just like her chicque and totally pc eco-watch. (a little closer look reveals some copper and zink electrodes which, together with water of the right pH, are nothing but standard batteries. Nice idea though.)

Thinking Big or Rather Big Talking?

Michio Kaku is featured on the website as a sympathetic elderly man able and willing to explain everything. On April 13 he tells us "why quantum physics ends the free will debate" . Well, sure. I am very supportive of the idea to popularize big scientific thoughts and achievements so that the broader public gets a glimpse of what is being mulled over in the head of those big shots. But I am totally allergic to oversimplification at the expense of the real message. Why does quantum physics supposedly end the free will debate? You guess it: because with Newtonian physics everything, every thought, every move you make every step you take was in principle predictable. The world was supposedly completely deterministic. You would just have to know all the parameters of the universe at the time of the big bang, then calculate and calculate until you arrive at your phase space of now and, voila, you could extrapolate into the future of your tremendously boring life.

Anybody seen Ai Weiwei recently?

In our small universe the thought of supressing an idea, an ideal by simply locking up one person representing it, seems so very archaic. Nevertheless, this still is the approach of chinese authorities, who detained the internationally renowned and sometimes mercilessly critical artist Ai Weiwei on sunday. The voices for free speach became louder ever since. Cultural Development folks at Platoon ( ) suggest to print out this image of Ai Weiwei and display it everywhere in public. Read this:

Support your local rodent!

Rats are suffering from bad PR. they are constantly misunderstood, mistreated, mistaken and misplaced if not murdered... The best that is said about them is that they make a wonderful energy-source in your bio-reactor-powered kitchen-table as designed by Auger and Loizeau, a bunch of brilliantly perverted product designers  (see our snippet on "my carnivorous computer").Those critters would be a sad bunch were it not for North Star Rescue who organized a massive bailout for thousand cutie-rats that otherwise would have been doomed. Listen: A house-owner in San Jose, CA was driven out of his house by the exponentially proliferating rat-community that started with a single, female rat in a cage (well, you guess it, that lady was pregnant). The good old man was feeding his friends while himself abandoning his house and living in a trailer and everything would have been wonderful wasnt it for that annoying exponentiality inherent to uncontrolled, um

Every Monday I feed a little rabbit to my carnivorous computer

It is exciting, albeit horrifying at times, to see the servos grab their prey and slowly pull it into the microbial fuel cell. The PC is powered entirely by the electrical energy gained from the biomass. I try to keep my little girl, age 1.5, away from the scene - not only because the impressions might be disturbing to her, but also for her own safety. You are right, you cant get that horrific machine at your local gadget-dealer, yet. But the idea of carnivorous robots is not that far from reality. The design duo James Auger and Jimmy Loizeau has developed some prototypes of bio-energy powered devices like a watch, feeding from flies it catches with a sticky tape or a machine stealing flies from a spider's web. They call them Carnivorous Domestic Entertainment Robots. These guys might be creative, but they are definitely nuts. Or as the Treehuggers write in their review "Brilliant - completely disgusting, but brilliant!" Yep.

Twitter will accept only English tweets from February 29, 2011 on

After the US ministry of justice has subpoenad Twitter to disclose records of and information on users who might be sympathetic to Wikileaks, Twitter decided to show full cooperation and volunteered to take this one step further. As the US intelligence agencies complain about the difficulties to quickly parse tweets in non-english languages, Twitter will - beginning February 29, 2011 - only accept tweets written in english. Programmers close to the company say they have implemented and tested the necessary parsing software and are comfortable with the speed and smoothness of operation. In a future upgrade it is intended to connect with Googles translation services so that non-english utterances can be transformed into acceptable language on the fly. Negotiations, sources say, are promising.