Skip to main content

You want to eat your neighbour?

It sounds a bit cheesy - and it smells like it. As reported in Nature (vol 503, Nov 14, 2013), a bunch of science artists at the Dublin Science Gallery presents a cream-cheese that is prepared from milk and cultures from a persons skin. They don't expect you to eat that monster, though. The whole event is rather about life after nature - it is about manipulating biology, designing life-forms, hacking evolution. Not necessarily with the goal to entertain the fromage-conoisseur.
The Science Gallery is one of a few projects aiming at getting the excitement of science to the public, and doing so not by mashing up sci-fi talk with scientoid babble (the ubiquituous time-travel, worm-holes (not in cheese but in space-time, for once), and code-breaking quantum computing, topped off with mind-numbing what-if stories of the kind bigthink and their protagonist Michio Kaku like to sponsor). Instead they show off the excitement and the real emotions of a scientifically curious approach to the world. Shows like this aim at the high-end, widely awake cultural person. They are miles apart from the often patronizing endeavours of TV science-blunder that is decorated with the archetypical Mad Professor joking his way through a cartoonized science-world. Do you really wonder why kids are turning away from science? Most of the stuff is simply too childish for our children.(My 4 year old asked me, why the heck the blood in her biology book is depicted as litte guys with a red swim-ring around its belly. What the §$%& do I know?!)
But science is too important an element of our culture to be ridiculed by default. Many of those proudly admitting at a reception that they never understood physics, might be as far off from getting a clue what that Shostakovich guy whom they routinely mix up with Tchaikovsky is all about. Incompetence in conventional culture is too comfortably covered up by droning on about emotions with the intellectual depth of an underage deep-frozen Gorgonzola.
Bon app├ętit!
(oh, and check out the relation between verbal dexterity and Camembert)


Popular posts from this blog

Academics should be blogging? No.

"blogging is quite simply, one of the most important things that an academic should be doing right now" The London School of Economics and Political Science states in one of their, yes, Blogs . It is wrong. The arguments just seem so right: "faster communication of scientific results", "rapid interaction with colleagues" "responsibility to give back results to the public". All nice, all cuddly and warm, all good. But wrong. It might be true for scientoid babble. But this is not how science works.  Scientists usually follow scientific methods to obtain results. They devise, for example, experiments to measure a quantity while keeping the boundary-conditions in a defined range. They do discuss their aims, problems, techniques, preliminary results with colleagues - they talk about deviations and errors, successes and failures. But they don't do that wikipedia-style by asking anybody for an opinion . Scientific discussion needs a set

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).

No theory - no money!

A neuroscientist I was talking to recently complained that the Higgs-research,even the Neutrino-fluke at CERN is getting humungous funding while neuroscience is struggling for support at a much more modest level. This, despite the undisputed fact that understanding our brain, and ultimately ourselves, is the most exciting challenge around. Henry Markram of EPFL in Switzerland   is one of the guys aiming for big, big funding to simulate the complete brain. After founding the brain institute and developing methods to analyze and then reconstruct elements of the brain in a supercomputer he now applies for 1.5 Billion Euro in EU-funding for the 'flagship-projects' of Blue Brain -and many believe his project is simply too big to fail. Some call the project daring, others audacious. It is one of the so very few really expensive life-science endeavours. Why aren't there more like that around? Why do we seem to accept the bills for monstrous physics experiments more easily? Is