Dec 26, 2015

I am right

Some friends carry a significant bundle of brain between their ears. And they know how to use it. It is scary - because after I talk to them for five minutes I am not sure anymore if I am smart enough to cross a street. Sometimes then even breathing seems like an overly complex intellectual task - and if you start focusing on that, you start coughing and then you die.
But then again I am flying. All the weight of the the past laden weeks that pulled me to the ground is gone; the bleakness of a long, sleepless winter-night disappears and gives way to a smile -  a ray of sun that illuminates the whole world.
People like that should know of their recharging-power. Never forget to tell them. Somehow. Even if it makes them blush.

Years ago I thought I shouldn't.
And the next day he was gone.
And so was his whole world.

I was wrong.

Sep 4, 2015

10 Ways to Beat Your Boss

Somebody told me: 'start every blog-post with blood!'. I do, sometimes. They get twice as many clicks as the others. Or mention sex. Five times as many clicks.
A combination of both (last post)? One seems to annihilate the other or was it the mention of 'science'?
Some years ago, when everybody claimed that GooglePlus was the Big Thing and Facebook was evil, clicks were still the most important reputation-currency in the virtual world. Shady companies sold 'likes', 'friends' and simple clicks to bolster your ego-metrics.
And in those days I wrote a little snippet about one of the then upcoming blog-sites, which I hated and adored. It stood out in the deluge of self-help sites which babbled about 'ten ways to beat your boss' (and they did not mean physically). This guy essentially wrote about 'ten ways to beat your boss' - and he meant it. Physically.
It was amazing how he built a reputation by an incredibly honest and direct style of writing. He gives away his books for free, he tells you everything about e-publishing, he does not hide. He got thousands of clicks a day then, it must be close to a million a day now. He now sold probably hundreds of thousands of books, has podcasts, lectures, gives speeches, is back to financial advise, interacts wildly on twitter. It is an empire.
I dared to write slightly critical about his blog years ago.
And he contacted me.
He thought I was injust. My blog had about 30 clicks a day - 21 from myself and five from my mother. Still, this huge communication genius seemed genuinely hurt by *one* person on the other side of the atlantic possibly not loving him. And for this and the fact that he told me so, I admire him even more.
I thought I'd tell you.

Sep 2, 2015

blood, sex, science

Not too long ago journalists were absolutely clear about what scientists have to deliver to get their science-stuff into the magazine: catch-phrases, blood, sex, pictures. They were bossing everybody around. Obey or go away.
They called it science-journalism but it was annoying, damaging crap. The public was fed a shale derivative of science. It never really went away because it takes some time to deflate the Ego of those know-alls. But then it got worse. A new breed of smart-*sses was angrily demanding: Every scientist should be blogging! Yeah, right. Those autistic geniusses from the basement of the engineering-department were supposed to chatter about their passions? Oh, and Twitter! Use Twitter! 140 characters are enough! And let the public devise your next research project; they must be involved - being tax-payers, lalala... That has gone by. Finally we are told that professional science-communicators are hip.
Now we are talking.
It took them only about 25 years to discover that.

Aug 18, 2015

Big Think is Dumbing Down

Summer is here, the weekend in sight, temperatures around 30 degrees (Celsius that is. Do I have to calculate the Fahrenheit for you? Celsius=((Fahrenheit minus 32) divided by two) plus 10 percent. ok?!) - so, temperatures around 30 degrees centigrade slow everything down, nobody wants to move, and except for a few hours a day the brain is idling at best. What better to do with a useless brain than to click on BigThink? Go there and you will find an astonishingly perfect mix of bubbly scientoid superficiality and esoterics. Breathtaking dreamed-up scenarios of thinking robots, brain-transplants (whatch out, brain, I might swap!) and other huge topics dealt with in the typical absolutely mind-numbing mushyness.
'Hey Bill Nye, Could a Black Hole Have Created the Big Bang?'
Yeah, hey, Billy-boy-buddy, whaddaya think? Think Big! That's how physics is done, right? This is science communication - you bet. Think with your hormones, be awesome, wow me. So, could a black hole have created the big bang? hm? His answer: maybe yes, maybe no and "That'd be pretty cool, we think". 
(oh, right, Bill Nye is portrayed as 'Television host and science educator' - one more reason to trash your TV, and one very good argument to mistrust education).
Why is knowledge transfer so often misunderstood as actively dumbing down? The arrogance of such 'science educators' (in BIG air-commas) is unbelievable. The kids out there are much smarter than that and deserve better.
Now back to the beach.

May 20, 2015

free falling

A friend told me he got up with the sun this morning, happy. reading, scribbling - having a coffee and listening to the world slowly waking up. He biked to the office with his brain impatiently humming, his heart beating happily. He caught himself whistling stupid songs. A whole, wonderful day was before him. 

And then he found someone has put this on the desk.

He didn't care.

He said.

But: Was it there yesterday? Was it simply on a scrap-paper he picked up somewhere?
It must have been.
He must have overlooked it.

But if not: Who put it there? Who has access to his office? What is this person trying to say?

Certainly it was just a scribble he inadvertantly picked up. Right? yes, sure.
(....But what if not?)

Mar 1, 2015

Cash, Cancer, Nightmares

A friend of mine, his name is not Francoise, is dying of cancer. Poor chap.  Francoise is a mild man with a wonderful combination of seriousness and humor that makes him so very human. His cancer was discovered late - way too late. He saw a number of doctors all of which are very professional. He got all necessary examinations, lots of highly informed and deeply thoughtful support - but there is a point when things simply don't stop to look daunting anymore. They start to look unsettling and then they give way to pure despair.
Friends of his started an email-campaign asking for help to collect six thousand Euro to get him to Switzerland and have him treated - at a homeopathic clinic. Yes, there still are organizations around that take big money to attack cancer with diluted water the price of gold-plated diamonds. The loving and concerned friends stated that they want to get him out of the hands of 'the pharma lobby' and they pushed him right into the throat of the homeopathy-carnivores. For a two-week stay at that clinic roughly 3000 US$ have to be transferred before arrival. The physicians' bills (adding up to more than 2300 US$) have to be paid *in cash* on site. Cash! Why? Was there ever anyone besides your local heroin-dealer demanding huge amounts of cash? Randomly numbered, crispy, fresh bills?
And what do you get again?
Two (2) weeks, 'Category B room' (shower and toilet down the hall), food, physicians' cost, 'treatment'. Two weeks! about 6000 US$! 
His friends managed to collect the first half in no time and sent Francoise to the clinic. Shortly thereafter an email with the subject-line "Great news about Francoise!" which I happily opened, hoping to see my friend smiling. The great news? "Funding completed". That?
Now, after two weeks in Switzerland my friend returned. He is weak "but getting stronger". Has cancer tightened his grip? His weakness, he says, stems from the problems he had with the clinic-food. Francoise is not from Europe and he got sick from a nutrition he is not used to. He got diarrhea from eating stuff he normally wouldn't. He spent significant time down the hall of his category-B room. What exactly where they talking about during the promised anamnesis which is part of a three hour welcome-package, billed at 600 Swiss Francs?
Now he is back in his dumpy room at home and he asked again if I had a mattress for him. Fortunately he has lovely friends. They help him carry coal up to his apartment and keep the fire burning. They bring him food he knows and loves. He is eating, he will get stronger - until cancer hits back on him.
At the same time in Switzerland I imagine some doctors stash away the cash in pillow-cases. Maybe it helps them sleep better. Maybe it keeps the nightmares away. Their nightmares not his.

Feb 20, 2015


Computers aren't as evil anymore as they were in my days. You had to be a system-programmer and carry a hot soldering iron in your pocket if you wanted to change the font in a text-document. In the last millennium I was struggling to print out a report on some experiments that had not turned out well at all. I was a bit nervous as it never is a real treat to report on undeniable failure. No data. No explanations. No fame.
But it got worse.
The printer didn't like me.
With the clock ticking away it just covered page after page with astounding garble. Special characters, squares and numbers... You have seen that. That's when the fingers get sweaty and you need a new pair of socks every fifteen minutes. I kicked some boxes, replaced the printer-cable, restarted the bastard, rebooted my computer, printed again.
And the sun came out! Page after crispy page there was my report.
And after the last page, just when I collected my prose, prepared to face my master, the printer had one final message for me.
It printed a single page, covered with hearts and squares and numbers. And in the middle only three intelligible words in bold-face:

relax - do it!

And that's what I did.
Ever since.

Feb 3, 2015

Thinking? What?!

I love the folks at - they are all hyper-smart and obviously found their dream-jobs, allowing them to muse over stuff they are interested in, add some smartisms to the debate, drink good wine - and still get paid. Where can I apply?
Edge put out the new Annual Question: "What do you think about machines that think" and got a storm of responses.
Folks, please! What do you think about your colleague who *might* think? What do you think about your boss who doesn't? Why a machine? Has anybody ever come up with an idea of what 'thinking' means - how to measure the depth, width, weight,... of thinking? Those questions allow for so much fluffy, touchy-feely response, because they entirely fail to define what you are talking about.
Of course some of the entries zoom in on Artificial Intelligence, that widely misunderstood techno-baby of the sixties.Is 'thinking' really just an advanced mode of 'computing'? Artificial Intelligence was not about Intelligence as (supposedly) engrained in humans but rather about Intelligence as source of the I in CIA and alike - and there is no pun about the absence of this in that).
Just as in the debate about consciousness, free will etc. the very base for all research or musing is missing: what exactly is the definition of what you try to investigate?
But it is entertaining to read - if there is nothing else to do.

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) ...