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Showing posts from 2016

Dave and Bea

Every now and then a memory from my early coding-years pops up in my mind. When I had acquired my Atari 1040F (1MB RAM, 100MB external harddrive), I was of course hex-dumping the OS and as the programmers obviously never had worked with that much space before (I believe my first Apple ][ had 8kB) they just bumbled around wasting Bits - in the middle of all the tech-stuff there was the line "Dave Staugas loves Bea Habling". Just so. In the ROM. It never got out of my brain again. And it popped up again right now. I  believe I can only lay it at rest if I know: ... did they eventually get together?  Can you please tell me? (thanks)

Indicators of scientific excellence - where are they?

The discussion about reputation-metrics in science is dragging on. By now everybody knows the standard indicators (publications, impact-factor, citations,...), everybody uses them, everybody criticises them - and everybody ignores them if necessary. It has become a ritual to do metrics-bashing (while boasting about the own Hirsch-factor). Something has to happen.  Now.  (It won't.) While researching new metrics can earn you a living, the output, quite frankly, can bore you to tears. The same folks that were unable to show how scientific excellence maps onto numbers, now open the floodgates. They  spread their concept of 'excellence by Excel' from research to knowledge-transfer to impact on society - expanding the food-chain to be tagged.  Get real!  What societal impact does a scientific result have? The discovery of superconductivity? Research on linguistics of micro-languages? Any result: societal impact? Good luck! The science-community is feeling the grip

Treehuggers stole my headline!

Last weekend I was reading about microbial fuel-cells that are able to convert sewage-waste to electrical energy ( Nature) . The authors' carefully phrased result ('Mutually complementary substrates may take advantage of substrate interaction in the cell metabolism, and generate a total effect greater than the sum of the individual contribution of single substrate for electricity generation.') will definitely be more streamlined for the 'dumb public' to 'make it more accessible' leading to something like 'energy-problem solved by using synergy'. Want to bet? It will happen. The researchers found that two different processes for the generation of electrical energy by microbial fuel-cells can interact synergetically - enhancing the efficiency (in terms of total Coulombs as well as conversion rate) above the added efficiency of both individual processes (as interesting as it is, I am always a bit nervous when looking at the error-bars. But that

Feeling home is about locking doors

I don't do dinners - it would scare my last remaining friends away. I learned that it is only me who strongly believes in my cooking-skills (but hey, I think it's great food!). How lucky I felt to be invited to a lovely get-together involving professionally prepared food recently. The host carefully arranged his guests at a number of tables, making sure that nobody sat close to anybody they knew. As he is really great with people it worked wonderfully and nobody froze in desperate silence with a featherbrained smile on her face. Clamped between a huge greek-embassy-woman and a romantically active bundle consisting of an artist and her Argentinian Tango-wife I stared straight ahead and so got to listen to an architect I would have never met otherwise. He was as passionate about his job as the girls were about 'Tango' in its amazingly varied physical representations. It was clear that he was not interested in making money by simply arranging concrete around people.

The rude mechanic and the cat

I have a cat that is extremely catlike. Cuddly (whenever she wants to be), scratchy (whenever the world has been mean to her), smart (always), in need to be left alone (except when she needs not to be left alone). When a dustball crosses her path in the wrong moment she gets totally flustered and scared and runs for cover. I know, there ought not to be any dustballs where she is. I should keep the place tidy anyway. Problem is: a vacuum-cleaner is worse than dustballs. Life is not always easy. So my friend hid behind the big fridge for over a week, only coming out at night to get some food and then disappearing again through that small gap between fridge and washing-machine.  I started to get worried and tried to coerce her out of there. Great food didn't help. Sweet-talking led to nothing. Turning the lights off - or turning them on. Futile. She seemed to blame me for the dustball-scare. She was totally unforgiving and made me feel terrible. One evening I talked with a

How to kill creativity

I promised not to click on anymore. But, ooops! it happened again! "We need to teach kids creative thinking. And we're teaching them the opposite" - "...the basis of education is not answers, but questions" (this specific quote is by Lawrence Krauss on Big Think but could come from anybody with a brain mushy enough to devour the latest coelhoisms on that site). Guys. No. Go borrow the 3 to 10 year old kids from your neighbours (your neighbours will love you!). Pack them into your car and drive a few miles. Once they overcome shyness and see that you might look funny but you are a possible source of information, they will bombard you with questions. Rapid fire questions. Relentlessly. Kids are asking questions! The task is not to teach those critters creative thinking (what should that be? show them a conventional textbook way to be unconventional?) - the task is to give them access to as much knowledge and as diverse answers as possible so