Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Science and Media

A portuguese newspaper is starting a program to get scientist making an internship in their offices to promote the communication of science to the public. Which is a nice idea. This is what they say why it does not work nicely now:

A relativa pobreza da comunicação e divulgação da ciência realizada pela comunidade científica e pelas instituições de ciência deve-se em grande parte a um desconhecimento por parte destes profissionais das rotinas, critérios e cultura dos media. Este desconhecimento é gerador de desconfiança, fechamento ou mesmo de mal-entendidos e conflitos que poderiam desaparecer através de um maior contacto entre a comunidade científica e a comunidade dos media.

Translated (badly, but hopefully understandable...):

The relative weakness of communication and divulgation of science done by the scientific community and their institutions is caused to a huge part by a lack of knowledge on the side of these professionals about the routines, criterions and the actual culture of media. This lack of knowledge generates distrust, closedness or even misunderstandings and conflicts which could disappear if a better contact between the scientific community and the media community is established.

I am one of the first to rant about the incompetence of scientist to promote their works. There is nothing worse than physicists trying to do publicity about their own work; most of the time the result is boring people to a slow and horrible death. And most of the time there is not even a conscience of having to transmit science to the public (which is dumb and won't understand it anyway...)

But to just blame it on the scientist I think is also wrong. A lot of journalists have passed through the sacred corridors of our physics institute. They have asked questions. They filmed. They did not even try to understand the stuff people tried to explain them. They filmed people in lab coats (nobody actually ever wears them in a phyics institute, there is no need...) standing in front of complicated machinery with lots of Blinkenlights (which has been specially constructed for this filming and serves no purpose whatsoever). They have absolutely no idea how science works.

So, what I would propose is an exchange instead of an internship... Get scientists into the newspapers and get journalists into a university (a science faculty to be precise, as most of them have studied something or other). The only problem: find a university actually crazy enough to do this and find journalists crazy enough to do a thing like this.

Monday, August 29, 2005


Reading a book of poems from Al Andalus (translated into german of course, as unfortunately I do neither speak arabian nor mozarabian nor hebrew...). A time and a place I would like to have been. The names alone sound very poetic: There is Ḥafṣa bint al-Ḥâdjj al Rukûniyya, there's Abû Bakr Yaḥyà bin Aḥmad ibn Baqî al Qurṭubî, there's Shemu'el ben Yosef ha Lewi Ibn Nagrella (who wrote the poem below...) to name but a few...

Mein Freund, nur Schlaf sind alle deine Jahre,
das Gute wie das Üble nur ein Traum.
Verschließ davor die Augen und die Ohren!
Ermanne dich! Es gebe Gott dir Kraft!
Laß ruhn, was dunkel ist in deinem Leben,
in ihm, der alle Dunkelheit versteht!
Schenk ein den edlen Wein, zu süßer Speise
aus schöner Frauenhand mir dargereicht,
ein Wein, so alt wie Adam, doch so jung
wie frisch gepresst aus Noahs erster Rebe!
Sein Duft ist wie der Duft von Zimt und Myrrhe,
sein Anblick Korall un lautres Gold,
wie Wein, den David reine Königinnen
kredenzten oder süße Konkubinen,
Als man den Wein in dunkle Krüge füllte,
erfüllte helles Seitenspiel den Raum.
Jerimoth sang: "So sei er eingelagert,
im Siegelfaß verschlossen aufbewahrt
dem, der mit weiser Hand den Kelch ergreift
und Rebensaft mit reinem Herzen trinkt;
dem, der den Spruch des Predigers befolgt
und nach dem Tod die Rechenschaft bedenkt."

--- Shemu'el ben Yosef ha Lewi Ibn Nagrella

Friday, August 26, 2005

Des Nouvelles du Bon Dieu

Chêre Écrivain,

why are all the characters in The Story based on such a small number of prototypes? Why do all dialogues contain so few content? Why does nobody actually communicate with each other? Why are the individual storys so badly written? Is consistency asked too much of a character?

Overall, I know much better writers than You. Try harder next time.

A disappointed character.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

If it only be warmer...

Found this If they only would be situated in somewhere warmer climates... (and would have a language which actually one could have the hope to learn some day)

Monday, August 22, 2005


Interesting to see the news coverage about the portuguese forest fires. They appear here in germany just before the sports news, but still with pictures and videos, even interviews with people who lost everything. That's more than the hunger catastrophes in Mali and elswhere in the Sahel get...

They mention numbers (for example that in Pampilhosa da Serra 30.000 hectars out of 39.000 hectars in total burned down), they mention that it is really dry (the driest year since 1945), they mention that a lot of these fires are caused by people (either voluntarily or by carelessness). What they fail to mention is: most of portuguese forests is eucalyptus, planted there, not being a native tree of the region. Which grows really fast and is therefore the favourite tree for paper industry. But it also burns. Really fast. It's reproduction is based on burning down the forest.

If it isn't eucalyptus, then there is pines, also not really a native tree, but dominant before the eucalyptus, since all the oaks went to the bottom of the atlantic in form of ships. Which also burn quite good (the pines, not the oaks on the bottom of the sea, of course). This combined with a lack of forest care, ignorant politicians, underpaid fireman with not enough equipment, people who snip their burning cigarettes out of the car window while driving through dry woods etc. leads to the country burning down every year.

Of course this is a simplistic view. But it is already more complex than the "fires caused by extreme dryness" which they try to sell in the news...

And, as germany right now is blessed by papal visits and aproaching a new election, we have other things to care about than a country just next door burning down, not to speak of millions of people dying of hunger in the Sahel.

[Update] Interesting numbers: Numbers of planes equipped for putting out fires: France 11, Greece 10, Italy 16, Portugal 0 (yes, that's a zero). Instead of buying them from Canadair (which are kind of monopolists...), a portuguese minister wants europe to develop it's own. Yeah. So spent billions of euros and a couple of years to get an all european one instead of extinguishing fires with some foreign planes.

BTW: The fires have now reached the outskirts of Coimbra...

[Update 2] A Canadair Bombardier 415 Firefighting plane costs something like 35 Million Canadian Dollars... Development took three years from program start to first delivery. Make your own figures about developping a european version (involving a burocracy of european dimensions instead of just the Bombardier R&D Department).

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Viva il Papa

Catholisism has some tendency to like suffering. Not only praying to a medieval instrument of torture and worshipping images of martyrs portrayed in various ways of dying cruely... No, as the pope is in germany, as there is the catholic world youth thing in Cologne, humanity has to suffer as well. German Soul. Xavier Naidooooo and Söhne Mannheims all over. What have we done to deserve this? Is this already purgatory?

Trying to stuff things in my ears...

Random Picture

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Back again...

Back from the Azores, still in Portugal...

I put up some photos of the trip to São Miguel and Faial to Flickr.