Jury Competition

We can enjoy a lot of competitions in the field of the arts. In each of these competitions there is a different kind of rationale about how to judge the performances of candidates. The composition and competence of the members of the jury are of particular importance. We all tend to agree on this. However, the basic aim or direction of the competition needs to be defined or even redefined from time to time. Some perceive a competition useless if for example nobody takes notice of the results or the event. A good fight or drama within the jury helps to attract attention to it even if candidates suffer at times. The Belgian Music competition „Concour de la Reine Elisabeth“ has an annual major competition of young musicians competing for the beginning of a career as soloist. All phases of the competition are up for streaming so we all can watch and form our own opinions on the many candidates. It is not just the solo performance which counts but also the team performance with orchestra and the openness to new compositions in the realm of classical music. There is no vote of the public (yet?) like in the widely followed „European song contest“ but public acclaim does not leave a jury unmoved I believe. Tough work for jurors to single out small differences of fairly high standards to even enter the competition. The success of a jury has probably another evaluation criteria which consists in the follow up of candidates 5 or 10 years after the event or the awards. The making or destroying of careers as solo performers might hinge on very small differences on a single day. One competition with several prizes awarded is an encouraging way to promote musicians or other artists.

Concours de la Reine Elisabeth 2024 RTBF

Dietrich Gabin

In French cinema Jean Gabin is a much adored person. Equally, Marlene Dietrich had, probably an even more far reaching international career. Both were accomplished and successful actors long before the 2nd world war broke out. In the U.S both fell in love and had a long lasting romance together. Their war time activities and “engagement” in fighting Nazi-Germany were extraordinary. It meant that both took active roles to use their charisma to mobilize people and soldiers to fight for freedom.
Shortly after the war then, both made a last attempt to work together in a movie production, but it could not unite the couple again. The “Deutsche Kinemathek” displays currently a page from the Diary of the “Diva” to underscore to what extent “Dietrich” was depressed about the break-up of their longer lasting love affair. Some say Gabin was the only person who quit her, all (most?) other relationships were terminated by the Diva. The junctions of biographies are hard to predict. The circumstances of the 2nd world war and internalized civic obligations to fight for freedom and democracy were wholeheartedly shared by both, but eventually they grew apart nevertheless. Tough experiences even for the much adored persons on the forefront of the stages worldwide. There seem to be many instances of repetition of the same story not only in movies, but also in real life.
Image: Deutsche Kinemathek Museum 2024-5

Image History

The archives of the history of movies and/or television show to us the multiple ways how images capture our attention and memories. Visual narratives are an own category of our personal and collective memory. The wide range of visual experiences are a powerful way to influence. Not only the movies and stories matter, but the whole range of images associated with the cinema world. Poster collections, newspapers and today the so-called social media multiply the original images. The Deutsche Kinemathek allows a special, critical understanding of image history as Germany has been using and abusing images and movies in a very manipulating manner historically. The message is: do not take images for face value. The ways and techniques to manipulate images have been widely used and are all around us today. Whereas the mass media in previous decades have dominated the collective memories we have entered into an era with many more subcultures that evolve within their own bubble of images. An original attempt to cut 65 movies of German film history into less than 4 minutes is presented in the exhibition (Milkowski and Simbeni). It focuses on gestures and “les regards”, “Blicke”, how the actresses and actors seem to look at us. Eyes capture attention, and this as soon as we open our eyes as children. Our brain works as image recorder and our memory algorithms tend to favor image recognition while processing images continuously. We do not know much about our own image sorting algorithm or algorithms yet. Research on aging of the brain gives some hints. With declining short term memory the images stored in long term memory take the upper hand. This makes an understanding of the history of images even more important.

Deutsche Kinemathek

Just in the vicinity of the Potsdamer Platz in Berlin you’ll find the Deutsche Kinemathek, the museum movies, actors, actresses, directors and the history of cinema in Germany. There is a small specialized library in the Kinemathek that allows to dive not only into journals and books, but also video material, scenarios and accessories. Of course, you will find a lot of material on all sorts of movie stars (heroines) over more than a hundred years. The “Divas” of the industry take up a large part of the exhibition. “Marlene Dietrich” much more than “Hildegard Knef“, the former born and the latter lived for a long time in Berlin-Schöneberg (Berlin-Pretty-Hill as some locals call it nowadays). The 2 Divas probably caused the funny translation. Anyway, the hall in the Kinemathek which is exclusively devoted to Marlene Dietrich impresses with a lot of glamour and mirrors around.
For those with not only a biographical, but also life course interest in cinema cherish the public access to the library. The most impressive table there is the desk with access to the Ukrainian movies and about cinema in Ukraine. A list with QR-codes allows you to readily approach the recent developments before and during the Russian aggression on Ukraine (See image below). After all Potsdamer Platz in Berlin was a hot-spot of the cold war period in the divided Berlin. A little bit of a “Metropolis-atmosphere” can still be felt. The Kinemathek explains well what this is all about.

Deutsch Deutscher

In English grammer we use comparative adjectives to express that something or someone has changed or undergoing change. Germany might have become more German. The second usage is to make comparisons not only between two points in time, but between two statuses or of two artefacts more generally. The statement “Deutschland wird deutscher”, therefore, intends to describe an ongoing process or the transition process from one state to the other. This statement as such does not offer any explanation or definition of the original state, nor of the second point of reference. It might just describe the dynamics or the direction of the dynamics. In this example it deals with social dynamics. Germany in the 21st century is posing more questions about its identity and future directions than some time ago. The artist Katharina Sieverding has put up this reflection as a poster on walls to provoke discussions about the way to identify and deal with German identities in the early 1990s, shortly after re-unification of the 2 parts of Germany (Image below from “Nationalgalerie für Gegenwartskunst, Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin” 2024-5).
30 years later we are scared by a ruthless right-wing extremist and brutal movement that takes to the streets and commits crimes.
It is no surprise that the Higher Administrative Court in Cologne has confirmed that the “BfV’s classification of the party AfD and of its youth organisation as a “Verdachtsfall” (subject of extended investigation to verify a suspicion) as well as the publicising of this classification to be lawful“.
It is a step ahead to become “deutscher” if we battle out such decisions in courts rather than by force on the streets, although this has failed once in German history already. The poster action by Katharina Sieverding is a reminder to monitor and deal with these topics continuously, albeit the knifes may be coming in closer than before. Being frightened is no option in order to defend democratic values. 

Camparing Covid-19

In the middle of May 2024 we tend to believe the Covid-19 pandemic is over. However, towards the beginning of the year 2024 in the U.S. we observed at the peak about 2500 deaths per week. In Germany deaths/week amounted to 250. Compared to the overall population size killing is more pervasive in the U.S. than in Germany. The map of the specialized agency “Centers for Disease Control and Prevention” (CDC) in the U.S. shows the coastal regions to be more affected than the center. Population density seems to be still a driver of the spread of infections, illness and deaths. The timeline of deaths due to Covid-19 infections for Germany follows a broadly similar pattern, albeit on a lower level even if roughly accounting for population size (RKI-data). As we tend to forget what the pandemic caused as social and economic disaster in societies, we have to stay alert as the major prevention of Covid-19. Learn to live with the virus around us. This means to keep up our preventive levels of hygiene as well as monitoring of trends.
Many thanks to all those who do the sometimes boring number crunching for us. This includes the medical doctors who bother to do the timely reporting of new infectious diseases on a regular basis.

Killing me softly

The problem with pollution is, it is killing you softly from inside. It is almost impossible to escape air pollution as it is pervasive in cities, but also in the countryside where you do not expect it that much. This is the result of the study by Kuzma et al. (2024) published in “The Lancet Regional Health Europe”. Based on a data set of 8 million persons from Eastern Poland the effects of air pollution on myocardial infarction incidence was analysed. The use of the “European Union’s Earth Observation Programme” contributed data on air pollutants like PMs, BaP (benzo(a)pyrene), SO2 and NO2 concentrations. The multi-level data of 5 voivodeships, 101 counties, and 709 communities in Poland allows to differentiate the effects of damage to the heart tissue on cardiovascular disease. The other well-known factors are arterial hypertension, diabetes, obesity, chronic kidney disease, hyperlipidaemia, and smoking as most of us know already. The effects of  BaP (benzo(a)pyrene) is shown for rural areas despite the lower observed traffic density in these areas. The killing occurs softly from within our bodies by just breathing in and out, and in and out continuously. The disease burden in these regions is observed with “recorded 63,154 hospitalizations and 5921 in-hospital deaths (9.4%) due to STEMI; and 76,543 hospitalizations and 4079 (5%) in-hospital deaths due to NSTEMI”. In short, the need to reduce air pollution further is an urgent demand that saves lives eventually.
(Image from public domain wikipedia or “do-it-yourself” here).

Attune Spheres

In Berlin it is easy to walk through the history of art to up-to-date contemporary art installations. Just walk from the Alte to the Neue and then to the Contemporary Nationalgalerie. With the installation and performance in the monumental Hamburger Bahnhof the artist Alexandra Pirici succeeds in an extraordinary way the combined impression of several art formats. I felt particularly attracted by the sound and resonance that the dancers achieved in the huge historical hall of the former train station. Embedded in a choreography that spans the whole hallway and the top of a sand dune, the ideas of „Attune“ bring in demonstrations of scientific experiments as well. We are reflecting on how structures, biological, physical or geologic processes coexist. It is another example of the intersection of biological, psychological and social phenomena. The links between science and art are more direct than what most people tend to believe. This encompassing experience catches all our senses and our mind. It is very likely that this intense experience in the museum space, which attunes our sensory perception of the artwork, sticks with us for longer than many other pieces of art. The 21st century will reveal an even more powerful language of art as it incorporates even more formats to grab our attention and imagination. The research of how patterns are formed is an important question for social scientists as well. All approaches to the subject are welcome and each one reveals our knowledge gaps despite remarkable progress. (Image: Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin 2024-5-11, Alexandra Pirici)

Silent Pandemic

There is a pandemic that is silently spreading across countries and continents. It only indirectly related to the Covid-19 pandemic. The medical journal “The Lancet Respiratory Health” (2024) has an editorial about the inequities of asthma as they develop over the life course. The development of asthma has pre-natal, genetic, environmental, life-style and socio-economic co-determinants. The study of respiratory disease, therefore, is a multi-factorial issue, which needs to disentangle the specific influences. Smoking as well as obesity have an impact on asthma, instantaneously or with delayed time effects of sometimes many years. Hence, it is important to take the whole life course into account, if we want to address the rising disease burden of asthma. Air pollution and heating-up of the planet are important drivers of the silent asthma pandemic across the globe. The social distribution of people working in “asthma- prone” work environments and/or living in highly polluted urban, suburban or rural areas near high frequency traffic is another latent factor causing huge costs to persons and society as a whole. Health inequity is growing over the life course. This is not easy to tackle as policy target as the onset of the disease has no single trigger, but rather a combination of influences that contribute in varying amounts to the evolution of respiratory diseases. (Image air pollution https://aqicn.org/map/germany/de/)

AI Racing

AI has entered the racing of cars after we have been racing horses, dogs and camels for many decades. The fact behind all these races is the huge market for gambling. Anything you can bet on will do for juicy profits in that industry. The recent “Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League” is the latest addition to the racing craze. Moving online with 600000 spectators at its peak on video and gaming platforms the investment seems promising. The only problem, AI is not yet ready to really compete with the world of real drivers. The progress, however, is astonishing. Just one lap of 2 minutes on the circuit yields 15 Terrabyte of data from 50 sensors. These are closed circuits so no person can enter or animal can get in their way. The challenge to integrate more data and faster processing as well as algorithms for fast decision making is steep. Great learning opportunities for advances in robotics. The hype has not been able to live up to the expectations as no real racing took place yet. We have replaced the gladiators of the Roman empire with Formula 1 drivers. It is only fair to retire those drivers soon and let AI race cars against each other. It feels like a computer game on screen and it is as we shall most likely watch these races on a screen as well. Hence, what is the point. Watching youth on TWITCH play racing games will probably not change the viewing behavior of the masses. The programmers have nevertheless great learning opportunities and will find their way rapidly into the job market. The other challenges of ASPIRE seem more important for humanity like human rescue and food for the growing world population. In the meantime let the boys play around with cars and learn about potentials as well as failures of AI-programmers and dealing with both.

Puccini Media

In honor of Giacomo Puccini the Media enterprise Bertelsmann features one of its treasures. In cooperation with the “Archivio Storico Ricordi” of Milano, Italy, 100 years of Puccini’s oeuvre is celebrated with this exhibition. Fans of Puccini’s operas will have to visit the archives but the interest of this small exhibition lies in the impressive success story of Puccini and his publisher (part of Bertelsmann). Continuous innovation and adaptation to new media, like disks, accompanied an extraordinary marketing campaign throughout the 100 years. Even today there are cycling tours around Puccini’s hometown for the modern eco friendly tourists. We learn a lot about how the media industry functioned in the 20th century. It was absolutely vital to fighting for the rights of authors, composers and rights to receive royalties for performances as well as for the publishing on media. The exhibition in “Unter den Linden 1” is just next door to the Staatsoper which also gave honor to Puccini’s “Madame Butterfly” in 2024. His uncompleted Opera Turandot closes the exhibition with his rough sketches of the final scene. Merchandising is not an invention of the 21st century, but almost a century old tradition. This exhibition is a great testimony for this. It remains an important effort to allow authors and composers to gain a comfortable living during their lifetime. The gains for humanity as a whole are enormous.

Bertelsmann, Berlin 2024 Puccini.

Infinite Landscapes

The “Alte Nationalgalerie” celebrates the 250th birthday of Caspar David Friedrich in Berlin. With a considerable effort to unite in one exhibition many paintings and drawings that stem from other collections of public and private origins. This particularly remarkable as a section of the exhibition is devoted to paintings that were intended originally to be seen next to each other (compare catalogue p. 233). Comparing 2 images from the same painter evolve into a narrative. This raises curiosity as in some instances the 2 paintings do not treat the same subject. Your very own interpretations and associations will make for an individual journey through the sheer endless spaces. The exhibition allows to grasp some of the many questions posed by the period of enlightenment not only in Germany. After “God is dead” what will happen? How is mankind defined? What is its relationship to nature? Are we just left alone or what comes after individualism? Even for painters, much like scientists, it is just as important to pose the right questions. Leaving the exhibition with more questions than answers will put you in the “Berlin state of mind” of 200 years ago. Greiswald, Dresden, Rügen and Copenhagen as well as nearby mountains were influential locations and landscapes for Caspar David Friedrich. Berlin 1906 „Jahrhundert Ausstellung“ made him famous again, despite decades of being forgotten. Yet another question to ponder and wonder about. An additional merit of the exhibition is the section on painting techniques and the use of his sketches and drawings for the preparation of the oil paintings. The final riddle to be solved is the price differential between the German and English version of the catalog in the bookshop next to the usual merchandising props.

Weight Stigma

The fashion industry has for a long time produced images of mostly women and men that did not correspond to the normal weight distribution of people. Skinny models were present across all media. The so-called social media of today amplify this trend further. The “Barbie hype” has reinforced the idea of low weight as a socially desirable norm. In scientific research the term coined for this phenomenon is “internalized weight stigma” (IWS). A study shows (Highes et al. 2024) it affects more women than men and more people who are described as socioeconomically disadvantaged adults. Pressure to lose weight originates from multiple sources and social media platforms have given rise to bullying. A major outcome of IWS is eating disorders as eating is often wrongly associated to be the only cause of higher weight. It is not. Many other factors contribute to the actual weight of a person. Even the overuse of the body mass index (BMI) as short hand version to define overweight or obesity is misleading for persons with strong muscles. Just fixing on one parameter of body shape or weight tends to reinforce weight stigma. “Keep walking” and a regular healthy diet, this avoids to internalize a weight stigma. Exercise is fun, the more you do it in a group, the easier it is to get going regularly. We ought to keep trying and eventually it will become a routine.

Screening Paradoxon

In the field of public health the screening paradoxon is a well-known feature of large scale programs to check for and contain the large increases in cancer among populations. A recent medical study underscores the necessity to curtail the screening paradox in Europe. The screening paradoxon is defined as “the underuse of screening by those with unhealthy lifestyles and high risks”. The opposite cases, “the overuse of screening by those with healthy lifestyles and low risks” only cause a problem for the costs of the health system as those unlikely of attaining a form of cancer make extensive use of screening. In terms of social inequality we have to be concerned about both ends of these distributions. The publicly available screening programs are skewed towards the higher educated with risk awareness as well as healthy life styles. More of them participate in screening. The other distribution of actual risks and detection of cancer is skewed towards the other end of the risk distribution. The 2 probability distributions overlap to an extent that is most likely co-determined by cultural factors like general attitudes towards prevention.
With the increase in cancer rates generally and due to demographic aging of societies, we shall need to target our resources devoted to health more precisely rather than spending too much on screening of people with very low risks. Increasing the duration between screenings might not impede detection rates of those with healthy lifestyles, but could allow to devote more resources to those people who are hard to reach by screening programs so far. Evaluations of such programs are necessary to judge the need for more targeted programs.(Image own representation inspired by Ola et al. 2024)

Barbie Chemical

Chemistry is sometimes perceived to be uninteresting, but only until you realize it might be beneficial to know more about some underlying chemical processes. The Royal Society of Chemistry has finally found a topic in chemistry to give chemistry a popular push. The Barbie hype is far from over as we all learned in the recent past. Now conservationists have found a topic with chemical processes involved to demonstrate the usefulness of chemistry knowledge for the conservation of your treasures or collections of plastic dolls or puppets in general. Most plastics PVC was not intended to last, but the deteriorated forms have a long lasting effect in form of PVAS or microplastics. So aging research has reached popular concerns like the aging of Barbie, who is believed to be “forever young”.

Vitrine La Ferté 2023

Photos Exhibit

Our usual expectation of an exhibition of photography is to look at photos at a wall. Sometimes there is more it. The Exhibition Space at the “Haus am Kleistpark” features Michael Schäfer who attempts to go a bit beyond these traditional forms. In the works of photo cubes on water surfaces “2021_57”, or a dice floating on the waves of oceans, the video representation of his photographs takes the assembled images beyond their flat 2D surface. However, the 2D representation is at the origin, then transformed into a 3D dice, which then is animated as a 4D format. Moving beyond the flat screen image takes photography into the 21st century.
His work “Les acteurs 1-26” from 2007 is shown at the entry hall of the exhibition. It shows pupils of a class at an elite school who deem themselves in leadership roles in the near future. Is it acting? Is it projection into a future role they are likely to take on. They represent stereotypes, of course, but some are pretty convincing in these roles already. Some others still seem to reflect on what they are doing there. Even acting these roles, they are aware of the meaning of social rank and class in society. Without having read the sociologist Bourdieu, all are aware of the fine, little elements of distinction as they have evolved over time. We could teach an interesting sociology class in this exhibition.

Science Politics

We tend to believe that science is independent of politics. Even if the individual scientist does research and studies free of immediate political influences, there are many ways in which politics has an impact on science. Sociologists refer to Max Weber as a prominent figure in the “Werturteilsstreit” that claimed the need for science to be conducted beyond political interference. Karl Popper is another reference in this respect who proposed the positive science approach which starts from theory, hypotheses and testing in the sense of identifying false statements, hypotheses and underlying theories. Modern science is also linked to publications of results. This has become an industry of its own and it is sometimes quite surprising to see the lengthy delays that scientific results get published. One example, Jackie G. Schneider and Julia Macdonald (2024) had to wait 3 years until their paper finally appeared in print in a scientific journal. This paper was received by the Journal in February 2021 and published only in 2024 in the 2nd issue of the journal but online in January 2023! Reports in Nature on difficulties of Indian, African and Chinese scientists to get their work done and published are alarming as well. Further regionalization and departmentalization work against the fundamental principles of independent science and scientists. It is a big issue of international cooperation as well.

Example of Lichtenberg Figure

May 1st

More people take to the streets on the 1st of May in Germany. The costs-of-living crisis with high inflation has increased the claims for pay rises for workers and adjusted wages for employees. We all have observed “greedflation”, i.e. excessive company profits in several sectors. Additionally, “shrinkflation” has affected consumers in their daily shopping experience. Political efforts to curb inflation have taken a long time to come about and most initiatives have ended already (Energy sector). This spurred a new drive for trade unions to come out in huge numbers to protest and claim adequate wage increases to cover the increased costs of living. In Germany the DGB informed on the annual 1st of May demonstrations across the country about a strong new entry movement of members of 400.000 persons. It is higher than the loss of members of the large baby boomer cohorts who retire.
Through a broad and engaged membership the pressure on higher wage settlements will persist. Companies have used the crises to generate extra profits. It is only fair that those employees who largely contribute to the success of a company will claim their share as well.
For society as a whole it is important to consider that the discrepancy between managerial pay and shop floor wages do not increase further. The social fabric of societies is in danger if perceived injustices grow. More radical forces can all to easily exploit this causing a severe danger for democracies. Meeting people on the 1st of May and joining forces across sectors and trades ensures that a society continues to build and rely on solidarity. High inflation times are a great reminder of the economic basics of societies in history as well as today.

Find Trust

Societies have different levels of trust. Trust in politicians or political institutions has been researched a lot. Another example of trust is related to things lost and found. Losing an item on a train or a mobile phone somewhere are severe tests of the level of trust in a society. How likely is it that the item is going to be found and returned to you. We usually estimate the probability of the return of items as being rather low. The more we are surprised to find out that there are thousands of items found and returned. The Deutsche Bahn has a special service in operation to take care of lost items. Additionally, there are auctions of items found but nobody claimed the ownership of it in the following months. Not giving up on a lost item is the first step to find it again. It would be a nice test whether in high trust societies it is more likely to find something lost. If you have a higher trust that items will be returned you are also more likely to make the effort to claim the item back.

Comparative Advantage

In economics all students go through the calculus of comparative advantage. People, regions or whole countries tend to apply comparative advantage to their production systems and ensuing internal or external trade. The basic  rationale developed by David Ricardo has not changed that much over 200 years. The fields of application, however, are continuously expanded. Lindsay and Gartzke (2020) have applied the comparative advantage rationale to military strategy. The paper quotes 26 times Clausewitz and demonstrates the links of strategy to the basic economic and social rationale of comparative advantage. It is the politics of production that even the presence of trade may override the rationale of comparative advantage to favour local production of “operational domains” or military equipment.
In Russia’s aggression and war against Ukraine own production and trading of weapons has returned to the forefront of the concerns. In addition to the production of ammunition, the provision of drones has dominated the international arms trade related to the Russian aggression. Resources and time for production are additional factors that have an impact on availability of weapons at the right time at the right place and with the sufficiently trained persons to operate them.
The strategies that cross domains or combine domains seem the most promising. The careful analysis of your own comparative advantages or disadvantages needs to be the basis of any strategic decisions. This has been known for 2 centuries at least and is still valid in many fields of application. Additional considerations for “home production” might add to the complexity of the issue. Sustainability has also found its way into the field of comparative advantage at last. This may alter the analysis of comparative advantage of operational domains as well. Lots of unresolved puzzles still around. It will need years to sort this out despite the urgency of the Russian aggression on Ukraine.(Image: AI Copilot.2024-4-30 2 political leaders deal weapons. One has a comparative advantage in ships. The other one has a comparative advantage in aircrafts. they deal together)

AI Disruption

Many scientists started to question the disruptive potential of AI in, for example, the military’s domain. The Journal of Strategic Studies featured 3 papers on AI and autonomous systems more generally. The major argument by Anthony King is the reliance of autonomous systems on other systems mainly human operators even in the background to get these systems off the ground and maybe back again. Not only logistic support but also satellite communication is needed to guide and protect the operations. In quoting Clausewitz, Anthony King stated that war is a “collision of two living forces”. Strategy and counter-strategy will co-evolve as will attack and defence.
Jackie G. Schneider and Julia Macdonald (2024) advocate the use of autonomous and unmanned systems for their cost effectiveness. Economic costs as well as political costs are lower for these new strategic weapons. Mass fire power from swarms of drones is much cheaper than nuclear warheads and the home electorate is assumed to be more willing to accept and support limited and more precisely targeted unmanned missions. The disruption potential of AI is huge but it is most likely an addition to the arsenals than replacing them. (Image 2 swarms of drones fly in the air above tanks, created by AI – copilot-designer 2024-4-29).

Time Perception

There are many different angles from which to look at time. Of course, we all do it several times a day or during boring meetings. The study by Ma, Cameron and Wiener (2024) highlights the bi-directional link of perceived time and memorability. Visual stimuli alter our perception of time. Watching a video we all make the experience that the perceived length of the time spent watching varies according to content and maybe only the cutting technique applied to shorten the perceived length. Similarly it has been demonstrated that looking for longer at an image and grasp the meaning or implicit story we tend to remember the image for longer. In courts it is a usual procedure to question the memory capacity of persons and the sources of bias. The study by Ma et al. demonstrates the impact of the size of the scene, how cluttered it is and aspects of memorability in visual perception. Our memories are co-determined by these factors. The other direction of causality i.e. that memorability determines the time perception seems equally at work. This apparent undetermined element, so far, calls for additional care when analyzing recall from memory. Memory is not only selective in terms of content, it also is subject to the impact of all sorts of visual stimuli.
Time can be many things. For humans it is everything but exact. In science we measure time with ever more exactitude and try to standardize time on the moon now. In addition to exact time, humans have perceived time and subjective versions and even concepts of time. About time to take time more seriously.

Hospital Bias

Asking people about differences between private and public hospitals, you are most likely getting answers that the private hospitals deliver superior patient outcomes. Whereas private hospitals seem to have a positive stigma attached to them, public hospitals commonly have a negative stigma. Scientific evaluations are helpful to set the record straight again. The study published in “The Lancet Regional Health” in 2024 shows that in the simple descriptive statistics on several patient outcome indicators, this is what the data showed between 2026 and 2019. However, a more precise statistical analysis reveals that there is also a selective admission to the private and public hospitals in England. Using so-called instrumental variables approaches that account for the selection process between admission to the 2 types of hospitals (private versus public) most of the differences between the hospital types disappear. The underlying mechanism is a sorting of different patients into the private or public hospitals. Put in easy words, for a routine intervention people tend to chose the private hospital, but the more rare and difficult operations were more likely admitted to public hospitals. The number of co-morbidities (heart disease) is also of importance as they might negatively affect patient outcomes. Jumping to conclusions and reinforcing stigma about public or private provision of services hinders progress and an equitable provision of services.
The analysis of a potential selection bias can reveal the “creaming” effect of private provision of (health) services. Just caring for the “easy” or routine cases and avoiding the more difficult and costly cases has economic advantages, but for society as a whole the costs overall remain the same. A good public service in health is a definite asset.

(Image: Exposition Isa Genzken 2023 in Neue Nationalgalerie Berlin)

Family Kafka

100 years after Franz Kafka’s death nearly all facets of his life and writings have been analyzed. The archives of the editor Wagenbach and the publishing house have now opened an exhibition at the “Stabi Ost” in Berlin adding a family picture book description of Kafka’s life (Curator Hans-Gerd Koch). This is of interest because Kafka himself had written an extensive letter to his father (Brief an den Vater) in which he tries to understand his intricate relationship with his father and other family members.
Nowadays, some people would try to analyze Kafka’s life through the parapsychological technique of family constellations. The far-reaching and pan-European family networks of the Kafka (father) and Löwy (mother) families were more than just an excellent source of inspiration. 2 younger brothers died in their first year. 3 younger sisters followed more traditional evolutionary patterns within families. The television series on Kafka’s life add to the understanding of his sources of inspiration and “parallel worlds” he created and lived in. The exceptional “fictionalization” of his own life and existence in the spirit of André Breton’s surrealism remains a milestone in the history of literature.
Kafka himself thought he was not really “instagrammable”at the time, but his image has reached and still reaches millions of people (Link to Picture archive). He himself would probably have defended the thesis that the most powerful images are within us. … and they are hard to escape from.
(Image from Exposition in Staatsbibliothek Berlin 2024-4, QR-code links to reading in originals!)

Hannover Fair

The annual science fair at Hannover is a kind of a show of things to touch and of those things that come to the public market in the near future. Most of the annual hype is about potentials of production. Rationalization, using few resources or innovative solutions of digitization are high on the agenda. Create your digital twin, save energy, make production more safe or cyber secured.
Robotics is another reason to visit the fair. Some 7 years ago I had my Sputnik experience there. The robotics company KUKA had demonstrated live the that assembling a car from pre-manufactured components takes just 10 minutes for the robots. Shortly afterwards the whole company was bought by Chinese investors. Roughly 5 years later we are swamped by cars from China. It was not that difficult to predict this at that time. Okay, we need to focus on more value added production and take our workforces (not only) in Europe along on the way. Reclaiming well-paid, unionized jobs in manufacturing, as Joe Biden does, will not be an easy task. Robots and their programming is expensive, but skilled workers, too. Hence, the solution is likely to be robot-assisted manufacturing as a kind of hybrid solution for cost-effective production systems.
Following the proceedings of the 2024 fair we are astonished to realize that visiting the fair is still a rather “physical exercise” walking through the halls. After the Covid-19 shock we expected a lot more “online content”. Instead we keep referring to webpages and newletters rather than virtual visits and tours. The preparation of the visit in advance remains a laborious adventure. However, the in-person networking activities in the industry are largely advanced by ease of exchanging virtual business cards and the “FEMWORX” activities.
This year’s Sputnik moment at Hannover is probably most likely related to the pervasive applications of AI across all areas of the industry and along the whole supply chain. Repairing and recycling have become mainstream activities (www.festo.com). Robotics for learning purposes can also be found to get you started with automating boring household tasks (www.igus.eu).
Visiting Hannover in person still involves lengthy road travel or expensive public transport (DB with ICE). Autonomous driving and ride sharing solutions might be a worthwhile topic for next year’s fair. Last year I thought we would meet in the “metaverse fair” rather than in Hannover 2024. Be prepared for another Sputnik moment next year, maybe.
(Image: Consumer’s Rest by Stiletto, Frank Schreiner, 1983)