Paris Parks

There are many splendid parks in Paris. They all have an important function to cool the city in summer. Good for exercise and walking all year round as well. The latest addition is the “parc suspendu” between Gare de l’Est and Gare du Nord (Jardin Marielle-Franco). Many travelers pass there from one station to the next. The creation of this space is rather tricky and avoids the building of yet another shopping mall for tourists. The cleaning of the park and the growing of the grapes are a challenge for those in charge. This is an interesting melting pot of social groups. The sportspersons and walkers confront “la misère du monde” of people entering to sleep rough in the park or attempt to do or deal drugs there. Paris is fighting back for its public spaces and devotes resources to these purposes. The “Cru bourgeois” is also challenged. The cleaning up of Paris for the Olympic games 2024 is tremendous. The swimming in the Seine (not the rain) is probably the steepest challenge of all efforts.

Credit donations

“credit” stems from the original latin word “cedere”. In the 1st person you write “credo”, which means I believe. If said in a religious building or church you show with this pronunciation that you believe tbe narrative of the religious community. In the 3rd person “credit” stand for s/he/it believes. In the financial sense it is the receiver of money from your credit card who believes or trusts you that you made an honest payment. Now, banks take commissions from each of these exchanges of trust. You are credit worthy or not. In some churches you now make donations using your credit card to facilitate business. Credit card companies also charge you on your donation. Win win situation we call this. I keep asking myself, whether I still “believe in angles” or only business angles. (Image Église Notre Dame des Victoires Brussels 2024-7)

Schooling Ukraine

It is hard to imagine what it will mean to go to school, if your father has to defend your country, Ukraine, and freedom of education instead of Russian indoctrination. This is tough for all children in countries that have to defend themselves today or in the past. For Ukrainian children and families who had to flee their country this means that they have to go through another education system, not out of choice, but instead of their normal way through their education system. This means a lot of additional challenges for them. In Germany alone the educational authorities have counted more than 200.000 children in schools at the beginning of 2024. Additional efforts are undertaken to allow mothers as well to learn a foreign language to facilitate communication with the receiving countries. We have to make huge efforts that these children are not a scared generation of pupils but rather a strengthened generation of young persons with solid learning experiences in another country. Some will stay in the receiving countries, many will return and rebuild their homes and communities. Our support and assistance needs to be a long term commitment beyond the end of the war after an eventual Russian retreat from Ukraine territory. Solidarity is not a fixed-term commitment. We shall be put to the test and should not hesitate about our continued support.

Art or Profession

In political science it is a long tradition to discuss, whether politics is an art or a profession. The idealist tradition, going back as far as Plato in ancient Greek history of ideas, puts the exercise of politics near the exercise of a divine art to do justice. Much later in the history of ideas Max Weber rather bluntly defined politics as a profession (original in German) that requires to master a set of competences.
Recent elections in Europe (EU, France, UK, Belgium) and around the globe (India, USA) in 2024 add interesting case studies to the old question. Is politics an art or a profession?
In modern politics the life course or life cycle of a politician consists of at least 2 phases: (1) the electoral campaign before and (2) the potential of governing or opposition. Each phase requires a different set of competences. In phase 1 it is important to propose a new or different ideal from the previous government. Charismatic presentation of an ideal set of policies is asked for.  In phase 2 it is required of the politician to forge compromises, either within the own political party or beyond boundaries of political parties. Certainly, in multi-level governance systems like the European Union additional forms of coalition building across countries is required, intercultural competence or language skills are an advantage here.
The 2 phases of the life cycle of a politician require different sets of skills. Charisma as mentioned by Plato and Weber can get a politician into power and charismatic leadership can get you through a lot of coalition building. On the other hand, modern campaigning in repeated elections is a specialized competence that resembles marketing expertise as well as “reading of statistics” and in-depth analyses of shifting or stable preferences of electorates and to succinct conclusions on this basis. Running a political party or a parliamentary group is yet another leadership skill just like communication skills that, beyond many prejudices, can be learned.
In a nutshell. Politics is an art and a profession. The art consists in the variable combination of different sets of competences. Art requires competences just as professions can be turned into art.  Welcome to the hybrid world of modern politics. (Image extract from MAD Paris, Picasso, Schiaparelli)

Community Gardening

Gardening brings people together. Not only in the countryside, but also in the middle of cities. Brussels is a nice example of this. The city district called “forest” has a community gardening project that has an astonishing amount of followers. The results of the joint activity are visible from the the park nearby and in the far distance the tower of the “Palais de Justice” can still be seen. In years with above average amounts of rain the watering of the community garden is much less of a concern. Neighbors respect the initiative and even dogs are kept off the area. It is not graffitis or rubbish left behind that discourages the gardening enthusiasts there. Such projects can work even in the vicinity of less wealthy areas. Mixing different communities in inner cities is day-to-day experience. Gardening and the beauty of nature is there free to enjoy for everyone. The seeds, fruit and small young trees are then planted in other public spaces. This is a marvelous effort to stem the tide of delinquent behavior all too often spoiling the inner city environments. They might still be only a few, but the community gardeners have impact.

Page Turner

Modern digital technologies turn pages for you. Just with one touch.
Search functions that are implemented in the software allow you to search for any keyword you are keen to follow-up on. These are valuable advantages of digital versions of books or other content. Once you adapt the brightness of the screen you can scroll comfortably through hundreds of pages. These books are called flipbooks and there are a number of editors specialised on these versions.
In combination with a blog format of publishing online first and then transforming content into flipbooks or even printed versions,  offers a nice feature to host such flipbooks. It is comfortable to know that the content has a unique address on the web, which you can share freely and use from all sorts of devices including your smartphone, tablet, desktop or notebook. The collection of my images I even watch sometimes on an even larger TV-screen or a beamer for teaching purposes.
Yes, we can (!) teach from a smartphone. Learners have opted for the small screens a long time ago. -“hey – teachers, leave us kids alone. We don’t need no education, we don’t need no thought control“. Flipbooks combine the classic form and feeling to turn a page as accomplished progress with the fast access to keywords that spread over several pages of the book.
My latest version of blog entries from 1st of January to 30th of June 2024 is at your fingertip now. (here, allow for a really long download time!). A screenshot is provided below of page 114 of a total of 390 (OMG) on a notebook screen. The search list is shown for the keyword “wage” as an example.
A shorter reader on “Society and AI” is available here as flipbook (29 pages).

Food Future

What do we have for dinner today, tomorrow or in 10 years from today? Research Institutes presented some of their insights based on solid evidence in the open door event in Berlin. The 5 years of the project “food4future” are over and my glance through some of the results suggests that we shall have many more proteins, most from vegetable sources, on our plates. The arguments for improved sustainability are rather compelling. The taste of these products that currently have higher amounts of bitter taste might be solved. Similarly sea food beyond fish like halophyte will enter our diet. The salty taste can be incorporated in meals in which we add salt or other spices anyway. These elements might make it possible to feed the 8 billion people on our planet. We probably also need to include protein rich insects in the meal plans of the still growing human species. It appears like a rather long shot into the future of nutrition, but if we do not think ahead and start the change in our mindsets we shall be badly prepared for the future and more people will decide to seek food in other places of the earth rather than stay hungry. It also helps us to refocus our priorities in nutrition and aim for a better balance of the pleasures of eating and sustainability. The issue of food for future generations starts with food for thought in the abundantly nourished Northern parts of the planet. (Image: AI Copilot, Prompt: 2 couples enjoy eating a meal of halophytes and insects, 2024-6-25)

Smoke Gamble

Smoking is like a gamble. Your input is your health and money. This is not including those who might rely on you or family relationships that might suffer one way or another. The other link has gambling at its source and smoking goes along with the continuous risk taking or the belief to be able to master the risks involved with both forms of potential addictions. Research has accumulated evidence that in fact both smoking and gambling occur frequently in combination with each other. Taking risks against the odds of suffering losses, maybe only in the medium or longer run perspectives like for health seems acceptable for those people. Society has put rather high taxes on both activities to discourage people and invests in prevention of addictions. However, it does not have substantial effects on people as smoking remains around the same level and gambling (poker online) or betting on sports (Euro 2024) are rising rapidly. Vaping and internet gaming have broadened the spectrum of addictive behaviors mostly for younger persons and young adults. The risks are manifold and increasing in their addictive potential since the smartphone is always in some pocket just like the smoking device. The behavioral turn in the social sciences has been well understood by the industries as well. The stakes for human development are high in this endeavor to offer young people equal opportunities at entry into adulthood.

EURO 2024

Before the EURO 2024, (European soccer championship) has even started, the host country Germany and the DFB- foundation for culture joined forces for a remarkable exhibition. In the “National Gallery of Contemporary Art” and next to the Berlin Hauptbahnhof a provocative video installation is mounted that uses the imagery of soccer (football) to portray the life and atmosphere associated with soccer. Injuries on the playing field, but even more so injuries caused by violent groups among the spectators create an emotionally charged representation before, during and after the match. The role of the umpire is central in the match and in the cultural project. Shattered dreams are part of the game for players as well as spectators. Visual impressions have contributed enormously to spectacular success of football on television. The masses of viewers has created a big business of television rights and merchandising products as well. The DFB Kulturstiftung undertakes great efforts to open up the discussion about soccer in a critical way through art projects. The entry into the installation resembles the entry of players through a tunnel into the huge stadium. The world of soccer has multiple links to physical and psychic violence. The installation “Winner” signed by Marianna Simnett challenges the media’s largely beautiful videos about the world of football. In the ocean of enthusiasm this exhibition is just a tiny grain of salt, adding spice to life.

Winner by Marianna Simnett 2024 Berlin

Schostakowitsch Revival

Je mehr Putin sich unablässig in seinem Angriffskrieg gegen die Ukraine und gegen seine eigenen Leute versteift, umso mehr werden die musikalischen Werke von Dmitri Schostakowitsch aktuell. Schostakowitsch hatte viel unter Stalin zu leiden. Sein Werk konnte kaum Gefallen bei der stalinistischen Führung finden, aber dennoch haben voele der Russen seine Werke geliebt. Insbesondere die sogenannte „Leningrader“ Symphonie, die das Volk einte vor den Radioempfängern, selbst mitten im Krieg gegen Nazi-Deutschland. Die Berliner Symphoniker haben diesem Werk eine neuere Ehre erwiesen mit einer Aufführung in Berlin 2024-5. Das Interview dazu mit dem Dirigenten Yannick Nézet-Séguin wurde geführt von Matthew Hunter, Bratschist der Berliner Philharmoniker. Es beschreibt diese eindrückliche Auswahl hervorragend. Die Berliner Philharmoniker haben eine lange Tradition, Werke von Schostakowitsch aufzuführen und einzuspielen. Die Digital Concerthall hat eine umfangreiche Sammlung mit Werken von Schostakowitsch. Oftmals etwas schwere Kost, aber durch das Ausspielen des ganzen dynamischen Spektrums von pp bis ff nie langweilig. Eine kleine Filmmusik „Volksfest“ (Sylvesterkonzert 2022) ist leicht beschwingt oder gar etwas beschwipst. Der musikalische Nachwuchs hat die Tiefe der Werke erkannt und gewinnt international anerkannte Preise mit Vorträgen von Werken Schostakowitschs. So geschehen zum Beispiel beim „Concours de la Reine Elisabeth in Brüssel 2024-5. Der Ukrainer Dmytro Udovychenko würdigte Schostakowitschs Leben und Werk inklusive des Existenzkampfes und gleichzeitig seine Heimat die Ukraine mit dem Belgischen Nationalorchester mitten in Europa. 

Example Audio Playlist on Spotify or Videos on DCH

Marketing bicycles

The marketing of bicycles has changed considerably over the course of history. Today’s narrative is more about the eco friendly impact of it. Historically the freedom aspect of free movement and emancipation of women was at the forefront. The collection of images in poster formats presented at the DTM in Berlin is impressive. The focus on women on bicycles is quite surprising for this early time around 1900. Few of the companies from the early days have survived until today. Bicycles are still fascinating children and adults today. The experience of a fragile equilibrium, your own strength and weakness in muscle power, cardiac or pulmonary strength is always challenging. It is you who is in control of speed and direction. This should be easy to sell to the masses, and it was and still is. “Bikenomics” is here to stay. Artists had the same impression and created a whole universe of promises for riders of bicycles. The long run health benefits were not even known at the time, but it was unthinkable that humans would spend most hours sitting in offices, cars and on their couches. The biking story needs to be retold to encourage people to take up the emancipating storyline again. Get on your bike again!

DTM Berlin 2024-6

Law Nature

There exists a rather complicated relationship between law and nature. It is part of constitutional law to check whether nature figures at all in a state’s constitution as part of the fundamental legal principles. On a global scale the nations or people living in the closest relationship with nature most often do not have written constitutions. In the same vein, animals or biodiversity do not figure in most constitutional documents (nice project to substantiate this claim). The philosophy of law has line of literature devoted to “Naturrecht” which is more concerned with human beings and their differentiation than the millions of other species.
Administrative law is probably the domain with most of the legal judgements with relevance to nature or the environment as for example any larger scale construction is either land, water, air or biodiversity grabbing. Rights and limits need to be defined precisely. In this field the role of law as “appeasement” is widely applied. However, this is more complicated in cases when a whole population of an island in the ocean is threatened to disappear due to the rise of the sea level like in the case of the Torres Strait Islands, next to and part of Australia.
The UN Human Rights Committee (UN-HRCee) in Geneva has made a decision on the claim of these people to have rights that the nature of the islands as low-lying islands is threatened by disrespect of their fundamental rights of existence and survival. The claim has been received by the court, but the court deems that the threat to their culture and survival is not imminent. In practice, therefore, the sword of law is rather weak and time until the disaster is used as a right to continue the usual economic exploitation of earth as before despite the deferred consequences for the planet in a rather unequal way.
(Image by AI copilot designer 2024-6-2 “5 judges in red gowns sit in a flooded courtroom”, 2 propsitions)

Kafka Kafkaesque

The last 4 years in the life of Franz Kafka had been challenging due to his tuberculosis. Despite these challenges he realized additional, lesser known pieces of literature from 1920-1924 including a collection of aphorisms. The interpretation of these pieces is quite controversial and making your own judgement about these pieces should be left to each person. The most debated elements are his level of abstraction. Additional examples of animals enter into the arena. Mice received his attention in his last work. Whereas Josef was the name of principal characters before, Josefine was his last character. Continuation, discontinuity or dialect dialogue between the characters, up for interpretation and debate. The role of artists or writers in society was also a recurrent theme in his work and life. Great to have an easy access in the Leselounge at Stabi Potsdamer Straße as an extension of the exhibition of the family photographs in the Stabi Unter den Linden.

Competence Nature

Nature can be approached without competence. Emotional attachment is fine. If we delve deeper into the issue, we realize that a lot of processes that have evolved over years or even centuries are hard to study. The learning about nature is manifold and many scientific disciplines deal with nature in the broad sense of the word.
Today the study of nature is scattered across so many disciplines that an overall view of the field seems hard to achieve. This creates a problem to teach a competence to deal with topics around nature. Water, air, species, soil, climate or reproduction are all topics in which we have to make far-reaching individual and collective choices. This requires adequate competences to allow judgments about opportunities and risks involved.
For more than 100 years now we have researched education systems and processes, but the competences to talk and explain basic processes in nature are still scarce. Classification systems are a static way to sort nature into categories. Processes of evolution and development have more or less human input.
We all gain if we keep an eye on education and learning processes that have been applied years ago. The field of the history of education provides clues about some forgotten approaches. Learning about nature and how to acquire competence in the field has been an issue in this field for at least 100 years. It is time to test some of these approaches again to see what went wrong in learning about nature. Man-made climate change is only at the end of a causal chain of things and people moving in the wrong direction. We probably have to press the reset button and start from scratch with the learning and the tracing of wrong decisions. Maybe, the start is the appreciation of a splendid bouquet of flowers. Want to know more? Try to grow and assemble them yourself.

Mangel Armut

Herta Müller hat bereits 2012 in „Das Chinesische Glasauge“ sehr treffend die Funktion von Mangel und Armut in Diktaturen beschrieben. Sowohl der ständige Mangel als auch die Armut dienen als Instrumente der Macht. Sie sind quasi die Fortsetzung von Ideologie zur Beherrschung der Massen. Zusammen bilden sie die Umgebung, den Kontext in dem dort gelebt wird. Die Herrschenden jedoch haben Privilegien, die sie von der Allgemeinheit absetzen. Diese knappe Beschreibung und Einleitung zur Kurzgeschichte haben eine große Portion Allgemeingültigkeit. In Mangel und Armut können kleine Vergünstigungen eine viel größere Wirkung entfachen. Sehnsüchte nach mehr werden nahezu zwingend hervorgebracht. Allein die Aussicht auf ein teilweises Stillen der Erwartungen oder nach mehr entfachen weiteres „höriges“ Verlangen. In Diktaturen werden die Personen, die unaufhörlich auf die Armut und den Mangel hinweisen meist geächtet oder sogar ins Exil gezwungen. Solche Störenfriede sind nicht gern gesehen. Das Russland unter Putin braucht Leute der herrschenden politischen Klasse zujubeln und bereitwillig in den Krieg ziehen oder an der Kriegsmaschinerie mitwirken. Wir sind mehr als eine Dekade weiter, aber diese Zusammenhänge bestehen ebenfalls weiter. Schmuck in der Mangelwirtschaft ist bereits eine Provokation. Das offene Tragen der Provokation kann im schlimmsten Fall das Leben kosten.
(Image: Herta Müller, 2023, Eine Fliege kommt durch einen halbern Wald, Carl Hanser Verlag, “Das Chinesische Glasauge”, S.50-61)

Democracy celebrates

With all the bad experiences of Nazi-Germany and the failure to defend democracy in Germany against its fascist enemies in the 1930s, it was a pleasure to celebrate democracy in Germany together with a huge crowd. 3 days of information and party around the major institutions of democracy Parliament, government, federal governments, constitutional court and all ministries joining in with pavilions in the parks nearby allowed a bottom up feeling of democracy. Visiting the chancellery as well as the parliament in a single day shows the openness of these institutions and the ease of access to our political system. People of all ages and all walks of life strolled around and enjoyed the day. Freedom to voice your opinion was easy and many took their time to do it. Civil society organizations were a natural part of the show. We seem prepared to stand up for our democratic values and principles. This will be tested in all the forthcoming elections.

Freiheit aushalten

Frei von Zwang zu sein, ist eine tolle Erfahrung.
Frei zu sein, das zu tun, was man möchte ist die Fortsetzung des Gedankens.
Eine lange philosophische Tradition (freedom & democracy) lässt sich inetwa so kurz zusammenfassen. Negative Freiheit, also nicht irgendwelchen Zwängen zu unterliegen, frei von Religionszwang oder Zwang zur Arbeit, war über Jahrhunderte das überragende Ziel der Freiheits-, im Sinne von Befreiungsbewegungen.
Wir haben diese “passive” Vorstellung von Freiheit durch eine “aktive”, positive Form von Freiheit ergänzt. Die Freiheit etwas zu tun oder der aktiven Teilhabe an der Gesellschaft ist zu einem weiteren leitenden Gedanken des modernen Freiheitsbegriffs geworden. Entwicklungschancen von Kindern zeigen die Bedeutung der aktiven Gestaltung von Freiheit für die kindliche Entwicklung und die Bedeutung der Teilhabe an Gesellschaft auf. Alleine frei zu sein von Zwang führt noch nicht zu einer altersgerechten Entwicklung von Kindern. Positives Gestalten ist notwendig, damit Kinder ihre Potentiale über die Zeit Die Freiheit des Anderen selbst aushalten zu können, ist eine weitere notwendige Bedingung von Gesellschaft und unserem Freiheitsbegriff. Das fällt zuweilen recht schwer. Die Bienenzucht des einen kann dem Bienenstichallergiker buchstäblich zum Verhängnis werden. Wieviel freie Rede ja, aber Hassrede nein, müssen wir aushalten. Dürfen sich diese Konventionen über die Zeit hinweg verändern? Wenn ja, wie weit? Wir haben viel Gesprächsbedarf, um ständig unserer “kommunikatives Handeln” zu beraten und zu überprüfen.
In Zeiten von Wahlen und Wahlkämpfen ist das Schild “Freiheit aushalten, eine Aufforderung doch öfters mal hinzuhören selbst wenn uns vielfache Aussagen bereits als abwegig erscheinen.
Von “Ausfahrt freihalten” hin zu “Freiheit aushalten”.

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. 

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

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

AI Defence

For those following the development in robotics we have been astonished by the progress of, for example, rescue robots. After an earthquake such robots could enter a building that is about to collapse and search the rooms for survivors. A recent article in “Foreign Affairs” by Michèle A. Flournoy has started its thinking about the use of AI in the military with a similar 20 year old example. A small drone flying through a building and inspecting the dangers of entering for persons or soldiers. Since then technology has advanced and the use of AI for automatic detection of dangers and “neutralising” it, is no longer science fiction. The wars of today are a testing ground for AI enhanced military strategies. It is about time that social scientists get involved as well.
Warfare left to robots and AI is unlikely to respect human values unless we implement such thoughts right from the be beginning into the new technology. An advanced comprehension of what algorithms do and what data they are trained on are crucial elements to watch out for. According to Flourney, AI will assist in planning as well as logistics of the military. Additionally, AI will allow a “better understanding of what its potential adversaries might be thinking”. Checking through hours of surveillance videos is also likely to be taken over by AI as the time consuming nature of the task binds a lot of staff, that may be put to work on other tasks. Training of people and the armed forces become a crucial part of any AI strategy. The chances to develop a “responsible AI” are high in the free world that cherishes human rights and democratic values. Raising curiosity about AI and an awareness of the dangers are two sides of the same coin or bullet. Both need to grow together.
(Image created by Dall-E Copilot Prompt: “5 Robots disguised as soldiers with dash cams on helmet encircle a small house where another robot is hiding” on 2024-4-23)

Opera Politics

We know that sports and international politics have ample links. This holds true for Opera performances, either due to the way they are presented or due to the content of the libretto. The opera Jeanne d’Arc (Giovanna  de Arco, Jungfrau von Orléans) by Guiseppe Verdi was composed in 1844 and had its Premiere at La Scala in Milano 1845. The libretto is based on the drama written by the playwriter Friedrich Schiller. Later in the 19th century musical pieces followed that dealt with the court judging Jeanne d’Arc. The opera by Verdi creates a strong female voice and character which outperforms men around her. Obviously, she was and remains for many a quasi-mythological heroine. In short, this constitutes great plots for drama and operas. This is centuries old despite the rare occasions of more recent performances of Jeanne d’Arc in form of Verdi’s opera or other forms.
The Opera as arena of politics is currently tested in the Opera at Tallinn Estonia. Due to the aggression and occupation of Ukranian territory by Russia the plot of Jeanne d’Arc regained another European location of potential application. Ukraine pushed back the Russian invasion and struggles to win back its territory from the invaders. The performance of the Opera recreates an impressive Jeanne d’Arc in the person of Elena Brazhnyk who was trained at the National Tchaikovsky Music Academy of Ukraine. The evening inspired hope in many respects. Talents from Ukraine or trained in Ukraine reach out into to the world. Similarly, we have much reason to be inspired by courageous acts. Operas do politics. “Bravi”, as they say in Italian.
(Image: Opera Tallinn-Estonia2024-4-18)


We all use electricity, not only daily but continuously. But do we really know or remember how it works? Surprisingly, we care very little about the energy provision or the physics behind it. Therefore, from time to time it is useful to dive into the details of generating electricity and thereby energy and how it arrives at our doorsteps or desks. In science museums you can literally walk through the history of power generation. A fine example is the Energy Discovery Centre in Tallinn, Estonia. Even for those you did all at school turning the handles of generators is a playful reminder of the basic principles of electric power generation. The efficient use of it, is a topic that needs to be covered as well. Searching the web for demonstration videos is fine as well, but the physical activity of moving induction coils and releasing sparks is difficult to rival. Opening up your mind for the physics of our lives yields a better grip on the challenges of electricity grids and local production of electricity. Are you already a prosumer? Combining electricity production and consumption in one household is surely a forward-looking strategy. Raising awareness for these topics concerns all generations. Take time for a power play, it is truly enlightening. For teaching professionals or want to be there are exciting programs out there, too. Just one suggestion for 2024 in Colorado, US.

Energy Discovery Centre Tallinn

Transparent Publishing

New technology pushes transparency of publishing, journalism and science to new levels. Through the hyperlink structure of texts it is easy to link back to the sources of a text. What used to be long lists of references at the end of a text or in footnotes has become directly accessible through weblinks. Only paywalls may or may not restrict the fast and easy access to original sources. In writing online, this is a major additional feature of publishing in the last few years. Some online journals allow this for quite some time now, but there are lots of printed versions that stick to the read and be stuck approach of publishing.
In teaching I have been an advocate of “read the original sources” as the basic source of inspiration for authors. The transparency of the thought process and the evidence provided in whatever form should be traceable. In publishing this transparency allows to exclude the copying of thoughts or unreflected referencing.
However, the task to check for the validity of weblinks and the updating is an additional task. 500+ blog entries with an average number of 2 weblinks per blog entry makes this a job of its own. Testing of 1000 weblinks is something you need a software or plugin which alerts you to “broken links”. The maintenance of a webpage, therefore, increases substantially as the content increases. Reorganisations of webpages make the follow-up of links sometimes quite hard. Projects like the general archives of the web and webpages are very important to ensure the transparency of publishing in the short, medium and long run. The archives of today look more like machine rooms than the splendid archives or libraries of the past and present.