Observations about the universe, life, Lausanne and me

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Organ Porn

Because I know you want it, here they are, my intestines for your viewing-pleasure.

To help the flagging swiss economy, I had a CT-scan of my Abdomen made - a steal at about 700 Euros! But now I have awesome pictures of my guts - I might make a movie out of them. There is an unexploited niche-market in organ-porn, I tell you. I shall be rich!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Today my Aduino finally came, and I am already busy playing with it.
On the right you can see it drive three LEDs via PWM (Pulse Width Modulation). Yay!

Friday, April 25, 2008


Yesterday I finally yielded to temptation and bought the damascene kitchen knife I have been lusting after for about three months. Look at the patterns on the blade! Unfortunately it is only the small one - I am still lusting after the big Japanese-style one...

Testing the ScribeFire add-on

Testing the ScribeFire add-on for Firefox.
Also: My nephew's snake, of which I am totally jealous. Snakes rock!

Thursday, April 24, 2008


There I thought I was being especially clever, using the new scheduling-feature of draft.blogger.com to post a couple of posts in advance, only to have the damn thing fail completely. So now you can already see the posts for the 23rd and the 24th of April, even though it is only the 22nd as I am writing this. Curse you, blogger!

So scroll on down, you wouldn't want to miss any posts now, would you?

What would I eat?

My girlfriend is a vegetarian - has been a vegetarian for a couple of years, in fact. I, on the other hand, rather enjoy eating dead animals.

Fortunately, we are both not very gung-ho about it - she doesn't scream bloody murder when my blood-stained fork touches her food, I don't try to smuggle animal-parts into her salad. In fact, the only reason why I am not a hundred percent happy with her decision to become a herbivore is that it severely limits the kinds of meals I can cook. I enjoy cooking, but I don't enjoy cooking for myself. As a result, I now eat mostly vegetarian too - except for sometimes frying some bacon to go with my vegetarian lasagna.

Anyway, to come to the point of this post, from time to time we talk about her decision not to eat mammals (she does eat fish and animal products like eggs and cheese) and my decision to cheerfully glomp down every edible member of our class, subphylum or indeed phylum I can find.

The question I then find myself struggling to answer is: "What would I eat", or, more accurately: "What would I kill to eat?"

The distinction between those two questions is clear. The answer to "What would I eat" is "Near damn anything". I would not, for example, be averse to trying a bit of "homme á la maison" - just for the bragging rights. But the poor guy (or girl preferably - being a horrible chauvinist I imagine girls would be more tender) would have to be dead already, I wouldn't kill somebody for my treat, seriously, officer!

Cannibalism is inherently unhealthy though, since eating human flesh provides an excellent vector for all manner of diseases. There is also the problem of acquisition, quality control and so on; if cannibalism were to become a fad, unscrupulous businessmen bumping off people "who wouldn't be missed" would not be far behind.

So no biftèque de cannibale for me.

So what would I kill to eat? Not a human, obviously, even if I don't like him or her very much. What about a chimpanzee? Hmm... always supposing that I am not in danger of starvation, and there are other animals around I could hunt, Cheeta and her friends would probably be safe from me. (Except maybe once, just to see how they taste like). But this is (and here my girlfriend crows with delight) a slippery slope. If I won't eat Cheeta, on account of her being as intelligent as a four-year old, would I eat her cousin King Louie the Orang-Utan? And if I won't eat him, would I...

But, cunning as we are, we won't fall into this trap, no siree. I refuse to see eating animals as something bad - except maybe in the ecological sense, in that producing a kilogram of meat consumes about ten times more resources than producing the same amount of grain (at least for now it does, I still dream of vat-grown steak...). But animals die, and animals also die if you clear an acre of forest to grow your grains or beans. And the cow I eat wouldn't have lived if there wasn't a demand for it's meat - and who are we to choose which animal gets to live?

The ones with the biggest brain, that's who, and I for one am on the side of the cows.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

What is Art?

Now Adwoa (who was kind enough to leave a comment on my blog, and thus gets added to the blog roll on the right) has put up a post called "Of Dead Cats and Art" on her blog. This got me to thinking about art.

Apparently there is an exhibition at the Beaux-Arts museum in Lausanne, where you can see the Chinese artist Xu Zhen beating the floor with a dead cat (called "The long video", as far as I can find out). Now this I've got to see, so I already know what I will be doing next Saturday.

Is this art? What is art? Here follows the opinion of a physicist, whose claim to competency in art consists of having been to the Louvre and the Musée d'Orsay, where he mainly enjoyed the Egyptian exhibition (stone of Rosette, whoot!) and the impressionists. So take it with a grain of salt (a grain is about 65 grams, and the only unit of weight all three traditional English weight systems have in common. You have got to love those zany English!).

Art is what people pay for.
(picture on the right: Not art, after the artists own definition, because nobody will pay for it, dammit!)

This might sound a bit cynical and reductionist, but bear with me, I gave the topic about 10 minutes thought. Even (or especially) in ye good ol' times, art was mainly contract work. Artists were hired to paint portraits or compose orchestra pieces. If they were lucky, they found a wealthy patron who gave them a free reign in deciding what to compose/paint/sculpt - as long as those pieces were churned out pretty consistently, thank you very much. The only exception to this rule were artists that were wealthy in their own right.

Nowadays there is this whole middle class thing going on, the society as a whole is richer, agriculture is so efficient that one farmer can feed over a hundred people. As a result, demand for art is higher than ever before, and - more appositely - there is a demand for a greater diversity in art.

Before, when there where a few hundred or thousand noble patrons around, it was easy for one style to sweep the world. If Emperor Karl happened to like people beating the floor with dead cats, suddenly there would be people swinging cats left and right, because it was à la mode, goddamit, and nobody would want to be left behind. Another effect of a small pool of people paying for art is that there is no space for art that is not mainstream - not pleasing to the eye, perhaps.

This picture changes, however, when you have millions of people who buy art, or go to art exhibitions. Of course you will still have fashions, but the pool is deep enough to accommodate countercurrents (please excuse the horrible metaphor). Suddenly art does not have to please anymore, there are enough people who will go and pay to look at something only to be grossed out to make it pay. (See for example the Austrian artist Nitsch, who likes to paint with blood and excrements). Artists can now shock and provoke on a level they never would have dared during the renaissance.

Maybe you could say that art is something that wakes an emotion in us - be it pleasure, horror, disgust or something else. But as a physicist I want to reduce the definition of art to the broadest, most simple statement I can, and for me that is "Art is what people will buy as art".

Also, you can cure warts with a dead cat when you go to a cemetery at midnight after a wicked man has been buried - just ask Huck Finn!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


To the right is the record of my blogging frequency since I started this blog. It is nothing short of pathetic, showing the approximate evolutionary momentum of a degenerate flobberworm.

The beginning euphoria and the motto 'A post per day' was quickly replaced by 'A post per day if it is not the weekend', which then degenerated to 'A post per day if it is not weekend and I feel like it' which was subsequently murdered and has not been seen for quite some time.

I was planning to do something against that, maybe under the slogan: 'May, a post per day', but quickly realised that I did not want to wait that long. Also, draft.blogger has this cool new feature to schedule posts to post automagically in the future, which makes this blarticle a blast from the past!

Anyway, welcome to a time of immense activity under the motto 'April 22nd, and not looking back'. Or something. I might have to work on that one.

Monday, April 21, 2008

most awesomnestest fantasy novel

I have just finished "The Name of the Wind", by Patrick Rothfuss. It is the first part of a trilogy, and more than deservedly won the Quill Award for Best Fantasy of 2007.

It's awesome. I am a voracious reader, and quite unhappy if I don't read at least two novels a week. I am happy to reread my favourite novels again and again, and indeed have read "The Lord of the Rings" more than twenty times. However, it is not very often that I finish a novel, and pick it up the next day to start again.

"The Name of the Wind" is the story of Kvothe, a hero in his youth, but now a lowly innkeeper. He is cajoled to tell his story by a scribe who came to seek him out, and for the most part the book consists of Kvothes account, in a storytellers voice, interrupted by interludes in his inn, were we learn more about th scribe, and Kvothes mysterious apprentice Bast.

The quality of the writing is outstanding. However, be warned that this is the first part of a trilogy that was written as one long book, and it shows - there is no comfortably wrapped up ending. On the other hand, the other two parts have already been written, and part two is due out in November.

I consider this book also an excellent introduction to fantasy for those poor misguided souls that haven't read the genre before - although there is the danger that it will raise their expectations too high for most of the run-of-the-mill fantasy.

Go. Buy. Read.

You may offer your thanks afterwards.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Not dead yet

No, contrary to what the continuous inactivity on this blog might suggest, I am not dead yet. Neither am I blind, as my last post might have suggested.

In fact, I am just lazy and unmotivated - or I was, to tell the truth. But today my experiment is running, the data is flowing and I just ordered 30 Euros worth o fantasy-books from amazon. Life is, in short, good, and I will try to adhere to a regular posting schedule again.

And now to something completely different:

The promised second part of the Erfurtian adventures never (of course) materialised, but I wouldn't want to keep the following gem from you.

The sign says something like "Construction and Renovation Association Erfurt"...