Saturday, July 29, 2017


Red Baron not only loves beans but all sorts of pulses. My love for beans is some sort of atavism for I remember well 1946, the year of malnutrition when my father came home with a sack full of colorful horse beans. So we had beans as a soup, mashed, and as a side dish and I loved them. My favorite dish is fava beans with bacon while black beans are best in any form.

The other day I read an article in Freiburg's Sunday paper Der Sonntag about soybeans. This rang another bell. As a graduate student in Munich I frequently listened to the American Forces Network (AFN) and learned that soybeans are a traded commodity and Mickey Mantle is a baseball legend.

Soybeans are high-quality fodder and the basis for bean curd (tofu) too. Those magic protein-rich beans are an American export hit world-wide. Here in Germany US soybeans are mostly known for being genetically modified. So farmers on the Upper Rhine saw a market-niche satisfying an increasing number of vegans who are looking for Biotofu (organic bean curd). Demand exceeds the supply although areas under cultivation have doubled over the past two years to 7000 hectares (17,000 acres). Only beekeepers are pouting for soybeans provide no nutrition to bees.

Soybeans love warm weather, need temperatures of at least 6 °C, have a vegetation period of 150 to 180 days, and require soil temperatures of at least 10 °C while germinating. With climate change the Upper Rhine Plain is becoming an ideal region for soybean cultivation. Where grapes grow, soybeans grow too. While young plants have problems fighting weeds herbicides are taboo in organic farming. Instead of labor-intensive hoeing and plowing the trick is to seed soybeans together with rye, the latter serving as a shield against weeds. It is like mulching, a farmer explained.

Be assured friends, America remains first, we are not going to export our beans.

Saturday, July 22, 2017


Two freshmen in Germanistik (German studies) are looking at a painting showing Heinrich Heine. One of the guys queries: Is this Schiller or Goethe? Bonehead, his colleague answers, that is Goethe; Schiller was a composer.

German studies were and still are a stopgap study. In addition there are theater arts and even worse political science. This more so since in Germany the number of young people in a year with Hochschulreife (higher education entrance qualification) is now over 60 % whereas 50 years ago only 6 % of a school year went on to university studies. So embarrassed youngsters - the first thing they want is to become a university student*- are flooding the universities (75,000 freshpersons in 2016/17). Without much guidance they choose Germanistik, some of them with only a rudimentary knowledge of German orthography, grammar, and linguistic style.
*of those 6 % graduates of my time not all went to university. Only one half of my classmates studied.

Peter Philipp Riedl, professor of modern German literature at Freiburg's university, admits: Since I started teaching I have noticed that there is a good and even excellent top group but the so-called good middle field is becoming thinner.

Lucky America, you do not send your high school graduates to advanced studies at universities right away but to college first. This system is based on the medieval baccalaureate where in olden days the Seven Liberal Arts* (grammar, logic, rhetoric, arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy) had to be mastered first in preparation for serious studies of theology, law, medicine, and philosophy. Such an approach to higher education is much better suited than the Humboldt idea of a free study at any university. The Humboldt brothers started with an assumption that no longer holds nowadays. They entered the university as two extremely well-prepared young men whereas nowadays German high schools are under pressure to graduate many pupils with good marks irrespective of their basic knowledge.
*Note the preponderance of science subjects

Coming back to the US; on the one hand I always admire the top-level researchers collecting most of the Nobel Prizes whereas on the other hand I am told that mass-education in the US leaves much to be desired. While German Nobel Prizes remain rare I fear that with respect to the general education of German kids we are approaching the States.

Well, I am an old man. Whenever I deplore young people's lack of basic knowledge I am told that times have changed. Still, it is sad to see that high school graduates staring at their iPhones take Schiller for the Apple marketing director. Guys, it's Friedrich and not Phil.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017


Such a title will never be twittered by @realDonaldTrump but this anyway is absolutely stupid for Real Climate Change is the title of my blog, neither a fake nor a tweet.

Following two tropical heat waves in Freiburg at the end of June and the beginning of July with temperatures up to 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit) today we are cracking the 34 °C (92 °F) mark. You are right, this is no proof of climate change. However here are some hard hot facts recently published by the Badische Zeitung owner of the copyright of all graphics.

In Freiburg the number of hot days with temperatures above 30 °C has increased by more than 80% in recent years and 2017 may beat all previous records. In Freiburg we suffered already 10 "heat days" up to now.

In the not too far future the Feldberg will no longer be Freiburg's ski resort.

Farmers experience an early flowering period for such crops as rape in the year, a dangerous development. This spring the cherry trees blossomed so early that one night of frost dramatically damaged the flowering in the region. Cherries are expensive this year.

While other places in Germany are struck by Starkregen (heavy rainfall) and flooded basements the water level of the Dreisam River in Freiburg presently is so low that some fish will not survive.

Nevertheless, regional farmers are not concerned because many fields are irrigated by water pumped out of deep wells. The reservoir seemed inexhaustible with the groundwater table remaining stable in the past. In recent years, however, a decline of groundwater levels has been observed being in all likelihood due to the long-term absence of precipitation in Germany's southwest.

Climate change is real.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Night of the Burning Cars

The above photo was not taken during the G-20 Summit in Hamburg but in a Paris suburb on the evening of July 14, that the Americans wrongly call Bastille Day. In fact, Abfackeln (flaring off) of cars is a French speciality long practiced during hot summer nights. Let us say, there is nothing, good or bad, that Germans do not import as being en vogue either from the States or from France.

Indeed, many a journal wrote about the G-20 Summit and those Chaostage (days of chaos) in Hamburg that most of the radical black-hooded rioters came from other European countries like Denmark, Italy, Spain, and France. This is one of the many statements Red Baron read that is an den Haaren herbeigezogen (far-fetched) and fake news.

The Black Block (©dpa)
What follows will not be a full description of the terror that ruled in small parts of the Hanseatic city and that was documented in many films and mobile phone videos distributed around the world by the press and social networks.

Here is one irking observation: "Innocent" bystanders running around with their smartphones trying to catch the most spectacular scenes were often caught between the battle lines and later complained that they had been hurt by water cannons (police), stones (rioters), and tear gas (both sides). There is a German proverb: Wer sich in Gefahr begibt, kommt darin um or less dramatic in English and with better reference to the Molotov cocktails thrown: If you play with fire, you must expect to get your fingers burned.

Here are more observations. There is no better country for peaceful demonstrations than Germany. When you announce your demonstration to the local authorities they will do everything so that your march will become a success. They will even deploy policemen along the authorized route to protect the participants. There are only a few rules demonstrators must observe, the most important being the Vermummungsverbot (a ban on face coverings). So the March of Science Red Baron participated in recently turned out to be a successful demonstration.

There is even a regular march in Freiburg every Monday evening protesting against Hartz-4, a nearly forgotten piece of legislation tightening the entitlement to unemployment benefits. This is why the other Monday I observed four people with a worn-out banner marching from Bertoldsbrunnen to Rathausplatz with one policeman walking along protecting the protesters against possible right-wing provocations. The friendly demonstrators stopped in front of the town hall, discussed with passers-by, and I bought them a beer.

Coming back to the Hamburg events. Protests against the G-20 Summit were multilayered against turbo capitalism, globalization, the widening gap between the rich and the poor, climate change, arms exports in general and into crisis or war regions.

The situation escalated when the protesters of the so-called Black Block, young people clad in black and some of them hooded, perceived the double row of riot police accompanying their demonstration as a provocation. Nerves were on edge. Soon the militants were throwing stones and Molotov cocktails, while the police used water cannons and tear gas.

Germans are well organized. In case of injuries a Riot Medic will help (©Der Spiegel).
A peaceful demonstration by a green block came to an abrupt halt at a line of policemen. At that moment the demonstrators must have realized that the impact of political protests remains small when the rules in capitalistic democracies are observed. So they attacked. Afterwards the girl with the head bandage told the reporter: We tried to break through the Polizeikette. I was in the second row. Crazy.

(©Der Spiegel)
I don't know what got into another girl climbing a water cannon. Policemen told her to descend warning that she would fall off if the vehicle accelerated. When she did not follow their advice the police used tear gas to force her down into "safety".

(©Der Spiegel)
Rioters, a demonstration is not a game of cat-and-mouse! The police has the governmental monopoly of enforcing law and order protecting the physical integrity and the property of the citizens.

The days of chaos left Hamburg with injured demonstrators and policemen, broken windows, looted supermarkets, and burning cars. Too bad, too sad.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017


In the latest CERN Courrier Red Baron read the following note about a new particle recently discovered at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC):

The LHCb collaboration has discovered a new weakly decaying particle: a baryon called the Ξ++cc, which contains two charm quarks and an up quark. The discovery of the new particle, which was observed decaying to the final-state Λ+c K– π+ π+ and is predicted by the Standard Model, was presented at the European Physical Society conference in Venice on 6 July.

Artist's view of the Ξ++cc particle (Daniel Dominguez/CERN)
In contrast to other baryons, in which the three quarks perform an elaborate dance around each other, a doubly heavy baryon is expected to act like a planetary system, where the two heavy quarks play the role of heavy stars orbiting one around the other, with the lighter quark orbiting around this binary system, spokesperson Guy Wilkinson said but it is just one particle to cross off the list.

Left: clear Ξ++cc signal on top of the background.
The "new" particle finds its predicted place in the upper right hand corner of the right diagram.
Venice is such a nice place but the result presented there is nothing but frustrating. With the energy of the LHC approaching its final design value and the luminosity of the colliding proton beams beating all earlier records there is still no sign of a new physics. In fact, the new Ξ++cc particle predicted by and fitting into the Standard Model is nothing to write home about.

In spite of all the bottles emptied,
a frustrated physisist is still looking for signs of a new physics.
Where are the experimental results supporting string theory and is super symmetry (Susy) a dead-born child? How far away are we from GUT (Grand Unification Theory)?

With results of a new physics not coming in accelerator physicists at CERN already plan for a larger circular machine. Its circumference shall be up to four times that of the LHC although experimental physicists demand that any new accelerator should rather be an order of magnitude larger than the LHC. But who shall pay for a 130 TeV machine?

Skeleton in John Ellis's office
With respect to the missing new physics John Ellis, CERN's guru of theoretical physics now 71, remains an optimist but is moving on the quiet from the infinite small to the infinite big when he declares: Now we know [the Standard Model] is pretty much complete so we can focus on the questions beyond it, dark matter, the future of the universe, the beginning of the universe, little things like that. By the way, what John really means is GUT or shall we say theoretical physicist have a special kind of humor?

The famous Richard Feynman once joked when he was asked about the usefulness of theoretical physics: Physics is like sex. Sure, it may give some practical results, but that's not why we do it.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Collector's Items

Last week Red Baron read in the Badische Zeitung about a collector's item. The Ritter firm known for its square Sport chocolate bars had produced a limited edition called Einhorn (unicorn). The item went viral so now on eBay collectors pay more then 100 euros for a bar and more than 10 for an empty package.

The article in the BZ was actually more about the history of the unicorn, a mythic animal that had fascinated my grandson when he was young but as my son-in-law smugly remarked I should have told him in French about the licorne.

Let's continue instead with collector's items. In my last blog I had mentioned two of them: the Madison flag and Fox & Friends (not the tv-show but the craftbeer).

It was my American friends who told me that the present flag would soon be outdated. Its center drawing standing for the Madison capitol on the isthmus between the two lakes somewhat resembles a Native American sun symbol and therefore must be replaced, Mayor Paul Soglin said. So I'd better talk to Freiburg's city officials about taking down the Madison flag on the Kaiserbrücke and keeping it in a safe place.

The other item is the craftbeer Fox & Friends with only 400 bottles brewed on the occasion of the Partnerschaftsmarkt. Red Baron bought 1.5 % of them, drank one with Elisabeth, and hid five in his cellar for special and future use. In the meantime one of the American visitors took home an empty bottle, a collector's item q.e.d.

But there is more.

Red Baron still owns an HP-35. This was Hewlett-Packard's and the world's first scientific pocket calculator with trigonometric and exponential functions. The HP-35 used Reversed Polish Notation in a stroke of genius* and was sold in 1972 for U$ 395, a small fortune at that time that CERN paid.
*RPN always means one keystroke less than the classical notation

The HP-35 meant a major breakthrough in radiation protection. When calculating Curies into Becquerels we used slide rules but getting the order of magnitude right was another story, e.g., 1 μCi = 37 kBq.

The NiCd battery pack has long since gone but you can operate the HP-35 and its red light diodes on AC power or you buy new expensive NiMH battery packs on the Internet.