Monday, September 23, 2019

Freiburg Splinters

On June 10, I introduced splinters, bits and pieces of information that may be of interest to my readers but do not justify writing a blog. This time the splinters from Freiburg will in particular interest my friends from our sister city, Madison.

The Fish Ladder
On Monday, September 16, on my way to the reception for the freshly arrived American students of the Academic Year 2019/2020 in Freiburg (AYF), I passed the river Dreisam on Schwabentorbrücke admiring the new fish ladder.
*Organized annually by the Freiburg-Madison-Gesellschaft (FMG) at the Greiffenegg-Schlössle

The old fish ladder made from wood had become rotten, a process possibly accelerated by the frequent low water levels of the Dreisam laying bare parts of the wood (CC).
*Oakwood permanently kept underwater may be conserved for centuries.

The new fish ladder is made from stones fixed by concrete. Nobody expected it becoming an attraction. In spite of the late hour, people were bathing in the cold waters of the Dreisam, leaving little room for fish to jump. OK, there is no high cotton in Freiburg and in our corn is only growing low due to the lack of rain (CC).

Turning Moats into Playgrounds
Later I passed a sort of valley, a vestige of a moat. Military architect Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban had it dug when fortifying Fribourg en Brisgau, la Ville de Sa Majesté.

Yes, from 1677 to 1697 Freiburg was a French city under the rule of King Louis XIV presenting an essential link in France’s northern belt of fortifications.

When looking at the photo of today, the allusion Turning Moats into Playgrounds would be appropriate.

Not much is left of Vauban’s masterpiece. Here is the vestige of a tower covered partly by soil.

Stone Fall
End of August during the night, parts of the sill of the former Augustiner Church, now the core of Freiburg’s Augustiner Museum, fell on the sidewalk. Luckily nobody was hurt.

When Red Baron passed during the day, the whole sidewalk was fenced off. Well, it’s the glue again! Remember my blogs about the new university library? This time it was not just a small metal lamella but stones where the most massive part weighed 15 kg.

Nowadays, glues are used everywhere. However, in construction and building work, there should be a CAVEAT. When thermal movements are involved, and the layers of glue become brittle gravity takes over.

Those still hot days in Freiburg are now followed by cooler nights, so the differences in daily temperatures are more significant (CC). In the case of the glued sill thermal dilatation during the day is followed by thermal shrinking during the night stressing the glue. By the way, those lamellae at the windows of the university library are now riveted.

Warming Stripes for GLOBE
Last Friday Red Baron was on the train for his annual class reunion in a suburb of Hamburg.

Remember the pot of coffee and Butterkuchen served on the ICE (Intercity-Express)? Unfortunately, the quality of the butter cake has degraded over the years. This time I just had a pot of coffee and a hearty bite of a Laugencroissant I had bought at the Freiburg station. The dictionary translates Laugencroissant as a delicate triangular croissant pastry with a slightly salty crust.

Greta started it all.
Because of my train ride, I missed the demonstrations of the Fridays for Future movement both in Freiburg and the Hanseatic city. Still, I am much concerned when thinking of my grandchildren. By placing CC in the text, I reminded you that we start to see the effects of climate change in our everyday life here in Freiburg.

More than 20,000? (©dpa)
While I was on the train, Freiburg saw its greatest crowd in history. More than 20,000, mostly young people demonstrated at the Square of the Old Synagogue for their future in a liveable climate.

On Facebook,: Freiburg's mayor was among the crowd (©Fionn Große)

You possibly have seen the “Warming Stripes for GLOBE from 1850-2018” already.

Menetekel not written on the wall but painted on a streetcar (©BZ)
Freiburg’s public transport company now reminds riders of their streetcars that it is nearly too late to stop climate change. They reproduced the Warming Stripes on one of their trams showing the dramatic rise in temperatures during our recent summers.

Meanwhile, our coalition government had entered into its longtime planned discussions at the chancellery in Berlin on what they called a climate package for Germany.

After 19 (!) hours of deliberations, parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus as the Latin poet Horace once wrote. Worn-out Angela Merkel went in front of the press and presented the compromise reached between the Christian and the Social Democrats.
*The mountain went into labor and delivered a ridiculous mouse, Horace (65 - 8 v.Chr.), Ars Poetica, Verse 139

The timid measures proposed are too small, they come too late.

Thursday, September 19, 2019


Like any other national postal service, the Deutsche Post issues commemorative stamps.

German Constitutions

On 14 August 2019, the German Post released a stamp on the 100th anniversary of the Weimarer Verfassung (Weimar Constitution). The text of Article 1 is printed on the stamp:

The German Reich is a republic. The people are vested with the authority of the state.

This was a complete break with the monarchy and an assault on the obedient mentality of the German people. It must have been too much too soon as the dictatorial takeover by the Nazis in 1933 proved.

The Weimar Constitution replaced the constitution of the Second Reich that was formed by Bismarck following the defeat of the Erzfeind (archenemy) France. The document's main aim was the unity of the German tribes, so the first article reads very technically:

§ 1: In place of the constitution of the German Confederation agreed between the North German Confederation and the Grand Duchies of Baden and Hesse, as well as the treaties of 23 and 25 November 1870, concluded with the kingdoms of Bavaria and Württemberg concerning accession to this constitution, the attached constitutional final draft for the German Reich shall take the place of the constitution of the German Confederation agreed between the North German Confederation and the Grand Duchies of Baden and Hesse.

There is no mention in the whole text about human rights.

When reading the first article of the Paulskirchenverfassung (Frankfurt Constitution) of 1849, you may get the same impression:

§ 1: The German Reich shall consist of the territory of the former German Federation*.
*formed in 1815 following the Restoration after the Napoleon Wars.

Be not mistaken. Those people sitting together in Frankfurt's Paulskirche and debating had the French declaration of human rights in their brains and hearts. Starting with article 138, we read:

§138.1: The freedom of a person is inviolable.

In 1999 the German Postal Service issued a stamp 50 Jahre Grundgesetz commemorating the German constitution of 1949 that the founding fathers and mothers meeting in Bonn humbly called the Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany.

As a result of the crimes against humanity of the Nazi regime, the first paragraph of the Grundgesetz reads:

Article 1: Human dignity is inviolable. All state authorities must respect and protect it.

A Green Guy

Another special stamp this year commemorates the great Alexander von Humboldt. His achievements in science are extraordinary and well-known, but I did not know that he also had other thoughts.

As a result of his observations during his extended travel at the beginning of the 19th century, he wrote, ”There is no doubt that slavery is the greatest evil of all that has tormented mankind.

In 1803 Alexander von Humboldt noticed that the irrigation system of the City of Mexico had dried up the nearby valleys and laconically wrote in his diary, "Man rapes nature."

This observation made him one of the first Greens when later he specified more clearly his doomsday scenario, "Man has three ways of destroying nature: By deforestation, artificial irrigation and gaseous fumes."

We experience the burning of the rain forest and fights for clean water resources are flaring up, but how did this guy know about the carbon dioxide issue in our times when CO2 emissions from fossil fuels around 1800 were still negligible?

Alexander must have been a gifted speaker too when Goethe judged him: "In eight days you can't read from books what he's telling you in one hour."

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Back to My Roots

My faithful readers will know that I spent most of my professional life at CERN, the European Laboratory for Particle Physics.

Alumni welcome 2019
You may also have read that I helped to launch the union of CERN alumni last year participating in its baptismal celebration called First Collision. In fact, in the life of a particle collider, the most exciting moment is when physicists observe the first collisions.


So it was quite natural and nearly compulsory that I volunteered when the alumni were asked to help with the CERN Open Days 2019.

After I had assured may stay I took the train from Freiburg to Geneva. When I stepped on to streetcar number 18, I became already excited because all trams and busses flew flags of CERN and of the Open Days.

The following morning at my hostel. View of the Alps and Mont Blanc
Once I had checked in, I went to see the responsible lady asking whether my affiliation for the Open Days may be changed.

The LHC is shut down until 2021 for an upgrade to reach its final energy of 14 TeV
LHC superconducting magnet string underground.
You barely see the curvature of the ring tunnel.
Initially, I was scheduled to help in an underground accelerator pit channeling the visitors. This was a little too much for an octogenarian. Besides, my presence certainly would be more useful helping people of my former group explaining the mysteries of ionizing radiation. Rachel also helped me establish a CERN computing account. This was more complicated - safety oblige - than 20 years ago.

Then I started exploring my former place of work.

A development I lived through. I frequently had coffee with Robert Cailliau.
I only knew that Werner Heisenberg was a table tennis champion.
A special coffee only found in the Geneva region, the renversé
Later I was busy registering correctly (CERN Badge), and getting my gear for the Open Days (T-shirt and name badge) easily surpassing my target, the number of steps of my daily walking.

In the evening: a reception for the alumni helping with the Open Days
 at the tennis club "Le Smash". Note the white cylinder hanging from the wall:
An RP radiation monitor (see text below)
The Saturday morning Radiation Protection crew waiting for visitors.
In front right: one of the radiation measuring instruments on display (©RP CERN).

While we were waiting at our stand at 9:18 a.m. for our first customers
there was already a waiting time of two hours to visit the ATLAS experimental area.
Unfortunately, this was not the case when fulfilling my duty at the Radiation Protection Stand during the Open Days. There I was mostly standing to explain to visitors in my languages what natural radioactivity is and that eating a banana increases your personal radiation dose by 0,1 μSv*. This is due to the high potassium content of the fruit containing the naturally present radioactive nuclide 40K.
*Sievert (Sv) is the SI-unit when measuring radiation. This is a big unit, so in radiation protection doses are expressed in mSv, μSv or even nSv

Bananas are good for your health
It was new to many visitors that they are a natural source of ionizing radiation too. Two people cuddling up for a night irradiate each other mutually with a dose of 0,05 μSv, i.e., eating half a banana.

Being on a plane from Europe to the States exposes the occasional passenger to a dose of 50 μSv due to cosmic rays. Doses to flying staff accumulate, so pilots and cabin crews are in the category of professionally exposed workers. While at CERN people working in radioactive areas or with radiation sources wear dosemeters to determine their personal radiation doses, doses to flying staff are evaluated by calculation. In fact, exposures to cosmic rays are well known for the routes planes take routinely.

Lying in the sand
The natural exposure rate in the Geneva region due to terrestrial and cosmic radiation is about 70 nSv/h, but there are regions in the world where exposure to terrestrial radiation is higher. In my time at CERN, the sands from the beaches at Kerala in India were notorious as natural radiation sources. On the exhibition, we had worse. The sand from a beach at Guarapari, Brazil, gave a dose rate of 230 nSv/h. This is due to a high concentration of natural Thorium. They operate Thorium mines in Brazil. Would Einstein go to Guarapari beach? Definitely.

On the evening of the first Open Day
The RP exhibition focused on sources of natural radiation explaining at the same time that professional exposures and radiation doses from CERN activities to the population living on and around its sites are negligible, CERN's "activities" only contribute infinitesimally to doses from natural sources.

All these demonstrations were very popular with our visitors and in most cases extremely useful to dissipate their underlying angst.

The Sunday afternoon crew (©RP CERN)
The operation of high-energy accelerator produces radiation. Radiation has become a highly political issue, and the CERN management has understood. So I was only mildly astonished to learn that in spite of restrictions on personnel at CERN seventy people are presently working in RP-Group while when I retired, we had a staff of about fifty.

At the end of those highly successful Open Days at CERN, I was tired, but a the same time satisfied having helped my former colleagues selling our trade to the visiting public.

Drinking my well-deserved craft beer
in the evening sun at the terrasse of the CERN restaurant.
Full moon: Goodnight and goodbye CERN

Friday, September 6, 2019

The Andlau House

One of my very first blogs (number five), dealt with the country estate of the noble family derer zu Andlau at Hugstetten near Freiburg.

The Andlaus bought two standard plots
 of 50 times 1000 feet to build their noble house.
Noblesse oblige, so the Andlaus had a noble house downtown too, a Palais on Herrenstraße.

The Andlauhaus in 1943
The ruins of the Andlauhaus in 1960
Like many other historical buildings in Freiburg, the Andlau Palais was destroyed in the bombing raid on November 27, 1944. In the sixties the plot was flattened, tared, and used as parking.

In 2015 a lady is looking into the excavation.
She is standing in front of the former entrance of which the remaining stones will be reused.
Frequently Freiburgers had asked why the ugly gap on Herrenstraße was not closed. In 2012 Freiburg's archdiocese wanted to fill the empty site when in 2013 the disastrous Tabartz-van Elst affair made the headlines. As the Bishop of Limburg, he had used church money to build himself a palace residence. Immediately the Catholic Church scrutinized all building activities 2015, and the Freiburg project was put on ice.

The Freiburg Office of Historical Monuments only found few traces of the Andlau Palais.
Only in 2016, the Church took up the building activity again.

Red Baron had not visited the place for a long time. So suddenly last week he stood in front of the nearly finished building.

The new construction somehow recreates the former building. In particular, the historical portal made from sandstone, parts of it were salvaged during the excavation and were integrated into the facade of the new building.

The Church calls its new premises Münsterforum. The forum will house the so-called C-Punkt, a visitor and information center for Freiburg's minster church but also rooms "for various spiritual and musical events." A café-restaurant on the ground floor will be operated by the Archdiocese and Caritas. It will be run by people with and without disabilities.

Freiburg is looking forward.

Sunday, September 1, 2019


80 years ago Nazi Germany started the Second World War by attacking neighboring Poland.
Transmitter mast at Gleiwitz.
This wooden structure now is a national shrine in Poland (©Wikipedia)
The pretext for the war was a raid by Polish regular troops on a German radio station near Gleiwitz. These Polish forces were a fake. They were SS officers in Polish uniforms.

On September 1, 1939, Hitler lied to the German people, "Last night Poland fired for the first time on our own territory with regular troops. Since 5:45 a.m., we fire back." He lied double for the German raid had already started one hour earlier.

Cadet Hans Buch calls his private diary  Logbook
One witness is the 19-year-old cadet Hans Buch on duty on the training vessel Schleswig-Holstein moored in Danzig (Gdansk) harbor on the evening of September 1, 1939. Hans kept an illustrated diary that Der Spiegel revealed in time for this anniversary of shame.

The Schleswig-Holstein. Note Hans' perfect Sütterlin handwriting
On August 31, Hans writes in his diary, "We swabbed the decks, and we guessed what the announced special service meant noted on the duty roster."

"Well, two hours later we were going to the beach in gym pants with cheerful songs - it's time for a swim. Wow, we were feeling like Indians. (...) "

"And then we are in the dunes, shoes off - in line we storm into the salty water of the Baltic Sea until we have no more ground under our feet, swim far out and return to the beach slightly tired (...) A few 'soldiers' are building sandcastles like little boys. It is a morning of most cheerful exuberance and lightheartedness, without thoughts about the hours to come and of which we have no idea."

The following morning the situation changes dramatically. The crew is informed: "Now we know - 4.45 a.m., we change uniforms, the raiding patrol leaves the ship. We shake hands with the boys for the last time, we all love them. It's dark and quiet, the Schleswig-Holstein is dimmed. While waiting for dawn, the ship slowly moves towards the Westerplatte."

At 4.47 a.m. the "Schleswig-Holstein" opened fire at the Polish ammunition depot on Westerplatte.

Suddenly Hans is very busy: "While deep down in the ammunition chamber I am pulling pods out of the bodies of projectiles. It is starting upstairs: Wumm. That was gun tower Anton. A slight trembling is going through the ship and then shot after shot, for ten minutes on the fort and the plate. We stop, and everybody knows: 'The raiding patrol is going ahead.'"

The raiding patrol in lethal action
At the end of the day the terrible news: "Fat Möller is dead, our funny Hamburger is no more, the little Black had a heart shot, Arthur is missing in action. We are very quiet."

"Late in the evening, a pinasse (a sloop) full of clothes arrives - a sad confirmation of the terrible news. We have to unload: shot bottles, gas masks, bloody pants, cut boots, bloody spongy socks, a steel helmet shot through from above, a jacket, half a rag, completely bloody (a shot in the hand grenade bag, the boy was torn to shreds). I don't need to keep it in the logbook, I'll remember it anyway."

Visiting Danzig. Note the Danzig flag.
On September 19, Hans has shore leave: "The Führer in Gdansk! The evening before, trousers were ironed, boots were cleaned, the ship was coated, while the heavy artillery fired. And in the afternoon we, the 3rd watch, had shore leave. We stroll through the empty streets of the suburbs, decorated with infinite love. Red swastika flags with golden ribbons flutter in the wind."

An embedded German film crew in Danzig's harbor.
In the background the Schleswig-Holstein (©bkp)
This was no Blitzsieg (fast victory). It took the superior German army seven days to conquer Westerplatte, seven days that will never be forgotten.