Monday, April 15, 2024


stands for Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation and is a horror scenario regularly good for a headline. AMOC means that the warming Gulf Stream is "drying up," with devastating consequences for the climate on the European continent.

In a recent article in Science Advances, "Physics-based early warning signal shows that AMOC is on tipping course," René M. van Westen, Michael Kliphuis, and Henk A. Dijkstra try to predict the date of collapse for the AMOC. It is comforting that their simulations show that the tipping point will occur no earlier than 2100. Still, they also warned that their stimulation was incomplete due to the lack of data, and the tipping may occur earlier or later (?).

However, there are reasons to take these predictions with a grain of salt since the Earth system is currently blowing up all models with its incredibly rapid heating.

2023 was a year with air and ocean temperatures far beyond all normal fluctuations, and 2024 "promises" to be even hotter. March of this year in Germany was four full degrees Celsius warmer than the long-term average from 1961 to 1990. 

Highest temperatures on April 6, 2024
Nine days ago, we beat all the temperature records.

The thick grey line is the average temperature of the Atlantic surface over a year
up to 2022. The thick red line is the temperature anomaly observed in 2023
 that is continuing in 2924 (brown line) (©Nahel Belgherze)
The oceans are even hotter than the air. Extreme weather expert Maximiliano Herrera said, "We are entering uncharted territory regarding heat records. Nothing compares to what we've been experiencing since 2023."

There will most likely be even more extreme rainfall events this year than in the catastrophic year of 2023. At the same time, the polar ice is melting much faster and regenerating much more slowly than in the past. This, among other things, makes the seawater in the polar regions less salty.

The Gulf Stream transports warm tropical water into the north.
After cooling, the water streams back into the southern Atlantic.
a)During the last ice age. b) The present situation (©van Westen et al.)
This situation could trigger the massive planetary catastrophe of AMOC much faster than previously estimated. Temperatures in northern Europe would drop dramatically within a very short time.

Scandinavia and the British Isles experience permafrost,
while the average annual temperature in the continental coastal regions
stays below 0 °C. (©van Westen et al.)
Elsewhere on the globe, monsoon regions would shift, and sea levels would rise abruptly, for example, on the US Atlantic coast. As climate expert Stefan Rahmstorf stated, "All in all, there would be devastating consequences for humanity and ecosystems in the sea and on land."

Sunday, April 14, 2024

God or not-God - is that the question in the first place?

The President of the Museumsgesellschaft, Professor Gerald Urban, did it again. In 2017, he talked about What the Hell is Religion? On April 8, 2024, he discussed only the "God" question in this lecture.

The starting point was the Abrahamic theological God of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Do all three major world religions worship the same God? Is the loving Father God of Christians identical to the intolerant God of Jews and Muslims?

This "modern" monotheism with a "personal" God is only shared by 45% of the world's population, not including Hindus, Buddhists, Confucians, etc., and, of course, atheists and agnostics.

Although the three world regions have the same progenitor, they consider their God the only true one. Despite all the lip service paid to tolerance,  this "ideological" God has led and will continue to lead to bloody conflicts.

"Scholars" have always tried to prove God. Red Baron has only casually followed these proofs but has realized that the existence of God cannot be proven. Professor Urban devoted much of his lecture to these efforts and showed that circular reasoning is involved in all cases.

For centuries, theologians have tried to understand the concept of God. Is God (he, she (?), it) the highest or the deepest we can think of? Professor Urban's two following slides show the paradoxes that result from such reflections.

Philosophers have been trying to understand God for three millennia. Professor Urban pointed out a line running from Plato, Plotinus, and Dionysus to Meister Eckhart.

The above slide, "Never completely describable and definable!" introduced the "scientific" God.

With the development of science, the "Creator" God of the Old Testament has been pushed further and further back in time, and that is not only due to the Darwinian theory of evolution. Now that we have a better understanding of the universe and can mathematically describe its development back to the Big Bang, the question remains: What was before the Big Bang?

To this end, some physical models consider a fluctuation in an energy field*, the "potential quantum mechanical everything," as the trigger for the Big Bang. Such a theory does not rule out several big bangs and, thus, the emergence of several universa. There are no limits to the imagination for daring hypotheses.
*in analogy to the formation of galaxies in the cooling phase of our universe.

Here is Professor Urban's summary of his impressive lecture:

Compatibilities of the "GOD" concepts

- No statements about the "philosophical" God are possible and only compatible with an ontological rape of the "theological" God. The latter arose from the "historical" gods.

Creator beings are conceivable!

- The Abrahamic God is the basis for our "cultural group" God (art) - and "normative ideological" God (the scriptures)

- The "personal" God offers destinations of longing

- Mysticism is global

Here follows one remark by Einstein on a possible creator God:

There is harmony in the cosmos, which I can recognize with my limited human mind, yet some people say there is no God. But what really makes me angry is that they quote me to support such views ... I am not an atheist. I don't think I can call myself a pantheist ... but there are the fanatical atheists whose intolerance is of the same kind as the intolerance of the religious fanatics and comes from the same source.

Many who deal with the question of God tend to find their "personal" rather than an "ecclesiastical" God. But calling their own God a father in the face of a suffering creation is another step, and that Einstein did not take.

Friday, April 5, 2024

The Second Appearance of Donald Trump

Every year, Red Baron presents an American-German topic at the Freiburg-Madison Stammtisch. Here are the links for the years 2012, 2013, 20142015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 20202022, and 2023. This year, the upcoming presidential election interested me. What I report may be boring for my American friends but should interest Europeans. Still, the number of listeners attending the Stammtisch was small.

This election is unlike any previous one. Two old men, or, as one journalist wrote, two (perceived) incumbents, are running for the high office.

©Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images
Everything indicates that Donald Trump will make his second appearance, a frightening prospect to Europeans.

It is incomprehensible how a sociopath who cannot control his emotions, who is selfish, manipulative, and ruthless towards his fellow human beings, and who is embroiled in 51 court cases is electable for so many Americans.

I will only mention the most critical legal charges here.

Two cases are pending in New York, one for fraud. Trump allegedly overstated the value of his properties to obtain cheaper loans. He has understated the value in the case of tax assessments.

The second indictment is for embezzlement of election funds, illegally used as hush money for Stormy Daniels, a prostitute.

Late Show Host Stephen Colbert's little poem (©Stephen Colbert ).
In this lawsuit, Trump finally found Don Hankey Finance willing to forward him 175 million dollars for a bond.

In Georgia, Trump has been charged with attempting to influence the 2020 election result. He has put massive pressure on Brad Raffensperger, the Secretary of State responsible for running the election, to "find" him 11780 votes.

In the indictment for inciting the storming of the Capitol on January 6, 2021, his lawyers claim that Trump enjoyed absolute immunity as president and, therefore, cannot be indicted.

Trump lacks any sense of guilt and dismisses all charges as a witch hunt.

When some states struck down Trump from primaries by applying a post-Civil War constitutional article that stripped Southerners of eligibility for state offices because of sedition, the Supreme Court barred the practice as individual actions and postponed a general final ruling.

Because six conservative judges determine the Supreme Court's direction and pace of work, a decision against Trump before the November election is unlikely. 

While the Federal Constitutional Court enjoys the highest reputation of all constitutional bodies in Germany, a survey found that 70% of Americans are dissatisfied with their Supreme Court.

Trump's electorate is absolutely loyal. According to a poll, only 6% of his core voters would not vote for him if he were to be convicted. He could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue in New York, as he claimed in the run-up to his first election, and loyal Republicans would still vote for him.

Despite all the European astonishment about the situation, we must not forget that Americans are moved by different things than we are. Putin and the Ukraine war are far from the Midwest, the stronghold of American conservatism. 

In contrast, Republicans are firmly convinced that illegal immigrants from Mexico, Venezuela, and Nicaragua, Trump calls animals, are taking jobs from Americans and flooding the country with drugs. Furthermore, the Chinese are destroying the US economy, and we Europeans are ungrateful because we have six weeks of vacation, spend our tax money on social welfare, and therefore do not pay our NATO contributions. 

For the first time in an election campaign, Clinton's maxim "It's the economy, stupid" no longer holds. Joe Biden may point to a flourishing US economy and increasing employment. Still, the citizens feel that inflation is not over, their standard of living is falling, and they want America great again.

It is evident that Trump appreciates despots, although he referred to Viktor Orban as the president of Turkey. We still remember his têtes-à-têtes with Little Rocket Man, the Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. Trump's admiration for Putin seems unbroken. 

Here's a little story: When a reporter asked Trump, "Would you accept foreign money to fulfill all the financial demands made on you?" he replied, "I think you'd be allowed to, possibly, I don't know." 

©Stephen Colbert
But Stephen Colbert had Trump saying, "Listen, Russia; maybe you know if it's legal. Could you, could you write the answer down on 500 million pieces of paper and put-in to my bank account?"

The former president clearly tells his countrymen and the world what he would do during his second term of office. American journalists have analyzed these statements.

So he called for overriding the Constitution when he demanded that the Supreme Court give POTUS unchecked power. 

He then considers using this power in his personal quest to "retaliate" against his opponents, the vermin, and take revenge for what he sees as politically motivated persecution against him.

When his longtime friend, Fox News host Sean Hannity, asked him at an election rally, "Will you promise America tonight that under no circumstances will you abuse your power to retaliate against anyone?"

Trump replied, "Except for day one," when he would use his presidential powers to close the border with Mexico and boost oil drilling.

Later, Trump said of Hannity at another rally, "I love this guy. He says, 'You're not going to be a dictator, are you?' I said: 'No, no, no, other than day one. We're closing the border, and we're drilling, drilling, drilling. After that, I'm not a dictator.'"

Trump promises to dismantle the civil servants in the ministries, only to fill the posts with politically loyal vassals. 

He has indicated that under him, the Department of Justice will not act as an independent arbiter of the rule of law but that he wants to use it as a personal political enforcement machine.

Here is the original quote by Donald Trump: "That means if I win and somebody wants to run against me, I'll call my attorney general. I say, 'Listen, indict him'." There were murmurs in the audience, so Trump continued, "'But he hasn't done anything wrong. I don't know. Indict him on income tax evasion. Figure it out. 

After undocumented immigrants "poison" the country, Trump promises mass deportations and detention camps. He refers to political opponents as crooked, corrupt, or, as we have already heard, in the style of the Nazis, as "vermin."

But even without dictatorship for one day, Trump's first action immediately after taking office will be signing an Executive Order to grant all hostages and martyrs who stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021, amnesty celebrating them not just as patriots but as heroes.

In a highlight so far, the putschist ex-president warned his supporters at an election rally that "if I don't win in November, there will be a bloodbath."

But if he wins, will the stale but time-tested American democracy with its checks and balances weather the storm?

At a fund-raising dinner in New York on Maundy Thursday evening, President Biden stated, "I think that democracy is literally* at stake.”
*according to the letter?

Monday, March 25, 2024

Linear No Threshold (LNT)

This is a hypothesis Red Baron was brought up with. He still remembers the many discussions he had or followed on radiation protection. The question is: Is even the slightest exposure to ionizing radiation "dangerous," i.e., prone to cause cancer?

I thought everything had been said and written on the topic. Still, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) recently revived the issue in an article titled "Ionizing radiation increases the risk of cancer, but does this also apply to the smallest doses?"

In international recommendations and national regulations, the annual dose limit for people occupied as "radiation workers" in a radioactive environment is 20 mSv. In contrast, the yearly limit for the population at large is 1 mSv.

Still, some scientists regard this limit as too high. On the other hand, no increased cancer rates are observed in a population living on the black sands of Kerala* in India, in a natural environment of more than 80 mSv annually.
*These sands contain naturally occurring radioactive Thorium

The black dots are the results of epidemiological studies on cancer rates
 at Hiroshima and Nagasaki (©NZZ)
Red Baron always thought that the LNT hypothesis (orange in the above graphic) was too conservative and regarded radiation protection measures that even go beyond that assumption as overdone and uneconomical.

One recent example is the release of stored cooling water from the site of the reactor accident in Fukushima. After cleaning the contaminated water from radioactive cesium and strontium, only tritium remains as a radionuclide. The treated water is diluted with seawater until it only contains 1500 Bq/l (Becquerel per liter), or one-seventh of what the World Health Organization recommends as the tritium limit for drinking water. Although you could drink the water released from the radiation protection point of view,  it is too salty.

All nuclear power plants discharge tritium-containing water well below the limit into seas and rivers during operation. The amount that will now be discharged in Fukushima per year into the Pacific over a 30-year period is about the same as the amount that the Fukushima power plant already discharged into the ocean while in operation.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) approved the dumping of the tritium-containing water and declared that Japan meets international safety standards. An IAEA team of experts is on-site monitoring water discharge into the Pacific.

Tritium has a relatively short biological half-life. So when inhaled or ingested through food, it is excreted again after a relatively short time.

As a soft beta emitter, tritium emits relatively low-energy radiation that we shield with our skin layer. Therefore, radiation doses due to external exposure from tritium during swimming are irrelevant.

Still, Japanese fishermen in the region resisted the release, fearing a loss of income.

China brought out the big gun: "Forcibly discharging into the ocean is an extremely selfish and irresponsible act that disregards the global public interest." The Foreign Ministry in Beijing went on to say that Japan had become a saboteur of the ecological system and a polluter of the global marine environment. In response, China stopped all imports of seafood from Japan.

The environmental organization "Greenpeace Japan" also criticized the action as the "wrong solution" and spoke of "decades of deliberate radioactive pollution of the marine environment."

Back to the LNT hypothesis. The relationship is only statistically confirmed at higher radiation doses. Below an annual exposure of 100 mSv, the estimates of the increased cancer risk are highly uncertain. Although the study of cancer cases in atomic bomb victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki is based on a large cohort, it suffers from the fact that the Japanese population was exposed to very high doses of radiation in a very short time.

This fact, which was used as a basis for the LNT hypothesis, has always been criticized because the exposure pattern of an atomic blast is not comparable to the conditions in radiation protection, where people are exposed to low-level radiation over extended periods.

On the other hand, it is proven that even low-level radiation damages DNA, but cells have developed numerous mechanisms in the course of evolution to repair damages. Not every mutated cell necessarily develops into a cancer cell; some simply die.

A few scientists even go one step further, claiming that low doses of ionizing radiation stimulate the immune system, inhibiting cancer formation (hormesis).

Cell experiments cannot scientifically substantiate or falsify the LNT hypothesis that must never be used to calculate the number of deaths caused by tiny doses of radiation. These calculations are meaningless due to the significant uncertainties. However, opponents of nuclear power sometimes use them to spread terror and fear among the population.

Finally, the LNT hypothesis remains the best assumption on radiation effects at small doses. Of all that we know, it puts us on the safe side and remains the working tool for radiation protection until further information.

Thursday, March 21, 2024

The Struve Trial

Yesterday, March 20, Red Baron sat as a court reporter in a treason trial that began 175 years ago at the Baseler Hof in Freiburg. Gustav (von) Struve and Karl Blind, two key figures in the Baden Revolution, were on trial for participating in the Heckerzug in April 1848 and a putsch in September of the same year.

Click to enlarge
While Friedrich Hecker was the charismatic leader of the Baden Revolution, Gustav Struve, the author of the 13 Demands of the People, could be described as its chief ideologue.

Andreas Meckel from the Initiative zur Erinnerung an die Badische Revolution von 1848/49 (Initiative for the Remembrance of the Baden Revolution of 1848/49) staged the trial from the court records and made sure that the performance took place precisely 175 years later to the day. 

District President and hostess Bärbel Schäfer welcomes the visitors.
to the historic Basler Hof.
However, the room at the Basler Hof where the audience met was not the original location, as the building was almost completely destroyed during the bombing of Freiburg on November 24, 1944. Andreas condensed the ten days of the trial into a short process and worked out the key points clearly.

Back then, the courtroom in the Basler Hof was filled to capacity, as it was yesterday, but it was considerably smaller than the original. While the court in 1849 consisted of five judges and twelve jurors, i.e., mayors, farmers, and craftsmen, Andreas had reduced the scene's size due to the limited space available. 

With the Baden flag in the background, the presiding Judge Franz Xaver Litschgi (Olaf Creutzburg) admonishes the six jurors on his left.

To the judge's right, defense attorney Lorenz Brentano (Burkhart Wein), lawyer and regional chairman of the Baden People's Association, talks to the defendant Gustav Struve (Oliver Genzow), accused of attempted high treason.

The man who had called for a jury in his 13 Demands of the People* was now the first citizen of Baden to stand before one himself. 
  *Art.11: We demand laws worthy of free citizens and their application by juries 

The public Prosecutor Eimer (Peter Haug-Lamersdorf) reads out the indictment:

Crimes: High treason and uprising (©regiopen journals)
It needed Lars Petersen, City council and judge at the Freiburg district court,
to explain the complicated legal situation at the time 
Legally, the court was on a weak footing, as the Grand Duke of Baden's new penal code of March 6, 1845, had passed parliament but had yet to be promulgated by the government. For this reason, the "Peinliche Halsgerichtsordnung (Awkward neck court order)" of Charles V from 1532, the "Carolina"— exempted from torture interrogation and the death penalty — was also used for the trial.

Gustav clearly enjoyed speaking to the audience,
where his idea of a republic received much applause.
In his defense, Struve stated* that what he had done was justified
- by the three decades of continued undermining of constitutional conditions in Germany;
- by the unheard-of pressure with which the people had been burdened;
- by the will of the people;
- by the state of emergency in which the republican party had been placed as a result of the government's measures and
- by the purest intentions, the love for the fatherland, freedom, and rights, which had guided him in all his endeavors. 
*From Struve's memoirs: Geschichte der drei Volkserhebungen in Baden, Verlag von Jenni, Sohn, Bern 1849

As in 1849, the onlookers in the courtroom mostly stood by the defendant. When heckling got out of hand, the judge threatened to have the courtroom cleared.

Gustav went back in history and taught the audience: "What I did, I did out of full, deep conviction; I was not driven by ambition, but by the love of my country and a sense of freedom. I did it with Tell, Washington, and the heroes of the French Revolution in mind. They all resisted the tyrants of the earth following the laws of providence; even if their undertakings often failed at first, they ultimately won the victory. Egmont and Horn were executed, thousands languished in Alba's dungeons, but the victory remained with the Dutch republicans."
In contrast to today's code of criminal procedure, the jury members in Freiburg were the only ones called upon to determine the guilt of the accused, while the judges had to choose the sentence.

This led to a curious situation when the jurors answered 26 questions formulated by the court on guilt in writing with a yes or no.

Six questions concerned Struve's involvement in the April Uprising of 1848, while ten of the remaining 20 questions related to Struve's and Blind's actions during the September Uprising. For example, the jury had to decide whether the charges, such as the theft of public funds, had been proven.

No, because it happened in the course of the revolution (©regiopen journals)
After three hours of deliberation, the jury announced its answers: the questions about Struve's involvement in the Heckerzug were all answered in the negative by the jury, in some cases with the addition that it had happened during the revolution.

Of the ten questions about Struve and the September Uprising, six were answered in the negative, such as the question: Is the defendant Gustav Struve guilty of having subsequently, for the purpose of [...] introducing the republic as a form of government in Germany, entered the town of Lörrach on September 21 of the previous year with a band of armed persons [...] and proclaimed the republic as the immediately introduced form of government?

In the end, four questions were answered in the affirmative. The jury, therefore, considered it proven that Struve had arranged to join Karl Blind and others in the September 1848 uprising. Were the jurors inclined towards the defendants' liberal ideas by denying most of the other apparent facts?

After a brief interruption of the trial, prosecutor Eimer requested that the court declare Gustav Struve and Karl Blind guilty of attempted high treason and sentence them to eight years in prison.

The court considered the attempted high treason to be proven by the four charges that were considered by the jury and thus followed the prosecution's request.

The ruling (©regiopen journals)
After a further interruption, the court announced the verdict: eight years imprisonment each, including five years and four months in solitary confinement.

Struve and Blind were transferred to Rastatt on April 2, 1849, and soon moved to the prison in Bruchsal.

In the end, a big applause for the radiant author Andreas Meckel.
Then Olaf Creutzburg took his guitar and stroke up the well-known
 Die Gedanken sind frei (Thoughts are free), to which the audience sang along


Struve was indispensable as the democratic pioneer but did not cover himself in glory as a troop commander. At the time, Theodor Mögling, an active participant in the Baden Revolution, wrote to Emma Herwegh, "I am only glad that the Baden government has caught Struve. This is a real stroke of luck because Struve would have caused us even more damage. In this way, he benefits us as a martyr but can do us no harm."

Really? Struve and Blind were liberated by revolutionaries in Bruchsal on the night of May 13/14, 1849, at the beginning of the third Baden uprising.

Consult Wikipedia to read more about Struve's stay in the States.

Monday, March 18, 2024

St Mark Passion

Red Baron listened to and blogged about Bach's St Matthew Passion (BW 244) in Eisenach in 2012, Leipzig in 2014, and Hamburg in 2023. I saw St John's Passion (BW 245) performed in Freiburg in 2022.

When walking in the neighborhood the other day, I saw Bach's St Mark Passion (BWV 247) announced on a poster, became curious, and bought a ticket.

So, yesterday, Red Baron sat in Freiburg's cold Minster Church for more than two hours to listen to the St Mark Passion, which wasn't composed by Bach but by church musician Andreas Fischer in 2015. Why? The original notes of BW 247 are lost; only Picander's libretto has survived in full.

The choir and instruments are waiting for the conductor
In the English Wikipedia, we read, "In 2015, church musician Andreas Fischer reconstructed the Markus Passion by parodying only works by Bach. He paid attention to the proximity of text and music and avoided using music from the known passions ..."

This latter statement is not valid. Red Baron found it a blessing when, in Fischer's work, at least three choruses applied a well-known tune that Bach had used in BW 159, a cantata, the Matthaeus Passion, and the Christmas Oratorio. Here is a recording of the chorus Wie soll ich dich empfangen (How shall I receive you)

Even back then, popular tunes were frequently plagiarized. This one originally came from a love song by Hans Leo Haßler, "Mein G'müt ist mir verwirret (My mind is confused)," about what could happen when you are in love.

Red Baron's Gemüt ist verwirrt, too, with Fischer's Baroque recomposition in the 21st century. Although I don't fully share Martin Elste's criticism, "What comes out of it is, stylistically speaking, possibly more 'Bachian' than anything that was understood by Bach's sound in the Baroque period, and yet turns into plagiarism à la Disneyland [...] In fact, overall, Fischer's music seemed a little too smooth to me.

That the St. Mark Passion is very text-heavy - the Evangelist's long recitatives are particularly striking - certainly suits a new composition. Here, Fischer succeeds in achieving a great dynamic in his work, particularly in the alternating singing between the Evangelist and the crowd in the "crucify him" scenes.

Aiming my threefold zoom lens. The choir is in full action.
Note Freiburg's famous Fastentuch (Lenten veil) in the background
On the other hand, the chorales are straightforward and only make you sit up and notice when Bach's "handwriting" becomes audible. Ultimately, Fischer's St. Mark's Passion lacks the moments of surprise that frequently pop up in Bach's ingenious music.

My favorite aria from Bach's St Matthew Passion, “Erbarme Dich mein Gott, um meiner Zähren willen! Schaue hier, Herz und Auge weint vor dir bitterlich. (Have mercy, Lord, on me, regard my bitter weeping, look at me; heart and eyes both weep to Thee bitterly) is one of Bach's strokes of genius.

Saturday, March 16, 2024

The Task Before Us

Here is a Nachlese (gleaning) of my blog on Creative Democracy. What conclusions can be drawn from John Dewey's treatise?

In the past, Hannah Arendt criticized Dewey, pointing out that he was sitting in an ivory tower, professing faith in democracy as the moral ideal of a way of life.

It is not enough to think about democracy in solitude. Thoughts are welcome to develop in seclusion, but they must engage with the fundamental experiences of the time. Thinker and actor will no longer be separated when the actor takes on the task of thinking while the thinker embraces the world, an attitude that Arendt calls vita activa.

Thinking abandons passivity and loneliness and so becomes an activity that utilizes a potential plurality, which is a keystone for the future of our everyday world.

Much of Dewey's credo, Democracy being a way of life, can be found in rudiments as early as the beginning of the 19th century. For example, when Goethe, under the impression of the excesses of the French Revolution and Napoleon's rule, urges education to free people instead of striving for a German nation in his Xenia:

To form yourselves into a nation,
You Germans hope in vain;
Educate yourselves, you can,
But more freely as people.

But isn't it idealistic to continue thinking about democratic ideas when Brecht lamented human inadequacy? In times of crisis, democratic ways of life quickly end because people long for authority. They want leadership and put democratic freedoms aside.

The wise Michelle Obama recently moaned that our democracy is taken for granted, although you cannot take democracy for granted. She asked, "Will people vote, and why don't people vote?" Voting is actually a democratic duty.

Goethe already demanded in Faust I, "What you have inherited from your fathers, acquire it to possess it."

For Dewey, too, inheritance is not enough; democracy must always be acquired anew. Education takes on a democratic color and should attune people to a democratic attitude to life.

Ultimately, all young people living in a democracy must be educated in democracy because "the belief in democracy is one with the belief in experience and education. If one asks what is meant by experience and interaction, my reply is that it is the free interaction of individual human beings with surrounding conditions, especially the human surroundings, which develops and satisfies need and desire by increasing knowledge of things as they are," writes John Dewey.

The idea of lifelong learning is also present in Goethe's Faust II, where the chorus of angels proclaims, "Whoever strives with all his might, we can redeem."

But how can you educate and reach people who believe that they are being systematically lied to by "the media" in a democracy because politics and the media are secretly working together? Many of these conspiracy ideologists have comparatively little formal education. Of them, 58% want to vote for the right-wing AfD in the next German elections. With these people, all hope is lost.

So hope rests on the young, who enjoy the achievements of democracy and the freedom of the Internet to the full. But here, too, the AfD is ahead. In the upcoming elections to the European Parliament, 16-year-olds are allowed to vote. This age group receives its political education from social media. 

AfD channels have more likes than all other democratic political parties combined. Where are the other reputable media? Where is the German government to counter the targeted disinformation by the political right?

Thursday, March 14, 2024

German Cuisine

Red Baron was raised on Westphalian cuisine. My mother learned to cook at her parents' farm in Nottuln, south of Münster.

My father liked simple Westphalian dishes, although occasionally, he asked my mother to prepare Berlin food, which he was brought up with and for which his sister, my aunt, was famous.

My mother cooked authentically and seasonally. The ingredients were regionally based on vegetables, occasionally including meat or fish. And we ate lots of vegetables, including all types of cabbage as there are cauliflower, white cabbage, red cabbage, savoy cabbage, Brussels sprouts, and in winter, kale, but only occasionally sauerkraut. Lentils, peas, and carrots were also high on the list.

The rare meat consisted of breaded pork chops or small hamburgers known in Berlin as Bouletten, which is why my mother called them Berliner Bällchen. When visiting grandma, my children's favorite dish was fried potatoes, a fried egg, and spinach.

In 1933, the Nazis decreed the so-called Sonntagseintopf (Stew Sunday), obliging citizens to cook a simple dish on Sundays.

Our family did not have Eintopf on Sundays but once a week. The money saved in this way had to be collected and donated to the Winter Relief Organization (WHW), short for Winterhilfswerk).

I was raised on Westphalian and Berlin food. Later, I learned German food is inedible and only beaten by English cooking.

Der Spiegel recently published an article: Was soll denn "deutsche Küche" sein? (What is "German cuisine" supposed to be?)

James Gillray
Let me confirm once and for all: There is no German cuisine, and although we are called krauts, sauerkraut isn’t our national dish even when Ludwig Uhland, one of our romantic poets, spread the sauerkraut myth in 1815:

Auch unser edles Sauerkraut,
Wir wollen‘s nicht vergessen
Ein Deutscher hat’s zuerst gebaut,
Drum ist’s ein deutsches Essen.
Our noble sauerkraut, too,
We don't want to forget.
A German prepared it first,
That's why it is a German food.

Choucroute Royale en Alsace (©L‘Alsace Royale)
Actually, the French and Belgians consume significantly larger quantities of sauerkraut on average than we Germans.

Do you remember the Turks besieging Vienna in 1529? They brought coffee to the West. And also, in the case of sauerkraut War was the father of all things*, i.e., fermented cabbage.
*Herodot, fragments B 53: ἦθος ἀνθρώπῳ δαίμων.

The troops of the Mongol ruler Batu Khan defeated a Polish-German army of knights at Liegnitz, Silesia, in 1241. The victors may have initially spread cabbage pickling in that Slavic-speaking region.

So, the supposed German national dish was possibly invented by the Mongols, going back to Korean "kimchi" or Chinese "suan cai."

People like Otto Ule lamented the absence of German cuisine, "But where is our German fatherland, our German cuisine? Germans scoff at the frugality of French cuisine and the coarseness of English cuisine, but as they have no distinct nationality, they also have no national cuisine."

German cooking was and will remain regional. Every part of the country has its specialties. For example, whenever Red Baron travels, he drinks local beer or wine and eats what is offered as food in a specific region of Germany.

Here are some examples. Click on the blue links to see the pictures:


One of the musts in Hamburg is Finkenwerder Speckscholle (a plaice baked in finely diced bacon) served with a potato salad. As a dessert, you eat Hamburger Rote Grütt (red berry groats here with vanilla ice cream instead of the original vanilla custard).

Grünkohl (kale) is well-known in Germany's north. While traveling with a group, I had kale in Hamburg. Freiburg organizes a traditional kale dinner for all those Nordlichters (northern lights is a mocking name for people from Germany's north).

Finally, the real Bratkartoffeln (fried potatoes) are found in the north of Germany. Red Baron devoted a particular blog to the various ways of frying potatoes.


While in Berlin, I had Kohlroulade (stuffed cabbage roulade), roasted Blutwurst (black pudding), and Erbsensuppe (pea soup).

Berlin is well known for its Currywurst. Here, you may read about its history.


Reibekuchen (potato fritters) are a must in Cologne. 

The Halve Hahn (half a cook) served in the shadow of the famous cathedral may shock you. It is only a chunk of medium-aged Dutch cheese and a Röggelchen.

Another specialty in the region is the Rheinisches Schwarzbrot (Rhenish black bread).


In Bavaria, the famous dish is roast pork with crackling, red cabbage, and potato dumplings

I had the typical Weißwurst with a white beer in Augsburg.


In Little Paris, I had Frittiertes Ur-Krostitzer Bierfleisch mit Kümmel, Knoblauch, Bratkartoffeln und Zwiebeln (Deep-fried Ur-Krostitzer beer meat with caraway, garlic, and fried potatoes with onions Leipzig). The meal was topped off with Sächsischen Quarkkeulchen (Saxon chops made from curd cheese and sides).


Red Baron wrote a blog about Thuringian food he had at Weimar. There is Thüringer Sauerbraten mit Rotkohl und Thüringer Kartoffelklößen (Thuringian sauerbraten with red cabbage and Thuringian potato dumplings). Famous is  the Thüringer Bratwurst (Thuringian bratwurst). The Zwiebelsuppe (onion soup) differs from the one served in France. Thüringer Rostbrätel (a marinated cutlet of pig neck, grilled over charcoal with roasted onions and a dumpling) is delicious.

The Ratskeller also serves a delicious Rindsroulade (beef olive).

You can eat Wiener-style breaded schnitzels with French fries anywhere in Germany (Freiburg, Westphalia) all year round, but this is not a German dish. Please note that an authentic Wiener Schnitzel is made from veal and is rarely found on German menus.

Asparagus is seasonal and grown everywhere. The Germans, along with Red Baron, are crazy about white asparagus. Here is a blog about some aberrations. The area around Freiburg is a particular growing region. Due to the warm weather, overpriced white asparagus is expected as early as Easter this year.

During the chanterelle season in fall, which each year starts earlier due to climate change, this mushroom is served in cream sauce all over Germany. Red Baron hates cream sauce but loves chanterelles sautées with chopped bacon and onions. Here, I had them in Hamburg, Potsdam, Assmannshausen on the Rhine, and as a starter in Freiburg.

Friday, March 8, 2024

Herwig Schopper

Professor Herwig Schopper, my director general at CERN from 1981 to 1988, turned 100. So, it was natural that the Organization arranged a seminar on the occasion and in his honor.

One of the speakers called it a Herwigfest.
I was among those who asked to attend the presentations at the main auditorium online, and CERN granted me the privilege.

Herwig Schopper was born on February 28, 1924, in Landskron, formerly Sudetenland, now Czechia.

How did he become 100 years old?

Herwig's children and Prof. Albrecht Wagner of DESY started showing many slides shedding light on Prof. Schopper's private and scientific life. Other friends and colleagues followed with their contributions. I present a few of those self-explaining slides, although some have comments. Click the slides to enlarge!

Here, Herwig is seen with the still-popular German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt,
who died in 2016 at the age of 97!
Following his deep-digging scientific talk,
American Nobel Prize winner Prof. Samuel Ting handed Herwig a T-shirt.
Another former DG of CERN, Chris Llewellyn Smith, informed
the audience about Prof. Schopper's achievements during his mandate.
During a sabbatical at CERN, American Noble Price winner Burt Richter
worked out a proposal for a high-energy electron-positron collider.
In his talk, Chris Fabjan presented Herwig's most excellent hallmarks.
Superconducting cavities are a must for a Large Electron Positron ring.

Circulating electrons and positrons lose energy in the form of synchrotron radiation. RF cavities must continuously feed them with energy to keep them in orbit. Energy-saving superconducting RF cavities come in handy.

Red Baron was involved in the construction of LEP. In many meetings, the local population and the French and Swiss authorities had to be convinced that no radiation would escape into the environment, as shielding calculations proved. In particular, I enjoyed my frequent trips to Paris and the animated discussions with French colleagues and experts in radiation protection.
A rich harvest: The LEP experiments discovered
both the Z and the W bosons that mediate the weak interaction.

When the construction of a Superconducting Super Collider was discussed in the United States ...
... came prompt: A Large Hadron Collider should fit in the existing LEP tunnel.
While Herwig Schopper was CERN's DG, there were more highlights.
When Red Baron, who participated in the initial LHC planning, was forced into retirement (mit 65 ist Schluss!) in July 2000, Prof. Schopper campaigned to establish an International Center for Synchrotron Radiation for Experimental Applications in the Middle East (SESAME).

Take note of the partly enemy countries.
The aim was to promote science in the Middle East and contribute to peacemaking.

This was achieved under the umbrella of UNESCO, following the example of CERN. A site for the project was chosen in Jordan.

A medal well deserved
Another medal
After chairing the planning committee, Herwig was president of the SESAME Council from 2004 to 2008.
For the project, Germany donated the magnets from the dismantled BESSY,
the Berlin Source of Synchrotron radiation, and had them shipped to Jordan.

CERN's present DG, Fabiola Gianotti, congratulated Professor Schopper after the lectures. Both are music lovers, but they differ in their musical tastes.
Congratulations came via the Internet... 
... and the jubilarian watched attentively
The Fest seminar ended with the Heisenberg Medal being awarded to Prof. Schopper.
Here is the certificate ...
... here is the medal.
I want to join the seminar participants and wish Prof Schopper all the best for the years to come.