Monday, September 30, 2019

Freiburger Kippa-Tag

@Jüdische Gemeinde Freiburg
Yesterday Freiburg's Jewish Community organized its first Day of the Kippah.

Irina Katz addressing the crowd assembled in front of the New Synagogue
Irina Katz, chairwoman of Freiburg’s Jewish community, even claimed that it was the first Kippa-Tag in Baden-Württemberg.

Facing Freiburg's New Synagogue, the assembled people
listen to Felix Rottenberger and Irina Katz
We participants protested against a resurgence of antisemitism in Germany. Antisemitism gets stronger in other European countries too. In France, thousands of Jews already left the country for Israel.

Nip it in the bud! In Germany, people wearing the kippah in the street were verbally aggressed, spat at, and sometimes physically attacked. Walking from Freiburg’s New Synagogue to the Square of the Old Synagogue, we wore the kippah as a symbol of tolerance against xenophobia and exclusion.

In front of the memorial of the Old Synagogue, Irina Katz is at the microphone; behind are
the orators Mayor Martin Horn and City Counselors Simon Waldenspuhl and Monika Stein
Antisemitism has developed into a complex conglomerate of old Christian sentiments against the Jews as formulated by the Church Fathers - later ”modernized” by Martin Luther - mixed with the rejection of the Israeli settlement policy in Palestine.

In our far away societies, the sympathy for Israel’s struggle for survival clashes with the rejection of the Palestinian population's treatment by the Jewish State. This dilemma frequently leads to a new form of antisemitism, nourished in Germany largely by our Islamic fellow citizens.

At the Square of the Old Synagogue, a listening crowd
At the rally at the Square of the Old Synagogue, City Counselor Simon Waldenspuhl demanded that Freiburg cut its partnership with the Iranian city of Isfahan. While a murmur passed through the audience, Red Baron and another guy spontaneously shouted Nein.

Later I discussed with the orator and accused him of hypocrisy. Although having comprehensively spoken against exclusion, he excluded the citizens of Isfahan. Freiburg has always understood its sisterships as a vehicle of making personal contacts, getting to know our partner cities' people, but never as a political connection.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019


Shaping Freiburg Digitally! was the title of a workshop last November. The officials had asked their citizens to help to describe and subsequently determine Freiburg’s digital future, a laudable undertaking. Here are the guiding principles ...

... and here were the topics to be discussed at the workshop in groups:

Red Baron went to the workshop and attended the working group on education, science, and culture only to suffer from a massive presence of highschool teachers asking for a faster Internet and demanding free tablets for their schools.

The official chairpersons of the working groups had to draft proposals for the attention of the city council. These papers were to be discussed and refined at a later date.

So in July of this year, during a meeting called "Check-Up" printed copies of the drafts were pinned to the wall and studied by the persons present. We were asked to garnish the papers with colored stickers annotating the content and style of the documents.

Once all comments had been glued to our draft on education, science, and culture, the discussion started. This turned out to be tedious for one lady kept harping on the harmful biological effects of the high frequencies of the new 5G mobile standard.

My knowledge so far was that of a mere thermal effect on human tissue. I was seconded in my view by another physicist present. The lady continued to pest, eventually admitting that she was a homeopath. At that point, I was carried away, remarking, “That explains everything.” Back home, I decided to give the 5th Generation a closer look.

According to experts on the biological effects of electromagnetic radiation, radio waves become "safer" at higher frequencies and therefore are not more dangerous than those of lower frequencies. Notabene, this is not true for extremely high-frequency radiation, as there are UV, X-, or gamma-rays. They indeed interact differently with the human body and pose a health risk.

For radio waves in the 5G frequency band, the skin acts as a barrier, shielding the internal organs from exposure, including the brain. “This kind of radiation doesn’t penetrate,” says Christopher M. Collins, professor of radiology at New York University, who studies the effect of high-frequency electromagnetic waves on humans.

This is the reason that in cities a 5G service requires the placement of many antenna towers because walls, buildings, rain, leaves and other objects will block the high-frequency signals. The human skin absorbs 5G signals delivering thermal energy to the surrounding tissue.

Imagine all those people panicked by angst throwing their mobile phones away
(Found on Facebook).
The adversaries of 5G, however, believe in damaging effects of any electromagnetic fields on cell membranes, on mitochondria - the energy suppliers of cells -, and even on the DNA of body cells resulting in mutations, a weakened immune system and ultimately an increased risk of cancer.

The City of Freiburg placed us in immediate danger
by offering free WiFi4Fr in the conference room.
The authorities, the Ministry of Health in Stuttgart and the Ministry of Environment in Berlin, both led by Green ministers, are waving their hands. "There are no health-relevant effects below the current limits," assures the Ministry of Health in Stuttgart.

Berlin's Ministry of Environment confirms that according to the present state of knowledge, there is no scientifically loadable reference to the endangerment of humans, animals, and plants by high-frequency electromagnetic fields below the official limits.

The editor-in-chief of the quarterly journal Reviews on Environmental Health, Dr. Carpenter, wrote in 2013, “The rapid increase in the use of cellphones increases risk of cancer, male infertility, and neurobehavioral abnormalities,” although so far mainstream scientists continue to see no evidence of harm from cellphone radio waves.

“If phones are linked to cancer, we’d expect to see a marked uptick,” David Robert Grimes, a cancer researcher at the University of Oxford, recently wrote in The Guardian. “Yet we do not.”

However, Dr. Carpenter defended his high-frequency view. “You have all this evidence that cellphone radiation penetrates the brain,” he said, but then he conceded after some discussion that the increasingly high frequencies of 5G could, in fact, have a difficult time entering the human body and acknowledged, “maybe it’s not that big a deal.”

In Germany, the tone has become rougher concerning the health effects of 5G frequencies. Scientists are declared "counterfeiters" and "liars," politicians "ignorant," or "corporate lackeys."

Once again German angst is the driving force behind such tantrum as the head of the Fraunhofer Institute for Physical Measurement Techniques (IPM) in Freiburg, Karsten Buse, suspects. He calls the uproar the Nocebo effect, the opposite of the placebo effect, "I'm afraid it's hurting me - so it's hurting me" and continues "The word radiation alone reminds people of X-rays or irradiation by radioactive materials."

Buse is in an expert in the field. At the beginning of his academic career, he dealt with people's fear of electrosmog when they meant high-voltage lines or post office transmitter masts. "Angst is a health burden, you have to take it seriously," Buse concedes. But he also says, "I regard the fear that is spread as completely exaggerated. There are many millions of mobile phone users - some already for a long time - who undergo a daily self-experiment using their mobile phones; this should have been reflected epidemiologically, but it hasn't, especially not in the cancer registry. Non-ionising radiation cannot alter individual atoms or molecules, destroy genetic material, or cause cancer."

The critics, however, want a moratorium, a halt to 5G expansion until further studies bring clarity. An Action Alliance "Freiburg 5G-free" intends to achieve this through a residents' meeting for Freiburg.

Martin Horn only slightly looking enthusiastic (©BZ).
Here members of the Action Alliance present Mayor Martin Horn a list of signatures requesting a residents' meeting at which the endangerment of the population by mobile radio waves, especially in connection with 5G, is discussed. They had to collect 2500 signatures and reached the quorum with ease: 3875 names are on their list. According to the city administration, the residents' meeting will take place on 13 November.

Concerned citizens elsewhere have already achieved a moratorium, e.g., in the canton of Geneva. In April Belgians stopped a 5G pilot project for the EU capital Brussels.

Regarding the health effects of cell phones, Red Baron sees those coming up for future generations in a few years. Young mothers pushing their strollers with one hand while texting with the other, teens glued to the screens watching the latest music video, younger children playing on their mobile phones shoot-em-up games, they all bend their necks excessively.

Medical student become orthopaedists! A job with an assured future.

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