Thursday, April 22, 2010

What happened after the big bang? Men can't tell, women can't imagine

For a short time after the big bang we don't know anything of what happened. This short period of time is called the Planck time. It lasted for the tiniest fraction of a second, but still, we don't know.... After this teeny weeny part of the first second gravitation decoupled itself mysteriously from the united force (no, not the one in Star Wars).
Why am I telling you this? It is just to show, that I am not the only woman who lacks a certain imagination of abstraction. Here is a bon mot from the astrobiology professor (obviously female):
  • Professorin: Nach der Planckzeit separieren sich die Urkräfte und die Gravitation koppelt sich zuerst ab.
  • Student: Wie hat man sich die Abkoppelung anschaulich vorzustellen?
  • Professorin (leicht entsetzer Gesichtsausdruck): Das kann man sich nicht vorstellen! Ich hab schon Schwierigkeiten bei einem Phasendiagramm für Wasser!

I'm not alone. Sigh.....

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Daytrip to Frankfurt's Senckenberg Museum

Easter sunday we spent a day in Frankfurt (mainly because I wanted to see the hominid exhibition). When we arrived at the Senckenberg Museum we were sent away again "the special exhibition is just around the corner!". When we turned around the corner the first thing we saw was a hastily put up container building.
And indeed, it housed the exhibition called 'Safari zum Urmensch' ( Yes, it looks terrifying, but the interior was quite ok:

The exhibiton was quite modern and not too scientific, still it explained the principles of the work of anthropologists quite well (from digging up fossils over dating methods to laser technology for 3D editing).
A unique dating method in which one looks at the change in pig molars (which obviously changed very distinctive and rapidly):

Although a lot of the fossils and all (!) of the Palaeolithic art they exhibited were replicas some fossils were really impressive:

Ida, the oldest primate, Darwinius masillae (Grube Messel)

Proconsul, Kenia

Paranthropus aethiopicus, Lake Turkana (look at that beautiful crest of his)

The description of the fossils lacked detail and some English explanations would have been welcome. Well, I guess the braille used too much space already. There also was  not a single mention of the hobbit (Homo floreniensis). How come? This important hominin was discovered seven years ago (!) and the exhibition claimed to be on the crest of the most recent discoveries. Of course I didn't expect the Denisova hominin to be mentioned, although it would have been a nice surprise.

Bottom line: good for a nice stroll through the container, good for kids who are interested in 'ape-men', people who are interested in anthropology (e.g. if you know that the hobbit lived not only in Middle Earth but also in Indonesia) save your money and go to visit the new permanent exhibiton at the Smithsonian National Museum, Washington DC.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Happy Easter!

By the way, to meet the demand in Easter eggs in Germany, eggs are imported from all over Europe. Most are coming from cozy places like this:
Ahh the true spirit of Easter...