Friday, June 29, 2012

Tsukuba's KEK

KEK or more properly 'High Energy Accelerator Research Organization' (高エネルギー加速器研究機構 Kō Enerugī Kasōki Kenkyū Kikō), is the largest particle research laboratory in Japan.

They have a nifty particle accelerator which is used by many other research institutes like high energy physics, radiation science, structural biology and many more and of course Tsukuba's own research labs. This is the site of the Tsukuba campus. There is everything from a Proton Factory to the accelerator per se (the large ring you can see on KEK's simulation).

Thanks to P's friend we got a tour around the campus which was tremendously interesting.  Look at these huge quadrupole magnets to focus the beams, so that when beams collide more particles are involved in the collision.

magnets in action:

My favourite part of the KEK, however, was the  'dumping' ring. 'Dumping' is how it is pronounced in Japanese (and even written so on KEK's webpage); and at first I thought 'hey, what are they dumping there? some particle waste?' It took me a while to realize that they actually mean a damping ring. Which made much more sense than a huge circular dumping area :)) (although there actually is a beam dump somewhere; don't ask me for specifics).
A moving charged particle (for example an electron) vibrates to a certain degree. This vibrating energy is converted into electro-magnetic energy and emitted in form of visible or infrared light. This is what is called radiation damping and what is done in the damping ring. The goal is to get a very stable beam, no vibrations whatsoever involved.

This is the damping ring:

Not everything is dead-serious at the KEK facility. They still have some humour left. If I was to be reborn as a particle, I want to be a slepton or maybe a spartacus :)

After all the physics we deserved some lovely vegetable stew at a nice family restaurant with our friend. Yum-yum!

And if this was too much physics today, I hope the next entry will make up for your patience, because we will not only climb a he-mountain, but also a she-mountain.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Widdershins - Time to visit Japan

After a long but pleasant flight (Japanese airlines -in this case ANA- are the best!) we arrived in Narita and were lucky to immediately get a bus to Tsukuba. A friend of P is working on his Ph.D. thesis in Tsukuba (つくば) and so we went there for a couple of days.

Waiting for the bus:

About half an hour later we could check in at our hotel, the Okura Frontier Hotel. Not a beauty to look at, but very convenient. Very close to bus, underground, and shopping malls. It also has a nice bakery shop on the lower floor :)

The backside is not much better :(

When P's friend Ma arrived on his bike he had to park it properly in a bicycle parking lot. You even have to pay for it like in a car park :( 

Since it was already late we went to one of the shopping malls and had some food at one of the restaurants in the food court. It was a 'Spanish' restaurant (of which I don't remember the name anymore) and I thought it to be awesome. We had fried rice, vegetables, patatas bravas and these super delicious rolls with sweet-and-sour sauce:

A have a closer look at the cherry-tomato rose! Isn't that beautiful?

Tomorrow we are looking at really fast things at the KEK and some Japanese stew!

Monday, June 18, 2012

A short visit to Newcastle: the Great North Museum, Hancock

I had one day left, so I went to Newcastle to view the museum. I was there before but years ago, so I was quite keen to see what had changed.
I admit, the building of the Great North Museum is not the most attractive one, but inside, it was completely remodeled. so I had lots of fun walking through the different galleries.

I found something for the ladies (put together from different sources and some replica beads):

 Appollo, altar dedicated by Gaius of the Second Cohort of Nervians (found at Whitley Castle Fort):

Relief from a water tank showing Venus washing her hair with nymphes holding a towel and fresh water in a jug (High Rochester Fort):

It is not easy to exhibit the complete Roman Wall; but the Great North Museum mastered it brilliantly with a quite impressive  scale model of Hadrian's Wall; it is not only interactive but along the different stations and forts are actual find items to look at.

A modern looking chair in the Egyptian section (18th Dynasty):

The Palaeontology section. Isn't that just beautiful? The hand (foot) print of a Cheirotherium reptile (Cheirotherium means 'handbeast'):

Giant deer and other animals that lived during the Mesolithic:

Street art:

The medieval town wall of Newcastle:

More street art :)

But now enough of archaeology (at least for a short while) because as soon as I got home I packed my suitcase anew. And this time P, C, and myself had big plans. But that's another story.

Where the wild things are - a visit to Durham

Some time in March I went to Durham for a conference called 'Where The Wild Things Are'


The conference was not about Maurice Sendak's brilliant book for children but rather about recent research into the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic. It was a very good and interesting conference, I learnt a lot about the Palaeolithic within a very nice atmosphere. It was way to short for my liking. At least I could spend a day in Durham sightseeing and visiting the Oriental Museum and also the Old Fulling Mill archaeology museum.

Durham Cathedral as seen on my way to uni where the conference took place:

The River Wear:

There must have been a fulling mill as early as the 12th century, since the mill dam is mentioned that early. Fulling is the beating and cleaning of wool cloth in water to make a dense fabric of high quality. From the two mills in the 16th century only one is left and now houses the archaeology museum.

Typical British rock art: cups and rings :) (found during ploughing at Fulforth Farm, Witton Gilbert in 1995)

I loved this horned figure of a Romano-Celtic god from the Roman fort Bremenium (High Rochester).

The upper floor was wholly dedicated to wool; from ancient breeds to wool making and felting to modern exhibits made of wool like this environmentally friendly 'coffin'.

Red telephone box, postbox, rubbish box ...

The castle keep - I was really lucky with the weather :)

The River Wear:

The Elvet Bridge not far from the hotel I stayed:

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Germany's most favourite spring food: asparagus

In light of recent events I will delay my stories about the place where the wild things are and will turn to some more urgent food matters.

Germany’s favourite spring food is white asparagus. There is no region where they don’t have a special asparagus which is so much better than all the one from all the other areas in Germany. Even I, who am not very fond of white asparagus, have to prepare some dishes now and then; this year I made everything thinkable: from asparagus with pancakes and sauce hollandaise over asparagus lasagna and asparagus pesto to asparagus salad.  But these two recipes were my favourites from this season. The first one is a recipe from Pflanzenlust Blog. It is actually a very simple recipe, but with an astonishing twist. The asparagus is seasoned with salt and then tightly wrapped in baking paper with some butter/margarine and lemon slices. After 15-20 min in the oven it is ready and believe me, quite explosive to your taste buds. The sauce is made from a large cooked floury potato mixed with half oat milk and vegetable broth and fresh herbs (I used wild garlic). I served it with potatoes and a vegan 'schnitzel' for P and C.

The second one is an old friend, a recipe I posted some time ago on my blog. This time I used linguine, added some semi-dried tomatoes and used lemon instead of lime.

But back to the recent event. On June, 24th there is Midsummer's eve or Johanni (St. John's eve) and with it ends the asparagus season. 
Which isn't that bad at all. We had plenty of time to eat white and green asparagus and now new delights are ready to be transformed into delicious meals. Since it is a very old holiday which, being a festival of the sun (summer solstice), goes back beyond the Iron Age and consists of feasting (there is an abundance of food right now and in Sweden herring is also important with the fishing season in the Baltic Sea from March to April therefore even by putting it in brine it has to go now), drinking (the wine and beer cellars had to be cleared for the next harvest) and being merry (the month of March was thought to be especially favourable for giving birth). The Christian church tried to take away all these heathen happiness and made Midsummer the day for the celebration of the birth of St. John the baptist. Often the church forbade poles, bonfires, dancing, and drinking at this time of the year. However, as you can see from this IKEA video their efforts were in vain:

So if you are preparing a special dish for Midsummer's eve, please let me know and I will tell you
mine :)

A visit to Hamburg - the old Elbe Tunnel and the 'Museum für Völkerkunde' (ethnology)

As you have noticed I suffer a bit from 'bloggers block' even though I have loads of beautiful photos and stories to tell. However, I discovered a strategy on the net against writer's block:
Force yourself to write down something, however poorly worded ...
I thought, hey, you can do that! A poorly worded blog entry, why not? So here it comes, a poorly worded ending to our Hamburg trip :)

A superb dinner at the Asian and vegan restaurant Loving Hut not too far from our hotel strengthened us for our last day in Hamburg:

We decided on having a look at the Old Elbe Tunnel and go to the ethnology museum (Museum für Völkerkunde). On our way to the Old Elbe Tunnel we saw a very nice graffiti on some stairs:

The tunnel itself was quite different as I had imagined. I thought the tunnel walls would have made a good canvas for graffiti and it would be covered over and over with some art works. So it came quite as a surprise:

a bit clinical, don't you think? But it can't be helped for the moment; at least there were some animals which accompanied you on your trip beneath the river Elbe:

Not far from the exit and entrance, respectively, are the Landungsbrücken (St. Pauli landing bridges). The water level tower built from tuffstone and adorned with Arthur Bock's (a German sculptor) allegoric sculptures of the four winds. This would obviously be the wind coming from the North:

A short break at the coffee shop Balzac (some kind of local Starbucks) with an orange spice soy latte (more like a chocolate pudding mixed with orange juice - but I'm willing to give it another try since it has got a nice atmosphere and friendly staff) gave C strength to go to yet another museum; although upon reflecting .. this is actually his first in Hamburg ...

At last we reached the ethnology museum:

Although it started as a small museum in a library it is now one of the largest ethnology museums in Europe. We were lucky and could visit the special exhibition 'emotive encounters  - nomads in a sedentary world'. They had quite some objects from Sami people, like these spoons and bowl made from reindeer:

But also the objects from the standard exhibition are quite impressive, spanning a huge time span as well as a wide geographical distribution. Some (nearly) wordless photos:

An Egyptian Naqada III bowl (ca. 3200 BC)

Nice black rim ware (Naqada I-II)

A pendant made from gold sheet from Latin America's Western Colombia (AD 200-1600)

A Chimú culture vessel (Northern Peru):

A Chimú culture round bottle with a human figure flanked by birds:

This was especially intriguing since it looks like an alien: a so-called Hareicha head dress, worn by the Gazelle peninsula inhabitants for dances. Since it is 6 to 7 m tall, men with long bamboo sticks had to stabilise the headdress of the dancer. They are a bit of a mystery though because when Papua New Guinea expert Dr. Antje Kelm showed the native  some photos of the masks (there are two left in the museum) which have been at the Vökerkundemuseum for about 100 years, they didn't recognise them at all. Maybe they are aliens after all.

 A flute from pre-contact Mexico:

Next I'm off to Durham, all on my own, i.e. archaeology!