Archive for August, 2010


Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

Clear visibility – road sign in front of trees

There is currently a not so easy discussion about the ambiguity of perception in the comment section of the post about dripping pains. Thinking about the ambiguity of perception I was asking myself why I had heard a lot about protests against windfarms (see e.g. this website) but for example not so much about protests against the visual (and sometimes auditive) pollution of advertisements.

Wind farms are rather loud and ugly and it would certainly be nicer to have a landscape without them, however the alternative is apart maybe from solar energy usually much, much uglier or dangerous (like to have a nuclear power plant instead). I am asking myself wether beople don’t see that these are the (more or less only) alternatives to wind farms or wether they really prefer to choose e.g. a nuclear power plant (see e.g. this and/or this randform post) over a wind farm.

Moreover one has some flexibility in installing a windfarm, like one should be able to find a compromise in order not to install it right next to a concert hall, just as one usually builts wind farms a little away from streets in order to ensure the safety of traffic.

And as I said already for some strange reason not so much protest is heard about the pollution of advertisement and their danger in traffic. The images (top and bottom) illustrate how advertisements may or may not draw the attention of a traffic participant away from street signals and signs.

How dangerous are advertisements like of this kind where the stop lights are almost invisible? (high resolution)

air condition

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

Tim just reported that the server at Technical University of Berlin is down. The reason may be that THIS solution of which we think is a construction on top of the math building hasn’t worked out in the long run.

about competition, part II

Thursday, August 12th, 2010


In an earlier randform post I tried to give some motivations on why one should see “competitions” more critical.

For the major aspects of a competition I identified – as mentioned in the post – the existence of a “measure scale” and the fact that a choice is made according to that measure scale. Note that with that identification a choice with an “undefinable measure scale” (like if there are too many sorting criteria with eventually uncomparable values) would rather not count as a “competition”. Maybe these cases should then rather be simply called “selections”. Psychological aspects like in particular motivation were also mentioned in the post.

It is important to mention two more aspects which appear in the context of a competition. These are the questions on “how much is at stake” and “to what extend are participants forced into a competition” . These two aspects are usually not independent.

how much is at stake?
If a you train half of your life for winning a running competition at the Olympic games than “a lot is at stake” at that one particular running competition where your perfomance decides wether you have reached that goal or not. If your company needs to “win” one particular contract in order to survive you would say “a lot is at stake”. If you eventually ruin your or others health by taking part in a contest than “a lot is at stake”. If you play a game of scrabble with your buddies than usually there is “not so much at stake”. That is in this case there won’t be any severe changes/losses taking place which are dependent on the outcome of the competition.

Moreover it is usually true that “the more there is at stake, the fiercer the competition”.

In the last randform competition post I wrote about the negative aspects of a too fierce competition. So in order to mitigate the danger of a too fierce competition it is important to assess that for all participants there is “not too much at stake.” Apart from private considerations this is important for the field of science, as well as for business and politics. In an earlier randform post it was in particular mentioned that a fierce competition in science where the selection criteria is wether “a certain result is achieved first” can be problematic. This specific “result-oriented competition” neglects other criteria such as e.g. how elegantly or clearly the investigations leading to a result had been presented, how much the involved methodologies and themes influence other areas, to what extend the involved research encompassed educational and public value, how high the costs were, how equal the working conditions were a.s.o. A fierce business competition may lead e.g. to exploitation, unethical/half criminal behaviour and negligence (see last randform competition post). In politics it may lead e.g. to unfairness.

Note that the reverse conclusion namely “the fiercer the competition, the more is at stake” is not necessarily true. Often psychological components may lead to a fierce competition, where this is wouldn’t be necessary. A sad example of such dynamics was the recent death at the finnish sauna world competition.

If the fierceness of a competition is due to such psychological components it is often easier to mitigate than if there is too much at stake. Here independent observers and helpers can be of great use, moreover in some cases an interference of independent observers should be seen as a duty (like e.g. for the case of the Sauna death). In science this could be for example done by something like an “Ombudsman.”

If there is “too much at stake” then interference is often difficult. Thus one should try to avoid such competitions or -like in sports- impose strong regulations and control.

To what extend are people forced into a competition?

If you choose voluntarily to take part in a competition than you have a “navigation space”, i.e. you can decide for yourself of how “far you would go”, how much you want to invest in the competition etc. If the participaton at a competition is not fully voluntary then things may get nasty, since in such a case you can’t e.g. just quit the competition if it gets too fierce for you.

A participation at a competition can be less voluntarily if there are e.g. economic constraints, which can also be seen as something that “is at stake”. Thus for example architectural competitions may be seen critical if these are more or less the only possible sources of income. That is if you are an architectural office which has a couple of little contracts than you may eventually dare to take part in a midsize competition, however if the overall competition is so big that you “have” to win an architectural competition in order to exist, then again a lot is at stake. Likewise it is problematic if the labour market is getting more and more “competition-oriented” (see e.g. the competitions concerning the job market in software development and research mentioned in the randform post about jobs). This is especially problematic as the overal competition grows due to a declining labour market (see again the randform post about jobs).

Economic constraints are of course not the only possibilities why people are forced into a competition. Like there may be again psychological factors, as they often occur in group dynamics or in a hierarchy. For example power games, which may go as far as to abuse (see also this randform comment) often lead to such psychological enforcements. In some way some wars may be seen in such away. Like during old European wars of succession subjects were often forced by nobles to take part in a succession “competition”/war.

nuclear dangers

Friday, August 6th, 2010


I would like to link to an older randform post comemorating Hiroshima and Nagasaki and in particular mentioning the Monju nuclear reactor which is meanwhile working again and whose new fast breeder prototype is expected to open in 2025 (randform on nuclear technology (part 1 and part 2) and in particular on fast breeders).

My wish to link to this post is not only due to the anniversary of the bombings but unfortunately also due to the recent danger of nuclear pollution in russia caused by wildfires. So e.g. by looking at the german news from novosti (I couldn’t find an english or russian version of this article on novosti) about the fires there is currently the danger that the fires going west and south (to Brjansk, Tula and Lipezk) may release radioactive particles into the air.

The wildfires seem -at least in part- to be due to a reform of forest surveillance/maintanance. From an article in gazeta:

«До реформы законодательства 2007-2008 годов существовала государственная лесная охрана. Леса делились на обходы, которые были закреплены за конкретным сотрудником – фактически это и был классический лесник. Он знал свою территорию, патрулировал ее и любые нарушения пресекал. После реформы лесхозы объединили в лесничества. Нынешние лесничества включают в себя иногда 4-5 лесхозов. При этом число сотрудников сократилось», – рассказывает Захаров. Сейчас, по словам Захарова, лесничий просто не успевает патрулировать огромные территории леса, кроме того, должен выполнять много «бумажной работы».

translation without guarantee:

Until the legislative reforms dating to the years 2007-2008 there existed a state-run forest protection. The forest was partitioned into ward rounds, which were enforced by concrete workers – effectively by the classic forest superintendent. He (what’s with female forest workers?) knew about his territory, was patroling in it and remedy any incident. After the reforms the leskhosi were joined in lesnitshestvos. The present day lesnitshestvos include 4-5 leskhosi. Apart from this the number of workers was reduced, says Sakharov. Today according to Sakharov, the forest workers just don’t succeed in patroling those vast forest territories, apart from this they have to do a lot of “paper work”.

(-> for comparision: optimization reforms underway in nuclear energy)

At this place one should mention that the air pollution caused by the wildfires is already quite harmful to health. Last but not least one can expect that e.g. the levels of mercury in russian air are higher than before. (->see e.g. an older study by the atmospheric modeling research group together with the GKSS Research Center in Geesthacht and the semi-private research project CARIBIC.) However a pollution with radioactive particles would probably much more harmful.

So lets hope that the russian firefighters can keep the fire away !!!

->further videos and infos from russian firefighters
->not sure how good these firefighting songs may help.

What would happen if those plans about a nuclear reactor grid in russia should become future?