Category Archives: Needed to be said

Die Hacker sind an gar nichts schuld

Sehr geehrte Damen und Herren beim Deutschlandfunk,

seit Tagen berichten Sie immer wieder von dem Angriff auf die IT-Systeme des Deutschen Bundestags. Während ich der Berichterstattung bislang nur äußerst wenige technische Details zu Art und Umfang des Angriffs entnehmen konnte, ist mir aufgefallen, dass Sie regelmäßig von „Hackern“ sprechen, die den Angriff ausgeführt haben sollen. Während es nach meinem aktuellen Kenntnisstand nicht gänzlich auszuschließen ist, dass dem tatsächlich so gewesen sein könnte, halte ich es doch für äußerst unrealistisch, und bitte Sie, von dieser unbegründeten Anschuldigung in Zukunft Abstand zu halten.

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Bitte mehr Blasphemie im Deutschlandfunk

Sehr geehrter Intendant,

ein Blick in Ihr heutiges (18. August 2012) Sendeprogramm des Deutschlandfunks veranlasst mich zu entsetztem Kopfschütteln.

Gestern hatte in Russland der korrupte Filz aus Kirche und Staat wieder einmal eine seiner grässlichsten Fratzen gezeigt und die drei russischen Künstlerinnen und politischen Aktivistinnen Nadeschda Tolokonnikowa, Marija Aljochina und Jekaterina Samuzewitsch wurden mit einer mehr als fadenscheinigen Begründung zu jeweils zwei Jahren Straflager verurteilt, weil sie es gewagt hatten, sich in einer Kirche so zu benehmen, wie man es „nicht tut“ — Ihr Programm hat ausführlich darüber berichtet. Continue reading

Children Helplessly Facing the Dangers of the new Medium Called the Internet

This blog post is inappropriate for people under 99.

Yesterday, the “Boulevard Baden‘s” cover page – a gratis printed newspaper spamming the mailboxes in my city every Sunday – was showing the headline “Minderjährige beim Online-‘Strip[minor (female form, eds. note) “stripping” online]. Next to it a huge photograph of a little girl using a laptop.

Usually, such an article wouldn’t call for any comment and anyone voluntarily reading it had nobody to blame but himself. This is also true for this case. However, I read the article on my way from the mailbox to the trashcan and it combined so many stereotypes and examples of poor newspaper writing that I felt like writing a response.

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Solvent Drunk Ideas on a Common Afternoon

A couple of things that are quite fun to try on a dragging afternoon in the lab:

  • Explain how a laboratory centrifuge works without using the term “centrifugal force”.
  • Give a proper explanation why and how a cooling mixture of dry ice (CO2(s)) in isopropyl alcohol works pretty good while dry ice in water gives a rather poor coolant.
  • Determine if (or under which circumstances) it is a good idea to externally warm a fractionating column including a Vigreux condenser with a fan.
  • Think of what is going on when the temperature of an oil bath of a distilling apparatus is increased while it is already above the boiling point of the liquid inside.
  • Give proper explanation of the processes linked to a rotary evaporator. (Pressure is of special interest.)
  • Pour ether on your desk and set it on fire.

Lab Report

I had this discussion again and again. Some minutes ago, I had it again. Now that’s too often. Here is a little correct — incorrect cheat sheet. I hope it helps making the world a better place. (I know it doesn’t.)

I’m asked to carry out an experiment / measurement for educational purpose.

  • Browse the web for a step-by-step instruction and follow it step by step.
  • Try to understand what’s to be measured and think of a smart way to achieve this. (Literature research can really help!)

I got a result.

  • Go home and have some beer.
  • Check the result for plausibility and repeat the experiment to become sure of reproducibility.

I get no plausible result or the results don’t fit together.

  • Repeat the experiment until the end of day as often as possible.
  • Search for possible errors in the experimental setup and repeat the experiment with them removed.

I have an awful lot of data showing a realistic mean value but there are some quite weired results in it and the standard deviation is ridiculously high.

  • Choose three or four values that fit nicely together, make the highest one a little lower and the lowest one a little higher and drop the rest of the datapoints.
  • Run an outliers test on the data list, drop outliers for further evaluation of the result but keep them mentioned in the report. (At least their number.) If the standard deviation is still too high, carry out another experiment and—if nothing helps—point out the high uncertainty in the discussion of the results.

I can’t do any better within my possibilities but simply can’t obtain a good result.

  • Try to have a quick glance at the lab assistant’s notebook for the “correct” results or look it up elsewhere. If nothing helps: Guess some “better” result and write the report using this data instead of the actually measured values.
  • Write the report as best as you can pointing out that the experiment failed and discuss why this might have happened.

The lab assistant doesn’t honor my honest report and only focuses on the missing result.

  • Remember and be less honest next time.
  • Stab down lab assistant.

But my colleagues, who cheat on their results, get good marks and the assistant asks me, why I can’t do as good as them.

  • Learn from them to improve your marks.
  • Talk to them. If that doesn’t help: Try cold water. If nothing helps: Stab down colleagues.

Why should I do all this?

  • Who said you’d have to?
  • Wouldn’t that be much more appropriate for you than studying science?