Thursday, June 26, 2008

Seminar in Heidelberg

This lovely old villa is the Insitute for Theoretical Physics in Heidelberg where I gave a seminar yesterday.


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A very warm and welcoming place with lots of wood inside, a garden and nice people! Here are three friendly faces, from left to right: Carlo Ewerz, Eduard Thommes and Thomas Dent (Thomas D you might know from the occasional comment at this blog).


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The photo was taken from a balcony on the upper floor with a great view on the city and the river Neckar. If you peer really hard you can see the Heidelberg castle in the background.

20 comments:

Uncle Al said...

Where are the dueling scars? Martin Luther said. "Non tamen solam intendit interiorem, immo interior nulla est, nisi foris operetur varias carnis mortificationes".

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

The Heidelberg Institute is certainty a quaint looking place and one that carries the ambiance of a place we might suspect that Einstein would have been comfortable in. In contrast I would consider PI to be almost the anti or opposite of this, with its glass and steel as opposed to the stone, mortar and wood of Heidelberg. Now I would assume that from the facility standpoint, that is technically speaking, PI would have much more to offer and yet I would like to know in which environment you feel more comfortable. In having been at PI despite its modernness I find it in some respect to be a tad sterile and a little cold. That is to say I don’t see the places where a Einstein and Godel might have strolled in discussion, yet perhaps this simply reflects my age and not the reality.

Best,

Phil

robert said...

nice to see you are back to germany so soon. best,
robert

Bee said...

Hi Phil,

Yes, in terms of seminar rooms it is a bit narrow in a house. But still I prefer very much the atmosphere of that place. As you say, the PI building is very sterile an cold. It is cold actually not only in appearance but cold in terms of temperature. My office e.g. is literally always too cold for me (the visitors also mention that, so it's not my California dreaming causing it) and I can't adjust the temperature. (The guy who is responsible for that reacts very promptly on email, but it hardly has any effect.) Sometimes I have the impression the building was in the first line meant to be impressing.

The big advantage of PI's building is that it has a lot of light, which I like very much. Also, I don't know if you've been inside but we have some fireplaces where one can sit that are nice. Just that, if no fire is burning, it is cold again there and in addition it is very noisy. There are no closed or private places in that building (except for the washrooms). You've seen the offices from the outside, lots of glass. What one doesn't see is that they have glass also to the inside, towards the corridor. Feels like sitting in an aquarium. It doesn't bother me most of the time, and also I am not too sensitive to noise, but it's not everybodies thing.

Have you seen PI's old building? It has a charm comparable to the villa in the photo. It has even less light though and can't come up with the great view. Best,

B.

Thomas D said...

Bee, I don't remember you saying PI was *physically* cold!

Here I was imagining a typical midwestern summer climate and set to pack a tiny suitcase for my visit, just a few T-shirts and shorts, now does this mean I will need woolly sweaters and cord trousers too?

I remember Arizona as a place where you needed 2 extra layers of clothing every time you entered a building ... didn't expect it in Canada.

Noisy is bad too, but it depends what sort of noise.
The ITP is sometimes prone to bouts of door-slamming or motorised-hedge-trimming, but you can walk up into the woods for a bit of quiet.

Bee said...

Hi Thomas,

Well, it's North America, the land of overweight and air conditioning, what do you expect? Of course when the outside temperatures become pleasant, it is way too cold inside every public and office building, I suspect they regard that a sign for civilization. (I regard it a sign for energy waste, but anyway.) PI has a nice inner yard where one can sit outside. Only disadvantage is you'll have to share it with the smokers. Best,

B.

Phil Warnell said...

Bee,

“Well, it's North America, the land of overweight and air conditioning, what do you expect?”

Ouch!!!

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

“Well, it's North America, the land of overweight and air conditioning, what do you expect?”

Canada

Germany

Italy

Japan

United States

Global Map

Best,

Phil

Bee said...

Hi Phil,

Sorry ;-p Don't take it personally, I was averaging over North America. I think Germany leads the EU in terms of overweight (see statistic), I'd have referred to them as the land of overweight without airconditioning.

I was just in a foul mood yesterday because I meant to buy a dress but couldn't find anything nice my size. Each time I'm back in Germany there seem to be more 'oversized clothes' stores and it gets constantly more difficult to find something affordable and wearable that doesn't look like a tent on me. I have to do most of my shopping in France and Italy because at least there they still sell S and XS!

Either way, the constant running of airconditioning mostly without any need to seems to me very wide spread in North America. Here, air-conditioning is still an exception. In cars though it's becoming more and more common. I am afraid though it is pretty much a matter of habit. If you are used to air conditioning you'll feel easily uncomfortable without. Best,

B.

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

“Each time I'm back in Germany there seem to be more 'oversized clothes' stores and it gets constantly more difficult to find something affordable and wearable that doesn't look like a tent on me. I have to do most of my shopping in France and Italy because at least there they still sell S and XS!”

Well I must admit I envy you for I am closer to the demographic that is being described by the statistics. However, if the damn rain will give us a break I plan on putting in a few rounds of golf this weekend (no power cart) which I hope will help me at least stay below the obesity line.

As for air conditioning I have never had central air installed in my home and only have the in window variety which I think last summer I ran only a few times in the evening and yes you are correct that the temperature in most public and office buildings is closer to what one would expect in a meat locker. In regards to PI one of its primary problems is the high vaulting grand entrance area and poor glass type selection in the windows. If they had operable windows on both the bottom and top floor they could use what’s known as stack effect to create natural ventilation to cool the building particularly at night.

Anyway, I also prefer the Heidelberg Institute’s ambiance to that of PI. Beside the comfort level the public already thinks the ivory tower is unapproachable without reinforcing this notion with architectural statements. Of course I’ve already shared with you my take in this regard.

Best,

Phil
P.S. Did you actually find a dress or what? :-)

P.S.S. I had a look at Thomas in the photo and he appears to not have enough natural insulation and so I would advise he bring at least a sweat shirt or two like those ones Einstein was so famous for:-)

Bee said...

No, I didn't find anything useful. But I'll be in Paris next week, so hope to get a chance to go shopping. How does the glass type matter? Best,

B.

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

“How does the glass type matter?”

Well it relates to what is called “Low E glass” with the “E” relating to emissivity which means they are spectrally selective to wave length. There are two generic types; one is known as soft coat and the other hard coat. Both reflect longer wave length (infra red) which is designed to keep heat in a building. The soft coat however, also absorbs most of the shorter wave EM (ultra violet) which although less of a component of sunlight then visible light as you of course know has higher energy per quanta. When this enters a building it is first absorbed by the interior structure and then reemitted as long wave (infrared) which is then trapped by either type of Low E glass. The trick is to design the architecture to combine natural shading in terms of direction (elevation) to maximize solar heating potential with the right combination of both types. There is much more involved with building design yet this is what I would call the short answer.

So as you can see that this physics stuff does have application in the real world:-) Feynman would be so proud.

Best,

Phil

amaragraps said...

ITP is just next door to the the Physics Institute, another component of physics at the University of Heidelberg. The two are on the classic walk of Philosophenweg, which is where 50 percent of the tourist photographs of Heidelberg are taken. Maybe you didn't know, but the University has a "PI" also. The last time I was inside 'my PI' was to pick up my PhD diploma, what a nice feeling that was. The previous time was for my exam. I still have nightmares about that day! But it turned out all right :-) (I still have, through all of my international moves, my PhD hat, given to me later that day by my colleagues.)

Bee said...

Dear Amara,

I actually first went to the Physics Institute more or less accidentally. (Well, it was on the way and said something with physics). After I climbed up the Philosophenweg I had a strong feeling of deja vu though, and I suspect strongly I've been there before. (We made various school-trips to Heidelberg and were dragged up and down many stairs, that's as much as I recall.) Best,

B.

Bee said...

PS: I love the hat! Stefan got a teddybear with a PhD hat :-)

amaragraps said...

The teddy bear (made in China ;-)) is great!

I notice that Stefan is wearing a tie, which is intact. Isn't the German tradition for the tie of the male PhDs to be snipped off?

stefan said...

Hi Amara,

Isn't the German tradition for the tie of the male PhDs to be snipped off?

I'm not aware of such a tradition, but that may differ from university to university...

The only day when there is a real danger for ties, at least in some regions of Germany, is on Thursday before Carnival, which is called "Fetter Donnerstag" or "Altweiberfastnacht"

Cheers, Stefan

amaragraps said...

Hi Stefan, I know that tradition existed at two German universities (I was a witness): the Technical University of Munich and at the University of Heidelberg, so I assumed it was a Germany-wide tradition. My male PhD-candidate friends purposely wore junk, throw-away ties, because they knew that the ties would be cut off by the end of the day. And indeed, they were.

When I described this tradition to my friends and family back home, my American friends went so far as to suggest that, for the sake of equal opportunity, there should have been a tradition for the girls too... that is, some piece of clothing that would be snipped off by the end of the PhD exam day... (which is not so outlandish, when you compare such a hypothetical tradition to the Italian PhD exam day traditions)

Phil Warnell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Phil Warnell said...

Hi Stefan,

In reading all the back and forth between you and Amara about this PhD ritual I’ve become fascinated and must investigate further to discover from where all this stems and what the significance be. Just as a piece of advise, if you do in the future meet Amara face to face I recommend you avoid wearing a tie; well at least not your favourite one :-)

Best,

Phil