Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Interna

Lara with her new glasses.
When you last heard from Lara and Gloria, they could utter a few single words. Within a couple of weeks, they have transitioned to speaking full sentences, answer to questions with "yes" and "no", and are very clear in expressing themselves. "Jacke an, Bagger gucke" (Jacket on, watch digger), they might say when they want to go for a walk. They still refer to each other as Gaakie and Gookie though. And they are struggling with German grammar, especially finding the right articles.

Lara now has glasses that are meant to help correct her squinting. She wears them without complaint. It probably helps for her acceptance that I too wear glasses.

The half-day daycare solution is working reasonably well, except that it's prohibitively expensive. The nanny has taught the kids to drink from a cup, to wash their hands, to paint and to jump. I'm sure our downstairs neighbors are as excited about the jumping as the kids. My commuting to Stockholm is not working quite so well. It leaves all of us terribly exhausted and is a huge waste of time, not to mention money. The time that I gain by having the kids in daycare is mostly spent on catching up on life's overhead, paperwork, the household, piles of unread papers and unanswered emails that wait for me upon return.

That having been said, I have a bunch of trips coming up. March 15 I'm in Bergen giving a seminar, apparently on the topic "Siste nytt om kvantegravitasjon". On April 12 I'm in Reykjavik. I haven't been able to find anything resembling a seminar schedule on the department website, but it's the same seminar as in Bergen. In May George and I are running the previously mentioned Workshop for Science Writers in Stockholm, and at the end of May I'll be attending a workshop on "Quantum Gravity in Perspective" in Munich. I have some more trips coming up, but plans haven't proceeded further than that. If you're located in any of these places and feel like  meeting up, send me a note.

Besides this, I've been told that the current issue of the Finnish magazine Tähdet ja avaruus ("Stars and Space") has an article by Laura Koponen about quantum gravity, featuring Renate Loll, Robert Brandenberger, and me. It's in Finnish so I have no clue what it says, but the photos look nice. Though... something about the photo of me didn't feel quite right, and after some forehead frowning it occurred to me that the NorthFace logo on my shirt fell victim to Finnish photoshopping. I actually like it better this way; I prefer my clothes without logos if possible. In any case, should you by any chance speak Finnish and have read the article, let me know what you think.


28 comments:

Phillip Helbig said...

Are the children in Germany or in Sweden? In either case, why an expensive private nanny?

Sabine Hossenfelder said...

Hi Phillip,

The kids are in Germany. We simply couldn't find a daycare place for kids below the age of 3. We had been on waiting lists, and had been assigned two places starting in January. But then the place we had been assigned closed literally one day to the next, leaving us with very little options. I spent almost a month on the phone and everybody basically shrugged shoulders on me. We're on half a dozen of other waiting lists, but nothing in sight before the summer.

The thing is that in Germany the districts are so far only required to provide daycare for kids age 3 and up. There is a new law saying they have to provide daycare for kids age 1-3 too. But that law will only go effective this year in August. And, needless to say, the districts are behind supplying for the demand, rather than ahead.

It's not actually a private nanny, it's what the Germans call "Tagesmutter", it's basically a daycare place with only one caregiver, with up to 6 children. I couldn't find a good translation for the word. It is, needless to say, much more expensive than a "Kinderkrippe" and it clearly wasn't what we were looking for. Best,

Sabine

Giotis said...

It is difficult to find a job in a German University?

Although I heard sometime ago in DW that salaries in Germany Universities for certain categories of professors (not permanent or something like that) are very low (less that a 1000 Euro) which was kind of surprise.

PS. Why "Sabine"? What happened to "Bee"?:-)

Uncle Al said...

"And they are struggling with German grammar" The American Chemical Society had a German requirement lagging 20 years behind Agewandte Chemie International Edition. I feel the twins' pain.

I was told French is pronounced exactly the way it sounds. German is pronounced as it is written. Yay team.

Sabine Hossenfelder said...

Hi Giotis,
Yes, it is very difficult to find a job at a German University, esp if you work in a field like pheno qg that most paper staplers have never heard of. Bee apparently fell victim to Google wanting to join my G+ and Blogger accounts, which now signs for me with my full name.

Phillip Helbig said...

It is difficult to find a job in a German University?

It is difficult to find any sort of academic job anywhere, at least at a reputable institution.

Although I heard sometime ago in DW that salaries in Germany Universities for certain categories of professors (not permanent or something like that) are very low (less that a 1000 Euro) which was kind of surprise.

What is DW? In any case, this is complete rubbish. Salaries are lower than the used to be due to a pay reform a few years ago, but this was challenged in court and this will bring some improvement. However, professorial salaries (permanent or not) are much higher than the average wage in Germany. Also, there are not really any non-permanent professors in Germany. There is something called the Hochschulassistent, which is something like a non-permanent assistant professor, but they earn much more than EUR 1000 per month.

There is a distinction between the employment and the academic status. As a result, someone doing research might have a permanent job, or a temporary job, or some sort of fellowship or stipend. Any of these might include some teaching, perhaps voluntarily in some cases. And there are people who do research but don't have any sort of employment, and might work at an institute as a guest. Usually these are people who have some other source of income, or are rich. So, yes, technically you might find someone who teaches who earns less than EUR 1000 per month, but this is not "some category of professor".

Phillip Helbig said...

"We simply couldn't find a daycare place for kids below the age of 3."

I had forgotten that they are so young!

"The thing is that in Germany the districts are so far only required to provide daycare for kids age 3 and up."

Right. One of my sons in almost 5 and started Kindergarten (actually, the German "Kindergarten" corresponds to the English "pre-school" while the English "Kindergarten" corresponds to the German "Vorschule", which means "pre-school") when he was 3. Another one will be 2 this summer and we hope that he will be awarded a place under the new law so that my wife can go back to work.

Presumably it would have been easier to find daycare in Sweden.

Sabine Hossenfelder said...

Hi Phillip,

Yes, finding daycare in Sweden would have been much easier and considerably less expensive. But it would have caused us many other problems, primarily because Stefan's employer (he's not in academia) is not as flexible as mine, and because the rest of our families live in Germany, and we've been relying on them to help us out here and there. Not to mention that most of our friends also live in Germany and that the apartment in Stockholm is just too small for all of us.

Thanks for the clarification on the pre-school, I've always been confused by that.

Best,

B.

Sabine Hossenfelder said...

Hi Giotis,

As Phillip said, the information you have about salaries of professors at German universities is most likely wrong. The base-salary of these positions is fixed according to some tables that you can look up online, then the universities have some freedom to add to this which is subject of negotiation. (This is a very recent development btw, it used to be that the universities had no freedom with the salary altogether.) This being Germany, your final salary depends on the state where you live, on your age, on your commuting time, on your family status, and so on, so I can't give you any good numbers. But professor salaries are high enough so you can live from it. You don't really get rich with it, but you don't have to turn around every cent before you spend it. Best,

B.

Phil Warnell said...

Hi Bee,

Gaakie and Gookie are looking great. Wondering if Germany has kindergarten beginning at 4 years old as they have just made here in Ontario? Also surprised Gloria doesn't feel left out not getting glasses as well :-)


Best,

Phil

Phillip Helbig said...

"(This is a very recent development btw, it used to be that the universities had no freedom with the salary altogether.) This being Germany, your final salary depends on the state where you live, on your age, on your commuting time, on your family status, and so on, so I can't give you any good numbers."

Actually, I think with the new payscale of a few years ago the salary is more or less the same for everyone in a given position and doesn't depend on age etc as much if at all. Yes, there is more flexibility now, but no flexibility under the old system was still more than the maximum salary including flexible and discretionary payments under the new system. :-(

Phillip Helbig said...

"Wondering if Germany has kindergarten beginning at 4 years old as they have just made here in Ontario?"

See my comment regarding the meaning of the word. Usually, when someone from Germany says "Kindergarten" in English, it means "pre-school". Of course, it is a German word, and the German use is actually more correct, since it is not a school. The equivalent of the English "Kindergarten" is "Vorschule" in German (which has the same meaning as "pre-school"). It is of course more like a school; I learned to read and write in the (US American) Kindergarten.

Compulsory education starts with first grade, which happens when one is 6 (though for children born after the beginning of July or whatever, it is possible to wait a year). Vorschulen (i.e. English Kindergarten) is rare. The German Kindergärten, pre-schools, are now obliged to have a place for every child older than 3 who wants one; in August this will change to 1. (Whether or not the supply will meet the demand remains to be seen, and I think a Tagesmutter is also allowed as an alternative.)

Unfortunately, such pre-school daycare in Germany is not as extensive as in many other European countries. The main reason for this is that it was extensive in the former East Germany (and is still much more available in that part of the country) and former West Germany, cutting off its nose to spite its face and throwing the baby out with the bathwater, played this down in order to be different than East Germany (not the official reason, but the real one). Of course, one can go to far, as in France, where it is common to go back to work 6 weeks after a child is born, putting it into all-day daycare then. Personally, I think 2 or 3 years is a good time to start, depending on the child, though in some cases 1 year might be necessary if the parents have to work.

Phillip Helbig said...

to far ---> too far

stefan said...

Hi Giotis,

Deutsche Welle most probably did refer to what is called Lehrbeauftrage, who do a large share of teaching, mostly in the humanities. Their salary is very low indeed.

The situation is similar for the Privatdozenten, that is, people who have a "habilitation" - i.e. the right to give lectures and teach on their own. To keep that status, they have to teach on a regular basis, but they do not get any salary for this.

In both cases, the university typically assumes that the person in question does not depend on the teaching job to make a living.

Best regards, Stefan

Zephir said...

Lara looks like the young physicist already..;-)

Phillip Helbig said...

"Deutsche Welle most probably did refer to what is called Lehrbeauftrage, who do a large share of teaching, mostly in the humanities. Their salary is very low indeed."

A different kettle of fish. I have never met one of these people. At least when I studied physics in Hamburg (more than 20 years ago), all courses---not just the lectures, but the problem-solving courses---were conducted by some sort of professor. Apparently, the situation in the humanities is different.

One must distinguish between the Lehrbeauftragte and the Privatdozent. The Privatdozent is basically someone who has the qualifications to become a professor, but doesn't have such a position. He almost always has some sort of postdoc position or whatever. He voluntarily does some teaching in order to improve his CV with the aim of applying for some teaching position (usually a professorship). Privatdozent is basically an honourary title. (The term comes from the time, more than 100 years ago, when students paid a fee for the lectures directly to the instructor, in cash (in addition to the prof's salary). A Privatdozent didn't have a teaching job, but was allowed to collect these fees "privately" so to speak.) Generally, the Habilitation is required in order to become a Privatdozent. In Germany and some other countries, this is a thesis after the doctoral thesis, but its importance is waning. I don't think it is a formal requirement anymore anywhere, though often the ad says something like "Habilitation or comparable qualification". The Habilitation made sense back when academic careers were more or less comparable, not only within a country but even between countries. That is no longer the case today.

The Lehrbeauftragter, on the other hand, is some freelancer who collects a fee for teaching duties. Personally, I would feel cheated if not being taught by professors, but apparently enough students are willing to accept this that the pressure on universities (or, rather, the government, who provides the funds) is low to hire more teaching staff (for much more money of course). And, of course, there are apparently enough people prepared to do this job. While not well-paid compared to a professorship, it is well paid compared to most other types of job someone with a humanities degree could get. They are definitely not "some sort of professor", though.

Giotis said...

If I'm not mistaken he was Lehrbeauftragte and the guy was teaching Philosophy.

He was complaining that basically he does all the teaching work and the University pays him peanuts.

The thing is that he didn't have a choice, he couldn't find a job anywhere else in this area. This position was the only job available where he could keep in touch with his area of interest.

Universities promote this kind of jobs for obvious reasons but I find it quite immoral for such institutions.

Highly educated people are treated as modern slaves. Shame on them...

Phillip Helbig said...

"If I'm not mistaken he was Lehrbeauftragte and the guy was teaching Philosophy.
He was complaining that basically he does all the teaching work and the University pays him peanuts.
The thing is that he didn't have a choice, he couldn't find a job anywhere else in this area. This position was the only job available where he could keep in touch with his area of interest.
Universities promote this kind of jobs for obvious reasons but I find it quite immoral for such institutions.
Highly educated people are treated as modern slaves. Shame on them..."


While I can sympathize to some extent, in the end this is down to supply and demand. No, I don't think supply and demand should determine everything. But think of it this way: on average, each professor will have one student who also becomes a professor. If the person in question can't find any other job in philosophy (not surprising), and prefers to work for peanuts as opposed to, say, driving a taxi, that's his choice. No-one is forcing him to work for low pay (compared to a professor, but probably not that bad compared to a taxi driver). No-one forced him to study philosophy. While I think that, in general, university teachers should be paid more and that permanent teachers should be hired instead of Lehrbeauftragte (but if that happens, this guy might be out of a job---most people see themselves getting hired, but they might hire someone better qualified who is now working somewhere else), clearly it won't work to say "I'm intelligent---give me a permanent academic job" or "I studied Egyptology---give me a permanent job in Egyptology".

Kris Krogh said...
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Kris Krogh said...

Hi Bee,

Delighted to see you'll also be speaking at a conference this October on "emergent quantum mechanics." Lots happening in that area these days! Any hints what your talk will be about?

Don't know if I can attend, but some of the listed speakers were at another quantum mechanics conference I attended in 2010. That was by far the best, most exiting, and most fun conference I've been at. (I think Phil Warnell, my fellow de Broglie/Bohm aficionado, would have enjoyed it too.)

I wonder if you could persuade your colleague Lee Smolin to come to this one? (He was initially listed for the de Broglie/Bohm conference, but cancelled.)

Cheers,

Kris Krogh

Anonymous Snowboarder said...

Bee - it seems the article by the Finns is only in print? Probably a good thing as the Finnish I learned at work was limited to numbers, greatings and the naughty words :) I am somewhat surprised, though perhaps not shocked, that they would actually photoshop out a logo on the attire of subject of the magazine. That's just going a bit far - unless Northface has ties to Sweden in which case it is totally understandable!

DocG said...

I'm curious. Are you planning to teach them English and German at the same time? Or do you think it will confuse them?

Sabine Hossenfelder said...

Hi Doc,

Well, right now they learn German with a little Spanish from the nanny. We don't talk to them in English. They hear me talking English of course and in Sweden they catch some Swedish, but not much of it. I have a lot of friends though whose kids have grown up multi-lingual and they seem to be doing just fine. Best,

B.

Sabine Hossenfelder said...

Hi Snowboarder,

Yes, it seems to be print only. They sent me a copy though and I have to say it's a really nice magazine. It has a fairly strong paper and glossy print. I find it noteworthy because SciAm and NewScientist and the like are meanwhile on really cheap paper. Northface is a US company. I guess the Finns just don't like product placement. I don't like it either. I'll also admit that my teeth look somewhat whiter on the photo than they are in reality ;) Best,

B.

Sabine Hossenfelder said...

Hi Kris,

I'll talk about this paper. If you read section 6, this will help put things into context. I'm not really in the business of persuading Lee of anything, but I suspect it will be a very busy year for him, so it seems exceedingly unlikely he'd go to the conference. Best,

Sabine

Kris Krogh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kris Krogh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kris Krogh said...

Hi Bee,

Your paper "Testing super-deterministic hidden variables theories" is very thought provoking! Have experimentalists said anything yet about pursuing your idea?

Reading that, I kept thinking about another paper by Aharonov. In the context of a double-slit experiment, he suggests that the nonlocal hidden variable is a cyclical "modulo momentum" associated with the slits.

(That seems very natural to me, since the screen surrounding the slits has a specific de Broglie wavelength and wave oscillation, related to its momentum.)

If the nonlocal hidden variables are the modulo momenta of your detectors (altered by each photon detected), do you think a detectable signal could be gotten with current technology?

Best wishes,

Kris