Jurassic Joy

The Jura Mountains, in the north of Switzerland and extending into France, are a relatively small but very pretty mountain range. With a highest elevation around 1700m, at first sight they do not seem as impressive as the neighboring Alps. However, they actually hold several hidden treasures. The Gorge de l’Areuse is one such treasure. Read more

Modern times…

Just thought this was a nice picture: my current computing set-up at home. New laptop (left; with external keyboard & mouse) for regular work, old laptop (right) to connect with the computer cluster at the university, and meanwhile watching live snooker (UK championships) on my tablet (middle).

In the meantime, a whole bunch of computers in the large computing cluster at the university are also cranking away for me, but those are in some university building on the other side of town. Unfortunately they didn’t fit into the picture… 😉

Nerd

The Endless River

I just listened to the new Pink Floyd album The Endless River. I’ve always considered Pink Floyd as one of the most interesting, innovative, and creative bands of all time, especially their stuff from the 70s. But alas, those days are gone, and I can’t say I’m very impressed with their latest (and probably last) album. There are two things I do like about The Endless River, though. Read more

From Salt to Salary: Linguists Take a Page from Science

Language is something we take for granted; we use it every day and could not live without it in today’s world. However, languages are not static but, rather, evolve. While the differences between American and British English are manageable, for example, reading Shakespeare in its original form poses some challenges — and reading the original Beowulf is almost impossible. Like biological species, languages change over time and sometimes “speciate” to give rise to several descendant languages.

Read the full story on NPR 13.7 Cosmos & Culture

Chamonix, the Cheap and Cheerful Way

Chamonix (France), at the foot of the highest mountain in the European Alps, is the perfect base for all kinds of outdoors adventures. Hiking, mountain biking, paragliding, and mountaineering in summer, and skiing, snowboarding, sledging, and snowshoeing in winter. Even the less adventurous can have a full view of the Mont Blanc, with its peak at 4810m altitude, from the center of town. Add to that the many cable cars that take you more than 1000m up above the valley floor in just a few minutes, and you have a complete adventure package, for every level of interest and ability. Read more

Origin of Life Research on the Rise

[Note: This post is a modified and updated version of my earlier guest commentary on NPR 13.7 cosmos & culture]

For a long time, the origin of life was not considered a scientifically relevant problem. In fact, it was believed that life arises spontaneously all the time. Only after Louis Pasteur’s experimental demonstration that all life comes from other life, and the publication of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection (both around the middle of the 19th century), did the ultimate origin of life become a scientific question. However, it took (almost) another century before the first real scientific steps towards actually solving the problem were taken. Read more

Amazing Arolla — A 4-day Hiking Trip

Having been stuck at home for most of July, due to unseasonably wet weather, the forecast for the first week of August finally looked quite promising. So I decided to head out to the tiny little village of Arolla, located at 2000m (6600ft) altitude near the upper end of a long and beautiful valley in southern Switzerland. Read more

Flight MH17 Anomaly Claim Debunked

Shortly after the crash of Malaysia Airlines MH17, there were many “conspiracy theories” going around on the internet. One of the more bizarre claims that were made, is that the plane that took off from Amsterdam was not the same as the one that crashed in Ukraine. This claim was mostly based on a picture posted on facebook, shortly before boarding the plane, by Cor Pan, a Dutch passenger on that fateful flight. Read more