Monday, June 20, 2016

saving corals

I have covered the growing danger to coral reefs a few times in my articles, but this time round I'm going one step further and focusing on the question of what, if anything, science can do to save them. Can we support their migration to cooler habitats? Breed supercorals? Should we?

I've explored these issues in my latest feature which is out today in Current Biology:

Can science rescue coral reefs?
Current Biology Volume 26, Issue 12, 20 June 2016, Pages R481–R484

FREE access to full text and PDF download

NB with all the excitement about bleaching and temperature resistance, I may have forgotten to mention that overfishing is also a significant threat to corals in some parts, as they depend on grazing fish to clear away algae.

Corals after a bleaching event at Lizard Island on the Great Barrier Reef. (Photo: Justin Marshall/CoralWatch.)

Friday, June 17, 2016

melting points

Alexander Calvelli's latest exhibition, Schmelzpunkte (melting points) opens today at Henrichshütte Hattingen, Germany. It runs until October 23rd, opening times Tue-Sun 10-18h, Fri till 20h.

Am E-Ofen. Georgsmarienhütte, 2001.
Foto: Alexander Calvelli

Here's the press release from the museum (seems to be available in German only, sorry!):

"Schmelzpunkte" heißt eine neue Ausstellung mit Gemälden des Kölner Künstlers Alexander Calvelli, die der Landschaftsverband Westfalen-Lippe (LWL) vom 17. Juni bis 23. Oktober in seinem Industriemuseum Henrichshütte Hattingen (Ennepe-Ruhr-Kreis) zeigt. In einer historischen Halle präsentiert das LWL-Museum rund 150 Gemälde des Künstlers. Darüber hinaus laden einige der Bilder im Außengelände zum direkten Vergleich zwischen dem Motiv und seiner künstlerischen Bearbeitung ein. "So treten Industriekultur und Malerei in ein besonderes Spannungsverhältnis", sagte Kurator Dr. Olaf Schmidt-Rutsch vom LWL-Industriemuseum am Montag (13.6.) bei der Vorstellung der Ausstellung in Hattingen.

"Ich male vergängliche Architektur" - mit diesem Satz beschreibt Calvelli sein Werk und verbindet so inhaltlich die nahezu fotorealistische Darstellung von Blumen mit den Motiven der Schwerindustrie. Letztere bilden den Mittelpunkt der Ausstellung. Schmelzpunkte stehen dabei für Transformationsprozesse: Mit den Aggregatzuständen ändern sich Strukturen und Gefüge. Metalle werden aus Erzen erschmolzen, umgeschmolzen, in Formen gegossen und geformt. In Konverter und Elektroofen löst sich alter Schrott auf, bevor er erneut in Form gebracht einem neuen Nutzungszyklus zugeführt wird. Diese Transformationsprozesse prägen das Erscheinungsbild des Strukturwandels.

So spannen die Gemälde Calvellis den Bogen vom Erz zum Schrott, vom Ursprung zum Niedergang. Sie zeigen mittelständische Betriebe und Großkonzerne, archaisch wirkende Kleinschmieden und gigantische Schmiedepressen. Die Darstellungen von längst verschwundenen Werken, aktiven Arbeitsstätten und im industriekulturellen Kontext neu entdeckten Anlagen vermitteln einen Eindruck von den Wandlungsprozessen, denen die Montanindustrie seit jeher ausgesetzt ist.

"Die Gemälde Calvellis ziehen den Betrachter durch den hohen Realismus in ihren Bann. Die Strukturen der Arbeitsorte treten plastisch hervor. Es braucht eine Zeit intensiver Betrachtung, um zu erkennen, wie künstlerische Akzentuierungen die scheinbare Realität bewusst verfremden", so Olaf Schmidt-Rutsch. "Der intensive Blick in die Werke vermittelt einen nachhaltigen Eindruck von der Arbeit mit glühenden Metallen. Tatsächlich geht es nicht um die Dokumentation industrieller Anlagen oder die Illustration technischer Prozesse, sondern um die kritische und distanzierte Auseinandersetzung mit den Zeugnissen des Industriezeitalters."

Bei der Eröffnung am Freitag (17.6.) um 19.30 Uhr wird der Künstler anwesend sein. Die musikalische Begleitung erfolgt durch den Klangkünstler Georg Zangl. Gäste sind herzlich willkommen. Der Eintritt ist frei.

Schmelzpunkte: Alexander Calvelli - Industriemalerei
17. Juni bis 23. Oktober 2016
LWL-Industriemuseum Henrichshütte Hattingen
Werksstraße 31-33
Geöffnet Di-So 10-18 Uhr, Fr -20 Uhr


Wednesday, June 15, 2016

boron, barbecue and biotech

In the roundup of German pieces published in June, we have biotechnological uses of algae, burning barbecues, hydrogen bonds, and circadian clocks:

Bor baut Brücken
Chemie in unserer Zeit Volume 50, Issue 3, page 159
abstract and restricted access to full text

Netzwerk Leben: Die Zeitschaltuhr
Chemie in unserer Zeit Volume 50, Issue 3, pages 160–161, Juni 2016
Free access to full text and PDF download

Impfstoffproduktion: Alge statt Ei?
Nachrichten aus der Chemie Volume 64, Issue 6, pages 610-612
abstract and restricted access to full text

Ausgeforscht: Jetzt wird's brenzlig
Nachrichten aus der Chemie Volume 64, Issue 6, pages 719
restricted access to full text and PDF download

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

how Romanian lost its romance

I taught a workshop at Bucharest recently and just before the trip I discovered an old French book about the Romanian language at an Oxfam store, so I read much of it on the way there, and found it really intriguing. As the book is probably out of print, I’ll summarise some of the points I found interesting.

Latin heritage: The area was only under Roman control for a century and a half (106-275) – and the Latin derived language only became prevalent after the Romans left. The invasion of the Huns in 375 and destruction of the towns drove the Latin-speaking townsfolk out to the countryside, where they mingled with the peasants who spoke a Thracian language related to modern Albanian, and from this encounter Romanian was born. Then, the language was fairly isolated from the other Romance languages, and thus kept old-fashioned terms when medieval Latin changed and passed those changes on to Italian and French. Intriguingly, the Iberian languages, on the other end of the continent, retain some of the same old-style expressions, so they sometimes resemble Romanian more than the geographically closer languages Italian and French. For instance, when Latin, French and Italian switched from mensa to tabula for table, the peripheral Romance languages in Iberia and Romania didn’t get the memo, so we have mesa in Spanish and Portuguese and masӑ in Romanian.

German influences include cartof (Kartoffel) for potato, and halba (Halbe) for half a measure of beer, and a word derived from “Schmecker” for their argot. The name of the region around Bucharest, Wallachia, derives from the Germanic word for non-Germanic people, as in Welsch, Wallon, Welsh, etc.

Alphabet: Romanian used the Cyrillic alphabet until 1860, which it had originally adopted from Bulgarian for complex reasons linked to the shared orthodox religion.

Romance language that lost the romance: Again as a consequence of being isolated from the Romance languages in central Europe, Romanian lost Latinate terms from the area of love, romance, relationships. While most areas of Western Europe got their romantic ideas from the troubadours, Romanian lost the words derived from Latin amor, amare, carus and sponsa, and replaced them with the Slav words iubi, dragoste, drag and nevasta, respectively. So it became a Romance language that loves in Slav terms.

Later however, Romanian reconnected with French and got many words from modern French (eg bej, ruj, coafor, creion …), as well as lexical and grammatical influences from Hungarian, Turkish, and Slav languages, often even within the same word. So it ended up as a unique mixture not just of several language influences but also of languages from unrelated families, and with connections all across Europe.


Gilbert Fabre: Parlons roumain, langue et culture Editions L’Harmattan 1991

PS - a quick check on French amazon revealed that it is available as an e-book as well as second-hand. Plus, from the same series there are books about dozens of other languages, mainly those not so commonly taught, so this is a huge temptation. (Lots of them have the same title with only the name of the language exchanged, so you find them easily with the search terms: parlons langue culture. However, there are also recent deviations from the pattern, eg Parlons slovaque, une langue slave, from 2009)

Monday, June 06, 2016

sea floor mapping

I have on various occasions used the statement that we know the surface structure of Mars in greater detail than that of the sea floor on our on planet, and I understand that it is still true overall, but oceanographers are now working to close that gap in our knowledge. Just over 100 years after bathymetry, the science of measuring the depth of the oceans, and thus the topography of the sea floor, began in earnest, experts now met to lay out plans for future progress in exploring what's under the water. This knowledge is important not just for seafarers and fishing industries, but also for the safety of landlubbers in the face of sea level rise and tsunamis.

Read all about it in my latest feature:

How deep are the oceans?

Current Biology Volume 26, Issue 11, pR445–R447, 6 June 2016

permanent link to full text and PDF download
(open access)

The combination of advanced sonar and satellite technology can produce high-resolution 3D models of seascapes like this one in the Caribbean. However, for much of the sea floor, there is still insufficient data. (Source: