#LiNo17 Daily Recap – Sunday, 25 June 2017

“I close my remarks by asking the young students gather this week at the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting to consider joining the effort to combat climate change.” – Steven Chu

Yesterday, the 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting started in grand fashion with the festive opening ceremony featuring the warm and heartfelt welcome address by Countess Bettina Bernadotte and a very poignant and moving keynote by Steven Chu. The Nobel Laureate himself was, unfortunately, unable to attend, but his fellow laureate William E. Moerner luckily stepped in to deliver the powerful speech on “Science as an Insurance Policy to the Risks of Climate Change”.

 

Video of the day:

“A changing climate does not respect national boundaries.”
First highlight is Steven Chu’s keynote, read by William Moerner. Chu addressed the highly topical issue of climate change and reminded all of us how important it is to treat the earth well.

Obviously, this is not the only video from yesterday and today! You are more than welcome to browse through our mediatheque for more.

 

Picture of the day:

Standing Ovations
William Moerner’s presentation of Steven Chu’s keynote was one of the most moving moments.

67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, 25.06.2017, Lindau, Germany

67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, 25.06.2017, Lindau, Germany

For even more pictures from the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings, past and present, take a look at our Flickr account.

 

Blog post of the day:

“A Stellar Meeting Where the Stars Shine Bright, the Science Is Chill, and the Networking Is Chem-Tastic.”
Another highlight is the blog post from science writer Alaina G. Levine. She is back in Lindau for #LiNo17 and gives a preview of the panel discussion on science careers that she will chair on Thursday (replacing Karan Khemka).

Do take a look at more exciting blog posts.

 

Tweets of the day:

 

 

Last but not least, follow us on Twitter @lindaunobel and Instagram @lindaunobel and keep an eye out for #LiNo17

 

Over the course of the next six days, we will keep you updated on the 67th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting with our daily recaps. The idea behind it is to bring to you the day’s highlights in a blink of an eye. The daily recaps will feature blog posts, photos and videos from the mediatheque.

Den Nobelpreisen auf der Spur

Der Lindauer Wissenspfad macht ab sofort die Lindauer Nobelpreisträgertagungen, deren Geschichte und vor allem das „Nobelwissen“ für Groß und Klein sicht- und (be-)greifbar. Auf den Spuren von Nobelpreisträgern und ihrer Forschung können alle Lindauerinnen und Lindauer, aber auch Gäste aus der ganzen Welt, auf Entdeckungstour durch Lindau gehen. An insgesamt 21 Wissenspylonen lernen sie dabei mehr über wissenschaftliche Alltagsphänomene. Vielleicht kommt dabei auch der eine oder andere Nobelpreisträger um die Ecke – in Lindau immerhin durchaus denkbar…

Die Leuchtturmstele am Lindauer Hafen. Picture/Credit: Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Die Leuchtturmstele am Lindauer Hafen. Picture/Credit: Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

 

Der Lindau Spirit für Alle

Wissen sollte immer und überall frei zur Verfügung stehen. Das gehört zum Kernanliegen von Stiftung und Kuratorium der Lindauer Nobelpreisträgertagungen, zu ihrer Mission Education. Die Idee zum Bau des Lindauer Wissenspfades ist daraus entstanden. Die Stadt Lindau hat sie bei der Umsetzung unterstützt.
Schon seit über 65 Jahren kommen in Lindau einmal im Jahr Nobelpreisträger und junge Nachwuchswissenschaftler aus der ganzen Welt zusammen, um sich auszutauschen und voneinander zu lernen. Der Lindau Spirit, von dem die Teilnehmer dabei inspiriert werden, soll jetzt auf dem Lindauer Wissenspfad für jeden und vor allem das ganze Jahr über erlebbar sein.
Der Wissenspfad besteht aus insgesamt 21 Wissenspylonen, 15 davon können auf der Lindauer Insel entdeckt werden. Auf dem Lindauer Festland und auf der Insel Mainau stehen jeweils drei Stelen zur Erkundung bereit. Auf der Karte sind die einzelnen Standorte auf der Lindauer Insel zu sehen.

Die Karte zeigt die verschiedenen Standorte der Wissenspylone, die ab sofort in Lindau entdeckt werden können. Picture/Credit: Archimedes Exhibitions GmbH

Die Karte zeigt die verschiedenen Standorte der Wissenspylonen, die ab sofort in Lindau entdeckt werden können. Picture/Credit: Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

 

Für jeden etwas dabei – die Wissenspylonen

Auf den unterschiedlichen Pylonen lernen kleine und große Entdecker wissenschaftliche Begebenheiten aus den Bereichen der Nobelpreisdisziplinen kennen und verstehen: es gibt Physik-, Chemie-, und Medizinpylonen, aber auch eine Friedens- und eine Literaturstele. Zwei Wissenspylonen erklären Theorien aus den Wirtschaftswissenschaften, zwei weitere Stelen erläutern, wie die Lindauer Nobelpreisträgertagungen entstanden sind und was sich hinter dem Nobelpreis verbirgt. Man muss kein Naturwissenschafts-Experte sein, um die Erklärungen auf den Pylonen zu verstehen. Der Wissenspfad richtet sich an viele unterschiedliche Menschen; die Kinderspuren auf jedem Pylon bringen das ‚Nobelwissen‘ auch den jüngsten Forschern näher.

Natürlich bekommen die Nobelpreisträger auf dem Wissenspfad einen besonderen Platz: auf den Stelen wird nicht nur ihre Forschung sicht- und erlernbar gemacht, zukünftig werden sie an der zentralen Station auch besonders geehrt: Auf dem kleinen See wird es in Lindau bald einen Steg geben, der die Namen der Nobelpreisträger verzeichnet, die schon einmal in Lindau zu Gast waren. Und das sind schon mehr als 450 Laureaten!

 

Virtueller Wissenspfad: Mit der App auf Entdeckungstour

In Zukunft kann man den Nobelpreisträgern auf dem Wissenspfad auch virtuell begegnen. Die App macht das möglich: an sechs verschiedenen Standorten erklären virtuelle Nobelpreisträger, wofür sie den Nobelpreis bekommen haben. Sogar ein Selfie mit Preisträgern ist möglich!
Entlang des Wissenspfads können alle ‚Wissenspfadler‘ das Erlernte in der Rallye testen und über Quizfragen knobeln. Dafür muss man allerdings vor Ort sein. Damit möglichst viele Leute den Weg nach Lindau aufnehmen und den Wissenspfad auch in echt kennen lernen, werden die virtuellen Nobelpreisträger und die Quizfragen nämlich nur am Pylonenstandort freigeschaltet.

Mit der Lindauer Wissenspfad-App kann man in der Rallye z.B. Quizfragen beantworten. Picture/Credit: preto_perola/istockphoto.com, illustrations: eatmefeedme; editing: rh

Mit der Lindauer Wissenspfad-App kann man in der Rallye z.B. Quizfragen beantworten. Picture/Credit: preto_perola/istockphoto.com, illustrations: eatmefeedme; editing: rh

 

Der Wissenspfad auf dem Sofa oder im Klassenraum

Aber auch diejenigen, die nicht nach Lindau kommen (können), haben die Möglichkeit, einen Blick auf Lindau, die Nobelpreisträger und ihre Forschung zu werfen: sie können den Wissenspfad zuhause virtuell ablaufen und die Pylonen in der App abrufen. Das können sich auch Lehrer im Unterricht zu Nutze machen.
Der Wissenspfad lädt Schulklassen aber auch explizit ein, nach Lindau zu kommen und sich auf die Spur der Nobelpreise zu machen. Vor Ort kann man deshalb auch gemeinsam einen Preis gewinnen! Interessierte Lehrer können sich gerne mit dem Kuratorium für die Tagungen der Nobelpreisträger in Lindau in Verbindung setzten und weitere Informationen und Materialien erhalten.

Schüler an einem Wissenspylon. Picture/Credit: Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Schüler an einem Wissenspylon. Picture/Credit: Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

 

Ermöglicht wurde der Wissenspfad durch die Unterstützung der Stadt Lindau und der Prof. Otto Beisheim Stiftung.

Exploring the Connections Between Sports and Science with Kurt Wüthrich

When reading the biography of Nobel Laureate Kurt Wüthrich, it quickly becomes clear that he embodies the concept of a Renaissance man. Not only did he excel in academic work, winning the 2002 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his advancement of nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, but Wüthrich was also an avid sportsman.

As a young man attending the University of Basel, he worked towards degrees in both chemistry and sports — the latter requiring about 25 hours per week of intense physical exercise, as well as courses in human anatomy and physiology. Even though he chose science in the end, sports continued to play an important role in Wüthrich’s life. He enjoyed skiing, fishing, and even played in a competitive soccer league well beyond the age of 50.

Kurt Wüthrich speaking at #LiNo16

Kurt Wüthrich speaking at #LiNo16. Photo: Ch. Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Given his interdisciplinary background, it came as no surprise that much of his master class at the 66th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting focused on the science of sports. In fact, two young scientists who gave talks at the master class — Dominique Gisin and Bettina Heim — have been blessed with a similar combination of both mental and physical talents as Wüthrich himself.

Dominique Gisin, currently a Bachelor’s student in physics at ETH Zürich in Switzerland, spoke about the mechanics of alpine skiing and its impact on the human body. Gisin started her degree at the University of Basel but interrupted coursework to concentrate on skiing, making her Alpine Ski World Cup debut in 2005. Four years later, she got her first World Cup victory in women’s downhill skiing, and at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, nabbed a gold medal in the same event.

To start off her talk, she played a series of video clips depicting the many crashes and falls she has suffered throughout her storied career, as the audience winced. In an average year, about 35% of all alpine athletes are injured — Gisin herself has gone through knee surgery a whopping nine times as a result of injuries.

In terms of physics, the variables that matter when it comes to modeling the dynamics of a downhill skier are numerous: the mass of the athlete, her velocity, the radius of a turn, snow temperature, air temperature, course condition, the mechanical characteristics of the equipment, visibility, and the mental/physical state of the athlete. These factors need to be considered when thinking about how to lower the rate of injury for the sport.

For instance, a tighter course setting would help reduce the athlete’s velocity, which could make crashes and falls less dangerous. But as Gisin notes, such a change would also cause skiers to move closer to the nets and potentially get tangled up in them. Another idea that might be interesting to pursue is uniform “anti-aerodynamic” racing suits that reduce athletes’ velocity and provide increased protection. Also, as seen in other sports, alpine skiing could benefit from the development of better protection equipment such as helmets and back protectors.

Kurt Wüthrich and Bettina Heim at the Rolex Science Breakfast

Kurt Wüthrich and Bettina Heim at the Rolex Science Breakfast. Photo: Ch. Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

Also representing ETH Zürich at the master class was Bettina Heim, a Master’s candidate in physics with a background in competitive figure skating. Her achievements in the sport include competing at two World Junior Championships, two World Championships, and becoming Swiss national champion in 2011. Only a short time after, Heim decided to hang up her skates and study physics full-time.

Her Bachelor’s studies culminated in a paper published by the prestigious journal Science in 2015, titled “Quantum versus classical annealing of Ising spin glasses.” It shows that evidence of quantum speed-up may depend on how the problem is described, as well as how the optimization routine is implemented. Today, Heim continues her research in the field of quantum computing, mostly in the realm of adiabatic quantum computing and quantum error correction, at ETH Zürich’s Institute of Theoretical Physics.

However, her focus during Wüthrich’s master class remained firmly in the world of sport and not quantum computers — in particular, she discussed the physics behind her specialty of figure skating. For instance, an athlete must gain a lot of speed going into a spin, and then one side of the body has to stop so the other can pass. This translates velocity into rotation, which results in the many types of spin moves performed by figure skaters.

As in downhill skiing, injuries remain prevalent in figure skating despite not being a contact sport. Common injuries for skaters include stress fractures, acute injuries involving tendons or ligaments, and back injuries. Heim noted that back injuries often originate from jump impacts (which can be hard on the spinal discs) and extreme positions that require flexibility (tough on muscles and ligaments).

As Wüthrich’s fascinating master class reiterated, the connections between sports and science go way beyond the physics of motion. Sometimes, an athlete and a scientist can be found within the same person.

Life in Super-Resolution: Light Microscopy Beyond the Diffraction Limit

In 1979, South African Allan M. Cormack won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his development of X-ray computed assisted tomography (CT), which allows physicians to see internal bodily structures without cutting. A quarter of a century later, Sir Peter Mansfield of the United Kingdom was given the same award in 2003 for advances in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) that led to scans taking seconds rather than hours.

Today, these two imaging techniques serve as essential diagnostic and investigative tools for both medicine and the life sciences. But one unique fact about Cormack and Mansfield stands out: Despite winning the most prestigious award in medicine, neither Laureate went to medical school nor had a background in biology — rather, they were both true-blue physicists.

Cormack spent most of his research career focusing on nuclear and particle physics, while his CT efforts remained an intermittent side project for almost two decades. For Mansfield, his postdoctoral work on nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy in doped metals gradually transitioned into scanning his first live human subject with the newly invented MRI technique.

The tradition of physicists driving advances in biomedical imaging continues, as made evident by the lectures of Steven Chu and Stefan Hell at the 66th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting. Both showed visually stunning examples of their research using super-resolution microscopy, a method that transcends the diffraction limit of conventional light microscopes to probe on a nanoscopic scale.

27720033840_6b1a74ad37_k

Stefan Hell in discussion with young scientists at #LiNo16. Photo: Ch. Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

“We learn in school that the resolution of a light microscope is fundamentally limited by diffraction to about half the wavelength of light,” said Hell, who gave his lecture on Thursday morning. “And if you want to see smaller things, you have to resort of course to electron microscopy.”

Hell, a physicist who currently serves as a director of the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry in Germany, accomplished what was long thought to be the impossible. Using light microscopy and fluorescent labeling of molecules, he invented a super-resolution technique called stimulated emission depletion (STED) microscopy — the work that won him the 2014 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

“The development of STED microscopy showed that there is physics in this world that allows you to overcome this diffraction barrier,” he said. “If you play out that physics in a clever way, you can see features that are much finer and details that are beyond the diffraction barrier.”

A conventional microscope cannot distinguish objects — say, molecules — that are packed within a space of about 200 nanometers because they all become flooded with light at the same time. Subsequently, a detector will simply record the scattering as a blurry blob of light without being able to image any individual molecules.

Hell got the idea of highlighting one molecule at a time by using fluorescent labeling, while also keeping other molecules in a dark state through stimulated emission. With a phase modulator, he could then force molecules in a doughnut-shaped area to stay dark and in the ground state while those in the center would produce light.

With this discovery, biomedical researchers could now image objects as tiny as proteins on the outside of a virus. For instance, STED microscopy was used to observe a major difference in envelope protein distribution that can be used to distinguish mature HIV that can infect cells versus those immature viruses that cannot.

“The misconception was that people thought that microscopy resolution was just about waves, but it’s not — microscopy resolution is about waves and states,” Hell emphasized. “And if you see it through the eyes of the opportunities of the states, the light microscope becomes very, very powerful.”

Steven Chu referenced Hell’s groundbreaking research during his lecture on Wednesday morning, which focused on his recent efforts in optical microscopy — quite a departure from his previous work in energy during a decade-long sabbatical.

“I sat down fresh out of government with no lab, no students, no postdocs, no money,” said Chu, who served as U.S. Secretary of Energy from 2009 to 2013. “The only thing that I could do was think, and that turns out to be liberating.”

28000060355_52c26b2ad5_k

Steven Chu during his lecture. Photo: Ch. Flemming/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings

A venerable jack-of-all-trades, Chu received the 1997 Nobel Prize in Physics in yet another field — atomic physics — for his development of laser cooling and trapping techniques. His latest interest in microscopy grew out of a fascination with cell signaling and how dysfunctions in the process can lead to cancer.

“If you’re a cell embedded in an organism’s tissue, you don’t willy-nilly divide — that’s considered very antisocial behavior. You divide when the surrounding tissue says it’s okay to divide,” he described. “But if you willy-nilly divide and say ‘me-me-me,’ that is called cancer.”

Using imaging techniques, the cell signaling pathway can be investigated in detail to target areas that could prevent cancer from developing. Taking Hell’s work in super-resolution microscopy a step further, Chu discussed his use of rare earths embedded in nanocrystals to replace fluorescent organic dyes. A nanocrystal can be doped with 5,000 to 10,000 impurities so it emits a certain color in the near-infrared with a very narrow spectral peak. If each class of nanoparticle is synthesized to produce a different ratio of colors, this creates a spectral barcoding of probes.

The next step is to use nanoparticle probes to image molecules through tissue in a living organism without cutting. Adaptive optics — a technique that originated in astronomy — has been employed in order to take light scattering into account, enabling high-resolution microscopy of mouse brain tissue through an intact skull.

“The question is if you go deeper into the infrared, can you look not through 500 microns but maybe 5 millimeters?” said Chu. “This is an open question we’re working on this. We’ve gotten down to a millimeter but we’ll see.”

One of his ideas involves inserting nanoparticles into cancer cells and watch them over time in order to track which cells metastasize, with the ultimate goal of developing future therapies.

Smartphones, Energy-Efficient Lamps, and GPS: How Nobel Laureates’ Work Impacts Today’s Technology

Particle physics and cosmology make up the big topics of interest for many young scientists at the 66th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting, with lectures by the pioneering researchers who won Nobel Prizes for their work in the cosmic microwave background radiation, neutrino mass, and the accelerating expansion of the universe. These fields embody the inquisitive and fundamental nature of physics as a discipline driven purely by a curiosity about what makes the world tick.

However, let’s not forget about the importance of more applied topics in physics, such as research in semiconductors, optics, medical physics, and nanotechnology. Physicists in these fields have contributed to groundbreaking developments in technology that impact not only society as a whole, but often affect our individual lives on a day-to-day basis.

Their work often teeters on the fuzzy border between science and engineering — a place Nobel Laureate Hiroshi Amano remains very familiar with. As one of the inventors of the once-elusive blue LED, Amano had a direct hand in the realization of full-color displays that grace our beloved smartphones, as well as the energy-efficient LED lighting quickly replacing incandescent and fluorescent bulbs.

“First of all, I’d like to mention that I’m not a physicist — I belong to the engineering department. So today, I’d like to emphasize the importance of not only the science but also the engineering,” said Amano, who kicked off the meeting’s Nobel Laureate lectures on Monday morning. “Maybe my field is not the major in this meeting, so I’d like to mention the importance of the minority.”

 

27907096826_70c83a9f6e_k

Hiroshi Amano during his lecture. Photo: J. Nimke/Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting

Amano began his lecture by describing his poor academic performance from primary school to high school. Since it seemed to him that the only reason to study hard in Japan was to get into a good high school or university, he lacked sufficient motivation. A former professor changed this mindset by describing the purpose of engineering as a discipline that connects and supports the people. From that moment on, Amano had no trouble finding the inner drive to study hard.

Despite his title as a Professor in the Department of Engineering and Computer Science at Nagoya University in Japan, Amano won the 2014 Nobel Prize in Physics along with Isamu Akasaki and Shuji Nakamura for the invention of high-brightness blue light-emitting diodes (LEDs). For three decades, the creation of a commercially viable blue LED remained a slow-going and difficult endeavor for researchers despite the previous success of red and green LEDs.

“Unfortunately, all the efforts in the 1970s failed,” said Amano, citing issues with growing crystals in the material of choice for blue LEDs, gallium nitride, as well as creating p-type layers. “So many, many researchers abandoned this material and started the new material research such as zinc selenide. Only one person could not abandon this material: my supervisor, Isamu Akasaki.”

In 1985, Akasaki and Amano successfully created their own crystal growth system by using a buffer layer of low-temperature-deposited aluminum nitride that sat between the gallium nitride and sapphire substrate. After a few more tweaks involving the p-type layer, the two presented the world’s first high-brightness blue LED in 1992.

The flashy new blue LEDs could now be combined with their classic red and green counterparts to produce full-color displays for smartphones, computer screens, and televisions. Energy-efficient and long-lasting lightbulbs that emit white light use blue LEDs along with yellow phosphor, and have already started to replace incandescent and fluorescent lighting around the world. By year 2020, the total electricity consumption in Japan could drop about 7% by swapping existing lamp systems to LEDs — a savings of 1 trillion Japanese yen.

Outside of cosmology and particle physics, another fundamental field of physics lies in studying the strange and often paradoxical quantum world. Many quantum phenomena were thought to exist only in a theorist’s mind, since direct experimental observation would destroy the individual quantum systems.

However, the work of Nobel Laureate David Wineland proved otherwise. In 2012, Wineland and Serge Haroche shared the Nobel Prize in Physics for their independent discovery of experimental methods that enable the measurement and manipulation of individual particles without destroying their quantum-mechanical nature. His research has enabled the creation of extremely precise atomic clocks, with more than 100-fold greater precision than the cesium-based clocks in standard use.

 

27885407731_bc134a256a_k

David Wineland

“Certainly one of the applications of precise clocks over many centuries has been in navigation, and that’s still true today,” said Wineland during his lecture on Tuesday morning. “One system we take for granted is the [Global Positioning System (GPS)].”

Signals from satellites orbiting the Earth transmit their position and current time, which are then picked up by a GPS receiver. Given that the signals travel at the speed of light, the calculated time delays between the clocks of multiple satellites and those on the ground can be used to pinpoint the GPS receiver’s location on the surface of the Earth.

“There can be errors in the clocks, so for example if the clocks are synchronized to the nanosecond, then that gives an uncertainty of about 30 centimeters,” he said.

The standard atomic clocks in satellites today use an electronic transition frequency in the microwave range as a periodic event generator or frequency reference. Earlier examples of periodic event generators include the rotation of the Earth and the swing of a pendulum.

As Group Leader of the Ion Storage Group at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in the U.S., Wineland began working on building a better clock in 1979 when he started to do experiments with atomic ions. The group trapped beryllium ions by surrounding them with electric fields and used tuned laser pulses to put the ions in a superposition state, or a simultaneous existence of two different energy states. A single ion trapped in this way could also be used to create an optical clock, based on optical rather than microwave transitions.

An optical clock’s precision can be better than one part in 10^17 — meaning that if you started the clock at the time of the Big Bang 14 billion years ago, it would only be off by about 5 seconds.

At the end of his lecture, Wineland described using his clocks for navigation at a scale of less than one centimeter. Not only would GPS calculations become much more accurate, but such clocks could even measure the dynamics of relative locations on Earth for earthquake prediction.

All our hopes and fears: Why the Lindau meeting needs to include psychologists

Daniel Kahneman, Paul Slovic and Michael Shermer; all experts in the psychology of belief and risk perception and potentially valuable additions to the Lindau Meeting (Images: Wikipedia Commons)

When I visited Lindau this year I experienced a mix of hopes and fears. The hopes came from the Nobel Prize winners and the young students and researchers gathered there. As a supposedly unbiased observer it was my job to provide skepticism and express fears.

What was the source of the fears? The problem was that I could not help but feel that I had heard it all before. When the laureates were talking about improving science funding, about inspiring young people to go into science, about strategies to combat climate change and solve the energy crisis, I could not help but feel a pronounced wave of deja vu wash over me. I had heard much of this in 2009. And I had heard it being expressed in the interim in news sources, on blogs and in interviews with experts across the spectrum of science and technology.

I heard Steven Chu, Mario Molina and Richard Schrock talk about how important solar power, next-generation nuclear power, energy efficiency and better mileage standards are. I heard Brian Kobilka, Harry Kroto and others talk about the increasing lack of focus on basic research, about basic science education and the march of irrationality. I heard them and nodded my head, as I had nodded my head back in 2009.

My feeling was that we have reached, in terms of technical solutions, if not a plateau, at least a point of diminishing marginal returns. The technology for cutting carbon emissions, for storing nuclear waste, for supporting forays into Alzheimer’s disease research and for taking science education to students in the developing world already exists. Although technological innovations can still have a tremendous impact on the energy crisis or the problem of curiosity-driven research, the major problems that we face do not lie at the technical level. They lie at the political, social and psychological level. The cardinal issue confronting us is not how to deploy this or that technical fix but how to change people’s minds. And when I realized this I could not help but feel despondent. Because while technological solutions can be challenging enough, changing people’s minds is a truly herculean task, often spread over several generations and entire social movements. On some level everything that the technical experts at Lindau were saying did not matter, because all those solutions would not make an iota of difference if we were unable to convince the politicians and the general public about their value.

Concomitant with this realization was a more practical one. In the cast of outstanding thinkers and doers at Lindau one category was conspicuously missing. The august group of experts this year included physicists, chemists, biologists, doctors, mathematicians, computer scientists, neuroscientists, a bishop, a president and a secretary of energy. Not one psychologist or sociologist. I realized that what we really need at Lindau is a group of crack psychologists to tell us how we can actually convince people to adopt the solutions that the physicists, chemists, doctors and energy experts are proposing. Without psychologists’ recommendations it is likely that all the technological recommendations offered by the experts will hit a roadblock.

What kind of psychologists would the Lindau meeting benefit from? What we need most of all are experts on the psychology of belief. Three names immediately come to my mind. One is a Nobel Prize winner so it should not be difficult for the organizers of the meeting to include him in their ranks. Daniel Kahneman has spent his whole career demonstrating why people react in certain ways to stimuli, fears and incentives, and why they keep on making decisions based on gut feelings that inadvertently turn out to be flawed. Kahneman would be a very valuable addition at Lindau because he can teach us how people react to signals about sources of energy and policy decisions. Kahneman has also investigated how the more rational side of the brain can often circumvent its primitive, knee-jerk counterpart and how we can channel this side to make sure that we suppress decisions based on gut reactions. We need Kahneman’s advice to understand how we can appeal to people’s rational side in convincing them about energy or climate change.

Another valuable expert to have at Lindau would be Paul Slovic who is internationally renowned for his work on the psychology of risk. Almost every new technology or scientific solution proposed by the experts carries with it an element of risk, and people are going to perceive this risk in their own way. The public’s perceptions of risk to things like climate change or nuclear power are often flawed since they arise from emotional and preconceived beliefs rather than from rational analysis. Whether it is fear of nuclear power, “chemicals” or government control of our lives, our world is filled with risk perception that is disproportionate to reality. The Precautionary Principle, reaction mechanisms in the primitive brain and a heightened perception of sensationalized events at the expense of far more prevalent but low-grade events are all constant features of the general public’s assessment of risk, and this assessment often leads us to make wrong choices. Whether it’s the introduction of solar power, the expansion of fracking or the widespread deployment of nuclear power, it is imperative to appreciate how people will react to the perceived risk from these technologies. The wrong perception of risk can lead them to squelch promising technical solutions through political maneuvering. Experts like Paul Slovic can teach us to present risk in an honest and sensible way so that people have an accurate idea of the reality which it represents.

Finally, the basic source of all our fears and reactions is the belief system that evolution has engineered in our brains. That belief system served us well when we were hunter gatherers eking out a living on the savannah, but it often does more harm than good in our modern, complex human world. Michael Shermer has not only spent years investigating the psychology of belief but he has also managed to present his findings and thoughts to the public in the form of informative and entertaining books. Much of Shermer’s writing has focused on exploring the primitive pattern-seeking mechanisms in our brain that make us see conspiracy theories and mistake noise for signal in general. Ultimately, whatever technology we are trying to sell people will be limited by how people perceive its risks and benefits based on their preconceived beliefs. If their beliefs tell them that the technology cannot be trusted, then they won’t embrace its benefits no matter how sensible or unambiguous they are. Shermer can tell us why people believe certain things, and especially strange things, and perhaps by knowing this we can pitch the technological solutions to them in such a way that they appeal to the rational beliefs in their heads.

Science and technology can only take us so far. Ultimately nothing changes until people and politicians’ thought processes change, and no number of sound technical fixes will work if people refuse to believe in their benefits and change their behavior. And for doing this we need not chemists and physicists but psychologists and sociologists. I humbly suggest that the Lindau meeting should henceforth make sessions with psychologists an integral part of its agenda.

Auch Lehrer können euphorisch sein

und sind auch begeisterte Forscher sowie Experimentatoren.

Lindau 04.07.2013

Aber jetzt erst einmal von Anfang an:
Ja gestern war wohl der turbulenteste Tag meines bisherigen Reporterlebens.
Ich stand sehr früh auf -obwohl ich kein ‚Scientific Breakfast‘ hatte- und war um Punkt 8.30 Uhr in unserem Konferenzgebäude in der Lobb, wo ich wie üblich für eines der vereinbarten Interviews vor dem ‚Laureate Desk‘ wartete. 8.40 Uhr erblickt mich ein Orga-Mitglied und fragt, ob mein Interview mit Prof. Brian Kobilka gut war. Erstaunt sage ich, dass ich noch warte und vernehme promt ein leises F…; da steht doch wirklich auf meiner ‚persönlichen Agenda für Aktionen und Interviews‘, dass ich bei Brian Kobilski in der Hotellobby sein sollte. Da aber die Organisation hier exzellent ist, war das F… und mein Ärger über mich auch schon wieder vergessen und ich bekam freundlicherweise einen neuen Termin um 14 Uhr.

Aber ein Titel bleibt an mir jetzt wohl hängen: Der Nobelpreis-Versetzer.
So wie er es mir später sagte, steht er sowieso früh auf um ‚Lindau am Morgen‘ zu erleben und so war sein Groll auch nicht ganz so groß.

Naja, ich ging dann in den Vortrag von Mario J. Molina – schliesslich komme ich aus der Umweltanalytik – und anschließend gleich wieder an das ‚Laureate Desk‘, um meinen nächsten Interviewpartner zu treffen. Vierzig Minuten später war klar, dass nun ich wohl versetzt worden bin, eine Verwechslung im Terminkalender (kann ja mal passieren).

So durcheinander der Vormittag auch begann, umso toller wurde dann der Nachmittag. Denn um 14 Uhr hatte ich ein Gespräch mit Brian Kobilka über seine Erfahrungen aus jungen Tagen und der Situation seit einem halben Jahr als ‚Mann des öffentlichen Lebens‘ und um 15 Uhr ein ebenso spannendes Gespräch mit Kurt Wüthrich über seine Erfahrungen aus jungen Tagen und Anderes. – Interviewberichte folgen in Kürze-.

Teaching Spirit 2013 Mittagessen

Zudem waren Kurt Wüthrich ebenso wie Richard Ernst und Gerhard Ertl zum Mittagessen im IMPULSPROGRAMM „TEACHING SPIRIT“ mit 22 Lehrern geladen. Und ich war dabei, um als bloggender Autor vom Teaching Spirit zu berichten.

Teaching Spirit 2013 Mittagessen

Auf dem Programm standen neben den Vorträgen der Nobelpreisträger  am Vormittag und dem Mittagessen die Einführung in die Lindauer Nobelpreisträger Mediathek sowie ein Vortrag und Workshop des IPN – Leibnitz-Institut für Pädagogik der Naturwissenschaften und Mathematik.

Beim Mittagessen waren die Nobelpreisträger über die lange Tafel verteilt und unterhielten sich angeregt mit den Lehrern. Fast hatte es den Anschein als wären da keine Lehrer sondern junge Wissenschaftler.

Dieser Enthusiasmus hielt sich auch dann noch als für die Lehrer das Seminar begann und die Nobelpreisträger wieder mit den schwarzen Autos abgeholt wurden.

Teaching Spirit 2013 Seminar

 

Teaching Spirit Seminar Experimente 1

Anschliessend wurde fleissig experimentiert und diskutiert; wie den Bildern zu entnehmen mit viel forscherischem Fleiß.

Ich finde es eine tolle Sache, dass Lehrer mit dieser Veranstaltung geehrt werden, das ist es auf jeden Fall Wert weitergeführt zu werden, damit Lehrer ihre Motivation zu forschen und experimentieren noch erhöhen können.

Teaching Spirit 2013 Experimente 2

 

 

 

[hr] Eine Reihe der Berichterstattungen von Florian Freistetter und Joachim Pietzsch aus dem letzten Jahr gibt einen ausführliches Überblick von ‚Teaching Spirit‘ in 2012:

Sehr empfehlenswert.

Núria’s Video Blog Post 2013

In today’s Lindau Video blog, Núria Sancho Oltra of the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne explores the many aspects of learning at Lindau – what researchers learn from the Laureates, from each other and what learning at Lindau will mean for their ongoing research.

More videos by attendees at the 63rd Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in 2013

Statements by Lindau’s 2013 Video Bloggers