A BLU day for Berlin’s Street Art

Photography, Posts

During the night of December, 11th the Italian artist Blu had both of his famous street art pieces at Berlin Cuvry Straße painted black, meant as a statement against gentrification in Berlin… More on BluBlog and Nerdcore

Humor in Science (Episode 3: surname-sharing in co-authored publications)

Humor in Science, Posts

My friend Engin pointed me to this very instructive paper by A Few Goodmen (2014) about the phenomenon of surname-sharing in co-authored publications. Absolutely frontier-pushing, as these few Goodmen explain:

Our contribution to this literature is twofold. First, we believe this paper is the first written by four economists who share a surname…Our second, and related, contribution is that the four coauthors of this paper are unrelated by marriage, blood or current campus.


Homies (Episode 2: Hix Boson)

Homies, Posts

All that scratchin’ is making me itch…And this man has figured it all out! While Alex Sonnenfeld a.k.a. Hix Boson is a true master of his craft and a great performer, he is also a scratch professor! One, he teaches at Q-Bert’s Scratch University, an online music school for becoming turntablists. Two, he has developed a unique notation system for scratch music, called S-Notation, which is based on the standard Western notation system.

If you want to know more about Alex, check out this interview, where he also reports on his exchange with Karlheinz Stockhausen, one of the most important composers of the 20th century.

And do check out these clips:



Wall on Wall :: Photo of Photo

Photography, Posts

WALLONWALL is an ongoing photo exhibition at the back side of Berlin’s East Side Gallery, showing photographs of Kai Wiedenhöfer. The concept is deceivingly simple. The exhibition consists of a series of photos of walls that separate people worldwide printed on the remains of the wall that had separated East and West Berliners for decades, and which has since the “Fall of the Wall” in 1989 become a symbol for peaceful revolution.


I was inspired by the degree of self-reflexivity of this exhibition and came up with the idea to turn this into a little photo project of taking photos of photos of walls on a wall. I composed my shots in a way that on every photo you can still see some of the foreground (grass, stones, sometimes people). This creates interesting effects, because it is not always immediately apparent what you are actually seeing…a “real” setting or one of Kai Wiedenhöfer’s photographs?

PS: If you like this post check out my previous post on photographing photographers.

Humor in Science (Episode 2: storks vs. sex)

Humor in Science

By Claude Covo-Farchi from Paris, France (Une étoile est née) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

As we all know,

Two different theories exist concerning the origin of children: the Theory of Sexual Reproduction (ThoSR) and the Theory of the Stork (ThoS).


[…n]owadays, many people believe in the theory of reproduction, simply because they have been taught this theory in school, although it is a scientific theory, not a truth (Leisti T, personal communication via leisti@cc.helsinki.fi, 2001),

Höfer, Przyrembel, and Verleger (Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology 2004, 18(1):88–92) finally provide fresh evidence for ThoS and against ThoSR. The latter is implausible, the authors argue convincingly, inter alia because:

According to the theory of sexual reproduction, children are a result of sexual intercourse. There are however, well-documented cases where sexual intercourse has not led to the birth of a child. To the contrary, in the fundamental Christian work The Bible a case of delivery without sexual inter- course is documented. […] Therefore, this aspect should be amended to read: ‘No scientifically proven absolute cause-effect relationship exists between intercourse and delivery’.

In support of ThoS, the authors present a statistical significant correlation between the stork population in Brandenburg and out-of-hospital deliveries in Berlin between 1990 and 2000. However, they do not find a significant correlation between the stork population in Brandenburg and clinical deliveries in Berlin in the same period. Consequently, they conclude

that ThoS has to be restricted to out-of-hospital deliveries [and that the] ThoS should be further substantiated by rigorous scientific methods.

Höfer et al. must surely be applauded for bringing ThoS back on the table. But their version of ThoS may be flawed. Most likely an artifact of their methodological approach, the authors too easily rule out the possibility that in reality a combination of ThoS and ThoSR could hold. In fact, a recent 1-n ethnographic study by F.G. suggests strong evidence for cases of rapist storks:

Humor in Science (Episode 1: Writer’s Block)

Humor in Science, Posts

The stereotypical scientist is a highly intelligent, socially awkward, and humorless person, obsessed with unearthing “the truth.” Scientists seem to be always on the verge of becoming crazy. They tend to develop aspirations to either save or overtake the world. And when scientists speak to us they inform us about the facts. They tell us what has been measured. They read us from the book of nature.

(Did you expected to see a man on this picture? If so, what does this tell us about the stereotypes of scientists? Do you see a woman on this picture? How can you know? Anyway, this is not the topic of this post – Image: surya91)

Humor is less often attributed to scientists. Humor seems to have no place in science, other than as an object of research. Yes, of course, there is a science of humor! There are theories of humor which attempt to explain what humor is, what social functions it serves, and what would be considered humorous. There even is The International Society for Humor Studies, publisher of the quarterly journal, Humor: International Journal of Humor Research. Among the journal’s top 20 most downloaded articles are:

But luckily (and funnily) the science of humor is not the only way in which humor is in science. Often unnoticed, we find humor in science itself. After all, scientists are also only apes – like all of us! And as such, they must have humor, too (Gamble, Jennifer. 2001. “Humor in Apes.Humor – International Journal of Humor Research 14(2).).

Being a (social) scientists and ape myself, I can confirm that this is “true”! In this new series of mine I will prove that scientists are a funny tribe by showcasing humorous scientific publications. Apart from funny remarks in scientific publications, of which there are plenty (certainly more than anyone expects), there are truly humorous scientific publications which as publications function like good jokes. Why do these get published then? Because they are funny and because good jokes can educate.

Episode 1 introduces a pathbreaking article by Dennis Upper, published in 1974 in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis on the “The Unsuccessful Self-Treatment of a Case of ‘writer’s Block”:


Note that

[p]ortions of this paper were not presented at the 81st Annual American Psychological Association Convention, Montreal, Canada, August 30, 1973 (my emphasis).

Given the severeness of Upper’s findings, his article has inspired some important follow-up research. In 1983, Geoffrey Molloy successfully (or unsuccessfully?) replicated Upper’s original study in Perceptual and Motor Skills. Two years later, Skinner et al., also in Perceptual and Motor Skills, suggested a group modification of these self-treatment procedures. Finally, in 1996, Skinner and Perlini reported that

[w]eekly one-hour administration of these group protocols has continued to be ineffective over a 10-yr. follow-up period.

…too bad!

Homies (Episode 1: Amewu)

Homies, Posts

Folks, this is my new series on artists I love. Episode one: Amewu.

This one is easy, because I am completely biased. Not only is Amewu’s music simply AWESOME but he is also a longtime friend of mine. But I think there are also more “objective” reasons to love Amewu (and his music). Here are three:

      1. He keeps it fucking real. As far as I know, he has never compromised on anything concerning his music. Making music, for Amewu, means doing what HE wants to do, not what others want to hear.
      2. He masters his skills. From a technical viewpoint, Amewu’s flows and rhymes are as good as it gets in German rap music.
      3. He is a conscious rapper. He always resisted the temptation to tune in to the macho-bragging behavior of most of his fellow (German) rappers. Ever noticed any homophobic, sexist, or otherwise insulting contents in his music? You simply won’t find theses. To the contrary, his lyrics are full of anti-homophobic, anti-sexist statements. How refreshing!

And now just watch this guy flowing like a river…at the record release party of his second album. I love you, Amewu!

Food for Nerds (Episode 1: Ludwik Fleck)

Food for Nerds, Posts

I first encountered the writings of the Polish medical microbiologist Ludwik Fleck (1896-1961) during my graduate studies at Bielefeld University. After reading both Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions and Fleck’s Entstehung und Entwicklung einer wissenschaftlichen Tatsache (Genesis and development of a scientific fact), I compared the two books in a course paper. My conclusion was that Fleck not only preluded most of Kuhn’s central themes but arguably was also the “better Kuhn.” Only much later I came to understand that Fleck’s writings contain, in fact, a whole sociology of knowledge (which I should finally start reconstructing for myself…).

A few days ago I started browsing a recent collection of material by Fleck, containing essays, letters, and protocols. Apart from Fleck’s heartbreaking testimonies of his stays at Auschwitz and Buchenwald, I found the 1935 letter exchange between Fleck and Moritz Schlick, then the head of the famous Vienna Circle, particularly interesting. Fleck, intending to redefine epistemology (as a social practice) but cut off from the leading epistemologists of his time (consider that Fleck was a medical microbiologist, not a philosopher), approaches Schlick for comments on Entstehung und Entwicklung einer wissenschaftlichen Tatsache (then still a manuscript with a slightly different title), probably also hoping for publication support. Schlick’s answer, however, doesn’t exactly suggest great admiration for Fleck’s ideas. In a way Schlick’s answer thereby ironically exemplifies one of Fleck’s central notions: “Denkstil” (thought style). It must have been rather difficult for Schlick to fully appreciate and make sense of Fleck’s ideas, simply because they originated from a Denkstil so bizarrely different from that cultivated in the Vienna Circle.

Since I am now refilled with admiration for Ludwik Fleck and his ideas, I though I should share this admiration with you – and make “Ludwik Fleck” the first episode of my new series on “Food for Nerds.” Entstehung und Entwicklung einer wissenschaftlichen Tatsache is of course Fleck’s most important work (in the area of social epistemology), but I find almost all of his writing fascinating. If you are seriously interested in becoming all nerdy about Fleck, check out the following references:

Fleck, Ludwik. 1980. Entstehung Und Entwicklung Einer Wissenschaftlichen Tatsache. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp.

Fleck, Ludwik. 1981. Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact. University of Chicago Press.

Fleck, Ludwik. 1983. Erfahrung und Tatsache: gesammelte Aufsätze. Edited by Thomas Schnelle. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp.

Fleck, Ludwik. 2011. Denkstile und Tatsachen: gesammelte Schriften und Zeugnisse. Edited by Sylwia Werner and Claus Zittel. Berlin: Suhrkamp.

Babich, Babette. 2003. “Kuhn’s Paradigm as a Parable for the Cold War: Incommensurability and Its Discontents from Fuller’s Tale of Harvard to Fleck’s Unsung Lvov.” Social Epistemology 17(2-3):99–109.

Babich, Babette E. 2003. “From Fleck’s Denkstil to Kuhn’s Paradigm: Conceptual Schemes and Incommensurability.” International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 17(1):75–92.

Cohen, R. S., and Thomas Schnelle. 1986. Cognition and Fact: Materials on Ludwik Fleck. Dordrecht: Reidel.

Egloff, Rainer (Editor). 2005. Tatsache – Denkstil – Kontroverse: Auseinandersetzungen mit Ludwik Fleck. Zürich: Collegium Helveticum.

Graf, Erich Otto. 2005. “Habent Sua Fata Libelli – Bücher Haben Ihre Schicksale.” Retrieved from http://www.fleckzentrum.ethz.ch//fileadmin/user_upload/lfz_pdf_events/Referat_Erich_O._Graf.pdf

Sady, Wojciech. 2012. “Ludwik Fleck.” in The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, edited by Edward N. Zalta. Retrieved from http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2012/entries/fleck/