Blåmes

blåmes

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Bluebells

bluebells

The forest floor just behind our street in Brussels is in full hyacinth bloom right now, just like famous Hallerbos.

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More Books!

In my recent list of books I omitted the two that I have not finished yet. But even so, I am more than half-way through both and will most likely not find their remainders less excellent.

  • Richard Dawkins' The Selfish Gene is of course a very famous book; and now even I know why. How selection pressure can steer behaviour in animals (us humans not excluded) is truly enlightening. I especially liked that the author co-reads the audio-version himself, which makes his included later commentary on the over 40 years old text extra entertaining.
  • The Elephant in the Brain is written by Kevin Simler & Robin Hanson and was released earlier this year. It is about how unaware we are about our actual motivations. We deceive ourselves to get away with selfish acts while at the same time looking good and noble in our own eyes, and hopefully those of others.

I cannot put it into words yet how but the two books are very much related to each other. I mean in a deeper sense than that they are about behaviour.

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Late Spring

late-spring

Spring is very late this year in northern Europe. Finally, things are looking up though.

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Books!

In recent months I've been cutting down on my following the news cycle and social media, and on some podcasts. This has freed up time for some books to read or listen to. Here are a few that I enjoyed quite a bit.

  • The Gene: An Intimate History by Mukherjee, Siddhartha.
  • Sapiens and Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari.
  • Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body by Daniel Goleman & Richard Davidson.
  • If you are as skeptical toward "meditation" as I was, Sam Harris' Waking Up might convince you that it can be done without religious mumbo-jumbo.
  • The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World by David Deutsch.
  • I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life by Ed Yong.
  • Last, Compelling Science Fiction periodically publishes ebooks with short stories. Not all brilliant, maybe, but some quite compelling indeed.
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Two Brewery Visits In Westflandern

Over Easter we visited Westflandern, the north-west corner of Belgium. On short notice we did not manage to get into one of the historic breweries, but high-tech in large and small scales sure was intersting as well: Kasteel and Kazematten.

Many more pictures here.

two-brewery-visits-in-westflandern

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FOSDEM 2018

I happened to be in Brussels for this year's installement of FOSDEM and it sure is an amazing free event, pulled off by a lot of voluntary work.

The plan was to have a short writeup and comment on the talks I listened to, but I rather spent the time watching some more talks in their recorded form. So I recommend you pick by your interests and do the same: Saturday, Sunday

At least I got around to showing a few tidbits to fellow astronomers. Slides

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Why social media are manipulative

socmed

I'm listening through the back-log of Sam Harris' podcast for a while and today it was time for Episode #71 on the fight for time and attention, which I found very enlightening.

We've all had mixed feelings about social media and other technologies that are optimized to gain and keep our attention, so I found it helpful to get some vocabulary for thinking better about this topic. I won't summarize it here, go listen to it!

If not, then one take-away message certainly is:

Technology is not neutral!

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