Tag Archives: Germany

Scientists pinpoint exotic new particle called quantum droplet

Interesting stuff… TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Reuters

By Will Dunham 


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – In the field of quantum physics, you could call this a droplet in the bucket.

Physicists in Germany and the United States said on Wednesday they have discovered an exotic new type of particle that they call a quantum droplet, or dropleton.

Writing in the journal Nature, they said it behaves a bit like a liquid droplet and described it as a quasiparticle – an amalgamation of smaller types of particles.

The discovery, they added, could be useful in the development of nanotechnology, including the design of optoelectronic devices. These include things like the semiconductor lasers used in Blu-ray disc players.

The microscopic quantum droplet does not dawdle. In the physicists’ experiments using an ultra-fast laser emitting about 100 million pulses per second, the quantum droplet appeared for only about 2.5 billionths of a second.

That does not sound like much, but the scientists said it is stable enough for research on how light interacts with certain types of matter.

A previously known example of a quasiparticle is the exciton, a pairing of an electron and a “hole” – a place in the material’s energy structure where an electron could be located but is not.

The quantum droplet is made up of roughly five electrons and five holes. It possesses some characteristics of a liquid, like having ripples, the scientists said.

Quantum physics is a branch of physics that relates to events taking place on the tiniest scale. It is essential in describing the structure of atoms.

Particles are the basic building blocks of matter. They include things like subatomic entities such as electrons, protons, neutrons and quarks. Only rarely are new ones found.

The scientists in Germany worked with a team led by physicist Steven Cundiff at JILA, a joint physics institute of the University of Colorado at Boulder and the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology.

It was in Boulder where the laser experiments were performed using a semiconductor of the elements gallium and arsenic, revealing the new particle, albeit fleetingly.

“Even though this happens so rapidly, it is still useful to understand that it does happen,” Cundiff said by email.

The scientists foresee practical value in the discovery.

“The effects that give rise to the formation of dropletons also influence the electrons in optoelectronic devices such as laser diodes,” physicist Mackillo Kira of the University of Marburg in Germany, one of the researchers, said by email.

Examples of optoelectronic devices include LED lights and semiconductor lasers used in telecommunications and Blu-ray players.

“For example, the dropletons couple particularly strongly to quantum fluctuations of light, which should be extremely useful when designing lasers capable of encoding quantum information,” Kira added.

(Reporting by Will Dunham; Editing by Jan Paschal)

‘Bishop of Bling’: Catholics Aren’t Alone in Struggle with Wealth

Excellent article… TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Live Science


  By Stephanie Pappas, Senior Writer 

The Vatican has suspended a German bishop over the cost of his home renovation, highlighting religious — and very human — ambivalence over wealth.

Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst spent some $40 million of Catholic Church and German taxpayer money (registered Catholics in the country pay part of their income to the church) improving his private residence, including installing a $20,000 bathtub. Such a showy display apparently displeased Pope Francis, who is known for his austerity. Tebartz-van Elst has since been dubbed “the bishop of bling” by the German media.

The Catholic Church itself, however, is one of the wealthiest institutions on the planet, and some critics argue that the bishop of bling is merely a symptom of a larger problem.

“Tebartz-van Elst is just the tip of the iceberg,” Christian Weisner, spokesman for the German branch of the Church reform group We Are Church, told the Religious News Service. “There is a real clash of cultures between Germany’s current cardinals and bishops — nominated under John Paul II or Benedict XVI — and Pope Francis.” [Papal Primer: History's 10 Most Intriguing Popes]

Catholics aren’t the only ones with a wealth problem. Every religion and human philosophy has grappled with inequality in some way or another — and studies suggest that wealth gaps date to the beginnings of agriculture. Meanwhile, even as religion struggles with questions of wealth, belonging to a certain religion can influence how well off a person becomes.

Christianity and wealth

Whatever one’s beliefs about wealth, they can probably find a religious theory to match. Among Protestant Christians, for example, wealth has been seen in three ways: as an offense to faith, as an obstacle to faith, and even as an outcome of faith, according to David Miller, the director of the Princeton University Faith & Work Initiative.

In a 2007 talk, Miller laid out the Biblical references to wealth and the philosophies they’ve engendered. Those who see wealth in direct opposition to faith have pointed to passages like Mark 8:20, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” According to anti-wealth thinkers, if Jesus rejected the material world, his followers should, too. “[W]oe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort,” Jesus says in Luke 6:24-25. “Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry.”

Others see wealth as an obstacle to faith, but not an insurmountable one. This faction points to Biblical quotes like, “the love of money is the root of all evil,” to argue that it’s not wealth, but obsession with wealth, that stands between man and faith.

“On the one hand, this Protestant modality recognizes a theologically legitimate role for wealth creation and its subsequent use,” Miller wrote. “On the other hand, there is a profound awareness of two ways in which wealth creation becomes an obstacle to faith.” [Religious Mysteries: 8 Alleged Relics of Jesus]

Finally, a small but influential group of evangelical Protestants argue that wealth is a sign of God’s blessings, and the faithful will find that money comes their way. Figures such as televangelist Oral Roberts and megachurch pastor Joel Osteen preach this “prosperity gospel.”

The Catholic Church has also wrestled with wealth, with Popes taking a generally pro-capitalist view since the late 1800s, according to Todd Whitmore, a professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame. Nevertheless, Catholic theologians have condemned consumerism and wealth inequalities. In Redemptor hominis, a 1979 policy blueprint of sorts by Pope John Paul II, the Pope lamented, “We are now dealing with the rich highly developed societies — while the remaining societies — at least broad sectors of them — are suffering from hunger, with many people dying each day of starvation and malnutrition. Hand in hand go a certain abuse of freedom by one group — an abuse linked precisely with a consumer attitude uncontrolled by ethics — and a limitation by it of the freedom of the others, that is to say those suffering marked shortages and being driven to conditions of even worse misery and destitution.”

The roots of money

However it’s handled, wealth goes way back. According to a 2009 study published in the journal Science, wealth gaps emerge in traditional societies where inheritance matters: agricultural communities and pastoral, herding societies. A child born in the top 10 percent of one of these societies is 11 times more likely to end up in the top 10 percent than a child born in the bottom 10 percent.

Throughout history, hunter-gatherer societies and societies based on primitive slash-and-burn agriculture (without ploughs or land ownership) have been more egalitarian. A child born in the top 10 percent of these societies is still more likely to end up there than a child born in the bottom 10 percent, but only by three times, not 11.

In modern-day society, where a person sits in the social pecking order strongly determines how they’ll interact with others. The wealthy are worse at understanding other people’s emotions (a skill known as empathy) than the poor, according to a 2010 study published in the journal Psychological Science.

“Upper-class people’s interactions are characterized by independence,” study researcher Michael Kraus, a psychologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, told LiveScience. “This can be good, because it provides autonomy from others and freedom from social pressures. It can be a problem in cases where upper-class individuals pay less attention to others’ internal states.”

Lower-class people live in a more dangerous world of unsafe neighborhoods and lack of ease. For them, Kraus said, understanding others is a matter of survival.

Kraus has also found the poor are more polite and attentive to the wealthy than vice versa, bolstering the theory that the well-off send a “I don’t need you” vibe. But wealth doesn’t make people mean across the board. A 1993 study by psychologist Jon Haidt, now at New York University, surveyed rich and poor people in Brazil and found the wealthy were less likely than the poor to demand punishment for offensive but ultimately harmless acts, such as defacing an American flag. Researchers think the poor are quicker to moralize such acts because of the need to hang together.

“Extra moralizing helps protect lower-class group members from inappropriate behaviors that might shatter group cohesion,” Kraus said.

Get rich with God

If Catholic bishops often have spare cash, their followers aren’t doing so badly either —at least in the United States. White, non-Latino Catholics ages 35 to 55 have proven to be an upwardly mobile bunch, according to research by Duke University sociologist Lisa Keister. Much of the change is demographic: This group has gained education, sized down families and sent more women to work.

In comparison, conservative Protestants tend to have bigger families and less education, making them among the poorest of religious groups, while Jewish families are, on average, the wealthiest, thanks in part to high levels of education and employment as well as small families. [Saint or Slacker? Test Your Religious Knowledge]

But much of the differences in wealth between religious groups remain unexplained. Keister suspects the teachings of each religion may explain the gaps.

“Religions have a lot of say about money, and people seem to internalize those messages,” Keister told LiveScience. One obvious example is tithing: Conservative Christians tend to view money and belonging to God first, Keister said, and most give 10 percent of their income to the church. Tithing automatically cuts down on savings. That alone could explain the Protestant-Catholic wealth gap, Keister said, because U.S. Catholics typically don’t tithe.

The wealth gaps even persist when race and other factors are taken into account. Latino Catholics, for example, have less wealth than white, non-Latino Catholics. But Latino Catholics are still better off than Latino conservative Protestants.

Another possibility is that just by attending church, people build social networks that help them accumulate wealth. Perhaps they meet people who might loan them money, or simply chat about investments after services with people wealthier than they.

“If I go to church with those kind of people, and I go a lot, it should matter,” Keister said.

Follow Stephanie Pappas on Twitter and Google+. Follow us @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on LiveScience.

Tear Down That Wall

This article was written by the late (and great) Christopher Hitchens. Although Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI, is no longer “in office,” the Catholic Church remains a haven for sexual predators. As such, the article is still relevant. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Slate

by Christopher Hitchens
Posted: February 12, 2013

Here’s a little thought experiment on practical ethics. Suppose that you are having a drink with a new acquaintance and the subject of law-breaking comes up. “Ever been in any trouble with the authorities?”

You may perhaps mention your arrest at a demonstration, your smuggling of excess duty-free goods, that brush with the narcotics people, that unwise attempt at insider trading. Your counterpart may show a closer acquaintance with the criminal justice system. He once did a bit of time for forgery, or for robbery with a touch of violence, or for a domestic dispute that got a bit out of hand. You are still perhaps ready to have lunch next Friday. But what if he says: “Well, I once knew a couple who trusted me as their baby sitter. Two little boys they had—one of 12 and one of 10. A good bit of fun I had with those kids when nobody was looking. Told them it was our secret. I was sorry when it all ended.” I hope I don’t seem too judgmental if I say that at this point the lunch is canceled or indefinitely postponed.

And would you feel any less or any more revulsion if the man went on to say, “Of course, I wasn’t strictly speaking in any trouble with the law. I’m a Catholic priest, so we don’t bother the police or the courts with that stuff. We take care of it ourselves, if you catch my meaning”?

Yet this is exactly what we are forced to read about every day. The happiness and the health of countless children was systematically destroyed by men who could count on their clerical bosses to shield them from legal retribution and, it seems, even from moral condemnation. A bit of “therapy” or a swift change of locale was the worst that most of them had to fear.

Almost every week, I go and debate with spokesmen of religious faith. Invariably and without exception, they inform me that without a belief in supernatural authority I would have no basis for my morality. Yet here is an ancient Christian church that deals in awful certainties when it comes to outright condemnation of sins like divorce, abortion, contraception, and homosexuality between consenting adults. For these offenses there is no forgiveness, and moral absolutism is invoked. Yet let the subject be the rape and torture of defenseless children, and at once every kind of wiggle room and excuse-making is invoked. What can one say of a church that finds so much latitude for a crime so ghastly that no morally normal person can even think of it without shuddering?

It’s interesting, too, that the same church did its best to hide the rape and torture from the secular authorities, even forcing child victims (as in the disgusting case of Cardinal Sean Brady, the spiritual chieftain of the Catholics of Ireland) to sign secrecy oaths that prevented them from testifying against their rapists and torturers. Why were they so afraid of secular justice? Did they think it would be less indifferent and pliable than private priestly investigations? In that case, what is left of the shabby half-baked argument that people can’t understand elementary morality without a divine warrant?

One mustn’t claim all that much for secular justice either, since Cardinal Brady and many like him have neither been dismissed by the church nor prosecuted by the civil power. But this dereliction on the part of the courts and police has mainly occurred in countries or provinces—Ireland, Massachusetts, Bavaria—where the church has undue influence on the bureaucracy. When are we going to see what the parents and relatives of the devastated children want to see and need to see: a senior accomplice of the cover-up actually facing a jury?

Pope Benedict’s pathetic and euphemistic letter to his “flock” in Ireland doesn’t even propose that such people should lose their positions in the church. And this cowardly guardedness on his part is for a good and sufficient reason: If there was to be a serious criminal investigation, it would have to depose the pope himself. Not only did he, as Archbishop Joseph Ratzinger, protect a dangerously criminal priest in his own diocese of Munich and Freising in 1980, having him sent only for “therapy” instead of having him arrested. (The question of the priest’s later reassignment to assault more children, which the church continues to obfuscate, is irrelevant to the fact of Ratzinger’s direct and personal involvement in the original crime.) Not content with this, Ratzinger later originated, as a cardinal and head of a major institution in Rome, a letter that effectively instructed all bishops to refuse cooperation with any inquiry into what was fast becoming a global scandal.

Eighteen of Germany’s 27 Roman Catholic dioceses are now facing government investigations after a breach in what Germany’s justice minister has rightly described as “a wall of silence.” That wall was originally constructed by the man who now heads the church. The wall must be torn down. The fish—the ancient Christian symbol adopted by those who regard human beings as a shoal to be netted—absolutely rots from the head. I don’t think the full implications of this have even begun to sink in. The supreme leader of the Roman Catholic Church is now a prima facie suspect in a criminal enterprise of the most appalling sort—and in the attempt to obstruct justice that has been part and parcel of that enterprise. He is also the political head of a state—the Vatican—that has given asylum to wanted men like the disgraced Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston. What, then, is the position when the pope decides to travel—as, for example, he intends to do on a visit to Britain later this year? Does he have immunity? Does he claim it? Should he have it? These questions demand serious answers. Meanwhile, we should register the fact that the church can find ample room in its confessionals and its palaces for those who commit the most evil offense of all. Whether prosecuted or not, they stand condemned. But prosecution must follow, or else we admit that there are men and institutions that are above and beyond our laws.

Exhibit of Jews in Germany raises interest, ire

Jews are relentless… They insist on never letting the world forget the stinking Holocaust. TGO

Refer to story below. Source: Associated Press

By KIRSTEN GRIESHABER | Associated Press


BERLIN (AP) — “Are there still Jews in Germany?” ”Are the Jews a chosen people?”

Nearly 70 years after the Holocaust, there is no more sensitive an issue in German life as the role of Jews. With fewer than 200,000 Jews among Germany’s 82 million people, few Germans born after World War II know any Jews or much about them.

To help educate postwar generations, an exhibit at the Jewish Museum features a Jewish man or woman seated inside a glass box for two hours a day through August to answer visitors’ questions about Jews and Jewish life. The base of the box asks: “Are there still Jews in Germany?”

“A lot of our visitors don’t know any Jews and have questions they want to ask,” museum official Tina Luedecke said. “With this exhibition we offer an opportunity for those people to know more about Jews and Jewish life.”

But not everybody thinks putting a Jew on display is the best way to build understanding and mutual respect.

Since the exhibit — “The Whole Truth, everything you wanted to know about Jews” — opened this month, the “Jew in the Box,” as it is popularly known, has drawn sharp criticism within the Jewish community — especially in the city where the Nazis orchestrated the slaughter of 6 million Jews until Adolf Hitler’s defeat in 1945.

“Why don’t they give him a banana and a glass of water, turn up the heat and make the Jew feel really cozy in his glass box,” prominent Berlin Jewish community figure Stephan Kramer told The Associated Press. “They actually asked me if I wanted to participate. But I told them I’m not available.”

The exhibit is reminiscent of Holocaust architect Adolf Eichmann sitting in a glass booth at the 1961 trial in Israel which led to his execution. And it’s certainly more provocative than British actress Tilda Swinton sleeping in a glass box at a recent performance at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Eran Levy, an Israeli who has lived in Berlin for years, was horrified by the idea of presenting a Jew as a museum piece, even if to answer Germans’ questions about Jewish life.

“It’s a horrible thing to do — completely degrading and not helpful,” he said. “The Jewish Museum absolutely missed the point if they wanted to do anything to improve the relations between Germans and Jews.”

But several of the volunteers, including both German Jews and Israelis living in Berlin, said the experience in the box is little different from what they go through as Jews living in the country that produced the Nazis.

“With so few of us, you almost inevitably feel like an exhibition piece,” volunteer Leeor Englander said. “Once you’ve been ‘outed’ as a Jew, you always have to be the expert and answer all questions regarding anything related to religion, Israel, the Holocaust and so on.”

Museum curator Miriam Goldmann, who is Jewish, believes the exhibit’s provocative “in your face” approach is the best way to overcome the emotional barriers and deal with a subject that remains painful for both Jews and non-Jews.

“We wanted to provoke, that’s true, and some people may find the show outrageous or objectionable,” Goldmann said. “But that’s fine by us.”

The provocative style is evident in other parts of the special exhibition, including some that openly raise many stereotypes of Jews widespread not only in Germany but elsewhere in Europe.

One includes a placard that asks “how you recognize a Jew?” It’s next to an assortment of yarmulkes, black hats and women’s hair covers hanging from the ceiling on thin threads. Another asks if Jews consider themselves the chosen people. It includes a poem by Jewish author Leonard Fein: “How odd of God to choose the Jews. But how on earth could we refuse?”

Yet another invites visitors to express their opinion to such questions as “are Jews particularly good looking, influential, intelligent, animal loving or business savvy?”

Despite the criticisms, the “Jew in the Box” has proven a big hit among visitors.

“I asked him about the feelings he has for his country and what he thinks about the conflict with Palestine, if he ever visited Palestine,” visitor Panka Chirer-Geyer said. “I have Jewish roots and I’ve been to Palestine and realized how difficult it was there. I could not even mention that I have Jewish roots.”

On a recent day this week, several visitors kept returning to ask questions of Ido Porat, a 33-year-old Israeli seated on a white bench with a pink cushion.

One woman wanted to know what to bring her hosts for a Shabbat dinner in Israel. Another asked why only Jewish men and not women wear yarmulkes. A third inquired about Judaism and homosexuality.

“I guess I should ask you about the relationship between Germans and Jews,” visitor Diemut Poppen said to Porat. “We Germans have so many insecurities when it comes to Jews.”

Viola Mohaupt-Zitfin, 53, asked if Porat felt welcome as a Jew living among Germans “considering our past and all that.”

Yes, Porat said, Germany is a good place to live, even as a Jew. But the country could do even more to come to terms with its Nazi past, he added. He advised the would-be traveler that anything is permissible to bring to a Shabbat dinner as long as it’s not pork.

“I feel a bit like an animal in the zoo, but in reality that’s what it’s like being a Jew in Germany,” Porat said. “You are a very interesting object to most people here.”

Dekel Peretz, one of the volunteers in the glass box, said many Germans have an image of Jews that is far removed from the reality of contemporary Jewish life.

“They associate Jews with the Holocaust and the Nazi era,” he said. “Jews don’t have a history before or after. In Germany, Jews have been stereotyped as victims. It is important that people here get to know Jews to see that Jews are alive and that we have individual histories. I hope that this exhibit can help.”

Still, not everyone believes this is the best way to promote understanding.

Rabbi Yehuda Teichtal from the Jewish Chabad community in Berlin said Germans who are really interested in Jews and Judaism should visit the community’s educational center.

“Here Jews will be happy to answer questions without sitting in a glass box,” he said.


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