Friday, March 09, 2012

The City of Heilbronn

The city of Heilbronn is famous for two things: its wine and Käthchen. Käthchen is the eponymous main character from a play written by Heinrich von Kleist: Das Kätchen von Heilbronn (Little Kate of Heilbronn). I didn't try the wine, being sceptical of any German wine (I like my wine Italian, dark, and extremely quaffable). But I met Käthchen or at least what the artist Dieter Läpple in 1965 thought she might look like (although I have some doubts that any overly rich Count would fall for this innocent looking child except if he was a pedophile):

And I can tell you this much: in the end Little Kate gets the Count she is stalking.

Heilbronn lies beautifully at the River Neckar

and has some nice buildings, too. For example the church of Kilian:

although originally built in the 11th century, most of what you can see today (if you have the chance to glimpse through the construction fence) is from the 15th and 16th century. They also have a beautiful city hall with a really nice astronomical clock:

There are statues and various art works throughout the city. I especially liked the 'Closed Gate' by Michael Schoenholtz from 1989, not so much because it looks like an open gate at best to me, but because it reminds me a bit of Stonehenge:

Of course, Heilbronn also has modern shopping centres

and interesting fountains. This one at the marketplace was dedicated to Robert Mayer. Mayer and in England Joule, had both at roughly the same time the idea that heat and work are equivalent which was the founding idea for the First Law of Thermodynamics.

In 1942 when Mayer proposed his idea, the first law of thermodynamics looked like this:

"Wo Bewegung entsteht, Wärme vergeht,
wo Bewegung verschwindet, Wärme sich findet,..."

Today we have to use differential equations; ahhh life was so simple then. Anyways, Mayer also calculated the mechanical equivalent of heat, the calorie, yes, the same thing we secretely count when we go for an ice cream. So the idea to incorporate this into the fountain was quite nice. On one side a boy holds a weight, the kilo, and on the opposite side a girl holds a torch, representing heat (Latin: calor).


But none of this was the reason for my being in the city of Heilbronn. I rather came to go here:

Now I leave you with your thoughts what kind of building this might be, because it is late and I'll go to bed now. So if you want to know, you have to come back. See you tomorrow :)

Friday, March 02, 2012

Astronaut Food and Cauliflower Cream on Chili Pasta

Yesterday I went to a lecture about astronaut food at the observatory in Mannheim. The first part of the lecture given by Volker Damann from ESA (European Space Agency) was quite off topic since he talked about general health problems and emergency medicine abord the ISS. The second half was a bit more promising and given by Prof. Martina Heer who worked at the DLR (DeutschesZentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt) and is especially involved in research about bone loss. Mildly interesting but nothing I haven't already heard in Prof. Hausmann's excellent lecture on Astrobiology at Uni Heidelberg.

Yup, the most important man in an astronaut's life is still the psychiatrist; although nowadays this is called behavioural adaptation to make it a bit more appealing for our space travellers.

A funny thing happened though during the discussion session, when a young girl asked whether there were any vegetarian astronauts and how they would be catered for.
A couple of seats behind me an elderly gentleman couldn't hold back "This is a joke, isn't it? They don't have to take 'vegetarians', there are enough normal people for the job." Which made me think whether that young girl and I are not normal in one way or the other. Plus, I'm convinced that vegetarians would actually fare better in an astronaut's job.
Apart from cookie crumbs which, because of the absence of gravity, end up in the astronauts' eyes, the main health issues during a space trip are kidney stones, cardiovascular problems, bone and muscular loss, and psychological problems. In most areas a vegetarian would cope equal or even better. Kidney stones are less common in vegetarians, cardiovascular diseases are less severe (after all we have much less uptake in bad cholesterol), and even bone loss is not different to non-vegetarian groups or even better (non milk drinking societies hardly show osteoporosis in contrast to developed and milk-lobbied countries). Higher input in fibres reduces testosterone excesses, the main reason for aggression, one of the major problems when you are living together for an extensive time span in very restricted space. To sum up, it would be much better and cheaper to recruit vegetarians for astronauts.

And to remind you that vegetarian food can be delicious for normal and not so normal people I give you Jane's recipe from her blog Nord Vegan: Cauliflower Cream on Chili Noodles

This is a superb recipe. The pasta 'sauce' is made from raw cauliflower and cashew nuts, put in a food processor and briefly heated up together with pan fried snow peas and kidneybeans.
I used her recipe nearly unchanged. All I did was adding some extra spiciness to the cauliflower cream (dried chiliflakes and black pepper) and used chili spaghetti for the pasta.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

A German Penitence Cross in Ziegelhausen near Heidelberg

After posting only recipes for a while (I'm kind of imprisoned at home at the moment) I at least wanted to show you some local niceties. In Germany we have so-called penitence crosses ('Sühnekreuze' in German). They were monuments erected in medieval times as part of an expiatory penalty and part of an arrangement between two disputing parties. The reason for their dispute was mostly murder or manslaughter. Sometimes they were erected because the murderer couldn't be identified.

From the 13th to 16th century texts were rare on such crosses; sometimes the murder weapon or the victim's  tool of trade was depicted. In 1533 Charles V introduced the Carolina (Halsgerichtsordnung), the procedure for the judgement of capitol crimes, which was supposed to end private blood feuds and bring murder cases to court. However, penitence crosses survived into the 17th century.

Penitence crosses belong to the same category as wayside shrines ('Bildstock' in German) and could have also additional functions like way signs for pilgrimage and procession or to remind of special occasions (weather crosses, pestilence crosses).

The wayside shrine in Ziegelhausen near Heidelberg, not far from where I live, is a so-called 'Nischen Bildstock' (wayside shrine with a niche façade), often used as a monument for prayers etc.

It was originally built in 1478 and renovated in 1724. The lower part shows the incident that prompted the erection of the cross:

According to folklore, a man wanted to nut on a Sunday, but of course God wanted complete attentiveness of his charges and therefore caused the man to fall down the tree and die on the spot. Maybe his family built the cross to ask for forgiveness for this abhorrent act of profanity (to gather nuts on a Sunday ... tztz).

What I think is very interesting are the numerals used for writing the date. The numerals 4 and 7 are written like the 13th century Arabic (or rather Indian) numerals as de Sacro Bosco or de Roger Bacon would have written them:

Johannes de Sacro Bosco (John of Holywood; 1195-1256)) was an Irish scholar, monk, and astronomer who taught mathematics at the university of Paris. Roger Bacon (1214-1294) on the other hand sptent most of his time in Oxford teaching Aristototelean philosophy. The same way of writing numerals is also attested of Maximus Planudes (1260-1305), a Greek monk and grammarian who lived in Constantinople. In Germany, however, Arabic numerals appeared only in the mid 15th century. Which fits perfectly with our wayside shrine.

On the cross itself we can read the year 1784 which might be the date when the wayside shrine was expanded to a proper wayside shrine with a niche façade. During this time it was used as a sign of piety. Maybe people used it for a last prayer before they left civilization and walked up the hill and into the unknown forests  which lie between Ziegelhausen and Wilhelmsfeld. After all it is now sitting at a major crossway leading at one end to Ziegelhausen while the other two roads head for Heidelberg and Eberbach, respectively.