Holiday experiences

In my welcome note to this blog I focused on an audience, which is more from politics and management. But, there is a flip side to the coin. Only if there is a deep societal trust and interest in science, politicians and managers may base and justify their visions and decisions on scientific evidence. One way to foster interest and trust of citizens into science is to support “citizen science”. While there will be more blog posts on that topic soon, as well as upcoming reports let me shortly spend some time on how this blog will contribute:

Maybe one of our intentions is to bring back an interface between “professional” science and “lay” science, amateurism in its best sense. Since the amateurs, people in deep love with science, in the early ages of enlightenment did more for the advancement of knowledge than the “professionals”. Such a lay science seems impossible today, with respect to the gigantic machineries such as the CERN, or “moonshots” in cancer therapy. Still, individual observation of nature, as free of prejudice as possible, listening and thinking (all of that being often apostrophized as “awareness” today) and discussing these observations with an interested bunch of people is the basic process of doing science.

Let me illustrate my view by an admittedly striking idealistic endeavor, about which I learned in my summer holiday:

When a Dutch theologist announced that in a 1774 planetary conjunction of Mercury, Mars, Venus and Jupiter these planets would collide and bump the earth to fall into the sun, the Frisian people panicked. Some, however, already knew that a conjunction is an apparent phenomenon caused by the observer’s perspective. The objects involved are actually never close to one another in space. One of those persons was Eise Eisinga, a wool trader. Being a gifted (hobby)-mathematician and craftsman, he had built a planetarium, an orrery, a mechanical model of the solar system into his living room. The moving planets covering all the ceiling, and a dozen of “clocks” on his bedroom walls, indicating and predicting astronomic parameters such as sun set and moon rise (see my photo) were convincing for his neighbors (

All of this took place around 1775, in a cozy little town named Franeker that hosted one of the early protestant universities but gave up on it in the 19th century. The planetarium is nominated UNESCO World Heritage by now.

There are people who know all about birds, rare apple trees or alpine railway tracks. The blog may, besides many other current projects in (citizen) science, contribute to create a society wide interface to the amateurs.