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“What’s the weirdest thing that has happened to you in your line of work?” and other fun questions in our “ask me anything!” event HAPPENING NOW!

Come ask us anything on here, on the #OceanAMA, on reddit! :-)

Or tell us about the weirdest thing that has happened to YOU in your line of work!

“A brief history of climate in the Nordic Seas” — A #scipoem

A brief history of climate in the Nordic Seas*

Understanding of climate change
explaining a record’s full range
playing the cause-and-effect game
needs a closed, mechanistic frame

data: proxies or direct obs
predicted future poses probs
relationship is not the same:
needs a closed, mechanistic frame

mechanism seems to differ
Gulf Stream currently seems stiffer
than in future or past, we claim,
needs a closed, mechanistic frame

Understanding of climate change
needs a closed, mechanistic frame

*based on an article by Eldevik et al. (2014). Form is a “kyrielle sonett”

Let’s guess tides!

Actually, there is no need to guess. If you tilt your head 45 degrees to the left, you are looking at Hamburg the way it would be shown on a map, North up. The Elbe river, which you see in the foreground, flows east-to-west into the North Sea. And now there are at least two spots in the image below where you can see fronts in the water, more turbid water in the main river bed, clearer water in side arms and bays. Those fronts always start at upstream headlands and go downstream from there, therefore it must be ebb tide, with the water going out into the North Sea. Easy peasy :-)


Funny how “upstream” and “downstream” make so little sense in a tidal river, yet everybody knows what I mean…

Would be interesting to see if you can see fronts when the tide is coming in, too, when the muddy river water is pushed into the more stagnant side arms and bays. I expect so but don’t actually know. Maybe I will be able to observe it on some future flight?

Greenhouse Gases — A #SciPoem

Greenhouse Gases

Air around us: full of water
Vapour, clouds or rain
Warmer air holds
more. A feedback.

CO2 belongs in the air
Volcanoes or
Breathing cattle
Not burnt fossils

Natural sources for methane
Ampl’fied by us:
Farting cattle
Agriculture

Soil cultivation produces
nitrous oxide
Fertilizers
Burnt biomass

Chlorofluorocarbons are
synthetic stuff
industrial
reg’lated now

Those five main components changing
concentration
radiation
Changing climate

Thumb wrestling, “Offshore”, and other simulation games

“Ready? Set! Aaaaand go!” was the command given at the start of a thumb wrestling war. In every pair of workshop participants, thumbs were being twisted, squeezed, freed again. We were given only 30 seconds to win! And then the time was over. “Who got how many points? Anybody more than 10?”. Nope. Most people only had about three. Which, turns out, was because none of us had listened to the instructions given in the beginning: We had been told to play thumb wrestling, but with the instruction to make as many points as possible. NOT to win against the person we were playing with. So the best strategy would have been to just very quickly tap on the other person’s thumb, maybe taking turns, but definitely not to twist, wriggle, squeeze and waste time fighting! Ooooops.

This is how our very busy — but also very exciting — phase at the energie:labor continued. Yesterday, we hosted Klaus Masch, creator of the simulation game “Offshore” (all of the materials for this game are online here), who gave a workshop on the theory behind simulation games and how to implement them in teaching. And since we learn best by doing and then reflecting about it (the equation for this, we learned, is DExR=L, which I remember without looking at my notes, which are on my desk at work while I am home on my sofa. DE being Direct Experience, R reflection, and L learning. And since learning is the product of DE and R, both have to be bigger than zero for learning to occur…  (Or, technically, unequal to zero and of the same sign, but maybe the both-negative case doesn’t apply here ;-)) See, it left quite an impression!), we got to play the simulation game ourselves.

Now. Everybody who knows me in person knows I HATE playing any kind of games. Hate it with a passion. But since I had read so much about the benefits of simulation games in teaching, I really wanted to try it in order to get a better idea on whether I should get over myself and offer one as part of energie:labor. And I have to say, I am a convert.

In Offshore, students discuss the possible investment of their city into an offshore wind park as reaction to the political decision to quit nuclear power all throughout Germany. They research and adopt the roles of different stakeholders (the mayor, the city council, an investment banking firm, the people building the wind park, scientists, environmental groups) and debate risks and benefits. For us, that meant starting research before lunch, already in our roles, staying in the roles over our lunch breaks (which included lots of negotiations and bilateral conversations already!), doing some more research after, and then, finally, debating in the official debate. I got to play a double role: A student at the Institute of Applied Marine Science who is also active in the environmental group Save the Ocean. In a way, that role was probably the easiest of all: I had clear instructions that I was definitely against the project, so I could just be against everything but didn’t have to offer alternatives. All other roles had more balanced roles: Of course the investment people wanted to make as much money as possible from the project, but the role of my boss, for example, a professor in Applied Marine Sciences, was instructed to consider marine protection, but there was still room to interpret that in different ways.

Since Offshore is a frame game, it is quite easily adapted to different situations. One of our participants, for example, could only join after lunch. So a new role, the journalist, was invented for him and he was included in our simulation right away.

Participants in the workshop were all related to the energie:labor or KiFo in some way: Either having previously worked there, or currently working there with student projects or Master theses, or a visiting friend from the University of Applied Sciences who is involved in running their own energy lab that we cooperate with. That was great for me: Now future discussions on whether and how to use a simulation game for the energie:labor can refer to this common experience of playing together for a day, and getting so many useful tips and tricks along the way!

There were also so many useful micro teaching things going on that we can pick and choose from in other contexts, too. Below, for example, you see three participants holding hands: The one drawing on the flip chart has his eyes closed, while both others have their eyes open. And the left person has to guide the pen — through the other two! This, of course, causes a time lag between a signal going out and resulting in something on the paper, which sometimes makes it difficult to navigate the pen. Which is a great simulation of any complex system with a time lagged response: Any action you take doesn’t have visible effects right away, so it’s easy to over-correct and cause a mess just by being to fast in responding on the changes you (don’t) see that were caused by previous actions.

To get back to the thumb-wrestling in the beginning: That micro simulation game is one I, or any of the other participants, for that matter, will never forget. It was a very bold and impressive reminder that collaboration should be the first impulse rather than assuming that every situation, every game is about playing against someone. Maybe that’s what won me over to playing?

This was a really useful workshop, and I highly recommend both the instructor and the game! Thank you all for participating and thanks to our wonderful instructor! :-)

“Scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal”: A #SciPoem

“Scientific evidence for warming of the climate system is unequivocal”

This quote’s source: the IPCC
On what in total ninety-sev’n
Percent of scientists agree
The evidence of climate change

Risen by more than one degree
The av’rage surface temperature
Since anno nineteenhundr’d. See?
The evidence of climate change

The oceans have absorbed some heat
And have become a lot warmer
Espec’lly in the surface sheet
The evidence of climate change

Combined, four-hundred k-m-square
In Greenland and Antarctica
Of ice did melt, flowed off somewhere
The evidence of climate change

And everywhere around the sphere
Glaciers are retreating. Andes,
Himalayas and everywhere
The evidence of climate change

Satellite observations show
Northern Hemisphere snow cover
Was much more five decades ago
The evidence of climate change

Sea levels rising by the flow
Accumulated in the sea
Of all that melting ice and snow
The evidence of climate change

Not changing levels of the sea
But its own area and height
Arct’c sea ice declines rapidly
The evidence of climate change

Intense rainfalls destroy down streams
Temperatures are at record highs
The weather reaching new extremes
The evidence of climate change

Getting sourer through and through
Ocean waters acidify
When oceans absorb CO2
The evidence of climate change

“Grubletegninger” — using sketches presenting alternative explanations of a situation to spark discussions

In my personal #SciCommChallenge, one thing on my things-to-try list were “grubletegninger” — pondering sketches, or sketches to ponder. It’s a format developed in Norway and there is quite a collection available at naturfag.no. (And that my sketches below happen to be on a Norway-themed note pad is pure coincidence :-))

The idea is that the sketch of a situation is given, along with a couple of people who each give a statement explaining the situation. For example on the topic of whether a sundial can be used in both hemispheres, the characters state things like “yes, you just have to position it the other way round”, “yes, if you swap the numbers”, “no, because the sun moves in the opposite direction”, “it will work, but with a 12 hour offset”.

This can then be used to spark discussion in a student group. Since many possible misconceptions are made explicit on the sketch itself, it is easy for students to identify with one of the answers and explain why they think that it is the correct one. It is also useful to use answers to argue against, to use them as a starting point for experimentation, to bridge between school science and the real world. I really like this format and think it could be a very useful tool in science outreach, too!

And I think making many different possible answers explicit is actually the most important feature of this tool. My first Grubletegning-sketch (which I did based on a vage memory and before checking out the naturfag.no website) is not nearly as good for sparking thoughts and discussions as it could be if it was laying out different lines of argumentation!

Of course, in the end it is not very different from a multiple-choice exercise, with the different distractors giving the different answer options. But how much more appealing is it when combined with a nice sketch, and actual people (albeit sketched ones) giving the answers, rather than your teacher giving you one correct answer and a couple false ones, and not telling you which one is which? I think this might actually be an excellent tool in outreach to engage people in discussions.

And I am looking forward to coming up with situations that could be used for grubletegninger, and to actually sketching them in a slightly nicer way than I did above. I am trying out a sketch pad next weekend, there might be a huge increase in the quality of graphics on this blog in the near future ;-) Or not, we’ll see ;-)

energie:labor at European Researchers’ Night 2017

Yesterday Alice and I spent the afternoon and evening in the cute coastal town of Eckernförde, enjoying the summer-y weather, the Baltic Sea, and — of course! — the science outreach. It was European Researchers’ Night!

We represented the energie:labor and our research group by entertaining many many people in our little blue tent:

The goal was to engage the public in thinking about physics, particularly about energy. What better tool to use than a thermal imaging camera?

I’ve talked about the many ways you can play with that sort of camera before (see here), but last night was special. To catch people’s eyes and engage children as well as grown-ups, we had prepared a couple of fun experiments, for example hitting gummi bears with a hammer and observing how that changes the temperature.

Despite the large media interest we didn’t make the local newspaper’s front page today ;-)

To get an impression of how much fun we had, watch the movie below. This was an hour before the official opening of the event, and the last seconds we had to actually do things ourselves before we got run over by curious crowds. Who knew that people are so keen on learning physics? ;-)

Thanks, Alice, we are a great team and I had so much fun! :-)

Some things are better left unseen — research shows that watching yourself in a video meeting is not a good thing

I’m a big fan of virtual meetings: For planning outreach activities taking place in France with a team in Norway while sitting in my office in Germany (see here, and definitely check out the product of that planning meeting, Elin Darelius’ & Team’s blog from a 13-m-diameter rotating tank!), when giving a lecture in Iceland from my office in Norway (see here), or even when taking examinations via Skype when sitting in Nadine’s apartment in Norway and the panel was sitting in Germany (see here).

BUT I’ve known it all along: It makes me less focussed on the discussions in a Skype meeting when I can see myself. Because I start thinking about how people on the other end perceive me, if they are wondering about what’s in the shelves behind me, whether the angle of the camera is as bad as it feels. Or, as Hassell & Cotton (2017) write, objective self-awareness increases, as does cognitive load. In a laboratory study, they find that “seeing one’s own feed during video mediated communication does make a difference, and it can be detrimental to task performance”.

Interesting! So next time I’m in a video conference, I’ll just put a post-it note on my screen to cover my face. Problem solved! Or maybe then I’ll only wonder about what the other side is seeing… But it’s worth a try!

planning

Response of the ACC to climate change #scipoem

The response of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current to recent climate change*

Around and around the southern pole
The Antarctic Circumpolar Current, inspiring
Around and around the southern pole
Seemingly without a goal
Going east, east, east, untiring
East, east, east, admiring!
Around and around the southern pole

Around and around the southern pole
To “the mightiest of all ocean currents” people bowed
Around and around the southern pole
In the Southern Ocean playing the most important role
Despite going slowly, it has never slowed
Enormous amounts of water have flowed
Around and around the southern pole

Around and around the southern pole
Up to 2 kilometres wide
Around and around the southern pole
2 to 4 km deep the flow, no shoal
putting Atlantic, Indic, Pacific, side by side,
connecting them with an enormous tide
Around and around the southern pole

Around and around the southern pole
No continents are in it’s way, by winds the whole is driven
Around and around the southern pole
Blending the world’s oceans’ waters in its endless stroll
Oceans that otherwise are riven
Its importance for climate is given
Around and around the southern pole

Around and around the southern pole
As climate changes, so does the driving wind field
Around and around the southern pole
But studies show that on the whole
Despite the ocean being exposed to winds without shield
In total no changes to the current are yield’d
Around and around the southern pole

*Inspired by an article by Böning, Dispert, Visbeck, Rintoul & Schwarzkopf (2008). This poem’s form is called “rondelet”.