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Legal Immigrants

The smell of harvested wheat can be tantalizing. When the golden straw is cut and the bulging grains are harvested they produce a parfume like odor, not less breath-taking than that of roses or lime-trees. I am always happy if I see in spring that the farmers have choosen to grow wheat, instead of the odor-less, but more profitable corn.

And than at a late summer day, usually at the end of August or early September, all the golden wheat is harvested, leaving behind only the short stubbles. This always makes me melancholic, since it signals that the summer time will soon end.

This,  in fact is not wheat, but barley. But it also has this tentalizing smell in later summer

But thanks god, a close relative of wheat, namely rye, is already seeded out in late autumn, with its fresh green shots staying throughout the winter time and bearing the promise of a next years golden grains.
This years the farming cooperative, obviously driven by a similar challenge as myself of testing to grow plants from more southern, oriental regions of the world, chose a range of wheat variants from countries as far as Tunesia, Nepal or Korea.
Iranian Variant, Maybe we do some Bagels from it
Greek variant, Good to bake Pita Bread

Variant from Chile, Do they bake pan-cake there ?

Wheat from Tunesia: Arab spring role

Wheat from the roof of the world:  Nepal

Wheat from Korea: Must be an old sort, since the label still mentions DVR ("democratic peopels republic", now simply North Korea)

I am sure the farmers are well aware that wheat is pollinated by wind, and the close vicinity of these6 variants from different European, Asian, North-African, Middle-Eastern and South-American variants will produce an interesting hybrid of intercultural mixtures next year. But first I hope that all these immigrants will flourish here at the tempered European climate and give us later in summer interesting novel variants of their tantalizing smell.

Three weeks later, the wheat strains from different parts of the world all started to grow. But they exhibit different growth rate. Currently, Greece and North-Korea are leading the ranks, Tunesia, Nepal and Chile are in the middle, and Iran is slightly lagging behind. Don't be misled by the green on the photo below:  Most of it is weed, the wheat sprouts in between are still pretty small.

Wheat three weeks after sowing. From left to right wheat sorts from North-Korea (K); Nepal (N); Tunesia (T); Chile (C); Greece (G) and Iran (I). The wheat shots are visible at closer inpsection, but most of the green is in fact weed.


Quantum Mechanics according to Fatemeh

It is well known in quantum mechanics that from a pure vacuum state discrete points of pairwise existing particles-antiparticles can arise by shear fluctuations of the zero energy. But as measured on the macroscopic time scale, these particle pairs have a relatively short existence: only a few Nanoseconds. But who knows maybe in their own time scale these nanoseconds have the duration of an entire life. Whereas these particle-antiparticle pairs arise "out of the blue", seemingly from nowhere, when they disappear by anihilation they emit a defined amount of energy in the form of electromagnetic radiation.
These vacuum fluctuations of particles and energy are believed to be the reason for dark matter and dark energy, two essential components to hold together the inflating universe.
Because of their opposite charge and the very short distance between them, the particle-antiparticle pairs exert an intense interaction (best studied in the case of electron-positron pairs).

Mrs. Fatemeh now gave rise to the hypothesis that a pair of a man and woman can also arise from virtually nowhere, out of the blue, to develop a strong intellectual and emotional interaction, a force that suggests a very small distance between the two. In her blog Mrs Fatemeh cited a short poem by Emily Dickinson as the inspiration for her new model:

     I'm nobody! 
     Who are you?
     Are you nobody, too? 
     Then there's a pair of us — don't tell!
     They'd banish us, you know. 
     How dreary to be somebody! 
     How public, like a frog 
     To tell your name the livelong day To an admiring bog! 

What is unique in Mrs. Fatemehs model and distinguishes it from the well accepted vaccum fluctuations of quantum particles is that the small distance between the two partners (responsible for the strong exchange force between the two) is not related to the ordinary spatial distance (as measured in terms of nanometers or thousands of kilometers). The two interacting partners can be quite far apart, thousands of kilometers in our 3 dimensional world, in different countries or continents. But in a yet to be proven 4th dimension, lets call it the dream scale because it is usually hidden from us, the two can be extremely close together, like entangled particles. 
And she proposes, that when they disappear like the electron-positron pair in vaccum fluctuations disappeares, it is only a collapse of the 3 ordinary dimensions, but the 4th dimension remains intact and the two will always stay bound together.       


Books of the week: Crimea change sides

In 2010 I had the pleasure to visit Crimea, on the occasion of a genetics conference in Alushta. What a magical landscape, I thought, and I met Russians there and some Ukrainians and many Tartars. The Tartars invited me to a after-wedding brunch in their own restaurant at the beach, when the shops and cafes run by Russians or Ukrainians were clossed at this out-of-season time of late October. Later I visited Bakhchisaray, the old palace of the Crimean Khans. Aside of the muslim study rooms and the paradise and rose gardens and the turkish bath, Alexander Pushkin was commemorated there where a dripping spring inspired him for his poem "The Fountain of Bakchisaray".
Who could have imagine, that now, just three years later, another kind of books might become useful again to understand what is going on there at this beautiful peninsula, that was once the melting pot of Russian, Greek, Jewish, Tartar and other people. 


The Systems Biology Hoax

I know I'm supposed to give a talk at this meeting, called something with Systems Biology, and I have only 16 hours left to sort out my slides. Sixteen hours is not so much time, if you are still jetlagged from the long flight to Japan, and you know the tiredness will come in 5 hours from now.
So what shall I do ?  I already gave a talk yesterday at another institute near Tokyo, but this was o.k., this was not about the Hoax "Systems Biology", but this was about something real biological, some molecular processes of stem-cell stability and long-term cancer risk. But tomorrow, everybody will talk about Systems Biology, and most of them have no clue what a System means, what modules are, what interactions or feedback means, and how this can only be understand with highly sophisticated mathematics: differential equations, topology, non-linear algebra and the like. But tomorrow a bunch of mediocre biologists are going to meet, to mask their limitted biology knowledge behind the Title:  Systems Biology. 
I just can not take them seriously.
The view out of my hotel room at the 14th floor is amazing:  An ocean of lights and illuminated bill-boards, despite the pledge by the Japanese gouvernment to reduce all unneccessary consumption of electricity after the 2011 Fukushima disaster ripped the country of a larger part of its nuclear energy supply. In daily life, you feel little committment to switch off electricity: At least every toilet seat in the country has an electric heater that is always on. Funny to see, that even the toilets could not be used if there is a black-out. In the Kimi-Ryokan in Tokyo, the service personal used to install huge hot-air blowers each time they change the blankets in the rooms.They explained me that the blankets are still wet, when they get them from the laundry, and by blowing hot air through the newly covered beds, they make sure the guest can sleep under a dry cover.
I forgot what this has to do with Systems Biology ? Only as much as at tomorrows conference some people from Fukushima will talk about the long term health consequences of the 2011 accident. Hot air, blown everywhere around.