Fotoeins Fotografie

questions of place & home

Posts from the ‘Science’ category

Albert Einstein, Franz Kafka, Max Brod, Dům U Kamenného beránka, At the stone lamb, Staromestske namesti, Old Town Square, Prague, Prag, Praha, Czech Republic, fotoeins.com

My Praha: Brod, Einstein, & Kafka at Fanta Salon

Above/featured: it is as if I pointed out a famous meeting place to her right (left for the reader).

Prague’s Old Town Square is one of the most visited landmarks, dominated by the two tall spires of the Church of our Lady before Týn, Old Town Hall, and a prominent sculpture dedicated to Czech icon Jan Hus at the centre of the square.

At the southeast corner of the square is a building called (Dům) U Kamenného beránka or “At the Stone Lamb” at address Staroměstské námesti 551/17 #. To the right of the building’s main entrance is a memorial plaque with an inscription in both Czech and English. The memorial plaque was created by Czech sculptor Zdenĕk Kolářský and unveiled in 1998. Looking closer, you’ll recognize Albert Einstein’s face and his famous physics equation stating the equivalence of mass and energy: E = mc2.

Over a 16-month period from 1911 to 1912, Albert Einstein lived in Prague with his family and was full professor of theoretical physics at the German Charles-Ferdinand University. Einstein enjoyed hanging out at a number of cafes for conversations, exchanges, and music, and he was a frequent visitor to this building where Czech liberal and intellectual Berta Fanta operated a literary-philosophical salon or lounge. The salon saw visits by many intellectuals, both domestic and international. “Domestic” writers Franz Kafka and Max Brod would have come here for the discourse as well, but it turns out little is actually known about whether all three arranged to meet or would have met here at the same time.

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Würzburg: Röntgen rays & the 1st Nobel Prize in Physics

On my list and map, I placed the museum’s location as a “possible” to visit in the city. If I had time, I’d swing by and have a look, appealing to my fondness for science and the history of science.

Many arrive in Würzburg to visit the Residenz UNESCO world heritage site. On a daytrip from Frankfurt am Main, I duly visited the Residenz, and easily completed my initial visit requirements, as I knew I would. That’s when my inner voice (a.k.a., the spirit of B.Sc. ’90) reminded me insistently the museum was “simply and conveniently” on the return walk to the city’s central train station to fully complete my visit requirements.

I walked north from the Residenz, and followed the signs into the building for the Röntgen-Gedächtnisstätte (Röntgen Memorial) where X-rays were discovered. Standing inside the former laboratory space, I’m surrounded by artifacts, books, papers, tubes, equipment, and photographs.

I also feel a part of my undergraduate physics education has come full circle.

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Christian Doppler, Doppler birth house, Dopplers Geburtshaus, Salzburg, Austria, Oesterreich, fotoeins.com

My Salzburg: Christian Doppler’s birth house

In crossing the pedestrian bridge over the Salzach river, every step takes me away from the famous view of the fortress over Old Town classics of steeples and baroque in Salzburg. Before I get to where I want to be, I have to cross a busy street in the afternoon rush which has come to a halt. Wailing sirens approach and recede as red and white “Rettungswagen” race to the emergency situation somewhere in the city. The cyclical lights are in my favour, and upon turning the corner, I see the sign that tells me I’ve arrived.

One self-assigned goal during three weeks of travel within Austria was the search for places associated with physicists and mathematicians of my youth. And by youth, I mean the tender twenties when all I cared about was a succinct explanation of the natural world through various equations1. In Alpbach, I found Erwin and Annemarie Schrödinger’s grave. In Vienna, I found Ludwig Boltzmann’s grave. Here in Salzburg across the street from the Mozart family house, I found Christian Doppler after whom the Doppler effect is named.

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Ludwig Boltzmann, Wiener Zentralfriedhof, Vienna Central Cemetery, Vienna, Wien, Austria, fotoeins.com

My Vienna: finding Ludwig Boltzmann in spring

I’m neither tragic nor hip, but I know a little bit about Canadian icon and band, The Tragically Hip, and specifically, a song of theirs called “Springtime in Vienna.”

I can’t play a musical instrument, but I especially liked listening to a performance of Johann Strauss II’s “An der schönen blauen Donau” (The Blue Danube) on an intercity river catamaran between Vienna and Bratislava.

What I’m totally convinced is when spring comes calling, I’m allergic to nature. I’m a living example to irritation and inflammation, and living consequence to nature’s response to spring.

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Erwin Schroedinger, Annemarie Schroedinger, Alpbach Cemetery, Heiliger Oswald, Pfarrkirche Alpbach, Alpbach, Tirol, Tyrol, Austria, fotoeins.com

Alpbach, Austria: finding Erwin Schrödinger

Localizing his final wavefunction, at rest in Alpbach

It took a little effort: a train out from Innsbruck to Brixlegg, followed by a regional bus into another valley of countless valleys, accompanied by the illumination of sharp morning light, in a blanket of meadows and buttercups, under a deep ocean of impossibly blue skies. And on both sides of this river valley are an endless series of mountains, these peaks the smaller cousins to larger Austrian Alps nearby.

In Alpbach, the weekday morning is quiet, as the town begins to stir with people starting their work day. The bank has just opened, fresh baked bread and pastry and roasted coffee emanate from the cafe from around the corner, a couple of trucks rumble into town with deliveries. An older couple walks by, and there are mutual sunny greets of “Grüss Gott”. The church steeple glows yellow at this hour, and it’s easy to imagine with its bell the church is an aural and visual beacon for miles.

I’m drawn to the church because that was always the plan, to look for someone who’s buried in the church cemetery. Ordered rows of headstones lie as you would expect, but by the northwest gate, I find a single plaque on the bordering stone wall. The plaque reads: “Erwin Schrödinger, Nobelpreis für Physik, 1933”, and next to the plaque is Erwin and Annemarie Schrödinger’s final resting spot1. Another academic pilgrimage completed.

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