Fotoeins Fotografie

photography as worlds between words

Posts from the ‘Science’ category

Anatomiegarten, Hauptstrasse, Heidelberg, Germany

My Heidelberg: science and Christmas in Anatomiegarten

It sounds like an unusual pairing, for science and Christmas to come together in a place called Anatomiegarten, or Anatomy Garden, in the German university town of Heidelberg.

During the Christmas season, the Anatomiegarten is host to one of the key Christmas market locations along Heidelberg’s main street (Hauptstrasse). Prominent are two names from a historical and scientific perspective: Bunsen and Kirchhoff.

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My 3 Thermo Laws to Making Photographs

There are some certainties to making a photograph:

  • seeing or viewing the scene,
  • framing the scene in the camera,
  • clicking the shutter button to expose and capture the scene, and
  • admiring the image of the scene.

But make enough photographs, and three realities make themselves known. These arrive gradually, surprising you with their frequency and constancy. But you’ll eventually recognize the universal truths behind what it really means to make a photograph.

And this is where physics is a useful analogy, without the math.

Hot and Cold

When I was at university, one mandatory course was thermodynamics, the study of relationships between heat (thermal energy) and other forms of energy including mechanical, electrical, or chemical. It’s a way of understanding how heat transfer is described, and the various ways energy can be transformed or exchanged within a physical system.

What does this have anything to do with you? Thermodynamics is a driving factor behind weather in the atmosphere, water currents in the oceans, how refrigerators, heat exchangers, water kettles work, among other applications. Thermodynamics plays a role in our everyday lives.

In words, the Three Laws of Thermodynamics are:

  1. “Energy can be changed from one form to another, but energy cannot be created or destroyed. The total amount of energy and matter in the Universe remains constant.”
  2. “Entropy, a measure of a system’s energy that is unavailable for work, or of the degree of a system’s disorder, in the universe always increases. Heat does not by itself pass from a cooler to a hotter body.”
  3. “It is not possible to reach a temperature of absolute zero.”

The poet Allen Ginsberg created theorems, restating and applying the three laws of thermodynamics to “the game of life”:

  1. You can’t win.
  2. You can’t break even.
  3. You can’t get out of the game.

Bondi Beach, Sydney, Australia, fotoeins.com

My Three Laws to Making Photographs

I attempted to photograph large waves pounding the rocks at Sydney’s North Bondi. As I hunted for the “perfect crash,” I began to think a lot about thermodynamics. In a crazy wave of thought, I got down to my “Three Laws to Making Photographs”:

  1. If you want that shot, someone already made it to worldwide acclaim.
  2. That ideal shot is a fraction of a second too early or too late.
  3. You can’t resist the urge to try and try again.

It’s good to know I’ve put some of that physics training to good use, and I’ve been responsible in raising the “total entropy of the photographic universe” by a small amount, after amassing 75000 exposures with a single camera.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time I headed out to continue my futile search and photograph that elusive moment of pure clarity …

I made the photo above from Bondi Icebergs at South Bondi in Sydney, Australia on 3 June 2013. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotografie at fotoeins.com as https://wp.me/p1BIdT-3qx.


Minding the Physics

Nobel Prize winner Richard Feynman provides a beautiful treatment of thermodynamics in his renowned 1963 Physics Lectures, complete with the math.

Interview with astros: Aisha Mahmoud-Perez

The Traveling Astronomer

Once, I was an astronomer, spending time thinking about and working on the formation and evolution of dwarf galaxies.

Astronomers lead busy lives, including teaching and mentoring, research-specific small- and large-scale data programming, and the near endless cycle of paperwork including research plans, funding proposals, budget reports, and paper manuscripts for peer-reviewed journals. Much of the time also involves travel – conferences, workshops, and collaboration meetings around the world, as well as visits to telescopes at observatories in remote locations around the world to collect data for projects.

I liked the travel part more than I enjoyed astronomy. When I’d said farewell to astronomy, I’d accumulated over one million miles with American Airlines, and countless more with Air Canada, the old Canadian Pacific, Lufthansa, the old Northwest (now Delta), and United Airlines. Weary feet and tired wings aren’t surprising outcomes; I know there are still many journeys and destinations left to come.

The best of Palestine and Puerto Rico

In September 2006, I moved to La Serena, Chile to work at the Gemini Observatory. The following January a number of undergraduate students from Chile, U.S., and Puerto Rico arrived at the neighbouring astronomical observatory to spend the Chilean summer on research experience. After meeting these students over the years, I’m happy to remain in contact with a number of them.

I’m pleased to introduce Aisha Mahmoud-Perez. She is one of the most unique people I’ve had the pleasure of knowing and calling friend. With a Puerto Rican mother and Palestinian father, she successfully blends into her life the influences of two vibrant colourful cultures and two fiery independent dispositions. She loves meeting new people, learning new languages (she’s presently at five), and she loves food, travel, and knitting. She completed her M.Sc. in astronomy and astrophysics at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, and she is now presently back in northwest Arkansas.


I remember the hectic schedules as a former and recovering astronomer. How do you strike a balance between the professional “necessity” of traveling for research with the personal “necessity” of traveling for your own satisfaction?

AM: “As an astronomer in the making, I find it hard to reach that perfect balance between doing research and research related activities and simply taking a week off to travel, but it is certainly not impossible. In mid-June this year (2014), I traveled to Chile for a collaboration trip lasting almost 3 weeks. Most of that time was spent working, but I’d take afternoons off to walk around town and weekends off to wander around the country. I found I was more productive at work after I’d taken some time to discover places on my own.”


With your Palestinian and Puerto Rican heritage, and a large fraction of your time in America, you’ve been exposed to and influenced by a rich cross-section of different cultures. How do these influences inform your travels? What have you learned about the differences and similarities among people?

AM: “I feel very lucky to have been raised under two very different cultures. There was never a dull moment in my house. Every day I discovered how beautifully different my parents were from each other – the saga still continues today – and how much they learned from those differences. Those differences helped me to be more open and to embrace different cultures with passion and enthusiasm. I also learned that those differences I talk about are superficial – one prefers tea over coffee, prefers to dress in a specific way, or prefers Abdel Halim Hafez over Marc Anthony – and that deep down we really love and feel the same way, regardless of where we’re born.”


What and where in the Middle East would you recommend people see and experience for something that’s uniquely Middle East? What and where in Puerto Rico would you recommend people see and experience for something uniquely Puerto Rican?

AM: “As far as the Arab Middle East goes… GO NOW, ‘YALLA’! The Arab world, from Morocco to Iraq, is extremely diverse: the colours, the smells, the food, even the local dialect of Arabic is different. But there is one thing I believe unites the Arab World and that’s their hospitality. I’ve met some of the most welcoming and warmest people in these lands. I’d say a truly unique Middle Eastern experience is to “be yourself” and engage with locals. Perhaps what’s a bit closer to me is if you wander around Palestine, make sure to visit the city of Nablus and try their famous ‘knafeh’ – a delicious cake with a gooey cheese filling. No worries, you will find more many who’ll be more than glad to take you to a place to try ‘knafeh’!

Hebron, West Bank, Palestine - by Aisha Mahmoud

“Kunafeh”, in Hebron, West Bank, Palestine (AM)

Puerto Rico, on the other had, is a complex melting pot between North American and Latin American culture. Given our all-year-long summer, Puerto Rico is a constant party. But, perhaps, our biggest spectacle or where one can experience true ‘puerto-rican-ness’ is during Christmas. The streets fill with Christmas music all day long, moms and grandmas cook traditional dishes and you truly feel the happiness and the excitement of the people in the air. Do note however that Puerto Rican Christmas songs are not your typical Christmas song, e.g. “your guests come, eat, pig out, drink, and then they ask you if you have an aspirin” (No hay Cama Pa’ Tanta Gente by El Gran Combo). Also, Christmas starts right after Thanksgiving and ends the second week of January. Happy Island!”

Nablus, West Bank, Palestine - by Aisha Mahmoud

“Family”, in Nablus, West Bank, Palestine (AM)

What place or country has left the most lasting impact with you? What are those impressions?

AM: “For me, that place is Chile. Even if you love traveling, it is always challenging to go abroad either as a tourist or to stay there for a longer period. In Chile, I never had that feeling of being an “outsider”. Chileans welcomed me like one of them right away: very warm and friendly people! Their food is amazing as well!”

Valparaíso, Chile - by Aisha Mahmoud

“Barrios”, in Valparaíso, Chile (AM)

Where is one place or country in the world would you like to live or travel? What are your reasons?

AM: “I can’t pick just one. One of my travel goals is to visit the entire Arab world. Out of all the nations in the Arab world, I’ve visited five; only 17 more countries to go! I was mostly raised in Puerto Rico and was involuntarily away from the Arab World for a long time. I think that that’s why I find the Arab world so enchanting and I still want to visit and be charmed by all of it.”


Follow Aisha

at her website | on Twitter | on Instagram

The photos above were made by and kindly provided by Aisha Mahmoud. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com at http://wp.me/p1BIdT-5oE.

Alter St.-Matthäus-Kirchhof, Schöneberg, Berlin, Germany, fotoeins.com

My Berlin: literature & physics at Alter St. Matthäus cemetery

It’s a big thrill when travel merges with aspects of my childhood upbringing or aspects of my education. I’m fortunate to have had this experience in the German capital city of Berlin.

I had read that the Brüder Grimm (Grimm Brothers) were buried in Berlin Schöneberg. On a walk through the district, I arrived at the Alter St.-Matthäus-Kirchhof, or Old Saint Matthew Cemetery, near the Yorckstrasse train station.

Alter St.-Matthäus-Kirchhof, Schöneberg, Berlin, Germany, fotoeins.com Alter St.-Matthäus-Kirchhof, Schöneberg, Berlin, Germany, fotoeins.com

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