It reads like the script from one of his horror films; a stolen head, burnt black candles and satanic symbols – but this week they became elements of Berlin police department’s latest case.
The head in question belonged to Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau, the director of the iconic early-20th-Century Dracula film adaptation ‘Nosferatu – a Symphony of Horror’, taken from his grave near the German capital.
And officers have have already turned their attention to Germany’s darker sects as they search for those who took the well-preserved body part from a grave site often scrawled with pentangles and other symbols of devil worship.
Murnau’s ‘Nosferatu’ was and remains one of the most important milestones in cinema.
Based upon Bram Stoker’s 1897 novel ‘Dracula’, it told the story of Count Orlok of the undead, and its moody scenes and clever camera angles influenced generations of fans and filmakers alike.
But death was at the heart of the movie and death has continued to stir the passions of vampire lovers ever since it was made in 1922.
Indeed, his own death in 1931 aged 41 was enough to elicit some fascination of its own: openly homosexual, he was engaging in oral sex with his 14-year-old Filipino houseboy on the Pacific Coast Highway at Santa Barbara when he lost concentration and slammed into a telegraph pole.
His corpse was embalmed and placed in a metal coffin, and the following year it was shipped to Germany for burial in Stahnsdorf’s south-west cemetery.
And down the years the lovers of the undead – goths, ghouls and living vampires who get their sexual thrills from the drinking of human blood – have made the pilgrimage to the grave of Murnau to pay their respects to a man…
Stahnsdorf cemetery warden Olaf Ihlefeldt found the head missing as he slid the lid of the coffin away while investigating minor damage he had spotted on mausoleum number 22.
‘The body is still in pretty good condition,’ he said.
Murnau’s head was still recognisable and had its hair and teeth, he added, ‘the last time I saw it‘.
RTFA for tidbits and collateral tales of Satanism, vampire cults and other slightly disturbing religious rationales for often-demented, sometimes fanciful behavior.
Good enough for today’s TV series.
I must admit when my parents convinced the head librarian of our neighborhood Carnegie Library that I – 8-years-old – had exhausted the offerings for teens and pre-teens and required an adult library card, I almost blew it when the first book I went to borrow was Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”.
Murnau’s “Nosferatu” has long been my favorite silent film. If you require a soundtrack, try the version by Werner Herzog, “Nosferatu the Vampyre”, starring Klaus Kinski and Isabelle Adjani.
Headlines rang out across the internet…that a robot killed someone in Germany. Beneath the sensationalist surface, there was a tragic truth: an industrial robot at a Volkswagen plant in Germany had indeed killed a 22-year-old worker who was setting it up. Coverage notwithstanding, this didn’t seem like the start of a machine-led apocalypse–I wanted a second opinion before heading to my backyard bunker. Ryan Calo is a law professor at the University of Washington, and he’s published academic works on our coming robot future, and the interaction between robots and cyberlaw.
Here are some of the questions…paired with his responses:
Popular Science: Yesterday Twitter was all abuzz about an industrial robot killing someone. You said at the time “this is relatively common.” What did you mean by that?
Ryan Calo: In the United States alone, about one person per year is killed by an industrial robot. The Department of Labor keeps a log of such events with titles like “Employee Is Killed When Crushed By Robot” (2006) or “Employee Was Killed By Industrial Robots” (2004).
You’ve written before about the potential for unique errors from autonomous machines. In future “robot kills man” stories, what characteristics should we look out for that make something go from “industrial accident” to “error with autonomy”?
Right. Industrial robots tend to do the same thing again and again, like grabbing and moving, and cannot generally tell what it is they are working with. That’s why factories establish “danger” or “kill” zones that people have to stay out of while the robot is operating…
Initial reports attribute the death to human error. At what point do you think having a human “in the loop” for an autonomous system constitutes a liability, instead of a safety feature?
In industrial robotics, that ship has long sailed. You couldn’t have a person in the loop and maintain anything like today’s productivity. Rather, you have to try to make sure — through protocols, warnings, etc. — that people stay out of the robot’s way…
RTFA for more of the same sensible discussion guaranteed never to make it into your local newspaper.
BTW, Professor Calo says he wouldn’t guarantee that Atherton’s questions weren’t being answered by a robot. :)
“Never Forget!” is a slogan that cuts more than one way
This month marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Germany and Israel. The bilateral relationship, born in the wake of the Nazis’ annihilation of European Jewry, has developed into a solid one. But fading memories of the Holocaust among younger Germans, together with Israel’s declining international standing, have lately challenged the official discourse about “special” ties between the two countries…
…Over the last half-century, the bilateral relationship has become a formidable one. Germany is Israel’s largest trading partner in Europe, and its third-largest overall, after the United States and China. Moreover, Germany has been among Israel’s most reliable allies, exemplified by its role as a major arms supplier. Chancellor Angela Merkel has emerged as a staunch defender of the country, exemplified in a 2008 address to the Knesset…in which she identified Israel’s security as an essential feature of Germany’s Staatsraison.
But Germany also appears to be increasingly uneasy about having to continue supporting Israel even when its policies are clearly reproachable. Seventy years after the liberation of Auschwitz, can the bilateral relationship withstand the rising tide of anti-Israel sentiment in Europe?
History has its ironies. Post-war Germany could regain international legitimacy only through reconciliation with the Jewish people. Today, it is Israel’s legitimacy that is being challenged in international institutions and Western public opinion for its mistreatment of the Palestinians.
The role reversal has been remarkable. Both Jews and Germans emerged from WWII as defeated and crippled peoples, but the Jews had the moral high ground, while the Germans very much did not. Yet, in a global opinion poll conducted in 2013 by the BBC World Service, Israel ranked as one of the least popular countries – just above North Korea, Pakistan, and Iran – whereas Germany emerged as the most popular.
…The extent of this inversion is best exemplified in the increasing prevalence of obscene comparisons between Israel’s policies toward Palestine and the Nazis’ treatment of the Jews. A study conducted by the Bertelsmann Foundation in January showed that 35% of Germans have no problem making that connection. In what might presage a shift in the bilateral relationship, the poll also revealed that 58% of Germans believe that the past should be consigned to history, and 62% disapprove of Israel’s policies today.
RTFA for details and nuances. Shlomo Ben-Ami is a former Israeli foreign minister. The sort of statesman that held sway in Israel before that nation’s capture by the most reactionary class of nationalist sentiment. Not unlike what has happened to the Republican Party here in the United States.
His conclusions suggest thoughtful reflection might add some sophistication in Israel – and affirmation for the change in attitudes in today’s Germany.
Wind energy is a vital part of a German move to a low-carbon economy, the German economic minister said during the inauguration of RWE’s Nordsee Ost wind farm.
German Economics Minister Sigmar Gabriel hosted ministers from the Group of seven industrialized economies, along with representatives from RWE, for the inauguration of the 48-turbine wind farm off the northern German coast.
“Offshore wind energy is a strategically important element of Germany’s energy and climate policy and is key to the success of the energy transition,” Gabriel said…
Germany is one of the world leaders in renewable energy, a trend established after its decision to move away from nuclear power, in the wake of the nuclear tragedy in Japan in 2011. The United Kingdom is close behind and, combined, the European Union has more than 100 gigawatts of wind power online.
Nordsee Ost has an installed capacity of 295 megawatts, enough power to meet the annual energy needs of about 320,000 households.
RWE’s project is among the largest of its kind in the world and, by year’s end, more than 40 percent of its power capacity will be generated from wind energy.
“The expansion of renewable energy is one of our main growth areas and offshore wind energy will play a vital role,” Chief Executive Officer Peter Terium said. “RWE will become the third largest player in the European offshore market this year.”
Strange as it may seem to Americans, European conservatives haven’t dedicated their political careers to standing in the way of switching to renewable energy sources and walking away from unhealthy fossil fuels, uneconomic nuclear power generation.
Germany’s electricity traders may face busy weekends as sunny weather positions the nation for a season of solar power records.
After Wednesday’s all-time high of 27.7 gigawatts, Europe’s biggest electricity market is poised for new highs in the next few days or weeks, according to group meteorologist Marcus Boljahn at MeteoGroup. The previous record of 24.2 gigawatts was set on June 6, 2014, when fewer solar panels were installed, the weather forecaster said. One gigawatt is about equal to the capacity of a nuclear reactor…
Germany’s planned decade-long, 120 billion-euro ($127 billion) shift to cleaner energy from fossil fuels has made the nation the biggest economy in the world to rely so heavily on renewable power. Unpredictable solar and wind energy can flood the grid, resulting in negative power prices, when generators must pay consumers to take electricity. The risk is higher at weekends, when usage slows as offices and factories shut…
Germany got about 26 percent of its electricity from renewables in 2014, a share the country aims to increase to 45 percent in the next 10 years. Solar accounted for 22 percent, according to the German Association of Energy and Water Industries, a lobby group.
Intraday German day-ahead power prices were negative for eight hours on Sunday in continuous trading…Prices turned negative for two hours on Wednesday,,,a normal workday with industry at typical output…
Read my recent post over here on renewables in Germany – and you can ignore two of the biggest lies from the fossil-fuel flunkies: It’s perfectly possible to manage the storage swings on demand using renewables with a small amount of cleaner fossil fuel like natgas – and “Germany’s not as big as the United States so it’s easier to change” – is hogwash! We’ve never made wholesale changes to any infrastructure in one nationwide sweep. Even the Interstate highway system was built-out in segments over time. Germany’s GDP is slightly larger than the sum of our two largest producers of GDP, California and Texas. Comparable advancement in either state would matter enormously to the health of the American economy.
Of course, ain’t anything like that happening in Texas with the blivets in charge functioning ideologically as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Permian Basin crude oil.
Sitting in a control center that helps ensure uninterrupted power for 82 million Germans, Gunter Scheibner is proving that renewable energy from the sun and wind can be just as reliable as fossil fuels.
Scheibner, in charge of keeping flows stable over 6,200 miles (9,976 kilometers) of transmission lines in eastern Germany, must keep power from solar and wind in harmony whether it’s sunny or overcast, windy or still. In doing so, he’s overcoming the great challenge for renewable energy: how to keep supplies steady when the weather doesn’t cooperate.
The system Scheibner manages has been so successful that Germany experiences just 15 minutes a year of outages, compared with 68 minutes in France and more than four hours in Poland. The model in Germany, the biggest economy in the world to rely so heavily on renewables, is being copied from California to China as wind and solar displace traditional fuels such as nuclear and coal…
Back in the GOUSA…The Edison Electric Institute, an industry group based in Washington, and incumbent producers claim that variable flows from renewables will destabilize the power grid.
Germany’s decade-long 120 billion-euro ($127.1 billion) investment binge to shift toward low-polluting energy forms is proving critics wrong. The country has raised its share of renewable power for electricity to about 28 percent, more than any source including lignite. In Scheibner’s region, it’s more than 40 percent…
Researchers studying the grid say that a much higher concentration of renewables — 50 percent or more — is possible. That will come at a cost. Germany needs to invest 6.1 billion euros a year in its grid by the end of this decade to cope with additional wind and solar farms, the German Institute for Economic Research in Berlin estimated.
“There’s a myth among opponents of renewable energy that you need 100 percent backup spinning all the time, and it’s utter nonsense,” said Michael Liebreich, founder of Bloomberg New Energy Finance. “Any grid needs flexibility. You can have a nuclear plant shut down by jellyfish or a coal plant closed because of a freeze and you can’t shovel in supplies fast enough.”
I hope you don’t mind me skipping the coal-centric whining in the middle. Watch the latest commercials from the Koch Brothers if you think you’re missing anything. They’re the core of patriotism and apple pie – so they say.
Reliable estimates on the cost of a more flexible grid are hard to come by. The U.S. grid could absorb as much as 80 percent of its supplies from renewables by 2050 while keeping investment in transmission within the historical range of $2 billion to $9 billion a year, a 2012 study led by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory showed.
In the U.K., the Imperial College Centre for Energy Policy & Technology suggested in 2006 that consumer power prices would rise 1 percent to fund the costs of adapting grids to intermittent power flows.
We face the same fight here in New Mexico as Arizona citizens. Power companies want folks installing solar panels on their homes to subsidize the cost of maintaining decrepit transmission systems. Meanwhile, our PNM plans on exporting their own solar-generated power over new transmission lines sited to deliver more electricity to California.
The Koch Brothers and our public utilities together generate enough bullshit to fertilize crops for half the world.
“If they don’t pay attention, we break both legs next time”
A senior US diplomat said it was up to individual countries to decide on joining a new China-led lending body, as media reports said France, Germany and Italy have agreed to follow Britain’s lead and join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).
Accommodation seems to be all that’s left to Obama since threats didn’t work.
A growing number of close allies were ignoring Washington’s pressure to stay out of the institution, the Financial Times reported, in a setback for US foreign policy.
In China the state-owned Xinhua news agency said South Korea, Switzerland and Luxembourg were also considering joining.
The Financial Times, quoting European officials, said the decision by the four countries to become members of the AIIB was a blow for Washington…
The bank is also seen as contributing to the spread of China’s “soft power” in the region, possibly at the expense of the United States.
The AIIB was launched by Beijing in 2014 to spur investment in Asia in transportation, energy, telecommunications and other infrastructure. It is touted as a potential rival to the western-dominated World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.
China said earlier in 2015 that a total of 26 countries had been included as founder members, mostly from Asia and the Middle East. It plans to finalise the articles of agreement by the end of the year…
Obama, the State Department, Congressional clown show members who fancy their foreign policy cred – all joined in to try to prevent this new international funding source from acceptance by our allies. At least those who acquired the title by generally obeying White House orders.
Didn’t work. Didn’t happen.
The bank will be welcome throughout the developing world, throughout the 3rd World. Like Chinese foreign policy it doesn’t come with social strings. The intent is to aid in the building of infrastructure – which means we probably should apply from poor states like New Mexico as a matter of need. We ain’t getting anything from Congress. That’s for sure.
The rap on both the World Bank and the IMF is that they have to answer to conservative voices in the United States and the European Union. Conservative voices not so focussed on the funds as social welfare – which they consider to be at least a mortal sin. Money is doled out through an eyedropper. Proof of reduction in socially productive programs required on a daily basis.
The chuckle is – for a lot of reason including holding a place in line for future exchanges dealing RMB, the Chinese currency, EU nations often the most conservative when criticizing other nation’s social practices – still want to be seen as caring and participating and maybe even profiting from a more open and less-political form of moneylending.
The United States OTOH is “above all that”. So to speak.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Energy and Safety Technology have developed a “biobattery” in the form of a highly efficient biogas plant that can turn raw materials like straw, scrap wood and sludge into a variety of useful energy sources including electricity, purified gas and engine oil. The new plant design, currently being put to the test in a prototype plant in Germany, is said to be highly modular and economically viable even at the small scale.
The production of biogas – gas created by the breakdown of organic matter, by fermentation or through the action of anaerobic bacteria – is an interesting complement to other sources of renewable energy since it can not only generate electricity at little cost to the environment, but also create biofuel, fertilizer and engine oil. One issue, however, is that these plants only accept few organic substances as raw materials.
A new biogas plant developed at the Fraunhofer Institute could solve this problem by taking a number of materials that would normally have to be disposed of at great cost – like industrial biomass waste, sewage sludge, straw, scrap wood or manure – and process them with high efficiency into a more useful output, all through a highly modular, flexible design…
The end products can be used in various ways: the oil can be turned into fuel for ships or airplanes; the gases are used to produce electricity in a combined heat and power plant; and the biochar can be used as fertilizer.
Besides the flexibility that comes from accepting multiple raw materials and producing multiple outputs, another crucial advantage to the biobattery is that, according to the scientists’ financial analysis, even a small-scale plant requiring a small investment would be financially profitable. Because of the built-in modularity, the plant could then be gradually upgraded to process more materials with higher efficiency.
In their own way, the Fraunhoher Institute is as interesting a source for advancing life on this wee planet as the Max Planck Institute. Though not as dedicated to basic research as the latter, Fraunhofer turns out more practical science and engineering than most of their peers in the Western world.
This is one more example. RTFA for another few paragraphs of detail. Living as we do on a planet dominated by a species whose progress in economics and commerce is generally accompanied by an inordinate amount of waste – and wastefulness – Fraunhofer’s efforts are more than welcome.
Switzerland’s decision to lift the cap on the franc’s value against the euro has had unexpected consequences – in the form of intercepted pizza deliveries.
Swiss people looking for a bargain have been dialling up restaurants across the border in Germany, but now the authorities have had enough…
Uli Burchardt, the mayor of Constance, which borders Switzerland to the northeast, told the publication that German vans have been stopped by Swiss customs officials after it was discovered they had been delivering up to 60 pizzas at a time. And fast food is not the only thing the Swiss have been seeking elsewhere, as people cross the border to do their weekly shop and even visit the dentist.
Cripes. There are dentistas in Mexico who have public school contracts in Arizona and California.
Following the decision to lift the €1.20 cap last month, the franc shot up by 40 per cent against the euro. The franc also rose 30 per cent against the dollar and 15 per cent against sterling. In short, the Swiss can now get more for their money.
However, there is concern that businesses will be negatively impacted by the strong franc. Eurozone companies that buy their products in Switzerland are at risk of being priced out of the market, while Swiss businesses situated on the border may find themselves passed over in favour of their perceived better-value eurozone counterparts.
Interesting – and eventually acceptable when the situation stabilizes. Not out of line with long-term commerce in cross-border towns along the US-Canadian border or the US-Mexican border.
Of course, hypocrites in government can’t pass up an opportunity to whine for domestic political advantage. So, both the White House and Congress whine about so-called Chinese currency manipulation when the biggest fraud in Asia comes from the Bank of Japan. As it always has.
Anti-bigotry rally in Berlin
A rally against racism and xenophobia on Saturday drew tens of thousands of people in the eastern German city of Dresden, which has become the center of anti-immigration protests organized by a new grassroots movement called PEGIDA.
“We won’t permit that hate will divide us”, Dresden’s mayor Helma Orosz said in front of the 18th-century Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady).
Around 35,000 people attended the rally that was jointly organized by the state government of Saxony and the city of Dresden…
The movement Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West (PEGIDA) is holding weekly rallies in Dresden with a record number of 18,000 people attending last Monday.
Chancellor Angela Merkel has condemned the anti-Muslim demonstrations, urging Germans to turn their backs on the movement and calling their organizers racists full of hatred.
The Paris attack has fueled fears that it could boost anti-immigration movements around Europe and inflame a culture war about the place of religion and ethnic identity in society.
Speaking after a party meeting of her Christian Democrats (CDU) in Hamburg earlier on Saturday, Merkel stressed the need for intercultural dialogue and warned against prejudice.
Good to see this. If there is a nation in the world capable of taking the lead in opposing rightwing populism, opportunist ethnic hatred. it is Germany. They know the potential results almost as well as the nationalities murdered by German fascists in the mid-20th Century.