Archive for april, 2009

Vroege vogels – biosaaiheid

april 14, 2009

Deze column las ik voor bij Vara’s Vroege vogels op 12 apr. 2009.

Klik hier om de gesproken versie te beluisteren

De biodiversiteit – de verscheidenheid aan soorten – neemt af en dat is vreselijk. Biodiversiteit is beter dan biosaaiheid. Ik moet er niet aan denken in een wereld te moeten leven met maar één plant- of diersoort.

Maar wat is eigenlijk een soort hè? Als twee organismen gezamenlijk geen vruchtbare nakomelingen kunnen krijgen, dan is er sprake van twee verschillende soorten. Dat is de meest gangbare betekenis van het begrip “soort”. Dus wanneer we zo veel mogelijk verschillende soorten willen, dan willen we zo veel mogelijk organismen – planten en dieren – die gezamenlijk geen vruchtbare nakomelingen kunnen krijgen. Dat is toch iets vreemds om te willen eigenlijk…




april 13, 2009

icon-64x642My most recent publication is “Walter Huijsman’s aquarium”; issued at Apr. 1st 2009. This essay, written as part of “April, philosophy month” addresses two questions. One: why do we care about about the future? The remote future, even after our death. And two: what about a future without nature? How bad would such a future be?

Earlier I wrote “For a successful life” (Beautiful books, 2008) – a plea for unsuccessful living; “Cheese and the theory of evolution” – about the meaning of evolution for philosophical and everyday questions; and “Iron will” – about the differences between cows, computers and human beings.

It is my aim to give science and philosophy a meaning in everyday life, and for every day people. I am “special” professor at Leiden University studying the public understanding of science.

Grover counts

april 12, 2009

This is an English translation of a column published in the Dutch newspaper “De Volkskrant” at Jan. 20th 2007.

“One apple. Here I have one apple.”
“Another apple. That makes two apples.”
“One, two.”
“Again another apple.”
“Three apples.”
“One apple, two apples, three apples.”
“One, two, three. Well well wel, another lesson by Grover. Isn’t he smart?!”

Grover counts. Grover counts in two ways. He counts: one, two, three. And he counts as one of the key figures in Sesamestreet. An intruiging double meaning of the word “count”. “One, two, three.” That’s counting. And to matter, to be of significance. That also counts. I count, you count, we all count.


For a successful life

april 12, 2009

successSo you want to be successful. You want to get ahead in life. You want to be somebody. But why? In this incisive, funny and brilliant book, philosopher Bas Haring questions the very notion of success and what it means. Are we really in control of our driving ambition, or are we just responding to the demands of our conditioning?

And what is success, anyway? Is success measured by money, by status, by children? Perhaps we should be thinking about success in a different way. Perhaps the real successful people are those who simply enjoy life. Who don’t do anything at all!

“For a successful life” (Beautiful books, 2008) subtly undermines the competitive culture of ambition and drive – and lets you look at your life in a completely new way.

Cheese and the theory of evolution

april 12, 2009

“Cheese and the theory of evolution” is a book for curious children from nine years old about the workings of evolution and the meaning of evolution for everyday and philosophical questions, like: Is homosexuality a natural phenomenon? Can we become immortal? And how was cheese invented? It is a funny book, but scientifically sound.

According to the Dutch national journal for biology teachers it is “the most brilliant text about evolution in the Dutch language”. The book won the Golden Owl for children’s literature (the most prestigious price for Dutch children’s literature); is published in more than ten countries; and sold over 60.000 copies in the Netherlands.

Although an English translation is available, it is not published in the UK nor the US. To my regret. I consider to make it available online for free this year. Because of Darwin year.

University courses

april 12, 2009

Currently I teach two courses in the Media Technology program of Leiden University. This program – which I initiated in 2001 – is a place for autonomous researchers with varying backgrounds. In the fall semester I teach Creative Research, together with Maarten Lamers. A course about small scale, personal scientific research. And in the spring semester I teach Cool Science. About themes from the natural sciences, that have a broad application, but which are often misunderstood. The themes are: evolution, emergence, chaos, uncertainty and recursion. Course material can be found at Blackboard.