To all Berlinecks: My ebook about moving to and living in Berlin is available!

Berlin is the city where the world goes to party, but also to live and to experiment with new ideas: social movements, technologies, fashion, art, music, sexuality and multiculturalism. The Berliners are creative, hedonistic, weird and some of the most tolerant people on earth.

Berlin is the largest city and the capital of German and also one of the 16 constituent states in Germany. The city proper is the second in population in the European Union. It ranks seventh in the most populous urban settlements in the European Union. The metropolitan region of Berlin-Brandenburg boasts a population of 6 million. Berlin lies on the banks of river Havel and Spree in the northeastern part of Germany. It is cosmopolitan with residents from 180 countries around the world. The temperate seasonal climate influences Berlin City due to its locality in the European plains. Wounded from the communist rule during the cold war, Berlin is now a prosperous capital. It is a center for multinational companies, investors and an expert workforce. Berlin provides excellent value to the elements of the business.

Why it’s only science that can answer all the big questions

Science has proved itself to be a reliable way to approach all kinds of questions about the physical world. As a scientist, I am led to wonder whether its ability to provide understanding is unlimited. Can it in fact answer all the great questions, the ‘big questions of being’, that occur to us?

To begin with, what are these big questions? In my view, they fall into two classes.

One class consists of invented questions that are often based on unwarranted extrapolations of human experience. They typically include questions of purpose and worries about the annihilation of the self, such as Why are we here? and What are the attributes of the soul?

Death is no leveller if some live much longer than others

As long as there has been inequality among humans, death has been seen as the great leveller. Just like the rest of us, the rich and powerful have had to accept that youth is fleeting, that strength and health soon fail, and that all possessions must be relinquished within a few decades. It’s true that the better-off have, on average, lived longer than the poor (in 2017, the least deprived 10th of the UK population had a life expectancy seven to nine years longer than the most deprived one), but this is because the poor are more exposed to life-shortening influences, such as disease and bad diet, and receive poorer healthcare, rather than because the rich can extend their lives.

My colleague the robot – Work world of the future

They are modernizing industry and changing the ways of the labour market: robots are being increasingly used in companies. That makes companies more efficient, and could give employees more free space.

In the factory, metal trolleys move back and forth between stacker racks and six assembly islands, halt before individual workers, then drive to their next goal. In the southern German town of Graben-Neudorf, SEW-Eurodrive produces gear motors – among other things, for escalators and cranes. Mobile robots help the workers. The technological helpers are specialized in logistics, assembly or mounting machines: cyber-physical “logistics assistants” bring supplies at the right time and speed away the finished workpieces.

Cycling in Berlin – Between lifestyle and life-threatening

Cycling – for many Berliners, that means a lifestyle choice, the ideal form of transport and a steadfast belief that even 200 years after its invention, the future belongs to the bicycle.

“I love the idea of a city with more space and better air,” I’m told by a cyclist who rides her bike rain or shine. Yet so far, an idea is all it is: Every day, from traffic light to traffic light, it’s bumper to bumper on Berlin’s main roads (and not just there). The lone warriors in those cars are plagued by traffic jams, watching as cyclists zoom past. But even in the rigid minds of many drivers something is starting to shift. To be sure, car traffic in the city centre is in decline, yet only 13% of all journeys were conducted by bicycle in early 2018. For comparison: In Münster, Germany’s bicycle city no. 1, it’s about 40 percent.

Building Divided Berlin

Berlin was a partitioned city from the end of World War II and a city divided by a wall for about 28 years. A foreboding, fortified border down the middle of a city would seem a considerable obstacle to the continued evolution of its built environment. Yet not only did construction continue on both sides of the Berlin Wall from 1961 to 1989, but the division fueled development  in both direct and indirect ways.

Just how did officials on each side go about building half a city? What follows is an overview of architectural development in East and West Berlin, which reveals the extent to which the Wall was perhaps not so much a divide as a “zipper,” in the words of East German poet Lutz Rathenow, “The cement holding the whole of Berlin together.”(1)

We have an ethical obligation to relieve individual animal suffering

Last winter, unforgettable video footage online showed a starving polar bear, struggling in its Arctic hunting grounds. Because of global warming, the ice was thin and the food supply was scarce. The video generated a wellspring of sympathy for the plight of this poor creature, and invigorated calls for stronger efforts to combat climate change – and rightly so.

Such advocacy on behalf of wildlife usually focuses on species and the effects of human-caused climate change on their survival and wellbeing as the ecosystems on which they depend undergo drastic changes. Thus, we should act to save the polar bear – that is, the polar bear species – by doing what we can to preserve its natural ecosystem. I am fully behind this kind of advocacy. Anybody who cares about the future of our planet and its occupants should be.

Orwell knew: we willingly buy the screens that are used against us

Sales of George Orwell’s dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) have spiked twice recently, both times in response to political events. In early 2017, the idea of ‘alternative facts’ called to mind Winston Smith, the book’s protagonist and, as a clerk in the Ministry of Truth, a professional alternator of facts. And in 2013, the US National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden compared widespread government surveillance explicitly to what Orwell had imagined: ‘The types of collection in the book – microphones and video cameras, TVs that watch us – are nothing compared to what we have available today.’

Snowden was right. Re-reading Nineteen Eighty-Four in 2018, one is struck by the ‘TVs that watch us’, which Orwell called telescreens. The telescreen is one of the first objects we encounter: ‘The instrument (the telescreen, it was called) could be dimmed, but there was no way of shutting it off completely.’ It is omnipresent, in every private room and public space, right up until the end of the book, when it is ‘still pouring forth its tale of prisoners and booty and slaughter’ even after Smith has resigned himself to its rule.

A ‘humanely’ killed animal is still killed – and that’s wrong

Western conventional wisdom about animal ethics is that killing an animal is not the problem; the problem is making the animal suffer. As long as we have treated and killed an animal in a ‘humane’ way, we have done nothing wrong. A compelling example of this belief is found in the case of dogs and cats, animals particularly valued in Western culture. If someone inflicts suffering on a dog or cat, they are excoriated. But unwanted dogs and cats are routinely ‘put to sleep’ – killed – in shelters with an intravenous injection of sodium pentobarbital, and most people do not object as long as the process is administered properly by a trained person and there is no suffering inflicted on the animal.

Why do we think that killing animals per se is not morally wrong? Why do we think that death is not a harm for non-human animals?

Built on a swamp – a brief history of Berlin, briefly

Berlin's history is certainly part of its appeal. Some of that history is wonderful and some is quite the opposite. Its story had an inauspicious beginning but it led to great heights: residence of the kings of Prussia, capital of the German Empire, metropolis feted throughout the world in the 1920s, capital of the Third Reich, ruined city, front line in the Cold War, city of the famous Berlin Wall – and, now, once more capital of a united Germany and seat of government. The historian Alexandra Richie said, that »no other city on earth has had such a turbulent history; no other capital has repeatedly become so powerful and then fallen so low. … This city's identity has always been based not on stability but on change.«

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