maandag 27 oktober 2014

Why TEDxMaastricht is a recipe for discovery

The motto of TEDxMaastricht was: “Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m possible’!” (Audrey Hepburn). But this motto provides troublesome tasks: dare to do what it takes, dare to innovate! Fortunately, the speakers offered perspective: “I’m possible”.

Landscape house; Endless Expo Space 
(source: Universe Architecture)

TEDxMaastricht (October 13) brought to the stage a parade of interesting speakers. The most notable ones are within one of the following themes: exploitation, fashion, 3D printing, and science.

For the first theme – exploitation – I refer to my October 20 post “Shocking things said at TEDxMaastricht”. This post ended with the question: who pays the cost of fashion?

One answer to this question was given by Hasmik Matevosyan. She is critical about the textiles industry. For instance, several cotton farmers have died from pesticides. Garments are too often produced under inhumane and dangerous labor conditions. And finally, 30% of all cloths are never sold and another 40% is sold at high discounts.
Conversely, Matevosyan advocates good fashion: ethically, environmental friendly, profitable, and affordable and attractive for consumers. To realize this a paradigm shift in fashion is required. This starts with a design system that uses tools, such as social media, to take better into account the needs and desires of the consumer. Furthermore, it requires a different business model that provides better quality and real value. For example, a business model that promotes borrowing instead of buying – a library of cloths.

Within the theme ‘fashion’ there was a talk about wearable technology by Pauline van Dongen. She designs garments in which solar systems, which can charge mobile phones, are integrated.
Another Van Dongen creation is a 3D printed shoe, which brings me to next theme (for more of her creations I refer to

3D printing
The English artist Agi Haines explores ways to design human bodies. We already use a lot of enhancements, such as glasses, walking sticks, and tooth braces. But what about improving the human body as from birth? This leads to transfigurations of babies, who are potentially superhuman (check them out at Haines – miss Frankenstein – suggests that another body improvement may come from 3D printed organs, such as kidneys.

This application of 3D printing is still something of the future, but other speakers gave more current examples. One of them is the entrepreneur Mick Walvisch, who places 3D printing in the context of the ‘Internet of Things’: in 2020, 37 billion things will be online.
Walvisch gave two example of 3D printing. With 3D printing he built his own windmill. And the first 3D printed car has been produced – it took no longer than 48 hours.

A remarkable application of 3D printing was developed by the designer Eric Klarenbeek. He uses organic waste that was inoculated with fungi. This mixture of biomass and mycelium is 3D printed, for example in the form of a chair or stool. This leads to unexplored connections: within a few weeks the 3D printed biomass mixture is bound into a massive form, the object is dried and is ready for use.
Want to know more? Visit

The architect Janjaap Ruijssenaars provides a final example of 3D printing: a building. And not just a building, but one called the Endless Expo Space. The design was inspired by the Moebius ring: a structure that has only one surface and one edge. This mathematical figure, which can only exist in three dimensions, is an infinite loop and it gave Ruijssenaars a recipe for discovery.
In fact, the building still needs to be constructed. 3D printing is a major design method and it will be a production method for certain elements of the building (see artist impression).
When ready, the building will be perfect as a museum, a nice place to display a Rodin sculpture. Rodin said: “I take away what I don’t need.” In 3D printing it is the other way around: you make what you need.
For more information:

In his talk, Ruijssenaars elaborated on his philosophy as an architect. As a child, he asked his father, who was also an architect: What binds all architects? The answer: gravity.
Later, he considered the four dimensions: x, y, z, and time. One dimension (x) stands for ‘idea’, two dimensions (2D) stand for ‘image’, 3D for ‘space’; and when time is added: ‘movement’.
Next, Ruijssenaars asked himself: what binds all ‘ideas’ (one dimension): nothing. And what binds all ‘images’ (two dimensions): light. ‘Spaces’ (3D objects) have matter in common. The most difficult question was: what binds all ‘movements’ (four dimensions)? Ruijssenaars’ answer: transformation.

* * *

 Han Dols Fotografie

3D printing in Brightlands
Earlier this year, an Additive Manufacturing Materials Center was established at Brightlands Chemelot Campus. This laboratory, which is part of Chemelot Innovation and Learning Labs (CHILL), develops new 3D printing materials. 3D printing can be used for the manufacture of biological systems (cartilage, bone, organs), nanostructures, combinations of different materials (metal-plastic) and fiber-reinforced components.
The market for 3D printing (also called additive manufacturing) is growing rapidly, for instance, in the biomedical, aerospace and mechanical industries and in consumer products.

3D printing technology is a real game changer in many manufacturing industries.

The final theme – science – I will cover in next week’s blog post.

This blogpost was written at the occasion of TEDx Maastricht, October 13, 2014 (

maandag 20 oktober 2014

Shocking things said at TEDxMaastricht

The motto of TEDxMaastricht was: “Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m possible’!” (Audrey Hepburn). That’s why most speakers told stories of hope and perspective. But some stories were about despair and misery.

Rana Plaza Building, Savar, Bangladesh

TEDxMaastricht (October 13) brought to the stage a true parade of interesting speakers. Among them was a 17-year old student who told us how he found his passion: building smartphone apps.

A young woman shared her secret: her recipe to lose weight.

A professor gave hope to everybody suffering from schizophrenia: it’s not solely a (genetically determined) disease, since there are also environmental factors, such as childhood abuse, cannabis use, and social exclusion. Conclusion: this type of psychosis can often be treated.

A female cyclist gave an account of her attempt to be the world’s fastest woman on a bicycle. She achieved 110 km per hour – good enough to be third, but not good enough to be satisfied.

A young entrepreneur who is rolling out a network of loading stations for electronic cars, predicted that the car industry as we know it is coming to an end. His loading stations provide the same freedom to car drivers as conventional gas stations.

An organizer of large festivals mentioned the crucial elements of a successful party: music, entertainment, and happiness!

A historian convinced us that the principle of a basic income (free money) has a positive societal cost/return rate, in particular when homeless are the beneficiaries.

A high-performance expert told us why the majority is always wrong, because achieving extraordinary results requires an extraordinary approach to doing things differently.

The other speakers are within one of the following themes: exploitation, fashion, 3D printing, and science.

The Dutch photographer Kadir van Lohuizen showed the audience pictures of the contemporary migration from South and Central America to the USA – Via PanAm.
A trail of migrants is constantly on a dangerous journey through countries dominated by gangs. If they ever make it across the Mexican-US border alive, they will probably be arrested. Then, they’re send back to their country of origin. That’s where the exploitation really starts: they have to work for the rest of their life to pay back the smugglers, who gave them the loan to pay for their ‘ticket to prosperity’.

Another example of exploitation is provided by the clothing industry in Bangladesh. Here about four million people are employed, most of them women. They earn a minimum wage of about $68 per month – many garment factories pay less.
The world was shocked when on April 24, 2013, the garment factory at Rana Plaza in Bangladesh collapsed. The photographer Ismail Ferdous was witness of the aftermath of this disaster, in which over 1,100 workers died and around 2,500 were injured.
Later, in New York Ferdous saw on the cloths in the stores the same tags as he say in the Rana Plaza collapse. In the Western world consumers are looking for discounts – they’re one end of a chain with laborers at the other end. The question is: who pays the cost of fashion?
I recommend to visit, because the lesson of Rana Plaza should not be forgotten.

In following posts I will cover the other themes: fashion, 3D printing, and science. 

This blogpost was written at the occasion of TEDx Maastricht, October 13, 2014 (

maandag 13 oktober 2014

Hoe je schoonpapa terzijde schuift

Belangrijke gebeurtenissen in de geschiedenis zijn verbonden met plaatsen en jaartallen. In Ierland is dat niet anders en bij een daarvan hoort een Nederlandse prins die koning van Engeland werd.

Al in de twaalfde eeuw wilden de Engelse koningen, zoals Henry II Plantagenet (1133-1189), Ierland binnen hun invloedssfeer brengen om meer rust te krijgen aan de grenzen van hun koninkrijk. Gedurende de eeuwen die volgden traden de Engelsen dan ook menigmaal wreed op tegen de opstandige Ieren en Engelse kolonisten namen steeds meer Iers land in bezit. De Ieren verarmden en ontwikkelden een intense haat tegen de Engelsen.

Protestanten en katholieken
In 1509 werd Henry VIII koning van Engeland en met hem kwam er een nieuw element in de relatie tussen Engeland en Ierland. Om een ontbinding van zijn huwelijk mogelijk te maken brak hij namelijk met de katholieke kerk en stichtte de protestantse Anglicaanse kerk. Deze geloofsrichting werd in geheel Engeland ingevoerd, maar Ierland bleef katholiek.

Henry VIII stuurde zijn leger naar Ierland en in 1541 was hij de eerste Engelse koning die tot koning van Ierland werd gekroond. Gedurende de decennia daarna werden regelmatig katholieke opstanden met harde hand neergeslagen, waarbij hele dorpen werden uitgemoord, het vee geroofd en de oogst werd vernietigd.

Engelse kolonisatie
Om de (katholieke) Ierse bevolking tot blijvende loyaliteit te bewegen vond vanaf 1606 de “Plantation of Ulster“ plaats. Dit hield in het verwijderen van de Ierse bevolking uit vrijwel de hele provincie Ulster, in het noorden van Ierland, en de vestiging van (protestantse) Engelse kolonisten, die loyaal waren aan de Engelse koning, vooral oud-militairen die zo hun achterstallige soldij ontvingen. Een bijzondere vestiging was die door de Londense gildes, wat leidde tot de stichting van de stad Londonderry.

In 1641-1642 kwam het in Ulster tot een heftige katholieke opstand. Zowel protestanten als katholieken werden op wrede wijze vermoord. Berucht was de moord op enkele honderden protestanten bij Portadown in 1641.

In 1648 veroverde de Ier Owen Roe O'Neill de plaats Drogheda. In reactie daarop kwam Oliver Cromwell, die toen feitelijk over Engeland regeerde, met een leger naar Ierland. Hij roept het beeld op van een genocidale tiran die tot over zijn knieën door Iers bloed waadde – niet geheel ten onrechte. Hij heroverde Drogheda en daarbij vielen 2500 doden. Wat Portadown 1641 was voor de protestanten, werd Drogheda 1648 voor de katholieken.

Karakteristiek voor de Engelse houding tegenover de Ieren in die tijd is de beschrijving van het desolate gebied The Burren (Co. Clare) door Ludlow, een van Cromwell’s generaals: “Het is een land zonder water om iemand te verdrinken, zonder bomen om iemand op te hangen en zonder aarde om iemand te begraven.
Voor mijn beschrijving van dit gebied verwijs ik naar de blogpost “De grootste ter wereld” van 11 augustus 2014 – zoek de verschillen.

In de jaren daarna hielden de Engelsen de opstandige Ieren in bedwang door mannen op te hangen en vrouwen – naar schatting zo’n 15.000 – te deporteren naar suikerplantages in de Caraïben. Honger, gevechten en ziekte deden de bevolking met bijna eenkwart krimpen. Het aandeel van de katholieken in het landeigendom daalde van 70% in 1641 naar 10% in 1660. In hun plaats kwamen Engelse landeigenaren.

James II en Willem III
In 1685 kwam James II op de Engelse troon, een overtuigd katholiek. De ongeruste protestanten in Engeland wendden zich tot Willem III van Oranje, de schoonzoon van James II en de stadhouder van Holland. Willem ging op hun verzoek in. Hij kon zo namelijk een machtsblok vormen tegenover de Fransen, die de zuidgrens van Holland bedreigden.
Willem kwam in 1688 naar Engeland en James vluchtte naar Frankrijk.

In 1689 voer James II naar Ierland, dat inmiddels vrijwel geheel door zijn aanhangers werd bestuurd. James belegerde de protestantse verzetshaarden in Ulster, Londonderry en Enniskillen, maar die hielden stand ("No Surrender"). Engeland stuurde troepen naar Belfast en in 1690 kwam Willem zelf.

Battle of the Boyne 1690
Op 1 juli van dat jaar kwam het zo tot Slag aan de Boyne. James verloor en vluchtte naar Frankrijk. Er volgde nog een bloedige veldslag bij Aughrim op 12 juli 1691, waarbij de katholieken opnieuw verloren.

De Battle of the Boyne 1690 zou de (Ierse) geschiedenisboekjes ingaan als het moment waarop de Ieren definitief tegenover de Engelsen het onderspit delfden.

Naar goed Iers gebruik is ook over de Slag aan de Boyne een lied geschreven, “Battle of the Boyne”, dat thuishoort in de bijzondere categorie Loyalist Songs. Het laat je iets ervaren van de animositeit tussen katholieken en prostestanten, tussen Ieren en Engelsen, tussen Ierland en Noord-Ierland. Een animositeit die tot niet zo lang geleden de kranten vulde. Een animositeit die dus verklaard wordt door de Battle of the Boyne 1690 en de aanloop daartoe.
De tekst – geschreven vanuit Engels perspectief – volgt hieronder:

Hopelijk houden de twee partijen nu vrede (de wereld heeft meer dan genoeg aan de huidige conflicten). Tijdens mijn reis door (Noord)-Ierland, deze zomer, heb ik in in dit verband niets zorgwekkends opgemerkt.

Veel informatie voor deze blogpost heb ik gevonden in het boek “The Story of Ireland” door Neil Hegarty (2012).

Over Ierland schreef ik ook “Impressies van een Groen Eiland” van 4 augustus, “De grootste ter wereld” van 11 augustus, “Wat na duizenden jaren overblijft” van 18 augustus, “Gouden Eeuwen in Ierland” van 25 augustus en “Hoe een Hollandse piraat toesloeg” van 8 september 2014.

Battle of the Boyne 

Come don your Sash and bowler black and join the great parade,
We're on our way to celebrate 1688,
And better still and mores the thrill,
Just two years further on,
When William Prince of Orange won the Battle of the Boyne.

So raise the Crimson Banner high,
It flies for you and me,
And signifys the reason,
Why we're British and we're free.

Now sound the flute and strike the drum,
Lets hear the cymbals clash,
And play again 'old Derrys walls, Garvagh and the Sash,
As on we march we'll proudly tell in story and in song,
How William Prince of Orange won the Battle of the Boyne.

So raise the Crimson Banner high,
It flies for you and me,
And signifys the reason,
Why we're British and we're free.

Brave Schomberg, Ormond, Sidney, Solnes, Prince George and Conningsby,
They took the bridge of Slane, Duleek and Drogheda that day,
The neath bank bristled bright with pikes as Ulstermen charged on,
And William Prince of Orange won the Battle of the Boyne.

So raise the Crimson Banner high,
It flies for you and me,
And signifys the reason,
Why we're British and we're free.

Come don your Sash and bowler black and join the great parade,
We're on our way to celebrate 1688,
And better still and mores the thrill,
Just two years further on,
When William Prince of Orange won the Battle of the Boyne

maandag 6 oktober 2014

The importance of international networks

For most people prehistory is a vague term for ‘long ago’. Whoever takes the trouble to look closer, will see that also in those days international networks led to innovations.

Arrowheads, Band Ceramic culture (5400-4900 B.C.), found in Sittard

Let’s be honest, who has a good idea of the sequence and simultaneity of the prehistoric objects we find in the landscape, whether in your own country or abroad?

For most people a megalithic tomb is just a megalithic tomb, regardless of whether it’s one of the odd fifty ‘hunebedden’ in the Dutch province of Drenthe or one in Ireland (e.g., Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery, Poulnabrone Dolmen or Altar Wedge Tomb).
Many people will respond with a shrug if told that prehistoric cultures can be distinguished on the basis of the shape of their pottery, for example, the Band Ceramic and the Funnel Beaker cultures.

Succession of periods
We can distinguish three prehistoric periods: the Stone Age, the Bronze Age, and the Iron Age. The Stone Age is divided in the Paleolithic, the Mesolithic, and the Neolithic. Below I limit myself to the Neolithitic (New Stone Age), the beginning of which coincides with the transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture and livestock. The Bronze Age started when stone was replaced by bronze for tools and weapons, the beginning of the Iron Age marks the use of iron instead of bronze.

The dating of these periods is crucial for the scope of this article. The dating varies by region and it’s interesting to compare for example Greece (Mediterranean), Limburg (Netherlands), and Ireland.

  • Greece (Mediterranean): 6500-3000 B.C.
  • Limburg (Netherlands): 5400-2000 B.C.
  • Ireland: 3000-2000 B.C.

Bronze Age:
  • Greece (Mediterranean): 3000-1200 B.C.
  • Limburg (Netherlands): 2000-800 B.C.
  • Ireland: 2000-600 B.C.

Iron Age:
  • Greece (Mediterranean): 1200-700 B.C.
  • Limburg (Netherlands): 800 B.C. (until the arrival of the Romans)
  • Ireland: 600 B.C. – 100 A.D.
First, we can conclude that the Band Ceramic culture in Limburg (5400-4900 B.C.) is dated in the early Neolithic, which marks the introduction of (sedentary) agriculture. Later, but still in the Neolithic, comes the Funnel Beaker culture (Trechterbekercultuur, 4350-2800 B.C), when the megalithic tombs (hunebedden) in Drenthe were constructed (approx. 3000 B.C).
In Ireland we can date Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery (4000-3000 B.C.) and Poulnabrone Dolmen (4200-2900 B.C.) back to pre-Neolithic ages, while Altar Wedge Tomb was constructed during the late Neolithic (before 2000 B.C.).
See a more detailed chronology at the end of this article.

Prehistory is getting close
Secondly, we can use this information to put some things in perspective.

Very close to my home in Sittard, several Band Ceramic objects have been found, for example, a collection of arrowheads (see picture) that can be dated back to the early Neolithic. It’s overwhelming to realize that the place where you live was already inhabited about 7000 years ago.
Such a distance in time and such a proximity in space!

In 2012, just before the construction of the LANXESS Elastomers headquarters at Brightlands Chemelot Campus started, an archeological survey at the construction site revealed traces dating back to the Iron Age (800-50 B.C.). The excavations unearthed the remains of buildings and pottery, which are thought to belong to a prehistoric farmstead.

Innovation is of all times
And where the Iron Age farmer cultivated his land, 2500 years ago, there is now Brightlands Chemelot Campus. Now, talented researchers are looking here for solutions for present-day problems: new materials, new applications, new ways of production. Their focus is on performance materials, bio-based materials, and biomedical materials.
Much has changed since prehistoric times.

However, we can draw a third conclusion from the sequence of prehistoric periods, which shows that fundamentally less has changed than we might assume.
Cultures have developed over time and in space. The migration of people, trade, and ideas from the Mediterranean to Northwest Europe, first to the Limburg region and next to Ireland, led to the development of new cultures in these places. In this way agriculture, introduced in Greece in 6500 B.C., spread to Limburg in 5400 B.C. and to Ireland in 3000 B.C. After 600 B.C., iron appeared in Ireland simultaneously with the Celts.
The almost simultaneous replacement of stone by bronze in Limburg and Ireland (about 2000 B.C., 1000 years later than in Greece) indicates that the increasing speed of innovation is not an exclusively modern phenomenon.

Nowadays, international networks are among the prerequisites of successful innovation – Brightlands Chemelot Campus can serve as a fine example. But the scope of this article is that international networks have always been a prerequisite for innovation. In fact, history provides ample illustrations of renewal that was induced by international relationships, in whatever form (peaceful or violent).

The challenge for the future is to remain innovative by bringing international relationships to a new level.

Talking about megalithic tombs, you may enjoy listening to the (Dutch) song “Steengrillen op ’t hunebed” by De Bende van Baflo Bill:

This blogpost was written at the occasion of The First Euregional Archaeological Conference, November 6-9, 2014 (
I refer to my (Dutch) August 18, 2014, blogpost “Wat na duizenden jaren overblijft” (if only for the pictures).


Griekenland (Mediterranean):
  • Neolithic: 6500-3000 B.C.
  • Bronze Age: 3000-1020 B.C.
  • Iron Age: 1020-700 B.C.

Limburg (Netherlands):
  • Neolithic: 5400-2000 B.C.
  • Band Ceramic culture in Nederland: 5400-4900 B.C.
  • Funnel Beaker culture (Trechterbekercultuur): 4350-2800 B.C.
  • Megalithic dolmen in Drenthe (Trechterbekercultuur): approx. 3000 B.C.
  • Bronze Age: 2000-800 B.C.
  • Iron Age: 800-50 B.C. (until the arrival of the Romans)
  • Neolithic: 3000-2000 B.C.
  • Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery (Co. Galway): 4000-3000 B.C.
  • Poulnabrone Dolmen, The Burren (Co. Clare): 4200-2900 B.C.
  • Altar Wedge Tomb, Mizen Peninsula (Co. Cork): before 2000 B.C. (3000-2000)
  • Bronze Age: 2000-600 B.C.
  • Iron Age: 600 v. Chr. – 100 A.D.
Egyptian pyramids: 2500-1800 B.C.