Archive of postings for 2012, listed in descending order by creation date. Last Postings shown.

This Statement Is: For Free

(elkement. Created: 2012-12-30. Tags: Work, Life, For Free. German Version.)

I need to go one step further in discussing why a problem is not a problem for me. This page is odd anyway, and the root problem is actually the structure of this website which once has been turned into a bilingual website. So I am discussing issues in English that had only been described before in German or vice versa.

Years ago I had been intrigued by discussions among freelancers: about (potential) clients who are not willing to pay for deliveries of samples, concepts and whatnot.

I have discussed below why I declared this issue non-existent.

Now it is even better (or worse, depending on interpretation) - I can hardly see a problem at all.

Yes, it can make sense to deliver a free sample work. But sometimes you don't even notice that this was sample work (You do not even notice that this was work). I cannot - and do not want to - distinguish between:

  • a spontaneous outburst of my creativity - as close to 'art' as somebody like me can get.
  • strategic 'viral' marketing (though done in a very paradoxical way)

But probably these are just dry runs for a new way our economy should work at large?

Is this Open Source or Open Innovation?

Subversive Yearly Report

(elkement. Created: 2012-12-23. Tags: Life, Everything, Subversive, Announcements. German Version.)

The Subversive Element is delighted to report on our progress in Elementary Subversion:

All web sites that are controlled by The Element have been resurrected and updated in an extremely professional fashion. We do go to great lengths in explaining the details via appropriate communication channels. Websites that defy resurrection - for comprehensible reasons though - have not been updated. They have been clicked, hailed and worshipped instead.

The Elkement as an artist is undergoing a transformation: The traceable output of its activities has been increased due to recycling (Crowdsourcing)

The history of The Element including all highs and lows is in depth covered by:

We are proud to announce new high-scores with respect to the index of self-referentiality (AKA navel-gazing)

We set new standards in combining: Subversive Entrepreneurship, down-to-earth provincial craftsmanship, MacGyver-like tinkering, and modern communication via social media:

Is My Life a Cliché?

(elkement. Created: 2012-11-18. Tags: Life, Cliche, Ideas, Subversive, Work, Career, True Calling, Internet, Netizen, Self-Referential. German Version.)

The Elkement has recently put forward a theory: Its life is cliché and some googling does prove that.

It has been proposed that there is a huge community of people (Netizens) who would share the following characteristics / properties / hobbies:

  • Physicist
  • IT security
  • Interested in the history of science
  • Star Trek fan
  • Douglas Adams fan
  • Douglas Coupland fan

We are now going to challenge this, and we will ask Google. As Scott Adams has pointed out correctly the internet is nothing else than the consciousness of an omnipotent being, once splintered and now reassembling itself.

  • Searching for "physics" "IT security" "Star Trek" yields 5 out of 10 hits on page one that can be associated with The Element. Actually 2 more elemental links have been pushed down to page three since I wrote the German version of this article two days ago.
  • "physics" "IT security" "history of science" yields 6 elemental page 1 hits.

Similar results can be achieved with nearly every combination of key words listed above.

So my advice is: If you are frustrated about being cliché:

  • Write an article about those attribute
  • And enjoy your page 1 Google hits.
  • Tech Nostalgia and Indulging in Cliché

    (elkement. Last changed: 2013-03-26. Created: 2012-11-02. Tags: Technology, Nostalgia, Cliche. German Version.)

    (November 2, 2012. Update: March 26, 2013.)

    You can turn into your own cliché. In a self-consistent way - absolutely, positively. Just watch this video. I am a nerd, a nerdess. For me, 'technology' was mainly about:

    • Living off pizza and caffeine.
    • Sociophobic lifestyle. In the prototypical programmer's cave.
    • Chasing hackers and security bugs.
    • Getting excited over text files and command line output.

    However, what a let-down: Discovering Your Life Being Cliché.

    But I learned from Mark Twain: The kernel, the soul - let us go further and say the substance, the bulk, the actual and valuable material of all human utterances - is plagiarism.

    I try my best to keep up the techie style even as a more hands-on engineer. 2013 is dedicated to the quest for the Grand Unified Theory - unifying geekdom and down-to-earth tinkering with energy systems. I am projecting my hopes and dreams onto the power grid and its soon-to-be added IT-based smartness.

    Science and Me. Torture Turning Trivia.

    (elkement. Last changed: 2013-03-26. Created: 2012-11-02. Tags: Science, Career, Decisions, Academia. German Version.)

    I am flooding the whole world wide web with my musings on science, physics in particular, plus a bit of history of science.

    But it seems a point of equilibrium has been reached. Peace and quiet. As an engineer 'in the making', focused on renewable energies, I am reconciling 'anything with anything'. Finally.

    I have still not decided what 'science' means to me: Is it a world view, a collection of disciplines (I am biased in favor of natural sciences) or is it defined by the social system called scientific community?

    I have left academia more than 15 years ago, trying to avoid the nomadic post-doc's lifestyle. It was a negative decision and not at all an easy one, I was not yet drawn to something new. I cannot leave blog posts on 'Leaving Academia' uncommented, see the following articles (highly recommended reading): The Cult of Academia und A Nerdy Break-Up: Leaving the Academic Life.

    Here is my take on this: The Dark Side Was Strong in Me.

    Fast-forward: I have finally found out, that

    • my destiny was to start a business of my own and

    • that I am not comfortable with being part of any large organization or system - be it academia or a global corporation.

    But it took me some years to realize that, because academia was not igniting my entrepreneurial spirits yet. Rather the opposite: Though you have been trained to become a very specialized expert for many years - more trained or more specialized than any other professional, 'the system' still makes you feel you are still 'a student' who has to jump through more hoops, do more post-docs, write more papers, apply for more grants etc. 

    Adding more trivial conclusions: Nice to analyze all this in hindsight, but I could have got there in an easier way. Maybe. And if you have problems with systems (sample n > 1) you should not blame it on the systems.

    In December 2012 I was able to report on a milestone - not because something has changed dramatically in 2012, but because I have finally reached a Zen-ny state of contentment: 2012: The Year We Make Contact.

    The Rise and Fall of an Intermittent Netizen ?

    (elkement. Created: 2012-11-02. Tags: Netizen, Internet. German Version.)

    Online since the early 90s. Yet The Subversive Element might be an impostor netizen.

    I have never discussed in Usenet, learned programming on a C64, or compiled a Linux kernel. Even worse, I used Microsoft Word instead of LaTex with all my scientific publications, and the first website of my own was a commercial one.

    Yet I feel I have the right to call myself a netizen. The vague definition of this term allows for misuse anyway.

    I probably turned into a true netizen again because of my trepid (non-)adoption of the interactive web 2.0. So I could have been an avid open course keep-the-internet-free-of-commercials activist.

    The Element has instructed the Element to post on that more frequently. I am using Web 2.0 as a platform for discussing why I am so not fond of web 2.0 unequivocally.

    Knowledge Worker's Daily Subversion

    (elkement. Created: 2012-10-27. Tags: Work, Corporate World, Nostalgia. German Version.)

    I have returned to where I started from. This website closes on itself.

    Unburdened of the nagging questions that have tortured The Element before. So this is: Subversion Light. Subversion in Retrospect. Subversion Reloaded - a remake, probably diluted due to pondering about what has been pondered about what had been pondered about.

    Work has always been the leitmotif of Work and the connotations attached to it by a corporate geek, such as true calling (or not), (knowledge) work, dread and pleasure.

    This website has been started in 2001: motivated by philosophical discussions with like-minded corporate geeks. Discussion that accompanied a so-called management training. Confirmed by hip and hot so-called business book.

    On the dawn of the new millennium I have started a psychological self-test and under-cover research. This was called 'Corporate World'.

    So what happened to the Element? Did it live up to its expectations? Which expectations? Imposed by whom?

    There is a Ten Years After edition of the business book mentioned. I do not know it and I have written an update of my own.

    Drago Millenario, Teneriffa.

    Profile of Elke Stangl, one more attempt

    (elkement. Last changed: 2013-03-26. Created: 2012-10-20. Tags: Profile, Elke Stangl, Life. German Version.)

    Keeping It Short

    What is the essence of all my websites, my blogs and my CV?

    I am:

    • Physicist as per my first degrees. Now I may again call me a Consulting Engineer in Applied Physics. Theoretical physics is still an important hobby of mine.
    • As an Engineer I am working on the simulation of heat pump systems.
    • IT Security Consultant - that's what I have called myself for more than 10 years. Currently I am interested in the security of smart meters.
    • Blogger - at I have just celebrated my blog's first anniversary.
    • 'Settler' - living in the Pannonian Plain in the utmost East of Austria for nearly 15 years now.
    • Geek and Subversive Element.

    If This Would Be Web 2.0 You Would Call This:
    Elke Stangl's Profile

    My CV - or my so-called profile in web 2.0 newspeak - can be found in: XING (German, with the remarkable exception of the following paragraphs) and LinkedIn (Englisch). Currently my web 2.0 avatar is describing itself as:

    I am a physicist running a small company together with my husband. Following Star Trek terminology he is Chief Engineer and I am Science Officer.

    I have designed and implemented Public Key Infrastructures (PKI, applied cryptography) for enterprise customers since 2002 and I have phased-out these activities at the 10th anniversary (mid of July 2012) in order to focus on renewable energies.

    I am particularly interested in the interfaces between building technology, energy engineering and IT infrastructure ...

    ... and basically in all of physics, all of the history of science and all of the interdependencies between science and society. Since 2012 I am finally blogging on this at, though I am still also updating my ancient proto-blog-like personal websites (,, and

    Why is this in English and the profile in German? Actually, my profile was in English till mid of 2012 as many of business contacts did not speak German. I am also blogging in English - reason to be determined.

    Physics on the Fringe

    (elkement. Last changed: 2013-03-26. Created: 2012-10-18. Tags: Books, Reading, Science, Outsider Science Paradoxers. German Version.)

    I have started to write about books I have read in my blog. I am not reviewing books really - but rather books trigger some random thougths of mine.

    Probably my article Physics Paradoxers and Outsiders, on Physics on the Fringe by Margaret Wertheim is closest to what is usually called a book review.

    I try to keep track of some science books here, mainly text-books. With respect to popular science books I have not made up my mind yet.

    2013 is my personal year of  cybersecurity, security of critical infrastructure and smart meters in particular. As a primer I can recommend this German novel: Blackout, by Marc Elsberg.

    La Palma: An archaic ritual.

    My graduation is online again. It is now 18 years old, and neither the content nor the style had been or are truly subversive. I am creating an air of postmodern intellectual mist around it by commentingon the (German) speech in English and try to convince my younger self on what should have been improved.

    About My Graduation Speech

    (elkement. Created: 2012-09-27. Tags: Award, Graduation, Speech, Work, Life. German Version.)

    In Austria you can be awarded your PhD with special honors by the president of Austria, it is called Sub Auspiciis Praesidentis Rei Publicae. This year (2012) about 1000 people have been given this award since about 1952. I am not adding this explanation to impress you - this should rather set the stage for the probably unexpected message I sent to the guests of my graduation ceremony. On October 1996, we had been 4 awardees, me and husband being two of them.

    I thanked the representatives of academia for their kind words, they gave us the feeling that we had been rewarded for our perseverance and our talents. Nevertheless I believed that an award like this imposes some accountability on us - we had to prove that we are not intellectuals or nerds only, but that we have some social skills too. Update: According to feedback I frequently got from customers I think I have done fine on this.

    But... then... BANG....(paraphrasing my long-winded German sentences) there comes the eye-opener: There is something like real world and real jobs and nobody has waited for us. It was 1995 and there was something like a micro-crisis on the job-market, at least for physics PhDs. Update: I did not research that thoroughly in recent times, but I think that has not changed so much.

    I still like my speech, but there was too much self-pitying. I belabored the point that as a high school I had expected a grown-up physicist's biggest ethical dilemma would be to choose between working for the evil military or searching the solution to the unified field theory as a lonesome wolf. Then I found out that your biggest problem was to find a job.  Actually, in hindsight the situation was not that bad after all - rather the opposite. I did write only a few job applications in order to get a decent job, shortly after my husband ended up with the same employer - a national research center. And we had ditched the scientific career deliberately and knowingly before. And I pitied to be just a small and unimportant part of world's scientific machinery and I would just work on something unimportant. Recently, I had read Thomas Kuhn's Structure of Scientific Revolutions for the first time (shame on me) and it came as relief that this was normal. As normal as it can get - I did Normal Science.

    Elke Stangl, Graduation Speech
    (Oktober 8, 1996, University of Linz)

    I added a small rant that I would phrase harsher today. I had been told - repeatedly - that excellent people stay in academia (mediocre ones join industry). Back then I felt that this was BS - though of course I phrased it more politely. What I did not dare to say: I had also been told that there will be so many academic job openings for physicists in the near future. Today I have been confirmed by lots of credible accounts by other physics PhDs and by simply statistics, that this is what students have been told since the 1970s. And since the 1970s the number of physics graduates kept growing and exceeded the demand.

    I had also ranted (a bit, in too timid fashion - but stay tuned for an article that I had written two years, to be re-published soon) about the metrics of scientific community - survival of the fittest AKA the person who managed to out his/her names on most papers and to minimize real contributions at the same time. I generally criticized the importance of "selling yourself". This is quite bizarre actually. This is self-irony, but in a subconscious fashion - I meant what I said. The truth is: I had an impressive record of publications - obtained by honest work. And I always had the talents to market myself - that I was not aware this this was self-marketing. When you tend to over-analyze things - as I sometimes so - then it is best to simply stay with the facts: I did get any job  I ever wanted. I changed my expertise, my fields of work several times. My track record in terms of metrics (grades, publications, performance data, revenue, customer feedback) had been successful. It took me some time to find out, but I enjoy being an entrepreneur - and I would rather work "mundane tasks" in a self-employed way than being "part of the system that imposes its arcane rules on me. So back then was probably just lacking a bit of self-esteem and self-awareness.

    I was proud of the fact that my husband and I merged our PhD theses into a single book. This is an option (though an uncommon one) as long as you denote who has been responsible for which part.  I had also enjoyed of being supported by gifted technicians. And I really detested the attitude of not giving enough credit to other persons who had delivered valuable contributions. So I did not take the acknowledgement section in thesis too seriously, as I thanked my friends "how to use the pipe wrench" - which was an allusion to using that tool to open coke bottles every afternoon in the workshop. I could have phrased this a bit crispier in my speech.

    Thus in summary the speech was not to bad (it felt good to receive standing ovations), the topics addressed were fine. Today I would:

    • rant a little more, more sarcastically, more witty on stuff that deserve being ranted about.
    • remove all the self-pity and replace it by the enormous chances that challenges actually bore.

    As for the second item, wallowing in self-pity was probably also due to the fact that I did not get over the fact I did leave academia though it a deliberate choice and I have always considered it right - absolutely, positively. At that time I worked in a national research lab, but already felt separated from true science. More realistically (as explained in the posting linked above) also my academic existence was "more engineering-like" and more routine development grunt work than pure science. But there are two catches:

    • The menial engineering stuff plus the project management experience I gained during my PhD work was what made me employable in the real world while still keeping some relationship with the academic world over the years.
    • It all - and I really mean IT ALL including the negative experiences - prepared me for the final step I had taken recently: returning to research and development (OK, it's more development), to physics and engineering - and being able to afford a smooth an gentle migration to a new career path.

    So after all - it was all worth it.

    The Element is Back!

    (elkement. Last changed: 2012-11-16. Created: 2012-09-22. Tags: Subversive, Announcements. German Version.)

    The Element is Back!

    After having started its blog (despite all the rants on this website about why not running a blog), the element embarks on another ambitious web project: the resurrection of the subversive web site.

    Not a single character will be left unturned.

    This website is blog-like as per content and de facto motivation, but not as per technology and platform. There are: RSS feeds, comments, likes and the like. Thus the Element is stuck with this rigid structure that basically allows for one category and one sub-category per article. And the article should better updated in English and in German approximately at the same time.

    In order to avoid the dread of translation, the Subversive Element will rather use the English version to comment on the German one or vice versa.

    Raging Element

    Who Is the Element?

    (Updated: October 9, 2012)

    My Alter Ego had started its blog in a subversive way denoted as Clandestine Blogging.

    Due to whatever reason, the Element has now disclosed some facts about its so-called real life, so its original introduction is rescued and archived here. Actually, this intro captures what always has been the driving force behind this subversive web site:

    "This blog is written the (The Subversive) El(k)ement, a physicist who has explored different professional biotopes: from academia to global corporations, from so-called prestigious ventures to so-called menial tasks.

    Elkement is a pseudonym but if you really want to know you will not have insurmountable problems to discover who the Elkement really is. I cannot resist the temptation anyway to leave all kinds of links and biographical information scattered all over this blog anyway.

    Re-Kindling(*) Subversion

    Updated: November 2, 2012

    (*) Misguiding Amazon's fans

    This website is currently participating in our website resurrection program.

    Extremely successfully, based on the metrics we have defined.

    You might want to scroll down to dusty content just resurrected.

    Now we can offer our dear readers the Subversive Feed. We do hope that this home-grown feed will not remain in beta stage forever. (Let me point you to: Best of Log)


    (elkement. Created: 2012-04-29. Tags: Web, Blogging, Writing, Decisions, Life, Announcements. German Version.)

    The Element is offline - or at least it wants you to believe it is. In a distant corner of the web(*) it is more active than ever.

    The red pages will be back online - probably changed a bit - in due time.

    The pages are still there - you just need to know the URLs.


    The chance in a life time to quote from the grand Offline Page I've never used:

    This website is temporarily offline...

    ...being updated with new revolutionary content

    ... or just to fix some stupid error

    Stay tuned.

    Physics Links

    (elkement. Last changed: 2015-02-14. Created: 2012-03-10. Tags: Physics, Links, Resources)

    Here I maintain a list of physics books, documents, blogs, and lectures I read / watch or that I have put on the (virtual) bedside table.

    The collection is not some carefully crafted, balanced list - I am not searching for resources to add them here but I add what is interesting to me as a professional or a dilettante science blogger. I apologize for the mixture of German and English resources, and the structure is always work in progress.

    This list had been formerly curated on my blog, on a page called Physics Books on the Bedside Table. I decided to migrate these links over here as in 2014 I had started to curate all my tech / science links on

    Popular Science Books 'enthusiastic'

    Popular Science Books 'critical' (Note: This is not 'Alternative science')

    History of Science and Biographies of Physicists

    Quantum Physics, Quantum (Field) Theory

    • Oersted Medal Lecture 2002: Reforming the Mathematical Language of Physics, as recommended here. Actually, this is about all of physics and how more powerful, concise, and elegant Geometrical Algebra would do away with concepts that just appear tacked on – as there is an underlying hidden structure. It is useful in classical physics but especially to understand the seemingly weird world of the complex wave function.
    • Lectures on Quantum Field Theory by David Tong. Videos of his lectures delivered at Perimeter Institute can be found here (different formats available). These lectures were my starting point for (re-)learning QFT having been exposed to mainly condensed-matter-related and non-relativistic quantum statistics and 'second quantization' 20 years ago.
    • Quantum Field Theory in a Nutshell, a concise textbook by Anthony Zee. David Tong highly recommends this book, saying tongue-in-cheek: He lies to you all the time, but in a good way. It is not an easy read because the presentation of the material is quite condensed. You have to fill a lot of intermediate steps in derivations. On the other hand this makes it a great book for serious self-study. It shows that Zee is a gifted writer of popular science books as well as his conceptual overviews are spot-on and very helpful for tackling the hard stuff.
    • I trust Graham Farmelo on this and put Stephen Weinberg's book on my To-read-list.
    • Student Friendly Quantum Fielf Theory by Robert D. Klauber. Klauber describes and writes out details in derivations, avoids all references to so-called trivial, obvious and easy steps, and he refers to his own learning QFT often. The book seems to have been written from the learner's perspective – he often anticipates those typical baffled student's questions and answers them before you dared to ask it. More praise in this post of mine.
    • A lecture on Quantum Field Theory in German, by Gerhard Soff. I like these lecture notes because topics are reviewed from different angles (such as: canonical quantization versus path integrals) and the derivations are done in detail for all the different options.
    • The Fun is Real. Blog author Warren Huelsnitz definitely meets his goal: to sort through the myths and misconceptions, and the excessive and misleading hype, associated with quantum physics.
    • An Island In Theoryspace – an awesome blog by Jaques Pienaar on physics (mainly of the quantum variety) and sometimes also on its interface with philosophy.

    Quantum Computing and Quantum Cryptography

    The first field that rekindled by excitement for physics in about 2003, having worked in IT already for some years.

    • A blog written by a physicist and IT consultant who tries to separate fact  from VC fiction and to predict what impact quantum computing will have on corporate IT.


    Thermodynamics and statistical mechanics

    Fascinating water, water vapor, and ice


    Classics: Basics and fundamentals – books and blogs that cover all of physics

    It is very interesting to compare Feynman's and Macke's books – they have been published at about the same time and might serve as good examples for both excellent, but different ways  to describe physics from scratch – 'American' versus 'German'.

    • A very detailed blog – – Physics Tutorials with lots of examples, introductions and the author's solutions to text book problems.
    • Scientific Finger Food: Sebastian Templ achieves his goal – quote from his About page: “I give my best to break it down into simple language. In doing so, I hope that I can serve you some pieces of physics, which I like to think of as being clear to me, in 'delicious and manageable bites' “.
    • Six volumes on physics, written by a physicist who works as an innovation manager. Probably the most professional hobby / moonlighting physics project I have come across.

    Classical Physics

    Classical (point particle) mechanics

    Fluid dynamics

Personal website of Elke Stangl, Zagersdorf, Austria, c/o punktwissen.
elkement [at] subversiv [dot] at.