Harald Lesch: “The Internet already existed at the beginning of the 20th century”

“Trained astrophysicist” with a dissertation on “Nonlinear plasma processes in active galactic nuclei” is exactly what you are. Harald Lesch, professor for astronomy and astrophysics in Munich since 1995 and born in Gießen in 1960, has also been a philosophy teacher and television presenter for years. His infotainment is the ideal person you would have always wished for for the Studium universale. You just like to listen to him, regardless of whether he says goodbye to Julian Nida-Rümelin for academic retirement or moderates “Leschs Kosmos” on ZDF.

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“My specialty as a physicist, if you can even put it that way, is complexity.” As a theoretical physicist, Lesch reads mathematical textbooks. Of the non-fiction books on nature, he is primarily interested in those that combine sciences such as biology, geology and meteorology into one big picture. And “history of nature” is the subject he prefers to teach.

In many physics equations, says Lesch, “the time factor is just a passive parameter that can be set to zero again and again. I can start over with every experiment. In reality, I can’t do that. ”Basically, however, it is about exactly that:“ The physics of reality ”. He’ll have to write a book about it himself. His most recent, published by Herder, is called “Unpredictable. Life is more than an equation “. If that’s not a motto for a biography in books. Harald Lesch explains his readings in his own words below (Protocol: Marc Reichwein):

Andrew Roberts: Churchill

Actually, I rarely read biographies. I bought this as a paperback edition in my English bookstore in Munich. The more than 1000 pages of thin print are so wonderful that I read extra slowly. I am a huge Churchill fan. Without him, Germany and Europe would look different. And what a book full of anecdotes! As a typical representative of his class, Churchill used a telephone for the first time independently at 73. He called information to have the time announced and to say thank you.

Another time he got on a bus and was pissed off that the driver didn’t want to take him to the desired address, but stubbornly drove his line. After Brexit, this book makes you almost nostalgic. I find it particularly frustrating that the Erasmus program has been ironed out. My British friends and university colleagues had previously complained that their students too rarely go abroad to learn another language.

Wolfgang Schorlau: Kreuzberg blues

I really appreciate all of his crime novels, also because in the end you always find out: What is invented – and what is true? “Kreuzbergblues” is about – using Berlin as an example – the rapid rental price development that affects all major German cities. It’s about investors and the methods by which they operate. Schorlau wrote this book very close to the present, and so the corona pandemic also plays a role, on the one hand with retrospectives to the 19th century, even then there were vaccination opponents and lateral thinkers who opposed the smallpox vaccination. On the other hand, with figures from our present, who drift far right at night.

Patrick Hofmann: A nail in heaven

The story of a mathematical child prodigy from East Germany who tried the so-called Goldbach conjecture to prove. A novel that I devoured in a very short time because it is written very excitingly and gives you an idea of ​​what makes mathematical geniuses tick – and how lonely they are.

Maybe something for freaks: The Goldbach problem is roughly speaking about the claim that every number that is even and greater than 2 can be represented as the sum of two prime numbers. In other words, what are the greatest prime numbers. Problems like this from number theory always have to do with cryptology. Those who “mint” bitcoins also need prime numbers in order to apply the corresponding algorithms.

Andreas Eschbach: NSA

I annoyed my entire circle of acquaintances with this book. It’s a monstrous book, I don’t want to reveal too much, just this much about the setting: The computer was developed as early as the 19th century, and the Internet was already there at the beginning of the 20th century. The whole thing takes place in the Third Reich, and the National Security Agency (NSA) was founded under Kaiser Wilhelm I. When the Nazis take over the authority, they need a while to check which movement patterns they can all capture with it.

A crazy novel, and it proves once again that great scientific and technical developments in the laboratory are often wonderful, but in reality they bring about catastrophic developments. Just think of the current debate about autonomously decisive weapon systems in miniaturized form. Swarms of micro-drones that liquidate people on the street and can hit innocent people at any time because of an incorrectly calculated pattern, I consider extremely dangerous. The Bundestag committees are currently concerned with the scenario.

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Petra Morsbach: Justizpalast

A friend recommended this book to me. It’s about a judge, her life and her problems in the Munich Palace of Justice. Those who hold high office as judges must deal with the incredible responsibility that the Constitution grants them. Linguistically the book is extremely demanding, a great Jura story. It’s about the interpretation of judgments and the reconciliation of law and justice, as the stories of Ferdinand von Schirach are about. Morsbach’s novel “Justizpalast” is about enduring the fact that the rule of law cannot create a sense of justice in every case.

Thea Dorn: The unfortunate ones

A Faustian novel. He tells of a researcher who studies immortality and wants to find out why we get old. As a post-doc in America, she comes in strange contact with a man who looks young but still looks old. Then it turns out: The physicist Johann Wilhelm Ritter, died over 200 years ago, but has become an immortal due to his own experiments. The novel negotiates what it means to be immortal, along the lines of conflict in today’s research with its biological and medical measures to support life. Incredibly well written, with intermediate chapters in which Mephisto as a seducer of progress has his say.

Peter Keglevic: I was Hitler’s best man

I had a lot of fun with this book, had to swallow quite often and not infrequently laugh out loud. It’s an experimental story. The hero of the novel is called Harry Freudenthal, is a top runner – and a Jew who constantly escapes the Nazis. At the very end of the war he made his grand entrance. Leni Riefenstahl is making her film “We run for the Führer”. 1000 kilometers are to be run on April 20, 1945, from Berchtesgaden to Berlin. Anyone who gets involved in the question of all alternative world stories (what would have happened if?), Gets a crazy and, in my opinion, crazy good book!

Dörte Hansen: lunchtime

I grew up in the village. It may be because of this socialization that Dörte Hansen’s village novel inspired me so much. While reading I thought the whole time, I’m 12 again and in my hometown in Upper Hesse. All the types and facets that play a role in this book were similar in my village.

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Club life, structural change, everything that characterizes rural life and has sometimes changed it permanently – just think of the great “land consolidation” of the 1970s – is in Dörte Hansen’s novel. I could hardly tear myself away and had to think of figures in my grandparents’ village pub. Tragic, beautiful – and incredibly well told. My own book “Unpredictable” also deals with the advantages and disadvantages of village life.

Heinrich August Winkler: History of the West

You don’t read a four-volume work at once, and some don’t even dare to read it. I can only appeal to you to try it. Maybe just with the first volume. Because this book can tell you from historical depth why things are the way they are: why is Europe like this, why do we have these structures, why are there poorer and richer countries?

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Heinrich August Winkler

If the universities still had a classic Studium Generale, I would immediately and again and again recommend the first volume of “The History of the West” to students of all disciplines. The philosopher Peter Bieri answered the question “What does it mean to be human?” Cleverly: “To know where you come from”. You can find out in this work by Winkler.

Andreas Rödder: 21.0.

Another book by a historian, and as the subtitle promises: “A Brief History of the Present”. I really liked how quickly Rödder gets to the point. Right at the beginning you learn a lot about globalization. It is also about the first energy transition, the environmental movement, climate change, everything that is happening now. I really enjoyed the feeling of having my own lifetime portrayed in this way.

I am now 60 years old and I find it fascinating how the age I lived through is gradually moving into the perspective of historians. It’s also smart, as Rödder notes, that since the 1980s we have no longer been talking about an energy crisis, but only about the energy transition. The problem that we use way too much energy seems to be completely ignored. I think Rödder is an extremely clever observer and historian and I would like to see a continuation chapter right now: How does he see the corona pandemic?


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