The decline of Dutch studies was already in the cards in 2018, but now the first nail in the coffin has been hammered by the VU Amsterdam by shutting down the Dutch language Bachelor program.
The reason is simple: next to nobody wants to study Dutch at this major Amsterdam university. The program has five students interested this year, while the Literature and Society Bachelor’s degree has never attracted more than 10 students since 2013.
A spokesperson for the university claims it’s ‘irresponsible’ to continue to offer the Bachelor’s degree. However, there are still enough students for the Master’s program, but one wonders how long that will last.
Dutch scientists have developed an instrument capable of detecting the presence of living plants kilometres away, which in the future could be used to help search for extraterrestrial life.
Lucas Patty of the VU Amsterdam has built the TreePol spectropolarimeter, a camera with special lenses and receptors able to detect the rotation of light that occurs when it is reflected by plants. His instrument is able to detect the difference between healthy and dying vegetation. Patty tried out his instrument on the roof of the university by pointing it at a nearby football pitch and didn’t get a signal: turns out the pitch was made from artificial grass.
Scientists are now investigating whether TreePol could be used to monitor agricultural crops from an aircraft or satellite, and maybe it could be used at even greater distances. “We’re also working on a version that could be used on the international space station or a moon lander,” explains astronomer and co-developer Frans Snik of Leiden University.
Over the last two decades, astronomers have discovered almost four thousand ‘exoplanets’, planets that orbit stars other than our own sun. Astrobiologists have often focused on the presence of water, oxygen and carbon, but these molecules and atoms don’t always show the presence of life and therefore involve the risk of a ‘false positive’. TreePol could finally eliminate that false positive, and that is all kinds of exciting.
Back in 2013 we wrote about the search for extraterrestrial life at Leiden University by detecting oxygen on far away planets using transit observations.
On an related note albeit not a Dutch one, if you want to listen to entertaining YouTubers talking about what they call ‘woo woo’ (UFOs, weird places on Earth, spooky stuff, etc.), then you absolutely need to listen to Gary and Diktor van Doomcock on the ExoZone on Nerdrotic and/or Overlord Diktor van Doomcock.
Loek Canton graduated with honours as a design engineer in Delft last Friday with the design of a table that produces light. In cooperation with psychology students from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, he studied the effects of his table on dementia sufferers.
According to the Delft University of Technology, “fifteen elderly people took part. [Loek Canton] observed the effects of the light tables on the residents by interviewing participants and care staff. ‘The initial results provide a positive indication that the light tables have the desired effect on the activity and mood of participants’, says Canton. ‘When using the tables, residents sleep less, are more active and communicate more. The light tables were well received by participants, as they interacted with the objects.’”