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“Shooting for the stars in the Steppe – Baikonur, Kazakhstan “The Steppe is silent. A stillness blankets the endless plains under a moonlit sky – an ocean of sand and grass that dreamlessly sleeps. It is three o’clock in the morning. Wisps of fog drift over the ground in Kazakhstan. Suddenly a loud crack of thunder […]. A painfully bright ball of light cuts through the mist. ‘Go, Proton, go!’ Frank McKenna yells. […] Proton is the name of the rocket slowly making its way from pad 39 into the night sky between China and Russia, fueled with more than 500 tons of highly explosive fuel.” McKenna is president of the company International Launch Services. Satellite operators from 15 countries book one-way tickets into orbit with him. Baikonur, the oldest and largest spaceport in the world, now plays a central role in the satellite business. “The world is addicted to sending equipment into orbit that helps forecast crop yield, guide airplanes to their destinations and transmit telephone conversations, Internet communication and TV talk shows. Satellites are perhaps the latest infrastructure of modern society – and the least visible.”

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“Far, far away in a Mathematician’s Paradise – Oberwolfach “Oberwolfach – a world primarily consisting of 44,000 monographs, 30 blackboards and a Steinway. Without a doubt, it is the research center for mathematics. Every week, always from Sunday evening through Saturday morning, 48 of the best mathematicians from a certain field meet to focus solely on their own area of study, pose questions and discover new ideas. […] The direction a workshop develops usually only becomes clear as it evolves. And so for the most part, it’s: ‘Come by tomorrow and tell us something about quasitriangular Hopf algebra!’ This means you need to be honest when listing your areas of expertise …” Many mathematical breakthroughs have been achieved or publically discussed for the first time in Oberwolfach. “But Oberwolfach is only one kind of inspiration incubator. Articles are rarely written here, no university and doctoral theses have been advised, and there are no committee meetings or office hours. […] It is a place for ideas, questions and creativity to flow.”

From: “World of Ideas“: