Please activate JavaScript!
Please install Adobe Flash Player, click here for download

uni'wissen 02(4)-2011_ENG

da Gama landed with his fleet in India, James Cook set sail for New Zealand and reached Aus- tralia, David Livingstone crossed Africa and ex- plored the Kalahari Desert. “In the 19th century, it was no longer plausible to assume that there were miracles at the end of the world, because the end of the world didn’t exist anymore.” Instead, Adamowsky argues that there was a fundamental transition: In the 19th century, peo- ple started looking for miracles on the vertical axis rather than on the horizontal axis. The air- plane in particular was described in scientific and popular literature as the ultimate miracle. It was believed that the power of flight would en- able humankind to one day transcend the barri- ers of space and time. This “classical miracle,” the conquering and exploration of the wild blue yonder, was the topic of Natascha Adamowsky’s habilitation thesis, completed in 2009 at Hum- boldt University in Berlin. In 2012 she plans to publish her book on the sea, the other end of the axis of modern miracles, in which she describes how the underwater world inspired and irritated us in the modern age. In Search of the Primordial Cell For example: In the 19th century archaeolo- gists discovered the skeletons of gigantic dino- saurs that once ruled the earth but then died off for seemingly unexplainable reasons. “This dis- covery was deeply unsettling,” says Adamowsky. Prof. Dr. Natascha ­Adamowsky studied at the Berlin Uni- versity of the Arts. In 1998 she earned her PhD from the University of Siegen with a dissertation on game pieces in virtual worlds. In 1999 she accepted a ­position at the Department of Cultural Studies at Hum- boldt University in Berlin, where she completed her habilitation thesis on the miracle in the modern age in 2009. Since 2011 Adamowsky has served as professor for media and cultural studies at the Uni- versity of Freiburg. Her ­research interests include media aesthetics and knowledge culture, practice as research/theory as prac- tice (the epistemology of participation), the disposi- tive of finding and showing in artistic and scientific re- search processes, the mo- bility of digital technology, and ubiquitous computing applications in the mode of the game. Further Reading Adamowsky, N. (2010): Das Wunder in der Moderne. Eine andere Kulturgeschichte des Fliegens. Paderborn. Adamowsky, N. (2006): Annäherungen an eine Ästhetik des Geheimnisvollen. Beispiele aus der Meeresforschung des 19. Jahrhun- derts. In: Ästhetik in der Wissenschaft. Sonder- heft 7 der Zeitschrift für Ästhetik und Allge- meine Kulturwissenschaft, p. 219 – 232. Adamowsky, N. (2003): Das Wunderbare als gesellschaftliche Aufführungspraxis – Experi- ment und Entertainment im medialen Wandel des 18. Jahrhunderts. In: Steigerwald, J./ Watzke, D. (Ed.): Reiz, Imagination, ­Aufmerksamkeit. Erregung und Steuerung von Einbildungskraft im klassischen Zeitalter (1680 – 1830). Würzburg, p. 165 – 186. “It gave birth to the topos of the lost world, which was equated to the lost paradise. It was sus- pected that the origins of life were located at the bottom of the sea. Thus, the history of ideas in- tersected with the process of geographical con- quest.” What one now expected to find at the bottom of the world’s oceans wasn’t monsters and leviathans but the “answer to the biggest question of all”: the primordial cell, the origin of life. After all, all living beings crawled out of the water. The British biologist Thomas Henry Hux- ley brought on the climax of the miracle eupho- ria. He claimed to have discovered the primor- dial soup, a kind of protoplasm – in samples from the bottom of the ocean conserved in alco- hol. But the question of the origin of life was not so easy to answer: The chemist John Buchanan demonstrated in the same year that the alleged primordial soup was nothing but a deposit of cal- cium sulfate created when sea water is mixed with alcohol. When Natascha Adamowsky swims in the sea, by the way, her thoughts do not turn to giant oc- topuses and primordial soup. But she does think back on something she once saw at a deep-sea exhibition in Hamburg: A tiny cube of sugar was placed next to an enormous blue cube – a re- minder of how much humans know today about the deep sea and how much remains a mystery. Deep see adventure: Jules Verne’s novel 20,000 Leagues under the Sea fascinated readers in the 19th century. Photo: Wikimedia Commons 31