CHARLES UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE
I’M NOT AFRAID, BUT I’M CONCERNED ABOUT THE MISSION →42
TO SEND OR NOT TO SEND TO PRISON! → 22
University and Republic uk100.cuni.cz
1 EDITORIAL FORUM 05
Dear colleagues, dear students, friends of Charles University, in short, dear readers, Welcome to the fifth edition of our Forum magazine to be published in English for international audiences. In this issue, you will read about exciting work by Charles University researchers, students and alumni. In the spotlight: an interview about the industrial revolution, climate change, the state of education and the ongoing “Third World War” with historian Zdeněk Beneš and economist Tomáš Havránek. We also ask budding lawyers from the Faculty of Law whether the justice system truly weighs everyone the same. Examined are human rights in connection with the niqab headscarf, the protection of international waterways, lakes, and seas, the historic persecution of so-called kulaks in communist Czechoslovakia and whether arbitrary conditions (such as the weather) play a role in the leniency or harshness of prison sentences. The Czech Republic has long been known for humanitarian aid and providing expertise and assistance in rescue missions abroad: meet a fire fighter who was ready to help in the rescue of 12 young footballers and their trainer from a flooded cave in Thailand.
Join reporter Marcela Uhlíková as she goes on an excursion of grazing land in (of all places!) Prague, now home to a large herd of goats – thanks to students from the Faculty of Science. And learn how two Charles University students played a key role in the creation of the phenomenal video games success, Kingdom Come: Deliverance, an open world RPG that takes you back to the 15th century. You will find those and many other stories on the pages ahead. Dear colleagues, dear students, friends of Charles University, in short, dear readers, I wish you enjoy the reading of this year’s last issue, and I’m looking forward to our next meeting in the new year. rofessor Martin Kovář P VICE-RECTOR FOR PUBLIC AFFAIRS
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CONTENTS 14 4 Charles University Magazine Issue 5/2018
RESPONSIBLE FOR CONTENT
zdeněk beneš, tomáš havránek – The cunning of reason 4
jitka palich fučíková – Stimulating the immune system to fight cancer 24
Tomáš Perič – Virtual reality in the service of science 26
Charles University Ovocný trh 5, 116 36 Prague 1 Professor Martin Kovář Vice-Rector for Public Affairs
Petra Köppl Tel + 42 (0) 224 491 349
Nic Mitchell, Mark Whitehead, Andy Passant
Tel + 42 (0) 224 491 248
For subscriptions or change of address please email: email@example.com
Filip Blažek, Eliška Kudrnovská, Designiq Forum is published twice a year and is free. The opinions expressed in Forum are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the Charles University. Reprinting of any articles or images from Forum without the express permission of Charles University is forbidden.
Registration MK ČR E 22422 ISSN 1211-1732
dominik andreska – Governing the water ways 14 Petra Köppl
kristýna benešová – Should feminists fight for the niqab? 16 Lukáš blažek – Planning lessons from the past 18 Lucie Kettnerová
jakub drápal – To send or not to send to prison! 22
Faculty of Science, Marcela Uhlíková
Mapping the secret dialects of the yellowhammer 28
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CLOSE-UP AT CU
Trabants hit the road. Naturalist Vojta Duchoslav is along for the ride 30
American Indian Identities 38
Remembering Jan Palach 54
Matfyz students at the birth of Kingdom Come: Deliverance 34 Marcela Uhlíková
If the city’s too crowded, you can always herd goats 38
petr vodička – I’m not afraid, but I’m concerned about the mission 42
Rector Tomáš Zima swears oath of office 57 One Hundred Objects 59 Charles University Innovations Prague 60
celie korittová – Mushrooms are friends, Not food 42
5 INTERVIEW FORUM 05
THE CUNNING OF REASON At the end of the 19th century, the Czech lands were among the best-educated areas in Europe. Finding out that society needs education takes one generation, but only after the third does this necessity consolidate and become a matter of course. We spoke about the quality of education, its value and also about our future with historian Zdeněk Beneš and economist Tomáš Havránek TEXT BY Petra Köppl PHOTO BY René Volfík, Thinkstock
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An arrogant approach to history never pays off. Those who don’t learn from it are doomed to repeat it. But can a knowledge of history anticipate the future? Zdeněk Beneš: According to one well-known saying, a historian is a prophet facing backwards. They try to reconstruct the past, and a part of that is necessarily to construct what happened. Predicting the future is even riskier than reconstructing the past; in comparison, long-term weather forecasts are exacting. In 2012, the National Theatre presented Lucy Prebble’s play about the energy company Enron, which before its crash in 2002 was among the largest employers in America. The play is based on authentic quotes from politicians and economists, and Soros had the only reasonable idea, who says for dramatic purposes: “You’re going to tell me, a Hungarian Jew, something about forecasting the future?” In the 1960s, the Americans did sociological research and found that economists’ predictions were not even fulfilled one-third of the time, and even then only partially. The hedge fund Long-Term Capital Management (LTCM) could be another example. Not even the two Nobel Prize winners who worked there could prevent its collapse in 1998. Tomáš Havránek: The main problem with prediction – and this is not just economic – is that they often play at overprecision, almost as if they were deterministic models. But that’s unrealistic. In the best cases we can only estimate the likelihood of a certain phenomenon occurring, and that’s true for meteorology, economics and futurology. The economic historian Deirdre McCloskey, in her great trilogy on bourgeois virtues, shows how we in economics pay too much attention to a single virtue, which is reason, or more precisely in Latin, prudentia. We focus on it and build complex models in which people maximise their utility. But prudentia is only one of the seven basic virtues: The others are faith, hope, love, moderation, justice and courage. I admire your discipline, Professor, precisely because it works with all the virtues as a whole. In its current form, economics can’t explain events with such major economic impacts as the industrial revolution. The cause was not the accumulation of capital, as Smith, Marx or Piketty wrote, but mainly the change in society’s perception of what we today call progress.
Has society hindered progress? H: It’s hard to imagine today, but until roughly 1800 any innovation was something bad, something dangerous; something that would disrupt the Great Chain of Being, the scala naturae. It wasn’t like this everywhere and all the time. In history there are always islands of innovation, whether they were some of the ancient city-states, Italian traders, Hansa and others, but innovation has generally been condemned. Note that the word “novota (innovation)” in Czech still has a pejorative subtext without there being a better Czech term for innovation. This negative approach to innovation started to change in a big way for the first time in the
Netherlands, where an increase in the standard of living was also born. Britain, Western Europe, North America and now almost the whole world followed. Today the standard of living for an average person is roughly thirty times what it was in 1800 while the number of people is six times what it was. We can criticise contemporary economists for not predicting financial crises, but 200 years ago Malthus in his economic predictions was wrong on a dramatically different level. It’s not so much that we can today afford to buy more goods and services, but we have greater opportunities. Without the Industrial Revolution, we wouldn’t be here talking, because we’d probably all be out working in the fields. According to available records, this was true for all my ancestors until the 20th century. Which in itself is nothing wrong, but it’s better to have a choice. It’s precisely this that economics doesn’t know how to explain, and must turn to sociology or history. B: In addition to the cultural codes that society behaves and acts under, history and economics have in common a subjective or a collective-subjective moment as well, which means sociological. For reasons that aren’t always obvious, people don’t understand something, so they reject it. Of course at the moment when a given thing or idea becomes a social phenomenon, the super-subjective moment arrives. Society and development don’t work only according to formulae, the work according to processes we don’t understand very well yet, but we know about them and they always eventually appear. A classic example of such a situation would be the time in the second half of the 18th century when England fought the export of technology. The British envoy at the Chinese imperial court was given extraordinary permission to offer the Chinese emperor textile machinery imports. He received an utterly crushing response: What good would it bring me? H: A couple of hundred years later, Mao Tse-Tung said his ancestors invented gunpowder, but instead of using it to build cannons, they made fireworks. The statement isn’t historically accurate, but it reflects the spirit of the time, when innovation – and especially the innovation that radically changes the order of life – was a dirty word. But let’s return to the subjective moment you were talking about. For example, before the financial crisis a number of people knew about the existence of a real estate bubble for subprime mortgages, but almost nobody thought that its bursting would, in the end, shake all of Western civilization. It was just a small part of the real estate market in America, and in the minds
We can criticise contemporary economists for not predicting financial crises, but 200 years ago Malthus in his economic predictions was wrong on a dramatically different level.
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Without the Industrial Revolution, we wouldn’t be here talking, because we’d probably all be out working in the fields. of Wall Street financiers the worst – mortgages held by unemployed black people in Alabama. But the modern financial system divided bad mortgages and sent the pieces all over the world; every financier had part of it on their plate, but they didn’t know which bite it was in. Suddenly they almost stopped eating, but mainly they didn’t want to let food be prepared by someone else. A pinch of bad spice in the form of terrible mortgages from America ended up poisoning good food from farms all over the world. Trust disappeared from the financial world, and financial flows nearly froze. Credit doesn’t work without trust. And while it doesn’t sound very nice, our civilization is based on things like credit. On credit, subjective deception or the arrogance of the unknown? B: At the beginning of the 1990s, Kremlinologists were horrified – how could it possible that the Soviet Union fell? From their point of view, it was a system that was absolutely solid and stable. From Washington’s perspective that may have been the case, but if I were living in the Soviet Union, I’d know that while we could fly into space, it was – allegorically – a problem to bring a ton of grain from Kaluga to Moscow. The problem is the country’s infrastructure and the mentality of its inhabitants. Especially in crisis situations what happens is that things start to connect in our consciousness, things which until then had not been perceived as connected
and which also aren’t really causally related. Ludwig von Bertalanffy said that the United States’ huge scientific and technical leap in the middle of the last centure was due to European emigration to get away from Hitler, which is a known and provable fact. But an educated elite came to the USA which had not only specialised “expert” knowledge at its disposal, but also general philosophical education and knowledge; they knew and perceived things in a broader context. They simply knew that their “own sandbox” was a part of something bigger and deeper. I’m afraid that the Czech school system abandoned this background of expert thinking and decision-making after 1990 with the “technocratic” justification that an encyclopedic education is from a historically-outdated era. And we can easily find other signs and results of such an approach. Such as the requirement of a universal and especially uniform secondary education, represented by a uniform level of graduation. And let’s add the related “massification” of education. If 70% of the population born in a given year is in secondary school – and we want them to complete a uniform graduation – while in the First Republic it was around 10%, the consequences are obvious. This insane pressure that everybody has to study is actually deferred unemployment. Although Thilo Sarrazin is a controversial author, I agree with his idea that general education is in decline and that the effort to eliminate choice is one
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way to lose a future elite. Besides, even the chair of the German conference of rectors announced that universities should be attended by students who want to do research or explore, and took a stand against the concept of a university education as a qualification for work. B: The Bologna Process is a controversial way. It certainly meets certain requirements for education and certain disciplines, but it’s problematic as a universal model. Doctors and lawyers were excepted from it in advance – why? But what about teachers – and why not pose the question: To what extent would it make sense to break up study into bachelor’s and master’s in other fields. We’re again at society’s mentality. When the Bologna system was implemented, the bachelor’s level of university education had no tradition and was not perceived as being a full-fledged education. It would appear that this opinion persists to this day. Education and its social functions are like a giant flywheel. Before certain steps in reforming the education system were made, there were warnings as early as the beginning of the 1990s that the consequences would only become apparent after around 20 years. That happened. The Finnish education minister, when asked why Finnish education is one of the best in the world, answered that it’s because the Finns aren’t interested in various international comparison rankings. It’s a simple and demonstrable effect. H: With the current number of higher education institutions in the Czech Republic, we simply can’t find enough experts so that a reasonable education can take place in all schools. It’s the inflation of formal education. In Prague alone, there are dozens of universities. On the other hand, the bachelor’s and master’s programmes at our university hold their own in international comparisons. We’re not at the very top of the rankings, but that’s often because publications and citations play a decisive role. To do this, we need to strengthen research, which financially is very challenging, but doesn’t have a 100% correlation with the quality of teaching. An indication of the good level of teaching at our university is that we’re able to attract thousands of students from abroad. At our Institute of Economic Studies, a lot of students after gaining their Bachelor’s title continue abroad. They study mathematics and hard subjects here, then they study the additional subjects abroad, and for the Ph.D. studies they might come back here. Our students continuing in Great Britain, the Netherlands or Switzerland compare the level of tertiary education and say that they don’t see a big difference. I see a big difference, for example, when I go to lecture in the United States. As an educator there, I get an assertive audience that isn’t afraid to ask questions. Here the students shrink away and are afraid that someone just might ask them something. This attitude is intimately close to me, and is related to the way you’re brought up and with elementary education, which has little focus on debating and defending one’s own opinion. In the context of Central and Eastern Europe, we’re the only country that is constantly growing in popula-
tion. Even if the economy of Slovakia is more dynamic, Slovaks still come here to study, and often end up staying here. And that tells me our country has a solid future. A lot of Czechs who have studied in the USA return to Prague or to smaller cities. It surprised me, for example, how many people with titles from prestigious American universities live in Litomyšl. Countries to the east of us don’t have such luck. Certainly some are returning, but there are fields that have a palpable lack of people. Recently, for example, there’s been an effort to increase the number of doctors by increasing the number of students in medical schools. Will making university education accessible to the masses have a similar impact? B: That’s the question. There are around 300 more places. There will be a certain percentage of students among them who previously would have given up in advance; they say they won’t get in, and go to study something else. In addition, the preparation is so responsible that the “waste” probably doesn’t make it to rigorous testing. The wheat is automatically separated from the chaff. The biggest pressure is on “cheap” faculties and inexpensive fields. But it’s always been, and there’s simply nothing you can do about it. A doctor is bound by the Hippocratic Oath and by adhering to ethical rules. In other fields the situation is more complicated. Perhaps in judges’ legal knowledge, or journalists.
Isn’t this limitation partially caused by the preoccupation with our Czech basin, which prevents us from having the time or effort to perceive a wider context? B: I’m horrified at the thought that the European Union would break up, because it would return all the problems of the 20th century to us, and we aren’t very aware of that. The “Concert of Great Powers” will happen again. Helmut Kohl, when Germany was reunified, had a foresightful remark: Are you afraid of a reunified Germany? Want a unified Europe. Because that will cancel it out. Of course Germany and France will dominate the Union because they’re the strongest, but it’s about how they’ll do it and whether they’ll abuse it. And how the smaller states will act. The Czech Republic doesn’t know how to behave in this space so far. H: Europe’s greatest achievement, the one we should preserve at all costs, is the Schengen area. When an American comes here and sees that they can go through nearly all the countries of Europe – and they’re countries with different languages – without border checks, they’re amazed. B: You could move just as freely around Europe up until 1914. Until that year, as a citizen of the Austrian monarchy, you only needed a passport, foresightedly, for two countries: Turkey and the Russian Empire. H: You see, professor, once again I’ve learned something new.
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As far as personal freedom is concerned, we’ve had to go back a long way in history. H: Hunters and gatherers had it best, right? They didn’t have the pressure of having to sow and harvest in time, that there could be a drought… B: But it also greatly limited the size of the community. There never was a hunting society because hunting is risky. People worked several hours a week, not daily, because it was enough for their social needs. H: Not long ago I read in a book by Yuval Noah Harari that the agricultural revolution was actually a great fraud perpetrated on people, and that in retrospect noone would have chosen it voluntarily. It firmly chained us to the land. It suddenly caused people to work much more and become sicker because diseases were transferred from livestock and then to each other. The transition to the Neolithic period meant a decrease in the average life span. B: And the standard of living. We call this progress or the unintended consequences of history, but Spinoza called it the Cunning of Reason and Hegel the Cunning of History. We want something and then we find out that it has side effects we do not want. In 1989, we all wanted freedom, and we knew subconsciously what that would mean. The long-forgotten Czech philosopher and sociologist Ludvík Fischer has said that the more advanced a society is, the more fragile and delicate it is; it’s less resistant to shocks.
And is that the case? Is society, in your view, more delicate? H: Yes. This has also been shown in the economic crises we’ve been undergoing, and Josef Alois Schumpeter
warned of these more than 70 years ago. From an economic standpoint, it’s much easier today to create a bubble. This is quite evident in the example of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. For most of us, the term cryptocurrency seems somewhat mystical, but it is a simple innovation: Money covered by data that for certain enthusiasts is interesting to collect, but otherwise has no value. But this is a solution to a problem that does not exist – current money works well even in digital form. And if anyone is afraid of 2% inflation per year, Bitcoin is probably not going to be attractive for them because it can drop by 20% in a single day. But while we’re talking about cryptocurrencies, I like the philosophical impulse for central bankers, who are also starting to talk about digital currencies. It would be something completely different than Bitcoin, but without Bitcoin we wouldn’t have come to this idea. We can use digital currency during the next crisis; it gives us a tool to fight against people’s bad moods, against a lack of trust in the economy. We could create digital wallets for everyone at the central bank and then easily send money there if the worst comes to the worst. Of course the central bank can’t send money forever – it would only be for the period an economy was in crisis and deflation. B: You have a crisis already. Lenin said that revolution was the engine of history, but as usual, he was mistaken. Crises are the engine of development. If everything’s working, there’s no need to fix anything. H: You can always find a crisis in some segment of society. Steven Pinker even writes that the word crisis has become so profaned that in order to gain readers’ attention we must use the phrase “grave crisis.” And that’s quite common, so we’ve gotten to “existential crises” and so on. As for economics, I must say – and at risk of sounding naive – this country and the entire world
The agricultural revolution was actually a great fraud perpetrated on people, and in retrospect noone would have chosen it voluntarily. It chained us firmly to the land.
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Professor Zdeněk Beneš works at the Institute of Czech History at the Faculty of Arts and the Institute of the Institute of Christian Art History at the Catholic Theological Faculty, specialising in the history of historiography, the theory and methodology of history and the didactics of history.
Associate Professor Tomáš Havránek works at the Institute of Economic Studies of the Faculty of Social Sciences. He also studied at the University of Helsinki and worked at the University of California, Berkeley. He won the Karel Engliš prize, which is awarded by the Charles University rector to the best student in the social sciences. According to the RePEc database, he is the most-quoted Czech economist in academic literature. He also serves as an advisor to the vice-governor of the Czech National Bank.
has never looked better. According to some indicators, such a harmonious occurrence of favourable conditions comes along once in a hundred years. Is it really that rosy? Or are we standing on the verge of a crisis and we don’t see it? B: We have the problem of climate change. It’s not about a need for winter clothing; OP Prostějov (a major Czech clothing producer) has gone out of business and they knocked it down all the same. But as far as development goes, it means a massive interference in flora and fauna, and then into agriculture, which will cause social unrest, and social unrest leads to political crises. That is absolutely ironclad logic. That scares everyone. Not that I will have cobras in my front yard in the summertime – I can get used to that. We’ve already lived through that. Wolfgang Behringer’s Cultural History of Climate has examined the development of climate in Europe and it’s enough to put socio-political events on to it and it’s as easy as that. They’re communicating vessels. As soon as someone catches something and does it well, then they’ll start to piggyback on it. It’s playing with fire. H: Paradoxically, it seems to me that global warming is being used badly as a “mobilisation” crisis. It’s not easy for a populist to come along and base his program on it. I think the reason is that the negative effects of global warming will appear after such a long time that it simply won’t bother an ordinary person. Environmental economist Rob Johnston recently told me something that I wasn’t aware of before: Global warming is actually good for the planet, at least if we take the amount of living matter as a criterium. Higher temperatures mean richer vegetation in the arctic areas and also more precipitation in general. So maybe the Sahara will bloom again thanks to global warming. Of course the problem is that warming is expensive for the human population, which must adapt at a high cost. In any case, refugees are a much easier “crisis” to misuse. Despite the media massage, we no longer realise that the flow of migrants has long since stopped and that it’s now a just percent
of what it was at its peak a couple of years ago. But as a mobilisation crisis, the refugees still work, and maybe even better than before, when they were actually flowing into Europe. The greatest danger for our society is getting bored with peace, democracy, knowledge and prosperity. B: Around 4 million people per year came into the European Union before 2015. Did anybody notice? Nobody made a problem out of it. Everything just started to get connected together, even if it’s not related. And here it was a wave connected with the whole uncertainty of the Mediterranean and Middle East. What’s a person’s first reaction to any kind of external stimulus? The first human reaction is emotional, and only then does any rational correction come. Historians have long known that the one preparing for war must essentially put himself in the position of the attacked who must defend himself. It’s nothing new. If I can control psychology, I have a very strong tool for controlling society. It was enough to use the frustration from the loss in World War I. Hitler simply thought it up ingeniously. But I don’t know if it was his job. And when he needed to awaken the German defensive spirit in 1938, he let a tank division ride through. And what happened? People disappeared in the nearest shelter, metro, passageway, in the nearest house. Even then it was recognized that Hitler made a psychological mistake. A cavalry division or an infantry regiment was supposed to go down Unter den Linden street to the sounds of a brass band. That creates an emotional mood, but everybody is afraid of tanks. Unfortunately, we’re living in a time of huge global crisis, which will still in my opinion have many other effects, because we’re actually going through a change in poles in the world. Whether we admit it or not, we’re living in a time of World War III. We don’t need T34s, T55s, T72s or Abramses. This war is conducted completely differently. It’s a hybrid war, but it’s happening.
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Is Justice Truly Blind? Dominik Andreska: Governing The Water Ways / 14 Kristýna Benešová: Should Feminists Fight For The Niqab? / 16 Lukáš Blažek: Planning Lessons From The Past / 18 Jakub Drápal: To Send Or Not To Send To Prison / 22
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GOVERNING THE WATER WAYS
Dominik Andreska, LL.M., studied at the Faculty of Law and has recently completed the second year of his doctoral studies at the Faculty’s environmental law department. In his research, he deals mainly with the protection of international rivers and the law of the sea. He is currently a visiting researcher at Utrecht University in the Netherlands.
Water scarcity is one of the most pressing problems facing our planet and we need to protect this precious resource. So how does the protection of international rivers and lakes work, and how is the legal system of the world’s seas governed? Doctoral student Dominik Andreska has been researching the issue TEXT BY Lucie Kettnerová PHOTO BY René Volfík
In recent years, it appears that better times lie ahead for the protection of rivers. In addition to their economic potential, we are beginning to pay more attention to the environment.
Water in the 21st century is a major global concern and with the growing threat of shortages around the world every country will need to manage this precious resource much more carefully. Some rivers flow through the territories of many different countries and are shared by them. Such upstream countries have certain responsibilities, for example the amount and quality of the water that leaves their territory. In the wider European context, the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention) has been in effect since the 1990s and sets out a respon-
sibility among its parties to cooperate in the management of shared watercourses. In the Czech Republic, this relates to the river Elbe (Labe), Odra and Danube (which the Morava flows into), and there are international commissions which serve as a forum to discuss the protection of these rivers and issues such as pollution and emergency situations. In recent years, it appears that better times lie ahead for the protection of rivers. In addition to their economic potential, we are beginning to pay more attention to the environment, according to Dominik Andreska, a doctoral student from the Faculty of Law’s Department of Environmental Law.
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“In the 19th century the main emphasis was on navigating and using rivers for shipping. The Rhine isn’t much of a proper river any more. It’s more of a shipping canal. “Other types of uses were added, such as drawing water for chemicals and other industrial operations and for electric power plants,” says Andreska, who focuses mainly on the protection of international rivers and the law of the sea. However, the Helsinki Convention on the protection of shared rivers introduces an approach in which the river is protected as part of the ecosystem. “It protects not only the river basin itself but also comprehensive and related components of the environment, such as floodplain forests and surrounding lands, because the river and its condition are connected to the lands around it,” says Andreska. The European Union’s main tool in the area of protecting water – the Water Framework Directive – is based on a similar standpoint. Canal controversy In the Czech Republic, the possibility of building a Danube-Odra-Elbe canal – supported by people such as Czech President Miloš Zeman – has recently been raised again, despite the Czech Academy of Sciences’ Commission for the Environment declaring in 2014 that the project had no economic, social or environmental justification. Andreska says: “This waterway has been planned for a number of centuries, and was supported by Austria-Hungary, the First Republic, the Nazis and the Communists, and the UN Economic Commission for Europe and the EU are still counting on it. But we must be aware that we are living in a time of advancing climate change. “At a time when we can see ‘hunger stones’ (inscribed boulders serving as warnings of drought) every other year on the the river Elbe close to the Czech-German border in north Bohemia, the construction of a gigantic and extremely expensive canal with a questionable return on investment should be considered carefully. “And that’s just the economic aspect of the project. From an environmental perspective, it would mean pouring huge amount of concrete on the landscape and would essentially completely change the approach to the Elbe as a river. Before 1989, it partially formed the border between East and West Germany and the original ecosystems have managed to be preserved more or less intact. If this river were to be flooded, it would have immense consequences
for many protected areas and for the population of salmon in the river Elbe which were reintroduced with great difficulty.” Andreska is not just interested in rivers, but in the seas as well – with a focus on a special part of international law called the law of the sea. He says the main international agreement in this area, the UN Law of the Sea Convention, is largely concerned with the determination of rights and responsibilities of states in individual jurisdiction zones adjacent to their coasts. It clearly sets territorial sea boundaries – long the subject of disputes – to 12 nautical miles. At the same time, it introduces a 200mile exclusive economic zone, in which states have full jurisdiction over the use of the sea’s resources, mainly fisheries. The continental shelf, which can reach up to 350 miles offshore, is another zone in which states can extract resources from the seafloor, especially oil and gas.
According to the convention on the law of the sea, the seabed is the common heritage of mankind, which means that whatever is found there should serve all of humanity and not a specific state or even a specific corporation. “States often claim larger zones than they are entitled to by law, or stake their zones on top of each other, and then sue over the precise border, so a large proportion of the law of the sea is related to delimitation.” A major problem with staking zones is expected in the Arctic, warns Andreska. When the ice melts and it’s possible to use the ocean as a sea route or for fishing and extraction, the USA, Canada, Russia and Norway will all claim their interests. This could affect international politics, Andreska points out, with Greenland, now an autonomous territory of Denmark, likely to claim a fairly substantial part of the Arctic Ocean and the seafloor beneath it. He says: “The moment when it could gain a huge and rich area of the ocean and use it for fishing or extracting raw materials, it could be assumed that it would declare independence because economically it would be able to do so.” Warming the ocean The so-called “mackerel dispute” between the EU, Norway and Iceland also illustrate the specific impact of climate change on the marine environment and its political implications, says Andreska.
The life cycle of the North Atlantic mackerel begins in waters that come under the jurisdiction of EU states, but the warming of the ocean due to climate change has pushed the prized fish further north since 2007 into waters belonging to Iceland. Understandably this made Icelanders happy, but in order to comply with international law they had to negotiate the share of the overall number of mackerel allowed to be fished in the North Atlantic – set by the regional fishing organizations which have long been dominated by the EU and Norway. “The Icelanders did not want to agree to a fishing quota, explaining that it was a short-term fluctuation and mackerel appeared in Icelandic waters only occasionally. “But since then, the fish have moved into Icelandic waters year-round and Icelanders have started to fish them even without the quota, it has led to the population of North Atlantic mackerel being essentially overfished. There’s still disagreement on the entire issue.” Andreska says that this dispute is one of the reasons Iceland withdrew its application for EU membership in 2015, as the notion that Icelandic fishing policy would be decided in Brussels was unacceptable to them. This September negotiations began on an international convention which will address the protection and use of marine resources beyond national jurisdiction. This will investigate the potential riches of one of Earth’s last frontiers, the deep ocean, where hot water springs, known as black smokers, can be found. Bacteria and other organisms which exist there do not require oxygen. Based on research, scientists believe that these organisms could in future make a valuable contribution to the treatment of serious illness. “It could be that a major pharmaceutical company would pay for a very expensive expedition, gather samples, start to scientifically research them, develop a drug and get a patent for it. “Of course, according to the convention on the law of the sea, the seabed is the common heritage of mankind, which means that whatever is found there should serve all of humanity and not a specific state or even a specific corporation. “The question is how to balance the abstract concept of heritage for all mankind and the specific economic resources spent by a state or corporation,” concludes Andreska.
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SHOULD FEMINISTS FIGHT FOR THE NIQAB? A big challenge for today’s world is defining and defending equality when it comes to human rights over everything from parental access to their children when taken into care to weighing up the pros and cons for banning wearing the niqab in public, says European law and human rights expert Kristýna Benešová TEXT BY Petra Köppl PHOTO BY René Volfík
Human rights cannot be considered as a purely legal instrument, according to Kristýna Benešová, a Czech expert in human rights and European law. You need to consider their political and societal context to decide which rights remain in the category of human rights, says Benešová, who taught EU Law at Charles University in Prague before moving to Great Britain to study for her LL.M at the University of Cambridge. She hopes to explore her ideas further in cooperation with her Czech alma mater’s department of European law and says the main benefit of the advanced law programme at Cambridge, in which she studied sociology, political science and ethics, was gaining a better insight and awareness of the consequences the legal system can have on society as a whole. This was brought vividly to light in August when Denmark became the latest country to ban garments that cover the face – and therefore the wearing of the Muslim niqab. It was also central to the political controversy following the move by Norway’s child welfare services to take the Michalák children into care after suspicion they had suffered sexual abuse and neglect and deny their Czech mother from having any contact with her sons. These high profile cases clearly brought societal and cultural influences to bear when deciding whose rights needed protecting. Divorce as punishment for the partner For Benešová, such influences can also be seen in more mundane cases, such as a relatively straightforward divorce. Is the legislation there to punish a partner who has transgressed by leaving the union, which society perceives as caring and permanent, or is the law a tool for the pragmatic stabilization of a difficult life situation, including its financial consequences? Benešová says the law usually works with the idea of equality, but nevertheless, partnerships with elements of emotional or financial dependence are in most cases unequal in some form. If the law
treats partners as 100% equals without taking a wider context into account, it will produce absurd conclusions, she argues. From the English environment, Benešová presents the case of the Owens couple, whose former happy marriage is well and truly over. Local courts did not comply with Mrs Owens’ proposal because Mr Owens did not agree with the divorce and the couple had not lived apart for long enough to meet the law’s minimum requirement for a divorce to take place. Czech legal practice also disadvantages women in the labour market to such an extent that they can struggle to get by. Are children the property of their parents? The societal context is also the key to understanding the unfortunately politicized case of the Michalák children, says Benešová. First, when deciding matters concerning children who had lived their entire lives and had in the legal sense a regular residence in Norway, the Norwegian courts should exclusively address their interests. In this regard, the Michaláks’ case was clear, and political pressure by Czech politicians on Norwegian institutions was therefore pointless. Understanding of the relationship between the parents and children differs from one country to another in different countries. In the Czech Republic children are perceived instead as the property of their parents. In Scandinavia, a custodial approach plays a more accentuated role: Families should serve as guides for their children until the moment they come of age and become independent. Much greater emphasis is placed on the child as a person with his or her own rights. At the moment that the society’s notion of how to raise the child differs from how the given family functions, the state can intervene in the relationship. The result of this differing understanding means that Norway is one of the few countries allowing adoption without the consent of the biological parents. This approach can cause problems for immigrant families, to whom northern European countries have traditionally been gen-
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erous, with demands for their assimilation being heard ever more distinctly. The ban on face veils – and therefore wearing the Muslim niqab – in August was a vivid example of the new atmosphere and followed similar moves in some other European countries. The European Court for Human Rights defines the limits of religious freedom in the European context, which according to recent judgments against Belgium and France remains considerably lenient to member states and gives them space for consideration, says Benešová. Nevertheless, according to the European Court, the ban on veiling one’s face is compatible with human rights, and the question remains whether this type of measure is a suitable compromise and step toward building coexistence. The member states themselves are struggling to justify such measures because despite being formulated in general language, everyone knows that they are primarily targeted at Muslim head garments. The niqab or the bikini Another controversial aspect is that these limitations affect women to an unreasonable extent and paradoxically can isolate them more than protect them, argues Benešová. “Our Western idea is that Muslim women are being oppressed in some way, and that wearing the niqab can in no case be their free choice. At the same time, our lack of understanding and intolerance influences their daily lives. “If we forbid a woman to enter the beach in a Muslim swimsuit, as in the French ‘burqini’ case, not only do we implicitly dictate what the correct beach wear is, but we also completely exclude them from this public space, preventing their interaction in society,” Benešová says, adding: “A woman should have the right to choose if they wear a niqab or a bikini.” It is worth noting that the ban on Muslim swimwear was abolished for being in contradiction of the French constitution. Countries that ban wearing the niqab are on the increase. The idea that women in this garment pose a security risk is ridiculous, says Benešová. In addition, the niqab is worn by only a small number of Muslims. It is, therefore, a measure that speaks to the debate over the extent to which religion is tolerated in public space – unfortunately at the expense of women’s rights. Banning the veil, which according to our own understanding should empower women, on the contrary interferes with their normal life in a very insensitive way. In the Muslim minority, it also raises feelings of alienation, distrust and a lack of understanding, argues Benešová.
Religion has ambitions to be present in the public space and to create institutions that can compete with the state. Religion usurps the public space The question is whether our desire for this degree of assimilation is warranted. As Benešová clarifies, “the idea of the European Court of Human Rights is to practice religion in a private space. So with a bit of exaggeration, when members of a minority go home, there they will practice their religion and in such a case our society and the entire legal system cannot intervene with this practice. This understanding, however, is in direct conflict with how most religions work, including Christianity and Islam. “Religion has ambitions to be present in the public space and to create institutions that can compete with the state.” Take the example of an educational institution. Human rights guarantee a space in which they can practice their religion, cultivate their own culture and raise children in accordance with their tradition. “In Europe, however, we still perceive minorities as a threatening element precisely on the basis that they are very cohesive due to their shared religious beliefs. Perhaps in contrast with their clearly defined values, Western society’s fumbling with regard to the values we will try to protect through the aforementioned measures will become much clearer,” says Benešová.
Kristýna Benešová, LL.M., works with the Department of European Law, where she lectured on European law and mooting skills before going to Cambridge. In 2013, together with Vojtěch Bartoš, Ivo Skolil and Jan Potucký, she won third place in the Central and East European Moot Court Competition. At Cambridge, she co-founded a successful podcast on sovereignty in international law called The Sovereigns. She is currently engaged in building a mentoring programme and the Women in Law platform.
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PLANNING LESSONS FROM THE PAST The 1950s continue to influence Czech society. But this is not just about communism, says legal historian Lukáš Blažek, who asks if the State is still trying to manage society by limiting individual freedoms through thoughtless planning? His research relates to Operation Kulak in Chrudim and Hlinecko TEXT BY Petra Köppl PHOTO BY Luboš Wišniewski
Economic recovery was a priority in postwar Europe. In Czechoslovakia, due to political developments, it was closely associated with the fundamental transformation of the property system. Collectivization was partly voluntary, but it met with a great deal of resistance from a large number of farmers. At what level of state administration were specific measures decided? Authorities at the district level played the most important role in Operation Kulak („Kulak“being the pejorative term for middle and upper-class farmers). Many responsible people believed they could manage the economy through plans and feedback. People now know enough from the literature about how central planning and management worked, but it is very interesting to see it through the prism of proceedings at the relatively low level of the district national committee in the Chrudim and Hlinsko areas. The council of the district national committee functioned as a kind of “little government,” which governed a “little state”. It coordinated and organised industrial and agricultural production, construction and cultural
I call it a “school of communist management,” because on the basis of the district national committee’s functioning, you can see the managerial practices being followed, often using the trial-anderror method.
events. It dealt with everything from the building of strategic industry to spoiled sausages and evicting people. I call it a “school of communist management,” because on the basis of the district national committee’s functioning, you can see the managerial practices being followed, often using the trial-and-error method. At the same time it’s striking how different the two regions were. In Hlinsko, at the centre of a newly-created district, they had almost no experience with management and administration, and in terms of production, they were often absolutely clueless. Nevertheless, they did not lack determination. Both districts dealt with the management of sugar beet, for example, and insisted on the yields that were set. This gave rise to absurd moments where farmers in the fertile southern parts of the Chrudim district were set to provide smaller deliveries than their neighbours in Hlinsko, on land that was less productive. At the same time, the former farmers in the kulak operations were dismissed for not delivering, for example, 20% of the deliveries demanded of them. A simple failure to deliver was often seen as an act of hostility to the people’s democratic order, even if it was usually involuntary negligence. Under the criminal code, as well as imprisonment for several months, assets could be seized. Criminal law had a clear goal: it was primarily about confiscating property, not about imprisoning the offender. The aim was to release the person in question as quickly as possible so that they could work. An assessment was given on the remainder of the punished landowner’s property that was not in his name, and the government either imposed a confiscation or a confiscation was carried out independently of whether the → property’s co-owner had done something wrong.
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Recruitment flier from 1951
In addition, the directive on the treatment of family members prohibited the relatives of convicted farmers from staying in the communities, districts or regions where they came from, and ordered them to live in another part of the country. In practice this meant very tough sanctions came down on people who had done nothing wrong, were never convicted and only shared a home with the convicted person.
“We need more manpower. We want you to displace another entire family to us at the farm.” This was essentially forced labour – as if serfdom was dusted off and revived in the 20th century in Czechoslovakia. Operation Kulak was the beginning of the end of the rural way of life. How many people were affected by the directive of the ministers of national security, interior and justice, which amended relations with family members of convicted rural wealthy people, and how did it take place? It is generally reported that in Czechoslovakia this affected 1‚500 to 1‚800 people, but my research at the local level shows that displacement did not occur in some cases. If you were to look at the central lists without comparing them with other information at the regional level, it is clear there wasn‘t always an eviction. It could have been harsher, but luckily it wasn’t in the power of the bureaucratic forces to manage this administratively on a larger scale. Before the eviction, they had to secure housing in a Czechoslovak state-owned property, to be sure that
the evictee would be under supervision, would have a place to live and of course to work as well. The 1927 law on the organisation of political governance was often used to ban residence. The Communists performed a certain legal analysis which was supposed to show that everything that they carried out under the directive was legal. I’m inclined to believe that it was certainly not legal. But we must look at it in the context of the fact that the legal state was already fully dismantled and there was no effective protection from administrative acts or from the state’s decision-making. Administrative law was used to fight less serious crimes. A number of evicted people were therefore not convicted by a court but by the district national committee’s criminal commission. The feeling that it’s possible to do anything with people, and consequently the methods used by the protectorate, survived in some places. I even found messages like: “We need more manpower. We want you to displace another entire family to us at the farm.” This was essentially forced labour – as if serfdom was dusted off and revived in the 20th century in Czechoslovakia. Budgetary resources set for the proper course of action for every district were not always sufficient, as can be seen from the correspondence between the district national committees in Pardubice and Chrudim. They sent messages that said things such as: “No, comrade, we don’t have money for that, so if you want something, then the comrade from the VB (the Public Security, or police force) will provide assistance, but the rest is your problem. We’re not interested.” Was there a definition of “kulak” on a national level that would be followed by the district national committees when making selections? The regional research shows that the operations were centrally managed and that there was an effort to set parameters. Nevertheless, the decision as to who would be considered a kulak were made on a narrowly district and local scale. Despite this, it is generally possible to
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find some attributes which would predestine families to displacement – maybe a problematic relationship to the founding of the agricultural cooperative or to land ownership, which had to be consolidated for the state farms, or resistance to a communist in a certain position. The measurement for deciding who was a kulak varied. Hlinsko is interesting because the territory was always among the poorest. The prosecutor there said a farmer with 20 hectares was actually a beggar. After the revision carried out by the comrades on the district national committee, of the 350 Kulaks on the list of the rural rich, only about half remained. In the Chrudim district, I managed to find a convicted and displaced kulak with only 1.5 hectares of land, although they were typically owners with an area greater than 15 hectares. It is also important to mention that the constitution guaranteed free land ownership of an area up to 50 hectares. When processing archive materials, you have to count on “stylization” and self-censorship. In your studies, did you run into any deviations when studying the materials from these two districts? Everyone uses a certain amount of self-censorship. For example, in the minutes of the district national committee in Chrudim, one can see that they are more stylish than those in Hlinsko. It is very much because they did not have experience in Hlinsko, and therefore their records are much more open. Still, difficulties appear in Chrudim: someone did not deliver meat, the salami was rotten or someone had bad vegetables. Another problem is statistics, for the harvest for example, if only because the ubiquitous competition over who can manage it better led to cheating. It is therefore necessary to approach these materials with a certain amount of restraint.
rehabilitated were de-rehabilitated. It’s worthwhile to examine how this took place, and that in the case of both rehabilitation and de-rehabilitation, the same people made the decisions. “History repeats itself ” is a tired phrase. However, it cannot be denied that in historical research we find many parallels with the present. How do you see it, and what lessons should we learn from the period you have studied? Society has a responsibility to describe the past properly and understand it. In the 1950s it was far from being only about communism. There were more far-reaching problems, consisting primarily of a more technical vision of society, and the resulting effort to have the state directly run it. But we must not forget the post-war context, and that such tendencies existed in the West as well. However, this does not alter the fact that this concept has proven itself to be dysfunctional and obsolete, and a question for me is whether we’ve learned from it. I have the feeling that the idea of a society managed by the state with limited individual freedom is returning, and, what’s more, to enthusiastic ovations. We have modern technology and we think that we’re somehow different to people in the 1950s, but we still play with thoughtlessly planning what will be grown where and what the shipments will be. When there is a bad crop, we solve it through compensation – when there’s a surplus, the state buys it. How is that so different from central management?
Many historians have devoted themselves to research into collectivization, but the historical view does not always have to be the legal view. What makes them different? A legal education makes it possible to look at legislation, its interpretation and application in a different way than if it were done by a legal layperson. This relates to an understanding of the relation between specialisation and generality, for example, to the hierarchy of legal norms, the use of legal principles and a number of other things that a layperson could study individually, but which are much more complicated taken as a whole. You’ve also dealt with the political trials of the 1950s. This year we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the violent end to the Prague Spring of the 1960s. From the perspective of your scientific work, how do you perceive this period? In the 1960s there was a gradual release of the last of the political prisoners of the 1950s. For example, Dagmar Šimková, one of the best-known political prisoners, was released in 1966. The political trials of the 1960s continued, but without the intensity of the 1950s. That’s not highlighted very often. Rehabilitation trials also began to take place in the 1960s, but after 1968 a new course was set and the
Lukáš Blažek graduated from the Faculty of Law. At the time of his master’s studies he was interested in legal history, so he decided to continue his studies in a follow-up doctoral programme. The 1950s and its influence on the present became the main topic of his research. He is also examining ways of using statistical methods in legal history.
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TO SEND OR NOT TO SEND TO PRISON! Much can be gleaned from the dates on crime sheets and criminal records, according to Jakub Drápal, who has obtained documents from the Justice Ministry containing records of criminal trials conducted in Czech courts from 1995, data from the prison service on the duration of imprisonment of individuals and access to other databases. With this information, he will be able to investigate the efficiency of imprisonment in his dissertation – whether it “pays” from the perspective of recidivism to send people to prison or not. The analysis showed that Czech criminal trials are speeding up. Drápal, however, does not want to publish information on which courts or judges take longer than average. “First it would be necessary to break down the results in detail and only then possibly publish them,” he says. “Numbers alone without deeper knowledge could be misleading.”
The extent of a sentence is not just affected by the act committed by the accused, but also the jurisdiction of a particular court or pressure on the speed of the trial. The judge’s age or opinions on criminal policy may also have an influence TEXT BY Lucie Kettnerová PHOTO BY Luboš Wišniewski
The number of unconditional sentences handed down by individual courts can also be traced. For example, a higher percentage of unconditional sentences were ordered by judges in Jihlava, where the convicted had to go to prison in nearly a quarter of cases. Judges in Uherské Hradiště, Svitavy and Žďár nad Sázavou handed out unconditional sentences in only a few cases. The data enables sentences to be divided according to individual offences – for exam-
ple, only 1% of people convicted for not paying alimony in Svitavy received unconditional sentences, while it was 20% in Bruntál. In Žďár nad Sázavou only 5% of those convicted for repeated theft, while in the city of Brno it was 65%. The differences are significant even when the characteristics of the cases and offenders are taken into account. “For the time being, I have only looked at comparing individual courts, but now, in cooperation with a researcher in Leeds,
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Jakub Drápal, MPhil., studied at the Faculty of Law and is currently in his third year of his PhD programme in the field of theoretical legal science. He deals with penology (the science of punishment) and the prison system. Studying law in Prague and criminology at Cambridge led him to an empirical study of the Czech criminal system.
I want to look at the effect the personality of the judge or the state prosecutor has on sentencing,” says Drápal. “The expert debate worldwide now turns on whether differences in sentencing are caused by judges or courts. In other words, whether the judge’s personality, the culture of individual courts, or the influence of the state prosecutor is decisive.”
The expert debate worldwide now turns on whether differences in sentencing are caused by judges or courts. He hopes to also gain data from Slovakia to carry out comparative research. The plan is to observe additional factors on handing down sentences, for example whether they are influenced by judges’ opinions on criminal policy or how sentences change with the judges’ age or career. Not only are there differences between courts and judges, but also individual terms are not clearly defined and explained, says Drápal. “With Professor Kuklík (the dean of the Faculty of Law) we discussed that if data from the 1960s were made available, it would be beneficial to examine the imposition of sentences historically. For example, to research how it developed after 1968, and empirically confirm in which ways the 1960s were liberal – this idea of the period generally prevails – in the area of criminal policy, where a tightening took place, and how quickly individual courts approached it. Historians could tie into this topic to find out who was judging at the time, what their opinions were and what led them to it.” Many unanswered questions Drápal has dealt with the topic of the individualisation of sentences in his previous research, in which he pointed out certain problems in sentencing in the Czech Republic. “Not only are there differences between courts and judges, but individual terms are not clearly defined and explained.
“The so-called assumption of leading a proper life when considering conditional release, for example. Nowhere is there a definition of what leading a proper life means, and what it is presumed to be. No one has defined the role played by the past of the accused in sentencing either. “If a sentence was suspended or whether it looks like the convicted person was never punished, should that be taken into account when imposing the sentence? If someone committed a crime 15 years ago, should it be taken into account in deciding whether to make a conditional release?” Drápal asks. He believes the Supreme Court should deal with such ambiguity just as it decides what is murder and what is grievous bodily harm. Only this institution can ensure the unification of practice throughout the country. There is also ambiguity in the use of a simplified procedure – a criminal injunction. It is true that if this approach is used, an unconditional prison sentence cannot be imposed. “I looked into whether the level of criminal injunctions correlated with the level of unconditional sentences,” he says. “The analysis unambiguously showed that the more the courts decided by means of a criminal injunction, the fewer unconditional sentences are imposed. “Therefore it can be predicted that if the courts did not decide with a criminal injunction, they would impose an unconditional sentence more often. But since it simplifies work, for example because of pressure on performance, they could not reach for these variations of punishment. Thus the imposition of a sentence contains a dilemma for judges – should the courts mainly take up a case quickly, or should they especially impose punishments they perceive as being fair? “We know that the current approach is not in accordance with the law, but on the other hand the law often does not indicate what the correct solution should be when imposing a sentence.” Weather – no forecast of judges’ decisions The good news is that weather does not influence judges’ decisions. Drápal, together with Jose Pino-Sánchez, a researcher from
England, looked at this when analysing the data, specifically for Prague judges. For monitoring they used measurements from the weather stations located in Strahov and Suchdol, and compared selected cases to see whether the sentence imposed could be influenced by the weather – temperature, sunshine or other factors. However, none of the measured conditions had a significant effect on sentencing.
Students to students Prague law students who are members of the Common Law Society have the impression that there is little space devoted in universities to the prison system, and for this reason founded the Summer School of the Prison System, which is intended especially for students of law, psychology, social work and other fields. The third year of this multidisciplinary summer school was held in June. “This year we decided to focus the programme on the topic of release, and so for guests we invited not only scientists or employees of the prison services (prison chaplains or psychologists), but also workers in the probation or mediation services, or probation officers. We also managed to arrange full-day excursions to Ostrov Prison, where the prison service showed us around the prison and let us talk with prisoners and employees,” said Drápal.
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STIMULATING THE IMMUNE SYSTEM TO FIGHT CANCER
An activated dendritic cell swallowing up cancer cells
Jitka Palich Fučíková juggles bringing up her two young children with pioneering work pushing the boundaries of research into cancer immunology TEXT BY Lucie Kettnerová PHOTO BY SOTIO, Vladimír Šigut
A year in France in her final year studying at the Faculty of Pharmacy in Hradec Králové set Jitka Palich Fučíková on a completely new direction investigating the role of the immune system in treating patients with hematologic malignancies – cancers affecting the blood and lymph system. During preparations for her diploma thesis in Paris, she worked as an Erasmus student at the INSERM laboratory and decided to abandon thoughts of becoming a pharmacist – opting instead to research the area of tumour immunology, the interdisciplinary branch of biology concerned with the role of the immune system in cancer treatment. She focused on the role of immunogenic cell death in the preparation of immunotherapeutic protocols.
“We know that during immunogenic cell death, as opposed to physiological apoptosis, a stimulation of the immune system occurs with the help of a molecule associated with stress and damage to tumour cells,” she says. A key molecule in this process is calreticulin, a protein which is found under physiological conditions inside cells. During immunogenic cell death, it is exposed to the surface of the malignant cell where it helps to activate the anti-tumour immune response. Dr. Palich Fučíková says: “The results of our recently-published studies have identified the role of calreticulin directly in patients with cancer. Its presence on the surface of malignant cells is associated
with increased activity of the anti-tumour immune response and an improved prognosis for patients with lung carcinoma and acute myeloid leukaemia.” The next step for scientists is finding out whether calreticulin could become a valuable tool for sorting cancer patients into risk groups. “We’d like to see if detecting calreticulin in the tumour microenvironment enables the identification of a group of patients who will benefit most from treatment with specific types of therapy with the concept of personalised medicine; immunotherapy, in our case,” she says. Palich Fučíková’s current work centres on helping develop DCVAC, an investigational medicinal product line based on
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a new active cellular immunotherapy platform to treat patients with prostate, ovarian and lung cancer. She is conducting her research at SOTIO, the international biotechnology organisation developing a diverse pharma company specializing in oncology which has one of its two cell therapy-manufacturing facilities in Prague. “DCVAC represents an immunotherapy based on dendritic cells. In cooperation with the Department of Immunology at the 2nd Medical School of Charles University, it has been developed long term by the SOTIO company. The DCVAC products are now being tested in the second and third phases of clinical trials,” she explains. Prepared individually for patients The DCVAC immunotherapy products are prepared individually for each patient and are applied in a regimen of clinical evaluation for patients with prostate, ovarian and lung cancer. Palich Fučíková emphasises the importance of a good working relationship with doctors and says the research in the laboratory would not be possible without the support of doctors as they provide the contact between the patient and the application of the product. The prostate cancer treatment is furthest along in its development. The third and final phase of the international clinical trial includes more than 1‚200 patients from 21 European countries and the USA. The results should be known in about two years. A similar large-scale study is expected to be carried out for the ovarian cancer treatment after being tested in Phase II to see if it is safe. About 200 patients have already been enrolled in the four studies carried out so far and the results look promising, she says. Preliminary results from one study suggest that administering the DCVAC treatment decreased the risk of a worsening of the disease or death by nearly 60%. Data from clinical trials also indicate that patients given DCVAC in the study live longer than those in the control group who received only standard treatment. SOTIO is developing a third variation of the treatment for lung cancer. Preliminary results from one study indicate a 44% decline in the likelihood of a patient’s death. The results were deemed interesting enough for SOTIO to present them at the prestigious ASCO 2018 oncological conference in Chicago – the first time a Czech company has presented the results of its research at such an important forum.
The results are visible Dr. Palich Fučíková says: “In my scientific field I’m very pleased we are able to apply the results of our laboratory research in real clinical environments and also take part in developing new treatments for patients.” When she joined the Department of Immunology as a student she participated in the development of a vaccine which was then tested at Motol University Hospital in Phase I of a clinical trial. But with her work on DAVAC, she is delighted to have advanced to Phase II and Phase III clinical trials within SOTIO, which she says few scientists manage to do. “This would not have been possible without the support of a private investor. This is true not only in the Czech Republic, but abroad as well, because late phase clinical trials are very demanding financially with costs in the tens to hundreds of millions of dollars” Dr. Palich Fučíková believes financial support for research is an advantage for a laboratory owned by a strong private company. Scientists don’t have to apply for grants, for example, but they still need to defend their goals and results. “Another advantage is that we have a patent department in SOTIO which takes care of intellectual property protection. Whenever we discover something new, the team immediately finds out if it can be patented – not just on the Czech level, but in Europe and worldwide as well. It’s tedious work, but because of it we’ve already received a number of patents and have ensured that the results of our work will not be easily copied,” she declares.
The goal of the scheme is to support young women scientists financially in their professional careers. The financial assistance can be freely used, whether for a scientific project itself or for any material or non-material support for their scientific careers. Combining family and maternal responsibilities with research isn’t always easy, she admits. With two small children, she didn’t have typical maternal leave. The first half of the year saw her going into the lab three hours a week, then spending two to three days a week there. “It was an ideal compromise for me” she says. “The days I was with the children were devoted fully to them, and I looked forward to being able to mentally consider something completely different at work. I have the feeling that I was very efficient and concentrated at work.” She could not have managed without considerable support from her husband and family, she accepts. And although she’s been researching for many years, the initial enthusiasm of waiting for results hasn’t gone away. “I feel like I’m more impatient than the students,” she adds, laughing. “Some say tomorrow’s another day, but I want to know everything today,” she says, adding that it’s always a pleasant surprise when she manages to expand her team with new young colleagues who have strong motivation to achieve results. As she points out, scientific work isn’t possible without a perfectly functioning scientific team and cooperation with clinical facilities.
It can be done, even with children For her research on immunogenic cell death and its role in immunotherapeutic cancer treatment, Dr. Palich Fučíková received the prestigious L’Oréal-UNESCO Award for Women in Science in June. She first applied to the project two years ago, before the birth of her second child, but was not successful on that occasion, saying: “I was introduced to this award during my studies in France, where it has unbelievable scientific prestige. So, it was a scientific dream to win it.”
Doctor of Pharmacy Jitka Palich Fučíková works in the Department of Immunology, Second Faculty of Medicine, Charles University in Prague and Motol University Hospital, and at the SOTIO company. She has long devoted her scientific work to the role of the immune system and immunological cell death in the biology of cancer. She has been awarded numerous scientific prizes, most recently the L’Oreal UNESCO For Women in Science initiative.
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VIRTUAL REALITY IN THE SERVICE OF SCIENCE The young hockey player stands with his pole in his hand and waits to deal with a situation on the ice. He has to react in the right way as quickly as possible. But his teammates are virtual, just like the ice and the puck TEXT BY Lucie Kettnerová PHOTO BY Luboš Wišniewski
Virtual reality is a relatively widespread technology, but its uses in sports still aren’t as common, and using it to develop cognitive assumptions is unique in the world. The Prague Virtual Reality Laboratory is probably the only one of its kind to connect this modern technology with the results of scientific research in the area of sports. During its research, the laboratory partnered with a startup called Sense Arena, which arranges cooperation between coaches, neu-
rologists, programmers and other experts to create new training programmes for athletes. “Our task in the laboratory is to develop a virtual environment the athlete can move in, and to put together a methodology for an athlete’s development. We were the first to focus on hockey because hockey sticks work very well in virtual reality,” said Tomáš Perič, the laboratory’s director. The research examines three major areas. The first is research into cognitive assump-
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tions, which includes reaction speed, anticipation and perception. “During this the athletes move in the virtual laboratory, where they have to deal with tasks related to complicated reactions,” Docent Perič explains. The second area focuses on solving simple competitive situations where an athlete in a virtual stadium has to optimally set up things like passes. “In his hand, the hockey stick is transferred to an avatar on the ice, and he sees his hands, the puck and his teammates,” Perič says. The third area is called virtual hockey and is similar to table hockey. The player looks at the surface from overhead, and controls his player by moving his own body, and moves with him on offence, defence, etc. The other players are controlled by artificial intelligence. Initial testing has confirmed that children in the three-month programme improved their cognitive assumptions over expectations compared to the control group, in numbers by 10 to 15 percent. The pilot measurement took place in an age group of children between 10 and 15 years old. It’s important to mention that neurologist and professor Jakub Hort of the Second Faculty of Medicine is also working on the project; he is investigating how to optimally develop cognitive assumptions of children at a certain age, and is also monitoring load levels so that their nervous systems aren’t overloaded.
developed,” Perič explains. Other sports are being considered where the moment of decision is important. As Perič, the director of the lab, points out, the benefit of connecting virtual reality is the existing interface in the form of rackets, bats or the aforementioned hockey sticks, where touch feedback can be provided. Gymnastics doesn’t offer the same kind of potential. If the programme in its pilot version is as successful as it might seem to readers, why haven’t the Japanese or Koreans, who use virtual reality much more, come up with something similar? “Technology is just a means. You have to have good knowl-
edge of developmental patterns, sports methodology and the sport itself, and also handle the connections to technology. We’ve succeeded in this and also have attracted a group of enthusiasts who are interested in this research. So far this is a huge adventure for us,” Perič concludes.
Next up: More sports “It won’t end with hockey. We assume we’ll move into other sports like basketball and lacrosse. Lacrosse is currently one of the most dynamically-developing sports in the United States, and from the point of view of virtual reality is very similar to hockey, so it’ll be possible to use the technology we’ve
The Prague Virtual Reality Laboratory is probably the only one of its kind to connect this modern technology with the results of scientific research in the area of sports.
Associate Professor Tomáš Perič is the head of the Department of Pedagogy, Psychology and Didactics of P.E. and Sports at the Faculty of Physical Education and Sport, as well as the director of the Virtual Reality Lab. He focuses on issues of sports training for children and youth, the selection of talented youth for sports, and the physiology of physical exercises for children and youth.
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MAPPING THE SECRET DIALECTS OF THE YELLOWHAMMER It is one of the Czech Republic’s most common and colourful songbirds, with its ominous call sounding in English like “a little bit of bread and no cheese”. Now a new project is discovering the secrets of different dialects of the yellowhammer TEXT BY Faculty of Science, Marcela Uhlíková PHOTO BY Flickr
A unique study is helping to shed new light on the secret language of songbirds in the Czech Republic. The fascinating research focused on the varying vocal expressions of the yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella), one of the country’s most common and colourful birds. Just as there are different dialects in human languages, there are vocal variations when it comes to birdsong and the yellowhammer, a sparrow sized bunting notable for its bright yellow head and belly, is no exception.
People were absolutely wonderful. They went head over heels into recording. Some even changed their holidays so they could map out unexplored areas. The research by scientists from Charles University, the Czech Academy of Sciences and the Czech Ornithological Society into Dialects of the Czech Yellowhammer (Nářečí českých strnadů) has now been published in the prestigious international scientific journal IBIS. Pavel Pipek, of the Department of Ecology at the Faculty of Science, explained: “With the help of more than 100 volunteers, we managed to map the entire territory of the Czech Republic and to collect study materials that are unparalleled worldwide. The results have not only changed certain perceptions of the nature of
the yellowhammer’s dialect, but have also at the same time become an enormously valuable foundation for research into the evolution of this fascinating phenomenon itself.” It’s the culmination of more than six years of cooperation between scientists and the public who mapped the geographical variation of the song of the Czech yellowhammer. Those taking part made nearly 4‚000 recordings from across the Czech Republic. In addition to its previously-described seven dialects, they managed to capture other variations in song that had not been previously recorded. And it is these “newly singing” birds that are the main goal for the continuation of research as part of the Dialects of the Czech Yellowhammer project. As the scientists are happy to admit, the project exceeded their original expectations and an “educational campaign” supposed to last for a year quickly transformed into a fully-fledged scientific study. “People were absolutely wonderful. They went head over heels into recording. Some even changed their holidays so they could map out unexplored areas,” recalls Lucie Diblíková, a PhD. student at the Department of Ecology at the Faculty of Science and the first author on the article. The research into the yellowhammer’s song also inspired scientists abroad as well, including in Great Britain, New Zealand, Poland, Latvia, Switzerland and Croatia. The Czech project is now set to continue as many “blank spots” still exist on the dialect map. Those interested in getting involved can visit the Strnadi.cz website for further information.
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TRABANTS HIT THE ROAD. NATURALIST VOJTA DUCHOSLAV IS ALONG FOR THE RIDE. If you’ve ever felt that University is full of nothing but serious and strict academics and similarly uptight students, check out Dan Přibáň’s documentary road movie “Trabant – From Australia to Bangkok” TEXT BY Helena Zdráhalová PHOTO BY Vojtěch Duchoslav
Přibáň, the ringleader of the “yellow circus,” who set out to circumnavigate the globe in the legendary cars, added Vojtěch Duchoslav to his team on his latest journey. In the film, the bearded and constantly smiling Duchoslav occasionally explains to viewers what it means to have malaria, or how rice liquor is made. Now he’s finishing his doctorate at the Faculty of Science. And because it wasn’t enough for him to spend half a year in a Trabant car, he’s heading out again with Přibáň’s expedition as a photographer. He’s not afraid of challenges, and this time they want to drive from India all the way to Prague, and 25‚000 kilometers await them.
How long did you have to think about spending several more months sitting in a Trabant car? When I got back from my first trip, people often asked me if I’d go again. I answered evasively. I said it was a good experience, but I’ve already done it. But memory is selective, and in the end people are left with the good memories, so I said yes. As a photographer, it really taught me a lot. I’m attracted by the possibility of doing things even better and more professionally than the last time. What kinds of photographic challenges are in store? On the last trip I often did time-lapses at night.
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Australia is absolutely perfect for taking pictures of stars. It’s very dry there, so the lens doesn’t fog up, and there’s almost no light pollution inland. On the other hand, you can’t take night time-lapses in Indonesia because dew drops form. I’m ready for it now by heating the lens. I’ve replaced my Chinese motorised slider, which I had to solder many times because of its low-quality electronics, with a professional version, so my time-lapses will move nicely. Although Dan Přibáň used to work for a magazine that popularised science, I get the impression he’s resigned a bit to somehow educating viewers during his journeys. He had the feeling that the masses only wanted sensationalism, and that it wasn’t possible to convey education to a wider audience. I regretted that a bit. That broke during an incident with tofu. I came across a factory in Timor. Although I didn’t get a word of what the guys there who made it were saying, in the end I was able to communicate with them somehow and took pictures of the whole process. I told Dan that we finally have an interesting picture gallery where they’re something other than our yellow jalopies all the time. But he talked me out of it by saying that it was useless because nobody would be interested. In the end he let me write an accompanying text and publish the photo gallery on the Trabants’ Facebook profile. Then he was surprised how it worked and how many of our fans are inquisitive people. In the end he encouraged me to go into similar businesses and I started to enjoy taking pictures of various technological processes, whether it was work in a blacksmiths’ shop, a steam sugar refinery, or a shipyard. I’d like to continue with these on the next trip. Where will your yellow convoy head to next? Last time we went from Perth to Bangkok. Now we’d like to go all the way to Prague. But it turned out that it’s impossible to start in Bangkok, because Thailand has started a similar regimen to Myanmar or China, which means that you have to travel in a convoy with a local guide and pay hundreds of dollars per car per day. We wouldn’t be able to shoot anything under those kinds of conditions. So we’ll miss some interesting countries – Cambodia and Laos. But we had to sacrifice something. We’re starting in southern India. Hopefully we’ll make it to Nepal, then back to India, and we’ll then continue across Pakistan. We’ll avoid Afghanistan, will go through a bit of China, will head to Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. From the east we’ll arrive in the city of Samarkand, which is as far as our Trabant “Egu” went on Přibáň’s first trip in 2007. Then we’ll tie into the expedition from 2007 and will continue across Kazakhstan into Russia, Ukraine, Slovakia and to the Czech Republic. You could say that by doing this, “Egu” became the first Trabant to go around the world. Your expeditions’ timetables usually didn’t work out. Will you make one at all for this next trip? The last trip was planned for four months and in the end took half a year. This time we plan to return in the last week of August. But anything can happen. I hope
we can make it, and what gives me hope is the fact that in order to enter China, you have to have your paperwork done in advance, and it’s tied to a specific date. We’ll have great motivation to do that. From China onward we shouldn’t run into any hitches. Dan Přibáň is the head of the expedition. You take pictures. Zdeněk Krátký shoots video. Who really has the final say when your main task on the trip is to shoot a movie? Filming takes precedence over everything. If you’ve seen a nice shot of cars passing by, that’s the result of a long process. When we find a good place, the cameraman and I will get out of the car and direct the others how they’re supposed to drive the cars so that we can record them. Then over walkie-talkies we decide if it was good, that we have to record it again, that the cars went too fast or too slowly, or that they drove too far apart and that we have to do it again. And so on and so on. In Australia I filmed time-lapses at night, then went to lay down for two or three hours, and would wake up in the morning again to shoot the daybreak. And then you have to constantly prepare and back up the material. It was quite a military approach. I kept falling asleep in the car. Luckily I don’t have a problem with that. I can fall asleep anywhere and at any time.
The last trip was planned for four months, and in the end it took half a year. This time we plan to return in the last week in August. But anything can happen. Even in a Trabant car? Yes. What was a disadvantage in lectures turns out to be an advantage on the road. Did you drive during the trip, or is that something exclusive to Dan Přibaň? He didn’t let me take the wheel much. Dan considers that his privilege, and his athletic performance. I only drove the car when it was necessary for whatever reason. According to the films and TV series you shot about the last trip, you’re all masters at repairing both Trabants and the Fiat 126p you call “Maluch,” which was part of your convoy… The Trabant car is a simple machine. A person doesn’t need any extra education. It’s easy to see how it’s supposed to work and what might have broken. You just have to use common sense. Although, of course, as inexperienced mechanics it takes us much longer than old hotshots. In the beginning I had to learn mainly that when the car breaks down, I can’t go and repair it. I have to take pictures. That gave me a little work. But when a defect repeats itself and it didn’t make sense to take pictures or shoot video, everyone was glad that someone else could fix it.
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A person could be the greatest cameraman or photographer, but if they get depressed, they’re not going to take good pictures.You can’t do this in a selection procedure. It’s a lottery. You only find out when you’re on the road. Aside from the fact that the Trabant isn’t the most comfortable car, it’s also not the biggest. How do you pack for a trip? Do you have weight and size limits like on airplanes? There are three people in our car – Dan, Zdeněk and I. There isn’t a classic seat in the back like Trabants usually have. There’s just one seat for me, and it’s also pushed back to give me leg room. Otherwise I’d go crazy. We mostly carry recording and photographic equipment. Other things like spare parts, tents and sleeping bags are in the second car, which only has two passengers in it, and therefore much more room. The roof of a Trabant can carry 20 kilograms, but that’s what the rack we installed on the car weighs itself. There we have canisters of water, fuel, oil, spare wheels, a traction mat for when we get stuck, and we also carry a big slider for time-lapses. The cars are really overloaded. A Trabant normally has its fenders high above the wheels, but ours sit pretty low to the ground.
off and leave them parked somewhere. We always take the most important equipment with us. When we film something unplanned on the road, it’s still necessary to keep it with you. We bring a computer with us for backup and processing the photos. I have that in a metal case which is chained to the car’s frame with a big lock.
What do you do with all that equipment when you leave the cars? It’s essential to never leave the car. We can’t all run
You said in one interview that in the beginning you didn’t have a good feeling about Dan Přibán, and that you were hesitating to head out with him…
Unlike the last trip, where you had two ladies with you, this time it’s going to be a guys’ trip. You weren’t able to tempt your newlywed wife to come with you? Or is that something the chief has forbidden after your previous experience? After our last experience, Dan said that “women don’t belong on expeditions.” I don’t think the problem was with the women, but rather with Přibáň. He can’t treat them only as working members of the team. He has the tendency to keep protecting them and making it easier for them, which can get you in over your head for someone on such a challenging journey. Frustration and squabbles come up. I think that’s the real reason.
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That’s true. I’m a pretty big ignoramus. I don’t watch TV. I’d heard something about the Trabants, but I didn’t know what exactly it was all about. Before I went for my first meeting with Dan, I found out who he actually was. On the basis of all those interviews and appearances with him I said he’s an arrogant dummy, and that I didn’t want to have anything to do with him. But he really is quite a good person. As he gained publicity rolling the Ferris wheel of the yellow circus in front of him, he built up a defensive arrogant pose so that he could face everything with his mental health intact. You came to the “yellow circus” thanks to a recommendation from your colleague from the faculty, Petr Juraček, who is a photographer himself. That’s true. I took to it like a fish to water. When they were looking for a photographer for the expedition, Dan asked Petr if he wanted to go with them. But at the time, Petr had his family and he didn’t even think of being away for that long, so it switched to me and he gave Dan his recommendation.
could be the greatest cameraman or photographer, but if they get depressed, they’re not going to take good pictures. You can’t do this in a selection procedure. It’s a lottery. You only find out when you’re on the road. Were you tempted to use your participation in the expedition for your doctoral studies? I considered it, but for microbiology, which I’m working on, it’s pointless. Microorganisms are everywhere. You can discover new things locally. You don’t have to go God knows where for them. As part of the travels with the Trabants, I’d rather focus on popularisation. We’ll gradually go through a lot of biotopes. I’d like to point out various natural phenomena, document them and possibly in a popularising form get them into a film or a TV series. I’m currently consulting with my colleagues from the faculty about what could be shown as global phenomena that aren’t commonly seen. I’m sorry I didn’t prepare better for this on the first trip, when we went from Australia to Thailand. I still have to work on that before I leave.
What does Dan Přibán’s selection procedure look like? I don’t know what it looked like before, but when we were talking about how to fill the positions in the team, we agreed that for a trip like this, it was most important that the person be able to manage stress and work well, even if they’re suffering from cabin fever. A person
Vojtěch Duchoslav as a doctoral candidate at the Faculty of Science is studying the ecology of microorganisms. As part of his research, he deals with microbial activity in extreme environments. Three years ago he became a member of traveler Dan Přibáň’s expedition, which, with pauses, has traveled around the world with Trabants since 2007.
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MATFYZ STUDENTS AT THE BIRTH OF KINGDOM COME: DELIVERANCE The game Kingdom Come: Deliverance from Warhorse Studios has been a huge success. But the studio wasn’t alone in developing it – a team of students from the Faculty of Math and Physics helped as well. Tomáš Plch and Martin Modrák even based their dissertations on it TEXT BY Alena Sklenářová PHOTO BY René Volfík, Kingdom Come
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If a player in a game world doesn’t explicitly notice an artificial intelligence player, the artificial intelligence acts naturally and, for us, correctly. The minute that ceases to be the case, the player starts to notice errors.
You both worked together to develop the game Kingdom Come: Deliverance. How did you get to that as students? Martin: My supervisor, Cyril Brom, played the largest role; he was in contact with people from Warhorse Studios and agreed on the possibility of cooperation with the Faculty of Math and Physics. He managed to convince them we had something to offer. Tomáš: Martin Klíma, the co-founder of Warhorse Studios, talked to Cyril Brom about the need to reinvigorate the game’s open world. They agreed to look at it together with students, and a really unique collaboration was begun. We often had to deal with being perceived as an academic experiment, but for more than six months it’s turned into something that the game would either rise or fall on.
What was your team’s task? T: We originally wanted to reinvigorate the open world, to take a look at how it was done and evaluate it. After three months we found out that the technology the studio had wouldn’t be able to fulfill the expected goals. Our team started to work on a new technology, a new “engine” for artificial intelligence. It was a huge contribution to the game and a lot of people have praised it.
What specifically did you work on? M: I worked on three smaller projects, and in the end only one of these was used in the game. I dealt with a so-called smart area and expansion to behavior objects and smart objects. Open world games are a genre that offers players a high degree of freedom to influence the game world. At the same time, this freedom complicates the creation of artificial intelligence. It’s about how you place the intelligence into the environment. Instead of a character having code for how they’re supposed to behave in a cafe, the cafe has part of the code, which it gives out on the basis of what the
role of a character is in a given environment – waiter, guest and so on. Thanks to this we have this code in one package. The task was to unify these elements into a system that would be suitable for practical use. It was attractive for me to turn a nice idea into something that could be really used. And at the same time it turned out to be the most difficult. A nice idea has to be made real. You have to have good tools, have all the details worked out and the problems of everyday use resolved. It was interesting and pleasant to test a theoretical idea in practice and to implement it in the game. T: My task was to lead the artificial intelligence team, despite the collaboration with colleagues taking place on a more or less flat structure with everyone contributing work on their own tasks, including Martin’s. Our mantra was that if a player in a game world doesn’t explicitly notice an artificial intelligence player, the artificial intelligence acts naturally and, for us, correctly. The minute that ceases to be the case, the player starts to notice errors. We worked on an experimental fighting system where we tried everything possible. I spent a lot of time on the characters’ decision mechanisms, their implementation and the movement of characters and players in battle. We tried to connect information and created a network of character relations so that we could get an adaptive world for the game. The essence of my work was to ensure the functioning of the entire artificial intelligence system, its concept and execution, including the programming language.
Can you explain to me as an ordinary player what the work on artificial intelligence involves? M: Our task was to create tools that express behaviour well – tools that scripters and other colleagues can use to easily create the characters’ behaviour. In games, with some great exceptions, most decisions are hard coded in the form of rules. There can be a lot of these, though, and it’s interesting to know your way around them.
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When a character is supposed to be able do a lot of activities, and for each of these activities there are five easily understood rules, the result can be very complicated. So we were looking for tools and ways to make the rules more systematic. Simply put: How could we present the rules as easily as possible so that they could function in the game, and how we could clean things up in there. T: The term artificial intelligence is very overused in games. Today everything that drifts through a computer is artificial intelligence. In games it’s an illusion, and there’s no deep decision making that would have major consequences. The more artificial intelligence is reactive, the better, because the illusion is mainly about the speed of decisions. The usual player usually doesn’t spend so much time as to get to know the details. Of course there are those who spend 600 hours in the game world trying out various combinations. During the development, we wanted the characters’ activities to be logical, to make sense – a character wakes up in the morning, gets food, goes to work… Understandable rules which form the basis of how the character works and ones which the observing player can use. Such a world with rules offers players many ways to accomplish one task, and the course of the game ensues on the basis of these rules. Of course testing all the combinations is challenging, and sometimes you find something a person didn’t think through or which the system did not cover – so-called bugs. A large part of our work was to think of where it could go wrong and where the system could catch it.
M: I think the success of Kingdom Come has two distinct components: First, a good idea to build a game based on history and remove magic – this game differs from a bunch of other open world RPGs – at the same time the ability to follow through on this idea and deliver it well. And secondly, this idea hit the mark in contemporary taste at the moment the game came out. A good idea and realisation are necessary prerequisites for success, but I wouldn’t underestimate luck – the games market is wild and many excellent projects fall through the cracks because they simply had bad luck.
Are you both players? Have you played Kingdom Come: Deliverance yet? M: I play games, but only occasionally. I’ll sometimes play story games with my wife. I haven’t played Kingdom Come, but I’m going to get it. I’m not a hardcore player. I set the difficulty to low so that I can mainly go through the world, listen to the dialogues and get a bit of fighting in. T: I’m really not an active player now. My standard work day has 12 hours and little time for fun. I’m not going to play Kingdom Come. I worked on the game for five years straight. I know what the story is, and it would spoil my enjoyment of the game.
Why do you think the game was so successful? T: It’s a very realistic game, and there aren’t very many of those. It has a completely different mindset and doesn’t even look like other games. There’s varied terrain, which you can still move around in, elaborate textures of the plants, elements that are historically and naturally correct. The characters react believably, but at the same time differently – after all, we are in the Middle Ages. The player is another character a person controls, but he does everything in the same way as the other “inhabitants of the game.” He’s perceived as a part of the game world, and characters react to him – how he looks, how he acts. That isn’t common in games – most of the time a player is separate from the characters’ world. Doctor of Natural Sciences Tomáš Plch studied theoretical computer science at the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics. Based on his experience in developing Kingdom Come: Deliverance, he put together his dissertation, Believable decision making by virtual characters in games with large open worlds. At the moment he’s still working in games development.
Martin Modrák studied theoretical computer science at the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics. In his dissertation, titled Reducing the complexity of artificial intelligence in games with open worlds through a combination of reactive and browsing techniques, he applied the results of his work on Kingdom Come: Deliverance. He currently works at the Institute of Microbiology of the Czech Academy of Sciences.
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IF THE CITY’S TOO CROWDED, YOU CAN ALWAYS HERD GOATS We park at the bus stop at Maškův mlýn, where a regional bus stops once every two hours. We’re lucky. Vojtěch Koštíř from the Prague Pastureland organisation got here a little while ago – at least we won’t get lost. A steep path leads us to our destination: My photographer and I are on our way to see a hundred-head herd of goats and sheep grazing on a slope above Prague’s Radotín district TEXT BY Marcela Uhlíková PHOTO BY René Volfík
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The hike takes about 10 minutes. I’m kind of in shape, but nevertheless I’m glad to be quiet and listen to Vojta, who has been pouring out information about this spot since our first steps together. Three weeks ago it was in full bloom. Today the grass is dominated by European feather grass, or Ivan’s feather grass, which is why the plains here have the name. We find out that the plant got its name from the pilgrim Ivan, one of the first Christians in the Czech lands, who lived in the rocks not far from Svatý Jan pod Skalou. We walk around a rarer relative, the old familiar Leopoldia plant known from gardens – Leopoldia tenuiflora. What’s interesting is that animals don’t like its taste, and so they graze everything else, while this protected plant gets to grow uninterrupted. Vojta has the gift of gab, and he easily draws in listeners. What’s more, you can feel his incredible enthusiasm. He speaks passionately about the local plain that Prague Pastureland (Pražská pastvina) calls home; it’s a community project focused on an eco-friendly way to care for woodless protected areas. A few thousand years ago, this was taken care of by mammoths and aurochs. When these species died out, they were replaced by another – human farmers; the place we’re standing at has been cultivated for more than 8‚000 years. What Pražské pastvina has in common with bolt cutters “We started out really punk rock. A couple of years ago, my friend, David Číp, and I were sitting at a camp on a beautiful hill in southern Moravia, where we’d go every year with brush saws, chain saws and axes to save the last remnants of the Loess plains in the Czech Republic,” Vojta says, going back to the organization’s beginnings. “He asked me why we Praguers go to cut fields in Brno. He said there are nature reserves in Prague and its surroundings that nobody’s taking care of, and that someone should start doing something in the Radotín Valley. So in 2015 we went there with
Just last week we set out spotted fritillary caterpillars at a location not far from here. It was a historic moment because it was the fritillary’s return to Prague after 20 years! bolt cutters and started the Sisyphean task of cutting unconquerable areas in sweeps.” In two years they got their first six goats and two sheep, and thanks to social networks and websites, they became better known. They got another 40 animals as gifts. Saving rare flora and fauna, but also human psyches Because humans have nearly disappeared from the countryside and relocated to cities, rare species of butterflies and plants have disappeared from the landscape with them. Prague Pastureland wants to create a network of sites that will help species to migrate. That’s why they’re looking for people interested in helping. “There’s also the possibility of ‘adopting’ a smaller plot of land to take care of – we can help by lending tools and offering advice on how to do it to suit the endangered species,” Vojta explains. The group of people is now primarily engaged in saving butterflies: “Just last week we set out spotted fritillary (Melitaea didyma) caterpillars at a location not far from here. It was a historic moment because it was the frittilary’s return to Prague after 20 years! Now we’re saving the grayling (Hipparchia semele) and Eastern baton blue (Pseudophilotes vicrama) butterflies above Maškový mlýn. In Prague, we’re trying to return the hermit butterfly (Chazara briseis) to the Děvín area. We’re also building a pen there, which is why we’re
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looking for volunteers for July and August to look after the animals,” Vojta says. A love of nature in common In the countryside, where our forefathers managed to farm sensitively, people could create something beneficial: “Aside from caring for goats, sheep, chickens, bees and an amazing apple orchard, we’d also like to make it possible to produce our own milk. But we’d have to find someone to do the milking regularly. We’re planning the creation of a community garden. We can offer interested people adoption of animals, or they can purchase their own. We’re still accepting newcomers to the community beehive,” Vojta says, continuing to recount his activities. You can find out more about all the possibilities and conditions at the website prazskapastvina.cz. We approach an electric fence operating on solar power, staked out over an area of 2‚000 m2. Luckily it’s a bit windy, otherwise the heat would be stifling. About 30 animals rest in the shadow of a blackthorn shrub and a simple shelter with a water basin. They forget their shyness when I open my backpack to take out the bag of carrots I’d brought for them. Vojta is soon joined by his ginger-coloured favorite, and we can continue our interview… The land sustains domestic animals, but people too “You might not know this, but we really herd people too,” Vojta announces with a serious look: “Masses of people don’t always have to harm a rare location; they can also help to renew it. Paradoxically, it’s footsteps that helped saved the endangered hermit butterfly. This is why we have caches in Prokopské údolí that generate
random coordinates. People have to walk across these places when looking for them. Running on the plain imitates grazing.” The Prague Pastureland community wants to continue organising various volunteer work, excursions and lectures, and corporate volunteering is also successful. The EcoCaravan is something new this year. It will follow the most popular music festivals and spread awareness there. Event organisers interested in the caravan can rent it with the rescuers included, and they get an entertaining and informative “stand” for nature lovers young and old alike – punks, rockers, drunks and teetotalers. In other words, everyday people. “It’ll be fun, educational, and mainly it’ll raise money for caring for these locations,” Vojta says, adding: “I believe that through us, people can find a meaningful way to take care of their mental and physical condition, and with an added value: We lend them animals and a location, and they can find an easy way to go back to nature. I believe it’ll work. I’m an optimist!” A hermit butterfly at the end We go down to the car. Vojta thinks a while, wondering if he’s forgotten to say something important. “I still haven’t told you how we returned the hermit butterfly to Prague after 20 years,” he announces enthusiastically. Through another fervent explanation, I find out that this butterfly remained on Ranná Hill thanks to hang gliders. Mats installed on the slopes allowed the animals to survive in low fescue grasses without being trampled. But that’s another story. Maybe for next time.
Vojta Koštíř is a student at the Faculty of Science in the Departments of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. The roots of his positive relationship to nature go back to his grandfather, the well-known biochemist Professor Josef Koštíř. He admits that his faith also played a role.
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MUSHROOMS ARE FRIENDS, NOT FOOD Every visitor to the summer camp or biology after-school programmes organised by the Faculty of Science knows the slogan about mushrooms from the headline. It was coined by Celie Korittová, a specialist in mycology. She’s shared her love for mushrooms and all of nature with young biologists for several years TEXT BY Lucie Kettnerová PHOTO BY Luboš Wišniewski, Unsplash
When Celie was growing up, if she had to decide which secondary school to attend, she would have chosen a focus on specialised animal husbandry, so that she could work as a zookeeper, bringing food to the flamingos and quail. But she wasn’t assertive enough in childhood to defend her dream, so her family enrolled her in high school with the condition that when she was older, she would be able to choose a specialisation. “Today I’m glad it turned out this way because between graduating and university entrance exams I found out that mycorrhiza exists, and that mushrooms are even more interesting than animals,” Celie laughs. Mycorrhiza is the relationship between mushrooms and the roots of plants. Plants produce sugars that they deliver to mush-
rooms, and in return, the mushrooms, which have fine fibres spread out in the soil, send the plants minerals, especially nitrogen and phosphorus. They are mutually beneficial, and it was this cooperation that captivated Celie. “During my studies I found a taste for parasitic and predatory mushrooms (and even they exist, just as carnivorous plants do).” If you were to invite Celie to a forest, she wouldn’t compete with traditional mushroom pickers. She’s mainly interested in the mycelium and the fruiting bodies on wood and stains on leaves, while wild boletus mushrooms leave her cold. She doesn’t even seek out food with mushrooms in it, considering it a certain kind of cannibalism. “My motto is that mushrooms are friends, not food. It comes from the fact
that when I show a mushroom when I’m on an excursion, the first thing people ask me is whether it’s edible. But when you show someone an orchid in a meadow, they don’t immediately ask if it’s good in a salad. That’s why I refuse to provide this information on field excursions. I want people to see mushrooms as interesting organisms, and not something that can be eaten or not,” Celie states. Getting stuck on her thesis She studied mushrooms for her bachelors’ thesis, which she successfully defended, and continued on in her diploma thesis. But something got stuck along the way. “I didn’t know how to plan and then to evaluate a scientific experiment. To just take the design as a whole so that you can make
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heads or tails of it,” she admits. She attended various assistance seminars for diploma candidates that the school offers. “There are students who can handle their diploma work themselves, then there are a lot of students who need to go through a seminar or get a push forward from an advisor, and finally you have those who can’t handle it at all – like me,” she adds. She tried to get her masters degree, necessary for work as a teacher, at the Faculty of Education, but here too she didn’t complete her studies, because she was too busy with taking care of her children. She currently works as an assistant teacher in one of Prague’s elementary schools, and also continues to popularise biology. From event to event In recent years, those interested in studying biology at the Faculty of Science have had to meet Celie. For a number of years she’s taken part in the activities of the Arachne afterschool activity intended for secondary school students interested in the field. It’s led predominantly by biology students, and in addition to regular lectures and excursions, there’s also a summer camp. Celie works as a coordinator, which means that with the approaching start of the school year she approaches her acquaintances, challenges them to prepare an interesting lecture, sets up a programme, and handles applications. “Putting together a programme isn’t usually simple, because the students of the Faculty of Science are very active and often don’t even know themselves if they’ll go to Thailand or Colombia in the next semester. But she doesn’t attend the Arachne summer camp, because at that time she’s usually in Běstvin, where a camp is held for the naturalist “small fry,” children aged 10 to 15. In addition to biology, the participants are also introduced to chemistry and geography, other disciplines they could study at Charles University someday. “I found out about the camp’s existence by chance from a friend – he was looking for a biologist for the team to cover the first part of the stay. I liked it so much at the event that they couldn’t get rid of me and I completed the entire stay. Since then I’ve gone to Běstvin regularly. It suits me that for two weeks, as the director I get to known the children more, and the age structure of the participants also sits well with me. Children in middle school haven’t lost enthusiasm, and moreover, it added concentration, so it holds attention for longer than two sentences,” she says. Incidentally, Charles University Rector Tomáš Zima signed a memorandum on the
When you show someone an orchid in a meadow, they don’t immediately ask if it’s good in a salad. use of the Běstvin summer camp area with its new owner, the University of Chemical Technology in Prague. This covers not just the summer camp, but biology assemblies and the Chemistry Olympiad, which will be able to be held there in coming years. “What’s currently the most important thing for me is announcing mushrooms in the national round of the Golden Leaf Zlatý list, which is a science competition for teams. The winning team from each region will advance to the national round and will take part in a multi-day assembly with the best team announced at the end. It’s an absolutely amazing event, because the most enthusiastic and smartest kids from all over the country come together. They’re highly motivated. They write notes intensively, in the evenings they attend the prepared exhibitions and learn how to recognise lesser-known mushrooms,” Celie describes.
Profiled candidates As proof that these popularising events make sense, just look at the the name of the university that participants put on their college applications. “Some turncoats end up in medicine or at the University of Life Sciences, and one deserter this year is heading to veterinary school, but most graduates of the afterschool program head to the Faculty of Science,” Celie says, sharing her experience. Every year, similar enthusiasts like Celie direct to the university several motivated and already-profiled students who have a clear idea of what they want to do. Everyone also needs to know how these activities are paid – either minimally, or not at all. But Celie isn’t complaining. “Instead it surprises me that I can be out in nature with amazing children, talking to them about mushrooms, and that I’m even paid sometimes. As long as a serious life situation doesn’t force me to find work that takes more time or pays more money, I’ll keep working on popularisation,” she adds.
Celie Korittová studied at the Faculty of Science. She specialises in the ecology of microscopic fungi. She has long focused on popularising biology.
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THE PEOPLE ARE THE FACULTY PHOTO BY René Volfík
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Address Černá 9 Prague 1 115 55 GPS N 50.0788816 E 14.4159113
A study – a library – a classroom – a café. That’s what came to my mind when I was asked about my favourite area at the faculty. Together, they form a nice arch. That is where I like to be, that’s where I feel good. “Is there anything more attractive than books and chairs?” asked the photographer, trying to find a single object he hadn’t shot a million times. Alas, a theologian doesn’t need much for his work – he’s fine with a peaceful study, plenty of books from the library, discussions in the classroom, and time to relax in the café. No, it’s not about the area. There are other things that make our school attractive and, at the same time, make it a real Protestant Theological Faculty: colleagues in studies, librarians and readers in the library, students in the classroom, and nice people in the café. Without them, it would be “just” a faculty. Petr Gallus VICE-DEAN FOR DEVELOPMENT, PROTESTANT THEOLOGICAL FACULTY
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I’M NOT AFRAID, BUT I’M CONCERNED ABOUT THE MISSION
The Czech Republic has participated in rescue and humanitarian missions focused on providing assistance to countries hit by natural disasters. Coordinating them is the job of math-physics graduate Petr Vodička, who was recently in Thailand on an expert visit TEXT BY Lucie Kettnerová PHOTO BY Luboš Wišniewski
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You and your colleague just got back from Thailand, where the struggle played out to save 12 young football players and their coach trapped in a flooded cave. What was the goal you were sent with? Our task was to offer effective assistance in the form of pumps that the Fire Brigade of the Czech Republic has, from the biggest, which can pump 1‚500 litres per second, to small ones that can pump only 15 litres per second, but can work in water one centimeter deep. In the end we worked with local authorities on two problems – not only how to pump water from a place a kilometer and a half away from the entrance, but also how to bring enough electricity that far. With the electric cables being so long, there’s so much loss that it’s a problem to “feed” the pumps at the end. It wasn’t possible to bring cables that are 10 to 15 centimeters wide, which would be able to bring that kind of power, into the cave spaces. Did you manage to get to the place of the action? We did because we got to Thailand very early. On Friday, 6 July I picked up the latest information and orders at the Directorate-General, and immediately with my colleague David Kareš we went to Vienna Airport, where we took a direct flight to Bangkok. Twenty-four hours after leaving the General Directorate, we entered the cave. We were briefed on the situation and spoke with our guides about what was needed and what was real. David Kareš then went further into the cave’s interior, while I took a look at how they were pumping water and how they were using power generators. We also met with the governor of Chiang Rai province, who led the operation. After evaluating the situation, we immediately consulted with the Czech Republic and it appeared optimal to use pumps with a range of 300 meters. We offered the Thai rescuers that we could have 15 such pumps, along with 15 people to operate them, within 48 hours of their request. But in the end Thailand decided not to use the Czech offer… The situation changed very quickly. That evening the cave was covered with tarps and the rescue work began. We were in touch with a representive of the local interior ministry. We agreed that we’d stay in place until they got the last boy out. Thailand didn’t accept our offer, but didn’t refuse it either. On Sunday they managed to get the first four of the trapped people out, then a second group of divers entered the cave. They brought out empty air tanks and left full
We were in touch with a representive of the local interior ministry.We agreed that we’d stay in place until they got the last boy out. ones, and the second and third rounds of leading them out took place. Only then did we return to the Czech Republic. Were you surprised at how quickly the decision on the need for evacuation took place? That decision was to be expected, because there was a problem with a lack of oxygen in the cave. They said that the level in the air had fallen from 21% to 15%. In addition, the monsoon rains were incessantly approaching, so there was a threat that the rescue work would only have be possible for a few days and then the cave would be flooded for four months. That’s why the Thais pumped water out of the caves for as long as possible, and made maximum use of that four-day window that had opened for their rescue. They finally opted for a standard method for the evacuation – they put the boys on plastic stretchers, tied them down so they could not move, put full face masks on them for breathing and to be sure they gave them anti-anxiety medications. In the flooded areas, a diver first swam and carried an air tank for himself and a boy, then there was the stretcher, which was pushed by another diver from behind. The decision to start the rescue was given by the regional governor, and as he later admitted, he assumed that up to five of the boys would not survive the rescue. Would anyone in Europe or the US dare to give such a command? I really can’t guess that. It definitely required a lot of personal bravery to take such a decision, and the forecast didn’t look too good, so they could have lost all of the boys. The seriousness of the situation was also borne out by the fact that the Australian doctor who gave the sedatives to the boys in the cave was even given diplomatic immunity. You came to being a paramedic in a roundabout way; you originally studied teaching at the Faculty of Math and Physics. Why did you choose that school? I was always inclined toward the natural sciences. Besides, my physics teacher in secondary school influenced me a lot, as well
as the teacher of the newly-introduced subject of the foundations of technology and expert preparation. I was also very much inspired by my classmate Jirka, today Professor Jiří Podolský. That’s why I decided to become a physics teacher and applied to major in physics and the basics of technology. I graduated in physics, teaching and psychology at the Faculty of Math and Physics and the foundations of technology took place one day per week at Charles University’s Faculty of Education. We also went to the workshops of the industrial school, and to the laboratories. It was a pretty practical major for another life, because you’d gain fundamentals in both construction and engineering, as well as electrical engineering. Did you really go into teaching? I did, and even earlier than I expected. In the the fourth year I messed up the exam in quantum and statistical physics, and had to repeat the year. So I had plenty of free time. The wife of Professor Svoboda, who taught at the Faculty of Math and Physics, let me know that the Botičská Grammar School was looking for a substitute physics teacher, and if I wanted to use that year to teach. I accepted the offer, and after graduating I stayed another five years and led my class into graduation. I experienced the Velvet Revolution at that Grammar School, and perhaps the best years in education. The events of November 1989 brought the students together and at the same time we mutually respected each other. Then I started a family, and commuting from Mladá Boleslav to Prague didn’t suit me any more. I started to look for something closer and turned in my resignation at the school, but the job I had lined up didn’t work out, so I was out of work. Because of my family tradition and contacts, I ended up getting a job with the Prague fire department. At the time I said “a year or two, until I find something,” and now I’ve been with them for 25 years. Did you go through basic firefighter training? I had to. I was, as I always say, a simple water-cooled firefighter. I worked my way up from squad commander to assistant
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Firefighting uses hydrodynamics and hydrostatics; you need to know the sharing of heat and heat emission, and other physical phenomena. shift commander, division commander and now squad commander, where I’ve been since 2005. How far apart are the work of firefighters and physicists? Surprisingly they’re very close to each other. Firefighting uses hydrodynamics and hydrostatics; you need to know the sharing of heat and heat emission, and other physical phenomena. Classical firefighting with water is a purely physical process, for example. If you see water pouring out of a firefighting action, it means it’s been used unnecessarily. Let me give you a specific example. If I take a litre of water and warm it from 20 degrees Celsius to the boiling point, I take 334 kJ of heat. But if I change that water to steam, I take 2257 kJ of heat, which is nearly seven times more. It’s far better that all the water that arrives at a fire is evaporated because it will take away a large amount of heat. In this our enemy is surface tension, which tries to give drops of water the smallest surface area. And the heat is shared by the surface. For better illustration, a drop will have a volume of 1 litre and an average of 12 cm, and at that time its surface area will be 0.048 m2. When I break it up into 1‚000 drops with a volume of 1 ml, the surface area will be 0.48 m2, and for 10‚000 drops with a volume of 0.1 ml the surface area will be 1 m2. With a further reduction in droplet size, the total surface area of the droplets increases, but there is a problem of getting them into the burn zone. Small drops have a small mass, so to overcome the path where there is an intensive exchange of gases, we have to give them high velocity, and with that, high kinetic energy. These calculations can be used in practice by using a so-called wetting agent, which decreases the surface tension of the water, which makes it easier to dissipate it into small drops. Or water could be broken mechanically into small drops by modern nozzles, or possibly by using cascade nozzles, where streams flow against each other
and mutually break apart. High pressure is eventually used to disperse the droplets. At present, pumps are used that regularly work with a pressure of 4 MPa, and specialised firefighting pumps have very high pressure of 10 to 30 MPa. You’re not just a “classical” firefighter who serves in Prague, but also a member of the search and rescue team for collapsed buildings. How did you get into that? In 1999 there was a strong earthquake in Turkey, and for the first time in a long time the Czech Republic sent a rescue team abroad. I was in charge of assembling the second team which would be sent by land to back up the original one. In the end, the decision to send a second team was called off after 24 hours, but I remained a member of the newly formed USAR team – Urban Search and Rescue – which was focussed on rescuing people in collapsed buildings in an urban environment. This team works both abroad and, if needed, in the Czech Republic as well. In Prague we helped in cases such as the explosion on Divadelní street, or in the building collapse on Soukenická street, and joined the rescue effort during the 2002 floods. Who makes up the USAR team? Its members carry out their routine work, and, if needed, must be able to perform certain tasks in a specific time frame. From the firefighters, these are colleagues specialising in searching for people; they have seismic detectors at their disposal, and at extricating people. The logistics officers are in charge of the warehouses equipped with everything from kitchens and tents to power generators and grinders. The team is then complemented by individuals such as myself. In addition to firefighters, there are K−9 teams, structural engineers and medical workers, of course. How does the offer of Czech assistance work for foreign recipients? In the event of good bilateral relations, the given country will make a request through the embassy, otherwise it’s usually through the European Union through the Emergency Response Coordination Centre in Brussels or through NATO. The foreign minister decides on assistance outside the European Union; they also free up money. Inside the EU, the interior minister has the final word. The government must decide on costs exceeding CZK 5 million (€193,400). In what time frame do you have to be ready to travel?
Rescuers try to be ready to go as soon as possible, because the chance of surviving under rubble drops sharply after 24 hours. Health care workers, teams for pumping water and other support teams then have a longer time to leave, usually within a few days. This is why I have luggage with ten changes of clothes permanently ready at the station. Ten days is the amount of time that the USAR team assumes for its work. Most incidents last only three or four days. In Nepal we ended up staying a month with the medical team. The team of the country that invited you decides on where you’ll operate. Can you disobey their orders, for example, over the security of your people? The safety of the mission is considered even before the team is sent. If the risk is too high, the mission isn’t carried out at all. For example, with the earthquake in Haiti, all of the teams were concentrated at the airport, which was guarded by UN soldiers. You could go into one area only in daylight and with an armed escort, and another was completely off limits to rescuers. For this reason, the Czech Republic decided not to send its team to the island. For example, the Poles sent a team, landed in the Dominican Republic and took a ground route to the location. They started to work under escort of the “blue helmets,” but the situation did not develop well, so they pulled out of the area. You often work in countries with different cultures. How are you prepared for these differences? Rescuers not only train in the area of their expertise, but also go through training in social and cultural differences. In addition, before departing for a given area we always get detailed information on the country, for example what the religion is and what the rules there are. In recent years we have served especially in Muslim countries, so we had to respect that only a doctor or
The Nepalese are poor but satisfied. It was not a problem to travel 12 hours for medical treatment and then want to immediately go back; they didn’t have any demands or claims.
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Lt. Petr Vodička studied at the Faculty of Mathematics and Physics, in the field of teaching in combined physics and foundations of technology. Since 1993 he has worked for the FRS of Capital of Prague; since 1999 he has served on the unit for search and rescue in collapsed buildings (USAR), and has completed missions in places such as Iran (2003) and Nepal (2015). He was a member of the expert team in Thailand which mediated the Czechs’ offer of assistance in rescuing the boys in the cave complex.
a woman could treat a woman. It happened to us in Iran that we found the scattered pages of a Koran. A lot of poor people in Iran own only a carpet, a lamp which they cook on, and a Koran. That’s why it would be unthinkable to gather it up with a shovel and throw it into a pile. So we asked a local man to come and collect the book from the rubble. We always act like guests in the country and, where possible, respect local customs. Our women wear uniforms, but they have a scarf on their heads. Do you have a lot of women on the team? Women tend to be health care workers or K-9 rescuers; they tend not to be represented among the firefighters. We’re probably one of the last bastions of a purely male environment, because we can’t ensure that an employee won’t handle loads that are heavier than the maximum allowed for women, which is 15 kilograms. But women can of course be in the position of liaison officer, planner or team leader. Which of the foreign missions has thus far been the most challenging? Of the trips I’ve participated in, the trip to
Nepal in 2015 was the most demanding, especially because of the time we spent there. What’s more, we experienced a 7.2 earthquake on the spot. Iran was also very challenging; we were only there for three days, but there was gunfire at night there. Of course members of our team were not directly in life-threatening situations. Have you ever had a situation where you truly felt fear? I don’t have physical fear, but rather concerns about whether we’ll successfully handle the mission, if there’ll be the right contact directly at the airport, and whether we’ll manage to quickly secure transportation to the location and so on. Here I’d like to emphasize that we have great support from the foreign ministry, which is able to provide very good service at the point of deployment. For example, after the earthquake in Nepal in 2015, several foreign rescue teams did not reach the country at all because of insufficient capacity at Kathmandu Airport. Not all of our trips are dramatic, though. The Czech Republic provides humanitarian
assistance that has to be transported to the given country. That’s how I went to Albania, for example, where we brought medical equipment after a fire in a munitions factory, or to Moldova, which was hit by flooding, to Bulgaria or to Greece, where the fire brigade brought relief for refugees… How is a person affected by being on a mission in a country that has been hit by a devastating earthquake? After what I saw in Nepal, a person is far more conscious of how important family is as opposed to material possessions. The Nepalese are poor but satisfied. It wasn’t a problem for them to travel 12 hours to see us for medical treatment and then want to immediately go back; they didn’t have any demands or claims.
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Pastor Jakub S. Trojan at Jan Palach’s grave at Olšany cemetery, 25 January 1969
This August 11, Jan Palach would have been 70 years old … A student at Charles University in January 1969, 20-year-old Palach doused himself in gasoline and set himself alight at the top of Prague’s Wenceslas Square. He took the drastic decision to lay down his life as a form of protest – five months after Soviet tanks had rolled into Czechoslovakia TEXT BY Jan Velinger PHOTO BY Institute of the History of CU, René Volfík
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The reason, he explained in a letter, was to rouse his fellow citizens from apathy and resignation following the occupation; after the crushing of the Prague Spring, many saw little hope and few ways forward. Petr Blažek, an historian at the country’s Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes, is one of the country’s foremost experts on Jan Palach’s life and legacy. “It is said that when an historic event is still remembered or marked 50 years on, by a generation that didn’t experience it directly, it has become an integral part of society. I think this happened in the case of Jan Palach.” “Certainly you have to view his act in the context of what happened: the largest movement of troops since WWII, the fate of Czechoslovakia in the invasion, the world headlines, the morass in which the country was left in following the failure of a type of socialism which at least some people here believed in. A type of socialism which had no counterpart elsewhere: not in Hungary in 1956, not in Poland in the 1980s.” Palach’s self-immolation shook the country to the core and the result was tangible: thousands attended his funeral in a demonstration of opposition to the regime. Through his deed, Palach became a symbol of moral courage in the face of tyranny. In the so-called Normalisation period that followed, the communist regime soon turned to underhanded efforts to try and lessen his impact and to erase memories of his deed. Members of the StB, Czechoslovakia’s secret police, infamously exhumed Palach’s remains from Olšany cemetery in the cover of night in 1973. But attempts at wiping him from the historical record, as well as the collective memory, failed. Palach remained a hero for many. Interestingly, historian Petr Blažek says many new details have emerged since about Palach’s own convictions, showing how the idea of protesting against the occupation crystalized and matured in his mind; it is revealing that Palach considered other forms of protest before taking the decision he did. “We recently completed a new study of his childhood and changes in his political convictions. He considered other forms of protest. Two people he knew at the time remembered he had had a Browning pistol that had belonged to his father, which he had found in the attic. He brought it to Prague in August 1968 and told a friend he was considering shooting a Soviet soldier.” According to the historian, Palach considered such a scenario on at least one other occasion, confiding in a second friend
One of his childhood classmates said that when they were boys Palach told him he wanted to do something for his country. about his plans: both times he was dissuaded by his friends from taking the step on the grounds it would end badly (with shooting into a crowd). Equally fascinating is a single document that the historian uncovered a decade ago which had gone completely unnoticed, presumably because it was buried among thousands of pages and never mentioned or corroborated in any other surviving material. The document shows that Jan Palach considered the idea of a takeover of Czechoslovak Radio: the idea was that if outsiders could get in, then calls for a general strike could have been illegally broadcast. Petr Blažek: “I have no idea why no one ever really noticed this document. It was written on the same kind of paper as Palach’s final letters and was addressed to Lubomír Holeček, a well-known student leader. In it, Palach suggested that the radio building at Vinohrady could be taken over for calls for a strike. This was after Smrkovský was forced from the Federal Assembly, so the mood was grim. Palach sent or gave Holeček the letter, with a note to disregard it, if the idea seemed too crazy. The
document later survived in the StB archive. “Of course, you couldn’t take over the radio station with your bare hands, which brings us back to the Browning. But in the end, Palach left the gun with his brother. His mum, who was terrified they would all be charged with terrorism, got rid of it.” Long overlooked was that Palach, who was well-read and interested in history since childhood, was also interested in weaponry and the history of war. And testimony suggests Palach even as a child sensed he was destined for something greater. Petr Blažek once more: “One of his childhood classmates said that when they were boys Palach told him he wanted to do something for his country. It seems much more logical to me now that Palach considered different options. But ultimately he was someone who was sensitive, who didn’t want to hurt or commit a wrong against others or spread violence. In the end, he chose only to harm only himself. Everything points to an altruistic young man who decided to act in a very shocking manner. It was a shocking decision that can be difficult to understand, not least when viewed outside the context of the invasion of August 1968.” In recent years, projects such as the HBO hit-series Burning Bush have brought Palach’s story to new audiences around the world; on the domestic scene, plans for a permanent museum at his hometown of Všetaty, east of Prague, have been greenlighted, to ensure his legacy and deed are never forgotten.
Pastor Jakub S. Trojan and rector Tomáš Zima at the commemorations of the death of Jan Palach in 2018
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REMEMBERING JAN PALACH A series of remembrance events took place at the university as we marked the 49th anniversary of the self-immolation of Charles University student Jan Palach.
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A dream come true: the Faculty of Social Sciences presents new insignia
Twenty-five years after it was founded, the Faculty of Social Sciences at Charles University finally has its own insignia. Until now, students making their matriculation and graduation vows, had to swear on a sceptre borrowed from the Faculty of Arts. The new sceptre consists of a globe resting on the fingertips of a human hand. Each finger is a symbol of one of the five branches of the faculty. The sceptre was designed by academic sculptor Otmar Oliva.
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AÂ paternoster, aÂ kind of non-stop historic elevator without doors (onto which people jump on and off), was restored at the Faculty of Law at Charles University. Funding to fix the historic system (used daily by students and staff) was raised by the faculty; the paternoster has been operational again since March of this year.
Paternoster running again
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RECTOR TOMÁŠ ZIMA SWEARS OATH OF OFFICE
7/3 Key, ring, seal, mace and chain: these are the insignia formally accepted by the Rector of Charles University, Professor Tomáš Zima. The inauguration took place in the Great Hall of the Carolinum and was attended by numerous VIPs.
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Top scientists awarded
Leading world scientists – physicist professor Rolf-Dieter Heuer and archaeologist professor Thomas Evan Levy – received honorary degrees on the occasion of the celebrations of the 670th anniversary of the founding of Charles University and the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Republic. The ceremony took place in the Great Hall of the historic building of Carolinum on April 6, 2018. The titles were awarded to both scientists for their outstanding lifelong scientific achievements and for a significant contribution to the development of research in collaboration with Charles University.
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ONE HUNDRED OBJECTS The notable exhibition “The University and the Republic: 100 Years – 100 Items – 100 Stories” examined the relationships between Charles University and the Czechoslovak and Czech Republics. The idea behind the show was to choose one item symbolising every year in the country’s history – all the way back the founding of Czechoslovakia in 1918.
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Charles University pushed the envelope when it came to the practical use and funding of science, research, and innovation in the Czech Republic. This year is became the first Czech university to have founded aÂ wholly owned subsidiary. The name of the company is Charles University Innovations Prague (CUIP). Its aim is to function as aÂ bridge between teams of scientists and commercial subjects. The purpose of CUIP will be to bring university knowledge and technologies to practical use.
Charles University Innovations Prague
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The CU crew clinches gold in the University rowing competition 27/6
The university women’s rowing team won the 105th Primátorky 2018 race on a one-kilometre course. In the men’s race, the crew of the Charles University finished in second place.
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Charles University Acquires Rare Medieval Documents This summer officials at Charles University unveiled two historic documents to the public dating back to the founding of the university in Prague 670 years ago. The documents resurfaced only recently and were acquired from a private collection. Both are of enormous historic significance TEXT BY Jan Velinger PHOTO BY Vladimír Šigut
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Both historic documents (the first a papal letter and the second a notarial instrument) date back to 1347 and reveal how consent was granted for the university’s founding. The papal letter is from Pope Clement VI (dated 26 January 1347) and crucially provided his consent; the second parchment unveiled on Friday 26 June is a notarial act, written at the behest of the Prague metropolitan chapter. Dated 30 June 1347, it is effectively a transcription of the papal letter: it was commissioned for everyday use or reference, a possible explanation for why it suffered far greater wear and tear. Historian Petr Svobodný says both parchments are of enormous importance and need to be appreciated in context. “Both documents outline the history of the founding of the university in Prague; they date back to the university’s very beginnings. Both were issued between 1347 and 1348 and prepared the ground for the university’s founding.” “The first was by Pope Clement VI in 1347 and preceded a founding document, issued later by the King of Bohemia and Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV. Both charters were crucial to the founding of the university, a process that was in itself fairly complex.” The papal letter of 26 January 1347, unveiled Friday, is written on Italian parchment and is in good condition. It is furnished with an attached leaden papal seal, with a depiction of the apostles St. Peter and St. Paul on the obverse side, while the reverse contains the name of Pope Clement VI, who was the tutor of the future king and emperor during his sojourn at the Parisian royal court. The letter states that in response to Charles’s petition, Pope Clement VI granted his consent for the foundation of a university in Prague. Professor Petr Svobodný explains that the existence of the papal letter was known thanks to the existence of another original, long lost.
It is interesting that Charles’s founding charter (of Charles University) was also issued in two originals, one of which was kept in the university archives and also disappeared in 1945 and the other which survived to this day at the archives of Prague Castle
Both documents outline the history of the founding of the university in Prague; they date back to the university’s very beginnings. Both were issued between 1347 and 1348 and prepared the ground for the university’s founding. “The first papal document, or charter, was known until recently through only one original document, which unfortunately disappeared after 1945. It is only now that the second version or the second original, was discovered and presented today. It is interesting that Charles’s founding charter [of Charles University] was also issued in two originals, one of which was kept in the university archives and also disappeared in 1945 and the other which survived to this day at the archives of Prague Castle.” Both medieval documents unveiled on Friday 26 June, the papal letter and the notarial instrument, will no doubt be the subject of considerable study, with follow-up findings or publications in the future.
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Interest in foreign study programs more than doubles Interest in studying in foreign study programs at Prague’s Charles University significantly increased over the last five years. While in five years ago the number of applications stood at 2‚600 the number has since risen to the current 6‚400. Some 970 students from abroad successfully enrolled TEXT BY Jan Velinger
The news was confirmed by the Vice-Rector for Student Affairs Milena Králíčková at an event marking the start of the new academic year. Afterwards, she told me more about factors that had played a role. I think the increase of applications from abroad, especially from European countries, is due to not only the high quality of foreign language programs that we have, but also due to the large amount of work we have put into letting the world know about them. We take part in a program called Study in Prague and also an initiative called Study in the Czech Republic. We really are trying hard to attract students from abroad and we believe that the study programs here have a lot to offer and are extremely interesting for them. Can we talk about one or two where they can apply? As an example I would choose general medicine and dentistry which have been realised at Charles University for years and have seen many hundreds of successful alumni and I would also mention the Faculty of Social Sciences where we have study programs which are oriented towards the social sciences, marketing and PR, as well as other areas which are also very attractive.
Just a basic question about the lingua franca: are most of the programs in English? The majority are in English but we do also offer programs in Spanish, German and Russian. As far as the make-up of different countries is concerned, Germany is in first place? Yes, Germany is first, followed by Great Britain, Portugal, Norway and Israel. Sweden also places highly. This is obviously positive news for CU but I suppose there is always more that can be done: what are areas that can still be worked on or areas that can be focussed on to get the word out even more? One thing we are working on is a university “buddy system” to help newcomers establish links between faculties at different universities quicker. And we are working with our students right now to make social life for foreign students here even better and more pleasant.
University and Republic:
of Czechoslovakia/Czech Republic Legacy of Democracy, Humanism and Responsibility International Rectors’ Conference October 24 – 25, 2018 In the important year of 2018, Charles University will be organising an international conference on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the independence of the Czechoslovak Republic. The conference will be organised in cooperation with UNICA, Coimbra Group, LERU and Europaeum. The conference will be attended by leading personalities of prestigious foreign universities, such as the University of Oxford, University of St Andrews, University of Vienna, Jagiellonian University in Krakow, and the European University Institute. The conference will be opened together with the Rector of Charles University and other distinguished guests like the European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Věra Jourová. The objective of the conference is to discuss the important topics such as Legacy of Democracy, Humanism and Responsibility in relation to the significant “figure-eight anniversary” of independence of Czechoslovakia from an international perspective. Representatives of Charles university, Czech and international universities will debate at different panels about the University’s present-day national and international role. This unique connection of leading world experts with the general public will strengthen the revival of historic memory, awareness of the importance of the year 1918 in an international context. The meeting will be held in the Karolinum building, which witnessed this important moment of history and the turning of Prague into a capital city of the new country.