I have to admit, for some time now I have been severely addicted; addicted to the videos of the Universiteit van Nederland (the university of the Netherlands), a partnership of 13 Dutch universities, the Dutch public-service broadcaster and a number of private partners. The idea is as simple as genius: let your top scientists from the participating universities give short lectures, understandable for the general public, in front of a live audience; record these lectures and put them online. Each lecture lasts about 15 minutes with series of 4 to 5 lectures to treat more complex topics or related topics. The subjects cover all scientific disciplines, from astronomy to philosophy, from biology to history, from mathematics to economy, and all that lies in between. Over the years they have published more than 700 videos on their website and YouTube Channel.
With every new video I watch, I am more and more surprised that almost every scientific discipline, no matter how little it has to to with my daily job, teaches me new insights and helps me in carrying out my tasks. Here are a few examples
PhD Ralph Wijers explains the mysteries of the universe in five lectures. During his lectures I’m astonished with the amount of knowledge that the scientific community has been able to gather about the origin, the history, the future and the composition of our universe. But in his lectures he also explains the enormous amount of unexplained or for the moment even inexplicable mysteries the universe still hides from us. Knowing this, I won’t get frustrated that easily any more when I don’t understand something immediately or if I don’t know how to see through and solve a problem at a glance.
Lesson learned: there is always something new to discover or existing things to improve. Has everything that can be invented really been invented?
It is interesting to hear PhD Bert Vermeersen’s explanation of the possible consequences of the climate change on the sea level around the world and how that sea level might actually remain the same or even drop in certain parts of the world despite the melting of the vast ice sheets. Changing ocean currents and lower gravity due to the reduction of the mass of polar ice might decrease the sea level in certain areas such as the North sea, while other parts of the world might experience dramatic sea level raise. This made me realize that I shouldn’t take things for granted and that the same causes can have different outcomes.
Lesson learned: Unambiguous causes do not guarantee unambiguous consequences.
The perfect speech is the one that explains a story, or in other words; a fairy tale always wins from the argument. That is what the amiable PhD Eugène Sutorius demonstrates in his series of lectures on rhetoric, the art of using language to convince or persuade.
A very useful theory that will certainly help me to prepare and deliver my next presentations, but it is also a very frightening theory if applied by the wrong people for the wrong purposes. So be aware when you listen to people and try to discover their real intentions behind their fairy tale.
Lesson learned: Be always attentive and be wary.
Apart from the individual conclusions and lessons learned from each lecture, the overall conclusion one comes to after seeing several videos of the Universiteit van Nederland is that you should see opportunities and solutions instead of problems and that gathering knowledge is always positive.
And of course, I strongly recommend everyone to start watching the videos of the Universiteit van Nederland. Most of the videos are in Dutch, only some of them have English subtitles. But there is good news: the Universiteit van Nederland goes international. They are currently looking for a head of business development to promote the Universiteit van Nederland internationally. So keep an eye on it!