If we think about it and ask ourselves what defines human history, the first answer would probably be wars, conquests, and different civilisations and cultures destroying each other. Throughout our long-lasting process of evolution, we have somehow failed to get rid of that… But today, I have decided to leave this dark part of human history aside (for a change ?) and focus on some encouraging words about something else—science!
Despite the many dark sides of human nature, we could say that a large portion of our historic heritage has nevertheless been defined by art and science. There are historic periods named after prevailing art trends, while science has brought us quite a number of “revolutions”: the agricultural, the industrial and the one currently taking place, the technological and information revolution. All these events took place in an extremely short period of a couple of generations. If we go back a couple of years, we’re currently celebrating fifty years since mankind first walked on the Moon, and I’m really happy that I could bear witness to the unimaginable development of digital and information technology that has practically come to life before my eyes. Since we’re on the topic of anniversaries, I’d like to talk some more about one of them.
This year, Katja and I were invited to help as best we can to celebrate an important milestone for Slovenian science: the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Jožef Stefan Institute (the “IJS”). Since it would be difficult to summarise all the achievements of our greatest scientists throughout the ages, I’ll sum up a portion of the interview with the director of the Institute, Dr Jadran Lenarčič, who's been an employee of the Institute for 40 years. The interview was conducted by Marjan Žiberna for National Geographic Slovenia, while Katja and I contributed the photos for the article.
“It would be extremely ungrateful of me to only point out certain noteworthy achievements of the Jožef Stefan Institute, since I’d be unfairly neglecting many others. But if I must, I’d definitely emphasise the first micro-computers, the first robots created in our country, the Internet, and the first website: these achievements were important from the point of view of information and communication technologies. When it comes to physics, the achievements in the field of magnetic resonance were of particular importance; later, a micro-laser and a computer memory based on quantum physics made international news. As far as chemistry of materials is concerned, we cannot ignore the fact that recently, ferromagnetic liquid was created within our institute; previously, it was considered impossible to create. Another technologically important achievement is the creation of magnetic material using only five per cent of rare earth elements. In the field of biochemistry, discoveries related to transporting medicines to the disease (in this case, cancer) site have attracted general attention recently; we’re talking about nanomagnetic materials travelling throughout the body, introduced into liposomes, which can later be directed to the desired location using magnets…” said Dr Lenarčič.
In a nutshell, these achievements speak for themselves; on the other hand, they’re quite hard to understand for most of us laymen. So, I’ll focus instead on relaying some of our impressions during those couple of days we spent taking photos within the Institute. The main building of the IJS that can be noticed by anyone walking down Jamova cesta in Ljubljana is actually quite unimpressive. But as Katja and I spent the first couple of days just walking through the numerous buildings and hi-tech laboratories hidden from public view, we discovered that we simply wouldn’t be able to photograph everything, at least not to the extent intended. The Institute is simply huge! It is our largest scientific research establishment with nearly a thousand employees, half of whom have earned a PhD. That’s why we somehow agreed that we’d only be taking photos of the most photogenic parts which, of course, meant that we wouldn’t even be coming close to some of them (that might even be more important from the scientific point of view!).
However, since visual selection was a priority for this project, we only chose some truly interesting motifs and took photos that were later published in a book commemorating the official celebration of this seventieth anniversary. At this point, what’s in the photographs is therefore maybe less important than all the interesting things one can observe at the Institute. But in order to truly catch up with them, we made a special effort to include numerous photographs taken using modern digital photo techniques such as photostaking (or focus staking), light brush, etc. Since we were equipped with dozens of kilograms of photographic equipment, we needed quite some help to move studio flashes around the Institute and adjust their light settings. While I can safely say that we were satisfied with the result (which is not a common occurrence for me…?), it’s now up to you to evaluate it with your own eyes…
All photos taken by: Arne Hodalič and Katja Bidovec
Assistant: Iza Štrumbelj/Student of Photography, Photography Department of the Higher School of Applied Sciences (VIST)
We would like to thank all employees of the Institute who were always happy to help us (even when we were standing in their laboratories making up bizarre settings and unusual motifs)!
My life-motto is “You can sleep when you’re dead!” and I stick to it every day in my life! I worked with the Company “Our Space appliances” for many years now, and together we have prepared numerous successful events, lectures and team-building articles for you to enjoy and read. The best part of it all is when Jure (the CEO of Our Space appliances) comes to visit my family and me at the seaside and together we can grill a tasty fish or 2. That’s when life becomes even better…