Institute picnic

Two Fridays ago, our institute had a picnic day. But instead of an actual picnic, we went to Klatreskoven (literally “the climbing forest”). There, we were split into two groups. One group went to the individual course and another went to the team course. After two hours (and lunch), the two groups swapped courses.

Our group went to the team course first. We were split up into further smaller groups. Each of these small groups consisted of about 10 people. Then the fun began. Our team did two exercises:

  • The first one was an exercise where two people climb up a tree. Each of them had two people responsible for their safety. Once the two people reached the top, they had to step on a plank which had to be be stabilised by someone on the ground. There were several of these planks, each one had to be stabilised by a person. That person also had to help the climber step on to the next plank. Because there were two climbers, they would eventually meet in the middle, whereupon they had to pass one another and get to the other side. The idea of this exercise is that the climbers will fail unless supported and helped by the people stabilising the planks.
  • The other exercise involved a wide “ladder” made of bamboo, each rung was about 1 m apart. There were three climbers (each supported by two safety people) who had to work together to climb the ladder. They could only touch the rung and each other. They could not touch any of the ropes. The idea of this exercise is obviously for the climbers to work together as a team to climb the ladder.

After lunch and some rest, we did the individual course. This one was more to do with having fun. There were several difficulty levels: green, blue, red, and black. The more difficult the course is, the longer it would take to complete it. I am not terribly fond of heights, so I only did the green course. It was kinda fun, though.

In the afternoon, we had a tour of the professor’s villa at Carlsberg. The villa hosted many eminent scientists, writers, and artists, including Niels Bohr who presumably had access to beer on tap 24 hours a day. Carlsberg is actually one of the (I think) rare companies which give a lot back to society. The group made their fortune through science, and they are repaying their debts by establishing funds for basic research. The group even has a research centre dedicated to biochemistry.

Anyway, that evening we also had a Dwarf Party at Nano-Science Center. It’s an annual party mainly aimed to give the opportunity for people from the Nano-Science Center to mingle with each other. As part of the party, there was a game that we had to do. They divided us based on age (and therefore roughly by position). There were the Bachelors/Masters students, the PhD students, and the post docs/professors. The aim of the game was to launch a bottle as high as possible.

I had my doubts about the success of this game, because I found it highly illogical to have 20+ people in each group. In hindsight, this was a brilliant exercise where each group’s mentality and way of thinking was really highlighted:

  • The Bachelors/Masters was kinda successful, even though it involved somewhat unconventional and borderline dangerous practices. At one stage, they over-pressurised their bottle and blew up the delivery system (a pipe). They also showed ingenuity by using a beer tap mechanism to launch their bottle (which didn’t work at all).
  • The PhD students thought about the problem thoroughly and devised a clean and efficient mechanism to launch their bottle. The technique was reproducible with excellent success rate.
  • The post docs/professors thought the longest and hardest about the problem. In the end, it was decided that baking soda and vinegar was the way to go. So out came the huge chemical bottles. We were still working on the vinegar delivery mechanism when the Bachelors/Masters and PhD students had launched their bottles at least once. In the end, our bottle never launched off the ground, and all we managed to do was to make the ground smell like vinegar that you can smell from 50 m away. Of course, apologists would have thought that it was just engineering problem.