čas: 13.5.2021 02:48:47
Obnovit | RAW
The deadline for submitting applications for PhD studies has been extended to 14 May 2021.
Other dates related to the admission procedure remain unchanged.
Ph.D. student at the Department of Informatics and Chemistry
My name is Isabel and I am from Spain, a country which has no common history with the Czech Republic (CR). Before coming here, I only knew how to locate CR on a European map and the name of the capital, Prague. Because of this, I did some research before moving, using my good friend, Google. Just the basics: cost of living, religion, language, currency, the price of beer, and so on. And so I moved to Prague with no hesitation.
My first contact with the city was when I landed at Prague’s airport, where my supervisor picked me up and brought me to the university dorms. That day, one of the windows of his car broke and we couldn’t close it, so the whole trip on the highway was spent with the two of us trying to talk with a loud windy sound in the background. Once we arrived at the dorms, I realized why he had gone with me, because the person at the reception desk didn’t speak English at all. Finally, I got a room key, but when I opened the door, there were two beds! I had never shared room before and besides, there was no Wi-Fi. The next day, at the university, my colleagues asked me if I wanted to go for lunch with them at 11:30! I was completely shocked because it was so early (now I must admit that I love it, but it took me several days to get used to it).
Since this “first contact”, I have been surprised about several facts of life here. Like the -ová at the end of every female surname; how dorms, student canteens and public transport have extremely cheap prices; the way one tips (saying the amount you want to give, including tips when you pay); holidays in February for skiing; how funny it sounds to hear Ježiš Maria in a truly non-religious country; how easy and efficient public transport is; how much Czech people like to go to the mountains/forests for hiking— and also to rivers in the summer; how easy it is to get to other countries, even by bus; and of course, the fact that beer is cheaper than water. There are some good and bad aspects, but for now I just have one big bad point: the university dorms are located very far from the university, which is something that only exists at this university, as far as I know. So far, so good.
I like to live in Prague. It is a wonderful and beautiful city full of opportunities for working, traveling and learning. I know I will never regret moving here. Not just because of the city; I am truly lucky with my colleagues and my supervisor.
Originally published in SPIN 1/2018
Artificial life (commonly abbreviated Alife) is an interdisciplinary field that can be most briefly described as the study of life as it could be as opposed to the biology, which studies life as we know it here on Earth. This is a fascinating field where topics range from artificial intelligence and robotics to the chemical synthesis of artificial cells to almost philosophical considerations (what exactly is life?). In the Alife community, one encounters computer scientists, robotics researchers, physicists, chemists, biologists and also representatives from humanities disciplines and even artists. ALIFE conferences have been held annually since the 1980s, when the first conference was hosted by Christopher Langton, one of the founders of the field, in Los Alamos, United States.
Originally, this year’s conference was supposed to take place in Montreal, Canada, but due to the current situation and limited opportunities to travel, it was moved online to become the first fully virtual ALIFE conference. Next year the University of Chemistry and Technology, Prague (UCT Prague), will organize the conference. I am optimistic about the future, so we are planning ALIFE 2021 as a hybrid conference. This means that the conference will take place in Prague but that those who will not be able to in-person will be able to participate virtually. However, it will not be the first hybrid ALIFE conference: already starting in 2019 for the Newcastle (U.K.) event, scientists from the ALIFE community could choose whether to attend in-person or to choose a more environmentally friendly option by attending lectures online. We believe that the hybrid format will eventually become common for all conferences.
Although artificial life does not have much of a tradition in the Czech Republic (and currently only I and a handful of CIIRC scientists are supporters of this field), next year’s event will be the second international conference on artificial life to take place in the country. The first, ECAL (The 6th European Conference on Artificial Life), was organized by Jozef Kelemen in 2001. The ALIFE conference will therefore “return” to Prague after 20 years and its theme this time will be the celebration of the hundredth anniversary of Čapek’s R.U.R. (Rossum’s Universal Robots), source of the globally used word “robot”, which first appeared in this work.
Anyone who has read Čapek’s play or seen it in a theatre knows that Rossum’s robots were not metal monsters, as many people imagine robots imagine, but were made of chemically prepared matter that behaved as if it were alive. The play states: “Nature has found only one way to organize living matter. However, there is another way, simpler, more malleable and faster, which nature has not encountered at all.” With a little exaggeration, it could be said that Karel Čapek formulated some of the ideas and goals of the scientific field of artificial life as early as 1920. In R.U.R., we find many topics that scientists are still dealing with today: whether it is the processes of synthesis of artificial tissues and organs, questions surrounding evolution and reproduction, the ability to imitate the behaviour of human beings and to show at least signs of intelligence or consciousness. R.U.R. also outlines societal issues related to globalization, the division of power and wealth, religion, and the status of women. Basically, almost every scientist could show an example of how R.U.R. opens one of the still unanswered questions in their area of investigation. And that’s exactly what I did! At first I decided to recall how this hundred-year-old play is related to chemistry, but later I began to relate individual ideas to artificial life and other fields. I contacted my colleagues and acquaintances and asked them to read the Čapek's original R.U.R. (especially abroad, many had no idea about this work) and then to write their commentaries about it. And so the book Robot 100 was created.
From last autumn to January this year, I collected a total of 86 short chapters and several illustrations from 100 personalities—not only scientists, but also fiction writers, journalists, athletes, and artists. About a third are Czechs; the other authors come from all over the world. If we look at it like the Olympics symbol with its five interlocking rings, there are representatives from all five continents in the book. You will be able to find out who and what they contributed to the book on the website www.robot100.cz and social media. From now until November, the details about the book Robot 100 will be gradually released. And the book itself will see the light of day in November 2020, exactly one hundred years after the book edition of Čapek’s R.U.R. For now, I will tell you that the author of the cover of Robot 100 is the well-known Czech illustrator Jonáš Ledecký.
The Czech version of Robot 100 will be published by us at the UCT Prague Press. UCT Prague is the largest chemistry oriented university in the Czech Republic, which focuses not only on teaching and research in chemistry, chemical technology, biochemistry, biotechnology, and materials engineering, but also gives us, researchers, the ability to explore relatively new fields such as artificial life, as mentioned above. The UCT Prague Press, headed by Ing. Eva Dibuszová, PhD, is the only specialized publishing house in the Czech and Slovak Republics that systematically publishes chemical literature. In addition to coursepacks and textbooks, the publishing house also publishes conference proceedings and books for the general public.
It is terrific that our university’s publishing house has included Robot 100 in its publishing plan for this year. I am glad that, here at UCT Prague, we will be able to commemorate Čapek’s original concept: that his R.U.R robots originated by chemical means, and that for the first time, the word “robot” was used essentially for a chemical invention, albeit only a fictitious one. However, we are not the only ones planning to celebrate the centenary of the word “robot”. I am collaborating, for example, with Zdeněk Vacek, director of the Karel Čapek Memorial, where various events are planned in this context for autumn 2020. In January 2021, Jiří Dědeček and Jaroslav Veis will hold a several-day conference at the Archa Theater to celebrate 100 years of R.U.R. Some other authors and I will give lectures at events for the general public, especially during November’s “Night of Scientists”. I collaborate with Jana Horáková from Masaryk University in Brno, who wrote an amazing book, Robot as Robot, about R.U.R. from the theatre studies perspective. And the highlight of all this will be the ALIFE international conference, which will take place in Prague in summer. And at that time, the English version of Robot 100 will be published.
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