This blog is mainly about physics, energy engineering, software related to these two, and about my life as a small a business owner and master of many websites. Plus a bit of experimental internet poetry.

elkement is an amalgam of my first name Elke and The Subversive Element. I run a small engineering consultancy together with my husband. Following Star Trek terminology he is Chief Engineer and I am Science Officer. We tinker with heat pump systems and control units. I am the theory department – developing software for simulations and analysis of measurement data, and hacking securing stuff.

We live in the lowlands of Eastern Austria, in the land of tomatoes and red wine.

My background: MSc/PhD in applied physics + some years experience in R&D / long-term career in IT security, and still playing a bit with Public Key Infrastructures today / MSc in renewable energy + plus an engineering stealth ‘pilot heat pump’ project – bootstrapping myself back into engineering and physics.

Official contact data and e-mail. For any questions related to my postings I prefer comments on my blog so that my answers will also benefit other readers. Commentators need to have one manually approved comment.

I have yet another old-school personal website: elkement.subversiv.at – sort of a companion to this blog. Social media:  Twitter, Google+LinkedIn, XING, Ello, Facebook.

All images and content here is my own or our company’s, unless stated otherwise. The Subversive Elkement has a weird sense of humor but turns into a nitpicking stickler and painstaking submitter of DMCA complaints if somebody pirates content without consent. I hope my Legal Page is truly scary.

Each section of this blog corresponds both to a standard blog category  and to a page that lists all postings in that category:

Physics: I write about thermodynamics, heat transport, energy, and related history of science, e.g. about  Peter von Rittinger’s Steam Pump or Carnot’s Theorem. Allegedly mundane things – as the freezing of water – are more complex than it seems:  A Sublime Transition.

Heat Pumps (and renewable energy). We plan heat pump systems that use a special heat source – the combination of an underground water tank and a solar collector. Many postings here have been trigged by questions How does it work?  and this blog is my way of publishing my data: Earth, Air, Water, and Ice.

IT Security: The page’s URL still reflects my former specialty – Public Key Infrastructure. I published some stories of a past life – When I Did Social Engineering without Recognizing It –  but now I focus on monitoring, control of Internet-of-Things related security issues: Hacking My Heat Pump – Part 2: Logging Energy Values.

Life (and work). Recurring topics are my ambiguous relationship with the corporate world, struggling with having skin in the game as an entrepreneur as a ‘doer’ versus fence-sitting commentator: Career Advice – Borrowing Wise Words from a Sailing Hacker

Poetry: I am looking for the weird and bizarre in seemingly random search terms and spam comments. I craft poems from the virtual scrapyard:
Imaginative Poetry. Inspired by the Second Name of Collected Space.

The Web: I am one of those meta-posters writing about the internet and blogging and thinking online about being online and crafting conspiracy theories about Google’s intentions: About 14,5 Random Thoughts on Blogging and Social Media.

Historical category: Reading. I kept tracks of books I read, sometimes I review them. But I hardly review books in a way doing them justice, so I the ‘book reviews’ are also listed on one of the other category pages: Hacking the Biological Clock.


Until Nov. 2015, the site’s title was:

Theory and Practice of Trying to Combine Just Anything

For a long time, the tagline has been:

Physics versus engineering
off-the-wall geek humor versus existential questions
IT versus the real thing
corporate world’s strangeness versus small business entrepreneur’s microcosmos, knowledge worker’s connectedness versus striving for independence.

I have been called a Dilettante Essayist, a fantastic mind with matching off-the-wall humor, and my writing has been called honestly irreverent. I don’t keep track of blog awards, but this one was special: I was honored to be named Geek of the Year and having a resume that reads like a character from The Big Bang Theory.

Since May 2017 the blog’s main domain is elkement.blog – I am now on a paid plan so that you do not have to look at ads any more.

Since 2014-12-24 this blog’s icon in an angry dinosaur. Nobody ever asked why so it must be self-explanatory.

Angry Dinosaur

[Last edit: 2018-03-04: Added links to all my social media profiles (again).]

40 thoughts on “About

  1. Trump’s election pushed me back to my blog (probably temporarily). It looks like you’re the one surviving member of the blogs I followed when I was here regularly. Nice to see. Take care. -WBD

      1. Some years ago, after coming to live in Puerto Rico, I builts a solar water heater from pvc water pipes, sheets of glass and a too cheap plastic 40 gallon tank. Very economical until the tank burst under the 100psi (metric ????) water pressure in the mains. I had to buy a pump and make a feed tank, reducing the financial benefits somewhat ! They call it “La Perla”, a former slum quarter of Old San Juan, due to the use of corrugated iron sheets. Your things are so much more professional.

        1. 100psi is nearly 7 bar – yes, that’s a lot! 🙂
          Of course a simple solar system utilizing only gravity has the advantage of being independent of the power grid. I have seen such systems on the Canary Islands for example – and I think they work quite well given a proper tank.
          Our system is optimized for harvesting energy in winter, via convection of air – so these are different requirements anyway.

  2. Hi Elke, I had promised to send you an article on living off grid in Canada. Unfortunately I could not find the one that related to some of the elements of your system; I don’t think I have a copy of the magazine on hand any more (looked every where). The magazine is no longer in publication, and I couldn’t find any archives to it on line. Here is the only article I could find… it might be of interest.

    1. Thanks a lot, Michelle, for sharing this! Yes – this is impressive! What I find most intriguing is that these home owners believe in simplicity, there are no allusions to “smart home” etc. I like the simple “air conditioning” and the living roof in particular.

      1. It is really interesting, and I think more common than we know. Most of Ontario is covered in bedrock so the cost of building and trenching in utilities is quite high. Going simple helps!

    1. (disregard one of these comments–I’m having some internet connection problems today and thought I lost this as it was posting–couldn’t remember what I wrote exactly while recreating the comment!)

  3. Hello Elke.
    Thanks for the like on my calculus without limits post no. 5
    I am following your blog now.
    Did you read the calculus no. 4 one on trig? I am still not sure if there are holes in the argument.
    I shall have another read of your spinning top post. I never felt at the time that the maths shed any real light on the phenomenon.

    1. Thanks for your comment and the follow – and for pointing me to your post. For other readers, here is the link: http://howardat58.wordpress.com/2014/09/15/calculus-without-limits-4-trignometric-functions-cosine-and-sine

      I like your derivation, and I left a version of mine (that I consider similar) in a comment … I hope it is not too off-topic or I don’t consider too many things as given and a pre-requisite that you wanted to avoid in your derivations. But as a physicist (or probably just impacted by the way I learned to deal with circular motion and which I found really useful) I can never resist replacing sine and cosine by an exponential function.

    1. I duplicate the reply I left on your blog now – just to set expectations for other award bestowing bloggers 🙂
      Thanks – I am honored to be in *your* Top Ten list!! I appreciate the award but be warned that I usually subvert the acceptance process and I don’t play by the rules 😉 as if anybody did we had a major issue with an exponential inflation of nominations!

  4. applied physicist, Star Trek geek, The Force, quantum field…hmmm….in that case…we have something in common then…and i thought i was the only one who stays awake sometimes thinking of those things! great posts, elke…long may it continue!
    PS im an electronics engineer by trade, and yes, physics was also a part of my studies, too..albeit in a very much watered down version of what you studied!

    1. Thanks a lot for visiting and commenting! I have always been amazed by the large number of people with similar interests and even careers I have stumbled upon … on the internet but even as colleages in projects. Actually I feel that the “geeky physicist working in IT, with a penchant for sci-fi and philosophy and still waxing nostagic when reading about physics” is nearly a cliché 😀

  5. Hey,
    Just happened to run into your blog. You have got a beautiful space running here. Loved your work. Its very subtle. I guess I will be hanging around here a lot. 🙂 Great work

    1. Thanks a lot – I am honored! I have seen your thoughtful comments on David’s, Steve’s and livelyskeptics’ blog – your blog meets the expectations raised by these comments 🙂

    1. You’re welcome! Fortunately there is Google Translate!
      To other readers: Despite the cryptic nature of this comment 😉 it is not spam. Check out digitalhegemon’s blog!

    1. Thanks – I feel honored to be nominated by somebody who can write so well!

      However, the conditions for participation are really tough. First I need to reveal the darkest secrets my soul holds by answering questions like “What is your favorite animal?” and second (and worst) this propels me into the acceleration-of-exponential-growth business. If every blogger nominates 5 other blogs and the delay time is about a week, then in about 15 weeks everybody on this planet will have been nominated.
      But I am only standing on the shoulders of giants here:
      http://millenniumconjectures.com/2012/10/15/the-blahs-2-millard-fillmores-bathtub/ .

      However, I think I have found the clue for beating exponential growth ,-) Stay tuned, I am going to reply with a full post in due time.

  6. the elkement is talking about energy and consulting, have you not always been working in the energy business – and in consulting? anyway, i read about Prof. Z.’s “Quantum Entanglement of High Angular Momenta” on the web and i think what happened to the red website? – and see its still there! nice. and fun. and even updated, whatever website resurrection means, since it wasnt offline. but who am i to split elkemental hair? This must be one of the three remaining websites in the world where you can leave a comment without having to register a user account and providing half of your life in the profiling process or surrender your facebook details. free unprofiled commenting and communication should be set down as a human right. happy resurrection! and thanks for all the fish

    1. Hi Fuzzi 🙂 Yes, and the red website (I cannot resist to add the URL: http://subversiv.at) is one of the few remaining sites in the universe that does not allow for commenting at all, and there is no feed to subscribe to. So I need to compensate for that and keep this blog open.
      Actually the site was nearly offline: I have removed a lot of the links from the main menu though the pages were still there. Some of the pages have not been resurrected yet, I am working on this (I really call it “work” – how un-subversive) while I am writing this blog.
      Re energy and consulting business: Consulting – yes, energy – no (just started). Might depend of the definition of energy maybe – subversive energy or energy as in thermodynamics? 😉

  7. Hi curtain raiser, thanks for stepping by! I have just scrolled through your awesom blog! Are you probably going to blog on your views on science / why you “left” biology? I would be really interested. Are you still interested in chemistry or biology and do you hope to find something science-related behind your curtain? I have sort of reconnected to my roots now – I am in the startup-phase of working as a consultant in renewable energies. But I will require much more navel-gazing (and related blog posts) in order to rethink and reprocess what has happenend on the way 😉 And this time I have promised to myself not to rush through this phase of change – as I always did when I made a career change in the past.

  8. Hi Elkement, thanks for the follow on my blog. I’m also at the navel-gazing stage but took a slightly different path than you to get to this point. Whilst my ultimate career path had nothing to do with science, I too started off as a science major having earned an honours degree in microbiology after discovering my love for chemistry theory did not translate well into the lab. Nice to meet you!

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