News - November 5, 2018

Dijsselbloem flips a coin

Roelof Kleis

Where will the next step in the career of the currently unemployed former Minister of Finance Jeroen Dijsselbloem take place? Will that be in the Netherlands or some top position abroad? Chance has answered: abroad.

© Royal Dutch Mint

At least, that is the advice he received from the Flip a coin machine which he inaugurated Friday afternoon in Orion. After being offered a dilemma, the machine flips a coin. The apparatus is the new promotional gadget of the Royal Dutch Mint. It will be standing in Orion for the next six weeks, where it provides ‘advice’ to people who present it with a dilemma.

Wageningen fiver
The Flip a coin machine is the side show to the minting of the Wageningen University 5 Euro Coin, as the official name of the commemorative coin reads, which the Mint is issuing to celebrate the centenary of academic education in Wageningen. Dijsselbloem, alumnus and former Minister of Finance stamped the very first specimen.

The Mint’s classic screw press was transported to campus for the occasion. The force necessary to stamp the coin is generated using a large screw. Dijsselbloem thus milled the very first coin. A chore he always wanted to do. ‘When I was Minister, it was State Secretary Weekers who always had the honour. He then distributed the milled coins in the Cabinet.’

dijsselbloem slaat munt.jpg

‘Stamping a coin is creating value and trust’, Dijsselbloem said. ‘That trust is needed is our times of increasing uncertainty.’ He then smoothly switched to WUR. ‘By stamping a coin, you commit to a value. Especially if the coin is used to create knowledge.’ The Wageningen fiver is available as of last Friday. WUR staff will be gifted one by the employer.

Besides Dijsselbloem, fellow citizen Willem Laurens also experienced a very special day. Laurens is the head of production at the Mint and is a Wageninger. ‘This is really amazing. It is already very special for such a small city to have its own coin, but I was also born and raised here. I have lived in Wageningen nearly 60 years now. My parental home was right next to the Bassecour, the former main building. It really is a special feeling to be here.’

Willem Laurens: ‘This is really amazing.’ © Caroline Berkhof
Willem Laurens: ‘This is really amazing.’ © Caroline Berkhof

The coin was designed by Marlin Persson. She wanted to represent the ‘unity between nature, science and art’ in the coin. She chose the sunflower on the obverse as a symbol of regularity in nature. The seed of the flower is set in spirals with mathematical precision. On the reverse of the coin, the pattern recurs in fields on an aerial photo. The outline of an Erlenmeyer flask refers to science.

This machine could teach our students to ponder whether something truly happens by chance or not.
Louise Fresco

Wrong impression
So, what will Dijsselbloem do? ‘Whether I will listen to the machine’s advice remains to be seen.’ As a matter of fact, is the campus a place for such a Flip a coin machine at all? Chair of the Board Louise Fresco admits she had to think twice about that. ‘Will our students not be given the wrong impression? After all, scientists do not take decisions based on the flip of a coin.’

‘On the other hand, chance does play an important role in science’, she says. ‘Chance has been the dynamic driving force in evolution, and in so many other aspects. This machine could teach our students to ponder whether something truly happens by chance or not.’