Replay: Campus Talks: the 1.5 metre society

The government is gradually easing the lockdown – but only if we stay at least 1.5m away from one another. So, what is this 1.5m limit actually based on, and how safe is that distance? How does working from home most of the time and 1.5m distancing impact social beings like us? We coverd these topics in online talkshow Campus Talks on 26 May.

In the University of Twente’s Campus Talks II, Peter-Paul Verbeek – a philosopher of technology – discussed these issues with the social psychologist Mariëlle Stel and the fluid physicist Detlef Lohse.

Episode two of this University of Twente online talk show focused on the ‘1.5 metre society’ that has been thrust upon us by the corona virus. The show opened with a brief report from Rudy Oude Vrielink (an expert in the field of space optimisation), showing how sensor technology can be used to set up a ‘1.5m’ lecture theatre. Peter-Paul Verbeek interviewed the fluid physicist Detlef Lohse, who has some reservations about the sanctioned 1.5m distance. Professor Lohse thinks this distance is fairly arbitrary and not necessarily safe, by any means. He explained what happens when someone tries to sneeze into the crook of their elbow, but misses.

The ‘1.5m’ psychology

Aside from physics, the show focused on people and society. The social psychologist Mariëlle Stel ponders the ‘1.5m’ psychology. Will we faithfully observe this distancing rule? What can the government do to ensure that people remain alert to this? A modicum of fear seems to be quite effective. What is the best way to get this message across?

Award-winning app

In practice, we are staying much more than 1.5m apart, since almost all University of Twente students are at home, eyes glued to their computer screens. What impact does this have on a person? Some students from the University of Twente’s DesignLab have found a way to ease their isolation. They have created mentor.Me, an ingenious app that enables students to get in touch with their advisers or supervisors. This brainchild of theirs recently helped them to win a major hackathon. One of the students involved, Gleb Podorozhnyy, filled in the details. In an effort to keep us fit in body and mind in this 1.5m era, the episode drawed to a sporty conclusion with some advice from Jasper Reenalda, a human movement scientist.

Go to for more info and to watch other episodes.

J.C. Vreeman (Jochem)
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