Yearbook 2017

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Ever since antiquity, it is a declared goal of the arts to emotionally move its audience (lat. movere). The studies reported here offer a scientific definition of feelings of being moved and prove its role in aesthetic evaluation. Confirming a "mixed" affective nature of these feelings, goosebumps – which accompany peak states of being moved – simultaneously activate the primary reward network and high levels of negative affect as measured by facial electromyography (EMG). Moreover, the distribution of goosebumps episodes across the trajectory of poems reveals secrets of artistic composition. more
Ageing is not a random process. Biological ageing processes are instead regulated by metabolic and genetic mechanisms. Single gene mutations can markedly extend the life span of various organisms. The biology of ageing can be investigated in simple yeast cells, flies, round worms, and also in mice. Gene mutations that extend life span also protect against age-associated diseases such as neurodegeneration, cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. A deeper understanding of molecular mechanisms of longevity can open new avenues for therapies or prevention of these highly relevant diseases. more
Like no other medium, language transports meaning in interactions. Recent studies highlight (1) how meaning is constituted through shared social experience in interactions with preverbal infants, (2) that different social contexts can modify the meaning of gestures in the second year of life, and (3) that young children can establish meaning in original ways when encountering cooperative contexts that limit the use of linguistic communication. more
The Indian Ocean is the third largest Ocean of the world, measuring approximately 69 million square kilometers. It connects Africa, West-, South-, Southeast-, and East Asia among each other. This ocean has been transversed by sailors for more than 5.000 years now, first only in parts, but after the deciphering of the monsoon-code (southwesterly winds in summer, northeasterly winds in winter) at the turn of the common era, also in its entire width. more

The Archives of the Max Planck Society - a review of 2016

Archive of the Max Planck Society Starkloff, Kristina
In 2016, some complex processes were successfully implemented. This includes the adoption of the archive statutes, which regulate the archive's rights and obligations and make them transparent to users. In addition to many successful acquisitions, especially in the field of photographs and collections, documents from a very influential patron of the Kaiser Wilhelm Society, Leopold Koppel, were transferred to the archive, including the first known photographs of the banker and his family. The archive entered new territory with its project to develop a tool for email archiving. more
Two astronomers have produced the first direct images of a gigantic X-shaped distribution of stars in the center of the Milky Way. The collaboration began when Dustin Lang (University of Toronto) tweeted an image he had recently created. From the tweet, Melissa Ness (MPIA) recognized the image's significance for reconstructing the history of our home galaxy. The X-shaped distribution indicates that the bulge of stars surrounding the center of the galactic disk was formed through dynamical interactions of stars, not by the merger of smaller galaxies with our own. more
Astronomers have discovered a planet orbiting the nearest star outside our solar system, Proxima Centauri. The planet, designated Proxima Centauri b, is in the habitable zone of its star, where liquid water could exist. The discovery is the result of a patient search using the radial velocity method, which searches for tiny wobbles of a star caused by an orbiting planet. In addition to newly acquired data, the analysis uses spectra taken by MPIA astronomer Martin Kürster and colleagues between 2000 and 2007. more
Using recent, extensive cosmological simulations, researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics have shown that the expected signal from the Sunyaev-Zeldovich (SZ) effect of galaxy clusters on the Cosmic Microwave Background agrees remarkably well with observations by the Planck satellite. However, only a small fraction of this predicted signal is currently observable. The scientists developed a simple analytical model to understand the SZ probability distribution function, which is also helpful in interpreting the observed distribution of galaxy clusters masses. more
An international team of experts from Europe and China has performed the first simulations of globular clusters with a million stars on the high-performance GPU cluster of the Max Planck Computing and Data Facility. These – up to now – largest and most realistic simulations can reproduce observed properties of stars in globular clusters at unprecedented detail and shed light into the dark world of black holes. The computer models deliver high quality synthetic data and predict nuclear clusters of single and binary black holes. more
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