Yearbook 2018

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A classical experiment on the perception of musical rhythms, conducted for the first time in cross-culturally comparative perspective, shows close connections between culturally specific structures of perception and the practice of musical styles in Germany, Bulgaria, and Mali. This finding of culture influencing perception contradicts the prevailing assumption of the basic structures of music cognition to be universally determined by human biology. more
In prehistoric times, two distinct groups of hominins inhabited Eurasia: Neanderthals in the west and Denisovans in the east. We sequenced the genome of an approximately 90,000-year-old female individual from Russia and discovered that she had a Neanderthal mother and a Denisovan father. This shows that individuals from these two groups occasionally mixed. Together with previous evidence that Neanderthals and Denisovans mixed with early modern humans, this shows that throughout history, humans from different groups have always mixed. more
Researching learning processes of terrorist groups, we have discovered a logic of deradicalization: groups do not change their objectives but question the means and norms that define those objectives. However, when terrorist groups deradicalize, more radical factions splinter off. Such radicalization, in turn, leads to the radicalization of countermeasures by states. The learning processes of terrorist groups illuminate the logic of (de-)radicalization mechanisms and can be used to break co-radicalization patterns between states and non-state actors. more
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy (MPIA) and the SPHERE instrument consortium at the Very Large Telescope of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) have discovered and characterised an extremely young exoplanet in a state of its formation. This gas giant with the designation PDS 70 b, with a mass equivalent to several Jupiters, was detected orbiting the star PDS 70 within a gap of its protoplanetary disk. This means that PDS 70 b is still in the vicinity of its birth place and likely still accumulating material. more
Astronomers, led by Maria Bergemann from the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, have investigated a small population of stars in the halo of the Milky Way Galaxy, finding its chemical composition to closely match that of the Galactic disk. This similarity provides compelling evidence that these stars have originated from within the disk, rather than from merged dwarf galaxies. The reason for this stellar migration is thought to be theoretically proposed oscillations of the Milky Way disk as a whole, induced by the tidal interaction of the Milky Way with a passing massive satellite galaxy. more
Quantum vacuum fluctuations in spacetime in the very early Universe generate gravitational waves, whose probability distribution is close to a Gaussian. However, they can also be generated by other sources, and carry imprints of the energy content of the early Universe. Scientists at MPA showed that these gravitational waves can be highly non-Gaussian, with a skewness much larger than for those generated by vacuum fluctuations. more
Previous studies of large AGN samples both a low and at high redshifts seemed to rule out galaxy mergers as the drivers for black hole growth. A new technique developed at MPA for selecting a rare type of active galactic nuclei now show that it is possible to identify a new class of AGN in which more than 80% of the galaxies turn out to be merging or interacting systems, with clear indications of an accreting black hole. A detailed statistical analysis then reveals that mergers drive black hole formation in the most massive galaxies in the local Universe. more
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