MaxPlanckResearch 2/2019


A portrait of a black hole
Black holes swallow all light, making them invisible. That’s what you’d think anyway, but astronomers thankfully know that this isn’t quite the case. They are, in fact, surrounded by a glowing disc of gas, which makes them visible against this bright background, like a black cat on a white sofa. And that’s how the Event Horizon Telescope has now succeeded in taking the first picture of a black hole. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn and the Institute for Radio Astronomy in the Millimeter Range (IRAM) in Grenoble, France, were among those making the observations.


Digital humanism
From nursing care robots to language assistants such as Alexa and Siri or electronic control systems in your car, digitization is literally drawing closer to our everyday lives. For a long time, the issue of ethics has been on the table in order to keep the use of artificial intelligence within reasonable limits. Our author advocates reviving humanistic ideals for the digital world. His main concern is that people should take center stage.

Biology & Medicine

Fill up the bowl!
Leghold traps, limed rods, pit traps - insectivorous plants have come up with unusual strategies to obtain additional nutrients. Axel Mithöfer at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena is investigating how pitcher plants from Southeast Asia entrap and digest their victims.

Materials & Technology

Programming fairness
In the future, it will be more and more common for computers to make decisions about human beings – whether they are granting loans or assessing applicants. However, it happens occasionally that the automated systems that are already in use discriminate against certain groups of people. Niki Kilbertus and Bernhard Schölkopf, researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Tuebingen, want to change this by developing fair algorithms.

Culture & Society

The art of orientation
Every city map, and every map in general, contains stories about the time at which it was produced. At the Bibliotheca Hertziana, Max-Planck-Institut für Kunstgeschichte in Rome, art historian Tanja Michalsky is studying how people have measured the world. Her research is expanding the area covered by her subject and even includes films by Federico Fellini and David Lynch.
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