Humans have taken dominion over the Earth – and have done so to an extent that threatens the basis for human life itself. From the perspective of our author, the development of scientific and technical knowledge has played a key role in the transition to the Anthropocene, the geological epoch of humankind. But we still need to learn more about the close interrelationship between the Earth and humans to be able to actually understand and overcome the crises that we create through our own actions.
Mariela Morales Antoniazzi has challenged corruption in Latin America and mobilized its citizens. The Venezuelan-born lawyer is currently conducting research at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law in Heidelberg to investigate why human rights are the prerequisite for any democracy – and how to defend them.
Environment & Climate
For centuries, their lives were under threat: Europeans considered bears, wolves and ibexes either as a threat, a food source or trophies, and hunted them to extinction. Wilko Graf von Hardenberg, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, studies the ways in which our relationship to iconic mammals has changed over the centuries.
Biology & Medicine
Roman Wittig, who heads up the Taï Chimpanzee Project at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, knows what happens when a virus changes its host, and has experienced it several times in the Taï National Park in the République de Côte d’Ivoire, the last time having been four years ago, when a coronavirus that is harmless to humans jumped from humans to chimpanzees. In collaboration with Fabian Leendertz of the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin, he is looking into pathogens that cause disease in chimpanzees and which of them could also pose a threat to humans.
Culture & Society
When people find their final resting place in a mass grave, their life stories are often buried along with their mortal remains. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Jena have succeeded in reconstructing part of the story of three African men who lived in Mexico City in the 16th century: theirs is a story of forced migration and slavery, but also of dangerous pathogens that traveled around the world undetected.
Materials & Technology
In ancient times, it was the material of choice for sword blades. Now, a kind of Damascus steel can be produced in a 3D printer using a technique developed by a team from the Max-Planck-Institut für Eisenforschung in Duesseldorf and the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology in Aachen. Composite materials of this kind could be of interest for aerospace components or toolmaking.