The fight against COVID-19 appears to be taking place mainly at a national level, while the World Health Organization (WHO) has repeatedly been the subject of criticism. However, according to Lauren Tonti and Pedro Villarreal, the role of the WHO is often underestimated. They explain from a legal point of view what action the organization is taking during the pandemic, and where there is a need for reform.
Viola Priesemann's life has changed a great deal since the corona epidemic first started in Germany: Priesemann, the head of a research group at the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization, is now investigating not only information processing in the brain, but also how the SARS-CoV-2 virus spreads. And ever since, her daily routine has included consultations with policymakers, giving interviews, and appearing on TV.
Biology & Medicine
What is life? How did it emerge? And could it possibly look completely different? At Kerstin Göpfrich’s lab at the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research in Heidelberg, scientists are working on answers to the really big questions. Her research group’s plan is no less ambitious: to create artificial cells and, by so doing, to discover what is essential for life.
Culture & Society
For humans, plants are a source of food, building material, and medicine. But not everything that green is good. Some plants produce toxins that can make us sick or even kill us. Thus, a wariness of plants makes sense from an evolutionary point of view, especially for infants and toddlers. Annie Wertz from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin is investigating which behaviors protect children from dangerous plants and how they learn from adults which plants are safe to eat.
Materials & Technology
It's impossible to imagine modern life without metals, but today's metal industry is responsible for a third of all industrial greenhouse gas emissions. Dierk Raabe and Martin Palm, scientists at the Max-Planck-Institut für Eisenforschung in Duesseldorf, are working on a more sustainable way of producing - and using – metals. Their ideas could completely revolutionize the metal industry.
Physik & Astronomy
It should not actually exist - a black hole with a mass 85 times that of our sun. But that is precisely what astronomers have discovered. Apparently, this heavyweight used to be part of a binary star system before it merged with its equally massive partner. The resulting space-time quake unleashed gravitational waves that are posing many a puzzle for researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics in Potsdam and Hanover.
Environment & Climate
Forests can remove large amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere. So far, there is consensus about this throughout the scientific community. However, there is some dispute about how forests can best protect the climate - whether they should be managed sustainably or left undisturbed. Right in the middle of this dispute is Ernst-Detlef Schulze, Director Emeritus at the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Jena.