MaxPlanckResearch 3/2021


Forestry needs new roots
Climate change is devastating forests in Germany and other European regions. Our traditional understanding of which tree species can withstand heat and drought no longer holds true, which is why ecophysiologist Henrik Hartmann is calling for the creation of an interdisciplinary Institute for Forest Conversion. This new institute would provide scientific insights into how forests can be constituted to be able to withstand ongoing global warming.

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From heavenly bodies to human brains
What holds matter together? What binds the universe? What is the nature of human thought? Charlotte Grosse Wiesmann of the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences has always been interested in the big questions. Grosse Wiesmann, who originally studied physics, now investigates which developments in the brain enable children to empathize with others.

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Post from Melbourne, Australia
Max Planck researchers are currently collaborating with partners in over 120 countries. In the following article they talk about their personal experiences and impressions. Alban Mariette from the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology in Potsdam is researching how plants construct their cell walls. He is currently spending two years in Australia as part of the Melbourne-Potsdam PhD Program (MelPoPP). Here, he shares details of his experiences during the lockdown period and about his work-life balance as a PhD student. He also waxes lyrical about the awesome Australian scenery.

Biology & Medicine

Droplets in the cellular soup
For decades, few people were interested in the puncta that biologists observed when they examined cells under the microscope. Cliff Brangwynne and Anthony Hyman from the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden were among the first researchers to study these mysterious phenomena in more detail.

Culture & Society

Digital Demography
More than one-third of the world’s population uses Facebook at least once a month. In the process, Facebook collects a lot of data from its users, which represents a valuable but barely tapped source for scientific research. Emilio Zagheni and his team at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock are using social media data in an attempt to track and predict international migration.

Environment & Climate

Fuel from the steelworks
With the steel industry accounting for some six percent of global carbon dioxide emissions, the Carbon2Chem project is taking an unusual approach to reducing the industry’s climate footprint: scientists from organizations including the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Energy Conversion and the company Thyssenkrupp AG are studying how this greenhouse gas can be used as a raw material for chemical products that – until now – have been produced from oil.

Physics & Astronomy

Zooming into the heart of Centaurus A
Centaurus is one of the most famous constellations in the southern sky. Take a closer look at the constellation through binoculars and you’ll see a pale nebula known as Centaurus A – it is in fact a distant galaxy in which a supermassive black hole resides. Michael Janssen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn and Radboud University Nijmegen led an Event Horizon Telescope team that has now come closer than ever before to understanding the nature of this gravity trap.
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