The crisis in Ukraine has driven up energy prices, obscuring a dilemma that we’re likely to face in the near future: if many countries are increasingly able to generate energy without using oil and natural gas, the price of these commodities will fall. This means that the use of fossil fuels will become more attractive again for countries that cannot afford or do not want to make the transition to renewable energies. Against this backdrop, our author advocates speeding up the search for alternative uses, starting now.
Logical processes help computers crack complex mathematical problems, thus making them smarter and faster. Logic can even take human-machine communications to a whole new level. Christoph Weidenbach from the Max Planck Institute for Informatics has been developing such promising logical algorithms for thirty years, and is even testing them on his own race car.
Biology & Medicine
Bacteria are almost everywhere. We encounter them as pathogens or causative agents of infections. But they are our indispensable helpers. For example, without intestinal bacteria we would not be able to digest our food so effectively. A diverse microbial community – known as the microbiome – has co-existed with humans for hundreds of thousands of years. Ruth Ley and her team at the Max Planck Institute for Biology, Tuebingen are researching how microbes have influenced human evolution.
Culture & Society
Music is an innate human ability. It is genetically programmed into our brains and, like language, it is a universal feature that we all share. The human mind is designed to both enjoy and create music. Together with her team at the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, Daniela Sammler is researching what exactly happens in our heads when we make music.
Environment & Climate
Three-spined stickleback fish live in both salt and fresh water. When the glaciers melted at the end of the last ice age, new lakes were formed, and sticklebacks from the sea found new habitats in those freshwater environments. At the Friedrich Miescher Laboratory on the research campus of the Max Planck Society in Tuebingen, Germany, Felicity Jones and her team are studying how the genome of fish changes as they adapt. 12,000-year-old stickleback bones provide insight into the early phase of this transformation.