MaxPlanckResearch 3/2023


Humans and AI – on the way to Symbiosis?
Artificial intelligence (AI) has moved at lightning speed from the domain of nerdy scientist and science fiction to everyday reality. While there is potential for huge societal benefit, numerous reasons indicate the need for caution, particularly concerning the consequences of creating non-human agents more intelligent than us. Indeed, recently, an open letter advocating a pause in giant AI experiments that go beyond the power of GPT-4 was endorsed and signed by numerous individuals including leading academics, AI researchers and tech industry titans.

Visit to

Visit to Axel Kleidon
In the political discussions about the energy transition, half-truths and untruths circulate – something that annoys Axel Kleidon. The physicist, who analyzes the Earth system from a thermodynamic perspective at the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, contributes to the debate with scientific facts in an effort to help the energy transition succeed.

75 Years Max Planck Society

75 years: How political is science allowed to be?
It will be impossible to manage the current planetary crises without global scientific cooperation. This in turn will prove impossible without a balanced relationship and dialogue between science and international politics, specifically between scientists on the one hand and policymakers on the other. However, a look at the history of the Max Planck Society (MPG) shows that the links between science and foreign policy have more often served strategic national and alliance policy interests rather than the global welfare of humankind. Following from this, the MPG did not consider itself to be a major player in international science diplomacy for a very long time, as historian Carola Sachse reports in her new book.

Physics & Astronomy

Drops with a sense of touch
It is such a common sight that it seems downright banal: at some point, almost everyone has likely watched raindrops run down a windowpane. So, it may come as a surprise that there is still fundamental scientific knowledge to be uncovered about how drops travel over surfaces. Research on drops is precisely what a team from the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research has succeeded in doing – and they’ve opened up surprising potential applications in the process.

Culture & Society

Research on a short leash
Democracies are thought to be the centers of groundbreaking research. However, the People’s Republic of China is upending the free world’s perception of itself. Despite its increasingly totalitarian structures, the country has joined the leading group of scientific nations. Under the direction of China researcher Anna Lisa Ahlers, a group from the Lise Meitner Program is attempting to determine how this is possible.

Culture & Society

Other countries, other pensions
Which country has the best pension system? The researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Social Law and Social Policy are often confronted with this question. However, there’s no simple answer: each country has its own structures that have been developed to ensure its citizens are provided for financially in retirement, and each have their advantages and disadvantages. Ulrich Becker and Simone M. Schneider have developed a visualization of the institutional structures of old age pension systems that provides an overview of these systems and enables comparisons between them.

Materials & Technology

Modeled on a jellyfish
They’re not the most popular of sea creatures, but they set standards in terms of underwater propulsion. A team from the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart has designed a robot based on the cnidarians, not least because jellyfish swim very efficiently. In the future, jellyfish-bots could help to remove plastic waste from particularly sensitive ecosystems such as coral reefs.

Post from

Post from Tromsø, Norway
Max Planck researchers cooperate with partners in more than 120 countries. Here they write about their personal experiences and impressions. Clabe Wekesa from the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena spends two summer months north of the Arctic Circle. Using wild blueberries, he is investigating how arctic light conditions affect plants’ resistance to pests.
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