MaxPlanckResearch 1/2024


“Democracy can be dismantled more quickly than it can be restored”
Polish voters have spoken: after eight years of government by the Law and Justice party (PiS), Poland wants to stop the dismantling of its constitutional democracy. But how can democracy be restored if the nation’s president and its constitutional court are pursuing a different agenda? Armin von Bogdandy and Dimitri Spieker believe prudence, strategy, and ideas from the people are crucial.

Visit to

Visit to Martina Preiner
It is not uncommon for a scientist to hang up their lab coat and become a journalist. Martina Preiner did it the other way around. After a career as a science journalist, she switched sides again in her early thirties and returned to the laboratory. The reason for her change of heart was a fascination with the origin of life.

Biology & Medicine

A gene for Maleness
Brown algae are outsiders – neither plant nor animal, neither fungus nor bacteria. Their unique position in the tree of life makes them very interesting to Susana Coelho and her team at the Max Planck Institute for Biology in Tübingen. The researchers want to find out whether evolution has taken two different paths to the same important innovation: the emergence of female and male individuals.

Environment & Climate

An Umbrella of Flower Clouds
Tropical trade-wind clouds act as a cooling element in the climate system: in the equatorial zone, they shield against warming solar radiation. But is it possible that human-induced climate change is reducing their numbers, and thereby amplifying global warming? The Eurec4a field study, co-initiated by Bjorn Stevens, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg, investigated these and other questions about tropical cloud activity – with surprising results.

Physics & Astronomie

The Digital Universe
Dark matter and dark energy determine how the universe looks. But that is pretty much all cosmologists know about these phenomena. Their nature is still completely unclear. While they cannot be directly observed, a team led by Volker Springel at the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics in Garching is simulating how this mysterious matter and enigmatic energy have influenced the development of space, which has brought further insights about their properties as well as other aspects.

Materials & Technology

Packaging in Nature
Functional materials are a matter of survival for plants. Trees use them in bark to protect against hail, rockfall, and even fire. And plants use them to package their seeds in a way that protects them from extreme heat and cold, enabling them to germinate when the weather conditions are favorable. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces analyze how biomaterials get their properties and whether they could replace leather or plastic, for example.

Post from

Post from the North Pole
Max Planck researchers collaborate with partners in more than 120 countries. In this article, they write about their personal experiences and impressions. Christina Bienhold from the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology in Bremen spent two months on the research icebreaker Polarstern in the central Arctic. As co-leader of the ArcWatch-1 expedition she reached the North Pole in summer 2023.
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