MPR 1/2012

Viewpoint

The Beauty of Numbers
Johann Sebastian Bach, Le Corbusier and Maurits Escher: Mathematics has influenced many a creative genius. But also mathematics itself contains an element of beauty.

Physics & Astronomy

The Sun’s Crowning Glory
Those who experience a total solar eclipse are overwhelmed as they look at the circle of light that surrounds our Sun. Laypeople may find it enchanting, but researchers have been racking their brains over it for decades. Why, they wonder, does this gaseous layer – the corona – have a temperature of several million degrees?

Recipes for the  Cosmic Cocktail
A pile of astronomy books and a telescope in his childhood bedroom. Space cast its spell on Sadegh Khochfar at an early age – and he is still captivated today. The 37-year-old now heads a Max Planck research group at the Garching-based Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics, where he is at least as successful at piecing together the components of the universe as he was at mixing cocktails as a student.

Biology & Medicine

The Two Versions of the Human Genome
Sequenced, yes – but decoded? We still don’t fully understand our human genetic make-up. The answer to many of its mysteries lies in the diploid nature of the genome, which contains two sets of chromosomes: one inherited from the father and one from the mother.

Materials & Technology

The Formula for Lobster Shell
For gourmets, they are mainly a nuisance. For Helge Fabritius, however, they are a treasure trove of information. At the Max-Planck-Institut für Eisenforschung in Düsseldorf, the biologist investigates the construction principles of lobster and crab shells. In the process, he is uncovering how arthropods produce versatile material properties using a very limited choice of basic materials.

Environment & Climate

The Greening Desert
Climate change will very likely result in southern Europe becoming much drier. Ironically, however, significant global warming could lead to an increase of vegetation in the Sahara – as has frequently occurred in the past.

Culture & Society

Traditional Burials Are Dying Out
Forest burial sites are taking the place of cemeteries, urns replacing oak coffins, headstones are now “Made in India” – over the past two decades funerals in Germany have become much more multifaceted; the stolid dignity of old-style interments is out of fashion. These are the findings of a study headed by Dominic Akyel of the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies in Cologne.
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