Yearbook 2012

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Twenty years into German unification, one would have expected East-West differences in attitudes, living conditions and behavior to have gradually converged. While this holds for many areas of life, this does not apply to the family domain. Family structures and maternal employment patterns still differ radically between the two parts of the country. The panel study DemoDiff, monitored by the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, is getting to the bottom of these differences. more
As central elements of life, proteins fulfill a plethora of functions in cells and organisms. Not only their synthesis, but also their degradation has to be carefully regulated. Networks of ring-shaped AAA ATPases use energy to unfold proteins and deliver them into the interior of cylindrical proteasome complexes, where the disentangled proteins get degraded down to their basic components. Biochemical, bioinformatic and structural methods allow a deeper understanding of these processes on a molecular level and give insight into the evolution of complex protein nanomachines. more
Each cell contains thousands of different proteins, and each of these proteins fulfills a specific task. To ensure that the exact amount of individual proteins is produced at the right time, the cell tightly regulates the expression of genes. During this process, messenger RNA (mRNA) molecules transfer the genetic information to the cellular location of protein production. The group studies the molecular machinery that degrades these mRNA molecules - which provides the cell with an efficient means to terminate the production of proteins that are no longer required. more
Libraries want to provide comfortable access for the scientists to several digital information resources – not only to the library catalog. Discovery systems support this objective by allowing the integration of all sorts of data sources into one index. The Max Planck Digital Library and five Max Planck Institute libraries carried out a pilot project to establish a discovery system, which is simplifying the access to the libraries' information resources significantly. more
The revival of Tibetan Buddhism in contemporary China is intimately bound with both the affirming and negating forces of globalization, modernity, and politics of religion, indigenous identity reclamation, and the market economy. Tibetan Buddhism is multidimensional in relation to different religious, cultural, and political constituencies of China. Its revival is not an isolated event limited merely to Tibetan regions; instead, it is a result of the intersection of both local and global transformative changes. more
Spreading processes occur in many complex systems. They play an important role, for instance, in the formation of epidemics and the spread of evolutionary novelties. Until recently, most theories of those processes ignored or approximated the role of noise. The example of evolution illustrates, however, that random chance effects should not be neglected. We report a substantial advance in the analysis of these and more complex models. more
The transition to turbulence in a fast moving fluid often starts from a localized turbulent seed that grows until it fills the whole domain. Methods stemming from dynamical systems theory allow first steps towards understanding the observed spreading: Recently constructed special solutions of the underlying equations capture aspects of the characteristic spatiotemporal dynamics. The new solutions are created by known pattern formation mechanisms also believed to underlie the characteristic spots and stripes on leopards and tigers. more
Operations in chemistry and biology are based on complex interactions between molecules. The biological and chemical generation of hydrogen, one of the energy carriers of the future, by enzymes or catalysts at ambient temperature was investigated by applying various computational approaches. Nature-inspired chemical systems are necessary in order to reveal details of the enzymatic system. In molecular systems biology, the focus and the way of investigations shift and enable the understanding of interactions and kinetics of proteins in networks. more
Electrochemical energy systems like fuel cells, batteries and electrolysis cells are attractive for future energy systems as they are highly energy efficient and can follow the dynamic demand of energy or can convert a dynamic oversupply of electricity gained from renewables into chemical energy. A deeper understanding of the complex processes at electrodes and in such cells can be reached when systematically applying dynamic electrochemical analysis methods. In addition, such methods may be used to detect the state of cells and electrodes or even to sense concentrations. more
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