The terms systems biology and synthetic biology are currently experiencing a boom – something that has already occurred several times in the history of biology. But what do they actually signify in scientific terms? Are they an expression of a far-reaching change within the discipline, or mere promotional buzzwords that simply “fill old wine into new bottles” in order to present it in a more palatable form? An analysis.
Single atoms can’t be grasped through everyday experience: even a drop of water or a microorganism is made up of countless numbers of them. But Gerhard Rempe, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Quantum Optics in Garching, uses single atoms to study the interaction between light and matter at the most elementary level. The work that he and his team perform is creating the foundations for a future quantum internet.
The ragworm is an unusual laboratory animal. However, for Gáspár Jékely of the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology in Tübingen, this marine inhabitant has all the qualities of a perfect model organism: the larvae possess the simplest eyes in the world and later develop a simple nervous system made up of just a few hundred cells. This means that the scientist can track how sensory stimuli trigger behavioral changes.
Operation successful – patient dead. In German hospitals alone, 30,000 patients die every year from antibiotic-resistant infections that attack injuries and wounds or develop on implants. Researchers working with Renate Förch at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research in Mainz aim to outwit these bacteria with the help of specially coated dressings.
A gigantic heat pump is at work in the Atlantic Ocean, pushing tropical waters north and supplying Europe with a pleasantly warm climate. Jochem Marotzke, Director at Hamburg’s Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, analyzed this current, laying the foundation for an improved climate model.
Every legal system in the world punishes corruption – but the punishments vary widely. The “how” is something that Christoph Engel, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods, and his colleagues Sebastian Goerg and Gaoneng Yu are studying in a laboratory experiment at two universities in Germany and China.
Curious? Yes, she certainly is. And also obsessed – with books. This combination happily converged in her profession. As Director at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, US-born Lorraine Daston, whose first name is an anglicized version of Urania, the muse of astronomy, researches the history of observation and experiment. Or, in other words, how data was collated and illustrated in the past.