MPR 3/2012

Viewpoint

Freedom Creates Knowledge
Knowledge changes constantly as research probes the validity of existing knowledge and converts ignorance into new knowledge. Research may also create new ignorance by discovering entirely novel territories whose very existence we had not imagined. Our author analyzes the conditions most conducive to drawing back the curtains.

Physics & Astronomy

The Search for a Second Earth
To date, astronomers have discovered nearly 800 planets orbiting distant stars. So far, only three of them have been found to potentially offer life-sustaining conditions. However, there are probably many second Earths in the Milky Way. But how can traces of life be detected on exoplanets? At the Max Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg, Lisa Kaltenegger is trying to answer this question.

Physics & Astronomy

A Ball Artist in the Quantum Arena
Electrons don’t have much in common with basketballs, apart from the fact that they are often portrayed as having the shape of a ball. Nevertheless, Peter Hommelhoff is as adept a player with one as he is with the other. In his experiments at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics in Garching, where he heads a Max Planck research group, he has achieved a new level of control over these elementary particles.

Materials & Technology

The Power Grid’s Got Rhythm
New forms and sources of energy need new power lines as well. In the future, a larger number of small, distributed wind and solar installations in place of a smaller number of large power plants are projected to supply Germany with energy. At the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization, the Network Dynamics Group headed by Marc Timme is investigating how the high-voltage grid will respond to this and how it can be optimized.

Environment & Climate

Powerhouse Earth
Our planet is at work: The sun drives the wind, the waves and the water cycle. Plants store the energy from light in sugar, supplying the fuel of life. Geothermal forces knead the earth, while the moon and the sun primarily keep the oceans in motion. Axel Kleidon and his team at the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Jena are investigating how much energy flows in these processes and how much of this could be used on a sustainable basis in order to satisfy mankind’s energy needs.

Culture & Society

The Science of the Studio
Not only did they create impressive works of art, they also took an interest in alchemy, mathematics and the natural sciences. At the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, researchers headed by Sven Dupré are studying how artists in the early modern era discovered, depicted and circulated new knowledge through their works.
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