MaxPlanckResearch 4/2013


Failing by Installment
With the financial markets broadening their international reach, there was hope that microcredit might alleviate poverty and lead to the emancipation of women in the “global South.” Sadly, however, there are no indications that microfinance has had a positive effect. On the contrary, the poor have suffered more discipline, while surplus labor is extracted from them even more than before. Worse still, the microfinance sector has triggered a series of devastating crises. Our author explains why we can’t use more debt to create social justice.

Physics & Astronomy

How Cosmic Clocks Tick
Pulsars are the most compact material objects in the universe. Their diameter is approximately equal to that of the city of Munich, but they contain the mass of the Sun. These extreme conditions make them ideal test objects for the theory of general relativity, as the work of Michael Kramer and his colleagues from the Bonn-based Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy shows.

Biology & Medicine

In the Shadow of Tuberculosis
At the Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology in Berlin, the focus is on such unpleasant companions as chlamydia, HIV and tubercle bacilli. Stefan H. E. Kaufmann, as Founding Director, helped establish it 20 years ago. Since then, the scientist has been researching the strengths and weaknesses of the tubercle bacillus. Modern tuberculosis research would be inconceivable without him – and he without it.

Material & Technology

A Slippery Slope for Every Drop
The research being undertaken by Doris Vollmer and Hans-Jürgen Butt could not only put an end to the annoying
smears on window panes, it could also make it possible to produce self-cleaning solar panels or more effective heart-lung machines. The scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research in Mainz are developing surfaces that are extremely water and blood repellent.

Environment & Cllimate

The Perpetual Pump
The hydrological cycle tirelessly distributes water between land, ocean, atmosphere and cryosphere. Stefan Hagemann and his colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg study the exact details of how this happens. They investigate the various feedback mechanisms between wetlands, artificial irrigation, permafrost and climate.
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