Two years ago, countless stories appeared in the media about a computer winning Jeopardy, a tricky quiz show on American television. This raises a number of questions: What can computers know? How do they use this knowledge for language comprehension and for dialog with human beings? And what can be done when machines collect facts about users that aren’t in the users’ best interests?
Physics & Astronomy
Turbulence is omnipresent: it plays an important role during planet formation, mixes fuel and air in the cylinder of an engine, but also increases the energy needed for pumps to push oil through pipelines. Björn Hof and his team at the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization in Göttingen investigate the finer points of how it originates and search for tricks to prevent the eddies from forming where they interfere.
Biology & Medicine
Worms, beetles and a small island in the middle of the ocean. For developmental geneticist and evolutionary biologist Ralf Sommer from the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology in Tübingen, roundworms and beetles are the actors and the island of La Réunion the stage on which a great drama unfolds: an educational piece about evolution, the diversity of nature, and how it emerges.
Environment & Climate
In many parts of the world, goats are important suppliers of milk, meat and hides. However, Martin Wikelski, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Radolfzell, has very different plans for these modest animals: he wants to use them to predict volcanic eruptions.
Culture & Society
A cultural historian at a psychological research institute? Ute Frevert considers herself an advocate of the humanities – and enjoys putting the concepts and methods of her empirically oriented colleagues from the field of natural sciences to the test time and again. To support her arguments, the Director at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin occasionally calls on witnesses such as Romeo and Juliet, Frederick the Great, and even Angela Merkel.