Brussels determines the direction in many policy fields, but in European foreign, security and defense policy, it’s the member states that set the tone - not the EU. When it comes to international peace talks or emergency meetings, such as the one held recently over the crisis in Ukraine, it’s the national foreign ministers and not the EU foreign policy chief taking the lead. However, given the challenges for peace and security in Europe, our author holds that this is an outdated model: it’s time for the member states to act in concert.
Physics & Astronomy
What do soccer and quantum mechanics have in common? Both have surprising twists in store that are difficult to predict. Soccer, however, at least follows some rules that are more or less reliable. As a striker, Jens Hjörleifur Bárdarson controls the ball; as a physicist, he masters the rules of the quantum universe. The 35-year-old researcher at the Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems in Dresden studies atomic particles, which display many a tricky move.
Biology & Medicine
“I think, therefore I am” – René Descartes’ thinking gave him the certainty that he did, in fact, exist. At the same time, he was aware that he was thinking, and he was able to contemplate his own thoughts. Scientists call this reflection on one’s own thinking “metacognition” – a skill that so-called lucid dreamers have, as well. Elisa Filevich and Simone Kühn at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin are studying which brain regions are particularly pronounced in lucid dreamers, and whether it is the same ones that are also related to metacognition.
Material & Technology
Soon, the NSA and other secret services may no longer be able to secretly eavesdrop on our communications without being detected – at least if quantum cryptography becomes popular. A team headed by Christoph Marquardt and Gerd Leuchs at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Light in Erlangen is laying the foundations for the tap-proof distribution of cryptographic keys even via satellite. For the time being, the researchers have brought quantum communication into the light of day.
Environment & Climate
What will the Earth’s climate be like 10 or 15 years from now? Researchers have yet to find a satisfactory answer to this question – especially as random changes that occur in such medium-term periods play a significant role. Natural fluctuations are probably also the reason why global temperatures have hardly risen at all in the past 15 years. Jochem Marotzke from the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg and his colleagues all across Germany are working intensively on a system designed to generate reliable forecasts for the coming years.
Culture & Society
While Islam is still perceived by many as the greatest impediment to integration in European immigration societies, a team of scientists headed by Matthias Koenig has come up with a more differentiated approach. As a sociologist and Max Planck Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, he has led the “Governance of Cultural Diversity – Socio-Legal Dynamics” Research Group since December 2011.