All such instruments are based on the principle of interferometry. This involves splitting laser light into two beams, which are then directed at right angles away from each other along two long arms. At their ends, they are reflected back again by mirrors and finally recombine and overlap with each other. From the resulting interference pattern, scientists can tell whether or not a gravitational wave has passed through the equipment. Such measurements are extremely challenging, and, as a result, the interior of GEO600 resembles a clean room in a virology laboratory. All personnel are required to wear protective goggles and specialized overalls, as a single speck of dust would compromise the sensitive measurements.
The laser beams run through two 600-meter stainless steel tubes that form a sophisticated vacuum system. The optical table in front of the three researchers generates “squeezed light.” This is one of the tricks the scientists employ to increase the sensitivity of a gravitational-wave detector. It mutes noise caused by quantum effects in the laser light by a factor of 2! With that, the GEO600 has set a new world record.
How do they do it? Do the animals have to learn this behaviour? Which structures in the brain are involved, and how? To find out, the researchers have a state-of-the-art wind tunnel at their disposal. The facility generates up to 800 liters of fully air-conditioned air per second, the temperature can be regulated in the range of 15 to 30°C, the humidity from 20 to 90 percent. The air is always freshly drawn in and conditioned. Lighting is provided by a luminous ceiling made of LEDs, which can simulate day and night light.
Tobacco hawkmoths are predominantly nocturnal, so the experiment shown here takes place in red light, which the animals cannot see. The moth starts from a transport dish, at the other end of the tunnel a tobacco plant is positioned. Its natural scents or odorants placed there are carried by the wind coming in behind the plant in the direction of the butterfly, whose behaviour can now be closely observed and recorded.
Rainer Polak and Nori Jacoby from the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics have rented the premises to research traditional dance and music in West Africa. They’ve engaged several groups of local professional artists. A drum ensemble with three musicians, two singers and several dancers are involved. All elements of this live session are recorded via multimedia. Video cameras capture the performance from several perspectives, the membranes of all the drums have been fitted with sensors to directly pick up their mechanical vibrations. One of the dancers wears a motion capture suit incorporating seventeen sensors, each of which is simultaneously recording her movements’ acceleration, rotation and magnetic field data. This allows the movement of the dancer in the room to be precisely calculated and, for instance, correlated with the rhythms played by the instrumentalists.
The researchers from the Institute in Frankfurt regularly collect such and other data in Mali and Bolivia – and for comparison, also in Germany, Bulgaria, the U.S., Great Britain and Uruguay. They’ve discovered that people from different cultures perceive identical rhythms differently. Do Africans have more “rhythm in their blood” than Europeans? Probably not. The decisive factor is the person’s cultural familiarity with the rhythm in question – in other words, whether they’ve unconsciously become familiarized with it in their customary social environment.
In the middle of the Chilean Andes, researchers are planning a facility known as the Southern Wide-field Gamma-ray Observatory (SWGO). One day, this facility will operate around the clock to observe high-energy radiation from the depths of the universe and measure it using an indirect method. The technique takes advantage of a phenomenon in which cosmic gamma photons produce veritable showers of particles in the atmosphere, which can be detected from the blue light they subsequently produce in water. One concept for the observatory envisages using a natural lake, from which water could be extracted, then purified on-site and used to fill balloons. These balloons would then be fitted with internal detectors and suspended in the lake.
The scientists want to use the tank in Heidelberg to test whether this idea actually works. The scaffolding allows them to literally submerge test balloons inside the tank. As part of this experiment, they are testing various balloon materials with regard to both their stability and their optical properties. In addition, a water-circulation and -filtration plant can set the artificial lake in gentle motion – creating the perfect simulation for a new window into outer space.
The Renaissance-style Palazzo Grifoni was commissioned by Ugolino Grifoni and built in the 16th century and was later refurbished in 1890 when it was acquired by the Budini Gattai family. The, In 2010, the Photothek was built into the reception rooms in the Piano nobile using a room-within-a-room concept , thus preserving the original structure of the listed historic halls. Every square inch was exploited to allow the approximately 620,000 photographs to remain freely accessible to researchers on open shelves, while also housing archival materials, the photo library, work desks, and a lecture hall.
So why not download the Flora Incognita app, take a photo, and find out what plants are currently in bloom all around you? And not only that, the app can do so much more. Is this plant poisonous? Is it rare or common? Is it a protected species? Flora Incognita offers users quick, on-site access to a great deal of knowledge about unfamiliar plants. At the same time, scientists obtain new data and facts about plant diversity. When do certain species flower, and where? How much do plants from a single species differ from each other? How does the composition of plant species change at a particular location? With this Citizen Science project, anyone can help to investigate biodiversity and how it is changing, for example through climate change or agriculture. And with a little help of artificial intelligence, a wildflower meadow – here in the Bavarian Alps –becomes a research location.
Now, in order to measure the tiny mass of a neutrino, scientists have developed a very precise weighing scale. Dubbed KATRIN, this scale is located at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and consists of a high-precision spectrometer and an extremely strong tritium source. When this heavy variant of hydrogen undergoes radioactive decay, one electron and one neutrino are emitted. The energy released in this process is divided between the two particles – and the neutrino carries off at least as much energy as corresponds to its mass. Accordingly, the spectrometer data allows the scientists to draw conclusions about the “weight” of the neutrino.
The team led by Susanne Mertens from the Max Planck Institute for Physics is part of this international experiment. In 2019, the researchers calculated the mass of a neutrino for the very first time. The result: its mass is less than an electron volt. This is the world’s most accurate specification for the mass of a neutrino to date. However, the KATRIN scientists are certain that far greater precision can be achieved.
While blue tit pairs usually jointly rear their young, both partners may engage in additional sexual interactions. In recent years, it has become clear that this is far more common in blue tits than previously thought. What is the evolutionary advantage of rearing such “illegitimate” offspring? Thanks to the Smart Nest Box, the researchers have discovered that these chicks hatch earlier and are stronger than their half-siblings. In addition, nests containing only chicks from a cuckolded partner are rare, and in some of these cases, the social partner was found to be infertile. “Extramarital” copulation may, therefore, represent a kind of insurance against a social partner's infertility.
However, the telescope is only as good as its instruments. Max Planck scientists have helped to invent some of these, such as the Gravity and Matisse interferometers, the Spifi spectrograph and the Sphere planet hunter. Recently, researchers under the direction of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics succeeded in getting a clearer view into the heart of the Milky Way with their high-tech optics. There they were able to see that a star does not orbit the central black hole along a closed path, but rather describes an open curve in the form of a rosette. Albert Einstein predicted this effect more than a hundred years ago.
Constructed on the basis of an industrial robot arm, the CMS can move test subjects in almost every position imaginable. The person in the cabin can be guided passively along predefined tracks or control the motion themselves using a steering wheel or joystick. Even real helicopter flights can be simulated. The large, high-resolution display on the interior wall of the cabin provides the appropriate virtual reality scenario.
Or just the opposite! The scientists are particularly interested in the possibility of individually stimulating each of the sensory organs responsible for spatial orientation. In this way, they can for example investigate what causes the dizziness that not seldom occurs when people are moving in virtual spaces, for example when playing computer games that require VR glasses. This is also highly significant for the development of autonomous vehicles. By the time that passengers will have developed enough trust in the self-driving car to occupy themselves with completely different activities during the journey, their physical self-awareness will not coincide with the information delivered by the eyes to the cerebral cortex in the brain. And quite a few people react to this with nausea.
The giant, centuries-old tropical trees are living time capsules for those who know how to interpret them. During their lifespans, they absorb carbon from the air as well as water and minerals from the soil, incorporating them into their wood. Researchers at the Max Planck Institutes for the Science of Human History, Developmental Biology, and Biogeochemistry combine modern analytical methods such as dendrochronology, radiocarbon dating, stable isotope analysis, and gene analysis to reconstruct changes in the growth conditions of trees. In this image, a relevant sample is being taken from a several hundred-year-old Brazil nut tree in the Tefé National Park in Brazil.
The researchers’ studies also make it possible to understand the effects of human activities on the forest ecosystem. Contrary to popular opinion, the peoples of the rain forest have been cultivating this region from 10,000 years ago. Far-reaching events such as wars and colonialism have left their marks on the tree archive just as deeply as the industrial extraction of rubber and precious woods for worldwide consumption have.
This X-ray telescope, developed and constructed by a consortium of German research facilities headed by the Institute in Garching, Germany, flew piggyback with the Russian space observatory Spektr-RG to its observation location at a distance of one-and-a-half million kilometers from Earth. Out there, way beyond and behind the Moon, the probe from Earth will scan the entire firmament over the next four years to produce the first complete map in the mid X-ray range.
It was a nail-biting wait for the watching scientists; due to technical issues with the rocket, the launch had to be postponed three times. In the end, the launch on July 13 was exemplary. eRosita survived the lift-off unscathed and then set course for its destination as planned. There was a slight delay in commissioning the observatory, but since October 13, all seven modules of the X-ray telescope have been observing the sky simultaneously, its custom-made CCD cameras operating flawlessly. The first composite images show the neighbor of our Milky Way, the Large Magellanic Cloud, as well as two interacting clusters of galaxies at a distance of about 800 million light years away. The astronomers are jubilant – their long journey to the steppe at the end of the world was worth its while.
These animals are so used to the presence of humans that they practically take no notice of them – as if the researchers are merely a part of the surroundings. Achieving this takes many years of the scientists carefully and gradually approaching the primates. The actual research can begin only when, even in the presence of people, each chimpanzee behaves as it normally would when alone.
The scientists follow the chimp groups everywhere they roam and observe their day-to-day life, making sure, however, that they behave in a completely neutral way in the animals’ presence: they don’t feed them, don’t eat in their presence, don’t play with the young chimps – even when the latter are curious and seek out the humans’ company. And the researchers never come into physical contact with the animals. This last point is crucial for the health of the primates: even a seemingly harmless cold can wipe out an entire chimpanzee family. Consequently, there are strict rules of behavior and hygiene measures: every person who enters the camp must be vaccinated against numerous diseases; in addition, he or she must initially spend five days in quarantine in the camp’s outsta- tion. Anyone who shows even the slightest symptoms of an infection is forbidden from entering the forest in the vicinity of the apes. On site, each observer must maintain a distance of at least seven meters from the animals – and always wear a protective mask, which can become quite uncomfortable at 95 percent humidity and temperatures that often exceed 30 degrees Celsius.
Icarus (International Cooperation for Animal Research Using Space) – a joint project involving the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology, the Russian space agency Roskosmos, and the German Aerospace Center (DLR) Space Administration – is intended to provide a new, improved understanding of animal migration worldwide. Even small animals such as songbirds can be fitted with the Icarus transmitters without altering their behavior. Although they weigh less than five grams, these so-called tags not only record the animal’s location but also collect data on acceleration, ambient temperature, and orientation relative to the Earth‘s magnetic field. When the ISS passes overhead, the tags send the recorded data to the space station.
The space antenna can simultaneously record data on many hundreds of animals – in other words, whole flocks. The goal is to find out more about the lives of animals on Earth: the conditions in which they live and their migratory routes. Even more than a hundred years after the first birds were ringed for scientific purposes, surprisingly little is known about this in detail. The findings will not only serve the purposes of behavioral research and species protection, but will also facilitate research about the spread of infectious diseases, the effects of ecological phenomena such as climate change and ultimately, could even be used to predict natural disasters.
With the new Cryogenic Storage Ring (CSR), scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics are bringing space into their lab. However, the level of technical complexity it requires is almost as extreme as the conditions in space: the temperature in the inner vacuum system of the CSR is just a few degrees above absolute zero, or minus 273 degrees Celsius; the pressure of less than10-14 millibar is one hundred trillion times lower than normal air pressure. It is thus possible to keep even highly reactive, multiply charged molecular ions on the 35-meter circuit of the storage ring for several minutes – or sometimes even hours. As they circle at high speed, covering distances that correspond to many times the distance between the Earth and the moon, the ions cool down to temperatures that resemble those in interstellar clouds.
The ion beams are steered and focused by electric fields. The scientists can use these fields to bring about a reaction between the stored ions and electrons or neutral atoms, or to investigate them with laser beams. In this way, low-energy collisions, which are typical for the conditions in interstellar space, can be examined under controlled conditions in the laboratory.
Similar to a person who wears several layers of clothing to protect themselves against the cold, the cryogenic region of the storage ring has a number of shielding layers to insulate it against the ambient heat. Cooling down the apparatus takes more than three weeks – as does heating it up again after several months in measurement mode. The photo shows the storage ring when it was still open four months before it was cooled down for the first time.
However, the quality of a library is not judged solely by its collections, as valuable as these may be. It is the accessibility of the knowledge that matters. This is the responsibility of the librarians: they comb all the available sources for new, relevant publications, prepare data in keeping with modern technological standards, and also assist researchers during the publication process. This naturally applies not only to the printed word but also to other media such as images, audio and video material.
The 120-year-old library of the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz, shown here, is one of the world’s most renowned libraries of art history. It provides access to around 300,000 monographs, 50,000 volumes of serial publications and more than 1,000 specialized journals. Approximately 7,000 new acquisitions are added each year. The library naturally also contains laptops, computer terminals and electronic media – even though they are not visible in this picture. Along with its print media, the library provides access to 2,500 e-journals and around 100,000 e-books on fine arts and related subjects.
Astronomers and technicians are currently upgrading the telescope: At the heart of the high-tech machine will be a camera with around 25,000 pixels that is intended to facilitate surveys of the heavens with unrivalled resolution. 25,000 pixels may seem to be quite few – compared to a camera in a smartphone, for example. However, these detectors have to operate at a temperature of minus 272.85 degrees, which is just above absolute zero. The field of view of the camera is half the apparent size of the full moon.
Talking about the Moon: the deployment range of APEX extends far beyond our solar system. The telescope primarily explores cooler regions, especially molecular clouds in interstellar space. In these cosmic nurseries, new stars are born out of gas and dust; these stellar embryos are mostly invisible in optical light, but APEX offers an excellent way to study the physical and chemical properties of the clouds. The furthest and therefore youngest galaxies are also in focus, as their light has been stretched due to the expansion of the universe and displaced to the submillimeter or millimeter range of the spectrum.
The APEX partners are the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy (MPIfR), the Swedish Onsala Space Observatory (OSO) and the European Southern Observatory (ESO), which operates the telescope on behalf of the consortium. Continued cooperation until the end of 2022 was recently agreed. This means that the dish on the Chilean high plateau will continue to deliver deep insights into the cold cosmos in the coming years.
Kusters is interested in both the potential and the limitations of gesture-based communication. Being deaf herself, she makes it a point to involve deaf people into her research work. They can contribute greatly to these studies because they are very skilled in the creative use of gestures – both conventionalised and spontaneous– in conversations with hearing as well as with other deaf persons.
The researchers observe and document the experiences of both hearing and deaf participants in conversations combining oral, gestural and written communication. And they also study what role the various surroundings play. It makes a difference, of course, whether a conversation takes place at the market, in a loud street, or in a quiet environment. Here, two researchers from Kusters’ team watch a deaf businessman using facial expressions and gestures to negotiate with a hearing shop owner.
The steep slopes of the Andes mean that the clouds arriving on westerly winds from the Pacific release their rain on the Chilean side of the mountain range. But the clouds carried over from the east also pass over the flat plateaus, the only significant rainfall in the region occurs near the mountains. These exceptional geographical circumstances of the mesetas make it possible to take soil and sediment samples over thousands of miles along a north-south route that always has identical precipitation conditions, thus affording a unique opportunity to investigate the effect of temperature on the soil’s carbon exchange rate isolated from the influence of rainfall.
Gleixner’s research group is particularly interested in how ecosystems react to climate change. By identifying resistant biomolecules and using them as biomarkers, the researchers are able to exploit the soil and sea sediments in the Argentinian mesetas as a climate archive. Gleixner’s team is reconstructing climatic events from the past 10,000 to 20,000 years in order to determine the capacity of organisms and ecosystems to adapt to future climatic changes.
For the scientists, the old refrigerator in the middle of this image, which someone disposed of in the grassy expanse of the plateaus, symbolized the need to find parameters that can help cool our planet’s climate systems down again.
The site of the unusual campaign is the deep underground laboratory under the Gran Sasso mountain range in Italy’s Abruzzo region. Fully shielded by 1,400 meters of rock, the researchers here – from the Max Planck Institute for Physics, among others – have installed a special device whose job is to detect particles of dark matter. According to theory, these particles barely react with their environment. They can easily penetrate the various layers of lead, copper and polyethylene that shield CRESST from background radiation.
The detector can comprise up to 33 individual modules, each containing a 300-gram crystal made of calcium tungstate; the photo shows researchers who are in the process of fitting the measuring device with these. When a particle enters, it generates warmth. In addition, light results, which is then held in the enclosure and captured by a silicon wafer that also warms up in the process. To allow the thermometer to sense these inconceivably minimal temperature increases, CRESST works close to absolute zero at minus 273.15 degrees Celsius.
CRESST-III has been running since summer 2016 with 13 modules and heightened sensitivity. Yet dark matter is living up to its name: to date, there are no convincing findings that unequivocally prove its existence.
In six large cages, the sticklebacks - bred in a lab and released into the lake in the spring - are able to claim territories in natural environments, build nests, and reproduce while at the same time being exposed to the parasites that are found there. What makes these fish special is that the specific, individual combination of immune genes of every single animal is known. This enables the researchers to observe which sticklebacks, in the never-ending competition with the parasites, are the most resilient and - as father and mother are determined for every single egg with the help of molecular genetic methods throughout the entire breeding season - how many progeny each fish has.
The most resistant fish pass on their immunocompetence to their numerous offspring. It appears that female sticklebacks prefer mating partners whose immune genes best complement their own - and which through their healthy coloration, prove that they possess the necessary genotypes against the currently prevalent parasites. The mother’s choice of partner thus has a direct advantage for her young.
Which male is worth considering for mating is identified by the females not only through coloration, but also by the odor of the potential partner, because odor is determined – as with humans by the way – by the composition of the immune genes.
Reducing the level of CO2 in the atmosphere thus plays an important role in all attempts to halt or decelerate climate warming. One of the solutions under discussion is a technical one: With carbon dioxide capture and storage (CCS), the aim is to capture the CO2 from the air and store it in underground sites. Areas underneath the seabed might also be used to store carbon dioxide. This is already happening in some regions of Europe, for example on the Norwegian coast.
But what happens if the carbon dioxide escapes from such storage sites? How would the high concentrations of CO2 affect the surrounding marine ecosystems and organisms? These are precisely the questions that the scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology are investigating in the sea off Panarea. Here, they can directly compare areas of the sea with strong carbon dioxide release and areas without degassing.
In May 2016, the vocal ensemble Cut Circle visited the Institute. The American octet and its conductor Jesse Rodin were available to the researchers in the ArtLab for three days. While the singers performed a very wide range of pieces from their vast repertoire of early music, comprehensive data, like EEG, ECG, respiratory rate, and the artists’ movement patterns was tracked.
At the final concert, however, it was the audience that was the focus of the research. While the concert goers listened to the performance, adhesive electrodes on their fingers measured their skin conductivity and an armband took their pulse. At the same time, self-reported information about the reception and assessment of the performance was recorded on tablets. Incidentally, the evening program, which was entitled “My Fair Lady,” referred to the strong veneration of the Virgin Mary in the 15th and 16th centuries, a phenomenon that is also reflected in the music of the period.
After four years of preparatory work, 6.5 tons of equipment were brought from Göttingen to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, at the foot of the Alps, and installed on the tower terrace of the Schneefernerhaus, using a special heavy-load helicopter. The heart of the measurement apparatus is the “seesaw,” which basically allows a sled to “ride along” in the main flow of a passing cloud. Four high-speed cameras photograph the cloud particles, which are illuminated with a powerful laser. This makes it possible to track the path of a single droplet over a relatively long interval of time.
In the high-pressure wind tunnel in the Göttingen-based laboratory, the scientists can generate models of virtually any type of turbulent flows, while their work on the Zugspitze allows them to precisely observe natural turbulences. The combination of these approaches will help to unlock the secret of clouds – for a better understanding of these nebulous beauties that are so important for the climate.
However, it’s not only its height that makes ATTO so special; a crucial factor is the ecosystem that surrounds the tower: Like its counterpart, ZOTTO, the 304 -meter-tall measurement tower in the Siberian taiga, ATTO is far removed from the influence of civilization. Scientists can therefore expect it to be provided with largely unadulter- ated data on climate events in the atmosphere above the Earth’s largest uninterrupted expanse of forest.
Although all of the measurement equipment has not yet been installed in the tower, it will soon provide a con- stant stream of data about greenhouse gases, aerosol particles, cloud properties, boundary-layer processes and the transport of air masses. The researchers are particularly interested in the interaction between the rainforest and the masses of air streaming above it. After all, the Amazon region is of global importance for the climate, and too little is currently known about the role the rainforest plays in the formation of aerosol particles and thus cloud formation.
The Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz and the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry in Jena are partners in the joint German-Brazilian ATTO project. The measurement data recorded by ATTO flows into current models for forecasting climate development and will also soon help politicians develop environmental policy regulations and global climate goals.
Half of the 474-square-meter cultivation floor is usually sown with coyote tobacco (Nicotiana attenuata), a species of wild tobacco and the institute’s most important model plant. Along with rapeseed and pea plants and poplars, the greenhouse also boasts some more exotic inhabitants: pest-resistant bananas, noni trees and carnivorous pitcher plants. The latter are the main focus of interest for researcher Ayufu Yilamujiang. He studies the exact composition of the digestive fluid with which the plant digests the trapped insects.
Carnivorous plants grow in low-nutrient soils and obtain additional nutrition from their animal prey, mainly insects. To this end, they have developed special trapping and digestive mechanisms. In the case of the pitcher plant, sweet nectar lures the insects to the edge of the pitcher, which is basically formed from reshaped leaves. The animals slip off the edge of the pitcher and fall into the digestive fluid. The pitcher plants also find the occasional prey in the greenhouse, as parasites or beneficial organisms used to combat these – ichneumon wasps, for instance – occasionally fall victim to them. For experiments carried out under controlled conditions, the scientists feed the pitcher plants with fruit flies.
In order to at least document languages and dialects under threat and preserve them for posterity – and for future researchers – the DOBES Program was launched in 2000. As part of this project, scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics are conducting research in many parts of the world. In northern Namibia, for example, they are focusing on the Khoisan language ǂAkhoe Haiǀǀom, which contains many click sounds. In standard orthography, these are represented by the symbols !, ǀ, ǀǀ and ǂ.
In preparation for a workshop on minority languages in southern Africa, one of the project’s local staff members, teacher Mariane Kheimses, interviewed Abakup ǀǀGamǀǀgaeb about his thoughts regarding his mother tongue. The members of the community couldn’t imagine allowing just a single representative to speak for everyone at the workshop. Instead, a series of video interviews was shown at the event, enabling all opinions to be represented.
With currently eleven antennas, each measuring 15 meters in diameter, the IRAM observatory is already one of the best and most sensitive radio telescopes in the world. Another "dish" is under construction, and the track systems on which the telescopes can be positioned up to 1.6 kilometers apart are being further extended. The 45-million-euro project is called NOEMA: NOrthern Extended Millimeter Array. The facility opens up a new window on space - the sky can be surveyed with ten times greater sensitivity and four times better spatial resolution than before.
To achieve all of this, the scientists direct all of the antennas at an astronomical object and then superimpose the millimeter waves received by all eleven telescopes. This will allow them to perceive details even from one ten-thousandth of the angle at which the full moon appears in Earth’s firmament, guaranteeing deep insights into the cosmic machinery.
Institut de Radioastronomie Millimétrique (IRAM)
With 22 stereo cameras and 22 color cameras taking 60 images per second, the scanner captures a person in various positions and activities that Javier Romero, a scientist at the institute, demonstrates here. For the scan, red and blue squares are printed on Nick Schill, a professional model, and then illuminated with a quickly pulsating spot pattern. The two patterns help the researchers reconstruct the three-dimensional surface of the body and the skin naturally. Not only can this method be used to create true-to-life figures for computer games and films, but it also offers interesting perspectives for research in psychology and medicine. In this way, it will soon be possible to use the realistic avatars in conducting perception experiments on body awareness – for instance to prevent eating disorders.
Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems / Wolfram Scheible
The portly animals, which can weigh up to 300 kilograms, feed on shrubs, leaves and grasses, depending on the kind of vegetation available on their home island. Some tortoises undertake long voyages between the lowlands and the higher areas on the volcanic slopes, which are lush with vegetation even in the dry season; others spend the whole year in the lowlands, which can sometimes be very dry.
To learn more about these migrations, scientists working with Stephen Blake from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology attach GPS loggers and ultramodern 3-D accelerometers to the shells of some of the tortoises. This allows them to precisely track the animals over long periods and compare their observations with climate and vegetation data. Their findings were surprising: it is primarily adult males that walk up to ten kilometers in search of fresh, succulent food. But the researchers are still puzzled as to why the giant tortoises, which can go for months without eating, undertake these strenuous journeys.
Research subjects with a penchant for experiment can earn money by “playing” the test games at the BonnEconLab. Whether as market participants, as bidders in an auction, or in negotiations: the test subjects continually make more or less successful decisions. Their success, on which the final reward for the individual participants depends, is influenced to a substantial degree by the decisions of their fellow players. Chance also plays a role – just like in real life.
Experimental economics was long a controversial subject within the field of economics. With game theory came the first economic experiments in the 1960s. But people were slow to realize that experimental findings must be used more and more as a basis for economic research. Today, experimentation is a recognized research method in economics – and German researchers were at the forefront right from the start.
Such violent events are what scientists around the world have been waiting for – and finally with success. On September 14, 2015, the detectors of the Advanced LIGO observatory caught gravitational waves for the first time. The facility in the U.S. is equipped with technology developed by Max Planck researchers in Hannover. Near the capital of Lower Saxony, the GEO600 detector stretches out its two 600-meter-long arms. The evacuated stainless steel tubes measure 60 centimeters in diameter and are corrugated to increase their stability.
They house the second-longest laser beam interferometer in Europe. The measuring principle is based on the fact that gravitational waves alternately compress and stretch space. If they speed through GEO600, they will also change the paths of the laser beam that runs through the two perpendicularly arranged tubes. This extremely tiny length difference on the order of 10-19 meters causes the light waves in the detector to fall out of step. A signal appears. Alarm! This tiny difference in length, in the range of 10-19 meters, throws the light waves in the detector out of sync. A signal appears, alarm! In practice, however, GEO600 itself has not yet picked up any waves coming from space. The system is not big enough for that. Here, the scientists are working on constantly increasing the sensitivity of all components and thus equipping bigger systems like LIGO with ever better technology.
Bequeathed to the Kaiser Wilhelm Society in the early 20th century by patron Henriette Hertz, the Bibliotheca Hertziana has already celebrated its centennial as Max Planck Institute for Art History. In addition to the Palazzo Zuccari, the centerpiece of the institute, the current premises also include the neighboring Palazzo Stroganoff and the Villino Stroganoff on the opposite side of the street. Following the opening of the spectacular new library building designed by Spanish architect Juan Navarro Baldeweg after more than ten years in construction, the institute library is once again open to the public and to researchers from around the globe.
Five levels of tiered galleries are grouped around a trapezoidal inner courtyard, providing scholars with light-flooded working areas. In addition, the windows offer a generous view over the Eternal City: art historians thus have the object of their research directly before their eyes. A truly paradisiacal garden for academic pursuits.
In order to record this celestial light, researchers built the four H.E.S.S. telescopes in the Khomas Highland in Namibia several years ago – and they are now converting this quartet into a quintet. H.E.S.S. II is the name of the new dish, which our picture shows bathed in moonlight as it stretches upward like a steel pyramid into the night sky. With a diameter of 28 meters, it roughly corresponds to the area of two tennis courts. And this giant weighs in at no fewer than 580 tons; its camera eye alone weighs three tons. The five scouts of the High Energy Stereoscopic System record the blue flashes with all the tricks of the astronomical observation trade. Securing the evidence in the data then leads to the scene of the crime, as it were: to the source of the radiation. Thus, the astronomers at the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg, which played an important role in the development and design of H.E.S.S. II as well as coordinating the installation work, also play the role of detectives. Their efforts will soon enable us to better understand the cosmic particle catapults, such as supernovae and black holes.
The Arctic ice is not only an indicator of climate change, but also an important factor in the climate system: the smaller the ice areas become in the Arctic summer, the less sunlight is reflected and the more is absorbed by the ice-free ocean. In winter, the ice insulates the relatively warm water from the much colder air; without this “cap,” the ocean would release gigantic volumes of heat into the atmosphere. The ice cover is therefore extremely important for the temperatures at the North Pole.
Dirk Notz from the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg would like to explain the role of the sea ice, its complex internal structure, and thus also the conditions necessary for its formation and stability. To this end, he and his team measure, among other things, the thickness of the ice on the ice floes and its composition of pockets of freshwater ice, brine and gas. All of the data is included in complex numerical simulations.
The most important discovery to date: Contrary to what was originally feared, there doesn’t appear to be any tipping point in the climate system, after which it would be impossible to prevent the complete loss of the Arctic ice cap. According to the model calculations, the state of the sea ice is closely related to the prevailing climate conditions at all times. This also means that if greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase at the current rate, then by the end of the century, the Arctic will be completely free of ice in September at the latest.
However, the first challenge consists in finding usable remains of prehistoric humans: bones normally decay in less than one hundred years; only under very special conditions are they able to survive for millennia. Important discovery sites include caves, such as the Tianyuan Cave near Beijing, shown here. Discovered accidentally by workers in 2001, the cave was examined archaeologically by a research team from the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The excavations yielded human fossils that are around 40,000 years old, making them among the oldest remains of anatomically modern man found outside of Africa.
Genetic analysis revealed that the early modern human from the Tianyuan Cave and the ancestors of many present-day Asians and Native Americans share a common origin. On the other hand, their ancestral line had already diverged from that of the predecessors of present-day Europeans. Moreover, the DNA is not the only material that brought interesting facts to light: chemical analysis of the bone collagen from a lower jaw reveals that the Tianyuan people regularly ate freshwater fish. In other words, fish was on the menu long before the time indicated by archaeological finds of fishing implements.
This experiment helps the scientists to learn more about the natural material cycle, as few other places in the world can match the low pollution level of the air in the Amazon rainforest. When they know more about the natural material cycle between the geosphere, the biosphere and the atmosphere, they will be better able to understand how humans interfere in this interplay.
It is obvious that the facility, which was dedicated in mid-July, is in the Champions League for computers and number four in the world standings. So it makes sense that SuperMuc is much coveted by scientists, like researcher Stefanie Walch at the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics. She is interested in the comic maternity ward - molecular clouds in which new stars are born. Within them are also a lot of heavy weights that heat up the clouds, blow the gas apart and thereby reduce the birth rate.
With a cool head, Stefanie Walch has written algorithms for what is the largest simulation of a molecular cloud’s lifecycle to date. However, the computer is going to run pretty hot during calculations of such violent nature events. So that it doesn’t overheat, 40-degree water flows through its bowels. That would be a feverish temperature for humans, but SuperMuc can tolerate 70 or 80 degrees without problem. A superlative superbrain indeed. Copyright: Axel Griesch
But this precision instrument also has an impressive scientific track record: it has served two generations of astronomers, who have scoured space in the long-wave spectral range and published thousands of articles and essays. The antenna gained fame in the 1970s for its 408-megahertz survey of the radio sky. In addition, to date, researchers have found new molecules and spectral lines in interstellar space, discovered the most distant source of water - 11 billion light-years away - and proved for the first time the existence of giant ordered magnetic field structures in other galaxies, as well as the relativistic effect of geodetic precession outside the solar system and in strong gravitational fields.
Despite its age, the telescope is not yet even remotely a candidate for the scrap heap: thanks to good care, regular modernization and enormous advances in digital electronics, it is better today than ever before.
To track down the Higgs particle and thus prove that the Higgs mechanism exists, a gigantic experimental apparatus is needed: the LHC accelerator ring, which generates the energy needed for the massive particles, has a circumference of 27 kilometers. And ATLAS, one of four experiments at the LHC, measures an impressive 45 meters long and 25 meters high, and weighs 7,000 tons - as much as the Eiffel Tower. The team’s efforts have already been worthwhile, not least because the ATLAS collaboration has now found initial indications that the Higgs boson exists.
The photo shows the cap of ATLAS’ inner detector while it was still under construction. It is now no longer possible to access the detector. In addition, the tubes with the beams of colliding particles now run through the center of the circular facility.
Dolphin Gulls do not feed from the sea, but from the coasts, on such delicacies as sea lion excrement, cormorant vomit, marine invertebrates, mussels and insects. In their search for food, they also regularly comb through washed-up algae. Scientists working with Petra Quillfeldt at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology are studying the food strategies of these birds. They are investigating whether the individual animals specialize in certain food sources. To follow the birds over a longer time period, they are tagged with a small data logger that uses GPS to capture their position for the coming days, and that stores acceleration data for behavioral analyses. Stable isotopes are used to differentiate the food sources.
To capture the birds, the researchers set a wire basket trap on the nest. The seagull watches and, as soon as the researcher leaves, will try to occupy its nest again. The reader for the data dangles from the researcher’s neck, and the data is read out via a radio link.
Soon after, however, the sofa acquired a new owner with the arrival of Franz Emanuel Weinert. Habermas took his leave, and Weinert remained, becoming the Founding Director of the new Max Planck Institute for Psychological Research. This also no longer exists: in 2006, it was merged with the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig.
Only the sofa still remains. Perhaps because it is "tainted with odium", as Emeritus Wolfgang Prinz put it, without so much as a hint of disrespect. "Institutes come and go, but the sofa survives", says sociologist Gertrud Nunner-Winkler with a smile. For well over 30 years, her career and that of the sofa have progressed in parallel, as both made the transition from Starnberg to Munich. Whose seat of learning is it now? Library users like to sit on the sofa as they leaf through books and journals. It’s a very comfortable place indeed to seek out information.
The rustic rooms, however, still serve as a venue for gatherings today: the place where venerable men came together at simple wooden tables more than 60 years ago to open a new chapter in Germany’s research history is the place where the staff of the Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-Organization gather today to enjoy their lunch together.