Essays, news, and open questions

Jan 222016
 
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Klaus Roth is an emeritus professor at the Freie Universitaet Berlin. He studied chemistry at the Freie Universitaet Berlin from 1964 – 1969 and completed his dissertation at the same university in 1973. After a post-doctoral stay at the Institute for Medical Research in Mill Hill, London from 1979 – 1980, he completed his habilitation at the Freie Universitaet Berlin in 1981. Between 1986 – 1988, he held a position as visiting professor at the University of California in San Francisco, after which he returned to his home university as extraordinary professor and became full professor in 2000. During his research career, he dealt with many aspects of NMR spectroscopy and also popular science such as the chemistry behind licorice sweets, balloons, and la fee verte. Furthermore, he is interested in the Ig Nobel Prize, a scientific award similar to the “regular” Nobel Prize but somewhat more peculiar. In this interview, he gives an insight into this alternative award.

Find the Interview here: How to Win an (Ig)-Nobel Prize

Jan 222016
 
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Andreas Mueller

JUnQ, 6, 1, IV – VI, 2016

Today, we find modern technologies everywhere in our daily life: computers, smart phones, navigation systems, wearables, high-tech medicine. Usually, they did not come by chance. These technologies are a result of fundamental research and breakthroughs and were developed by scientists, engineers and clever inventors.

Read the full article here: Do We Need Fundamental Research?

Jan 212016
 
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Theresa Lueckner

JUnQ, 6, 1, XV–XVI, 2016

When relating light to biology, the first thing that pops into one’s mind is photosynthesis. The sunlight shines onto the leaves, photons excite the light-sensitive molecule chlorophyll and with the use of several cascades, nature produces carbohydrates and oxygen out of carbon dioxide and water. The usage of light is the fundament of eukaryotic life on earth and there is only little life that can exist without it.

Read the full article here: Light in Biology

Jan 212016
 
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The Leibniz Association was founded in 1995 after a fusion of institutions of the Western German association “Blaue Liste” and other research institutions of the former German Democratic Republic (GDR). It was named after the German polymath Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646 – 1716). The association is particularly known in the eastern parts of Germany, being the biggest research association there. Interestingly, the Leibniz Association even patronizes several museums and the most commonly known are the Senckenberg institution in Frankfurt a. M. and Deutsches Museum in Munich. We spoke with Christoph Herbort-von Loeper who is deputy press officer of the Leibniz Association.

Find the Interview here: With the Leibniz Association

Jan 212016
 
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The International Year of Light and Light-Based Technologies (IYL2015) was a global event in 2015 to increase the public interest and knowledge regarding optical technologies and research. Prof. Joe Niemela is the Global Coordinator from the IYL Secretariat and was responsible for the coordination of all activities.

Find the Interview here: International Year of Light 2015

Jan 202016
 
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Susanne M. Hoffmann

JUnQ, 6, 1, X–XII, 2016

Thinking about light, we immediately realize three directions of human’s dealing with it: first, the observation of light, second, the myth of and praying to light and third, the usage and rationalization of light in physics and technology. All three directions of our modern world have roots in very old history and accompany mankind from their early beginnings and in every culture. The emotional connection humans feel with celestial games of light and darkness as well as warmth and coolness during seasons and lunar phases caused early and perpetuating observations and consequently, the knowledge of calendar signs. Since calendars have always been used for religious purpose to date public holiday and so on, making calendars and observing the celestial rhythms have been a special duty of priests and the gods have been located in or above the sky. To summarize, we can conclude that light influences all directions of our life. The question of this article is how long back in history we can pursue the traces of human relations to light.

Read the full article here: A Brief History of Light

Jan 202016
 
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The Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft is one of Germany’s most important research associations with its main emphasis on applied research. It was founded in 1949 and it goes all the way back to Joseph von Fraunhofer (1787 – 1826). He was famous for his way of how to conduct science with accuracy and precision combined with a sense for entrepreneurship, which is why he became the role model for the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft. We spoke with Prof. Dr. Michael Maskos and Beate Koch. Prof. Dr. Michael Maskos is the director of Fraunhofer ICT–IMM in Mainz,which focuses among others on the synthesis and characterization of nanoparticles for different applications. Beate Koch is head of internal and external communications of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft.

Find the Interview here: Fundamental vs. Applied Research

Jul 162015
 
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Markus Wei?kopf and Thorsten Witt
Wissenschaft im Dialog

JUnQ, 5, 2, XVI–XVIII, 2015

In the space of a few years, the internet has radically altered our media consumption. The average internet usage in Germany increased from 17 minutes per week in 2000 to 111 minutes per week in 2014, making the internet the third most popular media type after television and radio. Every day the internet is used for twice as long as print media. Among 14–19 year olds, who use the internet for an average of 233 minutes per day, the internet is the medium of choice, well ahead of all other media. Social media accounts for a significant proportion of internet use: 24% of 14–19 year olds spend over two hours a day on Twitter, Facebook, etc.; another 28% spend over an hour. Social media have also brought about major changes in our usage behavior – we are no longer merely recipients and consumers of information but have become active users and even creators.
Science communication has also changed as a result of these developments. According to a recent study, 45% of Germans use the internet as a source of information on scientific issues; among the under-30s, this figure is currently at 68%. Statistics from the USA and UK suggest that these percentages are likely to rise sharply in the coming years and that the internet is increasingly replacing classical media as a source of information.

What are the implications of these changes for one of the main players in science communication, namely the scientists themselves? In the following pages, we will explore this and related questions, including how scientists’ communication with the public has changed as a result of social media, and the opportunities and risks involved.

The Opportunities and Risks of Social Media in Science Communication
Jul 162015
 
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“Kurzgesagt” is an educational YouTube channel of a Munich based design studio founded by two German graphic design students which features short movies about different scientific topics. “Kurzgesagt” is a good example for various informative YouTube channels created by professionals and non-professionals during the last years. These channels de- pict a new possibility of communicating science to the general public in a popular scientific way by using the internet as medium. They attract a great deal of interest as the featured videos are watched by millions of people. The popularity certainly comes from the fact that the short movie format allows to break complex topics down into easily understandable and entertaining narrations which can be complemented by illustrations. “Kurzgesagt”, for example, uses entirely animated videos which illustrate explanations about a certain topic spoken by a narrator. We had the opportunity to interview the team of “Kurzgesagt” about their project.

Read the Interview: Communicating Science via YouTube

Jul 162015
 
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Dr. Andreas Fischer
Helmholtz Association

JUnQ, 5, 2, XXIII–XXIV, 2015

Science is not always clear. Take for example the robust climate change debate: “A big threat for humankind” says the one side, “Complete nonsense” says the other. How many meters is the sea level actually rising? And what about the extreme weather events, are they becoming more frequent or not? These are all questions both experts and laypeople are arguing about. After all, scientists agree about the existence of climate change itself, whereas its impact still splits the scientific community. But when even science has no clear opinion, how is the broader populace supposed to have one? Over time, doubts creep into both public perception and our trust in science.

Read the full article here: A Question of Mediation