Mysteries of the ocean

Document Sample
Mysteries of the ocean Powered By Docstoc
					48   February 2006

                                                                   ISSN 1024-0802
     Climate warming
          of the       ocean

                                    Physics and the Cosmos
                        Interview with Robbert Dijkgraaf
                                       and Brian Greene       13
                                  Experiments using animals
                              Action stations for in vitro    33
                      2           RTD info No.48 Februar y 2006

                                                                                 Publish and perish
                           Editorial                                            magazine Science no doubt has something to do
                                                                                with the professor’s downfall.
                                                                                       Scientific faking and falsification are not excep-
                                                                                                                                                  researchers – the quest for funding, desire for pub-
                                                                                                                                                  licity and the quasi-industrial publication of results
                                                                                                                                                  – will encourage still more aberrations. It is no doubt
                          Regarded as a world pioneer in animal and             tional. In science, as in any other community, there              not by chance that this trickery occurred in a coun-
                    human cloning and, until just a few weeks ago, a            are always the black sheep. But beyond the individ-               try in the midst of an economic boom.
                    likely candidate for a Nobel Prize, Dr Hwang Woo-           ual case, the scandal reveals failings in the present                   The scandal is damaging to the whole field of
                    Suk of South Korea has resigned from his post at            system of scientific publication. It seems that an art-           science. It spreads the erroneous image of a science
                    Seoul National University, one week after request-          icle can be scientifically correct and yet potentially            that moves blindly forward ignorant of the conse-
                    ing the withdrawal of an article published in Science.      biased. The generous funding granted to this South                quences of its action. Also, as is often the case when
                    Having been lauded by a section of the scientific           Korean researcher did not provide a comprehensive                 wrongdoings make the headlines, voices are being
                    community, and especially in the media, a number            guarantee either. It is a system from which the sci-              raised demanding increased control over research
                    of his results have been shown to be false. The fact        entists themselves are the first to suffer. What is more,         and researchers. Trust in science and scientists will
                    that these were published in part in the prestigious        there is the fear that the growing pressures on                   in future come at a price.

                     The oceans and climate                                                    Einstein’s general relativity. ‘Quantum                   check that some 30 000
   F E AT U R E S

                                                                                               gravity’ could clarify many questions                     chemicals are harmless. It is a
                     The oceans store heat and                                                 about the birth and expansion of the                      requirement that poses the
                     marine currents distribute                                                universe. Interview with                                  problem of animal experiments
                     it to the four corners of                                          R. Dijkgraaf (NL) and B. Greene (US).                            which, in many cases, could be replaced
                                                                                                                                                         by in vitro methods.
                     the globe. They store large quantities                       Space research
                     of atmospheric CO2 while the seabed produces                                                                                  Portrait
                                                                                 16     Two months flat on their backs
                     and stores vast quantities of methane.                             Twelve women have just spent                               36    Wolfgang Heckl’s
                     How could climate warming upset                                    60 days in bed, in a confined                                    straight talking
                     this complex ecosystem?                                            atmosphere, and being                                            An expert on the nanosciences and their
                                                                                        subjected to a series of tests                                           applications, Wolfgang Heckl has a
                     3     Mysteries of the ocean                                       and medical checks. By                                                   passion for communicating. Profile of
                     4     What is happening in the North Atlantic?                     simulating the effects of life in space under                            a talented populariser of science who
                                                                                        conditions of weightlessness, these volunteers                           is still active in laboratory research as
                     6     The unique relationship                                      working on the WISE project are making their                     well as heading the famous Deutsches
                           between the sea and CO2                                      contribution to the future of manned flights.                    Museum in Munich.

                     9     The strange world of oceanic methane                  20     In brief                                                   Marie Curie Actions – Excellence Awards
                                                                                        Science within arm’s reach, news in brief,                 38    The added value of mobility
                     Physics – Solvay Council                                           publications, diary, table of calls.
                                                                                                                                                   Every year, the EXA (Excellence Awards)
                     12    A scientific conclave                                  Renewable energies                                               go to top-level researchers who have
                                                                                                                                                   perfected their knowledge by making
                           and public meeting                                    30     The wild card of distributed                               the most of the Marie Curie mobility
                                  The first Solvay Council (1911) was                   production                                                 opportunities. Presentation of the five
                                  attended by Einstein, Marie Curie,
                                                                                              Renewable energy must take up its                    2005 award winners.
                                  Max Planck, Poincaré and others.
                                                                                              place as part of the new ‘distributed
                                  Today these meetings continue to                                                                                 Political sciences
                                                                                              production’ made possible by the
                           attract leading lights in physics and maths.
                                                                                              newly liberalised electricity market.                40    Analysis of a stalled
                           For the first time, the December 2005 event
                           culminated in a public session which proved a
                                                                                        We look at the solutions proposed by the                         constitution
                                                                                        partners in the major Dispower project.
                           resounding success.                                                                                                           The tortured path of the text leading
                                                                                                                                                                to the European Constitution
                                                                                  Alternatives to experiments using animals
                     13    Concerted voices on strings                                                                                                          and an analysis of its acceptance
                           Thanks to the mathematics of string theory,            33    Action stations for in vitro                                            and rejection, by researchers working
                           21st century physics is seeking to bridge the                The recent European REACH legislation makes                             on the DOSEI project.
                           divide between quantum mechanics and                         it compulsory for industrialists to evaluate and

Notice                                                                       A magazine providing information on European research, RTD info is       84 000 copies of this issue were published.
Neither the European Commission, nor any person acting on its behalf,        published in English, French and German by the Information and           All issues of RTD info can be consulted on-line
may be held responsible for the use to which information contained in        Communication Unit of the European Commission’s Research DG.             at the Research DG’s website:
this publication may be put, or for any errors which, despite careful        Editor in chief: Michel Claessens                              
preparation and checking, may appear.                                        Tel.: +32 2 295 9971
© European Communities, 2006                                                 Fax: +32 2 295 8220
Non-commercial reproduction authorised, subject to acknowledgement
of source.
                                   G L O B A L   W A R M I N G                      RTD info No.48 Februar y 2006                     3

Mysteries of the OCEAN
                                                                   quantities of methane, the second greenhouse gas respon-
W      ater – about 1.3 billion cubic kilometres of it – covers
       three-quarters of the Earth’s surface. In the present
process of what is now regarded as ineluctable climate
                                                                   sible for global warming. Yet this ability to function as a car-
                                                                   bon reservoir can slow or even go into reverse. As part of a
warming, the way this huge liquid mass reacts will play an         vicious circle attributable to the warming process itself, the
essential role in many respects.                                   opposite process can be triggered, with the release of the
                                                                   stored gases leading to the worst-case scenario by boosting
First of all, ocean waters store heat better than land and con-
                                                                   the greenhouse effect.
sequently are formidable reservoirs of the energy provided
by the sun’s rays. This mobile environment, which has no bor-      It is therefore easy to understand why improved knowledge
ders, also serves to distribute this heat across the globe,        of the oceans is a priority as international research mobilises
through both deep-sea and surface currents. Over the years,        to find out all it can about the mechanism of climate warm-
the science of dynamic oceanography has endeavoured to             ing. At the same time, this vast and fluctuating environment,
plot the routes of this highly complex circulation. Today we       much of it immersed in darkness and hostile in many respects,
know that, from North to South and from East to West, a            presents enormous difficulties when it comes to measuring
global network of interconnections is at work, based on a          and interpreting reliable data and finally producing models.
cyclical process that the American Wallace Broecker made           A passionate and vital exercise, unravelling the mysteries of
famous some 20 years ago when he described it as the “great        the ocean is a matter of penetrating one of the most subtle
ocean conveyor belt”, a complete cycle of which is estimated       and singular components of the Earth’s ‘ecological clock’.
to take between 1 000 and 2 000 years.
                                                                   Without pretending to constitute a ‘dossier’ on the oceans,
In addition to this distributing role, the importance of the       the three articles in this issue shed light on the future of the
oceans for climate lies in the vital role they play in the car-    Gulf Stream (of crucial importance for Europe), the oceanic
bon cycle. Marine waters ‘neutralise’ a large part of the atmos-   storage of CO2, and the somewhat overlooked ‘time bomb’
pheric CO2. Also, the seabed bio-produces and stores vast          of methane gas.                                               í
  4          RTD info No.48 Februar y 2006                                        M Y S T E R I E S          O F       T H E   O C E A N

What is happening
          in the North Atlantic?
Published in the scientific journal Nature in                                              15°C between the winters of Canada’s Eastern seaboard and the rela-
November 2005, the announcement by British                                                 tive mildness of the coast of Western Europe, both of which lie at the
                                                                                           same latitude. But it is nevertheless estimated to contribute to about one-
scientists of oceanographic calculations indicating
                                                                                           quarter of the effect, about 4°C.
that the North Atlantic Drift had slowed by a
dramatic 30% over the past 50 years sent shock                                                  As to what subsequently becomes of this northward flowing current, that
waves through the scientific community and                                                      is a question which has long remained a mystery. The reason it flows
                                                                                                north is due to a phenomenon that occurs when the NAD progressively
beyond. Originating in the Gulf Stream, this very
                                                                                                cools as it reaches higher latitudes. As the water temperature falls, so its
powerful and very specific current is known                                                         density rises. At the same time, due to a mechanism linked to the cycle
primarily for its ‘radiator effect’ in exercising                                                               of the freezing and thawing of the Arctic ice sheet, the
                                                                                                                      salinity levels in the sub-polar Atlantic are particularly
a moderating influence on the climate
                                                                                                                          high, further adding to this ‘densification’ of the
of Western Europe. It is also a key                                               Winter sea-ice cover
                                                                                                                             water masses.
component of oceanic circulation,
not only in the Northern                                    Sinking regions                                                    Plunging to the depths
                                                                                                                                  In an area lying between the coast of
Hemisphere but globally.                                                                                                           Norway and Greenland, these physical
                                                       Deep southerly                             Scandinavian array
                                                       return flow
                                                                                                                                   parameters cause the now ‘heavier’ surface
                                                                                              Subtropical recirculation
                                                                                                                                   waters to sink to the ocean depths, by way
                                                                        Gulf Stream

W       hat exactly is the North Atlantic Drift?
        The scientific name given to this cur-
rent was designed to clarify and express the
                                                                                                    25°N section
                                                                                                                                  of bizarre convection ‘chimneys’. It is this
                                                                                                                                 very particular plunging of waters that
                                                                                                                                begins, in the depths of the North Atlantic,
knowledge acquired of the complex mecha-                                                                                      what is known as the ‘conveyor’ movement or
nisms of the famous Gulf Stream. First identified                                                                          thermohaline circulation(1) which involves the cir-
back in the 19th century, this huge river of ‘marine                                                                    culation of water masses through the ocean depths
heat’ originates in the tropical waters of the Gulf of Mexico                                                    of the entire planet.
from where it travels northwards hugging the US coast before
veering off towards the centre of the North Atlantic.                                      The question which is of concern to oceanographers and climatolo-
                                                                                           gists is that of possible changes in the complex balances that cause
It is here, just south of Iceland, that a very complex circulation of these                this rotation of ocean currents. Their big fear is that global warming
masses of still warm waters occurs, following which some of them swing                     will have the effect – within a timeframe that is difficult to estimate at
back south, either towards Africa and the Equator or doubling back to                      present – of slowing if not halting altogether this route taken by the
their tropical origins in the Gulf of Mexico.                                              waters of the NAD.

Oceanic interchange                                                                        The basis for such fears is that all the models indicate the higher lati-
However, at this crucial oceanic ‘interchange’ there is also a branch of                   tudes will warm quickly and most probably much more rapidly than the
the Gulf Stream that takes a quite different route and it is this that is                  rest of the planet. If the sub-polar waters are less cold, they will become
known as the North Atlantic Drift, or NAD. This is an extremely power-                     less dense and therefore less likely to descend to the ocean bed. The
ful marine current that flows along the coast of Europe towards the sub-                   models also indicate another phenomenon that will further add to the
polar waters off Norway and Greenland.                                                     problem, namely the influx of freshwater to this area of the North Atlantic
                                                                                           due to increased rainfall and the partial melting of the Greenland gla-
Despite the long trip this water mass has taken from the tropics until it                  cier. By diluting the Nordic Sea, this will cause the specific salinity to
pours into the NAD, it nevertheless retains several thousand gigawatts                     drop, which is in another factor in slowing the water’s propensity to sink.
of energy. It is thus this current that acts as ‘Europe’s radiator’ as it moves
northwards along its coast. Contrary to what has long been believed,                       (1) Term indicating the mass circulation in the global ocean linked to temperature and
this warming effect alone does not explain the major difference of around                      salinity of water masses.
                                       M Y S T E R I E S     O F    T H E    O C E A N               RTD info No.48 Februar y 2006                              5

                                                    Although there is a need for caution, these fig-       average temperature reduction of about 0.5°C.
                                                    ures are nevertheless a first. No scientific meas-     Yet no such thing has occurred. On the con-
                                                    urement had previously been able to offer any          trary, for the moment Europe’s temperature is
                                                    kind of evaluation of the size of the current          slowly increasing, in line with the general trend
                                                    flows engendered by the Gulf Stream in the             observed for the rest of the planet.
                                                                                                           The second problem is that Bryden’s data were
                                                    A combination of indicators…                           calculated on the basis of measurements taken
                                                    The conclusion formulated by the British               in five isolated years within a period of several
                                                    researchers is an important element, adding to         decades and are therefore ‘snapshots’ of a situ-
                                                    the many other findings of a growing number            ation. The problem is that we know very little
                                                    of studies that all point in the same and alarm-       of the degree of natural variability in the major
                                                    ing direction. At a meeting of the European            ocean currents, especially deep-sea currents,
                                                    Geophysics Union (EGU) at the beginning of             and the seas off the coast of Greenland and
                                                    2005, for example, Peter Wadham of                     Labrador are known for very harsh meteoro-
          Picture taken from ESA’s ERS satellite
                                                    Cambridge University, Coordinator of the               logical conditions. Therefore, there is no ‘yard-
     showing an area of 100 km2 off the coast       European Convection project, reported on               stick’ against which to compare the results,
      of South-West Norway, where the warm          observations indicating that the number of con-        since we are ignorant of the degree of natural
    North Atlantic Drift meets the cold waters      vection chimneys observed in a usually active          variations in these currents and whether or not
             from the Arctic. The result is some
                                                    area of the Greenland Sea had fallen consider-         they occur in cycles.
                 spectacularly turbulent waters
                              and eddy activity.
                                                    ably during the previous winter, suggesting a
                                            © ESA   reduction in the formation of deep water.              Much therefore remains to be done before it
                                                                                                           will be possible to understand exactly what is
                                                    A year earlier, in 2004, a researcher at NASA,         going on in the North Atlantic. An important
                                                    Sirpa Hakkinen, indicated in an article published      step has been taken with the trans-Atlantic
                                                    in Science that, on the basis of satellite data, she   Rapidmoc programme which is working on
Flow rate warning                                   had noted a 20% reduction in circulation in the        putting into place a series of permanent buoys
It is now clear why the recent announcement         sub-polar section of the Atlantic during the           with which to measure ocean currents. Once
by the scientific team headed by Harry Bryden       1990s. At the same time, the European project          researchers have continuous and reliable meas-
of the National Oceanography Centre in              MOEN (Meridional Overturning Exchange with             urements of the changes in these huge masses
Southampton (UK) caused such a shock. In            the Nordic Seas) announced that the direct             of water, it will no doubt be easier to draw clear
2004, the British researchers carried out a vast    measurements carried out by its researchers            conclusions about how the ocean is behaving
campaign of salinity and temperature meas-          and coordinated by Svein Osterhus of the               and what it means for us.                       í
urements in the waters of the Atlantic at the       Bjerkness Centre in Bergen (NO) indicate a
level of the 25th parallel, thereby completing      reduction in the volumes of water circulating
the data provided by four earlier and compar-       through certain underwater straits off the coast
able campaigns, conducted in 1957, 1981,            of Denmark.
1992 and 1998.
                                                    … and uncertainties                                    To find out more
Their aim was to develop a way of extracting        However, no coherent and quantifiable picture          0   The reference article in Nature
from this series of readings a method for evalu-    has as yet emerged from these data, as two                 Slowing of the Atlantic meridional overturning
                                                                                                               circulation at 25° N
ating changes in the water masses transported       important problems remain. The first is raised             Harry L. Bryden, Hannah R. Longworth,
by the ocean currents. While admitting uncer-       by the modeller Gavin Schmidt of NASA’s                    Stuart A. Cunningham
                                                                                                               Nature 438, 655-657 (1 Dec 2005)
tainties regarding the results obtained, their      Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) on              National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (UK)
principal conclusion is that the NAD flow rate      the blog, a reference        
had already dropped from 20 million m3 per          forum used by many climatologists. He makes            0   Harry Bryden’s site
second in 1957 to 14 million m3 in 2004, a fall     the point that if this weakening is real, and          0   European projects
of some 30%. This analysis is further supported     especially if during the past 50 years it has              Convection (Greenland Sea Convection Mechanism
                                                                                                               and their Climatic Implications)
by the fact that this reduced flow rate north-      slowed to the extent of 30% as indicated by      
wards corresponds to a rise in flow rates for the   Harry Bryden, the reduced warming effect of                convection-www/Convection.html
                                                                                                               Moen (Meridional Overturning Exchange
branches of the Gulf Stream that curve back in      the NAD along the coast of Europe should nor-              with the Nordic Seas)
a southerly direction.                              mally have been felt already, producing an       
  6         RTD info No.48 Februar y 2006                            M Y S T E R I E S     O F    T H E    O C E A N

The unique                                relationship
                                      between the sea and                                                              CO2
In the race against time to
prevent the ‘haemorrhage of
anthropogenic CO2’ that is
spreading through the
atmosphere, as well as the
resultant global warming, the
oceans have a vital role to play.
The marine world is a huge
absorber of this highly and
naturally soluble gas and as such
acts as a kind of reservoir or ‘sink’
which stores over 90% of all the
carbon on the planet. Known to
be prone to destabilisation, the
question today is how this reservoir is likely to behave in                                                             Mission by the Pelagia in the North
                                                                                                                        Sea (August-September 2005).
the context of global warming. Can it, as some suggest,                                                                 Immersed in the sea, the conductivity,
serve to store even more carbon? This is what the                                                                       temperature and depth (CTD)
                                                                                                                        instrument measures all three
European project CarboOcean is trying to find out. The                                                                  parameters. Samples are also
goal of the partners is to integrate this fundamental                                                                   collected to measure alkalinity,
                                                                                                                        carbon, oxygen and various elements
element of the CO2 cycle more effectively into climate-
                                                                                                                        such as phosphate, nitrate and
change scenarios as well as into prevention strategies.                                                                 silicate. A camera monitors these
                                                                                                                        undersea operations.
                                                                                                                        © Josje Snoek

E   very year, man releases around 7 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide
    into the environment. But before it accumulates in the upper layers
of the atmosphere, this greenhouse gas first passes through the com-
                                                                              of the Atlantic waters of the tropics, the opposite process is at work, the
                                                                              carbonate-saturated waters releasing large quantities of CO2 into the
                                                                              atmosphere. In other intermediate areas the direction of the flows –
plex mechanisms of the carbon cycle, omnipresent in all facets of the         absorption or release – depends on a number of parameters, such as
Earth and its ecosystem.                                                      time of year and weather conditions, changes in atmospheric pressure,
                                                                              sea currents and water salinity.
It is estimated that at least a quarter of all emissions resulting from
human activity are rapidly absorbed by the sponge-like action of the          The oceans are not therefore in any way ‘sealed’ carbon reservoirs and
oceans. Across the huge expanses of direct contact between air and sea,       nor is their capacity limitless. What is more, as increasing demands are
an essential process involving the solubilising of CO2 is at work. Once       being made upon this storage function – due to the growing and cumu-
dissolved in this mass of ocean water, photosynthesised by the phyto-         lative amounts of CO2 discharged into the atmosphere by human activ-
plankton, and carried by the currents, the carbon then enters the vast        ity – we are seeing signs of an acidifying aggression throughout the
cycle of multiple biological and chemical transformations in the under-       marine biosystem (see box).
water world, as a result of which it becomes ‘fixed’.
                                                                              Concerted international effort
Leaky reservoir                                                               Consequently, the vital role of the oceans in connection with CO2 is one
However, this action of the oceans in absorbing carbon is not homo-           of the most crucial issues for global warming. For just over a decade
geneous or constant. The first factor of variability is that it is the cold   now, this question of CO2 flows from the air to the sea and has been
water regions that have the greatest propensity for solubilising carbon       the subject of a concerted international research effort, in which
dioxide. Almost 50% of total atmospheric CO2 absorption is believed           European programmes have been actively involved.
to occur above the 30th parallel, in the Southern Ocean. In the hot air
                                       M Y S T E R I E S     O F    T H E      O C E A N             RTD info No.48 Februar y 2006                              7

In 2005, this effort was further boosted with the launch of CarboOcean,
a huge integrated project scheduled to run for five years. Experts from                                                          THE ROLE OF COASTAL
47 scientific institutions in 14 EU countries are working on the project
that has funding of €14.5 million. “We are part of a vast international                                                          Present models take the
                                                                                                                                 open sea as representative
effort that is creating a synergy effect, along with projects carried out in
                                                                                                                                 of the ocean’s behaviour,
the United States and in sections of the Asian and Australian waters of                                                          as it is the easiest to
the Pacific,” explains Christoph Heinze of the Bjerkness Centre for Climate                                                      represent. However,
Research in Norway, the Project Coordinator. “Ocean observation is a                                                             coastal environments,
particularly costly activity. A global effort and a sharing of knowledge                                                         which make up about
between all the active international groups is necessary to permit the                                                           10% of the ocean’s surface,
                                                                                                                                 could show quite diverse
development of a realistic representation of the oceanic carbon cycle.”
                                                                                                                                 behaviour as far as carbon
                                                                                                                                 is concerned. These
James Orr, a US oceanographer who is closely involved in the                                                                     variations are due to the
CarboOcean project – as a member of the French team from the LSCE                                                                concentration of life in
(Laboratoire des sciences du climat et de l'environnement) – believes that      The MS Atlantic Companion                        these zones – 50% of life is
“our first mission is to acquire a much more exhaustive knowledge of            observation vessel. Volunteers on-               found there, according to
                                                                                board these merchant ships carry out             some estimates – with very
the volumes and real mechanisms involved in the transfer of CO2, espe-
                                                                                CO2 measurements for researchers                 particular ecosystems, but
cially for the Atlantic where the situations seem very heterogeneous”.          on the CarboOcean project.                       also because it is here that
                                                                                © Tobias Steinhoff
                                                                                                                                 rivers deposit minerals and
Merchant navy to the rescue                                                                                                      sedimentary materials that
In such a natural, vast and often inhospitable environment, a precise           The CarboOcean project has also come             probably influence the
understanding of phenomena and the collection of data represent a               up with an original idea, developed in           total physiochemical
considerable scientific challenge. The information obtained by scientific       parallel by the CAVASSOO European                make-up of the
expeditions are necessarily ‘snapshots’ of the situation, relating to a par-    project: that of using vessels from mer-         environment. CarboOcean
                                                                                                                                 is now preparing to turn
ticular time and place. While the volume of knowledge is increasing all         chant fleets that ply specific sea routes
                                                                                                                                 its attention to these
the time, it remains heterogeneous and often incomplete. What is more,          regularly. “As a result of fitting flow-         peculiarities.
the vast majority of the data relates to the past two or three decades,         sensor devices to these boats, for the
so any long-term picture is sadly lacking.                                      first time we should be
                                                                                able to collect more or
However, for several years now, the added data has been provided to             less simultaneous data
researchers via satellite transmission from the valuable international net-     on what is happening
work of drifting Argo buoys – despite the fact that this innovative sys-
tem was not initially designed to observe CO2 flows as such.

Acidification: a time bomb
One of CarboOcean’s fields of study, which gave      CO2 that we have emptied into them over
rise to an article by James Orr and co-authors       recent decades are already having a percepti-
published in Nature (September 2005), con-           ble impact on the acidity of the marine envi-        Lophelia pertusa, a deep-water coral found in
cerns the acidification of the oceans. Scientists    ronment, that is, on its pH. The reason for this     Northern Europe. © Andre Freiwald

have observed that the billions of tonnes of         is that CO2 – which was in fact previously
                                                     known as carbonic ‘acid’ – releases a proton         many calcarian organisms. These include
Limacina helicina, the most common pteropod
in polar waters, is threatened by acidification.     when it becomes soluble, thereby having an           certain deep-water corals (very abundant
                                                     acidifying effect on the environment.                in Northern Europe) and pteropods, small
                                                     Since the beginning of the last century, the         planktonic molluscs that play a crucial role
                                                     world’s oceans are believed to have increased        in the southern ecosystem as they are at
                                                     their acidity by 0.1 pH units. The authors of        the base of very many food chains. The
                                                     the Nature article believe that, if we continue      affects of a change on this scale on life
                                                     with ‘business as usual’, the effects of this        remains difficult to estimate.
                                                     acidification on life will be very significant
                                                     by 2050. By this date, the ocean would
                                                                                                          To find out more
                                                     become undersaturated with argonite, pro-
                                                                                                          0   James Orr’s website:
© AWI                       © Ross Hopcroft, NOAA    ducing a dissolving effect on the shells of    
  8         RTD info No.48 Februar y 2006                             M Y S T E R I E S       O F       T H E   O C E A N

Dropped into the sea, the
Argo buoys descend slowly to
a depth of 2 000 m and drift
over several kilometres before
resurfacing. They then
                                     in vast areas of the ocean,” explains      Little cause for optimism
transmit to a satellite the data     James Orr. “The aim is to succeed in       A particular innovation currently being           To find out more
obtained at different depths         plotting maps that will, in a sense,       sought by researchers is to integrate in          OTHER PROJECTS CONCERNING
and relating to currents,            chart CO2 flows in real time.”             their models the ‘feedbacks’ of warming           CARBON AND THE OCEAN
temperature and salinity.
                                                                                on the carbon cycle or, in other words,           0   Mersea
These indications help
‘decode’ the complex                                                            the way climate warming, once it                      Monitoring and forecasting ocean
interactions between the air
                                     Complexities of                            becomes significant, will influence the               physics and biogeochemistry
and the sea. Each buoy               modelling                                  natural processes of CO2 absorption or,               /objectives.html
remains on the surface for an
                                   Such data would permit progress in           on the contrary, release.                         0   Cavassoo
hour before re-descending for                                                                                                         Measurement of CO2 flows during
a new cycle of analyses. A         a key area: the natural variability in
                                                                                                                                      trips by merchant vessels
buoy has a life of about four      the oceanic carbon cycle depending,          In this respect, the news is not encour-    
years and carries out around       for example, on seasonal or multi-           aging. All estimations to date suggest                e072/welcome.htm
36 missions a year. © Argo                                                                                                        0   Animate
                                   annual trends. This knowledge is a           that including these feedbacks in fore-
                                                                                                                                      Continuous measurement of CO2
                                   precondition for the realisation of a        casting models results in a greater warm-             flows at three points in the Atlantic
                                   second CarboOcean ambition: to               ing effect than hitherto anticipated on     
express the complex mechanism of transfer flows in a new approach to            the basis of purely physical models that
                                                                                                                                  0   Godae
modelling that would be able to remove uncertainties about the future           ignore such processes. Thus, in                       Global ocean observation and
evolution of the global oceanic carbon cycle.                                   November 2005, at a meeting of around                 forecasting project
                                                                                100 researchers in Amsterdam one year
                                                                                                                                  0   Argo
The marine environment is very inert. It is much slower to experience           after the CarboOcean start up,                        Network of Argo buoys
changes than the atmosphere, but once they occur they are more last-            Christophe Heinz estimated that “given       
ing. This would most certainly be the case as regards ocean warming,            the results obtained to date, much                0   Noces
                                                                                                                                      Study of flow variability and model
dilatation and acidification, for example. To allow for this peculiarity, the   greater emission reductions than are at               evaluations
carbon inventories that the project is seeking to draw up will stretch to       present anticipated are very quickly        
the year 2200, providing a picture that is more in keeping with the real-       going to be seen to be necessary to pre-          0   OCMIP
                                                                                                                                      Comparison of different ocean-
ity of the expected changes.                                                    vent climate change”. It is a belief shared           carbon models
                                                                                by many scientists.                      í  

                                                                                     Loboos Forest (The Netherlands).
Carbon and Europe                                                               Collecting samples to analyse nitrogen
                                                                                      and carbon content in particular.
                                                                                                            © Annette Freibauer
Europe’s interest is not confined to the oceanic part of the carbon
cycle. Continents also absorb very large quantities of CO2. This is             halting plant growth, this released
captured during photosynthesis, transformed into vegetal matter                 0.5 Gt of carbon, an equivalent quan-
and is then stored throughout the plant’s growth phase. When the                tity of carbon to that stored during the
plant eventually dies and decomposes, some of the carbon is released,           previous four years. This figure is all
while the rest remains in the ground as humus. Quantifying this phe-            the more worrying when one consid-
nomenon and assessing the scale of this storage (in forests, crops,             ers that this drought represents what
meadows, peat bogs, etc.) is the mission of the Integrated Project              will be more or less the climatic norm
CarboEurope (61 groups from 17 European countries), launched in                 by 2050.
January 2004 for five years and with a budget of €16.5 million.
The project partners have already drawn up an impressive inventory              To find out more
of the drought that hit Europe in 2003. Causing many forest fires and           0
                                      M Y S T E R I E S                       O F      T H E    O C E A N               RTD info No.48 Februar y 2006                                    9

The strange world
    of oceanic methane
    The seabed was long thought to be virtually devoid of life below the
                                                                                                                               Global mechanism of methane
               zone to which light is able to penetrate. Over the past three                                                   bioproduction in ocean sediments.
     decades, however, revelations about the extremely active anaerobic
      biosphere of the deep-sea abysses have revolutionised perceptions                                                                                      ▲

    of the oceanic carbon cycle, in which methane plays the star role. At                                                                                residue

         the same time, this has raised questions about the impact of this
                                     powerful greenhouse gas on climate change.


C    onsisting of one carbon atom and four
     hydrogen atoms, the methane molecule –
CH4 – is familiar under another name: natural
                                                    present greenhouse effect. This role is not
                                                    attributed – at least not for now – to nature
                                                    itself, but to emissions of anthropogenic ori-


                                                                                                                                                          CO2                    ▲
gas. This fossil fuel extracted from the entrails   gin. The quantity of methane in the atmos-                                      Organic
of the Earth is today a vital source of energy,     phere has more than doubled over the past
being relatively clean burning and an efficient     two centuries due to human activities, com-

                                                                                                                                            + Sulphate         H2S + CO2
                                                                                                                                                                     ▲             Gaz
heat producer, releasing significantly less CO2     pared with a 30% increase in carbon dioxide.
while it is burning than other hydrocarbons.
                                                    Although science’s growing interest in

Natural gas is, however, just one of the specific   methane is largely due to increased awareness
forms – resulting from a thermochemical trans-      of its impact on climate, considerable ques-
formation of geologically buried organic mat-       tions are also being raised regarding its role                             Methane is produced by anaerobic
                                                                                                                               means at the bottom of the sedimentary
ter – adopted by the methane present in the         on the seabed. Whereas it was always
                                                                                                                               layer that is rich in organic matter. Most
global ecosystem. The latter’s production in        believed that the ocean depths were largely                                of it is broken down by sulphates. The
nature, where it is one of the fundamental          devoid of life below the level to which light                              non-degraded gas can form methane
building blocks of the carbon cycle, is both        is able to penetrate, the recent discovery –                               hydrates or escape by means of
                                                                                                                               infiltrations through the sediment.
abundant and widespread. This is due to the         over no more than the last 30 years – of
                                                                                                                               From MPI-Bremen
continuous process of biological degradation of     intense underwater microbiological activity
living matter by anaerobic micro-organisms          has overturned accepted ideas. “One of the
(i.e. which only live in an oxygen-free environ-                                                                             most marked consequences of this change in
ment). Throughout the biosphere, these                              Methane concentrations in the                            perspective is that the seabed is now known
‘anoxic’ sites where methane is generated are                       atmosphere over the past millennium                      to act as a giant anaerobic bioreactor produ-
characterised by humid conditions that favour                       1800                                                     cing vast quantities of methane,” explains
this bacterial process, such as the mud of                                     (data obtained using cores                    Professor Bo Barker Jørgensen, of the Max
                                                                               taken from glaciers).
marshes, the sediment at the bottom of seas                                                                                  Planck Institute of Marine Biology in Bremen,
                                                    Methane (ppb)

and lakes, peat bogs and permafrost. The stom-                                                                               working with the European project DeepBug.
ach of ruminants is another source.
                                                                    1000                                                     Formidable biological barrier
Upsurge of interest                                                  800
                                                                                                                             The key to the global mechanism at work in this
In these times of global warming, there has                                                                                  methane production lies in the presence, in
been an upsurge of interest in methane.                                 800     1000     1200   1400    1600   1800   2000   oceanic sediments, of billions of anaerobic bac-
Independently of its interest as a source of                                                    Years                        teria, among which are found methanogenic
energy, it is also a powerful greenhouse gas,       The concentration of this powerful                                       microbes which give out methane rather like
                                                    greenhouse gas, clearly due to anthropogenic
all the more menacing as its warming effect is                                                                               oxygen-breathing species give out CO2. These
                                                    activities, has doubled over the past 200 years.
20 times that of carbon dioxide. Today, it is       Source: CSIRO Atmospheric Research                                       cohorts feed off living matter that originates
considered to be responsible for 20% of the                                                                                  on the surface. The marine plankton, which are
10              RTD info No.48 Februar y 2006                          M Y S T E R I E S    O F    T H E    O C E A N

very abundant in the higher luminous waters of the sea, generate a kind       It was just six years ago that a young German microbiologist, Antje
of organic rain which is supplemented by the decomposed remains of            Boetius, first began to unravel the mysteries of this process. “He estab-
waste, dead plants and animals, excrement, etc. This residue very grad-       lished that it was the work of extraordinary microbial colonies, combin-
ually carpets the ocean bed where it mixes with mineral matter. At the        ing bacteria and archeobacteria. A phenomenon that holds even deeper
same time, rivers flow down into the sea, carrying with them particles        mysteries, when one considers that, in evolutionary terms, the gap that
of continental origin charged with organic nutriments. In this way, a         separates these micro-organisms and plants is comparable to that
sometimes very thick – up to several hundred metres – substrate builds        between the plant and animal worlds.”
up over thousands of years, which is the habitat of these bacteria and
where methane is produced.                                                    Methane cages
                                                                              While this mechanism of the methane barrier of microbiological origin
                                                                              can be understood as the key element in the oceanic carbon cycle –
Operating principle of the oceanic methane barrier.                           without which the climate of the planetary geosphere would be thrown
                                                                              into total disarray – major questions remain about the remaining 10%
                                               Bacterial association          of gas that is continuously produced and that escapes this process. It
              degradation                                                     has been discovered that non-degraded methane is retained at high
               of methane
                                                                              pressure and low temperature in strange compounds known as
                                                                              ‘methane hydrates’. The latter have a crystal structure, with a structure
                                                                              very like ice, in which methane molecules are trapped in a kind of ‘cage’
                                                                              consisting of water molecules. These trapping structures are commonly
                                                                              known as clathrates.
  Bacterial associations

                                                                              The oceans of the world are believed to contain vast stocks of these
       Gas hydrates             Methane
                                                                              methane hydrates, mainly on the edges of continents, that is, on the
                                                                              continental slopes running down from the continents to the seabed.
Specific associations of bacteria and archeobacteria ‘consume’ most of        Although much uncertainty surrounds the figures, there is thought to
the oceanic methane by means of sulphates carried by marine waters.           be around 1 200 billion tonnes of them, mixed to varying degrees with
From MPI-Bremen
                                                                              the sediment in which they form veins and inclusions.

“But we have discovered that 90% of oceanic methane is degraded               Security concerns
immediately it is produced by microbiological processes which use the         The ‘security’ of these methane cages is a current subject of debate –
large concentration of sulphate carried by marine waters to the seabed,”      and the cause of certain fears. First of all, this is because they act as genu-
continues Bo Jørgensen. “This natural methane barrier plays a vital role      ine methane ‘concentrators’: one volume of clathrate releases about
in climate control at global level.”                                          170 volumes of natural gas when it dissociates. Secondly, because such

                                                                                                                                  HERMES will use the
Hermes and the ecosystems                                                                                                         latest technologies
                                                                                                                                  available to explore the
Launched in January 2005, 45 partners (including nine SMEs) from                                                                  ocean depths.
                                                                                                                                  Source: IFREMER, AWI
15 countries are working on the important Hermes (Hotspot
Ecosystem Research on the Margins of the European Seas) project.
Their aim is to explore the marine ecosystems present in more than
15 000 kilometres of Europe’s deep ocean margins, many of which                                     energy budgets and structure of their ecosys-
have implications for the methane question. They will analyse the             To find out more      tem,” the principal project partners wrote
vast anoxic expanses of the Black Sea and Baltic, the underwater              0 recently in an issue of the magazine
mud volcanoes which are found in abundance in Greece and Norway,                                    Oceanography. They will have access to the lat-
and the chimneys and faults that emit gas (often methane) and                 est available technologies in the marine exploration sector and a
around which extraordinary biological communities congregate that             budget of €15 million spread over four years. The multidisciplinary
are particularly rich in worms of the polychete family. “The aim of           information collected will be the result of a large number of oceano-
this research on anoxic microbial ecosystems, which are often asso-           graphic research campaigns, including those using the Remotely
ciated with flows of fluids and gas hydrates, is to identify and describe     Operated Vehicles (ROVs) from the Southampton Oceanography
the biodiversity of the key microbes responsible for the carbon               Centre, (project coordinator), the French research institute Ifremer
sources and sinks, in order to arrive at an understanding of their            and the Bremen Institute in Germany.
                                       M Y S T E R I E S     O F    T H E    O C E A N              RTD info No.48 Februar y 2006                       11

Methane hydrate or clathrate samples.

                                                                      European programmes (Costa          increases in methane emissions must also be
                                                                      and Hydratech) have looked          taken into account, such as the expansion of
                                                                      at this possibility, focusing in    marshy areas and the melting of the permafrost
                                                                      particular on the septentrional     in high latitudes.
These crystals, which resemble ice, act as cages that retain          continental margins of
methane. As they dissociate, the clathrates ‘degas’ – as can be
                                                                      Norway and the Barents Sea,         Another theory has also been put forward to
observed by igniting the methane that escapes. (Photos from
the European project Anaximander.)                                    and on the technology for the       explain the link: the clathrate gun hypothesis,
Source: GEOMAR, Kiel (DE)                                             remote detection of methane         formulated in 2002 by the American James
                                                                      hydrates. The data collected        Kennet, Professor at Santa Barbara University.
dissociation is physically conceivable once the to date would seem to suggest that these                  He believes that methane hydrates build up
temperature and pressure conditions necessary      hydrate concentrations are found at a consider-        during ice ages (loading of the gun) and are
for the stable existence of these compounds        able depth, making them relatively safe from           then dissociated at the first signs of warming,
cease to be met.                                   slope-instability phenomena.                           releasing large quantities of methane (dis-
                                                                                                          charge of the gun) which in turn, in a feedback
Two risk hypotheses are therefore taken very        To a lesser degree, this ‘mechanical’ risk linked     movement, speeds up the temperature rise.
seriously, one ‘climatic’ (causing a rise in tem-   to clathrates can also be induced by human            The author himself admits that this is no more
perature of the ocean floor) and the other          activities. The offshore drilling for hydrocarbons,   than a line of enquiry, especially as it is still not
‘mechanical’ (a sudden disturbance of the pres-     which heats the seabed, could have a danger-          known at what speed clathrates build up and
sure conditions). In both cases the danger lies     ous destabilising effect and thus trigger a           how many of them there are. But this hypoth-
in a massive methane release by the clathrates.     methane release. Oil companies are aware of this      esis nevertheless underscores the fact that, on
                                                    risk, which is why they are very interested in        a geological scale, oceanic methane is very
The mechanical hypothesis relates essentially       these projects, sometimes participating in them.      probably a key component of the carbon cycle
to the appearance of instabilities in the layers                                                          and, as such, is of undoubted climatic im-
of sediment deposited on the underwater con-        The clathrate gun hypothesis                          portance. There is
tinental slopes, which could result in the slip-    As to the risk of an increase in temperatures on      therefore an urgent To find out more
page of vast quantities of matter. In such an       the seabed causing the dissociation of                need to find out 0
event, the clathrates present could dissociate      clathrates, this is more of a long-term problem.      more about the
under the impact, provoking the release of the      Oceans react slowly to atmospheric warming.           conditions deter-         index.htm
methane they store.                                 Nevertheless, climate records show a marked           mining the forma-
                                                    historical concordance between periods of             tion, disassociation Contact
It is not out of the question that present ocean    global warming and methane quantities in the          and global stock of Bo Barker Jørgensen
warming could produce such movements. Two           atmosphere. The continental causes of                 clathrates.        í 0

 Quantifying and mapping the flows                                                                        Pictures of the carbonate chimneys that
                                                                                                          can form on the seabed and through
                                                                                                          which oceanic methane emissions pass
  The Metrol (Methane Flux Control on Ocean Margin Sediments) proj-            niques for flow            on their way to the surface. Underwater
  ect, coordinated by Christian Borowski of the Max Planck Institute           quantification have        observation in the
                                                                                                          Black Sea as part of the
  in Bremen (DE), is interested in quantifying the oceanic methane             been developed.
                                                                                                          METROL project to
  flows that result from the diverse biological processes. The                 Researchers combine        analyse methane flows.
  researchers have studied three specific zones of the European con-           seismic and acoustic Source: GEOMAR, Kiel (DE)
  tinental margins. The Black Sea, for example, is the world’s largest         measurements (giv-
  anoxic expanse with no oxygen at all below a depth of 200 m –                ing information
  and a seabed dropping to 2 200 m in places. This makes it the ideal          about the seabed To find out more
  site for studying the behaviour of methane, a gas that escapes from          structure)      with 0
  a multitude of sources. The Baltic Sea (which has large anoxic               analyses of the gas
  areas) and the North Sea are also the subject of research. The lat-          bubbles obtained from the sedimentary cores
  ter, which is very important economically, is well known to Statoil,         obtained in situ. The end result is a genuine
  the Norwegian oil partner in the project.                                    regional mapping of methane production and
  In all these regions where methane production is very abundant,              a first step towards a reliable global inventory
  due to the high organic content of the sediment, innovative tech-            of marine methane emissions.
12           RTD info No.48 Februar y 2006                              P H Y S I C S      -   S O L V A Y      C O U N C I L

                                                                                                           December 2005 saw the 23rd Solvay
                                                                                                           Council and what has become a
                                                                                                           traditional gathering of Nobel Prize
                                                                                                           laureates and Fields Medal holders.
                                                                                                           The subject of discussion on this
                                                                                                           occasion was the quantum structure
                                                                                                           of time and space. The three days of
                                                                                                           debate for the scientists were followed
                                                                                                           – as a fitting culmination to the Year of
                                                                                                           Physics – by a public meeting that gave
                                                                                                           rise to passionate exchanges between
                                                                                                           the public who attended in large
                                                                                                           numbers and the scientists who were
                                                                                                           eager to communicate.

 Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, Max
       Planck, Paul Langevin, Henri
  Poincaré and Ernest Rutherford
   all lined up in 1911 for the first
         ‘class photo’ of the world’s
   leading physicists, thanks to an
        initiative by the exceptional
Belgian industrialist Ernest Solvay.              A scientific conclave
T     he Solvay Councils are part of
      the history of physics. It is
enough to look at the participants
present, the issues raised and sub-
                                        & public meeting
jects discussed to trace the development of this branch of knowledge.           The first to arrive rushed for a place in the main hall, to witness live the
It was the young and audacious Einstein who closed the first Solvay             discussions that were relayed by video to other rooms in the building.
Council, in 1911, by presenting “the current state of the problem of spe-
cific heats”. Hendrik Lorentz, 1902 Nobel Prize laureate, helped organ-         Ninety minutes later the first speaker, Robbert Dijkgraaf, took the stage.
ise some of these meetings where he played a key role as president,             By drawing on examples of perfect simplicity to explain the most com-
selecting the speakers and chairing the debates. One of them, in 1927,          plex advances in physics, he succeeded, in the space of 40 minutes, in
saw a historic confrontation between Einstein (“God does not play dice”)        overturning our concepts of time and space and revealing that empty space
and Niels Bohr (“Albert, stop telling God how he should behave”) on             is not empty at all, but warning that the demonstration of all this would
the subject of quantum physics.                                                 not be ready for the following day! Brian Greene, a professor at Columbia
                                                                                University (US), subsequently showed himself to be a powerful speaker as
In private, at the Métropole                                                    he set about cutting the Gordian knot of string theory by announcing that
This exchange may be anecdotal, but it is also an example of the atmos-         every particle in nature can be modelled like the vibration of a very small
phere at these events that invariably produces lively and informal debates      string in a universe possessing space in more than three dimensions. The
and at which academic formality has no place. Casual conversations              applause was loud for these two scientists (see interview) who had just
behind the scenes and intense debate over lunch are all part of the             upset the world view of a thousand people, not counting the internauts.
process at these unique scientific meetings held regularly every three
years and interrupted only by the two world wars.                               It was then time for the debates, with the internet providing an addi-
                                                                                tional source for questions from Europe, the United States and Asia. “Do
In 2005 – as in 1911 – the venue for the Solvay Council was the historic        all black holes explode?” “They start by evaporating,” explained Gerard
art deco Métropole Hotel, in the heart of Brussels. The American David          't Hooft. “Is physics becoming a religion?” “Only a Frenchman can pro-
Gross (Nobel Prize for physics, 2004) chaired the proceedings. Other            vide a diplomatic response to this question,” answered David Gross, as
Nobel laureates – Murray Gell-Mann, Gerard 't Hooft, Steven Weinberg,           he referred the question to Thibault Damour. One question in particu-
Frank Wilczek – were also present, as were winners of the Wolf Prize (Robert    lar – “Is the universe the result of chance or an intelligent project?” –
Brout, François Englert) and, representing mathematics, two winners of          caused hushed silence in the hall, as if a pupil had asked something
the Fields Medals (Michael Atiyah and Shing-Tung Yau). The world’s lead-        impertinent. This was not altogether unconnected to the notion of ‘intel-
ing experts on quantum mechanics and general relativity set about dis-          ligent design’, a recent train of thought derived from creationism which
cussing the question with which they have been grappling for years: how         suggests divine intervention in the creation of the universe. David Gross
to unite the two pillars of contemporary physics within a single theory that    then explained that, to his mind, the universe is the result of a wonder-
would explain the universe in its totality, from the particles to the stars?    ful equation, and ironically asked the six other scientists if any of them
                                                                                embraced the concept of ID. They looked at one another with amuse-
In public, at the Charlemagne                                                   ment and laughter broke out in the hall, as if in a sudden release of ten-
On the Sunday afternoon, a small group of scientists left the Métropole         sion. No doubt, at the end of the day, everyone left with their heads full
for the Charlemagne, the European Commission building where an audi-            of strings and questions and a somewhat changed view of scientists and
ence awaited them. With over 1 000 registered to attend, it was a full house.   of the origins of the universe.                                          í
                                 P H Y S I C S        -   S O L V A Y        C O U N C I L                  RTD info No.48 Februar y 2006                                      13

Concerted voices
      on STRINGS
Quantum mechanics describes the world of the infinitely small, explaining the very special interactions at
particle level. Einstein’s theory of general relativity applies to the infinitely big, combining space and time
within a single entity (space-time) whose deformation explains the universal gravitational attraction between
the large galactic and stellar objects in the universe. The major challenge for contemporary physics is to make
the link between these two approaches and formulate a new unified theory – to which scientists have already
given the name ‘quantum gravity’. Initiated in the 1970s, the
development of the ‘strings’ mathematical approach is raising huge
hopes of achieving this. Explanations from Robbert Dijkgraaf, Professor
at Amsterdam University (NL), and from Brian Greene, Professor at
Columbia University (US), two of the guests at the Solvay Council who
spoke at the public conference that closed this scientific meeting.

  Why are physicists so ‘obsessed’ by this Grail of quantum
                                                                                                                    Robbert Dijkgraaf                Brian Greene
  gravity?                                                                                                                                           © Jon Chase/Harvard News Office
Robbert Dijkgraaf: Because the duality between the two approaches,
quantum and gravitational, both born during the 20th century, appears               discovered this possibility thirty years ago, they realised that they had found
intolerable. Nature is not divided into two parts and one can no longer             a significant part of the puzzle to combine general relativity with quantum
be satisfied by describing it with two distinct theories – one valid on the         mechanics. It was a new way of considering Einstein’s theory.
small scale, the other on the large scale – which do not speak to each
other. If we do not overcome this contradiction, we cannot improve our                Where are we today?
knowledge of the Universe, the Big Bang and elementary particles.                   B.G.: String theory is a wonderful mathematical construction with beau-
                                                                                    tiful equations that make it possible to predict the existence of new par-
Brian Greene: I would add that there is no clear border between                     ticles that no-one has yet observed. The challenge now is to support these
what is ‘small’ and what is ‘large’. This impossibility of demarcation              predictions with experimental evidence.
is one of the reasons why we need this new framework of a quantum
gravity theory.                                                                       How can such evidence be obtained?
                                                                                    B.G.: The hope is that amongst the debris of high-energy particle colli-
  Among all the attempts to unify quantum mechanics with                            sions – such as the protons which will collide at high speed in the future
  General Relativity, string theory seems the most promising.                       Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN – we will find these undiscovered
  What are its principles?                                                          particles, also known as supersymmetric particles.
R.D.: String theory rests on the fact that, in the quantum world, things
are ‘fuzzy’. What does that mean? Let us imagine that one progressively             Another possibility lies in the fact that string theory predicts a Universe
zooms in on a photograph. After a certain point, one no longer sees a               whose space has more than three dimensions. So, at high energies, some
single image but only black, white or coloured fuzzy ‘entities’, similar to         particles could be ejected out of our three-dimensional space taking their
those that digital technologies call pixels.                                        energy with them. In this case, the detector would record less energy at
                                                                                    the end of the collision than at the beginning; this difference would be
Thus, when combining the theory of general relativity (describing space             proof of the existence of extra dimensions.
and time) with the quantum principle (according to which things become
fuzzy at very small scales), it is more realistic not to regard particles as per-   The validity of string theory could also be supported by astronomical
fectly defined points. String theory makes it possible to account for their         observations, for example, through the analysis of the temperature vari-
intrinsically fuzzy nature by describing them as kinds of small strings (one        ations of the radiation emitted just after the Big Bang – known as the cos-
dimensional objects) instead of perfect points (zero dimensional objects).          mic microwave background (CMB).(1) The Planck satellite, which should
                                                                                    be launched during 2007, will measure the temperature distribution of
This approach is fascinating because, if you assume that particles are
strings, then mathematics allows you to recover the general relativity              (1) The cosmic microwave radiation is the first light which was propagated freely in the
                                                                                        Universe, 300 000 to 400 000 years after the Big Bang. See RDT information,
equations without any additional assumptions. When physicists                           special number Science and Memory, April 2005.
14           RTD info No.48 Februar y 2006                               P H Y S I C S       -   S O L V A Y      C O U N C I L

                                        The billions of stars in a galaxy
                                        are no more than the visible tip
                                        of the iceberg as far as space is
                                        concerned. Galaxies are largely
                                        composed of invisible black
                                        matter. Shown here is the
                                        Messier 83 galaxy, south of the
                                        Hydra constellation. Its distance
                                        is estimated at around 15 million
                                        light years. ©ESO

the CMB with an unequalled resolution – and there is a chance that it             deduce the existence of new particles likely to constitute the dark mat-
will find a footprint confirming the validity of string theory.                   ter in the Universe. It is a very important idea, but, at present, it remains
                                                                                  just a theory. Does it explain the reality of nature? To date, no experi-
R.D.: Moreover, during the last five years, cosmological observations             mental proof of the supersymmetry concept is yet forthcoming.
have shown that the nature of only 4% of the energy content of the
Universe is known. Thus 96% remains unexplained, of which a quar-                   Our human perception of the Universe is traditionally based
ter could be invisible particles that are defined as ‘dark matter’. But             on three-dimensional space (height, width, depth) to which
we know nothing about the nature of these particles. A new instru-                  is added the fourth dimension of time. However, string theory
ment, such as the LHC, could make it possible to learn more.                        requires more than three dimensions in space. The idea of
                                                                                    spatial dimensions that we cannot perceive is quite difficult
  How could the Universe be populated by so much dark                               to grasp…
  matter that we have never seen?                                                 B.G.: Until now, most physical theories assume the three-dimensionality
R.D.: In a general way, the known matter in the Universe interacts by             of the Universe. String theory does not make such an assumption but, by
the means of the fundamental forces. Thus, the light emitted by a celes-          purely mathematical reasoning, predicts that there should be more than
tial object is due to electromagnetic interactions and these are what             three. Why are we unable to perceive these extra dimensions? They could
make it visible. But there could be particles that only interact a little, or     be imperceptible because they are somehow ‘folded in on themselves’.
not at all. Indeed, there is no reason for everything to interact with every-     So, like an ant on a wire, we can only move along the wire, we are unaware
thing else in the Universe. Thanks to string theory, we can predict the           of the dimension related to its thickness. In contrast, another possibility
existence of some particles that do not interact via the electromagnetic          could be that these extra dimensions are very large but light for instance
or nuclear forces. However, since they exist, they are carrying energy,           could not propagate through them: light would be trapped in our three-
which implies that they have mass and thus are subject to the universal           dimensional Universe, preventing us from seeing the extra dimensions.
laws of gravity. This characteristic is the first step in identifying ‘candi-
date’ particles that might qualify as dark matter. But string theory goes           To come back to the quest for a quantum gravity theory, can
further by predicting that the best placed dark energy candidates will be           we imagine that it will unify the four fundamental forces of
the lightest particles with supersymmetric characteristics.                         nature, namely the electromagnetic force, the strong and
                                                                                    weak nuclear interactions of quantum mechanics and the
  Why should these dark matter particles be the lightest – and                      gravitational force of general relativity?
  what does the concept of supersymmetry mean?                                    B.G.: This is not a necessary consequence to unify all the forces to build
R.D.: The extreme lightness of such particles means that they have                a theory of quantum gravity but it is one of string theory’s consequences.
reached a limit which prevents them from decaying. Thus they are very             However, in other approaches merging gravity and quantum mechan-
stable and could be particularly widespread throughout the Universe.              ics – string theory is not the only one. Only experimental data will solve
                                                                                  this question.
To explain supersymmetry, we start with the observation that, in nature,
there seem to be two categories. On the one hand, we have what we                 R.D.: It should nevertheless be stressed that some relevant information
call matter and, on the other hand, the forces that act within matter, for        already exists. The fundamental forces vary enormously in their proper-
instance electric forces. Usually, we consider these two categories separ-        ties and their amplitudes. In atoms, the nuclear forces are very strong,
ately, that is to say, not symmetrically. String theory tells us to bridge this   whereas gravity is very weak. However, during experiments, if we
separation by introducing the concept of supersymmetry. This latter rests         increase the particle energy more and more, the properties of the dif-
on the assumption that there is a symmetry connecting matter and force,           ferent forces become increasingly similar and end up acquiring about
like the image of an object in a mirror. This assumption allows us to             the same amplitude. Hence, at high energies, they naturally tend to unify.
                              P H Y S I C S      -   S O L V A Y     C O U N C I L              RTD info No.48 Februar y 2006                             15

                                                                                                                               BRIAN GREENE
                                                                                                                               Brian Greene is Professor
                                                                                                                               of physics and mathematics
                                                                                                                               at Columbia University
                                                                                                                               (New York) where he is
B.G.: These high-energy conditions are probably those that prevailed at     B.G.: One could also imagine a pre-Big Bang,       Co-Director of the Institute
the beginning of the Universe and, if we had existed then, we would prob-   namely a Universe in existence before the Big      for Strings, Cosmology and
ably have perceived only one master force instead of four different ones.   Bang, which could have collapsed in on itself      Astroparticle Physics and
                                                                            into a fundamental state from where space          leads a research programme
  To the question “Was there something before the Big Bang”,                and time would emerge.                             on the implications of string
  Professor Stephen Hawking answers, “There is nothing to the                                                                  theory for the universe.
  north of the North Pole “…                                                  A black hole results from the collapse           In 2000, he won the Aventis
R.D.: This question is equivalent to wondering how time and space             of a massive star. Like the Big Bang,            Prize for his popular book
could start with the Big Bang. As one approaches the Big Bang, the con-       general relativity predicts that all the         on string theory, entitled
cepts of time and space stop making sense, as does the concept of lat-        matter in a star collapses into a                The Elegant Universe. His
itude when one arrives at the North Pole.                                     point of infinite density. What does             second book, The Fabric of
                                                                              string theory tell us about this                 the Cosmos: Space, Time and
  But then how do time and space appear?                                      subject?                                         the Texture of Reality is about
R.D.: According to certain theories, space could emerge from nothing,       R.D.: The funny thing with black holes is that     space and time and lasted
and a similar phenomenon probably occurs for time.                          they are a kind of mini-version of the Big         25 weeks on The New York
                                                                            Bang, with similarities, but in reverse order.     Times bestsellers list.
  How can space and time emerge from nothing?                               The matter falls into a black hole whereas it      The Washington Post
                                                                            emerges from the Big Bang. Some astrophysi-        describes him as
                                                                            cists, in particular Stephen Hawking, showed       “the single best explainer
                                                                            that a black hole is not black but radiates par-   of abstruse concepts in
                                                                            ticles. It evaporates. His calculations were an    the world today”.
                                                                            approximation but string theory makes it pos-
                                                                            sible from now on to formulate them in an          ROBBERT DIJKGRAAF
                                                                            exact way, by including all the quantum            Robbert Dijkgraaf is
                                                                            effects at small scales.                           Professor of mathematical
                                                                                                                               physics at Amsterdam
                                                                            B.G.: If some microscopic black holes could        University where his research
                                                                            be produced in the LHC, it would be possible       group is working on string
                                                                            to examine the products of their evaporation       theory, quantum gravity and
                                                                            and to observe them decay.                         the interface between
                                                                                                                               mathematics and particles
                      View of String 2, the test bed for the LHC, the
                      future collider currently being installed at
                                                                            R. D.: And the energy released by this decay       physics. Among his many
                      CERN (Geneva) to permit the production of             would be such that any particle could result,      awards, he is holder of the
                      super symmetrical products. The inset shows           thus giving us a chance to detect the famous       Spinoza Prize from the
                      the first LHC superconducting magnet being            supersymmetric particles predicted by string       Dutch Physical Society. He is
  lowered into the accelerator tunnel, in May 2005. © CERN
                                                                            theory.                                   í        a Member of the Royal
                                                                                                                               Netherlands Academy of
                                                                                                                               Arts and Sciences and the
R.D.: Take the example of temperature. In a room you have gas made                                                             Royal Holland Society of
of molecules, each of these molecules has energy and the average                                                               Sciences and Humanities.
energy of the gas is what is called the temperature. When there is only                                                        Interested in scientific
a single molecule, the notion of temperature cannot be defined. Hence                                                          communication, he writes
temperature, pressure and many other concepts only emerge if you                                                               regularly for the Dutch
have many particles. Consequently, some of the fundamental laws of                                                             Press, including as a
physics only emerge beyond a certain limit. It could be the same case                                                          columnist for NRC
for space and time.                                                                                                            Handelsblad and Folia.
16            RTD info No.48 Februar y 2006              S PA C E     R E S E A R C H

                                                               The mind boggles! A group of women in
                                                               excellent physical and mental health agreed to
                                                               spend 60 days in a confined space, cut off
                                                               from any direct contact with the outside
                                                               world. During these two months they did not
                                                               leave their beds once and remained
                                                               permanently in a near-horizontal position,
                                                               with the head slightly lower than the feet.
                                                               They followed a very strict diet, a regime of
                                                               specially designed physical exercises, and were
                                                               subjected to daily medical checks. These
                                                               women volunteers on the WISE(1) international
                                                               project did it all in the interests of space and
                                                               medical research, thinking of the cosmonauts
                                                               which they themselves would never be. RTD
                                                               info looks at a very unique experience.

                                                            Two months
                                                       flat on their BACKS
Equitest: assessing balance
on standing up.

T     hey are walking along a beam, arms out-
      stretched, somewhat hesitant ‘tightrope
walkers’ just 20 cm off the ground and with two
                                                                                               physiological changes comparable to
                                                                                               those experienced by astronauts during
                                                                                               space flights. When lying down, you
people ready to catch them if they become dizzy                                                do not use the muscles that enable you
or slip – which they do not. This is the big day for                                           to remain upright, in the same way as
this group of a dozen carefully selected women                                                 cosmonauts who live under conditions
volunteers who are back on their feet at the end                                               of weightlessness. Consequently, the
of more than two months at the Medes Space                                                     idle muscles begin to waste. Having the
Clinic in Toulouse (FR). Magali, whose brother                                                 head slightly lower than the feet also
had taken part in a similar test, explains: “These                                             has an effect on the cardiac function
first steps are a battle… You totter, your legs feel                                           and blood pressure, the coordination of
like cotton wool, you find it hard to control your                                             various movements and certain para-
body. You realise that the human body is not                                                   meters of blood composition.
designed to remain immobile.”
                                                                    Scanner examination – obtaining
Magali is a member of the second group of vol-                      information on the bone micro-
                                                                    architecture using ultrasound.
unteers who spent around 100 days at Medes,                         © CNES/Emmanuel GRIMAULT
60 of them in bed, with the head inclined down-
wards at an angle of 6° below the horizontal.
They carried out all their activities from this same
position during these two months – including
eating, showering, reading and using a computer.
The aim was to simulate the effects of weightless-
ness by inducing psychological as well as

(1) Women International Space Simulation for
    Exploration study.
                                                       S PA C E       R E S E A R C H              RTD info No.48 Februar y 2006                             17

                                                                               over Europe,” explains Dr Arnaud Beck, Project Coordinator. “We first
                                                     Control of fat
                                                                               whittled this down to 388, of whom we tested 100, both medically and
                                                                               psychologically.” The criteria are similar to those for astronauts: aged
                                                     © CNES/Emmanuel
                                                     GRIMAULT                  between 25 and 40, in excellent health, non-smoker, no substance
                                                                               dependencies, a clean medical history and highly motivated. “When I
                                                                                                                was a little girl I wanted to be an astro-
                                                                                                                naut, and this is a way for me to come
                                                                                                                close to realising that dream for a few
                                                                                                                weeks,” explains Stéphanie. She adds
                                                                                                                that she agreed to take part “first of all
                                                                                                                for women, to encourage other women
                                                                                                                to undergo the experience or to become
                                                                                                                an astronaut, and for medical progress”.

                                                                                                                Naturally, the selected candidates were
                                                                                                                free to ask any questions they had about
                                                                                                                the research programme. They could
                                                                                                                also withdraw from the study at any
                                                                                                                point. The psychological tests were
                                                                                                                designed to select candidates able to
                                                                                                                see the task through to the end – as they
                                                                                                                did. “You have to be the ideal woman,”
                                                                                                                joked one of them.

                                                                                                                Exercise and diet
                                                                                                                At present, during long-term missions
                                                                                                                on board the ISS (International Space
                                                                                                                Station), astronauts carry out about two
Long-term missions                                                                                              hours of exercises daily, including
“Until now, simulations of life in space were carried out on men. But today,                                    muscle development and sessions on
20% of astronauts are women and the proportion is increasing,” explains                                         the exercise bikes and treadmills. But
Peter Jost, Project Leader at the ESA. “We also know that missions are going                                    the question remains open as to which
to become increasingly long. A flight to Mars, as planned as part of ESA’s                                      are the most effective. One of the WISE
Aurora space exploration programme, will expose men and women to                                                objectives was to test a combination of
weightlessness and the planet’s lower gravity for a period of up to three                                       exercises designed to preserve the mus-
years. So we must be prepared and develop improved counter- or pre-                                             cular mass and function, the bone
cautionary measures in readiness for these longer missions.”                                                    mass, the effort capacity, movement

The WISE study tested factors linked to physical exercise and nutrition.
The two groups of 12 women volunteers, who participated between
spring and autumn 2005, were divided on each occasion into three
other groups. Four followed a specific muscle development programme,
four received food supple-
ments, and four others
made up a control group
who benefited from none
of these countermeasures
and thus served as a basis
for comparisons.

“The Medes organised the
selection of volunteers. We
placed a simple ad on the
                                            Muscular resistance test using
internet which drew                                 the Fly Wheel device.
2 600 applications from all                      © CNES/Emmanuel GRIMAULT
   18             RTD info No.48 Februar y 2006                                              S PA C E    R E S E A R C H

                                                                                     Bone density test using a
                                                                                     peripheral 3D scanner.
                                                                                     © CNES/Emmanuel GRIMAULT

                                                                                     At the nutritional level, the aim is   of science in a field I knew little about by par-
                                                                                     to judge whether physiological         ticipating in such a major project. I saw a pro-
                                                                                     changes can be alleviated by           gramme on television about it, I read the 40
                                                                                     means of protein supplements,          pages of protocols and then said to myself that
                                                                                     enriched with amino acids to help      I should give it a try, put myself to the test and
                                                                                     offset the muscular weakening.         embark on a real challenge,” explains Anne.

                                                                                  Although these experiments are            Daily routine and motivation
                                                                                  being conducted as part of space          The women volunteers share a double room,
     Magnetic resonance
                                coordination,                      research programmes, they also have implica-             remain in contact with friends and relatives by
imaging to determine the
 muscular volumes of the        and the retention                  tions for medical research in a number of fields,        telephone or letter and are able to meet up
          heart, legs and       of blood flow                      such as balance disorders, blood pressure, tol-          with their fellow participants, thanks to a guid-
   paravertebral muscles.       reflexes to com-                   erance to the orthostatic position, loss of cap-         ing hand from the centre staff who wheel them
                                pensate         for                acity for effort, and osteoporosis. The latter is        from room to room. “The group was very solid
                                changes in posi-                   a condition that affects most post-menopausal            and a solid team is a winning team. It was good
                                tion. Previous                     women to some degree. This disease, whose                to talk with a psychologist, from time to time,
   studies had shown that the size, tone, strength                 progress is normally very slow and takes the             to know that this support was available and
   and endurance of muscles decreased when                         form of the erosion of the bones, appears after          that you could call on it at any time. But for me
   they did not have to bear any weight, as is the                 just a few days of space flight due to the               the most important support was the group
   case in space, especially those muscles that                    absence of mechanical constraints. Lessons can           itself,” says one participant.
   have to fight against gravity, such as those of                 also be learned for a society that lacks physical
   the lower limbs, the pelvis and lower back.                     exercise, for the treatment or prevention of             Yet although some of their goals were the same,
   “This reduction in muscular performance has                     cardiovascular disease or to assist patients who         in fact the women formed a very diverse group,
   the effect of reducing the astronauts’ capacity                 have to be confined to bed for prolonged                 coming from different countries with different
   for physical work during long flights and also                  periods. “It was the scientific side that attracted      backgrounds and different motivations. Pia
   causes problems when they return to Earth and                   me, the chance to be in contact with the world           embarked on it out of a “sense of adventure”,
   have to readapt to gravity. This poses a serious                                                                         while for Païn, a teacher, “it is a way of offer-
   problem for very long duration manned                                                                                    ing something for my pupils and it is an experi-
   flights,” say the WISE reports.                                                                                          ence I can allow myself before I start my own
                                                                                                                            family”. Morag wanted to “take a break, have
   To prevent these problems, two specific devices                                                                          some time to think, see the reaction of my body
   are used during weightlessness simulation cam-                                                                           and give a little of myself to science”.
   paigns, whether for men or women: a treadmill                                                                            Frédérique and Sandrine each have three
   placed in an LBNP (Lower Body Negative
   Pressure)(2) Box, and the Fly Wheel, a device that                                                                       Negative pressure box used to test tolerance
   uses the principle of inertia to permit special mus-                                                                     when returning to the upright position.
   cular exercises. The pictures of people placed in                                                                        © CNES/Emmanuel GRIMAULT

   the LBNP are impressive – lying on their backs,
   they have to walk and run on a treadmill, their
   legs suspended by pulleys and the back subjected
   to the regular shocks of the movements. “We
   knew in principle what to expect, but it was more
   than I could have imagined,” continues Magali.
   “I had not imagined I would find this whole world
   of equipment and so many people.”

   (2) This box creates a suction effect in the lower part of the body to attract the liquid from
       the upper part to the legs and to provide, in the feet, a force that is slightly above the
       subject’s body weight.
                                                      S PA C E     R E S E A R C H               RTD info No.48 Februar y 2006                             19

Cardiovascular test – exercising on a treadmill in a Lower Body Negative Pressure Box. © CNES/Emmanuel GRIMAULT

children and they too are part of their objec-      techniques that they could then use for            dependency that is of course the situation for
tive – “I want them to be proud of me.”             themselves when they felt tense – which was        anyone confined to bed.
                                                    almost inevitable at some point. “Everybody
Throughout this period they were monitored          was careful to ensure we were as comfortable       The results of the second campaign will no
daily by a doctor who measured their heart rate,    as possible. We felt we had solid support and      doubt confirm some of the findings of the first.
blood pressure, and weight – using scales spe-      the human side was wonderful. The presence         “The programme of physical activities seems to
cially designed for the horizontal position.        and kindness of all the nursing staff really was   have made it possible to retain a certain capa-
Massages by physiotherapists were very import-      very valuable and the time passed more quickly     city for endurance and an improved ability to
ant for avoiding back pain. Weekly ultrasound       than I first thought it would.” (Martine).         return to the upright position at the end of the
readings assessed the possible risk of blood                                                           bed rest, in particular without the associated
clots, regular blood samples were taken and         When asked what they found most difficult          dizziness,” observes Peter Jost. “The nutritional
electrocardiograms were carried out. Breathing      about this experience, the women were rather       supplements seem to have protected the
exercises were also important for encouraging       hesitant. One mentioned the food, the obliga-      cardiovascular system. But we must await the
relaxation and improving blood circulation.         tion to eat specific meals at fixed times – and    analysis of the other campaigns before we for-
Participants were also taught specific relaxation   to eat it all. Another spoke of the sense of       mulate any conclusions.”                       í

  WISE, this is just the beginning
  WISE is the fruit of co-operation between the European Space                In 2005, two campaigns running from March to May and from
  Agency (ESA), the Centre national d'études spatiales (CNES -                September to November involved 12 volunteers from eight
  France), the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and NASA (US). Twelve              European countries (Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany,
  teams from 11 countries (Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France,                  the Netherlands, Poland, Switzerland and the United Kingdom).
  Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, the United            The tests were carried out over 100 days in all: 20 days for data col-
  Kingdom, the United States) are involved in the study which                 lection, two months of bed rest, and 20 days of follow-up and
  aims to investigate how the female body adapts to simulated                 recovery. Over the next three years, participants will have to
  weightlessness, by observing changes in the muscles, bones, cir-            undergo regular checks and long-term recovery exercises. The
  culation and metabolism. The space agencies involved in the                 2005 campaigns will be followed by other studies during the next
  WISE project adopted various protocols. The objective is to use the         three years, held in Berlin and Cologne (DE) but of a different
  data collected during the simulation campaigns as a basis for vali-         duration (5, 21 and 60 days).
  dating measurements of physical and nutritional prevention and                                                       To find out more
  to carry out fundamental research.                                                                                   0
20                RTD info No.48 Februar y 2006                        S C I E N C E        W I T H I N       A R M ’ S       R E A C H

Discover…                                                                  Discuss…                                                             Expl
                  Bionet: exploring and debating                                                            The language remains clear, concise, pre-

           Is it really desirable to prolong human life with new medicines?                                 cise and transparent and avoids any jargon.
           And what about cloning (human or otherwise) and GMOs?                                            If you decide to explore the subject of
           Before replying, you must first understand – and to understand                                   genes, for example, you will find explana-
           you have to be informed. This is where Bionet comes in, an                                       tions on heredity, DNA, chromosomes, and
           invaluable source of information for anything to do with the                                     hereditary diseases. Interactive games also
           life sciences – a singularly sensitive subject for individuals and                               aid in obtaining a better understanding of
           for society. Set up by eight European science centres, this vir-                                 the many aspects of an issue – to design a
           tual space dedicated to ‘exploration and debate’ highlights                                      virtual baby, for example, you have to click
           the latest discoveries in biology, the new performances of                                       on the ‘right’ spermatozoid that travels
  biotechnologies and the future they could hold in store.
                                                                                To find out more            across the screen. Short films also illustrate
  Bionet is notably multilingual, offering no fewer than ten languages –        0     sophisticated mechanisms, such as those
  Castilian, Catalan, Danish, German, English, French, Italian, Portuguese,
                                                                                0     of stem cells.
  Finnish and Swedish – and excels in its clarity. The                          For each section, you can also explore the ethical issues and compare
  topics covered are summed up in titles that would not be out of place         the legislation in force in the different European countries. Thus
  on the cover of a popular magazine: “Stem cells”, “Living Longer”,            informed, you can then test your knowledge and participate in the
  “Life with HIV”, “Design-a-baby?, “Future Food”, “Who owns your               debate, giving your opinion and comparing it with that of people of
  genes?”. A click on the chosen subject summons a set of direct ques-          the same nationality, sex or age – as well as the average of all the opin-
  tions to help you navigate further: “What is it about?”, “How is it           ions received. There is no question about it: you leave Bionet all the
  done?” “What is Legal”, “Rights and Wrongs” and “Find out more”.              wiser from the experience.

Education                                         The Solvay public conference:
When it comes to questions about
                                                                     an experience to be repeated…
science, the British site Schoolscience has
many answers, especially for pupils and
teachers. The former can simply click on
the secondary school curriculum subjects
– biology, physics, material sciences, for
example – for a scrolled list of chapters sub-
divided into specific subjects, around 30 for
health, ranging from the immune system
to growth and including cigarettes and
bacteria. They can then deepen and test
their knowledge, aided by diagrams,
photos, short films, a quiz and interactive
                                                   “This public session was very interesting and encouraged me to read a number of books to under-
discussions. There is also the chance to           stand the issues raised by contemporary physics.” “For me it was an unforgettable experience to
join in a debate on nuclear energy, for            find myself face to face with highly reputed scientists who were so good at explaining.” “The con-
example, or to zoom in on a cell interior          ference was of a very high level while remaining accessible to all, and was a pleasure to attend.”
to discover chromosomes or DNA. A sepa-            These are the comments of some of those who attended the public conference that followed the
rate section is reserved for teachers and          prestigious Solvay Physics Council (see page 12). Of the audience, 29% were scientists, 24% stu-
                                                   dents and the rest a very diverse public –10% of whom were pensioners. The above comments were
contains a wealth of teaching material
                                                   gleaned from an evaluation questionnaire sent to participants who had to register in advance via
that can be downloaded or ordered on
                                                   the internet. The many replies received produced a very encouraging satisfaction rating. There was
CD-ROM. For advocates of ‘lifelong learn-          particular praise for the ability of the speakers to explain the issues clearly (93% satisfaction), for the
ing’, this is the ideal place to do some           inherent interest of the presentations (90%), and for the efficient way the event was organised (86%).
catching up at home.                               The latter was the result of co-operation between the Université Libre de Bruxelles, the Solvay Institutes
                                                   and the European Commission. Many messages have been received urging the organisers to
                                                   repeat this experience which provides yet further proof that science – even in its most abstract forms –
To find out more                                   can and must reach out to society.
                        S C I E N C E       W I T H I N       A R M ’ S       R E A C H          RTD info No.48 Februar y 2006                                 21

ore…                    Support…                                                                 Consort…
 Master’s degree in science communication                                                        Einstein and physics
 A few years ago, the Imperial College London set up a Science Communication Group.              spill over into 2006…
 This offers targeted postgraduate courses for those seeking a career in areas that involve
                                                                                                 ‘Einstein, l’autre regard’ (Einstein, another look) can
 communicating science and technology to a general public, such as newspaper journal-
                                                                                                 be seen as continuing in the spirit of the festivities that
 ists, radio and TV producers, the PR personnel of scientific institutions or companies          marked the centenary of the ‘miraculous year’ of
 engaged in R&D, and museum or science centre staff. The courses at Imperial College             Albert Einstein (2005). ‘L’autre regard’ highlights the
 are notable for taking into account the particularities of the individual media and thus the    revolutionary new way this man looked at science and
 precise needs of different communication practices. The more general option – Science           the world. The exhibition seeks to be fun, educational
                                                                                                 and ‘experimental’, with the organisers emphasising
 Communication – is aimed at those seeking to add a scientific string to their bow, while
                                                                                                 that their aim is not to explain such complex con-
                                Science Media Production is concerned with the media             cepts as relativity and quantum mechanics but rather
                                world in particular. A third particularly innovative course      to “express the innovative nature of his way of think-
                                was added last October, entitled Creative Non-fiction            ing and its importance, also in our everyday lives, and
                                Writing. This will be of interest to those who want to write     to provoke a sense of wonder and a desire to inves-
                                – and this is literature rather than press reporting – on mat-   tigate further…”.
                                ters relating to science and technology, such as medicine,       The exhibition offers dramatic highlights punctuated
                                the new technologies or the environment, and about which         with quieter moments for reflection. After passing
                                                                                                 through a laboratory set up as in Einstein’s day, the vis-
                                they are presumed to possess some knowledge already.
                                                                                                 itor suddenly finds himself in the ‘temposcope’ where
                                These postgraduate courses can be completed in one year          he is plunged into the world of Einstein through a suc-
                                full-time or two years’ part-time study. “These courses are      cession of images that merge on a spectacular circu-
 © Image courtesy of Science
 Communication Group,           very hard work but students also have great fun. Graduates       lar screen running through
 Imperial College London        from our programme have been successful in securing first        170°. After a pause to look
                                                                                                 back, with the presentation of
                                jobs leading to careers in the competitive world of profes-
                                                                                                 four short articles from 1905
 To find out more               sional communication,” explains Course Director Nick             that overturned our notions of
 0          Russell. “We regard theory and practice as equally import-       time, space and matter, the
                                ant and believe that the combined effort and excellence in       next stop is the thematic rooms
                                both areas are necessary for success in this sector.”            devoted to quantas, atoms, rel-
 Contact                                                                                         ativity and cosmology.                To find out more
 0 Jon Turney                   Details of the various courses, which combine academic     analysis with individual creative work, are available at the     Interactivity is greatly encour-     0
                                                                                                 aged in this section. Visitors
                                Imperial College site.
                                                                                                 are invited to repeat Brown’s experiment, seeing sus-
                                                                                                 pended crystals reacting as they are struck by atoms
                                                                                                 and atoms moving around in the course of a chemi-
  CST 060606 – Talking science                                                                   cal reaction. They can also act as particle accelerators
                                                                                                 by pedalling away to use their own energy to the point
  under the midnight sun                                                                         of creating mass. To experience the notion of restricted
                                                                                                 relativity, they are bombarded with muons, particles
  From 6 to 9 June, the University of Tromsø, located inside the                                 that move at a speed close to that of light and that
  Arctic Circle (NO), is organising a first international conference                             reach us from space despite the fact that, in principle,
  on the communication of science, coupled with an audio-visual                                  their lifetime does not permit it.
  festival. “We have already organised similar events, at                                        The exhibition ends in a ‘memory area’ that evokes
  Norwegian level, and this new dimension represents a major new step which both                 various aspects of this genius who is said to have
                                                                                                 been solitary, pacifist, a music lover, generous and sex-
  follows on from, and expands on, our previous work,”
                                                                                                 ist. A replica of Little Boy, the bomb that destroyed
  stresses Bjørn Solheim, one of the organisers. “We are
                                                               To find out more                  Hiroshima, is a reminder that, in 1939, along with the
  aware that Europe’s economic future and cultural                                               physicists Leo Szilard, Edward Teller and Eugen Wigner
  development depend a great deal on the knowledge 0                           he co-signed a letter explaining to President Roosevelt
  of new generations in the field of science and tech-                                           the risks involved if Nazi Germany ever had an atomic
  nology.” It is to revive interest in these subjects among young people that the events         bomb. Subsequently, this was the realisation of the
                                                                                                 Manhattan Project – in which Einstein was never
  are aimed in particular at teachers, students, the media, politicians and also the busi-
                                                                                                 involved – that culminated in the manufacture of the
  ness world – especially high-tech SMEs – who will have the opportunity to identify             bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
  the skills they need and the career opportunities open to them.
                                                                                                 Site of Tour & Taxis – Brussels, until1 May 2006
22       RTD info No.48 Februar y 2006                               N E W S    I N    B R I E F

Reference points... Reference points...

263°C below zero at CERN                                                                                 The number
The cyrogenics experts working on the Large       nets. In November, a complete LHC sector –             of researchers…
Hadron Collider (LHC), the particle accelera-     over 3 km, or an eighth of the total – began
tor so eagerly awaited by researchers at CERN     to cool. The line was first subjected to a pres-       The private sector saw
(Geneva), are notching up success after suc-      surised pneumatic test and was cleansed of             a 29% increase
cess. In September 2005, an initial test was      all impurities before the powerful surface             between 1995 and
successfully completed involving the pres-        refrigerators brought down the temperature.            2003, especially in the
surising and cooling of the first 600 metres      After three days it had fallen to -263°C. The          services (151%) and
of the cyrogenic distribution line that feeds     cyrogenic temperature was then checked by              mainly in the field
the low-temperature supraconducting mag-          thermometers, heaters and pressure sensors,            of computing. It is
                                                  while the heat losses on the line were meas-           the large countries
                                                  ured regularly.                                        (Germany, United
                                                                                                         Kingdom, France) that
                                                  The LHC will operate at around 300 degrees
                                                                                                         employ most researchers in large industrial com-
                                                  below the ambient temperature, which is a
                                                                                                         panies and the smaller countries that employ
                                                  temperature even lower than that of the
                                                                                                         most in SMEs. In Germany, for example, around
                                                  space vacuum. With a circumference of 27 km,
                                                                                                         80% of researchers are employed in companies
                                                  the accelerator will be the world’s largest
                                                                                                         with more than 500 employees.
                                                  supraconducting installation and will be able
                                                                                                         Source: Monitoring Industrial Research: the EU industrial
                                                  to probe space as never before. Start-up is            R&D investment scoreboard
                                                                        scheduled for 2007.

                                                  To find out more                                       To find out more
                                                  0                                       0

Biotechnologies: 100 ideas to act on
Aquaculture, bioremediation, gene therapy,                                                       their action in this area, with the Biotech II pro-
nanotechnologies, new medicines, veterinary                                                      gramme (1994-1998), the Cell Factory key action
products, food, fine chemicals… are just some                                                    (1998-2002) and the Biotechnology and Applied
of the fields featured in the catalogue                                                          Genomics component of the Health priority (2002-
100 Technology offers stemming from EU                                                           2006). A budget of €10 billion is proposed to
Biotechnology RTD results, recently published by                                                 continue this specific support under the Seventh
the Commission. One hundred research projects                                                    Framework Programme.
in the vast field of the life sciences are presented
                                                                                                 For a number of years now, the Union’s desire
in a series of very pragmatic fact sheets. For
                                                                                                 has been to make researchers more aware of ques-
each project, details are given of the technology
                                                                                                 tions of intellectual property and technological
developed, the state of progress, acquired or
                                                                                                 innovation. As part of this approach, partners in
desired intellectual property rights, the potential
                                                                                                 projects supported by the EU are now required to
for exploitation (innovative aspects, product
                                                                                                 draw up a plan for technological implementation.
benefits, etc.) and fields of application. Finally,
                                                                                                 The Commission is also set to propose guidelines
details are given of the organisation (university,
                                                                                                 aimed at increasing the transfer of knowledge
start-up, industry, etc.) and contact points.
                                                                                                 between the world of research and industry.
These 328 pages report on the work carried out
in recent years by European teams who have benefited from specific
                                                                                To find out more
EU support to encourage co-operative research in promising fields           0   100 Technology offers stemming from EU Biotechnology RTD results.
with real potential to culminate in industrial production. The last three       The brochure can be downloaded, in English, from the following address:
RTD Framework Programmes (1994-2006) have gradually increased         
                                                                N E W S          I N      B R I E F               RTD info No.48 Februar y 2006                         23

Reference points... Reference points...

   Descartes Prize 2005                                                                                                        Greek, German,

                                                                                                                         Turkish and American
   Sometimes known as Europe’s ‘Nobels’, the           programme Kosmos – with her role as a
                                                                                                                                physicists have
   EU’s Descartes Prizes are awarded in two            mother. Her special gift is the ability to                        developed a new class
   fields. The most important concerns excel-          explain the most complex information in                                of artificial meta-
   lence in research but, unlike the famous            the most understandable way.                                       materials – the LHMs
                                                                                                                        (Left-Handed Materials) or NIMs (Negative
   Nobels, they are not awarded to individuals
                                                       Bill Bryson of the UK won the Aventis Prize for                             Index Materials) – with potential
   but for work undertaken by pan-European                                                                              applications in the field of medical imaging
                                                       his popular science book back in 2004. In a
   teams. The other Descartes Prizes go to excel-                                                                                           and telecommunications.
                                                       trip through space and time, A Short History
   lence in scientific communication and in this
                                                       of Nearly Everything tells of
   case reward individuals. The 2005 Descartes                                                                                                   Ceca (Norway,
                                                       the development of the uni-                                                               Germany, Russia) is
   Prizes were awarded in London, at the home
                                                       verse, from the Big Bang to                                                               concentrating its
   of the Royal Society, last December.(1)                                                                                                       research on the
                                                       the present day, dealing with
                                                                                                                                                 effects of climate
   Research Eighty-five projects competed –            the theory of relativity and
                                                                                                                                                 change in the
   more than three times as many as last year –        quantum theory along the way.                                    Arctic and was rewarded for its progress in
   in the various fields.(2) True to tradition, a                                                                       understanding the melting of the glaciers
                                                       The Belgian Jos Van Hemelrijck attracts a big
   panel of experts first came up with a shortlist                                                                      in this region which is particularly
                                                       audience every Thursday evening with his TV                      vulnerable to pollution.
   of 14 teams to go forward for consideration
                                                       programme which invites an individual scien-
   by the Grand Jury. With its members replaced
                                                       tist or team of researchers to explain their                       Pulse includes British,
   every year, this is made up of key figures from
                                                       work, the aim of their research, and how they                        Italian, German and
   various disciplines and backgrounds – scien-                                                                          Dutch researchers who
                                                       set about resolving baffling problems.
   tific, industrial, political – who have the task                                                                      are trying to penetrate
   of choosing the five winning teams who each         As to Michael Seifert, he is the originator of the                             the laws of
                                                                                                                           fundamental physics
   receive a prize of €200 000 (see photos). This      Kinder-Uni movement that was launched at
                                                                                                                              that governed the
   year, five other finalists were also selected for   the University of Tübingen. This opened up                          birth of the universe.
   a second prize, worth €30 000. The jury was         the doors of the university to children aged                                    They have
   chaired by Professor Ene Ergma, Vice                between 8 and 12 during the summer                                     demonstrated the
                                                       months for discussions on subjects ranging                       impact of the European
   President of the Estonian Academy of Sciences
                                                                                                                                 pulsars study on
   and President of the Estonian Parliament.           from volcanoes to social differences and                                  modern physics.
                                                       human cloning. The children are taken every
   Communication Prizewinners in this category
                                                       bit as seriously as the adult students and the
   are selected from among the candidates sub-
                                                       professors who teach have no option but to                                                     The EES project
   mitted by associations or organisations.                                                                                                           developed new
                                                       respond to their curiosity in the clearest pos-
                                                                                                                                                      methods for
   This year’s winners include a Swede, Dr Carl        sible language.                                                                                carrying out
   Johan Sundberg, Professor of psychology, who                                                                                                       transnational
                                                       These five prizewinners shared €200 000.
   believes that “the best way to learn is to                                                                                                         surveys to
   teach”. Outside of the traditional university                                                                        evaluate changes in the attitudes and
                                                       (1) See also the list of publications on p.27.
                                                                                                                        aspirations of Europe’s citizens.
   lecture theatres, Dr Sundberg has developed         (2) There were 17 submissions for fundamental research,
   courses in bio-medicine tailored to the needs           22 for the life sciences, 10 for the Earth sciences, 8 for
                                                           information sciences, 15 for engineering, and 13 for
   of journalists and courses in communication                                                                              In the medical field,
                                                           social and economic sciences.
   for pure science PhDs. His other activities                                                                              Euro-Pid has carried
   include giving talks in schools and helping                                                                             out research on PIDs
                                                       To find out more on how to participate:                                         (Primary
   design exhibitions at science centres.
                                                       0                            Immunodeficiencies), a
   A little further south, Anja Andersen from              descartes_en.htm                                             group of over 130 rare
                                                                                                                        genetic diseases. Seven
   Denmark, a young astrophysicist, juggles                                                                                 European teams worked on clinical trials
   her career as researcher and journalist – she       Contact                                                           and achieved progress in identifying gene
   is the expert adviser to the TV science             0   Georges Vlandas                                                                        therapy solutions.
24     RTD info No.48 Februar y 2006                          N E W S      I N   B R I E F

Reference points... Reference points...

Citizens for the city of tomorrow
A group of 26 people from every EU country plus Romania met in            “Responsible deci-
Vienna, then Rome, then Brussels, in September and October last           sions must take into
year. They had been selected from 570 candidates by the Raise pro-        account the opinions
ject to form a small ‘citizens’ conference’ that would hopefully be       of the people con-
representative of the inhabitants of Europe’s cities. The purpose of      cerned. Initiatives
these meetings was to evaluate the research programmes supported          such as this declara-
by the Commission under the key action ‘The city of tomorrow and          tion are invaluable
cultural heritage’ and to discuss the subject more widely. Their analy-   because they allow
ses resulted in a joint declaration, presented to the European            those who live and
Parliament in December 2005.                                              work in our cities to have their voices heard,” stated Janez Potoãnik,
Unsurprisingly, the text defends public transport (“we represent          Commissioner for Science and Research. His words were certainly an
10% of the world’s richest nations and yet it is us who show least        encouragement for the Raise members, a consortium of partners
respect for the principles of sustainable development”), walking and      from Italy (Institute of Studies for the Integration of Systems -ISIS),
cycling, preservation of the heritage (“our cultural past must be part    Austria (The Interdisciplinary Centre for Comparative Research in the
of our present”) and improvement of urban policies, in particular         Social Sciences - ICCR), Belgium (Ramboll Management), Romania
through greater citizens’ participation (“poor governance produces        (Impact Consulting Ltd) and Poland
poor outcomes”).                                                          (The Foundation for European
                                                                          Scientific Cooperation - FEWN).                     To find out more

Giove-A, a first step
towards Galileo                                   Ethics: the EGE’s verdict and thoughts
To end 2005 in style, Giove-A, the first          “The EGE is concerned not with what can be done, but with what ought to be done (…).
Galileo system demonstration satellite, was       Their analyses are not carved in stone but strive to look back at the evolution of science and
launched into orbit on 28 December. The           society and also to look forward to future developments,” writes Commission President José
fruit of a partnership between the European       Manuel Barroso in his introduction to the latest general report on the activities of the
Space Agency and the Commission, Galileo          European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies, which has just completed its
is essential for Europe as it will provide it     second mandate.
with its own global satellite navigation sys-
                                                  Launched in 1997, this neutral, pluralist and multidisciplinary body advises the Commission
tem. It will be compatible with the
                                                  – either on request or at its own initiative – on ethical aspects of designing and implement-
American GPS and Russian Glonass sys-
                                                  ing Community legislation or policies. The most recent of these opinions concerns the
tems, on which Europe is currently depend-
                                                  patentability of inventions involving human stem cells, clinical research in the developing
ent. Just about every aspect of daily life is
                                                  countries, genetic tests in the framework of employment, umbilical cord blood banks and
linked to some extent to the constant
                                                  ICT implants in the human body. The Group has also published a Report on the ethical
‘monitoring’ from space – from transport
                                                  aspects of the marketing of products originating in human tissue engineering.
to telecommunications and including
weather forecasting, civil protection, agri-      Although addressed to the Commission, these analy-
culture and construction.                         ses are of interest to a much wider audience. Available To find out more
                                                  on the internet, the EGE texts offer a wealth of ideas
                                                  and reflection that have attracted the attention of          european_group_ethics/index_en.htm
                                                  many people whose interests extend to their ‘environ-
                                                  ment’ – in every sense of the word – and the EGE site is experiencing growing success. In
                                                  2004, it recorded some 120 000 visits within the EU alone. Half of them say they visit the
                                                  site regularly as an information source. Their interest in ethical issues and the position the
                                                  Commission may adopt in this field should please Göran Hermerén, the EGE president. He
                                                  believes that “standards and values play a primordial role in the integration of members of
                                                  the European Union” and that “it is not the values in themselves that are typically European
                                                  but rather the specific hierarchy that is constructed with them”.
Giove-A © ESA
                                                            N E W S       I N    B R I E F           RTD info No.48 Februar y 2006                                     25

Reference points... Reference points...

    The EU budget: a boost for research
    The European Council’s agreement on the EU       launching the Seventh Framework Programme            programme priorities as currently proposed.
    budget for 2007-2013, reached on 17              must proceed as planned. If not, he warns, there     He therefore urges the EU political players –
    December last year, cut 24% off the              will be a damaging interruption in European sup-     both governmental and parliamentary – to
    Commission’s initial estimation of needs. In     port for the research sector within the next year.   formulate as quickly as possible their common
    January 2006, this agreement was subse-          Even reduced, the financial framework put            position on the ways and means of European
    quently called into question by the European     together at the summit of EU leaders repre-          research policy through to 2013.
    Parliament which took the view that the com-     sents, in real terms, a growth in funds allocated
    promise would not permit the Union to imple-     to European research of 75% in 2013 com-
    ment the ambitious policies it needs.            pared with the 2006 level.(1) While this is not      (1) The European Council has also given its backing to the
    Concerned at the prospect of delays in negoti-   the desired ‘doubling’, it does mark certain             Commission proposal to create a new financial
    ating a new financial solution, Commissioner     progress. Moreover, Janez Potoãnik has given             mechanism, in co-operation with the European
    Janez Potoãnik, responsible for science and      the assurance that such a budget would not               Investment Bank, that would make available €10 billion
    research, believes that work on finalising and   affect the structure or philosophy of the                to strengthen R&D investments in Europe.

            Why only male

            researchers?                              New Director for the Research DG
            In connection with the special            Since 1 January 2006, the                                               José Manuel Silva Rodrigues
                                                      European Commission’s                                                   (55) is an agricultural engin-
            issue on Science Dialogues
                                                      Research DG has been                                                    eer by training. A member of
           I noticed with some surprise that the      headed by José Manuel Silva                                             the team who negotiated
          illustrator named Selçuk seems to           Rodrigues, Director-General                                             Spain’s accession to the
   be extremely unaware that scientists these         of the Agriculture and Rural                                            European Union between
   days (as well as probably a very long time         Development DG since 1999.                                              1983 and 1986, he was sub-
   ago) are both male and female. Having a            His predecessor, Achilleas                                              sequently appointed to
   background as a female scientist, I am not         Mitsos, is not leaving the                                              Commissioner Manuel
   amused by this kind of single sex illustration.    Research DG but will remain                                             Marin’s office. He later joined
   Would it be possible to remind this –              in the important post of                                                the Agriculture DG where he
   I assume male – illustrator of the fact?           adviser hors classe.                                                    has spent his entire European
                                                                                                                              Commission career.
   Ros-Mari Bålöw, Sweden

   “The reader is right… guilty as charged!”
   admits Selçuk who sends us this ‘homage
   to women’ – embodied by a woman
   writer.                                            Cleaner cars –
                                                      the Euro 5 standards
                                                      The new Euro 5 limits could enter into force in 2008. These would
                                                      reduce the particle emissions of diesel engines by 80% (by means
                                                      of ad hoc filters) and of nitrogen oxide (NOx) by 20%. For petrol
                                                      engine cars, nitrogen oxide and volatile component emissions would have to be cut by 25%.
                                                      The draft proposal drawn up by the Commission, which must still be examined by the European
                                                      Parliament and Council, follows wide-ranging consultation with the parties involved, as well
                                                      as the general public, by means of the internet. Günter Verheugen, Commission Vice President
                                                      and Commissioner for Enterprise Policy and
                                                      Industry, believes that “the new emission stan- To find out more
                                                      dards will enable our automotive industry to 0
                                                      retain its competitive position”.                  automotive/directives/proposals.htm
26       RTD info No.48 Februar y 2006                               N E W S      I N    B R I E F

Reference points... Reference points...

Two days of reflection on the ‘soft sciences’
“Without access to high-quality social and human science, Europe will           In the context of this development, specialists in the humanities will
simply be unable to interpret its own situation in a global context,”           become essential players in governance. “When certain conditions are
declared Björn Wittrock of Uppsala University (SE) at the Social Sciences       fulfilled, social scientists can produce work that is both of high academic
& Humanities in Europe conference organised by the Research DG in               quality and that contributes significantly to policy debates,” stressed
December. This was the first meeting of its kind and as such was sym-           Christopher Whelan, professor at the Economic and Social Research
bolic of the EU’s growing interest in and recognition of the ‘soft sciences’.   Institute, Dublin.
Already integrated in the Sixth Framework Programme, they are now               As to Helga Nowotny, professor at the ETH Zurich and Chair of the
set to be given a very real boost under the Seventh Framework                   European Research Advisory Board (EURAB), she stressed the importance
Programme. During this two-day meeting, the various players in the              of the social sciences and humanities in a world marked by concerns
social sciences and humanities looked at different avenues to be explored       and uncertainties. She believes these result from two simultaneous and
in shaping a European research strategy in this field. The subjects stud-       interacting processes. On one hand, the increasingly evident impact of
ied and the workshops organised covered the three main fields that will         globalisation – in the field of delocalisation, employment, finance, migra-
be targeted in the Framework Programme: growth, competitiveness and             tory movements or environmental problems – is shaking the model
employment in a knowledge-based society; trends in society and                  built on the nation state, while responses in terms of new forms of polit-
European citizens; Europe and the world.                                        ical and socio-economic organisation are finding it difficult to take hold.
The debates were not limited to concrete proposals in the various fields        On the other hand, science and technology are increasingly transform-
as, for many of the speakers, this was an opportunity to reflect on the         ing our relationship with the world, bringing changes to society and –
nature and evolution of the human sciences.                                     in particular through the life sciences – changing our perception of
The traditional frontier between natural sciences and social sciences or        nature, of ourselves and of our body. Thus “the question is how our col-
humanities was raised, for example, by the linguist Alain Peyraure, a spe-      lective system of pursuing and collecting new knowledge will cope with
cialist on the languages of East Asia, who showed how the divide is dis-        the presentation of the emerging new natural order, and which links
appearing as knowledge develops, citing cognitive sciences and the sci-         will be established with the social order“.
ences of complexity as an example. “These have not been developed               This conference should enable the Commission to put the finishing
on the basis of an empirical discovery and have not given rise to any           touches to the work programmes on which the first calls for proposals
major discovery, although they have contributed a lot to questions              under the Seventh Framework Programme will be based, from 2007.
about the relationship between the body and the soul, and between               The quality of the contributions is also most certainly a reason for the
thought and matter. They will doubtlessly be in a very good position in         organisers to repeat the experience.
the future to participate in the epistemological revolution in progress
resulting from a synergy between the four great master technologies
of the 21st century: nano-sciences and nanotechnologies, biology and
                                                                                             To find out more
biotechnologies, information and communication sciences and tech-                            0
nologies, and cognition.”                                                                    0

Europe’s mental health                                                      100 000 inhabitants in
                                                                            Lithuania to 3.6 in
                                                                                                          in various EU sectors and policies and de-
                                                                                                          veloping ethical aspects such as the funda-
One in four adults in the European Union suf-                               Greece. The number of         mental rights of victims of mental illness.
fers from a mental illness. It can take many          involuntary confinements to a mental hospital       There are also proposals on the need to pro-
forms – from the dysfunction linked to stress         is 40 times higher in Finland than in Portugal.     vide more information, monitor trends, col-
to symptoms of dementia – although anxiety            There is also a big difference in the share of      lect data and identify best practice.
and depression are the most common. The               national health budgets allocated to mental
WHO estimates that depression could                   illness, from over 13% in Luxembourg to
become the main cause of morbidity in the             around 2% in Slovakia.
developed countries.                                  Following a ministerial conference on mental        To find out more
The EU countries are affected by these illnesses      health organised by the WHO in January              0   Green Paper – Improving the mental health
to different degrees and are unequally armed          2005, the Commission published a Green                  of the population: Towards a strategy
against them. While mental problems are at            Paper with the aim of targeting a European              on mental health for the European Union
the origin of most suicides (58 000 deaths            strategy in this field. It is also proposing to         Downloadable document:
a year), the number varies considerable               launch a platform on mental health that       
from one country to another: from 44 per              would look at ways of including mental health           life_style/mental/green_paper/mental_gp_fr.pdf
                                                           N E W S   I N     B R I E F          RTD info No.48 Februar y 2006                      27

                                                                                   The following list is a selection of events

Research DG Publications                                                           announced for 2006

Selection of recent publications.                                                  On-line access for a full list and updates:
On-line access for a full list:                                          
                                                                                   • World-Nano-Economic Congress (WNEC) – 27-29/03/06
                                                                                     Mumbai (India) –
                         Research Policy                                   • WEBIST 2006 – 2nd International Conference on Web Information
                                                                             Systems and Technologies – 10-13/04/2006
                 European Technology Platforms                               Setúbal (PT) –
                                  Leaflet – A4 /6 p.
                                                                           • 4 th Research Forum of the European Association for Palliative Care
                             Publication: 2005/11
                                                                             25-28/05/2006 – Venice (IT) –
                                                                           • 6th EUSCEA annual conference – 2-3/06/2006 – ‘Great Geysir’
                                                                             (Iceland) –
                      European Research                                    • 2nd European Research & Innovation Exhibition
                      Infrastructures in Motion                              8-11/06/2006 – Paris (FR) –
                      Project synopses                                     • The first European Road Transport Research Conference
                      ISBN 92-79-00433-6                                     12-16/06/2006 – Göteborg (SE) –
                      A4 /folder + 22 sheets
                                                                           • 4 th International Interdisciplinary Conference on Communication,
                      Publication: 2005/11
                                     Medicine and Ethics (COMET) – 29.6-1.7/2006 – Cardiff (UK)
                                                                           • 2 nd EuroScience Open Forum (ESOF) – 15-19/07/2006
                                                                             Munich (DE) –
                                 Agriculture                               • 40 th International Congress on the History of Medicine
                                                                             26-30/08/2006 – Budapest (HU) –
        Plant Health – the impact of EU research
                                                                           • From Human Genetic Variations to Prediction of Risks and
                         (1998-2004) – Brochure
                 ISBN 92-894-9026-8 – A4 /36 p.                              Responses to Drugs and to the Environment – 28.9-2.10/2006
                            Publication: 2005/12                             Thira (Santorin – EL) –
                                       • International Food and Health Innovation Conference 2006
                                                                             25-27/10/2006 – Malmö (SE)
                      Support to Agricultural                              • International Marine Genomics Conference 2006
                      Policy – the impact of EU research                     28.10-1.11/2006 – Sorrento (IT)
                      Brochure                                             • IST 2006: Strategies for Leadership – 22-24/11/2006 – Helsinki (FI)
                      ISBN 92-894-9060-8 – A4/36 p.                
                      Publication: 2005/12                                   index_en.htm

                        Foot-and-Mouth Disease
          and Classical Swine Fever – the impact                       General information
                     of EU research (1998-2004)
                                                                       Building Research Careers in Europe
                 Brochure – ISBN 92-894-9032-2
                                                                       Brochure – ISBN 92-894-9993-1
                A4/36 p. – Publication: 2005/12
                                                                       A4 /24 p. – Publication: 2005/10

                                                                                             Descartes Research Prize 2005
                      Health                                                                                       Brochure
                                                                                                        ISBN 92-79-00185-X
                      How to make our hospitals a safer place                                                      A4 /44 p.
                      Leaflet – ISBN: 92-894-9787-4 – A4 /6 p.                                         Publication: 2005/11
                      Publication: 2005/11                                                 

                                                                                                Descartes Communication Prize 2005
                                                                                                Brochure – ISBN 92-79-00186-8
                                        Energy                                                  A4 /40 p. – Publication: 2005/11
                 Towards smart power networks
                  Brochure – ISBN: 92-79-00554-5
                                                                       Five years of Descartes Prize Winners
                  A4/40 p. – Publication: 2005/12
                                                                       Brochure – ISBN 92-894-9739-4 – A4/40 p.
                                                                       Publication: 2005/11 –
28            RTD info No.48 Februar y 2006                                         S I X T H       F R A M E W O R K          P R O G R A M M E

Overview of calls for proposals
Here is the latest news on the nature, closing dates and indicative budgets of calls for proposals already launched or
scheduled for the coming months (valid beyond 1 March 2006). For additional specific information on each of these
calls, go to the page indicated on the Europa site which provides direct links to the on-line documents and procedures
available on the CORDIS sever.


Abbreviations used – IP: Integrated Projects – NoE: Networks of Excellence – STREP: Specific Targeted Research Projects – CA: Coordination Actions – SSA: Specific Support
Actions – I3: Integrated Infrastructure Initiative – ND: not determined – NA: not applicable

  CALL IDENTIFIER                                       RESEARCH FIELDS OR ACTIONS TARGETED                                        CLOSING DATE         INDICATIVE BUDGET
                                                                                                                                                          (IN MILLIONS €)

                         Information society technologies                                                              
FP6-2005-IST-6           Thematic call in the following fields: Advanced Robotics (STREP, CA, SSA: €37 million) –                25/04/2006                        140
                         Ambient Assisted Living in the Ageing Society (STREP, CA, SSA: €20 million – IP: €20 million) –
                         Search technologies for digital audio-visual content (STREP, CA, SSA: €12 million – IP: €18 million)
                         Accompanying actions in support of participation in Community ICT research (CA, SSA : €3 million) –
                         International co-operation (STREP, CA, SSA: €10 million)

2003/S 90-079940         Call for expressions of interest for technical, administrative and organisational assistance            27/04/2006                         ND
                         within the IST programme
                         Aeronautics and Space                                                                         

FP6-2002-Aero-2          ‘Aeronautics’ open call for SSA. Fields: participation of SMEs; international co-operation;             30/03/2006                         0.5
                         participation of new countries; exploitation of results; objectives of the ERA;
                         EU strategy and support for aerospace policy
                         Sustainable development, global change and ecosystems                                         

FP6-2002-Transport-2     Periodic call for SSA. Fields: participation of SMEs – international co-operation – new countries –     30/03/2006                           7
                         exploitation of results – objectives of the ERA and EU strategy and support for policy in the field
                         of ‘sustainable surface transport’
FP6-2005-Global-4        Thematic call ‘Climate change and ecosystems’, in particular: impact of GGE and atmospheric              02/03/2006                     205(1)
                         pollutants on climate – ozone layer – carbon sinks – water cycle – biodiversity and ecosystems –
                         desertification – natural disasters – sustainable land management – operational forecasting and
                         modelling – risk assessment – environment and health – concepts and tools for sustainable
                         development – SSA
                         (1) IP and NoE: €120 million – STREP and CA: €80 million – SSA: €5 million

                        Specific support measures for international co-operation                                       

                         Abbreviations: DEV: developing countries – MPC: Mediterranean partner countries –
                         Russia + NIS: Russia and the other Newly Independent States – WBC: Western Balkan Countries
FP6-2002-INCO-           Periodic call for SSA in the DEV. Fields: health – natural resources – food safety                      06/03/2006                       2.4(1)
FP6-2002-INCO-           Periodic call for SSA in the MPC. Fields: environment – cultural heritage – health                      06/03/2006                         1(1)
FP6-2002-INCO-           Periodic call for SSA in Russia + NIS. Fields: adaptation of industrial production                      06/03/2006                       0.7(1)
Russia+NIS/SSA-4         and communication systems – environment – health
FP6-2002-INCO-           Periodic call for SSA in the framework of the multilateral coordination of national RTD policies        06/03/2006                       2.2(1)
COMultilaRTD/SSA-5       and activities
FP6-2005-INCO-           Periodic call for SSA for the Western Balkan Countries (WBC)                                            06/03/2006                         4(1)
                         (1) Budget for 2006
                         Specific support to EU policy                                                                 

FP6-2005-SSP-5A          Call for STREP, CA and SSA in various fields relating to sustainable agriculture, forestry              22/03/2006                         77
                         and fisheries, the environment, health, social problems, the economy
FP6-2005-SSP-5B-         Special call (for STREP, CA, SSA) relating to the avian influenza pandemic                              22/03/2006                         20
                            S I X T H       F R A M E W O R K              P R O G R A M M E                         RTD info No.48 Februar y 2006                                   29

   CALL IDENTIFIER                                       RESEARCH FIELDS OR ACTIONS TARGETED                                            CLOSING DATE          INDICATIVE BUDGET
                                                                                                                                                                (IN MILLIONS €)

                          Coherent development of research and innovation policies                                          
2003/S 128-               Calls for expression of interest in analyses and studies (forward studies, statistics, indicators,          26/03/2006                           ND
114412                    calibration, etc.)

                                               STRUCTURING THE EUROPEAN RESEARCH AREA
                         Human resources and mobility (Marie Curie Actions)            
FP6-2005-Mobility-4       Conferences and training courses                                                                            17/05/2006                           ND
FP6-2005-Mobility-11      Call for proposals for Marie Curie European reintegration grants                                            19/04/2006(2)                       13(1)
FP6-2005-Mobility-12      Call for proposals for Marie Curie international reintegration grants                                       19/01/2006(2)                       13(1)
                          (1) Indicative budget for 2006
                          (2) Forthcoming closing date: 19/07/2006

                         Science and society                                                                                
FP6-2005-Science          2006 Descartes Prize (Research and Communication)                                                           04/05/2006                        1.425
and society-18
FP6-2005-Science          Call for CA and SSA: bringing research closer to society and promoting science                              30/03/2006                           3.5
and society-19            and scientific culture
FP6-2005-Science          Call for CA and SSA: Science Shops                                                                          30/03/2006                             1
and society-20

Euratom Call Open         Open call for SSA, transnational access to large infrastructures and actions to promote                     11/04/2006                             3
                          and develop human resources and mobility: training fellowships and European reintegration
                          fellowships, special training courses, grants for co-operating with third countries.

Request for free subscription to RTD info

You can subscribe free of charge to the magazine at                                            Address: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
                                                                                               Postcode: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
You can also complete this coupon in block capitals and return it
to the following address:                                                                      Town: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
RTD info                                                                                       Country: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
ML DG1201
Post Box 2201
LU-1022 Luxembourg                                                                             (*) If you would like to receive several copies of one language
                                                                                                  version, please make your request,
Name: . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .       giving your full name and a brief justification:
                                                                                                  - by e-mail (
Organisation : . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .          - by fax (+32-2-295 82 20).

Language version(s) desired*:                                                                  If you would like to receive a copy of any recent issues of RTD
French ❑                      English ❑                     German ❑                           info, please send a brief message by e-mail or fax.
30          RTD info No.48 Februar y 2006                                 R E N E W A B L E            E N E R G I E S

Europeans must succeed in        The effective liberalisation of electricity production, distribution and
 producing at least 21% of       marketing, formerly protected by centralised and monopolistic systems, is
         their electricity by
     harnessing renewable        completely changing the European energy market. Provided it can succeed
 energy sources during the       in offering kilowatt-hours at increasingly competitive rates, renewable
        decade 2010-2020.        energy has an excellent opportunity to win a share of the market as an
          Pictured here are
    photovoltaic panels in       inherent part of the innovative approach known as ‘distributed production’.
                    Austria.     Over the past five years, the consortium of 32 partners working on the
                                 Dispower(1) European project has been engaged in research that is today
                                 making it possible to propose technological solutions and management tools
                                 for the opening up of networks, as well as the economic models needed to
                                 rise to this challenge.

                                The               WILD CARD of
                                distributed production
                                                                                                             The old pyramid model
I  t is a recurrent theme that has been gain-
   ing acceptance over a number of years now
and that today – in the context of global
                                                  than ever. “Europeans must succeed in pro-
                                                  ducing at least 21% of their electricity by
                                                  recourse to renewable energy sources during
                                                                                                             The centralised system which has prevailed
                                                                                                             until now on the European electricity market is
warming and the inevitable increase in global     the decade 2010-2020,” insists Manuel                      based on a pyramid vision which focuses on the
energy demand – is more pertinent than ever:      Sanchez Jimenez, Project Manager for energy                need to distribute this essential energy vector.
the need for clean and renewable energy           production and distribution at the Research
sources to contribute more to global energy       DG. “And ultimately, we must aim to arrive at              The present priority is to ensure that the elec-
supplies. For Europe, this is now an estab-       an even bigger share.”                                     tricity generated arrives ‘downstream’. First it
lished priority.                                                                                             must be generated in huge production plants,
                                                  But how can this reaffirmation of intent be jus-           predominantly nuclear power plants – at re-
Technologically, the conditions have been         tified? “Such an increase in renewable energy              actors with average generating capacities of
largely met. Energy today can be generated        ceases to be unrealistic the moment the switch             1 300 MW – or thermal power stations that
increasingly efficiently by a growing range of    is made to what is known as the ‘distributed               burn massive quantities of combustible fuels.
clean and renewable sources – wind power,         production’ system, which is now perfectly                 Very high tension lines come out of these
photovoltaic solar energy, biomass and ocean      possible in the context of the new liberalised             plants, via interconnected networks with pro-
energy being just some examples that are          electricity market,” continues Manuel Sanchez              gressively lower voltages, to arrive at a myriad
already operational. Other solutions are also     Jimenez. “Over the past five years, the results            of consumption points distributed over vast
being developed, thanks to the prospects          of the European Dispower project, in which the             national (or cross-border) geographical areas.
offered by fuel cells, for example.               sector’s industrial players have been very closely         Although these consumption points differ
                                                  involved, have provided the operational means              widely depending on whether they are indus-
Restated priority                                 with which we can now rise to the challenge.               trial, tertiary or private users, the needs to be
In the 1990s, the EU reiterated the need to       It is perfectly possible to arrive at a situation in       met are united in a single entity that is seen as
double the renewable energy contribution to       which renewable energy sources supply the                  a ‘global’ demand.
European energy production by 2010, to the        equivalent to the expected growth in electri-
point where it would meet at least 10% of total   city demand, which is just over 2% a year.”                Such a structure, which is based on gigantic
energy needs. With just five years to go before                                                              proportions has, to date, proved a virtually
the deadline, the conclusion must be that the                                                                insurmountable obstacle to developing
target is proving difficult to meet.
                                                  (1) Distributed Generation with High Penetration of Renewable Energy sources. Launched in 2001 as a consortium
                                                      of around 32 partners with a budget of almost €17 million (half of which coming from the EU), Dispower is the
Paradoxically, the ambition not only remains          pioneering element of a wider cluster known as IRED, members of which also include six other research centres
but is being restated with more conviction            involved in promoting the production of distributed electricity using renewable energy.
                                        R E N E W A B L E          E N E R G I E S                    RTD info No.48 Februar y 2006                                     31

renewable energy sources that, by their very          electricity solely as an energy vector that must      But for their contribution to be of real signifi-
nature, can only supply electricity across small      be carried to a ‘distributed consumption’ but         cance to energy supply, there is an essential
or very moderate power ranges. The biggest            as one that also takes into account the need to       precondition: the effective and guaranteed
wind power plants, for example, have individ-         network all the many potential feed-in sources.       linking up of these units to the traditional grids.
ual capacities of between 3 and 5 MW. Their                                                                 This is essential to guarantee a continuous sup-
production is therefore only deemed worthy            At the basis of the Dispower project is the desire    ply of sufficient and stable electricity for the
of integration in a public grid if it is harnessed    to show that it is possible to promote, with a        consumers in question. For this there must be
within large wind farms.(2)                           view to distributed production, a dynamic and         the ‘umbrella’ in the form of a grid that is able
                                                      efficient policy of multiple generators of mod-       to cope with peak demand that the decen-
                                                      erate or even modest size – as low as a few KW        tralised sources are unable to meet.
Use of biomass, a renewable energy source             in capacity – that can meet local or temporary
    included in the implementation of the             needs. In addition to the benefits of decen-          Crucial counterflow
           distributed production concept.                                    tralised production in        If it is to succeed, this new framework of
                                                                              terms of lower energy         distributed and connected production also has
                                                                              transport costs, the huge     a much more difficult technological challenge
                                                                              advantage of such an          to face, that of profitability. To achieve this, it
                                                                              approach lies in the          must be possible for decentralised units to be
                                                                              potential to optimise a       able to capitalise on their temporary energy
                                                                              great variety of primary      surpluses by ‘selling’ them to traditional net-
                                                                              energy sources. What is       works or grids. This problem is particularly
                                                                              more, this approach is        acute for the two principal renewable energy
                                                                              not intended for the
                                                                              benefit of renewable
                                                                              energy sources alone,
Small is beautiful                                                            even if they are the prior-   (2) A number of countries (notably Germany, Denmark,
                                                                                                                Spain and, to a lesser extent, the Netherlands and
The opening up of the electricity mar-                                        ity. Small units based on
                                                                                                                Italy) are implementing a policy of developing vast
ket is today encouraging an approach                                          diesel or gas turbine gen-        ‘wind farms’, often offshore. The energy produced
that is loosening the straightjacket of traditional   erators for the combined generation of heat               by these plants is now integrated in centralised pro-
                                                                                                                duction systems. In this respect, they have overcome
technological and economic models. It is open-        and electricity, a practice that doubles energy           the obstacles of the distributed ‘micro’ production
ing the door to a reasoning that does not view        efficiency, also stand to benefit.                        that lies at the heart of the Dispower research.

The consumer players
Although Dispower was concerned primarily             cogeneration systems at times of peak                 of 400 residents of the Stutensee residential
with technical matters, the project neverthe-         demand as a means of guaranteeing the qual-           district, just outside Karlsruhe, as part of the
less posed a number of socio-economic ques-           ity and security of supply, which implies a           project entitled ‘Washing with the sun’. The
tions linked to the opening up of a new elec-         managerial responsibility that is spread              inhabitants were informed by text messages
tricity market. “The new technologies cannot          increasingly between the players, including           of times when electricity rates were at their
be implemented without considering ques-              decentralised electricity producers. New types        lowest so as to prompt them to use the most
tions of how they are to be regulated and             of contract will have to be drawn up for this.        energy-thirsty household appliances at those
their social acceptance,” stresses Manuel             Another issue is that of variable electricity tar-    times. This helped alleviate peak consump-
Sanchez Jimenez. The Dutch Foundation for             iffs depending on the time of day. The proj-          tion. “It is vital for the consumer to become
Energy Research (ECN) headed the working              ect coordinator takes the view that “there is         increasingly involved and become a real mar-
group on the socio-economic questions of              no point having variable tariffs                      ket player,” believes Philipp Strauß. “Domestic
regulation, the market and their interaction.         if the consumer is unable to react to the             meters could be fitted with an interface that
“How can the new technologies be rendered             variations and has no means of being                  manages energy production and consump-
economically profitable? How, for example,            informed in real time”. Within Dispower, a            tion in a way that optimises expenditure. This
can ancillary services be included in a distrib-      team including MVV Energie AG, a German               electronic manager would respond automat-
utor’s business model?” asks Philipp Strauß           electricity distributor from the Mannheim             ically to variations in distribution rates and
with regard to the services that clients could        region, and the Fraunhofer Institut für Solare        would adapt energy consumption. We can
offer the distributor. These services include         Energie, checked the social acceptability of          imagine perfectly well such devices existing
drawing on electricity reserves built up by           variable electricity tariffs among a population       in the future.”
32          RTD info No.48 Februar y 2006                                 R E N E W A B L E         E N E R G I E S

sources, namely wind and solar. These have the disadvantage of being                                                          The EuroDish generator
variable and intermittent because of their dependency on weather con-                                                         at Milan’s Centro
ditions – which poses complex questions regarding acceptability of their                                                      Elettrotecnico
                                                                                                                              Sperimentale is linked to
integration in ‘host’ grids.
                                                                                                                              the local low-voltage
                                                                                                                              network. The dish
“The connection of distributed systems of electricity production pro-
                                                                                                                              concentrates solar
duces a genuine change in the direction of the energy flow. This ‘coun-                                                       radiation to heat the
terflow’ operation must be taken into account and the network pro-                                                            helium that fuels a
tection system adapted. If there is a growing number of interconnected                                                        Stirling engine.
decentralised generators, we must be careful to ensure current stabil-
ity, the balance between the current produced centrally and the decen-
tralised contribution,” explains Philipp Strauß, Dispower coordinator
at the Institut für Solare Energieversorgunstechnik (ISET) at the University
of Kassel (DE).

Taking stock                                                                   Pursuing common research
The large scale co-operative research conducted by Dispower has laid           Dispower included over a dozen mutually complementary sub-projects.
the foundations for many viable and promising technological solutions          “Most of the results were the fruit of transverse discussions,” explains
in meeting these challenges of integrating a growing share of distribu-        Philipp Strauß. “The working groups were organised so that several
ted production in interconnected European networks. The Kassel meet-           partners pooled diverse expertise on common subjects. This experience
ing in November 2005 took stock of progress to date, with participants         of a multifaceted research community really is very important, even if
presenting concrete results of a nature to lead to many innovative             it is not a scientific result in the true sense of the term. It allowed dis-
developments.                                                                  tributed electricity production to acquire a high profile among all the
                                                                               European stakeholders.”
The manufacture of storage systems for electrical energy is becoming a
reality, for example, with the innovative generator known as EuroDish,         Although Dispower ended at the end of 2005, the partners will be
which consists of a parabolic concentrator that absorbs the sun’s rays         collaborating on new projects, such as the DER-LAB Network of
which are then used to heat the helium that drives the Stirling engine.        Excellence that will continue the inter-
EuroDish has been in place at the Centro Elettrotecnico Sperimentale           laboratory co-operation. That is not the
                                                                                                                        To find out more
(CESI) in Milan since July 2002 where it is linked to a local low-voltage      least of the results achieved.        í
network. Another example is the adaptation of grid control and manage-                                                     0
ment tools to allow for the intermittent production of renewable energy                                                       research/energy/index_en.htm
sources, such as the Windpro software developed by the Danish com-                                                         0
pany EMD, that can model the effects of connecting up wind power                                                           0
systems. The partners also looked at the various regulations in force in
the different European countries, set up laboratory pilot installations
and conducted real-size tests on the use of wind power on a number of                                                      Contact
French, British and Greek islands (see box).                                                                               0 Philipp Strauß

                             Kythnos, an island in the wind
                             “We can learn a great deal by studying            generators with a total nominal production of 100 kW, was set up
                             experiences with distributed production           there in 1982 and interconnected with the diesel generators that
                             in the particular situations found on             supply the central grid. Since then, other wind and solar systems have
                             islands,” stresses the Dispower coordina-         been added.
                             tor. Unlike on continents, their traditional      Within Dispower, studies entrusted to the Greek National Centre for
                             thermal grids cannot rely on interconnec-         Renewable Energy have made it possible to carry out a full-scale
                             tions with the outside and are therefore          analysis on grid control devices so as to assimilate, as harmoniously
                             isolated. With ideal wind and sun condi-          as possible, the fluctuations in current that occur with renewable
                             tions, the island of Kythnos, in the Greek        energy sources. It seems, for example, that electrochemical batteries
                             Cyclades, is something of a pioneer. The          are the best solution for constituting electricity reserves to stabilise
                             first ‘mini wind farm’, consisting of three       and guarantee continuity of supply.
A LT E R N AT I V E S       TO     E X P E R I M E NTS        U S I N G     A N I M A LS           RTD info No.48 Februar y 2006                             33

             Action STATIONS
                   for in vitro
                                            Tuesday 13 December 2005 was an important day
                                            for the chemicals sector. It was then that the EU
                                            Competition Council gave the green light for the
                                            entry into force of the famous REACH legislation.
                                            Industrialists are now obliged to organise a vast                                IVTIP: THE IN VITRO
                                                                                                                             SHOWCASE FOR
                                            evaluation and control exercise to ensure the safety                             INDUSTRIALISTS
                                            for human health and the environment of almost                                   Set up in 1993, the IVTIP (In
                                            30 000 chemicals currently available on the market.                              Vitro Testing Industrial
                                                                                                                             Platform) is a forum for
                                            While REACH is an historic advance for public health
                                                                                                                             industrialists concerned by
                                            and the quality of life, its implementation raises the                           in vitro tests, including
                                            controversial and far from secondary issue of a                                  pharmaceutical
                                                                                                                             laboratories, chemists and
                                            massive increase in experiments inflicting suffering                             biotechnological SMEs. As a
                                            on animals. The desire to limit substantially the                                firm supporter of the ‘three
Progress in in vitro                        hecatomb among laboratory animals is serving to                                  Rs’ approach, the
methodologies would make                                                                                                     association advises the
it possible to avoid tests                  shed the spotlight on progress in in vitro tests. In                             European Commission on
that could otherwise
                                            many respects, the latter could even prove                                       industry’s needs in the field
involve experiments on
                                                                                                                             of in vitro research and
several millions of animals                 scientifically superior in guaranteeing that chemical
                                                                                                                             encourages the
over the next decade.
                                            molecules are without risk to man or nature.                                     development, validation
                                                                                                                             and homologation of these
                                                                                                                             methods. It organises public
                                                                                                                             seminars and publishes

N    obody would deny that the need to ‘consume’ others lies at the
     very heart of the natural world and interaction between species.
Man, a carnivore, has extended this right to use other members of the
                                                                                recognises the legitimacy of the debate
                                                                                and accepts that the ‘need’ for animal test-
                                                                                ing raises real questions. It was as long ago
                                                                                                                             statements of principles
                                                                                                                             and a newsletter.
animal kingdom for his own purposes into many different fields, not least       as 1957 that the scientists W. Russell and
of which is progress in knowledge by carrying out experiments on lab-           R. Burch formulated the deontological rule
oratory animals. Without this ‘sacrifice’ of other species for scientific       known as the three Rs – Reduction, Refinement and Replacement – to
ends, we would quite simply be denied the constant progress brought             be applied to the necessary recourse to tests on laboratory animals to
about by medicine and pharmacology.                                             ensure that the suffering inflicted is kept to an absolute minimum. This
                                                                                charter of good conduct is today a universal leitmotif recognised
But, inevitably, the right to use animals for the purposes of experiments         throughout the world of research and industry.
raises ethical issues – at least that is the strongly held view of a
section of public opinion that wants to be fully informed about                                   The last of these three Rs – Replacement – implies the
the precise aims and methods of such practices.                                                    need to find alternatives to in vivo experiments on
                                                                                                    animals by means of in vitro methods. The latter cov-
What is more, this is not in any way a subject that                                               ers the development and use of reactive tests in the
the scientific community seeks to avoid as it also                                               ‘test tube’ on cell cultures or tissue without the use of
34         RTD info No.48 Februar y 2006                             A LT E R N AT I V E S    TO     E X P E R I M E NTS         U S I N G     A N I M A LS

laboratory animals. This has become an extremely active field of research      which innovations are being introduced in the field of in vitro testing
that continually draws on progress in the biosciences.                         that should make it possible to avoid this suffering.

Urgency created by REACH                                                       It should also be stressed that, in addition to a response to the ethical
The problem of using animals assumes a much more acute dimension               questions, the arguments in favour of progress in in vitro testing also
when it occurs in a field that clearly extends beyond that of scientific       carry considerable weight in purely functional or economic terms. For
research proper and is for the purposes of what is known as toxicology,        the chemical industry, tests on laboratory animals are considerably more
i.e. the need to ensure that the constant development of technico-             costly than in vitro tests. At the operational level, the latter also offer many
chemical innovations is without danger.                                        advantages in terms of the flexible scalability of tests, the automation
                                                                               of procedures, management of the stored results, etc. One field that is
At European level, an initial decision of importance for strengthening         developing very rapidly at present is that of Quantitative Structure-
the priority given to the three Rs came in 2003 when the European              Activity Relationships or QSARs. These innovative computer tools for
Cosmetics Directive outlawed the animal testing of cosmetics. This             mathematical modelling are making it possible to strengthen the fields
obliges industrialists in the sector to cease any use of tests on animals      of investigation.
when making their analyses.
                                                                               Last but not least, the question of the comparative validity and reli-
The huge task of the multisectoral toxicological monitoring required by        ability of the two approaches is being highlighted with growing fre-
virtue of the REACH legislation has now placed the subject right back          quency. The notion that the animal does not necessarily predict
on the agenda as it raises the spectre of tests involving several million      human behaviour is one that more and more scientists are coming
laboratory animals over the next decade. It is the increasing rate at          to accept. The species barrier means that zones of uncertainty remain

The toxicogenomic line of inquiry
“A growing number of toxicologists are                                                                     scientists – with the support of NGOs that are
coming to recognise that all methods that are                                                              opposed to animal experimentation – are act-
validated with reference to animal experi-                                                                 ing as spokesmen for the hopes raised by the
mentation, including by in vitro means, can                                                                development of this toxicogenomic approach,
come up against the fundamental problem of                                                                 in particular in connection with the REACH
the difference between species,” notes                                                                     legislation. “To date, we have tested the rele-
Thomas Hartung, Director of the ECVAM                                                                      vant and concordant genomic response of
(JRC). “Their results do not necessarily pre-                                                              human liver cells when subjected to 28 toxic
dict what will happen in man. But, of course,                                                              substances present in the environment,” says
it is ethically impossible to test substance tox-                                                          Claude Reiss, a biologist at the CNRS in France
icity on humans. If we want to establish ref-                                                              and an active member of the movement. “In
erences using in vitro tests, we must therefore                                                            addition to sparing the animals used for the
seek another way of predicting reaction to                                                                 toxicological tests which, in any event, do not
chemical products. The toxicogenomic                                                                       bring sufficient guarantees of scientific safety,
approach is one of these innovative lines of                                                               the toxicogenomic approach permits substan-
inquiry with the potential to remove this                                                                  tial financial savings.”
obstacle, but it is still at the research stage.”   View of the chequerboard obtained by DNA               If nothing else, he hopes to be able to speed
                                                    chip analysis as a part of a toxicogenomic cell
This emerging field is one of the potentially       test for reactions to a chemical substance.            up awareness of the new urgency brought by
exploitable results of the decoding of the          The blue squares indicate genes whose                  the REACH legislation. “A complete ECVAM
human genome and progress in understand-            expression is strongly repressed by the                department is dedicated to this toxicogenomic
                                                    substance, contrasting with the red squares
ing the role of genes. The principle involves       that indicate those whose expression is given          approach,” stresses Sandra Coecke, Head of
analysing how exposure of a human cell to a         a major boost. The intermediate colours                research in this field. “Two years ago we
chemical product can lead to a variation in         indicate intermediate expression changes.              embarked on a major effort to standardise
                                                    © Claude Reiss
gene expression, indicating a toxic effect. The                                                            methods. It is a promising field, but the criti-
measurement of the variation, detectable by                                                                cal elements for operational validation are not
means of DNA chips, would then become an            one would speak of ‘toxicoproteomics’ – and            yet sufficient.”
instrument for measuring toxicity. Taken fur-       we could then try and understand what hap-
ther, this approach could, at a subsequent          pens to them in the body and move on to a                                    To find out more
stage, be used to analyse the impact on the         ‘toxicometabolic’ dimension.                                                 0 Antidote Europe
proteins produced by cells – at which point         As members of Antidote-Europe, a group of                             
  A LT E R N AT I V E S        TO     E X P E R I M E NTS        U S I N G        A N I M A LS            RTD info No.48 Februar y 2006                         35

and the potential surprises introduce risk margins that can prove very              sensors are being examined, developed if
dangerous (see box).                                                                necessary, and then incorporated in a
                                                                                    global strategy for the analysis of chemi-
ECVAM                                                                               cal products.
Charged with drawing up common scientific standards for the Member
States via the European Chemicals Bureau (ECB), the EU has long been                Finally, the Sens-it-iv (2006-2010)
attentive to this issue of alternatives to testing methods involving ani-           Integrated Project is looking at the ques-
                                                                                                                                    TOXICITIES AND THE
mals. As early as 1991, the European Commission set up the European                 tion of the hypersensitivity of the lungs       TARGET ORGANS.
Centre for the Validation of Alternative Methods (ECVAM) at the Joint               and skin to certain products. Once again,
                                                                                                                                    There are several types of
Research Centre in Ispra (IT), and charged it with validating procedures            the aim of its 31 partners is to develop a
                                                                                                                                    toxicity, each of which is
for alternatives to experiments using animals. In addition to its role in           global strategy for in vitro analyses.
                                                                                                                                    analysed by a series of
analysing and validating recommendations for alternative practices, this                                                            specific tests using different
scientific body is a central point in technological monitoring and the              In these three cases, the word ‘integrated’     animal species.
accumulation of knowledge, which it makes available through its                     could not be more appropriate as the
                                                                                                                                    Systemic toxicity concerns
Scientific Information Service (SIS) database. It fulfils its role in close co-     Commission is financing projects launched
                                                                                                                                    the body as a whole, with
operation with its US counterpart, the Interagency Coordination                     in response to the situation created by the     special focus on the liver
Committee on the Validation of Alternative Methods, and with the                    REACH legislation and the Cosmetics             as the organ that cleans
OECD’s (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development)                     Directive. The methods developed will           the body of foreign
Environmental Section, the two other reference bodies in this field.                pass to the ECVAM for validation before         substances carried in the
                                                                                    coming before the European regulators           blood. Systemic toxicity
                                                                                                                                    can be acute (rapid effects)
As ever tighter safety regulations have been applied to European toxi-              (ECB) and the OECD at world level.
                                                                                                                                    or chronic.
cology, so the ECVAM has expanded its activities to cover an increas-
ingly wide field. Today, it has 11 departments devoted to as many types             Finally, the Union is also supporting pro-      Local toxicity concerns
of toxicity – and thus in vitro tests that must be validated. This enables          jects such as ToxDrop or NHR Devtox. The        precise organs that are
                                                                                                                                    targeted by specific
it to study an increasingly diverse range of alternative methods. It is also        former is developing an original technol-
                                                                                                                                    products or exposure:
involved in research in this field.                                                 ogy for rapid miniaturised cell culture,        the skin, eyes, lungs or
                                                                                    based on a genuine ‘cell chip’. The latter      nervous system.
Research moves up a gear                                                            is concerned with the specific problem of
                                                                                                                                    Disproportionate immune
Having supported the development of various in vitro methods during                 nuclear hormone receptors. These mole-
                                                                                                                                    reaction, or hypersensitivity,
previous Framework Programmes, European research policy is also mov-                cules, which trigger the reaction of cells to   is a particular form of
ing up a gear and currently allocates nearly €30 million to three                   hormones, can also interact with chemi-         toxicity.
Integrated Projects involving over 90 public and industrial laboratories.           cal products that resemble the hormones,
                                                                                                                                    In the longer term, the
                                                                                    resulting in serious development or repro-
                                                                                                                                    cancerogenicity of products
Thirty-five partners from 12 EU countries plus Switzerland are currently            duction disorders.                        í     is also tested, as well as
working on the A-Cute-Tox (2005-2010) initiative, coordinated by the                                                                their reproductive toxicity
University of Oulu (FI). This project is concerned with acute systemic                                                              (effects on fertility and
toxicity and is trying to develop a reliable method to replace present              To find out more                                hereditary effects).
in vivo procedures in this field. The work involves reviewing existing              0 Reach                                         Ecotoxicity is concerned
technologies, identifying error factors, developing new tools and, finally,                                                         with a substance’s impact
                                                                                    0   ECVAM
designing a global strategy amenable for robotic testing and linked to                              on the environment. In
a computer forecasting model.                                                       0   Useful addresses: see the NCA links         addition to these traditional
                                                                                        (The Netherlands Centre Alternatives        cell cultures, a new
                                                                                        to Animal Use)                              generation of techniques is
For its part, the ReProTect (2004-2008) project is concerned with repro-      
                                                                                                                                    emerging that draws on the
ductive toxicity, a field that takes a particularly heavy toll on laboratory
                                                                                                                                    progress made in molecular
animals. The 27 project partners are organised into specific working                                                                genetics and bioinformatics.
groups dedicated to different aspects of the issue, such as masculine or
feminine fertility, embryo implantation, pre- or post-natal development,
and transverse techniques. Again, in vitro tests, computer models and
36         RTD info No.48 Februar y 2006                                      P O R T R A I T

Recognised as one of Europe’s leading
pioneers in the nanosciences and their
applications, Wolfgang Heckl has been
committed to the cause of sharing
knowledge and making it accessible to
all since a very young age. A long-
standing firm favourite with the
German media, today he is also known
outside national borders with a
reputation that, in 2004, brought him
the Descartes Prize for science
communication. RTD info presents a
profile of a very warm and friendly
biophysicist who is Professor of
experimental physics at the Ludwig-
Maximilians University as well as Director
of Munich’s famous Deutsche Museum.

                                                         Wolfgang Heckl’s
                                                                   straight talking

B    uilt in the 1920s, the Deutsche Museum
     stands like an imposing fortress topped
with astronomical domes, occupying the entire
                                                    Its Director for less than two years, Wolfgang
                                                    Heckl, the brilliant 48-year-old bio- and
                                                    nanophysicist, welcomes his visitors with a dis-
                                                                                                          that I was able to develop my knowledge of
                                                                                                          technology. He allowed me to take these radios
                                                                                                          apart and then try and put them back together
island which lies in the centre of the River Isar   armingly spontaneous show of warmth and               again, with no guarantee of success…”
that runs through the city of Munich. With its      simplicity. “As far back as I can remember in my
exhibitions on the development of science and       life, achieving progress in scientific knowledge      The taste for communication was also born at a
technology, this venerable institution of inter-    – which for me is the most fascinating way pos-       very young age. When he was asked to speak in
national renown has long been one of the            sible of understanding the world and nature –         public, the young Wolfgang had just one fear:
Europe’s leading museums dedicated to edu-          and sharing this knowledge with the greatest          the fear of boring his audience. “At the age of
cating the general public.                          possible number of people have been two inex-         about 16 I realised that this really was a charac-
                                                    tricable objectives.”                                 ter trait. I was a member of the local astronomy
                                                                                                          club that organised small public conferences.
                                                    Flashback                                             These were often pretty boring events which did

            To the extent that science              Wolfgang Heckl, the son of a country doctor,          not exactly play to a full house! So I had the idea
            and technology are                      retains a very vivid memory of his two favourite      of making a speech that I dared to entitle ‘Where
                                                    fields. First, the rural environment that he loves    do we come from? Where are we going?’. No
  increasingly shaping and
                                                    so much: “the observation of birds, plants and        doubt rather oblivious to what I had taken on,
  transforming our collective future,
  I see the desire to transmit and
  explain new knowledge as meeting
                                         “          insects played a big part in arousing my insati-
                                                    able interest in understanding life”. Then there
                                                    was his father’s passion for collecting old radios.
                                                    “He loved getting his hands on them, models
                                                                                                          in my own way I set about sketching a vast
                                                                                                          panorama, half scientific and half philosophical.
                                                                                                          I tried to show how, since antiquity, astronomy
                                                                                                          had broken free of the limits of the religious
  a profound democratic need.                       dating back to the very beginning of radio, and       approach to become a science that penetrates
                                                    when I think back, it is no doubt thanks to him       the mysteries of the universe.”
                                                                P O R T R A I T                  RTD info No.48 Februar y 2006                                37

Perhaps it was the title that attracted them,                                                          develop. The German media soon picked him
but the audience was not only much larger                                                              out as someone whose ability to explain things
but also much more diverse than his local                                                              simply and clearly would be an asset when pre-
astronomy club was used to. They seemed to                                                             senting the latest developments in science to
be genuinely interested in the talk that was                                                           TV and radio audiences, particularly in the field
followed by a lively debate. “I was both sur-                                                          of nanotechnologies. “I have appeared on tele-
prised and delighted. Pleased with myself, of                                                          vision, worked on documentary programmes
course, but that was not the most important                                                            and given interviews on the radio and for the
thing. I had realised that finding quite simple                                                        newspapers. Finally, in 2004 I went one step
words and pictures with which to share                                                                 further when I committed myself to a genuine
knowledge with others is an enriching exer-                                                            long-term mission in science communication
cise in itself. Einstein once said – and I para-   DNA molecules – painting is also one of             when I agreed to manage Munich’s Deutsche
                                                   Wolfgang Heckl’s hobbies.
phrase – that if a physicist is not able to                                                            Museum," he explains.
explain his theories to his grandmother then
he has not grasped their implications.”            ber the truly exciting moment when I was able       But why is it that he is prepared to devote so
                                                   to use this instrument for the first time, not      much energy to the job of communicator? “It
                                                   only to see atoms appear but to manipulate          is very important for a few scientists – not all of
From biophysics to the
                                                   their arrangement. Gerd Binnig was my men-          them by any means – who, like me, have a very
nanosciences                                       tor. His laboratory was a genuine school of cre-    personal desire to play their part in the scientific
Following this experience of confronting the       ativity. For me the scientific path was now         education of the general public, to play this role
‘big issues’ head on, it is not surprising that    clearly traced and I was determined to devote       of transmitting and explaining new knowledge.
Wolfgang Heckl began concentrating on the          myself exclusively to this pioneering field.”       To the extent that science and technology are
fundamental sciences. Very impressed by Erwin                                                          increasingly shaping and transforming our col-
Schrödinger’s book What is life?, published in     Yet once again it was not purely from the per-      lective future, I see it as meeting a profound
1944, he decided to explore life, not through      spective of research that Wolfgang Heckl saw        democratic need.” Wolfgang Heckl believes the
                                                   his work. His passion for communicating sci-        lessons must be learned from past mistakes, as
                                                   ence first expressed itself through teaching.       in the race for genetics and genomics. He
             For me, scientific

                                                   During the three years when he was preparing        believes that by presenting this field as the best
             knowledge is the most
  fascinating way possible
  of understanding the world
                                        “          for the exam to qualify as a university lecturer,
                                                   he worked closely with Theo Hänsch who was
                                                   engaged in advanced research in the field of
                                                   laser spectroscopy. “All these meetings re-
                                                                                                       of all possible worlds, evoking the ‘authority of
                                                                                                       the experts’, failing to mention many scientific
                                                                                                       or ethical unknowns and evading debate, the
                                                                                                       scientific community succeeded in increasing
  and nature                                       assured me that my scientific path was under        public suspicions of whole fields of research.
                                                   a lucky star. In 2005, Theo Hänsch also became      “When I speak of the scientific progress of the
                                                   a Nobel prizewinner of physics.”                    nanotechnologies, for example, I show tangible
the conventional means of biology, but                                                                 realities. These are considerable, especially in the
through the concepts of material physics, and      Media and the museum                                medical field, for new materials or quantum
in 1988 he presented a doctoral thesis in bio-     After 1993, Wolfgang Heckl divided his time         computing. But that does not mean that when
physics at Munich’s Technical University.          between ‘nano-research’ – in particular becom-      I present them I do not also speak very openly
                                                   ing known for taking the first-ever pictures of     of the potential risks of these innovations where
This was followed by a one-year postdoc on         DNA strands – and teaching experimental             these risks exist. And above all, of making no
organic chemistry, in Toronto. “When I came        physics at Munich’s Ludwig-Maximilians              secret of the present limits to our knowledge.
back to Europe I was lucky enough to land a        University. Over recent years, he has become        When science cannot answer a question, it must
second postdoc at the IBM research centre in       recognised as a leading expert in local probe       say so clearly.”                                  í
Zurich. I joined the team headed by Gerd           microscopy, a tunnel-effect device that has
Binnig who, with Heinrich Rohre, had received      enabled considerable progress in the field of
the Nobel Prize for physics two years previously   nanotechnologies applied to materials.                                    To find out more
for his invention of the tunnel-effect micro-                                                                                0
scope. This formidable instrument marked the       At the same time, his commitment to dialogue                              0
birth of the nanosciences. I will always remem-    between science and society has continued to
38        RTD info No.48 Februar y 2006                          M A R I E   C U R I E   ACTI O N S      –   E XC E L L E N C E     AWA R DS

The added value
of mobility
Through its Marie Curie Actions, the EU makes a significant
contribution to the mobility of young people who are attracted to
research and want to make it their career. The annual Excellence
Awards – or ‘EXA’ for short – are part of this approach and are
awarded to researchers who seized the opportunity to work
beyond their national borders and made their mark at the highest
level of research in their field. At a ceremony in Dublin, in
December 2005, a scientific jury chaired by Jocelyn Bell Burnell –
the British astrophysicist who was involved in the discovery of
pulsars – named the five winners of the 2005 awards. Below are
brief profiles of these notable representatives of the up and
coming generation of European excellence.

 Emmanouil Anagnostou

 “The importance awarded to fundamental research varies depend-
 ing on the EU country. But, wherever they are, most researchers have
 to justify their activities with projects with very well-defined, short-
 term objectives – and this can compromise the level of European                                             Sofia Calero
 research at global level,” believes Emmanouil Anagnostou.                                                   Spain/Netherlands/
               With a passionate interest in fundamental research in
               the environmental field, on leaving Athens University,                                          “Mobility was vital for my career,”
               Emmanouil set off for the United States for a PhD in                                            believes Sofia Calero, a Spanish
               hyrdometrology at the University of Iowa. But his suc-         chemist who today heads a team of researchers working on multi-
               cess in the United States – where he went on to teach          functional catalytic nanomaterials at the Pablo de Olavide University
               at the University of Connecticut and to work for NASA          in Seville. After obtaining her PhD in chemistry in 1995, this young
               – did not mean he was going to be part of the ‘brain-          woman with a taste for travel embarked on a series of training courses
               drain’. A first Marie Curie fellowship saw him back in         and assistantships not only in Spain (at the Universities of Madrid,
               Europe for two years (1998-1999), at the University of         Corogna and Seville) but also in the United Kingdom, Austria, the
               Padua, for work on flood forecasting using radar detec-        United States and Switzerland. In 2000, after presenting her thesis
 tion systems under the European Environment and Climate pro-                 in Madrid, she set off for the Netherlands. “I was interested in
 gramme. Today, a second Marie Curie grant, in the form of a return           research headed by Berend Smit of the Faculty of Chemistry at
 fellowship, has enabled him to return to his native Greece, to the           Amsterdam University. At first, I was hired on a short-term contract
 Hellenic Centre of Marine Research. “I set myself this challenge of          but a Marie Curie fellowship gave me the opportunity to continue
 returning to Europe, and to Greece in particular, where I believe major      this research.” A second return fellowship then allowed her to return
 progress has been made in recent years in terms of infrastructures           to Seville and set up the promising young team that she now heads.
 and funds allocated to research. But reintegration is not easy. For the      Sofia sees the benefits of mobility in the ability to “continue learn-
 scientist, the challenge lies in leaving a career that is already mapped     ing, choose my own path, discover new working methods, draw on
 out for an uncertain future. While for the host institute, there is the      multidisciplinarity and immerse myself in another culture…”
 challenge of coming up with a competitive offer…”
        M A R I E      C U R I E     ACTI O N S         –   E XC E L L E N C E          AWA R DS                   RTD info No.48 Februar y 2006                           39

                          Maria Pia Cosma                                                                                 Juan Bolaños
                          Italy/Austria/Italy                                                                           Spain/United
                        After obtaining her PhD in cellular and molecular genetics from the
                        University of Frederico II School of Medicine (Naples), in the late 1990s,                           “By moving around,
                        Maria Pia Cosma received a Marie Curie fellowship to spend three years                         by being catapulted into
                        at the Institute of Molecular Pathology in Vienna. This post-doctoral                            a great many meetings
                        mobility experience led her to concentrate her research on gene tran-                            and seminars, I learned
                        scription mechanisms. On her return to Naples, she joined the Telethon                                     to overcome my
 Institute of Genetics and Medicine (TIGEM – Naples), a research body devoted to the study                               shyness. I found myself
 of hereditary genetic diseases. “After two years at the TIGEM, I was lucky enough to be given                             face to face with very
 the responsibility of setting up my own research group. In 2004, one of our results was the                                high level scientists. I
 specific identification of the human gene associated with the hereditary disease known as                               learned that it is essential to establish rela-
 Multiple Sulfatase Disorder or MSD.” Maria Pia’s high-level research was given an added boost                               tions with other researchers,” says Juan
 when she was approved as a Young Investigator by the European Molecular Biology Organisation                               Bolaños, from Spain, who specialised in
 (EMBO).(1)                                                                                                            molecular neurobiology. While studying for
                                                                                                                          his PhD at Salamanca University, he spent
 (1) The EMBO Young Investigator programme provides three years of assistance to young researchers who have just
     set up their own group.                                                                                             three months at Oxford, thanks to a grant
                                                                                                                                 from the British Biochemical Society.
                                                                                                                         A Marie Curie fellowship then opened the
                                                                                                                            doors to the ‘major league’ with a post-
             Arno Rauschenbeutel                                                                                                  doctorate in neurology at University
         Germany/France/Germany                                                                                                             College London. “A group
                                                                                                                             at Imperial College was working on the
   “I have been fascinated by science since I was a                                                                   fields in which I had decided to concentrate
child. My initial motivation was curiosity. I wanted                                                                          my research, that is, certain molecular
       to discover and understand,” explains Amo                                                                             mechanisms of the brain’s metabolism,
   Rauschenbeutel. “Now science has become my                                                                          linked to nitric oxide, which are involved in
   job and enables me to express my creativity, to                                                                          neurodegenerative diseases. For me this
 learn and to teach at the same time, and to be in                                                                            was a vital opportunity.” Today, Juan is
                               contact with a lot of interesting people from all over the world.”                          Professor of biochemistry and molecular
                                                                                                                       biology at his Alma Mater in Salamanca. He
       After already completing part of his studies in the United Kingdom and with a passion for                             believes that “Europe has an important
    quantum physics, Arno decided Paris was the place for his doctorate, at the Ecole Nationale                              human research potential that must be
    Supérieure. “The Marie Curie programme gave me the ideal opportunity to spend the next                            allowed to emerge. It is our responsibility as
three years working with one of the leading research teams in the field of quantum computing.                                       researchers to convince the public
   I was free to concentrate on my research and establish the beginnings of a reputation in the                                authorities to invest more in science.”
     field thanks to a number of publications.” Now back in Germany, Arno is currently at Bonn
          University as an active member of the Laser Physics Group, headed by Dieter Meschede.

The EXAs and how they work
The Marie Curie Excellence Awards (EXA) are open – without dis-                        The five finalists receive €50 000, the
                                                                                                                                       To find out more
tinction on the basis of nationality or discipline – to all researchers                use of which is left to their discre-
with previous mobility experience thanks to EU support under the                       tion. The only obligation for the
Marie Curie programmes. Applications are submitted by researchers                      award-winning candidates is to participate in public events of their
in response to an annual open call by the Commission. A panel of                       choice aimed at stimulating interest in, and boosting the visibility
independent experts is then charged with the selection process, bas-                   of, research careers in the context of the European Research Area, and
ing their evaluation on all the scientists’ achievements and not only                  to help improve the public understanding of science. Within two
those during their Marie Curie mobility experience. The final choice                   years of receiving the award, beneficiaries must send a concise report
falls to the grand jury of world-famous scientists, the composition                    to the Commission explaining their involvement in such activities.
of which changes every year.
40         RTD info No.48 Februar y 2006                                      P O L I T I C A L           S C I E N C E S

Analysis of a stalled constitution
Like the Tower of Babel, it was at the
closing stages when the vast political
enterprise that was supposed to culminate
in a constitution for the European Union
ultimately failed, felled by a double French
and Dutch ‘no’ in their referendums. The
tortuous path that led to the text being
drawn up by the ‘Giscard’ Convention,
adopted at intergovernmental level after
a laborious process of introducing
amendments, and then launched perilously
for ratification in the Member States is an
experience that was studied ‘live’ and in depth by political science researchers with the DOSEI project.(1) They highlight
the conflicting and paralysing national preferences against which Europe has been struggling for more than a decade
in seeking desperately to define its goals and reform its functioning.

G     eorge Tsebelis, an experienced observer
      of European political issues at the
University of California, sees the attempt to
                                                     In particular, they shed new light on the two
                                                     years of negotiations within the ‘European
                                                     Convention on the future of Europe’, placed
                                                                                                                 not only within the Convention, but also
                                                                                                                 among the EU’s decision-making bodies and
                                                                                                                 governments of the Member States who rallied
arrive democratically at a joint constitution        under the very influential presidency of Valéry             to this new cause of a European Constitution.
within a union of states that together consti-       Giscard d'Estaing. As a way out of the evident
tute the world’s number two economic power           paralysis of the limited reforms possible in the            Originating as it did in the confines of trade-
as a unique political experience. The only com-      context of the Intergovernmental Conference                 offs between institutional, parliamentary and
parable historical reference is the birth of the     – as demonstrated by the meagre results of the              governmental decision-makers, who ‘concoct’
US Constitution… in 1776. Tsebelis is a mem-         Nice Treaty (2000) – the creation of this singu-            European destinies among themselves, the
ber of the multinational team of 11 political        lar assembly was decided at the Laeken Summit               Constitution suffered from the same handicap
scientists working on the DOSEI European pro-        (2001). It was charged with “examining key                  that has always afflicted the project for
ject, which is being coordinated by Thomas           issues for the development of the Union and                 European integration: its so-called ‘democratic
König of the Speyer University of Administrative     identifying the various possible responses”.                deficit’. The DOSEI researchers saw the final
Sciences (DE).                                                                                                   stage of ratification as a high-risk moment of
                                                     At the very start of business for the 96                    truth. This ambitious project hatched by the
Back in 2002, this group of researchers started      Convention members, (2) President Giscard                   elites now had to face national political struc-
to scrutinise the twists and turns of the ‘multi-    stated that the realisation of the mission                  tures and public opinion, who were asked to
stage’ path taken by the Constitutional Treaty,      entrusted to the assembly would not ultimately              participate in the debate in the closing stages
highlighting the dual and contradictory con-         take the form of a range of options but of a sin-           of the game. The misfortunes that befell it in
cerns that constantly underpinned the behav-         gle text that would reflect “in a constitutional            the French and Dutch referendums show to
iour of the players: on one hand, the need for       framework” a global consensus on the way                    what extent this divide is at the heart of
compromise as a means of resolving the unten-        Europe could reform and meet the expecta-                   ‘Europe’s future’.                            í
able situations of stalemate in which Europe         tions of citizens. Due to this initial shift in
increasingly found itself, on the other the desire   objective, the Convention effectively became
to preserve national ‘preferences’. Their analy-     a ‘constituent’ assembly without the word
                                                                                                                 To find out more
ses thus consider the processes of subtle bar-       ‘constitution’ ever being mentioned in the                  0
gaining that lie behind the various sections of      mandate given in Laeken. The idea caught on,                0
the Constitutional Treaty, notably the central
issue of the criteria established for qualified      (1) Domestic Structures and European Integration
majority voting.                                     (2) In addition to the chairman and two vice-chairmen, the Convention comprised representatives of governments
                                                         (15 for the Member States, 13 for the candidate countries), members of the national parliaments (30 + 26),
                                                         16 members of the European Parliament and two representatives of the Commission. Its chairman, in the key
                                                         role, was seconded by a praesidium of 12 members and an impressive top-level secretariat.