48 February 2006 ISSN 1024-0802 Climate warming Mysteries 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 europa.eu.int/comm/research 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 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org 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 GSR 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- ©Nature 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. mid-Atlantic. 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 www.realclimate.org, a reference www.noc.soton.ac.uk/ had already dropped from 20 million m3 per forum used by many climatologists. He makes 0 Harry Bryden’s site http://www.soc.soton.ac.uk/JRD/HYDRO/hlb/ 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 www.damtp.cam.ac.uk/user/ak283/ 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 www.bjerknes.uib.no/pages.asp?kat=74&lang=1 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 ENVIRONMENTS 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 www.ipsl.jussieu.fr/~jomce/acidification/ 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 www.mersea.eu.org/ProjectOverview 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- http://lgmacweb.env.uea.ac.uk/ 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 http://lgmacweb.env.uea.ac.uk/ e072/animate.htm 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 www.bom.gov.au/GODAE/ 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 www-argo.ucsd.edu/index.html 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 www.ipsl.jussieu.fr/projets/NOCES/ 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 www.ipsl.jussieu.fr/OCMIP/ 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 www.carboeurope.org 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 CO2 biosphere of the deep-sea abysses have revolutionised perceptions ▲ ▲ Organic 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- ▲ ▲ O2 Infiltrations CO2 CO2 ▲ gas. This fossil fuel extracted from the entrails gin. The quantity of methane in the atmos- Organic deposit 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 ▲ Methane ▲ 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 1600 taken from glaciers). marshes, the sediment at the bottom of seas Planck Institute of Marine Biology in Bremen, Methane (ppb) 1400 and lakes, peat bogs and permafrost. The stom- working with the European project DeepBug. CH4 1200 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 600 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% Microbiological 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 Sulphates ‘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’ Sediment 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 www.eu-hermes.net/ 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 www.mpi-bremen.de/en/ research_projects_11.html event, the clathrates present could dissociate clathrates, this is more of a long-term problem. more about the 0 www.chm.bris.ac.uk/deepbug/ 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 email@example.com 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 www.metrol.org 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. © CNES/Emmanuel GRIMAULT 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 metabolism. 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 © CNES/Emmanuel GRIMAULT 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 www.spaceflight.esa.int/wise 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- SPECIAL FOCUS 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 www.bionetonline.org/ sophisticated mechanisms, such as those Castilian, Catalan, Danish, German, English, French, Italian, Portuguese, 0 firstname.lastname@example.org 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. 0 www.schoolscience.co.uk 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 www.imperial.ac.uk/ Russell. “We regard theory and practice as equally import- time, space and matter, the sciencecommunication 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 email@example.com analysis with individual creative work, are available at the Interactivity is greatly encour- 0 www.alberteinstein.be 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 http://uit.no/cst he co-signed a letter explaining to President Roosevelt 0 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 © CERN 0 www.cern.ch 0 http://eu-iriscoreboard.jrc.es/ 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 www.cordis.europa.eu.int/lifescihealth/src/leaflet.htm 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, Exel. 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 http://europa.eu.int/comm/research/ 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. email@example.com 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 0 www.raise-eu.org 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 0 http://europa.eu.int/comm/ 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 Letters 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 http://europa.eu.int/comm/entreprise/ 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 www.cordis.lu/citizens/ nologies, and cognition.” 0 www.cordis.lu/citizens/conf_20051212.htm 0 http://europa.eu.int/comm/research/eurab/index_en.html 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 http://europa.eu.int/comm/health/ph_determinants/ 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 Diary 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: europa.eu.int/comm/research/headlines/archives_diary_en.html europa.eu.int/comm/research/publications/pub_en.cfm • World-Nano-Economic Congress (WNEC) – 27-29/03/06 Mumbai (India) – www.world-nano.com/india/ Research Policy • WEBIST 2006 – 2nd International Conference on Web Information Systems and Technologies – 10-13/04/2006 European Technology Platforms Setúbal (PT) – www.webist.org Leaflet – A4 /6 p. • 4 th Research Forum of the European Association for Palliative Care Publication: 2005/11 25-28/05/2006 – Venice (IT) – www.eapcnet.org/research2006/ firstname.lastname@example.org • 6th EUSCEA annual conference – 2-3/06/2006 – ‘Great Geysir’ (Iceland) – www.euscea.org European Research • 2nd European Research & Innovation Exhibition Infrastructures in Motion 8-11/06/2006 – Paris (FR) – www.salon-de-la-recherche.com Project synopses • The first European Road Transport Research Conference ISBN 92-79-00433-6 12-16/06/2006 – Göteborg (SE) – www.traconference.com/ A4 /folder + 22 sheets • 4 th International Interdisciplinary Conference on Communication, Publication: 2005/11 email@example.com Medicine and Ethics (COMET) – 29.6-1.7/2006 – Cardiff (UK) www.cardiff.ac.uk/encap/hcrc/comet2006/ • 2 nd EuroScience Open Forum (ESOF) – 15-19/07/2006 Munich (DE) – www.esof2006.org Agriculture • 40 th International Congress on the History of Medicine 26-30/08/2006 – Budapest (HU) – www.ishm2006.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) – http://biol.prospective-conf.u-nancy.fr/ firstname.lastname@example.org • International Food and Health Innovation Conference 2006 25-27/10/2006 – Malmö (SE) http://184.108.40.206/ifhic2006/html/index.html Support to Agricultural • International Marine Genomics Conference 2006 Policy – the impact of EU research 28.10-1.11/2006 – Sorrento (IT) (1998-2004) www.marine-genomics-europe.org/index2.php?rub=b&pid=242 Brochure • IST 2006: Strategies for Leadership – 22-24/11/2006 – Helsinki (FI) ISBN 92-894-9060-8 – A4/36 p. http://europa.eu.int/information_society/activities/istevent/ Publication: 2005/12 index_en.htm email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com Descartes Communication Prize 2005 Brochure – ISBN 92-79-00186-8 Energy A4 /40 p. – Publication: 2005/11 firstname.lastname@example.org 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. email@example.com Publication: 2005/11 – firstname.lastname@example.org 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. europa.eu.int/comm/research/fp6/calls_en.html 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 €) INTEGRATING AND STRENGTHENING THE EUROPEAN RESEARCH AREA Information society technologies email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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) DEV/SSA-1 FP6-2002-INCO- Periodic call for SSA in the MPC. Fields: environment – cultural heritage – health 06/03/2006 1(1) MPC/SSA-2 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) WBC/SSA-3 (1) Budget for 2006 Specific support to EU policy email@example.com 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 INFLUENZA 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 €) INTEGRATING AND STRENGTHENING THE EUROPEAN RESEARCH AREA Coherent development of research and innovation policies www.cordis.lu/fp6/policies.htm 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) europa.eu.int/comm/research/fp6/mariecurie-actions/helpdesk/ 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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 RESEARCH AND TRAINING IN THE FIELD OF NUCLEAR ENERGY email@example.com 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. 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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 0 www.dispower.org network. Another example is the adaptation of grid control and manage- 0 http://europa.eu.int/comm/ 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 http://ired.iset.uni-kassel.de/ pany EMD, that can model the effects of connecting up wind power 0 www.der-lab.net 0 www.der-journal.net 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 email@example.com 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 recommendations, 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 www.ivtip.org/index.html 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 www.antidote-europe.org 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 ecb.jrc.it/REACH/ 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 ecvam.jrc.it/index.htm 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- www.nca-nl.org/ 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 www.nano.geo-uni-muenchen.de scope. This formidable instrument marked the At the same time, his commitment to dialogue 0 www.wolfgang-heckl.de 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 Greece/USA/Italy/USA/Greece “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/ Spain 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 Kingdom/Spain 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- 0 http://europa.eu.int/comm/ research/fp6/mariecurie-actions 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. KI-AB-05-S05-EN-C 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 http://dosei.dhv-speyer.de/ gaining that lie behind the various sections of mandate given in Laeken. The idea caught on, 0 http://europa.eu.int/constitution/futurum/index_fr.htm 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.
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