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08-08-2014 | Portrait © Brigitte Eymann – Académie des sciences | Image: © www.istockphoto.com

How abstract maths can help physicists better understand the universe

Mathematicians are similar to historians in that they are devoted to finding and interpreting patterns. Like historians, they have to deal with criticism that some theories are of little practical benefit. This is a futile debate, says mathematician Dr Francis Brown who is attending the International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM) taking place in Seoul this summer (South Korea). Through an ERC-funded project, he has developed an algorithm of immense importance to particle physics, using numbers first developed for their aesthetic appeal over 300 years ago. Sometimes the significance of mathematics – as with history – takes time to be revealed.  

08-08-2014 | Portrait: © Alfredo Brant | Image: © www.istockphoto.com

Proving the power of collaboration in mathematics

Artur Avila is a franco-brazilian leading mathematician and an ERC grantee since 2010. At the age of 16, he won the International Mathematical Olympic gold medal and before finishing high school, he received a scholarship for the Instituto Nacional de Matemática Pura e Aplicada (IMPA) of Rio de Janeiro. He is now senior researcher both at the National Center for Scientific Research - CNRS and IMPA. In this interview, Prof. Avila tells us about his international career and the research he conducts both in Brazil and France.  

03-07-2014 | Picture: @ Dr. H. Ingolfsson

Smarter, faster, stronger drug therapies

We are living longer and, understandably, we wish to be in better health as we age. It is estimated that by 2050 the number of people aged 65 and over will reach 16% of the global population. Medical science has an ever-growing arsenal of drugs it can use to treat an increasing range of conditions. Yet, these drugs are not acting as effectively as their potential promises. Dr. Armağan Koçer and her research team at the University of Groningen (The Netherlands) are using their ERC funding to tackle the following puzzle: how can we develop methods of drug delivery that are as revolutionary as the medicine they contain?  

21-05-2014 | Image: ©Thinkstock

Can we learn to predict the political actions of citizens?

As a concerned citizen, you might feel angry about youth unemployment in your country being too high, your local sports centre closing down or the polar ice caps melting. But what are you going to do about it? For example, do you intend to vote in this month’s European Parliament elections, to make your voice heard and influence key decision makers? When it comes to political engagement, what factors will ultimately determine the course of action you choose to take?

29-04-2014 | © picture

Can machines crack the mystery of music creation?

Who has not wanted to compose as catchy a song as Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney or Charlie Parker? French researcher Dr François Pachet has always been fascinated by the mystery of how these great musicians managed to create these amazingly iconic, and strangely addictive, melodies. Thanks to his ERC Advanced Grant, Pachet and his team are working on a software package, ‘FlowMachines’, which will help musicians or writers to explore the magic of creativity and compose music or write books in an easier way. By deciphering the intriguing relations between technology and musical creativity, he aims to offer clues to creators who wish to turn style and its various dimensions into malleable and interactive objects.

04-04-2014 | Image: ©convit/shutterstock.com

Cancer in 3D: in-depth research to uncover its secrets

In 2012, 2.8 million people in the EU were diagnosed with cancer. It is the second most common cause of death in the Union – three out of 10 deaths for men, and two out of 10 deaths for women – a figure that is expected to rise due to the ageing European population. Dr Danijela Matic Vignjevic’s STARLIN project is using ERC funding to understand how normal cells become cancerous and spread.

21-03-2014 | Portrait ©Julia Frey | Image ©Alain Anglade / ©shutterstock - Littlesam

A hot topic for mermaids

To study something in detail you need to look at it from all directions, whether it is the Venus de Milo statue in the Louvre Museum, a car you are thinking of buying, or when using a CAT-scanner to image inside the human body. In the ERC-funded GLOBALSEIS project Professor Guust Nolet is doing this on a truly global scale, by developing a worldwide network of marine-based seismic-wave sensors that can give a much better picture of deep-earth structures and resolve a major paradox in geoscience.