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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.
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.
3D printers are emblematic of what the future of technology could look like. Versatile, flexible and highly adaptable, they promise to produce everything from customised furniture to transplantable organs. Yet the concept of the 3D printer, its place in our imagination, has outstripped its current technical capacity. At the Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden, Professor Frank Niklaus and his research team have set themselves a challenge: to engineer a 3D printer fitted to the modern manufacturing world, capable of producing micro- and nano-structures and, ultimately, superior micro-materials.
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.
At the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland, Professor Anna Fontcuberta i Morral’s ERC-funded UPCON project (Ultra-pure nanowire heterostructures and energy conversion) is investigating new concepts and technologies that point the way to the next generation of photovoltaic systems. Prof Fontcuberta i Morral is a speaker at this year's American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) conference in Chicago, where she will give a talk entitled 'Nanowires have the power to revolutionize solar energy'.