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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.  

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.

16-04-2014 | Portrait: © Courtesy of Prof. Georges Kordas | Illustration © Paul Hakimata photography/Shutterstock

Targeting cancer: nanocontainers deliver localised chemotherapy

Cancer is the second most common cause of death in the EU – and this figure is expected to rise due to an ageing population in Europe. In his ERC-funded ‘Nanotherapy’ project, Professor George Kordas has developed ‘nanocontainers’ ­– tiny hollow spheres with a width measured in molecules – which are attracted to cancer cells and, once there, deliver their payload of chemotherapy drugs. It is a kind of ‘guided missile’, aimed at the heart of a cancer cell.  

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.

27-01-2014 | © picture

European perspectives on religion in public

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) makes decisions on religious freedom that affect the rights of over 800 million people in 47 countries. A famous case is the Lautsi v. Italy decision which prevented the display of the crucifix in classrooms, and was later revoked after a public outcry.

Dr Effie Fokas, a Greek researcher, has received an ERC Starting grant to study the influence of ECtHR decisions on the public. Looking beyond the legal implementation of the decisions, she hopes to discover how they change local perceptions of religious rights, grassroots movements and national case law.