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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.  

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.

10-02-2014 | Research image courtesy of Yannik Fontana | Sketch of a forest of standing nanowires, ideal for the efficient capture of the solar radiation

Throwing light on to nanowires

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'.

28-09-2012 | © Mathcard project

Taking mathematics to heart

Mathematics might seem like an abstract discipline, remote from real-world applications but their equations can significantly help understand and simulate the functioning of nature. Professor Alfio Quarteroni of the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL, Switzerland) is leading the Mathcard project in developing mathematical models of the blood flow in our cardiovascular system. On the occasion of World Heart Day, he explains how his project could help surgeons and save lives.

13-09-2012 | ©Grantee's picture: INRIA

Optimised crowd and traffic management: QED!

On the occasion of the European Mobility Week (16-22 September 2012), cities are encouraged to take initiatives to promote a sustainable urban mobility. Noise and air pollution have become sources of concern in many urban areas. Major European cities have to take crowd and traffic management ever more seriously - as populations grow and infrastructure has to cope with rising demand and increased traffic congestion.