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It has long been a sci-fi dream to have a humanoid robot in our everyday life. Soon that dream may seem even more vivid, thanks to Dr Pierre-Yves Oudeyer’s ERC-funded project. His team has developed the first complete open-source 3D printed humanoid robot, called “Poppy”. Poppy is a robot that anybody can build – its body is 3D printed and its behaviour programmed by the user. The technology will be of benefit to the fields of science, engineering, education and even the arts.
Space exploration may one day reveal clues to the origin of the universe and life on Earth. In the meantime, scientific advances in the field have supported “space services” for everyday life such as weather forecasts and satellite navigation on our phones. With his ERC grant, space engineer Prof. Colin McInnes explored the mathematics of new families of orbits around the Earth for spacecraft, from micro-satellites to large solar sails. The objective was to map these orbits and to uncover potential applications for new space technologies in fields as diverse as space science, Earth observation and telecommunications.
In June 1770, the explorer James Cook ran aground on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and became the first European to experience the world's largest coral reef. Last year, the James Cook research vessel set out to encounter unique and unexplored corals, this time in the deep ocean. Led by ERC grantee Dr Laura Robinson (University of Bristol, UK), the team on board crossed the equatorial Atlantic to take samples of deep-sea corals, reaching depths of thousands of meters. On the expedition, Dr Robinson collected samples that are shedding light on past climate changes and she will share her findings at TEDx Brussels.
A research background in earthquake engineering seems at first sight like an unusual fit with studying tsunamis. But on her return from Sri Lanka in the wake of the 2004 tsunami, Professor Tiziana Rossetto discovered that very little research had been done into the effects of tsunamis on coastal infrastructure and she wanted to find out more. She will be presenting this research to the public at the TEDx Brussels event on 1 December.
We are more and more accustomed to interacting physically with technology - using touchscreens for example. We now routinely “thumb-flick” through information on our phones or tablets rather than pressing keys. For Professor Sriram Subramanian and his team this kind of technology needs to be pushed beyond a flat interaction with the screen beneath our fingers - instead we should be able to feel what we are currently touching. Only by doing so can we fully interact with the information we are accessing.
How does our acting, sensing and feeling body shape our mind? Dr Katerina Fotopoulou’s ERC-funded project is an ambitious exploration of the relationship between the body and the mind which spans philosophy, psychology and clinical neuroscience. She will be presenting her work at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting of the New Champions in Tianjin, China (10-12 September). In preparation for her presentation, Dr Fotopoulou is concentrating on one particular aspect of her research: the ramifications of body image.
Prof. Ben Green is all about pure mathematics. Asked what is at the heart of modern society, he would probably insist on mankind’s capacity to solve problems and pass its knowledge on to new generations. The 37-year old mathematician can actually boast about his contribution to both: the International Congress of Mathematicians (ICM) which takes place this year in Seoul (South Korea) will see him give a plenary session which he proudly qualifies as the pinnacle of his career. With his ERC grant, he is now providing young mathematicians with an opportunity to shine.
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.
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.