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December 10 has become a landmark for all human rights’ defenders. It is the day when the international community celebrates UN Human Rights Day to mark the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. A research project led by ERC grantee Professor Lauri Mälksoo, based at the University of Tartu (Estonia), illustrates the significance of human rights in today’s global context by looking at precisely how countries like Russia, understand and practice international law.
During United Nations Disarmament Week (22-28 October 2012), the danger of the arms race and the need for its cessation will be discussed. The project led by Professor Christoph Meyer, an ERC grantee based at King's College in London (UK) is particularly relevant. He recently presented the final results on his ERC-funded project on forecasts for the prevention of armed conflicts.
The ‘Gothic’ architectural style, which flourished during the high- and late-medieval periods, from the 12th to 16th centuries AD, gave Europe some of its greatest cathedrals, minsters and churches as well as an architectural treasure house of palaces, town halls and guild buildings among others. Importantly, the soaring open spaces conceived and constructed by the architects of the period were only made possible by the innovative ways of designing and constructing ambitious vaulted ceilings. How did those medieval builders go about designing these huge complex monuments? And in an era without computers and design software, how did they set down their visions and transmit them in usable form to the master builders and masons who created them?
Quantum theory, despite being one of the most successful scientific theories in history, throws up some bizarre ideas: quantum spin, the uncertainty principle, wave/particle duality, quantum entanglement and non-locality - or “spooky action at a distance” as Einstein once called it. But these are not just abstract concepts or the preserve of theory: Dr Szabolcs Csonka is working on isolating fundamental particles so as to study these phenomena first hand in electrons and thus bring quantum computers one step closer to reality.
In cooperation with the CNRS and University of Bergen When did human behaviour as we know it begin? Work conducted by an international team of researchers suggests that modern culture emerged 44,000 years ago. Their analysis of archaeological material discovered at Border Cave in South Africa has demonstrated that much of the material culture that characterized the lifestyle of San hunter-gatherers in southern Africa was part of the culture and technology of the inhabitants of Border Cave 44,000 years ago. This research, funded by an ERC Advanced Grant, is published in the online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The first cultivated plants in south-western Europe date back to the first half of the 6th millennium BC. Farmers in this region cultivated a wide variety of crops which included cereals and legumes, as well as other crops such as flax and poppy. They also collected wild plants. Yet, available data from this area is scarce and unevenly distributed across the territory: with blank regions, like northern Morocco, where archaeobotanical data is still almost non-existent.
Many of the electronic gadgets we currently take for granted already use ‘spintronics’ – for instance, the high-capacity hard disks that we find in today’s laptops. With the help of her ERC funding, Professor Roberta Sessoli is advancing our knowledge of the fundamental properties of molecular magnets and quantum spin, research which may lead to new molecular spin-based technologies. Prof Sessoli will attend the conference ERC – 5 years of achievement and the Italian National Information Day on the ERC funding schemes in Rome on 25 June 2012.
Ulster’s rugby stars, with the help of Queen’s University’s School of Psychology, have been taking part in an exciting new virtual reality project to help improve their tackling technique. The work, which is part of a much larger project funded by the European Research Council, has been developed by Queen’s Professor of Psychology Cathy Craig. She uses virtual reality to understand how expert players deal with deceptive movement on the field of play.
Over 44 million French citizens have the right to vote next Sunday in the second round of the presidential elections. One ERC grantee will be looking at them attentively: Dr Michael Bruter, a political scientist working at the London School of Economics (UK). His research focuses on the deep mystery that surrounds the act of voting, and especially what happens in voters' minds as they stand in the polling booth, ready to place their ballot paper in the box.
Pursuing a sustainable development and broadening social justice and cohesion are some of the challenges that Europe is currently facing. What if we could learn how to solve these challenges by using the social and political innovations taking place in different corners of the globe? Professor Boaventura de Sousa Santos suggests that a new approach can be developed in Europe based on the diversity of practices elsewhere.