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The human brain is outstanding among mammalian brains, containing around 100 billion neurons (more than the number of stars in the Milky Way) and over 100 trillion connections between them. Yet, when it comes to making decisions, this impressive organ does not prevent us from making errors – even avoidable ones.
There is a web of filaments – essentially long strands of gas – that connects all the galaxies in the universe. This is known as the Cosmic Web and, so far, astrophysicist had only a partial idea of what it may have looked like. Now, ERC funded astronomer Michele Fumagalli, and his collaborators from the University of Durham and the RIKEN Cluster for Pioneering Research in Japan, are able to show the stunning images of this common thread that runs through our stars.
Water vapour has been detected in the atmosphere of a remote planet with habitable temperatures. Two ERC grantees at the University College London (UCL) were among the coauthors of study.
On a clear summer night, look up to the sky and what do you see? Ordinary matter such as planets, stars maybe even an asteroid. Millions of little specks, as far as the eyes can reach. This ordinary matter, also known as baryonic matter, is the primary observable component of our universe. But is what we see all that is out there?
The ERC-funded ONOFF project is building upon previous efforts to better understand auditory hallucinations (AH) in patients with schizophrenia. Its results could lead to new cognitive and pharmacological treatments.
Cancer is one of the most challenging medical issues we face. In the United Kingdom alone, there are 300,000 new cases every year – leading to almost two million surgical operations annually. Thanks to ERC funding, Dr Zoltán Takáts of Imperial College London has developed a ‘smart’ surgical knife that can ‘smell’ the tissues it is cutting through – with the potential to revolutionise cancer treatment, as well as food and drug analysis, and research into the human ‘microbiome’.
Molecular electronics has raised increasing interest in recent years, in particular the use of molecules as nano-electrical components for electronic, photovoltaic and thermoelectric devices. With her ERC Starting grant, Dr Gemma Solomon studies how molecules carrying current heat up and cool down, potentially paving the way to new frontiers in power-generating materials.
Hallucinations have been the seeds of inspiration of legendary filmmakers such as Luis Buñuel, Terry Gilliam or David Lynch. Auditory hallucinations are a major symptom of schizophrenia. These inner voices people hear in the absence of any external acoustic input can be very disruptive for health and for social life. Professor Kenneth Hugdahl, who holds an ERC Advanced grant, has developed an iPhone app to help patients to re-focus their attention. Based at the University of Bergen in Norway, he participates in the “Horizons for Social Sciences and Humanities” conference in Vilnius on 23 and 24 September 2013 and exposes the first results of his ERC project.
An international research team led by astronomers from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy (MPIfR, Bonn, Germany) used a collection of large radio and optical telescopes to investigate a newly discovered pulsar, and its white dwarf companion. The observations revealed a system with unusual properties, which weighs twice as much as the Sun, making it the most massive neutron star to date. These findings partly result from the “BEACON” project led by ERC Starting grantee Dr Paulo Freire, and agree with Einstein’s theory on general relativity. They will be published in tomorrow’s issue of Science, April 26, 2013.
As empirical experiments are almost impossible in astronomy, research in this field relies heavily on observation. Prof. Andrzej Udalski set new frontiers in observational astronomy, in particular in the search for extra-solar planets, using a cutting-edge gravitational microlensing technique which enables the study of celestial objects irrespective of the light they emit.