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“The next war will be fought over water, not politics,” predicted United Nations Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali in 1991. But environmental changes and pressures also have impacts that – though just as important – may be slower and more difficult to spot.
Recent years have seen the emergence of new forms of political engagement, from the Arab Spring to the Occupy Movements in different countries, from online campaigning to community organising. With the support of the ERC, Prof. Engin Isin has led research to explore how different traditions and practices of citizenship from throughout the world are changing the way we think of political participation and activity in Europe.
Surveys such as the 2010 Eurobarometer show that people around Europe are worried about what they eat and where it comes from. But what causes this? And does it affect behaviour? An ERC project studied consumer choices about shopping, cooking and eating – offering a more accurate picture of what shapes their decisions. The results could lead to better-informed policies on health, sustainability and business.
Music has been a vital part of human cultures for millennia, and today it continues to evolve, taking vastly different forms around the world. Proceeding from the rich diversity of human music-making, Prof. Georgina Born has been investigating its transformation in the current digital era.
More than 95% of our universe comes in the mysterious form of dark matter and dark energy that we can neither explain nor directly detect. Dr Catherine Heymans leads a team of researchers who were the first to “map” dark matter on the largest of scales. She now uses her research to confront Einstein’s theory of general relativity in an attempt to explain the nature of dark energy.
We normally think of anthropologists studying ‘exotic’ cultures – ancient tribes that live in faraway places. But how about cultures that are closer to home? Professor Rebecca Cassidy has devoted herself to anthropological studies of European cultures of gambling. In the ‘Gambling in Europe’ (GAMSOC) project – funded by the ERC – Prof. Cassidy and her team have taken this a step further, and conducted an anthropological study of the gambling research community itself.
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.
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.
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.
It feels as if humanity has never been more connected. We live in ever-expanding cities, stay in constant contact and even have online friendships with people we have never met. But have human social relationships really changed that much since we were hunter-gathers some 200 000 years ago? Are we suited to living in a world where everyone is apparently supposed to know everyone else? And most pressing of all, how can we achieve social cohesion at a time of great urbanisation and globalisation?