Solving a 300-Year Old Murder With DNA Analysis


A skeleton was found during construction work at Leine castle in Niedersachsen, Germany in the summer of 2016. This is where Swedish count Philip Christoph Königsmarck disappeared 322 years ago – could it be him? Lund University in Sweden follows the dangerous love story between Philip Königsmarck and Georg Ludwig’s wife Sophia Dorothea through the love letters they wrote to each other, currently preserved at the University Library. Read More →

The Moral Implications of Autonomous Car Design

Autonomous Cars

The first autonomous vehicles are expected in the next few years. They should ease traffic and reduce pollution and accidents compared with today’s cars. But these self-driving cars (SDC) will face tragic dilemmas: for example, they will have to choose between saving the lives of their passengers or those of pedestrians. Read More →

How Planetary Age Reveals Water Content


Water is necessary for life as we know it, but too much water is bad for habitability. Therefore, to study the habitability of extrasolar planets, determining the abundance of water is a key element. Yann Alibert, Science Officer of PlanetS at the University of Bern, shows that the observation of exoplanets at different ages can be used to set statistical constraints on their water content – an important result for future space missions. Read More →

Planetary Striptease

Planet being stripped by host star's heat. Credit: Peter Devine

Planet being stripped by host star’s heat. Credit: Peter Devine

Planets of the “super-Earth” category lose their atmosphere through too great proximity to their star. That is the result of an international research project coordinated by astronomer Dr. Mia Lundkvist, who is doing post-doc research at the Königstuhl observatory of Heidelberg University’s Centre for Astronomy (ZAH). Read More →

Five Obscure Facts About Albert Einstein


Many people have read that little Albert’s parents thought he was mentally deficient because he refused to talk for the first five or six years of his life. You may even know that he was somewhat of a prankster. But here’s some stuff you may not know about the famous physicist. Read More →

2015: An Exciting Year for Space Research


Image: NASA

With war, terrorism and climate change dominating the headlines of 2015, it’s easy for good news to get lost in the noise. However, 2015 also saw many more positive, albeit lesser known headlines, including those highlighting some of the most impressive scientific discoveries of recent times. In the world of astronomy and exploration, 2015 will hopefully be remembered as the year Pluto was explored by a robotic space probe for the first time and water was discovered on Mars. Read More →

Packaging and Unpacking the Genome


DNA represents a dynamic form of information, balancing efficient storage and access requirements. Packaging approximately 1.8m of DNA into something as small as a cell nucleus is no mean feat, but unpacking it again to access the required sections and genes? That requires organization.

In a nutshell, this is achieved through DNA condensed and packaged as chromatin, a complex of DNA and proteins called histones, which is constantly modified as the DNA is accessed. Read More →

Television of the Future – Customizable & in 3D

The MPEG-H 3D Audio standard will allow television viewers to individually customize their TV audio by changing the volume of dialog and background noise elements independently of one another. © Fraunhofer IIS/Boxler/Schilling

The MPEG-H 3D Audio standard will allow television viewers to individually customize their TV audio by changing the volume of dialog and background noise elements independently of one another. © Fraunhofer IIS/Boxler/Schilling

The next generation of Ultra High Definition televisions (UHDTV) offers not only crystal-clear images, but also perfect sound. At the IBC trade show (September 11-15 in Amsterdam), Fraunhofer researchers are presenting a TV audio system based on the recently published MPEG-H 3D Audio standard, which lays the groundwork for the television audio of the future. Besides offering immersive audio capability, this new technology allows viewers to customize the audio playback of the television or other devices. Read More →

Searching for Life in the Alpha Centauri System

Alpha Centauri

An international team has discovered that biopigments of plants, so-called biological photosynthetic pigments, leave behind unique traces in the light they reflect. Prof. Dr. Svetlana Berdyugina from the Institute of Physics of the University of Freiburg and the Freiburg Kiepenheuer Institute for Solar Physics studied these biosignatures together with researchers from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, USA, and the University of Aarhus, Denmark, with the help of polarization filters. If biopigments were present as a sign of life on a planet, they would leave behind a detectable polarized signature in the reflected light. The scientists have now published their findings in the International Journal of Astrobiology. Read More →

Where Memory is Encoded and Retrieved


Are the same regions and even the same cells of the brain area called hippocampus involved in encoding and retrieving memories or are different areas of this structure engaged? This question has kept neuroscientists busy for a long time. Researchers at the Mercator Research Group “Structure of Memory” at RUB have now found out that the same brain cells exhibit activity in both processes. They have published their results in the journal “Hippocampus” (citation below). Read More →