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2 | 2019

Jun 05, 2019

Hiding in Plain Sight

Spray: This illustration shows the Cassini space probe crossing the fountains of water vapor at Enceladus’s south pole.

The Cassini probe was launched to study Saturn, its rings, and its largest moon, Titan. But then, the icy moon of Enceladus crossed its path – with unexpected consequences for research.

The thick layer of ice reflects the sun’s light, leaving the entire surface of Saturn’s moon Enceladus wrapped in gleaming white. Averaging nearly 500 kilometers in diameter, the icy moon is one of more than 60 moons around Saturn. For many years, it has been the subject of research for Frank Postberg, who became a professor of planetary sciences at Freie Universität Berlin in October 2018.

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Grain – Ready for Climate Change?

A tractor in a field of wheat.

With a genetic trick, biologists from Freie Universität Berlin are making barley plants more drought-tolerant.

Parched fields, shriveled cobs of corn, and grain that withers on the stalk. The summer of 2018 really packed a punch in Europe: High temperatures and low rainfall for long periods caused dramatic crop losses in many places. The affected farmers aren’t alone in wondering what will happen when extreme summers become more common in the course of climate change. You can’t wave a magic wand to get enough rainfall – but maybe plants could adapt to drier soil?

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Dangerous Loudspeakers

Yes to a free Internet, no to bots: Thousands of people demonstrated recently against the upload filters proposed as part of the EU’s copyright law reform initiative, which has been adopted in the meantime.

Social networks are home to an increasing number of bots – computer programs that pretend to be people. They are also used for propaganda purposes.

Digitalization has brought change to democratic societies, in some cases radical change. Political parties, media outlets, and researchers are only now gradually forming an understanding of how the political public sphere forms on the Internet, how content is debated, and how electoral decisions are made. At the same time, there is growing concern that digital channels can be used to manipulate public sentiment toward specific aims.

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More than Words

A tribal chieftain in the South Pacific nation of Vanuatu communicates using signs drawn in the sand. Of the approximately 7,000 languages spoken worldwide, more than one-third are viewed as endangered.

About 700 languages are spoken in Latin America – their continued existence is threatened. Linguistics professor Uli Reich studies the diversity and richness of the languages of indigenous peoples in this area.

Jaguar, piranha, açaí – all of these are words that originally entered English from South America. They are borrowed from Guaraní, one of several hundred indigenous languages that are still spoken today by millions in Latin America.

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Listening to Your Gut

Between villi and crypts: The intestinal flora has a crucial influence on the immune system. At the Long Night of the Sciences, visitors are invited to walk into a model of the intestine for an inside look at the organ.

Andreas Diefenbach, a microbiologist and immunologist at Charité, studies the role of the microbiome in the immune system.

Alongside the human genome, the human microbiome is a subject of increasing focus in research. The totality of all microbes that live in and on the human body evidently plays a much greater role in the emergence of disease than was previously thought.

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Academics in Solidarity

The program connects refugee researchers with colleagues who are already established in their fields.

German Federal Ministry of Education and Research supports nationwide mentoring program based at Freie Universität Berlin for researchers in exile.

Reintegrating exiled researchers into the international academic community is at the heart of the mentoring program set up at Freie Universität Berlin and funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. The “Academics in Solidarity” program has received 600,000 euros funding for the next three years. Based at the university’s Center for International Cooperation, the program seeks to establish a solidarity network for researchers in exile across Germany. The project also plans to extend the network to include partners in Lebanon and Jordan.

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Global Narratives

Radha Hegde, a professor at New York University ’s department of Media, Culture and Communication.

Media and communication scholar Radha S. Hegde, from New York University, is teaching this summer semester at Freie Universität as the Dahlem International Network Gender Studies visiting Professor.

Migration is a divisive and sensational topic on the world stage today. The politics of media representations of migration and the use of media by diasporic groups are both the focus of Radha Hegde’s research. A professor at New York University ’s department of Media, Culture and Communication, Hegde has been teaching and writing on issues concerning gender, media, and global migration. This summer semester, she is teaching a graduate and an undergraduate seminar on these topics at the Institute for Media and Communication Studies at Freie Universität. Collaborating with media scholar Margreth Lünenborg, professor at Freie Universität, Hegde is laying the groundwork for a global project on gender and social media activism.

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