Posts about Germany

Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2008

photos of Harald zur Hausen, Françoise Barré-Sinoussi and Luc Montagnier

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for 2008 with one half to Harald zur Hausen for his discovery of “human papilloma viruses causing cervical cancer” and the other half jointly to Françoise Barré-Sinoussi and Luc Montagnier for their discovery of “human immunodeficiency virus.”

Harald zur Hausen went against current dogma and postulated that oncogenic human papilloma virus (HPV) caused cervical cancer, the second most common cancer among women. He realized that HPV-DNA could exist in a non-productive state in the tumours, and should be detectable by specific searches for viral DNA. He found HPV to be a heterogeneous family of viruses. Only some HPV types cause cancer. His discovery has led to characterization of the natural history of HPV infection, an understanding of mechanisms of HPV-induced carcinogenesis and the development of prophylactic vaccines against HPV acquisition.

Françoise Barré-Sinoussi and Luc Montagnier discovered human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Virus production was identified in lymphocytes from patients with enlarged lymph nodes in early stages of acquired immunodeficiency, and in blood from patients with late stage disease. They characterized this retrovirus as the first known human lentivirus based on its morphological, biochemical and immunological properties. HIV impaired the immune system because of massive virus replication and cell damage to lymphocytes. The discovery was one prerequisite for the current understanding of the biology of the disease and its antiretroviral treatment.

Related: 2007 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine2006 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

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Wind Power Provided Over 1% of Global Electricity in 2007

graph of global installed wind power capacity

Data from World Wind Energy Association, for installed Mega Watts of global wind power capacity in 2007. 19,696 MW of capacity were added in 2007, bringing the total to 93,849 MW. Europe accounts for 61% of installed capacity, Germany accounts for 24% and the USA 18%.

The graph shows the top 10 producers (with the exceptions of Denmark and Portugal) and includes Japan (which is 13th).

Related: USA Wind Power Installed Capacity 1981 to 2005Wind Power has the Potential to Produce 20% of Electricity by 2030Top 12 Manufacturing Countries in 2007Sails for Modern Cargo ShipsMIT’s Energy ‘Manhattan Project’

Symptom of America’s Decline in Particle Physics

Land Of Big Science

Probing more deeply than ever before into the stuff of the universe requires some big hardware. It also requires the political will to lavish money on a project that has no predictable practical return, other than prestige and leadership in the branch of science that delivered just about every major technology of the past hundred years.

Those advances came, in large measure, from the United States. The coming decades may be different.

A third of the scientists working at the LHC hail from outside the 20 states that control CERN. America has contributed 1,000 or so researchers, the largest single contingent from any non-CERN nation.

The U.S. contribution amounts to $500 million—barely 5 percent of the bill. The big bucks have come from the Europeans. Germany is picking up 20 percent of the tab, the British are contributing 17 percent, and the French are giving 14 percent.

The most worrying prospect is that scientists from other countries, who used to flock to the United States to be where the action is, are now heading to Europe instead.

This is a point I have made before. The economic benefits of investing in science are real. The economic benefits of having science and engineering centers of excellence in your country are real. That doesn’t mean you automatically gain economic benefit but it is a huge advantage and opportunity if you act intelligently to make it pay off.

Related: Invest in Science for a Strong EconomyDiplomacy and Science ResearchAsia: Rising Stars of Science and EngineeringBrain Drain Benefits to the USA Less Than They Could Beposts on funding science explorationposts on basic researchAt the Heart of All Matter

Best Research University Rankings – 2008

The annual ranking of research Universities are available from Shanghai’s Jiao Tong University. The methodology values publications and faculty awards which provides a better ranking of research (rather than teaching). Results from the 2008 rankings of Top 500 Universities worldwide, country representation of the top schools:

location Top 100 % of World
% of World GDP % of top 500
USA 54     4.6%   27.2%  31.6%
United Kingdom 11  0.9  4.9 8.3
Germany   6  1.3  6.0 8.0
Japan   4  2.0  9.0 6.2
Canada   4  0.5  2.6 4.2
Sweden   4  0.1  0.8 2.2
France   3  0.8  4.6 4.6
Switzerland   3  0.1  0.8 1.6
Australia   3  0.3  1.6 3.0
Netherlands   2  0.2  1.4 2.4
Denmark   2  0.1  0.6 0.8
Finland   1  0.1  0.4 1.2
Norway   1  0.1  0.7 0.8
Israel   1  0.1  0.3 1.2
Russia   1  2.2  2.0 0.4
China  20.5  6.6 6.0
India  17.0  1.9 0.4

There is little change in most of the data from last year, which I think is a good sign, it wouldn’t make much sense to have radical shifts over a year in these rankings. Japan lost 2 schools in the top 100, France lost 1. Denmark (Aarhus University) and Australia (University of Sydney) gained 1. Last year there was a tie so there were 101 schools in the top 100.

The most dramatic data I noticed is China’s number of top 500 schools went from 14 to 30, which made me a bit skeptical of what caused that quick change. Looking more closely last year they reported the China top 500 totals as (China 14, China-Taiwan 6 and China-Hong Kong 5). That still gives them an impressive gain of 5 schools.

Singapore has 1 in the 102-151 range. Taiwan has 1 ranked in the 152-200 range, as do Mexico, Korea and Brazil. China has 9 in the 201-302 range (including 3 in Hong Kong). India has 2 in the 303-401 range.

University of Wisconsin – Madison is 17th again 🙂 My father taught there while I grew up.
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Werner Heisenberg

photo of Werner Heisenberg

Read a very nice biography from Center for History of Physics of the American Institute of Physics for Werner Heisenberg, the founder of quantum mechanics, and the Heisenberg uncertainty principle:

Heisenberg set himself the task of finding the new quantum mechanics upon returning to Göttingen from Copenhagen in April 1925. Inspired by Bohr and his assistant, H.A. Kramers, in Copenhagen, Pauli in Hamburg, and Born in Göttingen, Heisenberg’s intensive struggle over the following months to achieve his goal has been well documented by historians. Since the electron orbits in atoms could not be observed, Heisenberg tried to develop a quantum mechanics without them.

He relied instead on what can be observed, namely the light emitted and absorbed by the atoms. By July 1925 Heisenberg had an answer, but the mathematics was so unfamiliar that he was not sure if it made any sense. Heisenberg handed a paper on the derivation to his mentor, Max Born, before leaving on a month-long lecture trip to Holland and England and a camping trip to Scandinavia with his youth-movement group. After puzzling over the derivation, Born finally recognized that the unfamiliar mathematics was related to the mathematics of arrays of numbers known as “matrices.” Born sent Heisenberg’s paper off for publication. It was the breakthrough to quantum mechanics.

Related: 1932 Nobel Prize in Physicsphoto, 1927Uncertainty: Einstein, Heisenberg, Bohr, and the Struggle for the Soul of Science by David Lindley – 2007 Nobel Prize in Physicsposts on physics

Germany Looking to Kindergarten for Engineering Future

German groups seek next crop of engineers in the kindergarten

Germany’s shortage of engineers has become so acute that some of its leading companies are turning to kindergartens to guarantee future supplies.

Groups such as Siemens and Bosch are among hundreds of companies giving materials and money to kindergartens to try to interest children as young as three in technology and science.

Many European countries from Switzerland to Spain suffer shortages of graduates. But the problem is especially acute in Germany, renowned as a land of engineering. German companies have 95,000 vacancies for engineers and only about 40,000 are trained, according to the engineers’ association.

“It is a new development in that we have seen we need to start very early with children. Starting at school is not good enough – we need to help them to understand as early as possible how things work,” said Maria Schumm-Tschauder, head of Siemens’ Generation21 education programme.

Siemens has provided about 3,000 “discovery boxes” filled with science experiments for three- to six-year-olds to kindergartens throughout Germany, at a cost to the company of €500 (£395) a box. It also trains kindergarten teachers on how to use them as well as providing similar boxes around the world to pre-schools from China and South Africa to Ireland and Colombia.

Related: Fun k-12 Science and Engineering LearningMiddle School EngineersSarah, aged 3, Learns About SoapLego LearningRanking Universities WorldwideScience Toys You Can Make With Your Kids

Video Cat Cam

I first wrote about the Cool Cat Cam about a year ago. Next, I interviewed the cat cam engineer. And
a few months ago I posted some photos by Fritz the Cat. Now enjoy some video catcat webcasts: Fritz in Aktion mit Catcam mit MusikCatcam Smaka takes photos/Video!Cat wears spy camera, makes filmMr. Lee CatCam im MDR Aussenseiter-Spitzenreiter And then order your cat cam.

Germany Bans Chemicals Linked to Bee Deaths

Germany bans chemicals linked to honeybee devastation

Germany has banned a family of pesticides that are blamed for the deaths of millions of honeybees. The German Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL) has suspended the registration for eight pesticide seed treatment products used in rapeseed oil and sweetcorn.

The move follows reports from German beekeepers in the Baden-Württemberg region that two thirds of their bees died earlier this month following the application of a pesticide called clothianidin. “It’s a real bee emergency,” said Manfred Hederer, president of the German Professional Beekeepers’ Association. “50-60% of the bees have died on average and some beekeepers have lost all their hives.” Tests on dead bees showed that 99% of those examined had a build-up of clothianidin.

The company says an application error by the seed company which failed to use the glue-like substance that sticks the pesticide to the seed, led to the chemical getting into the air.

Related: The Study of Bee Colony Collapses ContinuesBye Bye BeesScientists Search for Clues To Bee Mystery

Jobs Increasing for German Engineers

Growth in jobs rises for German engineers

Employment in Germany’s engineering industry is expanding at its fastest rate in 40 years, highlighting the strength of Europe’s largest economy as global financial storms intensify.

Jobs in the sector – the backbone of Germany’s manufacturing industry – rose by 27,000 in January, the highest monthly increase since the 1960s, according to figures published on Tuesday by Gesamtmetall, the engineering employers’ federation. Some companies reported losing production because they could not fill vacancies quickly enough.

He said that about one in eight of the approximately 6,100 engineering companies were having difficulties in recruiting qualified engineers and mechanics, with this in some cases leading to production cutbacks. “Many companies misjudged how quickly the economy would recover and therefore failed to take on sufficient trainees,” Mr Vajna said. There also remained a shortage of engineering graduates, he added.

Related: Germany’s Science ChancellorTop 10 Manufacturing Countries 2006Best Research University Rankings (2007)Country H-index Rank for Science Publications

Photos by Fritz the Cat

Fritz the cat - photographer

fritz-cam by Fritz the cat:

My name is Fritz [photo of me on the left] and I live at 23 Cat Street [in Germany]. My mistress is an artist, and now it’s my turn to show what I can do. Since September 2007 we’ve owned a Mr-Lee-Catcam

Third time lucky. I went for a long walk with the camera. Perhaps a bit too long, because she was looking for me everywhere. Anyway, she was very pleased when I came home with the camera and a mouse. I’d taken over 200 photos while I was out. Unfortunately the battery gave up the ghost before the final capture … of the mouse, I mean.

Related: The Engineer That Made Your Cat a PhotographerIncredible Cat CamMr. Lee CatCamLeaping Tigress

photo by cat photo by Fritz the cat

See many more great photos by fritz at fritz-cam.

Ranking Universities Worldwide

The Webometrics Ranking of World Universities provides another estimate of the top universities. The methodology is far ideal however I still find it interesting. The various attempts to rank schools can provide a general idea of impact of various institutions (though the measures are fairly crude). Still a sensible picture (especially at the country level) can emerge. And the various rankings should be a able to track shifts in the most influential institutions and relative country strength over time. How quickly those rankings track changes will vary depending on the measures used. I would imagine most will lag the “real” changes as it is easy to imagine many measures that would lag. Still, as I have said before, I expect the USA will lose in relative ranking compared to China, India, Japan, Singapore, Mexico…

The ranking methodology used here weighed rankings in: Jiao Tong academic rankings, Essential Science Indicators, Google Scholar, Alexa (a measure of web site visits to universities) and The Times Higher World University Rankings.

Country representation of the top universities (number of top schools in each country):

location Webometrics
Top 100
Jiao Tong
Top 101
% of World
% of World GDP*
USA 53 54   4.6%   30.4%
Germany 10   5  1.3   6.3
Canada   8   4  0.5   2.5
United Kingdom   6 10  0.9   5.0
Australia   3   2  0.3   1.6
Japan   1   6 2.0 10.3
The rest of Europe 16 13
Brazil   1   0   2.8   1.8
Mexico   1   0   1.6   1.7
Israel   0   1   0.1   0.3

* IMF, World Economic Outlook Database, September 2006 (2005 data)
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