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This page was published on 29/04/2005
Published: 29/04/2005

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Published: 29 April 2005  
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Tracing science from memory

‘There is nothing worse than forgetting', or so the saying goes. But the new ‘Science and Memory' special edition of RTD info, the EU's flagship research magazine, adds its own special touches to this. We learn that science is embedded in culture and history and about the nuts and bolts of memory – and that the Universe, human evolution and animal DNA tell us more about the relationship between memory and science.

Don't forget EU research is waging a war on neurodegenerative diseases through Networks of Excellence like the European Alzheimer's Disease Consortium. © Research DG

Don't forget EU research is waging a war on neurodegenerative diseases through Networks of Excellence like the European Alzheimer's Disease Consortium.
© Research DG
The April special edition of RTD info takes the reader on an unexpected journey back to the future. Today's scientists can be likened to modern-day sleuths, uncovering traces and putting together the evidence of our past – from the unfolding drama of our Cosmos and planet to biological evolution. 

“Memory is everywhere and RTD info does not claim to have pursued all its meanderings,” notes the editorial. “There is nothing in this issue about the subconscious, the construction of memories, pharmacology, olfactory or spatial memory,” it goes on.

But it does provide an imaginative and forceful account of how science and memory relate in different contexts and what European projects are doing to uncover the truth about our past and the keys to the future.    

Universal memory
How was the Cosmos born and what exactly is the Big Bang? What part did Einstein play in our present understanding of the Universe and how does quantum physics come into the equation? Can science ever fully understand our physical history? These and other questions were put to Edgard Gunzig of the Free University Brussels (BE) in RTD info's feature story ‘The Universe in Reverse'.

“Traditional cosmology, from Copernicus and Newton to the beginning of the 20th century, sought to describe the Universe without posing, in scientific terms, the question of its origins,” the article begins. This was a “matter for God”, it continues. Bit it all changed when physicists began to understand – namely, US astronomer Edwin Hubble in 1929 – that the Universe was evolutionary and, therefore, had a history and perhaps even a memory of its own.

RTD info shows readers the connection between changes in biodiversity and human activity. “The study of former ecosystems is shedding light on present extinctions,” it notes. And we learn that the “key to the future lies in the past”, as the magazine explores how palaeoclimatology enables us to understand present climate change by studying marine sediments, ice cores, lake beds and so on.

Stories in the special edition cover science and its association with culture and history, the nuts and bolts of how memory is formed, what technologists are doing with artificial memory and the route being taken to improve data storage and use in, for example, e-biology.

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