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RDT info logoMagazine on European Research N° 51 - December 2006
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 HOME
 TABLE OF CONTENTS
 EDITORIAL
 Man and machine: new communications
 E-inclusion, heads or tails
 Biotechnology: growing in popularity
 "A straight-talking scientist can create quite a stir"
 Diabetes + obesity = diabesity
 The history of the yeast genome
 Rebel with multiple causes
 On the trail of the sixties
 Nobel prize winners to be
 COMMUNICATING SCIENCE
 IN BRIEF
 PUBLICATIONS
 AGENDA

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SCIENCE WITHIN ARM'S REACH Version imprimable


An expert from CERN at your disposal

The ALICE time projection chamber
Peter Glassel, Technical Coordinator for the ALICE time projection chamber, poses at the centre of this TPC, completed in June 2006.

© CERN

Why are subatomic particles such as hadrons used in the treatment of cancer? What is the difference between dark matter and dark energy? How is the vacuum created in particle accelerators?

What can we expect of new physics theories, such as string theory or supersymmetry? All questions that centre on research carried out at CERN can be e-mailed (1) to the scientists who work at this temple of fundamental research. It is simply recommended that first of all you take a look at the FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions), where the answer may already be available.

Or else you can, by letting yourself be guided easily around the CERN site, assess the importance of the LHC (Large Hadron Collider), the particle accelerator that will examine matter more extensively than ever before, and which is due to be commissioned in 2007. Scientists are looking forward to clarification regarding the Universe – why, for example, does matter dominate antimatter, and how did matter evolve just after the Big Bang? Between now and then, several experiments will test the LHC equipment, not in an accelerator, but in natural space, using cosmic rays. Consequently, ALICE (cf. photo) should allow for studying the quark and gluon plasma more closely, this being a state of matter that prevailed just after the Big Bang.

(1) ask.expert.service@cern.ch

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Making the Modern World

How did we reach this point? That could be one of the questions answered by this British site, which is essentially based on the knowledge and picture collection of the Science Museum in London. Here, it is possible to delve into the origins of science and technology, from the 18th century to the most recent discoveries. Although the red/yellow/black home page may appear more functional than seductive, all you have to do is click on one of the six topics offered in order to enter a feast of fascinating images and stories.

82 Rich media scenes illustrate a series of discoveries and innovations – the DNA double helix, radar and rockets, the Apollo missions, but also the revolution in the kitchen or new teaching methods.
Painting of George Walker
Locomotive hauling coal wagons near Leeds. Watercolour by George Walker (1814).

© Science Museum/Science Museum and Society Picture Library


116 Icons of inventions are grouped together under science, technology and medicine. They allow you to linger over the oldest scanners, the first microscopes, stethoscopes, pacemakers, etc. Each image of the object, which speaks volumes, is accompanied by a short text.

Eight Guided tours concentrate more on the relationship between science and society, such as the role of women in scientific discoveries.

25 pages Stories focus on major innovative moments: development of the coal and steel industry, expansion of railways or aviation, First World War, environmental awareness, etc.

19 Learning modules allow you to broaden your knowledge of the different exact disciplines (biology, chemistry, mathematics) and human disciplines (psychology, history, geography).

402 Everyday life objects are shown to us in their context – from pipes, spectacles and fob-watches which were produced in around 1750, to the present-day disposable razors, contraceptive pills or ballpoint pens.

Based on a socio-historic vision, Making the Modern World can also be consulted on the basis of a ‘timeline’ clearly showing the evolution of a world that technology never ceases to infiltrate.

Images of researchers/Images of research

Anna-Maria Lennon
Ana-Maria Lennon, Head of the Protease and immunity team.

© Jérôme Merli
In Paris, in the open air, hanging on the external grilles of the Curie Institute, you can discover twinned images. Portraits of researchers (very sombre, in black and white) sit alongside scientific images of their work on cancer. The surprises offered by the world of cells form amazing abstractions. The faces reflect the intensity of the questions posed, the hope of discovery, hesitation.

All these young researchers (on average 33 years of age) have, for a period of five years, benefited from the independent scientific status afforded by the Institute. These portraits are signed Jérôme Merli (also 33 years of age), this being his first work in the laboratory, who has identified unexpected collusion within them. “I had a picture in my mind of the researchers in their nice white coats, inward-looking and cold, withdrawn, wrapped up in their uncertain thoughts, searching for the key that opens the door to knowledge”, he says. “The image showed me something quite different. I discovered smiling personalities, fully accessible, calm, mild-mannered teachers. During our various discussions, I was unable to prevent myself drawing a parallel between their work and my own. Both of us with our eyes to the Leica, our fingers resting on the lens, trying to adjust to the infinity setting, with a view to discovering how it all works, to learn how to discover the complexity that is life…” A very good idea for bringing scientists – and the progress made in science – out into the open.

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  • 20 photographs in the open air - Curie Campus railings, Rue d’Ulm and Rue Pierre-et-Marie Curie, Paris 5ème, until 15.12.06

Tom Tits the Magician

Tom Tits Experiment
A major permanent exhibition, peppered with experiences where the visitor is more often than not recommended to touch everything, interactive teaching exhibitions (machines, the human body, chemistry), a planetarium, a scientific amusement park, an area for the presentation of research for the disabled, a library, conference centres, a theatre stage all of this complemented by an Internet site that allows whole classes of interactive virtual tours.

Tom Tits Experiment

Situated at Södertälje, 35 km south of Stockholm, the Tom Tits Experiment receives 350,000 visitors a year, half of whom are children. Considered one of the most fascinating science centres in the Old World, it has just won the Micheletti Award conferred by the European Museum Forum association. This reward is explained by its cheerful teaching methods, the creation of a nursery school in this stimulating environment, the attention paid to senior citizens and the disabled, and team motivation.
Tom Tits is marketing its vast experience and leasing its exhibitions on a turnkey basis, and has a consultancy department available to those who would like to create a science centre. Its success, as well as its services and by-products, allows it to operate almost entirely using its own funds, with public aid accounting for just 10% of its budget.

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Press and science

Surveying of the “pros”
The field of science does not escape the constraints of the press, and the major pressure placed on its journalists stems from the quest for the scoop: becoming aware, before their colleagues, of any research and innovations that may be of interest to the public. This is the impression felt by most professionals, on all continents and in all kinds of media, who have replied to a survey conducted by the EurekAlert! (USA) press agency and by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Using specific questionnaires, this survey questioned 614 journalists and 445 press officers – PIOs (Public Information Officers). Their replies have been divided into two groups: American professionals (46% of the journalists and 70% of the PIOs) and the rest (referred to as “internationals”). In Europe, the results were presented at the Euroscience Open Forum (ESOF 2006) in Munich, during a session under the somewhat provocative title of: Myths of science: Glowing monkeys, wonder dogs, and more.

Another difficulty, raised jointly by both journalists and PIOs, consists of discovering researchers capable of explaining their work and their field in comprehensible terms – and, preferably, in several languages. The question of content is coupled with that of image (where to obtain quality scientific photographic or audio-visual material). Other challenges are more specific to the different professions. With PIOs, it is a matter of convincing journalists, who are often swamped with topics, to get interested in the information they wish to see published. For journalists, it is not always easy to evaluate the reliability and interest of the work put forward by researchers.

And as for the public, what do they think? In the United States, as elsewhere, the most highly valued fields are medicine and health. North Americans are keen on life sciences, psychology and neurosciences, but they are often less drawn to environmental matters than elsewhere in the world. As for the erosion of trust in science, which is regularly identified in numerous studies, this would appear to be mainly due to the overly intensive press coverage afforded certain subjects. Although 90% of the PIOs believe that researchers should make their work more widely known, there are almost as many who state that they should refrain from “overselling” themselves and getting involved in advertising hype. Presenting this study in Munich, Ginger Pinholster, from the AAAS, pointed out that, even if this work was not based on the most rigorous scientific methods, it afforded a rich snapshot of information relating to media coverage of science and technology.


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