Atomium Culture

Atomium Culture

The Permanent Platform of Atomium Culture brings together some of the most authoritative universities, newspapers and businesses in Europe to increase the movement of knowledge: across borders, across sectors and to the public at large.
La plataforma permanente Atomium Culture reúne a las universidades, periódicos y empresas más prestigiosos de Europa para promover el flujo del conocimiento más allá de fronteras, entre sectores y hacia el público en general.

About us

Leading young European researchers have been selected by European research universities and the Scientific and Editorial Committees of AC to write an article about their work and the potential impact of this.

Developing Students’ Mathematical Reasoning: A Challenging Task

Por: | 27 de junio de 2013

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Mathematical reasoning constitutes a powerful personal and social tool. Today’s society, characterized by high demands, competition and constant change related to new scientific and technological developments, requires individuals who, in addition to knowledge, have the ability to solve the challenging problems they face in their lives. Many of those challenges are based in mathematics. It is the role of educators to instill mathematical reasoning abilities, thereby providing students with mathematical tools and processes required to solve everyday problems at home, during leisure and in various fields of work.

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Fishing for Mycotoxins in Food

Por: | 24 de junio de 2013

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An example of European consumer protection policy boosting scientific progress.

Usually encountered as a cover of white, bluegreen or black fur over uneaten fruit or perhaps a leftover slice of pizza, moulds are more associated with a spoiled appetite than a useful part of the natural world. Yet their ecological role is quite positive: together with worms, insects and bacteria, moulds are responsible for the recycling of natural wastes, like dead plant material or animal carcasses. The continual development of life on earth essentially depends on this reprocessing of organic matter.

However, the natural recycling business is not spared from rivalries. In the fight for nutrition and natural habitats, bacteria are often competitors rather than co-workers. In order to maintain the upper hand, moulds utilise a form of chemical warfare: by means of their secondary metabolism, they produce biologically active organic molecules, which are subsequently released into the environment. Some of these agents—for example, Penicillin G—are well-suited to use as drugs as a result of their antibiotic effects. However, we also know of more than 400 toxic compounds, the so-called mycotoxins. These metabolites are often not only acutely but also chronically toxic. This means that they can impair physiological development (teratogenicity) or cause cancer (carcinogenicity), for instance. In many cases, even the smallest dosages suffice to cause such deleterious effects.

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A Life-Enhancing Liquor

Por: | 19 de junio de 2013

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Molecules in the embryonic brain liquor may be used as therapeutic agents to increase our quality of life, and their study in embryos is paving the way for a more precise analysis of the effect of drugs on brain development, a goal of gynaecological medicine.

One of the most fascinating structures of living beings is the brain, and the human brain is by far the most complex in terms of structure and function. As in all vertebrates, it allows us to receive information from the environment, process it, interpret it according to our needs, and respond to it appropriately. A social species, we humans have not only developed consciousness, but—a key milestone in our evolution—become a species that also builds civilizations. Many of these civilizations have grown up next to water, a fluid environment that has worked as a vehicle of cohesion and transport, favouring the survival of people living along its shores. For the Egyptians it was the Nile; for the Greeks and Phoenicians, it was the Mediterranean; and more recently for many nations on that continent, it was the great European rivers. It is a curious fact that our brain, like that of other vertebrates, is also organized from its embryonic origins and throughout adult life around an extraordinarily dynamic and complex fluid: liquor cerebrospinalis, better known as cerebrospinal fluid (CSF).

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Tree Rings, the Barcodes of Nature, Illuminate Art History

Por: | 17 de junio de 2013

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We are all familiar with the use of barcodes in our daily lives, especially in supermarkets. Tree rings, too, act as a kind of barcode, containing information on the growth conditions of trees. A tree forms a unique sequence of wider and narrower rings, and the widths of these rings are influenced by weather conditions the tree endures each year. Therefore, when researchers possess a long tree ring series with a known date of origin, they can use the ring series as a reference point, comparing parts of it to other similar tree ring patterns and, in doing so, calculate a tree’s age and longevity.

This method of dating wood with dendrochronology (the scientific study of tree rings) has many uses—even, surprisingly, in the field of art history. In earlier centuries, it was a common practice to paint on wooden panels; thin oak planks were glued to form a support for a painting. Tree ring patterns, visible on the edge of such panels, can now tell us whether the dates of the trees used fit with the historical period to which a painting is attributed. This method can be used to confirm the origin of unidentified paintings, or to identify whether a painting is genuine, or a later copy or falsification.

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Governing Fear in the Global Epoch

Por: | 13 de junio de 2013

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Is a government of fear still the aim of politics or is fear governing our days? Answering this question is one of the most important issues for contemporary political theory. The spectre of fear and the need of a broader security to fight this spectre is dominating public debate and policies in many western countries nowadays. This situation is suggesting that we are living in democracies of fear rather than in democracies of freedom. Do we really have to choose between freedom and security? Is this the image of our present? I believe not.

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Perseverance Required: Surface Science

Por: | 10 de junio de 2013

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Have you ever heard of catalysis? One aspect of catalysis that you probably are aware of is the catalytic converter in your car that cleans up exhaust gases. An automotive catalytic converter contains a considerable amount of catalyst materials, and chemical reactions occur at the surfaces of these materials. The function of this part is to convert unwanted, poisonous chemicals released from the motor into harmless gases such as water and carbon dioxide.

But this is not the only place where catalysis plays an important role in your life. Without catalysis you wouldn’t be living the life you live. Catalysis is responsible not only for cleaning up exhaust gases from cars and industrial plants but also for making possible the production of a vast majority of chemicals. And modern life is highly dependent on chemicals. Think of what you’ve been doing today—perhaps you put on a polyester jumper in the morning (it’s made from chemical substances), and went to work by car or bus (which run on a specific chemical, petrol), and right before lunch you took a headache pill (made from chemicals). All of these are made with the help of catalysts.

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Disasters and the Evidence Aid Project

Por: | 06 de junio de 2013

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A tragic reality of our world is that disasters will continue to strike, affecting more and more people and resulting in more and more pain, suffering and death. Incomplete sentences, such as At … on … a magnitude … earthquake hit …, killing … thousand, injuring … thousand more and making … thousand homeless, are waiting to be completed, once the time, date, severity, location and number of people are determined. Subsequent recovery from such a disaster depends upon the making of good decisions and wise choices; science is seen as vital to both those actions. The Evidence Aid project ( is a new approach to providing information on disaster-related decisions, choices, and actions. This project helps to deliver a key resource—knowledge—that can make a massive difference when responding to disasters.

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Counting on the Tree of Life

Por: | 04 de junio de 2013

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An octopus can count; some birds can count; you can count; but is it possible that your DNA can also count? Can this ability be related to the origin of life on earth? Recent studies I have performed with Diego L. Gonzalez (Institute for Microelectronics and Microsystems, Italian National Research Council) and with Rodolfo Rosa (Statistics Department, University of Bologna), show that this apparently innocent question might lead to a significant advance in our understanding of how life manages genetic information. In brief, this management consists of three main steps, 1) replication: the DNA molecule (where all our genetic information is stored, like the hard disk of a PC) is duplicated just before cell division; 2) transcription: one strand of the double helix of DNA is copied forming a single strand RNA; 3) translation: the mRNA (messenger RNA) is translated into proteins. This latter step is performed using the translation table known as the genetic code. In this way, each codon, a piece of mRNA consisting of three consecutive bases, is translated into one of the 20 amino acids that constitute the building blocks of proteins. There are four such bases in RNA, Uracil, Cytosine, Adenine, and Guanine (U, C, A, G).

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Living a Lie?

Por: | 01 de junio de 2013

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Passing, or concealing an aspect of ourselves that might be regarded as a “weakness”, is a phenomenon that affects many of us—in real life and in literature.

Despite increasing efforts to fight homophobia in football, as yet no (male) German football professional has come out as gay. One only needs to look at cases where players did out themselves to know why: As the first active player, Justin Fashanu had talked openly about his homosexuality in 1990 but had to face harsh criticism and insults. When later he was accused of sexual assault on a minor, Fashanu committed suicide for fear of not getting a fair trial. Against this background, the decision to keep one’s sexual orientation secret is quite understandable. 

Such a tendency to conceal a quality that might be perceived as a blemish or flaw is relatively common, all the more so in competitive contexts (for example, on the job) or where there is a lot of pressure to conform (for instance, within peer groups). Sociologist Erving Goffman speaks of a stigmatised identity when an individual fails to live up to social expectations in some way. Such a stigma can consist in bodily features, in certain traits of character or in other qualities such as age, race or religion. What counts as “stigma” and what as “normal”, Goffman asserts, is nothing that inheres within an attribute itself but is always relative to context: “For example, in an important sense there is only one complete unblushing male in America: a young, married, urban, northern, heterosexual Protestant father of college education, fully employed, of good complexion, weight and height and a recent record in sports.” In other words, “almost everyone falls short [of social standards] at some stage of his life”.

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El País

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