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.

Moving Data Faster and More Accurately

Por: | 29 de julio de 2013

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By Eugenio Montefusco, University of Rome La Sapienza

Most people who have a passion for maths, who are charmed by its universal language, fall in love with this utopian but imaginary world, an unbelievably beautiful world filled with never-ending variety of phenomena. This world is interesting also because it represents many aspects of the real world, helping us to understand some physical or biological processes.

My research deals with problems in communications engineering. For a mathematician, even the day-to-day life poses interesting and challenging questions. For example, it is possible to exploit maths for every estimate or forecast in any given sector. Over the last few years, I have been working with mathematical models that describe the propagation of light waves through optical fibres. Every impulse constitutes one bit, the fundamental unit of information. From a mathematical point of view, an impulse is only a particular function with a fixed shape. The cables used in communication systems are made of special fibres to transmit voluminous data over long distances: telecommunications engineering tries to improve this technology by finding ways to transmit information faster and more accurately.

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Is Geography Dead? … And Would It Matter If It Is?

Por: | 25 de julio de 2013

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By Akos Jakobi, Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest

Extreme terms such as ‘the end of geography’ and the ‘death of distance’ vie with ‘the revenge of distance’ and ‘geography returns’ in attracting attention to an intriguing duality: the effect of the information society on our concept of some aspects of geography. What is behind the debate?

On one hand some people claim that new information and communication technologies – such as the internet and mobile phones – mean that many everyday troubles originating from spatiality have simply disappeared. After all, our long-awaited dream of overcoming space may become reality, since we are surrounded by global, readily accessible networks, which make it possible to do more and more activities anywhere. Even at home we can sit in front of the computer and buy goods, speak with distant friends, or perhaps manage business affairs. And who cares where our office is located geographically?

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New Method to Generate Laughlin States with Atomic Systems

Por: | 25 de julio de 2013


By Bibiana Bonmatí, Communication UB, University of Barcelona

In 1998, the Nobel Prize in Physics was conferred to the discovery of a new type of quantum fluid with fractional charge excitations, known as the Laughlin state. The production of this quantum state, which explains the behaviour of electrons in two-dimensional metallic plaques when they are exposed to intense magnetic fields, has been one of the most popular research topics on ultracold and Bose-Einstein condensed atoms for one decade.

Now, a theoretical research developed by researchers from the University of Barcelona and the Institute of Photonic Sciences (ICFO) and published on Nature Communications proposes a method to generate this kind of states in two-dimensional systems of ultracold atoms, with possible applications in quantum computer.

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The Next Frontier of Social Networking

Por: | 22 de julio de 2013

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By Paolo Bellavista, University of Bologna

Researchers at the University of Bologna Working on Resource Sharing in Mobile Environments

Imagine yourself walking around in a foreign city with that nagging need to connect to the Internet—to update your blog, check email, or send a photograph you have just taken to a loved one. You are carrying your mobile phone enabled with GPRS and Bluetooth connectivity but your telecom operator is too expensive to use abroad. It is unfortunate that you are not aware of the free municipal WiFi access point just a few meters away—although your mobile phone is not WiFi enabled, it is sufficient to exploit a Bluetooth+WiFi terminal in your vicinity to relay your message to the free access point. Moreover, there goes a man within your Bluetooth coverage range, with a Bluetooth-enabled laptop, and a flat-rate UMTS subscription that is currently idle, but how do you identify that he is there? Or imagine driving your rented car and searching for parking lots in the city area: the car next to you hosts wireless solutions for point-to-point connectivity (e.g., IEEE802.11p) or for access to municipal wireless mesh (e.g., IEEE802.11s), but how do you exploit the short time when you are in direct range to download exactly what you need?

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Dolls, Candy and Mechanism Design Theory

Por: | 18 de julio de 2013

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Decision makers — including individuals, companies, governments, etc. — are often faced with the problem of allocating a number of indivisible objects among a set of agents. Examples include negotiations for the final disposal of nuclear waste, where the indivisible object is the facility selected for final disposal, the allocation of a limited number of frequency bands mobile telephone use, or, to take a more everyday example, how a father should allocate different dolls between his children. Although the first two examples concern multi-million dollar industries, the basic challenge is the same in all three: how to find a fair principle by which indivisible objects can be allocated among a number of agents given that they each hold private information about their valuation of the objects, and given that they can each act in self-interest? The answer to this question is found in the research area of mechanism design theory, whose founders L. Hurwicz, Maskin E. and R. Meyerson were awarded the 2007 Nobel Prize in Economics.

Let us return to the father’s problem. Say that he has bought one light- and one dark-haired doll to give to his daughters Molly and Allis. He has also bought a bag of candy. Both Molly and Allis want the dark-haired doll. Who should it be given to? The natural solution is to give the child that is assigned the light-haired doll a larger share of the candy bag in compensation for not receiving their preferred choice. But how big should this share be? A first traditional solution is that the father makes a unanimous decision — as would be the case in a centrally managed economy. A second traditional solution is to let the children solve the problem themselves through negotiation — as in a market economy. One problem with the first principle is that the children’s valuation of the dolls in relation to the candy is unknown to the father, which makes it difficult for him to find a solution that satisfies both of the children. The problem with the second principle is that the children may act in self-interest: there are incentives to lie about the true valuation to achieve a better bargain. The basic idea of mechanism design theory is simple: decisions are taken by those who have the most information — as in a market economy — but the rules of the game are determined by a central planner — as in a centrally managed economy.

Pioneering research performed over the past few decades has provided a solution to the above type of allocation problems. The basic idea, described using the above example, is that the central planner (the father) designs two consumption bundles containing an indivisible object (a doll) and a divisible good (the share of the candy bag). The central planner also specifies a maximum limit of the divisible goods than can be included in each bundle. Say, for instance, that the candy bag contains 100 pieces of candy and the bundle with the dark-haired doll can contain at most 30 pieces of candy. Then the agents (Molly and Allis) report how they value the indivisible objects in terms of the divisible goods to the central planner. Say that Molly reports that the dark-haired doll is worth 200 pieces of candy and that the light-haired doll is worth 140 pieces of candy, while Allis values the dark-haired doll at 180 pieces and the light-haired one at 130 pieces. The central planner takes these assessments and then decides the share of the divisible goods in each bundle so that each agent can be assigned a bundle that maximizes the sum of the valuation of the doll and the share of the candy. The central planner also maximizes the payment of the divisible good. In the above example, the unique solution is that Molly would be assigned the dark-haired doll plus 20 pieces of candy, while Allis would be assigned the light-haired doll and 70 pieces of candy. Note that Allis is indifferent between the two bundles (both have the value 200 pieces of candy) and that Molly strictly prefers the bundle designed for her. In this sense the solution is free from envy and can therefore be regarded as fair.

The fundamental advantage with the above allocation mechanism is that it is impossible for any of the agents to gain by reporting incorrect valuations. For example, if Allis falsely reports that her valuation of the dark-haired doll is 220 pieces of candy, the solution is that Molly is assigned the light-haired doll plus 70 pieces of candy, while Allis would get the dark-haried doll plus 10 pieces. But Allis’ true valuation of this bundle is only 190 pieces of candy (180 + 10) which is less than the value 200 she received by telling the truth! Because the problems associated with selfishness and private information are solved, the allocation rule is very attractive. Note, however, that the cost of truth-telling is that some pieces of candy not necessarily are allocated between the agents –in this example, only 90 pieces are allocated.

We might ask why the remaining pieces of candy cannot simply be divided equally between Molly and Allis. Although this seems to be a reasonable idea, a well-known result in the mechanism design literature states that such a modification in general creates incentives for at least one of the agents to report non-truthfully. Hence, there is a fundamental conflict between truth-telling and allocation of all pieces of candy. In this case, this means that the father has to choose between getting an envy-free allocation — which always will be the case when the agent tells the truth — or an allocation where all candy is distributed between his daughters – it is in general impossible to achieve both these objectives.

The father’s problem is clearly irrelevant in a larger perspective. What makes mechanism design theory important is that self-interest and private information is present in most industries, organizations, agencies, etc., and this complicates everyday life allocation problems. The theory can therefore be an important key in order to solve many hard allocation problems in the future.


Tommy Andersson
Lund University

Why Is There Phosphorus in My Mobile Phone?

Por: | 15 de julio de 2013

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The morning rush hour is in full swing and the metro station is crammed with people. I reach for my mobile phone to call work and announce a possible late arrival, but at that moment someone bumps into me and my mobile slips out of my hand. It makes a near perfect somersault, hops down a few stairs and comes to rest at platform level. After having survived numerous such drops this final one proved lethal. I pick up its remains, the plastic shell, the broken display and the battery.

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Art Rocks!

Por: | 11 de julio de 2013

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Art history is helping to date ancient rock art.

Paintings and engravings made by our forebears have been discovered in places all around the world, such as in France, Spain, the Sahara, Australia, and California. Each drawing tells a story; for instance, about the person who drew it, about the animal that is represented, or about the climate or the environment of its time.

A few years ago, during a trip to the Monte Castillo caves in Spain organised by the University of Brussels, I had the opportunity to see real rock art for the first time. Fascinated by the detail of their making, I chose them as the subject for my master’s thesis. Currently, as a doctoral candidate, I am elaborating on this topic further by studying the engravings of north eastern Luxemburg. By defining the age of rock paintings, we are able to illustrate the life of prehistoric peoples a little more and acquire a better understanding of our origins. However, dating rock art has been a struggle for archaeologists ever since the first discoveries in the late 19th century.

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What Is the Abode of Cultural Memory: Land or People?

Por: | 08 de julio de 2013



Does the history of a people stem from the land they live on or from the written words of their predecessors? The latter has, up to now, been taken for granted by literary historians, whereas archaeologists as well as historians of architecture maintain the former. In the study of literature, the nation- and language-based approach is, because of the medium of natural language, the customary answer, but not the only possible one. What if literary history were taken from a regional identity instead of an ethnic-linguistic one? What if a culture studied the interaction between literatures located in the same territory instead of vying for the establishment of national literature?

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The Unknown Western Mediterranean Oscillation

Por: | 04 de julio de 2013

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The weather at any given time and place is the result of complex interactions of many factors, not all of which are local. The difference in atmospheric pressure between Ponta Delgada (the Azores) and Reykjavik (Iceland), for instance, can affect the weather all over western Europe. Such links, which can stretch across continents, are what climatologists call teleconnections. A teleconnection is a remote connection (just as television is, in a way, remote vision) between the atmosphere and the ocean in regions distant from each other. The most important teleconnection is El Niño, not only because of its impact on climate but also because those impacts are widely reported in the media. To capture and characterize the climate and its variations, we climatologists need numbers, and teleconnections are therefore expressed by means of numerical indices. Although these indices represent a highly complex reality, they can be easily calculated. For example, simply by subtracting the atmospheric pressure at sea level at one point from that at another, each representing different atmospheric conditions, the two geographically distant points can be connected— hence the name teleconnection. The difference in pressure between Ponta Delgada and Reykjavik mentioned above forms the teleconnection index known as the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO), which regulates the climate of most of Europe. These indices are useful in establishing the behaviour and, most important, the variability of different climatic elements, particularly precipitation.

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Sustainable Mobility and Energy Systems

Por: | 01 de julio de 2013

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Quality of Power or Power of Quality? 

“Both!” is the enthusiastic answer given by a team of young researchers engaged in a new project concerning an innovative energy system for sustainable mobility in urban areas.

Nowadays, mobility is one of the main individual and social needs, and the mobility demand is growing especially in urban areas, where it is strongly related to the number of people needing public transportation. Moreover, companies involved in providing mobility for the masses play an essential role in the energy and environmental sectors: 30% of the energy consumptions of a highly developed country (e.g., Italy) is associated with transport systems. Comparatively, in Europe transport systems are responsible for 25% of all CO2 emissions and for 12% of all Green House Gas (GHG) emissions (see Figs. 1 and 2).

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