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.


By Katharina Spalek, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

Nicole Gotzner, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

Isabell Wartenburger, University of Potsdam

Theoretical linguistics is a science that investigates the structure of languages, and linguists have formulated highly complex models of language. Do these models capture how language is used and interpreted by a speaker? Put differently: Do they have any ‘psychological reality’?

We tried to answer this question for a small linguistic domain, a class of words called focus particles. These are little, inconspicuous words like only or even. What function do these words have in our language? Let’s take some (adapted) examples from Eric Carle’s book The Very Hungry Caterpillar. If we say, “On Sunday, the Very Hungry Caterpillar only ate a green leaf”, the use of only implies that it didn’t eat anything else (in particular, it didn’t eat any of the crazy things that had given it a stomach ache the day before). If we use even and say, for example, “On Saturday, the Very Hungry Caterpillar even ate a gherkin”, we want to express, first, that it ate other things as well, and second, it was rather unexpected that it ate the gherkin. In these examples, ‘a green leaf’ and ‘a gherkin’ are the focus of the sentence. Focus is often defined as the informational centre of a sentence. Some linguistic theories say that focus indicates the presence of alternatives. This is true even without the addition of a focus particle. What the particle does is to establish a specific relation between a focused element and its alternatives. For example, in the case of only, the focus particle signals that all alternatives must be excluded. That is, if the caterpillar had eaten a leaf and a lollipop on Sunday, the sentence “On Sunday, the Very Hungry Caterpillar only ate a green leaf” would no longer be true.

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SOX11 Can Improve Strategy in Targeting Cancer Treatment Options

Por: | 27 de marzo de 2014

By Sara Ek, Lund University

It’s been known for a while that different types of cancers require different types of treatments and the work to divide cancer into meaningful subgroups is far from finished. The major efforts today focus on changing the way patients are grouped. This strategy may ultimately help provide better treatment options within subgroups.

Conventionally, subgrouping methods, like morphology or histology, are based on observing the (biopsied) tumour tissue — the visual appearance of the cells and structures. Although these methods still are the gold standard for routine diagnostics, new methods are being developed to correlate the presence of individual or groups of biomolecules in the tumour tissue with clinical features. Such clinical features include how well a patient responds to treatment and how long a patient survives after diagnosis and, if successful, would allow a more functional and clinically useful subgrouping.

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Vitamin E: More Than an Antioxidant

Por: | 24 de marzo de 2014

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By Sergi Munné-Bosch, University of Barcelona

Researchers at the University of Barcelona Link Vitamin E to Ethylene Hormone Signalling, an Essential Feature of Plant Stress Responses

While working on a project to unravel the role of Vitamin E, Jana Cela, from the University of Barcelona, measured the expression of genes involved in ethylene biosynthesis as well as the perception (receptors) and signalling in plants with altered Vitamin E composition. “My idea was to examine the role, if any, of Vitamin E beyond its well-known antioxidant function in plants”, Jana says. “First, I investigated how ethylene signalling alters Vitamin E biosynthesis in plants. Later, I wondered if Vitamin E could also affect ethylene-related genes”. This idea was developed together with Sergi Munné-Bosch, a Senior Lecturer at the University of Barcelona. Caren Chang, Senior Lecturer of the University of Maryland, also contributed to this research project.

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It’s a Small World After All: Manipulations at the Nanoscale

Por: | 20 de marzo de 2014

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By Sergei Vlassov, University of Tartu

Alchemy aims to transform base metals into gold; nanotechnology, on the other hand, can transform gold into something else — or at least make it behave differently. For example, the melting point of gold changes greatly when it comes to melting nanoparticles of gold, and the temperature at which the particles melt changes, sometimes by as much as several hundred degrees, depending on the size of the nanoparticles.

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Game On! Learning to Fight Real Diseases in a Virtual World

Por: | 17 de marzo de 2014

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By Paulino Gomez-Puertas, Universidad Autonoma de Madrid

In a Madrid laboratory, Dr Paulino Gómez-Puertas and his team are creating a virtual world, using computer simulation, to design artificial drugs that can help to cure diseases in the real world.

Picture a university laboratory where molecular-level research is carried out into biological processes. The laboratories are a hive of activity among samples, test tubes and cell cultures. One laboratory stands out from the others: here too work is performed on molecules and chemical reactions, but there is not a single flask or pipette to be seen. Here there are only computers, and a group of researchers glued to the screens.

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Right to Counsel: For Everyone or Just the Innocent?

Por: | 13 de marzo de 2014

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By Anneli Soo, University of Tartu

No matter how law-abiding we are, anyone of us could be labelled a criminal one day and thus become a defendant in a court of law — because we are accused wrongly and maliciously, because of a mistake on part of the state or because we have actually committed an act that is considered criminal by the state no matter what our intention might have been. Most of us have only a vague idea of what criminal procedure is and what our rights as a defendant are, which is why we need a professional lawyer — a defence counsel — by our side to advise and help us through this difficult and unfamiliar situation.

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“Nano” Effects in Your Coffee Maker?

Por: | 10 de marzo de 2014

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By Florian Spieckermann, University of Vienna

You may have noticed that over a number of years, plastics have been replacing metals in objects of everyday life. It could be your coffee machine, electric kettle or the wireless. Indeed, the volume of plastics processed worldwide surpassed that of metals about ten years ago. The large proportion of metals in automotive and aircraft engineering that have been replaced by polymers has led to considerable savings in fuel consumption simply by making cars and planes lighter. This development is the fruit of enormous advances in polymer science. Many materials were made resistant to ultraviolet (UV) radiation or environmental chemicals. Introduction of carbon or glass fibres made the polymers mechanically stronger.

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By Gizem Hülür, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

Think you are smarter than your grandparents? You could be right. It has been documented that individuals born in the more recent decades of the last century perform better on intelligence tests than those born in earlier decades. James Flynn first found that later generations scored 5 to 25 IQ points higher than earlier generations, a finding that was consistent across 14 industrialized nations. Since then, a myriad of studies have shown that, when examined over the same age ranges, thinking and mental processing abilities are stronger in later-born groups of individuals than earlier-born groups, for young and old participants alike. These improvements in mental ability may have resulted from advances in various domains, including schooling, nutrition, and medical technology. They seem to indicate that culture-based efforts have successfully improved the thinking and processing ability of people of all ages.

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By Lourdes Hernández Apaolaza, Universidad Autonoma de Madrid (UAM)

Image: Experimental setup, with the results for zinc shown. Zinc lignosulfonates showed a better result than the corresponding inorganic salt.

Dietary iron deficiency is the most common and widespread nutritional disorder in the world. The World Health Organization estimates that nearly 3.7 billion people are iron deficient, with 2 billion of these so severely deficient in iron that they can be described as being anemic. In addition, 35% of all children in the world between newborns and 5-year-olds suffer from zinc or iron deficiencies, 250 million suffer from vitamin A deficiency, and 260 million suffer from iodine or selenium deficiencies. Childhood anemia and dietary deficiencies can lead to poor development, resulting in significant physical and learning disabilities.

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