news 2020

Life Sciences - Oct 21
Life Sciences
Humans are not the only beings that can identify rules in complex language-like constructions - monkeys and great apes can do so, too, a study at the University of Zurich has shown. Researchers at the Department of Comparative Language Science of UZH used a series of experiments based on an -artificial grammar- to conclude that this ability can be traced back to our ancient primate ancestors.
Social Sciences - Oct 21
Social Sciences

Bronze Age pastoralists in what is now southern Russia apparently covered shorter distances than previously thought. It is believed that the Indo-European languages may have originated from this region, and these findings raise new questions about how technical and agricultural innovations spread to Europe. An international research team, with the participation of the University of Basel, has published a paper on this topic.

Earth Sciences - Oct 21
Earth Sciences

Current understanding is that the chemical composition of the Earth's mantle is relatively homogeneous. But experiments conducted by ETH researchers now show that this view is too simplistic. Their results solve a key problem facing the geosciences - and raise some new questions.

Physics - Oct 21
Physics

Researchers at ETH have demonstrated a new technique for carrying out sensitive quantum operations on atoms. In this technique, the control laser light is delivered directly inside a chip. This should make it possible to build large-scale quantum computers based on trapped atoms.

Life Sciences - Oct 18
Life Sciences

Bad attitudes lead to moral judgments rooted in our basic survival mechanisms. And scientists from the University of Geneva have demonstrated that they are linked to foul smells.


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Life Sciences - 21.10.2020
Cognitive Elements of Language Have Existed for 40 Million Years
Cognitive Elements of Language Have Existed for 40 Million Years
Humans are not the only beings that can identify rules in complex language-like constructions - monkeys and great apes can do so, too, a study at the University of Zurich has shown. Researchers at the Department of Comparative Language Science of UZH used a series of experiments based on an -artificial grammar- to conclude that this ability can be traced back to our ancient primate ancestors.

Social Sciences - Agronomy / Food Science - 21.10.2020
Bronze Age herders were less mobile than previously thought
Bronze Age herders were less mobile than previously thought
Bronze Age pastoralists in what is now southern Russia apparently covered shorter distances than previously thought. It is believed that the Indo-European languages may have originated from this region, and these findings raise new questions about how technical and agricultural innovations spread to Europe.

Physics - 21.10.2020
Optical wiring for large quantum computers
Optical wiring for large quantum computers
Researchers at ETH have demonstrated a new technique for carrying out sensitive quantum operations on atoms. In this technique, the control laser light is delivered directly inside a chip. This should make it possible to build large-scale quantum computers based on trapped atoms. Hitting a specific point on a screen with a laser pointer during a presentation isn't easy - even the tiniest nervous shaking of the hand becomes one big scrawl at a distance.

Earth Sciences - 21.10.2020
A new way of looking at the Earth's interior
A new way of looking at the Earth’s interior
Current understanding is that the chemical composition of the Earth's mantle is relatively homogeneous. But experiments conducted by ETH researchers now show that this view is too simplistic. Their results solve a key problem facing the geosciences - and raise some new questions. There are places that will always be beyond our reach.

Life Sciences - Psychology - 18.10.2020
Malice leaves a nasty smell
Malice leaves a nasty smell
Bad attitudes lead to moral judgments rooted in our basic survival mechanisms. And scientists from the University of Geneva have demonstrated that they are linked to foul smells. Unhealthy behaviours trigger moral judgments that are similar to the basic emotions that contribute to our ability to survive.

Life Sciences - Health - 16.10.2020
Early Trauma Influences Metabolism Across Generations
Early Trauma Influences Metabolism Across Generations
A study by the Brain Research Institute at UZH reveals that early trauma leads to changes in blood metabolites - similarly in mice and humans. Experiments with mice have show that these potentially harmful effects on health are also passed to the next generation. The researchers have identified a biological mechanism by which traumatic experiences become embedded in germ cells.

Health - Life Sciences - 15.10.2020
Cells on the run
Cells on the run
Many cells in the body must pass through tissue, which sometimes requires them to get out of tight corners. An international research team co-led by ETH Zurich has now examined how cells recognise and escape from such bottlenecks. Among the results of the team's work are new pointers for how to improve immunotherapy.

Environment - Health - 15.10.2020
Green earplugs
Green earplugs
Cars, trains, planes: For two thirds of the European population, traffic noise is part of everyday life. However, the right environment can have a major impact on this nuisance, as Empa researchers have found out. Green spaces in urban areas help to make road and railroad noise less of a nuisance. Only in the case of aircraft noise does this seem counterproductive: the greener the surroundings, the more disturbing the aircraft noise.

Transport - Materials Science - 15.10.2020
Volatile for heavy trucks
Volatile for heavy trucks
In future, commercial vehicles will not only have to emit less CO2 but also meet stricter exhaust emission limits. Many experts expect that this could herald the end for fossil diesel. One possible alternative is dimethyl ether: The highly volatile substance burns very cleanly and can be produced from renewable energy.

Materials Science - Physics - 15.10.2020
Hanging by a colored thread
Hanging by a colored thread
High-performance fibres that have been exposed to high temperatures usually lose their mechanical properties undetected and, in the worst case, can tear precisely when lives depend on them. For example, safety ropes used by fire brigades or suspension ropes for heavy loads on construction sites. Empa researchers have now developed a coating that changes color when exposed to high temperatures through friction or fire.

Physics - 15.10.2020
Altering the properties of 2D materials at the nanometer scale
Altering the properties of 2D materials at the nanometer scale
Scientists have developed a method for changing the physical properties of 2D materials permanently using a nanometric tip. Their approach, which involves deforming the materials, paves the way to using these materials in electronic and optoelectronic devices. Materials all come with their own set of properties - they can be insulating, semi-conducting, metallic, transparent or flexible, for example.

Astronomy / Space Science - Environment - 15.10.2020
Two planets around a red dwarf
Two planets around a red dwarf
The -SAINT-EX- Observatory, led by scientists from the National Centre of Competence in Research NCCR PlanetS of the University of Bern and the University of Geneva, has detected two exoplanets orbiting the star TOI-1266. The Mexico-based telescope thus demonstrates its high precision and takes an important step in the quest of finding potentially habitable worlds.

Social Sciences - Politics - 15.10.2020
Empathy exacerbates discussions about immigration
Empathy exacerbates discussions about immigration
If both camps take a more empathetic approach when there's an argument, it generally makes it easier to listen to what the other side is saying and alleviate tension. This isn't the case, however, when the conflict is about immigration. Discussions about immigration are heated, even antagonistic. But what happens when supporters and opponents undertake to show more empathy and engage in perspective taking, two types of behaviour that can ease tension?

Politics - Environment - 15.10.2020
Unequal distribution of research into marine resources
Unequal distribution of research into marine resources
Exploration and utilisation of resources from the world's oceans is not equally distributed across the globe. Although many of these resources originate in the Global South, they are mostly being researched by just a few countries from the North. Accordingly, this is also where most of the benefits and profits are flowing to, despite the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Life Sciences - Health - 14.10.2020
Scientists home in on how cells are protected from premature aging
Scientists home in on how cells are protected from premature aging
A new study by EPFL researchers shows how RNA species called TERRA muster at the tip of chromosomes, where they help to prevent telomere shortening and premature cell aging. Molecules that accumulate at the tip of chromosomes are known to play a key role in preventing damage to our DNA. Now, researchers at EPFL have unraveled how these molecules home in on specific sections of chromosomes-a finding that could help to better understand the processes that regulate cell survival in aging and cancer.

Environment - 14.10.2020
Winners and losers of energy transition
Winners and losers of energy transition
Accounting for multiple social aims other than costs is critical for transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable electricity. A new study by UNIGE proposes a viable compromise. The European Green Deal aims to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the electricity sector, which could have substantial economic and social impacts across Central European regions.

Earth Sciences - 14.10.2020
Scientist gains fresh insight into the origins of earthquakes
The speed and intensity with which seismic waves propagate after an earthquake depend mainly on forces occurring deep inside the rocks along a fault line, according to a study by EPFL scientist François Passelègue. His sophisticated models are giving us fresh insight into the factors that can trigger an earthquake.  Sometimes barely noticeable, and at other times devasting, earthquakes are a major geological phenomenon which provide a stark reminder that our planet is constantly evolving.

Environment - Economics / Business - 13.10.2020
Mental accounting is impacting sustainable behavior
Mental accounting is impacting sustainable behavior
UNIGE psychologists are analysing the way our minds plan the use of resources so that interventions can be developed to reduce excessive energy consumption and carbon emissions. Mental accounting is a concept that describes the mental processes we employ to organise our resource use. Human beings tend to create separate mental budget compartments where specific acts of consumption and payments are linked.

Chemistry - Environment - 13.10.2020
Using electric current to stabilize low-permeability soils
Using electric current to stabilize low-permeability soils
Scientists have developed a new approach to stabilizing clay soils. The method involves using a battery-like system to apply electric current to carbonate and calcium ions in order to promote soil consolidation. Their findings were published yesterday in Scientific Reports. According to figures released by the UN yesterday, natural disasters have killed more than 1.2 million people since 2000 and cost nearly $ 3 trillion.These pressing threats bring into sharp focus the need for new answers to the problem of soil stabilization.

Physics - Materials Science - 12.10.2020
Well-formed disorder for versatile light technologies
Well-formed disorder for versatile light technologies
Researchers at ETH have managed to make an efficient material for broadband frequency doubling of light using microspheres made of disordered nanocrystals. The crucial idea for the method arose during a coffee break. In the future, the new approach could be used in lasers and other light technologies.
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