Making sense of science

Newsletter November 2018

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This month in science (November 2018)
matter digital article
Measures: the Great Shift
Physics On November 13-16, 2018 in Versailles, the base units of the International System were set to be redefined in reference to seven physical constants. A look back at the reasons and issues involved in a reform that has been awaited for 30 years, and that will take effect in May 2019.
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society billet
World War I: Asians on the European Front
History Nearly 2 million Asians came to the battlefields of Europe and the Middle East during the First World War. From soldiers to factory workers and labourers—some tasked with cleaning the trenches from the horrors of war—their lives were forever changed and would eventually help trigger the onset of decolonisation. An overview with the historian Claire Tran.
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life article
France: Land of Dinosaurs
Paleontology The town of Angeac, near Angoulême in southwestern France, is hardly a household name. Yet it has a claim to fame, as this is where the bones of one of the world's largest dinosaurs were discovered. In fact, palaeontologists have already identified the skeletons, eggs or fossil footprints of some twenty species of these “terrible lizards” all over France.
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Also this month
space article
BepiColombo: Two Orbiters Head to Mercury
Astronomy Known since antiquity, Mercury has not yet delivered all its secrets. The international mission BepiColombo will study the planet's surface and compare its magnetic field with that of the Earth.
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life article
Coral Reefs Get a New Health Check
Oceanography After two and a half years sailing across the Pacific to draw up the first-ever global inventory of coral reefs, the schooner Tara has now returned to Lorient (Brittany), her home port in northwestern France. Serge Planes, a world authority on corals, delves into these remarkable ecosystems that...
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matter article
On the Importance of Constants
Physics By explicitly connecting all base units to fundamental constants, the future reform of the International System of Units (SI) will complete the objectives of universality and stability sought by the inventors of the metric system. Yet what precisely is the basis of this connection between measures...
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society article
The Genetic Origins of Literary Works
Literature By analysing the manuscripts of literary works, specialists in 'genetic criticism' can better understand an author's creative process. A closer look at this discipline born from the manuscripts of the German poet Heinrich Heine, and whose international congress, led by the Institute of Texts and...
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life billet
Prehistory, between Modernity and Universality
Paleoanthropology Ever since the concept of prehistory was invented, scientists have made a clear distinction between Homo sapiens and Neanderthals, between modern and non-modern humans. Yet according to the prehistoric archaeologist Nicolas Teyssandier, it is this notion of “modernity” that needs to be re-examined...
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digital article
Vincent Lafforgue Wins the Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics
Mathematics Vincent Lafforgue, a senior researcher at the Institut Fourier, has won the Breakthrough Prize 2019 in Mathematics. This distinction rewards his career as a mathematician and especially his research on the Langlands programme.
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life article
Innovations for Cosmetics
innovation On the occasion of Cosmetic-360, an international trade fair for innovation in the cosmetics industry held in Paris every year, a quick overview of ongoing research in CNRS laboratories, which are already at work on the cosmetics of the future.
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matter article
Jean-Loup Puget, Cosmological Archaeologist
astrophysics After having received the Gruber Prize in Cosmology last May, the astrophysicist Jean-Loup Puget, emeritus senior researcher at the CNRS, was awarded the Shaw Prize in Astronomy on September 26 in Hong Kong. These major prizes are in recognition of the scientist’s work, which in particular has...
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