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24 March 2003

Heidelberg Research Magazine "Ruperto Carola 1/2003": HIV — Anatomy of a Mass Killer

The range of other topics extends from astrophysics, radiology and ethnology to Romance studies: A new window on the universe opens in Namibia — Radiation power pack to fight cancer — Non-European world views — Italy unconstituted — Interview with Nobel Prize laureate Osheroff: "I'm an unusual Senator"

Ruperto Carola 1/2003

Like bubonic plague or smallpox, the acquired immune deficiency syndrome AIDS counts among the most devastating epidemics ever to have struck humanity. AIDS is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus, HIV for short. Millions of people have been cut down by it so far. What makes this tiny virus capable of such depredations? Hans-Georg Kräusslich, director of the virology department of the Institute of Hygiene of the University of Heidelberg, outlines the answers in the new issue of Heidelberg's research magazine "Ruperto Carola 1/2003". In the title story of the magazine Kräusslich describes the molecular anatomy of HIV and explains the routes exploited by the virus in fatally debilitating the human immune system.

The range of other topics extends from astrophysics, radiology and ethnology to Romance studies. Blue flashes from outer space: a new window on the universe opens in Namibia; Radiation power pack: heavy ions against cancer; What's left for us is right for them: non-European world views; Italy unconstituted: novellas tell of the longing for national unity. In an interview, Nobel Prize laureate Douglas Osheroff, newly elected honorary senator of the University of Heidelberg, confesses: "I'm an unusual senator".

Vice-rector Leopold criticises CHE research ranking

"External funding, publications, doctorates. The research ranking proposed by the Centre for Higher Education Development (CHE) certainly tells us a lot about successful academic management. But this study has no answer to the question of what good research actually is." Thus the opening of vice-rector Prof. Dr. Silke Leopold's criticism of the research ranking published by the Centre for Higher Education Development in November 2002. At first glance, the formula proposed by CHE for measuring the quality of research appears plausible. "So why do I have misgivings about these criteria?"

Leopold: "The reason is that they suggest a reverse conclusion that I consider fateful. That conclusion runs: if you don't get external funding, publish little and have only a few doctoral students, then you're no good at research; and if you've got lots of doctoral candidates but not much in the way of external funding (or vice versa), then you could be doing better."

"Hans Georg Gadamer was 60 when 'Truth and Method' appeared, his next (and most influential) book. That was almost 30 years after he published his Habilitation. And as for external funding, he would hardly have been up among the front runners in this ranking. Does that mean he was no god at research?" The vice-rector identifies the problem of such rankings. They can measure quantity, she says, but not quality.

Blue Flashes from Outer Space

A new window on the universe opens in Namibia. Recently, the first of four telescopes planned for the HESS experiment at the Göllschau farm, 5,500 feet above sea level, started its work. HESS stands for High Energy Stereoscopic System. It is designed to explore the high-energy radiation emanating from galaxies and supernova remnants. More than 70 scientists from all over the world are involved in HESS, with a central part played by the Max Planck Institute of Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg. Werner Hofmann, director at the Institute, describes how the telescopes work and tells us what secrets the scientists hope to fathom with their aid.

Radiation Power Pack

In 2006 the Heidelberg University Hospital complex will have a system providing heavy ion therapy for cancer patients that sets new international standards. Jürgen Debus, head of the "Clinical Cooperation Unit for Oncological Radiation Therapy" at the German Cancer Research Centre and senior consultant at the Radiological University Hospital, explains the principle behind heavy ion therapy and lists the advantages that cancer patients stand to gain from the radiation power pack.

For Them It's Left, for Us It's Right

Year-long field work in Melanesia, Micronesia and Australia is on the agenda for scientists from the Institute of Ethnology. Here a follow-up group is being constituted whose job it is to fathom "other" views of the world and other conceptual systems imposed on it. Jürg Wassmann, director of the Institute, describes why ethnologists suspect the presence of latent "ethnocentrism". With reference to finding our way around in spatial terms, he demonstrates that they may very well be right. Left and right, front and back, above and below are not necessarily the same for everyone.

Italy Unconstituted

A promising approach to understanding the specific dynamic of the Italian novella in the Romantic period examines the structural links between the individual text and the event that influenced all the social systems of 19th century Italy and hence also its literature: the Risorgimento. Christof Weiand, director at the Department of Romance Studies, outlines a literary analysis project probing for the first time the interaction between novella and historical diagnosis in paradigmatic analyses of individual works. The aim is to observe the emergence of a new semantics of national identity based on literature. With reference to a novella by Cesare Cantù, he exemplifies the attempt to sensitise the reader for the genesis of Italy's constitutional unification.

"I'm an Unusual Senator"

Nobel Prize laureate Douglas D. Osheroff from Stanford, California is one of the new honorary senators of the University of Heidelberg. The Senate expects of him "advice, support and new impulses" for the University. In what research fields will Professor Osheroff be cooperating with Heidelberg? What are the present research concerns of this physicist, who received the Nobel Prize for Physics together with David M. Lee and Robert C. Richardson for the discovery and examination of suprafluid helium-3. Osheroff answers these questions in an interview with press officer Michael Schwarz and Campus TV editor Joachim Kaiser.

International Status as a Centre of Competence

After an in-depth evaluation of the information sciences at the universities of Baden-Württemberg, experts from the State Advisory Council on Research came to the conclusion that the University of Heidelberg has "achieved outstanding results" in scientific computing and "developed a centre of competence that enjoys international status". The new research magazine takes a closer look at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Scientific Computing.

The magazine rounds off with the permanent sections, starting with a brief overview of the best-endowed new externally funded research projects. In a reply entitled "Pursue Innovative Developments, Forget Sham Utility Factors", Professor Eberhard Schaich, rector of the University of Tübingen, responds to the exchange of opinion between the Heidelberg professors Tonio Hölscher and Michael Ursinus in "Ruperto Carola 2/2002". The title of their exchange was: "Saving millions on the humanities now means paying billions later to get society back on its feet."

In the "Opinions" section, Prof. Martin Wehling, pharmacologist at the Faculty of Clinical Medicine of the University of Heidelberg at Mannheim, enlarges on missed opportunities for drug therapy in old age. In the "Young Scientists and Scholars Report" section, Krzysztof Oplustil writes about the European joint stock company under the heading "A Flagship Sets Sail".

"Ruperto Carola" is published by Universitätsverlag C. Winter Heidelberg GmbH. Single copies cost € 5 plus postage. Like the special support subscription (€ 30 for four issues) it can be ordered from: Pressestelle der Universität Heidelberg, Postfach 10 57 60, D-69047 Heidelberg. Gratis copies of earlier issues are available in the entrance area of the Old University (Grabengasse 1).

For more information and the complete articles of earlier issues (in German) go to

Please address any inquiries to
Dr. Michael Schwarz
Press Officer of the University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 54317

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Updated: 02.04.2003


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