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Ruperto Carola 3/08: Lords of the Rings

Press Release No. 9/2008
15 12 2008
In the title story of the latest issue of Heidelberg University’s research magazine (Ruperto Carola 3/08) Diamantis Panagiotopoulos and Yuval Goren reveal what sealed clay nodules tell us about power structures in Minoan Crete — Broad range of subjects: applied optics, transplant medicine, psychology, physics, library science
Title Page  
In recent decades the political system existing in the Neopalatial period on Minoan Crete has been the subject of a debate revolving around the political supremacy of Knossos. A number of sealed clay nodules are a clinching factor in this debate. Definitive determination of their origins could play a decisive role in resolving the dispute. Previously, scientific examination of these “delicate” objects was impossible, but a breakthrough has now been achieved thanks to a new method developed and applied in the course of a joint project undertaken by the Universities of Heidelberg and Tel Aviv. In the title story of the latest issue of Heidelberg University’s research magazine (Ruperto Carola 3/08), Diamantis Panagiotopoulos and Yuval Goren describe these new developments. This and the other subjects addressed in the magazine — applied optics, transplant medicine, psychology, physics, library science — give an impression of the broad range of top-flight research going on at Heidelberg University.

Vice-Rector Vera Nünning’s editorial on the role of internationalisation in improving research and teaching

In the university context “internationalisation” has long since become a buzzword, an open-sesame promising access to unexampled treasures. But what exactly is internationalisation? And what measures might contribute to the improvement of research and teaching? Prof. Dr. Vera Nünning, vice-Rector for international relations, answers these questions in the editorial of the new issue. “Pursued with the necessary tenacity, internationalisation can open doors and pave the way for cooperation with leading scientists and scholars,” she writes. “It can enhance the international visibility of research at Heidelberg University and make it an attractive location for the ‘best brains’”. Nünning outlines the present policies of Heidelberg University in this respect and quotes a variety of examples, such as the Welcome Centre, joint appointments, the opening of a liaison office in New York and many more.

Penetrating the nanocosmos

Once, not so long ago, the light microscope opened the door to a new world. But it was unable to unlock all the mysteries of the microcosmos because light cannot show up structures that are smaller than 200 nanometres. Today, new methods enable scientists to overcome spatial resolution limits that were hitherto thought to be absolute and to penetrate the nanocosmos of cells. In Ruperto Carola 3/08 Christoph Cremer describes the new methods and instruments he has devised.

New organs for diabetics

Over 40 years ago the first combined pancreas and kidney transplant was performed on patients with type-1 diabetes whose kidneys had been incapacitated by the disorder. This success triggered hopes of ultimately curing diabetes and preventing its delayed consequences. Although the operation has been repeated all over the world with increasingly favourable results, this fact has not dispelled controversy about whether this combined transplant is really superior to other forms of treatment. New studies have come up with clear evidence that this in fact the case, as Christian Morath and Martin Zeier indicate in their article.

How babies learn concepts

At just under a year, babies start understanding words that stand for objects. This indicates their ability to categorise their early experiences. But what is it precisely that defines things as belonging to a conceptual category? How is preverbal knowledge about objects constituted? How do babies use this knowledge to interpret their environment and how do they learn to link up preverbal categories with linguistic concepts? In her article on infant cognitive psychology Sabine Pauen provides enlightening answers to these questions.

Sensitive giants

Scientific concern with atoms and the way they interact is normally restricted to these tiny entities themselves rather than their internal structure. But modern laser technology can whip up atoms into highly excited states in which they attain gigantic extensions and become highly susceptible to influences from their surroundings. Peter Schmelcher gives a graphic description of how very low temperatures can transform atoms into matter that displays many extremely unusual properties.

Enigmatic Mona Lisa

While cataloguing the Heidelberg incunabula, librarians recently discovered a marginal note dated 1503 in a 1477 edition of Cicero’s works. In this note Agostino Vespucci, one of the staff of the Florentine chancellor Niccolò Machiavelli, indicates that at the time of writing Leonardo da Vinci was working on a portrait of Lisa del Giocondo. This newly discovered source provides the answer to a question that has caused controversy to this day: Who is the woman portrayed in the Mona Lisa, the world’s most famous painting? Veit Probst reports.

“Accreditation is unconstitutional,” writes Jens Halfwassen in the News and Views section of the magazine. The Heidelberg philosopher contends that the principle of freedom for scientific and scholarly endeavour cannot be subject to legal proviso. Ruperto Carola 3/08 closes with the latest news from the Stiftung Universität Heidelberg foundation and a report entitled “From Hattusa, Assur and Jerusalem to Dubai” by Jan Christian Gertz on an interdisciplinary symposium at the International Science Forum.

Ruperto Carola is published by Universitätsverlag C. Winter Heidelberg GmbH. Single copies cost € 5 plus postage. Like the special subscription offer (€ 30 for four issues) they 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
Public Information Officer
Heidelberg University

Irene Thewalt
phone: +49 6221/542310, fax: 542317
Editor: Email
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