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Microbes, Magnetic Fields, and Conspiracy Theories

The new issue of the University of Freiburg’s newspaper uni’leben is out now

Freiburg, Oct 29, 2020

High-speed evolution

“For many years, we believed that evolution was a process of adaptation that occurred over long periods of time,” says Dr. Fabian Staubach, a biologist at the University of Freiburg. But recently, scientists are beginning to think that evolution can also occur more quickly – namely, when microbes are involved. For this reason, researchers are conducting experiments, for example, with corals. When these are transplanted into unfamiliar environments, very soon communities of microbes that are settled on the corals begin to transform, thereby enabling the corals to survive in their new environment. “We have known for a long time now what microbes are capable of, also in humans. They can do things like cause diseases, but they also play a role in digestion,” says Staubach. The evolutionary biologist hopes to find out more about these processes of adaptation by exploring the role of microbes that settle in fruit flies.
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Crystal-clear images of the sun

There is a lot of turbulence on the sun. Plasma – brightly illuminated, charged gases that can reach up to one million degrees Celsius – forms clouds and streams that provide clues about the course of the magnetic lines responsible for inducing movement in the plasma in the first place. “The magnetic fields contain a huge amount of energy that affects the earth, which is why it is so important to study the sun’s magnetism,” says Svetlana Berdyugina, a professor of astrophysics at the University of Freiburg and director of the Leibniz Institute for Solar Physics (KIS). For the past few months now, scientists have been able to use the state-of-the-art GREGOR telescope to produce crystal-clear images. Thanks to the telescope, the surface of the sun can now be photographed from Europe with more detail than ever before.
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Arguments against tin-foil hats

Sars-CoV-2 has not been the only thing troubling the human psyche since the beginning of this year. Along with the virus, many conspiracy theories have also emerged. But where does the sudden leaning toward narratives like these come from? And what should you do if your neighbor suddenly things Bill Gates is responsible for the corona virus? Deborah Wolf, a PhD student in the Factual and Fictional Narration graduate school at the University of Freiburg, is trying to answer questions such as these. An expert in media studies, she is researching contemporary conspiracy theories surrounding the 9/11 attacks. According to Wolf, “There are always more conspiracy theories in times of crisis. They are reactions driven by fear that occur when people feel like they no longer understand what is going on in the world.”  
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Read the latest issue of uni’leben (in German)



Rimma Gerenstein
Editor of uni’leben
University of Freiburg
Phone: +49 (0)761 / 203 - 8812