The Kavli Foundation
NewsletterVol. 4, Issue 3 2011
Dedicated to the advancement of science for the benefit of humanity, The Kavli Foundation supports scientific research, honors scientific achievement, and promotes public understanding of scientists and their work. For more information, visit:

The Kavli Prize


Announcing the 2012 Call for Nominations   


Beginning today, nominations for the 2012 Kavli Prizes may be submitted electronically at the Kavli Prize website. Nominations will be accepted through December 1.  


The Kavli Prizes recognize scientists whose discoveries have dramatically expanded human understanding in the fields of astrophysics, nanoscience and neuroscience.  Consisting of a scroll, medal and cash award of one million dollars, a prize in each of these areas has been awarded biennially since 2008.   


The Kavli Prizes are a partnership between The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, The Kavli Foundation, and The Norwegian Ministry of Education and Research. Independent of The Kavli Foundation, prize recipients are chosen by three committees comprised of distinguished international scientists recommended by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the French Academy of Sciences, the Max Planck Society, The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and The Royal Society. The selections of the prize committees are confirmed by The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters. More Information.  



NeurospotMatter Over Mind: The Neuroscience Behind Decision Making    


Lee, Salzman and Wang

Researchers are beginning to decipher what exactly is happening in our brains when we are making decisions. In particular, how are our choices determined by the actions of specific neuronal circuits in our brains?


Recently, three experts in decision neuroscience -- Daeyeol Lee, Kavli Institute for Neuroscience, Yale University; C. Daniel Salzman, Kavli Institute for Brain Science, Columbia University; and Xiao-Jing Wang, Yale University School of Medicine -- discussed the genesis of this cutting-edge field, where it's going, and the potential practical applications of this research.  


"When people face the same decision, they tend to make different choices ...Getting a better understanding of the neurobiological basis for those individual differences in decision making will have enormous implications," said Lee. "It can explain a lot of problems in our society, including differences in the tendency to develop psychiatric illnesses." Full story


NanospotBeyond Darwin: Ways to Evolve New Functions  

Brenner, Martindale and Quake

Earlier this year, nineteen experts attended a Kavli Futures Symposium to discuss the promise of using the lab to understand and exploit the evolution of organisms  -- an advance that may one day be used to develop new vaccines or other biotechnology products. Following the Symposium, three of the participants --  Michael Brenner, Kavli Institute for Bionano Science and Technology, Harvard University; Stephen Quake, Stanford University; Mark Martindale, University of Hawaii -- looked back at their discussions and traded ideas about what the future might hold for the study of the evolution of new functions.


"Every method people have for thinking about how to combat disease or anything else is developed under an intellectual paradigm," said Michael Brenner. "If one could invent new concepts for how evolutionary change occurs, [one] could really change the way you think about those problems."  Full story 


AstrospotThe Hunt for Dark Matter: A Conversation with KICP's Juan Collar 


IJuan Collar, Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physicsn June, it was announced that a dark-matter experiment had detected a seasonal signal variation similar to two other experiments that used different detectors. The new seasonal variation, recorded by the Coherent Germanium Neutrino Technology (CoGeNT) experiment, is exactly what theoreticians had predicted if dark matter turned out to be what physicists call Weakly Interacting Massive Particles (WIMPs).


Juan Collar of the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics, University of Chicago, led the team that detected the seasonal signal variation. In an extended interview, he discusses the significance of the finding and what will be needed to prove the existence of dark matter. "[It] gives you pause, the fact that the same kind of dark matter particle could be behind these three different observations from three very different detectors."  Full story 



Researchers Test Method for Tracking  

Binary Black Holes of Merging Galaxies    


Two scientists from the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology, Stanford University, have been testing a method to look past the radiation pouring out of merging galaxy pairs and see the supermassive black holes at their cores. The researchers want to track how these black holes spiral in toward each other until they join, forming a single even-more-massive black hole. Full story 



Astronomers Capture Cosmic Jet Firing Up  

Optical image of the region of the new jet. Image courtesy of NASA.

Optical image of the region of the new jet, showing the localization of the jet with Swift's X-ray detection and the radio detection from long distance interferometry. Image courtesy of NASA.


The most spectacular high energy phenomena in the Universe are the enormous jets of particles and radiation resulting from matter falling onto black holes, where matter reaches energies far beyond what can be obtained in laboratories.  Such active galaxies have been seen across the Universe, and since every galaxy including our own has a supermassive black hole, it is thought that galaxies may turn on from an inactive to an active phase, and even turn off. However, given that active and inactive phases last millions of years or longer, such transitions are not easy to observe live as they happen.


Recently though, the Swift X-ray satellite's Burst Alert Telescope, which searches for the short X-ray flare-ups typical of the mega explosions known as gamma-ray bursts, saw a big flare-up but without a following flare-down. An observation with radio telescope arrays then showed a new radio source in the same position, and optical observations revealed the position to be in a distant galaxy.  


These observations, combined with others from infrared telescopes and Swift's ultraviolet instrument, suggested the new source of all this light was a relativistic jet. Astronomers concluded that they were witnessing the birth of a new jet as a result of the supermassive black hole tearing apart a massive star that wandered too close, turning it into an accretion disk of infalling matter onto the black hole. Full story   


More Astrophysics News

Researchers Determine Why the Human Gut Predictably Coils
The digestive tracts of chick, quail, zebra finch, and mouse embryos..

Left to right, the digestive tracts of chick, quail, zebra finch, and mouse embryos, shown with the mesenteric tissue still attached. The top row shows the relative size of the eggs (or embryo, in the case of the mammal). [Credit: N. Kurpios]


Between conception and birth, the human gut grows more than two meters long, looping and coiling within the tiny abdomen. Within a given species, the developing vertebrate gut always loops into the same formation; however, until now, it has not been clear why.


Using a combination of experimental observations, biological and biophysical manipulations, theory and computation, researchers at Harvard have shown that a "simple" balance of forces determines the form of the gut. The finding may shed light on how the gut has been able to evolve to accommodate changes in diet. Full story  


More Nanoscience News 

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Announcing the Kavli Prize Call for Nominations
Spotlight: The Neuroscience Behind Decision Making
Spotlight: Beyond Darwin
Spotlight: The Hunt for Dark Matter
Astrophysics News
Nanoscience News
Neuroscience News
The Royal Society Names Medal Winners



Researchers Show How Memory Is Lost - and Found


Yale University researchers can't tell you where you left your car keys - but they can tell you why you can't find them.


A study published in the journal Nature shows that the neural networks in the brains of the middle-aged and elderly have weaker connections and fire less robustly than in youthful ones.  

Intriguingly, the research suggests this condition is also reversible.  


"Age-related cognitive deficits can have a serious impact on our lives in the Information Age, as people often need higher cognitive functions to meet even basic needs, such as paying bills or accessing medical care," said Amy Arnsten, professor of neurobiology and psychology and a member of the Kavli Institute for Neuroscience at Yale University. "These abilities are critical for maintaining demanding careers and being able to live independently as we grow older." Full story and video  


More Neuroscience News


Royal Society Kavli Medal  

The Royal Society Names Medal Winners


The Royal Society has announced the recipients of the Kavli Medals -- biennial awards presented by the Society to exceptional researchers and educators within the United Kingdom.


The Royal Society Kavli Medal and Lecture. Clare Grey, Geoffrey Moorhouse Gibson Professor of Chemistry, Department of Chemistry, University of Cambridge, is the recepient of the Society's Kavli Medal. The Medal is awarded for excellence in all fields of science and engineering relevant to the environment or energy.    


The Royal Society Kavli Education Medal.  Celia Hoyles, Professor of Mathematics Education, Institute of Education, University of London, is the recipient of the Kavli Education Medal. The Education Medal is awarded to an individual who has made a significant impact on science or mathematics education. 



Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics, University of Chicago (KICP). The National Science Foundation has agreed to fund KICP's five-year renewal proposal for its Physics Frontier Center - Pushing Cosmology to the Edge.  ... In special opinion pieces published in Nature (full text, on KICP site) and Science, (summary), KICP Director Michael S. Turner recommends continuing US funding for the James Webb Space Telescope. "Imagine that the Hubble Space Telescope never existed. ... The United States is at a similar crossroads today."    


Kavli Institute for Cosmology in Cambridge (KICC).   KICC Director George Efstathiou is one of four astronomers to win this year's Gruber Cosmology Prize. The Gruber International Prize Program honors individuals in the fields of cosmology, genetics, justice and women's rights, whose groundbreaking work provides new models that inspire and enable fundamental shifts in knowledge and culture.


Kavli Institute for Brain Science at Columbia University (KIBS). KIBS Director Eric Kandel has been awarded an honorary doctorate from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. ... Investigator Elizabeth Hillman was awarded the 2011 Adolph Lomb Medal by the Optical Society of America, which is presented to a person who has made a noteworthy contribution to optics at an early age. 


Kavli Institute of Nanoscience at the Delft University of Technology (KIND). Former KIND Director Hans Mooij is one of this year's recipients of the Fritz London Memorial Prize, considered the highest award in the field of low-temperature physics. ... Paul McEuen, Director of the Kavli Institute at Cornell for Nanoscale Science, visits KIND in September to give the Kavli colloquium. ... KIND is now publishing a quarterly newsletter that includes researcher interviews, institute news and information about upcoming events. To read the newsletter, click here.

Kavli Nanoscience Institute at California Institute of Technology (KNI). Julia R. Greer, Assistant Professor of Materials Science and Mechanics, has been appointed to the KNI Board. ... KNI member Shelby Hutchens has received the Demetriades-Tsafka-Kokkalis Prize in Nanotechnology, which is one of four prizes for Caltech PhD candidates in selected fields for best thesis, publication or discovery.

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