The Falling Walls Conference celebrates the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall by highlighting scientific breakthroughs that transcend borders
- Black holes, spinal cord implants and new food products that help conserve the Earth’s limited resources were among the trailblazing scientific breakthroughs presented at the Falling Walls Conference
- In other contributions, leading researchers called for society to be empowered to control the development of AI and to regulate the Internet
- Members of the international science community presented their research findings and studies to an audience of more than 700 distinguished representatives from across industry, government and civil society
Berlin, 9 November 2019. Leading researchers have presented significant scientific breakthroughs and concrete solutions to address global societal and environmental issues at this year’s Falling Walls Conference in Berlin.
“The Falling Walls Conference is a meeting place for leading thinkers from across science, government, industry and civil society, who come here to participate in constructive discussions that transcend the borders of their own disciplines. Scientific freedom is absolutely necessary if we wish to find answers to the urgent questions of our time. We at the Falling Walls Foundation are grateful that so many renowned scientists from around the world have accepted our invitation for what is now our eleventh conference,” says Jürgen Mlynek, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Falling Walls Foundation.
During the main programme, 18 speakers from diverse disciplines presented their scientific breakthroughs. Shep Doeleman of the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics talked about achieving a milestone in astrophysics with the first photo of a black hole. Mark Post of Maastricht University explained the revolutionary approach he is pursuing with a pioneering method to produce cultured meat. Also looking at food-related issues was Segenet Kelemu of the International Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology, Nairobi, who presented the highly relevant benefits of consuming insects – a food source which is both high in protein and globally available. Each researcher showed a different way to sustainably provide food for the world in times of accelerating climate change and dwindling resources.
Harvard economist Shoshana Zuboff called for the defence of freedom in times of surveillance capitalism. Former Google manager and artificial intelligence expert Meredith Whittaker, of the AI Now Institute, issued an appeal for collective action to establish ethical guidelines for the development of AI worldwide.
One of the most emotional moments at the conference was the appearance of paraplegic patient David Mzee, who can now walk again thanks to a spinal cord implant developed by an international research team led by Grégoire Courtine and Jocelyne Bloch (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne and Lausanne University Hospital). Other significant contributions included recent findings on finding malaria, the possibilities of quantum computing and the need for sustainable consumption in developing and industrialised countries.
This year’s conference was held on the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The event was opened by Oxford historian Timothy Garton Ash, who gave an impressive talk on the political and social developments that have occurred since 1989.
About The Falling Walls Foundation
The Falling Walls Foundation is a non-profit organisation based in Berlin. The foundation creates international and interdisciplinary platforms and networks through its annual Falling Walls Conference, which asks each year on the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall: Which walls will fall next? At the conference, 20 leading researchers from around the world present their latest breakthroughs in the natural sciences, humanities, business and technology to an audience of around 700 decision-makers and innovators in politics, research, industry and civil society. The Falling Walls Foundation also organises Berlin Science Week, which bring scientists from institutions all over the world to Berlin from 1 to 10 November. A further initiative is the Young Entrepreneurs in Science programme, which trains doctoral researchers to translate their research into a potential business idea. The Falling Walls Foundation is supported by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres, the Robert Bosch Stiftung and the Berlin Senate, as well as by numerous national and international research institutions, foundations and companies.
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