In the News
2012 Nobel Laureate
N°28 I quarterly I JaNuary 2013
By Mark asch, MatheMatIcs & hPc scIeNtIfIc
OffIcer at the freNch MINIstry Of hIgher
4 I 5 In the News
2012 Nobel Prize in Physics Serge
Haroche, Earth Sciences Summit,
The ESO's 50th anniversary, CNRS
tops international rankings.
Bioelectronic sensors for
diabetes patients and a new
DNA sequencing method.
28 I 30 In Images
Inside France's prestigious center
for heritage preservation.
Shale gas extraction: alternatives
32 I 37 CNRS Networks
CNRS and MIT joint research on
porous materials, Microfluidics,
and research in Australia and
38 CNRS Facts and
Latest data on the largest
institution in Europe.
How plants grow roots.
educatION aNd research
6 I 16 Live from the Labs
The Elysée Treaty turns 50, Writing with your
eyes, SPIPOLL, Taming nitrenes, New cosmic
rays, Electronic tongues that can see,
Scarring cells, Better cancer treatments,
and Bio inspired computing memory.
18 I 19 Profile
Philippe Descola is
awarded the 2012
CNRS gold Medal.
Big Data is a new scientific discipline
with enormous societal challenges
(including genomics, health, global
warming, smart cities) that acts as a
driving force for research. In this sense,
data can be considered to be a shared
infrastructure facilitating research at
national, European, and international
levels. The European Commission has
recently funded four pilot projects
within the framework of the European
Strategy Forum on Research
Infrastructures (ESFRI) to form "data
clusters" in the life sciences, environmental
sciences, and particle physics. The
Research Data Alliance is an attempt to
federate these efforts around digital information
at the international level. The
aim is to set up working groups and a
plenary that will advise on certification,
standards, and best practice.
CNRS plays an active role in the "Big
Data revolution." In May 2012, it launched
Mastodons, a dedicated interdisciplinary
grand challenge planned to run
for five years, which will fund crosscutting
research projects that tackle the
emerging field of large data masses, its
methods and applications.
With its far-reaching multidisciplinary
expertise, CNRS is uniquely positioned
to take up the challenge. As such,
we expect to become a world leader in
this exciting albeit complex domain.
20 I 27 Focus
The Big Data Revolution
21 I A New Challenge
24 I Coping with a Data Deluge
26 I Data Storage: a Teething Problem
extra content (pictures or videos)
that can be accessed on the
online version of the magazine.
cnrs I InternatIonal magazIne
4| In the News
qaerial view of the
eso's Very large
telescope (Vlt) at
ESO turns 50
W the European Southern Observatory (ESO)
celebrated its 50th anniversary last October.
Supported by 15 member states, the organization
gives the scientific community access to top-level
astronomical resources such as the Very Large
telescope (VLt), the alma observatory, or the future
European Extremely Large telescope (EELt). France
is one of the ESO's founding countries and the
second-largest contributor after Germany.
Earth Sciences Summit
W On November 29, 2012, government
representatives from 13 European countries met
at CNRS headquarters to endorse the concept of the
future European Plate Observing System (EPOS), an
infrastructure dedicated to the Earth sciences. The
objective is to give researchers easy access to data from
numerous observation systems (seismological networks,
volcano observatories, etc.), digital simulations, and
experimental analytical systems across Europe. To do so,
EPOS seeks to integrate data from facilities that are both
geographically and thematically distant into a single
European-wide resource. The French contribution,
overseen by CNRS's INSU,1 involves numerous
infrastructures, notably Resif, the French seismological
and geodesic network. The EPOS preparation phase
should be completed by 2014.
01. Institut national des sciences de l'univers.
W this year, CNrS moved back from second to first place in the
Scimago ranking. this system, created by Spanish and Portuguese
researchers, records the number of publications by research
institutions between 2006 and 2010. the Chinese and russian
academies of Sciences ranked second and third, respectively.
… in the Top 100
W as in 2011, CNrS is among the world's 100 most innovative
companies and organizations according to the 2012 top 100 Global
Innovators list published by thomson reuters last December.
the list is based on several criteria including the number of patent
applications, their success rate, and the international scope of
patent portfolios. France ranked third worldwide, with a total
of 13 companies and public institutions.
… and 1st Recipient
of ERC Grants
again this year, CNrS is the main European research organization
to host ErC grant laureates, ahead of Britain's university of
Cambridge and Germany's max Planck Society, which rank second
and third respectively. Since the ErC program was created in 2007,
172 researchers, whether young or senior, have carried out their
projects at CNrS, making the institution the first beneficiary of this
cnrs makes the headlines i
W the emergence of lateral roots in the plant Arabidopsis
thaliana is regulated by aquaporins, the membrane
channel proteins that facilitate water movements within
cell membranes.1 this result, obtained by an
international team associating French researchers from
CNrS and Inra,2 to labs from Germany, Spain, and the
uK, may help optimize root growth.
01. B. Péret et al., Nat. Cell Biol., 2012. 14 : 991–8.
02. Institut national de la recherche agronomique.
n°28 I quarterly I January 2013
In the News |5
Nobel Prize in Physics 2012
On december 10, 2012, in Stockholm,
Serge Haroche received the Nobel Prize
in Physics, jointly with the american
physicist david Wineland, for their work
in quantum physics.
aroche, 68, a researcher at the Laboratoire
Kastler-Brossel (LKB)1 and a professor at the
Collège de France, specializes in atomic physics
and quantum optics. He is one of the pioneers of
cavity quantum electrodynamics, which consists in studying
the interactions between a single atom and a few photons
contained in a "box," or cavity. "The Nobel laureates have
paved the way for a new era of experimentation in quantum
physics by demonstrating the direct observation of individual
quantum particles without destroying them," said the Nobel
Committee. "Through their ingenious laboratory methods,
Haroche and Wineland—together with their research
groups—have managed to measure and control very fragile
quantum states considered inaccessible for direct observation."
In 2009, when Haroche was awarded the CNRS Gold
Medal, France's most prestigious scientific distinction, he
modestly explained that "despite the complexity of the
set-up, the underlying physical theory is actually very
simple," albeit difficult to express without using equations.
"You need a basic grasp of maths," he admitted.
A photo gallery is
available on the online
version of the magazine.
In fact, it was maths that Haroche first studied, before
specializing in physics at the École Normale Supérieure
(ENS) in Paris, which he joined in 1963. After leaving the
ENS, he began his career at CNRS, where his research played
a significant role in reconciling the microscopic quantum
world with the macroscopic classical world. During the
1970s and 1980s, he developed new laser spectroscopy
methods based on the study of quantum beats and
superradiance. He then became interested in Rydberg atoms,
giant atomic systems whose sensitivity to microwaves makes
them particularly well suited to fundamental research into
Haroche's own words best illustrate the common thread
running through his career: "I have always endeavored to
carry out experiments involving atoms and photons in
'exotic' situations not usually found in nature. I have tried to
make use of these situations to decipher fundamental
phenomena, and to develop new tools to investigate matter
Haroche's work, enabled by ongoing technological
advances, has made it possible to experimentally verify
certain postulates of the physics of the infinitely small by
drawing inspiration from the thought experiments devised
by Albert Einstein and Niels Bohr.
For CNRS President Alain Fuchs, this Nobel Prize
rewards "pioneering work carried out over the long
term, combining fundamental understanding with
01. CNRS / ENS / Université Paris-VI.
receiving his nobel
Prize from His
majesty King carl XVI
gustaf of sweden at
concert Hall on
December 10, 2012.
cnrs I InternatIonal magazIne
6 Spotlight | Live from the Labs
Elysée Treaty January 22, 2013, will mark the 50th anniversary of the Elysée Treaty.
Historian Corine Defrance looks back on this historic European milestone.
50 years of
interview by laure caIlloce
On January 22, 1963, German
Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and
French President Charles de Gaulle
signed the elysée treaty, the official
document codifying post-war
Franco-German reconciliation. How
did it come about?
Corine Defrance: The Elysée Treaty was
a bilateral treaty of rapprochement
between France and Germany, setting
objectives for increased cooperation
between the two countries. The term
"reconciliation" is not used in the text itself,
but is mentioned in the joint declaration
issued by Adenauer and De Gaulle.
After nearly a century of rivalry and three
wars, the resentment between France and
Germany was stronger than ever in 1945,
and each country saw the other as a
"hereditary enemy." To ensure lasting
peace in Europe, this image needed to be
dispelled once and for all. But first,
groundwork needed to be done in both
countries to prepare public opinion. It
was only after the state visits of 1962—by
Adenauer to Rheims in July and De
Gaulle to Germany in September—that a
project of French-German cooperation
was proposed. De Gaulle's tour of
Germany was a triumph, and his speeches
in German—the "language of the enemy"
that he had learned as an officer—made a
strong impression. Memoranda were exchanged in the autumn
of 1962. Just three days before signing the final document,
Adenauer suggested to De Gaulle that they make it a full-fledged
diplomatic treaty, a much more binding agreement that would
have to be ratified by the parliaments of both countries.
Does this mean that there had been little to no Franco-
German cooperation before 1963?
C.D.: The notion that everything started with the Elysée Treaty
is part of the "De Gaulle myth." But a number of initiatives had
begun immediately after the war, including by the French military
government in Germany. In 1950, the Schuman Plan1 was
a historic step towards closer political and economic ties
between France and the new Federal Republic of Germany
(FRG), and the blueprint for a European community.
In civil society as well, actions to admonish lasting resentment
were taken by various mediators, including many former French
Resistance fighters who had kept contact with the German
n°28 I quarterly I January 2013
Live from the Labs | Spotlight 7
democracy activists they had met as co-prisoners in concentra-
the Elysée Treaty
tion camps. Through associations like the French Committee
is part of the
for Exchanges with the New Germany and BILD (International
Liaison and Documentation Bureau), they published reviews
and organized conferences to present their respective countries.
Town twinning also predated the Elysée Treaty, starting in 1950
with Montbéliard and the German city of Ludwigsburg, where
De Gaulle delivered his famous address to Germany's youth on
September 9, 1962.
the treaty was signed only a few months later. which
specific areas of cooperation did it cover?
C.D.: The treaty itself was a short document. The first section
established the principle of regular consultation in the form of
bi-annual Franco-German summit meetings. Initially, these
involved heads of state and a few ministers, but they would later
include all levels of the two governments. Cooperation was
limited to three areas: foreign policy, defense/security, and
education and youth. At first, the youth programs were the
only ones that produced visible results. The Franco-German
Youth Office (OFAJ), founded at the first summit meeting in
July 1963, brought more than a million young people together
in just five years. As of today, 8 million youths from all social
backgrounds have benefited from these programs.
what about other cooperative efforts?
C.D.: The first decade proved a difficult one, but the era of Valéry
Giscard d'Estaing and Helmut Schmidt, immediately followed
by the François Mitterrand-Helmut Kohl period, ushered in a
phase of close relations. This led to the substantial development
of cooperation in the areas of education and culture, which were
not included in the original treaty. The idea of a Franco-German
television network, Arte, was proposed in 1986, and its first
broadcast was in 1992. Cooperation in higher education and
research took off in 1988, with the development of integrated
Franco-German degree programs, which now involve 180
establishments and more than 5000 students on both sides of
the border. Joint research organizations like the Marc Bloch
Center2 in Berlin were also established. As for secondary education,
the so-called "Abi-bac" classes were created in the early
1990s, to help students prepare for the final high-school exam
historian at the IrIce lab.3
De Gaulle myth."
close ties with the US and NATO, while France was more
independent. Yet there was cooperation in certain areas, like
armament or joint military exercise, and some highly symbolic
initiatives were undertaken, such as the creation of the Franco-
German Brigade in 1989, bringing together nearly 5000 troops.
A turning point came in 2003, when the two countries expressed
their opposition to the invasion of Iraq. As a result, France and
Germany decided to hold special celebrations for the 40th
anniversary of the Elysée Treaty. The French and German
parliaments thus met for an extraordinary session in Versailles.
The partners decided to establish the Elysée Fund, which
finances Franco-German cultural projects in other countries.
Starting in the 1970s, the two nations laid the foundations for
the European Monetary System, initiat