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Austrian Science Talk 2008 - a Fresh Breeze in the Windy City

bridges vol. 19, October 2008 / News from the Network

More than 100 Austrian scientists gather in Chicago for the 5th Austrian Science Talk.

For the fifth time, the Federal Ministry for Transportation, Innovation and Technology (bmvit) held the Austrian Science Talk in North America, and more than 100 Austrian scientists got together in Chicago.

For the first time ever, a political representative joined the event: in the person of Christa Kranzl, state secretary at the bmvit. In her opening speech, Kranzl emphasized Austria’s success on the way towards the three percent Lisbon Strategy. Austria is rapidly catching up and furthermore plans on reaching four percent by 2020. Kranzl also pointed out the weaknesses of Austria’s innovation system, such as a lack of highly skilled talent in R&D, and referred to brainpower austria as the major initiative to attract scientists from all over the world.

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OST Scientist Network and ASciNA Activities

bridges vol. 19, October 2008 / News from the Network

Lecture Tour of ITLOS Judge Helmut Türk

The Office of Science and Technology (OST) at the Austrian Embassy in Washington, DC, cooperated with the American Society for International Law (ASIL), Johns Hopkins University, George Mason University Law School, and George Washington University Law School to host various lectures by Judge Helmut Türk from October 8 through 16, 2008.

Dr. Türk, former Austrian ambassador to the United States, and judge at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) located in Hamburg, Germany, was elected vice president of the tribunal for the period 2008–2011.

In his lectures in the US, Dr. Türk covered topics such as “The Waning Freedom of the Seas“ and “Landlocked States and the Law of the Sea,” and provided the audiences with an understanding of the contribution of the ITLOS to international law. In addition, combating terrorism at sea and the suppression of unlawful acts against the safety of maritime navigation proved to be current topics that caught the attention of diverse audiences and led to vivid discussions.

Wedgwood and Türk during the lecture at SAIS.

“It was great – he is a wonderful discussant. Please give him our thanks, and he's welcome back any time!” says Professor Ruth Wedgewood, director of the International Law and Organizations Program at Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University.

Guests of the lectures included not only students and practitioners of law and faculty of the hosting universities, but also representatives of offices of the US Senate, and diplomats from foreign embassies in Washington, DC.

(Info on Türk)
http://www.itlos.org/start2_en.html (Info on ITLOS)
(Press Release in which Türk was announced vice president of ITLOS last week)

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Re$earch Re$ources: Call for Proposals - €35 Million for New Ludwig Boltzmann Institutes

bridges vol. 19, October 2008 / News from the Network: Austrian Researchers Abroad


lbg_logo_small.jpg The Ludwig Boltzman Society (LBG - Ludwig Boltzmann Gesellschaft) announced the third call for proposals for the establishment of new Ludwig Boltzmann Institutes (LBI) in the social sciences and humanities, as well as in the life sciences.

There is a special interest in applications that cross the boundaries between the disciplines of medicine and adjacent subject areas, or those that integrate humanities with the cultural and social sciences. "Adjacent subject areas" refers to those spheres of engineering and of the natural sciences that are involved in medical questions, such as medical biotechnology, bioinformatics, telemedicine, and so on.

Applications can be submitted from November 17, 2008, through January 16, 2009. Over a seven-year period, LBG will provide €35 million in grants toward those new institutions.


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Innovation in Runway Safety: Development of a Flight Deck-Based Runway Safety Alerting System

bridges vol. 19, October 2008 / News from the Network, Austrian Scientists Abroad

By Peter Moertl

The author of the following article, Peter Moertl, is lead human factors engineer at the MITRE Center for Advanced Aviation System Development. He is leading the design and evaluation in aviation research and development with special focus on runway safety. He has over more than 10 years collaborated with various aviation organizations including the Civil Aeromedical Institute and Technical Center of the Federal Aviation Administration, as well NASA Ames and NASA Langley on flight-deck and air traffic controller related human performance and system design. Peter Moertl studied psychology at the Karl Franzens University in Graz, Austria, and received his Ph. D. at the University of Oklahoma.

MITRE is a not-for-profit corporation working in the public interest in partnership with national and international government sponsors with a 6,500-member staff. Its Center for Advanced Aviation System Development is the largest research and development organization for airports and air traffic control systems in the US.  MITRE's origins go back half a century to its existence as a laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).  Its staff addresses issues of critical national and international importance, combining systems engineering and information technology. More information about MITRE can be found at www.mitre.org .

Aircraft at airports operate in proximity to each other and at high speeds during departures and landings. The erroneous presence of aircraft on a runway can lead to disastrous accidents. The worst accident, in terms of human lives lost, happened in March 1977 in Tenerife, when two Boeing 747s collided during take-off. In that accident, 583 people lost their lives. In a more recent accident in 2001 at Milan Linate airport in Italy, an MD 80 collided with a Cessna Citation: 114 people lost their lives. Although such accidents are relatively rare, they continue to occur and their prevention has been recognized as a high public safety priority.

Aftermath of a collision between two aircraft at Milan Linate airport.

Therefore, Civil Aviation Administrations throughout the world have undertaken programs to reduce the occurrence of runway accidents. This article reports on current developments by MITRE CAASD, a non-profit organization supporting the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), together with other industry and government organizations, aimed to reduce such occurrences. The FAA is the organization that regulates and operates the national airspace system in the United States. 

Runway collisions are the visible tip of a larger iceberg that consists of events called "runway incursions." Runway incursions involve the incorrect presence of an aircraft, vehicle, or person on runways. In the United States alone, between 2004 and 2007 there were 5-6 incursions per million departures and landings - 1353 incidents overall. Runway incursions are generally considered a better safety measurement than accidents, simply because they occur more frequently. Runway incursions also provide information about the errors that lead to accidents. Therefore, by reducing the rate of incursions, the rate of accidents should also decrease. However, the relative rate of runway incursions per total operations in the US has scarcely changed over the last four years, despite the introduction of several safety improvement programs during that time.

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Introducing Arnold Leitner and the (Sun)Rise of Solar Power

bridges vol. 19, October 2008 / News From the Network: Austrian Researchers Abroad

By Katharina Jarmai

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Dr. Arnold Leitner

A man standing alone in the desert. Barefoot in a business suit with rolled-up trouser legs, he carries a worn-out briefcase - and a big grin on his face. The timing is just right for Arnold Leitner, CEO and President of SkyFuel: With both oil prices and the public awareness of renewable energy rising to new heights, the time has come to save the planet and make good bucks with his company SkyFuel, a leading technology provider and developer of thermal concentrating solar power (CSP) systems.

The picture's motif was actually adapted from a poster of the 1980's movie, Local Hero. In the film, a representative of an American oil company is sent to Scotland to acquire a small village from its inhabitants to make way for an oil refinery, but he is won over by his affection for the countryside and the village people. Leitner considers it one of his favorite movies, because it depicts the situation we find ourselves in today. "The energy supply question is not about who's good and who's bad. It is just that we have a problem, and we need to fix it."

Given the early hour of the interview - it is only 8 A.M. in Colorado where he is answering my questions over the phone - Leitner, who holds a Ph.D. in superconductor physics from the University of Colorado, Boulder, and an M.B.A. from Columbia University, speaks passionately about his work and his beliefs. He remembers having his mind made up about his future line of work - solar energy - at the age of 15. It was in his high school library that he came across the picture of a train carrying radioactive waste to a storage facility. The low radioactive waste would have to be stored for ‘only' 10,000 years. While Leitner was already interested in environmental protection at the time, it was this picture and its message that triggered a basic conclusion: Access to, and control of, energy would become one of the world's most important issues in the near future. "I recognized that with almost any environmental problem I could think of, the one thing that all of these things needed was energy." Nuclear energy was not going to be the answer to the world's energy demand, he decided, so something else would have to be.

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