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Science & Society: The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge – Lecture on November 20, 2018

How does society benefit from basic research? Who can benefit, and in what format? These are the questions that Professor Helmut Schwarz from Technical University Berlin will explore in his lecture “The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge”. The colloquium from the series “Science and Society” will take place at the Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) on November 20, 2018.

The lecture series "Science and Society" is dedicated to Hans-Peter Dürr. He was committed to peace policy and nature conservation.

The Max Planck Institute for Physics is inviting renowned scientists to its annual event “Science and Society”, who will discuss the at times difficult relationship between research and society. The series is dedicated to the former MPP Director Hans-Peter Dürr, who passed away in 2014, and who in the later years of his career increasingly focused on environmental and societal issues.

In his lecture, Helmut Schwarz will talk about the prerequisites of successful research: A social environment which treats researchers with trust and offers them opportunities to “think big”. This is the only way to open up the space for new discoveries: It is not possible to predict whether, when and how these might benefit humanity – no more than the character of Puck in Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night's Dream“.

Professor Helmut Schwarz and his team are researching compounds of metals and organic molecules. The research is aimed at improving the understanding of catalytic processes and generating tailored catalytic converters. Schwarz was also closely involved in the further development of mass spectrometry, a by now widely applied method to analyze chemical substances.

This year's colloquium will take place at the Lecture Theater of the Max Planck Institute for Physics on November 20, 2018, and starts at 4:15 pm. Professor Helmut Schwarz’s lecture ”The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge" will be in English. The lecture is free.