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Two TUM Clusters of Excellence approved:

Origins of the Universe and Cognitive Technical Systems

13.10.2006, Press releases

TUM confirms its reputation as a leading research-oriented university

How did the four Fundamental Forces of Nature influence the creation of the Universe, and how did the elements known to us to date become enriched in the Universe? How can technical systems identify things and (learn to) learn, and how do they adapt reliably to surprises?

These challenging scientific questions are at the centre of the two TUM clusters of excellence that emerged victorious when the results of the national Excellence Initiative were announced today. "The jury has awarded an international elite status to the two projects (conducted) under the speakership of our Professors Stefan Paul (Physics) and Martin Buss (Electrical Engineering and Information Technology)“, is how TUM's Principal, Prof. Herrmann, commented on the joint decision of the Appropriations Committee comprising the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft and the German Science Council.

Details as follows:

Excellence cluster "Fundamental physics: Origins and structure of the Universe"

In this cluster of excellence, astrophysicists, nuclear and particle physicists collectively examine some of the most important, unsolved questions of modern science: the innermost structure of matter, space and time; the nature of the fundamental forces; and the structure, geometry and composition of the Universe. The project is based in Garching, one of the largest, most active centres in the world in the field of fundamental physics and astrophysics. Scientists participating in this cluster play an active part in international collaborations involved in building huge, unique scientific apparatus for astrophysics and particle physics with a view to tracing the hidden physical properties of the Cosmos.
Complex experiments, astronomic observations, intricate numerical simulations and new theoretical models are used to investigate key, fundamental aspects of physics that link research at the tiniest of scales to the greatest scales of the Cosmos. The properties of the forces and matter on applying extremely high-power energy at extremely short intervals will throw light on the origin and unification of the four fundamental forces of Nature. These in turn define the early development of the Universe following the Big Bang. The mysterious surplus of matter compared to the amount of antimatter in the Universe, as observed in the standard model of particle physics, calls for examination. A search for evidence of supersymmetry, currently the most promising candidate for extending the standard model, is to be instigated and the nature of the dark matter and dark energy, which dominate the mass and expansion of the Universe, investigated.

On a more fundamental level, scientists in this cluster will take a look at new quantum gravitation theories in a bid to discover possible connections between dark energy, the creation of mass and the structure of space and time. This is to be accompanied by research into the appearance of "black holes" and (heavy-)element enrichment in the Universe. An office building, which simultaneously forms the heart of the cluster, has been especially earmarked for the 10 newly established junior groups. This research centre also houses the cluster's administrative staff as well as scientists from the pool of strategic partners and other invited guests. This cluster offers young scientists a unique opportunity to forge a successful career in one of the most fascinating interdisciplinary fields of modern, basic research.

Excellence cluster "Cognition for technical systems" (CoTeSys)

This cluster of excellence sets out to examine cognition for technical systems like automotives, robots and plants. Cognitive technical systems are equipped with artificial sensors and actuators, integrated and embedded in physical systems, and are employed in physical environments. They differ from other technical systems in that they function cognitively and possess self-learning properties. Cognitive action incorporates contemplated and habitual behaviour that pursues long-term targets. Thanks to their cognitive ability, including perception, contemplation, learning and planning capabilities, technical systems evolve to become systems that “know what they are doing”. This means that these systems are able to select the most appropriate course of action in a given situation while processing information on the present environment and their own scope. This cognitive ability serves to improve the systems' reliability, flexibility, adaptability and performance. Interaction and cooperation become easier.

CoTeSys unites research competence in (medical) neurosciences, natural sciences, engineering, informatics and humanities at Technische Universität München (TUM), Ludwig Maximilian University (LMU), Federal Armed Forces University (UBM), German Aerospace Centre (DLR) and Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology (MPI) in order to devise, implement and analyse the data-processing methods required for cognitive technical systems. Fundamental research in the spheres of neurobiology, neuroscience and cognitive science forms the basis for innovative engineering and information technology approaches for “artificial” cognition. These are examined and evaluated in human factors studies. A special feature of CoTeSys is that theoretical research results can be realised directly as hardware experiments. Three conceptual scenarios are pursued to this end: cognitive aircraft and automobiles, cognitive humanoid robots and cognitive factories. Apart from testing concepts for accuracy and applicability, these complex demonstrators also serve to show how far the cluster has advanced and to monitor its progress.

CoTeSys realises cognitive ability and focuses on technical systems. With technical systems as the major field of application, there are plans to investigate a key innovative area of technology, which is of crucial importance to the German high-tech industry. The collaboration between disciplines and institutions creates synergies that are on course to consolidate Munich's lead in research, academia and technology.

The sustainability of the cluster is safeguarded by a new teaching concept that covers new Bachelor's and Master's degree courses, plus summer schools for doctoral students. These educational and qualification measures are not only geared to promote local students and junior scientists but also to attract researchers from international, top-level institutions to Munich.

Kontakt: presse@tum.de

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