El calendario de adviento (de ciencia) 2015 del Instituto Max-Planck

El calendario de Adviento del Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, presenta una imagen de ciencia –y su explicación– cada día.

Hasta el 24 de diciembre, se pueden ir descubriendo las sorpresas científicas escondidas tras cada número con un simple ‘clic’.

Y el día 1 de diciembre esconde…Towers of silicon:

Día 1: Towers of silicon

Día 1: Towers of silicon. © MPG

To achieve higher efficiency in future solar cells, researchers do not form the silicon for photovoltaic elements into today’s conventionally smooth layers, but into ‘carpets’ of nanowires which absorb a lot more light. Since these wires are just 100 nanometres thick and two micrometres long, they resemble tiny towers. The researchers produce these structures by initially coating a thin layer of silicon with polystyrene spheres. The silicon, which is not protected by the beads, is then removed by etching it with plasma, i.e. strongly ionized gas. Normally, the silicon towers stand close together. Here, researchers have left gaps between the polystyrene spheres to be able to inspect the wires from the side as well. The electron microscope, with which the picture was taken, distinguishes between different materials because it uses two different detectors. It shows polystyrene in red and silicon in green.

Explicación de la imagen, MPG

Hay que tener paciencia para ir descubriendo las imágenes escondidas tras cada día del mes de diciembre (hasta el día 24) … porque el botón correspondiente se activa ese mismo día.

¡Una gran iniciativa para disfrutar y aprender!

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Día 2 de diciembre…Free-fall in a golden cage:

Día 1: Towers of silicon

Día 2: Free-fall in a golden cage. © MPG

Two inconspicuous looking metal cages are at the heart of the satellites of ESA mission LISA Pathfinder. In each of these special chambers, there is a two- kilogram cube of gold-platinum alloy of extremely low magnetic susceptibility. In space, the cubes will be free-floating and, remaining in perfect free-fall, only respond to gravity. With the collected data, LISA Pathfinder will pave the way for the measurement of gravitational waves in space and test key technologies for future space observatories. The mission, in which the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics in Hannover is playing a leading role, was scheduled to start this morning from the European Spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana. Based on technical difficulties, however, the launch was postponed. 

Explicación de la imagen, MPG

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Día 3 de diciembre…Cells under pressure:

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Día 3: Cells under pressure . © MPG

Fluorescent dyes make this cross-section of a blood vessel shine like a rainbow under the microscope. The different layers of the arterial wall are clearly identifiable. The muscle cells (red) determine the tension in the blood vessel and, as a result, the blood pressure. Controlling blood pressure is one of the body’s most complex control functions. Max Planck scientists discovered a receptor in the innermost layer of certain arteries – the endothelium (here green) – which plays a crucial role in this process. It is activated by the shear forces exerted by the blood flowing through the vessels on the endothelial cells. This triggers a cascade of reactions, which culminate in the production of nitrogen monoxide by the endothelial cells. The muscle cells thereby relax and the blood pressure falls.

Explicación de la imagen, MPG

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Día 4 de diciembre… Superconductivity in a flash:

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Día 4: Superconductivity in a flash. © MPG

Superconductors can transport electrical current without any losses. Unfortunately, this was only possible so far at extremely low temperatures. However, researchers have now succeeded in making a ceramic superconducting at room temperature with the help of infrared laser pulses –for a few millionths of a microsecond, at least. The ceramic, yttrium barium copper oxide (YBCO), is composed of thin double layers of copper oxide (light blue; copper = yellow, oxygen = red) alternating with thicker intermediate layers. Electrons can join up to form Cooper pairs in the double layers, which can then ‘tunnel’ between the layers at low temperatures without difficulty – the material becomes superconducting. When the powerful laser hits the crystal it excites the oxygen atoms between the double layers and causes them to oscillate. This makes the distances between the double layers shrink. The Cooper pairs can then tunnel through all layers even at higher temperatures and conduct electricity without resistance.

Explicación de la imagen, MPG

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Día 5 de diciembre: el sentido del olfato es el protagonista: It stinks here!

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Día 5: It stinks here! © MPG

Whether a smell is perceived as good or bad depends, not least, on who smells it. The best-known example of this is probably carrion: repulsive to humans, but irresistible to flies. In any case, the smell of a substance contains important information which is sometimes vital for survival. Has food gone off? Is there food here for the larvae? In the fly brain, decisions about smells are made in the lateral horn. This area appears to assume a similar function to the amygdala, the region of the mammalian brain often described as almond-shaped. Sensory impressions are processed and evaluated here – particularly those concerning hazards. In flies, only three main types of neurons are needed for this: inhibitory neurons (green) react to attractive smells and superior neurons (yellow) to nasty ones; the third type (magenta) transmit information about the identity of a smell to other areas of the brain.

Explicación de la imagen, MPG

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Día 6 de diciembre: el protagonista es el genoma, a través de Closely linked, but still flexible.

Closely linked, but still flexible

Día 6: Closely linked, but still flexible. © MPG

The genome is not a fixed entity – neither in its information content nor structure. The chromosomes are located in the cell nucleus. They consist of chromatin, a complex comprising DNA and special proteins. Areas in the chromatin link with each other and divide the DNA into different, well-defined regions as a result. The 3D structure in these stable regions, however, differs from cell type to cell type. To visualize the connection between stability and flexibility, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Immunobiology and Epigenetics designed this kaleidocycle. The structure is printed with the measurement data from one billion DNA sequences. The red areas indicate the high number of connections measured between two different regions of the genome.

Explicación de la imagen, MPG

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Día 7 de diciembre: la superficie de Ceres y su geología son los protagonistas de Bird of paradise in space.

Día 7: Bird of paradise in space. © MPG

Día 7: Bird of paradise in space. © MPG

The surface of Ceres may be grey, but for astronomers it is certainly by no means dull. On the contrary: it lends itself for geological fieldwork, especially if you give it a little technical boost and equip the camera eyes of the Dawn spacecraft with infrared, red, and blue filters. After this, the dwarf planet, named after the Roman goddess of agriculture, blossoms into a true bird of paradise. The false-colour images reveal details that would otherwise remain hidden. Since March 2015, Dawn has been orbiting the celestial body, photographing countless small craters, sharp-edged and precipitous mountain ridges as well as a pyramid-shaped, six-kilometer-high plateau. Ceres appears to have an onion-like structure – there are signs that there is a layer of frozen water below its surface. With a diameter of 963 kilometers across at the equator, Ceres is the largest celestial body in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. 

Explicación de la imagen, MPG

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Día 8 de diciembre nos trae a la Arabidopsis thaliana que se usa con gran frecuencia en investigación de plantas: A model seed.

Día 8: A model seed. © MPG

Día 8: A model seed. © MPG

The thale cress plant (Arabidopsis thaliana) is of little or no importance for agriculture. Nevertheless, it is one of the most famous plants in the world, as this small annual weed is the most important model organism used in plant research. It is small and undemanding, grows quickly, and forms large volumes of seeds. Above all, it has already been very well researched and its rather small genome for a plant is fully decoded. In this case, the researchers wanted to identify the factors involved in the development of the plant cell wall. To do this, certain glucose components in the cellulose in the seed pod of Arabidopsis were made visible using a fluorescent dye. By comparing the colour patterns of the seeds of the wild type with that of different seeds from plants in which certain genes had been switched off, it was possible to identify genes that are involved in the development of the cell wall.

Explicación de la imagen, MPG

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Día 9 de diciembre: Peering deeply into cells with nanooptics, la complejidad de las nanopartículas.

Día 9: Peering deeply into cells with nanooptics. © MPG

Día 9: Peering deeply into cells with nanooptics. © MPG

What looks like a star are complex nanoparticle structures. The still young discipline of nanoplasmonics deals with smallest electromagnetic waves emanating from metallic particles when these respond to light. Laura Na Liu from the Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems in Stuttgart, for example, uses this technique to observe biological and chemical processes at particle level. To this end, she uses gold and silver nanoparticles, which – as in this photo – combine with DNA to form a ring of more than 100 molecules and can be observed by using high-resolution microscopes. They show what is happening directly in the cell or during a chemical reaction. With this method, the researcher wants to attract new and accurate insights into the biology of cells and develop highly sensitive optical sensors.

Explicación de la imagen, MPG

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El día 10 de diciembre estudia al pez Dasyatis zugei en la anotación Delicate as a stingray cartilage.

Día 10: Delicate as a stingray cartilage. © MPG

Día 10: Delicate as a stingray cartilage. © MPG

A microCT image of the skeleton of a saltwater stingray (Dasyatis zugei). It is quite well known that the skeletons of sharks and rays are made of “cartilage”. The material, however, is quite different from the cartilage which we find in our knees and ears, for example. Unlike our cartilage, shark and ray cartilage is covered by a unique coating of tiny mineralized tiles. Thanks to this architecture, the tissue outside of the skeleton becomes dense enough to show up in x-ray images. This tiled material can, like bone, be arranged in a variety of ways. It can allow stiffness and reinforcement (the jaw or the base of the fins) or flexibility and mobility (the delicate cartilages that support the “wings”). In this fascinating way, the cartilage in these fishes can adapt to the most varied living conditions and perform a much wider variety of functions than the cartilage in our bodies. In our CT scan image, the skeletal elements in the head of the stingray, which are involved in the jaw movement, are colour-coded.

Explicación de la imagen, MPG

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El día 11 de diciembre Madness or method? nos habla sobre las magníficas conexiones neuronales de nuestro cerebro.

Día 11: Madness or method? © MPG

Día 11: Madness or method? © MPG

Billions of nerve cells throng around in the mammalian brain. Despite the apparent chaos, the communication between them functions perfectly smoothly. Information is processed efficiently and stored. It is not yet known whether the structure of this network is based on strict rules or whether the connections between the cells are mainly random. Randomly connected networks are completely capable of functioning – for example in computers. Random connections have also been demonstrated in the fly brain. Due to their vast number, it is impossible to study the nature of the neuronal connections in the mammalian brain directly. Researchers have therefore calculated the pattern of random connections in detail and compared it with precision measurements from the visual cortex. The results show that random connections cannot explain the structure of the mammalian brain; the networks in the visual cortex form in a self-organized way through dynamic reorganization and with increasing experience. Seeing is thus a process that has to be learned.

Explicación de la imagen, MPG

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El día 12 de diciembre Electrons and ions on circular loops trata de fusión nuclear.

Día 12: Electrons and ions on circular loops. © MPG

Día 12: Electrons and ions on circular loops. © MPG

Nuclear fusion – the fusion of hydrogen nuclei into helium – could be a clean and affordable energy source of the future, modelled on the example of our Sun. The technology is already being explored today, for example in Greifswald on the Baltic Sea. This is where Wendelstein 7-X is located, the world’s largest fusion device of the type stellarator. After about one year of technical preparations, the actual experiments started on December 10. The aim was to investigate whether stellarator are suitable for power plant operation. The picture shows one of the preparatory tests: In order for the fusion to work, the fuel, a very hot hydrogen plasma, must not touch the walls of the combustion chamber. This is achieved by a ring of 50 superconducting coils. In the magnetic field, the particles are confined on their own on circular tracks. With the help of a thin electron beam these tracks can be measured – and lo and behold, the magnetic cage of Wendelstein 7-X works exactly as calculated!

Explicación de la imagen, MPG

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El día 13 de diciembre se habla sobre la posibilidad de la vda eterna en Almost eternal life.

 Día 12: Electrons and ions on circular loops. © MPG

Día 13: Almost eternal life. © MPG

Is a life of eternal youth possible? Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research appear to be pretty close to immortality. Their research object is hydra, a small, approximately ten-centimetre-long freshwater polyp. The group of researchers has been pampering its laboratory animals for 10 years now with a sufficient food supply, regulated day-night cycles, steady temperatures and no predators – welcome to polyp paradise! To express their gratitude, the hydra do not age: their mortality rate is extremely low and remains constant for years. This would not have been thought possible before, as in most organisms – humans included – mortality increases steadily with age. From a demographic perspective, this is precisely what is involved in “ageing”. Hydra may not be immortal, but under ideal conditions, the tiny organism has a life expectancy of over several hundred years.

Explicación de la imagen, MPG

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El día 14 de diciembre llegan los murciélagos… Nocturnal furry fliers.

Día 14: Nocturnal furry fliers. © MPG Bats fly around the roost before taking off in the late afternoon.

Día 14: Nocturnal furry fliers. © MPG

When thousands of fruit bats take off into the night, it is almost impossible to distinguish individual animals. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Radolfzell want to learn more about the life and flight routes of the African straw-coloured fruit bats (Eidolon helvum), which are also regarded as the ‘bees of Africa’. Since the animals almost exclusively eat the fruit of certain trees, they play a significant role in seed dispersal and forest maintenance. The researchers equip the animals with tiny transmitters to track them over long distances. From 2016 onwards, the satellite-based tracking system Icarus will assist the researchers in their bid to study animal migration.

Explicación de la imagen, MPG

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El día 15 nos llega una preciosa imagen del corazón de nuestra galaxia: Glimpse into the heart of our galaxy.

Día 15: http://www.mpg.de/adventcalendar2015#day15. © MPG

Día 15:  Glimpse into the heart of our galaxy. © MPG

This X-ray broad-band mosaic image, which provides a new glimpse into the supermassive black hole at the heart of the Milky Way, consists of more than a hundred individual observations by the X-ray satellite XMM-Newton. The colours indicate observations at different energies. In addition to the X-ray emission from the regions around the supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way this map reveals X-ray binaries, star clusters, supernova remnants, bubbles and superbubbles, non-thermal filaments and many other sources.

Explicación de la imagen, MPG

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El día 16 viene con una curiosa imagen artística: A unique way of displaying art.

Día 16: A unique way of displaying art . © MPG

Día 16: A unique way of displaying art . © MPG

Paintings by Picasso and Modigliani, seated Senufo figures from West Africa, watercolours by Charles Demuth, and American decorative arts – the Barnes Foundation in Pennsylvania welcomes visitors to enjoy pictures and objects which are arranged in an unusual manner. The story of the man behind the collection is equally unusual: the medical doctor Albert C. Barnes (1872 – 1951), who made his fortune as a chemist, was the son of a butcher from Philadelphia, and a great believer in social commitment. He wanted to bring art and philosophy to his factory workers, among other things by providing them access to exhibitions of his own exceptional art collection. Art critics and other experts, however, were generally not welcome. Following the wishes of the donor, the collection today is not traditionally grouped in accordance with art-historical criteria, but rather according to shape, lines, light, or colour. Scientists at the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florence are currently studying the Barnes ‘ensembles’ as part of the research group.

Explicación de la imagen, MPG

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El día 17 nos presenta las mitocondrias como las fábricas de energía de las células: Energy from networks.

Día 16: A unique way of displaying art. © MPG

Día 17: Energy from networks. © MPG

Mitochondria are the energy factories of cells. They produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the universal energy currency in the body. Their form is much more changeable than expected: they are not only round to oval in shape, but also take the form of networks made of interconnected tubes which are constantly in motion, merge, or divide. Since construction errors in the mitochondria can cause serious diseases such as Parkinson’s, scientists are trying to understand what influences their complex architecture. This image shows four cells, in which the various cell components were stained with colour in order to examine the position and shape of mitochondria. The mitochondrial protein called Tom20 glows red – orange and reveals the intricate networks which surround the nuclei (blue). The actin fibers of the cytoskeleton are shown in grey; the peroxisomes – the cellular organelles that are responsible for the degradation of various metabolites – in green.

Explicación de la imagen, MPG

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El día 18 habla de nuevos materiales New materials for renewable energy.

Día 18: New materials for renewable energy. © MPG

Día 18: New materials for renewable energy. © MPG

Mitochondria are the energy factories of cells. They produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the universal energy currency in the body. Their form is much more changeable than expected: they are not only round to oval in shape, but also take the form of networks made of interconnected tubes which are constantly in motion, merge, or divide. Since construction errors in the mitochondria can cause serious diseases such as Parkinson’s, scientists are trying to understand what influences their complex architecture. This image shows four cells, in which the various cell components were stained with colour in order to examine the position and shape of mitochondria. The mitochondrial protein called Tom20 glows red – orange and reveals the intricate networks which surround the nuclei (blue). The actin fibers of the cytoskeleton are shown in grey; the peroxisomes – the cellular organelles that are responsible for the degradation of various metabolites – in green.

Explicación de la imagen, MPG

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El día 19 se centra en la ciencia de los genes: Too much of a good thing.

Día 18: New materials for renewable energy. © MPG

Día 19: Too much of a good thing. © MPG

In order to understand the function of individual genes, scientists resort to a trick: they switch off a specific gene and see how this affects the cells. In this way, scientists from the research center caesar were able to illustrate the role of the GBA2 gene. To this end, they compared connective tissue cells, where the gene was made non-functional, to normal cells. The investigation revealed that the genetically modified cells accumulate fat molecules in the cell membrane, rather than breaking them down. This ultimately results in an enormous actin cytoskeleton with characteristic outgrowths. Cells with the intact GBA2 gene are shown at the center of the image. Adjacent to them, the corresponding mutant cells with the switched off gene are seen. The actin cytoskeleton glows green, and the DNA blue. For best comparison, the cells were grown on standard substrate-patterns that shimmer purple in this image. Since the actin cytoskeleton in testis is involved in shaping sperm heads, male mice that lack GBA2 are infertile.

Explicación de la imagen, MPG

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El día 20 las nebulosas con las protagonistas: Cosmic nursery.

Día 20: Cosmic nursery. © MPG

Día 20: Cosmic nursery. © MPG

Interstellar nebulae are among the most spectacular and colourful phenomena in the universe: Ultraviolet light from nearby massive stars heats and ionizes the gas and dust in the “empty” space between the stars – cold, dust-rich regions and hot, colourful, bright areas create an impressive colour composition. This image, however, does not come from the far reaches of the cosmos, but from the computer. Researchers use simulations like this to study conditions in space and compare them to real observations. The nebula in the image is similar to the object “RCW 120”, which was taken with the Spitzer Space Telescope. The massive star that emits the ionizing radiation, is at the center of the structure, but not shown. It has much higher surface temperatures than our sun and heats up its surroundings. The hot gas expands and forms clumps of dense gas and dust that collapse under their own gravity, and thus can produce new stars.

Explicación de la imagen, MPG

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El día 21 llega la energía oscura: Shedding light on dark matter.

Día 21: Shedding light on dark matter. © MPG

Día 21: Shedding light on dark matter. © MPG

In the Gran Sasso underground laboratory located in the Abruzzo region of central Italy, scientists are on the hunt for the mysterious dark matter. Its nature is entirely unknown – although it probably accounts for roughly a quarter of the universe. To close in on it, the researchers have built an elaborate trap deep below the Earth: The XENON1T detector contains around three tons of high-purity xenon, cooled down to -96 ° C. The low-temperature liquid and an overlying layer of xenon gas are located in a cryostat – a sort of giant thermos flask, observed by 248 extremely sensitive photo sensors, split into two arrays at the top and bottom of the chamber. A large high-purity water tank and the 1,400 metres of rock above the laboratory serve as a shielding. The researchers expect that dark matter particles occasionally interact with xenon atoms, thus generating weak light signals. This image shows the light sensors for the XENON1T detector during assembly into its holder.

Explicación de la imagen, MPG

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El día 22 Well networked habla de las conexiones de nuestro cerebro…

Día 22: Well networked. © MPG

Día 22: Well networked. © MPG

Rats cannot only smell and hear extremely well. They also use the whiskers in order to navigate through the world. Because the sense of touch is so important for rodents, processing in the brain takes up a lot of space. The central relay is the somatosensory cortex where the information gathered by the whiskers is evaluated and processed. The picture shows the ten most important nerve cell types of this brain area. The dendrites – cell extensions that receive information from other nerve cells – are shown in red. The axons – the highly branched parts that pass the information to surrounding nerve cells – light up in different colours. Dendrites and axons form a dense network in the sensory cortex. Only through this close-knit interconnection, rats can purposefully use their whiskers, for example to safely move about in the dark.

Explicación de la imagen, MPG

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El día 23 nos trae la ciencia escondida en las cocinas: Greetings from early modern kitchens.

Día 23: Greetings from early modern kitchens. © MPG

Día 23: Greetings from early modern kitchens. © MPG

What significance do old recipe books have for science? Numerous handwritten collections from the early 18th century have been preserved in archives throughout Europe. They show the intense interest within early modern homes for culinary and medical recipes. It wasn’t only women, but also men who collected, sampled, and improved on recipes. Their notebooks, carefully kept over generations as family heirlooms, belonged to their most treasured Earthly possessions – just like their kitchen equipment, for example, for distilling herbs. In the 17th century in England, Lady Johanna St. John explicitly lists her two receipt books in her will: one of them goes to her daughter, the other one to her granddaughter. Today, recipe collections provide science historians like Elaine Leong with insights into the informal knowledge creation of the early modern period, as well as into the interplay of domestic and commercial medicine.

Explicación de la imagen, MPG

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Y el día 24 se asoma la biología molecular en Big molecular cinema show.

Día 24: Big molecular cinema show. © MPG

Día 24: Big molecular cinema show. © MPG

Those wanting to study the movement of atoms have to be fast: To accomplish this, researchers require a high-speed camera with “shutter speeds” in the femtosecond range, which is one millionth of one billionth of a second (10-15 s). They have now succeeded in generating electron pulses of just 28 femtoseconds in duration – six times shorter than was previously possible. When these ultrashort pulses meet a biomolecule crystal they are dispersed on it. A characteristic diffraction image like the one shown here is generated for each molecule. In future, physicists want to use these new possibilities to observe particle movements during a reaction. To do this, they excite the molecule with the help of an optical laser pulse and follow this with an electron pulse to capture the momentary structure. An extremely large number of such snapshots in series result in a film of the atomic dynamics.
Did you enjoy our online advent calendar?

Explicación de la imagen, MPG

–oOo–

FIN

2 Responses to “El calendario de adviento (de ciencia) 2015 del Instituto Max-Planck”


  1. 1 Marta MS 01/12/2015 a las 11:35

    Reblogueó esto en Martams's Blogy comentado:

    El calendario de adviento (de ciencia) 2015 del Instituto Max-Planck

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  1. 1 El calendario de adviento (de ciencia) 2015 del... Trackback en 07/12/2015 a las 20:04

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