“Climate change is no longer a future environmental problem but a here-and-now force that affects food security, ecosystems and the global economy,” warns Christopher Field, winner of the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in the Climate Change category. Our efforts now should be geared to adaptation, and to preventing the changes running so deep that adaptation is no longer an option. After picking up his prize yesterday, Field insisted at this morning’s press call that “there is a solution space,” in which climate-change mitigating investments “can help build a better, more vibrant world.”
Science and creativity are the most powerful tools at our command to pursue the improvement of human well-being without destroying the natural environment. But science is also at the root of many of the ideas that shape our worldviews and identities, and, in this sense, is also culture. It was with this message as backdrop that the laureates in the sixth edition of the Frontiers of Knowledge Awards collected their prizes in the Marqués de Salamanca Palace, Madrid headquarters of the BBVA Foundation, at a ceremony where climate change and extreme inequality were singled out as the foremost challenges facing society.
Steve Reich, winner in the Contemporary Music category in the sixth edition of the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Awards, is one of the main representatives of erudite music in the United States. Asked in what ways this music differs from its European counterpart, he responds without hesitation: “I think concert composers in America nowadays are more harmonically oriented, and therefore more understandable for the public than some of our European contemporaries, who have stayed close to the aesthetic of Stockhausen, Berio and Cage. We are also a lot more rhythmic and people like that.”
Marvin Minsky, winner of the BBVA Foundation Frontiers of Knowledge Award in the Information and Communication Technologies category for his founding role in artificial intelligence, considers it “a sheer waste of time” to invest effort and resources on major programs investigating the human brain, like those under way in the U.S. and European Union. “What we should do is study the brains of simpler animals, like a dragonfly, for instance”.
The heterogeneity of the Spanish University system is such that the most productive universities (those that with the same resources obtain, for example, more citations per document, greater number of patents or lower drop-out rates) double the results of the least efficient ones (table 1). If diversity in productivity is great, greater still are the differences in volume of results (table 2). This is due to the important differences in size of the universities since, in general, the dimension is not an obstacle to productivity. Universities are more similar in their teaching output than in their ability to get research results, but the greatest differences are found in activities of innovation and technological development (tables 3 and 4).