How can I learn the great answers of science

Basic research: the basis for the knowledge society

Curiosity is innate in every human being. Science provides answers. These touch us in the same way as usually only music, art or literature. The cheering of humanity at the first moon landing is just as much evidence of this as the great public attention for the discovery of the Higgs particle at the Large Hadron Collider at the CERN research center.

New technologies and methods through large devices

Experimentation and exploration can expand the limits of human knowledge. But basic research serves much more than just gaining knowledge. Technological innovations arise around your large devices: On the one hand, the construction and operation of the systems can produce economically usable goods. Hydraulic damping for the transport of highly sensitive telescopes or adaptive optics, which were initially used in observatories and now also ensure better resolution in microscopes, are just two examples.

On the other hand, the knowledge gained in the experiments also leads to new products. The discovery of giant magnetoresistance, for example, led to the development of hard drives with terabyte capacity, and many other technologies that have emerged from basic research, such as lasers, have become an integral part of our everyday lives.

When and from which scientific knowledge a certain product or a new branch of industry will emerge cannot be foreseen - however, that the knowledge will lead to new technologies in the long term is an empirical value gained over the centuries.

Basic research therefore has a major impact on how our society develops. With today's major projects, the scientists are preparing the foundation for tomorrow's innovations. The Federal Ministry of Research therefore promotes basic scientific research in a strategic and long-term manner.

Innovations in building the experiments

Today's research infrastructures - just like the most advanced experiments of every era - are conceived and constructed on the edge of what is technically feasible. If it had been possible a hundred years ago to build telescope mirrors with a diameter of ten or more meters, this would have already been done. But the prerequisites for the construction and operation of these giants are only in place today - with the construction of the upcoming European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) with a mirror diameter of 39 meters, this limit is being pushed again and breaking new technological ground. In this way, the demands of science in terms of precision and size are important drivers for technologies and innovations in many areas.

In order to gain scientific knowledge, limits have to be overcome: only when an X-ray microscope resolves the smallest structures in the nanometer range can it help to answer questions about the atomic structure of matter. And the same imaging processes that open up a view into the nano-cosmos on large devices are pioneers for X-ray devices that can resolve finer details in medicine with lower radiation doses.

Basic research as a talent factory

Large-scale equipment in basic scientific research is complex in structure and function. In order to build and operate such systems, you need excellently trained specialists - both scientific and technical employees. The Federal Ministry of Research supports the next generation at German universities. In the funded projects, the young researchers learn how to master scientific and technological challenges in an international environment. This not only benefits a career in science: For example, anyone who builds or further develops a large detector such as ATLAS at the LHC can later use the skills and knowledge acquired to master complex tasks in other areas in industry and business.

International understanding

Science, like culture, builds bridges between nations. All over the world, international culture is exemplified at major research centers: researchers from dozens of nations work and live together and achieve their goals together. They get to know, respect and appreciate their cultural idiosyncrasies. They later carry this experience back to their home countries. In this way, researchers become ambassadors for the constructive coexistence of nations. By making a financial contribution to the major research centers, the Federal Ministry of Research strengthens Germany's outstanding role in basic scientific research - and at the same time makes a contribution to international understanding.