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Lectures for the XXIst Century

Lectures for the XXIst Century

edited by Bart Raymaekers
Volume: 1
Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: Leuven University Press
Pages: 286
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  • Book Info
    Lectures for the XXIst Century
    Book Description:

    What preoccupies scientists today? What is the impact of their ideas and discoveries on ourselves and on our society? This question is the starting point of the ‘Lectures for the twenty-first century'. Parallel to the established Dutch series, this year for the first time an English edition was organized. This first English edition offers an international audience a glimpse behind the scenes of the laboratories, the work shops or the studies and shows how linguistic justice, the history of Belgium, Fair Play, food supplies, global change, cultural identity, China and the global environmental government, civil law, bioinformatics, molecular medicine, art and cultural identity of the Low Countries and vortices in nature impact our daily lives.

    eISBN: 978-94-6166-041-1
    Subjects: General Science

Table of Contents

  1. Lectures for the 21st Century “Introduction to the Science and Cultural Identity of Belgium”
    (pp. 11-12)
    Bart Raymaekers

    This volume is intended to be the first in a new series of science communication. For thirteen years now, students from every faculty of K.U.Leuven have been able to attend the interfaculty course “Lectures for the 21st century” in Dutch. Each year, thirteen very different themes are offered, each with a different perspective. This series of lectures is special because it is not only students who can attend, but also interested members of the public. As from this year, there is also an English-language version, specially intended for the international students in Leuven.

    The English lectures are primarily targeted at...

  2. Linguistic Justice for Europe, Belgium and the World
    (pp. 13-36)
    Philippe Van Parijs

    The early years of the 21st century are witnessing an unprecedented phenomenon. In Europe, Belgium and throughout the world, competence in English is spreading at a speed never reached by any language in human history (see Appendix for some data on recent trends in the European Union and in Belgium). This ever growing and irreversible dominance of English is frequently perceived and sometimes indignantly denounced as being grossly unfair.

    It definitely raises issues of ‘cooperative injustice’, i.e., issues that relate to the unfair division of the burden of producing the lingua franca between those who have to learn it as...

  3. The Historic and the Current Political Development in Belgium For King and Lasagne
    (pp. 37-62)
    Tim Pauwels

    In the summer and autumn of 2007, the international media published a considerable amount of articles discussing the possible or even immanent end of the state of Belgium. The attention of the international media was not surprising, as Belgium, after the 2007 elections, was unable to form a new federal government for almost half a year. As a consequence, the federal political landscape was in a complete stalemate.

    But when, as a journalist, I explained to some of my foreign colleagues that an immediate split of the country was rather unlikely in the short term, many of them lost interest....

  4. Fair Play: Its Origins and Meanings in Sport and Society
    (pp. 63-80)
    Roland Renson

    The traditional forms of games and recreational activities of ‘Merry old England’ (pre-industrial Britain) were often linked to the church calendar and had a highly ritualised character. Their rules varied widely from one place to another. These traditional physical contests were often chaotic and violent in nature, with opposing players from contiguous villages and towns or from different town sections. A surviving example of such a rough type of game is, for instance, the yearly Shrovetide football match in the town of Ashbourne in Derbyshire. Modern sport, on the contrary, is characterised by a more rational and orderly approach. It...

  5. More Food, Less Water
    (pp. 81-102)
    Dirk Raes, Sam Geerts and Klaartje Vandersypen

    Only 2.5 percent of the total water volume on earth is fresh water. The rest is salty water. 75 percent of the earth’s fresh water is contained in the ice caps and in glaciers, and another 14 percent is located in deep, highly inaccessible aquifers. Consequently, less than 0.5 percent of the earth’s total water volume is available for human consumption (Figure 1). Hence, fresh water is a valuable resource.

    From the total fresh water resources, around 20 percent is used by industry, 10 percent by households and 70 percent by the agricultural sector. Nowadays, global demand for fresh water...

  6. 4.5 Billion Years of Global Change
    (pp. 103-126)
    Manuel Sintubin

    The present ‘state of health’ of Planet Earth is often illustrated in the media by a number of dramatised ‘icons’: the waning glaciers on Kilimanjaro, the collapsing fronts of Antarctic glaciers, retreating Alpine glaciers, drowning Pacific islands, and the threatened polar bear. These icons reveal, however, that man has a very static image of his natural environment. Seasonal variation is commonly accepted, but long-term climatic variation seems so much more difficult to accept. We have created for ourselves a ‘standard world’. We tend to consider the state of the natural world at the end of the 19th century as a...

  7. Cultural Identity and the Primacy of the Political
    (pp. 127-164)
    Gerd Van Riel

    It is not easy to talk about identity, let alone cultural identity. The diversity of opinions is enormous, and the subject has been hijacked (forgive the expression) by everyday events, unveiling what some have felt justified to call a ‘clash of civilisations’.

    As a philosopher, it is not my duty to proclaim political solutions, to act as a judge and say who is right, or even to answer questions that have dominated societal discussions for the past decade (and which will undoubtedly continue to do so for many years to come). What I do want to do is analyse these...

  8. China and Global Environmental Governance
    (pp. 165-186)
    Hans Bruyninckx

    Recent debates about China’s economic growth and its further integration in political processes of globalisation have increasingly focussed on the externalities of this evolution. Together with the recognition of the exceptional economic performance of the country, attention is being paid to problems of social inequality, urban poverty, seemingly uncontrollable air pollution, the illegal dumping of waste and environmental accidents. Moreover, social and environmental consequences of China’s economic assent have become central in debates not only about China’s own future, but also about global issues such as economic competitiveness and labour market standards and about the future of the global environment...

  9. The Status of Liberty, from Roman Civil Law to Human Rights
    (pp. 187-204)
    Laurent Waelkens

    The history of Roman law is in the first place the history of civil law. Civil law was a part of antique Roman law, or, more precisely, the law that determined the private relations of soldiers and army veterans. It was full of privileges. For centuries people tried to obtain that privileged status, but without the burden of undertaking military service. In the Middle Ages the canonists combined civil law with Roman principles of procedure, administration and penal law. Here we will try to explain how those privileges for soldiers evolved into fundamental rights for every peaceful man.

    The origin...

  10. From Bioinformatics to Systems Biology
    (pp. 205-236)
    Bart De Moor

    In a famous one-page article inNaturein 1953, Francis Crick and James Watson described the chemical structure of DNA for the first time¹. Since that day, scientific research in molecular biology and biotechnology has exploded. Our knowledge about the genetic and biochemical processes in the cell is increasing exponentially. We also know that the impact of applications with respect to men, animals and plants will be enormous. Here, we will describe some of the basic ingredients that characterise this explosion of knowledge on biological and biomedical systems.

    We are currently also witnessing an exponential evolution of applications of information...

  11. Alzheimer’s Disease: Fundamental Research Paves the Way for Therapeutics
    (pp. 237-260)
    Tim Dejaegere and Bart De Strooper

    Until recently, the discovery of a successful drug wasn’t actually the logical end point of the elucidation of a disease process. Rather, it was dependent on major doses of luck and coincidences. One speaks of ‘serendipity’: ‘the effect by which you accidentally discover something fortunate, especially while looking for something else entirely’. A world-famous example is Fleming’s discovery of penicillin as a treatment for infectious diseases. Upon returning from a holiday, he realised he had not cleaned up his bacterial plates before leaving. When he took them out, he noticed a strange thing: fungus had grown on the plates and...

  12. Art and Cultural Identity of The Low Countries
    (pp. 261-284)
    Ludo Beheydt

    Cultural identity is a hot issue in Europe. This is due to the great changes that have taken place there recently. The Treaties of Schengen and Maastricht have caused migration waves, and cultures tend to come into contact and conflict more easily. These contacts have strengthened the consciousness of cultural identity and cultural ethnicity. Cultural identity is claimed all over Europe now, not so much national identity but rather regional identity. The Irish, the Scots, the Welsh, the Bretons, the Catalans, the Frisians and the Flemish…they all claim their own cultural identity. It seems, therefore, the unification process in Europe...