the cogito foundation
  Projects 2007   (Last Update: 07.01.2009)

"The Development of Cooperative Norms in Human Societies"
Shakti Lamba, University College London CHF 30'449.-

Additional application to 3-years PhD fellowship S-115/06 for field research in India; the additional request is granted as the major part of the funds (CHF 133'636.30) is spent on tuition for 3 years at University College London. The project’s aim is to research the origin and establishment of altruistic behaviour in society. The issue shall be explored in rural and semi urban communities that share a common cultural background but differ in economical and demographical respects. The cooperative behaviour between individuals within these communities shall be examined by the use of standardized, economic game paradigms. The project deals with the timely topic of the evolution of altruistic behaviour in humans at the interface of socio-biology, sociology, behavioural ecology and economy, anthropology and cultural studies. The field study addressing behavioural-ecological, ecological and evolutionary biological questions will be conducted among different populations of the Indian Gond tribe. It is the major objective of the project and it will be financed by the additional funds.


"Jubilee Symposium: To Share University Knowledge"
Dr. Hansueli Rüegger, Universität Zürich CHF 70'000.-.

The two-day symposium will take place on the occasion of the festivities to the 175 years jubilee of the University of Zurich on March 17 and 18, 2008. In order to reflect upon the scientific way in the interdisciplinary dialogue, light will be shed by means of examples from different scientific fields like history, languages and behavioural biology on how research is conducted, what their understanding of “knowledge” is, what research methods they use und in which language results are communicated. University knowledge is shared knowledge. There is no unitary discipline which comprises University findings in their totality. The objects of scientific examination are determined by the way of approach by the respective field. Disciplinary knowledge should be a part of University knowledge, therefore, dialogue beyond the limits of the particular fields is needed. Renowned scientists from all fields explore findings out of interdisciplinary dialogues. The symposium is aimed at an academic audience but also at the interested public.


"Moving speedily towards the future? The speed of the rail"
Prof. Dr. Ulrich Weidmann, Institute for Transport Planning and Systems ETH Zurich CHF 3'500.-

This conference took place on June 28, 2007. Its aim was to study the demand for fast means of transportation from a historical, an economical, a technical, and a sociological perspective as well as with respect to spatial-planning in an international context. Such discussions are to lead to conclusions relevant to science, economy, and society for the future of Swiss high speed traffic. The cooperation of the Institute for Transport Planning and Systems of ETH, the ETH Institute for History of Engineering, and the Research Institute for Social and Economic History of the University of Zurich resulted in a manifold and interesting programme which covers the topic in a cross functional way. Speakers are international and Swiss experts from industry, universities, and politics. The grant funds students’ attendance fees.


"International Conference on the History of Cartography (ICHC 2007)"
Hans-Uli Feldmann, Working Group on the history of cartography, c/o Swisstopo, Wabern CHF 10'000.-

The aim of the 22nd International Conference on the History of Cartography, is to foster discussion on the history of cartography. It is organised by the working Group on the history of cartography together with the Institute of cartography at ETH Zurich and the Institute of Geography of the University of Berne. It will take place from 8. -13. July 2007 in Berne. The ICHC2007 focuses on the four main themes:
1. Mapping Relief
How have topographers and cartographers mastered the representation of relief? What are the peculiarities of high mountain cartography? What are the various non-European techniques for mapping relief? Is there already a history of submarine cartography?
2. Maps and Tourism
How has tourism influenced cartography and the map trade? Have tourist agencies of the 19th and 20th centuries created specific patterns of map use? Since when and how were tourist maps created and distributed as mass media? How was it commercially viable to create maps of regions that were unreachable to most people at the time?
3. Language and Maps
How did cartographers deal with translations and translators? Do the maps for different target groups or countries use the same geographical terms? When do they use exonyms or endonyms? Were the map publishers in any given country under pressure because of language politics? What are the specific problems of multi-lingual countries? Do we know the "language" of old maps?
4. Time as the Cartographic Fourth Dimension
When did maps start to represent our dynamic environment instead of a static or idealized situation? Does the answer differ when we think of medieval or thematic maps? How long were maps in use before they were replaced? What are the problems of map series whose creation took decades?

pocket programme


"Inducing corporeal illusions to understand self and subjectivity: Combining philosophy of mind and cognitive neuroscience"
Prof. Olaf Blanke, EPFL, Lausanne (continuation of grant R-122/05) CHF 61'828.-

This project continues studying how people perceive their own body and how disturbances in this perception are triggered. The strongest form of a disturbance is the “Out of Body Experience” (“OB”), at which the body and the self are perceived at different places. This phenomena, which can be triggered artificially, is often noted in connection with near-death experiences and is seen by many scientists as an aspect of the body-mind problem. Olaf Blanke and the cognition philosopher Thomas Metzinger have triggered such experiences (and partly spontaneous OB experiences) by stimulation of certain parts of the cortex of healthy subjects and neurological patients. In a previous phase, such disturbances were restricted to the vestibular system and caused visual illusions. It is evident that the equilibrium organ plays a central role in the perception of the self, which goes far beyond the equilibrium sense. This is also manifest in the findings that the cortical region, whose stimulation triggers “OB” experiences, and some of the known areas of the vestibular system overlap or are located nearby. These findings shall now be examined in-depth.


"Tool-related culture and vocal dialects in New Caledonian Crows"
Professor Alex Kacelnik, Oxford University CHF 134'986.- (for 3 years)

The New Caledonian Crow, Corvus moneduloides, is the object of the study of mechanisms of ‚cultural’ innovation and ‚cultural’ transmission with tool use and vocal dialect formation. For the first time the hypothesis that imitations of learned abilities lead to gradual technology progress over generations could be tested with a species. The appeal of the long-term study is the fact that in a secluded region the totality of subpopulations is recorded, classified according to their genetic relatedness and vocal dialects, and mapped after manner and multitude of created tools. The conceptual and technically demanding project, which should nevertheless be very promising given the prior work and experience of the research group, may be unique in biology with its original and multi-disciplined approach. If Gavin R. Hunt’s hypothesis (published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society) of the cultural transmission and the associated “technological progress” (the cultural amplification) by tool use and vocalisation of crows should prove true, a crucial basic prerequisite for the evolution of the species homo (not only of h. sapiens) at the example of a higher non-human vertebrate will be proven.


"Mathematical culture in treatises and in practitioners' hands: the role of mathematical instruments in the emergence of modern science"
Dr. Samuel Gessner, Universität Lisabon CHF 9'140.-

The applicant studied physics at EPFL and completed an additional education in Epistemology at University Paris 7. He further did a PhD in history of science at the University in Lisbon, where he is currently working as a postdoc. His field of research is the pre-Galilean history of science. In particular, he is interested in the influence of early ‘mathematical’ instruments on the development of the natural sciences. Instruments like the angle, the protractor, the astrolabe, and the sextant initially had a purely practical value in architecture and navigation. How did it come about that they – some in a more advanced manner – eventually became scientific instruments and thus enabled the emergence of the scientific art of experimentation? This fascinating issue, which is also connected to the question of the splitting up of the humanities and the natural sciences, shall be analyzed on the basis of period writings and artefacts. For this purpose the pertinent collections in Paris, Munich, Florence, London and Krakow will be studied. Cogito Foundation funds the travel expenses as the home institution does not have means to settle them.

P-126/07 "The Journey of Maps and Images on the Silk Road"
Prof. Dr. Andreas Kaplony, University of Zurich, Dr. Philippe Forêt, ETH Zurich, Fr. 10'000.-

A two-day congress on the topic „The Silk Road as a Channel for the Exchange of Visual Information“ was organized at the Seminar for Oriental Science on Mai 14 and 15 2004 that the cogito foundation had supported (T-116/03). Now, the proceedings are ready to print. The manuscripts have been edited by a cooperation of the Institute of Cartography of the ETH and the Institute for Oriental Science of the University of Zurich. The book contains the results of this truly interdisciplinary conference. Representatives of astronomy, cartography, climatology, geography, medicine, art, culture, medieval history and Islamic science had attended it.
In order to facilitate the promulgation of the results of this conference, this publication is being financially supported.

S-129/07 "Interpretations of Probability in Evolutionary Biology"
Bengt Autzen, LSE London, Fr. 79'860.- (33 Months)

Which variant of probabilistic reasoning is most adequate for the construction of theories evolution? The question is being addressed in a pluralistic fashion thus allowing various interpretations and quantitative representations of the principle of probability to be discussed on a fundamental level. Thereby, it should be possible to evaluate the application of these different formalisms to the biological disciplines like molecular phylogeny, population genetics, or evolutionary game theory. All these disciplines relay now on theoretical, mathematical and probabilistic instruments. Without these, they would be unable to reach conclusions that are biologically relevant. The project is focused on a topic that is equally rooted in mathematics, biology and philosophy. It has so far only been addressed in a disciplinary way but never by spanning the disciplines.

R-131/07 "Nosognosia: unrealistic optimism and the denial of illness"
PD Dr. Peter Brugger, University Hospital Zurich, Fr. 140'925.- (for 3 years)

Of all agnosias (inabilities to recognize sensory signals from intact sensory organs) anosognosia (inability to recognize ones illness or handicap) seems to be particularly mysterious. To date, we don’t know what becomes dysfunctional in anosognosia – what, in the absence of this dysfunction, nosognosia really is: not even that word exists in the literature! On the other hand, much has been published on the expectations of individuals about their future illness, showing a widespread tendency to unrealistic optimism. The reason might be found in a reduced cooperation between the brain hemispheres. This hypothesis shall now be tested by observing the change in the perception of present and the expectation of future illnesses during hemispheric stimulation.

T-132/07 "Neurotheology – Controversy over the origin of Religious Experiences"
Hans-Peter von Däniken, Paulus-Academy Zurich, Fr. 4'800.-

On March 13, 2008 the Paulus-Academy organizes a workshop on “Neurotheology”. Neuroscience is the study of neurological signals that can be observed in localizable areas of the brain during religious-emotional experiences, feelings and states of mind. What used to be clearly the domain of the humanities has become a subject of brain research. Is faith “just” a neurological phenomenon? The workshop is truly interdisciplinary. It will feature the neuro-anatomist Prof. Michael Frotscher, Freiburg i.B., the theologian Prof. Ulrich Eibach, Bonn and the philosopher Prof. Thomas Schmidt, Frankfurt.

T-133/07 "First Swiss explore-it Inventors Fair for Children and Adolescents"
Prof. Dr. Christian Weber, Daniel Vögelin, René Providoli, PHVS; Fr. 11'000.-

The „explore-it“ project, launched in 2005, organizes events for schools and adolescents that are designed to encourage invention and research at a young age thereby generating interest in science and engineering professions. Based on this experience, the idea was born to organize an “Inventers Fair” for children in order to present their inventions to a wider audience. The first fair will take place on June 4, 2008 in Zofingen. Up to 150 children representing 60 classes are expected to participate, admission being assured by a successfully realized technical innovation.

R-135/07 "Recordo ergo sum: Neuroimaging of hypnosis and memory suppression"
Dr. Patrik Vuilleumier, University of Geneva Fr. 79'285.-

Nobody has yet succeeded to track down the neuronal expressions of memory suppression, simply because memory suppression cannot be commanded nor willingly triggered. Based on research results on hypnotically induced paralyses, which show that the same cortical areas are affected that inhibit motoric signals, memory suppression shall be induced by hypnosis. The fMRI observations should yield fundamental insights about the mechanisms of remembering and forgetting. Especially interesting will be the difference, if any, between remembering faces and other pictures, as the brain handles these categories differently.

T-136/07 "World Knowledge Dialogue"
Prof. Francis Waldvogel, WK Dialogue Foundation, Geneva, Fr. 10'000.-

The World Knowledge Dialogue Foundation (WKD) was founded in June of 2006. André Hurdt, formerly Rector of the University of Geneva is its president, Francis Waldvogel, formerly Chaiman of the ETH Council, the director. The goal is identical to that of the cogito foundation: to close the gap between the sciences and the humanities. The second symposium, again in Crans Montana, will take place from September 10 to 13 and the cogito foundation supports it.

F-139/07 "Social information and the evolution of culture"
Dr. Daniel J. Rankin, University of Berne, Fr. 5'050.-

Based on a mathematical description the efficiency of learning strategies shall be examined, particularly the difference between learning from peers and parents as opposed to an individual leader. Put in a larger context, such strategies allow the study of cultural evolution, which can then be compared with biological evolution. The topic will be worked on during a stay with Kevin Foster in Harvard where Martin Novak will also be involved. In the age of the “web 2.0” this not only interesting but also relevant as the participatory blogs and similar platforms lead to totally new ways to spread memes.

P-149/07 "The Challenge of Inter- and Transdisziplinarity"
Theres Paulsen, Institut Universitaire Kurt Bösch (IUKB), Sion, Fr. 5'000.-

On March 7, 2008 the IUKB will organize a national convention on the topic “Challenge of Inter- and Transdisciplinarity – Concepts, Methods and Practical Implementation in Teaching and Research. In particular, the focus on how to train students for inter- and transdisciplinary work will be in thecentre of interest. The goal is to assemble all important actors in the area of interdisciplinarity. Experts from most Swiss universities (mainly western Switzerland) and other academic institutions are expected to participate. After a general overview of the topic, novel curricula will be discussed. The financial contribution from the cogito foundation will help to make the results accessible to the general public through a publication.

S-153/07 "Health Interventions for Nomads in the Sahel Zone"
Dr. Anna Katharina Münch, Princeton University, NJ Fr. 112'825.-

During the project “Health of the Tamasheq in Mali” (R-108/04, R-112/05) the PhD-candidate examined the representation of various illnesses in the cultural context of the nomadic Tamasheq in particular with respect to women and children. Based on this knowledge, adapted strategies for the prevention and treatment of area specific infectious diseases like HIV, Malaria, Tuberculosis and Syphilis will be developed. This post-doctoral research project will be a collaborative effort between the „Office for Population Research“, Princeton University NJ, USA, (Prof. Burton Singer), the Swiss Tropical Institute, STI, Basel, (Prof. Marcel Tanner, PD Dr. Jakob Zinsstag) the „Centre Suisse de Recherche Scientifique“ CSRS, Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire (Prof. Bassirou Bonfoh) and the „Institut du Sahel“, Bamako, Mali. The research philosophy remains interdisciplinary. Methodologically, there will be bridges built, not only between the humanities, the social sciences and medicine, but also between the cultures of North and South.