Researchers at the Centre for Social Sciences study attitudes towards artificial insemination in Europe

The results of a representative international comparative study covering 42 European countries by the ELKH Centre for Social Sciences show that Europeans’ perception of artificial insemination is not influenced by religion or the GDP of their country, but is strongly affected by the age women, on average, become mothers for the first time.

An aging European society faces a number of societal challenges. The internationally prominent issue of having a child is also receiving attention in Hungary, where fertility is well below the 2.1 replacement rate required for the population to be maintained. Hungary is trying to encourage couples to start a family through a number of government measures. A recent government measure – Government Decree No.1011/2020 on the implementation of the National Human Reproduction Program (I.31.) – included artificial insemination in family policy and allocated more than HUF 4 billion to finance infertility treatment. Although many methods of artificial insemination, such as insemination and in vitro fertilization (IVF), have been available in Hungary for more than three decades, so far there has been little research studying the topic of artificial insemination in a representative sample and in international comparison.

A representative, international comparative study by Ivett Szalma (Centre for Social Sciences) and Maja Djundeva (Erasmus University), which covered 42 European countries using multilevel regression, shows that an individual’s sociodemographic background has a significant impact on shaping their attitudes towards insemination and IVF. Younger women with higher income and those who rarely attend religious ceremonies are more likely to support artificial insemination than men, the elderly, those with lower education and lower incomes, as well as those who more frequently attend religious ceremonies. In addition, attitudes to the family also play an important role: those reluctant to accept new types of families, such as single-parent or rainbow families, are also more likely to reject artificial insemination.

Research has also shown that it is not only factors related to the individual that influence how people perceive artificial insemination, it may also be important where these people live. There is no difference in opinions on insemination and IVF along most national variables. The perception of the European population is not affected by the type of religion that prevails in a given society, the number of people who profess to be religious, the country’s GDP, and how the country regulates adoption by same-sex couples. At the same time, the average age at which women give birth to their first child in a given country has a significant effect: the later the age at which women become mothers, the more receptive the country’s population is to artificial insemination. This may be due to the fact that in countries where women are more likely to postpone having their first child, more women may need these procedures, which can also affect social attitudes. This is because the biological limits of having the first child cannot be changed, but social attitudes are flexible and can be shaped.

The researchers measured the variable studied on a scale of ten, where one means that artificial insemination should never be allowed and 10 means that it should always be permitted. Based on these, the lowest values were found in Moldova (3.51), Georgia (3.88), Armenia (4.2) and Albania (4.48) and the highest in Iceland (8.87), Sweden (8.00) and Denmark (8.00). In Hungary, the average of the answers to the question was 6.08, which puts the country in the middle of the scale in Europe. At the time the survey was conducted in Hungary, in 2008, the average age of having the first child was 27.2 years, compared to 23.1 years in Moldova and 29 years in Denmark.

Publication on this topic:

Ivett Szalma, Maja Djundeva (2020) What shapes public attitudes towards assisted reproduction technologies in Europe?
Demográfia, Vol 62 No 5 (2019).


Szent István University and the Secretariat of the Eötvös Loránd Research Network signs a strategic cooperation agreement

A strategic cooperation agreement has been signed by Szent István University (SZIE) and the Secretariat of Eötvös Loránd Research Network (ELKH). The signing ceremony took place on July 29, 2020 at the SZIE Buda Campus, where the agreement was signed by Rector László Palkovics and Deputy Chancellor Edit Tóth on behalf of the University and Miklós Maróth, President of ELKH representing the ELKH Secretariat.

Stratégiai együttműködési megállapodás
Strategic Partnership Agreement

The cooperation between Szent István University and the Eötvös Loránd Research Network will be carried out under the supervision of the Faculty of Food Science, which conducts research into food safety with the involvement of the Faculty of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, while covering the entire research network of ELKH. During the preliminary technical consultations, the parties identified a wide range of opportunities for cooperation in the field of food safety research within Horizon Europe’s health objectives and food safety within environmental and safety objectives. Another important element of the partnership is cooperation in the fields of researcher supply, education and cooperative PhD training, as well as cooperation with business partners, the relevant authority (NÉBIH) and the related professional research network (NAIK).

The strategic partnership has a number of mutual benefits for the parties and supports the widest possible social and economic exploitation of basic research results by encouraging collaboration between members of the R&D and innovation ecosystem.


With the participation of the engineers and researchers of the Energy Science Research Centre, the assembly of the world’s first ever power-plant-sized experimental fusion reactor has begun

On 28 July 2020, at 10 am, a live broadcast began of the assembly of the world’s first power-plant-sized experimental fusion facility, ITER. ITER, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor, is currently one of the largest international magnetic fusion research and development projects in the world, and Hungarian researchers and engineers are taking part. The reactor will be built in Cadarache in southern France with the aim of proving that it is possible to use nuclear fusion to produce energy on Earth for peaceful purposes. In addition, technology used in subsequent fusion power plants will be tested here.

Experts from the Fusion Plasma Physics Laboratory and the Fusion Technology Laboratory of the Energy Science Research Centre (EK) belonging to the Eötvös Loránd Research Network from Hungary are participating in the ITER project. The Hungarian engineers have planned to cable the entire interior of ITER in such a way that it can operate without maintenance for 20 years, and some components were also tested in Budapest. In addition, EK experts are currently working on an important element of ITER, the ‘propagation cartridge’, which will be responsible for the production of one of the fusion fuels within the plant. EK has also recently placed a tender for the construction of one of ITER’s critical pellet injectors, which would provide the fuel supply to a fusion plant.

The start of assembly work is a huge milestone in the life of the project, with most of the construction of the buildings and service units now complete. With the arrival of the first real components, the events of the ITER construction project will accelerate.

A special gift was also prepared for the ceremony at the Energy Science Research Centre. Last week, a 1:100 scale 3D-printed copy of ITER was sent to France.


Hungarian researchers develop domestic and international kidney exchange programs

As part of the COST Action program, staff at the Mechanism Design Momentum Research Group at the Institute of Economics of ELKH KRTK are participating in the study and planning of kidney exchange programs in Europe and in the development of simulation software. Dr. Péter Biró, leader of the international project’s primary work group, organized the mapping of the European applications and the examination of the program’s optimization criteria. Summary publications have recently appeared in the journals Transplantation and EJOR.

A transplant is the only medical solution capable of providing a long-term solution to end-stage renal disease, but a growing shortage of deceased donors has brought living donor transplantation to the fore in developed countries. Kidney patients who have a volunteer living donor but are immunologically incompatible with them can now exchange donors with each other through well-organized kidney exchange programs to ensure that eventually everyone is able to find a compatible donor. Kidney exchanges are performed either in short, simultaneous rounds of exchange or in longer donation chains initiated by voluntary donors in advanced programs worldwide.

In Europe, national kidney exchange programs are found in at least ten countries, while international collaborations have begun in three European regions. The largest program is in the UK, where the program has enabled more than 1,000 patients to receive transplants since 2007. Péter Biró was also involved in the development of that program’s pairing algorithm from 2007 to 2010 as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Glasgow[1]. The area’s scientific field is truly interdisciplinary. In addition to doctors, computer technicians, mathematicians and economists are also involved in the study and design of the applications. Alvin Roth’s work in this area was also given a prominent role in the justification for his 2012 Nobel Prize in Economics.

Professor Roth invited Péter Biró to spend a research year at Stanford in 2014, before he established the Mechanism Design research group within the framework of the MTA’s Momentum program in 2016 [2]. The group primarily conducts research in the field of preferential pairing applications. In addition to kidney exchange programs, these applications can be used in the field of university admissions, for example. In addition to the Momentum project, the Excellence Cooperation Program of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and NKFIH also provided support for their research. From 2016, they will also participate in the COST Action work of the European Network for Collaboration on Kidney Exchange Programs [3].

ENCKEP COST Action has set up an interdisciplinary research network to map and scientifically study European applications. As a first step, details of all programs in Europe were explored in a survey [4]. As a second step, the models and solution methods used for optimization were examined [5]. The team is currently working on the development of a computer simulator involving domestic researchers and students to test the long-term effectiveness of national and international programs on both real and generated data, using various optimization settings and policies of collaboration.

The Hungarian kidney exchange program was discussed by transplant experts at the Congress of the Hungarian Transplantation Society held in Debrecen in the autumn of 2018, as well as at the related ENCKEP workshop, and a consensus proposal was developed as a result[6]. OVSZ has begin to implement the proposal, but unfortunately, due to the pandemic situation, the first pairing has not yet taken place. Ágnes Cseh, a mathematician in the Mechanism Design Research Group, is currently participating in the development of a kidney exchange program in Germany through a non-profit initiative[7]. Germany is the only major European country that does not yet have such a program, mainly due to regulatory barriers.


  1. Biró, D.F. Manlove and R. Rizzi. Maximum weight cycle packing in directed graphs, with application to kidney exchange programs. Discrete Mathematics, Algorithms and Applications 1(4), pp:499-517, 2009.
  2. Mechanizmustervezés Lendület kutatócsoport honlapja
  3. ENCKEP (European Network for Collaboration on Kidney Exchange Programmes) COST Action honlapja
  4. Biró, Bernadette Haase, and et al.: Building kidney exchange programmes in Europe – an overview of exchange practice and activities. Transplantation, 103 (7): 1514-1522, 2019.
  5. Biró, J. van de Klundert, D. Manlove, and et al.: Modelling and optimisation in European Kidney Exchange Programmes. European Journal of Operational Research, 2020.
  6. Biró P, Remport Á, Mihály S, Illésy L, Nemes B. Élődonoros vesecsereprogramok Európában. Hol tart Magyarország? Összefoglaló tanulmány az ENCKEP (European Network for Collaboration on Kidney Exchange Programmes) COST Action eddigi eredményei alapján. Orvosi Hetilap. 2018;159(46):1905-1912.
  7. Susanne Reitmaier honlapja, német civil kezdeményezés vesecsere-program létrehozására

Hungarian researchers’ work on theoretical evolutionary biology brings us closer to understanding the origin of life

A summary article detailing work on theoretical evolutionary biology has been published in the world’s most prestigious chemistry journal, Nature Review Chemistry. One of biology’s – and humankind’s – most exciting questions, and one that has implications beyond natural science, is where life came from, and how – in the words of Hungarian biochemist Albert Szent-Györgyi – “the living state of matter” came about. It is hard to reconstruct events that took place two and a half billion years ago, as there are no ‘fossils’, no remaining traces of the rudimentary living organisms of the time.

The most important waypoint in the search for the path from life to inanimate matter is evolutionary theory, though both biological and also complex chemical systems have a central role to play: those structures remain that are better adapted to the given environment and are able to replicate themselves at a faster rate. RNA molecules – in all likehood – also played a key role in the dawn of life. These DNA-like molecules, which still play an important role in today’s organisms, are able to replicate, and therefore multiply, so Darwinian evolution is already in effect in the population of RNA molecules. And in the course of the increase in complexity driven by evolution, highly sophisticated chemical systems almost necessarily appear that can already be referred to as living organisms.

This is how chemical evolution changed into biological evolution, and how life appeared on Earth.

As a result, given the origin of the process, any living organism, ourselves included, is nothing more than a complex chemical self-reproducing automaton.

There were many obstacles to the increase in chemical complexity, however: the rudimentary biochemical mechanism, for example, did not replicate accurately, resulting in many erroneous, unsuitable reproductions. In addition, even rudimentary chemical systems offered the possibility for cheating/selfishness to the actors, but there was also an opportunity for cooperation and competition at the molecular level.

The scientific article published in the journal Nature Review Chemistry presents some results of the last three decades of the New Europe School for Theoretical Biology, named after Eörs Szathmáry, director general of the ELKH Ecological Research Center, and supplemented by the results of experiments by foreign research groups. One notable feature of the article – whose Hungarian co-authors are Tamás Czárán, Ádám Kun and András Szilágyi – is that theory and experiment are presented together, so the development of the circle of ideas can be traced, as well as how the development of biochemical methods previously developed theoretical-computer models.

The article, published in English, is available here:



Groundbreaking results in research into the connection between language and culture

The Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Momentum Interaction Rites Research Group at the Research Institute for Linguistics, which belongs to the Eötvös Loránd Research Network, has produced two monographs that report a scientific breakthrough in the research of the relationship between language use and culture. The volumes are being published by the prestigious Cambridge University Press. 

The word ‘culture’ is often used in general terms. As a result, it is a concept that is difficult to interpret from the point of view of systematic research. At the same time, for linguists, the systematic research of language and culture is extremely important, especially in the field of pragmatics, which examines language usage. This is particularly true in today’s globalised world, where language users belonging to various different cultures come into contact with each other almost constantly. Research in this field is not just of theoretical importance; analysis here can have highly effective applications in many fields, such as language learning and tourism.

For a long time, one fundamental problem was that language usage and its relationship to culture was primarily approached through cultural models, yet models based on language usage are able to carry out this work in a much more systematic way. This gap has been filled by the two monograph studies. Of the two books, the first, Intercultural Politeness – Relating Across Cultures, was co-written by the research group director Zoltán Dániel Kádár and University of Warwick professor Helen Spencer-Oatey.

The book, which is scheduled for publication in December 2020, examines language use and its relationship to culture from the perspective of intercultural communication (intercultural pragmatics), so it models situations where language usage from different cultures come into contact with each other. The book is based on interdisciplinary collaboration: the development of intercultural pragmatic theory through a combination of social psychology and pragmatics. In addition to English, often used in research, Chinese and Hungarian are also actively present among the language data examined.

The other monograph was written by the director of the research group together with Juliane House (University of Hamburg), a visiting professor at the Institute of Linguistics, who is one of the most internationally known experts in pragmatics. Their jointly written book – Cross-Cultural Pragmatics – will be published in 2021. The volume approaches the relationship between language use and culture from the perspective of cross-cultural pragmatics, developing a systematic comparison of data from different languages and cultures. The framework of the approach offered by the book is a true breakthrough, as it systematizes the relationship between language use and culture only with the help of linguistic (pragmatic) concepts. The monograph examines data from numerous languages, including Hungarian, German, English, Chinese and Japanese.

A world-class heritage science laboratory established at the Nuclear Research Institute

A heritage science laboratory has been established at the Nuclear Research Institute of Debrecen (ATOMKI) with HUF 420 million in funding from the European Union. The world-class research infrastructure allows researchers to carry out complex, extremely precise studies to examine objects of cultural and natural heritage in collaboration with both Hungarian and international partners.

The imaging and analytical tools acquired enable non-destructive analysis of archeological finds and artefacts, and allow materials to be examined even at the microscopic level. This supports researchers in their efforts to obtain information on the structure and material composition of objects of many different sizes. The equipment acquired will also enable the institute to study the isotopes of bones, the latest line of inquiry for researchers. This procedure can be used to research past eating habits and extend radiocarbon dating to cremated burial remains.


Heritage science is a relatively new name for complex research on cultural and natural heritage. The new discipline encompasses heritage management, analysis, conservation, interpretation, and documentation. In addition to archeology, museology, art history, anthropology and paleontology, natural science methods and sensitive analytical procedures also play a vital role in heritage science. ATOMKI has decades of tradition in this field and this investment will further enhance the scientific standing of the institute in the research of finds and objects related to cultural and natural heritage.

Another international sensation from one of the discoverers of the “Gömböc”

Hungarian and American researchers have together proved Plato’s millennia-old theory that the world is constructed from cubes.

As a result of nearly four years of research work, applied mathematician Gábor Domokos, head of the MTA-BME Morphodynamics Research Group, which belongs to the Eötvös Loránd Research Network’s university research groups, theoretical physicists Ferenc Kun (of the University of Debrecen), János Török (of the Budapest University of Technology and Economics), together and geophysicist Douglas Jerolmack, a research professor at the University of Pennsylvania, have proved Plato’s assertion from more than 2,500 years ago that the world is essentially constructed from cubes.

In his later work, Plato, one of the greatest philosophers of ancient Greece, opined that each of the four elements – earth, water, fire and air – that make up the universe are constructed from regular three-dimensional shapes. In the case of earth, these are hexahedrons, or cubes.

The research team composed of three Hungarian scholars and one American has proved that if a three-dimensional body is sliced apart many times across random planes, the resulting bodies (polyhedrons) will, in terms of their average number of faces, vertices and edges, tend towards  six, eight and twelve, respectively, meaning that the average form is a cube. Through extensive computational experiments, the team examined the stress fields that cause natural fragmentation in rocks and demonstrated that the most common naturally occurring stress fields split masses in two, thus, on average, creating cubes. Therefore, the geometric average of the fragmented rocks and stones found on Earth (and other heavenly bodies) is the cube itself.

In nature, the cube-shaped cracked dolomite of Hungary’s Kű Valley forms Platonic cubes.

Assembling the proof was the result of four years of outstanding research in the fields of mathematics, physics and geophysics. Reflecting the significance of the discovery is the fact that it was published in one of the most outstanding scientific journals in the world on 17 July 2020:

“The universe is full of stones and rocks of various sizes that are constantly being fragmented,” said Domokos. “This article presents this universal process from an angle we have never seen before. The model of fragmentation connecting geometry and mechanics opens a new perspective as it connects not only patterns of fracturing appearing at the surface of the planet, but the form of stones resulting from fragmentation with the geological and planetological processes that create them.  This means that we can deduce the history of the origin of the natural forms seen on Earth and other heavenly bodies. The new theory promises to be useful in helping with the design and monitoring of industrial processes built around fragmentation (such as ore processing).

As a result of the research that is now being wrapped up, the Gömböc, another research finding of Domokos and his partner, Péter Várkonyi, has also found its place in the context of the natural sciences.  From the time it was introduced, the Gömböc was a scientific sensation, since this discovery is the first known homogeneous body to have a stable and an unstable (that is, a total of two) equilibrium points, and no matter which way it is placed on a flat surface, it always returns to its stable equilibrium point. It can be proven that it is not possible for a body with fewer equilibrium points to exist.

Previously, the Hungarian researchers also succeeded in proving that, due to abrasion, bodies found in nature are continuously losing their equilibrium conditions, and in this sense are becoming more like the Gömböc – although they never reach this final state. The Gömböc, therefore, is the invisible final stop in the processes of shape development, while the research currently being concluded shows that the cube is the – also invisible – starting point of these same processes.  “In his allegory of the cave, Plato posited that all we see are imperfect shadows of perfect and idealised forms in the physical world,” said Domokos. “The current result illustrates this Platonic idea by showing that the collection of physical fragments is nothing but a statistically distorted shadow of a regular Platonic body, a cube.”

Thanks to the form’s scientific significance, unique and numbered examples of the Gömböc can be seen in numerous spots around the world, in natural history museums and the permanent exhibitions of renowned universities.

The scientific publication has received extensive media coverage around the world, including an article in Science.

Links to further coverage worldwide.


Five-year work of the “Lendület” Medieval Hungarian Economic History Research Group receives excellent rating

This year marks the end of the first five-year cycle of the “Lendület” Medieval Hungarian Economic History Research Group, which has been operating within the Research Centre for the Humanities (BTK) since 2015. Anonymous reviewers, the special committee and the President’s Committee for Scientific Evaluation all rated their work as excellent.

Research on medieval economic history has unfortunately been relegated to a bit part since the 1980s, but the establishment of the research group provided an opportunity to bring together previously fragmented and isolated research, thereby multiplying its effectiveness.

Image from the article “A Slave Merchant in the Royal Court of King Louis” with a view of Florence from around 1471. 19th century painting based on a contemporary woodcut by Francesco Rosselli (Palazzo Vecchio)

The primary area worth highlighting in the diverse activities of the research group is a systematic exploration of resources focusing on written and material sources, in which pictorial representations received special attention. As a result, several sources that have not been known and have thus not been utilized so far have been explored, and the collection and analysis of material remains has shed new light on economic history. A wealth of interesting information was found in the sources studied: for example, the tax register for Nógrád county in 1457; a taxation certificate of Körmend city from the 14th century, which helped identify a previously unknown location for collecting this tax; a full-text copy of a 1412 charter believed to have been lost, which provides additional information on the role of the probator in coinage; the original of the Zagreb Fair Regulations; several certificates providing insights into the operation of the Buda depo at the end of the 15th century and the activities of the merchants of Boroszló there; a Gölnici town book created before 1501 within the Thurzó Codex; textile permits; various weights; and new coin types. The sources were supplemented by archaeological excavations.

The explored sources have not only become widely available for research but have also provided an excellent basis for various publications. Each year, the research group submitted a volume of papers with the authors listed as members of the research group as well as researchers from other institutes. This year, an English-language volume was also prepared to make the latest results of the study into economic history available to international researchers. The volumes present the latest research results of the members of the group, such as the 14th century tasks of the master of the treasury, city taxation, the operation of the Körmöc and Bratislava chambers, the copper chamber, the county treasury, military financing, mining districts, Mark (medieval weight) units, as well as the interpretation and origins of certain passages of economic history with respect to the Buda Code Book, the iron and copper trade and various commercial arenas.

The research group organized several conferences and workshops to discuss more focused topics with an emphasis on their interdisciplinary nature. In 2019, a two-day international conference on the Economic Functions of Urban Spaces from the Middle Ages to the Present was organized with the participation of around 70 foreign researchers.

The research group is also extremely active in the field of promoting science. In addition to organizing various exhibitions, the group has been publishing a ‘magazine’ entitled Monthly Features on the website of the Institute of History of BTK since 2015, which publishes short, scholarly, yet easy-to-understand articles to provide an insight into the diverse world of medieval economic history, bringing the past closer to the people of today.

The research team has also done much to promote the training of the next generation of researchers. One of the important goals in setting up the research group was to encourage the participation of PhD students, in addition to experienced researchers, in order to ensure an ongoing supply of young scholars. The group’s program and achievements so far have also been presented at several universities and conferences, thus drawing the audience’s attention to the versatility and importance of research on economic history.

Hungarian researchers discover a topological insulator operating at room temperature

The Topology in Nanostructures, “Lendület” Group led by Péter Nemes-Incze within the Institute of Technical Physics and Materials Science of the Centre for Energy Research, has shown that a two-dimensional crystal of heavy metals, Jacutingaite, may be suitable for lossless electrical conduction even at room temperature. In the future, the newly discovered topological insulator may play an important role in the design of low-power electrical circuits and may also be used in topological quantum computers in combination with superconducting materials.

Over the past 10 years, the scientific community has made significant efforts to explore topological insulators in which lossless electrical conduction can be observed even at room temperature. This was the goal set by the “Lendület”  Group, and a significant breakthrough has been achieved in cooperation with the Wigner Physics Research Centre, the Department of Biological Physics at Eötvös Loránd University and the Czech Geological Institute. The focus of experimental and theoretical research was a naturally occurring mineral, platinum-mercury-selenide (Pt2HgSe3, known by its scientific name of Jacutingaite).

It is widely known that the discovery of graphene – a two-dimensional, atomic-scale crystal – has given a whole new direction to research in materials science. The study of layered 2D materials has held out hopes for significant new discoveries and potential practical applicability ever since. Perhaps it is less well known that graphene was a starting point for an equally important, new area of research: two-dimensional topological insulators.

Topological insulators are crystals that behave as electrical insulators in their interior and conduct electrical current on their surface and edges. An important feature of these conductive channels is that they conduct electricity without loss, in contrast to conventional electrical conductors such as copper or aluminum. In 2005, theoretical calculations by Charles Kane and Eugene Mele showed that graphene is in fact a topological insulator, if one takes into account that the electrons moving inside it behave like a small magnet, called a spin. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to observe lossless electrical conduction at the edges of graphene in practice, as an important parameter of the Kane-Mele model – the so-called spin-orbit coupling – is negligible in carbon atoms forming graphene. As a result, the observation of topological electron conduction in graphene requires ultra-low temperatures (micro-Kelvin), not yet possible in laboratories.

Figure: Spin-polarized, conducting channels (red: up spin, green: down spin) at the edges of the Pt2HgSe3 crystal

The mineral studied in the research project received its name from the Brazilian gold mine (Jacutinga), where it was first found around ten years ago. The substance can already be produced artificially – and such crystals have been studied by the Hungarian researchers. The platinum and mercury atoms that make up the compound are located in a hexagonal lattice, similar to graphene. This honeycomb lattice of heavy metals determines the electrical properties of the crystal. The main difference compared to graphene is that, unlike carbon, the spin-orbit interaction of mercury and platinum is orders of magnitude stronger.

A student working in the “Lendület”  Group has been able to show that the material, like graphite, can be separated into individual atomic layers using techniques already well known from graphene research. The researchers have examined the electrical properties of the material on an atomic scale using scanning tunneling microscopy measurements. As a result, topological, electrically conductive edge channels were detected at the edges of the crystal, and it was also found that, due to the high spin-orbit interaction, this material behaves as a topological insulator even at room temperature, in contrast to graphene. Essentially, platinum-mercury-selenide is an example of the long-sought-after Kane-Mele insulator.