Luxembourg Time Machine

by A. Fickers (, E. Schymanski ( and L. Pfister (LIST and

There is hard evidence that global change is having severe and persistent impacts on environmental systems - eventually compromising socio-economic development in many regions of the world.

Luxembourg is far from being sheltered from these threats. There is an pressing need for a better understanding of the involved processes, interactions and feedbacks, both via a better understanding of past evolutions and the development of new prediction tools. Here, we propose the “Luxemburg Time Machine” (LuxTIME) project for exploring radically new ways for analysing and interpreting factual evidence of the past. We intend to build an interdisciplinary framework for investigating “big data” of the past, inspired by the conceptual premises of the “European Time Machine” Flagship project (see point 2), While being a high-risk interdisciplinary project, we see multiple avenues for high reward. Within Luxembourg, LuxTIME has the potential to function as a “team building project” for the Team Luxembourg (LIST, LISER, LIH, University), fostering the energies and skills across two interdisciplinary centres at the University in cooperation with LIST - integrating historical, informatics, environmental and health expertise that can easily be expanded at later stages. By building a digital dataset that will include information from three different fields and scientific perspectives, namely eco-hydrology, medicine and history, LuxTIME will use a local showcase (i.e. the industrialisation of Belval / Minette region) as a testbed for methodological and epistemological reflections on how to study the impact of environmental changes on the health of the local population in a long term perspective. In combining past evidence from eco-hydrological studies (informing on water and pollutant sources, flow paths and transit times; non-stationarity of hydrological systems, and topographic / geological transformations), medical records (describing disease patterns, mortality rates, social/psychological well-being) and bio-chemical data (based on imaging and mass-spectrometry techniques as well as digital forensics on teeth) and history (archival sources documenting economic, social, political and cultural changes), LuxTIME will eventually study the past in completely new ways. By mixing “contextual information” based on archival evidence with “scientific evidence” derived from chemical, biological, or medical investigations, the project explores new ground in interpreting “big data of the past” in a truly interdisciplinary setting. The Belval-case is meant to critically test the analytical potential of a multi-layered research design which – this is the mid-term ambition – can be expanded into a national case study; that is the building of a real “Luxembourg Time Machine” including many different kinds of data from many different institutions (such as demographic, economic, climate and socio-economic data from LISER, STATEC etc.).

Luxembourg Time Machine (

Prof. Dr. Andreas Fickers

Prof. Dr. Emma Schymanski

Prof. Dr. Laurent Pfister (LIST and Affil. Prof. at