The next science talk in Malta on the boggling brain.

Brain Boggling

The Malta Neuroscience Network has been founded to help the study of  the human brain, the most complex organ on Earth.  This complexity means it can go wrong easily. A lot of research is trying to understand this mind-boggling behaviour and what factors or triggers can make it go haywire. Professor John Stein (Oxford University) has dedicated his life to neuroscience trying to understand how the brain works and what makes it tick.

Date: Tuesday 21st April
Time: At 7.30pm (doors open at 7.15pm)
Venue: Cinema Room, St James Cavalier, Valletta

He will talk about modern techniques that help us understand the brain, the brain’s plasticity and the genetics which affect day to day activities. Dr Stein will also talk about deep brain stimulation to identify tremors, dyskinesias (involuntary movements) and pain, as well as to discussing how the cerebellum controls our motor functions.

Poster thanks to Toni Gialanze

Share the event on: bit.ly/MCS21April2015

If you haven’t joined our Facebook group, feel free to do so on and be updated on events.

We would like to thank our sponsors: the Department of Counseling, the University of Malta, St. James Cavallier, Sammy’s by Culinary Forward Malta, Inspirations Café, Malta Chamber of Scientists.

For information about the event, email cafesci@mcs.org.mt

For further information and any queries on Malta Neuroscience Network, you may call our offices on 2340 3518/2340 3515 or else email the Coordinator Prof Giuseppe Di Giovanni: giuseppe.digiovanni@um.edu.mt

Think magazine Issue 12

Artificial Intelligence is here but it is not taking over. Prof. Georgios Yannakakis from the Institute of Digital Games brings a fresh view to how computers can be creative. He imagines a new social network of computers that can make new playable games on their own. Think as well how you might act like a computer. Yannakakis’s ideas have helped create games that help children with dyslexia, soldiers with PTSD, and many other problems, as published in the latest issue of Think Magazine available now.

Researchers at University are redesigning hip joints. A team of engineers and biomedicial scientists are testing new alloys that will make hip replacements safer and cheaper. In Malta during 2014, 145 people needed their hips replaced.

Prescription drugs are abused worldwide. Apart from illicit substances, legal drugs used off-prescription is a dangerous problem Europe-wide. In the US its use is second only to marijuana. The University of Malta is part of an EU-wide project studying the problem in order to tackle it.

The recent solar eclipse had everyone looking up to the skies. ISSA (Institute of Space Science & Astronomy) researcher Ian Fenech Conti writes about the Universe and how it was made. His work measures the most elusive matter in the universe.

Another elusive find was of black coral around the Maltese Islands by a team of marine researchers that includes Prof. Alan Deidun. They used underwater robots, ROVs, to map a new underwater forest just off the coast of Filfla. Fishing gear was found to have damaged this coral, in a different article JD Farrugia talks about overfishing and the need to change our fishing and eating habits to save our seas.

Alumni in Malta are finally getting the recognition they deserve. The University has just launched a new Outstanding Alumni Achievement award. If you know someone who has excelled after studying at the University of Malta then nominate them on: http://www.um.edu.mt/alumni/oaaa

The magazine is full of other stories from students and alumni on fish, lighter planes, hereditary disease, research funds, green chemistry, and robots. The fun section covers a range of reviews, with a comic strip by Gorg Mallia and a 100 word idea to change Malta—Think everyone.

 

Think, the University of Malta’s magazine, may be picked up for free in newsagents around Malta and Gozo and in Agenda bookstores, it is now available online at, available on Issuu, followed on Twitter @ThinkUoM  or liked on Facebook.

 

Haven’t been updating my blog because I’ve been working too hard. One of the things that keep me occupied is being the editor of Think magazine. He’s some information about the latest issue.

The story goes that while St Paul was on his way to Rome to face charges he was shipwrecked on Malta at St Paul’s Islands in St Paul’s Bay. The truth is that no hard evidence backs the tale. Recent research and archaeological findings narrows it down to two bays: one in the South and another in the North of Malta, as told in the latest issue of Think magazine.

Another article talks about the science behind Maltese wine, the project ViEnergy (Italia-Malta ERDF Programme [2007–2013]) is seeing Maltese researchers, ranging from engineers to food scientists, working with Italian oenologists and energy experts.

Some creative solutions are turning wine and its waste into algae, pharmaceutical products and electricity—apart from making that glass of wine taste better and giving Maltese wine its identity.

Think Magazine available on all newsstands

Malta is also close to Earthquake prone areas, exhibit A: Etna, exhibit B: the Hellenic Arc under Greece. Local seismologists write about the dangers to local buildings and what should be done to keep damage minimal.

Erosion is another danger to local buildings. Researchers are coming up with new materials to restore stone, keep it together, and prevent further deterioration.

On a more light hearted note, local researchers are studying Star Trek while others are reinventing how we tell stories with Transmedia storytelling—a technique that still needs to gather ground locally.

University students are writing about the gender sterotypes that culture artificially creates, while other students are researching how marine pollution spreads around Malta’s sea, how to control TV sets with hand gestures, and making better hip implants.

Alumni are talking about how to succeed by failing, and their research to understand Alzheimer’s disease using fruit flies.

This issue also stuffs in a list of the must have gadgets for 2014, film, game, and book reviews, and a comic—Think everything.

  Read More

Science in the City will feature over 20 events in 14 different venues in Valletta celebrating science in a fun and entertaining way by fusing science and art. On the 28th September from 6pm onwards as part of the pan European Researchers’ Night, activities will run from St. James Cavalier, through Valletta’s streets and end in St. George’s Square.

The star event will be a live science TV show at St George’s Square, hosted by Pawlu Borg Bonaci and Angie Laus, revealing researchers, live experiments, and packed with entertainment for all the family.

At St. James Cavalier Centre for Creativity, there will be a collective exhibition by Maltese artists called ‘How?’ (Adrian Abela, Elisa Von Brockdorff, Matthew Farrugia, Michael Xuereb, Raphael Vella, rubberbodies collective, and Sarah Scicluna), a science film festival, Malta Café Scientifique talk, and a piano recital by Tricia Dawn Williams. The rubberbodies collective will be fusing new materials with a unique interactive video and performance installation at 8pm. St James Cavalier will be transformed into a science discovery centre until 28 October 2012.

At Palazzo Ferreria, the Malta Association for Contemporary Music is coordinating a 20 minute performance (repeated at 8pm, 9pm and 10.30pm) featuring flute and live electronics by musicians from the Music Conservatory of Venice.

Some witty science-based street art and installations will be reaching out to pedestrians along Merchant Street and Republic Street. These include ‘Joyride’ by Emmanuel Bonnici, six-foot high ‘Humanised Fruit Flies’ by Liliana Fleri Soler, a sculpture inspired by DNA called ‘You are the staircase’ by Norbert Francis Attard, and a hanging sculpture ‘Cortex’ by Raphael Vella. In Strait Street, Chris Briffa will be installing an echo free room, an experience not to be missed.

 a doughnut shaped bus inspired by scientific concepts

At the King’s Own Band Club, visitors have a chance to meet scientists and discuss research over a drink. MEUSAC and the Auberge d’Italie are hosting an EU Corner with shows and fun activities for children. MCST is holding interactive science exhibits and live science shows with experiments at the Central Bank car park area. Families will also be treated to a science-themed carnival parade ‘Maskri Grotteski’ along Valletta main streets, while various university student groups will give fun science demonstrations for all to enjoy.

RIDT has been set up by the University of Malta in 2011 to create a supporting structure that sustains and expands research through additional funds that supplement the existing resources. RIDT will be present at the courtyard of the Malta Chamber of Commerce in an audiovisual exhibit highlighting the Trust’s role.

Science in the City festival is supported by the EU FP7 Programme and the Malta Arts Fund.  The event is coordinated by The University of Malta, in partnership with the Valletta Local Council, MEUSAC, Malta Council for Science and Technology, Malta Council for Culture and the Arts, Where’s Everybody, Malta Chamber of Scientists, Notte Bianca, iCreatemotion, Lily Agius Gallery, St James Cavalier and the University’s Research, Innovation and Development Trust (RIDT).

In the run up to Science in the City, check out for further details: www.scienceinthecity.org.mt; and on Facebook: www.facebook.com/ScienceInTheCityMalta or send us a mail on

info@scienceinthecity.org.mt

Image

Imagine pulling a rubber band. It gets thinner the more you stretch it. Auxetic materials defy logic, they do the opposite and become thicker when stretched and thinner when compressed.

Fascinated? Dr Daphne Attard will be giving a talk for Malta Cafe Scientifique called ‘Stretch it, Bend it, Pull it’ on the 14th June at 7.15pm (talk starts 7.30pm), Music Room, St. James Cavalier. Following the talk there will be an open discussion with the audience. Entrance is free and no special science background is required.

Auxetic materials are still in development, but researchers worldwide see an endless range of applications. Auxetic foams could be used in used in safety equipment like elbow and knee pads, bullet proof vests, crash helmets, automotive seats, cushioning and packaging. Imagine a rider falling off a bike and hitting her elbow on the pavement, this material would “push back” against the pavement and the elbow bones, reducing the effect of the impact.

Auxetic textiles could be used as smart medical dressings. The material would deliver the right amount of medication depending on the swelling. While auxetic heart stents wouldn’t compress and run the risk of causing blockages and heart attacks. The only limits on auxetics are the researchers’ imagination and manufacturing cost.

The speaker has recently obtained her PhD in Auxetics, is a full-time researcher at the University of Malta and has over 20 publications to her name. Malta Cafe Scientifique is supported by The Malta Chamber of Scientists and the Malta Council for the Voluntary Sector, and aided by the University of Malta. For further information, email maltacafescientifique@gmail.com or find us on Facebook.

Cocaine, Heroin, Cannabis, Amphetamine, LSD, the contraceptive pill, The Doors and Rolling Stones are children of the 60s. Chemistry fuelled the rise of free love, drug use, and a new ever-resonant culture. But, this culture also has a dark side: sexually transmitted infections, lost potential, and lives.

The Poster

Interested? Professor Richard Muscat (University of Malta – Pro-Rector for Research) will be talking about ‘Sex, Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll’ on the 10th May at 7.15pm, Music Room, St. James Cavalier. The talk will be followed by an open discussion. Free entrance, no special science background is required, and all are welcome.

For over 20 years, Professor Richard Muscat has researched the effects of drugs of abuse on the brain. His research has focused on brain pleasure pathways and their relation to moods. In turn, how drugs affect the way people behave both in the short and long term. The brain chemical dopamine plays a critical role in influencing how people respond to pleasurable situations and unfortunately as a consequence relapse following repeated drug use. Another three important links are the predisposition to drug use, age of first drug use, and anxiety/depression.

The speaker Chairs the Research Platform of the Pompidou Group, Council of Europe, a group that combats drug abuse and illicit drug trafficking. Malta Cafe Scientifique is supported by The Malta Chamber of Scientists and the Malta Council for the Voluntary Sector, and aided by the University of Malta. Email maltacafescientifique@gmail.com or find us on Facebook for further information.

Malta has been participating in the largest and most powerful scientific instrument ever created by humanity, the Large Hadron Collider. It is an 8 billion euro, 27km long juggernaut buried 100m under the Franco Swiss border. Its goal is to accelerate particles close to the speed of light and collide them head on fast enough to recreate the conditions of the big bang on a much smaller scale. The collisions will allow scientists to understand what makes up matter.

On the 11th April at 18:30 Music Room, St. James Cavalier, Dr Ing. Nicholas Sammut (researcher at the University of Malta and CEO of MCST) will chair the Malta Chamber of Scientists Business and Scientific meeting. The speakers include Ms Marija Cauchi and Mr Gianluca Valentino, researchers at the University of Malta and CERN. They will be giving an overview of what CERN does and how the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) works. They will talk about the critical role of the University of Malta in some of the LHC’s components. Science professionals, educators and students are all welcome. After the presentations, a discussion will be held over drinks and nibbles.

Pictures courtesy of Dr Ing. Nicholas Sammut.

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