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.

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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

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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.

The Next Malta Cafe Scientifique talk in Collaboration with Green Drinks Malta on the 12th April 2012

 

I want to switch on my laptop, AC, and smartphone and I want to use them as much as I want: guilt-free. And, I’m not alone; Malta’s energy demand has steadily increased till it peaked at around 430MW a few years ago. Don’t despair. Malta has exciting plans to build a wind farm that would adsorb a large chunk of this demand.

Light My Lightbulb (poster: Nicole Diacono)

Interested? Come along to the next Malta Café Scientifique talk (in collaboration with Green Drinks Malta) by Dr Ing. Tonio Sant (Faulty of Engineering, University of Malta) called ‘Light my Lightbulb’ at 7.15pm 12th April, Music Room, St. James Cavalier.

The Maltese Islands are a tricky place to harvest wind energy. Space is limited and our seas are deep, so deep that large wind farms are only possible at depths of around 70 meters. Offshore wind farms already exist, but this depth presents huge technical challenges. These wind turbines need to be adapted to Malta’s unique conditions.

One major problem is storms. No one wants their multi-million investment to be swallowed by the waves. To prevent this scenario the speaker and his team are researching how to properly anchor these giant turbines.

Wind turbines also need to operate under the lightest of breezes. Its blades need to turn and provide energy on calm days, which depends on their design. This is another research area of Dr Sant, whose finding will be important for Malta to develop wind farms suited to the Island’s needs. It will let us use our AC without worrying too much about our effect on the planet.

Light my Lightbulb’ will be held at the Music Room, St. James Cavalier, at 7.15pm, Thursday 12th by Malta Cafe Scientifique in collaboration with Green Drinks Malta and supported by The Malta Chamber of Scientists and the Malta Council for the Voluntary Sector. The talk will be given by Dr Ing. Tonio Sant, followed by an open discussion. Email maltacafescientifique@gmail.com or find us on Facebook for further information. Entrance is free. No special science background is required.

The humble fruit fly is about 2mm long, likes bananas, sings to its mate, and normally ill considered or ignored by humans. Few people know that this tiny fly has revealed more about us than any other animal. Malta Cafe Scientifique will be hosting a public discussion by Dr Edward Duca entitled ‘Flies, Sex and Lies’ at 7.15pm Thursday 8th December, Music Room, St. James Cavalier.

The fly eye

Dr Edward Duca will start off with a story: the life of a fruit fly. How it goes from birth to adolescence, then like the butterfly, forms a structure around itself to develop into the adult. Unlike the butterfly, a rather ugly fly emerges instead of technicolor wonder. Once grown up the male fly needs to dance, sing, and woo females any way it can to produce children. How the fly develops has taught us humans how we develop, and what happens when things go wrong: the specter of genetic disease.

Pharmaceutical companies study the effects of new medicines on the fruit fly. They test them on fruit flies that have been changed slightly to show diseases like obesity, motor neuron disease that Stephen Hawking and Mao Zedong suffered from, and brain degenerating diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s disease. These models let pharmaceutical companies test new drugs quickly and cheaply before trying them in mice (followed by humans). They also let scientists find out why these diseases develop, hoping that they are translated into cures for human disease.

 

The fruit fly might be tiny, but it has been a treasure trove of discovery.

Fly fat cells with fat stained green and DNA blue

Fly Fat

 

‘Flies, sex and lies’ will be held at the Music Room, St. James Cavalier, at 7.15pm, Thursday 8th December by Malta Cafe Scientifique and supported by The Malta Chamber of Scientists. The talk will be given by Dr. Edward Duca, followed by an open discussion. Email maltacafescientifique@gmail.com or find us on Facebook for further information. Entrance is free and a free drink and nibbles will be provided to all attending. No special science background is required.

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