Leonard Cohen’s Speech - Prince of Asturias Awards 2011

1 Diciembre 2016

Leonard Cohen

Italy earthquake: Why did no-one die in the latest disaster in Norcia?

2 Noviembre 2016

Resultado de imagen de norcia's earthquake  october 2016

When Italy suffered its strongest earthquake in decades on Sunday, multiple buildings collapsed and a number of people were injured. Yet so far there have been no reports of any fatalities.

So why did the villagers in central Italy escape relatively unscathed, even though many lost their homes and belongings?

The magnitude 6.6 quake was far stronger than the 6.0 disaster on 24th August that claimed 298 lives, many of them in the town of Amatrice, an hour’s drive from Norcia.

Thirty-six years earlier, in 1980, a 6.9 magnitude quake near Naples left almost 2,500 people dead, with many more injured and homeless.

The answer, according to a seismologist, is memory and fear.

There was no such gap for Norcia, which has felt the devastating effects of two large earthquakes - including a 6.1 magnitude earthquake that hit the Umbria and Marche regions in 1997 - in the past 40 years. Each time, its buildings were strengthened, its residents reminded of the devastation the earth could cause.

By the time the quake struck Norcia at 07:40 on Sunday, there was no-one in the area who did not remember.

The region has been rocked by four aftershocks since 24th August - two in the last week alone.

Thousands of people have already fled to the safety of relatives’ homes, shelters and hotels on the coast, far away from the towns filled with historic - and more vulnerable - buildings. Others were living in their cars, terrified of their homes collapsing on them as they slept.

Undoubtedly, this will have saved lives. In the village of Ussita, just north of Norcia, a man watched the buildings around him collapse from the safety of his car.

But there is also one other, so far unexplained, reason. Despite registering as a stronger earthquake than the one in August, it may have actually been weaker.

Geologists are trying to work out exactly why.

“Granny-sitter wanted” ad gets huge response

2 Octubre 2016

A London couple has been inundated with responses to their advert looking for help caring for their elderly grandmother in return for free accommodation in the capital.

“Granny-sitter wanted” the advert on a website reads. It appeals for a big-hearted soul with caring experience and a musical talent to help look after Margaret, 93, who has a love of crosswords, baking and singing old drinking songs.

Ross Elder, 40, and his partner Sofie, 32, posted the unusual advert in the hope of finding someone able to grandma-sit three days a week in return for living rent-free in their swish city apartment overlooking the Thames on London’s Southbank.

“I want to spend more time with Margaret,” grandson Ross says. “We have a lot of fun and we really enjoy her company.

“She’s had a really busy and active life but two years ago she had a stroke and when we realized she couldn’t live independently any more we had to move her into a care home.”

Since then Ross has made the journey from London to the home in Staffordshire every Tuesday to visit Margaret. “They do a great job there,” he says, “but I just became struck by a sense of loneliness in her.

“The staff doesn’t have time to spend one-on-one with every resident and she’s not the type who would just join a group activity.

“I felt I wanted to do something more and so we decided to look at moving her in with us.”

The couple realized they would need to make some life changes in order for Margaret’s move to work. Their third-floor flat in trendy Shoreditch with no lift or accessible amenities was not an option.

“We decided to rent a place overlooking the river that was much better for nearby walks and getting around,” Ross says. “We organized some professional care as we realized it would be a challenge but I wanted someone to be with her all the time.

“She has occasional memory loss and mild dementia and she needs someone to always be around.

“I want to spend a lot of time with her but it’s during those extra few hours each week or if she gets up in the night that we know someone is flexible and can be here.”

The idea for a live-in granny-sitter came after they read about a nursing home in the Netherlands which allows university students to live rent-free alongside the elderly residents, as part of a project aimed at warding off the negative effects of aging.

In exchange for small, rent-free apartments, the Humanitas retirement home in Deventer requires students to spend at least 30 hours per month acting as “good neighbours” doing a variety of activities with the older residents, including watching sports, celebrating birthdays and offering company.

“It planted a seed in my head and we decided to put out an advert,” Ross says. “We wanted someone who would bring more life into the house and just hoped we could find someone who was looking for a place to live with some caring experience and a love for music to help keep Margaret entertained.

“We didn’t really know what to expect but we’ve been really overwhelmed with the response.”

Over 200 emails later and the couple are now holding a host of interviews.

“It wouldn’t work for everyone as they need to be flexible with their time, he says.

“We’ve had lots of musicians and actors get in touch who have periods without work and who supplement their income working part-time in bars and some people who have experience of living with a grandparent or caring for an older relative.

“We’ve even had a lot of messages just wishing us well and saying even though they could not take up the offer they would love to come and play music for Margaret in lieu of cakes she would love to bake for them.

“It has given me such faith in the kindness of people and I feel much more positive now that it could really work.”

Ross, an internet entrepreneur, says he realizes he is in an unusually fortunate position.

“I sold my property website four years ago which has freed me up to only have to work part-time on my own projects. I’m in a good place financially and I have the time and resources to be able to do this.”

But he says he hopes it encourages and inspires people to think about more innovative ideas for elderly care.

“Loneliness is a huge problem and I never really realized the impact it can have. There are issues around safety to consider but young and old people cohabiting can help older people be more independent and even stay in their own homes.

“I love the idea that they can have a gossip together and offer each other so much in companionship.”

Johannes Stötter Art

1 Septiembre 2016

Resultado de imagen de johannes stoetter

Why the earthquake in Italy was so destructive?

25 Agosto 2016

Resultado de imagen de earthquake in italy


The earth beneath Italy’s Apennine Range — where a magnitude-6.2 earthquake struck early Wednesday — is a tangle of fault lines and fractured rock.

The mountains, which run the length of Italy like the zipper on a boot, were formed about 20 million years ago as the African plate plowed into Eurasia, crumpling crust like a carpet. Now things are moving in the opposite direction. The crust on the northern side of the range is pulling away from the south at a rate of three millimeters per year, causing the earth to shudder along the spider web of minor fault lines that run beneath the surface.

 Resultado de imagen de earthquake in italy


That, in part, explains why Italy is so earthquake-prone, and why Wednesday’s temblor was so destructive. The town of Amatrice, near the epicenter, was almost entirely reduced to rubble. Thousands of people were left homeless.

Seven years ago, the target was L’Aquila, a city about 30 miles south of Amatrice. That earthquake killed more than 300. A century ago, it was Avezzano, where about 30,000 people died. Medieval Italians wrote of temblors that shook the mountain ranges and set church bells ringing as far away as Rome.

Earthquakes in this region are modest in magnitude — hundreds of 6.2 quakes happen around the world every year. Within hours of the Italian quake, a 6.8-magnitude temblor hit Burma. But that earthquake was much deeper, which means it was less destructive. According to journalists, relatively few buildings collapsed, though three people were killed, including two children.

David Cameron resigns as British Prime Minister in wake of Brexit vote

1 Julio 2016

What is glass?

2 Junio 2016

Believe it or not, glass is made from liquid sand. You can make glass by heating ordinary sand (which is mostly made of silicon dioxide) until it melts and turns into a liquid. You won’t find that happening on your local beach: sand melts at the incredibly high temperature of 1700°C (3090°F).

When molten sand cools, it doesn’t turn back into the gritty yellow stuff you started out with: it undergoes a complete transformation and gains an entirely different inner structure. But it doesn’t matter how much you cool the sand, it never quite sets into a solid. Instead, it becomes a kind of frozen liquid or what materials scientists refer to as an amorphous solid. It’s like a cross between a solid and a liquid with some of the crystalline order of a solid and some of the molecular randomness of a liquid.

Glass is such a popular material in our homes because it has all kinds of really useful properties. Apart from being transparent, it’s inexpensive to make, easy to shape when it’s molten, reasonably resistant to heat when it’s set, chemically inert (so a glass jar doesn’t react with the things you put inside it), and it can be recycled any number of times.

If you want to learn more about it, click on:



Are Earthquakes in Japan and Ecuador Related? The Science Says No

1 Mayo 2016

Earthquakes of magnitudes exceeding 7.0 struck Japan and Ecuador just hours apart on Saturday. Are the two somehow related?

No. The two quakes occurred about 9,000 miles apart. That’s far too distant for there to be any connection between them.

Large earthquakes can, and usually do, lead to more quakes — but only in the same region, along or near the same fault. These are called aftershocks. Sometimes a large quake can be linked to a smaller quake that occurred earlier, called a foreshock. In the case of the Japanese quake, seismologists believe that several magnitude-6 quakes in the same region on the previous day were foreshocks to the Saturday event.

But the two earthquakes are similar in some ways, aren’t they?

Not really. The magnitude -7.8 quake in Ecuador was what would be considered a classic megathrust event. A megathrust quake occurs in the boundary zone where one of the planet’s tectonic plates is sliding under another, a process called subduction.

In the case of the Ecuadorean quake, the Nazca, a heavy oceanic plate, is sliding under the South American, a lighter continental plate, at a rate of about two inches a year. Strain builds up at the boundary, which is then released suddenly in the form of an earthquake. Because the boundary area is usually large, megathrust quakes are the most powerful and include the two strongest quakes ever measured by instruments: the magnitude-9.2 1964 Alaskan quake and one in coastal Chile in 1960 of magnitude 9.5.

Although there have been plenty of megathrust earthquakes in Japan — including the 2011 Tohoku quake, which led to the Fukushima nuclear disaster — the earthquake on Saturday on the island of Kyushu in southwest Japan was not the megathrust type. Rather, according to the geological survey, the earthquake occurred at shallow depth along a different kind of fault — called a strike-slip — in the top of the Eurasia plate, above any subduction zone.

O.K., but two 7.0-plus quakes in the same day — does that mean earthquake activity is increasing?

No. The geological survey, which monitors earthquakes around the world, says the average number of quakes per year is remarkably consistent. For earthquakes between magnitude 7.0 and 7.9, there have been some years with more than 20 and others with fewer than 10, but the average, according to the survey, is about 15. That means that there is more than one per month, on average, and by chance, sometimes two quakes occur on the same day. (Also by chance, the world sometimes goes a month or longer without a 7.0-plus quake, as it did between July 27 and Sept. 16 last year.)

Sometimes it seems that earthquakes are increasing in frequency because, as instrumentation improves and more people occupy more parts of the world, more quakes make the news. The two earthquakes on Saturday both occurred in heavily populated areas with media and communication networks, so word got out quickly and easily. If one had occurred in the middle of the ocean, few people would have noticed.

SALt lamp runs on a glass of water and two teaspoons of salt

1 Abril 2016

The Salt lamp runs for eight hours on a glass of saltwater.


Many of the more than 7,000 islands in the Philippines lack access to electricity, so after the sun goes down light usually comes by way of kerosene lamps. While cheap, these fire hazards are bad for the environment and human health. This, combined with the cost of keeping them burning has given one startup the impetus to build a better solution. The SALt (Sustainable Alternative Lighting) lamp burns for eight hours at a time running on only a glass of water and two teaspoons of salt.

Engineer and Greenpeace volunteer Aisa Mijeno came up with the idea for SALt after spending time with native Filipino tribes relying on kerosene lamps to perform everyday tasks after dark. She is looking to replace this hazardous light source with something the archipelago of the Philippines has in abundance: saltwater.

The SALt LED lamp relies on a galvanic cell battery, in which the electrolyte solution consists purely of salty water, into which two electrodes are placed. This is an approach we’ve seen used in battery designs for other LED lanterns, and is the basis of grander visions of a source of renewable energy.

Just like other batteries, the electrodes that carry the charge won’t last forever. The team says that the lamp can be used for eight hours a day for around six months before the anode needs replacing, which is still a whole lot less attention than is required for regular refills of a paraffin lantern. And it also claims that the finished product will generate enough power to charge Smartphones via the USB port on the side of the device.

To begin with, the company is aiming to deliver almost 600 lamps to native Filipino tribes, but it is also looking to ramp up production with plans to bring the lamp to market in early 2016. They haven’t told its price yet.

Self-Adjustable Glasses for the Third World

3 Marzo 2016

To Western eyes, Joshua Silver’s round-lensed glasses may make him look a little owlish, but in developing countries where optometrists and prescription lenses are rare, they could be a sight for a million, maybe even a billion, sore eyes.

Silver, 54, an atomic physicist at Oxford University in England, has invented a pair of spectacles a user can adjust him or herself according to the type of vision correction needed, thus eliminating the need for eye examinations and lens-grinding.

“In America you take for granted getting glasses in drug stores and shopping malls, sometimes within an hour,” says Silver. “But that is hardly the case in the developing world.”

Brings Life Into Focus

Within two minutes, a wearer of Silver’s glasses can bring each eye into focus on near or distant objects, by adding or subtracting the amount of silicon oil held in a thin reservoir sandwiched between the plastic lenses. Once focused, the user cuts off the oil supply and the glasses are set for seeing.

These adjustable specs can help about 90 percent of the population needing vision correction, he says.

But while many eye-care experts and the British government support Silver’s effort, some say getting his product to the developing world at a reasonable cost will not be easy. Others worry his glasses may actually increase the chance of debilitating eye diseases, such as river blindness, since the wearers would require fewer examinations.

Vision Without Need for Professionals

Silver started his own company, called Adaptive Eyecare in 1996 to manufacture and market the glasses. With them, he says, residents of remote villages would not have to travel to regional hospitals or clinics for glasses if a distribution system was set up. The glasses could provide vision correction for near- and far-sightedness at plus or minus six diopters — a wide range of lens curvature for vision correction.

Before his glasses became available, other Third World approaches included distributing second-hand glasses. But sorting through the lenses, giving them out and providing examinations still required significant manpower, explains Silver.

For the past four years, he and a team have performed field tests of his glasses in South Africa and Ghana with some 300 people, with funding from the British government’s Department of International Development and other sources. A trained person gave eye exams to the locals and explained to the users how the glasses work.

“People are capable of setting their own power of the lens with reasonable accuracy,” Silver says. Next, his company is planning a trial of a few hundred people to monitor how they work over a period of time.