Anything that struck me because it was shocking, interesting or simply hilarious : my news of the past week.
- Russia is on fire.
Fires are raging across Europe – in Portugal the Andancas festival was evacuated [PT] due to approximating fires (as a result our Belgian pride and glory AedO [NL] couldn’t finish their final performance) and in Spain 2 firefighters lost their lives, but the situation is especially bad in Russia. The first rain in 6 weeks has finally cleared the skies in Moscow from the thick layer of smoke in which the city was covered, but the fires are all but under control. Several nuclear sites are threatened, including the Tsjernobyl area where the soil is still heavily contaminated with nuclear particles. A blazing fire could possibly throw these back in the air, allowing winds to spread them across the continent. A German expert however claims this holds no real threat.
Somehow I’m reluctant to just shrug my shoulders and say “If you say so.” …
- 2 Sudbury schools are starting on September 1st.
September 1st will be the start of a brand new school year not only for a whole lot of children, but also for 2 new schools in Antwerp and Ghent. They will be Sudbury schools, which are most easily described as a school where kids do what they want, how they want it and when they want it. The philosophy seems to be that if a child doesn’t want to learn to read, it shouldn’t – it will discover in due time that it is quite necessary to be able to read and will be all the more motivated. All rules are set up by the children themselves in a democratic way. It seems too good to be true, but my main concern would be that the school in Ghent has no building yet.
Will they just ask the kids where they want to go to every day?
- Ghent University is in the top 100 of the Shanghai Jiaotong World University Ranking.
As an alumna of GU I am obviously pretty proud – eat this, Leuven! (Apologies… couldn’t help myself.) The ranking is highly criticized, since it focuses mainly on scientific output and research (Nobel Prize winners, etc) rather than education, which puts European Universities at a disadvantage. Still, Ghent made it to spot 90 and Lund, my future employer, ranks 67th. Berkeley, here I come!
- Get the solar panel spray, dear, we’re running out of power!
I have honestly no clue even as to how to begin on developing them, but scientist report they have invented a plastic solar cell that works even on cloudy days. The cell is different from conventional solar cells and can use the infrared rays of the sun to convert into energy. The best part is not so much that they could be up to 5 times more effective than current solar cell technology, but that they would be available as a spray-on, allowing them to be sprayed on walls, clothing and even windows. A car covered with it could use them to continuously recharge its batteries. Talk about the future!
On a somehow related note, new wind turbines are being developed that would look like trees, with the leaves harvesting power each time the winds “flaps” them. Well, they would certainly be more aesthetically pleasing than the current versions!
- New: the Blackberry burqa.
After they announced banning the Blackberry altogether because they do not have access to the encrypted data sent and received by them, several Gulf States have now accepted new laws requiring that every Blackberry user covers their phone in a tiny burqa. ‘The Blackberry burqa means that people can still use their phones,’ said a Saudi government official, ‘but the tiny niqab that covers the screen will stop them from reading emails or accessing the Internet.’ Honestly, I’ve been waiting all week for someone to tell me this is a hoax.