OCTOBER 2016 • ISSUE 17
I D E A S
M A LTA
R E S E A RC H
P E O P L E
U N I V E R S I TY
SOCIAL POLICY ksu.org.mt
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ometimes humanity does things greater than itself. Unfortunately, such success led to the atomic bomb. On better days, these achievements benefit everyone. CERN
is the prime example. It gave rise to the Internet, new medical treatments, and has helped us understand what all matter in the Universe is made up of; in turn it helps us understand ourselves. Last year Malta became an Associate Member of the ALICE Collaboration,
To see our best photos and illustrations www.instagram.com/thinkuni
one of CERNs major experiments. The UoM (University of Malta) unlocked networks that will help solidify a long-standing collaboration. Our focus celebrates this achievement (pgs. to 15-31). THINK does not shy away from controversial topics. This issue has student research on attitudes towards pornography amongst UoM students
To view some great videos www.youtube.com/user/ThinkUni
(pg. 12) and a feature on how to ethically care for the terminally ill to reduce suffering (pg. 39). Other research coming out of Mater Dei Hospital (in collaboration with UoM biomedical engineers) has developed an automatic technique to easily and quickly take heat maps of hands and feet to see if a
To read all our printed magazines online
patient has diabetes (see pg. 44).
Risk is central to all our lives. Humans are pretty bad at figuring out whatâ€™s risky business, Professor Noellie Brockdorff explains why (pg. 35). Other features show the diversity of research at UoM, which ranges from how PV panels can be used more cleverly (pg. 50) to research showing how the history of maps reflects changes in society (pg. 56). We have even managed to fit a short featurette about how game developer Rami Ismail believes
For our archive from the University of Malta Library www.um.edu.mt/library/oar
Malta is ripe for a blossoming indie gaming scene (pg. 32). This issue is packed with digital art exhibitions, migrant issues, satellite dishes, student and alumni articles, and a ready-to-burst fun section full of reviews and comics.
Are you a student, staff, or researcher at the University of Malta? Would you like to contribute to THINK magazine? If interested, please get in touch to discuss your article on email@example.com or call +356 2340 3451
CONTENTS ISSUE 17 � OCTOBER 2016 TOOLKIT
4 WITHOUT BORDERS
From immigrants to theology
Push the button
Counting pennies for creativity
Malta is now an Associate Member of the ALICE Experiment that forms part of CERN—the largest experiment in the world. Our focus celebrates this achievement. The design by Roberta Scerri adopts a 1960s comic book style from the pop art movement.
Galactic rotation dynamics in modified gravity
PORN: How do we feel about it?
Thin coatings for better hips
Further down the rabbit hole
Using muscle activity to control machines
Analysing ALICE: finding order in chaos
CONTRIBUTORS TOOLKIT Author: Abigail Galea Scientist: Dr Jackson Levi Said
STUDENT ARTICLES Nicola Falzon Andrew Finch Christian Grech Antonino Mazzonello
WITHOUT BORDERS Rev. Dr Stefan Attard Dr Pauline Dimech
RESEARCH ARTICLE Wilfred Kenely
DESIGN ARTICLE Malcolm Bonello
CULTURE ARTICLE Valletta 2018 Foundation
OPINION Matthew Caruana
ALICE FOCUS Dr Johann A. Briffa, Dr Keith Bugeja Cassi Camilleri
Dr Ing. Owen Casha Prof. Ing. Edward Gatt Yasmine Gatt Prof. Paolo Giubellino David Reuben Grech Lars Lorenz Dr Gianluca Valentino Dr Kevin Vella FEATURE ARTICLES Joseph Aldape Dr Ing. Maurice Apap Dr Claude Bajada Ing. Jurgen Bonavia Prof. Noellie Brockdorff Prof. Ing. Kenneth Camilleri
Prof. Kevin Cassar Prof. Nachiappan Chockalingham Christian Ellul Dr Owen Falzon Dr Cynthia Formosa Dr Alfred Gatt Yasmine Gatt Jean Gauci Ritienne Gauci Rami Ismail Prof. Pierre Mallia Tuovi Mäkipere Anabelle Mizzi Stephen Mizzi Cassandra Sturgeon
Dr William Zammit ALUMNI ARTICLE Veronica Stivala Ian Zammit FUN ARTICLES David Chircop Andrea Marie Cini Alexander Hili Dr Ġorġ Mallia Charlo Pisani Dr Jackson Levi Said ILLUSTRATIONS Roberta Scerri
THINK is a quarterly research magazine published by the Marketing, Communications & Alumni Office at the University of Malta To subscribe to our blog log into www.um.edu.mt/think/subscribe and fill in your details. � For advertising opportunities, please call 2340 3475 or get in touch by email on firstname.lastname@example.org Advertising rates are available on www.um.edu.mt/think/advertise
What do you need to setup an indie gaming community?
Rami Ismail shares his thoughts about how Malta can become an indie gaming hub
Politics, policy & risky business
Make policy using evidence; how scientists can help
Care till death do us part
Giving back to the research community
Does death need to be painful? Not everyone thinks so
Attacking the silent epidemic of diabetes
Let it shine Using Malta’s greatest resource: sunshine
A new automated way to detect the disease early and stop it
Cultural regeneration through urban spaces and places
Charting space and time Maps show the way
62 71 66 FUN
Reviews (Books, Film, Game)
Curiosity saved the cat Ian Zammit talks about water recycling around Europe
THINK I D E A S
M A LTA
R E S E A RC H
P E O P L E
U N I V E R S I TY
OCTOBER 2016 - ISSUE 17
Edward Duca EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Cassi Camilleri ASSISTANT EDITOR DESIGN
Jean Claude Vancell DESIGNER Roberta Scerri ASSISTANT DESIGNER COPYEDITING
100 word idea: Think critically, think Malta
What is more addictive: cannabis or coffee?
ISSN 2306-0735 Copyright © University of Malta, 2016 The right of the University of Malta to be identified as Publisher of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright Act, 2001. University of Malta, Msida, Malta Tel: (356) 2340 2340 Fax: (356) 2340 2342 www.um.edu.mt All rights reserved. Except for the quotation of short passages for the purpose of research and review, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher. The publisher has used its best endeavours to ensure that the URLs for external websites referred to in this magazine are correct and active at the time of going to press. However the publisher has no responsibility for the websites and can make no guarantee that a site will remain live or that the content is or will remain appropriate. Every effort has been made to trace all copyright holders, but if any have been inadvertently overlooked, the publishers will be pleased to include any necessary credits in any subsequent issues.
Veronica Stivala PROOF READING
Daphne Pia Deguara, Patricia Camilleri, Pierre Cassar PRINTING
Gutenberg Press, Malta
alta now has a radio telescope. This is
to voltage readings in the feed. The converted
a great step forward for the University
signal is then transmitted to a digitiser that
of Malta as it helps speed up research. The Department of Physics, Faculty of Science and
converts these signals into bits and bytes. The digitised signals are then processed and broken
the Institute of Space Sciences & Astronomy (ISSA;
down into the different frequency counterparts
both at the University of Malta) have just acquired
(similar to what a car radio does with the radio
a 5.3m dual-reflector parabolic dish, as part of a
waves it receives from its antenna), which allows
European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) project
for continuum observation of the skies above.
to extend postgraduate research lab facilities. The radio
The telescope provides a test-bed for several
telescope will now allow students and researchers to
research initiatives being undertaken at ISSA.
study celestial objects such as the sun or the centre
Some of its specialisations include improving the
of the galaxy through the radio waves they emit.
hardware and software processing back-ends
When pointed to a radio-loud celestial object
for radio telescopes. The on-site telescope can
(an object which emits large amounts of radio
speed up this sort of research immensely. ISSA is
waves, such as the sun), the telescope will receive
part of the largest radio telescope project in the
radio waves from these sources and convert them
world: the SKA (Square Kilometre Array).
QUICK SPECS • Dish diameter: 5.3m
• Total weight (including pedestal): 1900 kg
• Feed horns: L-Band and K-band
• Surface accuracy: 0.5mm
• Gain: 44 dBi @ 4GHz
• PC-based automated control unit
• Observing modes: Continuum and line observation
BORDERS From immigrants to theology O
ver 1.82 million migrants entered the
and Health. At the third stage, a symposium
EU in 2015 and this has triggered much
on ‘Mercy and the Immigrant’ was held on 6
dialogue across member states. In May 2015,
June 2016. The symposium brought together
the Archbishop of Malta, H.G. Mons Charles
interested parties and agency representatives
J. Scicluna, after the Vatican announcement
to reflect on the issue. This provided a platform
of the Year of Mercy, reached out to the
for a dialogue between theologians and society.
academic community to reflect on the immigrant
Rev. Dr René Micallef S.J. (Gregorian University in
phenomenon. This call set in motion The Mercy
Rome) spoke about the mercy, justice, and policies
Project, which aims to create a set of reflections
needed to be considered by Malta and the rest of
and recommendations around immigration.
The project has four stages. It first reflected
The final forth step is underway. A publication
on the issues of mercy and immigration within
of the project’s position papers is being prepared.
the Maltese context. During this stage, staff
This will make available to various sectors of the
members from various University of Malta (UoM)
public some of the philosophical, social, legal,
faculties explored the local situation, reflecting
educational, and theological ideas which surfaced
on the terminology used, prevailing concepts and
during the project’s dialogues and consultations.
current practices. This was followed by a second
It will provide concrete recommendations for the
stage. Academics held meetings to discuss various
University of Malta, State, and the Church.
viewpoints and realities around migration. Those
involved included members from the Faculties of
Dr Pauline Dimech and Rev. Dr Stefan Attard are
Theology, Arts, Social Wellbeing, Laws, Education,
the project co-ordinators.
LESVOS, GREECE October 12, 2015: Refugees arriving in Greece in a dinghy boat from Turkey. These Syrian, Afghanistan and African refugees land their boat at the North coast of Lesvos. Photo: Anjo Kan / Shutterstock.com
Photos above: Ververidis Vasilis / Shutterstock.com
DESIGN L-g침 L-
g침 is a thoughtful, innovative, and interactive exhibition. The reaction it provokes is from the very base of the
senses and is the first final year project exhibition from BFA in Digital Arts degree students organised by the Department of Digital Arts, Faculty of Media and Knowledge Sciences. The exhibitors chose an intriguing moniker: the most enigmatic and iconic rune in the Maltese alphabet (L-g침). Together they used it as a starting point and explored the thematic elements it connotes. The students tapped into six themes and developed twelve projects. Despite majoring in animation or graphic design, each artist worked with a subject they discovered and developed over several months. Creativity and variety are abundant, with projects ranging from audio-visual experiments and curatorial work to interactive documentaries and highly thematic visual material. The body of research and thought behind each project sheds recognition on conceptual and creative transformations currently occurring in the practice of art and design. They shift the boundaries of art, design, and media and how they can be used together.
L-g침, the Degree Exhibition of the BFA in Digital Arts (Department of Digital Arts, Faculty of Media and Knowledge Sciences, University of Malta). Artists: Ramon Azzopardi, Matthew Calleja, Caroline Curmi, Darryl Farrugia, Danika Muscat, Angele Pollacco, Lucrezia Rapa, Pascale Spiteri, Michelle Trapani, Siobhan Vassallo, Matthew Vella and Ryan Zammit Pawley.
Counting pennies for creativity Matthew Caruana
rowdfunding has proven to be a
recipients benefit from local context and
backing, backers need not be based in Malta at
phenomenon. From an A to Z list
all. By giving local creators the space to attract
of every indie game, record or
funding in the most efficient way, Zaar aims
publication imaginable, to rebuilding
not only to fuel dreams, but to fulfil them.
homes, rehoming puppies and sending people
That being said, Zaar is not just about financing,
to the Olympics, crowdfunding platforms have
and one of the company’s core values is about
shown they can be just the right kind of push
getting good ideas out in the open. In operation
to get hatchlings to fly the nest. Having a local
for seven months, the platform has managed to
crowdfunding platform gives entrepreneurs
fund everything from album launches to charity
and communities in Malta a unique edge.
events. Some of the most successful offspring to
Crowdfunding is a place where local
date include: a soon-to-be launched Pet Cabin at
ideas, concepts and projects meet and can
Mater Dei; eeMod—a modular and multi-functional
receive public support. But, in a world of
platform for makers, engineers, and students;
large crowdfunding opportunities across the
funding for the UoM student racing team to build
globe, what does Malta actually stand to gain
a new formula style car; and a project to bring
by having a platform with a local focus?
graphic novels to Malta’s Public Library. Without
Financing options on the Maltese Islands are notoriously limited. Over 70 per cent of small-tomedium enterprises (SMEs) resort to traditional
a little push from Zaar to get public interest going, none of these projects may have made it. Local crowdfunding also opens up new avenues
lending services like bank loans and overdrafts.
for researchers and their projects. Governmental
Getting a new business off the ground is a
and EU funds are becoming harder to come by,
daunting task, and 30% of local entrepreneurs
but Zaar ensures that every researcher who has
admit to finding difficulty in securing investments.
ever been told that their field lacks the appeal
Enter Zaar, the donation and reward-based
for funds, at least has the opportunity to try.
crowdfunding platform set up by the Malta
For the first time, people have the chance to
Business Bureau and the University of Malta
fund studies that they want to see done, and
[UoM]. The idea initially was to help bridge gaps
the thought of that is genuinely exciting.
in the market when it comes to financing for
Crowdfunding is going to be a game
start-ups, innovation, and research projects.
changer for innovation, and Zaar has the
A local crowdfunding platform helps local
first pin down on the local map.
companies by bypassing the legal and bureaucratic
obstacles that come with using international
platforms. While projects targeting Maltese
Galactic rotation dynamics in modified gravity Andrew Finch
n the last 100 years, Einstein’s theory of general relativity has proven invaluable to explain the
Andrew Finch (supervised by Dr Jackson Levi Said) is looking into the new concept of treating
nature of the universe. That being said, Einstein’s
gravity as a torsional dominated system instead of
model of gravity does at times fail to comply with
a curvature dominated one, which is the concept
what we actually observe when looking up at the
explained by general relativity. The new models
are being developed with the intention of agreeing
Galaxies offer one of the most impressive
with galactic rotation curves while managing to
laboratories where general relativity just does
explain everything that general relativity already
not work. Stellar objects in galaxies tend to orbit
does. It is only possible to vigorously test such
the galactic centre of mass. General relativity
models because of the large amount of freely
predicts that as one goes further from the centre
available data which has been gathered on
of the galaxy, these orbital speeds drop off.
galaxies. As models are obtained, the cluster in the
Observational data shows that these velocities
ISSA (Institute of Space Science and Astronomy)
tend to stay constant along the radius of a galaxy.
laboratory is being used in order to determine
However, dark matter can be artificially introduced
model parameters. Using this data, Finch aims to
to account for this. The other argument is that such
compare Einstein’s theory with the new model
failures indicate the inability of general relativity
being developed. Will it improve on Einstein’s
to fully explain how the universe works. If this is
ideas? Only Finch will tell…
alternative or modified theories of gravity. Such
This research is being performed as part of a
theories would have to be capable of correctly
Masters Degree in Astrophysics being read at
explaining all observed phenomena including those
the Institute of Space Sciences and Astronomy,
that general relativity fails to produce.
University of Malta.
so, it seems necessary to construct what are called
PORN: How do we feel about it? Nicola Falzon
round 13% of all internet
Raw data was collected through
searches can be linked to
online surveys, of which 261 UoM
research in the first place? Primarily,
keywords related to erotic material,
students participated. The data was
further studies into pornography
while by 2017 it is estimated that
analysed using SPSS and data sets
can contribute towards the field of
about a quarter of a billion people
were compared between males and
psychology, first by deepening the
will be accessing pornography on
females, older and younger adults,
understanding of the phenomena, and
mobile devices. While by far not a
and then compared to previous local
secondly because it directly effects
recent phenomenon, the widespread
and international research. Similar
how treatment can be improved
use and growth of the internet has
to information obtained through
when porn causes a negative effect.
made pornography common and
literature reviews, the results showed
Also, new methods of therapy and
easy to access. So why pornography?
significant differences in the attitude
counselling could be developed to
What more do we really need to
towards pornography between men
help with addiction that can cause
know? And what is the point of
and women. Males were shown to
relationship issues. Other problems
such research anyway? From a
watch pornography more frequently
include excessive masturbation that
psychological point of view, the visible
and had a more positive attitude,
can lead to isolation from real life
increase of use needs to be studied,
while females considered pornography
relationships and sexual practice.
particularly in Malta, since very little
to be harmful. However, both males
Research can also help influence
research has been conducted.
and females answered similarly on
changes in social policy, for example
the majority of survey statements.
by including ‘Porn Literacy’ in sex
Nicola Falzon (supervised by
So, what is the point of such
education—currently absent. In
Dr Nicholas Briffa) focused her
Attitudes towards porn might
undergraduate research on the
be more similar than previously
Malta, 41% of 16- to 18-year-olds
attitudes towards pornography; she
assumed. There were no significant
are sexually active; many learnt about
looked into the literature regarding
age differences in the frequency
sexual practices and pleasure from
the effects of addiction, among other
of use or views of porn as harmful.
the internet, films, and video. It is no
psychological implications. Despite
Younger adults displayed a more
longer convenient to remain naïve
the grave implications the field may
positive attitude to porn than their
at the expense of public health.
imply, this study showed that not all
older counterparts. Finally, while
effects are necessarily detrimental.
most female respondents agreed
This research was carried out as
University of Malta (UoM) students
that access to pornography should
part of a Bachelor in Psychology at
were found to have a fairly relaxed
be restricted, a strong majority did
the Faculty for Social Wellbeing,
and liberal attitude towards it.
not agree it should be illegal.
University of Malta.
Thin coatings for better hips Antonino Mazzonello This new dual-coated material
y the year 2030, due to the
hostile environment. The problem with
rise in age-expectancy and
stainless steels is that despite this
promises to be an ideal candidate for
accompanying increase in frequency
natural coat, tribocorrosion processes
hip joint implants. Apart from being
in bone-weakening conditions,
at the joints still form debris leading
harder and more resistant, its low
total hip replacement surgeries will
to problems for the patient and
friction means that less effort would
increase by 174%. One of the most
implant failure. Such failure can cause
be required to move the joint. The
important facets of implant surgery
severe pain and expense when the hip
encouraging results mean that in the
is biocompatibility. Durable implants
implant needs to be replaced.
near future this technology could be
that are biocompatible with human
Antonino Mazzonello (supervised
implemented in clinics. Mallia points
tissue are needed to prevent rejection
by Dr Ing. Bertram Mallia and Dr Ing.
out that ‘such multi-layered coatings
and failure. And with this logarithmic
Joseph Buhagiar), is investigating a
may offer a giant step in increased
expected rise, the need for longer
new type of coating on hip implants.
durability for a relatively small
lasting implants will be needed more
He is analysing the corrosion-wear
than ever before.
performance of a dual-layer coating made up of a Chrome-Nitride (Cr-N)
This research is being performed
implants are the most common
layer followed by a Cobalt-Chrome-
as part of a Master’s degree in
type. These, however, have a limited
durability, often requiring surgery
layer deposited on top of low-
which Antonino Mazzonello
to be replaced after a decade.
temperature carburised stainless
is reading at the Faculty of
The combined action of wear and
steel (the coatings are made by Prof.
Engineering, University of Malta.
corrosion (termed tribocorrosion),
Peter Dearnely [Boride Services Ltd.].
The research is supported by
brought about by friction during joint
This treatment is owned and carried
an Endeavour Scholarship. This
movements and the body’s aggressive
out by Bodycote Plc. The top layer
scholarship is part-financed by the
environment, causes implant failure. A
reduces friction while the bottom
European Union; European Social
material called biomedical grade 316
layer toughens the coating, reducing
Fund under Operational Programme
LVM stainless steel is commonly used
its removal. When the dual-layered
II (ESF) 2014-2020, “Investigating
in hip-joint implants. It naturally forms
stainless steel is compared to the
in human capital to create more
a thin oxide film on its surface that
untreated steel, the treated material is
opportunities and promote the
protects the material from the body’s
more resistant to wear and corrosion.
wellbeing of society”.
Currently, metallic biomedical
Using muscle activity to control machines Christian Grech
ndependent living is important to
The problem is that most of these
muscle activity of a person. This consists
devices make use of sequential
of an HMI which continuously provides
fact that there are many cases where
control, where only one function can
the shoulder and elbow joint positions
physical problems prevent people
be articulated at a timeâ€” meaning
using surface muscle movements.
from living without care. To help
fluid, life-like motions are impossible.
Grech tested the model to develop
people regain some independence in
Now, most daily activities need
more freedom, which would lead to
their lives there are systems such as
simultaneous movement with multiple
fluid movements. He investigated
Human to Machine Interfaces (HMI).
degrees of freedom. And it is this
three types of system identification
Systems such as these work by using
need that is pushing the creators of
methods (state space models, linear
biosignals like Electromyographic (EMG)
these devices to create simultaneous
regression models, and neural networks)
signals that can be used to control
control to mimic real life movements.
to develop this relationship between
everyone. However, it is a known
assistive devices. However, some have
Christian Grech (supervised by Dr
muscle activity and corresponding joint
their drawbacks: prosthetic arms, for
Tracey Camilleri and co-supervised by
angles. Additionally, seven different
instance, are one commonly used
Dr Ing. Marvin Bugeja) has developed a
movements were tested in real-time
device that are at times abandoned due
system which allows the control of the
using a robotic arm. Grech managed to
to a lack of dexterity and precision.
position of a robotic arm by using the
develop a model that allows prosthetic arms to be used more naturally. Of course, more research is needed to perfect this device. Ideally it would operate without delay and with minimal user discomfort. The Department of Systems & Control Engineering is carrying out more research to continue to improve the accuracy and robustness of such myoelectric (EMG) controlled devices. This research was carried out as part of a Bachelor of Engineering
degree at the Faculty of
Real time wrist position control.
Engineering, University of Malta.
n a 27 km circular tunnel beneath the French and Swiss borders lies the largest experiment on Earth – CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC). Capable
of spinning particles at close to the speed of light, it smashes them together in the bid to better understand the fundamental makeup of matter and ultimately answer the age old question. A magnificent feat of engineering, the LHC goes where no other machine has gone before. The magnets it uses to guide the particles’ trajectory are cooled to temperatures below those found in space. On the other hand, the collisions are over 100,000 times hotter than the sun’s core. These collisions generate enough data per year to fill millions of hard drives. The cables needed to transfer that data could be wrapped everything.
around the Earth nearly seven times. CERN has changed
it produces from the LHC collisions. The ALICE Experiment. Photo by Anna Pantelia for CERN
Being part of a giant global computing network called the World Wide LHC Computer Grid, CERN needs to filter
which will see the experiments and the
and sort this data as quickly as possible
120 nationalities collaborating
injector complex upgraded. It will then
[see Lars Lorenz’s article on pg. 24].
within its structures and countless
be restarted some years later to run at
achievements to its name, this
the design parameters only to be shut
involves removing unnecessary noise,
prestigious research centre has been
down yet again a couple years later for
also known as background events,
granted a seat at the United Nations.
its final planned retrofit. The relaunch
from the detectors [see David Grech’s
will take place in 2025 with the
article on pg. 28]. This will help in
of the Higgs Boson in 2012. The initial
LHC being reintroduced as the High
compressing the data and allow the
financial investment of €7.5 billion
Luminosity LHC with even brighter
detector to focus on more interesting
paid off in a big way. After decades
beams and more particle collisions.
events. Other researchers are looking
of design and the construction of
Malta steps in at each upgrade.
into optimising the electronic circuits
With over 12,000 scientists from
CERN’s crown jewel is its discovery
The University of Malta (UoM) has
and control boards in order to improve
this elusive particle, unlocking the
been collaborating with CERN for over
how data is handled. Implementing new
explanation of how other particles
a decade. In July 2015, the partnership
technologies and engineering solutions
have mass. It was one of the last
was taken a step further with Malta
has led them to improve the rate of
pieces of the puzzle in the Standard
becoming an Associate Member of the
data being gathered from collisions by
Model of Physics that explains how
ALICE Collaboration, one of the big
over tenfold. All this should be online
the world of the very small works.
four LHC experiments at CERN. As a
for the next LHC run in 2020.
Yet there are still many unanswered
result, the UoM gained much needed
questions. What is dark matter?
access to scientific data and resources.
The University of Malta Team Leaders
Does supersymmetry exist? What
To celebrate, THINK has dedicated
are Dr Gianluca Valentino and Dr
was the start of the Universe like?
this issue to the Maltese researchers
Kevin Vella. Other researchers
working within this collaboration.
include Dr Johann A. Briffa, Dr
the LHC, scientists managed to find
To answer them, one needs better equipment. CERN has already planned
One of CERN's foremost particle
Keith Bugeja, Prof. Ing. Edward
for this need years in advance.
physicists, Prof. Paolo Giubellino,
Gatt and Dr Ing. Owen Casha
Already, a very distinct step-by-step
kicks things off with insight into
as well as the students Jordan
structure has been set up to effect the
the humble beginnings of the
Lee Gauci, Stefano Calleja, Josef
necessary changes and circumvent the
ALICE experiment (pg. 18).
Magri, Clive Seguna, Kevin Napoli
engineering problems that come with
Another aspect of their work
UoM researchers come into play
and Julia Vella. These come from
working with machines like the LHC.
as they attempt to solve CERN's
various departments within the
A shutdown is scheduled for 2019
problem with the vast amount of data
Faculties of ICT and Physics.
The team involved in the ALICE Experiment at the University of Malta. Photo by Jean Claude Vancell
Curious matters Society is built on curiosity; the drive to find answers to life’s abounding questions. This curiosity continues to fuel our brightest minds today. Cassi Camilleri talks to ALICE experiment leader Prof. Paolo Giubellino about his work at CERN and how it impacts our daily lives.
round 13.82 billion
Giubellino, world famous experimental
years ago, everything
particle physicist and leader of the
changed. The Big Bang
ALICE experiment at CERN.
happened and the universe as we know it
‘we are studying the properties
came to life. Now scientists at CERN
of matter as it was in the first
want to recreate the conditions a few
few millionths of a second of the
moments after this phenomenon to
universe. Understanding this is the
understand what we are all made up
key to understanding some of the
of. With the aid of the Large Hadron
fundamental aspects of the evolution
Collider (LHC), an extraordinary
of our universe.’ He explains that,
machine that has made the facility a
while it may be known that protons
household name worldwide, they have
are made of three quarks (subatomic
succeeded in creating what is believed
particles), we have yet to determine
to be the first form of matter in the
why protons weigh 100 times more
universe—the quark-gluon plasma.
than their quark building blocks.
CERN’s quest to understand matter
With ALICE, Giubellino says,
Where does this mass come from?
has brought to light major discoveries
There is a huge gap between
that have changed our understanding
‘the soup of quarks’, as Giubellino
of the world. However, there is so
describes it, and the formation of ‘all
much that remains a mystery. Trying
the particles that form our life and
to unlock those secrets is Prof. Paolo
universe.’ This gap is what we need
Integration of the ALICE experiment's inner tracker. Photo by Maximilien Brice for CERN
to break down and this is what the
in Germany, support for this new
ALICE experiment is all about.
experiment with heavy ions began to rally. ‘After this, people started meeting
27 km tunnel that would eventually
up regularly to build the proposal.’ All
house the LHC had just been dug
the work culminated in the expression
out. Inspired by the LHC’s potential a
of interest submitted in 1992. This
group of scientists, Giubellino included,
was just the beginning. Going through
discussed the possibility of accelerating
the various committees involved was
heavy ions. Up until then, acceleration
the ‘toughest part of the process,’
was planned to be carried out with
Giubellino says. He and his colleagues
protons. ‘The heavy ions,’ he said, ‘would create bigger, hotter droplets of matter in the collisions that would potentially reveal the properties of matter in the primordial universe.’ On their own steam, the group began working on preliminary studies and conceptual work, fleshing out their ideas and legitimising their potential. In October 1990, things took a turn. At the Large Hadron Collider workshop
Scientific discoveries may take decades to develop into something useful but they get there eventually.
had a tall order to fill before making any step forward in their project: scientific approval, confirmation from CERN, attracting enough funding...
‘It took about ten years to establish everything and start construction of the experiments. This was 2002.’ ALICE has been in operation since 2010, achieving spectacular results. Thanks to the massive acceleration generated by the LHC, the number
It all began in 1989. At the time, the
of particles produced in the collisions
like PET scans (Positron Emission
known as the ALICE Upgrade, to be
with heavy ions is much higher. The
Tomography), for example. ‘Scientific
among his proudest moments. The
system created at the LHC has a much
discoveries may take decades to
upgrade involves major technological
higher energy density compared to
develop into something useful but they
developments which will allow the
other systems. The collisions it creates
get there eventually,’ says Giubellino.
team to ‘film’ the collisions occurring within the LHC. The moving image
are hotter, last longer, and expand
This sense of perspective was
to a larger size than other particle
difficult to communicate at times.
is expected to bring to light data
accelerators. The LHC more accurately
Giubellino quotes the successful
which would have been missed when
represents the moments after the
extension of the ALICE experiment,
recording the collisions through static
Big Bang—a massive achievement. Now, while there are many more theoretical breakthroughs to speak about, some question the relevance of all this to everyday life. Giubellino’s answer is as honest as they come, ‘it doesn’t change people’s lives. Not directly.’ However, when asked why the work is being done, his personal and professional philosophies are clear. ‘[Our work] is an unavoidable part of human nature. Humans are curious and that is what has driven us to build
[Our work] is an unavoidable part of human nature. Humans are curious and that is what has driven us to build a civilization. When we see something that we don’t know, we don’t ask ourselves if it is useful or not. We just want to see what it is about.
a civilisation. When we see something that we don’t know, we don’t ask ourselves if it is useful or not. We just want to see what it is about.’ CERN has led to many benefits for humanity. ‘New technologies are constantly being developed for various experiments,’ says Giubellino, ‘many of which have very direct application in day-to-day life, particularly in
medicine. Most new technologies, from X-rays to new therapies with particle beams, were developed from advancements we made to improve experiments. These were immediately translated into imaging
devices for medical diagnostics,’ he
states. Antimatter is used daily in every hospital all over the world for things
Photo by the ALICE team
Installation of the ALICE pixel detector (2007). Photo by Maximilien Brice for CERN
MEET THE TEAM
images. At first, hefty objections were raised against the proposal. ‘Many [saw] our field of work as an intruder at CERN.’ However, the ALICE scientists managed to convince them of the project’s value, and the experiment is now being implemented as a top priority. The journey has been long and
PROF. ING. EDWARD GATT & DR ING. OWEN CASHA FACULTY OF ICT
arduous for Giubellino and the ALICE has grown over 26 years to now encompass over 1,500. With no legal structure holding them together, everyone continues to collaborate, all the while bringing in their own resources, trusting that they will be respected and valued. And they clearly are. Propelled by the keen curiosity that brought them together all the way back in 1989, they continue to venture into uncharted territory, changing the world as they go. ‘What we have achieved here is unique,’ says Giubellino, and we at THINK could not agree more.
Physicist Dr Giacinto De Cataldo (Head of the HMPID detector) got in touch with Gatt and Casha to work on two microelectronics projects for CERN. Their first project was the O2 Project—a series of upgrades for the ALICE experiment. One of upgrades focuses on improving the RingImaging Cherenkov detector (RICH), found in the HMPID detector, a device that identifies the type of electrically charged particles being emitted by the detector. The second project is the implementation of a Remotely Configurable L0 Trigger Fan-out Module for the ALICE Detector. It involves the clocking management of the ALICE detector with high precision. This research could also be used in consumer telecommunication systems, improving radio frequency circuits’ performance.
Finally, Gatt is researching how to improve chip designs used to detect physical phenomena from particle collisions with the aim of making them more intelligent and power-efficient. Alice Focus
team. From 20 scientists, ALICE
Further down the rabbit hole The European Organisation for Nuclear Research—CERN—is synonymous with the world’s brightest minds, cutting-edge research and groundbreaking discoveries. Lars Lorenz interviews Dr Kevin Vella (Faculty of ICT) about the University of Malta’s involvement at CERN and its game-changing tech contribution to the ALICE experiment.
he largest particle physics
particles then collide at a specific
performance components, which
laboratory in the world
location in the tunnel, momentarily
were hard to develop and expensive
is in Geneva. CERN
generating a quark-gluon plasma,
to maintain. Rapid advances in
operates the Large Hadron
which is thought to be the state of
personal computing technology
Collider (LHC), a huge
matter immediately following the
rendered this practice ineffective,
particle collider located in a circular,
big bang. ALICE’s carefully located
and new supercomputers were
27km long tunnel deep beneath the
detectors pick up data about these
designed around standard hardware
Franco-Swiss border. Over the years,
events, which needs to be stored
components instead. Back in 1999
the University of Malta (UoM) has
for eventual analysis by physicists
the UoM, through Dr Vella’s work,
contributed to the development of
worldwide. Such large high energy
contributed to the case for the
software technology for experiments
physics experiments tend to produce
adoption of industry-standard ethernet
at CERN, most recently ALICE (A
data at immense rates approaching a
to connect hundreds of rack-mounted
Large Ion Collider Experiment).
terabyte per second. It is a tall order
PCs in the data acquisition system
Humanity has been questioning its
to compress and store data at such
for CERN’s nascent ATLAS (A Toroidal
origins for centuries, but we have never
speed, which is why CERN draws on
LHC ApparatuS) experiment. Today,
been as close to answers as we are
some of the most powerful computers
many of the components that power
now. To understand what happened
and storage facilities available.
the world’s supercomputers can be
Until the turn of the 21st century,
bought at a high street computer
uses the LHC to accelerate lead ions
CERN, like most other supercomputer
store. The loss in performance is
to extremely high speeds. These
users, relied on specialised high
tolerable when compared to the
about 13.8 billion years ago, ALICE
savings, and the use of readily-
information and compressing the
to the Mediterranean region owing to
available commodity components not
remaining events for long-term storage
EUMEDGRID, an initiative funded by
only facilitates maintenance, but also
and analysis, all while keeping up
the EU under the 6th and 7th Framework
simplifies upgrade planning. The parts
with the flood of data that continues
Programmes which saw the UoM lead
are combined into a supercomputing
to emanate from ALICE’s detectors.
technical requirements analysis across
cluster, which uses software to harness
This system needs to sustain a data
thirteen Mediterranean countries.
thousands of PCs working together as
reduction factor of ten on a total of
a single, extremely powerful computer.
fourteen data sources which deliver a
state, the UoM was recently granted its
combined input that will exceed one
first formal associate membership of
out of ALICE’s fourteen detectors,
terabyte (the size of an average hard
one of CERN’s principal experiments:
there is no way all of it could be
disk) per second by 2020. Its continued
ALICE. As part of this collaboration,
stored permanently. Hence the
development involves the combined
Dr Kevin Vella, Dr Keith Bugeja,
supercomputing facility is responsible
effort of hundreds of software
and Kevin Napoli (Department of
for reconstructing events from the raw
developers, engineers and physicists.
Computer Science, Faculty of ICT) are
data streams, filtering out uninteresting
The reduced data stream, arriving
developing scheduling software for
at a leisurely pace of tens or hundreds
the cluster that will be employed in
of gigabytes per second, is stored in
ALICE’s third run, slated for 2020.
With terabyte after terabyte pouring
CERN and its member states have created a giant distributed computing and storage infrastructure, or grid, that spans the globe
While Malta is not a CERN member
CERN’s data centre for eventual event
A fresh computing infrastructure,
reconstruction and analysis. Luckily, the
dubbed O2 for Online-Offline
advent of the Internet has provided an
computing, is being designed and
innovative solution for the long-term
developed at CERN to handle Run
storage and analysis of experimental
3 input data rates of 1.1 terabytes
data. CERN and its member states
per second. It aims for improved
have created a giant distributed
operating efficiency by dynamically
computing and storage infrastructure,
scheduling ‘online’ data reduction jobs
or grid, that spans the globe. The
and ‘offline’ long-term data analysis
grid enables geographically dispersed
jobs simultaneously on the same
researchers to access and analyse
cluster. This is an ambitious target for
experimental data remotely and at their
what is ultimately a data acquisition
convenience, while located at their
system with tight deadlines to meet,
home institution. This facility extends
but if successful it could influence
Left: Dr Keith Bugeja. Photo by Jean Claude Vancell Right: One of the supermodules of the Time of Flight under assembly at CERN. Photo by Saba, A. for CERN
The ALICE Control Centre. Photo by Arora, H. for CERN
the design of future data acquisition systems at a massive scale. The Apache open source software foundation’s Mesos cluster scheduler meets several O2 requirements, and is being evaluated for adoption as the ‘operating system’ for the new ALICE cluster. During a recent visit to CERN supported by OpenLab, Kevin Napoli, who is completing an M.Sc. in Computer Science at the UoM, delivered the new job submission and control system for the Mesos-powered O2 candidate. Latency, the amount of time needed to travel from one location on a network to another, is the bane of our lives even while computing. The transfer of data is necessary when two or more computers in a cluster are working on the same problem simultaneously. Latency increases with network distance and traffic load, and at a supercomputer’s scale it can become a hindrance to
ALICE event display of a Pb-Pb collision at 2.76A TeV. Photo by Weber, Steffen Georg; Andronic, Anton for CERN
efficient operation. To mitigate this
problem, the UoM team is developing
best-kept secrets is a fascinating task,
Gordon Moore’s foresight were to keep
algorithms and tools that automatically
but when it comes to computing, time
true for another decade, the power of
and unobtrusively characterise the
is of the essence. Indeed, technology
CERN’s present-day supercomputers
topology, or shape, of a cluster,
advances at an incredible pace.
could be had for the price of an
and estimate the traffic load across
Moore’s law, an observation which
average smartphone then, just as
the network. This information is
has successfully predicted the rate of
today’s smartphone outperforms
fed to an enhanced Mesos, which
technological development for the last
NASA’s 1969 Moon landing computer
uses it to determine where to
fifty years, sees the density at minimum
by orders of magnitude. In this broad
locate new jobs on the cluster.
cost per transistor in an integrated
sense, supercomputers can provide us
circuit double every two years. If
with a glimpse of the future, today.
Helping to unravel the Universe’s
MEET THE TEAM
Stacks of CDs containing ALICE data (~20 km or 20 million CDs)
A Concorde flies at 15km
Mont Blanc peaks at 4.8 km
COMPUTING CERN OPENLAB STUDENT
“My summer experience at CERN was remarkable. The sharing of knowledge among students and researchers was the highlight of the trip. During the openlab programme we attended lectures about security, machine learning, computer hardware, software optimisation and lots more, many of which are topics not covered at our home university. We also played a role in the ALICE experiment and I worked on my project alongside top notch computer scientists. Another positive aspect of the programme were the various trips to companies and universities in Switzerland. Being able to say that I have worked at CERN is something I will value throughout my career.”
How big is Big Data?
Analysing Alice Finding order in chaos Dr Gianluca Valentino. Photo by Jean Claude Vancell
With every particle collision in the ALICE experiment, a terabyte of data per second is generated for analysis. But not all of it is essential information. David Reuben Grech speaks to Dr Gianluca Valentino and Dr Johann A. Briffa about their work in separating the wheat from the chaff and removing noise from two of ALICE’s 18 subdetectors.
r Gianluca Valentino
to experience this world-class centre
and CERN have a
of research and innovation. The result
history. It started in
has been numerous collaborations
2010 during Valentino’s
between CERN and the UoM. His most
Ph.D. years at the
notable link? The ALICE experiment.
University of Malta. At the time, his research focused on collimators within
experiments in the LHC, ALICE creates
the Large Hadron Collider (LHC),
collisions between lead ions that
devices that work in unison to narrow
momentarily generate quark-gluon
a beam of particles prior to collision.
plasma, thought to be the state of
Valentino developed a technique
matter a fraction of a second after
that automatically aligned the 100
the Big Bang. The data generated
collimators to the LHC beam with
by these collisions is picked up
impressive accuracy, so much so that it
by 18 different subdetectors.
shaved off hundreds of hours in beam
Valentino is currently working with
time in the experiments conducted.
Dr Johann A. Briffa (Department
In fact, the software Valentino
of Communications & Computer
developed continues to be used
Engineering) on two of those
regularly at the CERN control centre.
subdetectors—the Time Projection
Valentino followed his Ph.D. up
Chamber (TPC) and the High
with a Marie Curie postdoctoral
Momentum Particle Identification
fellowship. Later, he also started
(HMPID)—to detect, track and identify
lecturing at the University of Malta
the particles generated by the collision.
(UoM). However, his ties with CERN
One of the largest of seven
The TPC is a barrel-shaped three-
remain strong. Valentino is still a
dimensional detector. When particles
Visiting Scientist and, together with
collide in the middle of this barrel,
other academics, has worked to give
new ones form, spiralling out from
many more students the opportunity
this point. These spirals hit the
MEET THE TEAM
The Time Projection Chamber (TPC) at ALICE. Photo by Aurelien Muller for CERN
JULIA VELLA team aims to achieve a compression
registered. The problem is that not
factor of five, meaning that data would
all the particles produced from the
be compressed five times over, making
collision are important. The TPC
it considerably easier to process
scientists at CERN are interested in
and store. ‘Instead of taking months
high-momentum events, consisting
to analyse data we want it to take
of large three dimensional spirals
weeks or even days,’ says Valentino.
or helices composed of electrons.
The other detector under Valentino
Low momentum events, also called
and Briffa’s care is the HMPID.
‘background events’, are characterised
Separate to the TPC, this machine’s
by smaller spirals which obscure
purpose is to identify the type of the
what is important. These events need
particle produced by the collision
to be filtered out to leave behind
based on its momentum. Its structure
the Higgs Bosons of the world.
consists of seven plates shaped in the
Valentino and Briffa have developed a density-based scan algorithm that can identify clusters close to each
form of chambers. When a particle hits a plate, it passes through a liquid (C6F14 or tetradecafluorohexane). This
other and tag them, thus creating a
triggers an incident called a Cherenkov
better way to clean up data before
Effect where the particle moves
it has been processed, speeding up
through the layer of liquid, producing
calculations for the TPC. For the Helix
Cherenkov electrons. These electrons
identification, Briffa also developed
form a pattern which can be detected
a three-dimensional algorithm based
by another plate at the bottom. If this
on the Circular Hough Transform, a
pattern is an ellipse, that would indicate
technique used to identify circles.
that the electron shower came in at an
Following the clean-up, the next step
angle, called the Cherenkov Angle that
in Valentino and Briffa’s process would
can be used to determine the particle
be to compress the data given. The
that produced it.
PHYSICS CERN SUMMER STUDENT
ʻThe months spent at CERN for the summer student internship programme were not only an invaluable experience, but also an insight to future potential careers for my colleagues and I. Based within the HMPID detector of the ALICE experiment, we had a six-week lecture program focused on the fundamental properties of nature. The bulk of the work we were involved in centred on implementing programming languages to process raw data from collisions into useful knowledge. Geneva provided a change of pace for us that was conducive to both hard work and extra curricular activities. Travelling across borders, visiting main projects and control centres at CERN, while also socialising with students from all over the globe, made it an all-encompassing experience not easily matched.ʼ
detector’s plates and information is
Left: Dr Johann A. Briffa. Photo by Jean Claude Vancell | Right: The HMPID detector before installation inside the ALICE magnet. Photo by Saba, A.
Briffa and Valentino are currently
Valentino and Briffa have developed a density-based scan algorithm that can identify clusters close to each other and tag them, thus creating a better way to clean data up before it has been processed, speeding up calculations for the TPC.
Besides the research related
working on a variant of the
to optimisation of particle event
Circular Hough Transform which
reconstruction, Valentino is also
is less susceptible to the large
involved in the ALICE-LHC Interface
amount of noise which appears
Project, which handles the complex
in lead ion particle collisions.
interaction between the detector
To clarify the differences between
and the Large Hadron Collider. It
the two detectors, the TPC gives
is responsible for processing beam
three-dimensional data in the form
instrumentation data coming from
of helices. In the case of the HMPID,
the LHC, and also removing the
the result is simply an ellipse and the
beam from the machine in case
angle extracted once the ellipse is
serious conditions are encountered.
fitted to the data. An important point
Together with scientists from the
to note is that the TPC is not really
Istituto Nazionale di Fisca Nucleare
a particle identification detector as
in Bari, Italy, he has developed an
is the HMPID. So the collision which
automatic algorithm to achieve the
happens inside the TPC sends the
desired rate of particle collisions in
particles outwards and the tracking
ALICE through a procedure called
information and the three-dimensional
luminosity levelling. The procedure
x-y-z coordinates can be detected
involves moving the two colliding
as the particles are coming out of
beams in steps of a few micrometers
the TPC. ‘This three-dimensional
(less than the width of a human hair)
information can then be transported
every few seconds. The automatic
to another detector like HMPID to
procedure has been used in the daily
match a particle coming out from the
operation of the LHC since July 2016.
TPC to the same particle entering
Currently, an upgrade program is
the HMPID,’ says Dr Valentino.
being designed for ALICE’s computer
So, using the Cherenkov Angle to
system which will be installed from
determine its momentum and the
2019 to 2021, meaning that the LHC
3D tracking data from the TPC, the
will start providing more data at a
type of particle can be determined.
higher luminosity, or rate of collisions
MEET THE TEAM JOSEF MAGRI M.Sc. STUDENT
The HMPID takes snapshots of the faint patterns generated by the high-energy collisions, passing this information through the RICH electronics module which cleans and transforms it for analysis. Magri is working to optimise the electronic circuits and control boards to improve how data is handled. So far, he has manipulated computer processes to create parallelism, allowing for processes that previously happened one after the other to occur simultaneously. He also used high-throughput interconnects, which, when coupled with parallelism, are expected to increase data collection tenfold. Magri’s work will be combined with that of other researchers and integrated by 2020 in order to improve the detector’s accuracy, potentially revealing building blocks of matter that might have yet to be seen. in the collider. Additionally, the ALICE experiment has launched the OnlineOffline (O2) Computing Project. This is where Malta is involved as more manpower, computation, and technical skills are needed. When Valentino started to set up this collaboration, his application was embraced by both camps: the UoM’s Rector and the ALICE collaboration. Valentino states that the people at CERN definitely saw
CLIVE SEGUNA Ph.D. STUDENT
Working in close collaboration with Magri, Seguna is developing novel electronic circuitry for the CPV and HMPID detectors, that will boost the speed at which collisions are read, going from 4 kHz to 50 kHz, the speed at which the beams interact: true real time. Seguna’s research will be taken on at CERN between 2020–2023.
potential in the expertise provided by the people in Malta. The solid communication links among researchers and the remote nature of the work on this large scale project makes the UoM the perfect partner. When asked what inspires him, Valentino said that his drive was to improve the UoM’s profile. Maintaining his strong links with CERN is the perfect way to do this. ‘It’s a very scientifically
rich environment and there’s a lot of interesting stuff going on, so I wanted to take some of this back with me to Malta.’ He also hopes that through these and future collaborations, Malta all the exciting and varied research and development challenges at CERN. Checking the readout electronics of the ALICE Time Projection Chamber (TPC). Photo by Saba, A.
will continue to be at the forefront of
What do you need to setup an indie gaming community? Joseph Aldape met indie game developer Rami Ismail to chat about indie gaming communities.
ames are a multi-billion-
though one which is growing in size. A
dollar industry. The
method of instigating development is
rising stars are from
to have determined individuals set on
the new indie game
pushing the indie community forward.
between academics and designers in
creative ideas of a few individuals.
the gaming industry. The two areas
Rami Ismail is one of the co-founders
have a long-standing tradition of poor
of Vlambeer, a Dutch indie gaming
communication; the job descriptions
studio. He spoke to THINK magazine
are also very different. According to
about how Malta can develop a
Ismail, an example of the division
thriving indie gaming community.
is when a developer makes a game
Ismail thinks that there is a division
Ismail focuses on the division
with each company built on the
about a topic that an academic
between game developers and
previously wrote about and it does not
academics. Both large and small game
match with the academicâ€™s vision. A
studios could benefit from a greater
greater connection between the two
amount of discussion between them
could see academics writing about
that could help launch and support
some novel trends observed by the
indie studios. Another gap exists
designers. As a result, the academicâ€™s
between the large AAA, or Triple-A,
work could inspire the designers for
and small indie game developer
some new, original game ideas. Now,
communities. Figuring out how to link
how can such a target be reached?
the two exchanging ideas and their
Ismail explains that the academics
expertise could benefit everyone.
are lagging behind industry. While
Malta has a young gaming community,
the distance allows them to see
the larger context of the industry,
work together. All that is needed
game design. A similar mindset could
there needs to be a faster form of
is a determined individual with an
really help Malta’s indie community,
feedback. The academic’s work needs
idea and a small start-up fund.
whose members are bursting with original ideas and are willing to
When Ismail visited Malta, he noticed the beginnings of what
step out of their comfort zone. By
large game studios and smaller indie
could potentially be a success story.
building a strong network between
ones, Ismail sees employability as
However, for there to be commercial
academics and developers, a bridge
an issue. Large studios have the
success, more connections need to
between large game studios and
upper hand, managing to attract
be built between Malta’s community
up-and-coming designers, and with
the people they want, while smaller
and the rest of the international
enthusiastic individuals to help start
communities are struggling to build
gaming scene. In that way, there could
up an indie studio, a Malta-grown
up the right knowledge and skillset.
be a flow of money and contacts
success story could be in the making.
An investment towards building
to get the community going. Once
Malta’s size helps in overcoming
networks of small communities
some people start going to more
barriers with the right support going
would help developers get together
industry events (conferences or
a long way; the chances of the
and pool the right resources. This
conventions for developers), they can
Maltese indie gaming community
would need financial support but,
start bringing back that knowledge
growing are pretty bright.
most importantly, someone to do it.
and experience necessary to help
Starting a community takes up a lot
this young community grow.
of time and is unchartered territory.
Ismail did not enter game
Speaking about the gap between
Rami Ismail gave the Keynote speech at the Mediterranean Game Jam
However, on the plus side, with
development by becoming a gamer.
organised by the Institute of Digital
Malta’s little indie community, only
Instead of playing games, Ismail
Games (University of Malta). Joseph
a small group of people with a small
started by tinkering with them and
Aldape is a Michigan Tech (USA)
investment would be needed to start
figuring out how to change them. Only
student who, this summer, undertook
a studio for developers to meet and
after this did he obtain a degree in
the Pavlis programme in Malta.
Photos from the Mediterranean Game Jam by William Cachia
to reach industry more efficiently.
Your prospects in education T
he learning experiences of students are
Student mobility provides various benefits.
evolving continuously. New learning
It can change a studentâ€™s life enhancing their
methods are being introduced leading
personal and intellectual maturity, communication
to a change in the student profile and
skills, ability to adapt to new circumstances, and
increased student mobility across countries.
explore different perspectives. Studying abroad
But what is making this mobility possible?
helps students to expand their knowledge of
The Malta Qualifications Framework (MQF)
other societies, languages, cultures, and business
assists in making the Maltese qualifications
methods, which enhances their job prospects. All
system easier to understand and review,
EU Member States have a designated centre to
and more transparent at a national and
promote student, teacher, and researcher mobility.
international level. It is a referencing tool
They provide advice, and information concerning
that helps to describe and compare both
the academic recognition of diplomas and study
national and foreign qualifications to
periods in other states. In Malta, this is done
promote quality, transparency, and mobility
through the Malta Qualifications Recognition
of qualifications in all types of education.
Information Centre (MQRIC), within the National
Qualifications on the MQF are automatically recognised by the European Qualifications Framework (EQF) since the Maltese system is
Commission for Further and Higher Education. Students interested in furthering their studies should visit the MQRIC section on www.ncfhe.gov.mt to check whether the national or international
qualifications is essential for lifelong learning as
qualification is recognised by the MQF or EQF. They
well as for international worker mobility. It further
can also call on 2381 0000 during office hours for
helps a person through the easier recognition
more information. This will ensure the qualificationâ€™s
of their knowledge, skills, and competences.
mobility and transparency throughout the EU.
referenced to the EQF. This mutual recognition of
This is a paid advertorial.
Politics, policy & risky business As a child, Prof. Noellie Brockdorff was fascinated by the robots that inhabited the world of Isaac Asimovâ€™s novels. She wanted to know why humans are different to robots. So why are human beings not perfectly rational creatures like robots? Dr Claude Bajada finds out more.
deadly disease has just broken out in Malta. The World Health Organisation declares an epidemic. Malta is in a state of emergency. Six hundred people will die if nothing is done. The health minister has two options. The
first intervention has a one third chance that all 600 will be saved and a two thirds chance that everyone will die. Option two will definitely save 200 people. Prof. Noellie Brockdorff outlined this scenario when I sat down to
interview her. What should the health minister do?
novels would probably not make
Brockdorff is a cognitive scientist and dean of the Faculty of Media
different decisons in the two scenarios;
and Knowledge Sciences (University
neither would a modern day computer.
of Malta). She tells me that two
Why do humans behave so seemingly
psychologists, Amos Tversky
irrational? More importantly, when are
and Daniel Kahnemann gave a
humans prone to irrational behaviour? ‘People have the impression that
similar scenario to participants in
humans [...] make perfectly rational
a famous 1980s experiment.
decisions. Indeed, other disciplines
‘Most people are risk averse,’ says Brockdorff, ‘they want to save 200
base whole theories on this [...] but
people. Tversky and Kahnemann
it is not true!’ exclaims Brockdorff.
then presented a similar scenario to another group of individuals. The logic of this scenario was identical but the presentation was different. This time, option one had a one third probability that nobody would die and a two thirds probability that all 600 people would die. Option two would kill 400 people. ‘In this case,’ comments Brockdorff, ‘most people would advise the minister to go for the first option; the more risky option.’ ‘Intelligent’ robots that live in the fantasy world of Asimov’s
Brockdorff wanted her work to improve people’s lives. Evidence-based policy making was her chance to make a difference
Knowing how people make decisions is an important area of research in the emerging fields of cognitive science and cognitive neuroscience. As Brockdorff explains, decision making is interesting as a matter of pure scientific interest; the quest for knowledge. More important to society, however, it is essential that governments and policymakers understand how people make decisions in order to do the greatest good. Her lab is particularly interested in studying decisions making to inform public policy. Her lab’s researchers investigate the way people
make decisions in risky situations. She
TOOLS OF COGNITIVE NEUROSCIENCE
is currently involved in two projects
Cognitive scientists use a variety of tools to understand human behaviour and the brain. The basic tools include questionnaires and surveys. More sophisticated measures used by University of Malta researchers include eye-tracking, electroencephalography (EEG), and motion analysis. Brain scanning such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and positron emission tomography (PET) are also used to understand how behaviour affects brain function.
Horizon 2020 programme that aims
funded under the European Union's to inform policy at a European level, so-called evidence-based policymaking. As part of the CITYCoP project, the team designed an experiment to understand what causes people to feel fear of crime in different situations. Participants spend a
period of time logging any time they feel insecure on a mobile application designed with the assistance of the Department
of Intelligent Computer Systems (Faculty of ICT). They are also encouraged to take photographs of the situations that
COGNITIVE SCIENCE is an
make them feel uneasy. The researchers can then analyse the
interdisciplinary field of science
responses and photos to understand, in detail, what makes
that aims to understand the inner
people afraid that they will be victims of crime and how that
processes that form a personâ€™s mind.
affects the decisions they make. The results then help create
For example, decision making, memory,
an EU-wide city community-policing mobile application.
language, and reasoning. A cognitive scientist may come from a diverse amount of backgrounds including psychology, medicine, engineering, and mathematics. COGNITIVE NEUROSCIENCE is a recent development from the field of cognitive science. This new field attempts to reconcile what we know about how people behave with a mechanistic, biological understanding of how the processes are carried out in the brainâ€”termed the biology of the mind. EVIDENCE BASED POLICY-MAKING is the idea that governmental and other public policies should be based on rigorous and objective scientific evidence. Since policies often deal with human behaviour, cognitive scientists are well placed to be involved in collecting and interpreting evidence for
research with little thought to its practical
certain level of skill [and knowledge]’
CARISMAND concerns preparedness
implications. As her career progressed,
to interpret it and apply it to policy.
and response to disasters and after-
she wanted her work to improve people’s
crisis recovery. It aims to provide a
lives. Evidence-based policy making
Malta before 2011 and it is only last
toolkit for disaster managers. ‘[It] will
was her chance to make a difference.
year that the first Master course was
make [policy makers] sensitive to the
She ended up bringing an entire field
launched. From this year Malta will
influence of different cultures and
of research to the University of Malta.
have its own graduates in this field.
The second project called
different types of risk perceptions,’
She ends our interview with a warning.
Cognitive science did not exist in
They will potentially have the skills to
explains Brockdorff. Her team holds
It is easy to assume that humans
interpret evidence for the government
citizen summits that investigate how
behave rationally, like robots, after all,
and local authorities. Imagine if these
people from different backgrounds
we are all human and no one likes to
graduates could start a revolution
perceive risk and react to disaster
think of themselves as irrational. This
where all governmental policy is
situations. The first two CARISMAND
is why scrutinising evidence when
based on scientific evidence.
citizen summits were held in Romania
drawing up policy is so important,
and Malta earlier this year. The processed
even if it contradicts one’s own belief.
results of these summits are then
‘Unfortunately, much policy is not
discussed at stakeholder summits.
evidence-based at all,’ laments Brockdorff.
Brockdorff goes on to note that a
There is a lot of evidence from the field
stakeholder is any person or organisation
of cognitive science that could guide
that ‘can possibly have an interest in
governmental policy, but ‘it requires a
For more information visit www.um.edu.mt /maks/cogscience/master_of_ science_in_cognitive_science www.citycop.eu www.carismand.eu
disaster management.’ Draft policies and procedures are then written up and that information is fed into the next series of citizen and stakeholder summits to iteratively improve the policies. Brockdorff was not always interested in
evidence-based policy making. Her early
career was focused on pure academic
FURTHER READING •
Kahneman, D. (2013). Thinking, fast and slow.
Care till death do us part Feature
Prof. Pierre Mallia talks about an end-of-life project that seeks to overcome misconceptions about unnecessary treatments and pain while dying.
eople need the most
outcome need to be weighed against
it there simply to ‘be seen’ that we are
attention when they are
what the procedure can actually
doing ‘something’? Is the procedure
close to death. But end-
achieve. Life may be extended by a
really in the patient’s best interest, or is
of-life care is proving to
few months at the cost of inflicting
it simply there to calm the conscience
be problematic in many
further agony. If upon consultation,
of relatives and care providers?
both doctor and patient agree that
more patients requesting euthanasia.
going through with the procedure is
morality are the two biggest issues for
The situation is ironic, considering
excessive, the ethical implications of
healthcare professionals. Both can be
that a significant number of major
futile treatments need consideration.
appropriately addressed. Legal issues
religions and societal institutions have
It is difficult to remove a patient’s
are unclear since there is no legal
always promoted optimal end of life
life support, even if they are close to
framework for end-of-life. Regarding
care for the elderly and terminally
death’s door. Though, on the other
morality, there is no doubt what the
ill, with appropriate pain relief.
hand, there may be little point in
Catholic Church has to say on end-of-
discussing the issue with relatives and
life: carers do not need to provide futile
Treatment sometimes needs to be
patients once this stage has arrived.
treatment or extraordinary procedures.
omitted to prevent unnecessary
Certainly, a life at its end is difficult for
Whether a treatment is extraordinary
suffering when death is inevitable.
everyone but our concern has always
or not is determined by the patient.
This has been the source of endless
been morally centred on the patient.
By the principle of double effect, pain
debate. For example, should a
Every decision is based on whether it
relief can be provided even if this
bedridden 95-year-old be given a
really benefits them. Is that drip really
may hasten death (which it probably
pacemaker? The expectations of the
providing hydration or are we keeping
does not). The problem therefore
Care can sometimes hasten death.
Studies show that legality and
countries because of suggested links to
seems to be lack of moral instruction
positions of end-of-lifeâ€”the project
and fear of law and litigation.
does not discuss euthanasia. Rather, it is to study why people are ignorant or
EDUCATION IS KEY
afraid of receiving or imparting proper
To overcome these issues, the
hospital really have to die with a drip
Bioethics Research Programme (Faculty
attached to their arms? If they chose
of Medicine & Surgery, University of
to die at home, they legally and morally
Malta [UoM]) applied for Erasmus+
might have been unable to receive that
funds to study this problem. At the
drip. The distinction seems unfair.
end-of-life care. Do all people dying in
Another problem is an inability for
the EndCare project is the largest
hospitals to shift treatment from cure
Erasmus+ project led by the UoM
to care. Do we really have to re-insert
(see www.um.edu.mt/ms/endcare). The project aims to create documents as a guide towards the appropriate education needed and propose them as an international curriculum. Education about end-of-life needs streamlining. The aim is not to re-invent the wheel on the moral
A problem is an inability for hospitals to shift treatment from cure to care.
that drip when a patient is dying, knowing that carers need to insert another needle through collapsed veins that would require jabbing the patientâ€™s arms dozens of times? Is that comfort? An inability for medical practitioners to give a diagnosis of dying means that management is unable to change
tune of just under half a million euro,
treatment from cure to care. End-of-
The curriculum will not address moral teachings as these are widely known
treatment as their justification—aims
treatment, rather it involves reviewing
and one can cover them quickly. What
that could already be met by end-
what is necessary for the comfort
needs addressing is the ethical, legal,
of-life care. This is a clear sign that
of the person. But without a proper
and social concerns of the groups.
wrong perceptions are pervasive. The
diagnosis there is a resistance to
This will help improve end-of-life care.
proper implementation of end-of-life
death. When an illness is diagnosed as
The groups’ feedback is key. Due to
care would reduce the fear of pain or
terminal it means that it has reached
the cultural sensitivity of the issue,
disproportionate treatments that might
a stage where it is morally better to
how end-of-life care is implicated in
make euthanasia moot in many cases.
prioritise the patient’s comfort and care
each country and legislature needs
rather than to seek further treatment.
to be tackled. In the end, the project
The EndCare project is led by the
team hopes to achieve a working
UoM, with Prof. Pierre Mallia as
document that will be used in order
principal investigator. Partners
to help alleviate the fear of medical
include the City University of Dublin
End-of-life is not only a medical issue.
practitioners, carers, and patients
(Ireland) and the University of
It is a psychosocial one. The social
on pain or unnecessary treatments
Aquila (Italy). Collaborators include
issues involved, including cultural
that may only prolong the agony.
experts from France, the UK, the
and religious, must be studied and
Euthanasia is still confused with endof-life care. In Malta, recent vox pops
Pontifical Academy for Life of the
working with representatives from
performed by local media addressed
Vatican, and the Curia (Malta).
Christian, Catholic, Islamic, and
a request by a person with motor
The UoM faculties include the
humanist point of views. Although
neuron disease who wishes to have
Faculty of Medicine & Surgery, the
some Christian denominations do
access to euthanasia. Many in favour
Faculty of Laws, and the Faculty of
what it does recommend, much is not practised—an issue which must be understood. All major religions agree that pain relief can be given even if it hastens death. Extraordinary measures must be discussed with patients and relatives. The same holds true for futile treatment, which unfortunately favours continued action over comfort. Many medical professionals do continue using drips though it is uncertain whether it is helpful or incredibly uncomfortable. The curriculum is key to understanding why certain misconceptions continue to be upheld and to introduce ways to change them. This project outcome is being developed in an innovative way. The summer school will involve healthcare professionals, patients, priests and others to input Feature
USA, Iran, Belgium, Holland, the
carefully considered. The project is
Theology. This project is funded by
support euthanasia, most do not. Of
of euthanasia cited pain and undue
life care does not involve stopping all
their ideas into the curriculum.
Euthanasia is still confused with end-of-life care.
the Erasmus+ programme of the European Union and with the support from the European Commission. email@example.com
NGO ALIVE's donation of €100,000. This and other major donations helped the RIDT to raise more than €1 million since it was set up.
GIVING BACK TO THE RESEARCH COMMUNITY Wilfred Kenely, the Research Trust (RIDT) CEO, speaks to THINK about new initiatives coming to fruition thanks a new scheme. Islands. Dr André Xuereb (Faculty of
exciting projects. The funded projects
are hungry for the
Science) will be testing the first ever
range from science and medicine, to
means to make their
digital arts and archaeology. Research
ideas happen. The
link between Malta and Sicily.
is actively happening in every part of
Research Trust (RIDT)
These are a few of the fifteen
the University of Malta despite the
launched a scheme this year to try and
projects that are being funded under
little funding available. The RIDT is
make some of these ideas a reality.
the RIDT scheme for small project
committed to continue raising the
grants to increase the research
much needed funds so that this call
Knowledge Sciences) will be installing
activity across all areas of study at
can be repeated in the future. Since its
a Holographic and three-dimensional
the University of Malta. The projects
setting up, the RIDT has managed to
audio project, creating a sculpture
cover a wide spectrum of faculties and
raise over €1 million, most of which was
that can be used in art galleries,
institutes. They offer new opportunities
tied to particular projects. The call for
performances, visual arts installations,
for researchers, while bringing flexible
funding of small projects was intended
movie projections, and digital games
and accessible funding. This first
to support projects which do not fall
among others. Dr Paul Refalo and Dr
call was intended to fund projects
into the category of projects that
Christopher Micallef (both Faculty
such as feasibility studies for larger
would normally attract funding, and
of Engineering) will be designing and
projects, proof of concept projects,
remain largely under-funded. To be able
testing devices to recover and reduce
and small, self-contained projects.
to repeat and sustain these funding
the energy required to heat and cool
The response for the call was
programmes, the RIDT is introducing
Dr Vince Briffa (Faculty of Media &
plastic injection moulding equipment,
overwhelming. Eighty project proposals
a number of schemes that generate
while Dr David Mifsud (Institute of
were submitted to the scheme which
revenue streams that trickle into the
Earth Systems) and Dr Marion Zammit
needed a budget of over half a million
general kitty. Such schemes include the
Mangion (Faculty of Medicine &
euros. They were evaluated primarily
University Staff Contribution Scheme,
Surgery) will be conducting studies to
on excellence, impact, and budget.
the payment gateway scheme, and
identify genetically pure colonies of a
The initial budget was bumped up
others that will be introduced in the
particular bee species in the Maltese
to €69,000 to include more of these
near future—every little bit counts.
Attacking DIABETES THE SILENT EPIDEMIC OF
Diabetes prevalence is burgeoning on a global scale. In 2012, 1.5 million people worldwide died as a direct result of the disease, cementing it as an epidemic. By 2030, diabetes is expected to become the world’s seventh leading cause of death. With 12% of the Maltese population suffering from the disease, a research team has come together looking into new methods of detection to stop the disease in its tracks. Words by Yasmine Gatt.
The cause remains a mystery. On
Malta is a very small island with very
known to be triggered by overeating
big public health issues. Headlines
and physical inactivity. The latter
like “Malta has highest obesity rate
is vastly more common in Malta.
in EU” and “Maltese most obese,
The danger of diabetes lies with
laziest and most car dependent” have
its early symptoms which, to the
become commonplace. They barely
untrained eye, could appear trivial or
elicit as much as a flinch from readers
indeed go unnoticed; as is the case
at this point. Neither should the fact
with weight loss, excess urination
that more than one in ten people
and hunger. But in reality, this is
on our island suffer from diabetes.
just the tip of a terrifying iceberg.
There are two main types of
the other hand, Type II diabetes is
Major complications can arise as a
diabetes. Type I, almost exclusive to
result of the disease. Take ischemia as
juveniles, is a result of the pancreas
the first example. Ischemia sees blood
failing to produce enough insulin.
supply to organs drop drastically,
resulting in tissue damage that has
(loss of the lower limb below or above
the potential to manifest in heart
the knee) and over 350 minor foot
attacks, strokes and gangrene
amputations (loss of toes or part of the
of the feet. Another diabetes-
foot below the ankle). That translates
related problem is neuropathy,
to a minimum of one amputation
which occurs when peripheral
every single day of the year.
nerves do not function properly,
An interesting point to note here
leaving sufferers with numbness
is that while major amputations have
that puts them at an even higher
been reduced by more than half in
risk of developing foot ulcers.
the last few years, the number of
Separately or in combination,
minor amputations has increased
ischemia and neuropathy are the
fourfold over the last eight. This
main causes for the very high
indicates that better screening and
risk of toe and leg amputations
diagnostic technologies are sorely
in diabetes sufferers in Malta.
needed to reduce this staggering
In 2015 alone, doctors across the island collectively performed
approximately 65 major amputations
number of amputations. This is where the Diabetes Foot Research Group (DFRG) comes in.
In 2015 alone, doctors across the island collectively performed approximately 65 major amputations and over 350 minor foot amputations. That translates to a minimum of one amputation every day of the year. 1
1. Stephen Mizzi 2. Jean Gauci 3. Christian Ellul 4. Dr Owen Falzon 5. Dr Cynthia Formosa 6. Dr Alfred Gatt 7. Anabelle Mizzi
THE SOLUTION The DFRG is made up of podiatrists, engineers, surgeons and researchers from the Centre for Biomedical Cybernetics, the Department of Podiatry (University of Malta), Mater Dei Hospital and Staffordshire University. Their goal is quite simple at face value but invariably complex in practice: to detect diabetes and foot-related issues before obvious problems rear their ugly heads. The current gold standard in diabetes detection involves the analyses of blood pressure. A doctor compares the blood pressure in the ankle against the forearms, a measurement known as the ankle-brachial pressure index (ABPI). When the pressure is lower in the ankle, it means an artery is blocked in the lower limb. However, this method is not a completely accurate indicator and only provides information on the ankleâ€™s blood supply; the rest of the foot is not considered. Additionally, when the toe brachial pressure is recorded, measurements are only taken from the big toe or the second toe, not all of them. The pressure index is also effectively useless when a patient is older or has chronic kidney disease because of calcification in the arteries that can skew results. All this highlights how unreliable the current gold standard in diabetes detection is. Diabetics are known for not having an equal blood flow throughout their foot. Imagine that blood supply has stopped in a diabeticâ€™s small toe.
By only taking measurements from
the big toe, a diagnosis opportunity
The possibility of such early diagnoses could be a game-changer. This simpleto-use technique will not only control spiralling healthcare costs but also give patients the possibility of a richer life.
will be lost. This has led the DFRG researchers to investigate the potential of thermographic imaging, also known as Medical Infrared Imaging. This is a quick, non-contact technique that eliminates the risk of infection while providing important information about the blood supply to the feet. The research is currently in its second phase and already making significant headway. The first part of the project assessed thermographic images of healthy individuals. Foot and hand temperature patterns were analysed, followed by an evaluation of the thermal symmetry of the same limbs on opposite sides of the body. This study concluded that the hands and feet demonstrate a characteristic
Clockwise from left to right: Ms Cassandra Sturgeon (MDH), Prof. Nachiappan Chockalingham (Faculty of Health Sciences, Staffordshire University), Prof. Kevin Cassar (Consultant Vascular Surgeon, MDH) and Prof. Ing. Kenneth Camilleri (CBC, University of Malta).
constant thermographic pattern with marked differences between them.
presented at the Mediterranean
of equipment, the end goal would
Conference on Medical and Biological
be to develop a handheld portable
recruited over 200 diabetes patients
Engineering and Computing
device which would give clinicians
with different foot complications.
(MEDICON) in Cyprus. In September
accurate and detailed information
The thermal images acquired are
2016, the findings were also
about the foot thus guiding them to
currently being analysed visually as
presented at the Diabetes Foot Study
early detection and intervention.
well as through automated image
Group scientific meeting in Stuttgart,
analysis techniques that use algorithms
Germany, going on to receive first
on the home front and worldwide.
in order to extract information that
prize for its originality and novelty.
The possibility of such early diagnoses
may be imperceptible to the naked
While there might be several
eye. By comparing them, their tests
reports in the literature relating to
simple-to-use technique will not only
have shown a success rate above
the potential use of thermal imaging
control spiralling healthcare costs
90%, meaning that they could reduce
in the diabetic foot, these are limited.
but also give patients the possibility
human error significantly and not
The use of thermography is also
of a richer lifeÂâ€”a future everyone
miss out blood problems in any toe.
currently limited to research purposes.
would certainly look forward to.
The second phase of this study
Diabetes is a serious problem both
could be a game-changer. This
determine whether thermography
This research project is
could be used to develop a reliable
financed by the Malta Council
The work on the developed
and effective tool in the evaluation of
for Science and Technology
automated techniques has been
the diabetic foot. With the advances
through the National Research &
well received. In April 2016, it was
in technology and the miniaturisation
Innovation Programme 2013.
Ongoing research by the DFRG will
Let it shine 50
Malta has a target: by 2020, 10% of the generation of energy should come from the renewables. Luckily, there is a resource which is available almost every third hour a year—sunshine. Dr Ing. Maurice Apap and Ing. Jurgen Bonavia explain how the solar energy can be harvested. Words by Tuovi Mäkipere.
panels in a PV system behave as a DC (direct
million tourists come to Malta every
current) source when exposed to sunlight, whilst
year. These tourists soak up a lot of
the grid supplies AC (alternating current) electricity.
sun. Their bodies use these rays to
DC voltages have a steady value while AC voltages
produce Vitamin D. On the other
constantly fluctuate in a periodic manner. So
hand, photovoltaic (PV) systems convert this solar
the PV system needs an inverter to convert DC
radiation into electricity. Sunlight is a renewable
into AC current to make it useable for homes.
energy source Malta definitely does not lack.
The inverter ensures that the solar panels
One third of the Maltese Islands are covered in
deliver the maximum power available at all
buildings. If all structures were to install PV systems,
times depending on lighting conditions and
a big chunk of the country’s energy needs could
temperature. When the power generated
be met by renewables. Apart from cloudy days,
by the PV system exceeds the connected
a major obstacle towards this is the utility grid’s
load power within the installation, power
limits, which carries electricity into every home.
is exported to the grid. On the other hand,
Utility grids are traditionally a one-way
when the connected power load exceeds the
distribution network from power stations to
power generated by the PV system, the extra
households. On the other hand, PV systems supply
electricity needed is imported from the grid.
electricity to a distributed energy generation
The Maltese government encourages PV
system, which means they provide energy
installations by paying a feed-in tariff for
from households to the grid. Electrical power
electricity fed into the grid by PV panels. The
conversion expert Dr Maurice Apap (Faculty of
feed-in tariff ensures that the PV system pays
Engineering, University of Malta) explained that ‘a
for itself after a number of years. Although,
country’s first PV systems can be handled easily.
when ‘the consumption tariff exceeds the tariff
As the number starts increasing, you have to
paid for energy fed into the grid, it may be
make sure that the network can deal with them.’
economically advantageous to integrate energy
The typical domestic PV system consists of a string of PV cells connected in series. The solar
storage into the PV system in order to reduce energy imported from the grid,’ said Apap.
unshine is a big reason why over one
Problems do exist. What if a neighbour blocks access to sunlight by building an extra floor? Such questions worry buyers.
A PV system can either be a stand-
Dr Ing. Maurice Apap and Ing. Jurgen Bonavia. Photos by Jean Claude Vancell
batteries by day in grid-connected PV
DARK TIME AND OTHER DISTRACTIONS
alone system or be connected to
systems could mitigate this fluctuation
the utility grid. For a grid-connected
by shifting the generated energy within
Malta has around 3,000 hours of
system, the grid supplies electricity
a household to match the pattern of
sunshine per year. The problem is
to the customer when the PV system
consuming energy by the family.
that there are 8,760 hours in a year;
is not generating energy, overcoming
this means that a household with a
the need for expensive batteries
Jurgen Bonavia is researching how
stand-alone system would be bereft
required for a stand-alone system.
to increase the energy consumed
Electrical engineering student
of electricity for over half the time.
Grid-connected PV systems have
by buildings with grid-connected
The issue can only be overcome by
some negative impact on the utility
PV systems. â€˜Several households
storing excess energy generated during
grid because the PV panel outputs
agreed in allowing us to measure
the day in batteries to use at night.
a large amount of energy at certain
their daily energy consumption. This
Storing energy is also important since
times of the day, which can lead to
data was used to identify similarities
solar energy peaks during the day
significant voltage fluctuations when
which could then be used in the load
when residents are either working
a proportion of installations within a
management algorithm,â€™ said Bonavia.
or at school. Energy consumption
neighbourhood alternate between net
peaks when people come back
export of energy by day and net import
sequence of steps and instructions.
home in the dark evening hours.
of energy by night. Energy storage in
The algorithm is made up of several
A load management algorithm is a
Energy Storage Inverter
different scenarios and instructions
in further increasing this factor since
produce energy during the day when
to switch on and off electricity loads
it requires introducing additional parts
it is typically needed at night. Storing
according to the available energy. A
to the system,’ explained Bonavia.
energy is the ideal solution but cost
scenario could account for changes
These extra parts include batteries, a
is a problem. Energy storage converts
in sunlight in Malta according to
load management system with multiple
electrical energy into another form
season. Each different scenario would
switching devices, energy meters,
and back again—an expensive and
need a different set of computer
and a programmable logic controller
wasteful process. ‘Current batteries
instructions or algorithms.
to send commands to the whole
are still expensive because of
system. Such a setup can be expensive
material and production costs. Price
management system would be
and extend how long it takes for
depends on the amount of storage
impossible. The software we
a PV system to pay itself back.
required and the type of technology
‘Without an algorithm, a load
developed is continuously monitoring
against the benefits such a system
role on the feasibility of the final
on the electricity loads to increase
gives. By consuming electricity when
solution [for a home],’ said Bonavia.
self-consumption by the household.
produced the PV system's influence
The goal is to use as much of the
on the grid is reduced. Bonavia has
available energy when the sun is
built a test-bed based on computer
shining rather than exporting it
simulations and preliminary real-world
to the grid. The algorithm takes
results that can test run a system
care of this task. […] Each and
before its implemented. This simulation
every household with a PV system
can weigh if such a system is needed.
self-consumption, the tricky part lies
used. Their size plays an important
the available power and switching
unknowingly performs some form of
The expense needs to be weighed
Most households cannot use energy when it is being produced. PV panels
The EU’s Renewable Energy Directive requires the whole 'EU to fulfil at least 20% of its total energy needs using renewables by 2020' […] Currently, about 5% of the energy generated in Malta comes from renewable energy sources.
How much energy can domestic PV
sunlight by building an extra floor?
rate of increase in Malta is mostly
Questions like these worry buyers.
due to solar energy that accounts
Another issue is the environment
for 73% of renewable energy
systems generate? Apap explained, ‘a
and European Union goals. PV
production. The renewable energy
PV system is normally sized according
panels cut greenhouse gas emissions
mix varies across the EU states
to the peak power output of the solar
while the EU is pushing for greater
because of different environmental
panels in the system. If one considers
renewable energy source usage.
conditions. While Malta and Cyprus
a PV system with 12 panels— a
The EU’s Renewable Energy
produce solar energy, mountainous
typical system being installed today
Directive requires the whole ‘EU
countries, like Croatia, Austria,
on terraced houses—its peak energy
to fulfil at least 20% of its total
and Slovenia use hydropower.
generation is around 3kWp meaning
energy needs using renewables by
an average of 4,800 kWh per year.’
2020’. Every country has its own
Malta to recharge their inner solar
4,800 kWh could keep almost 14
targets. They ‘range from a low of
energy batteries under Malta’s
fridges working all year round.
10% for Malta to a high of 49% for
greatest renewable energy: sunlight.
Sweden’. Currently, about 5% of the
But in the future, there might be
costs can be recovered in 4–5 years.
energy generated in Malta comes
more PV systems on Maltese roofs
This payback period and the eventual
from renewable energy sources.
enjoying the same sunshine. With
According to Apap, a PV system’s
return on investment depend on
Renewable energy output in Malta
Tourists will continue coming to
energy storage solutions, houses
whether there are capital subsidies,
grew by 41% per year between 2003
can consume the generated energy
the feed-in tariff offered, and the
and 2013 according to Eurostat.
when needed at night. The right
duration for which the tariff will
Despite this success, Malta’s output
incentives and research can see
apply. Problems do exist. What
remains by far the lowest among
Malta blaze past its 10% requirement
if a neighbour blocks access to
the 28 EU member states. This
for a very green, solar future.
ROOF FULL OF ENERGY
Charting Space & Time Feature
From Google Maps to PokĂŠmon GO, without maps the world would not function. But how did we start developing them? Ritienne Gauci and Dr William Zammit take a look at historical maps to discover fascinating quirks about the Maltese Islands. So how were map errors inherited? And what is the connection between religion and maps?
Giacomo Gastaldi, (Post 1558) ISOLA DE MALTA, State 2, Inv. No. 30169-70, Albert Ganado Malta Map Collection â€“ Cartographic Collection, National Museum of Fine Arts, Valletta. Courtesy of Heritage Malta.
Johannes Quintinus, (1536) MELITA, Gozo Public Library
records of the past: in a reality where
Some are elaborately
history consisted essentially of political
engraved while others have
chronology, the biographies of the great
a decorative style, which
and mighty, and of momentous happenings,
was particularly loved
the place of maps remained in the realm
by early map-makers and which still is, by
of an antiquarian curio, and they were not
contemporary collectors. On the other hand,
considered important historical documents.
maps can be elegant and simple, similar to highly technical modern digital cartography. Many have tried to explain the appeal
With the rise of a new genre of history, the crucial value of maps became evident. Over time the daily life of the masses became more
of maps. The seventeenth-century Spanish
important for historians as opposed to the
author Saavedra wrote, that by simply
great episodes of the rich and mighty. Maps
looking at a map, one could ‘journey all over
from obscure periods are even more interesting
the universe […], without the expense and
for the evidence they reveal, normally
fatigue of travelling, without suffering the
lacking from traditional documentation.
inconvenience of cold, hunger, and thirst’. Cartography is also a visual medium
Albert Ganado and Joseph Schirò, authors of the latest Melitensia publication
of first-rate geographic and historical
Pre-Siege Maps of Malta: 2nd century to
importance. Traditional history did not
1564, have made a remarkable years-long
have much respect or use for the visual
commitment to Maltese cartography.
aps have immediate appeal.
Al-Idrīsī, (c. 1300) [Sicily], Inv. M.S. Arabe 892. Courtesy of the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris.
years he has published a string of
delicious clues about medieval life. The
Melitensia collection into what is
cartography-related publications with
Great Siege of 1565 is one of Malta’s
possibly the largest outside Malta’s
a landmark achievement being the
greatest historical moments when an
national collections. His collection
founding of the Malta Map Society
overwhelmingly large Ottoman army
includes material that had been lost in
in 2009. The organisation is a young
was repelled by Maltese militants and
the repositories of national memory.
and modest cultural institution, but
the Knights of St John. History prior
He has made a major academic
one which has already offered a
to 1530 (before the Knights came
contribution to the Maltese Islands by
series of publications, exhibitions,
to the islands) has generally been
passing on the so-called ‘Albert Ganado
and lectures to the public, which
neglected. They lack documentary
Malta Map Collection’ to the National
have increased awareness of
sources and can be historically
Museum of Fine Arts — a cultural
cartography’s academic significance.
perceived as an uninteresting,
Ganado transformed his late father’s
treasure of international dimension.
The book, The Pre-Siege Maps of
The impressive map collection
Malta, is a tour through the earliest
No map can exist without its
cartographic representations of
being perceived simply as collectible
the Maltese Islands. Spanning over
mapmaker. The colourful and
items, due to their aesthetics and
fifteen centuries, its invaluable
informative book traces the life and
investment considerations. With
productions are intimately connected
times of the period’s mapmakers,
his numerous studies, Ganado
with a historical narrative.
engravers, and publishers. The authors
The work consists of a revamped
tap into the genealogy of these
cartography, rather than leaving
modest, but pioneering study, originally
pioneers, revisiting many aspects of
unstudied maps decorating a hallway.
published in 1986. Thanks to thirty
their lives. Ganado and Schirò reveal
years of research the number of
the pioneers’ childhood, studies, and
Schirò is one of the most renowned
Maltese pre-siege maps shot up from
travels, while uncovering the cut-
professionals in this field. In the last
fourteen to forty maps, revealing
throat challenges of their work.
Emeritus Chief Conservator Joseph Feature
and maps now reveal otherwise.
needed study. Maps carry the risk of
pioneered in the research of Maltese
stagnant phase. But, documentation
Ritienne Gauci and Dr William Zammit photographed at the University of Malta Valletta Library. Photo by Lars Lorenz
Albert Ganado transformed his late father’s Melitensia collection into what is possibly the largest outside Malta’s national collections
barely two decades later, turned into
map study, the cartographic genre
twenty-nine place names as drawn
‘books of islands’, known as isolario,
by Gastaldi in his 1551 map Isola di
popularised island geography in this
Malta State 1. In his 1551 map, Antonio
time period. These cartographic books
Lafreri introduces the concept of
combined maps and narrative-historical
settlement hierarchy visualisation, with
chorography. The Mediterranean
eight important places, names of towns
region has 3,000 islands and became
and villages, marked in a small circle.
one of the most fertile avenues for
Some of the place-names of these
the development of the isolari in the
villages have now been lost to time.
fourteenth and fifteenth century. Books
The cartographer indicated a town
by authors, such as Buondelmonti
and village population size with the
and Bordone, helped form
number of residences drawn. Hardly
Renaissance geographical concepts.
any population figures existed before.
Maps intriguingly instill a desire in
Some maps also give a rudimentary
the map viewer to look out for familiar
sketch of the road network. The Lafreri
places or landmarks, such as their
and Bertelli maps of 1551 and 1552
hometown or village. These pre-siege
show an elaborate web of major and
maps coupled with lengthy description,
minor roads. The Beatrizet map from
provide a detailed account of the
1563 provides a rare, possibly unique,
earliest form of urban development
visual layout of the road pattern
in Malta. Johannes Quintinus’ map in
around the developing harbour area
1536 identified seven villages that,
just before the Great Siege.
With geography at the core of
3. 1. 2. Feature
Giovanni Francesco Camocio, (c. 1560) DE MELITA INSULA, State 1. Courtesy of the Cathedral Museum, Mdina Giovanni Andrea Vavassori?, (1551) ISOLA DI MALTA, Inv. No. 002-03-003, (old no P300 n.45). Courtesy of Bibliothek der Rijksuniversiteit, Leiden Antonio Lafreri, (1551) MELITA INSULA, quam hodie MALTAM uocant. N. 2587. Courtesy of the University Library, Helsinki (Nordenskiรถld Collection)
are what attracted the Knights to Malta
referred to as an ‘enchanted world’,
the fortifications of Malta and Gozo.
in the first place: the natural water
where the physical and spiritual were
These representations range from
features, sloping topography to landing
not so conceptually separated as
complete fabrication to remarkably
sites, and large sheltering harbours.
they are today. In being so attuned to
accurate ones. The 1553 Foresti
These maps have no contour
symbolism, Christians and Muslims
map erroneously includes Gothic
line representation yet land height
drew maps to portray their symbolic
towering spires and slanted roofs. The
is vividly sketched and coloured
interpretation of the world. Today’s
cartographer had no idea of Malta.
in a rather arbitrary manner. This
maps lack such symbolism.
Cock’s 1551 map, only known from
provides a general idea of the islands’
its second 1565 state, depicts the
hilly terrain. Remarkably, some hills
interpret maps. Detailed analysis is
harbour fortifications precisely.
All this information is needed to
were quickly erased from one map
needed for identification in libraries,
The maps have other quirks.
to another. In the 1551 to 1558
future research, and comparison
The 1536 Quintinus map shows
Gastaldi maps, Mount Sceberras
with yet undiscovered maps. These
the earliest-known image of Grand
became the city fortress Valletta.
maps had a lasting influence,
Harbour’s forbidding gallows at its
Compass directions often radiate
entrance. They also show fresh water
from these maps’ centre. Several
springs and a garden in Marsa.
helping to shape the historical events that unfolded thereafter.
transform the whole map into a
The complexity of research in
These maps pleasantly remind
compass rose, which leaves no
maps in breathtaking. Perhaps the
one about the relative geographic
doubt about the importance of
most fascinating element is how a
inaccuracies of early maps. Distances
these maps for navigational and
single image manages to convey a
between parts of the Mediterranean
military purposes. It is precisely on
diversity of delights to viewers from
are reduced. In the 1536 Quintinus
one of these compass points, where
different walks of life. Cartography
map Malta has its first map separate
geography marries spirituality, with
cuts across borders, and no one
from the rest of the Mediterranean.
the addition of a small cross on the
person is capable of embracing all
Early defensive structures are wrongly
east cardinal point, to symbolically
of the enjoyment of maps.
sited, such as the Gozitan castello,
represent the direction to the holy city
incorrectly drawn on Malta on the
of Jerusalem. Other religious elements
1470 Buondelmonti map. In the 1552
come out more strongly, such as the
Antonio Millo map coastlines lose
dramatic shipwreck portrayal of St
their physical proportionality to give
Paul the Apostle (Ptolemy’s 1540
importance to the main harbours of
Munster’s edition of his Geographia).
Malta. On the Dillingen map, the Paris
But symbolism is not just a
Map, and the Marucelliana map of
prerogative of Christian cartographers.
the mid-1500s, Fort St Angelo was
The authors balance their work
awkwardly placed in the open sea
with fine examples of Islamic
due to map space limitations. There
cartography, which in the book are
are many other historical quirks.
best represented by the works of
Yet, the value of these maps as a
Piri Reis and Al Idrisi. The 1157 Al
navigational tool remains pivotal and
Idrisi map was oriented south (like
central throughout the book. Hazards
most Islamic cartography), because
The Pre-Siege Maps of Malta; 2nd
to navigation are explained with the
many communities that lived north
Century to 1564 was published by the
use of black crosses on shoals and
of Mecca in the seventh and eighth
Malta Map Society (maltamapsociety.
red colouring for reefs; safe landings
century faced south during prayers.
com) and BDL, and was sponsored
Through these works, the authors
by the Alfred Mizzi Foundation. It
are marked by dots or tiny dashes at sea. The islands’ geographical
reveal to us a ‘medieval world’, which
is available in hard cover format
characteristics, as portrayed in maps,
philosopher Charles Taylor famously
in all leading local bookshops.
Most maps of the period depict
CULTURAL REGENERATION THROUGH URBAN SPACES AND PLACES projects taking place in Valletta as part
with two M.Arch. (Architecture and
Capital of Culture are
of the European Capital of Culture:
Urban Design) students—Daniel
felt through both the
The Valletta Design Cluster (il-Biċċerija)
Attard and Christopher Azzopardi—
cultural activities that
and its surrounding neighbourhood;
carried out extensive studies to gain
take place and through
Strait Street; the relocation of MUŻA
a deeper understanding of the sites.
the interactions people have with
– Mużew Nazzjonali tal-Arti (Malta’s
Attard developed a matrix in order to
each other as well as the space
National Museum of Fine Arts) – to
score the different types of interactions
around them in their everyday lives.
Auberge d’Italie and Pjazza de Valette;
within each site. Split into categories
The Valletta 2018 Foundation
and the area surrounding the Valletta
such as ‘aural’, ‘user categories’ and
Covered Market (is-Suq tal-Belt).
‘actual use of space,’ the sections
has been working tirelessly on
help identify emerging patterns and
several projects preparing Valletta
The four projects are in different
for its title as European Capital of
stages of their implementation, and
traits from the implementations of
Culture in Malta in 2018. More so,
have been dispersed throughout
the projects. The Biċċerija and Strait
it is researching how these projects
Valletta in a way that allows them
Street all score high in the ‘aural’
are changing the lives of people.
to collide with many of the different
category, meaning various elements
districts of the capital. While none
that contributed to noise, or the lack
communities and their surrounding
lack cultural significance, each project
of it, were observed. MUŻA and the
space are key issues being
has displayed different strengths in
Covered Market both qualified for
investigated by the Valletta 2018
implementation. The Valletta Market
the ‘user categories’ section, meaning
Evaluation & Monitoring research
and Strait Street Projects have a
that a relatively diverse demographic
process. This is a five-year research
particularly strong commercial value,
was observed making use of the place.
study examining the impacts of
while the Valletta Design Cluster
The Valletta Design Cluster was noted
the European Capital of Culture on
is aimed at creative design and
for having a higher level of human
Malta’s society and economy.
encouraging entreprenuership. MUŻA,
interaction take place daily (balcony
These interactions between
more overtly than any of the other three
conversations, loud conversations in
2018 Foundation, has been studying
projects, is an attempt at traditional
general, and so on). Finally, all four sites
the relationship between community
forms of cultural engagement and
qualified for the category of ‘actual use
inclusion and space in cultural
regeneration through the development
of space,’ meaning that people actively
infrastructural projects. His research
of a national, community-driven
show awareness of the space by taking
focuses on four specific infrastructural
musuem of art. Zammit, together
photos, complaining due to lack
Dr Antoine Zammit, with the Valletta
he effects of a European
of public conveniences, construction
in its current state is poorly perceived
work, and shops setting up or closing
and somewhat inaccessible. Matching
down, among other things.
Azzopardi’s findings with statistical
On the other hand, Azzopardi
through the NSO’s evaluation of the
sites by looking at their accessibility
available 2011 Census Data, Zammit
and permeability, perception and
has determined some relationship (but
comfort, and the vitality of the four
not statistically significant), between
sites. Of the four, Strait Street, more
the buildings’ current state of repair
specifically the intersection with Old
and the community’s achievements in
Theatre Street, scored highest, followed
literacy, education, and employment.
by MUŻA and the Valletta Market. The
data, obtained at a neighbourhood level
focused on the spatial quality of the
The diversity of the four sites were key
Valletta Design Cluster obtained the
to Zammit’s studies. He studied the effect
lowest score, suggesting that the site
their differing cultural infrastructure
Quality urban design has increasingly become about creating these habitable places. It is ultimately all about the quality of life of residents.
had on the cultural regeneration
is, "what will that infrastructure give
has increasingly become about creating
of Valletta. ‘Cultural infrastructure
back to the community at the end
these habitable places. It is ultimately
entails those interventions, which
of it all?"’ Other research, similar to
all about the quality of life of residents.’
generally have some kind of physical
Zammit's, holds that more than just
This issue of liveability is key to being
implication, in an urban space which
creating spaces, cultural regenerative
a European Capital of Culture. Its goals
tends to enhance and broaden people’s
projects should aim to create places
are to create high-quality cultural and
cultural appreciation,’ explains Dr
which result from quality urban design.
artistic activities while improving the
Zammit, ‘but I see it as requiring an
‘Over the past two years, I started
quality of life of communities through
added value. In my opinion, art for
to realise that the real difference is
culture. Zammit’s study highlights many
art’s sake in these cases doesn’t mean
‘between places that are alive, versus
potential issues such as an increase in
anything. Which is why the question
habitable places,’ comments Zammit,
noise pollution, gentrification resulting
which I try to answer in my research
who thinks that, ‘quality urban design
from a rise in property values and rental prices, and other potential impacts on Valletta residents. The Valletta 2018
MUSEUM OF THE PEOPLE
Foundation is discussing these issues in its upcoming conference Cities as Community Spaces in November 2016, which will bring together a number of international speakers to explore how different communities make use of public spaces for creativity, contestation, and interaction. For more: valletta2018.org
Naqsam il-MUŻA is a branch project inspired by MUŻA. Currently in progress, participants in the Naqsam il-MUŻA project were selected from different communities around Malta and taken to see the art collection of the National Museum of Fine Arts. They will then exhibit their choice of artwork from the museum in their localities. It brings the museum to the people, rather than the other way round.
Curiosity saved the cat Since childhood Ian Zammit has always been curious about why things are the way they are. His curiosity has led him to work on a water recycling project from which Malta could potentially stand to gain. He speaks to Veronica Stivala.
the methods to assess antibiotic
Zammit’s case, it pushed
Zammit is currently working with
and model the spread of antibiotic
him to work on a project
a research group run by Prof. Luigi
resistance when water is reused,
that affects every single
uriosity can sometimes be a good thing. In Ian
Rizzo in Salerno. The group’s research
develop and trial technologies
one of us: our health. Antibiotic
centres around how water treatment
that effectively mitigate antibiotic
resistance is on the increase leaving
technologies can lower antibiotic
resistance, and produce regulatory
doctors with fewer options to cure
resistance in bacteria. The project could
guidelines for policy development.
disease. Zammit works on decreasing
be particularly significant to Malta,
the harmful effects of this resistance
which, because of its low water supply,
is in developing a reactor using
in wastewater and its reuse.
could benefit greatly from recycling
heterogeneous photocatalysis —
waste water. But more on that later.
normally a compound (classically,
Zammit has always been curious about why things are the way they are
There is growing global concern on
Zammit’s direct contribution
the catalyst titanium dioxide)
and how they work. He always asked
antibiotic resistance. The sub-lethal
that absorbs light to generate a
lots of questions, coupled with a
levels of antibiotics in waste water
reactive oxygen radicals that can
critical mind that never just accepted
promote antibiotic resistance and the
stop bacteria from exchanging
answers but needed explanations.
reuse of treated waste water with
genes. The bacteria stop dividing
these antibiotics is a potential health
and growing with released DNA
though he lauds those teachers
risk. Zammit, together with a large
affected, which means that antibiotic
‘who could really get their students
team of researchers and collaborators,
resistance is stopped in its tracks.
excited about [it]’. He found
is working on an international project,
himself excited by the fact that
entitled ANSWER (Antibiotics
his knowledge to help society. He is a
‘scientists can completely change
and mobile resistance elements
passionate scientist and says that he
our understanding of things’ with
in wastewater reuse applications:
is ‘really enjoying the fact that [his]
the facts they discover and which
risks and innovative solutions).
work is aimed at producing something
could in turn change societies.
This project aspires to develop
that will be used in real scale and
Science came naturally to Ian,
resistance in the environment, follow
Zammit is clearly determined to use
Speaking about the frustrating aspects
research and teaching assistant. For his Ph.D., Ian wants to work
of the project, Ian admits that ‘having
on more applied problems. It was
many different parameters that can
through a professor at Stockholm
substantially affect the efficiency of the
University that he found out about
final design is not the simplest of tasks.’
a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Action
Zammit is a passionate scientist
conducted at the Agricultural Research Organisation of Israel (www.agri.gov.il).
BRINGING KNOWLEDGE HOME
(MSCA) on antibiotic resistance and
We talk about Malta and how the
but his zeal for the discipline
wastewater reuse. In Stockholm
project can potentially help the island.
extends to a general enthusiasm
he worked on how quickly organic
Because of its low rainfall, long dry
and enjoyment about life. He wishes
pollutants decreased by gaseous
summer periods and high population
to buy a motorcycle and tour il bel
hydroxyl radicals. This determines how
density, Malta is highly dependent
paese. ‘Being in the region famous
persistent some organic pollutants
on energy intensive reverse osmosis
for the production of mozzarella di
are in the atmosphere. His current
(RO) technologies for its water supply.
bufala, I’m also frequently stuffing
work is on similar oxidation reactions
Between 2004 and 2013, 55.7% of
my face with too much mozzarella.’
but now includes other reactive
Malta’s water was produced by RO
oxygen species used to treat water.
consuming 3.7% of its energy (National
Zammit initially read for a B.Sc. (Hons.) in Chemistry and Biology
Zammit’s role in the ANSWER
Statistic Office, Malta, 2014).
(University of Malta), followed
project sees him assessing how good
by a brief stint working in the
various compounds are in disinfecting
processes that are used in a number
pharmaceutical industry on the
water. He is scaling up a reactor
of arid countries, most notably, Israel,
island. But it was after this that he
which will include a secondment
Singapore, and Windhoek (Namibia)
decided he ‘wanted to do something
at Adventech, in Portugal, www.
as a means to recycle water for
less commercially minded’ and
adventech.pt); and using treated water
agriculture and industry requiring
followed an M.Sc. in Environmental
for crop irrigation to see if it can stop
high purity and potable use. These
Science (Stockholm University).
the spread of antibiotic resistant
processes are more cost effective
After his masters, he stayed on as a
bacteria. This work will mostly be
than using reverse osmosis.
An alternative is tertiary treatment
not just a hypothetical application.’
In Malta, the Sant’ Antnin sewage treatment plant produces recovered waste water supplied mostly for agriculture, and to a lesser extent, industry. The recovered water consumes 3.5 times less energy to produce. The demand for the regenerated water has been in decline (National Statistic Office, Malta, 2014) and there are also reports of low quality water from the plant. Malta recently invested in developing waste water recla iming technologies, with the intention to eliminate over extraction from aquifers and then regenerate them using reclaimed water. Cost effective reactors use advanced oxidation processes, which is the aim of Zammit’s project, are integral to these water reclaiming plants. Through the project, the scientists also aim to better understand antibiotic resistant spread from reclaimed water to crops which has health implications for consumers worldwide. The project has the potential to improve Malta’s water situation and the world’s health. Reducing antibiotic resistance will help control this burgeoning problem. Ian has just started the first year of a three-year grant and says, ‘I would love to do research for a living, be it academic or industrial’. Here’s hoping he does. This project received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 675530. Alumni
Zammit is a passionate scientist and says that he is ‘really enjoying the fact that [his] work is aimed at producing something that will be used in real scale and not just a hypothetical application.’
BOOK REVIEW by Andrea Marie Cini
How To Teach Quantum Physics To Your Dog CHAD ORZEL science—debatable). Orzel’s ideology is pretty
many hearts. Such a complex subject has,
simple: if a dog could understand his explanations
for many years, dumbfounded students, and, it seems, their dogs alike. Chad Orzel (a professor at
then a human surely would. Apart from being a sturdy foundation for the
Union College,New York) in his book, How To Teach
topic of quantum physics, the fun-loving and
Quantum Physics To Your Dog, tries to accomplish
comical conversations between Orzel and Emmy
just that; how do you explain sub-atomic physics
the dog are a captivating read. Emmy’s curious
in a fun and easy way? Using his dog Emmy
questions and Orzel’s exceptionally patient
as a fellow narrator, Orzel explains quantum
answers make it almost impossible for readers to
physics from a different, more canine-oriented
forget. Within this novel it feels as if the reader
perspective, and actually manages to make it work!
is really strolling in a park with the duo. Apart
Making use of situations that dogs encounter
from this professor’s incredible explanations and
on a nearly daily basis, such as rabbit chasings,
handy diagrams, another distinguishable feature
evil squirrels and squeaky toys, the author
of his book is the fascinating footnotes—a source
explains some of the most complex theories and
of unforgettable fun facts. For example, did you
experiments in science. Sound bites as particle-
know that the great scientist, Schrödinger, was a
wave duality, Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle,
and quantum tunnelling are just a few of the
While I would not recommend How To Teach
many topics covered and are colourfully explained
Quantum Physics To Your Dog to pass the next
within this book. Making use of simple diagrams
quantum mechanics exam, it is great foundation
and modern references, these previously baffling
material. Studying quantum physics has never
topics are simplified in a way even a dog could
been more fun and the book is a great read—highly
understand (if dogs were capable of learning
he term quantum physics has struck fear into
GAME REVIEW by David Chircop
Traders of Osaka
’m an absolute sucker for elegance. I love games with few components and
rules, yet still manage to create a deep and
Publisher: Z-Man Designer: Susumu Kawasaki
thoughtful gameplay system. The card game Traders of Osaka has all of these traits. Based on Traders of Carthage, where the goal is for players to move ships, and deliver goods
destination. When it reaches Edo the player can
from Alexandria to Carthage, Traders of Osaka is
sell the goods of a specific colour. However, if the
essentially the same but this time the gameplay
seas are perilous just before docking, it sinks, and
is set in a new continent and era, with the cargo
everyone’s goods of that colour go to waste.
needing to be shipped from Osaka to Edo in Japan. The game has both cards and a board. Each
the players around you. The competition is
the type of goods you can ship, and the number
absolutely bittersweet. Don’t be fooled by its
indicates their value. But, the game gives you
spareness, these are some of the most tactical
the choice to keep your card in hand or place it
choices you will have to make in your life.
goods or cash to use later to purchase the goods. Apart from this choice, as a trader you need to move your goods. Each time you buy an item, Fun
The setup leads to a very simple, binary choice, which is affectd by the actions of all
card has a number and colour. The colour denotes
in front of you. This turns them into purchased
the ship of its colour moves one step closer to its
The game is about trading rice in Osaka over 100 years ago—a hard sell. But it has beautiful artworks, and a modern design that runs smoothly and is easy to learn. Trust me, give this one a shot.
FILM REVIEW by Charlo Pisani
Song of the Road S
atyajit Ray’s monumental
by Ravi Shankar’s sitar music. In
which brings out the bright blaze of
Pather Panchali deals with an
a celebrated scene, the mother
India’s heat and the silvery tones of
impoverished family in rural Bengal.
is unable to communicate to the
the monsoon habitat to crystalline,
Maybe monumental isn’t the right
father that their daughter Durga
elemental palpability. The recent
word for this humble movie and yet,
died from a cold; the mother’s
Blu-ray release eliminates the
it is apt because of the film’s intense
cries are replaced by wailing sitar
‘ghosting’ effect and muddy transfers
depiction of human emotions and its
notes. The shot remains helplessly
of previous VHS or DVD releases.
towering position in Indian cinema.
‘immobilised’ as the anguished
Finally, one cannot imagine Pather
father rises out of the camera’s
Panchali without the actress Chunibala
view, then returns helplessly to it.
Devi, who plays the aged widowed
This is Satyajit Ray’s first film and the first in a trilogy depicting Apu’s coming of age and a family’s fateful
The film’s pacing alternates between
aunt. The moment she comes to
descent into misfortune while the
quiet, domestic chores and vibrant,
realise that she is no longer wanted
father works in the city. Adapted
exterior episodes in which Apu and
in the household, convinces me that
from Bibhutibhushan Banerji’s novel
Durga behave as children do. Much
the medium close-up was invented
of the same name, it reproduces
like the source novel and the Mangal-
for this moment in film history.
many of the episodes from the book.
Kāvya poems in Bengali literature
When I met Satyajit Ray’s son in
However, it commands pacing,
(made up of episodic poems called
Calcutta, he gifted me with an original
cinematography, and performance
panchali), it is the periodic nature of
poster of the film. A Bollywood
which make it a distinguishable
rural life which drives the film forward.
producer present in the same room
work in its own right and a prime
Although it differs from commercial
leapt up for it. That poster made it
example of India’s transcendental
western narratives, with their linear
through the monsoon (unlike Durga)
take on Italian Neorealist cinema (c.
cause-effect plots and clear resolution,
and Pather Panchali continues to win
1944–1952), which was based on
the film made its way to western
hearts across the world. It is in this
serious concerns and social realism.
audiences winning the Best Human
spirit that this review was written—
Document award at the 1956 Cannes
with the hope that a work from a
Film Festival (among many others).
different time and so close to the
The director has a keen eye for establishing natural pacing devices—from gathering storms to
Of note is the film’s excellent
black and white cinematography,
human spirit, could become something personal for the readers of THINK. Fun
Year of release: 1955 Director: Satyajit Ray Production company: Government of West Bengal Certification: U
Dr Jackson Levi Said
MY 100 WORD IDEA TO CHANGE MALTA Make society more science-oriented
DO EMERGENCY CONTRACEPTIVES CAUSE ABORTIONS? Alexander Hili
his depends on how the words contraception and abortion are interpreted. Being scientifically correct does
Science offers more than just the yearly cutting edge installation in a phone series or the next technological interest such as augmented reality headsets. It also offers a whole new perspective
not mean ethical correctness for some. The facts state that if a contraceptive blocks fertilisation of the woman’s egg then the contraceptive technique does not cause an abortion. The flipside is that some believe that interfering with
on how to view the world, from understanding
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how everyday things work through to the intrigue
a scientific perspective, emergency contraceptives, like
of space and the very small dimensions of the
the morning after pill, retard or block ovulation. They do
Universe. Making science more central to society can enrich every level of it from giving children the
not cause an abortion. The egg has not been fertilised and so has no chance to become a living creature.
curiosity bug to creating tomorrow’s next world
Other medications can cause abortions. In these cases, the
changing idea. Such a society could have better
matter becomes an ethical decision. However, one should not
informed national discussions. Science can make
falsely claim that emergency contraceptives are abortive.
Malta a global leader. Send in your science questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
by Ġorġ Mallia