The Secret Success of the Swiss


Although Silicone Valley in the United States gets worldwide accolades as the primary source for innovation, Switzerland may actually have left the gringa’s country in its dust.  In fact, it may have been running circles around every technologically advanced nation since 2008 and no one has been aware of it. The gringa supposes that Switzerland simply prefers a low profile and is loathe to toot its own horn.

To discover just how amazing Swiss minds are, you have to dig into the reports generated by Cornell University, the graduate school INSEAD that has campuses in France, Singapore & Abu Dhabi, as well as reports generated by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).  Their collaborative efforts can be seen in an annual report called the Global Innovation Index. There is more to making the list than simply coming up with cool gizmos and devices. To be a winner a country must also lead in areas of: business sophistication, creativity, commitment to knowledge and creativity, infrastructure, and research.  The latest top 10 winners:

  1. Switzerland
  2. Sweden
  3. United Kingdom
  4. United States
  5. Finland
  6. Singapore
  7. Ireland
  8. Denmark
  9. Netherlands
  10. Germany

But why does Switzerland keep winning? It seems that Switzerland consistently delivers with regard to patents, technological inventions and programs that recruit and develop new talent.

Patents:  The European Patent Office  recorded, on average, 873 patent applications for every one million Swiss inhabitants. The Netherlands and Sweden came in second and third. It seems that the current generation of Nords are incredibly creative.

Inventions:  What might some of these patents be for with regard to the latest developments in technology?  The Nords put their money where their reputation is, investing heavily in Swiss entrepreneurs and aspiring inventors who have made their country proud with products like: Mouse Scanner by CES; Doodle -digital scheduling platform serving 20 million people (for a culture linked with precision timekeeping this comes as no surprise to the gringa); CleanSpace One, a robot waste collector for use in ridding the galaxy of space junk developed by Swiss Space Center at Lausanne’s Federal Institute of Technology.

Recruitment & Development: Switzerland aggressively seed funds entrepreneurs. For example, a student at Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich, Johannes Reck, became CEO of his own start-up while still living in the dorms of Switzerland’s premier technical school of higher learning. He launched GetYourGuide, an online service to help people plan holiday and destination activities. Soon after launch, rather than Reck pitching his idea to investors, a local bank actually approached him and made an offer for seed funding. Within four years Reck’s idea has brought in more than $10 million in revenue to a country that invested $2 million in a Swiss citizen with an idea.

Entrepreneur hopefuls or geeks who have dreams of hitting it big with the next trendy gizmo or gadget, you may want to set your eyes on immigrating to Switzerland. But don’t expect it to be a short, easy road to travel. To become a naturalized Swiss citizen you must:

  • Live in Switzerland for at least 12 years before applying for citizenship.
  • Any years spent living in Switzerland between the ages of 10-20 count as double.
  • In 2017 a new law may come into effect reducing the required number of years to 10.
  • Obey Swiss law and customs.
  • Pose no danger to national security.
  • Meet the additional citizenship requirements of your local municipality.
  • Submit citizenship application & schedule an interview.
  • Pass citizenship test that is either written or verbal.

In addition to the basic requirements, living in Switzerland is not cheap. However, one aspect to a high standard of living is the corresponding quality of life enjoyed. To maintain a competitive edge in a society of high achievers, being multi-lingual is almost a necessity. There are four languages commonly spoken within Switzerland and to succeed in business, entrepreneurs would do well to master all four: English, French, German, and Italian.

One great thing for up and coming innovators in Switzerland is that this tiny country boasts a marvelous business practice. The Swiss regard mentorship very highly. There are frequent events that pair entrepreneurs with mentors as well as investors. These are two key relationships that virtually guarantee success for a bright, ambitious young adult. So, young students and aspiring CEOs, rather than look westward toward the sunken landscape of Silicone Valley, the gringa says lift your eyes upwards toward the heights of the Swiss Alps. That is where success secretly abides.

Sources:

www.businessinsider.com

www.finfacts.ie

www.swissinfo.ch

thenextweb.com

Image Credit: lauralyndlt.files.wordpress.com

 

Wearable A/C


The gringa considers nudity to be part of the climate change solution. It could solve lots of problems:

  • Conserve water.
  • Reduce emissions with less marketable goods requiring shipping.
  • Reduce energy usage to cool homes in warm climates.

However, some innovators in the fashion industry may have come up with a cool, pardon the pun, solution that will allow everyone to keep themselves covered and still be comfortable despite the heat.

With the invention of plastic based textiles, cooling is all part of the design of a new, innovative fabric that engineers have developed at Stanford University. Combining the disciplines of chemistry, nanotechnology and photonics with an old-fashioned cotton fabric, sweat and body heat pass right through.

Believe it or not, current “breathable” fabrics are simply not breathable at all. People get hot wearing clothes because invisible waves of infrared radiation produced by our bodies are trapped under the clothes we wear. In research studies comparing standard cotton with the new fabric, scientists discovered that good, ol’ “breathable” cotton raised the temperature of skin surface by nearly 4 degrees Fahrenheit (or 2 degrees Celsius). For the gringa, that would make all the difference in the world. I could keep my A/C off and my family clothed in cooling fabrics.

The gringa only sees one problem, the plastic connection. Plastic is, of course, a petroleum based product. Isn’t dependence on petroleum the bane of human existence? Isn’t it at the heart of climate change? Is it not the object of war for profit? So has the science community really come up with a practical solution to help contribute one tiny bit to the climate change solution or has it simply opened a Pandora’s Box for the future of petroleum wars? Will nations continue to slaughter one another in order to control oil fields that will be necessary to keep people clothed in fabrics that will help them survive the catastrophic heatwaves of the future?

 

Source:  stanford.edu

Image Credit:  thumbs.dreamstime.com

 

Oh, Just Forget It


The mind is an amazing thing. Having dealt with the effects of epilepsy all of my life, the gringa finds the subject of memory particularly fascinating. Amnesia is a typical side effect of intense seizure activity. Not only have I experienced amnesia, but often I will have some limited recall which is like taking a memory and making  a meal of scrambled eggs. I get it all wrong.  Having a blank space of time may sound frightening but I have learned to live with it. I simply have to shrug and move on. It even comes in handy from time to time if I have behaved particularly bad because I can then always say, “Really? I had no idea. I’m terribly sorry. I was simply not myself at the time.” I’m not sure the caveman is buying that line after all these years but, at the very least, he usually goes along with it.

So, the gringa has experienced the effect of seizure related amnesia as a cause for my creating false memories. Fortunately the caveman is understanding and does not believe that his little wife is a big, fat liar but just sick and confused. I am happy to know that I am not alone. In fact, none of us are. According to research by Shari R. Berkowitz and Jennifer Sumner, both assistant professors at California State University, all humans create false memories. Their studies revealed that it is actually very easy to implant false memories through different suggestive methods:

  • People were given a list of words that had something in common: pillow, sheets, bed, nap. The common link, sleep, was not on the list. Once the list was removed, the word sleep was suggested as being on the list and subjects agreed that they remembered seeing the word sleep on the list.
  • Participants had a dream interpreted. Days later it was suggested that the events of the dream were a real occurrence. The dreamer would recall the event as something that actually happened.
  • Study participants listed 4 interesting events like football games, political speeches, etc. and then read corresponding news stories related to the events. Of the news stories offered, one was bogus yet the participants invariably remembered the event occurring. Having a strong interest in a particular subject actually increased the chances of creating a false memory. Consequently, because the person considers themselves well-versed in the subject, they are also less likely to accept they are believing a false memory.
  • Rich memory events are false memories of something fantastic happening like being possessed or kidnapped.

Now, for the gringa, this rich memory theory is of particular interest. When I was a little girl the earliest memory, or, at least, what I thought was a memory, was of being a toddler and playing on the back porch of our home with our cat. I distinctly remember a group of Native Americans crossing the creek beside our home, entering our backyard and shooting me with an arrow.

As a child I was convinced this was a real memory. It was not until I was a teenager that I would recall this “memory” and realize I was wrong. But what made me believe such a thing? And why did I have no fear or animosity toward Native Americans? In fact, it was quite the opposite. I was fascinated with their history and fantasized of a romantic alternative life as part of a tribe. This would seem contrary to the typical psychology that would have resulted from a trauma. So what the heck happened to the gringa?

I blame my father. He was always making up fantastic stories to drive my sisters and I crazy. For example, I was very freckled as a youngster. He told me they were bird spots. That, because I liked to play outside all the time as a little girl, I was always getting pooped on by birds and those were the stains left behind. He even had a favorite bird species to mention in this explanation of freckles, buzzards. Not very nice, I know, but in my Daddy’s warped mind he thought he was simply hysterical and clever.

So, as for getting shot with an arrow, the gringa’s dear readers must understand that my Daddy grew up in an era of zero political correctness many years before the passage of the Civil Rights Act. He grew up in an America where white supremacy was the law of the land. So, he thought nothing of it when accusing Native Americans of shooting his little girl to explain why I had a navel. As a lover of old western movies, of course he would tell such a tale. That fantastic story had such an impact on my young, impressionable mind, I actually believed that I had a memory of a Native American Indian tribe raiding the back yard of my family home during the era of the Vietnam War.

And that, my dear readers, is why such research is so very important. Not just to get history correct, but to recognize that eye-witness testimony in criminal cases is often very flawed. Often times young people who undergo therapy to re-capture memories are not remembering actual events. This could result in ruining the lives of not only the falsely accused but by creating a victim who is actually not a victim.  If we can rely on anything when it comes to memory, it is that it is simply not reliable.

Consider that the gringa can remember the telephone number of her childhood home and several childhood friends yet I cannot remember the caveman’s telephone number at work. I can list the titles of the first three novels I read from cover to cover as a little girl but I can’t remember to buy dog food if I leave my shopping list at home. I can recall the words to a song I have never performed and haven’t heard on the radio in over ten years but I can’t keep the birthdates of my children straight. What is up with that? Science says it is because there are different types of memory and they each have their own special mechanism that causes forgetting.

Doorway Memory

If you find that you walk from one room to another, forgetting why you made the trip, this is the problem of doorway memory. Walking through a doorway into another physical setting is like hitting a reset button in your memory bank.

Flashbulb Memory

Emotionally vivid events often cause people to create flashbulb memories. These accounts become so vivid that they believe they will never forget, like remembering where you were when you heard the news of 9/11 or that John F. Kennedy had been assassinated. The gringa must inform you that although one would think these memories would be etched forever upon our minds, it simply ain’t so.  Although we will never forget that those events happened, we will, indeed, eventually forget where we were when we got the news. We may recall with effort where we were, but it won’t actually be a memory of the place and conditions surrounding us. It will be the remembrance of a fact we know to be historically true. Unless, of course, we were one of the victims. But traumatic memory is also tricky.

Traumatic Memory

If you were a victim of 9/11, or any other trauma, one of two things might happen with your memory. You will never forget anything, not even the smells or particular sounds. The other option is that you could forget absolutely everything, complete amnesia. If a trauma is so extreme that the brain determines that the person cannot emotionally bear the pain, the brain disposes of the memory with a deep burial process. Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may very well be the result with certain events, words, colors, smells, sounds, etc. triggering an anxiety attack of dangerous and epic proportions where the person begins to relive the experience of the trauma.

Mind Erase

Certain activities can cause what is termed “transient global amnesia”.  This doesn’t mean that world travelers forget stuff. No, the gringa breaks it down like this: Transient (temporary) global (affecting a particular part of the brain) amnesia (forgetting). There is no telling who may be affected by this condition or why it happens. Basically, a person can have experience a temporary amnesia event, forgetting the entire previous day for a few hours after certain types of activity like: sex, migraines, mild head trauma, exposure to sudden temperature extremes.

Life After Access

It is not uncommon to have a memory recall event of something you believe never even happened. Something may happen to trigger the memory and suddenly a person remembers something that they didn’t even know that they knew. This can be disturbing and cause some people to believe they have been reincarnated as another person. Consider the case of a woman who suddenly remembered the words to songs she had no memory of learning. No, she was not an opera singer in a previous life. Neurologists explained that at some point in early childhood, before her brain was capable of remembering events (typically before the age of 4), she was exposed to the music and it imprinted on her mind. Later in life, something related to that event triggered the memory of the music.

Brain Injuries & Insults

This cause the gringa knows only too well. Most people think a brain injury is when a person hits their head and injures their brain. Actually, that could also be a brain insult. You see, an insult to the brain is not forgetting things because someone called you stupid. It is an injury that is so traumatic that brain matter is physically displaced.

A physical blow to the head is also not the only thing that can cause a brain to receive an insult. Certain diseases can cause swelling of the brain or fluid to fill the sinus cavities of the brain. Both events can cause physical displacement of brain matter, thus an insult to the brain.

Whereas the electrical storm of a seizure is a brain injury, it does not physically rearrange the structure of the brain like a catastrophic blow to the head. However, both injuries and insults will affect memory. And there can be seizures that have the potential to do just as much brain damage as a traumatic brain insult.

What’s The Point

So, then, what’s the point of knowing that memory cannot be relied upon? For the gringa, I have learned the importance of journaling. Not just to be able to remember the personal details of my life, but it has proven critical in managing important aspects of life, such as getting an insurance claim processed. The most common method of journaling performed today, and most people may not even realize that is what they are doing, is posting status updates to Facebook. The average American probably takes their memory for granted. Not the gringa. I post status updates frequently as well as keep an actual, personal journal.

In matters of law, it is entirely possible that there are people sitting in jail for crimes they did not commit because of flawed eye witness testimony. This is simply a travesty now that we understand the human mind better. Wherever possible, physical evidence should always supersede eyewitness accounts.

As for those poor souls that believe they have been abducted by aliens, the gringa can only point to her navel  and offer  a facial expression of raised eyebrows. Really? Abducted by aliens? If I could believe I had actually been shot by an arrow, a victim of a Native American raid in a small town in Texas in the 1970’s, I can assure alien abductees that they, too, have been duped by their memories. Chances are they had a Daddy like mine who enjoyed titillating their imagination with fantastical stories. Like me, their impressionable minds were imprinted with a fantasy story delivered by someone they absolutely trusted as faithful and true, so, in childlike innocence they never questioned the veracity of the story and grew up believing it to be true. Alien abductee? No. Victim of a fantastic storyteller? Most likely.

Sources:

www.livescience.com

www.csudhnews.com

www.mayoclinic.org

www.neuroskills.com

www.livescience.com

Image Credit: lymeinside.files.wordpress.com

 

Incan Stars


The caveman has Incan blood, a Peruvian transplant to the United States. It is then only natural that the gringa is curious about Peruvian contributions to space related science and technology. After all, considering some of the interesting theories surrounding Nazca, the Incans may have been involved in space travel long before the rest of the world was enjoying  gas lighting.

Peru has an active science industry that has developed and successfully launched nano-satellites. They were developed by the Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru, Universidad Alas Peruanas and Universidad Nacional de Ingenieria. Aside from the academic community, the Peruvian government, in collaboration with the government of France, will be launching a satellite this year of its own production. Individual professional groups are also participating in desert experiments related to the future exploration of Mars.

The majority of space related technology is developed by Peru’s universities with the cooperation of the Peruvian Space Agency, The National Commission for Aerospace Research and Development (CONIDA).  Launches of satellites have been successful in cooperation with NASA as well as ROCOSMOS. CONIDA recently invested over $200 million dollars in a French produced satellite, “Astrosat-300”, more commonly called Airbus. This is the most advanced satellite in Latin America. Peruvian students who were trained in France manage the operations and image capturing.

Peru desires to increase awareness of space among its population. It enthusiastically supports programs that involve active participation of Peruvian youth. It hopes its nation’s international involvement in developing space capabilities will grow. CONIDA’s official decree states it’s intent is to “[P]romote and develop peaceful, research and work aimed at the country’s progress in space”.

One way CONIDA works toward its mission is to develop graduate programs for Peru’s universities as well as create “School Workshop on Space Activities” programs that are designed to motivate interest among Peru’s youth in their final two years of high school. These courses introduce subjects such as data collection from satellites, satellite observation of earth, digital processing of satellite images and how to use supporting software. Specialized courses about geology, agriculture, forestry and mineral exploration are also offered.

CONIDA’s Technical Department of Space Technology Development is actively engaged in the research and development of rockets and probes. They are on the fast track to develop payload delivery systems and become a vital actor in the vigorous international space travel community. “Punta Lobos”, a CONIDA science base south of Lima, houses much of what this department develops. It has been visited by delegates of the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) regarding future collaborative projects.

Peru has many interesting and critical areas where satellites are beneficial for the country. They have a landslide monitoring system, flood hazard monitors, tectonic movement assessment, measurements of volcanic flows, as well as seasonal precipitation monitoring of rainfall.

Peru considers space observation for its nation as critical for national security as well as to address many geological issues for the benefit of all of Peru’s people. I anticipate that they will serve the memory of their ancestors well. I believe that my caveman will proudly see the day when the land of his birth boasts about their own astronauts aboard the ISS, arriving there in their own spacecraft. The gringa just wonders if it will be of gold and shaped like a sleeping llama?

 

Source & Photo Credit:  http://www.conida.gob.pe/

 

 

Scientists Have Feelings, Too


So often the subject of climate change is politicized and scientists are treated as if they have some kind of hidden agenda. The gringa assures the dear reader that most scientists are scientists because they love science. At their very core they are dreamers and artists who move through the world of science with an idealism that their knowledge can help make the world a better place.

So, rather than delve into criticizing these folks as being part of some sinister conspiracy to take over the world, think about how they feel about what they know and how everyone else is reacting to their publication of their work. It may very well change how you feel about the subject. Perhaps it may even light a fire within your own heart to do your best to be a part of changing the world for the better.

A website, www.isthishowyoufeel.com, has documented dozens of letters from scientists who study climate change. These letters are responses to  Author Joe Duggan who put this simple question to scientists: “How do you feel about climate change?” The gringa was extremely interested, to say the least.

I have only touched on highlights of their responses. To read the handwritten letters in their entirety (except for one that was typewritten), you will have to visit the website or, if you’re lucky, the most recent location where the letters are exhibited. You can also find that information on the website.

Professor Emeritus Neville Nicholls, School of Earth, Atmosphere and Environment, Monash University, Australia is:

  • Confident we will adapt, reduce emissions and slow global warming

Dr. Anna Harper, Research Fellow, University of Exeter is:

  • Powerless about the power of those who are resisting action
  • Discouraged that the public is not understanding that we cannot wait to act
  • Frustrated that others cannot be convinced that we are being irresponsible
  • Optimistic for the opportunity to redefine how humans live
  • Hopeful in man’s creative and innovative talents

Professor Stefan Rahmstorf, Head of Earth System Analysis, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research is:

  • Frustrated to be in a nightmare where no one realizes the threat is real

Dr. Jessica Carilli, Assistant Professor, University of Massachusetts, Boston is:

  • Dismayed
  • Depressed at how humans have destroyed natural habitats and how so many don’t care
  • Powerless
  • Sad
  • Overwhelmed of the problem’s magnitude
  • Hopeful in politicians and grassroots movements that want to bring about change
  • Unwilling to give up
  • Amazed at human ingenuity to create solutions

Dr. Carlo Buontempo, European Climate Service Team Leader, Met Office Hadley Centre is:

  • Tired, especially of debating the subject
  • Outraged at the human species lack of response
  • Optimistic in collective knowledge

Agus Santoso, Senior Research Associate, University of New South Wales is:

  • Overwhelmed by the debate
  • Intrigued by the science
  • Tiresome of the political motivations behind debate of the subject

Professor Donald J. Wuebbles, Professor of Atmospheric Sciences, University of Illinois is:

  • Concerned about the legacy we are leaving future generations
  • Hope in humanity’s history as problem solvers

Professor Mark Maslin, Professor of Climatology, University College London is:

  • Challenged because climate change makes all other global challenges worse
  • Optimistic as conditions continue to improve for humanity worldwide

This is just a sampling of a few of the letters that can be read in their entirety on the website www.isthishowyoufeel.com. The gringa loved reading all of these letters. I felt much closer to these elusive creatures that are so often reduced to lumps of data on paper.

Despite their levels of frustration, almost all of them are confident and hopeful. That speaks volumes to the gringa that if these folks are staring the facts and models in the face that predict the extinction of humanity, yet remain hopeful and confident that this problem can be averted, I will sleep well tonight. And, tomorrow, I will reapply myself to being a part of the solution.

How ’bout you, dear reader? How do you feel about all this mess?

Source: http://www.isthishowyoufeel.com

Photo credit: www.practicalpedal.com

How To Get A Job With NASA As A Research Assistant


If you have dreams of outer space like the gringa, just what opportunity is there at NASA? Who are they looking for? What qualifications should upcoming NASA employees plan to pad their resumes with? How much does such an interesting and dynamic job pay?

Over half of the jobs available with NASA are at the professional levels for engineers and scientists. If you plan to have a top notch job application for one of these positions, be sure to take as many classes as possible in mathematics, computer and aerospace engineering, meteorology, and even accounting.

About twenty-five percent of opportunities are for administrative staff. This kind of NASA role involves analytical skills, top notch researching abilities, specialization with information technology, and budgeting experience. These are college graduate level careers and critical for project management.

There is high level competition to get coveted aerospace industry jobs. One of the things to do to secure your best chance of getting hired at NASA is to find a mentor. Many universities have agreements with NASA for research assistants. Check this avenue out to help get a foot in the door for a shot at a job that has earning potential from $11,000 – $30,000 annually.

An example of a NASA research assistant job with a college is one that was recently advertised by the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at Penn State University. They announced an opening for a Research Assistant in the “Science Planner on the Science Operations Team of the Swift Gamma-Ray Burst” program. This is an ongoing NASA mission that has been operating since 2004.  Such a position requires a college degree in Physics or Astronomy.

Need scientists only apply? Well, not according to Angela Beaman who has a degree in Fine Arts. She got a research assistant position with NASA through the Horticulture Department at Iowa State University. The first thing she did was let a childhood curiosity about plants encourage an adult decision to pursue more knowledge. She showed up at the university’s horticultural center and simply started asking questions. That eventually led to a NASA fellowship studying the cultivation of basil through hydroponics. She explains that the most important trait to have in pursuing career dreams at NASA is determination which will see a person through a lifetime of continuing education.

As the gringa tends to her humble little patio garden, I consider how important these things are that we often take for granted. For space exploration to be possible at the “next level”, it’s not enough to know how to keep humans alive. We also have to know how to keep alive organisms that are life sustaining. Astronauts have to be able to provide some green stuff for long-term missions. This not only feeds their stomachs, but also their lungs as technology advances to create a self-contained biosphere that can sustain life through a long-duration mission. If you want to be a part, take some classes, ask questions, and get involved on any level.

Sources:

www.nasa.gov

https://www.quora.com/How-hard-is-it-to-get-a-research-assistant-position-at-NASA

http://www.careerbliss.com/nasa/salaries/graduate-research-assistant/

http://jobregister.aas.org/node/47927

Photo credit:

http://www.nasa.gov/audience/foreducators/plantgrowth/careercorner/Angela_Beaman_Profile.html