Valencia Students’ ‘Micro-Plastic Sea Filter’ Wins Top Design Award

A group of students at Valencia Polytechnic have won the prestigious James Dyson Award for their planet-saving invention: a buoy which filters and traps micro-plastics in the sea.

Defined as pieces of plastic of less than half a centimetre in size, micro-plastics are frequently swallowed by fish, birds and other sea creatures and find their way into human stomachs through drinking water and eating seafood, fish and seaweed. The ‘Yuna’ uses different-sized netting and an aerodynamic structure inspired by the physical makeup and anatomy of the ocean sunfish (Mola Mola) – the world’s heaviest fish at an average of a tonne and which gets its name because it basks on the sea surface to allow sea birds to eat parasites from its skin. The ocean sunfish changes shape to adapt to different currents in the sea, which the Yuna buoy is also designed to do. All 20 of the ‘Yu Group’ are studying degrees in design engineering and product development and will share the €2,200 prize.

The buoy needs very little energy supply to filter out micro-plastics, since it spins with the current, like a yacht sail to pick up tiny shards of plastic waste which are then stored inside it for later disposal. Multiple filters are stacked from the ones with the widest holes on the outside to the finest on the inside, the latter being capable of trapping even microscopic pieces of plastic. Once the buoy is full, the plastic is emptied and recycled and the buoy is returned to the sea.

Cancer & Sugar

Research scientists at the Bellvitge-IDIBELL Hospital and the University of Barcelona (UB) have finally demonstrated the involvement of glucose in the growth of tumour cells and have described how the availability of nutrients and oncogenic signal pathways link molecularly. It is an important step forward in understanding the molecular mechanism that reprogrammes the cell in the formation of tumours. The work has deciphered the path through which glucose enhances the growth of cells, which must grow and reach a critical size in order to divide.

Alicante Village Goes On Sale Online

An entire village is up for sale on the internet auction site, Wallapop for 90 million Euros. It has 40 houses, mains electricity and water, a palace, a casino, a hermitage chapel, a post office, an olive oil storage warehouse and a flour factory.

Colonia de Santa Eulalia, about halfway between the towns of Villena and Sax in the west of the province of Alicante, is completely uninhabited, making it a great investment if you have the cash!

The palace is an official heritage site, meaning it would be eligible for European Union funding to restore it and open it to the public as a visitor site or a restaurant or hotel. The post office, part of Spain’s national Correos network, is empty. 

Winter Temperatures in Spain

It will be drier than usual, and is set to be the 11th warmest in Spain since 1965.

Although the meteorological seasons do not necessarily follow the ex-tropic solstices, Spain does not differentiate between the two, meaning ‘winter’ officially begins at the end of the shortest night. Variations in the mercury will be less noticeable the farther south you head. We will see much lower rainfall than normal and no extreme weather phenomena such as torrential downpours, storms or gale-force winds are forecast.

Winters in inland and northern Spain tend to be dry, bracing, very cold and with overnight frosts being a frequent feature, although homes in these areas are designed for this and most have central heating, either gas, oil, or hot water. They are, however, much milder on the ‘Costas’ and islands, where homes are designed more to keep out the heat than the cold. 

Those who head north and inland to seek out the snowscapes in the depths of winter may not prepare them for the deep freeze they encounter. 

Dads ‘Dependent Child Bonus’ In Disability Pension, Not Just Mums

Men with children will now be entitled to receive an ‘upgrade’ in permanent disability pensions as well as women, following a European Court of Justice ruling.

Women’s careers tended to be shorter and more fragmented, due to maternity leave and then typically becoming the primary carers of children in heterosexual couples. As a result, women tend to receive lower disability pensions than men, so the 5% increase for having kids was aimed at redressing the balance, but the ‘structural differences’ in men’s and women’s disability pensions are ‘not enough’ to justify one sex receiving a bonus and the other not, where their situations are identical – as in, signed off work permanently and with two or more dependent children.

Pottery In Toledo Recognised by UNESCO 

Handmade ceramic pottery from two Toledo province villages have been declared UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage, along with those from the Mexican towns of Puebla and Txalaca.

The decorative blue-patterned plates, jugs, pots and trays made in Puente del Arzobispo and Talavera de la Reina, but considered ‘native’ to the latter, were chosen at a United Nations meeting in Bogotá, Colombia based upon their ‘manufacturing procedure, intricate design and enamelling’ which are completely handmade using identical techniques to the first ones ever produced in the 16th century, which have remained unchanged since.

According to UNESCO, the theoretical and practical knowledge and skill employed in making the pottery covers the entire process including preparing the clay, moulding, decorating in relief, mixing and preparing the dyes and enamel and kiln-firing. Talavera de la Reina and Puente del Arzobispo have managed to keep their skills alive for 500 years. The master potters and ceramic workers who create the pieces have learnt their skills through word-of-mouth training passed down through generations and being declared UNESCO cultural heritage means these skills are guaranteed to be perpetuated through future generations.

Gwyneth Paltrow spent many months in Talvera learning Spanish and even has a street named after her.

Ground-Breaking Spanish-Built Planet-Exploring Satellite Launched

A mostly-Spanish satellite went into orbit – the first in history destined for monitoring planets outside our Solar System. Engineers from Torrejón de Ardoz (Greater Madrid region) saw the Soyuz rocket go up with CHEOPS after its planned launch had to be put back due to possible software problems.

CHEOPS stands for ‘Characterisation of Exo-Planets’, or planets outside the solar system and is designed to study stars which are known to serve as suns for other planets in order to work out whether any of these may contain the elements necessary to house life.

This is a monitoring mission focused on systems that have already been discovered. In layman’s terms, ‘others have made the discoveries and CHEOPS will take over exploring them’.

CHEOPS is only the first stage of an ambitious exo-planetary exploration strategy devised by the ESA. Two more huge satellites – Plato and Ariel – will be launched at the end of the 2020’s, but CHEOPS is the only one to go up now for a decade.

CHEOPS is a low-cost mission – in space science terms, its budget of under €50 million and development time of six years is quick and cheap.