How a love of sport led to a science breakthrough

Novartis scientist Jeff Weers, whose love of baseball gave him the idea to transform particle engineeringJeff Weers’ passion inspired a new way of getting inhaled medicine past the body’s natural defenses to reach the lungs. He found inspiration for a medical breakthrough in an unlikely place – a baseball field. His passion for the sport led to a big idea: a new way of getting inhaled medicine past the natural obstacle course of the human mouth and throat to reach the lungs and treat respiratory diseases.

“Scientists know that their best ideas do not always present themselves in the lab,” said Weers. “Many of the things you see around you in your daily life can sometimes present solutions to the most intractable problems in science.” Continue reading

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Swiss railways’ peace offering to irate ticket holders

pendolinoThe Swiss Railway System (SBB or CFF, depending on whether you’re a German or French speaker) has reduced fines and, for now, will waive them completely for passengers who inadvertently bought the wrong tickets.

The organisation, famed in Switzerland and indeed worldwide for its efficient service, accepted that too many people seemed to be falling foul of a new ticketing system, introduced at the end of 2011, which requires passengers to buy before they ride. Continue reading

UK Budget: poor finance, good politics

It was hard, driving on the Swiss motorway to work, to avoid shouting at the radio during the morning-after coverage on the BBC of the UK Budget.

So Chancellor George Osborne is going to pump prime the economy by stimulating the housing market. Is it really the government’s job to fund billions of pounds’ worth of mortgages, helping tens of thousands get into an already inflated and under supplied housing market?   Continue reading

Prize-winning jams at the show

There was a deep irony in the massive congestion around Geneva airport in Switzerland last week. The heavy traffic and long delays for people trying to catch flights was due to the city’s annual motor show, described by pundits as the biggest and most important in Europe.

I arrived on time in the centre of Geneva for a series of unrelated meetings, thanks to the ever-efficient Swiss railway system. But navigating the city was difficult, due to the crowds and the increased traffic. The motor show takes place at the Palexpo centre out by the airport, some way from the centre of town. Yet tens of thousands of extra people swamped Geneva and its surrounds. Many, it seemed, eschewed the railways and came by car. Continue reading

Swiss vote for pay limits won’t matter

Some say it’s akin to allowing a tabloid newspaper dictate the legislative agenda. Others that it’s true democracy at work. Whatever it is, Switzerland’s use of referenda produces quirky results at times. And it’s now given birth to a seemingly radical vote to let investors veto executive pay proposals and vet appointments to companies’ boards.

The direct democracy system lets voters have a popular vote – and the results  have to be heeded by lawmakers. It  means issues that  would  not get on to the public agenda elsewhere can get vigorously debated in Switzerland. With offbeat, even controversial results – three years ago the Swiss voted to ban the building of new minarets on mosques.
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