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Switzerland's ClearSpace startup has won a major European Space Agency contract to clean up space junk with a robot. The increasing amounts of... Switzerland's ClearSpace startup has won a major European Space Agency contract to clean up space junk with a robot. The increasing amounts of debris pose risks to satellites and other space missions. ClearSpace is using technology developed by engineers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne (EPFL). Their four-armed robotic junk collector will be launched into space by the European Space Agency (ESA) in 2025. Its first mission is to grab a small piece of a European Vega rocket, launched in 2013. A lot of debris has accumulated over six decades of low-orbit activities and ESA hopes the mission will pave the way for a wide-reaching clean-up operation.
59 s
In the future it is hoped drones can increasingly be deployed in emergency situations. Drones are widely used to take amazing aerial photos, or to inspect infrastructure and crops. But in the future it is hoped they can increasingly be deployed to help firefighters or search and rescue operations in emergency situations. Swiss researchers are at the forefront of drone research. The Swiss rescue agency Rega is testing an autonomous rescue drone to find people lost or in difficulty in the mountains. It should be operational next year. Scientists are also working on small autonomous drones that can fold up to squeeze through collapsed buildings or super-agile bird-like robots that can fly through forests or buildings independently for use in rescue operations.
2 min
The Swiss-led CHEOPS space telescope observes bright stars known to host planets. CHEOPS is a space telescope, whose name stands for 'CHaracterizing ExOPlanet Satellite'. Unlike other missions dedicated to searching for new planets, CHEOPS points at bright stars already known to host planets. It uses ultra-high precision photometry to observe planets while orbiting their stars and accurately determines their radii. Combining the radii with the planets' masses, which have already been estimated by ground-based surveys, the scientists can draw conclusions on what these exoplanets are made of; whether they are rocky like Earth or rather made of gas like Jupiter. CHEOPS is a joint mission of the European Space Agency, ESA and Switzerland, led by the University of Bern. Instrument scientist Andrea Fortier has been with the Center for Space and Habitability at the University of Bern since the planning phase and all through the telescope’s development. In this video, she gives insight into how CHEOPS operates and what the team expects to find. The CHEOPS telescope started its journey into space on December 18, 2019. Eight months later the scientists have published their first results: an in-depth analysis of the exoplanet WASP-189b, a planet one-and-a-half times as big as Jupiter. But, the team stresses this is just the beginning; they expect to make more discoveries in the coming years.
6 min
The inauguration of the Ceneri base tunnel in southern Switzerland marks the symbolic completion of the Alptransit project. The inauguration of the Ceneri base tunnel in southern Switzerland on Friday marks the symbolic completion of the Alpine rail link project. The idea to dig the three tunnels under the Alps was approved by Swiss voters in 1992. The Ceneri, which extends over 15.4 km, is not as spectacular as the Gotthard, the world’s longest railway tunnel. But the new tunnel connecting Camorino and Lugano in the southern Swiss canton of Ticino will help extend high-speed rail connections between northern and southern Europe. For example, it will shorten the 3 hour-40-minute Zurich-Milan rail journey by 23 minutes. and play a big role for the mobility of the Italian-speaking canton, slashing travel times between Locarno and Lugano, for example. The inauguration, which was planned for 650 people, will take place in a reduced format. Because of the pandemic the project was also slightly delayed. The first passenger trains will start using the tunnel in December when the timetable is updated. Several long-distance connections will be introduced in April 2021.
2 min
Researchers at the Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) are developing an app that uses artificial intelligence to listen to your... Researchers at the Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) are developing an app that uses artificial intelligence to listen to your cough and identify if you have Covid-19. The idea of the "Coughvid" app is simple. You are worried you may have the virus and you want to check before contacting a doctor. Using the app, you make a recording of your cough at home, then submit it online after answering a few basic health questions. Algorithms created by the EPFL researchers automatically analyse the data and sound of your cough and look out for distinctive patterns to determine instantly whether you have a typical dry, persistent “Covid cough”. The idea originated from an EPFL Masters student who read that a distinctive dry cough was a sign of infection found in 67.7% of patients, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). “If you listen closely, you can hear that there is a clear chirp in the Covid cough which is recognizable,” explains EPFL scientist Tomas Teijeiro who works on the Coughvid app. The aim of the app is to reduce the number of people going to doctors demanding for a test when they don’t exhibit the symptoms. Additional work is needed before the app is properly available to the general public. The team have collected over 19,000 cough recordings but they still need more samples for testing purposes. They have meanwhile been working with Swiss doctors to validate a subset of the recordings and intend to do a clinical validation before the public release.
2 min
In order to better understand our star, a probe was launched to approach it to within 42 million kilometres. Solar Orbiter, a collaboration between... In order to better understand our star, a probe was launched to approach it to within 42 million kilometres. Solar Orbiter, a collaboration between ESA and NASA, carries a Swiss X-ray detector on board. The mission will operate at least until 2027.
59 s
On this day in 1945, the Swiss shared the Allies' joy when Germany surrendered. In Davos, it heralded the end of Nazi domination in the town. On this day in 1945, the Swiss shared the Second World War Allies' joy when news came that Germany had surrendered. They no longer had to fear invasion by their northern neighbours. Many of the people of Davos, in the eastern canton of Graubünden, must have breathed a sigh of relief, as it heralded the end of Nazi domination in the town. Even before the war, Germans went there for health cures. After 1933 the National Socialist German Workers’ Party took control of the German expatriate community in Davos, which represented a quarter of the population, and its Swiss supporters. The party invested in local property and bought sanatoriums. Local resident Otto Farrèr told Swiss public television SRF that the public was divided over the presence of the Nazis. Some bristled at their pushy behaviour while others, among them businessmen and politicians, welcomed them. The Swiss authorities only intervened after the war, when several Nazis were forced to leave the town. The local branch of the Nazi party was run by Wilhelm Gustloff, a former employee at the Swiss Meteorological Institute. His assassination in 1936 by Jewish medical student David Frankfurter turned Gustloff into a martyr. Swiss escape invasion The Swiss were able to escape the devastation that WWII brought to much of Europe, but it seems they only just escaped invasion by the Germans. As part of Hitler's Operation Tannenbaum, approved in October 1940, the Nazis aimed to destroy the Swiss Confederation army and invade the central part of Switzerland, which was important for strategic and economic reasons. According to Stefan Schäfer, a historian at the Martin Luther University, this was only prevented by the ceasefire between France and Germany, which France was forced to accept following the German offensive in May and June 1940. Many Swiss people believed that their strategy of armed neutrality had kept the Germans at bay.
2 min
We delve into the official temperature figures to show how this winter became the warmest on record in Switzerland. As coronavirus continues its devastation, it is easy to lose sight of the major crisis before the pandemic: climate change. We delve into the official temperature figures to show how this winter became the warmest on record in Switzerland. This animated map shows how winter temperatures (metereological winter, December to February) have been developing on average in the three different climate zones of Switzerland over the last 155 years. The Federal Office of Meteorology and Climatology, known as MeteoSwiss, divides Switzerland into three climate regions: north of the Alps and lower than 1,000 metres above sea level (MASL); north of the Alps and higher than 1,000 MASL and south of the Alps. In 2020, the national average winter temperature rose to 0.7°C. Extreme winter temperatures, with a national average of over 0ºC, have only occurred four times since temperature records began in 1864. Extremely warm winters like these are a phenomenon of the last 30 years, when the average Swiss winter temperature was just under -2°C. At the same time, cold winters with temperatures well below -4°C seem to have disappeared from Switzerland's current climate. Comparing the pre-industrial period of 1871-1900 to the current period of 1991-2020, Swiss winters have become almost 2°C milder. In their 2019/2020 climate bulletin MeteoSwiss infers that the increase in the standard winter temperature, the extreme winters above 0°C and the disappearance of really cold winters are clear signals of ongoing climate change.
1 min
Swiss research teams are making headway in efforts to develop a coronavirus vaccine. The Department of Immunology at the University Hospital in Bern has been working on a vaccine since January. Initial sequences of the virus were quickly isolated. The basis for the vaccine is a genetically manipulated virus that infects cucumbers and colours them yellow. It has already been tested on animals. The head of the department, Martin Bachmann, is now calling for a simplified approval procedure to allow the vaccine to be produced as quickly as possible. Meanwhile, Peter Burkhard, an immunologist with a private laboratory in canton Basel City, has also developed a precursor of the Covid-19 vaccine, which has been tested on animals and he is now testing on himself. He hopes this will speed up the certification process. His SAPN vaccine uses the same concept as for a malaria vaccine that his company has been working on over the last few years.
1 min
A group of students from different countries spent a gruelling weekend on a frozen lake, preparing for a space mission. A hand-picked group of international students spent a gruelling weekend at a space boot camp in Crans-Montana, in southwestern Switzerland. Though firmly on planet Earth, the aspiring astronauts were preparing for a space mission. The camp, set up on frozen Lake Moubra in canton Valais, is part of the Asclepios project, a space mission simulating a mission on another celestial body. The project is led by Space@yourService, a student association from the Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL). During the camp, researchers collected psychological and physical data to better understand how astronauts react in difficult and unfamiliar situations. Participants from several countries were chosen from among 200 candidates, mimicking the selection process of the European Space Agency (ESA). The young team called in specialists to help, including EPFL professor and former Swiss astronaut Claude Nicollier, French polar explorer Alban Michon and experts from the European Space Agency (ESA). The simulated mission Asclepios will take place in April at an as-yet undisclosed location in the Jura mountains in Switzerland. Six astronauts will spend seven days isolated in a module that replicates the exact conditions of a space habitat. Everyday life inside the module will be based on real-life NASA and ESA missions.
1 min
Researchers in Ticino are currently building the first prototype of a long-duration energy storage plant which should help store solar and wind power. The tower-like construction is a complex system of concrete blocks and cranes. The project has gained global attention, thanks to a mention in a tweet by Bill Gates. (SRF/swissinfo.ch)
1 min
Australian sound researcher Philip Samartzis explains what he found when he went to the Jungfraujoch region of the Swiss Alps to gather recordings... Australian sound researcher Philip Samartzis explains what he found when he went to the Jungfraujoch region of the Swiss Alps to gather recordings for his work.
1 min
Swiss scientists are working to introduce more sustainable wood products and help save the rain forests. Swiss scientists have found a way to modify domestic Swiss wood to mimic the properties of endangered tropical hardwood. Instrument makers have been struggling to get their hands on ebony, which is endangered under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Its importation is prohibited unless its legal provenance can be officially proven. Its hardness and acoustic qualities make it a prized material for the fingerboards and tailpieces of quality violins. A start-up called Swiss Wood Solutions came up with a new process that presses sustainable Swiss maple and spruce in such a way that it resembles ebony. A giant press was set up at EMPA, the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing. The process tweaks the wood’s density and sound conduction properties, optimising it for a particular instrument. Professional musicians who tested the start-up’s product reported that it was virtually as good as the real thing. The process is also used for producing accessories used in the watch industry. It costs ten times as much as the foreign stuff at CHF200,000 ($200,000) per cubic metre. Despite the price, it’s in high demand. The press is booked up for the next two years.
1 min
Coral is like the ocean's rainforest, but it's disappearing fast. Ulrike Pfreundt has made it her life's work to find a solution. The oceans produce one in every two oxygen atoms. Coral is like the ocean's rainforest. But it's disappearing, and fast. Ulrike Pfreundt has made it her life's work to find a solution. Pfreundt is a marine biologist at the Federal Institute of Technology ETH Zurich who gets emotional when she talks about coral death. Through 3D printing, she's found a way to make artificial reefs and replace some of the coral that's being lost by providing structures for new coral to grow. She's now testing the structures in the lab to see how to get coral larvae to start growing on them. Ultimately, she hopes to be able to deploy her printed inventions in the ocean to help grow new coral and support the vast ecosystems that depend on it. In the lead up to October's parliamentary elections, this is the eigth in a video series dedicated to looking at how political decisions affect the everyday lives and work of people in Switzerland. Generation Global
7 min
Pascal Brunner and his father have launched a start-up that combats one of today's biggest threats to bee populations: the Varroa mite. Pascal Brunner is a young Swiss who grew up in a beekeeping family. He and his father have launched a start-up that combats one of today's biggest threats to bee populations: the Varroa mite. Vatorex is a heat treatment which kills the mites, but doesn't harm the bees, when applied. It differs from other Varroa-mite-fighting products in that it's not chemically based and is sustainable. In 1946, there were more than 300,000 bee colonies in Switzerland; today, it's less than half that. Much of the decline is due to the Varroa mite. Other reasons for bee deaths include the use of pesticides. Brunner says he's doing this work to help make the world a better place and keep bee populations thriving. He cites a quote - possibly attributable to Albert Einstain - that states, "When bees disappear from the Earth, man has four years left to live." In the lead up to October's parliamentary elections, this is the seventh in a video series dedicated to looking at how political decisions and the issues of our time affect the everyday lives of Swiss people. Generation Global
6 min
What if you could beam people into your world, not using futuristic equipment, but a smartphone? This is what HoloMe, a Swiss start-up in London, sees as the future of communication. In the lead up to October's parliamentary elections, this is the sixth in a video series dedicated to looking at how political decisions affect the everyday lives of Swiss people. Janosch Amstutz lives in London and has raised capital there for his start-up. Originally from Zug in Switzerland, he grew up on a hippy commune in Australia, and says communication has always been very personal and important to him. Amstutz thinks Augmented Reality is going to change the way we use technology and remove the need to look down at a phone. As more and more AR is seen on the market, people are becoming more accustomed to it, and coming up with new ways to put it to use. Pokemon Go – an AR game craze that swept the world – is probably the most well-known example to date. But for Amstutz, AR is more than a fun toy – it’s a communications game-changer. What if a Syrian refugee could stand in front of you as a hologram and directly tell you their story? The big idea behind HoloMe is how to bring this technology into people’s lives without needing expensive, high-end equipment or using lots of data to interact with the experience. This is the story of how they’re doing it. The Generation Global series so far
6 min
A woman living in southern Switzerland realised people around her wanted to meet each other but didn't know how. So she created a virtual town square. A woman living in a southern Swiss town noticed that people around her wanted to connect and share things but didn't know how. So she created the "smart village": a virtual town square. In the lead up to October's parliamentary elections, this is the fifth in a video series dedicated to looking at how political decisions affect the everyday lives of Swiss people. Monica Rush Solcà lives in the Italian-speaking region of Ticino. She recalls a time when people in the area used to connect with each other in the piazza, or town square, every evening. They would talk about their day, see what others needed and help if they could. But times have changed, says Solcà. Now, people are more physically isolated from one another and tend to connect online. They also own more "stuff" than ever before. One morning, she had an idea: create a group and a platform where her townspeople could exchange things and meet each other. "Smart village" was born. Today, the concept has been extended to several towns in Ticino, and members of the group host events to advertise the service. "Smart village" even has a couple of mascots: funny characters who are recognisable around town. Now, says Solcà, "Anyone who comes from far away and ends up here can feel part of this village." Generation Global series: ​​​​​​​
5 min
Two Swiss designers are recycling plastic for prostheses to improve other people's lives. Recycling plastic to make new bottles is one thing, but using the material to create prosthetic limbs? That's another. Two Swiss designers are using their skills to improve other people's lives. In the lead up to October's parliamentary elections, this is the fourth in a video series dedicated to looking at how political decisions affect the everyday lives of Swiss people. Fabian Engel and Simon Oschwald travelled to Kenya, where they heard about the indignities people with prosthetic limbs faced in everyday life. Due to the high number of traffic accidents, amputations aren't rare. The cost of an artificial limb is prohibitively high for many people, and the restricted mobility that living with one leg brings, makes finding work difficult. The two designers set themselves the challenge of coming up with a prosthesis that would be available at a fraction of the normal cost - using local labour and recycled materials. A visit to a vast rubbish dump in Nairobi cemented the idea of making use of materials that had been discarded. But the intricacies of the design weren't so easy to perfect, and the team almost gave up on the project. Now they credit collaboration with the people who will use their product, as the key to its success. The Generation Global series so far SRF/swissinfo.ch
7 min
When Michael Harenberg came to Switzerland, he never imagined he would find himself trying to find out whether cheese can be improved with music. When German music and media scientist Michael Harenberg came to Switzerland for his research, he never imagined he would find himself trying to find out whether the most iconic of Swiss symbols – cheese – can be improved with music. After taking an early interest in music of all kinds and studying musicology and composition in Germany, Harenberg made the move to Switzerland in the early 2000s. He is now a professor at Bern’s University of the Arts (HKB). The university started a project called “HKB goes ashore”, meant to connect researchers and students with people and projects in more rural parts of canton Bern. It’s through that project that Harenberg met cheesemaker Beat Wampfler, who suggested a joint project wherein researchers try playing tunes to cheese to see how it impacts its flavor. The results of the study came out earlier this year. Harenberg and his colleagues found through blind taste tests that hip-hop music makes cheese of the Emmentaler variety taste the best. Hamberg was overwhelmed by the media’s interest in the story, both in areas with cheesemaking cultures and elsewhere around the world.
2 min
Swiss chemist Jacques Dubochet, who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2017, praises Thunberg, herself sometimes mentioned as a possible candidate... Swiss chemist Jacques Dubochet, who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2017, praises Thunberg, herself sometimes mentioned as a possible candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize.
1 min