food / travel

Wine Tasting May Be An Art, But There Is Science In The Swirl

Many intellectuals have found inspiration in the bottom of a wine glass. But Swiss scientists may be the first to draw lessons from the way a good wine taster swirls that glass. The subtle slosh, it turns out, may be just the thing drug makers need for mi

At work in a Bordeaux vineyard
It's all about the right swirl
Les Vignerons de Tutiac Facebook page
Cyrille Vanlerberghe

PARIS - It's a simple gesture, something lovers of good wine do automatically. They swirl the wine in their glass to aerate it and release its aromas. But few do so in conscious awareness that behind this slow rotation lies a complex problem of fluid mechanics that has kept researchers at the Lausanne branch of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) busy for three years.

"We realized that swirling wine in a glass was a very clever mechanism that mixed the liquid gently but also didn't use much energy," says Mohammed Farhat, a researcher at the EPFL who heads the Swiss team. "However, it was virtually impossible to create a mathematical model of the phenomenon, which involves very complex aspects of fluid dynamics."

A specialist in cavitation, Farhat was looking for an effective, non-destructive way to mix biological cell cultures – a great challenge in the pharmaceutical industry -- and noticed that the light flick-of-the-wrist gesture that's so habitual for wine tasters presented all the requisite qualities needed to do so. It could also be reproduced on a large scale in huge bioreactors containing several thousand liters of cells.

Farhat has three young doctoral candidates working on the technique known as "orbital agitation" and has also come up with a comprehensive experimental device to measure all the parameters of a fluid rotated in a glass. "We saw that turning the glass creates a wave that makes the wine move from top to bottom but also from the center towards the exterior. There are no ‘dead areas' where no mixing is taking place," Farhat said.

By varying parameters like the speed of rotation, height of the liquid, or diameter of the receptacle, infinite wave forms can be obtained, some more, some less effective to mix or oxygenate liquid, or to make it evaporate. The work was presented for the first time at this month's 64th meeting of the American Physical Society's Division of Fluid Dynamics in Baltimore, Maryland.

"In the case of wine, the main thing you look for is not mixing but oxygenation, which makes it possible to oxidize certain compounds that produce aromas, and to a lesser extent evaporation, to remove some of the alcohol in the glass," Farhat explains.

"Finding the perfect gesture"

Farhat's team works with a school in Nyon, near Geneva, that trains enologists and sommeliers to help them "find the perfect gesture." Formerly, the rotation of glasses was always conducted empirically, with no scientific method behind it. The new science has left wine lovers with endless material for discussion as regards to size and form of glasses, as well as the ideal strength and duration of movements to use with various grands crus.

Farhat and his young doctoral candidates have successfully determined three parameters that make it possible to describe how this phenomenon operates, whether it be in a glass of wine or an industrial vat containing several thousand liters of cells.

"We will be working with a pharmaceutical company so we can determine the best possible configuration for mixing cell cultures on a large scale," says the scientist. "The most important thing is to get to the point where the cells grow rapidly and to mix them effectively without destroying them."

Read the original article in French

Photo – feverblue

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Air Next: How A Crypto Scam Collapsed On A Single Spelling Mistake

It is today a proven fraud, nailed by the French stock market watchdog: Air Next resorted to a full range of dubious practices to raise money for a blockchain-powered e-commerce app. But the simplest of errors exposed the scam and limited the damage to investors. A cautionary tale for the crypto economy.

Sky is the crypto limit

Laurence Boisseau

PARIS — Air Next promised to use blockchain technology to revolutionize passenger transport. Should we have read something into its name? In fact, the company was talking a lot of hot air from the start. Air Next turned out to be a scam, with a fake website, false identities, fake criminal records, counterfeited bank certificates, aggressive marketing … real crooks. Thirty-five employees recruited over the summer ranked among its victims, not to mention the few investors who put money in the business.

Maud (not her real name) had always dreamed of working in a start-up. In July, she spotted an ad on Linkedin and was interviewed by videoconference — hardly unusual in the era of COVID and teleworking. She was hired very quickly and signed a permanent work contract. She resigned from her old job, happy to get started on a new adventure.

Others like Maud fell for the bait. At least ten senior managers, coming from major airlines, airports, large French and American corporations, a former police officer … all firmly believed in this project. Some quit their jobs to join; some French expats even made their way back to France.

Share capital of one billion 

The story began last February, when Air Next registered with the Paris Commercial Court. The new company stated it was developing an application that would allow the purchase of airline tickets by using cryptocurrency, at unbeatable prices and with an automatic guarantee in case of cancellation or delay, via a "smart contract" system (a computer protocol that facilitates, verifies and oversees the handling of a contract).

The firm declared a share capital of one billion euros, with offices under construction at 50, Avenue des Champs Elysées, and a president, Philippe Vincent ... which was probably a usurped identity.

Last summer, Air Next started recruiting. The company also wanted to raise money to have the assets on hand to allow passenger compensation. It organized a fundraiser using an ICO, or "Initial Coin Offering", via the issuance of digital tokens, transacted in cryptocurrencies through the blockchain.

While nothing obliged him to do so, the company owner went as far as setting up a file with the AMF, France's stock market regulator which oversees this type of transaction. Seeking the market regulator stamp is optional, but when issued, it gives guarantees to those buying tokens.

screenshot of the typo that revealed the Air Next scam

The infamous typo that brought the Air Next scam down

compta online

Raising Initial Coin Offering 

Then, on Sept. 30, the AMF issued an alert, by way of a press release, on the risks of fraud associated with the ICO, as it suspected some documents to be forgeries. A few hours before that, Air Next had just brought forward by several days the date of its tokens pre-sale.

For employees of the new company, it was a brutal wake-up call. They quickly understood that they had been duped, that they'd bet on the proverbial house of cards. On the investor side, the CEO didn't get beyond an initial fundraising of 150,000 euros. He was hoping to raise millions, but despite his failure, he didn't lose confidence. Challenged by one of his employees on Telegram, he admitted that "many documents provided were false", that "an error cost the life of this project."

What was the "error" he was referring to? A typo in the name of the would-be bank backing the startup. A very small one, at the bottom of the page of the false bank certificate, where the name "Edmond de Rothschild" is misspelled "Edemond".

Finding culprits 

Before the AMF's public alert, websites specializing in crypto-assets had already noted certain inconsistencies. The company had declared a share capital of 1 billion euros, which is an enormous amount. Air Next's CEO also boasted about having discovered bitcoin at a time when only a few geeks knew about cryptocurrency.

Employees and investors filed a complaint. Failing to find the general manager, Julien Leclerc — which might also be a fake name — they started looking for other culprits. They believe that if the Paris Commercial Court hadn't registered the company, no one would have been defrauded.

Beyond the handful of victims, this case is a plea for the implementation of more secure procedures, in an increasingly digital world, particularly following the pandemic. The much touted ICO market is itself a victim, and may find it hard to recover.

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